June 29: Today was my virgin ride outdoors, under some pretty stringent guidelines with respect to my HR zone. So my big dilemma today, as I’d explained in the blog yesterday, was which bike was I going to ride? I have all these straight bar mt bikes to choose from. But after muscling that gnarly duel suspension 29er up and over mt passes in NV, I just couldn’t stomach the thought of getting on a fat wheel bike and putting down the paved trail on one of those. So, against better judgement I took my X fixie out, knowing full well I’d damned well better be extra careful with my dismounting and riding. One of the things Doc Blackburn had said to me when I asked him if I could begin riding outdoors was, “yes, but please don’t crash!”

Now I might not be fast anymore, but after 40-some years of riding a myriad of different bikes in a myriad of different situations, I do kind of pride myself in my bike handling abilities. Yet still, having had your sternum sawed in half six weeks prior, there’s a bit of pressure and anxiety in getting out there on a bike, any bike, and trying not to do something stupid - let alone worrying about someone ELSE doing something stupid to take me down. 

So I chose the fixie, called Judy and had her meet me down in Stow on the Bike & Hike trail. My issue from the get-go was the work they were doing on the trail in Hudson, thereby closing the trail for a section. I had to take to the roads right from the start to go 5 miles to get to the trail that’s all open. I just had this bit of anxiety about riding roads knowing that there’s always a chance of some asshole taking me out. I mean hell, even when I was pre-surgery for the past years, I’ve just ridden less and less on the roads because of all the traffic and the angry/non-attentive drivers out there. It’s a whole different world now riding on the roads. Back in the 70’s and 80’s it was just easier and way less aggressive with respect to the vehicles. Today, with all the cell phones and interactive devices in cars, it’s just a minefield out there. 

Anyway, my first foray back on the bike and I have to hit the roads right off the bat. Well, mounted the fixie and got it going up Barlow to the light. Dismounted on fixie ok, as muscle memory was doing just great. Then rode out to Terex Rd and got on a nice bike lane. Only issue there was going over a really bad RR crossing, where I just lifted my upper body pressure off my arms and let the arms act as shock absorbers so as to not jolt my chest area. No problem there. Then hit Stow Rd where again there is a nice bike lane. So I got to the trail with zero issues. 

Now at that point I went up a small incline, which I really felt as I was riding along. Felt the HR go up and up on that puppy, but not enough to make me think I was going above High Z3 - my upper limit right now for cycling HR. It really made me conscious of how out of shape I really was what with having been off the bike for 2 months, AND having undergone 5-bypass open heart surgery! Shit, the latter alone just had me shaking my head at the fact that there I was, just 6 weeks off the operating table, riding a fixie down the bike trail. I need more of those “lucid moments” when I get down on myself for being such a putz right now regarding my fitness. 

Turned and rode onto the trail, and wouldn’t you know it just as I did a guy on a mt bike crossed from the other side in front of me. And those of you who ride the bike and hike know what that can sometimes spell: dude or dudette immediately goes faster such that you cannot pass him/her. What’s even worse is when they continuously look back to see if you’re gaining on them. So I was thinking to myself, “look dude, you MUST just keep it steady and NOT even try to pick it up on this guy.” And I did. I just tried like hell to keep the same cadence and HR on that stretch of trail between Stow Rd and Young Rd. And the whole time the dude is looking back at me like we’re racing. I mean shit!

Now the funny part was that I just maintained the same distance from the guy the whole way to Young Rd, despite the fact that the dude had shifted down a couple times. Heck, my speed is totally controlled by the fact that I only have ONE gear, so on the flats I just maintain the same speed at the same cadence in that one gear. And honestly, I did not try to gain on this guy. Thankfully at the Young Rd crossing he kept going on the trail and I turned off to meet up with Judy. 

Judy and I met up and got back on the trail to head out to Kent. Now Judy was just doing the Mother Hen thing constantly asking me how I was feeling, constantly telling me to keep it mellow. Got off the trail and did a road stretch to the Portage Bike & Hike in Kent, and this little punchy climb on Hudson Rd had me climbing out of the saddle in slow motion so as to NOT get my HR past the High Z3. Well, I took my pulse manually over the top and I actually think I did exceed it for 10-20 seconds after I topped out. I’m doing the six second count of the pulse X 10 method, so could be some big discrepancies there.  

See the problem is that I have all these old Polar HR monitors I used in the 1990’s, four actually, that are all just relics of the past. They’re all wrist monitors, and one was a top of the line monitor in the mid 90’s…BUT I have no accompanying chest straps that are any good - they are all like 17-20 years old and dead to the world! So without the chest straps - no HR monitoring. Thus, I’m left right now to do the manual radial artery method. 

So I got over that puncher climb and Judy tells me I did it way too fast, and I’m like, “hell, I’m on a fixie and I was doing the thing in slow motion so as to not get my HR up!” “Go slower,” she countered. So I noodled down Hudson St into Kent where we had to cross Rt 59 to get on the Portage trail. Well, normally I just do track stands at crossings on the fixie while waiting for traffic. NOT today, and NOT for a few weeks! Nope, all I needed was to biff it and then explain to Doc Gladden, my sister, and Doc Blackburn who had preambled me not to crash, that I was just doing a simple track stand when all of a sudden I biffed. So I dismounted and waited for traffic to clear - I mean big time clear. 

Rode the Portage trail up to Towner’s Woods Park and then we flipped it. I wanted to just go 2 hrs today - yea just two hours when I was 6 wks out of surgery? Like in the old days - about 3 months ago - 2 hrs was a loosen it up ride. Today, it’s my endurance ride! I was feeling it in the quads, but way more especially in the neck, shoulders, traps, and triceps. Man, that upper body was just really feeling it. My chest felt fine because I was doing the light arms routine on the tops of the handlebars so as to keep any bumpy stuff high heavily weighted stuff from translating down into my sternum. 

So the out of the saddle to accelerate stuff felt good and the OTS stuff on rollers and punchy climbs felt good on the sternum. I’m thinking that meant it was really healing well. Took it back to Hudson on the same route. Finished the ride with 2 hours, but again, I really had to consciously dial it back to keep the HR in the right zone. So right now, what with my severe state of deconditioning and my intensity restrictions, I’m just doing a pretty sedate rec riding pace. BUT, I’ll keep within my directives and not get stupid about all this. 

I’m going to finish the blog today with my pasting this note Doc Blackburn had sent to my sister yesterday. That last sentence gives me hope that all this patience and persistence will pay off months down the road: 

“Met with Peter yesterday.  All went well with the exercise test and he is going to come in here for a few supervised sessions before transitioning to self-supervised activity. Still have a hold on UE resistance exercise/off road cycling/drop or aero handlebars until sternum fully healed. He did agree to reschedule an early July tour as well. Enjoyed meeting him and I’m very aware of his passion to resume his former lifestyle.  I see no major barriers for him to return to that lifestyle (with a few minor adjustments) long term.”


June 28: Had to fast this morning due to the impending stress test, so I had a bit of a tough time operating without my morning cup of java. Next up Judy dropped me off at home and then Mike chauffeured me into Clev. to the Clinic’s main campus. Then I amble down to the B level to the stress labs to fill out a questionnaire. This was followed by another session of questions etc. the nurse assistant of by Doc. Blackburn, the exercise physiologist. Then I had to fill out another couple of questionnaires, one on my psychological state, and the other about my current dietary habits. Now the first, the psycho exam, accesses how “bummed out” you are or are not post surgery. From what I’ve heard and read, some people get really down post open heart surgery. So this was a pretty thorough couple pages of questions to determine your mental state of health. I guess I feel pretty lucky to have not experienced any of the downer moods that are quite common. Have to say that I’ve been pretty upbeat about the whole process, this despite the little bumps in the road with respect to upper end HR restrictions etc. So I think I passed that one with flying colors. 

The second questionnaire concentrated on diet. And as soon as I’d looked at it I asked the nurse if I was answering based on pre or post surgery, because my answers would be very different for each! She responded that I answer based on post surgery. So that’s what I went with. And man, what a difference it was answering everything based on my dietary habits post-surgery. It’s the difference between eating as you’re on a Mediterranean Diet vs eating as you’re on a Roman Orgy Diet! Heck, read some of my old travel blogs - Roman Orgy eating every freaking day. Ok, so got that one done. 

So I reviewed all this with the nurse, and then a cardiologist came in to talk to me, asking me to take her through the whole long story about how this started and what I experienced with the heart during my riding in NV. I think the most interesting part of this was her response to my telling her my symptoms, or lack of symptoms actually except for that feeling in my shoulders that felt like I was holding up a giant oak beam that was crushing me from behind. She really seemed taken aback by that one, seeing I did not have the typical “left side chest pain and tightness with radiating pain down the arms and in the jaw”. And I told her that I just didn’t have the impression that day that I’d indeed had a heart attack. Nope, I described it more like I felt terrible all day and I just had a really “shitty day!”.

Next up was my stress test, which they were happy to change it to a bicycle instead of on the treadmill. And we’d talked about how hard they wanted me to go, let is their idea of all out like my definition of all out? I mean my def is to go till you puke! And in this case, with no breakfast I would only dry heave! Well, they told me that I was not going to the point of mass destruction on this, that they wanted me to go high and very hard, but not to the point to where I was slobbering and light headed. 

So this chick shaved a few spots on my chest for the EKG contacts, I got dressed in shorts and no shirt and they hooked me up. They were going to increase the wattage on the bike at 25W every two minutes till I failed to turn the pedals above 60rpm. One chick would monitor the EKG and the other would take my BP (blood pressure) every two minutes. Well, we got going and I described my RPE every two minutes based on an RPE chart on the wall: Not even noticeable up to VERY, VERY HARD. Now since I’m on a few drugs they told me my HR would be stunted a bit from what I’d remembered from the old days. 

And it was. I mean I went through the first 8 minutes just not seeing my HR up above 140, and my RPE at MODERATE. I fully expected to have a much higher HR response. Then after 8 min it got tougher, where I had to kind of go into the TT position to generate a high rpm and feel comfortable on the saddle. My BP was going up pretty good. By like 12 min in I was at about high 140’s with an RPE of HARD. Now shit…my TT HR for as 40K TT used to be 172-175bpm. Ok so that was 17 yrs ago and without these HR lowering drugs I’m currently on. But man, I was just amazed at how things have changed - plus, I’m pretty damned detrained after nearly 2 months off the bike. 

So for the last 4 minutes I started exhibiting these irregular HB patterns called “couplets” where it would be like a double beat thing. The one chick was kind of calling them out. I got concerned and asked, as I’m taking this stress test, asking what the hell is a couplet and is it bad? Told me it was ok unless they became really closely grouped together. But still, I was kind of like, WTF?

All right, like I’m getting worked pretty good by about 14 min in, and she up’s the watts again and I’m in the VERY HARD RPE range, but still, I feel like I still have a good “bit of suffering” left in me. I mean I wanted to just slam this damn thing! I got though 16 min, shifted my position to get more bit on the pedal as she upped the watts, and my rpm dropped to under 60 for like 2 seconds and the chick says we’re done. And I’m like,” WHAT? I just shifted position, I can get it back up above 60!” Nope. We’re done. She told me they got plenty of info at that point. So I was wondering if those GD couplets were the reason. They said no, that I had exceeded what is typically the highest amount of time by like 4 minutes - this is for a post operative CABG patient, and I had achieved my predicted max HR. Yet my thought was, “while still talking?”

I changed, went back into the examination room and waited for Doc. Blackburn to come in. I seemed pretty happy with my results, telling me I’d gone amazingly long on that bike for a guy who was just operated on 6 weeks ago. I achieved 97.5% of my predicted max HR. Then he went into the couplets, explaining that it is common for the heart to display some irregular patterns when recovering from open heart surgery. Said it’s very traumatic on the heart when stopping it, then operating on it, then restarting it. So he did not seem to be too concerned at this point about that. 

First of all, this guy is just great. Again, like Doc Phelan, I could just sit there and pepper these guys with questions for a couple hours. But I’m cognizant of these people having X amount of time per patient, so I really try to keep it rolling and not go on tangents. Doc Blackburn went over my new HR zones and running zones that he’d drawn up, and then we talked about my getting back to using a HR monitor for my training. Right now, based on my stress test results he wants me to stay in the 118-132bpm for cycling (which would equate to a Z3 for me), and 126-138bpm for hiking/jogging. I do NOT say running because that is just creeping for running - for me! So I’ll just use that for hiking - fast. 

