I really thought I had a chest cold or maybe even pneumonia. Surprise!
My story starts back in December of 2014 when I decided to train for the 2015 Louisville Ironman. After close to 3 years of running and racing, I decided to jump into the water (pun intended) and tackle the Ironman. Then I was 44 years old and had worked hard to lose approximately 70lbs. I went from walking to sub 2-hour half marathons. My goal was three Ironman races before I turned 50. I completed the Louisville race with time to spare. I wasn’t super-fast, but I finished.
Flash forward 2 years I was on track to tackle the 2017 Chattanooga Ironman. In April of this year I attended a very intense triathlon camp in Tucson, AZ. We ran hard through the desert and biked over 7000 feet of elevation up Mt. Lemmon. I was tired at camp but thought it was just the intensity of the training. Swimming really became difficult for me. I had been struggling with my swim for several months. But again, I attributed it to being older and recovering slower.
Flash forward 30 days to May 15th, 2017. I had been biking okay, but my run was off. I had completed a 10 mile race the weekend prior but with a 2-minute slower pace than normal. I knew something was wrong, but I was being stubborn. I was an Ironman. I was combining multi-sport training and powerlifting with a large degree of success. I would be fine.
That day, the 15th, I had a 9-mile run scheduled. I skipped my morning workout because I woke up with a heart rate close to 120, maybe higher. I decided to monitor it at work and see how I felt in the afternoon, then run. I told myself I was overtraining and that it was no big deal. My heart rate never came down. I debated running my 9 miles or going to the doctor. My wife convinced me to go to the doctor.
I really thought I had a chest cold or maybe even pneumonia. Surprise! No, I had a severely enlarged heart and an ambulance was called before the doctor was even done talking to me. Five days later, countless tests, poking’s, and prodding’s, and an ejection fraction of 35%, the doctors said my racing and fitness days were over. “No more racing and someday with hard work I may be able to ride my bike casually or enjoy walking the neighborhood,” they said. I doggedly researched cardiologists because that was not an acceptable answer. No more racing, what!?! I race. I compete. I lift heavy things and that is what I do. And this is what I would find a way back to.