In my early thirties, back in the late 1970s, while runningsome studies on platelet function, we discovered that I have a severe form ofdyslipidema - too much fat in my blood. It turned out to be hypertriglyceridemia, not a high cholesterol issue.
Samples from dogs (I am a veterinarian) to show what my plasma was like. Normal plasma (blood without redcells) left, high blood fat (middle) and severe hyperlipidemia (like me beforeIronman training).
I kept training, qualified for and ran the Boston Marathon in2009. Everything seemed fine for this old guy (I was 66 back then, a youngster).
Then I started to notice trouble with my feet during longruns, and it messed up my triathlon races, a lot. I'd come struggling in to thefinish line on painful feet, at the back of the pack (where you meet the nicest people, by the way), as you can see. I wondered what was going on. My feet would go numb!
During a routine follow-up visit, about five years ago, for my aortic aneurysmstent graft (that's another story), UNC Hospitals Endovascular Surgery Unit rana routine ABI (Ankle Brachial Index) test, and told me I was developing PAD inmy popliteal arteries. Bummer! So that's what's going on! I was also told thatsurgery or angioplasty was out of the question. Being a researcher, Iresearched, and found that the best way to keep this problem at bay, or atleast to slow it down, was exercise. Exercise is something I enjoy, but now Ihad to learn how to enjoy exercise with lots of foot and calf, pain.
Here is an extract from one of my books that describes my runtraining process. Yes! I'm still training for Ironman, it keeps me alive:
At the track, I adjust the settings of my sports watch torecord distance, pace and heart rate. Then off Willbe, our yellow lab, and I,go for a run of several miles. Four laps of the track make a mile. Why thetrack, which many find boring? Because there’s a smooth running surface and few interruptions.
W e run 100 yards, 200 yards, 250 and then we stop.
I stand immobile on my left leg, as pain surges through myright calf. Willbe sits patiently at my side. He knows the drill. I glance atmy watch as it calculates average running pace. It grows from 9 minutes and 30seconds per mile, through 10 minutes, 11 minutes and finally 18 minutes and 20 secondsper mile. This is not much better than a brisk walking pace.
Time was moving, but we were not.
As the mileage increases, our mile time improves to 14minutes and 12 seconds per mile. I’m getting closer to my goal of 13 minutesand 40 seconds per mile. If I can average 13 minutes and 40 seconds per milefor 26.2 miles, I will achieve a 6-hour marathon time. Then I’ll be ready tosign up for another Ironman race, which starts with a 2.4-mile swim, then a112-mile bike ride, finishing with a full 26.2-mile marathon.
Yep! It’s a long day, but I love it.
My other dog, Gizmo, completed a local 10k run with me a few weeks ago. It was hard keeping up with him. We need all the help we can get with PAD, and there is nothing like a dog to do that for you.
Gizzy and I at the finish line of the local Gallup &Gorge 10k run race.
For me, it's not about the race, it's about the training. While the swim and the bike do little for my PAD, the run is a differentmatter. If I back off on my run training, the PAD symptoms become worse again,in weeks. Much worse. I suspect the collateral arteries I'm building start todissolve away. It feels like that, anyway. So I'm highly motivated to exercise,especially to walk and run. The trick that works for me: I walk and/or run at apace that just triggers the claudication, and try to keep it their. Steady, continuous pain (isn't that fun?), but without having to stop, seems to improvemy symptoms in no time. Furthermore, the first mile is the worst mile. Italways is for running, and even more so when attempting to run with PAD. Sodon't throw in the towel during the first mile or two, whatever you do.
You can do it!
Tips To Persevering With P.A.D. & Endurance Training
- Just walking is not enough. You have to induce claudication to trigger the growth of collateral vessels. It's considered good pain, not bad pain in this case. It’s the pain that tells your body it needs more blood flow. Your body is a highly adaptive machine. It works like magic to keep you alive.
- It is critical to relax into the pain, as a tense muscle is less likely to perfuse well. Just think softness around the affected muscle, or think soft feet in my case, too.
- Each person has to first work at their own “base training level,” be it simply walking around the block or ultra-marathons. For me, what I love is the full Ironman (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile marathon – Yes! All in one day.)
- Ready to run? A low-impact running style helps, but what you really need with PAD is a zero-impact approach. It's not easy. But, I suggest starting with water-running in a pool, and then follow with a treadmill. Avoid running on concrete as that always hurts.