Training & Recovery 23-29 November


It didn’t feel like 6 hours of training, but there it is…  Mon & Wed I missed BOTH swims.  Mon I turned off the alarm vs hitting the snooze button (Doh!) and overslept.  Wed I got to the pool only to realize that I had forgotten my swim gear at home.  (Doh!).

But I had a good 5k running with a friend at the Morristown Turkey Trot, clocking a 38:15, over 3min faster than the Swamp Devil 5k and a tad over 12:00 per mile.  Slow, but a nice improvement over two weeks.  I suffered a bit on the bike ride later in the afternoon, but it was good to get out for a bit.  I think I went out way to hard on the bike, trying to keep up with Hootus, and that lead to suffering at the end of the ride.

The long “run” on Friday was my standard two-loops of Natirar with Tula.  I wasn’t feeling it when I started so I just planned to keep HR in ZR/low-Z1 and ignore pace.  I was surprised when I was having trouble getting HR into Z1 after a mile at under 15:00.  I decided to push up the two hills each loop which did get my HR into upper Z1, but it never felt really hard.  I was pretty happy with the pace results at the end of the walk and physically felt awesome; like I could have gone a bit longer.  I think I’m about a week or two away from actually RUNNING during my shorter runs, or a true run/walk approach to my long runs.  I’m also seeing HR drop pretty quickly after harder efforts, which is always a nice sign of improving fitness.

TRX classes are also starting to pay off.  I’m feeling stronger in my core, arms and legs, and the exercises are getting to be a bit easier to complete without surgical area discomfort (core, chest).  HR is a bit lower during the workouts as well.  A couple more weeks like this and I’ll be adding progressions to the moves.  Yay..

Monday starts two big challenges.  First, Fran starts at The Max Challenge, and I’m going to join her in the diet portion.  I need to really clean up my diet, and want to support her, so this is an excellent time to do so.  Second, the annual USAT Challenge starts up with a month of swimming in December.  I’m going to use the swimming in December to pile on a lot of base HR (ZR-Z1) training without a lot of joint stress on my body.  I’ll probably swim 3-4 days a week, Mon-Wed with the masters group at the Y, and Friday evenings and (possibly) Sunday afternoons.  I’m also going to throw in two 30 min base ‘walk/runs’ on the treadmill after TRX classes on Tues/Fri mornings.  The rest of the week I’ll do some easy bike rides to spin out my legs and maybe one longer bike ride on the trainer or outside depending on the weather.

Total workout times will likely stay in the 8-10 hour range.  I’m hoping that workload at my job continues at the same pace so I can keep up with this workout/recovery program.  So far it seems to be working.

Training & Recovery 16-22 November


Not a great week.  Was pretty tired on Thursday, so made it a rest day, and never really got motivated to do anything sunday.  Still got some solid work done.  Two great swims and two great TRX sessions.  TRX is getting better as I’m able to do more with less soreness or HR spikes.  The Turkey Ride on Saturday with Cyclecraft was a TON of fun.  Beautiful skies, lots of people and got to ride with great friends.

Maybe the week was better than I thought

On the recovery note, the cardiologist took me off my last med (enalapril) so my BP is rising a bit, but I’m no longer dizzy when standing up.  I’m going to continue to monitor BP closely and we’ll see where it stabilizes.

Going into a busy holiday week is always hard on my training schedule, but I’m looking forward to being with family and friends and ESPECIALLY a short work week.


Training & Recovery 9-15 November


Back to a full week of training.  Had a disappointing ride on Wednesday, just could not keep moving for the full 90 minutes I planned.  Simply ran out of gas.  But the week got better as I kept hitting the workouts.  Thursday I hit Masters swim and found my mojo again.  It was hard, and I was whipped at the end, but it was a complete, solid workout.  Saturday I experimented with my BP meds, and had a better bike workout, doing the full 90 min while watching the Ironman World Championship on TV.  It was a great ride, and a very emotional experiences.  I so love this sport, and as Sean Astin put it “I love identifying as an Ironman athlete, it’s badass”  Just writing those words makes me smile.

