When I set out to see my doctor and discuss my blood pressure issues, I didn’t expect it to be such a trial. While talking to him, I expressed that I didn’t want to get on another medication but knew that it was a requirement for now. We discussed how it was a hereditary thing and had nothing to do with my weight (although it is another reason to lose some weight) and I was put on a beta-blocker. I was told that this medication would make it hard for my heart rate to get up and I asked how that could affect my running. He answered honestly, and said he wasn’t sure.
Well, I have the answer for you – it does. It affected my heart rate (and my BP) significantly. It affected the outcome of the first two races I did this year, has forced me to drop one, and the swap to a new medication may hinder how well I do at the third race of the year for me – the Gate River Run.
Getting healthy is a bitch sometimes.
Propranolol is a beta-blocker that is also known to help with migraines, so I understand why we tried it out. It would have been fantastic to have been able to kill two birds with one stone. It wasn’t until I ran the BDR Jax that I realized that the medication may be an issue for me if I wanted to continue to run. (Something my doctor later said as well)
I dropped from the half marathon to the 10k for the BDR much to my disappointment, but something told me that attempting the half was a bad idea and it turns out – it was. I ended up having major issues catching my breath, staying focused and not being light headed for the 10k. I was devastated when I saw my times for that race, but knew in the back of my head that it could be the medication. At this point, it was only in my system for three or so days, and I know that it sometimes takes a few weeks up to even a few months for your body to get accustomed to the medication.
I talked to my friend Eric, who has become an epic runner and also has a heart thing, and he said that it was something he was concerned about as well when he got put on medication for his heart. He listened to my concerns and let me vent about how awful I felt physically as well as mentally when it came to this run. He gave me some good tips and I contemplated calling my doctor.
Which I did at the two-week mark, telling him that I was certainly having some heart rate issues. I told him about the first race, how my running was suffering, and how I was tired a lot despite my BP going down significantly. I offered to wait it out another two weeks to see if my body was still just adjusting to the medication or not. He told me that was fine with him but to “not be a martyr” and if there is an issue to call him.
I spent the next few weeks running with Kat and watching my heart rate. I felt lethargic, slow, heavy and uncoordinated. I knew that something was wrong, and I speculated with Dreamboat about how it could be the medication. I was concerned but I didn’t want to really make a big deal about it. So I stayed on it. Then I went to Daytona Beach.
Taking away the fact that the weather was horribly cold and wet, that I hadn’t run a half since November, and thanks to the matter of my BP I hadn’t trained appropriately, I felt strong and ready when I woke up that morning. I was excited to go out there and see what cars they had on the route and I love the route as well. But I knew there was a problem before we even got 3 miles into the race. I was working way too hard and my HR was not rising to the occasion according to my Garmin VivoSmart HR.
By mile 4, I was starting to get dizzy spells so I slowed my pace even more and started walking when it got bad. I walked over the major bridge and felt worse. My body was getting heavy, my vision was getting blurry, I was having issues focusing and concentrating. I tried to boost myself by doubling up on my gels, thinking that the caffeine in them will get me to at least focus more and get my body moving which it did for three or so miles but then it was back to being a slug again.
I walked more of that race than I ran, and was devastated by it.
When I finally got across the finish line, I accepted my medal and my towel, found an open spot and sat right down. I keep trying to breathe deeply with my eyes closed, trying to stop the dizziness that I felt, trying to blink to clear my vision, anything.
“Do you want to sit on some cardboard?” a lady asked me.
“No, I don’t think I could get up right now,” I mumbled.
“Are you alright? Do you want a soda?” she asked me.
“Actually, a Coke would be great,” I answered, looking up at her. She took one look at my face, nodded, and grabbed a soda while calling out to the medical team. I took the soda that she had to open for me, and I slammed it without thinking about it. The medical guys came over and were asking me all kinds of questions. I explained to them that I wasn’t feeling very good, I was dizzy, had blurred vision, and was having issues concentrating.
“Do you take anything for your heart or blood pressure?” he asked as he tried to take my BP manually.
