Endurance training provided knowledge that possibly saved my life

Entrepreneurs’ Organization supported me every step of the way

There are many reasons why I love competing in triathlons. Not the least of them is the lingering feeling that one day, my endurance training might equip me to save someone’s life. I just didn’t know it would be my own.

I spent most of last week in the hospital. The week prior, I had developed a shortness of breath that would end with me needing to lie down after walking up a mere 10 steps. I’m a person accustomed to running for miles, whether in training or races. It was frightening to suddenly feel so breathless and weak.

Thanks to my years of endurance training, I knew how to listen to the signals my body was giving me. I would take the time to stop, lie down, and bring my heart rate and breathing back to a normal feeling before continuing what I was doing.

At first, I figured I probably had Covid like so many other people right now. Shortness of breath: check. Fatigue: check. But after three negative in-home Covid tests, and no one else in my family exhibiting Covid symptoms, I started to become concerned.

EO stood by me

After a week, I still wasn’t getting any better. I started to realize something was seriously wrong. Through the connected and caring network of my entrepreneurial community, I was able to quickly find a doctor who made time to speak with me the very next morning. 

The Entrepreneurs’ Organization is an incredible group that offers so many advantages to its members. I think the leading benefit is the openness and generosity its members show for each other. They are always willing to help. I would estimate I have volunteered more than 5,000 hours to EO over the years. I won’t deny that sometimes, when my plate was full and time was scarce as I balanced work and family, I found myself wondering, “Where is the payoff?”

EO gives back when you least expect it. My experience continues to reveal that the more I lean in and help our community, the more the community gives back. Not only did I quickly find a doctor through the EO network, but the kind people of our group were even the ones who provided the Covid tests.

Getting a diagnosis

Dr. Mahsin Habib called me first thing that next morning. We discussed my health, my lifestyle, and areas where I was feeling discomfort. Through Dr. Habib’s analysis, he started to identify possible reasons I was experiencing this shortness of breath. He advised, “Let’s start eliminating the big stuff,” and proceeded to schedule me for imaging diagnostics.

During the imaging process, the tech quickly found blood clots in my leg, lungs, and heart. Somehow the clots that had started in my left leg moved to my lungs, and they were now blocking arteries and veins. That was causing my shortness of breath.

The condition I was diagnosed with is known as pulmonary embolism. Less formally, it’s known as the Silent Killer.

In the zone

In our endurance training community, there is a concept we refer to that is called being dialed in. That’s when fitness, gear, racing strategy, and other factors can all line up exactly how you want them to. Many people call this being in the zone. Granted, I am not in that zone very often. But when I have achieved this state, it shows me what my body feels like when it is finely tuned. That goes beyond being at an ideal weight, because I admit I carry some extra pounds I really don’t need. This is about fitness and being in tune with your body.

Back to being out of breath. The thousands of miles of hill climbing I’ve completed have taught me what it feels like when I am at my VO2 max. That refers to how much oxygen your body can absorb and use when you are exercising as hard as you can, when you cannot sustain any more effort. Your body shuts down when you push through the VO2 max level for too long. That’s why you see triathletes sitting on the side of the road on a steep hill during a hot August race. They pushed too hard, and their bodies said, “No more.”

If you are involved with endurance racing, you have likely crossed that line several times. You only hope it will happen during training so that you can learn to recognize the feelings that led to the shutdown.

Triathlete saved drowning child

At the beginning of this post, I told you I had hoped my training could one day save someone. One of the stories that inspired me was the triathlete who didn’t hesitate to dive into the icy-cold River Thames in southern England to save a drowning child being carried away by the current. Mark Maloney later reported that it was his training for Ironmans that gave him the confidence to jump right into the water without hesitation.

In my case, I was able to save myself. Those events I experienced during training and racing helped me understand my body as I completely drained my tank to walk up those fateful 10 stairs.

I am eternally grateful for my endurance training. Those years of listening intently to my body as I strove to reach greater heights with my training might have saved my life. I am grateful to my family for staying by my side throughout this ordeal. And I am thankful for the EO community that helped shepherd me through the medical process from start to finish. There is strength in numbers, and together, we can conquer problems both great and small.

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