I Think I Had A Heart Attack 6 Years Ago?

I have never been good with dates of important occasions. As I get older (45 next month) what year something happened to me is far less accurate than my Garmin is at knowing how many calories I have burned.

I know it was August that I had my 2 heart attacks (within 12 hours). But a few years ago I had forgotten the day and I think it was in 2007 sometime that I stopped recalling the year it happened also. The only way I know it was 6 years ago is I have to repeat to anyone at least 3 times who hears my story that “Yes, I was 39” So since I’l be 45 next month this month is my 6 year anniversary of being alive. My wife just came in and said “What are you talking about? You were 36, not 39”. OK so it was 9 years ago. Proof I just can’t rememebr or do I choose not to? I still have my stent ID card that tells me the date of my first stent(of which I have 7, stents not cards) but I keep that in a drawer somewhere and choose not to look at it. Each year around June I think “Oh I’m going to celebrate the anniversary of my heart attack by riding a century or a 200 mile week or a 10,000′ day of climbing” none of that ever happens.

While I still plan to do something(?) someday(?) to mark the occasion with a post cardiac feat of super human strength I think to my self- ” Isn’t being here everyday to see my family and friends a daily celebration better than any ride I could do?”

I was wondering how anyone else celebrates or doesn’t their cardiac “event”.

KEEPriding- Eric

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.


Please Tell Your Cardiac Story.

I’d (and I assume many others) would love to hear how you have dealt with, conquered or beaten heart disease. Do you still ride a bike, surf, mountain bike, bmx, skateboard, ski or snowboard since your heart attack or heart disease started? Any little story you have can go a long way in providing motivation for others who struggle with wanting to ride.

After you write your story here I’ll make a special page for it so other can communicate about it.



heartATTACKrider is now on twitter

But they limit the number of characters in your name so my twitter is heartattackride NOT heartattackrider…..oh well close enough and still kinda makes sense. Why twitter? I come across little things that I want to post and instead of having a zillion little bits and pieces here a thought it would be easier just to do it there and I can hopefully reach more people that way.

Controlling My Heart Rate While Riding.

“Mindfulness is built around the premise of disengaging from overly emotional responses and extraneous thoughts that clutter the mind’s ability to think clearly. By using techniques such as breathing, visual imagery and meditation to slow down and focus on the present, the theory goes, a person can tap into a higher level of awareness. The more acute awareness is the byproduct of more active brain waves brought on by meditation, studies have shown.”

Can I really control my heart rate? On Friday I didn’t have much time to ride (preparing for the Avenue of The Oaks) so I decided to do some hill repeats in preparation for April 4th. After warming up for about 1/2 hour I started riding a hill I like that is 0.6 miles/205′. S0 for me that was 5min 30sec – 6min 30sec with a coast back down of 2min 30sec ‘ish. My goal was to do 10, I made it to 8 before I limped home. My heart rate would range in the 145-150bpm range at it’s peak and by the time I recovered back down the hill and turned around to go at it again I’d be around 107-110bpm. After my 5th uphill battle I was approaching 155bpm a little too easy for my liking  my doc doesn’t like me to go more than 155 bpm for very long)  so I concentrated very hard and focused on my breathing pattern, almost a meditative trance if you will. I made deliberately strong exhales and inhales while imagining (invisioning) in a very real time way that my heart was very relaxed and barely working to pump. I also imagined every artery in my body was widening open as I had to make through the steepest section. When I glanced at my heart rate on my Garmin after 20-30 seconds my heart rate was 4-7 beats lower every time I did this. Now this isn’t scientific but I did make sure my cadence was same on each of the last 3 hill climbs as a reference. I was now able to maintain 147-148bpm. Whenever I stopped this “technique” I would instantly raise my bpm.

I learned this technique of controlled breathing soon after my heart attack. I got terrible panic attacks and would “freak out” that I was going to have another one. I started listening to Jon Kabat Zinn’s cd made with Dr. Andrew Weil,  Meditation for Optimum Health. Also through Pranayama yoga classes where breath awareness is a major component of your practice.

I really started to utilize Mindfulness Meditation when I first started riding again after my heart attacks. I was terrified to go too far, to hard, too fast etc…so I decided to use what I had been listening to at home and what I was earning in yoga while pedaling. It seems like such and obvious think now but I still forget about it. But, when I see a hill coming up or my heart starts to get a little out of range for my liking I try these techniques and they work for me.

Good ride…

On Saturday I was able to ride 36.8mi with over 3790′ of climbing in just under 3 hours. Not that fast but I was happy as my ave heart rate of 142 for those 3 hours and I had a max hr of 165. No chest pain or discomfort. I started taking the smallest dose of Lisinopril(2.5mg) for my blood pressure but felt no issues from it. I’m planning on riding in the Tour De Poway in about a week. Not sure if I’ll do the full century or the metric century.

