Wednesday, September 5, 2012

An eventful training week...

am now nearing the end of my training for my first Half-IronMan triathlon race this September 23!  Some weeks are definitely more eventful than others, training-wise.  This was one of the more eventful ones, for sure.  Be forewarned, this is a long post!

If you have been reading here for a while, you know that I have been battling some seemingly random problems with a heart arrhythmia problem called tachicardia.  Tachicardia is basically just a really fast heartbeat.  When this all began this past spring I had a myriad of tests run and thankfully none of them indicated any heart disease, the only "abnormality" being a super-cool slightly enlarged "athletic heart."

I guess you could basically say that I have "bad wiring" which at times really gets in the way of my best-laid plans, training-wise.  Ever since my ablation this past spring this whole thing has pretty much been under control.  I have had a few scary instances of my heart racing when I least expected it, but gradually I have learned particular things that seem to trigger the tachicardia (super-hard intervals, not warming up before beginning my workout, exercising in the extreme heat, etc) and I do my best to avoid those things.

On Mondays and Fridays I attend a masters swim class which is basically a group swim workout.  The one I attend is specifically for triathletes, so we only swim freestyle.  I *love* attending this class!  Not only do I tend to work harder in a group, but I also get helpful feedback on technique that I need to improve on.

Last Monday I was almost done with the assigned sets that we were swimming when I suddenly went into tachycardia.  When this happens to me I have to quickly make my way to the end of the pool and stop until my heart returns to a normal (sinus) rhythm.  Thankfully I have never passed out from one of these episodes, or even felt like I was going to, but the fear is certainly there, especially when I'm swimming.

I was super-relieved that this particular episode only lasted 2-3 minutes before returning to normal.  Whew!  At that point I finished the swim set, grateful that things were back to normal.

Tuesday I had a simple hour long bike workout on my trainer plus a 15 minute run... no prob.

Wednesday I had a challenging and fun "iron distance simulation."  Early in the day I swam for 30 minutes.  At lunch time I rode for 2 1/2 hours on hills since that's what I'll be majoring in at Branson.  Then late in the afternoon, I ran for one hour.  This was encouraging for me.  I'm still not very fast, especially running, but I did finish this strong, with no problems.  And my heart didn't act up either!

Thursday was a rest day.

Friday I swam again for an hour.  No problems with my heart then either.

Saturday I was scheduled to run 10 miles.  It rained and rained here Friday into Saturday (We ended up getting 6+ inches to appease our drought-stricken land, finally!).  I waited to run until it began to clear up on Saturday afternoon.  It was still cloudy, but super-humid when Caleb and I left to run.  Our plan was for him to run with me for the first 4 miles, then he was going to get on his bike and ride with me for the final 6 miles.

Rain outside my kitchen window!!

We had just finished the first 4 miles when I went into tachycardia.  Darn it!  At least we were already at the car, so I sat down, hoping to wait it out then finish my workout.  I changed my super-muddy socks and waited, and waited.  After 5 minutes I decided to try running again, since at times that has forced my heart back into a normal rhythm.  That didn't work this time so, somewhat dejected, I walked back to the car and drove home, praying that my heart would return to a normal rhythm so I wouldn't have to go in to the emergency room.  After a total of 45 minutes, just before reaching our house, my heart suddenly converted to a normal rhythm.  

Sunday I was scheduled to ride 35 miles.  This went off without a hitch~ no heart problems at all.  

Encouraged by Sunday's workout, I again attempted my 10 mile run early Monday morning.  Silly me, I decided to run by myself that morning.  Tom had worked late the night before and Jacob had a cold and couldn't run with me.  Rather than run with Tom later in the day since it was forecasted to be quite hot (mid 90s), I opted to run early by myself.  

The run started out much better than Saturday's run.  I use a run/walk plan, running for 6 minutes, then walking for one.  I can keep going a long time using this method.  This particular day I did great until I reached mile 8.5.  At that point, while walking for my one minute, I went into tachycardia.  

Running wasn't an option, and I was a mile and a half from my car, so I just kept walking and praying that I wouldn't pass out.  I was wearing the heart rate monitor that goes with my Garmin, so I kept glancing my Garmin to see what my heart rate was.  It kept hovering around 220.  Yikes!

I made it back to my car and reluctantly called Tom, who was still asleep at home since he had worked late the night before.  I *hated* waking him up, but wanted him to know what was going on in case I had trouble making it home.

