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Book across the bay…

I showed up for this race hoping to lay it all out there, seeing just how fast this heart of mine could ski a 10K on hard/flat tracks, but the ski gods had other plans and must have felt I needed more work on my passing skills and tolerance for slower people blocking the tracks/trail.

After parking in Washburn by the finish line and getting registered, we caught a ride on the bus over to the starting line in Ashland. Originally, I had signed up for the first wave, but at the last minute after temporarily losing confidence in my technique/ability, I decided to start in the second wave so I wouldn’t get left too far in the dust. I think this “shaken confidance” might have been mistake number one and was somehow tied into mistake number three… Lesson learned, “No matter your skill level, never sell yourself short. Always start as close to the front of the pack as possible…”

Then, mistake number two, instead of warming up my heart like I should have been doing prior to the race, I decided to get in line at the porta johns with only 15 minutes prior to race time. After standing in line for 10 minutes it finally occurred to me that maybe I should do the math… 20 some people in front of me and less than 5 minutes to the start gun with the average person spending upwards of two minutes in the john…? The math wasn’t working out in my favor but thankfully about that time I spotted a couple cedar trees out behind the tent that weren’t being used… Lesson learned, ” look for a tree prior to getting in line for porta johns at any major sporting event…”

Mistake number 3 was getting to the start chute way too late. By the time I arrived after my trip to the cedar trees, there were thousands of people standing between where I was, and where I should have been. I have never had so many slower people in front of me at once. Only four sets of tracks and thousands of people standing in them blocking the way to what I had hoped would have been my fastest 10K ever… There was no way of busting through that blockade of people for the first mile or so. It was total gridlock in slow motion. It was hard work keeping my track/road rage in check while I skied on top of one person’s skis after another in slow motion. I am proud to say I managed stay sportsman like, even though during the first mile of the blockade, the thought of full contact xc skiing crossed my mind more than once. Lesson learned, “instead of being blocked by others, show up on time and get a proper starting position towered the front of the pack so you can be the one doing the blocking…”

With barely enough room between the tracks to pass, I lost count of how many times I was hit by someone’s poles as I squeezed my way past. Thankfully I was able to stay focused on getting through the blockade without tackling anyone in front of me. For the better part of 2 miles I just kept double poling my way between the tracks, passing hundreds of people in this fashion… Those first couple miles I never got in the tracks other then crossing them to go around people.

Somewhere around mile 3, people in the tracks started thinning out enough that I was able to get in the tracks and stay in them, finally realizing a little speed between jumping from track to track as needed to get around the few blockers that remained.  By mile 5 I had passed thousands of people and finally had clear tracks to do what I had come to do and that was to go as fast as my heart would push me on those skis.

I think the last couple miles may actually have been a couple of my fastest miles on skis yet but we will never know because Garmin decided race time was a good time to update my watch so I have no splits to review… When I turned the watch on at the starting line it went into update mode… Thanks, Garmin… This is the third time I have not been able to use my watch for a race because you decided it needed updates at the starting line…  

All and all this was a really fun race, and more importantly, my heart never missed a beat or came close to running out of steam. Despite mistakes made leading to the slow start of this race, my heart was still able to land a finish in the top 20% of the few thousand skiing this event. I call that a win for my heart on any day, a loss for heart disease, and a testament to the effects a heart-healthy lifestyle has on chronic disease. The lifestyle we choose determines our health…

My keto transformation

One of the reasons I started living a ketogenic lifestyle was because I was tired of being ashamed of the textbook picture of medication-induced gynecomastia that my chest had morphed into since being diagnosed with heart disease.  I was also very disturbed by the science and data on the effects/progression of hormonal imbalances and how this relates to fat depsosition and how it affects the progression of heart disease. Being a pretty heavy guy before my heart failure diagnosis, (6’2” 240#), I carried a solid/strong chest with only a small amount of flab on it. However, in the years following that heart failure diagnosis, the ratio of muscle to flab drastically upended, replacing most of the muscle with toxic visceral/subcutaneous adipose tissue, effecivly taking away my manly looking chest and leaving me instead with breasts that resembled more of a woman than a man. Some of the heart medication(s) I had been prescribed, coupled with the inactivity brought about by my failing heart and the advice I had been given by the doctors had set the up the perfect hormonal storm and ultimately transformed my chest into something I was embarrassed about.

Fatty/flabby male breast tissue and fatty abdominal tissue is a sure sign of metabolic/hormonal problems/distress, and is not just a sign of normal aging like so many men my age want to believe. For someone like myself who is diagnosed with heart failure, shedding that fat is one of the biggest things within my personal power to accomplish that will result in better chances of living a long, healthy life…

Interestingly, 5 years of rigorously following a plant-based diet did not produce favorable results in this area despite all the anecdotal data I had read saying otherwise. I did, in fact, lose a ton of weight after switching to a plant-based diet. In fact. I lost over 100 pounds, going from 280 pounds at my heaviest, (this was what I maxed out at while being conventionally treated for heart disease with 13 medications by the doctor), all the way down to 169 pounds. But guess what…? That abdominal fat didn’t budge an inch, so at the end of that weight loss journey, I ended up a 169 pound “skinny fat” weakling that still had the breasts of a girl. I worked out with a personal trainer for the better part of a year at one point, working in the gym really hard, but fighting for every small gain made. I did get stronger, but nowhere near my pre-heart attack strength levels and the toxic fat remained. So much for a hard chiseled looking body from eating a plant-based diet…

During that 5-year plant-based diet experiment I also got very busy getting some cardio in. According to mainstream dogma at the time, if I ran far enough, I would lose that toxic abdominal/breast fat no matter my diet. So, I got busy and made running my life.  At first, I couldn’t even get through a mile without stopping to rest, but I was determined to stick with it, and in a matter of a few years I had worked my way up to running 26.2 miles, even stepping up to the 50K distance on rugged/steep trails a few times. I ran every chance I had and even went as far as hiring a running coach and nutritionist to see my goals through, but despite running well over 1000 miles a year throughout a five year period along with eatingonly so-called healthy plant food choices, the fat not only remained, it was getting worst.

Thankfully for me, during that time I never stopped researching/reading about heart-healthy lifestyles and the keto science that was slowly emerging on the scene kept my interest peaked, but it wasn’t until after I had been following an organic whole foods plant-based diet for the better part of 5 years before I decided enough was enough and followed suit. So after 5 years of following a plant-based diet, I took the keto plunge… From a low-fat high carb diet, to a high-fat low carb diet, I got busy changing my life again…

The 1.5 years that have passed since making the keto transition have been very rewarding. My results speak for themselves and are nothing short of astonishing, surpassing anything I previously would have even thought possible for this well used 52-year-old body and the results just keep coming. At the start of keto, I weighed 210 pounds, and wore a 34-inch waist pant snuggly. One look at my chest at that point and gynecomastia would have come to mind. My chest contained breasts that were saggy/pointy and frankly probably should have been in a bra at that point. My overall body composition despite all the running and plant food, was slowly becoming that of a marshmallow. Within a few months of switching to a keto diet all that started to change… Slowly at first, but accelerating as I went along, to the point of where I am today, and the results keep rolling in.

Today I need a belt to keep my size 32-inch pants from revealing any “plumbers crack” despite the fact my weight has increased to 215. The amount of physical strength I have gained this past year is incredible and nowhere is this more evident than my work in construction or the gym. At this point, my strength is the strongest its been in this lifetime. Those once embarrassing saggy/flabby breasts no longer resemble that of a woman, and the dangerous/toxic fat around my midsection has regressed to the level it was in my 20’s, as it continues melting away leaving a hard lean body composition in its place.

While my body has been changing to a much harder composition, my mind has gone from a semi-depressed state living in a perpetual fog, to one that’s highly focused with the brightest of clarity.  Positive emotions sometimes bordering on euphoric is now my brain’s default, completely replacing the anxiety and depression that once completely consumed me.  A plant-based diet did not have this effect on my mental health. In no time during my life have I experienced mental sharpness/clarity/focus like what I am experiencing today on keto. At this point, depression and anxiety are just bad memories. Keto is better then any of the anti-depressants I was once prescribed.

