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Joanne Trimpi: Everything is Relative

Atrial Fibrillation in Athletes

Episode 57

“It took me a while to figure out what was going on with me.”

Do you have a WHOOP? This week’s guest was able to use the data from her WHOOP to discover a cardiac arrythmia, specifically paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (afib). Joan sits down with Joanne Trimpi, friend and master’s track athlete. Joan and Joanne talk about how Joanne got into track cycling, her stellar 2021 track season, and her journey and diagnosis. Please check out the link in the show notes for more information on paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (afib). If you have experienced something similar and would like to share your story or talk with Joanne, reach out to us at info@thevelodrome.com.

Atrial Fibrillation in Athletes
Atrial Fibrillation in Athletes


Atrial Fibrillation in Athletes
https://hughston.com/wellness/atrial-fibrillation-in-athletes/

Joanne on Instagram: @trimpijl


Thanks to B Braun Medical Inc. for sponsoring the Talk of the T-Town Podcast. BBraun is a global leader in infusion therapy and pain management, B Braun develops, manufactures and markets innovative medical products to the healthcare community. They are also strong believers in supporting the quality of life in the communities where their employees work and live.

Transcript

Joan Hanscom:

Welcome to the Talk of the T-Town podcast, where we discuss all things track cycling. Broadcasting from the Valley Preferred Cycling Center, I’m your host and executive director, Joan Hanscom.

Joan Hanscom:

Welcome to the Talk of the T-Town podcast. I’m your host, Joan Hanscom. And I am joined today by a person who is one of the people I miss the most about living in the Lehigh Valley. It is my very, very good friend, Joanne Trimpi. And as I was thinking about this podcast this week, I realized that there is not a more perfect, I don’t know, sample, example idea of the perfect T-Town athlete than Joanne Trimpi. Joanne has a background in Chemical Engineering, her MBA, and she’s a Major Accounts Manager for Air Products, which is of course, one of the longest standing supporters of the Velodrome. But Joanne is also, that makes Joanne a badass because Joanne became a chemical engineer when chemical engineers weren’t women. And so, I feel like Joanne is a trailblazer in a lot of ways.

Joan Hanscom:

Joanne came to track racing via our community programs and the corporate challenge, if I’m not mistaken and really decided that she liked track racing and so, started pursuing it. We’ll talk more about Joanne’s accomplishments on the track, but first, yeah, Joanne, welcome to the podcast. Like I said, you are our poster child for success story at T-Town, so we’re delighted to have you on the pod. Welcome.

Joanne Trimpi:

Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here and I’m very excited.

Joan Hanscom:

So, Joanne, yeah, I was excited to talk to you mostly because we’re friends and I haven’t talked to you in a while since I moved. And as I was thinking about this podcast, I really did realize, we have this goal of 50/50 participation at the track by 2025. We have really amazing community programs supported by Air Products, which is your employer. You came in through these programs. And so, the more I thought about it, the more I realized you were really the perfect guest for the podcast, even though it had nothing to do with why I originally wanted to have you on the pod, because we’ll get to that part of the story as well. But, yeah, you really truly are a shining example of what can happen at the programs, so, yeah, so I think that’s extra cool.

Joan Hanscom:

The real reason we originally started talking about this podcast though is that you had some heart issues that came on the tail of an absolutely incredible season at the track last summer. So, let’s get in the time machine and woo go back in time. During the 2020 season, we did a whole lot of time trial events and you were a regular. And you were starting to really make some leaps, I think, in the events we were offering, so start there. Take us to 2020 and what you were doing in 2020 at the track when we were really just doing Time Trial events and at your coaching program. And then we’re going to talk a little bit about how that evolved into the ’21 season. So yeah, start with 2020 and tell us about what you did in the COVID year to sort of up your game.

Joanne Trimpi:

Sure. So, up until 2020, I really hadn’t focused on Time Trials. I didn’t consider myself as very good at them, but I hadn’t done a whole lot of them other than maybe at Regionals. I think I did some of those when Nationals were in T-Town a few years prior to that. But I placed pretty low. It wasn’t really my focus, but the fact that we had Time Trials going on at our local T-Town, Velodrome gave me an opportunity to really start to focus on that. And that’s what 2020 was all about.

Joanne Trimpi:

And I thank you guys, tremendously for doing that because I then was able to start looking at my times, the splits that were recorded. I could look and see how was my start, how was my first lap, et cetera. And started to be able to analyze and get that feedback that I hadn’t really had before. And so, by being able to do those more and more, I started to see that I was improving. I started to see what gear changes meant. And then as we went into 2021, I have to say my 2K, I focused on the 500 and the 2K. And my 2K had been pretty good. I was able to get under three minutes, which I was very happy with.

Joanne Trimpi:

But in 2021, I started to improve on my 500 as well and then was able to really focus on the areas that I felt I needed some improvement on with my coach. And so that data, being an engineer, I’m very data driven. I have spreadsheets. I was able to start keeping track of those times and use that feedback along with my coach to really help me and set me up for 2021.

Joan Hanscom:

So, you work with Kim Geist, who obviously, in addition to being a regular consistent coach at T-Town, a pretty accomplished athlete herself. And she has, I think, a very analytical brain as well. So, did you guys literally sit down and go through your spreadsheet together and say, “Hey, these times are doing this. This is where I’m identifying potential. This is where I’m identifying areas for improvement. This is where I’m saying, maybe this. Maybe 200 is not the event for me.”