Sunday I ran my first post-OHS race at the Swamp Devil 5k.  I felt good and the weather was fantastic.  I started off at 11min pace, but that quickly started to slip.  I ended up power-walking the last mile simply to keep my HR under 150.  I finished in just under 42 min, which is a bit less than twice my 5k PR.  I felt bad about being so far behind my past level of run fitness, and was questioning whether I’ll ever get back to where I was before.  But I have control over my training and diet, so I’ll do what I can to hit all my goals in those areas and see what happens.

Lessons learned:

  • I have a great support network.  It was wonderful to have a bunch of friends waiting for me at the 5k finish line to cheer me in.
  • I’m really grateful for the new Masters swim sessions.  They are going to kick my ass each and every session, which will help my overall cardio fitness.
  • You can never be too well informed about your health.  I’m learning a lot about my medications and potential impact on my training and fitness.

Training & Recovery 2-8 Nov


Short entry for a recovery week.  I was feeling a bit run down by Friday, and decided to make this week a lighter, recovery week and focus on swimming and TRX.  Well, the best laid plans often go awry.  I over extended myself on Tuesday’s TRX session (though I really thought I was going easy) and I could barely get out of bed Wed morning from DOMS.  I tend to forget how fast muscle strength drops off at my age.  So Wed/Thu/Fri were simply off days.  I probably didn’t need all three days to recover, so I picked it back up on Saturday with a 90 min bike ride and Sunday with a 90 min hike.  The bike ride sucked from the outset.  Very low pace, struggling with low BP sensations, and complete lack of power on any incline.  Sunday’s hike was better, but still pretty weak on the hills.  As HR increases, I tend to get dizzy, similar to how I feel if I stand up too fast.  I’m almost positive it’s the BP meds.  I think it’s time to meet with the cardiologist again and discuss my meds.

Lessons learned:

  • A solid reminder that we don’t get stronger from the workouts, we get stronger from the recovery.  Train Hard, Recover Harder.
  • Stretching and movement are VERY important after strength training sessions.  Keep the DOMS monster at bay.
  • A well planned recovery week isn’t a failure!  It sets you up for achieving more in the following weeks.

Training & Recovery 19-25 Oct


Work is picking back up, so I wasn’t able to hit all the workouts I had planned.  A bit short of hours this week (planned for 8-8.5), but TSS was higher this week.  High point was Thur/Fri walks of 5 and almost 7 miles.  I was pretty wiped out on Saturday (fuzzy headed, cranky, tired) plus we stayed busy all day so I figured another ‘rest day’ was in order.  I felt a lot better by the end of the day so I think skipping the workout was for the best.  Saturday I got back on the bike trainer for a TrainerRoad recovery ride.  I got a very late start (5:00pm) but rode a nice Z1 pace.  Very low mileage, but I felt great through the whole ride and MUCH better than last week.  I’m going to try to get two rides in this coming week.

Since Fran was going to be away from home at the time I needed to be at the hospital for the Mended Hearts meeting, I decided to go ahead and drive myself.  I’m only 5 days out from the 6 week point, so I figured why not.  The earth kept spinning and I didn’t spontaneously combust. I did make a stop on the way home for Starbucks.  Because Decaf Mocha Frappucino Light…

Recovery & Training 14-18 October

Post OHS Training - Week 1 12-18Oct2015

First week of ‘training’ in the bag.  Not bad for 4th week out of surgery.  I did 4×3.5 mile walks, most with Tula Mon-Thu, then a 6.75 mile walk on Friday, again w/Tula.  I was pretty tired on Saturday, so I made that a rest day.

Each of the walks felt better than the last, which is why I decided to push the distance on Friday.  Plus it was a beautiful day, and I really needed a mental break.  I was tired at the end, but I felt great.  My HR stayed steady, except on the hills where it sped up a bit from the effort, but nothing that I haven’t seen pre-surgery on the same route.  It also dropped back to normal pretty quickly on the downhills.  At about 5 miles, HR started to trend up a bit, but that’s to be expected when extending duration.

Since my HR was pretty steady on the long walk Friday, I decided to do a short bike ride on the trainer on Sunday.  I set up the road bike on the trainer, since it was going to be easier to ride with a sore/tight chest than the tri bike.  I decided to try The Sufferfest’s “Elements of Style” video since it’s pretty low intensity, focuses on form and is one of the shorter videos.  Also, I wanted to re-establish the winter training setup in the basement with the Cyclops Powerbeam trainer, TrainerRoad software and the new Garmin speed & cadence sensors on the road bike.

