Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Training Setback...ticker trouble (part 1)

I realize that I did a somewhat half-assed job at letting people know about my most recent training setback, so I thought I'd take a bit of time to tell the whole story. My apologies to the folks that I have been unduly alarmed by all of this.

As many of you already know - I am currently in training for the NYC Marathon, which will hopefully be my third marathon. On July 13th, I was attending speedwork with my usual Tuesday night group - when I realized that something wasn't right. I wasn't able to complete our assigned workout without stopping to walk several times (which has never happened before). I definitely felt as though something was wrong, I just didn't know what. I happened to have been wearing a heart rate monitor, so I knew that my heart race was excessively high (greater than 200 bpm), also something that has never happened before.

Thoroughly spooked by the experience, I promptly made an appointment with my physician. He took an EKG, which registered completely normally - but encouraged me to follow up with a cardiologist. I was given the green light to continue running, and two days later, I raced a 5k with my co-workers. While I didn't PR at the race - I felt that I was able to run comfortably, at a pace that was just right for me.

The next few weeks brought very inconsistent workouts. Some days, I could run for miles and miles without issue, other days, I could barely keep a pace for one or two miles without having my heart go crazy. Additionally, I started having what I believed were palpitations, where my heart started beating very quickly and felt like it was going to leap out of my chest, even while at rest.

My first visit to the cardiologist was uneventful - I brought a stack of printouts from my Garmin, showing the different types of workouts I had been running, and showing concrete evidence of my exceptionally high heart rate. Unfortunately, an EKG yielded a similar, completely normal heart rhythm - which didn't give the doctor much to work with. We scheduled a stress test for the following week as a follow up.

Finally, at the stress test, the doctors were able to trigger the heart rhythm that I had been experiencing, which was promptly diagnosed as atrial flutter. Atrial flutter is a "short circuit" of the heart's electrical conductivity, which causes the upper chambers of the heart to contract very rapidly, often between 200 and 300 bpm. A follow up visit to discuss the results of the stress test was scheduled for the following week. At the follow up, I was experiencing flutter (while at rest), which was subsequently captured on another EKG. This prompted a referral to an electrophysiologist, a doctor specializing in treating electrical abnormalities of the heart.

I went to see the electrophysiologist the next day. She confirmed the existence of the flutter, and recommended a surgical procedure called RF Ablation to correct it. Given the fact that my episodes of atrial flutter had been occurring with greater frequency, and while at rest, it was recommended that I schedule the procedure as soon as possible. I left the office, and set off to schedule the procedure for the following week...

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