And YES, I can begin to cycle! So Doc asks me what kind of bike I have, and I just stammered a bit, and asked him what kind of bike does he want? “I have twelve,” I answered, “and I’m sure I have the kind of bike you want.” He asked about me having a straight bar mt bike? Told him I had 4 of those! He wants a mt bike with straight bars OR a X bike where I ride only on the tops so as to NOT put undue stress on my sternum. He does not want me to get into the drop bar position. 

Then next up Doc wanted to know if I was willing to do a few “supervised” stationary bike workouts with him at the clinic to make sure all is well. He said I would just have to go this Fri, next Wed and Fri. I’d be hooked up to the EKG etc. to make sure my heart is performing as it should at this new Z3. He said I didn’t have to, but it might be a good idea nonetheless. I figured my sister would be all in for this, and what’s more I figured I’d have a good op to talk more with Doc Blackburn about training, so I agreed to give it a go. In the meantime I can still ride on my own in addition to these supervised rides. 

So next we talked about lifting. Nope! I had to wait two more weeks to begin lifting. They are VERY adamant about letting my sternum heal all the way before I put stress on it. Then, when I can lift I have to do unilateral exercises (one arm at a time) in order to NOT stress the sternum from both sides at once as you do with bilateral exercises like the barbell bench press and pushups. 

Driving? Yes, I can get back to driving on my own without the freaking chauffeuring thing Judy has been doing for me. Next, I asked if I could lead one of our Excel Adventure Trips I have scheduled for July 22, a day-hiking trip in the Black Forest of PA. Doc hemmed and hawed about this one, and based on the elevation gain I’d potentially be doing, 1000-1500, he was hesitant on this one. Told me that if I try to look practically on my situation, I’m just 6 weeks out of 5-bypass surgery, and since I’m just now given permission to go into mid to high Z3, he’d prefer that I get more conditioning under my belt before leading a trip. Those climbs could take me into Z4. And I get it totally. So I’m going to have to cancel yet another trip this summer. I have several people who all know what’s going on with me, so it won’t be a problem at all canceling or rescheduling this trip. More than anything I was just hoping to get back to normal again and get my business back to status quo to. 

Then we went over my diet, which based on my previously answered questionnaire, is really good. Now again, this is post surgery, which I told him about. He was very happy to hear, when he asked me if I could maintain it the rest of my life, this Mediterranean  Diet thing, I answered yes, but I wasn’t happy about it! Welcome to my life new diet!

So that’s the story, looks pretty good, though I’m still concerned about the couplet thing and the blockages thing that I’d described a few weeks ago. I’m hoping what with training, I can raise my HR Zones so I can get more work done at the same HR’s as right now. Kim keeps telling me it can take half a year to get back to full capacity, so I guess I’m impatient as hell - as I always am. 

Now Doc Blackburn DID tell me when I asked him about me doing American Dirt and more of my “goofy adventures”, based on where we’re at right now, he thinks I’ll be ok to finish AD in spring of 2017 and then do some rugged, tough backpacking trips thereafter. 

Well, this is where I’m at…and tomorrow by God I’m doing my first bike ride outside since mid May. I’m still debating whether I’ll get on the fixie, which I was feeling smug about jumping right back on, or be sensible and get on my duel suspension mt bike so it will decrease all the shock and vibration on my sternum. I’ll let you know tomorrow.


June 27: Pretty mellow day actually, so another short report. I do promise you though that tomorrow’s report will be way more talkative, this since I do my stress test and talk to the exercise physiologist.

So today, what with the temps forecast in the 90’s again, and with my impending stress test tomorrow, I just decided to take today off and relax. So no hike today. We did have to get pop to Doc Mike at the dentist office again, so that was a couple hours of car work for Judy. Then I just hung at the house with pop for a few hours while Judy went to the gym to work out. 

I will confess that I was a bit hung over from my little imbibing episode with Keith on Sunday night. Man, four microbrew stout beers and I was feeling it that night. Then come morning, and ouch! Definitely had a headache and felt 2-3 steps too slow in the morning. Not a feeling I’ve had in a long time! So I know my limit right now - not many. 

I’m probably hoping too much right now that I’ll be given the green light to ride again, at least on a limited level, and then given the green light to begin a resistance program, to drive a car, to lift heavier objects etc., etc., etc. My fantasy is to be able to get back on the bike this 4th of July holiday. Man, just to ride again would be huge. I’m just so sick and tired of sitting and watching the world go by day after day. 

So I’ve been working on the list of questions to ask the ex. phys. about. Poor guy, it’s a long list! So anyway, stay tuned for the outcome.


June 26: Did 1:45 hr hike early in the morning with Pepper before the temp had gone through the roof. Felt pretty good yet again. 

Then we had an afternoon/evening of friends stopping over. First Holly and Larry dropped by for a bit in the late afternoon, and then later in the early evening Keith and Susan came by. Now I have to admit that I’d gotten some good beer to repay Keith for putting a battery in Judy’s jeep that evening - this because I’m still the putz who cannot lift more than typing paper and Kleenex! It was WAY more than I’m supposed to do right now what with lifting a 40-pound car battery up to chest level and then maneuvering it into this little space inside the engine compartment. 

So Keith got that done for us and then he and I drank 4, yea four beers. This is my all time high since I last rode my American Dirt gig back in May. You know, I’ve had a beer or two since my surgery, but this 4-beer eve, this was new. What’s more we had these stouts which were just amazingly great. Ooooopa, were they good! Have to say though that four was about one too many for me. I’m sure my tolerance is down, so mix in some higher percentage alcohol beer and BAM! Yup, that was my Beer-30 for quite a while.

Not much else to say today other than it was great to see friends.


June 25: Did my 7-mile hike this morning and finished in about 1:56, which again, is still feeling good and within my RPE of 3-4 (have to reiterate this since my sister is reading all these!)  So the hike felt really good and the legs are feeling stronger by the week. It’s a great feeling. My biggest plus today, and again I’m speaking as a real dumbshit, I had my fist “pass” today. Yea, and I wasn’t like trying to crank it or anything. You see, over the past 4 wks I’d felt like the tortoise out there walking, with everybody and their brother passing me. Now it wasn’t like I was pissed or anything. Hell, I was happy to be able to walk for God’s sake!

And I knew I had to keep it mellow. So I’d just say hi and let the walkers pass me by. And these were house wives, grandpa’s, grandma’s, fat people, skinny people, kids, babies, insects…you name it, they passed me! But lately, since I’ve gotten a bit fitter and stronger, I’ve gotten faster. So today I actually, and again without consciously trying, passed this chick who was doing the hand weight training while hiking. Not a pass that will go down in the books, but by gosh it was a pass!

Got back and worked for several hours while Judy got in her cycling workout. And the big thing I’ve noticed in the last several weeks, and I’ve mentioned this before, is the fact that after my hike I’m not hitting the couch for a nap session. Used to be I’d nap after walking, cooking, sitting….hell, I’d nap after napping. Half my bloody day were napping sessions, then I’d go to be. So now, I’m really good through the day. BUT come evening I’m really tired. I’ve found that to be the case now as I’ve upped my hike distance and intensity and since I’ve become more active throughout the day - cooking, shopping, etc. 

Man, come 9 PM and I’m just slammed. So I’ve been hitting the hay between 9-9:30 just tired as hell. So I’m guessing that I’m still not totally back yet with respect to my everyday energy level. Now on the other side, is the fact that I just feel different that I had for the prior year when I was in this funk, this malaise, this feeling dead tired all the time. Now right now it’s now plain as day obvious, but it’s kind of subtle. I just feel more optimistic, more vibrant, more “alive” for lack of a better word. It’s really cool because I just cannot wait to see what I feel like 6 months from now. 

Went home to take care of pop this afternoon and over night, this to give my sister and her boyfriend Mike a break for a change. I think they were going out to a restaurant for happy hour or something of that nature. Judy and I hung here at the house, and then Judy took her grandson Cooper home to babysit for the night while I stayed here with pop.

Had a really nice time sitting on the porch with pop last night. Despite the fact that he talked about the same stuff a lot, I was able to kind of redirect him into other areas of his life where he was telling me about stuff that I even forgot about over the years. We must have been out there on the porch BS’ing for 2.5 hours. 

Hit the hay at 9:30 PM, with my chest zipper itching as if I had fiberglass particles all over it. Had to get some Hydrocortisone out at like midnight to put on it to try to get it to stop itching. I’ve read that my zippers could go through stages of gnarly itching. Well, that’s here!


June 24: At Judy’s for my rehab.

June 23: Decided today, what with my two straight 2-hour hikes in a row, that I’d take the day off and just relax. If there’s anything I’ve learned in life, especially with respect to this endurance stuff, is that you just cannot keep building and building without the inevitable negative repercussions. These usually manifest themselves as overuse injuries. When I awoke this morning I was just really kind of sore over my entire body, legs, shoulders, neck, low back, arms. I mean those two hikes just took it out of me. Again, I’m totally good with that. Matter of fact that’s what I’m after, a good workout within the parameters I’d been given. 

So if I have to hike my ass off to get in a workout to where when I get back I literally have to plop my dead, sore ass onto the couch, I’m all in! But, as I said, I think with two of those in a row I was due for a recovery day…just to make sure I didn’t get myself in a pickle with some kind of tendonitis somewhere on the body. No doubt about it, that surgery really takes it out of you. Used to be that from a muscular endurance standpoint, I was totally good for 4-5 hrs of hiking, this despite my coronary artery issues. But man, I’d really lost the muscular endurance thing since surgery. 

Worked all morning, and then around noon time Judy and I joined some of my friends from my Functional Fitness class at Zeppie’s for lunch. Great to see everyone, and we had a really fun time catching up. I assured them that I’d be back to begin teaching the fitness class again in September. Heck, I don’t see a problem at all with that promise. Anyway, then we stopped over to see pop for a bit before heading back to Judy’s for the rest of the day. 

I cooked a Chinese stir fry and had zero trouble doing all the prep and cooking today. Went with the low-salt soy in the sauce and made sure to cook something that was veggie heavy with brown basmati rice and lean pork. Oh do I miss the good old days of cooking anything & everything!


June 24: At Judy’s for my rehab.

Decided to get ahead in the blog and get two days up on one blog. Now seeing that the weather is spectacular today, Friday 6/24, and seeing that I took yesterday off, I had this secrete intention of going 2.5-3 hrs on my hike today. And note that I’m now using the word HIKE rather than walk. Now I know I can be a real asshole at times, especially with respect to my use of terminology and meaning. So to me, and that’s just ME, I have a separate meaning for each of the verb/noun combinations: cycling/cyclist and biking/biker; and hiking/hiker and walking/walker. Let me explain. 

To me, cycling is an art, and it involves good technique, form and fitness. So when I say someone is cycling, or someone is a cyclist, I’m inferring that s/he is very proficient in that particular activity - riding a bike, safely, properly, strongly. Or conversely, when I say someone is biking, or is a biker, I’m inferring that s/he is just simply riding a bike without having the skill sets involving good technique, form and fitness. And I mean NO disrespect here!

I use that same criteria for hiking/walking. To me, hiking is more of an art and involves more skills and more fitness that just walking - probably more fitness than anything. Walking to me kind of infers “strolling”. And hiking to me infers going faster, harder, further. Now by this time you probably think I’m a certifiable nut! But, that’s just the way I look at things. By the way, could you use those same verb/noun terminologies/meanings for skating, skiing, running (runner vs jogger?) etc.? I guess my point to all this is that I actually feel like I’m hiking now, not walking, shuffling or strolling. I’m hiking! And it feels great to be crossing over to that realm. 

So Judy hiked with me for about 1.5 miles, and then she turned around to head back to get on her bike to do some “cycling” on her own. I was still feeling a bit on the sore side, especially my hammies and shins, so I kind of backed it off just a smidgeon until I warmed up to see if everything would get loose once I was a couple miles in. And that indeed was the case. Eventually I got my rhythm and just kept it rolling, past my 3.5 mile turnaround from the prior long days, past Rt. 91 on the bike & hike, almost all the way to Silver Lake. 

Turned around at 1:15 hours in, and began hiking back. Have to say the legs were feeling it, but it was a good kind of tired. Ended up back at Jude’s house with a negative split, ending the hike at 2:27 hours. I think I got in just under 9 miles. Got back and wow, just bending over to untie my shoes was a chore - again, a good hurt and stiffness. So as I sit here writing this blog, I’m feeling really damned good after the hike! I think I might even do some lower body stretching since my chest is feeling so much better. 

So that’s the story, feeling better and better.


June 23: At Judy’s for my rehab.