As usual, getting everything set up and reconnected was a snap.  Kudos to the folks at TrainerRoad for making this so straightforward.  I set my output to 60% of my pre-surgery FTP, and was up and riding in no time.  My goal was to keep my HR at about 120 for the ride, but for some reason I was riding at 130ish for most of the ride.  That was a bit more uncomfortable at first, but pretty quickly felt ok.  My crotch and left hand went numb pretty quickly, so I figured the elevated HR and other physical symptoms were mostly due to being off the bike for 5 weeks.

When I got done with the bike, and looked at the data I was pretty down on myself.  38 min, 4.5 miles, and 67w avg power.  Pretty poor showing.  But I figured it was a start, and I was better off than any number of other people weeks out of surgery.  You take what the day gives you and this is what I had today.   After I showered and got some lunch I still felt that ‘post-workout’ glow that I really love and all the bad vibes had disappeared.  Nice.

On to week two….

Recovery – 4-14 October

Quickie update…

Recovery continues and seems to be progressing quickly.  I’m off all pain meds, including Alleve.  As of Tues, 13 October, I’m off beta blockers and only taking Enalapril once a day. The allergy “drip” that has been a problem since I got home seems to be ever so slowly resolving itself, but will probably be another week before it’s all gone.  I’ll be glad to get rid of the cough.

Twice in the last week (Saturday 10 Oct, and Wednesday 14 Oct) I had higher than normal HR.  BP was fine, but pulse on 10/10 was 128 and stayed between 120 and 130 all day, despite doing nothing at all.  10/14, pulse was 89, but as soon as I did anything would jump into 110 plus.  On my 3.5 mile walk HR was 105/125/140 (low/avg/max) but the day before was 84/95/102 for the same route/distance/duration.  I also felt pretty hungry most of the day, and was sleepy after I ate so I’m wondering if there is some blood sugar issue involved.  On both days I did feel a bit more anxious/tense and didn’t sleep well the night before.  I’ll be keeping my eye on this set of symptoms to see if I can correlate to anything.

Dr. Dixon also said he thought I would feel that cardiac rehab would be a waste of my time.  I’m already walking briskly for over an hour, and the rehab center would likely push me into a reduced program under their protocol.  He said he would prescribe it if I wanted it, but strongly felt that I’d probably drop out quickly.  I have a call set up with the insurance nurse on Thursday 10/15 to go over my cardiac rehab benefits, so I’m holding off on any decision until I get more info.  Dr. Dixon also said that I could start running or other harder workouts so long as they were lower body workouts, and base my effort on how I feel.  I tried jogging a bit today, but with the already elevated HR, didn’t find that to feel so good, so I just kept walking.  Assuming I do feel better over the weekend, I’m going to try to setup and ride the bike on the trainer.  After 6 weeks, I should be cleared to engage upper body workouts, and I may try some light TRX work.

Lessons learned:

  • Going into this type of surgery otherwise healthy and fit means a much more rapid recovery
  • There will be days that are off.  Accept them and do what you can.  Progress is not linear.
  • Be grateful for the good stuff, so many people have many more complications & challenges.  Share your story, but be respectful that others have it much harder.

Recovery 22 Sep – 4 October

Getting home from the hospital was a major milestone, and doing so two days earlier than I had expected was a pleasant surprise. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to sleep in my regular bed because of the tight fit of the bed in the room, so I set up my recovery ‘center’ downstairs in my easy chair. Fran quickly took over the nursing duties and kept me very comfortable and attended to my every need. If it weren’t for the post-surgical discomfort, I could get used to this.

The first few days home were pretty uneventful. I had a follow up appointment with the cardiology group and they said that everything looked normal and my numbers were still good. I was a bit concerned about the swelling at the site of the cardiac cath procedure, but the Dr indicated it was normal (it was not, more on this later).

Over the weekend, we got to help out with a TeamNRGY emergency pickup of a teammates bike after a very bad bike accident. That did get us out of the house for a couple of hours, and added some excitement to an otherwise quiet and rather boring week of recovery.