Joan Hanscom:

Did you go through it in that level of detail and start making targets for the ’21 season? Or were you just broadly analyzing your efforts and just identifying room for improvement? Because I’m teasing up what a stellar summer you actually had at the track in ’21.

Joanne Trimpi:

Yeah, I didn’t really go in, I didn’t really sit down with her and go through my analysis of the data, but Kim would have regular track sessions, workouts for her athletes. And so, when we would be there, we’d talk about things. And as I got into 2021, I could see that, and what’s funny is, when I would do Women’s Wednesdays or when we would do some of the workouts, and we’d do standing starts, my comment to her, it was, “Oh, I need to do more of these.” And she’d just come back, “Yes, you do.” And so, Kim, she’s very direct. She doesn’t mince words. She says things very succinctly and she will tell you exactly what she thinks. And I value that as an athlete and that has been very helpful.

Joanne Trimpi:

And so, we came into 2021 and I could see that when I compared myself to other athletes, I could see that my standing start needed work, especially on the 500, because it’s maybe not as important in the 2K, but it’s definitely important in the shorter Time Trials. So, we started to in 2021, when my 500 started to look better, I realized that in order to continue to improve, I really need to work on my standing start. So, we started doing some separate sessions to improve on that. And so, there were a couple of us who were working on that and we got together and had Kim put on some sessions for us to work separately specifically on our standing starts.

Joan Hanscom:

Cool. I just think that’s amazing that you were, yeah, you were taking these initiatives and really breaking down such a data-driven approach and to me that makes so much sense and I think it’s smart. And I think sometimes people think that is purely the realm of the elite. And for our listeners, Joanne is a Master’s athlete. Joanne is not aspiring to make the Olympic team in 2024, so I just, but I personally love that you take the same approach. That you approach it the same way, because it’s what you care about, it’s what your passion is. It’s where you’re diverting all of your non-professional energies. This is your hobby, your love, the thing you do. And so, I just appreciate that attention to detail and that commitment and the analytical mind is pretty cool.

Joan Hanscom:

So, over the summer in ’21, you raced really consistently at the track. You were racing some Tuesdays and the Saturdays, the Masters and Rookies, the Tuesday night racing and more. And I could definitely, I think, see every week that there was improvement being made. We could see that you were going pretty well and that consistency of racing surely was paying off in addition to the training. And then, we got to Masters Nationals and you cleaned up, which was super cool. Was it five medals, Joanne?

Joanne Trimpi:

It was four, four. My four individual events, yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. So, four medals. And how many of those were gold?

Joanne Trimpi:

All of them.

Joan Hanscom:

All four?

Joanne Trimpi:

All four.

Joan Hanscom:

All four and I got to give them all to you, which was amazingly fun. It started to become ridiculous. I was like, “I get to give [crosstalk 00:11:00].” So, for all listeners, there’s a little bit of jockeying for who gets to give the medals out at National Championships. My colleague, Kelly Bertoni, always wanted to give the medals to the Edge athletes, obviously, because her husband runs the Edge Program. And then I was like, “I get to give Joanne her medal.”

Joanne Trimpi:

Absolutely.

Joan Hanscom:

So, there was always a little bit of jockeying for people when it came to the medal ceremony time for who got to give who the medals. And so, I was always like, “Joanne, I get to do.”

Joanne Trimpi:

Yeah, that was the cherry on top of the cake.

Joan Hanscom:

That, for me, it was certainly fun. But the thing that stood out to, I think, Mora and I were both watching your pursuit, your individual pursuit, and we could see you were going fast. And I remember, Mora and I was standing there, trackside watching, we were cheering for you. We were really cheering for you. And Kim was just slightly further down the track, like by the bridge, like yelling times or watching times. And I’m looking at Kim, and our listeners can’t see my face, but I’m like, I was looking Kim going, “She’s going really fast.” And Kim was like, “I know.”

Joan Hanscom:

And we were so excited because we could see it. And obviously we had the time, too, because we have live timing. So, we knew you were on a good time and it was so fun to watch. You just smashed it. And so, and that’s a hard event. That’s a legit, hard, long effort. I mean, long for track, not long for, like that’s-

Joanne Trimpi:

Everything is relative.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, everything is relative. And so, tell us about the pursuit because I just remember Kim’s face. We were like, “Oh, my God. She’s smashing it.” So, yeah. Tell us about that effort.

Joanne Trimpi:

Yeah. So, I knew, I was up against Paula Froke, who had been nipping at my heels, I think, all season. And she and I had been head to head in mass starts, just through all of 21 and she just is a powerhouse. So, I knew that I had basically, I had cleaned up also at Northeast Regionals, but I had gone against her for all four of the events there and it was not easy. And so, I was matched with Paula for the 2K. So I knew, I really had to bring my A game that day. And it was the first event. I was nervous as we all get out. And as I got into it and something that occurred to me had happened during Northeast Regionals that the first day, we had the mass starts and that was in August. We had the mass starts first and then we had the Time Trials on the second day.

