Saturday, September 29, 2007

Treadmill Blues

I completed my fourth cardio rehab session late on Friday and knew you would be thrilled to pieces to read about my travels so I thought I'd take a few minutes to log my progress. My training now is on a treadmill with three electrodes attached to my body. One of the electrodes goes under my right collar bone, the other two are attached to my right and left rib cage. I stick on the three electrode connectors, snap each connector to a wire that leads to a little box which transmits my heart signals to a monitor screeen that the cardio technicians look at while I'm doing my thing. Aren't you glad to know that? I realize this isn't quite as exciting as telling you about a grueling 20 mile long run in the heat and humidity with biting horse flies nipping at my heels, but this is the best I can do at this point.

Anyway, back to the treadmill workouts and for any late comers to this blog site you need to know that I had a heart attack in early August during a training run, died for a few minutes, received CPR from my running friends, ended up in a hospital, had double by-pass surgery and have been recovering. The recovery is slow and basically a son-of-a-bitch! But, I'm alive.

The treadmill workouts last 40 minutes, five minutes warmup and cooldown and 30 minutes of walking. Hopefully I'll soon be running. The cardio girl started me a week ago at 2.5 mph, no incline which got my heart to 85 bpm. They keep bumping up the speed and incline because what I'm doing now requires almost no effort since I had been running 20-30 miles per week before my attack and also was doing at least one yoga and pilates class per week. So, on the surface I was in shape but my two main arteries feeding my heart obviously weren't in shape, one was totally blocked and the other 95 percent blocked, which is why I almost died. No one can tell me how I could run with that kind of blockage. So, I'm a freak.

Anyhoo, late Friday we jumped the walking speed to 3.8 mph which is around 15 min per mile pace and if we go faster than that I really need to run because I don't like speed walking. I have short legs and just a low tolerance for walking. I boosted the incline to 2 Friday, up from .5. I'm assuming the .5 is a half inch incline and the 2 is two inches. I need to ask someone about it but you treadmill experts will know what I'm talking about. The combination of 3.8 mph and 2 incline got my heart rate in the 105-110 bpm range. This is all very clinical and boring for me. The cardio girl asked me the effort level and I told her it was easy to somewhat difficult, whatever that may mean. In my runners mind somewhat difficult is the stretch between 15-20 miles and after that the effort level goes off the chart.

I've noticed that no one has asked me if I'm having fun, so we'll have to put fun on the backburner for awhile. Personally, I think the cardio people in charge of monitoring me have an even more boring job than I, so I'm pretty friendly and cooperative. I've noticed they switch shifts a lot and I'm looking forward to seeing the one who was on duty Wednesday because she's the one who told me she'd have me running in 3-4 weeks. "The breast bone needs to completely heal," she said. Sounds like a good idea.

I've healed to the point where I take only about a half dozen tylenol per day and I don't think I'd need those now, but I may as well screw up my life with a damned addiction to pain killers too, right?:) Just kidding.

On a very positive note, I spent a few hours per day in the busy Reuters newsroom this week and it was great to get back with my fellow commodities journalists. The markets keep hopping and early Monday I am set to return to full time duty. My energy level continues to improve so I think I'll be able to handle a full schedule now and easily work in my treadmill sessions each Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon.

Life is short, enjoy!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fog Is Lifting

The past several days have been pretty enjoyable considering the spot I've been in since early August.

I met my running group early Saturday when they were coming in from their "little" 10 mile run and it was a pure joy seeing their smiles and listening to their banter and laughter as they wound up the run by the traditional starting and ending point for our training runs, the Ben Franklin statue in Lincoln Park.

It was my first meeting with the big group since I went down on August 4th with what I now call a cardiac arrest and my following double by-pass open heart surgery two days later. My cardio rehab girl has informed me that what I had was the full-blown cardiac arrest, massive heart attack, the kind that kills people almost instantly rather than a heart attack. So, I stand corrected and I'm still pinching myself when I think of how fortunate I was to have good friends running with me that early Saturday morning who were willing to jump into the fray and save my hide.

