Tag Archives: rock climbing

Return to Sport Climbing

constant reminders...

constant reminders…

I’m going to brag and show off a bit in this post, so please excuse the narcissism! I was extremely pleased to return to sport climbing this past weekend with a trip to Holcomb Valley in Big Bear, CA. This was my first time sport climbing outdoors since my first surgery (November 2013).

Sport Climbing, in a nutshell, is type of climbing that involves climbing up a rock face with a rope attached to your harness for protection. As you climb, you attach your rope to bolt hangers that have been pre-bolted into the wall. You attach your rope to these bolt hangers using quick-draws (two carabiners attached together with a sling). This is called lead climbing, because you clip your protection in as you go. When someone has lead the route before you, and your protection is already at the top of the route, that is called top-roping.

I spent the early part of the day top-roping. I did not yet feel confident to lead. I felt nervous on the wall. I felt exposed. I could feel my heart pounding and clicking away. I thought about my surgeries. I thought about how difficult my recovery has been. I thought about all the challenges, and how I deserve to be on this rock, right now.

After top roping several climbs, we moved to a new crag to a climb that I was familiar with called ‘Powder Keg” (oh yeah, every route is named by the first person to ascend it). I’ve climbed it before. It isn’t too hard (difficulty: 10a), but it has an impressive move out of a big roof. I remember climbing this when I was a beginner climber, so it felt appropriate to lead it now.

roping up...

roping up…

I climbed Powder Keg flawlessly. My training in the gym, my patience after each surgery, my frustrations, anger, sadness, optimism, everything; summed up in one action. I felt emotional as ascended the top portion. I enjoyed it like a delicious beer, savoring every moment. Sorry, I had to get those scar shots in 🙂

What a kick off to this year’s climbing season! Next week we will be bouldering in Bishop. I can’t wait to crush. This weekend I’ll be cycling in the Levi’s Granfondo ride. I orginally signed up for the 100 miler, but I downgraded to the 65 mile ‘medio’ ride. Between work, school, coaching, and climbing, I haven’t had time to train for it. No worries, we’ll still have fun (and suffer a bit). Thanks for reading!

.

i'm on bloodthinners... helmet: check

i’m on bloodthinners… helmet: check

The roof move.

The roof move.

:-D

😀

finish easy

finish easy

3 Months Post Surgery: BIG Milestone

Recovery is more than getting back to physical health. I am psyched that I have been able to get back to where I am now, however there are some challenges that linger.

  • Emotions: I have noticed significant emotional changes since my surgery. I am not suffering from (cardiac) depression, which happens to many heart surgery patients, but my emotions are extreme. I feel greater joy, and greater sadness in my daily life. The extremes are more present than they used to be.
  • Pride: I feel like I have something to prove. I feel the need to be stronger than I ever have been before. I’m afraid that I am sometimes overdoing it.
  • Physical strength and endurance. Some stronger, some weaker.
  • Occasional PVC’s (premature ventricular contractions): though these have decreased dramatically.

Cycling

Cycling on Feb 22, 2014 ‘Greenspot rd route’: http://my.digifit.com/site/share/workout/c5906ac59bf911e395a409b929907b9a.html My restrictions have been dropped, so I do not need to keep my heart rate under 140 BPM any longer! The cool thing is, due to my beta blocker medication, my heart doesn’t really go above that anyway. We will see once I’m taken off the, hopefully this week. If you are looking at my heart rate chart, don’t worry about the extreme spikes above 200 BPM, I am pretty sure that those reading are errors due to the wind when I go very fast downhill. I think the wind vibrates my jersey against the heart monitor. Those spikes only occur when I go downhill, which is when I am exerting myself the least.

Climbing

I feel that I am back to my normal climbing strength. Now I am training to climb harder and better than I ever have in my life. I have begun a 3 month training regiment that will put me in the best shape of my life. I’ll be sure to post my progress on this. There are various climbing competitions in southern california that I will be competing in. It is time to get strong. I wish I had a recent picture of me climbing something cool to show you, but I don’t.

Personal Life

This one is tough. Refer to my first bullet at the top of this post.

SO anywayz here’s a picture of me with my shirt off!

Scar Shot!

Scar Shot!

Slackline Confessional

A couple posts ago, I mentioned an email correspondence I had with Dr. Lawrence Creswell, a cardiac surgeon who blogs about athletes’ hearts, and athletes with heart problems. His recent post, More on Athletes and Bicuspid Aortic Valve (BAV), dives very deep into the various issues that someone like me thinks about and needs to make decisions about. It is a very thorough post. Dr. Creswell’s blogging helps heart patients everywhere, not just the ones that he gets paid to treat. He touches many hearts (beyond the hearts he touches). See what I did there? That was a heart surgeon joke. In all seriousness, this is what the internet is for. Dr. Creswell ends his post with some points that he also made in an email to me:

“Athletes will ask when they can return to their sports….

…Unanswered questions include:  Can a bioprosthetic valve wear out more quickly than expected?  Does the (unreplaced) aorta enlarge over time?  If so, how quickly?  Do medications like beta-blockers limit any potential harm?  We just don’t know.

Yet I’m personally aware of a good number of athletes who’ve returned to endurance sport after operations of various sorts for BAV, presumably after discussion with their doctors.  Athletes should have detailed discussion with their doctors about any prudent limitations to exercise after operation and settle on a mutually agreeable plan.”

I think Dr. Creswell is saying two things here. On one hand, he feels that heart valve replacement patients should not do certain sports, including endurance cycling and rock climbing, and on the other hand, many patients are going to do it any way, as long as their docs give them the proper low down. I think most athletes are willing to take that risk. I understand that there isn’t enough data out there for some doctors to completely release their heart valve patients into the world of extreme and endurance sports. The thing is, and as Dr. Creswell reluctantly acknowledged, some of us are completely willing to be the lab rats. Quality of life includes doing the things one loves to do, not necessarily living to be 105.

Inspired by Dr. Creswell’s post, and after some reflection, I decided to do my first video Blog (Vlog) while slacklining. Thanks for watching! I call it ‘Slackline Confessional’.

Fun little side note, moments after I posted this video, I hopped back on my bike and almost got clobbered, sending me over my handlebars to avoid a collision with a truck backing out of a driveway. Moments of clarity are often quickly replaced with the harsh reality that is life!

Monitoring BPM with Digifit

20130726-120509.jpg

Yesterday I rode my bike to the climbing gym (Threshhold Climbing & Fitness) and then climbed at the gym, all the while monitoring my heart’s beats per minute (BPM). My goal is to keep my BPM under 150, even under 140 if possible. As you can tell, my heart rate spiked pretty high, but I was able to bring it down immediately. I think that soon I will have greater control over my heart rate.

Digifit

I tried several apps with my bluetooth heart monitor, and ended up using Digifit on my IPhone. I like Digifit because it is highly customizable and has crisp graphs and graphics. Most importantly to me, I am able to create my own heart rate zones and enable the voice feedback feature to notify me when I enter these zones. For cycling, zone 1=130-140, zone 2=140-150, and so forth. For climbing, zone 1=140-150, zone 2=150-160, etc. I set my zones up in this way so that the voice feedback doesn’t bother me at lower heart rates, only when I am approaching or within my prescribed max zones.

Results

Cycling Test: It was pretty hot for my bike ride, which made controlling my heart rate difficult. I also had a full stomach. If you look at the line graph, the biggest spike in BPM correlates with a big increase in elevation, thus a decrease in speed. As i kicked the bike into an easier gear and slowed down, my BPM quickly dropped to an acceptable level.  CLICK HERE FOR BIKE RIDE RESULTS

Climbing Test 1 (Lead Climbing): Lead sport climbing is climbing up a rock face and clipping your protection into pre drilled bolts as you climb up. This is typically more difficult and straining than top roping, which I am yet to test with my heart rate monitor. Lead climbing proved to really jack up my heart rate. This particular climb was only rated 5.9, yet it still sent my heart rate above 180 BPM. I may have to steer clear from this form of climbing for the next few months.                                                                    CLICK HERE FOR LEAD CLIMB RESULTS