Joanne Trimpi:

And there was something going on with me, with my body on at Northeast Regionals for that first day where all of the efforts, all of the work, all of the races, my body just hurt. I mean, I don’t know what was going on. It was just, the pain level that I had to deal with when I was doing the mass starts was unusual. Let’s put it that way. It got better for the next day. I felt a little better. And I don’t know if it was related to some of my heart issues that we’ll talk about later.

Joanne Trimpi:

But that was in my mind when I started on the 2K for Nationals and I started feeling like I’m not going fast enough and I’m feeling that level of higher level of pain because, maybe I’m re-experiencing what I had in at Northeast Regionals. So, I kept thinking, “I have to go faster. I have to go faster.” And thinking, “I’m not going fast enough.”

Joan Hanscom:

You went faster.

Joanne Trimpi:

I’m not going fast enough. So, it was basically an all-out every lap, as hard as I could. The pain threshold was pretty high. And I kept thinking, “Paula’s right behind me, Paula’s right behind me.” And when I got done, I had a new personal record. I had beaten my last record by four seconds, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but in a 2K that’s incredible. So, yes, I guess it goes to there’s the physical side, but there’s also the mental side that really can push you through some of these things and obviously, my adrenaline was going too, and that helps, but yeah, that was pretty awesome. That was, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start Nationals.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. That was super fun to watch. I mean, again, I just remember Kim’s face. Her eyebrows were up to her hairline [crosstalk 00:16:29]. You just smashed it.

Joanne Trimpi:

And you don’t get that from Kim very often.

Joan Hanscom:

No. I think that’s why it stood out so much was because she was just like, “Dang.” And that was so cool. That was, I mean, because again, Mora and I could see it. We’re not your coach, we don’t know your times. We don’t know that level of your output. And then, but we could see it. We could tell you were going good. And then, obviously, like I said, we had live timing, so we knew where you were against the competition. We knew everything, we know all that stuff.

Joan Hanscom:

But to see Kim’s face, we knew that you’d done something special. So, that was super fun for us to watch because obviously we were cheering for you. We’re biased. We’re not supposed to be biased as promoters, but like I said we’re friends, so we knew. And it was super fun to watch.

Joan Hanscom:

You mentioned something in your description of that event, besides the fact that you were able to push through some pretty intense and obviously some nerves as well, which is, that’s when the nerves are the good motivation. The, “Oh, Paula is right behind me.” That’s an important thing as an athlete to be able to manage. But you mentioned your heart issues.

Joan Hanscom:

And again, for our listeners who don’t know you and I rode together a whole lot, we were frequently riding and training together on the road, which I also miss. So, come out to California and visit. We can do some road riding. We rode a lot on the road and we both wear a WHOOP, so I think we both analyzed that sort of fleet data, recovery data, and you were starting to notice things last year in your HRV.

Joan Hanscom:

We were talking about our HRV. My HRV is very low and your HRV was very high. And I was like, “Oh, what not fit.” And you had this incredibly high HIV number and, but you were noticing some strange things. And when we talked about this, we were out riding and chat about it. And like I said, like you said earlier, you’re very data driven. You would analyze your data and you were having some weird cardiac responses in your WHOOP data and that corresponded to some sensations after you would do certain types of rides, so tell us about that. Tell us about what you started to see, tell us about what you started to feel.

Joanne Trimpi:

Yeah, so and actually, the first event started, I think, in September of 2019, actually, pre-COVID, just before COVID started. And then I think I had another episode, two in December. And then as time went on, I started to see them more frequently. And what would happen is, the WHOOP measures a number of different things. It measures your sleep.

Joanne Trimpi:

It also measures something called your HRV, which is your Heart Rate Variability and the theory behind that is the higher your heart rate variability, the more your body is prepared to take on a higher strain and do more work. And at every morning they give you a recovery number based on all of your data and it includes your HRV, your Heart Rate Variability. And normally, my HRV would be, maybe in the 40s, 40, 50, sometimes, maybe up to 80 at the most during that time. And what I started to see was they were a couple of instances where the HRV was at abnormal levels. It was be like 160, 170, and it would tell me that I had zero REM and zero deep sleep.

Joanne Trimpi:

These are the things that they measured. I had no disturbances during the night, which is very odd for me because I’m moving around. Normally, I have like 12 to 17 disturbances. I’m in that phase where I still get hot flashes and I still have to get up and go to the bathroom all the time. So, I get these very strange change readings. And at first, I just figured it was something. My WHOOP had been off or I was getting a weird reading.

Joanne Trimpi:

And then I started to experience some symptoms along with those episodes and they would start to occur more frequently and I would feel like had a little too much coffee to drink. I’d be a little on edge. My heart rate would be a little bit elevated, but my resting heart rate, but it would just feel weird. And so, I started talking to, well, first I reached out to the WHOOP folks. And the first thing they came back with was, “Oh, your data integrity is not good. You need to start wearing your…” They obviously assumed that I was having bad data. That it wasn’t for real.

Joanne Trimpi:

And so, they actually had me move my WHOOP strap from my wrist up to an arm band, further up on my arm to get better data integrity, which it did help from that stand. But I was still getting those readings. And so, I started talking to my primary care physician about that, who happened to be yours as well. Thank you for the referral. And Dr. Allison started to work with me on that and she didn’t know it was. She sent me to a cardiologist. We had an EKG, an echocardiogram, everything was fine.

Joanne Trimpi:

And of course, because my heart rate, wasn’t going when I would have these episodes, I didn’t have heart rates over 100 beats per minute. And that there wasn’t anything that set off the red flag for the cardiologist, so he was just like, “I don’t know.” And so, but they kept occurring and they started occurring more frequently as the season went on. And we went into 2021, and basically as we came into Regionals and the Nationals, I started having more and more of those more frequently. I was experiencing shortness of breath when they would occur.

Joanne Trimpi:

I had one time, you may recall, where we were doing a Saturday Masters and rookies and an event had started. I started to feel bad in the morning. And when I arrived, we did the first race. It was usually three in the series every Saturday. And I did the first race and I did not feel good. And so I said, “Okay, I’m done. I’m going to stop.” And I remember I came over to you guys and we sat and we chatted for the rest of the race and then I went home.

Joanne Trimpi:

But right before Nationals, that Sunday I had an event into Monday and so, I had another high HRV number on my WHOOP that Monday morning. So, I called my primary. Couldn’t get in that day. We got in the next day, because I wanted to make sure that going to nationals that I was going to be okay. Because by then I was having them every couple of weeks. I was experiencing more shortness of breath and a little bit of dizziness when I would stand up and she checked me out. And said, yeah, I’m good to go for Nationals, but she ordered a Holter monitor for me to get on and after Nationals and then we were going to try and see what this was.

Joanne Trimpi:

So, I waited until I had an event. We did a ride and I knew that sometimes if I did a longer ride, like a three-hour or so ride, that would sometimes trigger an event and it would usually start a couple of hours after I would do something like that or if I had to double race, that day, if we did double crits or something like that that could trigger it. And lo and behold, it was October. We did a ride. I did a ride and later that evening it started to come on. So, I called, got in and got the Holter monitor and that’s how we determined that I was having what they call paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (afib) or it’s periodic AFib.

Joanne Trimpi:

And after doing some research and that it’s really, they don’t know exactly why it had happens in athletes, but they think it’s related to the fact that endurance athletes like ourselves, who do high intensity, who do longer. When we work out on the bike, it’s at least an hour or longer and that changes the heart over time. And they determined this when they did the echocardiogram. I have what they call an athlete’s heart. It’s a condition. It’s actually a condition. And your left atrium gets enlarged as a result of all of the exercise that we do and the endurance work that we do.

Joanne Trimpi:

And what they believe is that it also stiffens that part of the heart, so you lose some flexibility there. And you also strengthen your parasympathetic side of your nervous system, the vagus nerve and that has to do with basically you’re resting activity and getting your heart to reduce its heart rate. It also has to do with digestion. But when that becomes too strong, sometimes all of that together can create a situation where your heart begins to go into AFib.

Joanne Trimpi:

And if you continue to let that happen and don’t do anything about it, your heart, that becomes more ingrained in your heart and can eventually become instead of periodic, it can become permanent. It can become continuous, I should say and then it’s much harder to treat. So, it doesn’t feel good when you’re going through it. The danger is blood clots and stroke and heart attacks when you’re in AFib. And the other thing I’ve discovered through research and talking to my doctor is that there’s, there’s sort of like a U shape as far as the risk factor.

Joanne Trimpi:

So, on one side, let’s say the person who doesn’t exercise, who’s sedentary, who’s overweight, whose lifestyle and health issues create a situation where it’s very common to have AFib and AFib is actually a very common occurrence in the population. And then you have those in the middle, at the bottom of the U curve, the risk curve who exercise moderately, who live healthy lifestyles, and they have the lowest risk of occurring having AFib.

Joanne Trimpi:

And then you have those of us who are on the endurance side, who do this kind of work and activity. And on that side of the equation, we have an increased probability of developing AFib. I think it’s like 2 to 10 times is what I’ve read in some of the reports. And so, but it’s from a different reason. They don’t know exactly why it happens in athletes, it’s just that they do attribute it to the fact that our hearts change and that it adapts and that adaption can lead to some of these issues.

Joan Hanscom:

Which is sort of terrifying to contemplate. We think by training, we’re doing good things for our body and we are. Let’s say broadly speaking, we are. By training and by staying fit, we are doing good things for our body. But it is interesting that this is a potential adaptation as well, where you’re almost overtraining your heart, right?

Joanne Trimpi:

Right.

Joan Hanscom:

It’s just like overtraining for any other muscle group. It is possible, I guess, to over train your heart. And what I thought was so interesting about you, Joanna, you may not know the answer to this, but I’ve known a fair number of male athletes for whom this has been an issue. Obviously, I’ve been in this sport a very long time. And so, you start to know more and more male athletes for whom this has become an issue or you have coaching friends, who have athletes going through it.

Joan Hanscom:

So, there’s own awareness that this exists, but I you’re the first female I know who’s had it. And I think, truly that shouldn’t actually be surprising because we’re the first, I think, real Title IX generation of athletes at our age that have really been in competitive sport now through the full life cycle of competitive sport. Before us, there wasn’t a real body of women athletes who are benefiting from Title IX, so there at mass of women participating in sport. And still the numbers in women’s track cycling are lower. Women’s cycling in general are racing, not riding. Bazillions of women, ride bikes, but in racing and training, the numbers of women are still smaller than men.