My pace group went to brunch on Saturday at a place in Old Town called Flattops. It's one of those "build your own" meal deals and we all had a good time with our unique concoctions of scrambled eggs, omelettes and/or pancakes. The self-described crazy Asian girl Seiko has a not so secret recipe for a chocolate chip/blueberry pancake that really is delicious and she again was willing to share and our mutual running buddy Tanya has picked up on the formula so I think everyone was well fed and happy after brunch. I know I was feeling good.

My energy level keeps improving really fast now, which is a good sign, and my balance and stability are almost back to 100 percent which is a relief. My second cardio rehab session was Monday afternoon and my treadmill guru bumped my target up to a consistent 95 bpm which I'm maintaining by walking 3.2 mph. Aren't I the numbers guy though. Frankly, I'm still not sure what the hell I'm doing but I know the second session was up from a target of 85 bpm so I know there are no irregularities in my heart rhythm, which is a relief.

The cardio girl told me I would outgrow it quickly because of my previous conditioning. I asked here what I would do then and she didn't bat an eye when she said "well I'll have you running in three, maybe four weeks." That was music to my ears and I fell in love with her on the spot. She also said she would have me running sooner but she didn't want to cause harm to my nine inch chest incision and I agreed with her that that incision doesn't look or feel like anything to take lightly.

Two weeks ago I was feeling like crap and thinking that if I ever did run again it might not be until after the first of the year or even spring. Today, I'm thinking early November and I'm also targeting Thanksgiving Day's 8k run in Lincoln Park as my coming out run. We'll see how I feel and how much progress I make in October, but I'm hungry to get back on the trail. If I can't run the whole 5 miles maybe I can run/walk it or some combination.

It was good to show up at the Reuter's newsroom today for a few hours, get around to see my old friends and start preparing for my return to work on Monday, October 1. As much as work might stink sometimes, it's a better gig than this sitting around, napping, walking bit. Driving myself nuts and my mind keeps going to places it doesn't need to be, like blue funk pitsville and beyond.

I also had lunch on Monday with the co-owner and a head coach of Chicago Endurance Sports Jenny Hadfield and it was cleansing for me to clear the air with her on our feelings about my making a darned spectacle of myself by almost dying. She and everyone else in CES have been wonderful to me and I want to continue to earn the support and respect they've shown me. This whole ordeal has been a bit of a lonely journey but it has been made tolerable because of the concern and love shown to me by people like Jenny, head running Coach Brendan Cournane, Coach Mike, Jillian and all of the pace leaders and runners in my marathon training group.

I'm still in awe that I went down near a big city hospital and running with a soulmate who knew CPR and was willing to keep me alive long enough for the pros to get to me.

Life is pretty good and the fog is lifting!

Friday, September 21, 2007

They Say I'll Run Again

Everyone I come in contact with, doctors, nurses, heart specialists and trainers tell me that my heart attack on August 4 and following double by-pass surgery can be a blessing in disguise. Everyone is so optimistic that I'll not only be able to lead a full and happy life but if I choose, I will be able to run again and go the distance, marathon or beyond. They say my new arteries will allow me to feel "better than ever." Now, I'm not so sure what ever is, but it must be good.

I confess I've been down, blue, depressed or whatever you want to call this dark funk the past couple of months. This summer has been the hardest training segment of my 15 year running career. But the clouds are lifting, I'm beginning to see a ray of light on the horizon and I'm starting to find the mental motivation to dash toward that light. I'm sick of napping, walking, eating. Napping, walking, eating. I'm afraid I don't retire well.

My stress test on Monday went fine. As usual, the verdict was "no problem, get your ass moving to cardio rehab." Welp, my first session of rehab late this Friday afternoon was interesting. I started with a 5 minute warmup on the treadmill, 30 minutes of more intense walking and a 5 minute cool down. Basically, I'm starting from scratch at square one and it's a very humbling experience. The whole session was quite frankly amusing considering the running miles I had already logged prior to my heart attack.

The trainer monitoring my personal screen kept coming over to me and bumping up the speed to keep my heart thumping at what they say is my target heart rate in the mid-80s. I kept upping the speed, the heart rate would jump up to around 90 and quickly back down to the mid-80s, a very, very good sign, according to the lady in charge of my life for the one hour session this afternoon. I've never been a big numbers person when it comes to my running, so at the least I'll learn some new tricks about heart rate monitoring and whatever.

