It’s all about the Heart

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Okay, I usually don’t rehash the same subject two days in a row here, but the heart post from yesterday deserves a little more attention.

First, I’d like to offer my condolences to Patrick Avery’s family. I read here at that Patrick died Tuesday evening, during a criterium in New Zealand, from a possible heart heart attack. I raced against his brother, Clinton many times. He is a very good bicycle racer.

Second of all I’d like to thank everyone that personally contacted me and gave me some advice, or told me their story, etc. It is truly the best reward I get from doing this thing.

Third, no, I don’t think I have any serious, check into the cardiac ward, heart issue that I’m dealing with. That being said, most elite athletes, and probably more specifically cyclists, do tend to be somewhat of hypochondriacs, at least to the extent that they pay serious attention to how they feel and what the cause might be. I do fit into that category for sure.

Anyway, I didn’t ride yesterday. I spent most the day helping a friend hang drywall and build a shower basin for a bathroom remodel. I had such a bad ride on Monday, I thought that maybe I’d just see how the day went and if riding fit its way in, then it would. It didn’t. I didn’t have much time to check the comments here or at Facebook. (I think there is a way to get the comments from Facebook posted here, but that seems to be beyond my capabilities at this time.)

Anyway, I did get a call from Dr. O’Keefe. The cardiologist that “started” this whole thing. He took a fair amount of time talking to me about this whole issue. He said something about being the messenger of bad news. I agree. He is a very good endurance athlete, and by talking to him, I’m sure he would be much happier to tell us all that the more we all exercised, the healthier we would all be. But, that isn’t his belief. He had his assistant call me about making an appointment. I missed that call, so I’ll have to get back to her first thing this morning. Hopefully, I can go over to KC very soon and meet him. It will be very interesting.

I think one of the reasons this resonates with me is because I know of a whole lot of personal friends that have had some major heart issues. Way more proportionally than I should. And these guys didn’t get them at 40 or 50. They got them anywhere from 17 years old to the mid 30’s. And they have issues serious enough that they have pacemakers. This isn’t even counting the riders I know that have other major heart issues, but aren’t to the state of pacemaker yet. And, also, it isn’t counting the guys that are just plain dead. Died early, for no apparent reason other than their hearts were enlarged.

I am a bike racer. That is pretty much what I’ve done my whole life. It doesn’t necessarily define me, but it has molded me into who I am. I don’t plan on giving up this sport for anything. But, if someone could convince me that I might be in imminent danger, health-wise, if I keep competing, then I’d have to rethink the whole thing. I love the lifestyle, but without being alive you can’t have it either.

Okay, here’s an example of one of the emails I got yesterday. It’s very nice.


The point of this email is a selfish one. I read the blog every day and have earned some things from you through it and in emails. I would like that to continue. At some point i would like to be able to do a ride with you and the group. If you do not begin to take better care of yourself, those things will not happen. Here is a perfect example of what happens when we don’t listen to our bodies. The velo news article on Scott Nydam

I know that you are a independent, stubborn guy who can push through pain like a saw through lumber, but you need to go see a doctor. My Dad is a Doc, a physician, as well as a runner. He has been running for nearly 43 years. He was not world class, but fast. He ran a 2:32 marathon off 30 miles a week. The point is he was fast and has the mindset of a athlete. I was telling him of your issues and his words were, “He needs to go get checked out”.

Searching the internet for your health issues is not how to get healthy. If you are going to do that the only sites to trust are .gov

I hope you will take my advice and my dads and go get a physical and have them figure out what is going on. If you don’t have a Dr., call Shadd Smith, he can point you in the right direction.

Okay, if you have some extra time, check out Dr. O’keefe’s video below. It goes into the whole issue a little bit more than the one yesterday.

8 thoughts on “It’s all about the Heart

  1. Jim D.

    Steve, It seems to me that you have been off key since your collarbone (shoulder?) injury. Maybe that healing process is more to blame. Jim D.

  2. Bart

    I’m dubious of any doctor who’s regularly appears on TV, sells books, sells vitamins, and lectures extensively on lifestyle.

    After looking up 3 other studies on the same subject matter it seems that around 8-10% of the subjects in the study had adverse reactions to exercise. Applicable to the general public, not really, but then again if someone who exercises has been off or feeling odd for a while then go get checked out.

    Could you, Steve, be someone who falls within that 8-10% is impossible to tell without testing. As a previous post mentioned it might be worth your while to have your blood work and self tested.

  3. Kanzasboy

    Steve, to add to the challenges of understanding heart health and exercise these days- there is the added risk of the radioactive release in the northern hemisphere since the Fukushima Daiichi accident in 2011.