So many good things have happened since I took the keto plunge. I will be writing about more realized benefits soon, so stay tuned, but before signing off, let me leave you with one more keto benefit I am enjoying… NO HUNGER… That’s right… No longer hungry/hangry if I miss a meal. Going all day without eating is now very easy… No crash or bad cravings required. Just steady focus and energy that remains constant throughout a busy day. The benefits of intermittent fasting are numerous and discussed in-depth throughout the scientific literature.  Intermittent fasting feels easy and natural when in ketosis. Who wouldn’t like to eat less and workout less, while gaining a harder, more muscular body composition without being hungry/hangry or tired…? Keto makes it easy…

Pottengers Cat Study

How many have read about the Pottenger Cat Study…? I find it interesting and thought I would share this article as I revisited and read through it again tonight. By sharing, I am in no way suggesting we as humans should eat only raw food since I could make arguments for both raw and cooked food, and also understand our physiology is not the same as a cat.

Some of the nutrient’s humans require are in fact absorbed better after cooking, while some nutrients and enzymes are ruined by heat. Therefore, I personally believe a combination of both cooked and raw food is needed for optimal/outstanding human health.

What I find most interesting about Pottengers study isn’t the difference between raw food and cooked food, but instead, the way that for each subsequent generation of cats, their health became more compromised and this fact manifested in not just one, but many different types of chronic disease, even though the cause was the same. The cats died from many different diseases, including heart disease.

I wonder if we as humans have a very similar thing going on, except our problem isn’t the difference between cooking the food or eating it raw, instead, our problem is we are eating “fake” food instead of “real” food…?

By fake food, I am talking about foods that have been stripped of their nutrients during the different phases of growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, shipping, ect. Pasteurization, toxic sterilization techniques such as radiation along with herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, growth hormone, antibiotics, genetic modification, and so on…

Soils stripped of nutrients by greedy corporate farming practices, leaving the soil heavily laden with synthetic/chemical fertilizer instead. So much of the food the world is eating today is dead. Dead, in that most of the nutrients have been stripped away or killed, leaving behind transformed substances toxic to human health.

The number one thing anyone can personally do to improve  compromised heart function, or any chronic disease for that matter, is too make sure they are eating real food. Know the origin of your food and know/read the ingredients. If you do not know what a certain ingredient is, look it up. Eat organically grown, or grow your own if possible. Farmers markets/small local farmers are also a great place to find real food. The food you eat is responsible for the state of your health.

Every time I buy groceries, I am in fact voting with my grocery money and I will always vote for the healthiest most nutrient dense foods possible. If everyone bought only real food, together, our grocery money would change the world…

https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/nutrition-greats/francis-m-pottenger-md/

10 years with a wounded heart

Ten years ago today, (10-26-2008), I was in Afghanistan having a heart attack. The damage from that heart attack forever changed my life, but not in ways I would have expected. Having a heart attack in a remote third world country in the middle of a war zone didn’t do my heart any favors and I was left with permanent damage.

Less then two weeks later, my first day back on US soil, I dropped to the floor dying, my heart in ventricular fibrillation, unable to pump blood to my soon would have been dead body. I will never forget that day I died even though I remember very little about it. I can remember falling towered the floor. In the couple seconds it may have took before hitting the floor as the lights were going out, time seemed to slow down. I was falling, and the floor was getting closer, all as the lights seemed to be dimming out in slow motion. Those couple seconds before contacting the floor, time seemed to stand still. Seconds felt like minutes as 42 years of consciousness was shutting down for what would have been the last time.

Lucky for me, I was in good company that day.  Eric Honkanen, (an Eagle Scout with a CPR badge), and Nick Vukilich, kept me alive by pounding on my chest/heart while breathing air into my lungs until the ambulance arrived and took over. Thankfully, the ambulance attendants were able to jump start my heart with a defibrillator and get me ready for a helicopter ride to my regional heart/trauma center, where I under went a lifesaving procedure.

That was the beginning to a very long journey through through the health care system. By the end of that first year my health problems had only escalated despite everything my doctor(s) could recommend. At this point I was on 13 medications and my life seemed centered around doctor visits, hospital visits, and medical/surgical procedures. It wasn’t long before other health problems/side effects slowly crept up as my health continued to deteriorate. I was repeatedly told by doctors through all this, “that everything I was experiencing was normal for someone in my condition”, and that, ” I needed to except all of this as my new normal”. I long lost count of how many times I was told “I would need to take medication(s) for the rest of my life”, or that, “my heart would not improve”.  According to the doctors I was seeing,  medication was the only way to slow down this free-fall of cascading health issues, and slowing down the progression was the best anyone could hope for. Many times, I sat and listened as doctors lectured me about excepting all this as “my new normal”. At one point I even had a doctor tell me “the terrible side effects I was experiencing from medication(s) was better then what could happen if I stopped taking any of them”. None of this painted a nice picture of my future and I felt like my life completely depended on that big box of medication I was forced to take everywhere I went.

Thankfully, listening to the doctor was never one of my strongest suits, so despite all the discouragement from the same doctors who had initially saved my life, I continued doing everything I could to improve my health by using every opportunity available to  learn everything  I could on heart/health related topics.  I made lots of changes inline with what I was learning/re-learning, and Little by little, my heart started getting stronger and healthier. As I began seeing results, staying the course became easier and easier, and at some point just became my “new normal”.   10 years out and I remain 100% medication free  with non of the heart disease/failure symptoms that once ruled my life. Today, my heart is stronger then what the experts led me to believe was even possible.

Never sell yourself short based on what the experts think you should believe. While modern cardiac/trauma care is nothing less then miraculous short term, healthy lifestyle habits provide the best outcome long term. You are the one in control your health, not your doctor. The food you eat, the amount of sleep you get, exercise, fresh air, sunshine, stress management, the environment you choose to live in, even the people you choose to surround yourself with, all part of the equation making up your current bill of health. 10 years out and my life ROCKS… Heart disease has nothing on this lifestyle…

Isle Royale 2018, bigger risks, bigger rewards…?

Isle Royale, (the largest island in Lake Superior), is over 45 miles (72 km) in length and 9 miles (14 km) wide at its widest point. The park is made up of Isle Royale itself and approximately 400 smaller islands, along with many submerged reefs within 4.5 miles (7.2 km) of the surrounding islands.  Isle Royale National Park was established on April 3, 1940, then additionally protected from development by wilderness area designation in 1976 and declared a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve in 1980. The park covers 894 square miles (2,320 km2), with 209 square miles (540 km2) of land and 685 square miles (1,770 km2) of surrounding waters. The park’s northern boundary lies adjacent to the Canadian Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area along the international border.

Isle Royale is the largest Island on Lake Superior, Making it the largest Island, on the Largest freshwater lake, in the world. The Island is very remote and completely off grid this time of the year. During the summer months, Isle Royale boast a steady turnover of tourists coming to hike, fish, view the wildlife and magnificent scenery, and to camp on the Island. There is a ferry boat that shuttles people up from Copper Harbor Michigan, or down from Grand Portage Minnesota, to the Island. The ferry(s) run three times a week during the tourist season, typically from around the middle of May, until closing the first week of October. There is also limited seaplane service available to and from the Island, with a sea plane dock both in Rock Harbor, and Wendigo Harbor.

During the tourist season there is a lot of people hiking/camping on the Island, as well as boaters and a full staff of rangers from the park service, so the Island somewhat loses it “wilderness feel” during the busy season. But once the services are all shut down at the end of the season/late fall, there is nothing and no one for miles around. This time of the year the place takes on a whole new ambiance, giving you a true feeling of what it’s like to be fishing off grid in the wilderness. No cell phone coverage, no/limited radio coverage, and no one to flag down in the event you experience trouble. You are completely on your own this time of the year, so you must plan accordingly.  Because Isle Royale is so remote and uninhabited this time of the year, lots of pre-planning goes into this trip. I go over my boat with a fine-tooth comb in the weeks leading up to the trip. I do my best to plan for most contingency’s, packing lots of tools and spare boat parts. My boat is an awesome craft, but at 20 years old she is showing some of her age and requires constant maintenance and repair. I have come to realize the true meaning of “BOAT”, (“bust out another thousand”), and this year proved no different. Upon inspecting the lower units only days prior to departure, I ended up rebuilding the lower drive on the starboard motor and replacing another one of my cannon downriggers, along with spending another few hundred dollars in misc. spare parts, pieces and chemicals/lubes.  Thankfully the folks over at Aronsons Marine, in Tower, Minnesota, where able to help me get that lower unit fixed quickly. They had all of the knowledge and most of the parts needed to get that lower unit working again. They were really busy but made time to help me out. The parts not in stock, they provided only two days later.  Great service. Thanks, Aronsons.

