once again, i had the good fortune to partake of the devil's commute to ardbeg distillery yesterday for the purposes of taking a few photos of developments inside the historic white buildings. having managed to make a pig's ear of a rendezvous with a friend due to come along for the ride, i headed out alone. little more than two-thirds of the way along the low road, there was a sudden scraping of brakes from behind and an unexpected friend of mine pulled alongside, obviously slowing to match my embarrassingly low speed.
after exchanging a few pleasantries, he headed off, leaving me floundering in his wake, but promising to wait at the turn to port ellen. on stopping to converse more sociably and devoid of heavy-breathing, the fellow i should have met prior to departure hoved into view and the three of us celebrated the serendipity of our midweek velocipedinal situation.
disappointingly, the other two chaps tend to be a tad quicker than yours truly, most of the time, possibly because they spend more hours on the bike than do i, but perhaps also due to my advancing years and lowered reluctance to admit to more slothful performances. that said, i'm undoubtedly amongst the fittest of my age group on the island, quite probably fitter than i was when i was your age.
there's little dispute over the effectiveness of riding a bicycle to maintain a satisfactory degree of health and fitness, however, like many things in life, everything in moderation; it's all too easy to overdo it. for if a little bit of riding your bike every now and again proves to be beneficial, then surely even more riding a bicycle will be even better. perhaps surprisingly, that's not necessarily the case and this book's 300 plus pages explains in great detail just why that might be.
the opening case study concerns lennard zinn, one of the book's three authors. zinn is a renowned technical author and mechanic and a former member of america's national cycling team. once again, strava rears its ugly head, for in the process of attempting to set a new king of the mountains time for his age group, he apparently felt his heart skip a beat. his garmin also showed that his heart rate had increased from a nominal 155 beats to well over 200. there's no easy way to say this, but it's a situation that hardly commended itself to his health and wellbeing.
in order to cut a long story shorter, it transpires that he was suffering from multifocal atrial tachycardia, a medical condition that subsequently changed his life forever, more specifically, it seriously curtailed any future intense periods of cycling.
the book as a whole, deals with what can collectively be described as intense exercise induced heart arrhythmias in masters endurance athletes. let me point out at this juncture that the narrative makes it plain this is a condition that seems specifically to affect endurance athletes of all disciplines (not just cyclists) of a certain age.
"Zinn quickly realized he was not alone. [...] he reached out to friends who had been fabulous athletes in their day and who continued to push themselves well into their 40s and 50s.
"The number of friends, colleagues and former teammates who had similar or more severe heart issues was alarming. Far from being an outlier, Zinn was one amongst many."
it would be naive of me to contend that i could satisfactorily explain the medical rhymes and reasons as to why the human heart suffers what can only be described as trauma, one that seems not to be the case for those who train less extravagantly. however, if you're already past the age of forty and with the intention of pushing the boat out further and further as the years slip past, you might just like to read this superb book from cover to cover, before immediately re-reading it.
cycling, along with many other forms of exercise, releases endorphins into our operating system, meaning that we enjoy our brief bouts of pedalling. apparently misplaced logic convinces us that more of the same will be even more ginger peachy. this book explains in clear detail why that might be an erroneous view to hold. it is well written, well researched and even for an avowed avoider of medical issues, a less than taxing read.
"Mike was in ventricular tachycardia. The result was sudden cardiac arrest. he was 50 [...]
"They would have pronounced me healthy as a horse... The ECG would have been perfect because I wasn't having any symptoms."
i don't find myself particularly at ease when reading books such as this which feature not only illustrations of the human heart but graphic descriptions of what might be wrong with them. i'm well aware that ignoring it is the equivalent of burying my head in the sand; just call me squeamish. i don't think i'm anywhere near being considered an endurance athlete and therefore completely immune from the scenarios contained in 'the haywire heart'. but then, lennard zinn probably thought the same and maybe you do too.
this book could save your life.
thursday 23 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................