Frölicking trails since 2010

Frölicking trails since 2010
Frölicking trails since 2010

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My Rapid Heartbeat = Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome

I was diagnosed on Thursday 6-20-12 with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. What the hell is that? Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia:

"Wolff–Parkinson–White syndrome (WPW) is one of several disorders of the conduction system of the heart that are commonly referred to as pre-excitation syndromes. While the majority of individuals with WPW remain asymptomatic throughout their entire lives, there is a risk of sudden cardiac death associated with the syndrome.
WPW is caused by the presence of an abnormal accessory electrical conduction pathway between the atria and the ventricles. Electrical signals travelling down this abnormal pathway (known as the bundle of Kent) may stimulate the ventricles to contract prematurely, resulting in a specific type of supraventricular tachycardia referred to as an atrioventricular reentrant tachycardia.
The incidence of WPW is between 0.1% and 0.3% in the general population.[1][2][3] Sudden cardiac death in people with WPW is rare (incidence of less than 0.6%), and is usually caused by the propagation of an atrial tachydysrhythmia (rapid and abnormal heart rate) to the ventricles by the abnormal accessory pathway.[3][4]"

Here's my story:

So every now and then, usually in periods of exercise or excitement, my heart rate would all of a sudden start beating at 180-200 beats per minute. It calms down on its own after a few minutes, although in the past few years, the length of time has been as long as half an hour.

The first occurrence happened during freshman year of college at a Gonzaga Basketball game when Derek Raivio shot a three pointer. I got SO excited with anticipation, my heart jumped into a Rapid Heart Rate. It didn't take long to go away, so I just assumed it was adrenaline.

Most of my recent episodes have happened whilst running. Three weeks before my Cascade Crest 100 mile race in 2011, I ran a 50K with my pacer Matthew Carrell called Grand Ridge. After getting excited about being in 2nd place at mile 20, my heart rate jumped up and I was forced to walk to prevent the lightheadedness. I tried everything to slow down my heart rate by sitting, to lying down as if to take a nap, and even pretending to take a shit (my sister said the pushing would help). After 30 minutes or so, it went back to normal. It was a loop course, so I ran back to the start of the race and dropped out at the 26 mile point.

My latest two instances have happened while running up Dog Mountain with Amy in the winter, and during my DNF at Miwok 2012 in May. Each occurrence is several months apart and seems to show up at random times. Surprisingly, it has never happened at a Timbers game.

Here's what I'm doing about it:
When the cardiologist diagnosed me, he was almost giddy with excitement. Why? Because it's a 100% curable syndrome, and he was able to spot it on the ECG. So he then sent me down the hall to an electrophysiologist (EP) to discuss the matter further (who was also giddy). The EP said that this syndrome probably wouldn't kill me, but nobody likes to hear the words "probably" and "kill" in the same sentence. So I opted to schedule the procedure that would cure me.

The procedure involves inserting a "pacing catheter" through my leg that will follow the blood vessels to my heart. The doctor will then use the catheters to identify the tissue on the heart that is causing my WPW syndrome, and he will use radio frequency energy to destroy the area of heart tissue. Since this area is an "extra" piece of muscle tissue that I was born with, destroying it shouldn't affect my healthy heart at all.

The procedure is tentatively scheduled for July 12 (but may be delayed until I can cure the pneumonia that I've been dealing with for the past 2 months), and should take maybe 5 hours plus 6 hours of laying flat with my legs strapped to the bed to prevent bending and re-opening the incisions from the procedure. Spending the night at the hospital should be expected, and I'll be discharged the next day.

How do I feel about it?
I'm glad I went to the cardiologist! And if my Plantar Fasciitis hadn't prevented me from going to Bighorn 100 last weekend, I wonder how risky that would have been...I'm starting to take a little more comfort in my Plantar Fasciitis,  it may be a blessing in disguise.

So I've decided not to do any real cardio until I have my procedure. I'll keep biking to work, but this is also a great chance for me to work on my core strength and flexibility. I mean, I've never had this much free time since I started ultrarunning...maybe I'll read a book or two? Hmm...I'll definitely save a ton of money on food. I'll put the savings towards my 'puppy' fund.

