Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My heart wasn't in it, literally.

photo by Ivan Buzik

We took off onto the dark streets of Wrightwood at 0500.  While Angeles Crest 100 is not a huge, uber competitive race nationally, it always seems to draw great local talent and this year even more than normal.  Upon reaching the Acorn Trail the jockeying for position began, which would continue for the next 80 miles.  I think I was in 4th place or so when I was cruising the thick forested duffy single track when I heard a weird sound... was that a dog, or a camper yelling at a bear?  I hope I get to see a bear.  A turn or two later I run upon Dom throwing up... ahhhh that's the weird sound I heard.  Before I reach him he starts running and we cruise into the first aid station, Inspiration Point, together.

photo by Sally McRae

I snuck ahead of Dom in the aid station and I cruised to the next AS Vincent Gap.  I was greeted again by my wife and crew extraordinaire.  After Elissa threw my pack on my I was off, up Baden-Powell.  About halfway up I started feeling a funny feeling in my throat anytime I started to run anything moderately inclined.  I'd get tired quick and have to start hiking.  Michele and Guillaume passed me on the way to the top, Larry Gassan snapped my picture and said something cute and I enjoyed the ride down to Islip, passing Michele, Guillaume and to my surprise, Jorge.  Hunh, so I'm in first so far, even though I can't run uphill hard at all, sweet.

Coming into Islip Saddle
photo by Jack Rosenfeld

My uphill issues were progressively worse heading up Williamson.  Had to stop on the top and let my heart settle before heading down to Hwy 2.  Running at all on flat section from Eagle's Roost from Buckhorn Campground was very difficult.  I ran these 2 miles with Jorge.  We're both pretty quiet people, occasionally I'd say a little something, but I think we both enjoyed the silence and running with each other.  I stopped to use the facilities in the campground and Jorge took off.

My symptoms continued and became more detrimental ascending Cooper Canyon.  I had to walk even the most gradual sections.  Guillaume passed me, Michele passed me, Dom passed me.  It wasn't hot, my legs felt fine, stomach fine, but my heart wasn't on board.  On some of the steeper sections, which aren't even steep, I had to stop and take a break here and there.  I ran the last 10 yards or so up to approaching Eagle's Roost aid station.  I hoped that I could get my heart to do the weird thing it was doing and that medical volunteer would be able to witness it.  But by the time I checked in with my wife who was crewing me, and found a medical volunteer, my heart rate had dropped and my arrhythmia went back into hiding, just waiting for me to stress out my heart a bit before it would re-emerge.

I was concerned that what I assumed were frequent PVC's (premature ventricular contractions) could potentially lead to symptoms more serious than what I was currently feeling.  I was also concerned that this was a sign that running 8 races in the last 9 months was a little more than my heart could handle right now, and running anymore would just tire my heart out even more.  En route to Three-Points, I couldn't even run the flat sections for long before tiring out and having to walk.  At this point I made the decision to pull the plug.

In hindsight, I peaked well for Bishop 100k.  Then I didn't rest enough after that before Western States, and I wasn't able to perform at 100% there.   I took it very easy between WS and Angeles Crest, but I guess my body just needs a little more time.  I felt extremely lame dropping, but I don't regret it much considering the circumstances.  It was weird, my legs felt fine, my gut was good, I felt like I could float downhill and catch anyone in my Hoka Huaka's, but going uphill was impossible.

Hang'n out with photographer Jayme Burtis at Shortcut
photo by Chandra Farnham

I can't thank my wife enough for preparing for this trip far in advance, crewing me for 40 miles and being there for me after I dropped.  I'm looking forward to returning the favor for her soon.

Running two 100's 5 weeks apart does seem foolhardy, BUT, since AC requires signing up a year in advance, and I qualified for WS afterwards, I fell into it and accepted the challenge.

Since my weird symptoms I made an appointment with a cardiologist and had a stress test performed.  My heart looks fine and I think I'll be back competing at full capacity SOON.

In the mean time I plan to thru-hike the Sierra High Route with Michael Chamoun.  We experienced the JMT last fall and words can't express the infinite life long memories forged on our journey.  I'm looking forward to upping the ante this fall.