June 22: Not a lot to report today. And I’m giving you that preamble because with this blog, I’m really trying NOT to make it some inane reportage of my daily life where I need to keep you abreast of every stupid little move I make. I really just want to keep this thing centered on my rehab. 

Had I finished American Dirt and never had a health issue, this blog would have been finished 3 weeks ago! I just don’t believe in droning on and on about my everyday life in a silly blog. But, with the issue I’m currently dealing with - open heart surgery & the rehab process - I’m kind of hoping that what I’m sharing with you, well, I hope that somewhere along the line this will help others who will, or have walked in my shoes. 

So anyway, there are going to be days here where I just don’t have a lot to report with respect to my rehab. Today is one such day. Got in another 2 hour/7 mile hike. Felt good again, and my pace was right where it was yesterday. Actually feels like my heart is gradually adapting to the quicker pace because I don’t feel it beating as much and I don’t feel my breathing cadence anywhere near as much as I used to a couple of weeks ago when going up some of the steeper pitches on the bike & hike trail. Wondering if my docs will see some left ventricular hypertrophy on my echo test this coming Tuesday. On second thought though, I’m guessing that just that little bump in intensity will NOT be enough to actually create a size increase in my left ventricle. 

Now I was pretty knackered after that walk today, likely because of two 2-hour walks two days in a row. My whole body was sore in a good way. Really feel it in my shoulders, lats and low back. It’s the kind of “sore” I’ve gotten on 4 and 5 hour hikes, so I’m guessing I’m still feeling the effects of surgery if I’m tired and sore on a hike that’s half of what I’d been used to doing. No worries though as I’m seeing progress each day. 

The rest of the day I just worked. Counting the days down to my stress test on Tuesday and my first visit with my Exercise Physiologist. Hoping I get to up the volume and intensity in all aspect of my life - lifting, cycling, driving, etc., etc.


June 22: At Judy’s for my rehab.

June 21: Super good night of sleep so it’s just getting better literally by the day. With that good night under my belt I decided to hit my walk with either two ways to go: left posterior knee tendon is still sore so keep it shorter like Monday, or the tendon is feeling much better in which case I could go further.

My hope was obviously that the tendon was feeling better so I could go further. Got going and ticked through the first 2 miles feeling like it really had gotten way better since I’d iced it for a bit on Monday. Decision made - “let’s go further.” Pace felt good so I just kept it rolling. Now without even trying I was going through some of my time checks with significantly faster times since I’d seen my cardiologist on Thursday. 

Man it feels SO good to be back at a pace that feels “right.” Not to downplay what I’d been doing for the first several weeks out of surgery, but it just felt so unnatural to have been walking that slow. Kind of felt like I was shuffling most of the time, and I was so damned consumed with keeping the HR way down there that it just made things even worse. Ok, so that was probably (definitely?) pretty good on my part to be mellow right out of the gate, to do what I was told - by the book. It wasn’t easy to do that but I really wanted to adhere to all the med advise I was given. 

Well, the HR was still within my RPE 3-4 range, likely floating more in the 4 area on the hilly portions, as I was walking further and faster. And from my several times of measuring my HR by the right radial artery, never did I exceed 120bpm on any of the hill climbs. So I went the full section today, doing 3.5 miles 1-way to Rt. 91, where I turned around for the 3.5 mile return trip back. I hit the halfway point at about 1:01 hours, so I’m definitely getting back to my old walking/hiking pace. Used to be that about 3.75-4 mph was my typical pace on a flat trail. 

Turned around and just felt really good. Once I got back to Judy’s house I was at exactly 2 hours dead on, so I kind of negative split the walk. Now with that being said, I’ve just kind of caught myself here…driveling on about time checks and negative splits and mph pacing. I mean damn, I’m rehabbing from open heart surgery for God’s sake, and here I am reverting to my old self where that ego/competitive side always seems to raise its head somewhere, somehow. 

Heck, I’ve got like a pile of training diaries that go back to 1981 where I just have every PR, every little detail of every resistance workout, every race, every training ride/run/swim/hike/rockclimb, everything. And that’s just been my MO for so long that it’s really hard to get out of that mode. Even when I kind of stepped away for competitive racing, I still kept recording in my training diaries. So today here I am a post-op. open-heart surgery patient, and I’m still in the habit of being cognizant of my time splits, negative splits, total times etc. I’m just so damned conditioned to competing against myself in one way or anther that I it’s like being on autopilot.

Felt really great after the walk, good enough such that I went straight to the computer and worked for hours. Then around 3 PM I took just a little nappy-poo. After that went back to working again, then helping with dinner, and finally working yet again. So it’s getting better all the time. Heck, that would be a really good song title!


June 21: At Judy’s for my rehab.

June 20: Very poor sleep last night due out our staying up late to watch “The Comeback,” followed by all the post-game analysis. Then, having gone to bed at like 1 AM, I just had a terrible night’s 

sleep. But none of that had anything to do with my post surgical issues that gave me trouble sleeping in the past. Really, at this point, I’m having a fairly easy time lying on my side in the fetal position, moving on and off the bed, and just twisting and turning to change sleep positions. 

Got my walk in…but I kind of got a bit of a sore tendon behind my knee on my left leg from being a little too aggressive in my adding volume and intensity since I saw my cardiologist last Thursday. Yea, all I needed to hear was him giving me the green light to “walk a bit further slightly faster” and I was like a bodybuilder on steroids! I punched the gas pedal! Went from my 1:30 hour walks to like 1:50 hours, and I increased the pace from about 2.75 mph to like 3.5 mph. Felt great….but I noticed my left leg was feeling a bit tweaky back on Sunday. So anyway, today the knee thing is not like debating sore, but I can feel it’s THERE, and I felt it on the uphills and downs. Ended up cutting my walk back to about 1:20 hours and slowing down a bit. 

Came home and iced that puppy on and off for a good hour. That helped big time, and for the rest of the day it felt pretty good. Next up in the day was Judy driving pop and I to the dentist where he had to have a couple of teeth yanked at the oral surgeon’s office, and then we had to go directly to see Doc Mike, our family dentist, so pop could get a filling while the area was still numb from the extractions. Went though the freaking driving issue with pop yet again, and managed to hold me stress level down, way down, as I told him several times that Judy WAS, and IS going to drive. 

Cooked dinner at home after all the dentist stuff, and I did all the prep work and cooking alone, which three weeks ago would have been impossible for me to do. So my energy level is just climbing back up there day by day. Now, I do have to say when all was said and done, at the very end of the day after Judy and I headed back to her house, I did feel tired. But heck, it’s just night and day comparing three weeks ago to today. 

As I said though, this grey area I’m living in right now which lies between the early post-surgery days when I was totally wasted, and the future when I’m going to be able to lift and ride and get back to normal, this is tough to live in. It’s almost like I have to just sit here and watch the world go by day after day after day. As I’ve said a hundred times in this blog, there’s only so much professional and personal work I can do on the computer each day, so couple that with my walk, and maybe a bit of grocery shopping or to-do’s with pop, and I’ve still got a WHOLE lot of day leftover! When it’s sunny and beautiful out there…ouch! 

But time is moving on here, and I’m getting closer to the day when I can begin a gradual and structured training routine. SO, I’ll try to enjoy these last few days or weeks where I have to just chill and reflect on life during all that free time.


June 20: At my house and in Stow at Judy’s for my rehab.

June 19: Stayed at home last Saturday eve with pop while Kim and Mike did a social gig. Feeling so much easier at home. I mean at first just climbing stairs to the second floor 2-3x/day was a chore. Now…I do feel it but it’s totally good on a repetitive basis. Also much easier to cook. Cleaning? Well, I’m still on this super strict gig with my upper body so I cannot do normal chores that involve lifting or pulling more than ten pounds of torque. Man it’s tough, in that some things I just don’t think about until….oops! But I’ve not had anything that’s been really heavy. I’m sure I’ve gone a couple lbs over on occasion, but for the most part I have done a really good job of adhering to my restrictions.

So from one standpoint I feel pretty ready to resume my prior role in life, but from another I just have to wait until I’m giving the go-ahead to stress my upper body to a larger degree. I’m hoping it’s just another week of this with the upper body and then they let me go up a bit on the restriction so I can: take out the garbage, mow the lawn, clean the house, move large objects….and drive the car!!!!! Oh what we take for granted. 

Took our dog Pepper for a walk this morning for about 1:35 hours at my 3 mph pacing. Seems my legs have been sore from the slight jump in volume and intensity since I met my cardiologist last Thursday. I wouldn’t have thought it would have made such a difference, but my legs are just muscular sore from the bump up. Now I do have a tendon in the back of my left leg that is a bit too sore, and I’m hoping this guy doesn't dog me in the future. It felt good today while walking, but post walk, well it was tender. 

Chest is feeling better with less pain. Now my scars, the zippers on my chest and left forearm are really starting to itch. I’d been warned that this could happen, and man, there are times where I just want to itch the skin raw along the sides of those scars. It can be maddening at times. Everything is now scab-free, and that could be part of the reason for the intense itching as of late. 

Cooked dinner today at the house with Kim and Judy for Father’s Day, and as I mentioned, it’s so much easier now for me to cook, wash dishes and just spend an hour or two in the kitchen without feeling like I’d just ran a marathon. We had a great time at dinner, joking with pop like I hadn’t had a chance to do in some 6 weeks. Still hurts just a bit in the sternum when I start to let out a good laugh, but hell, it’s worth every second of pain!

Went back to Judy’s to watch “The Comeback”. In some small, insignificant way I’d like to think that I can do something just as spectacular with my comeback. I’m sure doing all I can right now to make that a reality by approaching it….one day at a time!


June 19: At my house and in Stow at Judy’s for my rehab.

June 17: Did a hike with Judy today and went even further than yesterday, doing like 6 miles in 1:53 hours on the Kent-Stow bike & hike trail. Felt really good, especially the hilly sections. Still have a bit of pain in my chest with deep inhalations, like when I’m walking up a hill, but it feels pretty dang good compared to weeks one and two where it just hurt like hell with even the slightest of a moderate inhalation. 

So my walks feel really good at just over a 3 mph pace. My HR, which I took on my right arms radial artery, is still around just 100 or so, so I’m still staying within my intensity parameters. The thing I really like about going further is the fact that my legs, shoulders and arms are sore at the end of the walk. That makes me happy to know that they’re getting an endurance workout at the very least. I’m hoping to get my volume up to about 2.5 hours in the next couple weeks. Just that alone will bring some super light endurance resistance training to my legs, and to a lesser extent to my upper body. Then, when I can actually do true resistance exercises I’ll at least have a base level of fitness established. 

Now I have to admit that after the hike I worked for a couple hours and then took a really light nap. I mean man, my legs were tired - in addition to the rest of my body! And it wasn’t as if I was just totally fatigued, no, it was more of a good kind of tired, like I got a good workout kind of tired. 

Later in the day we came over to my house so I could hang with pop while Kim and Mike went to a social function that evening. Made dinner with Judy and then hung with pop the rest of the night to give Kim a break. All this, hopefully, has shown me that I can get back to my regular “care-taking” role back here at home in the next couple of weeks. My sister has just done an amazing job of taking care of me and pop, working at her profession and trying to have a personal life these last six weeks. I couldn’t imagine doing what she’s done while I’ve been on the mend. Her and Mike have a very well deserved vacation coming up in July and I’m anxious to get back to normal such that they can go away and enjoy themselves for a change!

Well, that’s about it for this Saturday. Hope I get the green light to be on a bike by the 4th of July. Can’t wait to ask my doc and the exercise physiologist if I can re-enter cycling….on a freaking fixie!!!!!!!


June 18: In Stow at Judy’s for my rehab.

June 17: Not too much to discuss today, so this is a super short one.

Sleep getting better by the day, so not much on that front, other than the fact that I was wearing this HR recording device with five leads all night so I had to kind of sleep on the same side all night. This was the recorder that the doc suggested I wear for 24 hours just to check out that skipping HB thing I was talking about in yesterday’s blog. They’d put it on me at the Clinic just after noon, and I was to wear it till 12:45 PM today, then send it back in this UPS envelope they gave me. 

First thing up this morning was Judy taking me up to a Clev. Clinic satellite facility in Twinsburg to get a blood draw that I couldn’t do yesterday. When we got back to Stow, my walk was up next. So since I had my meeting with my cardiologist yesterday, and what with his good graces, I decided to up my walk today to around 2 hours with a very gentle increase in speed. Did 1:50 hrs, and about 5.5 miles. Felt pretty good. Had a lot of pep at the end of the walk, so that’s coming around to. This rather than napping immediately after walking!

