To quote Dylan Thomas…for over a year now I’ve had occasional significant pain specifically located in the chest ranging from two inches in from the breast bone to just under the left armpit. It seemed to be aggravated by increased exertion.
All last summer cycling during two-hour morning training sessions in 30 degree heat and high humidity thanks to great coaching from Coach Petrina (in photo) at the CyclingCentre.Ca who insisted we drink at least a litre of water per hour and cared for all of us in her riding groups I never felt I was in distress. Hot yes but never overwhelmed and rarely overheated.
But…every once in awhile I’d get a one-out-of-10 pain in my chest…not good at 68 and not good with my history of open-heart surgery nine years ago.
This winter as our cycling training kicked into high gear Petrina limited my training heart rate to under 130 and as the occasional pain in my chest grew we agreed to limit it to 120 as I sought answers.
Now Olympic athletes in their 20s like Kate O’Brien, who visited with us at our cycling training last week, can hit heart rates of 200+ for short bursts amateur athletes like myself can’t hit the numbers we could tolerate in our youth.
For me, a healthy heart rate of 150-160 would be considered a safe top end at my age under significant exertion (over 85 per cent). Even my limited heart rate of 120 is sufficient to allow for improvement while cycling as Petrina sets out individual training schedules for each of her athletes.
To end the suspense, after weeks of noticing a sensation (pain is too strong a term) in my chest during exercise and following a cardiolite stress test at the hospital last week (where radioactive dye is injected into the blood stream and two MRIs, before and after, are compared) I just got very positive news this morning.
Seems the stress test could not detect any narrowing of my arteries. There’s no issue with my artificial heart valve and the light pain I am feeling may not be heart related at all!
So what is happening?
A year ago I fell down a flight of stairs and damaged my right shoulder tearing off the supraspinatus which can’t be repaired at my age.
The pain and now the soreness I feel is lessening over time and thanks to therapy and to once a week weightlifting for cyclists with the CyclingCentre’s coach Tracey it’s getting better.
So maybe I’ve also torn a muscle on the right side of my chest? It seems the more likely answer now.
This doesn’t mean I should take up race cycling but it does mean I can up my top heart rate (under caution) and I must attend a follow-up consultation with my cardiologist in two months time.
Two months time will see us back on the road and I intend to sign up for another summer of training with Petrina and the gang who take lessons with her and, in some cases, have for years taking advantage of her cycling trips to Europe.
Training with Petrina is one of the most satisfying, exciting (occasionally terrifying) and healthy things I’ve ever done for myself.
If you’re new to cycling let me warn you that riding a new carbon-fibre, ultra-light, costly ($1200) to insanely expensive ($4-6 K or more) road bike is way harder to ride correctly and efficiently than riding our old clunky 10-speeds. The good news is Petrina offers lessons for beginners as well as experienced riders and racers and more information is available at www.cyclingcentre.ca.
The cycling racing season is just about to get underway in Europe and following along on You Tube is very inspirational.
Now that I’ve got good medical news I’m starting to set new training goals for 2017.
To get things you’ve never had you’ve got to do things you’ve never done to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson.