I’m completely addicted to triathlon. I have been competing in triathlons since 2004 and enjoy the people, camaraderie, and challenge of the sport. Within triathlon, the bike is my favorite leg. I love the fact that you can do triathlons pretty much anywhere, there is always a community of semi-crazy people who are interested in doing it with you, and that it forces balance in your life. It forces you to be more organized with your time, focus on yourself and your health, and gives you a healthy outlet in midst of work, family, etc.
I started dating a guy who was an Ironman triathlete. I have always been athletic, playing soccer in high school and college, but had never seriously trained. I found that I really enjoyed cycling, like to run, and could suffer through the swim. I also found that if I wanted to see my boyfriend at the time, I had to start training as well! My love for the sport survived, the relationship unfortunately did not ...
My last milestone was qualifying for 70.3 Half Ironman Championships in Clearwater Florida at the Singapore 70.3 race. It was a surprise to qualify at this race as I was using it more of a training race for my “A” race this year at Hawaii 70.3. My ultimate goal is to qualify for Hawaii Ironman and Hawaii 70.3 has qualifying spots. My next milestone is completing another full Ironman, Ironman New Zealand with the goal of trying for a Hawaii spot!
I had my first clotting episode when I was in graduate school. I injured my calf during bike training and then drove from Minneapolis to Ithaca. The impact of the muscle tear and long period of sitting/inactivity prompted me a trip to the emergency room with my first DVT. A year and half on Coumadin with some permanent swelling, I was cleared to start training again. I haven’t had an episode in 6 years. So when I boarded the flight from Singapore to Melbourne, I didn’t take my precautionary blood thinning shots. Believe me, I kick myself every day that I wish I had taken the shot. I got off the flight from Melbourne with a swollen calf, a sore and hot spot, and the sinking feeling that I had another blood clot. I was diagnosed with double DVT in my right calf the first week in May 2009. My “A” race which I had been training for the last 6 months in Singapore was in 3 weeks in Hawaii. I was done. No race for me, no training, no activity for at least 2 weeks. I negotiated to start low impact walking after the 2 week mark. I started on a low molecular Heparin shot right away as I didn’t want to risk the ups and downs of trying to stabilize on Coumadin. My body reacted very strongly to the new thinners. I was tired, no energy, depressed, had a metallic taste in my mouth, nauseated, and generally sick for at least a week when I started the new protocol. It was pretty rough; however knowing that other people are out there with the same affliction really helped. I’m lucky. My case was caught early and I have been responding positively to the blood thinners. I will be out of commission for about 3 months before I can start training again.
I have just starting to bike again and am not allowed to run yet. I can do some swimming with a pull buoy. The first time I went biking, my calf cramped up and my foot went asleep. I had to stop and keep my leg elevated for awhile before I could get back on the bike. It was really de-motivating. However, my second bike ride, I felt stronger, less pain in the calf and less swelling. I’m not looking forward to running after 3 months off . .but you have to start somewhere. I keep telling myself that challenges like this make you stronger. Triathlon is predominantly a mental challenge of keeping your legs turning for minutes and hours at a time. This is just another test!
6) What is your favorite piece of gear for your favorite activity?
Well, I just bought a new triathlon bike (part of my cheer up plan!) and it’s a beautiful new FELT B2 PRO. Hot red which will look great with a Clot Busters jersey!
When I’m back in training mode (after my doctor’s OK) I train 6 days a week with 1 rest or light activity day. 2 – 3 days swimming, 2 days on the bike trainer during the week due to my work schedule, and long ride on weekend, and 3 days running. 1 day weights and/or yoga (still hoping to get that yoga in!). I average about 10 – 13 hours a week for Half Ironman and will push that up to 15 – 20 hours for Ironman training.
I am a huge Peanut Butter and Jelly fan! I can eat PB and J before a workout, after a workout, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Living in Singapore, I haven’t found a great organic Peanut Butter so I bring it back from the States every time I travel there for work. My favorite (here’s a plug) is the Lunds & Byerly’s Organic Creamy Peanut Butter. Yum, yum. I had some at breakfast today already...
9) If you could go some place to visit and explore, where would like to go?
Living in Singapore now, I have a long list of places to visit and am ticking them off. Next on the list is Kathmandu for a long weekend, then Vietnam for a triathlon, and next spring, New Zealand for hiking and triathlon. I really want to go to Mumbai and experience India as well as do a hiking trek through Nepal.
10) What would like to say to someone who is going through a clotting episode, perhaps very similar to yours? How can people return to do what they enjoy? Tells about your concerns and what you look out after as you got back.
I would tell them to hang in there. I know that it is really tough when you first find out that you have a blood clot and you have to cancel your plans, activities, and other engagements. All you can do is to put together a plan, find a physician that understands you are an athlete and is willing to work with you, and demand the best medical care you can. Being an athlete you are tempted to push too hard, and too fast especially as you start feeling better. I sat down and put together a milestone plan with my physician that included treatments, ultrasound dates, check-ups, and key decision factors. This really helped me put my arms around the diagnosis. My physician is not an athlete, but she consulted with other doctors who know that an answer of “just stop running, or your days of running are over” is not an answer. I changed doctors a couple of times before I found someone that I was comfortable with, understood me and my situation, and was giving me the best care possible.
Second, be careful. I make sure to understand the possible complications and then set up ultrasound appts to check progress as frequent as my insurance and doctor would allow so that I could move up from low impact walking to low impact cycling. I’m still working the plan as my next ultrasound appt is today in which I will see if I can start a training program again given the diagnosis.
Last, support the groups that promote more research and education in this area. It is really frustrating when you are diagnosed to realize the lack of research and knowledge into blood clotting disorders today and why we are seeing blood clots in active, healthy individuals. I do not carry any genetic markers for blood clotting disorder, but have a couple of levels that are higher than normal. I’m one of those cases in which physicians don’t understand why I have challenges with blood clots. Also tell your friends, spouses, and family of what to look out for in terms of getting a blood clot. Education is critical. Even today, many people ask me how did I know I had a clot? The earlier that people can detect, hopefully they can catch it before it terms into a more serious problem.