I knew something was wrong early last week when I went up the stairs after one of my kids and was out of breath at the top. Then later that day I went for a run and started out with a neighbor at a leisurely pace, and I could barely speak. About three miles into the run, I had to stop and walk.
I promised a friend I would call the Doctor and make an appointment if this continued for a few days. It did, so I went. Good thing. After looking at the results of an EKG, my doctor sent me to the emergency room immediately, and next thing I knew they were hooking things up to my chest and arms, taking X-rays, and even ultra-sound pictures. Later they put me through a stress test on a treadmill, where I could see my heart rate race to 150-plus after a few minutes of easy jogging on an incline.
Suffice to say, this is not normal for me. The cardiologist explained that the upper chamber of my heart was beating at about 300 beats a minute, while the lower chamber was regulating it at closer to 70. My normal resting heart rate is in the mid-40's. I believe they called it Atrial flutter or something. All I knew was that this was bad news for my plans to run the Rock-n-Roll half marathon Sunday. The reality is I was probably really lucky to have gone to the doctor rather that 'tough it out' as I was tempted to do. It could have been bad.
Needless to say, I did not run. The doctor prescribed a blood thinner, to help minimize the risk of a heart attack or stroke. That was a little scary. He also told me it was ok to exercise if I kept my heart rate below about 120. Well, after my treadmill experience, I realized that was pretty much impossible. So I resigned myself to becoming a spectator for a while so we could try to figure out how to fix this.
And that wasn't so bad. Sunday seemed like a great morning to run, but it was also nice to be out there watching the runners, and listening to the bands as well. I interviewed one of the runners, Dr. Andy Baldwin, who was the Bachelor on ABC during season 10. In addition to having all the women swooning, he is a pretty good athlete. He has run an Ironman triathlon, and ran in the low 1:30's at Sunday's half.
And later, I got a chance to chat with the last American to win an Olympic gold medal in the marathon, Frank Shorter (pictured above). In addition to being a legend, Shorter is an incredibly intelligent athlete who has lived an incredible life at the center of the sport of distance running in this country. Among the things we talked about were the London games, and his belief that the Americans have a good shot at getting medals in the marathon.
Shorter is also past president of USADA, the US drug enforcement agency for amatuer athletes. He offered a lot of insight into some of the current drug cheats, but, alas, most of that was 'off the record'.
Meantime, I don't believe my blood thinning medication would qualify as 'performance enhancing'. But it apparently helped out somehow. After mulling the medical options for getting my heart to return to normal (which include surgery and drugs), somehow my ticker managed to correct itself Monday night, and by Tuesday morning, another EKG showed it was back to functioning as it's supposed to. It fixed itself! That means I need no further treatment (unless or until it returns to the irregular beats (which I'm told is very possible).
It also means I am clear to run this weekend in a really nice race along the northside lakefront. It's a 5k called Miles for Melanoma, and I've run it the last couple years. They have an amazing goodie bag, a pretty small field, and a nice course on the lakefront path near Montrose Harbor. They also offer free skin cancer screening. My friend Dina Bair, from WGN, organizes a good showing from the media team. But we'd love to see more runners out there. If you feel like jumping in, there is plenty of space left. Here's the link: https://www.firstgiving.com/melanoma/2012TebsTroops
Hope to see you there and on the roads.....