Part of planning a trip like this includes estimating/guesstimating gas consumption for the days we were planning to be out on the water fishing. Since we were planning on fishing an extra day this year, I strapped an extra 30 gallons/190 pounds of gas up on the bow of the boat just in case we needed to supplement the 250 gallons/1575 pounds of gas already in the tank. On top of the 1765 pounds of fuel aboard, Tony and Nick brought along what I’m going to guestimate as another 1000 pounds of camping gear, coolers, and health food/snacks. At this point, the boat was loaded right down to the wire of what I consider a safe loaded weight for traversing/crossing the rough waters between the mainland and Isle Royale. The rear scuppers and their relationship to the water line are somewhat a telltale sign with regards to overloading the boat, and by the time Nick and Tony were done loading their gear aboard, the scuppers were barely an inch above the water line. Originally, I had planned on shoving off for the island early Thursday morning, but gale winds the night before had whipped Lake Superior into a white, frothy, frenzy with occasional waves peaking at 26 feet.  As Thursday morning came and went one of the offshore meteorological buoys was still pegging wave peaks at 18 feet. With the boat so heavily loaded, I felt no choice other than to wait for the lake to lay down a bit. Thankfully, by around 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the winds off the Rock of Ages light house/meteorological station (ROAM4) had died down to a steady 15 knots, occasionally guesting to 20 knots from the west/southwest, and the closest off shore NOAH meteorological buoy (45006) was pegging the current offshore waves at 8 feet. I knew from experience that with these winds, the wave tops could be a little higher out by the Island then what buoy 45006 was registering almost 40 miles to the southwest. Not wanting to deal with potentially large waves in the dark, or wanting to deal with setting up camp in the dark, I decided to shove off, steering our fully loaded boat towered the big swells we could see rising and falling out across the horizon.  The ride across the open water was better than expected.  We were somewhat quartering into the waves off our 2 o’clock, and they  were a couple feet smaller than I what I initially thought they would  be.

By the time I could see Rock of Ages light house 5 miles or so off the port side, the waves had pretty much subsided into giant swells, making for an enjoyable and easy ride across the open water. This was my tenth time making this voyage and I have learned a lot during those trips.  One of the lessons I learned early on was to avoid Rock of Ages light house by a large margin anytime the wind is blowing. Depending on the winds and wave direction(s), this can be a treacherous area. I have boated through this area with the lake whipped into a frenzy on several occasions and can say from experience the wave frequency here becomes very tight, building waves so steep they appear straight up and down. I have watched waves/moguls rise up out of smaller waves that became taller then my boat in a matter of seconds. You cannot read these waves/water as they just seem to rise up at random in this area. I have taken a few of these waves right over the top of my boat three different times. Trust me when I say waves coming over the top of the boat is not for the faint of heart. I nicknamed this area the “washing machine”. If you watch the types of waves your washing machine produces on the “agitate” cycle, and then super-size the image, making the waves peak higher than the top of the boat, you begin to get a picture of what the area around Rock of Ages looks like when Lake Superior gets angry. Staying at least five miles off shore in this area seems to avoid some of that agitation and makes up for the extra couple miles incurred by somewhat decreasing the overall travel time to the cans off Siskiwit Bay/Point Houghton.

Our normal routine on this trip has been to tie up/dock at the Siskiwit Bay campground dock. This place has a very heavy-duty concrete dock positioned behind a small rock break wall that protects the boat well in most winds. This campground has what I will term “Adirondack shelters”, built by the park service for people to camp in. The “Adirondack shelters” are three sided structures with a roof, fully screened in on the fourth/open side. They provide a dry, bug free camping experience for those who would otherwise be camping out under the stars. In the past, Nick and Tony have always used these shelters to sleep in. This time of the year the shelters are invaluable to anyone camping since most nighttime temps are well below zero and rain, sleet and snow is common. Personally, I don’t need a shelter or a tent because I sleep snug as a bug in the cuddy of my boat. The cabin/cuddy on the boat is super comfy and warm, making a great place to camp. It has plenty of space for just me, (or me and Heidi), but unfortunately for Tony and Nick, its a   little cozier then I what I care to share with them, so they rely on the park shelters for a place to sleep. Our initial plan had been to arrive at the Siskiwit Bay campground in time for Tony and Nick to set up camp before it got dark. The Siskiwit Bay campground is approximately 10 miles from where we usually begin the search for those big fish and Siskiwit Bay campground is the closest, safest, dockage in proximity of this area that also provides a campground equipped with shelters. There are other places around the Island we could dock, (such as “Hay Bay”), but they do not provide camping shelters.

In just a little over an hour and a half, we had made the 50 some mile boat ride, from Grand Portage, Minnesota, to the Siskiwit Bay campground on Isle Royale. Not bad travel time for bumpy seas and a boat heavily laden with fuel and camping equipment.   As we were coming down that final stretch in Siskiwit bay somewhere the last couple miles before the the campground, I noticed a turbo propped Cessna Caravan on floats coming at us from the end of the bay.  I stayed somewhat focused on the plane, watching it lift off the water before it flew directly over us as it climbed out steeply to the Southwest. I was surprised to see a float plane out there for several reasons but none the less was even more surprised when I turned my attention to the dock and realized there were a few boats tied up that were occupying the only sheltered section of dock, forcing us to tie up on the very end of the dock out in the wind. As we continued getting closer, I also noticed there were quite a few people hanging out, sitting on the dock down by the other boats. As I guided the boat alongside the windy end of the dock, Tony and Nick jumped out of the boat onto the dock and held the boat steady while I went about digging out some docking lines and bumpers. Before we even had the boat tied off to the dock, two park rangers who appeared dressed for battle, wearing side arms, tasers, and militaristic/utility type uniforms, had walked down the dock to officially informed us that the campground and dock was OFFICIALLY closed to the public. I hope the days of Smokey the bear dressing like a park ranger are over.  I really don’t want my child hood image of Smokey the Bear ruined by seeing him dressed for battle and carrying armaments in this fashion.  These park rangers today look more like soldiers then park rangers.

I had made a lot of plans based on using this camp site. Those plans included everything from the amount of extra fuel we had brought, to telling my wife and a few others what campground we were planning to stay at so they would know where to start the search if we didn’t return. There was no way to call any of these people at this point. We were really being thrown off guard since Nick and Tony  would also need shelter for the night at whatever place we found safe dockage for the boat. I couldn’t help myself from becoming somewhat irritated.  It was now pushing the last couple hours of daylight and we were being told to go somewhere else. Somewhere happened to be a long way away, across unfamiliar water, using unknown anchorages/docks, with night quickly approaching.  I tried hiding my frustration despite all those thoughts going through my head and did my best to act polite and show respect while the ranger on point continued to interrogate us. The ranger on point seemed very interested our life story’s and didn’t seem to have any concern that he was holding us up as the sun continued to go down.  I couldn’t help but become more agitated as he pried on.  Something about someone wearing all that weaponry while brandishing such a standoffish attitude that really strikes a sour note with me. Apparently, there was a mix up with our paper work, (or lack of), and whoever the nice lady was that Nick had called the day before to secure the park permit for our stay was unaware Siskiwit bay was going to be closed the following day, or at least she never informed Nick of such. I asked the ranger why the campground was closed, and he said the reason was “confidential/secret and couldn’t be publicly disclosed”. At this point, hopefully the Park Ranger didn’t hear the  accidental F-bomb muttered under my breath.  I didn’t mean it. It just slipped out once the pieces started coming together and I began to figure out why they were out there,  and why they had closed this campground down.

At this point, I was pretty sure I had figured out the reason they were forcing us to head back out on the lake. They had shut this campground down, and kept the fact they were going to shut it down, a secret from the public, to avoid potential protests because of the controversy surrounding what they were doing. What were they doing…? They were releasing a wolf on the Island as part of their overall master scheme to build a strong enough wolf pack to trim/eat down the moose population.