Here's what my heart rate looked like, when I uploaded the info from my Garmin to my computer later.  The heart rate is at the bottom left of the page.  You can see my heart rate would rise to the low 160s while I would run for the 6 minutes and then fall as I walked for the minute.  Then check out what happened when I went into tachycardia!  Yikes!

I know that this is silly, but my fear as I drove home was that I would have to go to the emergency room and that I would have to have a defibrillator used on me.  Now I know that most likely defibrillators aren't used on people who are conscious, but that was my fear.

I made it home just fine, well, as fine as I could and just as Tom and I were about to leave for the emergency room, my heart returned to a normal rhythm... after a grand total of 55 minutes this time.  Good grief!  At that point I tearfully decided that training for an IronMan competition simply wasn't in my future.  I was really desiring to trust God with this (either way, IronMan or no), but feeling quite heartbroken and honestly super fragile.

By Tuesday though, (and predictably enough) I was already contemplating if there was *any* possible way that I could get back to training.  Thankfully, I already had an appointment scheduled with my cardiologist for this Thursday.  I called his nurse Tuesday morning and told her what had happened.  She knows my health history and my desire to compete in triathlons and honestly didn't seem very concerned about what had happened.  She said that I should continue to do my workouts, but avoid long workouts in the heat.

So, I went from thinking that I was about to die on Monday morning, to swimming again Tuesday afternoon. : )   I abbreviated my swim workout somewhat since I was honestly not anxious to repeat Monday's drama.  As I swam I prayed, about a variety of things.  Somewhere around my 47th lap, the Lord revealed to me what was causing my heart to act up so badly this past week!

I have mentioned here in the past that I am battling osteopenia.  As I have researched this I have been really committed to avoiding prescription medications as they have a wide range of super-bad side effects.  One thing that I came across in my research though was that bioidentical testosterone is commonly prescribed in Europe for premenopausal women who are battling osteopenia.  This is not a synthetic form of testosterone, but a form that is natural and easily recognized and utilized.  

At that point, this past January, I requested that my dr put me on a small dose of testosterone.  Interestingly enough, I had only been using it a week when I began to have a problem with my heart racing during masters swim.  At that point I had no idea that I had any other heart problems and initially assumed that I was just having trouble coming up to speed again after I recovering from my hip surgery.  

On the outside chance that the testosterone was causing my problems I quit using it and the problems with my heart racing quit pretty quickly. 

A few months later I again considered the testosterone and thought that surely it must have been a fluke that I had experienced the heart racing issues in January and again used the testosterone cream.  Within a week I was having the same problems!  So I immediately stopped using the testosterone again.

Fast forward to two weeks ago.  I began seeing a different doctor who specialized in using bioidentical hormone replacement therapy for women.  He again put me on a bioidentical combination of progesterone and (silly me!) testosterone cream.  And here I am, two weeks into that having a crazy amount of heart arrhythmia problems! (I've been using the progesterone for some time, with no adverse effects) 

Needless to say, I won't be using that cream any more!  I am guessing that it will take several days to a week (based on past experience) for it to get out of my system.  

And yes, I certainly do have something else going on with my heart (I have intermittent heart arrhythmia problems, even when I haven't been using the testosterone cream), and I will be curious to hear my cardiologist's take on this, but I think that I was staying on top of everything until this past week, so I am really hopeful that within a few days I'll be back where I was.  Time will tell, but I pretty sure about this.  : )

So, if you made it this far, you made it to the "happy ending" of my crazy training week.  I've got about two good weeks of training left, then taper week, then race day!

Oh!  I almost forgot!  Our oldest (and newly married!) son Nathaniel is a chaplain's assistant in the army at Ft. Benning, GA.  He has been blogging a bunch lately here about some of his experiences there as he serves the Lord and his country.  I *love* seeing my children love and serve the Lord!  I thought you might like to see too.  : )

Rejoicing in His goodness, in the good *and* the hard times,


  1. Ahhh! My heart was racing just reading this post!! Scary. So glad you figured out what was wrong and causing your heart to jump up.

    The conversation with your Dr. made me laugh.

    Loved the picture of you and hubby resting. So sweet.

    Praying for you heart to be strong and not act crazy.


  2. p.s LOVED your son's blog. Ft Benning is where our son is finishing up his schooling with the National Guard. Small world :-)


    1. Thanks Cinnamon!

      What a small world that your son is at Benning right now! I think you once told me that you and John lived there when you were first married, is that right? Nate and Jamie are scheduled to be sent to Hawaii next! Tough duty, I think! : )

      Have a great weekend, my friend!


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