This blog features the 3000 Mile Unity Challenge that PH patient Kathleen Richardson started in PH Awareness Month. Yes, you read that correctly… 3000 miles. The same distance Team PHenomenal Hope will travel for RAAM. Her goal is to complete her trek before the team starts theirs in June 2014.
The following interview provides more insight into the story of this inspirational woman and the Race of HER Life!
1. How and when did you start cycling?
I always loved riding my bike as a kid. I loved to just take off on long rides and did that on and off up through college, but was not really what I would call a “serious” cyclist (not sure I’m a “serious” cyclist still.. but I love to ride!). I started riding with a purpose after I was diagnosed with PH. One of the tests used to follow my PH at the Pulmonary Hypertension Clinic at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in NY City is a bicycle stress test. It was administered by an exercise physiologist with a cardiologist on hand. I hated that test! My legs burned, I couldn’t breathe, blah! So, I decided that I would start riding seriously so that at least when they did the test, it would not be leg fatigue that stopped me. I was given very specific parameters to stick to, mostly, I was not to get my heart rate going above 115 beats per minute (bpm) as that was about the rate where exercise would become more harmful than good considering my PH. I got a heart monitor and started riding several times a week. As the years went by, my body responded well to Tracleer and Procardia and I kept on riding. I was able to work harder and harder, til now, I don’t have a limitation on my heart rate.
2. What type of bike do you ride? (Road, mountain, hybrid, commuter, etc.)
Most of the time now I ride a road bike. Once in a while I’ll borrow my son’s mountain bike and go on an adventure! I love riding in the woods, but don’t really do it very often!
3. How many miles do you typically ride per day/week?
I typically ride about 20 miles at a time a few times a week, but I am riding more now with the 3,000 mile challenge. I’m trying to ride about 5 times a week and riding between 20 and 30 miles at a time.
4. How and when were you diagnosed with PH?
I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Primary PH in the spring of 2001. I was 38, my youngest son ( we have 3 boys) was 2 yrs old. I began to notice some shortness of breath (mild) doing mundane things like carrying laundry across the house, making beds, walking up minimal inclines. I wasn’t incredibly active at the time, but when I tried something like running the bases during a softball game at a church picnic or pushing a raft through rapids in a raft race or climbing stadium stairs, I found myself so short of breath that I thought I would never be able to catch my breath. The first Dr. I went to (at a walk-in clinic near my parents’ home where my family and I were visiting for several months) seemed to brush me off and just did a couple of tests (chest x-ray and checked my 02 sats while sitting) and prescribed an inhaler. I wasn’t impressed and did not go back to him. A few months later, I went to my doctor (here in Florida) and started the journey to diagnosis. It only took 6 months (that seemed like a long time, but when I learned that many PH patients aren’t diagnosed for a couple of years, I felt fortunate that it only took 6 months for me). Because the disease had not progressed much, all of my tests came back normal. It wasn’t until the Dr had me go through a stress test that anything came up abnormal (my O2 sats dropped to about 72). There were a few more tests to go through after that, and finally a heart catheterization where they found that my pulmonary arterial pressure was above normal. I don’t remember what it was, but basically, the PH was mild.
5. What, if anything, do you have to do differently when you ride because you live with PH?
Now, I don’t really do anything different when I ride. I don’t have any limitations as far as fluid intake is concerned. When I first started riding, as I noted earlier, I wore a heart monitor and was very careful about staying within the guidelines given to me by the exercise physiologist, and my PH specialist. After a year or so, the exercise physiologist said I could get my heart rate up to 120 bpm. A couple of years later, I got the go ahead to get it up to 130 bpm. A few years ago, during a heart cath, my pressure was normal and it’s been normal since. I also did an exercise heart cath and my pressure stayed within the normal range as I rode a stationary bike during the heart cath. Since then, I haven’t been using a heart monitor and just have been going by how I feel.
6. Many cyclists use heartrate monitoring and such in their training. Do you use heartrate monitoring in your riding? If so, how? Do you aim for certain targets/zones?
Aside from when I first was diagnosed and needed to keep track of my heart rate, I haven’t used a heart monitor. I’ve heard about targets/zones, I guess I haven’t wanted to get too technical :-). I ride for exercise, for fun, for the joy of being outdoors and enjoying God’s creation. I have tried to increase my speed and have worked to increase the length of my rides, but haven’t focused on heart rate targets and zones.
7. What was your most memorable ride?
I have two most memorable rides. One was in 2004 when my husband and I rode across Florida to raise awareness for PH. It was great fun!!!! We rode from Daytona to Bayport (I think that’s the name of the town, or area … somewhere on the west coast of the state 🙂 ). At the time, I had worked myself up to riding 40 miles at a time and I think was keeping my heart rate at about 120 bpm when I rode. We decided not to push things too much so we rode 20 miles mid morning, had lunch and then rode 20 more miles and took the rest of the day off. We stayed in hotels each night. It took us 4 days to ride across Florida! Friends and family met us for lunch and dinner in various spots along the route. It was great fun! Recently, I rode my farthest in one ride. I rode in the metric century ride (about 62 miles) as part of the Central Florida Ride to Defeat ALS. What was memorable about that ride is that it rained (at times poured) and the wind blew (some big gusts at times) for the first 30 miles! By the half way point I was FREEZING!!!!!! At one point we rode through a huge puddle that seemed to keep getting deeper and deeper! I think the water was about 6 to 8 inches deep.. but it felt like it was a foot deep. The blessing of that was that the water felt warm!!!!! 🙂 The second half of the ride was much easier and more pleasant as we had tail winds (rather than head winds and cross winds) and it stopped raining so we dried off and were much warmer!
8. How is the 3000-mile challenge going?
How is the 3,000 mile challenge going? I’m loving it! I only just started on November 1st and am just about 160 miles into it. Right now, though, I’m not allowed to ride for a week as I had minor surgery done. I feel great so it’s difficult to stay off my bike, but I’m trying to be compliant and follow the Dr’s orders. I tried to ride extra before the surgery so that I don’t get too far behind my goal of riding 100 miles a week between now and June 14th. I’m excited that Josh (The PH Peddler) is also riding. He’s about 500 miles ahead of me! I’m rooting for him! I love riding with a purpose and think about and pray for my fellow PH patients as I ride, and pray for Team PHenomenal Hope as well!!! I’m excited about what Team PHenomenal Hope is doing and am so glad to be able to join in in some way to help raise awareness and funds to help fight PH!
9. What advice do you have for a cyclist (or any athlete) who is diagnosed with PH?
Hmm.. advice for a cyclist or athlete who is diagnosed with PH… don’t give up. See a PH specialist, and hopefully an exercise physiologist who is knowledgeable about PH. I’d imagine that the PH clinics at the larger hospitals might have access to exercise physiologists. Be compliant with meds and follow guidelines given by the doctor. Be patient with yourself. Make whatever adjustments are necessary, and never give up hope!