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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

August Athlete of the Month - PART II

As promised here is the second part of my introduction to you of Mr. Rick Fitzgerald... GET INSPIRED out thre because this 56 year old machine is an example to all of us!

1) What is you sport/activity of choice? Why do you enjoy it?
Running, bicycling and cross-country skiing are my sports of choice.

I consider myself to be primarily a runner. I love so many aspects of the sport:
The freedom of being able to run anywhere at just about any time. I run through neighborhoods and on wooded trails. I’ve used running to explore new cities and to make new friends. I love the atmosphere of running events. I love the feeling of accomplishment during races and the feeling of satisfaction after going on “just a run.”

Bicycling offers most of the same satisfactions, with the added benefit of being able to cover a lot more miles in less time. I get a kick out of being able to get myself from one town to another using just the power I can generate on my own.

Cross-country skiing is basically a much easier way to go trail running during a Michigan winter.

I enjoy these sports because they are accessible to “everyday Joes” like me.

2) How did you get started in that sport?
I got started running in the mid-1980s. We were living in Muskegon, Mich., a community along the Lake Michigan shoreline. I worked at the local newspaper and one of the community hospitals decided to sponsor a run. As a way to promote the race, they offered a beginning running clinic, with advice and group runs.

Running was one of those athletic endeavors I had tried to get going on a couple of times without much success. This time, I figured out a way to stick with it my committing myself in print. During the summer-long running clinics, I wrote a weekly column in the newspaper about what I was learning as a beginning runner. Our “graduation” was a 10-kilometer run in late August.

I’ve been running every since.

As for bicycling … First I have to say I am not a competitive bicyclist. I’ve never participated in a bike race. But my wife, Cathy, and I have done lots of week-long bicycle tours over the years and really enjoy spending time on our bikes.

3) What is the latest milestone you achieved or plan to achieve? (Long bike ride, some race coming up or that you did)
For the last seven years, I’ve used my bicycle to help raise funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Michigan. Each year we pedal 300 miles in three days to help raise money for this organization that grants wishes to medically fragile children and their families. This year, about 700 of us raised $1.5 million during the last weekend of July. We had five family members on the ride this year.

One of the neatest events of the year is a trail run coming up in September. It’s called Dances With Dirt and it takes place in Hell, Mich. It’s a five-person, 50-kilometer relay race that takes us, literally, over the river and through the woods … and through the swamps and over sand dunes, and …

The guy who designs the course calls himself the Head Goat and he’s certifiably insane. The event is exhausting and an absolute blast.

In March, I ran the 8 Tuff Miles rod race in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s this amazing race where you run (if you can call it that) from one end of the island to the other. It’s uphill for five miles, then downhill for three. In spite of that, I finished faster than I ever thought I could. The views are amazing and the location is stunning. I highly recommend it.

4) Tells about your clotting episode. Are you on blood thinners now? How long were you out of commission?
I learned I had a blood clot when I had a pulmonary embolism in May of 2005. We were attending a community fund-raising event with a group of friends. We were enjoying a glass of wine and some appetizers as we browsed through a silent art auction. Suddenly I had this excruciating pain in the right side of my chest. As it got worse, I had a hard time moving. I propped myself against a wall and suggested to my wife, Cathy, that maybe she should go get the car.

We decided to head for the emergency room, where we spent the next 4-5 hours as I was poked and prodded; tested and retested. After getting the pain under control with some pretty powerful drugs, we were sent on our way with no clear diagnosis. Maybe it was pleurisy, the ER doc suggested.

I felt OK the next morning and went to work. About 10 a.m. a radiologist called. He was reviewing my tests and wanted me to come back for one more test. Sure, I said, I’ll leave work a little and come by. No, you need to come back to the ER now, the doctor said.

So I drove the 30 miles to the hospital. After checking in at the ER I was ushered to into a small, dark room where they administered a doppler test of my legs. It seems, the radiologist suspected a blood clot and, as I learned, the most likely location is in the lower legs.

Well, it didn’t take long before the technician found the clot behind my left knee. That led to a three-day stay in the hospital connected to an IV drip of heparin and then the switch over to warfarin therapy. I went home and in just a few days, the chest pain was back and I was back in the hospital. This time I checked in for a full week-long course of herparin therapy.

The hemotoligist who treated me said I had a really big PE and was lucky to be alive. While I’m thankful for that, I don’t believe it was all luck. I think running had something to do with it. I was healthy and strong and I believe that helped keep me alive. He was never able to completely explain why I got the clot. Tests did confirm that I had one abnormal prothrombin gene, but that’s it. No other risk factors, no big swollen leg that I ignored.

Fine-tuning the warfarin was pretty easy for me and I was back on the bike by the end of June. By the end of July, I was able to participate in that Make-A-Wish bicycle ride, although I did cut the first couple days a little short.

I stayed on warfarin for about 18 months, then went on an aspirin a day. That worked well, until this May. Sure enough, about four years to the day from the PE, I suspected I had developed another clot. And it was running that tipped me off.

I typically don’t run as much during the winter, so each spring it takes a little more to get back up to speed. This spring it seemed to take longer than normal, but some days were better than others, so I ignored it. I ran the Capital City Half Marathon with my daughter, Sara, in Columbus, Ohio, the first weekend in May. We ran comfortably and enjoyed the day.

The next weekend, we went bird watching at Point Pelee National Park on Lake Erie in Ontario. Canada. On the way home I had this strangely familiar chest pain. I called my doctor Monday and later that week, I got another one of those doppler tests. Sure enough, I had another blood clot.

Now I’m back on warfarin. This time it’s for good.

5) When were you able to get back into your activity? How did it feel that first time?
I got back to running about a month after that initial stay in the hospital. It felt great to be active again. It was especially good because that shortness of breath – that I thought was just my aging body complaining – was gone.

6) What is your favorite piece of gear for your favorite activity? (Bike brand, running shoes, perhaps a running singlet or the Clot Buster's Running Polka-Dot Technical Shirt...)
I love my Specialized road bike. I did the first three 300-mile rides on a hybrid bike. What a difference those skinny tires make!

7) How much are you getting out doing your sport? (Everyday you do some training, 2, 3, 4 times per week)
Dances With Dirt is looming on the horizon, so I’m working out just about every day. I’m focused on running now, but still try to get into the gym and get on the bike during the course of a week, too. I try to get out and run in the morning before work, but tend to head to the gym or ride the bike in the evening.

8) What is your favorite food? Either generally or after a workout. For me there is nothing better than a Chipotle Burrito... 

I’m a breakfast fanatic. Cinnamon-raisin French toast or blueberry pancakes. There’s just nothing better than one of those choices with an endless supply of strong black coffee. Run, then breakfast. Ride the bike to your favorite breakfast spot. There’s simply no better way to start the day.

9) If you could go some place to visit and explore, where would like to go? 

National parks. I want to visit them all. We’re hoping Glacier National Park will be coming up next. Yellowstone is one of the most incredible places on the planet.

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.
Shit happens. Get over it and get on with your life. Don’t let the clot define you. Take control of your life.

For me, eating consistently – a salad every day – has helped me maintain a consistent warfarin therapy level. As long as that number stays in the therapeutic range, I just go on doing what I love to do. I run. I ride. I ski. I never was one to play contact sports, so I never had to give them up. I may see it differently if I loved to play hockey.

The one thing I did learn through all of this was to recognize the warning signs and to take them seriously. I knew something was wrong when those chest pains returned. Sure, you could say I was dumb not to head to the ER on the way back from Ontario. But at least I didn’t completely blow it off.

It’s up to you take responsibility for our own health. It’s not your doctor’s job to keep you healthy. He’s there to deal with the bad stuff. You have to take care of yourself. For me, that includes staying active, eating right … and paying attention to certain warning signs.

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MANY THANKS once more for your willingness to share with us your story. I am very lucky to have had the chance to meet you in person and draw on the energy and love of live that you radiate. I saw you running here in Columbus, OH this year... maybe next year you will be wearing one of the Clot Buster shirts to help us spread the word!

It is almot 10PM and I want to get out there and ride my bike... but considering that Junior may decide to wake up around 1AM I better get to bed.

Good night to all.

Thanks for reading,

The Clot Buster

Thursday, August 20, 2009

August Athlete of the Month

Sorry for the delay in getting around to post about August's Athlete of the Month but due to some technical difficulties and other delays outside of our control I will need to do a partial post of August's Athlete of the month.

This month I have the pleasure to introduce to someone that I admire very much due to his "never give up" attitude even after several clotting episodes that have tried to slow him down but have only managed to make him more determined. Please welcome Mr. RICK FITZGERALD as August's Athlete of the Month.
In a my next post about Mr. Fitzgerald you will learn a lot more about him but for now you need to know that this guy is a true example of how you can definitely bounce back regardless of the number of clots that you have suffered.

Just recently I learned that in a vacation trip to the US Virgin Islands Mr.Fitzgerald participated in one of the hardest run races in the planet... If you have ever been to the US Virgin Islands you know about how steep and twisty the roads can be. Well, this run race takes place in St. John and it is a race from one end of the island to the next. My legs start to shake just thinking about the difficulty of this race on how much it can hurt. It is not very long (8 Miles) but they are a brutal set of 8 Miles.
Mr. Fitzgerald continues to inspire with all the different activities he does even after his clots. Please stay tuned to my next post to learn more about this man and how we can teach us a thing or two about dedication and never giving up.Thanks for reading,

The Clot Buster

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Did you hear the news...!?!?!

Learn more about NATT's press release by clicking HERE.