In recent years, the wolf population on the Island has been dying off and according to the purported experts, one of the reasons are the inbred genetics of the current wolf population. These experts feel the moose population also needs predators to keep the population at healthy levels, so they plan on building a stronger wolf population by relocating 20 or so wolves to the Island. This was the second wolf relocated, not counting the one they accidentally killed in the process.  Personally, I am against the entire plan. Not because I have anything against wolves, but more importantly, because I am fiscally conservative, and see tens of millions in tax dollars being spent in a way that provides very little return for the tax payers. I do not believe they are doing nature any favors either, since both the wolfs and the moose population are not even indigenous/native to this island and in fact have inhabited it for less than 100 years. The park service adding wolves on the Island is no more natural to Isle Royale, then the local zoo adopting elephants.   To see those expensive government owned boats and airplane, not to mention all those people at the campground who were on the government payroll overseeing and facilitating this government biology/science experiment, really helped me put in perspective just how expensive it must be to relocate wolves. All this for just one wolf…? I am going to guess the cost of all this to be somewhere in the tens of millions since they are planning on bringing an additional 20 more wolves to the Island. I can’t help but think how many poor people we could have helped with this tax money. I personally know plenty of elderly/retired people struggling just to afford food, medications, and health care after spending their entire lives working hard and paying taxes. Shouldn’t we help these people before we help the wolves…?  As far as trimming down the moose population, there are plenty of people that would be willing to harvest the moose for food. Why couldn’t the park service offer some moose hunts to the highest bidders with provisions included for the meat to be donated to a local food shelf to help feed the less fortunate. Many, me included, see spending millions in tax money to build a wolf pack on the Island as a “reckless” use of tax money at best.  Something the park service press releases on this topic never mention or discuss, are the potential unintended consequences. According to some wildlife biologists, one of the potential possibilities of building up a strong wolf pack, is that it could quickly change the balance of predator and prey, leaving more wolves then moose. There are many possible variables that will be at play here and some of the possibilities create disturbing possibilities for the Island. No matter how it turns out, it’s an expensive science experiment at best, and the overall beneficiaries do not seem to be the hard working tax payers who are working hard to pay for all this.

Thankfully one of the park rangers did in fact turn out to be very polite, professional, and helpful without needing my life story, and she also seemed to hold her posture in a manner that didn’t  brandish the weapons she was wearing, the way her counterpart did. Her name was Emily and she was very polite, not  abrasive and mistrusting like the other officer seemed to be. She offered to show us some of the lake charts/maps she had in her boat to help us  identify another anchorage option for the night. According to the chart Emily showed us, the closest dock with any camping shelters was another 10-12 miles down Siskiwit Bay, next to a seasonal ranger station at a campground known as Malon Bay.  I had never personally never personally been to this dock, but had read accounts from other boaters who had stayed there only to complain about the dockside swells that roll in during a Southeast wind. A Southeast wind was forecast to blow for the next couple days so part of me was seriously questioning the idea of using this dock, but with the sun going down so fast and no closer docking/camping options available, we pushed off and set course for Malon Bay. I crossed my fingers in hopes Tony and Nick would get situated into a campsite before darkness settled in. The sun was just setting beneath the trees as we pulled up to the dock in Malon bay. The camp ground turned out to be the better part of a ½ mile from the boat dock, with the trail connecting the two, full of deadfall blocking the trail, most likely blown down in the gale force winds the night before. Nick and Tony had been planning on camping in the Siskwit Bay campground shelters that were next to the dock when they packed all those big plastic totes full of camping gear along with that great big heavy-duty Pelican cooler. Here at Malone Bay, there was no way they could carry all that camping gear they had packed down the 1/2 mile trail full of fallen trees before dark. Lucky for them for them, there was a nice log cabin right next to the dock with the door wide open. Not sure what the cabin was for or who owns it. There were no signs saying who it belonged too, and no signs saying we couldn’t use it, so Nick and Tony took shelter in it for the night, avoiding a trek down that trail to the camping shelters.

That night the winds picked back up as the temps dropped down into the middle/upper 30’s. It rained/sleeted hard on and off all night. Several times during the night I was awakened to the sound of the bilge pump turning o to eject the rain water out of the boat. As I predicted, the dock offered very little protection from the SE winds, and the boat was getting tossed pretty hard all night. This made a good night’s sleep difficult at best. The winds continued picking up throughout the night and by morning it was driving 1-2 foot swells straight into the dock. The boat had been tugging on its dock lines so hard throughout the night, that I was somewhat worried they might break, letting the boat drift onto the same rocks those swells were crashing into. Upon getting up that morning, I closely examined all the docking lines for any damage/fraying, and added a few more redundant lines.   Looking out across Malone bay, I could see all the way across Siskiwit bay to the outer islands that separate Siskiwit bay from Lake Superior. Looking straight across the bay at Menagerie light house/Island, I could see large swells rolling in across Lake Superior from the southeast that were crashing on the rocks of Menagerie Island in spectacular fashion. These waves were much bigger then what I wanted to spend the day fishing in, so we decided to do a little sightseeing/hiking on the island while we waited for the winds to lay down. After cooking some breakfast in that cold wind driven rain/sleet, we headed up the hiking trail headed north out of Malone Bay. We hiked a couple of different trails, seeing Siskiwit Lake and the falls/creek coming out of it that lead to Superior. No moose were seen, but there were plenty of moose tracks on the trails.  Siskiwit lake was beautiful and well worth the short hike from camp. By the time we were back to camp, my feet were wet. My Solomon hiking boots had failed me, and my feet were now soaking wet. Thankfully I had a pair of dry running shoes in the boat. The rain/sleet was still coming down steady, and the wind was unrelenting. At around 5pm that evening, we finally saw a fleeting glimpse of the sun as it peaked out for a couple minutes.  After seeing that fleeting glimpse of the sun, I tuned in for the latest “NOAH Marine forecast and latest observations” using the Marine radio in the boat. Thankfully they were calling for the winds to switch direction and lie down, but not until early the following morning after blowing steady throughout the night.

 

Saturday morning arrived and the winds switched to the Northeast before laying down as predicted. The sun was periodically peeking  out through the dark clouds. Even though it was only in the middle 30’s, now that the wind had laid down and the rain/sleet stopped, it felt much warmer then the day before. I was really excited at this point to finally get out on the big lake to look for those big fish. After all, this whole trip is supposed to be about the BIG fish. Everything else is secondary. As we made our way across the bay, headed to the big lake, large swells could be seen rolling in and crashing  on the rocks of the outer islands, but there was no wind pushing them. We had hurriedly left camp, even skipping breakfast to get on those fish while the winds were laying down. The weather had already cost us a couple days of fishing, and the forecast for the following day wasn’t looking very stellar either. As we rounded Point Houghton and made our way through the navigation cans, there was no wind to speak of. Even a few miles offshore, the only waves we had to contend with were large  gentle swells still rolling in from the southeast. There was no wind driving these large swells at this point and the sun was still occasionally peeking out at us through the clouds. Within the first couple minutes of getting some fishing lines in the water we were rewarded with a nice lake trout. Through out the day, we managed to pull in fish, but the big ones we had come looking for managed to avoid us. Even on the boat’s sonar, I failed to see any  big fish/marks. Throughout the day we continued catching fish, but nothing trophy size. Sometime in the early afternoon I again tuned into NOAH weather radio. They were now forecasting another change in wind speed and direction for later that night, predicting waves heights in the 12-foot range the following day. Hearing this forecast completely ruined my plans of looking for big fish the following day. Besides being very hard to fish in those conditions, the boat ride back to the mainland would take 3-4 hours with waves that size/direction.  Since we only needed one more fish to make a full limit, we talked it over and decided to catch one more before calling it a weekend and heading back to port. Within ten minutes that last fish was brought aboard, and we headed back to Malone bay to load up Nick and Tony’s camping gear before heading to port. The ride back to Grand Portage from Malone Bay was easy and uneventful. We were traveling the same direction as the lazy 2-3 foot seas for most of ride, and the entire trip back took less then and hour and a half. As I backed the boat into the garage later that night after very long day 18 hour day, I couldn’t help but reflect back on it all. We didn’t catch any of the trophy fish we were hoping for as in all years past, but it was still an awesome adventure hunting the big lake for those trophy fish. As Tony and Nick will tell you, a bad day of fishing is still better then a good day of work…

Thankful for my ICD

I am excited to report the foot injury that kept me from running most of the summer is on the mend. I managed an easy/slow 6 miles this morning without issue and was even able to crank up the pace a bit on my last mile without the foot becoming angry… Nothing makes my heart feel stronger and happier than being able to charge up that last hill while holding onto a 7:45 pace for the last mile… It felt so GOOD… Wish I could share that feeling with everyone.
I am headed off grid first thing in the morning for my annual Isle Royale fishing adventure. (Isle Royale Adventure 2117)Hoping to get a short trail run in while on the Island… Of all the national parks here in the USA, this is one of the most remote, least traveled/visited, and by far my favorite. This late into the season, there are zero services available on the island along with zero cell phone coverage. Its a 70-mile boat ride with a lot of big water and places to fish between the mainland and the campsite. 
Running in remote locations like Isle Royale make me GLAD to have a Medtronics ICD… Another cardiac arrest out there in the wilderness would be the end of me without this thing for sure… Stay tuned for MORE BIG fish pictures along with a trail report from Isle Royale Adventure, 2018…

Running is my drug of choice

Running is my drug of choice. It changes the way I view my world, myself, and my health. Since my DNF at Voyageur 50  caused in part by a foot/overuse injury, I have not ran. The injury started out as a minor sprain earlier this spring that happened while I was doing hill repeats/sprints when I somehow tripped in the process, bending the toes back a little too far and leaving the toe next to the big toe on my right foot very angry.