Over the week of the 31st, I started to develop a bit of post nasal drip followed by a cough. The coughing was painful, but relatively non-productive, but the Dr. wanted to see me again, get blood work and X-rays. So off to the clinic again for more labs. Later that afternoon I got in contact with the office and they indicated that the blood work and X-ray were both normal. So I took some OTC meds (Coracidin HBP) and that seemed to help the drip/cough.

Also, by this point I had taken myself off the Tramadol, and was using Alleve liquid-gels 2x per day instead. It seems to work as well as the Tramadol without the opiates.

I also had moved into my regular bed about mid-week. It was a bit tough to sleep completely flat, but over the course of several days I got used to it (mostly). I’m now trying to slowly adjust to sleeping on my side, which is my normal sleep position.

This past week I’ve been going through hot ‘flashes’ that seem to be sort of a sudden increase in metabolism. It’s been happening at night and I wake up really warm and sweaty. I think it’s part of the healing process, as I do get these same events during big build phase of IM training and immediately post IM racing.

The incision point is ever so slowly clearing up. The scabs are falling off (sometimes with some gentle tugging) with clear, pink skin underneath. The very top of the incision is still a bit sensitive. The tightness across the top of my chest (pecs) is loosening up ever so slowly. At this point, any remaining discomfort is isolated to certain spots on my chest, and not systemic across my entire chest and abs.

Last night (Sunday, 4 October) Dr. Dixon, my primary cardiologist called to check in on me after looking at the blood work and X-ray. I explained that I also had concerns about the cardiac cath site. Earlier in the week while I was taking a shower, I noticed that it was oozing pus. I squeezed it and it discharged about 1.5 tbls of pus. It wasn’t sore, or hot to the touch and seem to be mostly solid discharge, sort of like a big zit. Dr. Dixon wanted to see this, so it was back to the office again today (Monday). Both Dr. Dixon and Dr. Rosen, who performed the cath procedure, took a look at the site. They extracted a small bit of gunk out of it, but seemed to feel pretty strongly that it was only a skin infection. Still, I was sent home with script for antibiotics for the next 10 days. The biggest concern of everyone is an infection setting into the annuloplasty ring. That would be very bad, so the antibiotics are a precaution.

Finally, today has been a tougher than normal day. It seems my BP has a tough time catching up when I stand up. It’s been worse than ever today, a couple of times I was wondering if I’d black out completely. Dr. Dixon reduced the Enalapril by 50% (1xday) starting this evening, so we’ll see if that helps at all.

  • Lessons learned this week:
    Patience is everything in post-OHS recovery. This is a long, slow road. It may seem like one step back for every step forward, but you have to take each milestone as a sign of progress (reduction in meds, better quality sleep).
  • The recovery process takes a lot out your general constitution. The hot flashes, and being really hungry, despite lack of activity seems to indicate the the body is in full-on recovery mode.
  • Getting out for walks is a huge benefit for mental as well as physical well being. Just like doing a workout at the end of tough day.

More next week

Surgery and hospital recovery (17-22 Sep 2015)

During the run up to scheduling surgery, Dr. Macgovern told me that I would need a cardiac catheterization procedure to check my coronary arteries for any blockages, and if any were found, they would fix them “while they had the hood open”. So we scheduled the cath for Thursday morning, 17 September, then I would be admitted to the hospital for surgery early on Friday morning, the 18th.

The last few days at work were hectic, similar to going out on vacation. All of my team and management partners were very supportive. They wanted me to focus on getting through surgery and recovery and they would take care of the rest.

Since I have had allergic reactions to iodine, and the cath contrast is iodine based, I started on the hospital’s anti-allergy protocol the night before. 50mg of prednisone 13 hrs, 7hrs and 1hr before the procedure, along with 50mg of Benadryl 1hr before the procedure.


Thursday morning I got to the hospital and sent straight down to the cath lab. Mom arrived after I was already in the prep area, but she sat with Fran during the procedure. I was given an IV drip and IV sedative (valium?) then sent into the main lab area. I was conscious, and I wanted to watch the procedure. They were going in through my right side groin area so I was propped up on my left side and had a pretty good view of the ginormous monitor set up in the room. Looking around the room reminded me more of a flight deck on a sci-fi movie space ship than an operating room. Lots of LCD stuff, equipment on multi-pivot arms. Lots of chrome, bright white, black and blue lettering. It was impressive.

