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Saturday, January 17, 2015

January Athlete of the Month

Once again HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Here is hoping that 2015 started in splendid fashion for all who is reading this post!

I am very much looking forward to what 2015 has in store for all of us.

I can't think of any other way to start these series of posts on the new year with the story of a blood clot survivor that for sure will get you off your feet and believing that anything is possible!

Please allow me to introduce to you KATHRYN SPENCER who this past January 15th celebrated her CLOTIVERSARY but before that she made an incredible come back that will have you picking up your jaw off the floor just like mine did when I got hear Kathryn's story for the first time...

But I need to stop and let her written voice tell you all about!

"January 15, 2013…that is my clotiversary. I woke up that morning with a stiff right calf. It was quite achy, but I thought it was due to an extra hard workout the day before. I tried to go to the gym and “work the ache out”, but it didn’t go away. By this time, I was finally awake enough to look at my calf, and realized it was swollen. I knew right away that I had a blood clot, but I had absolutely NO idea how serious this was. I called in for a same-day appointment, and the doc kind of rolled his eyes when I told him I thought I had a blood clot. He took one good look at my leg, then rushed me to the Doppler scan area. This primary doc was absolutely fabulous that day, bumped everyone to get me taken care of, and had ordered ALL of the appropriate blood tests before getting me to the ER.
In the ER, everyone was also very solicitous, getting my treatment with Lovenox started right away. My calf was becoming more and more achy as the day progressed. It was at this point that I started to realize that this was not a trivial “take this pill for a week, and you’ll be fine” kind of ordeal. When I got home and started Googling (the worst thing we could do, but we all do it, right?), then I started to freak out. By this time, my calf was about twice normal size.
I tried to get back to my normal work schedule, but could only deal with the pain from my calf for about 4 hours. Sitting was horrible, and standing was excruciating. Grocery shopping was limited to a 10 minute trip, before the pain became unbearable. I had to adjust my commuting schedule to get around rush-hour, because I couldn’t stand the pain.
Oh yeah, and did I mention that I’m a triathlete? I had just started training for my first half-Ironman when I was diagnosed. In retrospect, the first symptom was gasping during swim workouts…I thought it was because the workouts were hard effort, but I couldn’t deal with the controlled breathing – guess that was the PE part. So post-clot, I’m lying in bed, feet elevated, heating pad on calf, trying to deny the reality of never being able to run again. Thankfully, I found Roland’s blog, several FaceBook groups, and a blessed DVT comrade on SlowTwitch. She told me her own experiences and inspired me to believe I could do triathlons again. Still, the major depression was awful and lasted for several months.
I returned to the pool after about a month. Kicking drills hurt, but everything else was OK. My cardiologist absolutely refused to allow me to ride a bike, even after I pestered her with questions of when and what kind of swim/bike/run I could do. After being VERY persistent, she finally said “oh, you’re one of THOSE people”. I thought I had a big fight on my hands. I did try to ride my bike on the trainer, but it was about three months before I could pedal more than an hour (calf swelling from being upright). I worked up to walking a mile, then two, then tried to walk/jog for 20 minutes.
A return visit to my cardiologist lifted my spirits, as she said “since I know you want to ride your bike so much, I’m OK with you stopping the Coumadin.” I wanted to hug her. My first bike ride was so scary, riding the brakes down every hill. It had been 5 months and I was nervous. I did have several return trips to the ER, because of severe calf cramping, but this was due to me trying to return to the workouts I knew. I began to realize I needed to take things slower, but that eventually I could build back up…I just couldn’t do it all at once. After 10 months, I was able to do my one-and-only tri of the year, a sprint. I finished 2 minutes off of my previous best….I’M BACK!!
Over the next year, I slowly worked up to longer distances, competed in an Olympic distance tri with good results, then decided that it was time for that half-Ironman. With my coach, we worked out a slow and steady training schedule. My goal was for the Lake Havasu half-Ironman in Arizona in November.  The training worked well for me, as it was mostly long, slow distance at low heart-rate. I was ready for this half. During the race, I kept thinking “but I’m not supposed to be here; I’m supposed to be dead”. Then I’d get a big grin, and say “but look at me now!” In every picture, I’m smiling. I had a great race, broke 6 hours, and can’t wait to do the next one. I chose to wear the Stop the Clot jersey to show my support for all of my fellow DVTers, raise awareness of symptoms (I answered a lot of questions that day), and to thank everyone who supported me along the way.
I still have to be wary of hard workouts. I’ll have a swollen calf the day after a long run or bike ride (need to plan an easy following day). If I take a break, I need more time than normal to return to previous fitness. Those 8-week plans for a half-marathon? Double that time for me. But I’m back. Thanks to the encouragement of Roland, the FaceBook groups, and other DVT/PE sufferers who’ve returned to triathlon, I’ve become one of the mentors who can tell you it’s possible…possible to return to doing the things you love, possible to compete as good (or better!) than before, and possible to live a normal life.

