Our featured athlete of the Week – Mandy Seeley. Mandy has graciously shared her amazing story and we are very proud of her. GO MANDY!
“We’re calling for an ambulance to take you to the ER.” If my heart hadn’t already been pounding out 220 beats per minute (bpm) – fast enough to beat out of my chest and run back home to my freaked out kids in seconds, I’m sure hearing that announcement would have pushed it up into the 200+ range.
Everyone has their reason for doing triathlons. I have two. The first is that I have a heart condition called SVT, which means I have a circuit gone loco in my heart that causes it to beat too fast. The second reason is that for most of my life, I’ve listened to a couple of key people, and to the negative voices in my head, who tried to convince me I was stupid, ugly, and weak. My desire to overcome these challenges is why I do triathlons, and why I want to share my story with you.
Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)
About a year and a half ago, I started having heart episodes lasting 30 seconds to my longest one of 11 hours. They happen at all times of the day or night. Sometimes I’m just sitting at work minding my own business. Sometimes it’s when I’m running or out for a long ride. If they last longer than 15 minutes, the pain kicks in and I pray with everything I’ve got that one of my techniques will make it stop. Caffeine, dehydration, bending over too fast, lack of sleep, and stress all make it worse.
The one I had last January was really bad, and landed me in the ER. The worst part was that because the EMT’s couldn’t find a vein to push some meds in the field (which is what usually happens), the ER doctors rounded up all their students to watch me when I came in so they could see what the meds do. If I hadn’t been so distressed by the pain, my first ambulance ride, and just wondering if my heart would ever slow down, having 20 pairs of eyes staring at me would have sent me diving under the covers. Once they had the paddles ready… just in case my heart didn’t restart on its own… the doctor worked his magic. It was the most uncomfortable 30 seconds of my life – but it did the trick. My heart stopped, and within seconds started back up at a normal rhythm. Within minutes, I was back to normal. Once the students realized they wouldn’t get to take turns yelling “Clear!” the room emptied faster than you can say S-V-T.
I’ve been on blood pressure medicine since then, but it hasn’t helped. My heart still acts up at random times. The longer episodes have been getting increasingly painful over the past few months. When I’m training, my heart has gotten up to at least 253 (but that’s as high as my Garmin has recorded). That and the medicine makes me really tired, and running faster than a 10-minute mile for an extended time is almost out of the question these days. It’s frustrating, and I hate feeling like I’m a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. I never know if this episode will be the last before my heart just poops out.
So I’ve decided to have an ablation surgery on April 4th. It’s not super complicated, but this is my heart we’re talking about. I’m nervous and scared, but also excited at the prospect of not having to worry about getting stranded on a run or passing out at the wheel or leaving my two kids motherless. I’m also excited to test the difference. I’m doing the Ice Breaker Triathlon five days pre-surgery and the Timp Triathlon nine days post-surgery.
Why am I doing this?
Some may wonder why put my health at risk to do triathlons. There’s gotta be something easier right? Maybe. But for me, doing a triathlon is the first thing I’ve found that is helping me overcome the negative self-talk rumbling around in my grey matter at all hours of the day. From living with someone who constantly belittled me and made me feel like dirt for 8.5 years to just having the personality of constantly wanting to do better, be better, and never feeling good enough, it’s been hard for me to find a way to overcome this.
After three months of training, I overcame my fear of swimming – a huge accomplishment for me. I’ve done one sprint triathlon and have many tri’s scheduled this year. I have yet to find something that makes me feel better about myself than doing something I never thought I could do. I didn’t think I was strong enough to swim 750 meters, bike 12 miles, and run a 5k. But I did it! And that was enough to shut those stupid voices up. It taught me they’ve been lying. Because I can do anything I put my mind to. I’m not stupid, weak, or ugly. I am a triathlete.
So that’s why I’m not giving up. That’s why I’m having surgery to fix my heart. That’s why I’m training for my first Ironman in Cozumel in December. And that’s why I wanted to share my story with you. No matter what health condition you have, no matter what people – or your head – try to tell you, you can do it! You may not be as fast, or as skinny, or have the best gear as others. None of that matters. What does matter is knowing you’ve done something you never thought you could. And with that knowledge comes power – the power to make positive changes in your life. I am doing it. And so can you. Don’t give up. Just tri.
Getting ready for the swim at my first Tri – HITS Palm Springs sprint in Dec.
Finishing the bike