Friday, August 7, 2015

Matters of the heart

Still life with magazine and my meds
It was one week ago that I got back on my bike for the first time since my heart ablation exactly 15 days ago. Yes, that was immediately after my trip to Mammoth, a red-eye flight back home to Texas, and a long drive to Temple and Austin. The Afib that I had been battling for a while had necessitated intervention, and my cardiologist had managed to open the door for the procedure at St. David's hospital in Austin, and that's where they stuck tubes and catheters through my groin all the way inside of my heart.

The procedure was a bit like something out of a sci-fi movie. Remember the 1966 flick "The Fantastic Voyage," in which a few docs and scientists get shrunk to molecular levels (together with their submarine) and get injected into some VIP patient's bloodstream to fix somewhere something? Well, that's more or less what Dr. Rodney Horton did when he guided a laser toward portions inside of my heart to zap away bad electrical contacts. Amazing what modern medicine can do. Good thing I haven't seen the hospital bill yet.... (No worries, my insurance will pay and I'll be on the hook for only the deductible.)

What a coincidence it was that cycling magazine Velo ran a special story on (older) endurance athletes and heart issues! Quite frankly, it's frightening. If you'd like to read the extremely interesting story, please link to for the entire read. It appears that medical research is trying to catch up with us geezers and our arrhythmia problems. There are numerous medical articles that research this topic. What I gather at this point: Maybe our obsession with riding longer and faster has not been such a boon to our health, after all.

Upon Sabine's suggestion I'll spare you the pic of my bruised right groin, which really was the part of the body that felt the worst. Man, those colors were reminiscent of a top-10 West Texas evening thunderstorm sky! After six hours of total bed rest flat on my back I was allowed to get up and walk around my hospital room, and a day later I was discharged. I spent one night in Austin with Vance and Brandi, and then I spent another two nights in Temple with Martha and Alan to recuperate a little more. Then I drove back to Lubbock to continue my recovery in sight of my foxes.
The little guy is starting to really grow up
Playing in the playground
For a few days I did nothing except watch TV, read, and answer e-mails. Then, last Friday, my week of "no exercise" (necessitated by those holes in the groinal arteries that needed to heal) was over and I slowly started to get back on the bike. Six miles the first day; 12 the next. And then it was 23 and then 26, my longest so far. Meanwhile, my friend Barry from NYC had shown up for a visit to his parents here in Lubbock, and I subjected him to an agonizingly slow ride east of town. Yep, those rides are very slow: Not only do I continue to be on beta blockers, but I have also been prescribed yet another heart med that really takes its toll. Go a bit faster than 13 miles an hour and it feels as if I were dragging a 150-pound anchor up a steep gravel road.
The Ritchey is enjoying the Catskills, and so am I
Two days ago it was time to get on another airplane and jet out to Albany, NY, from where I drove the final hour or so to Windham, in the Catskills. This is the fifth time that this small hamlet hosts a round of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, and I am wearing one of my many different hats out here. It's always nice to see old friends, and Windham must have one of the greatest communities as far as pulling together and putting on a world-class event is concerned. Nick, Lori, Rick, Amy, and all the other locals have become friends over the years, and I am grateful for the opportunity to work here again.
This ain't Lubbock
There are definitely some interesting looking places out here
I have brought the Ritchey along, and since my first two days out here actually gave me a little down time I have made good use of it and ridden a total of 40 miles (or four hours!) through the beautiful valleys here. I really can't climb, and even in the flat areas I am not much faster than 11 to 12 miles an hour—but I still enjoy the scenery!
Just in case you've been wondering where our Canada geese spend the summer:
Just a little while ago I rode the chair lift up to the top of the mountain. Just think, three weeks ago I was in Mammoth. The change in scenery couldn't be more pronounced. How lucky I am to see all these cool places and even get paid for it!
The Sierra Nevada in California sure looked different
My real work will start tomorrow, and on Monday I'll fly back home. Tuesday I'll unpack and re-pack, and on Wednesday I'm off to see Sabine for a a good week and a half before returning for the Hotter'n Hell. And then I have my follow-up visit with my cardiologist and hope to get off those meds! Please wish me luck.


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