Can't wait to hear and read what else Kathryn will accomplish in the near future.  So glad to see that she is taking the polka-dots and spreading the word while she is out there racing.  THANK YOU!

Be on the lookout for this lady... she may blow past you when you least expect it.

Thank you Kathryn for your willingness to share.  DON'T EVER STOP THE INSPIRATION no matter how hard it gets!

Thank you for reading,

The Clot Buster

Sunday, January 04, 2015

2015... New Year and Back Better than Ever!


Here is hoping and wishing all that come across this blog THE VERY BEST IN 2015 with ALL THE GOOD FORTUNE, GOOD HEALTH, and HAPPINESS you can handle.

2014 came and went in the blink of the eye.

Honestly I am happy to put it behind me.

It was a rough year for the CLOT BUSTER #StopTheClot polka-dots. 

Yes we made it out to many events but it did not go as I had planned with regards to the competitions...

Looking forward to heal from this nagging injuries once and for all.

The left side of my body could use a rebuild... buster shoulder and hamstring that are slowly coming around.

Looking forward to new races and to continue to spread the word about blood clots and blood clotting disorders.

Looking forward to continue CELEBRATING BLOOD CLOT SURVIVORS in every come back story I am able to share.

Looking forward to get more CLOT BUSTER #StopTheClot polka-dots out there as more survivors take on the challenge to spread the word.

Looking forward to a new opportunity with the fine folks organizing the CAP CITY HALF-MARATHON ( that will be taking place on May 2nd. Stay tuned for more on that.

Looking forward to learning more about BLOOD CLOT SURVIVORS and their amazing stories of inspiration.

Glad that 2015 is here.

I am ready to take on whatever is that this year is going to throw my way.

Thanks for reading,

The Clot Buster

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

December Athlete of the Month

This month's featured athlete provided me and with the article you will find below. 

This is an exceptional read and I hope you enjoy learning about Alexander's journey as much as I did.

I would never ride as fast as he can but I hope to race with him in the CLOT BUSTER #StopTheClot polka-dots some day!

Read on...

Out Sprinting” a Silent Killer”
By Alexander Rapavi
Alexander RapaviImagine being an hour and fifty minutes into a three hour solo training ride in rural Virginia – a region with spotty cellular telephone service, of course – when out of the blue, you begin to feel dizzy, disoriented, significantly short of breath and start having sharp pains in your chest, uncontrolled coughing, and a debilitating ache deep within your right calf. Definitely not a pleasant thought. A better description might be nightmare scenario. The script of a very bad dream, to be sure.
Two weekends ago that’s exactly what happened to me, and it wasn’t just a bad dream.
My thoughts raced. Am I dangerously dehydrated? Having an allergic reaction to something? Did I tear a calf muscle sprinting up that grade? Am I having a heart attack?
Luckily, I was able to get to the emergency room for treatment. I ended up hospitalized for five days and hooked up to a host of monitoring equipment. The doctors and nurses who took care of me at INOVA were fantastic. So was my wonderful fiancĂ©e Nancy – she didn’t leave my side for one second, sleeping on a makeshift bed in my hospital room every night. I can’t express in words how unbelievably thankful and fortunate I am to be with her.
My morale was high, despite the circumstances. I knew I was in good hands.

So What Happened?

As it turns out, I had blood clots blocking portions of two veins in my right calf. Clots in the lower extremities are known as Deep Venous Thrombosis or DVT and are extremely dangerous if not treated properly. That’s not all, though. Portions of the clots in my calf broke away, ultimately lodging in my lungs, effectively compromising my pulmonary function. When clots travel to your lungs, it’s called a Pulmonary Embolism or PE. PE’s are life threatening. They preempt normal lung function, starving vital organs and tissues of oxygen.
PEs are sneaky, too. They mimic the symptoms of other health issues including bronchitis and asthma. Consequently, diagnosing PEs can be quite difficult. Thousands of people die from PEs every year – including athletes.
PEs are silent killers.