The whole process is only about an hour long. I got to see them get the catheter up to my heart and felt then saw the contrast solution go through my coronary arteries. That was pretty cool.

The rest of the day was spent napping, watching some TV and just hanging out. Fran went home in the early evening.

Friday Fran came into my room early, around 5:00am. Surgery was scheduled 7:00am. Shortly after she arrived the pre-surgery vitals and IVs got started, and I got a strong sedative in the IV. I’m assuming this was also valium, but don’t know for sure. I vaguely remember getting taken out of the room, but nothing after that point. I’m told that my sister in law Sheryl, and brother Steve and my mom arrived while I was in the procedure. I was in the procedure about 4 hours. After the procedure, Dr. Macgovern gathered everyone in to the conference room and told them that everything went well, and they could see me in recovery. Afterward, they were told to go home as I’d be in recovery for several hours. At some point I started to gag on the ventilation tube, and they pushed me back under a bit longer as they were’t ready for me to come all the way out yet. Approximately 7pm, they did take the tube out and I do recall this, but only from the physically feeling, I don’t recall ever opening my eyes during that process. Fran called the hospital about 8 and was told I was awake and doing well. She zipped down to see me. I was awake, and sitting up in bed, feeling a bit out of sorts, but not as bad as I expected to feel. Of course I was pretty well hopped up on pain meds and still under the influence of anesthesia.

Boy was I happy to see Fran, and I could tell she was really relieved to see me sitting up and smiling. We visited for a bit, then she went home. I was really, really thirsty, but the nurse was strictly limiting my intake as I came more fully out of the anesthesia. I got ice to chew and that helped. I had problems with violent vomiting during my last surgery (hernia, 34 years prior) and did NOT want to go through that again. Any coughing I did was quite painful. I had three chest tubes in me draining out the lungs, one of which wrapped around to my back, and those would rub or vibrate when I had to cough, not to mention the shaking of my chest. I got the standard heart pillow to hug tightly to help cough. I did throw up just a bit, but it was very small. Always listen to the nurses. They do know best. My CICU nurse Lenore, was from Jamaica. Stunningly beautiful, wickedly funny and a total professional. I don’t think I could have been in better hands.

I could not see the clock very well, but I figured I was down in ICU for at least 30 hours. At some point Lenore got me up and sitting upright in a chair. Again, pain levels were no where near what I had expected, and I actually felt pretty good. Sore abs, like I worked my core way to hard. About 10pm while I was sitting up, my mom called. She was pretty upset and had clearly been crying. I knew that she was taking this whole process pretty hard, but she calmed down pretty quickly once she heard my voice and I could tell her that I felt pretty good.

There was a delay in getting room in the Gagnon Center so I hung out in the CICU. I think I got some jello and juice for breakfast, then I finally got the urinary catheter removed, and then transferred to a wheelchair and sent up to my room. I think I was in my final room by 2:00pm.


The rooms at the Gagnon Center are all single rooms, and set up very nicely. They are visually appealing, spacious and some have halfway decent views of the woods behind the hospital. I’ve stayed in smaller, and much less attractive hotel rooms.

As usual with any stay in the hospital there was an entire team dedicated to my care, and dedicated to ensure I sleep no more than 45 minutes at a stretch. Lots of wake-ups to check vitals (BP, temp, pulse and pulse O2), administer meds and just to see how I was doing. At this point I had three IV lines in my body (each arm, and jugular vein). My meds included pain reduction, which cycled between morphine, percoset and tramadol. I don’t do well on opiates, and by Sunday I really wanted to be off of them. When they kicked in I could not keep my eyes open and all and would be sliding in and out of sleep for hours. Even when the meds were wearing off, I was groggy. They finally settled on alternating between percoset and tramadol, and then finally got off the percoset by Sunday evening.

At some point on Saturday I was weighed in my bed and was told I was up to 181 lbs. I don’t recall EVER being that heavy, but the nurse tech told me that this was all water weight gain. As I looked over my normally vascular arms and legs, I realized I couldn’t see a single vein. I was one puffy boy. But I was also on diuretics and they started kicking in about the time that I was told I could get up and move around on my own. The cardiac rehab nurse came in and had me get up and walk down the hall a bit and back to my room. After she observed this, and I didn’t experience any dizziness or cardio-respiratory issues, I could get up and walk on my own, and should do so a few times each day.

