These blogs are my personal, idiosyncratic observations about aging, training, and sports competition.
To access previous blogs, click "Read Other Blogs" at the bottom of this page.
Paddling in Torino -- World Masters Games 2013
Winning - May 11, 2012
Can Too Much Exercise Be Bad for Your Heart - March 11, 2011
The 60 Minute Crawl - January 30, 2011
Playing Tennis Again - October 6, 2010
Why Compete? (2) - June 15, 2010
LOST - May 24, 2010
Happy Birthday to Me - May 18, 2010
Why Compete?(1) - April 30, 2010
Val Barnwell - April 14, 2010
Spring Training Day - April 4, 2010
Becoming Bionic - March 24, 2010
The Divided Kingdom - February 4, 2010
March 24, 2010
I believe we all have aging milestones (Not birthdays) when we suddenly realize we have grown older. The need for reading glasses, a son or daughter who celebrates a 40th birthday, a torn Meniscus, or a waitress offering you the Senior Discount are all clues that the years are flying by. I have passed all these milestones and so I thought that I was securely in the realm of the aged -- but I was wrong. A year ago another situation occurred that moved me deeper into geezerdom.
After a fairly rigorous sprint triathlon, I found my post-race fatigue to be abnormally persistent. Usually I recover from these events in two or three days, but in this case I was still feeling tired after a week. Worrisome. So I consulted my doctor who passed me on to a cardiologist. After a series of tests -- nuclear stress test, echocardiogram, 24 hours on a halter monitor -- I met with the cardiologist who calmly recommended a pacemaker. A pacemaker! To me pacemakers were a technological precursor to death. Only people who were infirm or immobile needed pacemakers. With the cardiologist's recommendation I suddenly felt several decades older.
Why did I need a pacemaker. Well, my heart rate was in the low 40s. I had always assumed that a low heart rate was characteristic of a finely tuned endurance athlete. (I have a robust fantasy life) But a heart can beat too slowly. The halter monitor indicated that my heart rate dropped into the 30s while I slept. Even more worrisome were periodic "pauses" when my heart stopped completely for three or even four seconds. This is not good. So, to bring my heart rate up to a more normal level and prevent these pauses, my cardiologist felt a pacemaker would be appropriate. Unfortunately, there are no real alternatives. No wonder drugs;no surgical fix.
Implanting a pacemaker turns out to be a relatively simple procedure that, in most cases, can be done overnight without the use of the general anesthetic. Approximately 500,000 Americans have implantable permanent pacemakers. Battery-operated, today's pacemaker will operate for seven or eight years before needing a battery replacement. Some pacemakers can be checked for operation and battery life via telephone. So, after doing considerable due diligence on pacemakers, the implantation procedure, my cardiologist, and the hospital, and after speaking with several people with pacemakers, I decided to go bionic.
There was no promise that my "paced" heart would turn me into a 30-year old, or even a 50-year old, again. But the pacemaker did increase my heart rate to a more normal 60 beats per second and staved off those pesky pauses. Once the pacemaker was implanted, I began to train again.
At last Steve Austin (the Six-Million Dollar Man) and I were brothers in technology. Although his make-over was more elaborate and expensive, we're both living with scientific gadgets in our bodies. My pacemaker kept me going during the Summer National Senior Games (in triathlon) and the World Masters Games (in tennis and kayaking), so I'd say things are going well.