Next Thursday…

This Thursday is Thanks Giving! Hooray for turkey and MOUNTAIN biking! After last weekend’s Lavaman Ben and I have been taking a break from swimbikerun – the mountain adventure will be a fun way to move and I look forward to it.

Next Thursday – the 29th of November – is another big day and a day that will hopefully end in giving great thanks. I will be going to Straub Hospital for an electrophysiology examination and possible ablation of my SVT.

For the past 3 years I have been plagued by a minor heart arrhythmia called a super ventricular tachycardia (SVT). It is not life threatening and really isn’t a limiter at all – unless you are trying to obtain an elite level of athletic performance. The doctor explained that I was born with this condition – my heart has an extra electrical pathway that when triggered causes my heart to beat at rapid and often irregular rates. He explained that as a person ages the chemical environment of the body changes and can cause the pathway to become active. Once activated the pathway will never turn off again, unless you destroy the pathway (which is what I hope to do).  This conversation with my doctor took place about three months ago and he left me with three options:

1. Do nothing – this is always an option.

2. Take medication – not something an athlete who already has a low resting heart rate wants to do.

3. Catheter ablation.

Catheter ablation is risky and if it is poorly executed can result in a pace maker. At that point in time my heart was “going off” only twice a month at most. I chose option number 1 – the risk wasn’t worth it, I thought I could manage it, until the past two weeks.

In the week and a half leading up to Lavaman my heart went off at least once in every work out (and sometimes just hanging out during the day) and hit record highs (230bmp). The graph below from my track intervals is a great example:


You can see the difference in my fourth interval – heart rate is the red line and you can see the abnormally high and inconsistent peaks in my warm up (my heart was “fluttering” as I like to call it) – then smooth builds during my first three intervals (dipping down a little during each rest period) and on the fourth interval (the fourth and tallest peak) my heart rate spiked. It was VERY hard to maintain pace – I actually could not maintain the same pace. The biggest thing that changes is my ability to breath. When my heart rate ramps up it feels like someone has taken and compressed my chest with sandbags – then my limbs stop cooperating and I become dull, slow, and quite frustrated.

My heart went off in Lavaman twice. Once on the first leg of the bike and again on mile 3 of the run. I couldn’t maintain pace – I was struggling for breath and the flow I carried out T2 was gone. I just fought it out even though I felt myself becoming sluggish and taxed.

Despite the two heart incedents the race went well. Ben had a great swim and fought it out in a stacked field. I’m blown away that he even raced after such a strong and taxing performance in Kona. We love racing on Big Island and I hope will all my heart (quite literally) that I will race there in March for Lavaman Waikaloa arrhythmia free.

It’s possible that Thursday they will find my abnormal electrical pathway is too close to the normal pathway (the one that makes my heart beat) and so the ablation is too risky – they may destroy my normal pathway and the result would be death or a pacemaker. I hope this isn’t the case. I want a chance to train and race without this limiter. But I am prepared for anything and there is no sense worrying about what can’t be controlled. Thursday will come soon enough.