Rage Rage Against The Dying Of The Light

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.

Worrisome what?

dscf1746All 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.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.exercise_cardiolite_stress_test_newark_de

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.f9908b10d14cbeff9107341aae1a1d9b

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.

Slimming what?

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.

Canadian Olympian Kate O’Brien

Oh boy were we lucky to get Canadian Olympian cyclist Kate O’Brien (left in photo with my coach Petrina Tulissi on right) all to ourselves at www.cyclingcentre.ca tonight.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kate at 28 is an amazing athlete and we were blessed to be able to ask her any thing about training, winning, not winning, switching sports, nutrition, healing, rest days and just about anything else you could think of to ask someone on our Canadian Olympic cycling team.

We learned a lot about what it takes to be an Olympian and what it takes to get yourself up every day and compete for basically the glory because there is no cash (okay not much cash and certainly not enough to live on) when it comes to amateur sports in Canada.

Having said that our Canadian cyclists are second to nobody in the world and we should be enormously proud of them.

The big takeaway from tonight was recovery days mean resting. Even walking is discouraged! You rest when your coach tells to you rest. That statement pretty much made CyclingCentre.Ca coach Petrina Tulissi’s day as she’s been a huge proponent of resting to avoid injury and burnout.

Petrina is running all her cycling athletes at the CyclingCentre.Ca through a 23-week training session in preparation for the spring riding that’s only a few more weeks away. Part of the training involves alternating weeks of hard work and easier sessions to allow the muscles in the body to tear and repair and grow stronger.

If you’re interested in road cycling or even amateur racing talk to Petrina and sign up for her summer training sessions on the roads of Halton Hills. All being well (and I have my fingers crossed) I’ll be riding with her and the other serious cyclists this summer.

One more takeaway:

I don’t think I’ve ever had the drive or the ability to be anywhere near the athlete that Kate has become. She started in bobsleigh in 2010 and switched sports after tearing a hamstring. After scoring big numbers at Cycling Canada’s tryouts she was competitively cycling within months and winning gold in Women’s Team Spring and silver in the individual sprint. She is an articulate and smart young woman with an amazing future ahead of her.

Maybe best of all, for a few brief moments tonight, it felt like I was part of the team and we were sitting around talking strategy about the next big race. It was a grand night 🙂


Oakville Cycling Club

The Oakville Cycling Club held its annual general meeting tonight (Friday) in the basement bar of O’Finns Irish Temper Bar with roughly 125 (maybe more) members in attendance.

The club has over 525 members and relies a lot on their three elected executive members and a host of volunteer ride coordinators, event facilitators and other functionaries.


Running a club of this size takes an enormous amount of effort and the volunteers and executives need to be supported and congratulated.

The AGM always takes up too much time on things like the budget (which could have been dealt with by a motion to accept as it had been previously circulated thus allowing for any possible discussion leading to an immediate vote without the agonizing line by line explanation. Anyone at my Toastmaster club would have told them 🙂 I eventually moved for acceptance…no surprise again to any of my Toastmaster friends who know me as the club’s de facto parliamentarian.) and leaves too little time for food (which there was plenty of for all) and social activities.

The club did recognize some of their volunteers and riders with awards and other recognition. Just wished I had thought to bring one of my big cameras with me.

I made some new acquaintances including a guy my age who has been riding for a couple of years but only joined the club last year like me. He broke a wrist riding on the badly paved Bell School Road. The good news is he’s ready to ride this year. The region is repaving the road apparently and that’s none too soon for me.

I’ve got a serious hospital test on Monday as my chest is sore (I had open heart surgery nine years ago) and so I’ve got fingers crossed about what’s ahead for my riding season coming up.

An amazing club that offers group rides during the summer months and gets time at the Milton velodrome and offers instruction on group road riding in spring.


Time Trial Night

I didn’t get the memo so I was surprised to find we were doing another time trial last night at The CyclingCentre.Ca.

