Congenital Heart Defect Survivor completes marathons, 100 mile runs & Ironman Triathlon’s

Heart Inspired
October 22, 2009 my life changed as I was diagnosed with a life threatening Congenital Heart Defect resulting in more than 40% of my blood flowing backwards and a dangerous Polymorphic Ventricular Tachycardia Arrhythmia. Both went undetected my entire life and were not identified until that day.

Just 2 months later, on Dec. 23, 2009 I had open-heart surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, #1 Cardiac Hospital.
My name is Bob Alexander, Endurance Athlete, and Congenital Heart Valve Defect Survivor. I’ve been married for 36 years and have three great kids.
My 1st race was just 5 months after heart surgery, the 2010 Bolder Boulder. Since having open-heart surgery in 2009, I completed 24 endurance races included 2 Half Marathons, 7 Marathons and the New York City Marathon within 10 months, 2 – 50 Mile Ultras, A 100 Mile Ultra in 24:16, seven Century 100 mile cycling events in the Rockies & a 240 miler climbing 20,000 vertical feet, Ironman Arizona in 16:33:20 just 23 months after open-heart surgery. I gave my Ironman Finisher medal to 6-year-old Heart Transplant survivor Gabriella.

I will be doing 2 more Ironman events in 2013.

I am no one special, I just truly believe, despite the odds, “Anything is Possible”!

Bob Alexander — Husband, Father, Congenital Heart Defect Survivor, & Endurance Athlete who Loves Life

Ca State Cycling Champion Beating Heart Disease to Race (and win) Again.

I met Loren Stephens through this blog and my twitter. It happens that we only live a few miles away. I have only ridden once with Loren, on his recovery day, as I am rarely in good enough shape to even see his wheel. I am thoroughly motivated, and encouraged by what he has accomplished mentally and physically since his open heart surgery and heart attack. He is committed to not let his heart stop him from once again becoming a cycling champion. He wrote his account of hat happened to him below.

My Odyssey to return to the top level of masters bicycle racing after open heart surgery and subsequent heart attack

by Loren Stephens

I am an elite level masters cyclists in the USA. I have earned many podium finishes in masters time trial and criterium and am a past California State Masters Criterium Champion for 65+ men.

I was diagnosed with degenerative mitral valve disease (60% leakage) in April 2010. On July 1, 2010 at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center I had a 7.5 hour open heart surgery to repair my mitral valve and to do an atrium reduction. My heart was removed from my body in order to make the repairs. I spent 5 days in ICU and a total of 7 in the hospital.

After getting out of the hospital I struggled with some A Fib problems. I ended up having to be cardioverted out of it. I have been AF free since.

I was able to start training on the bike in September 2010. In late September I had a ventricular tachycardia event while riding and passed out cold. My Doc said I was lucky to be alive and took me off the bike and put me in cardio rehab.

After cardio rehab I was given the OK to start training on the bike again in preparation for the 2011 racing season. I was making great progress until February 15, 2011 when I had a heart attack on a training ride. After a stent and few days in the hospital I was out and found myself back in cardio rehab.

After completing rehab I was given the OK to start riding the bike again. I have been riding mainly to gain back my old levels of endurance.

In December 2011 I started working with my long time coach again and  started full on training in preparation for racing USA Cycling Masters Nationals in early September 2012. I have no restrictions other than the fact that I’m on Plavix which will limit my racing for the first half of the 2012 season. I have raced a couple of races just to test my fitness. In June I raced the California Senior Games and came in 2nd in the 40K road race which also qualifies me to race at the 2013 National Senior Games in Cleveland. My next races will be USA Cycling Masters Nationals in early September 2012 in Bend Oregon and the Huntsman World Senior Games in early October in St. George Utah.

Not bad for a guy who was told he would never race again. I proved them all wrong.

You can follow Loren’s twitter here and his blog and coaching website here.

Why I Check my Oxygen Levels When I Ride

I have been trying to get ready for a the Avenue of the Oaks Century on May 1 and my training has been inconsistent at best….insert excuses here. Today I was able to spend 2 hours on a ride and I wanted to push a bit harder that normal.

SInce I no longer go to cardiac rehab. I try to mirror what the “maintenance” program I was on did when it comes to protocol. Each time I went to rehab the workout started with the following:

  1. Weigh myself.
  2. Relax and sit in a chair (of my own choice I closed my eyes and relaxed my whole body durigng the next steps).
  3. They would hook up the blood pressure cuff, and oxygen monitor.
  4. Then take the reading for my BP, resting HR & Oxygen level.

I do my best to do  all of the above things before I do any type of workout or riding (I’m in the market for a new blood pressure monitor as the electric one I had been using was not accurate when I brought with me to an appointment with my doctor and compared it with hers). Now during the cardiac rehab sessions they would check my oxygen levels 2-3 times, more if I was trying something new or pushing up a level of intensity. At home I only check it before I workout and occasionally after my cool down and when I push myself (now getting to the point of this entry) like I did today. Since I was heading out to ride twice as long as had I the past weeks I decided to take my Nonin Onyx Fingertip Oximeter with me to check throughout my ride. I want to point out at this point that this is same monitor 1 of my doctors uses, and 2 of my rehabs use so that is how I qualified it’s purchase. (one other point it is a nice way to check the accuracy of my heart rate monitor as well).

