Thursday, March 17, 2016

A striking performance: that close...

I'm not a telepath by any standard, yet I am already reading the mind of some, that this is quite a corky and pretentious title, but read on... Or move on! ;-) Certainly, those who read between the lines of my latest race report and previous post (Caumsett 50K Road Nationals: so close...) must be eager to know more...

So, first, the good news. It was quite a performance indeed and, although I was disappointed to miss Rich Hanna's performance by 21 mere seconds (1.7 thousandths of my overall time, that close...), I still broke the current official M50-54 50K Road American Record which did stand for 34 years (!), and the application is going to be submitted by the race director. Worth doing it in case Rich's record doesn't go through.

Second good news is that the chip timing company was able to recover the results and times after several hours which must have been very stressful. I know that for a fact because I'm dealing with High Availability and Disaster Recovery considerations with our clients and, as a matter of fact, was up most of the Friday night leading to the race to support a bumpy production go-live process with one of our largest customers. Very stressful I can tell you... Anyway, at this year's Nationals, we were... that close... to a loss of the timing results which would have been rather disappointing for many...

Third good news is that I found the awards in my mailbox upon flying back from New York last week. Including the Phidippides Award which recognizes Masters who have completed a certain number of race miles in the year. It felt strange to leave Caumsett Park without much award ceremony than for the top 3, but the organizers did everything they could to make up for that, kudos for their reactivity!

So, what could a bad news be about such a striking performance then? Well, as you might guess again from the end of my race report, I got... struck by... the striking performance... I mean, literally, I had a stroke as we say. I'm not going to post all the details publicly (thanks HIPAA!) but, overall, I'm good and fine except for some residual numbness in my left hand, which should pass eventually, and a few episodes of troubled sight/vision this past week. And feeling good except for the trouble I'm giving to my entourage with this alarming news and prospect...

I decided to get checked at the hospital on Monday evening, after a normal working day, but didn't really expect to stay there for three days. While 12 hours spent in the ER of New Yorker hospital is quite an experience, I can't give enough praises to the teams of experts which handled my case and ordered thorough exams of my brain, heart and blood at the University Hospital of Newark, NJ.

Yet, it felt good to be discharged on Wednesday last week so I could fly back home and to Agnes. While it must not have been a big stroke, but one or several Transient Ischemic Attacks which show on an MRI, it was... that close...

Of course, the big question in the context of this running blog is: will I be able to run again? First, I've been running this week, 65K total in 5 runs, so rather short runs (10-20K) and at a slow pace (7:30-8:00 min/mile), but it feels so great to still be able to get moving given the circumstances!

As for racing, I don't blame the doctors for not knowing what to say. Certainly, it is not the time to think or dream of another... striking performance, we don't want anything... that close... again!

If you have any experience, insight, direct or indirect knowledge of stroke conditions related to ultra running and racing, I dearly appreciate if you can contact me to share (comment below, Facebook or LinkedIn). By the way, I already got ton of "you should stop" type of advice, so I don't need more of these. What I need is informed and helpful tips to help understand what happened and how to best bounce back. Thank you! :-)

Again, I'm sound, and so blessed to have avoided any physical, mental or cognitive loss, but following the unanimous advice to... slow down. At least temporarily, so, for now, I'm not changing the title of this blog! Not that close... ;-)

I knew I had pushed the limits two weeks ago beyond what I had ever done or even dreamt of. 2:45 at the marathon mark was already breaking 'my law' of running 2 hours plus my age in minutes. But then I was able to keep this aggressive pace for 5 more miles to PR at the 50K distance! I could feel it was slightly harder than usual but not... that close... to getting on the other and wrong side of the limit. In other words, I kind of gotten the exponential cross the asymptotic... not so good in maths!

A lot of hard work and scaring to find one more point of my Pareto limit curve. Oh well, ultra marathon racing remains that big experiment glad to still have the opportunity to keep learning...


PS: I wrote the above on a flight to DC and, upon landing, found a voicemail from the neurologist who has spotted a blockage of an artery in the neck on the MRI, something not identified in New Jersey (that's why we teach Watson to read radiology images at IBM, to back up human readings!). With that, no more running, at least it's a mechanical rationale and something precise to work on. Hopefully fixable...

8 comments:

Rajeev said...

Oh, man! I am so sorry to hear about this. :-((

I hope you can put it behind you soon!!

Hugs.
Rajeev

Duke said...

Damn it, Jean, get well. What a harrowing experience. Your health and life are so much more important than running, or your first job for that matter. I dreamt last night that I went in for a checkup and found a heart condition. With your influence, I think many of us, near 50 or above, will go have their checkups! In the real world. Can't take our health for granted just because we think we're supermen. Hope all goes well for you.

jennifer said...

This must be quite a frightening and frustrating setback. You write as if you're handling it with grace and intelligence, though. I am glad you're home and recovered.
A close friend suffered a stroke after a mild, routine training run, last year After extensive testing, she was found to have a very common "hole in the heart". After consultations with both the neurologist and cardiologist, they determined the surgery more risky than leaving it open. She's to take a dosage of baby aspirin, daily, for the rest of her life.
With that, though, they weren't able to come up with any reason to restrict her running. She was able to pick right back up where she left off, and suffers no ill from the incident. The recurrence of a stroke would be a freak incidence, rather than a pattern, due to the nature of her heart condition.
I hope this helps, somewhat. If your blockage is operable, there may be some downtime, but also an inevitable (and safe, approved) return to the sport you love.
Sorry for the lengthy response, but I know she was desperate for similar stories when she was being treated.

Keith said...

Jean, sorry to hear you had a scary week. I know there is some ancedotal evidence that strokes can be caused by intense exersize, but I don't know if there is any stronger linkage that flying and strokes. My personal bias would say running may be better for you than not; you could just as easily argue that your strong circulatory system may have lessened the severity of the damage than increased it. My non-running friends and family always think that we run too much, and blame everything on that. Statistically you can't really associate one event as a cause and effect. Ultimately you will need to decide risk and reward; the most important thing is to be alert for symptoms because rapid treatment can lessen the damage.

Best of luck and a rapid recovery.

-Keith

Jon Olson said...

Wow. Scary for you and your family. Thank you for your honest and detailed report on your illness and the issues. Congrats on the hard work at the race, but now is the time for recovery. We look forward to good diagnosis moving forward and to see you back on the trail when the time is right.

Scott Johnson said...

Only posting this because you asked for advice. I'm fairly confident in saying that this might be the best advice you get. I highly recommend you get the book called "How Not to Die" by Dr. Michael Greger. (Please ignore the morbid-sounding title). It's a current best seller on Amazon and you can get it here: http://amzn.to/1ptYB5z

Dr. Greger is a medical doctor as well as an authority on nutrition, and this book has your answer. Chapter 3 is all about how to NOT die from brain diseases, and everything he says is based on research that he cites. Good luck to you.

runstephane said...

Wow, scary! J'espère que les jours qui viennent vont apporter de bonnes nouvelles. Au moins, tu fais une bonne récupération musculaire... hum, courage Jean. Tu es bien entouré, je croise les doigts pour tu puisses reprendre au mieux, toujours avec le sourire.
Rest well Jean

Michael L. PALMER said...

Jean- I heard about this today from Roger Jensen. I wish the best recovery for you.


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