Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Heart problems bring Kaisen's career to a premature end : SBS Cycling Central

Timely indeed, given my own situation. This is Lotto Belisol's Olivier Kaisen on his heart problem:

"At training camp in December I was able to train in perfect circumstances without any problem. Now I think my moderate season in 2013 might be caused by it." Kaisen first noticed the problem during the Tour Down Under in January."After the second stage at the Tour Down Under I didn't feel well. It had been a very tiring and extremely hot day and I had ridden much at the head of the bunch for AndrĂ© Greipel. I did start the next stage, but immediately after the start of the third stage I felt something was wrong. I was scared and together with sports director Herman Frison I decided to quit. He said I couldn't take any risk.

The thing is, and I know this from hindsight more than any analytical brilliance, as you tend to grow into your body over time, it so rarely surprises you. You simply get used to its quirks. After all, you don't get to experience what other hearts are like, although you may still realise that there's a huge diversity in what are "normal" rhythms and rates of beating. Some are fast, some are slow and some are all over the shop. Yet they "do the job". Mostly. So you get "used" to your own quirks and they fade into the background... until one day...

And if you race - or even train hard - you are putting a hefty load on that single point of failure. That load can be extreme in a race, especially if you are dehydrated or have some other variation from the "norm" that one day may create that "perfect storm" that is ischaemia. Now hindsight is a wonderful thing and I don't want to put anyone off cycling to their full potential - far from it - but we can't see into our bodies as we go about our daily lives (well, not without some help, anyway). We have to go by feel. And that's why we need to look after ourselves, eat, rest and train right, and keep a look-out for anything that feels 'unusual'. It could be a sign that shouldn't be ignored.