Today I used at the first sign of feeling like the ride should have been a bit easier and I didn’t believe my HRM, it was correct the oximeter read 138bpm and 98%O2. The next time was after a moderate climb and I hit 164 bpm (my doc say to stay under 160) Oximeter read 161bpm ( it took a few seconds to stop and put it on my finger) and 96% O2. It is also a good thing to have when I’m sucking wind and I can be sure it’s just from being out of shape vs a true loss of O2. I used it one more time when I started to feel tired and then after my cool down. I probably won’t bring it with me on a ride again until I do the century on May 1.

It is a useful tool to have if you work out on your own. It provides me with 2 things, 1: Ability to let me doctor know more information about my health & 2. Oxygen content of your blood is only a small factor when determining your risk for a cardiac event but it does provide me with a bit of assurance that my heart is doing O.K.

KEEPriding,

Eric

A New way of Life. Readers Story-

Just ran across your site. I really enjoyed reading your posts.

I’m 47 years old, mostly healthy, though out of shape. Saw the doc for a physical 5 months ago. Immediately was put on cholesterol and BP meds. 4 months later my blood pressure and cholesterol numbers were good and I had lost 15 lbs. Then I had my heart attack. I had it during my first visit to a gym while working with a trainer. A clot broke loose and I had an immediate 100% blockage of the circumflex artery.

I’m 4 weeks past that. Just been released for Cardiac Rehab. A strange thing happened during my stress test prior to release to rehab. I realized that I loved the exercise! They got my heart rate up to 150 bpm, and I loved every moment. This was probably because I’d been wondering if I was always going to be physically limited. I want to turn this new feeling into a new way of life.

I’m looking for ways to increase my fitness, especially after I’m done with rehab.

While Googling “bicycling after a heart attack”, I found your site. It really gave me a lift. It’s great reading about someone who has had cardiac issues, but still loves to ride.

You’ve given me inspiration to stay on track, increase my fitness, and above all, get back on a bike!

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Tim

Riding a Century After Open Heart Surgery! Readers story-

Hi, Eric. You said you were interested in some stories related to cardiac recovery. Last April, I underwent sudden open heart surgery to replace my aortic valve and repair the aortic root. Thirteen days days later, I had to have emergency pericardial surgery to drain fluid that was accumulating (1 liter’s worth).

I was already registered to ride the 2009 Make-A-Wish Foundation Wish-A-Mile 300 bicycle tour in July (100 miles a day x 3 days), and set a goal to try and ride it. I am happy to say that I was able to ride a full 100-mile century 116 days after my open heart surgery, 103 days after the 2nd surgery. I took Day 2 off, then rode another centuiry on Day 3.

As I reflected on it, I have begun to wonder if anyone else has completed a century that soon after such a surgery/episode. Do you know?

Mark

More Exercise May Provide Greater Gains in Heart Disease

Taken from http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/news/Article.aspx?AID=626959&visitfrom=twitter

Overweight patients with heart disease saw better gains compared to standard cardiac rehab.

THURSDAY, May 14 (HealthDay News) — A program featuring greater amounts of exercise and energy expenditure may be preferable to standard cardiac rehabilitation exercise in overweight patients with coronary heart disease, according to research published online May 11 in Circulation.

Philip A. Ades, M.D., of the University of Vermont College of Medicine in Burlington, and colleagues analyzed data from 74 overweight individuals — mean age of 64 years and mean body mass index of 32 — with coronary heart disease. Patients were randomized to high-calorie-expenditure exercise (3,000 to 3,500 calories weekly) or standard cardiac rehabilitation exercise (700 to 800 calories weekly).

At five months, the researchers found that those in the high-expenditure group had twice the weight loss (8.2 versus 3.7 kilograms) and fat mass loss (5.9 versus 2.8 kilograms). This group also had larger decreases in insulin resistance, total to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol ratio, and elements of the metabolic syndrome. No exercise-related cardiac events were noted, and adherence to the interventions was good, the authors write.

“Considering the negative consequences and increasing prevalence of obesity and metabolic syndrome, high-calorie-expenditure exercise training, combined with a hypocaloric diet, should be considered the exercise approach of choice for overweight patients with coronary heart disease,” the authors conclude. “Some individuals with no exercise experience whatsoever may initially benefit from a standard cardiac rehabilitation exercise protocol and then gradually evolve to four to six sessions per week as they improve their fitness.”

Last Updated: May 14, 2009

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Riding Ave of The Oaks Century after Heart Attack

This Saturday is the Ave of the Oaks metric century ride. I choose this one because while riding 63 miles is not that hard for me at this point, doing it and 6000′ plus of climbing is. I’d say that’s a pretty decent climb for someone without a heart attack so it would be a good goal for me. I try just to be happy that I can ride at all but it’s hard not to compare myself with someone who has no heart problems and I love riding up hills, always have, even though I’m not good at it I’m just persistent that way. Below is the elevation chart.

Ave of the Oaks Century elevation chart.

Ave of the Oaks Century elevation chart.

I’ll be riding it with my PT from my old cardiac rehab program and one of my cardiologist. Which makes my wife extremely happy, even though she wishes I didn’t do it at all. I think I’m ready. While I haven’t ridden that distance in a while I have been riding lots of hills and doing 3,000′ climbs in 28-30 miles rides and some hill repeats so I feel ready and the best riding shape since my heart attack.

I’ll do my best to keep track of my ride and bring you a crank by crank report.

Eric