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Googling the future

Representing Croydon Harriers in a National League
3000m Steeplechase (4th, 9:43.8) at Brighton, England,
in May 1975.

Around 3pm yesterday, I had my DC Cardioversion (DCC) and Transoesophageal Echocardiogram (TOE).  Apparently the DCC went smoothly, and my heart is now beating regularly again (Sinus Rhythm).  It's a very routine procedure these days (you can see a video here), and the anaesthetist referred to it comfortingly as a "barbecue" as he prepped me.  I only saw the hospital cardiologist once, when he shook my hand before I went under, and I didn't get any feedback later apart from the discharge nurse who said my heartbeat was stable in Sinus Rhythm.  On the assumption that "no news is good news", I'm guessing the TOE, with which they were looking for clots and flaws in the heart structure, didn't reveal anything untoward.

I now have a follow-up appointment with my cardiologist in three weeks time, but don't really have any guide as to what I can do, or not do, before then, other than being told to take it very easy today.  Consequently, I have been Googling extensively, particularly on the subject of returning to running after DCC.

Competing in the VMC Marathon (2nd, 2:31) at Tyabb,
Victoria, in June, 1976.

There's no shortage of papers identifying long-term endurance athletes as having a much higher risk of Atrial Fibrillation or Flutter than people of similar age, but it's hard to determine what is the outlook for those returning to the sport after treatment.  There are opinions expressed that they are more likely to have future heart and related problems, but no studies I could find.  Every individual is different, and there would be few people in the world who have trained and run endurance events over as many years as me, so there are unlikely to be any specifically relevant medical studies, anyway.

A good friend and long-time endurance athlete, Bill, suggests I accept my lot and cut back to roughly an hour's non-competitive running a day and be thankful that I can do that.  Time and energy freed up can then be devoted to other interests, such as writing.  I can see the sense in this suggestion, but am not yet convinced that it is the best course for me.  I'm still in the "Bargaining" stage referred to in a previous post, and want to believe there's some middle ground.

Comparing hamstring flexibility with Bill after the VAAA
Marathon Championship (4th, 2:22) in March 1983.

Part of the problem is determining what sort of running increases the risks for me.  Racing, and training to race, definitely generates more heart stress than running as a non-competitive recreation.  A race gets my adrenalin pumping and I always perform significantly better than I could manage in a non-competitive time trial. Likewise, upcoming races, get me to training harder and longer than I probably would otherwise.  I love competition and the preparation for races, but believe I could live without it, if it lowered my risk of further heart problems.  I think I could be satisfied with moderate short runs during the week, the regular Saturday Trotters run without getting too competitive, and a relaxed long trail run on a Sunday.

I'll continue walking for the next couple of weeks and then try some jogging just before I see the Cardiologist.  The statistics show that DCCs are 99% successful, but have a 50% reversion rate.  I'm assuming that I will be one of those 50% reverting, and my Cardiologist has already said he thinks I may ultimately need a Catheter Ablation.