Joan Hanscom:

But I think as those numbers start to come up with the younger athletes, athletes Mora’s age, for example, I wonder if we’re not going to start seeing that, that equalization of athletes as they reach, our age where this is more commonly occurring in women than it is right now. But did you in your research have any sense of male versus female athletes this occurring or did that something that wasn’t even occurring to you? I just know it stood out to me because of the sheer number of male athletes I know experienced this.

Joanne Trimpi:

Right. Yeah, I did look, I did look for data as I’m data driven. I’m out, yeah, I was out looking and I still am out looking for some more data. But around women, the data, as usual is limited and the one study that I did find that mentioned women. Implied that the risk factor for women, endurance athletes was less, was lower. They didn’t see that in, as they saw in men. But when you looked, when you read through the report, in more detail, they did acknowledge that the women were not doing this. That they were studied, were not doing the same intensity of workouts that the men were, so they don’t have the data on women.

Joanne Trimpi:

And I think it’s probably because for two reasons. One is, medicine tends to focus on the bigger population, male population. White males and not on some of the rest of the population, but also I think you’re right. There’s just less women doing what we do. So, as I just going a little bit further and maybe, you were going to get to this. But in order to treat this, I decided there’s two options, well, there’s three options. One is you can not do anything, which isn’t going to lead to a good outcome. As I said, it can become continuous and then it becomes very much more difficult to treat.

Joanne Trimpi:

Then, there’s two other options. One is medication, drugs, to control the AFib and they call that a pill in the pocket where when you feel it coming on, you take a pill. And I think that’s one application. I don’t know if there’s others, but the medication can impact. It does have side effects. It can impact your performance and over time, it can stop working, so you have to switch it. So, the control isn’t, there’s some issues there. And I think there are some medications that are banned for athletes, so that could be an issue as well or the other option is to go for ablation surgery. And that’s what, I’d say, the majority of serious athletes tend to do because it’s more of a way of fixing the problem.

Joanne Trimpi:

It can take several surgeries to completely eliminate it, but I’ve had surgery at the end of January now for the ablation. And now, I’m going through the recovery, so I’m trying to find, now, I’m reaching out to athletes and trying to find athletes that I can talk to understand their recovery experience. Because I’m having some strange things that my doctor, my surgeon doesn’t quite understand. So, I actually, out there if anybody wants to reach out to me and share their experience, I would love to hear from them and understand what their recovery look like and what they experience with regard to their heartbeat and getting back to training.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. So on that note, if you’re listening to this and you have been through the ablation surgery and experienced the same things that Joanne has experienced, we can get you in touch with Joanne. We won’t put her contact information in the show notes just because that’s probably not smart, but we can get you connected. And yeah, help Joanne out if you can, because again, particularly for women, there’s not a lot of data on this topic. And I almost wonder is the issues you’re seeing in recovery? Is it different for men and women how we recover from these surgeries? That is very often in the case.

Joan Hanscom:

And so, if you’re a male who’s experienced this, please reach out. We’ll get you in touch with, Joanne. Help her solve her mystery. But so Joanne, I think one of the things you told me, and correct me if I’m wrong, is that you can’t get your heart rate elevated now. You’re experiencing [crosstalk 00:36:34] your heart rate.

Joanne Trimpi:

Right. So, the doctor says that it takes about three months for the heart to heal after the surgery, so I’m still in that three-month period. I’m getting towards the end of that, but it does, because it’s dealing with parasympathetic side. And that’s what they’re impacting when they do the ablation, your resting heart rate goes up and that was expected. So, my resting heart rate is about 10 or so beats per minute. Higher than it was before and I’ve been told by my doctor that that’s going to be permanent and that was expected.

Joanne Trimpi:

But on the high end when I do my workouts, I’m seeing heartbeats 15 to 20 beats lower than I would normally see for different kinds of efforts. And my max, I haven’t been able to get any closer than 20 beats lower than my max heart rate was before the surgery. So, I don’t know if that’s, because I’m still in the healing phase or if we did do some, a little bit of damage to what they call the sympathetic side, which is the fight or flight side of your nervous system, so that’s your higher end.

Joanne Trimpi:

But my doctor described to me is that those nerves are more on the outside of the heart. And so he said if we did do any impact to that, he expects that in theory, that could come back and if we did damage some of that nerve network, that it would grow back, so we’ll see. And I have found one posting, out on internet from 2009 of somebody, a male, long-distance runner, who was six weeks after his ablation surgery, who was seeing the same thing. So, but I’ve talked to or communicated with somebody locally here who had the surgery back in end of 2016, who did not see this.

Joanne Trimpi:

So, I think it’s every body is different, everybody recovers differently. And so, I think there will be some differences, but I’m interested in understanding what other people’s experiences have been. And along with that, I wound up being referred to somebody else, locally who had some heart issues, not the same as mine, but also was related to the athletic activity. And he had the same issue that Dr. Neil had.

Joanne Trimpi:

You had Dr. Neil on a while ago and he had the ARVC, which, which deals with the right ventricle. And that is, so after talking to him, I went out and looked on that. And that also is caused by the extreme athlete activities that we do. So, I think that the message is that, as athletes, we need to pay attention to that. I certainly, it took me a while to figure out what was going on with, with me. Athletes present, our symptoms present different from the regular population, so you need to not give up when you’re starting to feel things that don’t feel right and find a doctor.

