The few of you who know me know that I don’t blog, facebook, twitter, write race reports, or post to forums (except on the rare occasion when I’m amusing myself with some self-indulgent witticism or making some lewd innuendo on someone else’s post). So, if you are looking for a race report on IMLP I don’t really have one to provide other than I had a good swim, was very happy with my bike, started strong on the run and then discovered that one cannot escape his or hers’ genetic fate. Having spent some time with my cardiologist today, he convinced me to post here and thinks what happened to me is a cautionary tale that other amateur athletes might benefit from.
About mile 3 of the run, I began to feel dizzy, light headed, a little disoriented, and nauseated (nauseated by the way is normal for me so that I didn’t think much about it) -- at mile 6 a painful but momentary stabbing pain in my chest (actually thought at the moment it was some kind of cramp or indigestion – the kind of pain one might get after eating a chili cheese dog and a Pepsi – that right there says a lot). So, instead of a finisher’s shirt, it was a hospital gown in the cardiac unit of the local hospital. I was prepared for a lot of things on race day but discovering an undiagnosed case of coronary heart disease was not one of them.
As I was relating various experiences during my many months of training to my cardiologist he pointed out all the subtle signs of heart disease were there but that I dismissed them (as he noted far too many athlete do) as the normal pains and pangs of daily workouts, long training days, and too often too little sleep (those damn early morning workouts!). I told him how I would completely crash after my long bike rides or runs on the weekends - sleep for hours in the middle of the day (trust me, makes it very hard to get the weekend chores done that way). How it became sort of a running joke among some friends of mine how long it would take me to puke after a century ride. How despite more training I was becoming a progressively slower biker and runner over the past couple of years. 8 minute miles were becoming 10 minute miles, zone 2 was now zone 4. Injuries would last forever. I thought a constant state of fatigue was the new normal when Ironman training.
So here I am in the weeks and months leading up to race day thinking I’m fit and healthy. Heck, I had a physical a few months back and like most triathletes my blood pressure was better than the norm, my cholesterol tested just fine, weight was under control. No one said anything about being at risk for heart disease – was told keep up the good work. Funny thing is, while bp, cholesterol, weight are all risk factors, none of them are anywhere as important a factor as plain old genetics (oh, by the way being an over 40 male is also a risk factor – for any of the more mature readers out there). Needless to say, I have a family history of heart disease but never really gave it much thought in regards to my own health (just happy my mom has survived two heart attacks, bypass surgery, and is still with me today as she approaches 90).
Moral of the Story…
Please, my cardiologist and I beg you if you have any symptoms or just feel that that something is off in your training no matter how small get checked out. It may be nothing, it may be something and if you have a family history of health issues just note that you cannot out swim, bike, or run your genes (yes, exercise and diet can help moderate the risks but family history has a way of repeating itself).
I have to give huge kudos to the volunteers and medical personnel at IMLP. They quickly recognized my distress as something out of the ordinary, after a lot of stubborn (and in retrospect silly) protest on my part (“I’ll be fine, I just need a minute, I’m not quitting, I’ve got Andy Potts in my sights,…”) they pulled me from the race and arranged quick transport first to the medical tent where nitroglycerin was administered and then a sirens blaring trip to a fully equipped cardiac care center in Plattsburg, NY where a cardiologist was called and waiting. A heart catheterization was performed, blood thinners and other drugs administered, blockage found, diagnosis confirmed and referral to a heart specialist here in DC.
How do I feel today? with respect to the race -- of course disappointed -- I didn’t finish but congratulations to all the DC Tri’ers who did – fantastic accomplishment. I’ll have to be satisfied with being 1 for 3 in Ironman races. I do have to give a special congratulations to my training partners and Lake Placid housemates –you know who you are and I’m really happy of you guys – you guys truly earned the accomplishment (oh, a thank you to Don Fink too). About life, as a friend of mine told me, IMLP may have been a blessing in disguise and may have saved my life. The race provided the stress test that I should have had years ago (hint to all of you over 40 males), the heart disease was caught early, is completely manageable with daily medication, vigilant observation, and some lifestyle adjustments (see comment above about chili cheese dogs). I will be able to get back to swim, bike, run and will be around a long time (not such good news for my nemesis) and will get to enjoy seeing my oldest daughter off to university in this fall and discover the wonder that is becoming an adult and my youngest figure skate, do musical theater, and amaze me with her creativity every day. with that I am going to go ahead and call IMLP a WIN for “team Dave.”
We love you Dave and I'm glad I'll have you around to draft behind for many, many more years. Team Dave has always been a winner in my book.
GO TEAM DAVE. All 585 pounds of you :-)
Go Team Dave! So glad it ended this way :) --Kendra
You may not have finished the race, as you said, but this gave you something much more important than a finisher's medal: it gave you the information you needed to address what could have been a fatal problem. I know you mentioned age as a risk factor for heart disease, but I urge ALL triathletes to have a yearly physical and to ask for an EKG as well (no matter what your age). An EKG may not catch all heart issues, but it can help to provide medical professionals with clues as to potential or current heart problems. When you speak to your doctor during a physical, remember no detail is too small or "stupid" to share. What you may think is an insignificant detail could actually be an important thing that will help your doctor to properly diagnose you.
Go Team Dave!
Go Team Dave, you may not have finished Placid but you'll always be an Ironman and an inspiration.
While you may be disappointed at not finishing IMLP, I think everyone here can say that they prefer you alive.
And your nemesis can wait until that next race... I mean, Andy Potts isn't going anywhere. You'll catch him eventually.
Go Team Dave!
Another cheer for Team Dave!
I've been thinking of you this week and am glad you posted an update. I've got pictures that proved that you looked great out of the swim and on the bike and if it weren't for this 'little' problem, you would have been great on the marathon as well.
Rest up and look forward to seeing you soon!
We love Team Dave! IMLP was a win for sure and so happy we'll have you for many more years to come. We'll make sure to get veggie chili cheese dogs for our next party :)
Great report writing. Guy may have a novel in him.
I have been riding side by side with you each season at the Air Force Challenge. I thought you were getting faster (at least I hoped you (and I) were)!
Either way, I can't reiterate enough what everyone has said. This isn't about a finisher's medal...this is about a life medal. And you deserve it, my friend!
Here's to many more years rooting for Team Dave!
Thanks so much for sharing your story!
Thank you for sharing Dave!