The Secret to a Winning Season: It’s Already Happened

By Eric M.
February 21, 2013 on 9:53 am | In Athlete Profile | No Comments

Here’s a blog entry from Steve Elliott, a member of the 2013 TriSports.com Champions Team.

I ran 11 minutes on a treadmill last week.

Before you snicker, the treadmill was inside the Adult Congenital Cardiology Clinic at Stanford Hospital and it’s designed to be a 10-minute maximal test. After I did this test two years ago, they cut me open and stitched various breakfast meats into my heart.

That, actually, is what got me started in triathlon.

Quick back story: I was born with four strange heart defects including a mostly-blocked pulmonary artery and a hole between the ventricles that allowed unoxygenated blood coming back from my body to go right back out again without ever visiting my lungs. I gasped for breath a lot, turned blue even more, and couldn’t walk across a room without having to stop, rest and catch my breath. A little before my fifth birthday, in 1970, they opened me up and fixed my heart with a nice Dacron patch.

Turns out, you get about 40 years out of that repair and a couple of summers ago, after the treadmill test and a cardiac MRI, they told me I needed my pulmonary valve replaced with a pig valve. While he was at it, the surgeon also used some tissue from a cow heart to repair the original patch, giving me a three-species (plus synthetic) heart. I’d been home from the hospital about five days, still sleeping in a chair because of the pain (rib-splitting hurts!) when I saw a broadcast of Leon’s Triathlon from Indiana and everything changed.

I knew this was a sport my wife and I could do together. I knew it was a sport I’d enjoy. And the timing was perfect – from that moment, I was no longer recovering from open-heart surgery…I was training.

I got online and started learning. I ordered books, read TriSports U articles and started looking for an appropriate first race. Even though I’d be on activity restrictions for another seven weeks, I walked and did what I could do to get some fitness back and I competed in a super-sprint just three months after my surgery, then a late-season traditional sprint a month after that. I wasn’t fast in either race, but my goals were just to compete and finish.

After a full season last year, my goals are higher for 2013. I have swim times I want to hit and a running pace I’m building toward. I want to improve in my home events and hit the podium a few times. I don’t know if it will happen this year, but I want to qualify for the Xterra National Championships and test myself in that race. I look forward to scanning race results, hoping my name is listed toward the top of the page.

That’s why the treadmill test was such a good reminder. Without the surgery, my name could just as easily show up on a heart transplant waiting list or in a coroner’s report. So no matter how my races go this year, I’ve already won.

You have, too. If you do this sport, if you have races on the calendar and a training plan on your desk, you are fitter, faster, healthier, and, I suspect, happier than most people out there. So good luck with your 2013 season and your goals, but my friends, we’ve already won.

Steve Elliott is a member of the 2013 TriSports.com Champions Team. If you like his approach and want to support him – and get 15% off gear for yourself at TriSports.com – enter discount code SELLIOTT during checkout.

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