Joanne Trimpi:

Don’t take your own advocacy and find a doctor who will work with you and figure out what’s going on, I think, is the message there. That, we certainly, do these activities because we feel good. We feel strong and we enjoy the competition, but you have to also understand that you’re doing things to your body that are changing things. And when things don’t feel good, you need to check that out.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. I do think it’s super interesting that there was a corollary, you were able to identify this issue in your data well before you started experiencing like a really regular cadence of the episodes, I think that’s fascinating. And I think our ability now in this day and age to detect stuff, maybe before it becomes too episodic or becomes too acute in our data is fascinating. That’s probably a whole, we should probably have the WHOOP guys on talk about that because I think it’s absolutely fascinating that you’re able to see these trend lines developing in your data or abnormalities in your data.

Joan Hanscom:

And I know at one point you did show your doctors, like, “Look, I can show you in my data that there’s a thing happening here. I don’t know what the thing is, but there’s a thing happening here.” I think that’s super fascinating, but not that we’re doing advertisement for WHOOP, but I do think it’s super interesting. And there’s a whole lot of devices that track HRV now. But I do think it’s super interesting that is something that may make an argument for data monitoring. Even if you’re not an elite athlete, there’s certainly a reason for data monitoring that we may benefit from.

Joan Hanscom:

But going back to you and where you are right now, so you can’t get your heart rate, like let’s just make up a number. Let’s say your previous max heart is 170. I don’t know what it was, but 170 seems like a nice number to play with. And now, you’re really capped at 150 and that’s sort of your body’s cap. Your body is saying, I don’t want to go above 150. Is that doing a hard effort? And so, do you feel or is it that your heart rate just won’t go higher or is it having an impact on your ability to make the hard efforts?

Joan Hanscom:

Because you can make a hard effort and just maybe your heart doesn’t respond at the same way that you’re used to it responding or is it actually having a repressive impact on your ability to go hard? I find it interesting particularly on the track realm, because so many of the efforts that are done on the track are short. That there isn’t even, at least in my experience, we’re doing short hard efforts, there isn’t even a time for your heart rate to respond. The efforts are like there’s a lag in your heart rate response to a hard effort.

Joan Hanscom:

So, how is that impacting your training right now? How is it impacting your efforts? Are you even allowed to train in this three-month window postoperative that you’re able to do? So, how’s that difference in heart rate impacting your day-to-day? How is it impacting your bike time right now? Does it just make you feel like you can’t go hard? Tell us more about that or is it just a numbers thing?

Joanne Trimpi:

Yeah. So, for the average person, after you have the ablation surgery, they tell you not to take it easy for a week after the surgery. And as an engineer, I could take us down a whole another avenue of the Medicine and how they do that, I mean, the medical profession. And how they do this surgery without big incisions. And I don’t know what the right word is, if it’s arthroscopically or whatever, but it’s just, it’s really cool. So, the impact on your body and your recovery is from the outside is pretty easy. Obviously, it’s inside and it’s inside your heart where they do the ablation.

Joanne Trimpi:

Basically, they’re killing off parts of your heart and these nerve endings that are causing the ablation and they’re around four main veins that come into your heart is where they focus the ablation and they do it around it. They basically are killing that and creating scar tissue, so that those nerves are not able to then cause the ablation. And then, they also try to stimulate the heart to go into AFib while you’re in the surgery, so that they can see if there’s any other areas that they need to treat.

Joanne Trimpi:

So, when you come out of it, this was a new experience for me. I’d never been in the hospital. I’d never had surgery all my life. I’m 60 years old. And so, I feel very lucky that’s been the case. But so this was a whole new experience, but it really, it was as far as a surgery, it was a lot easier than I thought, let’s put it that way. So, you come out. Yeah, you feel a bit beat up, but after a week, they let you start to go back to normal activities.

Joanne Trimpi:

For me, because, my normal activity is different from other folks, and I talked to my doctor about that, he wanted me to, he said, “You can start doing some workouts that second week, but you need to lower the intensity.” So, I worked with Kim on that and she set my schedule for that second week. And then after that, I could go back to my normal activities. But the doctor did say that I was going to feel beat up and I might not feel up to doing the same level that I was doing before, as I get back into things and it didn’t.

Joanne Trimpi:

When I was doing the sort of the threshold or tempo level efforts, I felt fine. I actually felt pretty good. And it wasn’t until we started doing some of the anaerobic threshold level activities and intervals that I started to feel initially, it would take me a little bit longer to warm up. And it was more around my breathing. If I did an effort, I would feel short of breath early on until my body warmed up. And then when I would do the anaerobic threshold efforts, I could do them for a short period of time, so my power was there, but the endurance wasn’t there.

Joanne Trimpi:

So, it was like my aerobic side of the equation just is feeling a bit compromised on the high end. And one of the other athlete that I spoke to locally who had the ablation surgery indicated that he also experienced that the high end was a bit compromised when he started coming back. And actually, the scary part was it’s been five years, I think for him and he says, now, he’s only finally starting to feel like he’s firing on all cylinders, so it’s taken him a lot longer. Then I hope it’s going to take me to come, to get that back. So, that’s the other reason I think, like I said, everybody is different. And I’m I’m interested in hearing more data and more feedback from others who have done this and what their experience was.

