Of Observing And Being Observed Whilst Dealing With Fear As An Aging Stented Endurance Athlete And The Critical Nature Of Context

 “Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul.

If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas.”

Khalil Gibran, The Prophet.

Kevin and Tucker wave goodbye after recording my life on video from 6 am to 9 pm each day for two days. Great guys!

Kevin and Tucker, of Blue Line Style (click image for link), wave goodbye after recording our life on video from 6 am to 9 pm each day, for two whole days. Great guys, who knew how to disappear, like the disappearing bike!

Hi folks! Thanks for stopping by!

FitOldDog's cardiology staff were great.

Finally, what a relief, health professionals (UNC CH USA Center for Heart & Vascular Care at Meadowmont), Brynlee and Julie, who actually understand what it means to be an aging Ironman distance triathlete – this awareness can markedly impact communication, data interpretation and advice provided.

This post is about the critical roles of observation as self-awareness and your response to fear during health challenges.

Don’t fear your health condition, don’t fear the outcome, don’t fear your potential lack of courage (you’ll find it), fear the health professionals until you are sure you are dealing with those who understand your particular condition (the context) – I was very lucky this time! Read my blog post on ‘bonking out of context‘ for an alternative outcome, and take note.

It’s been an oddly busy few days, involving two videographers (Kevin and Tucker) constantly watching me go about my daily business. They are making a movie about our life in a nutshell, we being Rupert, my Cook Zenith abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) stent graft and I, FitOldDog. The movie is for the Cook Medical 50th Anniversary Celebration. I like this company. They care! And I’ve seen a few.

Yes! They filmed me as I made their breakfast, with which they appeared delighted - well, you can't go wrong with steak and eggs (vegetarian food was available), but it was strictly Paleo.

Yes! They filmed me as I made their breakfast, with which they appeared delighted – well, you can’t go wrong with steak and eggs (vegetarian food was available); strictly Paleo.

The purpose of the video is to demonstrate to the staff of Cook Medical that the odd things they make actually save and enhance people’s lives. Notably people like me, who nearly took the big dive into ‘that dark night,’ along with my AAA. During the two days Kevin and Tucker were here, we crammed many of the key aspects of my life into two days, including family activities, triathlon training, bike repair by Victor, Feldenkrais and Continuum training by Karen and Rebecca, respectively, blogging (like watching paint dry, as Karen would say), track and trail running, and of course, cooking breakfast and drinking beer. All of which they captured on video for a 3-5 minute documentary about FitOldDog and Rupert. How nice of them, but not without stress.

Heart monitor on FitOldDog

FitOldDog is being watched again, but his time by an electronic chip. Not so much fun as Kevin and Tucker.

Because I routinely check the state of my pulse, the morning of the day they were due to arrive I noticed that my heartbeat was overly irregular. This resulted in a visit to the cardiologist, an echocardiogram to establish whether it was safe for me to continue with my planned Mountains of Misery (aptly named) bike ride a week later, and, as all was well, I was fitted with a heart monitor to wear during the event. This gizmo will record my heart beat characteristics for over a week – amazing; we’ll see what that reveals. All very exciting!

However, an undercurrent of fear accompanied excitement during this time of being observed by man and machine.

FitOldDog Team And Photo Team

A small sample of FitOldDog’s family and friends with the ‘video guys.’

Fear: concerns of cardiac failure were laced with the worry that I wouldn’t be able to train at my current level, and anxiety about the impact of the general disruption of everything, by a cardiac arrest, on my extensive family and friends. This fear took my mind to thoughts of my last will and testament, and being sure that I would leave my affairs in order. Fear is funny stuff.

It turned out that I was experiencing PACs (premature atrial contractions). Thus the monitor! Some kind and helpful insights from Jo via Twitter, combined with material provided by the staff in the cardiology unit, led to research on my part, motivated by the fear of PACs, revealing the generally benign nature of the condition.

The only real challenge will be reducing my intake of wine and coffee, which tend to promote the frequency of PACs.

Quite a weekend!

-k @FitOldDog

PS Observational skills play a key role in life, involving the integration of complex inputs (sight, sound, muscle soreness, etc.) and outputs (our mental and physical responses to the inputs), upon the analysis of which we make all those daily decisions, large and small, each directed towards survival, contentment and the persistence of our genes in the Biosphere and hopefully beyond. Observation also involves the integration of thoughts and feelings about our internal and external worlds, with fear being one valuable, but potentially crippling, feeling.


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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.