“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” – Woody Allen
This quote is funny, but it also is very true. I may make detailed plans, but life goes as God wills and where I end up may be nowhere near where I planned. One would think I learned this lesson well in 2013 – I registered for at least six races that I never made it to the start due to health issues. However I recovered and went on my way. Last year was much better and 2015 started out well.
Amazing how something can change overnight.
I ran the Houston Half Marathon on January 18th and I did well. Regular readers and friends know that I am a gadget and detail junkie. Gadgets that provide detail just make me giddy. My favorite training and racing gadget is my watch. Well it is much more than a watch. The Garmin Forerunner 920XT is a watch, a GPS, a calorie counter, a swim “measurer”, and among many more things – a heart rate monitor. When I ran Houston my wonderful gadget on my wrist recorded my max heart rate at 158 and my average pace was 10:43. This is accurate from my training history and just two beats below my anaerobic threshold of 160 based on my last test in October.
I did not run again until January 22nd and that day I ran my marathon goal pace of 10:33 and my max heart rate was 155. By Tuesday the 27th I ran 6 by 1 mile repeats with a goal pace of 10:30. My Garmin reported my max heart rate was 186. What? I don’t remember feeling like I was going to exhale blood or cough up a lung. In fact I felt like I could go faster.
My first reaction – the heart rate strap must be off. I changed the battery. Same thing happened – max heart rate 174-186. I changed heart rate straps. Nothing changed. From January 29th through February 26th my max heart rate was between 174 and 186. It got to the point I just ignored it and ran on how I felt. Finally I called Garmin. I tried three different heart rate straps and got the same results. It had to be the watch. It is still under warranty and could be replaced at no charge. Before replacing, the tech asked that I delete a software file and reinstall to see if that fixed it. I did what he said and went for a run. My heart rate maxed at 186. I called Garmin back and they were great. A new watch was in the mail and I had to return mine. I wanted to wait until my replacement came before sending mine back. I was in the middle of marathon training and didn’t want to run without a GPS watch.
To keep track of heart rate I bought a basic Polar monitor for $50. It also works in the pool – nice little feature. The next day I went to the gym wearing both the Garmin on my left arm and the Polar on my right. I got on the treadmill and started running. The Polar is detected on the treadmill so I could see my heart rate on the display without looking at my wrist. Within three minutes my heart rate was over 170. For the first time since the end of January I became concerned. I stopped and took my pulse. My count was 110 – which is what the Polar said too. As soon as I stopped running it went from 170 to 110 in 10 seconds. The worst part – I did not feel it. Not at all. Still in denial I switched treadmills. Same thing – I only ran a total of 30 minutes and my heart rate went to 186. That is over three beats a second. I was breathing calmly, not sweating, and I could not feel it.
The next day I did an experiment. I ran on my treadmill at home with the Polar on and I brought my pulse oximeter that clips on to my finger. I started running very easy. Within three minutes my heart rate was over 170. The pulse oximeter recorded it too. It maxed at 186. I had the treadmill at 4.4 miles an hour.
I called my doctor that day. He is an athlete too. He asked me all the things I had already done. Did I change the battery? Is the strap old? Did I try a Polar instead of Garmin? It did not make sense. He was out of town for two days and asked that I not run, only swim and see what happens. The next day I swam and it maxed at 148. Good. Maybe something with the vertical oscillation was triggering my heart rate? The next day I swam. It went to 186. Stink. I called the doctor – it was a Friday. He wanted to see me on Monday. Sure I was open, I planned to take the day off – it was my birthday.
The next call was to my coach. We agreed it would be best to pull out of the marathon. My training was compromised enough. By this point I was not even upset. I want to get to the root of what is going on.
Over the weekend I did an analysis of what had changed. Was it stress? Let’s see, the week before it started I began taking high doses of ibuprofen for an issue in my hand. I was also concerned it was arthritis. (Turns out it is not) The day after it started is when my kitchen renovation began. I also use my inhaler before every workout as a preventative measure for my exercise induced asthma. It is known to increase heart rate. I stopped using ibuprofen and the inhaler.
So on my 49th birthday I went to see my doctor and had a resting EKG. I was picture perfect. The next day I went for blood work – thyroid, electrolytes, and blood count. All were normal. On Thursday I had a stress test – my heart rate maxed at 164 and I felt it. The results were perfect – I am in great shape. So I figured it was the medicine and went back to my routine.
Then I ran outside on Sunday. A very easy pace and my heart rate went to 165 while running a 12:00 mile going downhill. How is this possible?? This time I was able to take my pulse count and it was in the 160’s. I did an analysis and the only thing different on Sunday from the day I did the stress test was caffeine. I was caffeine free for 24 hours before the test and had just finished a mug of coffee before heading out the door on Sunday. I am going to try caffeine free before runs and see if it changes.
I am perplexed though – I have been drinking coffee before workouts for years. The details show that it changed literally overnight. Stress does not help the situation, so I am focusing on things other than something is wrong. My support system is wonderful, once again I am reminded of how blessed I am to have the networks of friends that I do. The happiness makes my heart skip a beat – and lately that would be a good thing!