“Yes, I have been on a blood pressure medication for a month now,” I answered. I watched as he tried to get my BP manually and failing, so he went to the machine that the other, younger EMT brought over. He smiled at me as I lifted my hand to give him access to my arm for the cuff and my finger for the pulse ox thing. As we were doing that, a bigger guy who could have been a manager came by.
“What’s her blood pressure?” he bellowed.
“166/110, but her other vitals are normal,” he answered.
“Get her to the care facility,” he snapped. I was then bundled up and helped to stand while freaking out a bit. That was radically high. I stumbled as I stood and the older EMT caught me.
“Still dizzy?” he asked, and I nodded. He all but shoved me onto the gurney, threw all of my items onto my lap, and put the arm up. I was strapped in and hauled away, but while laying down, the world stopped spinning. Oh, I thought. I should have just laid down then.
When we got to the infield care center, I was a bit more focused and my breathing was stable. The took my BP three more times, and while it was slowly going down they were still concerned since my pulse was normal. The doctor told the nurse to get me hooked up to an IV, and I mentioned that I have to be out of my hotel by noon.
“Not gonna happen,” Doc said. I frowned. While I didn’t think I needed a bag of fluids, the doctor seemed to think I did. I hit every water stop and carried my big water bottle with me during the race so I know I hydrated. But I’m not one to argue with a doctor and an IV went in and a bag of fluid followed closely behind it. Not including the two Gatorade bottles I drank while in the bed.
I texted Brian to let him know what was going on. And I think I texted my Mom. Then my sister, and then I texted Marisa. Marisa lived in DeLand and that was only 20 minutes away. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to shower at the hotel before leaving, and I had already made plans with Marisa anyway so I wanted to see if I could shower at her place before we grabbed food. Of course, she was down for that.
When I was finally allowed to leave the car center, it was just about noon and the entire area was cleared out. In fact, my car sat alone in a field of green grass, looking sad and pathetic. I rushed to get to the hotel, grabbed my stuff and threw it in my bag and rushed out to check out before I was charged for another day. Then I rushed to her place. Later that night I went out with friends for the Superbowl, but was distracted for most of the night.
I contacted my doctor on Monday and we played phone tag for a few days after. While I waited, I did some research on diet and what I should be eliminating from my routine. Salt, obviously, was top of the list. I do use a lot of salt in my cooking but not exaggerated amounts but I do plan on paying closer attention to it. I found foods that naturally help lower blood pressure like avocados, lean pork, tilapia, peaches, bananas, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and quinoa. I also looked into what other things I should be doing other than running (although running was the #1 thing most websites said I should do to lower my BP and my weight.)
When we finally got in touch with each other, I explained everything that happened. He said that it is his belief that the best course of action would be to change my medication if I planned on continuing to be active. I said that I did plan on continuing to be this active and that my next race was Ortega. He said no. I said Gate? He said okay.
The new one is not a beta-blocker, and since being on it, I feel less tired and less lethargic. My pulse is more normal and while my blood pressure has gone back up a little bit – I feel more aware of what’s going on around me. I’m usually sensitive to side effects of medications so I was concerned when I read that irregular heartbeat was one of the side effects, and while I have had a few bouts of a racing heart, I feel okay. Still a little tired, fighting a dry cough from time to time (side effect) and sometimes my heart will race for no reason, but overall I’m better than I was on the beta-blocker.
I can’t drink on this medication, I learned the hard way, but that just means I’m a built in DD.
I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a scary experience. I haven’t run since I had the incident in order to give my body some time to adjust to the new meds but I’m ready to get back out there and start pounding the pavement again. I’m doing some small, minor adjustments to my diet that fit into the “healthier BP” plan…but overall I’m already eating pretty healthy. I’m monitoring my sleep and my steps and just trying to do better. Not more, not faster, but better.
The hardest part of all of this is finding the motivation to get out the door and just go. Go walk, go run, go ride a bike. Go for the salad and not the cheeseburger, go for the water and not the soda. Go for the right things, not the wrong.
My bathing suit isn’t the sole motivator anymore, and while it’s still hard for me to get out that door sometimes…I don’t want to have a heart attack at 40. That’s my motivation. That’s my NEW motivation.