Friday, November 05, 2010

The Buzzard Flies Low For Awhile

Well, for about the last 18 months, performance levels have been less than what I would have liked.  Yeah, I've had a couple of decent runs.  2009 and 2010 Bloomsday's were okay.  As was the 2010 USATF XC Championships.  And, the 2010 MT Marathon 1/2 Marathon wasn't the worst day ever.

But, more often than not, my races were train wrecks.  Things typically were starting off bad and then went "downhill" from there.  The last couple of Montana Cups were prime examples.  No matter how comfortably I went out, I just fell apart within the first mile and fought like hell just to keep things moving forward.  73rd overall and 18th masters is just not the expectation that I have for myself.

For awhile, I thought it was a matter of getting back my fitness after being off due to my patellar fracture.  Then, there came a point where the fracture was fully healed and mileage was, more or less, at normal levels of 50 - 55 per week.  At that point, I thought that maybe I needed some tweaks to my training - maybe different mixes of VO2 Max versus Threshold versus Speed versus Endurance.  Then, I thought maybe it was more a matter of being a bit older and needing to cut back on quantity.  Finally, I got to the point of having tried a bit of everything; but, to no avail.  So finally, I bit the bullet and decided to go see my physician and see if there was something more going on.

Went to the doc, and got some blood work and a chest x-ray.  Blood work showed normal iron levels (so no anemia); but, did show a very low free T4.  What does that mean - hypothyroid.  So, he wanted me to get started on some synthetic thyroid to try to get that balance out.

The radiologist saw an enlarged heart (which didn't completely suprise me - I had seen that in some past tests and none of my prior physicians had suggested that this was a problem) and recommnended a stress echocardiogram.  And, that's where things got a bit interesting.

Most everything looked okay; but, it did point out a low Left Ventricular Ejection Fraction.  The EF is a measure of how much blood is pumped out of the left ventricle and into the body by way of the arterial network.  Typically 55% to 65% of the blood coming into the ventricle is ejected/pumpe out.  For me, the testing was suggesting somewhere between 35% and 50%.  So - that means that I was only pumping out about 60% to 80% of the normal range.

Turns out that not pumping out as much oxygenated blood as normal is not a good thing for high performance running.

So, what does this mean.  Well it's certainly not a good thing.  But, doesn't appear to be anything that's going to make me keel over tomorrow.  Looks like it's probably related to one of two things.  And, the other silver lining - at least it answers the question of why I've been running like a pile of dog poo over the last 18 months.

First, it could be a result of some arterial disease issues (i.e. plaque clogged arteries).  Not likely.  But, they have scheduled an angiogram to rule this out (or in). 

Second, it is more likely what is called a viral cardio myopathy.  Basically, some reduced function of the heart muscle as a result of a virus.  To treat this - they have put me on some heart meds.  One a beta blocker, the other an ACE Inhibitor.  Both serve to make it easier for the heart to pump blood.  The theory is that it will allow the heart to get stronger.

My cardiologist suggests that the vast majority of patients see improvement with the drug therapy.  Some have even returned to near nornal.  He does suggest that it's going to be a bit of a challenge to dial in my drug therapy due to the fact that my heart rate is already quite low and I have low blood pressure.  And, my existing level of fitness means that I'm not there normal patient type.

But, there is some hope.  Hope that I can get back to approaching my prior levels of performance.  Hope that this doesn't have a long term affect on my day to day life (it hasn't yet to this point).

So, for now - we'll just follow doctor's orders and see what comes next.  For now, he's told me to limit my miles and level of intensity.............code words for slow, short, easy jogging :-(  I'll start the drug therapy and get an angiogram on December 1st.  After that, we'll see what the next steps are.

But, rest assured, I continue to plan to.................

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard

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