I think things are going to get REALLY interesting once I actually begin my PT portion of this rehab program. We did go out to dinner with Judy’s sister Vic and her husband Steve, and I had my first introduction to eating out with this health-conscious bent I need to be on. And man, there were so many things I wanted but that I “shouldn’t” eat. I mean entree after entree…no, no, no, no. Figured on the way up that I’d be on a salad, and that turned out to be the case. Good God am I going to miss the good old days of being a garbage gut! If I could go back to the old days right now with respect to my eating, I’d do it in a New York minute. 

But no, I’m going to get this one way or another. Got to make some serious changes in order to try to turn back the blockage issues that were not addressed with the surgery. THAT will be well worth the pain in the ass that this “New Age in Nutrition” is presenting me with! So I had this salad that was a bit heavy handed on the lettuce. Now I did not use that dinner as my “splurge” day of the week because Judy and I cooked up some fresh shrimp scampi yesterday, and as most of you know the shrimp is pretty high in cholesterol. So I had to kind of be good for a few days before splurging again, thus, the salad. Have a HEALTHY day!


June 17: In Stow at Judy’s for my rehab.

June 16: Very interesting day indeed. Wednesday night was a pretty good night of sleep at home. So today was my first cardiologist appt. since the surgery. And I have to say that I was a bit nervous. Now I hadn’t mentioned a few things in this blog because I really wanted to run it by my doc before I kind of put it out there for everyone to read. Just didn’t want to jump to conclusion myself, OR have you guys take that same path. So I was nervous because, ever since about the second week after surgery I’ve noticed that I now have a skip in my HB. It can skip after 30 sec, after a min, after a couple minutes. It’s not consistent, but it’s there 24/7 no matter what I’m doing. So that really concerned me. 

Now I have been discussing eat with my sister, and she kind of put my mind at ease telling me it’s most likely benign. BUT she wanted me to go over this with my doc. Now the second that I’ve noticed is that I can really, I mean REALLY feel my heart beating, like almost in my throat at times. Sometimes when I’m lying down it just feels like it’s beating out of my chest. And honestly, I’ve really never felt that before all this occurred - unless I was just hammering like hell doing something athletic. So I had these two issues kind of making me feel a bit uneasy. The third thing that I had on my mind, though it didn’t manifest itself as something physical that I could sense, was this: Ok, so I had 5 grafts on my coronary arteries, but when you look at this 2-D diagram of my blockages, well there are about 9. So my question when looking at this is what’s up with the rest of the blockages? Obviously they were not able to graft enough with five grafts to cover everything. So what do we do down the road about the rest?

So those questions have been on my mind for a couple weeks. And man, I have to say I was nervous this morning as Mike took me up to the Clev. Clinic Main campus for my appt. Would any of these issues further impact me? Could my ticker be damaged? Would I have to live under some less than ideal parameters due to my disease? All that crap was just ping-ponging through my brain all the way up there this morning. 

Got dropped off and checked in, then off to my first test - the heart echo. Done, and off to the second test - the EKG. Done. Next Then I had to wait about an hour to see my cardiologist. Now this guy is so smart and so damned personable, and as I’d mentioned earlier in my blogs, he really get who I am and what I do, from an endurance performance standpoint. So I finally was called into his office and then taken to the examination room where I was tended first by the nurse who took my weight and BP. I was up about three pounds but my BP was a bit high. We did that BP twice, just to make sure. I was almost positive that it was because of my nervousness. 

Next up an assistant to the doc came in for further questions as to how and when I discovered my heart issues. So I reiterated the whole story about what happened. She also questioned me as to my volume and intensity of my exercise regime - including my resistance program and my cardiovascular program. So finally my doc comes and, and I begin with my most pressing questions, the physical ones concerning my skipping HB and the fact that I can feel my hear beating so much more now. So he explained what he thought was happening with that skipping beat issue, which he predicted was a benign issue and nothing to worry about. Sees that very, very often he told me…BUT just to be on the safe side he wanted me to wear this heart beat recorder for a day. So he wrote out a script for me to get this “Holter” put on this morning. Ok next was the feeling my heat beating thing. And again, he said that is so common with CABG patients such as myself. Could be the sensitivity of the chest cavity due to it being opened up. Said that should slowly go away. 

Ok, so far I’m feeling pretty good. Then I got out the 2-D drawing of my coronary arteries that was drawn for me after my heart cath back in Nevada. And I proposed the question as to what’s up with the remainder of the blockages that were not covered by the five grafts? And doc’s response was sobering! He told me that is really what he wanted to spend time with me discussing. Told me I have a very serious case of cardiovascular disease. Serious! I mean my blockages are just unprecedented. They got the biggies, but there are still numerous less intense blockages that they could not get. And he indicated that the 2-D diagram I have is very basic, because the real picture includes even more blockages. 

So at that point I’m ready for the bomb to drop, kind of like I see where this is going. He proceeded to tell me that I will likely have to live under some intensity parameters for the rest of my life. And this means not taking it to my physical and cardiovascular limit any more - no more Zone 5, the anaerobic zone! He said he could not guarantee that I’d have another cardiac episode if I enter that territory, but he said the chance is NOT worth taking based on the level of blockages left in my arteries. Could not say it would be 1 in 10 chance of a heart attack, or 1 in 100 chance, or even 1 in 100,000 chance. But it could happen if I pushed my heart to the limit, especially on a repeated basis over and over. 

That was like a gut shot, hearing that. Just to know that I should give up a part of myself that I so loved to push to. Now let me clarify something here. I have not raced for 16 years. And I’ve known from the last race I ever did back in 2000 that I’d likely never race again. I’m truly done with that part of my life. I so enjoyed the 30 years or so when I trained like a fiend and raced all the time. But I just totally burned out with that lifestyle, and I knew I’d never go back to it again. There were just so many other thing I wanted to do in life, and most of it involved adventure and travel and coaching etc. So with that being said, developing and training with all that Z5 stuff, that’s integral to being a good competitive athlete. That’s your super high end you have to draw upon when your racing and training. Today, my high end, Z5 b & c sucks! Because I don’t regularly train in that realm. 

BUT, there are times when during some of my adventures that I’ve found myself hitting that anaerobic realm, if only for a few minutes a couple of times during a day. I mean it’s just human nature to push yourself like that say when you want to push up over the top of a high mountain pass. So though I don’t race and train to compete anymore, I still get into that “pain-locker” on occasions during my trips. But when the doc told me I shouldn’t crush myself during my adventure trips, that I shouldn’t just keep pushing like a madman, that hit home with me, that felt like a real crushing blow. I mean I could live without the racing, no problem. But when told I still have to watch what I do on my adventures, that hurts. His advice was that I should no longer push myself to the breakpoint in my trips. 

I did further questioned him about me doing all this stuff I currently do, but maybe backing off a notch and keeping everything in Zones 2-4, all aerobic zones. And he seemed good with that. But again there was a BUT. And this BUT hinged on me doing a series of graduated stress tests over the course of six months to make sure my heart does not do anything weird to indicate that even Z4 is off limits. So I’ve got my first stress test on 6/28. I’m hoping I can do this on a bike like I’ve done in the far past during my several VO2 max tests, rather than the freaking walking on a treadmill thing. 

Now there’s a bit of good news in this. The statin drug that I’m taking could indeed ever so slowly diminish the blockages I currently have. So it “could” get better. Also, my diet, and especially getting myself on a good healthy, low cholesterol  diet, that could also help the situation. But he said I’ll be working with a nutritionist in addition to my PHD exercise physiologist who will be administering the stress test and giving me my workout HR zone parameters and my resistance parameters. 

So I was feeling ok after the taking with the doc, but then I got somewhat melancholy afterwards, I guess because I felt that I was loosing a part of myself that I really identified with. I just loved the fact that I could push myself to the brink of total exhaustion - even in my adventures. I admit it - I’m a sick puppy. I just LOVE to suffer! I relish suffering, I crave suffering, I seek out suffering. It’s just a part of me that I really feel good about. And suddenly I’m told that I really should stay away from that territory. And there were a few, well more than a few, times when I was sitting in the clinic after my visit with the doc where I’d just think, “the hell with that, I’ve pushed like a madman with all those “unfixed” blockages. Why can’t I just do the same with a much better situation? What if it is 1 in 1000,000 or 1 in 1,000,000? Could I play the odds the rest of my life?”

Then I’d kind of get myself back to reality, and think of doing all this stuff at Z3-4 - if my stress test goes ok - and just back off when I begin to go anaerobic. And that was one of the things he did tell me: You can go do your ass-busting (not his exact words)  trips, but when you get to that area where you’re really pressing, you SHOULD back off. So this is where I’m at right now…still mulling all this over and wondering how it will change my life, my personal NOT my professional life. My next stage is to do the stress test and see how that goes. I think right now I’m just seeing too much negative. Got to get back into the positive and chill out a bit.

So talked to my sister and she kind of just let me vent, and then followed that up with some logical talk of all the pluses. Got fitted for my HR monitor, the Holter, and then Kim took me home later in the day. 

Had a nice ice cold Fosters Lager and watched the Cavs game that night and just chilled and tried to keep a positive spin on everything. I did joke with Kim and Judy that, “I had to start my training regime for the stress test in two weeks because I didn’t want to embarrass myself!” That went over like a lead balloon. Forgot to mention that I still have to go easy with the upper body for 2 more weeks to let me sternum heal. It is healing quite well so far. Also, told the doc I was up to 5 miles of walking at RPE 3-4, wondering if he’d scold me for going too far. Nope, he was good with any volume that I wanted to walk, just so I didn’t get goofy and go too hard so as to stress the new artery grafts. 

Well, that’s about it. New and positive attitude tomorrow all the way. By God I’m going to make this work!


June 16: In Stow at Judy’s for my rehab.

June 15: Not as great as a night’s sleep as the previous night, but pretty decent nonetheless in that I’m getting more comfortable in lying on my side to sleep. I have a feeling, at least I’m hoping, that this intro paragraphs on my night’s sleep will be smaller and smaller until they just disappear!

Chest also feeling a bit better each and every day with respect to the pain factor. Now as I mentioned I am feeling quite stiff first thing in the morning with the chest area, but it’s far better than that crippling chest pain I experienced for the first week and a half. 

So my morning routine as of late has been to wake up with a cup, my one and only cup, of coffee while I listen to sports talk or watch the morning news on TV. Then I work for several hours, followed by breakfast. The new go-to breakfast, and a much healthier version than my breakfasts of years gone by, is a big bowl of Raison Brand cereal with non-sweet almond milk. Judy’s been pretty instrumental in orchestrating my change in breakfast habits. 

You see I used to be an eggs, sausage and bacon guy! HAD to have meat for breakfast. I’d look with disgust at cereal breakfasts in the past. No way! “Fill me up with meat and cholesterol,” was my morning motto. Well, despite the fact that my blood work has been ideal, I’m still not willing to go back to my old habits. I feel with these new pipes I owe it to myself to really change my eating habits. Shit, anything to keep these new “gas lines” as new as possible as long as possible. 

So I’m now eating the things for breakfast that I used to detest. In addition to the Raison Brand, I’m eating Steel Cut Oats with sweet almond milk and raisons, another of Judy’s breakfast favorites. Funny, but I used to love going to these breakfast buffets where I’d eat a plate of scrambled eggs, a pile of sausage about 6 inches high, bacon, sausage gravy, I mean the whole freaking shot. And of course I was of the opinion that a good 3-4 hour ride would just wash the shit right out of my system like a toilet flushing! And the last thing I’d eat at the buffet, well, let me clarify that…what I would NOT eat at the buffet was fruit and hot and cold cereals. 

I can only shake my head at my stubbornness. Now I do have to say that at this point I do not know if diet had a thing to do with my coronary artery issues. At first glance, judging by my blood work, it did not. BUT…who really knows for sure. I mean the cardiologists have told me that genetics and stress were likely the main culprits here. But there is that “BUT” they always insert in there. It goes like this, “but we can’t say for sure if the other factors didn’t enter into this.” I don’t like that “BUT”. Kind of makes me think I’d better clean up some other areas in my life to make sure this will be the one and only open heart surgery I’ll ever undergo. Just cannot take a chance with that “BUT”. This despite the fact that my blood work is pretty damned good. 

Got my walk in today, where I went just one power line length further than yesterday. And again, I ended up with exactly 1.5 hrs in the walk despite the longer distance. I really feel like I’m keeping it mellow with respect to the intensity level. I mean I bloody shuffle when I do any hill. I try purposely to keep the pace low and slow yet I’m still walking just a tad faster. And I’m feeling way less tired after my walks to the point to where I can just come back from the walk and go straight to the computer to work for several hours. Before, like in the first two weeks, hell after a walk I had to nap for a couple hours just to recover. 

