Kris Vermeir’s sportswatch tells him he’s been out cold for three minutes.
This is October 2017. The Queenstown runner, co-owner of Browns Ski Shop and treasurer of Wakatipu Ski Club, is putting in some solo early morning training at the Events Centre, ahead of running the Kepler in December.
But something doesn’t feel right. His legs feel leaden, his heart begins racing and everything starts spinning.
“I try to jog it off, but the spinning gets worse,” Vermeir writes in a fundraising blog post.
“I’m going to pass out, I know it, so I get ready, down on the grass on my knees, head between my legs and then everything goes dark.”
Sixteen months later, the 52-year-old is preparing to run 85km of backcountry trail in one hit. He’s taking on the West Coast’s Old Ghost Road Ultra on Saturday, to raise funds and awareness for the NZ Heart Foundation.
That’s despite the fact his own heart condition is still undiagnosed.
Vermeir came around after three minutes lying in the frosty dew that morning. It was the second time he’d lost consciousness in such a way. Three years before, he passed out while warming up for a 5km race.
After that, he’d had a ‘loop recorded’ placed in his chest.
He was taken to Lakes District Hospital to recover after the October incident. Three days later, in Invercargill, analysis of the loop recorder data showed his heart went from 150bpm to nothing in seconds, then stopped beating for about 45 seconds, before continuing.
Doctors inserted a pacemaker in December and it’s March 2018 and eight kilograms heavier before Vermeir hit the trails again.
He slowly built up fitness and distance, enough to finally tackle the Kepler in December.
“It’s still undiagnosed but you just get on with it, what else can you do?
“The good thing is I had a review last month and over the space of a year my heart muscle hasn’t deteriorated.
“You never know what you’re going to die from, you could drop dead from anything.”
Now the Old Ghost Road Ultra, with its 2600m of ascents, awaits.
“That’s freaking me out – the more I think about it. What the **** am I doing?
“The legs are good, though. I’ve been in a Squadrun programme … but I’m still not confident, but we’ll see.”
Vermeir’s raised about $1300 so far and hopes to raise more in the coming days and weeks.
Click everydayhero.com to donate.