Microsoft word - with one lung behind my back

With One Lung Tied Behind my Back Jarrell 1 You’ve probably read many stories about running a marathon so I won’t bore you to tears with all the things like how nervous I was lining up for the Houston Marathon or the massive crowds or the humidity or any of that stuff you’ve heard The story I want to tell you will be a little different than most stories you’ve read about running and if you were looking through binoculars from the roof of the Convention Center at the start of the Houston Marathon Houston and zoomed into the man in a dark grey Brooks running shirt that is standing behind the girl with the 4:30 pace balloons, you’d see me about to run my first marathon on beta blockers, which is a medicine used to treat hypertension. Beta Blockers (I’m taking Bystolic) are usually not prescribed for endurance athletes since they work by reducing your heart rate and that makes it hard to run. It’s like running with one lung tied behind your back, reducing the amount of oxygen that your body gets. But then the next question you’d be asking is why an endurance runner needs to take hypertension medication in the first place. So That’s me earlier this year sitting uncomfortably exposed in a hospital gown on one of those examination tables at the doctor’s office. My wife wanted me to get a complete physical since I had turned 50 years old. I had been a fairly skittish With One Lung Tied Behind my Back Jarrell 2 patient most of my life and since for the twenty years we had been married, I had So there I sat with the blood pressure cuff around my arm and I could feel my heart start pounding harder and I started sweating a little. I knew the reading was going to be high so when the nurse said, “150/80”, I wasn’t that surprised. What did surprise me is that she returned shortly with a portable EKG machine and it showed I had an anomaly that the doctor was “Your blood pressure is higher than I’d like to see it,” the doctor said when he came in. “And it looks like your heart is working a little harder than it should be. See this blip here”, he said pointing to the EKG readout. “It shouldn’t come up I always had high blood pressure when going in for physicals so I told him I had “cuff-reaction” – that I ran a lot and wasn’t overweight but he wanted me try a beta blocker anyway: “If you have a stressful job, you probably have higher readings during the day than you think”, he said. “And I’d like you to go in for an echo cardiogram – I’ll have them call you.” Let’s even back up some more and I’ll recap how I got into this situation in the first place: not handling stress well, good food and drink. In that order. After my exam, I remember the first time I took a 10 mg Bystolic tablet, I woke up in the morning to run my daughters to school (they ride their bikes) and I felt like I had lost half of my cardiovascular system. The change was so severe that my whole life flashed before my eyes. Not my real “life” with my family and jobs With One Lung Tied Behind my Back Jarrell 3 and bills but my other life as a runner – the life that I live running in the mornings and taking long runs on the weekends. The life I live uploading data from my Garmin GPS to the computer so I can track how many miles are on each pair of shoes and the life I live with my friends training for the next marathon and the life The beta blockers brought down my blood pressure but I could no longer run without feeling extremely winded. I went from fairly average runner averaging around 4 hours in my annual marathon (3:54 PR), to feeling out of shape and With my reduced capacity since taking a beta-blocker, I went from being leader/encourager from near the front of my Saturday morning running group, to And then I got the call. It was from the cardiologist’s office and they had an appointment for me to come in for an echo-cardiogram stress test. The nurse on the phone said I could just wear comfortable clothes and shoes, that no athletic gear was needed since I’d just be walking fast on a tread mill. I asked about if I should continue to take my blood pressure medications before the test and got the standard cover-your-bases answer: “If your regular doctor prescribed medication for you to take, you should continue to take it So I arrived at the cardiologist’s office in North Dallas with a full dose of beta- blockers in my system. When I entered the office, I noticed how differently the office was laid out as opposed to the clinics I’ve been to up until then. The With One Lung Tied Behind my Back Jarrell 4 reception area was more like a lawyer’s office with wood paneling and furniture that didn’t look like it had been stained with 5-years’ worth of patients with And the exam room was twice as big as they usually are with a nice view of the Dallas skyline. The nurse took my blood pressure and pulse rate but then hesitated. She took it again and said something about my pulse being low (around 50) and she wanted to recheck it. When the doctor came in, he had my EKG results from the first doctor and asked me how it was going. I told him the story about my history of “cuff reaction”, that I was a runner, but my primary-care doctor saw something on the “This EKG isn’t necessarily bad. Especially