So Judy took my home where I would be staying the night tonight. This because I have my first big cardiologist appt. tomorrow in Cleveland. Since Judy has a doc appt. also tomorrow she cannot take me. Kim’s boyfriend Mike will take me first thing in the morning to the Clev. Clinic Main campus where I first have an echo, then an EKG, then I meet with the cardiologist who will be overseeing my rehab and recovery. I’ve met the guy already pre-op. and I really like him. He’s sports oriented and right up my tree. He’s already told my sister to have me “chill” for the first 4 weeks so I don’t screw up my sternum and grafts from healing properly - this because Kim directed him to my American Dirt website, where he got a small picture of my MO. He had interviewed me back the day before my surgery, asking me all about my background, asking for my PR’s in all my racing, asking me about my training, and asking me about my American Dirt gig. So the guy knows where I was at, and more importantly he has an idea of where I want to get back to. 

Anyway, I’ll really anxious to find out where I’m at tomorrow in the rehab process, and what the next step will be. I’ve got like two small pages of questions for him, and I’m hoping he does not scold me for my walking volume. My questions range from diet, to exercise, to actually showing me what arteries were bypassed, to my wondering if I have any damage to my heart tissue from the “cardiac incident” that they said I had back on May 11th. I mean I have a load of questions ready for him. 

Went to bed early really anxious for the following morning.


June 15: In Stow at Judy’s for my rehab.

June 14: Hey, celebration day…as it’s been exactly 4 weeks since I was on the operating table. And in a sense this was a day to celebrate in a number of ways. First off, I’d have to say the night before, Monday night, was my absolute best night of sleep since I was doing that Wednesday ride back in May 11th in Nevada. I’ve been able to do multi-hour stretches of sleeping on my side in the fetal position, this with a big pillow bolstering my chest. It’s just fabulous to be able to get back into my normal sleeping posture. 

So I must have had a ton of sleep Monday night because I woke up this morning and just felt more peppy and energized than I’ve felt since surgery. The chest is still feeling pretty stiff, but the soreness, no the awful mind-numbing pain, is completely gone. Today, this morning it’s down to just a lot of stiffness and some moderate pain based on how I twist and turn my upper torso. This is also readily apparent during sleep, where before I would just dread making a move in the bed due to the chest pain. Now I can pretty much use my hands and forearms to maneuver myself around in the bed so as to switch back and forth from side to side. 

Now second off with respect to the celebrating, is the fact that I felt better today, overall, than any day since surgery. As I said, I just had way more pep and a spring to my step today. THAT in itself just really gave me motivation in this whole rehab process. So I did my walk in the late morning, deciding to go just a tad further than my prior longest walk. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m on a mission to PR every time I go out for a walk. More like I just felt so much better today that I felt I wanted to get a little bit more time into the walk. To me the walk is more than just PT. It’s like my mental therapy to. 

I just let my mind drift to a myriad of different subjects. But even more than that, it’s this peacefulness I get that really feels good. I get that content, peaceful feeling x3 when I’m riding my bike. I’ve often told people jokingly that I regularly attend the “Church of Cycletology”, in that I get this wonderful, freeing feeling when I ride a bike. It just never gets old. It’s always new and exciting. It’s part of my DNA! So anyway, that walk right now is my replacement for my cycling. And though the feeling of contentment are somewhat duller on the walk than on the bike, it’s still contentment nonetheless. 

So I went up to my previous farthest walk point, which I’d done on Sunday, and went one power line length further, about 3 minutes one way. I’ve been trying really hard to keep my intensity level at that RPE 3-4 range, and that was the case on this walk as well. Yet I seem to be getting a little further at the same RPE I’ve been holding myself to. Does that mean I’m getting fitter? Don’t know really, but it appears that I am based on my getting just a tad further with the same amount of walking time. Today for instance, I ended up with the same about of walk time as Sunday, 1.5 hrs, but I walked one power line’s length further. 

Later in the day Judy helped me get pop to his cardiologist appt. And then in the evening, John aka “Maddog”, Jeff and Ken came over to Judy’s with this amazing dinner and wine selection. I mean these guys brought over a dinner you’d get in Downtown 140 in Hudson for gosh sake! Had a wonderful meal supplemented by red and white wines. We sat out on the patio talking, eating and drinking until well after sunset. 

I just continue to get blown away by thoughtfulness of all our friends and family. I’d say we’re a couple of pretty lucky people to have all of you in our lives. Thanks again to everyone!!


June 14: In Stow at Judy’s for my rehab.

June 13: Sleep quality continue to improve on an incremental basis. But hey, I’m definitely seeing progress here. I have been able to gradually readapt to my preferential sleeping posture - the good old fetal position on both R and L sides. Well, my chest is feeling good enough now to do several hours on each side…with the bolstering of a great big pillow against my side to kind of take a bit of the pressure off of my chest cavity. 

I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to actually take some stress off of my poor low back. It’s like, for the last four weeks I’ve been sitting and lying down many, many, many hours per day, with my low back carrying the brunt of the burden. So being able to assume a different posture for even a couple hours at night to take some stress off of my low back, that’s really big here. And honestly, I swear, it’s like nirvana when I turn on my side right now, prop a pillow under my chest and close my eyes to initiate sleep. Wow! I’m gone for a couple hours of sleep accompanied with some dreaming. Yup, new territory. 

Ok, so much for the better night’s sleep. Because today was almost a bit of a set-back day, in that I just felt a bit more fatigued today as compared to the previous few days. Just didn’t have a lot of energy today, and I could feel it from the get-go. Had to go home for a bit to kind of watch over pop for half the day because our health care friend Karen could not make it today. No real problem there, but I just felt kind of out of it, and I especially noticed this when going up and down the stairs to my room to work at the desk. It’s crazy when you feel the effort of walking up stairs, and that was me today at home. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m feeling 3x better than a couple weeks ago, when I actually thought about how tough it was going up stairs. Now I’m just rolling up the stairs without thought of the consequences. 

Was just that I felt a bit of a malaise today. Took our dog Pepper for an hour walk, and even that was a bit tougher than normal. Now the sun was hot and the temp was a bit higher in the middle of the afternoon, so maybe that had an impact on me. But still, when we got back I rolled upstairs, worked for a couple hours and then I just had to lay down in bed and nap. 

Ok, how about another plus? My chest is healing just great, and the intense chest pain thing is becoming something that’s now in the rear view mirror. I totally know this when I sneeze! Before, when I was about to sneeze I’d have to bend over, brace my chest against my red heart pillow and my knees, then let the sneeze go. And good God was it painful. Felt as though I’d just taken a cannon ball to the sternum! Now, I’ve gotten by without all the bracing, where I just have to kind of bend over and hold my chest with my hands. And the pain is so much less than previous. Now I’m not dreading the sneeze and the cough. Yea, we’re getting back to normal in that area. 

Kim chauffeured me back to Judy’s house in the evening where we were visited by Leigh, who brought me this really nice framed collage of photos of myself and Judy. It’s almost funny, being four weeks into this, to hear of people’s reaction to my illness. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not really “funny”, more like it’s ridiculous, almost implausible, that kind of funny, like shocked kind of funny. Well, Leigh expressed this same WTF reaction to my situation. And my response to everyone, including Leigh is, “hey, nobody was and is more surprised than me!” Never did I see my future as including my being a recovering open heart surgery patient. “Funny” how life can change so quickly!


June 13: In Stow at Judy’s for my rehab.

June 12: Had a descent night’s sleep at my home on Saturday evening, in my own bed to boot! So the sleep quality seems to be improving by the day. Was also able yet again to do a bit of sleeping on my left and right sides. Though I think the negative byproduct of that is a bit more chest pain in the morning because of my putting more pressure on the chest cavity when sleeping in the fetal position. 

Now I’m still kind of moving slow compared to pre-surgery days. And I think I’m noticing this because I’m getting more active lately. So as I’m gaining more energy, I’m seeing that I have a ways to go yet before everything is feeling totally back to normal. It’s kind of hard to describe actually, but I notice I’m moving in slow motion compared to the good old days. I just don’t have that “spring” in my step yet. 

So back at Judy’s I did my walk, going for about 4.5 miles in 1:30 hrs. I went just about 5 minutes further down the trail today than my previous longest walks (this equalled about 10 minutes further round trip), which I’ve been trying to keep at the 4-mile mark. What with the weather being so cool and agreeable, I just felt like going a bit further. Felt pretty good from a cardio standpoint, and I was happy to feel like my legs were getting tired from the effort. I have tracked various points in this walk with respect to time, and I seem to be walking dead on consistent in my pacing. So I know I’m not upping the pace and intensity as I increase the distance. Hoping to get a bit more direction this Thursday from my cardiologist as to just how long and far I can go. 

I mean I’m a bit hesitant to go much further and longer than where I’m at right now. So I’ll keep the distance at or less than where I walked yesterday up to my Thursday doc appt. If he gives me the green light to continue to increase the distance, then I’ll be super happy to go like 1:45-2 hrs on my walks. If he backs me off from where I’m at now, then I’ll do as he says. 

The rest of the day was a kind of visiting day for us. First, my friend Tommy from Dover did an hour up and back to come up to visit for a couple hours. Then later in the early evening Scott, Angie & their daughter, and Wendy all stopped by to visit us. Angie and Wendy even brought us some prepared dinners. So really, between Tommy in the early afternoon, and then Scott, Angie and Wendy in the late afternoon, our day just flew by. As I’ve said before, it’s just great to have people stop by. This totally makes the day easier to deal with. Think about it, I mean other than my walk and a few ancillary trips to the grocery or my house, my life consists of just sitting here watching the world go by. At times it’s a bit like being in prison. 

I guess it’s a huge overstatement to compare being stuck here all day to being in prison. How about “Home Confinement”? So anyway, when we have folks over, it’s just so refreshing to sit around and catch up on life with others. I think we ended up spending the whole afternoon out on the patio enjoying the day with friends. And again, I’ve said it countless times, but all of you have been so amazing what with your phone calls, cards, and taking the time to stop over here to visit. We can’t thank you enough for your friendship and support. Love you guys!


June 12: In Stow at Judy’s for my rehab.

June 11: Probably had the best night of sleep since the operation. And this is the direct result of my whole chest cavity feeling better and way less sore while I’m in bed. I was also able to snag some significant time sleeping on my side. So I’m beginning to feel more comfortable looking at going to bed than I have been. And the morning was really good with respect to chest pain, in that I am feeling much better. 

Now there still is chest pain, especially with respect to ROM (range of motion) issues. This entails my reaching, pushing off the hands etc. But all in all it’s feeling much better. And I still do have this tightness feeling in the areas of my chest, right and left sides, where they removed the mammary arteries. It feels tight just as it feels in my left forearm where they removed my radial artery. I feel that in my chest when I make a full arm extension reach or grasp for an object. Like if I were to do the chest fly exercise, it would feel super tight in the areas deep down in my pectoral muscles. 

So with today predicted to be super hot and humid, I went out early to get my walk in, going for just about an hour. I didn’t want to stress the heart too much by doing my typical 1:20 hour walk in the already hot morning, so I opted for just an hour. And heck, I’ve been at the final stage of the walking program I’d been giving as much as a week ago. They wanted me to get up to an hour walk at the end of this 8-week period. I didn’t really make any kind of a conscious effort to be a bad ass and just walk way more than I should. No, it was more like I’m just doing it nice and easy at a volume that feels ok, and to me walking an hour is a pretty mellow endeavor, especially at the intensity level I’ve been advised to stay at. I have my first appt. with my rehab cardiologist this Thursday, and one of the questions I’m going to ask, this among MANY questions, is how far and long can I walk if I’m feeling ok?

I’m hoping he tells me I can walk as far and long as I want as long as I keep the intensity level in the RPE 3-4 range. What I like about hiking longer distances is that my muscles really begin to feel like they’re working. I mean my shoulders, traps, and arms begin to feel tired and heavy. Same for my leg muscles. I just feel like I’m giving my muscles an endurance workout. I just have no other way to work my muscles to the point to where I FEEL them right now other than hiking over an hour. Anything less than that and I really don’t feel them. 

Later in the day I had Judy drop me off at home so I could watch pop for a bit while Kim and Mike went back to their house in Lakewood for a bit. Judy is still having a hell of a time with her low back, so she went back home to lay on the couch the rest of the day. I ended up staying at home for the night just to Judy didn’t have to come back out to pick me up. Kim and I made some dinner, a healthy dinner, at the house in the evening. 

