Please help. This post is long because I want to be as thorough as possible, as I have been suffering with these symptoms for a year with no diagnosis. I am grateful to anyone who takes the time to read this, and even more grateful if they can provide me with any helpful information.
I am a 22 year old collegiate distance runner and I have been struggling for a year with symptoms that have prevented me from competing or even training for a long period of time. Initially the symptoms began last April when I left my apartment for a run, and within the first few minutes felt like I was suffocating. I stopped running after only a few minutes because I couldn't get over this sensation of suffocation. Upon stopping I placed my hand over my heart and felt it beating not in its normal rhythm, but in what felt like a double beat so to speak (and I've also had my teammates and coach feel the irregular rhythm when it happens just so I knew I wasn't going crazy...they were freaked out by it too). The next day I went to the health center and when they took my vitals upon arrival, they found that my heart rate was 120bpm. They even asked me if I had run over, which I hadn't. They explained to me that I might have something called myocarditis, or an infection of the heart. They set me up for a stress test and asked me not to run until then. When my appointment came around, they had me do the whole stress echo protocol and told me I was completely healthy even though I was feeling the same symptoms. After the stress test I followed up with my team doctor and asked him to check my iron levels. We found that my iron stores were low (ferritin = 20) and I began supplementation. As soon as I began supplementing I felt a difference. I thought I would recover in no time. I was running between 80 and 100 miles per week and supplementing and feeling like I was getting better, and since this was in the summer, I was not racing at all. May, June and July went by and I was still supplementing (65 mg iron 3 times a day), however I would notice that on some of my faster runs...I would get back to my apartment and my heart rate just would not go down. It would stay at 150bpm for as long as an hour after a run, which is abnormal for me. Anyway, our season finally rolled around in september and as we began our faster workouts, I noticed that my heart started seriously double beating again, and I would get short of breath in those fast workouts and races (which usually last about 25 minutes). Now when I say short of breath I mean two things: 1. I felt as though I was suffocating and running out of air, and therefore needed to take a deep breath to fill my lungs (and often times I would be unsuccessful on the first breath and would need to slow down to take a deeper, satisfying one) 2. I was breathless. This you might say would be normal for anyone, even if they were well conditioned, to be experiencing while running. However, every time I ran with my team the entire season (even on slow, easy days) they would all be able to carry on conversations and I couldn't say two words without being out of breath. In October I had another stress echo. I completed the entire thing and doctors told me my oxygen saturation was normal and my heart rate was fine, and again I was told there was nothing wrong with me. I stopped racing after the fall, but still ran with the team during slower workouts and easy runs. I tried inhalers, I had lung function tests done, and while I was told my respiratory muscles were "a little weak" there was nothing wrong with my heart, and no medical professional could detect this double beat that I was experiencing. At the end of february I told my coach that I couldn't run through it. It wasn't getting better. So I stopped running, and haven't run for about five weeks. I also haven't noticed much of an improvement. While the symptoms seem to be much more manageable, I know they will just increase exponentially when I begin to do hard exercise again. Although I haven't been running, I have still been joining our team in our bi weekly weight room sessions, and notice that even exercises like chin ups and bench press and push ups will cause my heart rate to spike and will make me short of breath. At one point, I was doing dumbell presses over my head and felt my heart pounding so hard I thought I would pass out. The past few days I've started running again, not far, just about three to five miles each day...and although I'm running at a very modest pace, my heart rate has been consistently between 180 and 200. I know max heart rate is around 200, so I don't understand why a regular easy run would cause my heart to beat as fast as it is. I haven't experienced any double beats in a while, but my heartbeat just feels so weak. It feels like it's not strong enough to pump blood and supply vital organs with the oxygen they need during exercise. I don't know, I just know that my heartbeat feels much weaker than it used to. There are a few other things that are important to list as far as my history goes (continued in next post).