Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mortal...Indeed

"Running might not add years to your life, but definitely adds life to your years."

- Jim Fixx, Best-selling author who died at age 52 in 1984 while out on a run (he had heart disease and doctors say running probably added about 10 years to his life)


Masochist came back to haunt me a short 2 days ago. You may remember when reading my race report that my toes on both feet took quite a beating. Specifically, I feared for my left big toe. Losing toenails is pretty normal for us long-distance runners. For me, I've lost #2/3/4 on both feet multiple times, but never has a big toe been at risk. As predicted, my left nail died off and this week, it was time for removal. If you have a weak stomach, I'll try and spare you the details because just thinking about it gets me queasy a bit, too. In a nutshell, all came off with no problem except for the right side. A bit ingrown, I'd say. Well, if you know my medical history, you know I am highly susceptible to vasovagal syncope. It is the most common cause of fainting. It occurs when your body reacts in an exaggerated way to such triggers as the sight of blood or extreme emotional distress. The trigger results in a sudden drop in your heart rate and blood pressure, which reduces blood flow to your brain and causes you to briefly lose consciousness. There are many triggers out there but for me, there are 3 main ones: sudden sharp pain, dehydration, and illness. Since I have a resting heart rate around 40 beats per minute, the sudden drop causing me to pass out and my heart stops...momentarily. I know this because I was tested in 1997 on the "tilt table test" which confirms this condition. I had all the medical equipment attached to me and sure enough, I passed out and flat-lined. As soon as they lowered the table, my heart re-started. ANYWAY, back to the toenail. You see...the pesky right side was giving me problems and hurt. I gave up on the tugging and grabbed the scissors. When I did this, I must have yanked on it, because all of a sudden I felt flushed...a warm fuzzy sensation starting in my mid-section and moving upward. I knew this feeling as I've had it before. The way to stop crashing to the floor is to get down there first so I got down on the kitchen floor slowly and just waited for it to subside. Usually, this works. I got up after a few minutes and felt totally out of sorts. Marjie wasn't home and my girls were in bed. Luckily, Marjie showed up within 5 minutes and I just sat down on the couch feeling totally "wrong." I was NOT OK. She came in and said I looked as white as a ghost. She laid me down and propped up my feet to get blood moving to my head. Strangely, this was NOT working as it should. I was feeling nauseated and felt the room closing in around me. I felt like I was slipping away and couldn't do anything. (this is upsetting just putting this into words) OK, pause the story for just a minute: one of the reasons I fear passing out so much is what happens when my heart restarts. It's the same every time. Each sense comes back one at a time. 1st: I can hear Marjie saying "Nick! Can you hear me?!" I can hear her, but can't see her, move, or talk back. Then, I can see...straight up at the ceiling. I can still hear her shouting at me but I can't answer. It's like an out-of-body experience....like I'm not alive and "observing" something happening. Confusing, I know. Then, I can start to move and speak...more like mumble. Almost immediately, a flood of emotion hits...I just want to start crying. Then, I start sweating, then get chilled, then sweaty again, and it continues. Oh yea, nauseated, too. It is just awful and it happens exactly in this order every single time, without exception. I've crashed through a shower door (the last episode in June 2006), woken up under a sink in a car dealership's bathroom after passing out and hitting my head on the counter top, and been flown off an aircraft carrier (the USS John C. Stennis CVN-74) after being found on the bathroom floor. OK, OK...back to the story: I passed out laying down with my legs raised and it all happened again. Afterwards, Marjie told me that I curled my arms and hands up like I was seizing while I passed out....and was moaning. I don't remember that...and that's pretty dang strange stuff for this tough ultra-running, never-stop guy! I laid there for an hour...hot/cold/hot/cold, then falling asleep...and finally felt like I could make it to bed. The next day at work (Friday), I didn't feel "right" until after lunch. It took that long to recover. What really stinks about all of this is that after the Rolls-Royce of cardiology testing I had 2 years ago, my cardiologist told me that I would grow more resilient to passing out as more time passes without an episode. So, this just hits the big 'ol RESET button. And so the clock starts tickin' again...


I've been popping ibuprofen for the past 2 days and did so at about 6am this morning in preps for our scheduled VR group trail run this morning. With trail shoes that fit tighter, I didn't want the pain of that toe stopping today's run...and it worked. Today's run gathered up 20+ fearless runners at the Boston Store at 7am for a deep snow, turned to mud trail run. It was only 20F at the start but the woods provided protection from the light breeze and the biting cold. I ended up with a refreshing, but short 13 miles. I did my 20 mile, 3.5 hr trail run a week ago and that was my last long run before the Tecumseh Trail Marathon in a short 2 weeks from now. All in all, I racked up 32 miles this week and will now "officially" begin my taper to Tecumseh starting tomorrow. Vince R., Greg D., Jim Chr., Rob L., and Brandon R. are all joining me on a road trip to Bloomington, Indiana two Saturdays from now.

On the positive side of life (outside running, of course), Marjie and I celebrated 16 years of marriage yesterday. Yea...we got married young. I was only 19...and woundn't have done it any different if I could! I got home at about dinner time and our girls were at their cousins for the evening. We spent the evening at a winery about 25 minutes west of us in Berlin Center. It's called the Mastropietro Winery and I highly recommend it. I had an appetizer of homemade potato chips and a delicious gyro wrap for dinner. Excellent! A catering company actually provides the food and the winery...well, they provide the wine! A tasting station inside the cozy cafe is there for you to try out the options first. We will definitely revisit in the spring/summer and sit outside by the lake. If you go, leave the kids at home.

Happy Trails, everyone!

2 comments:

Sensationally Red said...

Sheesh..I would have taken you and Marjie for newlyweds since you still like eachother after 16 years...good for you!! Good to see it doesn't have to go to pot. I'm a big time fainter too..same reasons....last I almost hit the floor was when my daughter got her stitches. Good thing, I have a more average heart rate...don't get the weird out of body experience. That was quite a story. Don't go ripping your toe nail off like that anymore. Sheesh! We saw the VR group take off from Boston Store at 7. We were in a much slower group...got lost..again.

Chuck said...

I sometimes get the Vaso Vagel Hangover when giving blood. I hate it that my body will do that to me, and I typically warn the technician that it might happen. We usually forgo the politics and just grab a gurney to lie down on. Works better for me, and for them.