Hitting a Wall

Interestingly, my training had been going quite well the last couple of months. I increased my functional threshold power from 295 to just over 300 watts for 20 minutes and my five minute power was through the roof; my time trial field test times were decreasing, I was able to get my weight down from 185 to 177, I routinely ensured I was getting adequate rest, and was decidedly eating clean.
I had an especially awesome breakfast that morning (my without-­‐a-­‐doubt-­‐soon-­‐to-­‐ be-­‐famous cold muesli). It was so good I actually found myself looking forward to breakfast the following morning. Prior to starting my training session that day, I remember feeling positive about the 2014 race season, my prospects for setting some solid personal time records, and possibly hitting the podium at the Mid Atlantic Championships having missed the steps by one place in 2013.
About an hour and a half into my session, my heart rate began to skyrocket while my power numbers declined. Trying to maintain 300 watts for ten minutes felt more like trying to maintain 1000. Every pedal stroke felt labored.
I simply couldn’t get through my prescribed 10 and 15-­‐minute intervals. Not even close. Not possible. Even backing off to power zones one and two in an attempt to recover brought no real relief, just frustration and concern. I hit the wall, totally fatigued.
Was I just having an extraordinarily bad day on the bike? If so, why? It just didn’t make any sense.
A bit further into my training ride, as I plodded along at a meager 17 miles an hour at barely zone 1 trying to figure out why the heck my output was so out of whack, the chest pain and shortness of breath started. So did the deep pain in my right calf. Fortunately, I was at a bail out point along my training route and was therefore, able to get back to where I needed to be in a relatively short time, and to the medical attention I desperately needed.

DVT/PE in Endurance Athletes

Apparently, DVT/PE is more common in endurance athletes than you might think. I had the opportunity to do a lot of research on these conditions during my hospital stay, and have continued my research while convalescing at home. Below are some of the risk factors for DVT/PE in athletes. The factors in the list apply to anyone, really, but athletes and especially endurance athletes should commit the list to memory. Please note, the list below is not all-­‐inclusive.
  • Traveling long distances to and from competition by plane, bus, or car;
  • Dehydration during and after strenuous sporting events;
  • Significant trauma (Pro cyclist Chris Horner developed a PE after suffering trauma from a crash during the 2011 Tour de France);
  • Immobilization (brace or cast);
  • Bone fracture or major surgery (broken collarbone and related surgery anyone?);
  • Hypertrophy of muscles (constricts veins);
  • Excessive use of caffeine (caffeine is a vasoconstrictor with diuretic effects);
  • Performance enhancing drug use (yes, pharmaceuticals to include Erythropoietin (aka EPO) which thicken the blood, and stimulants which constrict veins and increase blood pressure can contribute to clotting, development of DVTs and PE).

Here are some things athletes (and everyone else) can do to help prevent DVT/PE.

  • Stay mobile, move around on long flights; stop, get out and move around during long road trips to and from races;
  • Consider staying in a hotel before and after races instead of driving to and from within a day. I have driven to and from races in a day a multitude of times and yes, it is definitely cheaper, but could cost a heck of a lot more in the long run;
  • Stay hydrated, stay hydrated, stay hydrated;
  • Wear compression socks;
  • Consider taking an 81mg aspirin every day. Aspirin helps reduce the body’s clotting mechanisms. Check with your health care provider prior to going on an aspirin regimen;
If you exhibit any symptoms of DVT/PE, don’t wait. Athletes are more likely to explain away symptoms that might be key indicators of something more insidious than a pulled muscle (DVT can mimic muscle or tendon trauma) bronchitis, or asthma (PE can mimic these health issues). Don’t wait.
Waiting could cost you your life.

Looking Ahead

It’s appearing more and more like I will have to remain on anticoagulant (blood thinning) therapy for life. I have to undergo more testing in the coming weeks to determine if I am genetically predisposed to hypercoagulability (increased clotting factors). As of this writing, I’m 90% certain I’ll be on anticoagulants for the foreseeable future.
As you can imagine, anticoagulants and mass start bike racing tend to get on poorly with one another. In short, if I’m involved in a crash, the impact could cause organ rupture, internal bleeding – and worse.
Regrettably, by necessity, I am now officially retired from mass start bike racing.
There is a silver lining, though. Notice I said I’m retired from mass start bike racing. I didn’t say I’m retired from racing Individual Time Trials. Far from it. In fact, once I get back on track, I fully intend on training for, and competing in time trials across the Mid Atlantic and Northeast regions again.
No matter the situation, there is always a bright side.
At least I think so.
I hope to see you on the road soon.

Thanks for reading,

The Clot Buster

My 60th Triathlon Finish !!!

My 60th Triathlon Finish !!!
First Time ever My Son got to cross the finish line with me. Without a doubt a Wonderful Experience