DNS… Three nasty letters that I’ve never had to use before (at least in the running sense). Did Not Start… DNS… In my mind I know that a lot can happen between signing up for a race and actually reaching the starting line. A percentage of people get hurt during training, travel snafus, etc… In my 20 some years of running I can’t recall ever having a DNS next to my name. I can definitively say that I’ve never had one in my post-collegiate career.
So why after 20 years did it occur? That’s a good question and not really an easy one to answer. It was a combination of things that really culminated in one simple answer. It wouldn’t be a wise decision.
I felt some reluctance to not start and even though my wife and I talked about it over a week before the race I couldn’t bring myself to announce it to anyone beforehand. I felt bad for my 1st Covenant – Team World Vision teammates, I was their captain and I wasn’t going to be racing alongside them. I felt bad for my 2015 donors who had given to support me and brought clean water to people in need. Honestly, I did feel a little bad for myself too – was I a quitter?
But it was the right decision and being at the race actually confirmed my decision. They day was significantly better than last year, but still warm, humid, and sunny. Those conditions plus the shadeless, rolling hilly course wouldn’t have been ideal for me.
So why didn’t I run? Simply put I wasn’t in shape to run a half marathon on August 1. That’s the easy answer. But why wasn’t I in shape? I’ve been doing Cross-fit, running, biking, hiking, etc. The fitness should have been there. But it wasn’t. Why not? I wasn’t being super-consistent with my training but I did the long runs, pushing my kids even.
Ok, let’s roll back the clock. For a period of time now while running I’ve gotten these weird sensations in my chest and my heart has been beating like crazy. Don’t freak out. My wife, a nurse, and my doctor have both already grilled me. I wasn’t having a stroke or heart attack. When this happened I would back off the throttle and let my heart rate come down a bit and be fine. Sometimes this would take awhile and it would usually come with a loss of power for a bit. Some of you who have ridden or run with me might remember some of these random instances. I didn’t really think anything of it.
Looking back it has never occurred during a WOD at Cross-Fit or while taking a spin class at the YMCA. It seems to happen when I pick up my pace while running or biking, or after a long period of exertion. I haven’t consistently worn a heart rate monitor over time but when I have nothing seemed out of the ordinary. In April I rode the Dickie’s Scramble 75 mile gravel (and hill) grinder. It was a brutal ride and I had some trouble with some of the hills, when I pushed hard my heart rate went up. I wasn’t watching my heart rate monitor but after the ride I remember that it said I had a Max HR of 238. I mentioned it to the guys at dinner and we all agreed it had to be an equipment mistake.
So why did I sign up for a race? Remember, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Something that would improve with conditioning. I trained, doing long runs and as long as I controlled the pace or maintained a steady, comfortable pace I was fine. Ok, let’s come back closer to the present time. On my July 11 long run several odd things happened that kind of messed up the routine. That was the day of the Lifetime Triathlon which makes it really hard to get to where the Team World Vision group runs meet. No worries, I parked nearby and was going to wait for them to come down. I even got to cheer a few people I knew racing the triathlon. As I waited and waited I decided they might actually have gone a different way, so I took off. After stopping at the porta-pot for Nadia they actually caught up to me.
My usual running partner was racing but I’ve run with some of the others so I fell in with them. Chatting along the pace got a little faster and I felt my heart speed up, so I slowed down. I was pretty confident I knew the 10 mile route and wasn’t too concerned. I don’t remember the whole run, but I do remember it was warming up and I was getting tired. Sure mental games that we all must endure, so I endured. Some of the group in front of me turned around and passed me heading the opposite direction. Odd, but they are training for the marathon, I kept going. Somewhere in there I had another “episode” or two, but kept trudging along. My run took forever… And I screwed up the 10 mile route and only ran 8.5 miles (probably a good thing). I ended up running an average of 10 minute pace which is pretty slow for me, even pushing the kids. My last run with the kids was 7 miles at 8:49 pace.
Ok, so I had a bad run. Chalk it up to a crappy day. I had actually remembered to wear my heart rate monitor for the run and when I looked at the data it said Max HR 238 and average HR was in the 170’s. Possibly, still an equipment error, but I felt horrible. It took over an hour for my HR to come back down into the resting zone and by the afternoon I felt like I’d run a marathon. The next morning, I still felt horrible like post-race horrible. Not an easy 8.5 mile at 10 minute pace should feel. That’s when I decided something might be up. The culmination of all of those things happening at one time made it clear to me that I needed to go find a doctor to check me out.
Understandably my wife got a little freaked out. Asking lots of questions, getting out her stethoscope. I do have a low-grade heart murmur and she says I have an occasional arrhythmia. The doctor did his work… And of course everything was fine and normal while at the clinic. He had to listen carefully to hear the murmur and I didn’t have any irregular heart patterns while he was listening. He did do an EKG on me and had some blood work drawn. He said the EKG looked perfect and my blood work was all in the normal ranges. So next step is to see a Cardiologist. He wants me to see a specific guy who doescardiac electrophysiology, or studies how the heart’s electrical system (rhythm) works. Unfortunately, I can’t see him until mid-September. The doctor who did the exam said that I would be fine to continue working out – running, biking, and Cross-fitting. But to be careful.
So a DNS, being careful. Knowing a hilly course and that I’d want to push the pace and “race” or at least PR the course. Knowing me, a DNS was the right choice. Yes, I’m a little more concerned now than I was over the past few months. I’m being more careful about pushing the pace, running hills, etc. And I’ve started to pay more attention to what is going on with my ticker.
I’ve started wearing my heart rate monitor on more workouts and wearing my RoadID bracelet more often. I definitely don’t like talking about this kind of stuff, but it has been good to talk about it. I’ll keep you updated as I learn more.