if you are a runner,” he said. “We’ll have to see if there are any blockages though. Just don’t break my treadmill.” I told him he really didn’t have to worry about that because I was at a reduced The nurse led me into dimly-lit room with a treadmill next to medical equipment and soon I was attached to the cables and the test started. The doctor was asking me about my running, and also shared how his daughter had just run her first marathon. The treadmill increased speed and incline and the doctor continued to ask me questions. I could tell he was seeing if I could talk when running, something I used to be able to do but was definitely struggling to do at With One Lung Tied Behind my Back Jarrell 5 The nurse took my blood pressure up until I was at a full gallop, sweating profusely. The doctor encouraged me to keep going, that the machine had finally gotten my heart rate up enough to be able to get a good reading. He asked me to keep going and after several minutes the treadmill reduced speed and I was led back to the exam table for one last look at my heart with the probes. I can tell you I was glad that treadmill finally started winding down and I could get off of it. I had expected a nice walk on the treadmill and it had turned in to a long sprint for my life (my runner’s life that is). After the test, the doctor said there wasn’t any blockage and that there were “50 or more options” for blood pressure medications and we’d just have to find one that worked so he put me on Cozaar and I left his office encouraged that I could have both: good endurance and also low blood pressure. A week or so after getting off the Bystolic and on the Cozaar I got sick with strep throat and the doctor at the clinic measured my blood pressure at 160/80. I didn’t count this as a real reading but then had another encounter with the medical establishment (rains it pours) and it was 155/80 so it appear the Cozaar wasn’t working and got back on the Bystolic figuring I’d rather have half of my cardiovascular system and continue to live (my real life) then harm myself in the I was fairly happy with running with one lung tied behind my back until later that summer when my friends and I started training for our annual marathon. On one hot and steamy Saturday morning I had such a horrible 12-mile run, feeling light headed and winded most of the last miles, that I vowed to call the doctor for With One Lung Tied Behind my Back Jarrell 6 a change in my medication which I did but never heard back from my internist (my primary care doctor) so I called the cardiologist and left a message with his It had been several weeks and I hadn’t heard back from either doctor so I continued to train for the marathon through the summer and while not completely back to normal as far as times and effort levels, I thought I had reached a workable level so when the cardiologist finally called back (of course at the worst time ever while riding to lunch in a car with 4 of my co-workers on a Friday), I told him that I had been struggling running on the Bystolic but was feeling better about it so we decided not to change anything at that point. It wasn’t until the last two long training runs before the Houston marathon that I started questioning if I had made the right decision to stay on beta blockers. For the last 10 or so years, I would drop back and encourage the runners in our group that were struggling but now those same guys were dropping back for me. And the last two miles of the 20-miler we did before Houston felt more like a death march than something I do for a hobby. Houston would be the first marathon that I was scared about not being able to finish. For the last 16 or so I’ve run, I’ve usually been concerned about my time or pace or how ugly or pretty the finish would be but never about catching the Personally, the setup to running Houston couldn’t have been better: driving down from Dallas with a good friend, perfect weather, sound sleep the night With One Lung Tied Behind my Back Jarrell 7 before, all biological systems working well, and at peace emotionally and The first part of the course went up a long highway overpass but the course seemed very scenic, flat, and well attended by spectators. And even at mile 20 I still had gas in the tank and felt fairly optimistic about things turning out well. It wasn’t until mile 23 that things started going gray and then I got passed by Jack Lipponcott who was running his 38th Houston marathon. I started taking some long walks through the water stations and finally had to start singing Chris Cagle’s country song, “I breathe in, I breathe out, and put one foot in front of the other” while I did the marathon shuffle to the end. I finished in 4:50 – my slowest I go back and forth about trying some other medications or even trying to get off hypertension drugs completely. Even though I probably could get my blood pressure down some by diet, I think I will always struggle with cuff-reaction and possibly having high blood pressure under stress so we’ll see how this next year’s marathon training cycle goes since my running life plays a big part in my real life and I need to take care of both of them.


Microsoft word - wd0000228.doc

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