This month's athelete of the month provides me (and I hope that for your too) the inspiration I need to keep training and racing to create awareness about blood clots and blood clotting disorders. Also, to keep me cool all I need is to think of her training grounds in Scotland where mild temperatures, rain, and wind make me think of cool thoughts as I am sweating buckets...
I am very fortunate to have the chance to introduce you to BECS WILLIAMS who from across the pond has been kind of to share her story of survival with us. How amazing is today's world of technology that allows us to be connected and learn/get inspired by other thousands of miles of away... Becs HUGE THANKS for sharing your story!
1) What is you sport/activity of choice? Why do you enjoy it?
I don’t really have a specific sport, I like to do quite a range of things, so I guess you could call it multi-sport. I enjoy it because it gives me variety and stops me from getting bored. Before I got ill I was regularly road biking, flat and hill running, mountain biking, kayaking, and open water swimming; last year I took part in around 5 or 6 triathlons or duathlons; when I’m back to full health I’m planning on pursuing adventure racing which also involves a bit of orienteering.
2) How did you get started in that sport?
I got started in multi-sport as a result of my boyfriend – when I lived in cities I was always an avid gym goer and also enjoyed running outside in parks etc, but after moving to Scotland in February 2010 I’ve not set foot in a gym since; I’ve got a new road bike, a new mountain bike, a wetsuit and access to various kayaks, a few great training buddies and some of the most beautiful countryside in the UK on my doorstep to train in.
3) What is the latest milestone you achieved or plan to achieve?
I’m doing a race at the weekend www.wickedwolftriathlon.co.uk, last year I was 2nd female and was planning on attempting to take the first spot this year after my boyfriend bought me a nice new mountain bike and I’d been training pretty hard (for me) up until May. Unfortunately I’m not able to do the bike or run sections this year so have formed a team with a friend, I’ll be doing the kayak and she’ll be doing the rest (using my new bike!). I’ve not been able to do any running or biking since May, but have done a bit of yoga, swimming and kayaking so hopefully my fitness will be ok. After this weekend, I’m not sure what my next race will be – I’m keen to rest as much as possible until my leg looks as normal as possible!
4) Tells about your clotting episode. Are you on blood thinners now? How long were you out of commission?
I got my second blood clot in the middle of May this year (2011) – almost 2 months ago – it actually feels like a lot longer. I had my first clot in September 2001 (I was lying in my hospital bed when the twin towers were struck); it was an extensive clot in my left thigh, and I was on Warfarin for 6 months. My left leg has always been weaker as a result of the damage my first clot did to my main vein, however it’s not really stopped me doing my training and I learnt to recognise when I was doing too much, it would swell up occasionally, but I just rested it when I needed to. My second clot was a bit of shock, particularly due to the fact I was probably at my fittest in terms of lifestyle and the volume of exercise I was doing. I had recently come back from a cycling trip in Majorca where I’d done over 350 miles of mountainous cycling in one week, my leg had been swelling up a bit during the trip, but no more than I’d expected it to. The week following Majorca my muscles in my left leg were hurting more than usual so I decided to go to the doctor for a check up. As a result of my history then sent me for a scan on my leg, however it came back negative, as did the follow up scan 10 days later. I then carried on with my training which involved regular hill runs and bike rides; however I did another race which involved a 37mile cycle and following that my leg never really recovered. It started to swell and hurt a lot, deep down I knew it was a clot but still hoped that it would go away. Following over a week of taking painkillers and travelling around the UK with work I decided it was time to go for an emergency scan. The scan showed that I had a clot in my left calf… I have been out of action ever since and will be on Warfarin for the rest of my life.
5) When were you able to get back into your activity? How did it feel that first time?
I haven’t done any running or cycling yet, I still have mild feelings of panic when my heart rate goes up, particularly if I’m on my own – largely as I’m conscious that I probably still have some form of a clot in my leg so will still be at risk of an embolism. My leg still hurts to walk too far and if I push it by doing a slight jog (perhaps to the shop) the aching feeling comes back. I’m finding it a lot harder to get over my clot mentally this time than I did the last time in 2001, I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m older, or because I feel like I’ve got more to lose now. I think I’m unlikely to do much in terms of serious training this year; I’ve bought a new digital SLR camera to fill the void of exercise and have increased my focus on my voluntary work. My boyfriend is still doing a lot of races, so I’m going along to them and meeting up with friends and enjoying the social side of it instead.
My favourite bit of kit has to be my road bike – I love it – it’s a Kuota Korsa and I’ve had it for just over a year. It’s light and fast and I’ve covered a lot of miles on it. I miss riding it a lot.
My favourite food is smoked haddock risotto – I love it!
I would say to anyone else who’s going through the same thing… don’t rush it – your bike or running shoes will still be there a few months down the line – your body’s recovery is way more important, so listen to how it feels and don’t take it for granted. My main concern now is that I’ll always be on Warfarin – I’m not too bothered about the blood tests etc, and I’m happy that being on the drug reduces my risk of yet another clot, however it’s more the fact that I have to be more careful not to injure myself and the impact this is going to have on my performance – will it make me even more weary when descending hills on my mountain bike or road bike for example? I don’t know, I’ll just have to see how I get on. On a positive note, I survived, I’m here to tell another tale and I’m lucky that I know one day I should be able to return to what I enjoy. It’s important not to mope around, but to make the most of your time off and maybe focus on some other area of your life that may benefit from some attention.
Keep smiling, life is good!