She told me too that there is no reason I won't be able to run. She also reminded me that I was lucky to be alive. "You had a cardiac arrest, open heart surgery and that's a lot worse than a heart attack," she said. My, we runners do have a flair for the extreme and dramatic don't we.

I have to look on the bright side. I'm a runner who dropped dead in a period of less than a minute on a pleasant Saturday morning surrounded by a group of the toughest, most beautiful and caring people in the world. My heart stopped immediately and stayed that way for 12 minutes. These fellow runners breathed oxygen into my mouth, pressed life-giving blood and oxygen from my chest on through this old 63 year old frame in a desperate attempt to keep me alive and they did a good job.

They cared enough to dive into the dirt with me, get down and dirty and in the process kept enough oxygen in my lifeless body so my brain wouldn't join my dead heart. It's because of them that I'm not only alive but I still have the brain power to read and write this little blog post. I showed up at the Reuters newsroom on Wednesday to check in, check my email and prepare to work part-time next week and full-time beginning October 1. My editor is obviously pleased I can still comprehend and write because my commodities markets remain explosive, volatile and hectic. I can't want to get back in the fray. Like running, writing just gets in your blood...there is no way to escape it and believe me I've tried.

I started this blog a little over a year ago on a whim and planned to track my training and running progress with the full intent to write about my completion of my seventh marathon here in Chicago on October 7th. But, I'll be on the sidelines cheerleading.

Boy, did my plans ever change!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Life Goes On

I notice more and more leaves on the ground on my daily walks to Lincoln Park to park my fanny on a bench and contemplate life, which is usually a big mistake.

The breeze coming through the trees and down the street feels and smells like fall and I'm having to pinch myself to realize it's already the middle of September.

My running group is doing the 20 miler Saturday in preparation for the Chicago Marathon on October 7 and I'm disappointed I can't join them. Maybe next year. Maybe not. We'll see how my ticker responds as I add hours and days from the trauma it went through on August 4.

I met with my cardiologist this past Monday and he set me up with the first stress test with him personally conducting it this coming Monday. He wanted to see for himself how my heart responds to a little more rapid walking pace before he sends me on to a likely 12 week cardio rehab program.

Naturally, I would rather go out for a brisk five mile run right now than sit on my butt and think about what has happened and what may happen but I will say it feels good to be able to walk, talk and watch the change of seasons one more year.

Enjoy your training and I hope to be back on the running trail soon.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Cardio Rehab Ahead?

Walked the four blocks down the street this afternoon and checked out a gym facility that is hooked up with a super-duper cardio rehab program with Northwestern Hospital. I didn't have a damned thing else going on so thought I would satisfy my curiosity.

I told the RN I had heart surgery about a month ago and it was suggested I do cardio rehab and I wondered of they were still in business. They were and she said to check with my insurance company to see if it is covered.

So, that's my next step. I see my cardiologist Monday afternoon and will talk or listen to find out where I go from here. The nurse said we start with a stress test to see where we are then we walk and trot on a freakin treadmill hooked up to electrodes three times a week for 12 weeks. Thrilling!

We also get a lot of advice on how to take care of our heart so I obviously can use that.

My training program really stinks but yes I think I'm happy to be alive and possibly can trot, jog or maybe even run some day.

I was thinking today, plenty of time to think, that I might set a long term goal of qualifying for Boston in two years, when I turn 65. Might be cool for an old 65 year heart patient to run another marathon or two and as you know Boston is the dream and fantasy for most of us.

I also was thinking today that I just might walk for awhile and maybe jog through a 5k or two some day.

What running has done to my mind is just weird!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

As We Age

I've been going to write a blog on how discouraging and unmotivating it is to continue hearing the drumbeat of this society as to how the world is ending now that I'm older.

My writing would have just been another pointless venting at how we're programmed to fail so I found this nifty little quote online that pretty well sums up how I feel about getting older or aging or whatever in the hell you want to call our condition.


"I train people in their 60s who can kick butt," says Robert Reames, a Studio City, Calif.-based Gold's Gym Fitness Institute expert. "If you're a 65-year-old in good shape, you can accomplish what an average 25-year-old can accomplish."

Okay goddammit!

Go kick butt and shut the hell up about getting older:)