HOOPER -- Gary Madsen had no idea a little trip to the doctor would land him in the hospital for open-heart surgery and a marathon victory 10 months later.
To add spice to his wild year, Madsen's wife was pregnant, and he had no idea until he was home from the hospital.
"I just had this feeling that something wasn't right. I had had a few chest pains here and there," said Madsen, 46.
"I told my wife I thought I would just run in and get a physical. I hadn't been to the doctor in 10 or 15 years. I just never go to the doctor, but I knew I needed to go."
The physical didn't reveal much, just a little elevation in his blood pressure, Madsen said. His doctor wasn't concerned.
After blood tests revealed extremely high triglycerides, his doctor still wasn't overly concerned, but Madsen insisted on a stress test.
It's a good thing he did.
"I went and got the test from Dr. (Michael) Diehl. As I got to the nine-minute mark, he looked very concerned and asked me if I was feeling OK," Madsen said.
"I told him I felt a little uncomfortable, and he said he could see something abnormal going on."
Madsen had a blocked artery, and the only way to fix it was open-heart surgery. He was immediately checked into Ogden Regional Medical Center, where Dr. David Affleck performed the procedure.
"I left for the stress test in the morning and never went back home," Madsen said.
"I woke up at 11 that night with tubes going down my throat. They told me I had just had open-heart surgery. To top it off, they told me to get out of bed. They stood me up and got me moving right away.
"Then, the next morning, they made me walk to another room. I thought, 'What? I don't even get to ride in a wheelchair?' "
Three days later, Madsen returned home. Already the father of two boys, he told his wife his experience would have been even more terrifying if she were pregnant.
"She just looked at me. I said, 'You're pregnant.' She said, 'Yes.' I just got chills.
"I had talked to the surgeon and asked him if I had come close to having a heart attack. He told me I had come very close, and because of the location of the blockage, most people don't even make it to the hospital."
That's when Madsen decided it was time for a change.
"I wasn't obese or extremely overweight, but I could stand to lose 25 pounds. I started going to the cardiac rehabilitation unit at Ogden Regional, and they really helped me. Not only did they help me get better, but they also taught me lifestyle changes."
As he was going through rehabilitation, Madsen joked around with the staff.
"I just asked them if they could get me ready to run a marathon. I was just joking around, but one day, I started really thinking about it, so I got online and saw that the (Ogden) marathon was in May, just 10 months to the date after my surgery," he said.
"I got out the credit card, didn't tell my wife, and hit the send button. Then I thought to myself, 'What in the hell did you just do?' But there was no refund, so I started training."
The day of the marathon, Madsen ran the first 13 miles with ease.
"Then it started getting tough, but I just kept going," he said. "The last few miles, I just felt numb, but I made it to the finish line. My wife and kids were there. My father was there. It was very emotional."
Today, Madsen still runs and plans to enter more races.
"I'm going to run the 10K during Peach Days and will probably run another marathon," he said. "I want to be around for my kids. I want to play ball, hike and hunt with them. I want to play with my new daughter. I want to be around for a very long time."
Madsen said the most important thing he learned was to listen to his body.
"If something doesn't feel right, get it checked out. Make a decision not to lie around and be sick and feel sorry for yourself, and set some goals. Little changes can make a huge difference."