This is something very special for me as I've come a LONG WAYS to get this to happen. If you can and wish to participate DON'T HESITATE. You will be doing Great Good by helping to spread the word about blood clots and blood clotting disorders.

Pass on the word to others... let's get the polka-dots out there in full force!

Thanks for reading,

The Clot Buster

Saturday, August 15, 2009

3rd Annual - Greater Cleveland Triathlon STOP THE CLOT Race and Raffle

I can't say it enough... Mickey >>> THANK YOU for the opportunity to let the STOP THE CLOT and Clot Buster gang take part on your event and let us spread the word about blood clots and blood clotting disorders while giving out some sweet prices...!
All things conisdered we had a tremendous weekend. Too bad the rain on Saturday scared a lot of people away and we could not sale that many tickets for the raffle... bad for NATT but GREAT to those who did buy tickets as their odds were much better thanks to the rain.

But regardless of the weather the polka-dots stood tall and battled the weather in order to give people the chance to get a ticket and a chance to learn about NATT's mission and a chance to win.

Also, a HUGE THANKS to the Deirdre, Bill, Liam, and Conor for hosting us, teaching us how to play Wii, and for providing Junior to older brothers for the weekend. I wish I could tell you how much fun it was for them as well as for Junior.
Once more Lake Eire threw a wrench to the Triathlon plans and converted the race into a big duathlon... 5K Run1, 40K Bike, 5K Run2. I surprised myself when I ran a 19:43 first 5K... do you know how long has it been since I've been under 20... too long to tell. The bike was a bliss on top of the Hercules... I sure was flying but with the wet pavement I had to be careful. The second run was solid enough to let me get into the THIRD PLACE in my age group. Definitely very pleased with that. Well Done! Congratulations to ALL THE RAFFLE winners and THANK YOU for stopping by to help NATT and to learn about STOP THE CLOT.

If Mickey takes us back again next year we will try and come loaded again with plenty of prizes and more inspirational stories like the ones you were able to read about at the booth. Those are the stories that keep the polka-dots going!
Thanks for reading,

The Clot Buster
P.S. = Did you notice antyhing different on the Clot Buster? If you did, drop me a line and let me know...

Monday, August 03, 2009

"What am I on...? Series Continued

Little over 5 days to go for the STOP THE CLOT Raffle at the Greater Cleveland Triathlon weekend event in Mentor, OH. I am amazed that this will be the THIRD time the Clot Buster clan will find their way to Cleveleand - Mentor, OH and have a weekend full of polka-dots, STOP THE CLOT spreading, and of course triathlon racing...!

Over the last posts on this series I talked about my choice of footwear for both running and cycling which included some good looking high-top socks that I am still debating about...
So, I think that it is time to move on to the machine (or machines in this case) that allow the Clot Buster to blaze through the races or at least they let him believe that he is doing just that..

I have to begin by talking about the bike that has been with me the better part of 7 years and has taken me through all kinds of races pretty much all over the country. Please bow your head in respect to my beloved KESTREL TALON SL.
I can still remember the first time I laid eyes on this frame and fell in love with it. I did a lot of research and no matter where I looked and what I looked at I always went back to the smooth lines of the Kestrel Talon. The ride of course has been a dream since the day I bought the bike... simply comfortable from start to finish. This one has been a great bike to get into long triathlons as she is most responsive once you get in your big gear and you can hammer on flats or rolling hills. She just keeps the momentum and goes as fast as your legs can take once you get her moving. I don't feel the frame is responsive enough for quick accelerations but in our sport that is something we don't need. This bike has been a thrill to ride and I enjoy every ride I get to go along with her.

Now, like any bike junkie, you need to hear about my "other" bike. The newest bike in my collection the one that gets my heart rate going... this one is a dream machine for me... Please meet my DOLAN BIKES - HERCULES machine. This little slice of heaven in two wheels is my latest addition to my collection of bikes and it is without a doubt one that I am enjoying a great deal. Of course, you can't look past the attractive lines this bike has. You can't help but be glued to how smooth and simple they are. At first, it felt very strange to be riding a geometry of this kind. It took some trial and error to get dialed in but once the guys at DPM Sports and I found the sweet spot it has been a real treat to get on the Hercules and ride for hours on end. I love how strong and responsive it feels but how light it is at the same time. Definitely the bike I've been looking for and the one you will see me use at the STOP THE CLOT Raffle weekend at the Greater Cleveland Triathlon.

If you have any questions at all about this dream machine please don't hesitate to ask. If I don't know I will be sure to get in touch with the fine guys at DPM Sports and they will be sure to get all of your questions answered.

So there you have it... the machines I am on to spead the word about our campaign to STOP THE CLOT.

Thank you for reading,

The Clot Buster

My 95th Triathlon Finish !!!

My 95th Triathlon Finish !!!