Good news! After many tests and consultations it has been decided that I will be getting surgery to repair my “kinked” common iliac artery.
I started experiencing numbness in my left leg while riding the trainer last fall/winter. When I was on the road there was much less discomfort, so I didn’t think much of it, and continued training as normal. In May I got an abdominal CT scan which showed a blood flow limitation in my left common iliac artery. The artery, which branches off the aorta and supplies blood to the left leg, had a 90 degree bend in it (much like a kinked garden hose). I had some follow up ABI measurements post exercise, which compare the blood pressure in your arm vs. your leg, but at the time everything appeared normal.
Throughout the racing season I experienced symptoms off and on. For the most part I was able to train symptom free with the exception of high intensity intervals on the bike, and running off the bike. Racing was obviously where I noticed it the most. Anyway, the last 3 months it’s been getting progressively worse. When I was over in Europe I stopped in The Netherlands to meet with one of the world’s leading experts on the issue. He did a bunch of tests and ordered more imaging. When all was said and done, he strongly suggested that I get the surgery done to repair the kinking. He felt that if I left it untreated, there was no way I could continue racing at an international level.
When I got home my doctor got me an appointment to see the vascular surgeon in Vancouver to re-assess the issue. He repeated some of the same tests and it was evident that there’s a serious blood flow limitation. Not only was there a significant difference in pressures post exercise, but also at rest. The surgeon felt that I could really benefit from the fix. At that point I was ready to commit to the surgery.
So, instead of taking an end-of-season break, I took it easy for a week when I returned from Europe and have been building back up ever since. The goal right now is to work on technique in the pool and simply build fitness on the bike and run. I’ve also been in the gym twice a week doing strength training, so I can preserve my huge muscles. I’d like to be relatively fit going into the surgery to minimize the losses during my recovery from the operation. As of right now, I’ve been told I should have a gradual return to sport 3-4 weeks after the surgery.
I’m still waiting to hear the exact date of the operation, but it could be as early as a few weeks away. The sooner the better! Until then, more training.