Looking for more and further places to ride, I happened upon the Dayton Cycling Club (DCC) website.
I looked for listings that were about the speed and distance I could handle. A noticed a little thing called Fred’s Ride that was near me, but moved on, thinking that might not be what I was looking for and noting the evening times conflicted with most of my classes.
I eventually showed up for a Saturday ride from Twin Towers Park near Fairborn. I got out my Trek hybrid… and quicly noticed that everyone else had road bikes. Feeling out of place I debated about going home. But I had driven a long way and got over my apprehension and got myself ready to ride. I met the ride leaders, signed the sheet and proceeded to struggle on the back of the slowest group. I rode with a couple of heavier, older guys but managed to finish the ride without holding anyone back too badly.
It was obvious that I was still too heavy and not ready for this kind of ride yet. But I was close. Another 10 pounds and more conditioning and I’d give it another try. Maybe a D ride?
A short time later I decided to give a Brookeville ‘All’ ride a try. I was running late and missed the group, so I decided since I was there I’d head out and back on the path and get a ride in. After a few miles I started to feel a pain in my wrist. This was no new thing, since I work long hours on computers and have tendon pain. But somehow this felt different. I tried to get into my rhythm, but the paid got worse. I sat up. The pain eased. I started up again. The pain returned. I sat up again and the pain went away. Hmm… maybe the handlebars or position is causing trouble since I have been riding more. On the other hand, the pain directly correlates to heart rate. Not panicking, but concerned, I called my wife. We decided I’d better come home and call the doctor.
This part of the story I will condense… it took nearly 4 months to work through all the doctor visits, specialists, probes, tests, bloodwork, etc. But on December 23, 2002 I went into Good Samaritan hospital for a triple angioplasty. At age 34. The worst of the 3 blockages was 98% closed, one was 80% and the other was 50%, but leading into my heart. There was no actual heart damage luckily. I have no stents, as all 3 were near arterial branches. My family doctor was shocked – said I was “a ticking bomb”. She had no idea when she sent me for tests that I was so close to a serious heart attack. She only did it as a precaution because my EKG was ‘a little hinky’. I was a wake up call and she has since told me that many of her younger patients go straight to the cardiologist.
Now… if you are a cynic you can point to the story above and say “SEE, you did the Atkin’s diet and almost had a heart attack!” And you couldn’t be more wrong. Cardiovascular disease takes time, months and years of abuse and neglect. My cardiologist was amazed at the results I had achieved, and told me to go right on doing what I was doing. He put me on heart and cholesterol meds to make sure, but it was clear I was doing the right things. In fact, I very much believe that Dr. Atkins helped save my life. If I hadn’t started that diet and exercise routine when I did, I may have never found out about the heart problems until it was too late.
Back on track
Following my procedure, it didn’t take me long to get back to exercise. I may have pushed a little too hard, but I had a new lease on life and I wasn’t about to let this slow me down. I struggled with the weight loss, and had to switch medications a few times. Since it was winter I didn’t ride, but I got back in the pool as soon as I could. At first just 1/4 mile, then 1/2, then a mile. I got up to 2 1/2 at a time. In the spring I started riding to class every day, rain or shine.
Right before my angioplasty, I had a 2nd scare when I discovered a lump of tissue near my left armpit. The doctors thought it was a swollen lymph node, and planned to remove it, but I had to wait a while to make sure I was recovering from the heart procedure OK. It was an excruciatingly long time to wait, because the lump was pressing on the nerves in my left arm. Causing, you guessed it… very similar pain to the arterial blockages. I had massive and frequent panic attacks, thinking I was relapsing on the heart procedure or even having a heart attack. I went on anxiety meds to combat the worries and fought through it. I eventually had the lump removed, and it was just a benign mass of fatty tissue. Probably the weight loss had shifted things around in there and it had moved near the nerves. Although the lump was gone, the scar tissue still caused pain and I was constantly battling the fear of returning heart problems. Even today, 3 years later it still bothers me occasionally.
All this time I kept riding, and swimming, and dieting, and I frequently went back to the DCC website, debating if I was ready to try a club ride again. I had myself solidly under 200 and wanted to step it up. Again I saw this listing for Fred’s Ride. I looked at their website. I was intimidated. These guys were fit, they had fancy, shiny road bikes, they looked fast. But the listing said ‘C’. I could do a 17 average on my own for at least 30 miles, but did these guys really go my pace? For a couple months I considered it, and then finally one day I called the number on the listing.
Proceed to Fred’s Ride