Joan Hanscom:

Right. Yeah. Like you said, very individualized response, recovery time. Everybody is different, but I’m sure there would be an emerging pattern of postoperative feedback where you could get a general sense of a range, at least. “Oh, I was right back to normal. Oh, [inaudible 00:49:26]. It took me a bit.” But you’re back to training at least somewhat. You’re back training. Hopeful that as time passes, things will continue to improve. You certainly look the picture of health here on our Zoom call today.

Joan Hanscom:

If other people are experiencing similar sensations, what is your best advice to them? is it collect data, then go to the medical professional? Is it go right away? What, “Hey, I’ve been experiencing this. I know that athletes can be prone to this.” When I was going through my completely different issue, medical issue. I was going through the iliac artery issues that I was having until I found a real specialist in the area of iliac artery endofibrosis for athletes, because every cardiac surgeon or a vascular surgeon has done iliac artery work on people.

Joan Hanscom:

Like you said, the first part of the U curve, the unhealthy population, they all do that surgery. They never diagnose it in athletes because there’s such a, like they look at the CAT scan of your vascular system and they say, “You’ve got the cardiovascular system of a 15-year-old.” You’re like, “Yeah, but I’m having these issues.” And I wonder if it’s not the same with this AFib stuff where the bulk of the cardiac people probably don’t see the athletic population.

Joan Hanscom:

So, I wonder if there’s things that you would advise people if they’re referred to cardiac doctor to bring to their attention, to flag up as research just says, “Hey, look, this is a thing in athletes.” Because I think, again, a lot of the medical professional is, they’re not used to seeing athletes. And so, the tendency is to say, “You’re a perfectly healthy person. You don’t have this.” What would you tell folks who think they’re experiencing something similar or just so that they have this planted in seeds of their mind somewhere if it develops further down the line.

Joanne Trimpi:

Yeah. I guess, one of the things when I was trying to figure out what was going on with me, after I spoke to the cardiologist, the first person that I saw, and he said, “Well, are you experiencing resting heart rates above 100?” And I’m like, “No.” So, the things that they look for in the average person are not necessarily applicable to the athletes. And even though he was supposed to be somebody who worked with athletes, he wasn’t, he wasn’t. I don’t think it was the same level of athletes that as some of the things that we do.

Joanne Trimpi:

So, I started to think, well, maybe it was because of, maybe it was related to the fact that I was well into menopause and maybe there were some issues there. So, I started looking down that avenue. But I think, as time went on, I started to realize that, I was having additional symptoms and I continued to talk to my primary care physician. I think, having a good primary care physician, who is willing to work with you and continue to, when you’re not getting a diagnosis, that is telling you what this is, that you can work with. You need somebody that you can work with to help you figure out what’s going on with you.

Joanne Trimpi:

And the thing that, I was telling, talking to other people about this, but I didn’t for some reason, I didn’t run across anybody who had had the periodic AFib. And I didn’t really, maybe if I had had explored that more, maybe I would’ve come to this realization sooner. And I was surprised after I figured out what it and we were talking that you had heard from, I think from your coach, that that he had a lot. He had a bunch of athletes that had gone through this. And so, but I’m not sure if I had known that would I put two and two together, if that’s what was happening to me, I don’t know.

Joanne Trimpi:

But I think the best thing, the best advice is really listen to your body. When people tell you that, when doctors tell you that it’s nothing to worry about, but you’re not feeling good when it’s start happening, you know that it’s not good. You need to listen to your body and you need to keep exploring and trying to figure out what it is. Because we already, as athletes, we’re not the average American, we’re not the average person going into the doctor and you need to be an advocate for yourself and continue to look for answers.

Joan Hanscom:

I think you nailed something right there, too. It’s like I think we do know our bodies, right? We know what it feels like. I think it, because we use them so much. We use the bodies. We inhabit so much that I think we also know when we’re off and that’s a strong message to pay attention to in yourself. I knew something was incredibly wrong with my legs. You knew you were having episodes.

Joan Hanscom:

People may say, but you present as a perfectly healthy person, but we know because we know what it feels like when things are working properly. We need to listen to that instinct. We need to pay attention to that messaging that we’re getting. That feedback that we’re getting. Because I think we are very in tune with our bodies as athletes. And that’s a message we should not try to tune out then, like actually, listen to the feedback that our bodies are giving us.

Joan Hanscom:

We’re really good at ignoring messages from our bodies. That enables us to do we do. Like you said about your pursuit. You were able to push past this feeling of, be feeling terrible because that’s what we do as athletes and there’s a time when you need to push past feeling terrible because it’s race day. And you’re doing, an effort that is unpleasant in your race. But then there’s a time that we really do need to listen to that feedback that we’re getting from our bodies.

Joan Hanscom:

And then like you just said advocate when we know we’re off, we need to keep fighting that fight to get the best treatment that we can and not just be poo-poo into saying, “No, yeah, you’re fine.” Not fine. You were clearly not fine. I was clearly not fine. And now, we’re both in a better place, hopefully.

Joanne Trimpi:

Absolutely.