I did have some visitors today with Bill coming over for a bit in the late afternoon, and then Chris coming over in the evening. As I said, it’s really nice to have company during this rather lengthy rehab period. Like I said yesterday, I’m now entering this grey area where I’m way more able to do things, yet I’m still restricted in what I can do. So my life consists of “The Walk” followed by nothing but sitting the rest of the day, working on the computer for many hours per day, and then some cooking and/or grocery shopping. But there comes a point to which I just cannot take it anymore. That’s why it’s so nice to have visitors, where I can become engaged in conversation. 

Ended up having two glasses of red wine with some great salmon and veggies for dinner. Had a very relaxing time sitting on the porch last night visiting with family and friends.


June 11: In Stow at Judy’s for my rehab.

June 10: Hey, actually sleeping just a bit better again…and I was able to do just a small stretch of sleeping on my right side - with a selection of pillows bracing my side of course. Down side was that when I got up this morning my chest was really sore, way more sore than the last couple days. I’m wondering if that sleeping on my side the night before may have had something to do with that?

Pretty low-key day actually, as I did my 4-mile “old guy” walk, feeling pretty good, and then just chilled the remainder of the day at Judy’s house, working and napping. Our friends John & Marsita stopped over for a bit, bringing us some great home-made raison and chocolate chip cookies. 

Don’t want to bore you with the hum-drum of my day today. What I can say is that I am definitely noticing my progress darned near on a day to day basis now. I’m feeling like I have more energy, despite my sleep issues, where I can do more and more normal activity throughout the day. I’m still a LONG way off from feeling normal, hell, whatever that is seeing that I was dealing wth a very limited cardiac output for the last year or two! 

It just feels like such an eternity of a waiting game I’m playing right now, in that I’m close to 4 weeks post-surgery with like 2-4 more weeks of this kind of “non” activity ahead of me. My sister told me it would get tougher as I regained my strength and energy, because I’d still be under strict guidelines as to what I would be able to do. I’m getting to that point where I’ll be existing in that grey area now - feeling too good to be so sedentary, yet needing more low-key rehab time in order for all the surgeries to heal properly. Those of you who know me well probably realize how much this particular time is going to be tough on me. I was so used to just being active 24/7 to now doing a total role reversal on that to where I’m inactive nearly 24/7. 

Finally, I have occasion where when I look in the mirror at myself, I kind of do this double-take, and for a slight moment I drift back in my life and wonder how the hell I got here this NOW from where I’d been. I mean the NOW I see is this guy who’s sniffing 60 years old, who has this brand new zipper down his chest and who’s physique has melted down to an alarmingly slim state. And it’s like, “wow is this really me?” I mean how much things can change within the blink of an eye!” It’s not like I’m feeling sorry for myself. No, I’m not experiencing that, nor will I even let myself get remotely close to that. It’s more like a reflection, like I see this super fast forward film of my life flashing in front of me up to where I’m at in the NOW. And the film stops and there I am, looking older, thinner, and frailer than I’ve ever looked and felt in my life. 

There’s no trying to go back and wishing and dreaming otherwise. There’s no beating myself up. There’s no feeling the “why me?” thing. I have none of that going on. I just have the then to the NOW. And it’s weird. I’m trying hard to take the visualization techniques that I always used when I raced and trained, when I saw myself strong, and confident and unbeatable, and I’m trying to use that to add to this scenario that I’m describing - to seeing myself in the past, to seeing myself in the now, to seeing myself in the future. That visualization stuff allows me to project myself into the future where I’ve regained my health, my fitness, my strength and my confidence. This may sound goofy, but It’s my carrot on the stick right NOW, and it will remain that way when I’m given the green light to begin my long climb back up to full health!


June 10: In Stow at Judy’s for my rehab.

June 9: I think I’m snagging a bit more sleep, now having moved back to a semi-normal sleeping routine by using a bed and getting closer to actually lying fully supine. But when I do wake up, it’s not just transitory. No, there’s then a lot of tossing and turning because my low back is just sore and stiff from the non-stop on-the-back sleeping posture. But I am experiencing longer bouts of sleep as compared to 3-4 days ago. 

Mornings still somewhat painful, but not debilitating, and I’ve been off the pain meds for a good week now. Still takes me about a half hour to kind of “untighten” in the chest and upper back such that I feel loose and more relaxed. I’ve now moved to a different couch in Judy’s living room because this one is much firmer, and at this point, having endured about a month of either sitting or lying down for the majority of each day, my low back is just toast. The short bit of walking I do, couple with my moving around the house or going out to shop etc., that adds up to very little across a 24-hour day compared to all the sitting and lying down. Maybe I need to add a second walk to the day in the evening, a shorter one, but something to kind of stretch me out more?

Got in a 4-mile walk today in 1:25. Now again, I’m just kind of shuffling along at this sub-three miles per hour pace so as to keep my exertion level low. So that is my longest walk since surgery. My sister keeps telling me not to over do it, and she’s speaking from an intensity level. Been assuring her that I’m purposely keeping it mellow each and every mile. Trying to be the model patient with respect to staying within the parameters they’ve set for me. Am I impatient? You bet! BUT, I’m not going to sabotage my recovery and my health by being an idiot and a hard ass! My goal is to get back to a level much higher than where I left off prior to leaving for my second American Dirt effort this past May. 

Went over to the house today to look after pop for a bit until Kim got home, and then Judy and I went over to Jack & Judy’s house for dinner. Now I know Jack & Judy from my fitness class at the Summa Health and Wellness Institute in Hudson. I teach this class 2x a week, and I’ve been at it for a good decade now. Over the years I’ve come to know and love a core group of the class’s participants of which Jack & Judy are two of this group’s regulars. I have a blast teaching the class, and I have to say that it’s had a huge impact on my life. Over the years we’ve all gone out to lunch at various venues and we’ve also shared our highs and lows of life together. What I really feel proud of is all the friendships that have developed through this class. 

So anyway, Judy had emailed me and offered to either cook dinner for Judy and I, or have us over to their house for dinner. That was an easy choice, as my Judy and I have kind of been stranded here at her house nearly 24/7, so getting out and about sounded like the bomb! It was. We were treated to a wonderful Mediterranean style dinner and some great conversation. I think Jack and Judy were a bit surprised at first in the amount of weight I’ve lost - hell, I am too! I mean my face is thinner and obviously my upper body is much trimmer than before. And as many of my friends and family have reacted to my situation, they were still kind of stunned that me of all people ended up having severe coronary artery blockage. I’ve always looked at my self as representing health and fitness, and so to have they. Then when I was suddenly slapped, no - punched - with a hard dose of reality, it’s very sobering experience for all of us to swallow! 

Anyway, we had a really great evening. Thanks so much to Jack & Judy and the rest of the Functional Fitness class for all your love and support!


June 9: In Stow at Judy’s for my rehab.

June 8: Sleep quality just incrementally better last night, but the big picture is that it’s still not that wonderful. Now I did wake up yet again without the crushing chest pain, so I’m wondering if that’s now trending to the right to where it really is dissipating. So I didn't sit on the couch and silently moan in pain this morning like I had the first two weeks post-surgery. Now I am still stiff and hunched over in the morning as I exit the bedroom, this due to the chest suturing being so tight. It’s kind of like they’re pulling my shoulders forward. This feeling goes away as the morning wears on, probably because my shoulder and chest muscles loosen up such that I can move them without feeling like those sutures are about to pull apart. 

Did a bit of grocery shopping with Judy in the morning, with us doing the “Driving Mr. Daisy” thing, her up front driving and me in the back seat. Then I went out for my walk, which was about 1:20 hours. I have noted that my appetite is really getting better, and I’m eating more meals per day than I have been for about a month. My loss of upper and lower body muscle tissue is still unfortunately kind of atrophying. Doing my best to keep the nutrition high, but this almost total lack of physical exertion is taking it’s toll on my body. I do believe that my body kind of fed off of my muscles for the first couple weeks (one week pre-surgery, and two weeks post-surgery) because I just didn’t have much of an appetite. But now, with my only being able to walk at a recreational pace, this is really not helping my skeletal muscles. I think I’d down to my high school weight at this point! 

So as I said, I find myself eating more now, but I think at this point all it’s doing is minimizing the rapid loss of muscle that I experienced earlier. I think I’m eating like 6 times a day right now. Can’t wait until I can really bump up the activity level so I can really get the feed-bag on! 

As I mentioned in earlier blogs, we’re now trying to eat healthier, and one of the toughest aspect of this is limiting our salt intake. Now it’s way more than eliminating the salt shaker at the table. Nope, what I’ve found, and it’s totally new to me, is after examining food labels, there is just so much salt in canned, bottled, and packaged foods that the RDA recommendation of 33K or so milligrams of sodium per day can be easily exceeded by 2 or 3 times. Just today we were in Giant Eagle where we saw a special with their home-made sushi. So we picked up a small package for a noon-time treat. Well, I went to get something else and when I came back Judy pointed out to me how much sodium each little tidbit contained. I mean it was like several hundred milligrams per piece. So we reluctantly put the sushi back! Man, you need a calculator just to figure out a healthy, low sodium meal! 

The rest of the day was my just sitting around here writing and resting. Boy, it’s boring as hell some days!


June 8: In Stow at Judy’s for my rehab.

June 7: Another restless night of sleep, which I’ve discussed at length, so I won’t belabor that issue today. But the really good thing about this morning was my getting up to what seems to be a much reduced level of chest pain. I was really amazed actually at the level of reduction within just one day. I mean it was as if I’d just fast forwarded a week or two in just one day. The morning before I was hurting like hell in the morning, and then this morning I’m feeling pain, but the intensity of the pain has gone down significantly. I’ll call that a really great step forward if I’m feeling this way tomorrow morning and onward.

Next up was my walk, which today was about 1:10 hrs at a mellow pace. And by gosh this walk felt like about the best walk I’ve done thus far. Not because I was faster, because I’ve got some severe stipulations on where I can take my intensity level. No, it was because it just felt easier than the last three weeks of walks. Today is the three week mark from my surgery, and though I’ve been progressing really well with my mobility and walking since then, it still tires me out at the end. Well today I just felt like I had a bit more gas, and at the end I wasn’t as beat as I’ve been in the previous three weeks of walks. I’m hoping this moves in tandem with the pain level thing I’ve described as being better in the morning, and not turn out to be some fluke where tomorrow I wake up and my chest pain is bad again, and then I feel too tired again after the walk. Only tomorrow and the next day will tell!

Had to take pop to the doc today, with Judy doing the chauffeur thing again as she did yesterday - me in the back seat and pop up front riding shotgun. And yes, pop did got the rant going again about Judy driving the car and not being insured, but we only had to drive him 3 blocks from home, so it was in one ear and out the other today. After that I stayed with pop for about 6 hours at the house while Kim worked and then went to an evening meeting. That worked out ok in that it was not energy nor stress intensive. 

Finished the day with Kim dropping me off back at Judy’s that evening where we were visited by Terry and Wally. I’ve been telling people it’s just great to have visitors, so it was super to see these 

guys. They brought us some chocolate-covered strawberry’s and some great steel cut oats to help us with our trend towards “healthy” eating choices. Now believe me everybody, you’re NOT bothering me when you call or stop by. I’m WAY better than the first few days out of the hospital where I was napping nearly half the day away. Now, as I’m getting better by the day, being in the house, Judy’s or mine, almost all day long is like being in prison after a while. So having friends and family to visit with, it’s just so refreshing. I try so hard not to just veg out and watch TV all day long by working on the computer at my business and working on my books. But that only goes so far and then I’m just mentally smoked. So that social aspect to me is really nice, and the visit with Wally and Terry was such a treat. Hope to see more of you as the weeks wear on!


June 7: In Stow at Judy’s for my rehab.

June 6: Made the big move to a bed last night, switching from this couch sleeping crap that I’ve been doing for nearly three wks. Ok, so it wasn’t dramatic in improving my sleep quality. But it did help my low back a bit by just giving me a firmer sleeping surface. From a sleep quality standpoint, man, I’m still sleeping on my back which is totally foreign to me. I did notice that I had a couple occasions where I snagged a couple hours sleep in-between long bouts of restlessness in adjusting all the pillows I have etc. I tried a couple times to sleep in the fetal position, but it’s really fruitless right now what with the pain I feel in my chest. That just feels crushing to me, and I ended up spending 10 or so minutes in that position only to re-adjust myself back to lying on my back again. So general consensus is that I may be sleeping about the same, but it’s much easier on my low back by sleeping (trying to sleep actually) on the bed. 