    This is a different, but added vector, to consider scientifically and as an epidemiological factor.

    Here is a link to work done by Arnie Gunderson and Marco Kaltofen at Fairewinds Energy Education.

    The work is about “hot particles” released into the atmosphere when the reactors were damaged. The “hot particles” made their way to the United States. Said particle remains radioactive in the body of the person who breathed it in.

    Other scientific work surrounds the idea of increased heart attacks in athletes since the Fukushima disaster based on exposure to radiation.

    While one might not make the case that radio active exposure is the driver behind heart problems in cyclists, it does seem to be a measurable a concern of scientists.

    It would also bear mention that Chernobly would have released similar risks to athletes. And different types of cancers have resulted.

    Many of us may know cyclists that raced in Europe at the time.

    Lastly, I wonder if you may have thought I was asking you about doping possibilities in 2009 when I talked to you about the best way to absorb maximum calories before an ultra distance event. Not.

  4. Greg Miller

    Steve, this is a good subject, as the Baby Boomers are the first generation in our history to take their endurance athletics into middle age and beyond. The overall health effects of decades of high level endurance exercise have never been seriously studied. My own story: I have a family history of hypertension, though most of my ancestors lived well into their 80s. I also have mild hypertension. I have been racing since 1982, and at 47 still race P12 and Paracycling events. I took the bronze in the TN 2012 Pro, 1 category state crit. Anyway, I took a couple of years off in the mid-2000’s, to do other things, including rock climbing and auto-racing. I did a Xterra on zero training and took 8th overall… I was tired of the self-centered aspects of bike racing and wanted more time with my family. Most rides were on a tandem with my wife. I gained weight and lost any semblance of race fitness, but still did a few races a year for the fun of it. Meanwhile, I started feeling worse and worse, and started having mild chest pain. This was a very stressful time of my life as my sons made it through their teen years. So I went in for my 40th birthday check up (at 42), and the doc said my numbers had all gone bad. Cholesterol was no longer double digit, HCL was getting up into dangerous levels, blood sugar was pre-diabetic, and my blood pressure was unhealthy. I went back for more heart work, including a CT scan and ECG. My heart was OK, no atherosclerosis beyond normal, and valves were normal. I realized that whether I was racing or not, all the decades of training didn’t mean squat if I didn’t maintain daily fitness regimes of some kind or another, and that I had to watch my diet and weight like any other person. No middle-age bonus points for all those decades of training. With this new mindset, which I have to keep for the remainder of my life, I decided to get back into racing. I carefully watch my diet now, and monitor my blood pressure, which varies from normal to high normal without medication. I raced 30 times last year, but only when I knew I was fit and light. Racing into shape is no longer an option, the stress on my cardiovascular and endocrine systems is too high. I usually have 2-3 major events to peak for, but my main goal is fitness for fitness’ sake, not to beat people in races. I enjoy epic rides in the mountains, which aren’t possible for most people… I want to maintain the ability to go on extraordinary adventures, whether on or off the bike. I think you already have a similar mindset, but this whole story may add some context to the process you are undertaking.

  5. Stephane

    I am not a doctor. I am just a guy who loves to ride his bike.
    Through a personal experience, I had to learn a lot this summer about hypertrophy cardio myopathy (HCM). Please Google it as it is also called sudden death syndrom. Anyone riding on a consistent basis should get checked by a cardiologist. It is a genetic disease that increases the size of the left ventrical. It can be detected with the help of a ultrasound so it is a non invasive procedure. Please do it for peace of mind.

  6. Davd Larsen

    Here is a quote from the editorial comment on Okeefe’s paper: “These comments are not intended to detract from the present report,9 but we urge caution in the interpretation of this report, both by physicians and the lay press, and we urge examination of the issues raised. It is critically important that future investigators use other measures to examine myocardial function after exercise and to validate the many echocardiographic reports of myocardial dysfunction.” The commentors say that the markers are not always an indicator of irreversible heart damage, and they are only indicators of damage. Follow up monitoring is necessary to see if the markers stay elevated or if they decrease with rest and recovery.
    For what its worth, I am going to keep riding because it is still much healthier than most other things!!
    Ride ON!!

  7. Jprumm

    I have a very good resting heart rate but at 45 my heart rate max is still 197. When I am riding with other people with heart rate monitors mine is always a lot higher than theirs no matter my conditioning. I have always wondered if my high heart rate max and my higher working heart rate could lead to problems down the road.

  8. Anonymous

    Is it more about the duration or intensity? To put slightly differently, what’s more stressful (in the bad way) on the heart: a 4-5 hour epic or a 1 hour trainer session of VO2 intervals where near maximal HR is achieved several times?


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