Postural Tachycardia Syndrome is what the Cardiologist told me I have.
I have been struggling with fatigue since the beginning of the summer. At first it was between my training sessions, then it was while I working with the kids, then it was on my off days and then it started to affect my training as well. I was so busy I figured that the fatigue would end when I had a little break between programs and a rest week of training. It didn’t!
I couldn’t figure out what was going on and, I was way too busy to see it coming, but once it did I knew I had to do something. After a few days off and a number of easy sessions I started to feel better and shrugged it off as just a period of too much going on in my life. I started the next week feeling alright but by the end I knew something was up. I entered a local 5k and was 1-1/2 minutes off my usual pace for this time of year! I immediately began to review and rethink what I had done leading up to these feelings.
I couldn’t figure it out. Nothing was different from a typical summer of training for me. As I proceeded with a cautious attitude I focused on my training zones and other daily routines. I thought it was hydration so I started drinking more sports drink, I thought it was hunger so I started eating a bigger breakfast, and I stayed very low in my training zones at all times. Then one day out of the blue I was lifting at the gym and after a set of squats I felt the world begin to spin beneath me.
I quickly removed myself from the gym and put my feet above my head. I managed to avoid passing out and got a ride from my boyfriend to the ER. After a lot of tests I was sent to see a cardiologist. What! How could there be something going on with my heart?
The Cardiologist preformed a number of tests as well and determined that my heart was showing signs of Orthostatic Intolerance, which means that when I stand up my pulse jumps over 30 beats but my blood pressure also drops significantly! It is this drop in blood pressure that causes me to feel light headed and pass out!
I told him it was probably just over-training! Unfortunately he shook his head and told me it wasn’t. He said no one knows for sure what POTS is from but it wasn’t from training. I have few more tests this week, one is on a tilt table where they will try to make me pass out (or come close anyway) and a few other tests to rule out anything else more serious.
So for now I have the all clear to train as usual and just ignore my heart rate. I have taken a number of days off now and I am feeling really fresh. I went for a fun urban rollerski with Jojo Winters and Brian Gregg today and although the pace was very easy my heart rate was easily 150+. I have to learn to train by feel and leave the monitor at home for a while. I did some lactate testing with a coach and sure enough I am in the right zones just not the right heart rates. This is so strange and after years of hearing about the importance of heart rates for training it will take some time to get used to.
From what I have been told POTS often develops after an illness or trauma and will progress for months getting worse and worse before it suddenly begins to subside. The last time I was really sick was at US Nationals and if I have been through the fainting period and other symptoms I should be in the clear! Right? I am keeping my fingers crossed and spirit high. I have to admit that this would be a lot harder if I didn’t have other team members and ITA members who have faced adversity and set backs and climbed right back up to keep me inspired and optomistic! So I guess now it is my turn to just stay positive and focus on the process.