Needless to say, I’m very disappointed with this race. I will try to explain what happened at Barrelman, and this has happened to me before in training.
I occasionally have a strange occurrence at the start of a swim or run interval where the physical acceleration of my chest causes my heart to start racing. Here is what it feels like. Imagine having the feeling of a hiccup, before the hiccup you have a heart rate of 80bpm, and after its 160bpm. If I try to keep training when this happens, I just don’t have the same cardiac output as I normally should. For example, this happened once as I started a 400m time trial in the pool, and I swam about 40 seconds slower than I anticipated for that time trial. While this is happening, my breathing feels disconnected and unregulated. In other words, I have to consciously think to breath, and I’m guessing about how much I should be breathing. Also, if I continue training through it, my muscles are burning as if I’m training at VO2 max, but my pace is slower than I know I can maintain at threshold, which is how I know my cardiac output is low.
When my heart starts racing like that, its stuck there and it won’t come back down until I rest completely for about 10 minutes. At that point it is still at about 160bpm, then I randomly have another “hiccup” type feeling, and its suddenly 80 bpm again. Then I can continue as if nothing happened with no symptoms. I have seen a cardiologist and have had many tests done, but everything looks normal and we haven’t been able to get any recordings while this is happening. It occurs somewhat rarely (roughly once a month), which is why its been hard to catch.
On Sunday as I dove into the water to start my swim warmup 20 minutes before the race, this same feeling happened. I got out immediately and lied down for 15 minutes. I tried to relax but my heart would not stop racing. Perhaps as the race time approached I got nervous that I wouldn’t be back to normal, which only made it worse. With 1 minute remaining before the race I was still not back to normal, so I swam out to the starting point and away we went.
I managed to stay with the lead pack on the swim, even though I knew something wasn’t right. On the bike I got confirmation that the feeling was real, I struggled to hold 250 watts (35 watts below my target) even after 1 minute of biking. I suffered badly to hang with Jordan Monnynk but managed to get off the bike with him and not far behind Alex. I started the run but struggled terribly to hold a pace that would normally be easy (maybe 4:00 to 4:15/km), so I decided to pull out in case this problem could be made worse.
I walked back to the medical tent, and 30 minutes later my heart rate was still 150-160. I got put on an EKG monitor. John Salt came to chat and see how I was doing, and while he was standing there my heart “reset” itself and instantly I was at about 80bpm once again. The medic said she technically has to recommend I go to an emergency room, but realistically I need to see I cardiologist to get this diagnosed. The heart rhythm looked normal at all times, but its not normal to have an instant change like that. She said I “cardioverted” myself, which is typically only achieved with electricity or drugs.
I hope to get this issue figured out soon, and ideally I can come up with strategies to avoid it without having it impact my training or racing.
On a side note, congrats to Alex Vanderlinden who had a great race! He certainly would have been tough to beat even if I had a great day, and I hope we can have a good battle next year!
Next up for me is a big swim and run phase to try to get some fast time trial results this fall, and I am looking forward to this change in my training.