I’m sure it would have healed up and been just fine in a matter of days had it not have been for the roofing job on a steep pitched roof I started the next day. Running up and down that steep roof for 5 long days really aggravated it. Another roofing job the following week further beat it up, followed by 26.2 miles at Grandmas Marathon, and then a job where I spent a couple weeks finishing a small apartment/living accommodation, in the back of an airplane hangar. This job required me to park my tool trailer and set up my saws a long way from where I was working creating a lot of running back and forth with tools and materials. According to Garmin, I was averaging about 12,000 steps a day on that concrete and as far as the toe was concerned, the job was the equivalent of taking a large sledge hammer and whacking it a few more times. Then there was Voyageur 50. This was a 50-mile race through some steep terrain that I had signed up for months before I had a sore toe. I knew full well going into it that toeing the line of voyageur 50 despite the sore toe wasn’t the smartest thing I had ever done, but I did it anyhow. By somewhere around mile 15 the toe was twice the size of my other toes and my opposite leg was starting to have issues because I was running so out of whack at this point  trying to spare the toe. In other words, it didn’t work out well… The hills at voyageur were steep and it was impossible to spare the toe no matter how I tried to run. Somewhere at the bottom of a hill I tripped on a root or rock and did a Fred Flintstone, turning those feet as fast as I could make them go, running up on the  tip tops of my toes to avoid a faceplant in the rocks.  the end result was a very angry toe, and that anger seemed contagious as now the ball of my foot right below the toe was just as angry. No doubt, Voyageur left the biggest mark of all.

That was over a couple months ago. I have not run in what seems like forever since then and for the past few weeks, I have really been missing it, to the point it’s been making me CRAZY. It has affected my mood, my sleep, and my mental health. I can feel the anxiety normally released in the process of running, building up to the boiling stage.  I want to run. Riding bike doesn’t bother the toe in any way shape or form, but I’m not addicted to biking.  For whatever reason, I WANT TO RUN…  Saturday was the Ely marathon. Earlier this year I had hopes on entering the portage division. This is where you run the marathon while carrying a 30 some pound canoe. A 26.2-mile portage they are calling it. Waking up Saturday morning and seeing my wife getting ready to head to Ely for her race made me really question my decision to not enter before registration closed. Race day registration wasn’t an option so at that point,  I couldn’t have ran if I wanted to. My wife was running the half, and several friends were running the full. Since I couldn’t join them, I did the next best thing and loaded up my bicycle and headed to Ely so I could ride the course and cheer them on. The Ely marathon follows an awesome course that wanders/rolls along the edge of the wilderness/BWCA along the southern end of the Echo Trail, a road well known for its scenic beauty of pine studded granite. This time of the year the fall colors are just getting started, further adding to the scenery. I had a an awesome time riding along along the course while  cheering people on and saying hello to friends.  If any of those friends are reading this and wondering why I didn’t make good on my promise to see you again along the course, it was due to a flat tire that left me walking… Not only was I now walking, but doing so in stupid hard plastic shoes that make a clicking sound on the pavement while pushing a bike with a flat tire, as runners continued passing me by…

I went to bed that night thinking about running. I slept hard and dreamed about running, and then woke up thinking about it.  I couldn’t take it any longer. I had to go for a run. So Sunday morning, off I went, sore toe and all. The weather was misting, 40 degrees, with a ripping east wind but I knew if I put that nasty wind to my back it wouldn’t be as bad. So I started out slow, running to the west to keep that cold/wet wind at my back.  I was very careful those first couple miles, moving along at more of a trot then a run. I wanted to make sure that toe warmed up slowly because I could feel it a little. By the time I had went 3-4 miles I was finding my groove and feeling good. By dumb luck I noticed a faster cadence made all the difference between feeling the toe or not so from that point on I concentrated on form, keeping my cadence in the upper 170’s while making sure my feet were landing behind me.  Somewhere around mile 5 I had an epiphany where it all came together, making it feel as if I was was turning/riding on a wheel. I was running that smooth and it felt sooo good. Happy chemicals started flooding my brain. My toe did not hurt.  My body took on the feeling of a finely tuned well-oiled machine. My consciousness elevated into something that can’t be explained, but only experienced. Clarity, simplicity, easiness, peace, harmony, contentment, pleasure, zero pain, at that point, like most addicts, I wanted more. It felt so good that I couldn’t leave well enough alone.

In my mind faster equated to more, and I wanted more, so I picked up the pace, nice and easy at first, then slowly easing into a pace fast enough to crash and burn. My toe started screaming out, this time It sounded off really loud, making sure I got the point. I listened to it out of fear of pain to come, slowing down to a crawl where I was somewhat rewarded with a couple more miles of my fix pain free.  But like all mind-altering substances, eventually you run out and the high wears off. This is the stage where you go from high to hitting the dirt with your face.

Hopefully I didn’t destroy the toe to much on yesterdays run, but it did leave me limping again.  I’m having a really hard time fighting this addiction. Hopefully I don’t relapse again before the toe gets its act together. Really wishing for Wild Duluth 50K. No doubt I’m going to need a fix by then. Stay tuned…

Increased Cardiac output while following a ketogenic diet

 

 

I LOVE my cardiologist. Although we might not agree on everything,  he is willing to sit and discuss stuff with me in detail as no other cardiologist has ever taken the time to do. He is 86 years young, and still practicing medicine at the Mayo Clinic Rochester. Talk about an inspiring person. I hear from all the staff he works with, about how he sees more patients in a day than most other doctors…  Not because he spends less time with his patients, but because he never sits still, often working through lunch, and staying late into the evening. On the day of this last visit, he worked through lunch to see me, still spending upwards of 45 minutes discussing my case. There is no doubt in my mind that he does what he does because he has a passion for saving lives, and he loves people. Not all doctors are created equal in this respect and I would urge anyone not happy with their current doctor to look for one they feel is truly interested in their recovery, not one just going through the motions of meeting their quota of patients and scripts.

I think it’s also important to realize that no matter how well-intentioned our doctors are, they have many limitations placed on them by the medical system. If they do not tow the line so to speak and stay within the pre-described boundary’s set by the institutions they work for, they will not be allowed to practice medicine anymore. So don’t expect to find any doctors willing to  support and prescribe healthy lifestyle measures alone, not because lifestyle measures do not work, but because this is simply not how your doctor has been trained. They must use only the tools given them in the toolbox provided them so to speak. Any variance from this could very easily ruin their career.  therefore, do not expect them to jump up and down for joy when you start seeing result they can’t reproduce since your using a tool unavailable to them. Good intentioned or not, they can’t offer to the rest of their patients a tool that’s not in their toolbox, just because it worked for you. When I first started seeing results, I really thought the doctors would share my enthusiasm but this wasn’t the case, instead, the results I was getting through the tools I was using  actually drew discouragement from some of them. I found this very disappointing/disheartening in the least, but, like it or not,  this is just the way this medical system is set up. Not always the fault of our doctors.

For the record, I personally think our current health care system is in complete crisis and needs a makeover. It has evolved into a serious money-making machine while the definition of “health” and “average”, has been continually redefined, setting the bar lower each time. Not because the doctors are greedy, but because the controlling 1% are. That greed is the reason most doctors are forced to  practice using only the studies published and approved by the status quo so to speak.  Do not expect to see your doctor interested in chasing after or mining results from the few people actually seeing  RESULTS in long term cardiac care if those results came only through the adoption of a healthy lifestyle and were not the result of medications and medical procedures.  Results obtained through lifestyle measures are very unprofitable.  The corporate quagmire our health care industry has shortly exploded into has completely tied the hands of most good-intentioned doctors. The top priorities of these corporate beasts are to their shareholders, not your health. According to the law of the land,  at least here in America, the officers of these corporate money making machines have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders. Part of that duty, again, according to the law of the land, is to turn a profit. The care we receive is secondary to these profits.

