Monday, June 20, 2011

Life - Training, Prednisone, HCT

In light of my recent incredibly inaccurate thoughts (I still have to post the corrections) on how my own blood profile would look to a biological passport sleuth, I figured it's only appropriate that I mention that I recently got to look at a snapshot of my blood parameters.

Yep, I went and had a physical.

Now, curiously, when I went there, they mentioned that I'd "lost some weight", about 14 or 15 pounds, from the mid 180s to just a touch under 170.

I realized pretty quickly that I hadn't seen the doc for any reason in 2010, when I was a svelte 158 or so. Disappointed, I realized that my weight loss had never been official - no health insurance company would ever say, "Oh, look, see, he lost all that weight in 2010. He should be insurable."

Since I went to the doctor's office with no instructions except to fill out a form, I thought that they wouldn't be doing a blood test. Since the main reason I go get a physical is to see what my hematocrit is, I immediately asked about any possible blood work, if that's covered under a physical.

"Of course, I'm going to give you a form to get some blood drawn, and we'll review any findings with you."


The rest of the appointment was a blur. I don't remember my heartrate, blood pressure (but it seemed kind of high, like 120/70, instead of the 105/60 like I hope for), whatever else stuff.

Oh, he did ask me about the prednisone.

That, my friends, is a cortisteroid (that's my made-up-from-half-forgotten-things-I-read-on-the-web).

It's used to treat all sorts of stuff, I think like saddle sores (for example).

It's also used to treat poison ivy.

Somehow I got poison ivy. Little spots, not streaks, on my arms, legs, neck, torso, even almost my upper thighs.

Coincidentally the blonde next door from work also got poison ivy (she had to go get a shot as well as pills). Although nefarious minds may suspect the worst, I suspect that I got the poison ivy partially from handling the same extension cord as she did, when she exchanged it for another one.

And, yes, the Missus knows about her. Even met her one day. Plus everyone knows she's my boss's girlfriend.

Whatever, the end result was that for almost a solid week I was also itching and whining and being an all-round grump. The missus, exhausted with dealing with a 5 year old stuck in her husband's body, finally convinced me that maybe seeing a doctor would be a good thing.

Because, as you well know, dealing with a 5 year old is much easier if said 5 year old doesn't have poison ivy.

Although not necessarily convinced of the cause of the itchy, bumpy rash, the doc pointed out that he could prescribe treatment for said rash. He also suggested Claritin (which I already take) and, at night, Benadryl. Apparently, since poison ivy is an allergic kind of reaction, an antihistamine will help reduce the effects of the cruel plant.

Prednisone, of course, is a steroid. I checked the side effects. The ones that stood out are things like liver things and some achiness or something like that.


No "Caution: May cause explosive muscle growth"???

I looked up the effects of cortisone, and, after some skimming, realized that it really doesn't do much, at least not in the way I'd be taking it. Plus my extremely abbreviated cycle would hardly affect anything except, hopefully, the little bumps all over my body.

I'm writing this post late enough that I'm actually done with the 12 day cycle, a tapering one designed to wean my body off of the stuff. I also took the Benadryl, and, in fact, am still taking it. I skipped one night, the night before the physical, in case it affected my stats, and found myself awake until about 5 o'clock in the morning.

After the physical I called the Missus and gave her the news that, no, I didn't have any explosive muscle growth, and, yes, I seem to be living okay.

She countered by asking me about my sleeplessness.

"Yeah, I'm kind of tired today."
"You know what the first side effect is that they list for prednisone?"
"What is it?"
"May cause sleeplessness."


So it gets you wired but doesn't explode muscles. Great.

A couple days after the physical, like yesterday, we got the results of the blood test. Luckily I'd skipped breakfast before the appointment (keeping the body "neutral" before the appointment, no jacked up metabolism from coffee or whatever), making it possible for me to go get the blood drawn immediately afterwards.

I was waiting to hear from the doc and then ask politely to have them fax me my blood profile. But, luckily for me, they sent me the results directly, with the doc's comments on them.

The missus opened the envelope.

"Oh, what's my hematocrit? What's my hematocrit?"

"It says here that your something cholesterol is blah blah and that your blah cholesterol is blah."


"I think this is good, it's better than before. Last time your blah was blah, now it's blah."

"Um, do you see the letters HCT anywhere?"