Woke on this morning to a throbbing chest again. Funny, but Judy and I were talking about my operation, and she asked me if, prior to the operation, I was afraid of dying during the operation. I told her that never entered my mind. I figured that I had so many opportunities to die over the past year and a half when I was doing American Dirt that the operation was going to be much safer! Looking at the blockages I had for the past year or two, I’m just freaked out by how lucky I’d been having ridden over mt pass after mt pass with no catastrophic cardiac episode. No, looking back at that day before the operation I was more focused on what I was going to feel like after the operation, specifically how much my chest was going to hurt post-operation. I was fully confident I was going to come through that operation. 

And I was right on with respect to the chest thing. It’s just astounding how much that pup can hurt. And I consider myself a hard ass who can deal with pain, but there are moments, especially when I cough or sneeze, that it just brings tears to my eyes. I’ve been off the pain meds now for over 3 full days, and I fully expect that I’m over the hump in that dept. despite the fact that I have some tough mornings and evenings to endure still down the road. 

So today, I was the once who had to tow the line, what with Judy’s back just killing her. We went shopping, and when done we had to carefully remove the groceries from the cart and put them, a couple at a time in the car. This because Judy could barely lift anything, and then I have this 10 lb restriction on my lifting. Ditto when we got back to the house. There we had to carry the groceries in a few at a time for about 3-4 trips each so we could keep the weight down on our loads. 

The real challenge of the day involved my pop. So my sister has just been an angle in helping me through all of this, from helping with all aspects of the hospitalization process, to my rehab, to staying with pop while I’m rehabbing at Judy’s. Anyway, she like has a REAL job as a doc, so she’s spread so thin it’s just amazing that she isn’t stressed to the max. Well, we had to get pop into the dentist today, and Kim just couldn’t take off work to do it. So Judy said she’d drive while I sat in the back seat of the car and we’d take pop in to see our dentist Doc Mike, a super guy who I used to race with when we were on the same cycling team.

Now remember, that pop has his memory issues. So we get to the house and I had to go through a whole long precess of reminding him over and over we were going in to see the dentist, getting him to wear some presentable clothing, and stopping him from rooting around the house for all his money clips and wallets and such. Kim and I take care of all that, only because pop looses that stuff constantly. So we get pop out of the house and into the car, and then he starts raving about Judy driving the car, asking over and over again if she’s insured to drive the car, and saying that he should be driving. This despite the fact that he doesn’t know he hasn’t driven for nearly 4 years! Now I’d told him that I had a cracked rib from a bad coughing incident (we did not tell him that I’d undergone open-heart surgery), so that’s why Judy was driving. Well, he was just getting incensed that we would not let him drive. And I have to say that I could feel my blood pressure just rising like a thermometer sitting out on the hot pavement in the sun. He just wouldn’t stop. Poor Judy was doing her very best to assure pop that “Pete has me on his insurance, so we’re ok Frank.” Meanwhile I’m in the back seat telling pop we’re good, and for the “5th time she’s insured dad, she’s insured!” That little incident told me that I’m still not ready to return to my full-time care giving position. Kim’s been dead-on right in that dept. 

That little incident also told me I have mental, as well as physical work to do as I rehab. For about 5 minutes within that car ride I could just feel my heart rate increase and I could feel my heart beating in my chest. I’m a type A personality kind of guy, and I excite easily, and that incident revealed the stresses I need to nix from my life. Just that little incident made me think about all the changes I have to make down the road. It’s going to be way more than making the physical changes that I look forward to engaging in. I think that the stresses I had lived with over the past several years of care-giving was another one of several factors for my coronary artery issues. Have to learn how to de-stress in those situations. 

Anyway, I took several deep breaths during pops hissy fit and just let Judy handle it. After that, at the dentist office, and going home, pop was wonderful. 

So the day ended with me doing a big part of the dinner making, again, because Judy was just miserable with her back. Now I made what I’d consider a pretty easy meal, but man, I was just slammed when I got done. I mean I just sat at the dinner table with my head resting on my arms atop the table. I was wiped out. But… I’m seeing slow forward progress in that I’m still getting crazy tired within the course of a day, but I’m able to do more. And tomorrow is the three-week mark from having my surgery, so thinking back to when I left the hospital on a Saturday with like zero energy and the ability to only walk about a block, to where I’m at right now. I’ll take that progress!


June 6: In Stow at Judy’s for my rehab.

June 5: Man, last hight was a carbon copy of the night before - just pure misery. I mean I wake up constantly, and then I’m tossing and turning and adjusting pillows and such every hour on the hour. It’s getting to the point to where I’m just dreading going to bed each night. I HAVE to get off this couch and try to begin to get used to sleeping in a bed again, despite the fact that I’m going to be sleeping the majority of the time on my back. This propping my upper torso up on the end of the couch, what it’s it’s soft, mushy cushions is just doing a number on my low back. Yup, it’s time to try to sleep flatter on a firmer surface rather than propped up on too soft cushions. 

Now the other issue of the day is some light allergies going on what with all the pollen out there right now. Now normally in the past I’d just clear my throat and cough a bit to clear all the sinus junk draining into my throat. But right now, with my chest having been opened up like a lobster shell, well, it’s just so painful to cough to clear my throat. I have to hold this little red heart pillow that I got from the Clev. Clinic up to my chest to cough. And the coughing has to be much lighter than I’d like, such that I can try to stop this drainage tickle in my throat. I do these half or quarter coughs because a full blown cough just just rocks me to the core with chest pain. Feels like I’m going to split my sternum in half. Now a sneeze…my God does that hurt! I’ve had about 3 sneezes since this operation and I just totally brace chest with the little red pillow and hope for the best. I mean the pain in a sneeze feels like my chest is going to explode outwards. The docs and nurses have told me that coughing and sneezing will not damage the sternum or the suturing in my chest. But damn, you’d never know it when it happens because the pain is just indescribable.

Well, I got through the morning sans pain meds so I hope I’m on the way to be rid of those nasties. Now I have to admit that I’m still tempted to take two pain pills when I wake up, but I’ve managed to suffer through the initial shock of getting up first thing in the morning. Still tough for the first 30-45 minutes dealing with the morning pain and stiffness. I just cannot wait for the morning I wake up and don’t have this chest pain. That will be a landmark day!

So really, same old, same old with respect to the rest of the day. I sip just once cup of high test coffee when I first get up then do my computer work for several hours and eat brekkie. We went shopping, and I had to do it on this day because Judy’s back is really bad. She’s almost bed-ridden. BUT she had to drive me everywhere because I’m not allowed to drive, and I’m not allowed in the front seat of a car. This because if we or I get in an accident driving and I’m in the front seats next to the air bags, if the air bags go off they could re-break my sternum from the impact. The chances are probably pretty slim that we’d actually get in an accident, BUT those are the orders and I’m going to abide by them. So anyway, Judy has to chauffeur me around and I have to sit in the back seat with no seat belts on. At times I feel like I’m this man-child what with the restrictions that I’m currently under.

I had to break up the groceries into lighter loads due to my lifting restrictions of ten pounds. So that made for more time and energy to do a simple task. Came home, did my walk, 1:15 hours today at a very recreational pace. Then came home with a pretty good appetite, where I munched down on 2 PBJ’s, a yogurt, and some tuna fish straight out of a can. I’m hoping my increased appetite can stave off all the muscle wasting that’s going on with me right now. 

Helped make dinner today cuz Jude’s just suffering right now, so that kind of took a good bit of gas out of my tank. But I am feeling just a little stronger each and every day. I haven’t done one of those snoozing sessions today, and I was able to do consecutive tasks in a row, rather than doing a walk, then napping, then helping with dinner then napping. 

Finally, I really want to thanks you guys for all your “Get Well” cards, your emails, your phone calls, and your offers to help me and my family out during this. I’m truly humbled by everyones concerns and well wishes. Please feel free to stop by and say hello to us at Judys. I mean this is my abode for the next several weeks, and I’m usually here just chilling most of the time. I love talking to you all and it really makes my day to have that personal interaction.  Thanks again to all of you!!!!!


June 5: In Stow at Judy’s for my rehab.

June 4: Another rough night of sleep. This has to be one of my biggest issues right now. I just cannot get comfortable lying on my back half propped up trying to sleep each night. I end up tossing and turning, pushing myself downwards, then pulling myself upwards, pillow under the legs, pillow out from under the legs. It’s just non-stop frustrating. Now I have been able, for very short periods of time, been able to do a pseudo-fetal position with a pillow propped under my chest. But it’s really so hard to attain just the “right” position such that my chest does not hurt that I spend like ten minutes going through this long procedure of adjusting my pillows. Most times I cannot find that sweet spot. On a couple occasions I did, and I managed to snag an hour or two of sleep in that position. 

Plus, I’m on my arse so much during the day that my low back is just smoked. So when I do lay down to sleep, my low back just doesn’t want any part of it. I’ve been trying to get up every hour or two during the day to stretch my low back out. I mean I’m sitting for many many hours each day working on the computer, and then just sitting and reading, so it adds up to way too much time. By the time I get to night, and going to bed, my low back is just pure mush. 

So today was one full day off the pain meds. Now as I said, the morning is the worst, and I really try to let my body wake up and kind of recover a bit from the rigor mortis I incur at night on the couch. And it’s been working. The first half hour I’m moaning and groaning to myself from the stiff and sore chest. Then I really loosen up and kind of feel better. That’s the thing that has enabled me to take the rest of the day on without the pain meds. 

Did a dog walk with my sister and her boyfriend Mike today. Now Judy’s back is really bad, so she’s actually more couch-bound that I am at this point. She was hurting way too much to walk with us. I walked my pop’s little dog Pepper, while Kim and Mike each walked one of their two dogs. We went at my “old guy’s” pacing for 1:20 hours, and I have to admit that again, I felt a bit tired from the effort. NOT cashed, but just tired enough that sitting down felt pretty welcomed. I continue to be amazed at what this whole open-heart has done to me. I mean I had the endurance of a ground sloth for goodness sake. But then when I look at where I was, and where I am now, I do see some progress, real progress. It’s slow, but it’s there. 

Later in the day Judy and I went to my house where Kim and Mike are staying with pop, and Kim and I made a chinese stir fry. Ok, so we’ll all, Judy, me, Kim, Mike, trying to really work on a much healthier diet, this due to my current situation. So we took one of my favorite recipes, a Moo Goo Gai Pan, and kind of tweaked it to be much less in sodium. We used low sodium soy, and low sodium oyster sauce, and then we only went with half the amount of each of these in the sauce. We substituted water for the other half. So if the recipe called for two TBS of soy, we went with one TBS of soy and one TBS of water. Same for the oyster sauce. Well, in my opinion the sauce…sucked! I mean to me it was just tasteless. My pop proceeded to pour on 2 TBS of soy, I mean right out of the gate! Mike Kim and I put on a TBS each of oyster, and Judy said it was fine and put nothing more on. Kim said it was a bit bland. Mike was ok with it, and I thought it was just terrible. And it was. It was WAY too bland. I complained and bemoaned for ten minutes. 

Really made me thing about trying to revamp some of my really home-run recipes into more healthy recipes. This is going to be much tougher than I thought, and a ton of thinking is going to have to go into this “new era” in eating. Maybe I’m just going to have to do some of these recipes as “special events” recipes and leave them as is, but just eat them much less than we have in the past. Don’t know at this point. Got to start to look at more recipes that are heart healthy. Problem is that my magazine subscriptions include Bon Appetite & Food and Wine. I just love to work on recipes from these mags. BUT many of the recipes use a lot of the no-no’s for cooking healthy: lot’s of butter, fats and salts. Ouch!

Had my first glass of alcohol since my cardiac event back on May 11th. Treated myself to 3 small teacups of red wine last night and it was really nice to have some wine with my family at the diner table. Well, helping with dinner and dishes really put that final beat-down on me. I was pretty tired at the end of the evening, and hitting that hay at 9:30 PM on a Saturday night was my destiny.


June 4: In Stow at Judy’s for my rehab.

June 3: So I got up this morning, feeling that same “just got hit by a truck” feeling I’ve had every morning since surgery. But this time I kind of hesitated on going for the pain meds first thing. Just got up, situated some pillows on the couch so I could sit down, brewed a cup of coffee, and then sat there. Ten minutes went by. Then twenty. Then thirty went by and I still didn’t reach for the pain meds. Finally, after about 35 to 40 min of siting there, just kind of letting my body settle back to an upright stance and letting it wake up a bit, I figured I could go without the pain meds. I was actually feeling better by just letting my body adjust to being awake for those 40 minutes, by letting it loosen up, and by letting the pain kind of dissipate for a bit as I became more awake. That to me was bloody landmark. To not go for those pain meds like Pavlov’s dog first thing in the morning, that gave me a sense of control, and a feeling of “wow, I’m actually getting better”. I can deal with this now without the narcotics. 