While strolling through the Mayo Clinic, (a not for profit corporation), It’s hard to not admire the assembly line type precision they have brought to medicine, whereas 100’s’ of people are able to move through all sorts of various appointments so quickly and efficiently, accomplishing in half a day what would take many days and visits to accomplish  at most regional healthcare facilities. I also can’t help but notice all the lavish appointments. The place is simply breathtaking to anyone checking out all the architecture and art that is present on every wall, nook and corner. Seeing all these lavish architectural appointments and  beautiful art hanging through out the place and I can’t help but think to myself, “what a money-making machine the mayo clinic is”. I’ll bet if they had  shareholders they would be  very pleased. But what about the rest of us…? Should we be pleased with the obvious amount of wealth this institution has generated off sickness…? (11.6 billion in total revenue at the Mayo Clinic last year alone). How many people have been turned away because they could not afford the price of this care…? How many of them may have died in the process…? I can’t help but ask myself these questions, and a lot of others along these lines.

There is a magnificent 28 foot, 6900 pound, cast bronze statue of a man that hangs off a glass wall down on the subway level of the Gonda building  at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester. It is supposed to represent freedom and self-expression according to the little bit of history I read about this statue. Personally, when I look at that huge hanging statue, I see health, fitness and wellness, all rolled into one. I see a statue of what I perceive as a near perfect looking human body.  But then I lower my eyes, seeing the 100’s of people all around me, and they  seem to have nothing in common with this statue.  Sickness is all around me, even much of the staff look sick in comparison.  Based on what I am seeing, I can’t help but wonder if we have sold ourselves short, accepting a lower standard of health that does not even begin to match our potential or depict what I see that statue standing for.  This is not only  sad, but appalling in the least.

Before going to this appointment, I knew my cholesterol numbers would most likely be considered SUPER UGLY to anyone not following all the rapidly emerging science on the subject of statin use and cholesterol numbers. Most of the newer science on this subject disputes the current standards, but is not mainstreamed and in fact marginalized at best within the medical communities. Just so everyone knows, I love intelligent discussion/debate on this subject, but before I will discuss statin use and cholesterol numbers with someone, let me please first insist/urge them to personally research and follow the money trail being generated from these statins, while comparing who holds all the financial gain and wealth from the sales of the  statins, along with  who’s studies are being used to set/vet the current standards for statin use, both in academia, and in health care as we know it.  Then, please educate yourself about the dark side of statins, learning all you can about the deleterious side effects and deaths that often accompany their use. By doing this, you may very well start seeing a very different picture then what the doctor and currently published information has  painted for you.  From there, read some of the many books now written on the subject from the many authors opposing statin use.  Many of these authors are highly regarded, fully credentialed Physicians, and Biochemist’s. It is by no means an open and shut case when it comes to statin use, or cholesterol numbers.  My personal experience seems to collaborate a lot of what some of these authors are claiming in their books on statin use.  I personally experienced just how debilitating statin side effects can be.  No secret there either. All the side effects I experienced are listed in the handout. Thankfully I only experienced 3 of the many  side effects listed on the hand out including but not limited to, muscle pain, liver damage, neurological damage, increased blood sugar, type 2 diabetes, ect.  Once damage to the body  is sustained in the form of  these side effects, again speaking from personal experience, I can tell you it is very hard to reverse this damage and it’s a lengthy process. The damage may not always just go away upon discontinuing statin use. In the case of the muscle damage I incurred, I lived with the consequences for another 4-5 years after discontinuing the statin.

Under current guidelines for cholesterol numbers, my numbers have always been considered dangerously elevated. Even after compliantly  consuming  a whole foods plant based diet for a good number of years,  my numbers we’re still notably  higher, then the range considered acceptable  under current health care standards for a person with my history of cardiac maladies.    Prior to following the plant based diet, I followed the make-believe heart healthy, low fat, low sodium version of the “standard American diet” as now recommended by most cardiologists under USDA, and AHA recommendations, along with 80mg of Lipitor and an assortment/cocktail of 12 other prescribed medications. The cholesterol numbers produced when I was tested back then were actually elevated more than my current numbers.  So even though the numbers  from my latest lipid panel are  considered dangerously elevated according to current standards, these numbers are in fact lower than any numbers ever noted during both my early days of doing nothing, and my days on statin therapy, back when I followed the current recommended low fat/low salt standard american dietary guidelines.

I was diagnosed hypercholesterolemic in my early 20’s, although no statin therapy was ever used until just a couple years prior to having the infarction that kickstarted this journey.  That fact alone should spar/provoke serious discussion/debate into the effectiveness of statins, but it never seems to. Two years on a statin and then out of the blue a heart attack at age 42…?  I’ll save that discussion for a later time. Might be a little too deep for some who have not taken the time to read both sides of the science now being presented on this subject.

As much as I love my doctor at the Mayo Clinic, we do not always see eye to eye and this time was no exception. He made it very clear that he was unhappy with my cholesterol results this time around. He urged me to stop following a ketogenic diet, and return to a plant-based diet. Maybe I should consider this a win, since that last visit two years ago, I was discouraged from following a plant-based diet and encouraged to follow the standard American diet.  My total cholesterol numbers as tested on that visit two years ago, Total Cholesterol 202, Tri 59, HDL 52, LDL 138. On that visit, same as this visit, he recommended statin therapy, and I declined.

Despite elevated cholesterol numbers that I knew would be elevated this time around, this trip gave me and my heart something to truly celebrate. It was the first time on this entire journey with a wounded heart, (10 years this October), that I was seeing first hand, clinical proof of improved heart function in terms of my hearts ejection fraction, along with an increase in my max heart rate.  On the previous Nuke Stress performed on my last visit two years ago, my max heart rate as recorded was 168. 168 would be considered the appropriate/average  heart rate for a healthy male of my age. This time around, my max heart rate was up to 189, a number much higher then average.  My ejection fraction, (the amount of blood the heart is able to pump with each beat), remained hovering around 35% for over 7 years, before slightly rising to 37% just two years ago. This visit produced a test result of 45%.

I am very excited with these results.  I couldn’t help myself from asking the doctor the question,  “how many of his other patients successfully raised thier max heart rate to a level considered above the average, while improving an ejection fraction that had remained unchanged since that first myocardial infarction almost ten years prior”…? His response, (again, short and to the point most likely because of all or some the reasons I wrote about above), was that I was “truly a unique patient”… His smile and the way he was shaking his head while very carefully reviewing the data in front of him spoke more to me then his words ever could have. However, there was also no doubt that he remained somewhat fixated on the cholesterol results , making this point pretty clear. He encouraged me to return to eating plants knowing full well my ketogenic diet experiment was the reason for the high cholesterol numbers while recommending I take two different types of cholesterol lowering medications. I respect his opinion and will see if can lower those numbers a little, but I will do it by making subtle changes to my macro’s/ketogenic diet, not by popping statins. What follows are the posted  RESULTS and notes from my recent Mayo Clinic visit… Please stay tuned for my future cholesterol results as I tweak my diet and retest in a couple months.

Mr. Shane Johnson is a 51 y.o. male who returns to see us for follow-up of ischemic cardiomyopathy. The patient continues to exercise in and exceptional manner running marathons and maintaining exceptional fitness. He also has gone on a ketogenic diet which is reflected in his lipid levels. He denies any symptoms of angina, congestive heart failure, or cardiac rhythm disturbance. We had a long discussion regarding diet and risk factor control he has a wonderful approach to life maintaining a very positive outlook I have advised that since he is intolerant of statins we should try with Zetia to achieve a lower LDL cholesterol and if this is not successful we should consider PCS K 9 inhibitor. He will recheck his cholesterol levels in a month at home. I am also to call him after we have the results of his Troponin and natriuretic peptide. We did discuss the stable nuclear perfusion scan which shows a stable pattern of infarction but if anything perhaps some improvement in LV function

General: He appears quite fit. well groomed.

Psychiatric: Normal mood and affect. Oriented to person, place, and time.

