Consequences of a Cardiac Conscience

Week 4:   Earlier this week, I had my first cardiac scare since starting to train for the race. I awoke in the middle of the night with a sharp pain in my left shoulder that throbbed and refused to go away despite flopping about in bed to shift my position. True, I didn’t have any pain in my chest or neck, but I have read how heart attacks can present with shoulder or axillary pain in women, and given my cardiac history, I take all symptoms very seriously. It appears that the short sleeve of a T-shirt, when bunched up in one’s armpit, will also reproduce these symptoms, but I hadn’t discovered that yet. To date, I have been blessed with perfectly clear arteries, but I naturally began to suspect early signs of a heart attack. My thoughts quickly zeroed in on the bacon cheeseburger I had shamelessly enjoyed for dinner. I recognize that is not standard runner’s fare, and I am not proud. For the most part I eat lean meats and loads of veggies. I watch portion sizes and I sometimes limit carbs, but I am no Saint. I like chocolate and pizza and occasionally bacon. Once a year I head out for a doughnut with my family while we watch the televised coverage of the rest of the state running the Bolder Boulder, and this year I am a little sad to miss our annual tradition. I began to question the intensity of my training efforts and wondered if my cardiologist had made some grave mistake in giving me the green light for this race. It was on a whim that I finally decided to palpate the exact location of my pain and inadvertently discovered my balled up sleeve. To my great relief, my symptoms dissipated immediately upon smoothing the crumpled mass. Crisis averted, I can proceed as planned and rejoice that my ticker is not yet ready to concede defeat. And I don’t have to undergo a complete dietary overhaul yet, though I will likely steer clear of bacon cheeseburgers in the foreseeable future.
     My cardiologist visited me in my mind at my gym again Thursday. I neglected to tell him about my dinner selection, and this time I made him get on the treadmill beside me. My gym, my rules. I find it only fair if he’s going to keep showing up and providing unsolicited commentary on my performance. To my annoyance, he managed an easy jog and never became winded. We played our usual game of “want or need” and I reluctantly retrieved my hand a number of times from its preferred position, hovering over the throttle, before giving in to the need to slow down. He nodded approvingly when I made the correct decision, and only raised an omnipotent eyebrow when I defiantly chose the slower speed anyway. I still had my unrelenting cold, after all.
     Sometimes it feels like a battle of mind over matter, but it would be nice if my matter were less inclined to drag. The first mile is always the worst. I start off optimistic and energetic (at least when I’m not ill) but by the first quarter mile, when my muscles realize the activity I intend to put them through, full revolt occurs with screams of abuse and mistreatment echoing from my posterior downward. I can’t wait for this to improve and I’m still confident one day it will, I just wish my body were more cooperative with a faster learning curve.
     My race is now less than a month away, and I have been thinking that it is probably for the best that I’ve been down and out with a cold this week. Sure, I still made it to the gym once and did a couple of Jillian’s, but I intentionally ignored my times and my performance can hardly count as training. On the other hand, my sister Kristiann, who is running the race with me, just ran a half marathon last week for kicks. She probably won’t even notice the 10K (“Oh, is it over now?”). I am counting on altitude to help level our respective running skills.  She is accustomed to running at sea level, while I live and train in the oxygen depleted race zone. Hometown advantage. I’d say once you cut her oxygen supply in half, we’re about equal in terms of where we’re at in our training programs. I’m glad I’ve been sick, because 4 weeks left of training was seeming a bit excessive, actually. Overkill.  I am honing my running skills with such speed and grace that 3 weeks is plenty of time. I’m totally confident. I am willing myself over my cold and looking forward to new opportunities for success this weekend.  Game on! I was born to run.

2 thoughts on “Consequences of a Cardiac Conscience

  1. That first mile is rough for everyone. Stef Williams suggested that I could better improve my distance work by thinking backwards. Run the first mile or so until my breathing leveled off… then stay there for a little bit, push it a bit and level, push, level… until I can see the end (3 miles or so to go), then push it hard and don't expect that leveling. For me, this is a change from a 10 minute mile pace at the start to an 8 minute mile finish. Took me a bit to learn, but now, we have become good friends. Proud of you and your spirit.

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