Thursday, January 25, 2007

Stress is the Best

I went for my stress test yesterday.

I was still stiff from Sunday's mile repeats, so I skipped the Tuesday night tempo run. I was clearly not recovered enough and my resting heart rate was up significantly.

I went for a stress test because of the sudden arrival of chest pains and a family history of heart disease that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Plus, my resting heart rate and blood pressure have suddenly shot up in the past few months.

Family doctor and cardiologist and ECG technician and Stress Test Technician all couldn't imagine that my chest pains were cardiac in origin given my base fitness level from running.

But given my abysmal family history the safest mediacl course was to rule it out. Hence the stress test. I showed the cardiologist some of my recent Polar Heart Rate Monitor charts and he said I had been giving myself "stress tests on a regular basis".

Everyone was incredibly kind and understanding and when I recited the family history of ailments they just whistled. And said I wasn't wasting anyone's time - which was sort of what I feared and dreaded the most - and they assured me that I was doing the right thing under the circumstances.

A stress test is really no different than a MAX VO2 test. Same tread mill, same grade. No mask like to MAX VO2 for the gas exchange, but what seemed like a dozen electrical leads.

You start out slow and increase both the incline and the speed of the treadmill. Plus they take your blood pressure every three minutes.

Cranked the machine up and up and up and faster and faster and faster and my heart rate up increased to just under 180 for almost twenty minutes. Sweat poured off of me and the tread inclined to the hilliest of hill work-outs. Finally I was just exhausted and tired and asked - mind you it was gaspingly asked - the lovely technician Karen if she had enough data for an analysis of my heart. She said yes and then it was over.

Long story short. A healthy heart. No signs of any problems. Every part of the machine fully oxygenated. The odd extra beat. Normal.

Then in a few minutes a dull pain in my chest. Karen sweetly asked me to wait for a consult with a cardiologist. He was young and professional and perceptive and clearly good at what he does. A brief discussion about the pain, where it was located, what did it feel like, and the sort. A look at my ECG.

The cardiologist said that the stress test on first glance was negative. Keep running. Keep training for Boston. Try to relax. The pain is real. The cause, still unknown. Try to relax.

So, next step is to see the results from all the bllod tests.

And to keep running.


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