Eyes: No periorbital xanthelasma. Clear sclerae.

ENT: No oral mucosal cyanosis or pallor.

Heart: Examination of his heart his normal I hear no murmurs or gallops.

Vessels: Jugular venous pulse is normal. No carotid bruit.

Lungs: Clear to auscultation. Good air movement bilaterally.

Abdomen: No hepatic enlargement. No masses or tenderness.

Musculoskeletal: No clubbing or cyanosis of the digits.

Extremities: No edema.

Skin: No stasis dermatitis or ulceration of the lower extremities.

 

HDL was 56mg/mL

LDL was… ready for this…? I know… 193 mg/dL

Triglycerides were at 79mg/dL

Troponin 5th gen  was  14ng/L                             Base line  <=15ng/L

NT-pro BNP,s  was 50pg/mL                                Base line  <61pg/mL

C-Reactive Protein, High Sens, S   0.9 mg/L      Base line   <2.0mg/L

Glucose, P  was 88mg/dL                                     Base  line 70-100mg/dL

Sodium, potassium, bun, creatinine serum, all well within range.

The Beast that is Zumbro

I didn’t leave Zumbro empty handed. Even though I DNF’d, (DNF=looser spelled another way) I left Zumbro Bottoms feeling like I had just won the biggest race of my life. I never really thought of Zumbro as a race anyhow, but saw it as more of a personal challenge, with the actual journey leading up to the race as the hardest part of the challenge. I viewed the race as the reward for sticking with the challenge and seeing it through till the end. For the entire winter, I only made healthy lifestyle choices. I put most of my life on hold and scheduled the rest of it around race training and recovery periods. Zumbro wasn’t a weekend affair for me, it was an all winter affair with a very challenging training schedule. The reason for challenging myself was simply because I wanted to be a stronger/healthier/fitter person then the guy I was yesterday despite the medical diagnosis and doctors that said I couldn’t. I wanted to show all the people in this world who are dying from heart disease and other chronic disease, the endless possibilities when we become committed 100% to improving our health and wellness through lifestyle measures. Lifestyle trumps it all. When I toed that line Friday night at midnight in the middle of a wicked storm, I proudly realized I was in fact winning the challenge made to myself just by showing up and toeing the line. Here I was, standing at the start line, stronger, and more confident than ever in my abilities to charge off into the darkness through a raging blizzard to try conquering an absolute beast of what may have become that night based on conditions, one of the toughest/ruggedest ultra-marathon courses in the Midwest. Fail or finish, just having the courage to follow through on my commitment to this challenge and being able to step up to the start line in such intimidating conditions was a huge personal win. Right before he said “GO”, the race director was giving his pre-race spiel, and mentioned problems with medical access to parts of the course, and the fact EMS services would possibly be unavailable due to the remoteness of this course. Made me wonder if I was the only one racing who had previously experienced a heart attack followed by sudden cardiac arrest, a spontaneous coronary artery dissection, congestive heart failure, and was running with a built in Pacemaker/Defibrillator but at the same time in all seriousness, made me think of how far I had come, reaching a point where this wouldn’t be a problem for me. As far as the actual race, as much as I thought I was prepared to go the 50 mile distance headed into this race, I was quickly reminded you can never prepare completely for something like this without gaining some experience first. This was my first attempt at 50 miles. I never ran/trained in conditions like this because normally when we have a major winter storm I stay inside or very close to home on familiar and flat ground, and I don’t make a habit out of playing in mud while traversing up and down rugged single track on steep terrain in the dark. Trying to run up and down steep hills with everything from ankle deep mud/water, iced over slippery sections, to deep snow drifts and raging blizzard conditions on that ridge somewhere out there in that really dark windy night added in a twist my training or experience just didn’t cover. 17 miles on that course in those conditions is all It took to make me realize I need more experience and training before attempting to push out 50 miles in condition like those so I decided to drop at the end of my first loop while still feeling relatively strong but at the same time feeling certain that trying to see it through would leave a lasting mark that I would be feeling for months, and I am pretty sure I would have missed the cutoff anyhow based on my slow pace so I took the least physically painful path and dropped. Mentally is another story as I keep going over my reasons to drop and wondering the outcome if I would have pushed on. The memories of my time on that course are thankfully forever etched in my mind since it was too dark to take any photos. Thundersnow, heavy torrential rains, giant heavy wet snow flakes, fierce gale force winds knocking down big branches, deep snow drifts, ankle deep mud, followed with hill, after hill, after hill, after hill. The fact I stayed on my feet was one of the reasons I was so slow. I was overly cautious, going extra slow on the down hills for fear of landing on my rear. I did witness a couple superhuman beasts who passed by showing no fear while cruising with the speed and grace of a deer. A huge highlight for me was the chance to see some of the people in person who were actually able to push through these brutal crazy conditions that I would never have believed to be so brutal had I not witnessed it firsthand. I am in absolute awe of the those who finished. They are truly elite athletes to conquer in such extreme conditions. I will be back to challenge myself again next year, smarter, stronger, and more prepared for the brutality that’s Zumbro…

 

 

 

 

Vasaloppett with a Wounded Heart

Vasaloppett 42K Ski Race

The night before my first race on skis found me  lying in bed wanting to sleep, but wide awake with a ton of different feelings running around in my head. Being able to tackle something as physically demanding as a marathon on skis despite my wounded heart stirs a lot of emotion, making me reflect on the times I was told by  doctors that I was dying of heart disease and all they could do was try slowing it down. I was told I needed the 13 different medications to stay alive for any length of time, and would need to take them for the rest of my life. The medications left me so tired that I spent most of my time siting on the couch missing my old life. All my doctors were very quick telling me  I needed to take it extra easy and slow. Short walks were ok and encouraged but much beyond that was discouraged by all the doctors I was seeing back then.  I was repeatedly told to except this as my new normal but thankfully there was a part  of me that just wouldn’t let this happen and I refused to listen to them. This was less four years ago, yet here I was,  ready to ski a marathon distance race.  I knew my body was in good enough physical shape for the task, and hoped my conditioning could make up for some of my inexperience and lack of refined technique. This was my first time around other cross country skiers/racers. Until this point, I had been on skies less than three months in over 30 years. Following is a brief rundown of how I found myself skiing the Mora Vasaloppet Classic 50K.

Earlier this winter, tired of being chased inside to my treadmill by wintry Northern Minnesota weather, I decided to break an old promise I had made to myself over 30 years ago, and that was to take up cross country skiing. Thirty years ago, while serving in the US military as a young Paratrooper, I learned to cross country and alpine ski in the Dolomite’s of Northern Italy, under instruction of the 4th Italian Alpini Paracadutisti (Alpini Parachutist) Regiment.

For two years in a row while serving in the US army while stationed in Italy, I received advanced instruction in  Alpine, Cross country Skiing, Snowshoeing and winter survival. The cross country skiing we did was on these old awkward cross country skis and alpini boots. The skis had metal edges, and required a felt climber to be strapped on for traction while going uphill, with a binding that could lock down for downhill travel. We wore heavy backpacks full of personal gear and carried a weapon, while pulling an ahkio (sled) behind us that contained 100’s of pounds in gear.  To pull the sleds, we used harnesses very similar to ones found on dog sleds, allowing 4-6 of us to pull the ahkio at once.

After about 5 days of cross country skiing that basically consisted of climbing up, over, and down one mountain after another while looking for a make-believe enemy, I promised myself I would never put on cross country skis again in this lifetime.  The worst blisters of my life came from those cross country Alpini ski boots. I really didn’t see any fun in any of it at the time. It was seriously hard, physically demanding work. Those mountains seemed to go on forever and my blisters only got bigger.  None of this necessarily prepared me for a race thirty years after the fact, but did give me a basic understanding of how cross country skies work, and if nothing else, it taught me how to push through the pain, a lesson later used at other times in my life.

So, last fall I decided it was time to break the promise made to myself so many years before, and I started researching classic cross country skis.  I was looking for something Heidi and I could do in the winter that would help carry and maintain our summer fitness level we had built while running, through to the following spring when we would be able to start running again. We settled on trying out some wax-less classic touring skis and went to get fitted for them at Pengals Basswood Trading in Ely Minnesota. The first thing I learned that process, is that when you are 6’2” and weight in around 210lbs, there will be very few ski options available in Ely Minnesota. Apparently, the average person buying skis weights 20 or more pounds less them me. Thankfully they had one pair that was a borderline fit. Heidi is much smaller than me, and they had many options for her, quickly producing a pair that fit her very well.