I Couldn’t Be More Happy.

I rode in the Amtrak Century yesterday, my first try at one. On my previous posts I forgot to mention that my real goal was not to ride 100 miles in the time allotted (8 hours), but to ride it only stopping when needed. That was the real challenge I wanted. Not more that 4-10 minutes per stop. Could I ride 100 miles basically non stop?

I made it to 75.46 miles in 5 hours 14 minutes or riding time, 2365′, 135ave bpm, 156 max bpm. Only stopping at the rest stops to refuel and use the bathroom. My first stop was 4min.30 sec., 2nd stop, 6min.20sec and my last stop was 8min.45sec. 

I was really surprised I had no pains at all, no numb hands, back pain, no sore butt or neck aches at all. It was actually quite easy. The only reason I stopped was my legs had no more life. From about mile 60-75 was a tail wind on mostly flat road which as you know means you can feel great and fly along thinking your strong as ever. Any hill though I encountered stopped me dead in granny gear. So being that at mile 81 was a 1.2 mile hill I stopped at the last train stop before the 100 mile mark and rode back to the start of the ride to return home (this century was one way). I could have rested at the last rest stop for 1/2-1 hour and gotten my strength back to finish but the competitor in me felt that was a bit of cheat to my goal. I was much more satisfied knowing I made it this far essentially non stop.

Considering I had never ridden more than 38 miles or over 3.5 hours in the last few years and got very little training in the last 2 weeks I am really happy with my results. This has given me so much more confidence in my hearts ability and strength, released a lot of mental blocks that come with being a heart attack survivor and hopefully will motivate any of you who have a goal in your recovery.

I want to thank Dr. Howard Elkin for being a great doctor, friend and teaching me that I can still have an active life, Dr. Elisabeth Kaback for her confidence and positive encouragement and the staff at Scripps Cardiac Rehab for helping me through some mental and physical blocks and of course my wife for being very nervous about me trying this but knowing I needed to.


Once you’ve had a heart attack, surgery or cardiac scare you will most undoubtably have many fears about returning to bike riding or any physical activity. I have fears almost daily after 6 years. Sometimes it’s before, in  the middle or even hours later after a ride. “Should I have ridden that far? Will I have heart attack in my sleep now? Is that stomach pain from my electrolite drink or the beginning of another “event”? I’ve never seen my heart rate go so high? I’m too far from home and no one can get me?” These topics and many more I will try to write about here, both to hopefully help you and help myself.


Making yourself safer and feel better on those first few rides back on the bike.

There are a few that helped me get back on the bike and some I still use to help me on my rides.

  1. NEVER leave home without my cell phone, baby aspirin & nitro.     
  2. Ride with someone! or tell someone EXACTLY where your going. I’m not kidding. Every street name or trail you will be riding on turn by turn. I have even driven my wife on my more common routes so she knows what the area(s) looks like.
  3. Wear a heart rate monitor. Knowing how much your heart rate goes up and how fast it comes down are great comforting #’s to know. 
  4. Bring a blood oxygen monitor (oximeter) with you. I use a Nonin 9500, the same one used in my hospital, doctors office and cardiac rehab. I used it often the first few times but now I only use it before I ride, and after my cool down. The same way they do it in my cardiac rehab. I will bring it when I will be really pushing myself hard – a new goal or effort level.  Sometimes it’s just nice to know that when I’m huffing and puffing my oxygen level is still high.
  5. Another not so obvious one is to make sure a hospital, urgent care or fire station are always on your routes.
  6. If your in a cardiac rehab program ride on an exercise bike first.
  7. If your really nervous about riding make a simple around the block trip then work up from there. 
  8. Allow yourself permission to stop, walk or call a friend to pick you up for any reason, don’t try to tough it out. This is hard to for those of us who don’t want to feel or believe we aren’t the man or woman we used to be…I do miss that little voice that would tell me to man up and get up that hill!
  9. If you can’t have a friend ride with you have someone met you in a car at a location and come back with them.
  10. If your going up a hill and it’s too hard, it’s O.K. to walk, turn around or stop and try again.
  11. Now I know this next one is taboo in many cliques….switch to a compact or even…a…yes, triple ring set up on your road bike. Knowing that you always have an easy gear has calmed my nerves more than I want to admit. I ride with a compact up front and a 12-26 cluster and 175 cranks.
While none of these will guarantee and you safety it help play a trick or two on your mind and get you over some of the humps of riding again.