Joan Hanscom:

So, I don’t want to keep you all Saturday, but because I could keep you forever because we’re friends. So, you’re going to be back on track this summer or is it still a TBD? One thing you said that did leap out at me was the doctor telling you to take it easy at first. I love that because that was the feedback I was given, too. “Oh, you have to wait six weeks to get back on the bike,” in my personal case. “And then when you come back, you have to take it easy.” I’m like, “Define, take it easy.” That’s a very loose parameter for, take it easy for one is not another.

Joan Hanscom:

So, are you past the take it easy. And are you going to be able to start racing and jumping in with the Women’s Wednesdays or is that, are you going to play that how you’re feeling and how you’re responding? Where are you right now in your 2022 season? And is it sort of like a “let’s wait and see another month and see how the recovery goes” or are you planning on jumping into Women’s Wednesdays and Saturdays and going from there?

Joanne Trimpi:

Yeah, so, yeah, so as you know, Masters Nationals was announced a couple of weeks ago and is going to be in Indianapolis in the middle of June. And that was a little bit of a shock to me because I wanted definitely more time to recover before I had to think about Masters Nationals. So, I had to do some soul searching on that and what I decided with, and had communicated with Kim is that I’m going to leave that option open. I’m going to see, we’re going to train as if I’m doing, going to do Nationals and then I’ll see as I get closer where I am on my recovery and how I’m feeling. And certainly, if I’m not feeling well and I’m not enjoying things on when I’m doing the high efforts, then I may not participate.

Joanne Trimpi:

But even without that, I’m still training at my regular level. I’ve asked Kim to take the anaerobic thresholds out of my program for a little bit, because they’re just not fun mentally or physically right now for me. But I’m going to start going back to racing as the races start this coming month or this month, I guess, we’re in April now. And the Thursday night training crits are going to be starting next week, so I’m going to start doing those. I’m going to see where I am. That’s going to be a test for me to see. And I’ll be gauging that as we get into race season. But mentally, I’m prepared for the fact that I may not be where I was, would have expected to be at this time last year with racing this time of year and I may have to deal with that.

Joanne Trimpi:

But the best way to see where I am is really to get out there and to do it and that’s what I love. I love the community. I love the competition. As Kim stated in her acceptance speech at the Velodrome, “You lose more than you win.” And I find that every time I lose, I learn something. And I still enjoy the competition. That’s what this is all about. That’s what the fun is all about and being out there with people. At some point, I may have to be on the sideline, but for now, I want to participate.

Joan Hanscom:

Not yet.

Joanne Trimpi:

Yes.

Joan Hanscom:

Not yet. Cool. Well, Joanne, thank you for coming on the podcast. I think it’s a really interesting topic. It’s one that, as we have more athletes in the Master’s population, it’s one really worth paying attention to. And I’m sure somebody listening to this podcast will benefit from your sharing of your experience. And just one more time for our listeners, if you have been through this yourself and you’re willing to chat with Joanne about your experience, so that she can start plotting out more data points on her charts, please, please get in touch with us at the podcast and we will connect you with Joanne, so that you can share your experience, so that other athletes might potentially benefit from you all’s experience as well.

Joan Hanscom:

Joanne, thank you so much for giving of your Saturday to be with us on the pod. And of course, I can’t wait for you to come visit and ride bikes and-

Joanne Trimpi:

Me, either. I see your pictures on Instagram and that, the sunrise and the sunset. I so want to be there.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. There’s one ride I do here, I’m not going to lie. The descent is like got Joanne Trimpi written all over it. So for our listeners, I love going uphill and I really hate going downhill. Joanne goes downhill like a bowling ball. She’s a tiny little human who goes downhill so fast and there’s a descent here that every time I go down it, I’m just like, “I think Joanne would get down this descent 10 minutes faster than me.” It’s a long descent. It’s a 40-minute descent. I’m like…

Joanne Trimpi:

Ooh.

Joan Hanscom:

… “Yeah, I’m doing it in 40 minutes. Joanne would do it like 30 or 25.” Because it’s perfect pavement. It’s long, it’s winding and I always think, “This is a Joanne descent.” So, you’ll have to come out and I’ll take you on the ride because yeah.

Joanne Trimpi:

That’s sick.

Joan Hanscom:

Literally, every time I do that descent, I think, “Oh God, Joanne would go down this is so much faster than me.” So, we’ll get you out here.

Joanne Trimpi:

What’s great about us riding together is we always challenge each other. So, I’m always chasing you on the upside and you’re always chasing me on the downside. So, we’re very well-matched that way.

Joan Hanscom:

Yes. So, you have to come out and I’ll take you on that ride and we’ll have some fun because I miss my riding buddy. But for now, we’ll say this has been the Talk of the T-Town podcast with our fantastic guest, Joanne Trimpi.

Joan Hanscom:

Thank you for listening. And if you could please leave us the positive reviews, the likes, the shares, all the things that help us grow the podcast and enable us to keep bringing it to you, our listeners. Thanks so much for tuning in. Bye-bye.

Joan Hanscom:

Thank you for listening. This has been The Talk of the T-Town Podcast. I’m your host, Joan Hanscom. Thank you for joining us for this week’s episode. Head over to our website at thevelodrome.com where you can check out the show notes and subscribe, so you’ll never miss an episode.