Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Excuses, excuses...

In high school I heard a saying that stuck with me: "Excuses are like backsides*. Everyone has one and they all stink." (*You can imagine what the backsides word usually is.) However, I have a couple weird excuses I'm dealing with now.

As I whined to several of you about, I had a catheter ablation performed on my heart in mid-November in order to hopefully cure my atrial fibrillation. This problem started becoming noticeable soon after I ran the Twin Cities Marathon in 2006. My heart would skip around randomly at a high rate, and for no good reason. Within about a year, this was happening to me about every 7-10 days, and the episodes lasted for up to 24 hours or longer. When it happened, I couldn't even walk up stairs without getting winded. Then I could go out the next day after it was over and pound a 20 mile run...it was weird.

After my collegiate track/CC teammate from Notre Dame, Ryan Shay, died of a heart attack in the Olympic marathon trials in November of '07, I decided I had to get checked out right away. (Incidentally, the last time I saw him was when we went out to dinner after that Twin Cities marathon the year before.) The doctors told me I had "A. Fib" and sent me on my way. I didn't try drugs until the summer of '08, and then added another drug in October of that year after I had to walk away from the start line of the TC 10 miler because an episode started minutes before the gun.

The drugs didn't work well, so I went to Mayo to have the surgery done. I was out for about 8 hours, during which time the burned the portions of my heart containing bad electrical pathways in order to "open" those circuits. That's my extremely dumbed-down explanation, but the hope is that this stops the conduction of the erratic electrical signals that caused my Afib. Now, about 6.5 weeks after the surgery, I'm still Afib-free.

However, two things are holding me back on the athletic front. First, my phrenic nerve was damaged, so my right diaphragm is partially paralyzed. It pushes up against my lung rather than going down when I breathe. Second, I started noticing lately that my heart rate is weird. My resting rate now is 90 (which is not so surprising since my resting rate when I'm healthy is usually way up in the 70s), but the absolute max I've been able to hit so far is 165, which I confirmed by wearing a monitor during a skate interval session on Monday. That is over 20-30 bpm lower than what I'm pretty sure it should be. I know it was generally not too difficult for me to stay in the 170s or 180s for sustained efforts before the surgery.

The doc thinks that it's possible my sympathetic nervous system was affected during the ablation, and along with the phrenic nerve, it should heal over several months. But for now I'm left with a couple barriers to any success this season. I'm going to keep training hard and hoping things come around by late February for the big races. In the mean time, if I miss some Wednesday workouts (like tonight), it is likely because I'm still trying to do my own stuff where I experiment and watch what happens with my max rate. Hopefully things will get better soon, and I'm left with a strong Afib-free heart.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Body Knows Best

I was planning on racing the Pre-Season Physical today. I wanted to get a few shorter, easier races in before the bigger, longer races start in January and thought I may as well start with that one. The problem was that I'd had a very disorganized week and ended up doing very little training early in the week due to weather and whatnot and tried to cram in a bunch on Friday and Saturday. By Saturday afternoon by body was very tired and I was feeling my legs quite a bit when trying to sled with my son. I figured I'd do the race anyway even though I was tired and hadn't prepared my skis just so I could get on a starting line and get used to the whole race thing again. So I got all my clothes ready for morning and went to bed. Sometime in the middle of the night I woke from a dream about the race. I was in the middle of the race skiing nice and easy and feeling good. I figured it was time to pick up the pace and took off. I quickly started getting more and more tired. Soon I was dragging myself along on my belly through the snow until I finally ran completely out of steam and just lay there in the snow, exhausted, unable to crawl any further. When I woke up, I figured by body was trying to tell me something and that it was best to listen. I reached over and turned off the alarm. As hard as it is to back off sometimes, I've learned that it just doesn't pay to ignore your body. It knows best. I'm a little disappointed that I missed it, but feel it was the right decision. I still have a few opportunities to get some races in this month and hopefully I'll be able to plan ahead and be better prepared.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Been a while...

The title could be taken a couple of ways.
1. It has been a long time since my last post here.
2. Unfortunately it was even longer since my last time on snow.

I am currently up in Hibbing, MN doing required outreach as a part of my last year in dental school. The dentistry is great - I have been seeing more patients than I usually would at the school clinic, and the clinic itself is quite nice. When I learned that I would be heading to Hibbing in December I thought "well at least they will probably have more snow than the metro". Unfortunately I was wrong. So while my wife is shoveling out our house in Red Wing, and the Vakava team is doing intervals on snow in St. Paul, yesterday I was double poling back and forth on a little used road not far from the clinic. At least I was on snow (Hibbing got less than an inch from the storm that buried parts of the Midwest = lots of new "speed grooves" in the rock skis). It had been 5 weeks between time skiing on snow!

Today I tried to drive to Giant's Ridge today to ski under the lights. But as I tried to coast to a stop at a stop light my car started to accelerate on its own! I grabbed the floor mat to make sure it was not caught on the gas pedal, but that was not the problem. I put the car in neutral to see if that solved things, but that just made my car jump to 7000 RPMs (but at least I wasn't accelerating anymore). All I could do was shut the car off and steer to the side of the road. When I tried to start the car it immediately jumped to 4500 RPMs. After getting the number for the towing company from my wife I tried to start the car one last time. After some clanking and grinding the car seemed to be running normally. I had a dilemma. I wanted to ski, but I was 20 miles into a 40 mile trip, and it was probably a lot better to be stranded in Hibbing (where I at least have classmates with cars) than at the Ridge (even if the do have lit trails with some snow). So I aborted my ski for the night and drove back to Hibbing. Fortunately the dental clinic here is one building over from the auto mechanic school at the community college, and they will be able to look at my car tomorrow. Hopefully they can figure out what is going on with my car, because I have 5 pairs of skis in the back, and I am craving getting on some more snow!