Another reason I decided to break my promise and was taking up cross country skiing was to take advantage of many of the 1000’s of groomed cross country ski trails here in Northern Minnesota. Cross country ski trails are everywhere in our area. Almost every town here on the Iron Range has a trail maintained specifically for cross country skiing. In Minnesota, once winter gets into full swing, it gets hard to run or bike because all the trails generally have a couple feet of snow covering them. All the highways and roads become dangerous to run on once the snow piles up leaving very little shoulder for pedestrians. This left the treadmill in the garage as our best option for getting in some cardio during previous winters. I really thought skiing through the winter versus spending it running on a treadmill staring at the inside wall of a garage all winter might be a better option for getting some cardio in.

Once we had our skis, we were super excited to try them out but unfortunately for us the weather wasn’t cooperating and none of the trails were tracked/groomed. Our first few outings, were on the Babbitt golf course and consisted of breaking our own trail around the outer edge of the property. We did this for almost a month before the trails were finally being regularly groomed. Once the grooming started, we began skiing loops on the golf course almost every night during the week while venturing off and discovering new ski areas on weekends.

It didn’t take long to realize the potential in speed I would have on faster skis. My skis were very slow because they were wax-less touring skis designed for someone 10 or more pounds lighter than me. My frustration continued to grow as I watched others pass me with ease, and this resulted in a lot of glide wax experiments trying to make them faster. But nothing would make them any faster, so I went back to Pengals Basswood Trading in Ely and bought a pair of wax-able race skis. This time, I was fitted with a nice, stiff ski that appeared to be a perfect fit for my weight. I was given a short lesson on waxing the kick pocket before heading out the door to try them. I couldn’t have been happier after trying them out. The glide was almost double that of my wax-less skis. For the first time in my life, I now understood the attraction to cross country skiing. Putting on a pair racing skis was life changing.  Nothing that soothes the soul and erases life’s stress the way quietly and quickly gliding through the woods on a gorgeous sunny winter day can. I woke up most mornings excited to go skiing when the conditions were nice. For the first time in many years, the cold seemed to melt away, and I found myself enjoying winter again.

It took a little time to learn how to choose and apply the many variations of kick wax. I ended up with a box full of different waxes for different conditions. but the pay off in speed was well worth the lesson. At this point, I was averaging  the same pace on my skis that  I normally run at while on flat ground or going uphill. The downhill sections I was going much faster than any pace I can run at.

By now, all the trails I was skiing were groomed and tracked. For the most part, I was skiing on fast pristine conditions most days and could ski 20 miles very easily without much effort. One night while relaxing for the evening, I came across an advertisement on the internet for the Mora Minnesota, Vasaloppet. The Vasaloppet is a 50K classic ski race that would be held the following weekend. I didn’t  think about it but for maybe ten minutes, before deciding to enter the race. I was nervous and excited all at the same time. A marathon on skis was something I wouldn’t have even been capable of just a year before, and at this point I knew I could finish without any trouble.   The following week was full of research on proper kick wax and glide wax for the expected weather conditions. I took my skis to Mesabi Recreation in Virginia, Minnesota and had the proper glide wax for conditions applied. I had to go to three different shops however to find the Klister wax(s) needed for kick. Weather conditions were going to be unseasonably warm with temps in the lower 40’s requiring a special wax combination. I settled on a hydrocarbon glide wax, and a three layer Klister kick wax combination with the help and recommendation of Mesabi Recreation.

The town of Mora, Minnesota host’s this annual ski race every year. The race begins and finishes on  main street.  With a fleet of dump trucks and heavy equipment, snow is trucked in until it completely covers main street. In places where the trail crossed the roads, snow was also trucked in and dumped across the road. It was an amazing amount of snow to haul and spread out. As we pulled into town the night before the race, I was absolutely amazed at how little snow there was on the ground. The lack of snow on the ground started making me doubt  they would even have a race but upon getting to the registration we were informed the trails would be good, but that due to the lack of snow, the 50K was now going to be 42K. This was somewhat disappointing because I had come to conquer a 50K ultra-marathon on skis.  I signed up for the  race and then Heidi and I walked across the street and attended the pasta dinner that was being served for the event at the American Legion. After dinner, we retired to our  room at the American Inn where  I did my best to get some sleep, however I tossed and turned most of the night, becoming more nervous as morning drew near.

Morning arrived and brought perfect conditions for skiing. It was about 30 degrees at the start so conditions would be fast. After about a 20 minute wait in line for the porta john, I headed to the start line,  picking a spot somewhere in the middle of the pack.  while finding my way to the middle of the pack, it quickly became obvious seeing all the brightly colored spandex cladded people with super human size legs around me that hanging with these guys would be by far the hardest and fastest I have ever pushed on a pair of skis.  The more I looked around the more I started thinking of how tiny my legs looked in comparison to everyone around me. They looked really fast in those shiny spandex suits. From what I could see, I was probably the only guy not wearing a bright spandex ski suit, and the guy with the smallest  legs.  It was intimidating being in that start que for the first time ever. No doubt, I felt like I was about to get schooled on the fine art of classic skiing. Thankfully I was able to get my intimidating thoughts under control and remind myself I was there to compete with the guy I was yesterday, and to learn from the Pro’s. Since the guy I was yesterday didn’t ski, I had already won just by showing up.

And just like that we were off. With a loud bang from the start gun it became a flurry of poles and skis. For whatever reason, I had never pictured the start of a race on skis. Being more of an optimist, I generally think about the finish line. Turns out, the start of the race was pretty intense. I had people running their skis up on the back of my skis, pushing me up on other people’s skies.  I lost count of how many times I was hit by other people poles, or hit others with my mine. For the first mile I kept thinking that If I crashed and went down the people behind me would run right over me. Everyone was headed forward as fast as they could go. After taking a painful jab to my foot from someones pole, I did my best to just tuned it all out and push forward. At that point, I was concentrating on keeping my ski tips about six inches off the skis of the guy in front of me. For the first mile or so, the pack seemed to stay really tight before finally loosening up and spreading out somewhat. The snow conditions were really fast. My wax was working out perfect at this point. The glide on my skis was incredible and the kick was just as incredible as the glide. I was hanging with the middle of the pack in these conditions with ease, and felt like I could easily hold the pace for the next 50K.

After a few miles, we came to the first hill. It wasn’t very high, but it was steep. I had no trouble running up the hill. I was amazed at how well my kick wax was working. I was able to diagonal stride most of the hill, and had no issues running in a herringbone pattern on the steepest portion before turning onto a short level portion leading to a very steep descent with a slight turn at the bottom.  As I approached the turn at the bottom of the hill I knew I quickly realized I was in trouble. I did my best to make the corner but ended up out in the woods. I took a good tumble but thankfully not injured and was able to pick myself up and quickly push on.

After I had gone about 10 miles or so, the conditions started to get really soft and I kept running into issues on the downhill sections. It was pretty obvious that I needed to practice more downhill trails to learn how to control classic cross country skis during a steep descent. They handle nothing like a metal edge ski on downhill and my inexperience was showing. About half way into the race I was still holding middle of pack right up to the point where I wiped out myself and two others on a steep downhill section. One of my poles went flying pretty far, and it took me a few minutes to pick myself up and find the pole before pushing on. I had taken a pretty hard hit, actually knocking over the guy that was in my way. At this point was really starting to dread the downhill sections. Thankfully there were not a lot of these steep hills, but just enough to show me my biggest weak spot. At that point, I promised myself I would ski more downhill sections in training until I  master turning on classic skis.

Not long after my biggest crash, the temps started pushing into the upper 40’s. By then, there was a lot of slushy/granular snow on the course. This type of snow, began icing up my kick pocket to the point It was slowing me down to a snails pace. With only about five miles or less to the finish, most of the trail  had this condition. I lost all my glide those last miles and basically had to run instead of ski. If I would have had a scraper, I could have scrapped off some of the kick wax to improve the glide, but I didn’t have one. So another lesson was learned. Another promise to self, next time bring a scraper with me.   By the time, I crossed the finish line I had fell almost to the back of the pack but I was on top of the world despite this fact. I had just completed my first 42K ski race. My wounded heart had no trouble keeping up with the middle of the pack. It was only my inexperience that held me back. Using the lessons learned in this race, I will be back next year and will lead the middle of the pack at the finish line…