From Triple Bypass to Triathlon

comments : 0

My goal is always to lead by example, and after running the marathon and becoming a volunteer in my hospital’s cardiac unit I looked for another way to inspire people. Hello, triathlons!

Here we go with number three. First, I want to thank all of you (all two of you) who’ve sent me your positive comments regarding my articles. Secondly, I truly hope to inspire my fellow triathletes with my story of open heart surgery.

To encapsulate my first two articles, I was a former runner training for marathons when doctors discovered a blocked coronary artery. That was in April of 2005. In November of 2005, seven months and two days after open heart surgery, I completed the Seattle Marathon twenty-one minutes faster than my previous marathon best, despite doctors telling me I wouldn’t be running competitively until 2006. Since then I switched to triathlons with the goal of doing a full Ironman and qualifying for Kona.

My first article began by me saying I was just two days away from my first half Ironman tri in Sunriver, Oregon. I haven’t offered much info on that race and only hinted that I finished it. I will in due time tell you all about it, but I plan on submitting articles as I train for the June 2007 Coeur d’Alene Ironman, so I figure there’s plenty of time to do that.

My goal is always to lead by example, and after running the marathon and becoming a volunteer in my hospital’s cardiac unit I looked for another way to inspire people. Hello, triathlons! A marathon can be a grueling event and I’ve always been impressed with an athlete’s ability to run one after swimming two miles and biking one hundred and twelve (Ironman distances), so that became my next goal. I started training for some upcoming sprint distance triathlons in late January or early February. I’ll never forget my first morning in the pool. My first lap (50 yds) wasn’t too tough, but I started sucking wind soon after. Eventually, through consistency and persistence, I worked my way up to one mile and beyond on my long day.

Cycling was kept at around twelve to fourteen miles a session at first, since that was the sprint distance I would be riding. I must give credit where credit is due and personally thank Rob Clark of Paul’s Cycle shop in Eugene, Oregon. What can I say about someone who literally gave me the use of his Trek Pilot and his own riding shoes to train with? I completed the Albany sprint tri in April, continued training, completed the Lebanon sprint tri in May, and put my complete focus on the Pacific Crest Half-Ironman Triathlon in June. I managed one ride of twenty-five miles and one ride of forty miles prior to that race. Looking back, it was obvious I should have trained more for the event, but I also tried to listen to my body and took days off when I felt I needed to.

I didn’t stress over the run portion of Pacific Crest, but neither did I take it lightly. Isn’t it weird trying to run after biking with effort? I practiced it a few times in my training, but the real thing is quite different. I find it comical to watch people run so stiff-legged because I’m going through the same thing. I received some great advice from my friend Mike—who lent me his wet suit for Pacific Crest—that easing back on the throttle for the last mile of cycling helps to loosen the leg muscles prior to running, and it seems to work. I did a long run of ten miles prior to the half and called it good, knowing I would probably have to gut it out by then anyway and that’s where I knew I would draw on the past year of surgery and recovery as emotional inspiration.

Speaking of surgery, allow me to insert a little humor. The morning I was to have my angiogram, a nurse walked into my room. She was about five feet tall with thick curly black hair…on her arms. She prepared the shower for me and left the room as I jumped in, not knowing when I would be able to take another one. I finished, shut off the water, and reached for the towel. As I was drying my back she burst into the room saying something about “groin” and “shaving.” I wrapped the towel around me as she threw open the shower curtain. I lifted the edge of the towel for her to access my “area” and she promptly grabbed the towel and threw it aside. After three or four quick swipes she disappeared into the mist and the only sound I heard was an intermittent drip from the faucet, thank God. I reached for my gown, a little shaken up over the recent clear-cutting of my pride and joy, and slipped my right arm into the sleeve.

Recalling the trouble I had earlier with my shorts, I decided to put them on before the gown. So, with my arm still in the sleeve, I put my left leg into the shorts and pulled them up to my knee. That’s when Sheila burst into the bathroom to tell me not to put my underwear on. Me, standing on my right leg, right arm held out to keep the gown out of the way and with my shorts seemingly glued to my left knee cap, and Sheila, smiling at me through the mist from the doorway.

I guess if I can survive that I can go through most anything. Until next time, keep training.

Leave a Comment