May 28, 2010


I noticed last week that the curious decrease in speed I've experienced in the last few months corresponds with a curious increase in resting heart rate.

For the record:
  • I take resting heart rate by taking my pulse and counting 15 seconds, multiplying by 4.
  • I do this first thing in the morning, when I remember.
  • My RHR for the past few years has consistently been in the mid 40s. Lately, it's been 65-75.
  • In February, I pulled off a 3-mile run in under 25 minutes, which is under 8:20 per mile.
  • Now, I'm having a great day if I can manage 10 minutes per mile for 3 miles.
  • My training hasn't decreased, quite the contrary.
  • My weight hasn't significantly changed
(Note - this post was written on Thursday night, but now, on Friday morning, I'll add - this morning's run - 6.31 miles in 1:12, took a lot of effort. 4 months ago, I could do this same run in under an hour for that same amount of effort. That's a pretty dramatic decrease in speed.)

Sigh. I really wanted to avoid going to the doctor over this, because the fix might be simple. I went over the list of things that I thought could possibly cause this, and I came up with one thing that applied to me:
Steve-sized coffee mug
I probably drink a half-gallon of coffee every day, sometimes more. I thought I could attribute it to the large amount of caffeine I've been drinking for years, and always figured that sooner or later it would catch up to me. Figuring that was the case, I immediately cut back on my caffeine to 2-3 cups per day (next week I'll probably cut back more.)

At the same time, I posted a question on the ultrarunning listserv about it, adding that I'd like to avoid going to the doctor if it's a simple fix like decrease caffeine. People Who Are Smarter Than Me chimed in and of course said, "why take the chance?" Others threw out words like "endocarditis", "myocarditis", "hyperthyroidism", and "pericarditis." But what really convinced me to pick up the phone was a couple of people pointed out that the caffeine probably was not the culprit because I've been drinking it for so long.

So today, for the second time in my life, I stepped into a cardiologist's office. Heart doctor. Think about it. It sounds scary. The damned thing has got to keep ticking, day and night, without stopping, ever. Naturally I compare it to the endurance stuff I do. I've had cramps lock up a calf muscle into an immobile vice - if something like that ever happened to my heart, that would be it!

Anyway, she did an EKG and did whatever other tests they could then, and everything seems "perfect." Blood pressure was 115/70. Oxygen was great. Circulation at extremes was fine. The heart rate wasn't as elevated as it has been; around 60 (still dramatically higher than 45.) She basically has no idea why it's happening and ordered a bunch of tests - stress (treadmill) test and echo-cardiogram on June 24. Also, blood work: CBC (complete blood count), Lipid Panel, TSH (thyroid), and a "comprehensive metabolic panel" (whatever that is.) She said she's doing all of this to look for a cause because nothing was apparent in the exam room. Sounds good to me.

She also said it's a good idea to cut back on caffeine, but she'd rather I cut back on overeating. In fact, she pointed out that it's better to drink lots of coffee if it gets me to eat less (I wish). Interesting.

So, I guess on June 25th I'll have another blog post with the results of all of this. In the meantime, it's business as usual.

New entries for Steve's blog are published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:00am NY time - NO POST ON MEMORIAL DAY, WE'LL BE OUT OF TOWN