Monday, November 22, 2010

Already Tired of Winter

Okay, so here it is ---- only the 2nd day of real snow for the year and it's 19 degrees out (balmy compared to the Billings and Great Falls areas) ----- and, I'm already feeling that this is going to be a long winter at The Lodge @ Bad Rock.

Funny how shoveling your loooooong, steeeeeeeep driveway for 3 hours does that to you.   But then, it couldn't be at all due to the fact that I only got 2/3 rds of the driveway done in that time.  Or the fact that by the time I got back to the house and the top of the driveway, the area I had originally shoveled already had 2 new inches on it.  Or the fact that the area I didn't get to has about 8 - 9 inches that I have to fight through.

Good thing I'm mostly in running on the treadmill or I'd be really pissy about this whole thing.

See you (with a grouchy look on my face) on the roads, tracks, trails and treadmills

The Muddy Buzzard

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

MT Cup Weekend 2010

Had a great time last weekend sandwiched around the Montana Cup.

Went over to Billings on Wednesday evening for some business at the home office of Sanderson Stewart on Thursday and Friday.  Friday night headed over to Kelly & Liz Fulton's to spend a couple of nights.  We started off the weekend with a couple of hearty brews at Carter's Brew Pub on Montana Ave.  That was the first time that I had been to Carter's; and, I'm hear to tell you - it's some of the finest brew that I've had...........................ever.  We finished off the night with a nice pasta topped with a pheasant burger meat sauce.  Liz rocks the kitchen!!!!!!

Up early the next morning and headed out to the Rocky Mountain College Equestrian Center NW of Billings on Highway 3.  It was a lot of un helping Alan King, Brad Coutant and the rest of the Rim Runners finish setting up the course and getting ready for the onslaught of runners.  And, did the runners ever come.  Some 214 men and women, boys and girls toed the starting lines.

First up were the women.  Using a strong push over the last half of the race, Sarah Graves of Billings took home the win over high schooler Dani Aragon (Billings) and master's stud Nicole Hunt (Butte/Deer Lodge).  Sarah's win came just a couple of weeks after a 2:55 marathon performance in Chicago.  Sarah continues to amaze me with her ability to run races at any time at any distance and always turn in top level performances.

The men's race was settled pretty early.  At the top of a climb right after 2K, Alan King put in a hard surge, opened some daylight and put the win to bed.  In the end, he had a 20 second win over Mike Wolfe and Dominic Smargiassi, both of Helena. 

It was a perfect day for cross country running.  Maybe in the '50's, some light clouds, little to no breeze, and dry.  The course was fantastic.  A few hills to make it a challenge, some footing that was sketchy and vistas that were limitless.  Alan King did a great job of setting out the course, making it so that no one was going to get lost and having accurate mile and kilometer marks.

The Yellowstone Rim Runners did a great job of hosting the event.  Packet pick up was seamless.  Results (courtesy of Becca King) were quick and accurate.  The awards were unique.  And, the amount of post race food was enough to leave everyone with a full belly.

For more on the results and a great race write up - check out  Ray Hunt did his usual great job of capturing the essence of the day's events.

As for me - the results were dismal.  But, see other posts for some reasons behind that whole train wreck.  But, I had a great time out on the ranch.  How could you not - watching the Helena bus pulling up and spitting out what seemed to be 1,000 folks in Blue.  Pat Judge and Ann Seifert do such an amazing job in getting the Helena running community behind the Cup.  Pretty easy decision to make Pat and Ann members of the Montana Cup Hall of Fame. 

Getting to see old friends is so great - folks like Dave Coppock, Jeff Thomas, Bob Boland, Jaque Maillet, Anders Brooker, Ray and Nicole Hunt, Big Bird Joidin, Eddie Walker, Brad Coutant, Brian Wieck, Dewey Peacock, Alan King, Kelly Fulton, Zach Hunter, etc., etc, etc. 

Watching some of the hottest competition of the year is great.  Coming one week after the State H.S. XC Championships - its a back to back smorgasbord of running over hill and dale.  Good times indeed.

After helping with some clean-up and a quck shower, it was off to the Yellowstone Valley Brewing Company's garage for some post event refreshements.  While there, some of the old Sunday Morning Run Club members had a couple of cold ones for old times sake.
Left to Right - The Muddy Buzzard, Dave Coppock, Alan King (aka The Champ) (wearing Gerry), Kelly Fulton, Zach Hunter

A couple of more brews at Carter's (man, they were as good on Satuday as they were on Friday night).  Then finished it off with some Mexi Food at Don Louis'.  Neeless to say - it was a loud and smelly night at the Fulton house.

Sunday morning, we hit the trails from Zimmerman Park and beyond Indian Cliffs.  It was great to be out with Kelly, Alan and Zach - it had been a long time since we had convened a service of the Church Of The Blue Dome.  It was a glorious day - calm and crisp.  Just right for an hour run with your pals.

Church members right after confession to Gerry

Monday found me back at work (and still in Billings).  But had a nice run with Michael Sanderson (who happens to be my boss) out at Riverfront Park.  Hadn't been out there in a couple of years.  We did the back loops on the east side of the park (they've made a bunch of improvements back in this section), then did a loop around Norm's Island.  We got out a bit late; but, the upside was that we were able to see a magnificant sunset and finished just as dusk was settling in.  It was cool and calm - the sun just setting ----- another great run.  It was amazing to be in Billings at the end of October and have so many days of warm weather with little to no wind.  Pretty spectacular conditions.

All in all, it was just a great weekend of malts and miles (beer and running :-) ) 

See you on the roads, tracks and trails

The Muddy Buzzard