Moral of the Story
BE HEALTHY! Get checked out if you have any possible signs of bodily dysfunction. And listen to your heart! And always tell people how much you appreciate having them in your lives, because the world needs more expressed Love.

It's been one hell of a month. I'm grateful for my roommates, because without them I'd be doing a lot less singing and dancing. Especially Todd W...Love you.

Love you all!

Finishing the White Salmon Half on June 16th,
Photo by Jenn

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Plantar Fasciitis - I'm Dropping out of Bighorn and Wasatch - 2012

Runners are Idiots.

Who else would run 20 miles with a rock in his shoe, leading to swollen forefoot and an arranged marriage with a pair of fatty Hokas? At least, that's how 2012 started out for me. Stupid. Why didn't I take the rock out of my shoe? Seconds equal minutes! If I stop to adjust every little discomfort during a race, I lose precious time! But I wasn't racing, I was in the middle of a training run. And lo and behold, 4 months later, the swelling in my right forefoot has FINALLY gone down! Well, at least I can stop wearing the Hokas. Man, I've missed my Saucony Peregrines...

That's a perfect example of my ignorance. My body tells me lots of things that I often choose to ignore, because I don't know any better. I should know better, but I don't. And here I am, icing my Plantar Fasciitis with a relaxed mindset, because I've decided to drop out of Bighorn (June 15, 2 weeks away) and Wasatch (Sept 7). In my last blog post, I was very optimistic about finishing Bighorn. Since then, I've had some wake up calls...

JUNE 2, 2012

2 weeks before Bighorn, the plan was to get some decent hiking in before completely tapering down. But when I arrived at the foot of Wahkeena Falls, I started running to the top of Larch Mountain. The foot felt okay, but my fitness had obviously deteriorated over the past month and a half of rest. That was a little disappointing. The effort reminded me of the first time I ran up to Larch Mountain with Chris Peck in 2010. At the tippy top, I pulled out a golf ball and rolled my foot briefly to try to work out some of the soreness. By the time I ran all the way to the base of Multnomah Falls, my foot was sore (but not unbearably sore). It was the limping the next morning that forced my hand in the decision. Enough of this...

At this point, it's more of a relief to take away the stress of will my foot be ready in time for the race? Will my fitness be adequate? Can I train AND heal at the same time? If I run Bighorn, how far will I push the pain? How long would it to take to heal AFTER Bighorn? There's no way I'll be able to heal AND train for Wasatch, either. If I drop out of both and let my foot heal, I can at least salvage a decent summer of running...what's more important to me?...Any muggle could find it an easy choice to make. But for a competitive trail runner who yearns for the most difficult and beautiful endurance took me a little longer to come to terms with the situation. But in the end, I'm giving myself the chance to heal and become a healthier and stronger runner. And when I say healthier, I'm ignoring the fact that I just ate an entire box of Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies.

Everybody goes through this eventually, in some way or form. A perfect summer is now reduced to next year's dream. But this perspective has really turned my passion towards something more pure...I just want to be able to run fast again! This gingerly running has been frustrating, and all I want is to be able to let loose on some trails like a slow cheetah.

So here's the plan:
  • Heal the foot!
  • Work on my core strength and general flexibility
  • Transition back to my Saucony Peregrines! (I fear the Hokas have made my feet weak...just a theory)
  • Volunteer for any race that I can
  • Get back in shape, steady as she goes
  • Run the Volcanic 50 on September 15th (race around Mt. St. Helens)
  • Run Rim-Rim-Rim at the Grand Canyon (or epic equivalent) in October
  • Beat my time from last year at the North Face 50 mile endurance run on December 1st in San Francisco (Registered).


I was really looking forward to enjoying my hundred milers with Jen E, Jenn L, Josh B, Cheri R, Gary R, Tom O'Toole, Julie T, Stephen P, Scott W, and others...but I hope you enjoy the journey without me. Run healthy, and kick some ass!

And to Kyle, thanks for all the Love! Way to rock your first marathon on Saturday!

Nice Shirt!