In my monthly column at Endurance Corner, I write about Normann Stadler, the 2-time Ironman World Champion who recently underwent urgent heart surgery. He’s making a good recovery early after operation.
I share my thoughts about how heart disease affects even the fittest athletes. The lesson in Stadler’s story is to take charge of your own cardiovascular health.
My name is Jay Marschall. I too recently had surgery for an aortic aneurysm and valve replacement. My story can be viewed at http://www.coachjay.com. I was born with a bicuspid Aortic valve. After my initial valve replacement of the bovine type in 2008– I came back to a pretty competitive form– winning overall the vikingman 1/2 ironman 12 weeks post surgery– then an unknown infection most likely caused it all to go bad a year ago june. Once I was cleared by the docs to again compete– I tried to once again be competitive and attempt to qualify for Kona(which I believe has never been done after such a case) like I have done 9x before– about 4 weeks ago after a couple of attempts at St.Croix and Lubbock. I decided that this quest was just not possible. I went through the training( 20hrs a week) and did a number of events that showed that I had a shot at it. unfortunately as the weather heated up, I have found a number of limitations to what I could do with the work and performance. I am still very interested in what and why I have these limitations, I– so Normanns story and recovery is very interesting to me. Like your article suggests I found that I could still go pretty good at a max aerobic level but beyond that my body went bad. the elevated heart rates in the heat seemed to be the factor that slowed me down enough to mot be as competitive. You can view my blogs and other articles that have been done on me on my web site. I would be interested in talking to you in the future and or helping with this subject of competing after such an operation—- thanks Jay Marschall
Lawrence L. Creswell, M.D. says
Apologies for the slow reply.
It’s great to see that you’ve returned to racing at a high level after your operation. I know that your story must inspire others to do the same.
I’ve seen and heard from athletes after aortic valve replacement that things “aren’t quite the same.”. I suspect it has everything to do with the inherent limitations of the artificial valves that we use. As I mentioned in the Stadler article, they simply aren’t as efficient as our native heart valves and, as a result, after surgery the heart must do extra work. The extra work is exaggerated during exercise and probably increases exponentially at the highest effort levels. The heat, like you say, just adds to this effect, I would guess.
Yes, one day I’ll tackle an article about returning to exercise, training, and racing after surgery. I know that many athletes ask about this topic.
Scott Loessin says
Nice post. Thanks for sharing.
Rob Lippa says
Hello- I am 41 yrs old and love to lift weights. While I have focused more on functional exercises over the past few years, I still bench over 300 and can squat 315 for 25 reps. I was recently diagnosed with an aorta of 5.2 cm and told I need surgery. I was told to stay out of the gym and even after getting the Dacron graft, the doc said lifting weights is a bad idea. I am devastated. Does anyone have any experience of getting back to lifting weights after this surgery?