Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

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 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.

1 comment:

  1. We have missed you John. I am sorry to hear that you are still having issues after the surgery. Hopefully you will heal up quickly so that you will be able to come out and pound some intervals with us! Good luck!!