94. Racing with Heart

94. Racing with Heart

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners

Racing with Heart

The most important thing in illness is never to lose heart.
 ~Nikolai Lenin

“I just want you to know where the AED is in case anything happens to me.” My mom pointed out the box on the wall.

I rolled my eyes. I did not think that Mom would need CPR or an AED during the triathlon.

At fifty-seven, my mom would be participating in her first triathlon. I would be competing in my third.

I must have made it look fun the first time she had come and cheered me on, because ever since then she had been talking about signing up for one herself. She signed up for an indoor triathlon at my gym.

We talked over the phone as we prepared for the event. We would both be participating in the mini distance. I was very excited to be in the same race with my mom.

We started our training while still on a waiting list. We were not even sure there would be spots for us in the race but we trained anyway. Two weeks before the race we each got a phone call letting us know that there would be spots open for us. We would be in the same heat.

My mom has always been an inspiration to me for fitness. She made fitness a part of her life and tried to pass that on to us. Every year we got a family gym membership. My sister and I were active on the swim team and my mom swam laps or ran while we practiced.

When my mom took up running we went to races with her and cheered her on and ran in the kids run. I was excited to compete in an event with her.

When I went home to visit we trained together at her gym.

“I’m so proud of you,” she told me while we were swimming laps.

My mom is a strong swimmer. She was concerned about the stationary bike portion and she decided to walk because she had not run in a long time.

On race day she felt ready but nervous.

“I don’t want you to wait for me. That makes me nervous because then I feel like I have to keep up with you,” Mom said. “Just do your race and I will see you at the finish line.”

I finished before my mom and was able to watch her cross the finish line. She had a big smile on her face and she had even run some of her laps around the track.

I was so proud of my mom for participating in the event. I was proud of both of us.

At the end of the race we cooled down and waited for our results to come in.

The next day my mom left to drive back to her home six hours away and I went to work. Later that day I got a phone call from my mom. “I’m in the hospital. I had a heart attack. I don’t want you to be worried about me.”

Driving home the day after the event my mom felt nauseous and decided to pull over at a hospital. Her work as a cardiac nurse gave her the knowledge that her symptoms might be more than just a stomach flu.

I was shocked. I didn’t understand how this had happened. My mom is a fit person. She eats healthy and exercises. She doesn’t smoke or drink. She had just completed a triathlon yet here she was in a hospital with a heart attack.

“The doctor said that this was not caused by the triathlon,” my sister called later to assure me. It gave me some comfort to know that the event that I had encouraged my mom to sign up for was not the cause of her heart attack.

She spent the next week in the hospital recovering and learning what had caused her heart attack. What she learned is that her heart disease is hereditary. She has low HDLs, which is the good cholesterol. This meant that even though her overall cholesterol number looked okay, the LDLs were high because the HDLs were low. This is a condition that she has even though she exercises and eats right and does all the things that she is supposed to do.

“I guess my triathlon career is on hold for now,” she said.

My mom took her time recovering and used her experience to educate her kids about their risks. Exercise was important in her recovery but she had to take it slow at first.

She made sure that we knew that this was hereditary and that we would need to keep an eye on our numbers. She makes sure that we know the importance of exercise and eating right.

I have been able to educate myself and know that heart disease is the number one killer of women. I participate in races that raise money for this cause.

I continue to race in triathlons and running races. It is more important than ever for me to lead a healthy lifestyle.

As for Mom’s triathlon career, it isn’t over. My mom was back participating in triathlons within a year. She found an event called the Lazyman Triathlon at her gym. Over the course of six weeks my mom swims, bikes and walks the distance of an Ironman triathlon.

~Carrie Monroe

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