Truly, the most uncomfortable part of the process (besides trying to cough) was the drain tubes. The one that wrapped around the back (inside of me) was irritating nerves in my lower back on the right, and eventually lead to pretty serious referred pain into my shoulder area. There just wasn’t a great way to sit or lie comfortably to relive the discomfort.

But later Sunday afternoon I was told the drains would be coming out. By this time the nursing team and cardiology team were all raving about how quickly I was recovering. I was improving by the hour, and it was a testament to the fitness I was carrying in to the procedure. It also helped that I had no other medical issues, was on no other medication and was a good bit younger than any other patient I met in the hospital during my stay.

Once the drain tubes came out, I was a LOT more comfortable. Slowly the IVs came out as well, until I was just left with the one in my right hand.

Each succeeding night I was left alone for longer durations between meds and vital sign reads. I tried to get back to my usual bed time/lights out at 10:30, and then up by 6:00-6:30. Usually I’d be up earlier as the blood draws would be taken between 4:00-4:30am and I wouldn’t sleep much after.

Sunday and Monday I got to choose all my meals. While I had some appetite, it still wasn’t back to normal mostly due to the pain meds. Also, my lower GI wasn’t working well until late Sunday afternoon. While the food was OK, it wasn’t great and left a lot to be desired. For example, Sunday’s lunch was going to be a chicken Caesar salad. I assumed (wrongly) that it would come with dressing, at least on the side. What I got was cold chicken strips on a bed of dry lettuce with croutons. What I DID find out was that there was a small kitchen area with other food for patients to get as they needed. Simple stuff like jello, juices, sandwiches etc. So I was able to put together a decent PB&J on toast a little later.


I also had a great set of visitors stopping by to check in on me. Fran was a constant presence there with me every day. My brother Steve and Andy both stopped by, as did the pastor at our church, is also an old high-school friend. My triathlete friend Matt stopped by as did fellow cardiac athlete Laura. Mom stopped by and brought gifts of a book and a new Tommy Bahama shirt. During the whole time I was in the hospital, I was getting floods of emails, text messages and FB posts supporting my recovery. Friends from all over the world logged in to show their support, well wishes, prayers and simple words of encouragement. There were also a health doses of sarcasm, humor and ass-crackery as befits those who know me best.


On Monday, it was pretty clear that I was recovering well enough to be cut loose on Tuesday, so everything got accelerated. My meds were cut back again, my discharge paperwork started to make it’s way through the system, Dr. Macgovern stopped by to let me know that he was approving my discharge. We did discuss the situation that resulted in needing a sternotomy vs the less invasive process we agreed to post surgery. The explanation he gave indicated that once I was under anesthesia and was intubated, the esophageal echocardiogram showed a very minor leak in the aortic valve. While small enough that it didn’t warrant repair at this time, the drugs that would be used to stop my heart would swell the muscle and it could lead to worsening of the leak, if the muscle wasn’t protected well. He could not ensure adequate protection without going through the sternum, so it was a choice for safety. I have no problems at all with that choice, and given how well I’ve been recovering, I’m not sure it would have made much difference in the end.

Monday night was relatively peaceful. Tuesday morning came and my new RN Laura started gathering up all the info I’d need and we went through all the discharge and post op stuff I’d need once I got done. I did have some nursing students stop in for vitals, as it seems Tuesday is a training day for them. Laura mentioned that I’d be a good patient for the students, since I was doing so well and was positive and upbeat. That felt good to hear.

Finally the cardiologist stopped by to officially declare me “released” and I was able to walk out of the room about 90 minutes later.

Some key points I learned through this process:
The whole process is so much more advanced than I was really prepared for. From the cath process which used a new foam “filler” to close the hole in my vein, to the mix of meds to the total lack of post-op antibiotics, so much was different than I had expected.

Everyone on the med team was more than willing to help me learn about the process. They really wanted to make.

Nurses run the hospital. Ask them questions, listen to their answers and do what they say. They were completely committed to making me as comfortable as possible in order to get me out of the hospital as quickly as possible. I truly appreciated each and everyone of the team of nurses, techs and other staff that worked with me. Total professionals across the board.