"It says that your blah is good too. In the normal range."

"Anything about red blood cells?"

"Oh. Here. Red blood cell blah. 52."

52?! Was that right?


The world was spinning ever so fast. Oh, man, that's how I became a Cat 2! My blood is so thick! I'll have to take an aspirin. Two aspirin! I'll have to drink a lot more water. Heck, I should try doing something like time trialing or climbing. Wow. 52. Incredible. 49 was great, in 2006 or whatever. But 52, that's just unbelievable. 52. Holy smokes. Maybe I should do jumping jacks at night, keep that thick blood flowing.

"Um, wait, here it is. Hematocrit. 46.3"

Ehhhh. What?

My world stopped spinning. Three point something points lower than my record. No sludge. No rich red corpuscles coursing through my veins. Just ordinary blood. Well, with a bit of extra prednisone in it. And some sleepy Benadryl.

"Yeah, the other number was red blood cell blah-blah. Your hematocrit is 46."

Ah well. So much for that.

It reminded me of the time I woke up in my dorm room, in the middle of the night, and looked across the room. The digital clock stared back at me. I could see the time, but the clock was 10 feet away. Being extremely nearsighted, I normally can't see more than about 6 inches before things go blurry quickly. But these numbers, across the room... I squinted.

The numbers stayed in focus, just in a squinty way.

I thought, holy smokes, my cornea did something, or some nerve got un-pinched, but whatever it is, I can see again! Wow! I can buy some Oakleys! I can see! It's a miracle!

I quickly felt the side table for my glasses (out of habit), couldn't find them, started patting my chest, thinking maybe I fell asleep with them on, and they slid down to my chest... wait... fell asleep with them on?

I touched the bridge of my nose.

My glasses got in the way.

I was wearing my glasses.

I took them off.

The red numbers virtually disappeared, a slight red smudge in the blackness of the dorm room.

Ah well.

At least I can say one thing - hematocrit does not the rider make. My threshold power is something that is so low that a bonking pro would still outride me. On the forums someone asked if I was pulling their leg, talking about my sub 3.0 w/kg threshold (it's about 2.85 w/kg).

Well, yeah, it's really about that low. I'd dreamed about getting to 3.5 or even, if the stars all lined up, 4.0, but that never happened. I guess I just didn't want it that bad.

Of course the other way of looking at it is that I'm maximizing my potential.

"2.85 w/kg? No problem, you can be a Cat 2. Next patient please."

(It helps to have a decent sprint, but even my sprint isn't that impressive, with a typical 1200w peak and 900-1100w sustained for, usually, just under 20 seconds - but that's all I have, so if you have it, you can be a 2 too).

With that elation/deflation little roller coaster out of the way, I could think about the next block of riding. My blocks don't have much to do with enormous cycles of training. They have more to do with "When's my next race?"

I hope to do the Keith Berger race in East Hartford, but we'll be 18 hours away 36 hours before the race. That means we'll need to drive at least 12 hours, if not 13 or 14, the day before the race, meaning I'll probably skip a ride then.

Going backwards, I'll be able to do the Tuesday Night Worlds, weather permitting.

And today, in order to try and get stuff done at home, I skipped my ride. I did a short ride yesterday, nothing major, under an hour.

My next training block, then, is Tuesday race, hopefully an hour somewhere in Thursday or Friday, then Sunday race.

One day of training before Sunday, maybe two. Sounds like a plan. I mean, heck, I've been racing at 2.85 w/kg. The race can't got that badly, then, right?



Yasser said...

I really enjoyed this. you help to remind us that we are all still humans.

MrsSDC said...

I have to point out that I did not refer to my husband as a 5 year old in my husband's body...I was as infinitely patient as always.

Suitcase of Courage (aka SOC) said...

Heh - I just found an old (October 2010) bloodwork report showing my Hematocrit at 42.7

At that level, I guess it's a wonder I can ride a bike fast at all.

Aki said...

thanks Yasser. And yes, I made the great leap of saying I'm a 5 year old, with no offense intended to my nephew. And with that hematocrit it just goes to prove that hematocrit doesn't mean much by itself.

WMdeR said...

Dear SDC,

A 46-48 HCT is on the very high end of natural normal for men at sea level.


William M. deRosset
Fort Collins, CO