A run – of sorts

It has been 8 months since my heart attack, and I am finally feeling some real improvement. I have some energy back and have found myself thinking about running again.

I even went for a semi-run recently.

I had a heart stress test at the hospital, where they wired me up to an ECG machine,  took an ultra sound scan of my heart while I was rested, then put me on a treadmill for a bit and took another scan to see how my heart responded.

In the days beforehand I was quite excited at the prospect of running , even a short run on a treadmill with wires hanging off me. And it was as good as I had hoped. I was having so much fun during the test that they told me I was one for the very few heart patients who actually enjoy it. And they couldn’t remember when anyone else had asked for the treadmill to go faster.

To get a scan of my heart under stress, they wanted me to get to my “predicted maximum heart rate” – which they calculated at 169 beats/minute. When my heartbeat got to this target, they said the scan is best if I can keep working for longer, so I kept going and eventually got to 112% of my predicted maximum. I think that is awesome, but I’m not sure. I’m not sure whether it was good for me either. I’m an ultra runner, the whole idea is to go slow and conserve energy. My heart rate probably hasn’t been that high any other time this century.

The test results were negative – which is a positive result. No abnormalities in my heart at rest or under stress. This is great news, and I can officially “resume gentle exercise”.

Except that I can’t just yet. I have had chest pains and lethargy since the test. I am hoping that it is because my heart and lungs are not used to working that hard, and that it won’t happen when I get to do some gentle running. And of course the medical staff can’t tell me why – the scan shows there is nothing wrong with my heart.

We are still frantic at the office, but that all goes away at the end of the month, or perhaps the first week of April. I deliberately chose not to try and run while I am working long hours, and am really looking forward to being able to dust off my running  shoes next month.

I just have to recover from my hospital check up first. That really was hard work.

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6 months on

Yesterday it was 26 weeks since my heart attack.

And it will be 6 calendar months tomorrow.

So I thought I would split the difference and post something today.

At one point I thought I would post monthly updates on my recovery and associated and return to running. The posts haven’t happened because the running hasn’t happened.

In my previous post (November, 4 month update) I was frustrated at my slow progress, which felt like “two steps forward, one step back”.

Then in mid-December, after a careful build up, I managed to run 5km. It was slow and painful and I loved it. I realised that I had not run 5km since the previous March, and I was very excited. For no real reason I had built 5km into a major milestone in my mind, and I convinced myself that I had turned the corner.

I had a couple of 3 and 4 km runs in the following week, then tried another 5km just before Christmas. My heart/chest/breathing handled this fairly well given the circumstances, but my legs reminded me that it had been a long time between drinks, and when I had about 500 metres to go my hamstring decided that it had had enough. Of course I was so fixated on clocking up another 5km run that I did not walk to the end, I kept running (with a limp) until my gps said 5km.

I have only had one run since. With a lot on over the holiday period, and physio appointments hard to get, I decided to simply rest my hamstring and let it heal itself.

My heart-attack recovery has probably been helped along by the rest. I have more energy now than at any time in the last 12 months. If things weren’t so hectic at work I might have been tempted to go for a run last week.

This is not to say that I am back to 100%, there is still a way to go (although I recently mentioned to some one that I was only at 80%  and they replied that they only get to 80% on a good day. So these things are all relative).

I am encouraged about the progress though, and can almost imagine myself being strong enough to run again in a month or so, once we are over the busy period at work.

With a bit of luck and some careful management I might actually post something about running later this year.

Recovering from a heart attack

But very bloody slowly.

Yesterday it was 4 months since my heart attack.

In my previous  post I was excited that I had managed to run 3km on the treadmill.

I followed that up with a couple more 3km runs, every second day, then I hit a bad patch and couldn’t run for two and a half weeks. I was just too tired. It was a bit of “two steps forward, one step back” as far as my recovery went. Very frustrating.

I have seen 3 doctors for routine check ups over the last 6 weeks, and they have all asked “Well, are you back running yet”?

The implication that I took from the casual way they asked was that they expected me to back to normal – at least normal for a normal person, not normal for an ultra runner.

It was a bit disconcerting that I still didn’t have enough energy for running. The doctors weren’t concerned – they all checked to see whether my heart was still beating (it was) and sent me on my way.

So I spent two weeks being careful to get a lot of rest and sleep, and cut back my hours at work (I am doing about 40 hours per week, so not yet back to full-time hours).

And it seems to have helped. I have had two 3km runs in the last week, and I don’t feel horrible. I am even hopeful that I will be able to manage a third before the week is out, without setting back my recovery again.

I can see a very faint light at the end of the recovery tunnel. It still looks to be an extremely long way away, but at least I am moving in the right direction. And hey, that’s what this blog is supposed to be about – running an extremely long way.