And by God I went the rest of the day with zero pain meds. And it wasn’t like I was just being a jerk, and dealing with this intense pain just to see if I could because I’m a hard ass. Nope, it was like once I got through the morning pain session, everything else with just gravel. I really am feeling better, and I am, at least for that day, able to go through the day with less pain and no need for pain meds. Now don’t get me wrong, I just didn’t wake up and become pain-free. There’s still chest and left arm pain, but it’s definitely something I can deal with right now. And it’s nowhere as bad as the first couple of weeks out of surgery. 

So I worked for several hours on the computer, ate breakfast, and then pup on my walking gear and went for a 1:20 hr walk. Now again, my pace is way slower than where I’d like to be, this to stay within the doc’s RPE guidelines, but I just stayed slow and steady for well over an hour. While I was on the bike trail, and when no one was around, I’d do these light weightless calisthenics with my arms where I’d do shoulder presses, chest presses, chest flys, and these long sweeping motions with my arms from my side to above my head. I’m doing these to kind of begin to regain ROM in my arms, chest, shoulders, traps, lats, and on and on and on. Felt great, and pain free. Now when someone would walk or ride by me, I’d immediately cease the goofy arm stuff and just try to look like a normal person walking. But that made me think “never again will I caste a quizzical eye at someone out on the bike & hike trail doing the upper body calisthenics thing that I now find myself doing!” Guess you have to walk in someone else’s shoes to actually see the light?

So I got in this great hike for 1:20 hrs, and then walked into the house, stripped down to my shorts and just cat-napped for an hour. Now I could have gone longer for sure, but I was able to pull the plug, get up and get dressed, and then take my computer outside to work on the patio for 3 hrs. Again, felt like I’d made a major step forward in not cat-napping half the day away. I’ve been working on my “98 Days” book, the one about my 2009 trans-Canada trip, and I made a ton of headway yesterday. Usually it takes me 3-4 days worth of writing to get just one day of the trip finished. And today I got a whole trip day written, so the progress was wonderful. 

Had dinner, watched some boob tube and that was the day, a whole day without narcotic pain meds. Yahoo!


June 3: In Stow at Judy’s for my rehab.

June 2: Another tough night of pseudo-sleep, and then waking up and just feeling like I got hit by a truck. Man, mornings are just the worst right now. Had to reach for the pain med almost from the moment I awoke. Now speaking of pain meds, being that I’m about 2.5 weeks into post-surgery, I’m starting today to make a concerted effort to gradually ween myself off of this narcotic pain med that I’m on. My prescription calls for 1-2 tablets every 6 hours. Every since I’d been out of the hospital I’ve been taking like 2 tablets in the morning, 2 in the afternoon and 2 at night. So from the get-go I tried to stay under what the prescription advocates for a typical day. Today I’m going to go on 2 in the morning, 1 in the afternoon and 1 at night. Then tomorrow I’m going to see how I feel and maybe lessen the amount based on today’s pain level. 

It’s kind of funny actually, the way they want you to describe how much pain you’re in. Like they want to know how much you hurt based on this arbitrary 1-10 scale, 1 being hardly at all and 10 being brutally terrible pain. Now I believe that this scale is so…person dependent for lack of better words. Like my 5 could be someone else’s 8. You see, it’s really dependent on the person and their level of pain toleration. So when I’m telling my nurse this past Wed that my pain level in the morning is like a 5 or 6, in actuality that could b a 8-9 on someone else’s pain scale. And I’m not saying this to be a smart ass or a hard guy. I just think my toleration of pain is higher than a layperson’s because I’ve been through, and I’ve used to some pretty heavy duty pain situations in my lifetime, some from sporting activities where I’ve pushed my body into some seriously painful areas, and some from actual situations where I’ve hurt myself and had no pain meds to deaden the pain. Hell, when in my 20’s I broke my ankle up in the mts. out in CO, and had to hike out for 10 miles. THAT hurt! I’d call that an 8. So for instance, a 10 to me would be just indescribable. I mean I couldn't imagine a 10. A 10 to me is like loosing an arm or leg for God’s sake!

Even that first day out of surgery, I’d say I was at a 7 or 8 without my pain meds - and that was right after I had my chest split open like a lobster shell. So anyway, if I can tolerate a 5-6, and I want to gradually acclimate to a bit more pain and a bit less meds. If I can get that morning pain into the 4-5 area, I think I’ll be fine. And I say all this for two reasons: One, so I can get my bowels back to normal without all the prune juice and raisons, and two, just because of the mere fact that I don’t want to become dependent on a narcotic medication for every ache and pain I’m experiencing.

Now today was one of those super sleepy days. I’d work for a couple hours and then nap for a couple hours. I just couldn’t get to the point to where I felt up and Adam for the rest of the day. Finally, around 2 PM, I just had to do something, so I did a walk to Aldi’s to buy some dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has become my go-to guy in the evening to replace a nice glass of red wine or a beer. Plus, it’s heart healthy. So I rousted, got dressed, got my little day pack, and did the walk to Aldi’s. The temp was a bit hot, in addition to some fairly moderate humidity. So those two thing coupled with my feeling pretty tired combined to make this a somewhat challenging walk. I just didn’t feel too strong today. And with this walking thing I’m currently doing, I have to purposely walk slowly so as to keep myself in the RPE 3-4 range. That in itself, trying to walk slowly - like at about a 2.5 mph pace - is not easy! 

So I made it to Aldi’s, bought my dark chocolate, and then took a longer way back to Judy’s. Probably got about 3 miles in, but boy I was tired. I mean I was tired to the point to where I just stripped back into my shorts and plopped on the couch for another cat-napping session. Later in the day Vic brought over some great dinner for Judy and I. Judy’s back went out today, so now there are two gimps stumbling around the house! She’s laying on one side of the couch and I’m on the other. Hope we’re feeling more vim and vigor tomorrow!


June 2: In Stow at Judy’s for my rehab.

June 1: Bit better night of sleep on Tuesday eve because I’d moved back to my original couch position. But still, getting up in the morning is just the worst at this point in the rehab process. I am literally moaning and groaning in pain until my meds kick in about 20 min after I take them. Ever since I was a young man I’d always winced when thinking, reading or being told of the open heart surgery process. I mean having your sternum split in half and then the rib cage being lifted up out of the way to expose the heart. That just seemed so unbelievable. But now to actually experience it, oofa, each and every morning I’m given the harsh reminder of what I’d been through. 

The chest zipper has actually healed up quite nice, and it now looks way better than when I first took a gander at it in the mirror  the day after my surgery. I just had this picture in my mind that it would end up as this massive, thick zipper down to my bellybutton. You know, the big railroad tracks kind of scar you’d saw on some heavy-set guy at the beach when you were a kid. But I think my doc did a spectacular job in the suturing such that I’ll have a much less conspicuous scar. And as I stop and think about it, I’m speaking only from a very narrow minded vanity standpoint there. I mean the big picture is that my life has been elongated and I’ve been given a second chance in my life, so the size and degree of my chest scaring should be a mere trifle in the big picture. Yet I can’t help but to think about it from time to time. 

So today was a busy day for me, as it’s  my first post-opp doctor appt. at the Clev. Clinic since being discharged on May 21st. Judy drove me over to my house where Kim is staying with dad, then the three of us drove to Clev. to the Cardiothoracic Outpatient Clinic. Kim parked about a mile’s walk from where we needed to be so we could have an easy exit from the premises. That actually sounded good to me because I could get my walking workout in for the day between the walk there and the walk back. Got in and had some tests done first: an EKG, a chest X-ray, and a blood draw for blood testing. 

Then I was sent to the 4th floor to meet with Susan, my nurse practitioner who works in conjunction with my surgeon. Everything really looked good she told me, my X-ray, my EKG, and my blood work were all stellar. My chest, the sternum in particular, was healing really well. Now my weight, that’s a totally different story. My weight is down to 152, and I honestly feel like an emaciated stick figure of a person. And I told her during our conversation that I was just disgusted in the amount of upper body weight that I’ve lost thus far. She assured me that once I was given the green light to begin a resistance program, that it could build back to where I’d been. The nice part of this meeting was that I was given ample time to discuss about a page worth of questions that we’d written out over the past couple days prior to the visit. Susan was very good about going over each and every one of my questions. 

Now she was astounded that I was walking 3-3.5 miles, and commented that that’s where they would like to see me at 6-8 weeks into recovery, so I was way ahead of schedule there. She was concerned that I not go too fast so as to keep my RPE at or below the 4 mark. I told her that I was keeping it at the intensity level parameters I’d been given. She did tell me that if I kept walking at the proper RPE parameters I could walk as long as I wanted to, provided that I experienced no adverse signs of cardiac distress: shortness of breath, dizziness etc. I just have to keep it mellow right now. Told her that half of the walking thing for me was just to keep my sanity. I mean I just go nuts sitting all day. That little bout of cardio is kind of like my sanity saver.

So that was it. My progress, to all in the medical community is considered fantastic, though to me I feel like I’m progressing in slow motion. And I have to keep telling myself that I’m in an ultra-marathon, so just chill! Drove home to find our good friend and health care provider Karen making dad a soup and sandwich for lunch. Kim went to work while I did a bit of work upstairs at my desk. Then Judy and I said goodby to pop and Karen and came back to Stow. And again, by the time we pulled into Judy’s driveway I was just smoked. Went in, slumped onto the couch and just cat-napped for 3-4 hours while Judy went for a bike ride. Another long day for little Petey!


June 1: In Stow at Judy’s for my rehab.

May 31: Well, let’s “move” away from the stool talk from yesterday. 

Had a super horrible night of sleep the night before. Now what I’d tried to do was to utilize for sleep, the other end of this pit couch. I’ve been really trying hard to deal with this sleeping on my back gig to keep pressure off of my chest. And it’s just terrible right now for me in the sleep dept. I mean I just cannot get used to sleeping on my back, let alone in and incline position. Think about it, take a sleeping position that you just cannot sleep in, and then think about having, and I mean HAVING to sleep in that position each and every night. There’s no ands ifs and buts about. Well, that’s me right now. I’ve always hated sleeping on my back and on my stomach. 

So anyway, with all that in mind, what I tried to do the night before was to change over to the other side of the couch, right under this wonderful ceiling fan. I was hoping that the lower upright position that I’d have on that side might enable me to sleep a bit better. NOPE! I woke up so many times that night, from my shifting, shimmying and wiggling that I was beyond miserable. Then, when I got up in the morning, my God, I was just steam-rolled. I hurt so much I was just moaning as I breathed each breath for the first few minutes after awakening. I mean I was grasping for my pain meds in fast forward! Took a bit for me to actually feel human again. It was like I not only had the regular morning pain, but I was just stiff as hell to boot. Worked for several hours on the computer and then went home to do some busy work I’d gotten started on back on Saturday - the ledger side of running your own business. 

And as was the case last Saturday, this day was another confirmation of my still not comprehending the depth and breadth of my surgery and recovery. We rolled over to my house, where I greeted dad as normal, and with dad not having a clue as to my current situation or that I’d been gone for a month. Went upstairs to my desk and began working, logging in payments, getting deposits slips written out, doing some billing etc. Must have spent a couple hours getting everything ready for the bank. Then Judy drove me to the bank where I finished all the transactions. And just those several hours, they just kicked my ass! I was like dead tired. And what did I do…well I climbed to the upstairs 2-3x, worked at the desk for a couple hours, then went to the bank…and I was just beat, and I mean totally beat. 

I was lamenting to Judy at just how flabbergasted I was with respect to how little it took to wear me out right now. But, I could see that I was able to do more and go longer than I had last Saturday when I was at my desk working. That day just blew me away, and it was half the amount of time than this day. So we headed back to Judy’s with a quick trip to Aldi’s to shop. Add the Aldi’s trip to the above and I was done for the day. Little Petey tired and must go to bed! And I did. I had no gas to do my walk, no gas to talk, no gas to really do anything but cat nap. 

So there it was, another day, and another small step forward. This whole open-heart surgery journey looks to be an ultra-marathon’s worth of work ahead of me. And honestly, I really look forward to the challenge. And I say that being a very impatient, Type-A personality kind of guy. I will take each day’s small, almost imperceptible step forward because I know that these little baby steps will all add up to that ultra-marathon distance I need to cover!