Climbing Test 2 (Bouldering): I like Bouldering better anyway. Bouldering is climbing literally boulders without rope protection. Typically a boulderer will carry a ‘crash pad’ out and a friend to spot their landing to avoid injury. I had a much easier time controlling my heart rate during this short bouldering session. Boulder problems are rated and I usually max out at V6. I’ve only sent V7 a handful of times in the climbing gym. During this workout, you can clearly tell by my heart rate that I climbed 4 boulder problems. They were V1, V2, V3, V4 in that order. One important indicator that I’m doing an okay job here is to view the pie chart that presents the percentage of time spent in each zone. I only spend 3% of my time in the 150-160BPM zone. I believe that just like with cycling, soon I will have better control over my heart rate as I practice my breathing methods and body control.              CLICK HERE FOR BOULDERING RESULTS

Why is this important? Do I really need to obsess over this? This is empowering me to stay at my current fitness level without putting myself at risk for aortic dissection or rupture. I want to go into this surgery as fit and strong as possible, so that my recovery can be swift.

In other news, I went to the dentist yesterday to get my mouth ‘cleared’ of infection, cavities etc. Mouth infections can easily infect a defective heart valve, which would be a big risk before, during, and after a surgery. The surgeon requires a dentist to take X-rays and inspect the mouth. Luckily, despite my 3 year dentist visit abstinence (yikes) my dentist did not see any cavities/ infection and cleared me for surgery. This means that soon I will have a surgery date.

Also, a HUGE shout out to all of my friends, especially in this case my climbing friends who poured over their support for me! I would especially like to thank young Kristen and her dad Jess. Kristen has a similar heart issue as me and said she was climbing in yesterday’s climbing competition for me! Cheers!

Anthony

OH NOOOOO!

Let’s start of with a little background on how this all began. When I was a child, my pediatrician heard a heart murmur in my chest. He referred me to a specialist, and after some imaging, I was diagnosed with Bicuspid Aortic Valve (BAV). I went back every 4 years for checkups and until recently I was always told that I would be over 50 years old when I would need surgery, if I needed it at all. I’ve been secretly hoping for advances in human organ teleportation technologies, but alas we are many years off on that one. I lived my life with little anxiety about it. I went to college and got a job. I moved to California from New Jersey and got different jobs. I became a teacher and finally got health insurance. I went back to the cardiologist, who told me that my heart condition got worse and that I would need surgery in 2-5 years.

That was 2011. I kept doing my thing. I continued to rock climb as hard as I could. I love bouldering and sport climbing. More to come on that soon. I bought a new road bike (Cannondale Supersix) and rode hard. I tend to push myself. I went back to my Doctor every 6 months and my stomach would be in a twist until I heard from her after each echocardiogram. Each time, everything remained stable. Until last month. I received a CT scan for the first time. CT scans are better at revealing Aortic Aneurysms than echocardiograms. The scan revealed that I have a 4.6 cm Ascending Aortic Aneurysm. This is commonly associated with BAV, or can exist by itself. When a person with BAV also has a Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm, it is usually time to operate. Too many risks at once. I met with a surgeon to see what he thought. He told me that it was up to me, but if it were him, he would get it ASAP.   This is a video of me when I found out that I needed Heart Surgery:                                                                 

So here I am. The wheels are in motion. Things are happening. This is actually going to happen. It is no longer a dark thundercloud in the distance. The surgery will happen soon. The thing that I have been wishing away will be coming, soon. SOON.

soon

My surgeon told me to keep my heart rate down in the meantime. I bought a heart rate monitor and intend to continue exercise to my heart’s content. It will be a challenge to rock climb and attack big hills on my bike while keeping my BPM under 150. I’ve been using a cool app called Digifit, which is highly customizable. I can do this. After the surgery, I will climb hard again.  I will not allow this to change my lifestyle. Soon I will post my goals and intentions.

What’s on the horizon? I have to get to the dentist to clear my mouth of any possible cavities (mouth bacteria can infect the heart valves under stress before & after surgery). I am continuing my exercise routine with some caution. A new school year is coming soon. I gotta start planning!

I hope you join me for this ride.