photo by Steve Penland

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Between a Rock and a Heart Place

That's where I appear to be.

As you'll know if you've been reading regularly, I a) have my big meet of the year, the Masters Single Distance in Milwaukee, coming up this weekend and b) have recently quit caffeine to see if it will help reduce a heart arrhythmia, PVC's, that currently seems to be triggered by exercise.  Unfortunately, a +b seems to = screwed.

Since I quit caffeine (on Christmas day, nonetheless), I have been feeling more and more sluggish, tired, fatigued, sore, and cranky as the days go by.  A quick canter through our friend Google would seem to indicate that the average time for caffeine withdrawal is 4-5 days, with 2-9 days being the outer limits.

Well, Christmas was 10 days ago, and I feel like crap.

On the plus side, I haven't had any (OK, maybe one) PVC's while skating since I went caffeine-free, although I've continued to have them at other times.  On the minus side, my skating has gotten slower and slower--despite doing a taper to prepare for my big race, which usually puts at least a little bit more pep in my step.

Yesterday was the final straw.  After a lackluster day of time trials last Sunday and a made-the-target-times-but just-barely workout on Tuesday, yesterday I felt so lousy that I skipped the planned tempos and did a few slow laps instead.  And I started thinking bad thoughts about how the weekend might go.

My first thought, of course, with my history of hypothyroidism, was to wonder if my levels were low again.  But low thyroid levels don't usually happen that quickly.  Then I remembered that my sister had to quit caffeine for medical reasons a couple of years ago, and she had complained that she was always tired, her workouts (she's a weightlifter and inline skater) suffered, and that caffeine free life generally sucked.  She didn't start feeling better until, several months later, she was able start having some caffeine again.

So I found myself, this afternoon--after a tired, stiff-and-sore-legs, cranky day at work--standing in front of the cooler in Target, debating whether I should do a caffeine trial in my workout tonight.

"If I try it and get PVC's, maybe I'll still get them this weekend even if I don't have any more caffeine.  But if I feel better when I skate, then I could try caffeine in the 5k on Sunday if the caffeine-free 3k on Saturday goes really badly.  But I haven't been off caffeine that long...maybe I'll get a headache from withdrawal again even though I only have it once, and feel worse than I did before..."

Overanalyze much?

In the end, I grabbed a Diet Dew and a Caffeine Free Diet Coke, and decided I'd make my final decision when I got to the car with my purchases.

I decided to Just Dew It.

And I felt great in my (albeit short, in deference to tapering) workout.  Snap in the legs, no leg soreness, energy...and, in my 80% effort 400 meters...PVC's.  Quite a few of them, and also the mild chest pain that I get from time to time with them (not to worry, I have a great cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic who performed a radio frequency catheter ablation on another heart arrhythmia that I used to have--he's not concerned about the PVC's).  My 400 lap time was a 37.6, but it felt like the same effort that had gotten me 39's on Tuesday--since I didn't get the PVC's until the last 100 meters, they didn't really affect my time.

So now, I have a choice--caffeine-free and sluggish, or caffeinated and risking PVC's causing a really slow race.  Oooh, what fun.

I think I'll go caffeine free on Saturday for the 3k, and then if I feel really bad in that one I'll have caffeine before the 5k and take my chances.

So yeah, it sucks a bit...but I'm happy to be heading to one of my favorite places to do one of my favorite things.  Maybe it won't turn out the way I want it to, but I intend to enjoy every minute of it whatever happens.


  1. Have you tried Green Tea instead of coffee? You get a more drawn out caffeine fix. No it doesn't give you the immediate fix your body may be craving, but it does last longer. Might be something to consider. BTW, congrats on completing the races, even with your PVC's, and like you said, "even a bad day skating is better than almost any other kind of day." Keep striving, you will get there.

  2. Thanks! Yeah, I should probably switch to green's undoubtedly better for me than Diet Dew! I keep hoping the PVC's will just go away...