My joke, before the race on Sunday, was “I’ve got questionable fitness and no top end. What could go wrong?” Well, in a word, plenty. PIR was my first cross race of the year. I knew I wasn’t going to be competitive but the magnitude of my uncompetitiveness was an eye opener for me. Still, the main reason I was going to race was to get out and see the team and catch up with all of the great people I’ve raced with over the years. I hoped to catch most, if not all, of the SSCXWC race while wandering the course.
While noodling around the course infield just after the start of the women’s race, my pedal body separated from the spindle. They are Eggbeaters and I know that happens every once in a while. I’d gotten three years of good service out of those pedals so I wasn’t terribly bummed. Also, teammate Mike G. let me use one of his pedals for the race so that turned out to not be a big deal. Next, I left my leg warmers at the start area and by the time I got around to collecting them, one had dissappeared. And after the first lap, I managed to go backwards the entire race.
Normally, those issues wouldn’t cause me to label the race my all time worst racing experience of all time. However, during the final lap of my race, while going over the barriers by the portapotties, I had a stroke. Yes, you read that right. I had a stroke.
I have a history of migraine (with aura) and the immediate symptoms of the stroke were not terribly inconsistent with a severe migraine. The significant difference was that the aura usually comes on slowly and lasts 20-60 mintues. In this instance it was as if a switch were flipped and it was full on. Some folks offered help after I got off the course — which I declined since I thought I had a migraine and had lots of experience dealing with them.
I made my way over to the Tireless Velo tents, drank a lot of fluids, ate some food, and sat my ass down. The worst of the visual distrubance calmed down within an hour but I stil had a hole in my vision. Right at the end of the SSCXWC race, I packed up my stuff, walked out to my car, and drove home (!). Still operating as this were a migraine, I relaxed and went to bed early.
When I woke up in the morning, I still had visual impairment. My wife suggested that maybe I had a stroke and we looked up symptoms on the internet. It seemed a likely enough scenario that we went to the emergency room. Neither the ER doc or nurse thought is was likely that I had a stroke but they ordered an MRI to rule it out. To their surprise, the MRI indicated a stroke — infarction because of ischemia.
While the root cause is unclear, the stroke was likely a combination of factors including the propensity of blood vessels in that area of my brain to spasm (migraine with aura), intense physical activity, and albuterol.
I’ve spent the past 2-1/2 days in the hospital getting a bunch of tests. The reults of the test show that I have high cholesterol and a slight blockage to an artery feeding the visual area of my brain. Everything else is just fine. What I have to do is minimize my risk factors (short and long term) and take it a bit easy in the short term. The risk of a second stroke it fairly high in the period of time right after a stroke and tails of pretty quickly.
The neurologist also said that there is a high probability that my vision will resolve over the next several months. I have to schedule an occupational therapy appointment to asses my driving ability. I’m pretty sure riding a bike right now isn’t a good idea simply because if my vision. I’m cleared for non-competitve riding as long as I can see.
So the good news is that the only significant result of my stroke is impaired vision. The impairment is on my left side field of view between 6-8 o’clock and offset from the center. I can read and watch tv — and obviously use the computer and type. I’m not a touch typer though and I can’t rely on my peripheral vision to hit the right keys. I’m making more mistakes as I’m writing this.
The bad news is that I had a stroke. And if you are wondering, I’m 43.