I was even more surprised when coach Petrina brought out a white board with new training numbers just for me.

So for the first 61 minutes I started riding for 15 minutes at 100 rpm and then every 10 minutes or so the cadence increased by 5 rpm. This was my hour-long warmup which I rode while the rest of the gang went through their much more aggressive numbers.

At 61 minutes we all realigned and did an eight-minute time trail together. It was my first of the night and the rest of group’s second one.

Based on my numbers we’re going to find out (a) if my overall fitness level has gone up since the last time trial and (b) whether Petrina and I have got my numbers right.

On Monday I brought in a portable blood pressure cuff and we came to the conclusion that a heart rate of a steady 120 slightly elevates my normal BP of 120/80, (I’m more like 115/70 at home.) Going up to 130 beats/minute has my BP in the 140/80 range. At 140 I’m going in my red zone at 160/80 and anything above that is too dangerous.

Youngsters and pro riders can hit BPs of 200 under full racing stress but after my open heart operation I do not have that capacity as the artificial artery stent might not hold.

My weight is dropping and I’m within moments of seeing the last 180s again (I put on some weight over the holidays!) with an overall goal of 170-175 this summer. Weight loss like this is so much better for my overall health let alone my heart health that the risk of riding is relatively safe.








And This Too Shall Pass

So last night we had our first spinning class of 2017. Big turnout and lots of effort as Petrina got us started in a new direction to increase our overall fitness as riders.

I took my portable blood pressure cuff with me and sure enough at 85 rpm I was normal at roughly 120/80 and a pulse rate of 80 or so.

Up the effort half an hour later to 100 rpm and I was starting to hit 180/70 with a pulse rate approaching 138.

Slow down the effort and half an hour laster I’m seeing 160/70 with a pulse rate just under 130.

So what does this tell us?IMG_0772

It screams another consult with my cardiologist who keeps insisting I should be on beta blockers which would be fine if they didn’t make me feel like crap all the time.

There’s got to be either something else or I will need to modify my energy output to keep my blood pressure from exceeding 160/70.

Pretty obvious that a pulse rate of 130 will do that just fine as my energy output is in my medium zone. Anything approaching 85 per cent output (experienced when talking comes in bursts of words and I feel like I’m at a pace I can’t keep up for long) is too much for me at this point.

The goal is to build heart and body strength and increase aerobic capacity slow enough as not to cause an overload which puts my blood pressure up to dangerously high numbers.

If it wasn’t for the heart surgery nine years ago this wouldn’t be much of an issue but we play with the cards we get dealt.

Strangely enough the effort at last night’s class after a two-week period of doing nothing resulted in lots of large muscle pain. Even took an Advil at 11pm so I could sleep. At 6:30 am I awoke as all the soreness left my body. Even the chronic soreness caused by my shoulder injury a year ago (This soreness is always an indication of my body experiencing stress.) faded to almost unnoticeable.

Now I’m not complaining but obviously something chemical happened in the body and I am the very happy beneficiary.

We live in interesting times 🙂

Pain Is Weakness Leaving The Body

That’s a motto straight out of the U.S. Marine Corps and it’s true. According to an article in today’s Sunday New York Times on “How To Become A Superager” the way to eternal youth is exertion to the point of discomfort.File 2016-07-08, 9 21 48 AM

That means, according to the article, that endless hours playing Sudoku won’t cut it. If you want to become a superager you’ve got to push your cognitive or physical limits to the point you feel some level of “yuck”.

In other words, do it until it hurts, and then do a bit more.

Another surefire way to improve is inspect what you expect. For the last six months I’ve been tracking my physical health metrics.

In the last three months I’ve added tracking blood pressure (twice a day), resting heart rate (again twice a day), the amount of sleep per night, all my food and a general number of relative wellness/happiness from one to 10.

Most days I’m hitting an eight.

Happy New Year Superagers 🙂