Monday, October 7, 2013

Back to Broken

Denial is an amazing thing.  You can block almost anything out of your mind,  and take what you KNOW is going to happen,  and thru the magical power of denial,  block it out,  and all is good.     I can do this with the best of them,  and managed over the last few weeks to pull off an incredible denial act.   Like always,  that ugly bitch reality eventually shows up and kicks you squarely in the nuts.

Normally,  on a Monday,  I'd be uploading some video,  and trying to write some (Semi) clever race report.  I would have been up in Frisco,  playing out my carefully planned Cup Points whoreing strategy (And with only 16 guys in the beer-loving-grandpas league up there,  it would have worked like a charm,  I might add...).  Even getting over the pounding that racing both days will put on your hide.  Instead,  I'm having to write about having most,  or maybe ALL my Cross season taken away from me.  Again.

Maybe I'll just hang myself.  Hmmm,   maybe Course tape is not the best option for that.
Courtesy of Bo Bickerstaff -

Planned on racing Frisco,  and Primalpalooza.  Pre-registered,  room in Summit county friday night,  the works.  Instead,  a visit with one of my fleet of Doctors swept my denial out the window in one quick little consult.    Also might well have swept me racing this season out along with my denial.  Basically,  I'm broken.  Again.

All started back in February,  just as I was finishing up the Chemotherapy for my Hairy Cell Leukemia "outbreak".  As soon as I got on the bike,  and started to go hard,  I was feeling & seeing episodes of VERY high heart rates (More than 200 BPM) on some rides.  Quick jump,  then a recovery,  if I stopped the effort.  Usually happened if I was doing HARD efforts,  intervals or hill repeats and the like.  Tachycardia this kind of thing is called.  Sometimes can feel a bit funny when these start,  usually just see the high heart rates on the monitor.

Pretty unnerving.  Oncologist was not overly worried but thought a Cardiologist should give me a once over.   One "Stress" EKG and a Cardiac Ultrasound later,  I had no answers,  but did get my first warning that continuing to set these "events" off was "probably not good".  Hmm.  Denial Phase 1.  Was not just going to give up on training and racing after loosing last years cross season to the Hairy Cell,  and the opinion of a cardiologist who thought WALKING me on a tread mill would get my heart rate to his "Stress" target of 140 BPM (Mentioning that I WARM UP for efforts at higher rates than that had no effect...).  Was not impressed with his opinion,  so kept training and riding hard.

Sought out ANOTHER cardiologist,  and was able to find one who at least understood I was not a 75 Year old bon-bon-eating sloth.  He understood we would need to capture full EKG data DURING one of these events to figure out the problem.  Not all that easy to do when you need to be on a bike doing bleed-from-the-ear efforts.  Except that the medicos happen to have a cute,  portable,  recording 5 lead EKG,  kind of like your basic heart rate monitor on steroids.   Got one of these things,  and was able to catch a bunch of the Tachycaria events in the 24 hours they gave me the Holter Monitor for.   Nice,  svelte,  high tech packaging on this thing,  eh?  Maybe they should show Garmin how to package a heart rate monitor.

Cardiologist number 2 looks at my data,  kinda like downloading to Strava,  and basically lets me know that "yep,  your heart rate goes abnormally high"  and I have "some kind of Tachycardia/Arryhmia".    Wow.  Since that is why I went to Both First and Second Cardiologist,  THAT was some useful information.  Turns out there are 2 kinds of Cardiologists.  Mechanical/Plumber-type Cardiologists,  and the Electrical kind of Cardiologist.  Now Cardiologist number 2 (Mechanical) sends me to even MORE specialized Cardiologist (Pardon me,  Electrophisiologist...) Number 3,  the electrical malfunction guy.  Also Mentions it was "probably not a good idea" to ride hard or race.  (Where have I heard that?)

Meanwhile,  with my denial in FULL swing,  I continue to train and race.  Doing pretty well for me,  getting 6th place in Zero Gravel Cross,  WHILE having the Tachycardia events for a good chunk of the race.  Denial again,  including ignoring and/or telling my beeping "high Heart rate alarm" to F&%K off,  I'm in a race.

Pretty strange with the level-shift on that heart rate.  Did not really slow me down much.  Feeds the Denial.  Keep riding,  riding hard,  and racing.  Then I get to Number 3's office last Thursday.  He has at least a diagnosis.  Atrial Tachycardia.  The "better" kind,  originating in the upper chambers of the heart,  and NOT the kind that just randomly kills you.  So THAT'S good.    BUT (they always have a but...),  it will probably NOT go away,  and continuing to trigger these events (remember,  little things like RIDING MY BIKE) has a significant chance of leading to permanent Heart damage and or a Heart attack.

Well,   OK then.  NOW denial is having a bit of a problem.   Kinda well beyond the "Bad Idea" advice,  and right into the this is going to REALLY hurt you phase.    Denial comes crashing down.  Reality takes it's place.  Ouch.

Well.  So riding hard is pretty much out.  Can you treat this?  The now terminally depressed patient asks.    Three treatment options,  Number Three says.

1 - Stop doing what triggers it.  (NOT my favorite option)
2 - Drugs.  Ones that permanently limit your heart rate,  even with exercise,  AND make you feel like shit.  (Wow,  getting better & better here.....)
3 - Radiofrequency Ablation.  Threading a catheter from your thigh,  into your heart.  Triggering the event WHILE the sensor probes are in the heart,  then "Burning Out" the offending nerves,  etc. that cause the "misfire"  (neat...)

There is even a video on the Boulder Community Hospital website of my favorite Number Three talking about this stuff.

 Well Gee.  That all sounds GREAT.   Don't really want to quit riding & take up video games.  Not liking drugs that would make me suck MORE while riding AND feel like crap.  Not real thrilled with another "Invasive Procedure",  but sure not looking like a lot of choices.

For now,  It seems as if I am OUT of the cross season AGAIN.  At least for now.  Am off to LosAngeles for a wedding this week,  so that will be the time to think,  zero in & decide what to do.  Seems like I'll get snaked.  That leads to a month of "No High Heart Rate" recovery.  Yea.  Great.  Lovely.

I DID transition from denial to whining and heavy drinking.  Neither seemed to fix the issue either.  Damn.

Feel like I'm whining here,  but I really needed the venting.  It sucked ENOUGH to loose cross last year.  was JUST getting fully fired up for THIS season.  Thanks for listening,  and stay tuned.  This medical shit makes for GREAT stories.


  1. I hate when they say "but."

    Ron D.

  2. I liked your highlight videos better. Keep pushing through it. There will be races available whenever you're ready.

  3. Sorry to hear about this. I'm new to cross and have recently discovered your videos--most enjoyable. Yeah, that's me on the white bike that you are passing at 0:30 on your flatirons video.

    You should check out @drjohnm on twitter and his associated blog. He's an Electrophysiologist and races cross out of Louisville, KY. He is interesting in that he gets the athletic, though not top level, lifestyle. I had the pleasure of meeting him at one of those Electrophysiologist gatherings--I'm on the "Industry" side in this field.

    I hope to see you out at a race once you are back on track.


  4. Bill, Thanks for the thoughts and suggestion. Glad you enjoy the vids.