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Friday, September 05, 2014

September Athelter of the Month

2014 has not been my year as it relates to my various bikes...

I am fortunate, a million times over, to have the "various" bikes that I own and even more lucky to be able to ride them as much as I get to. 

However, this year has been rough.  First in in June I got hit by car during a local triathlon which caused some damage to my newly renovated triathlon racing bike; the today as I was attempting to commute from home to work my commuter "work horse" bike finally could not keep up any more and gave up about 3 Miles away from work... After the better part of 7 years of commuting at least 3 times per month weather permitting losing this frame is a significant set back for my training expectations...

But really how can I speak / write of "set backs" on material stuff when the month of September is upon us and it is time for the September Athlete of the Month post.

It is rather foolish of me to have a "pity" party over the loss of my work horse bike when I should be talking about REAL, LIFE ALTERING "SET BACKS" due to blood clot incidents...

So, with that mind, please allow me to introduce to you the following blood clot survivor who did have the life altering blood clot incident that re-shaped his life and has propelled him down the road of MAJOR and INSPIRATIONAL accomplishments.

Please meet MARTIN SCHNEEKLOTH and read on about his story...

1)  What is you sport/activity of choice? Why do you enjoy it?
I have two true loves when it comes to sports, soccer and ultrarunning. Growing up in Germany, I've been playing soccer since I was 5 years old. However, I haven't played since my ankle surgery and the associated clotting incident 19 months ago. I also having been running for general fitness for the better part of the last 15 years. I got involved in Ultrarunning just 5 years ago and it has been my passion ever since. Ultrarunning (also called Ultramarathoning) is described as running any distance over the traditional marathon distance of 26.2 miles.

2)  How did you get started in that sport?
I was getting ready to run a local 15K road race in preparation for running my first marathon, when I recognized a guy I had played soccer with in a local men's soccer league. We started talking and when I explained to him why I was running this race, he said "why don't you just run the Dizzy Fifties 50K with me and my buddies, instead? It's barely longer than a marathon." The rest, as they say, is history. I was hooked as soon as I crossed the finish line of my first 50K trail race.

3)  What is the latest milestone you achieved or plan to achieve?(Long bike ride, some race coming up or that you did)
My biggest athletic achievement to date was the completion of my first 100 mile trail race. It took me nearly 28 hours of continuous forward movement to cross that finish line and when the race director handed me my very first 100 mile belt buckle (traditional finisher's award for 100 mile ultramarathons), I was crying, both from complete exhaustion and from complete elation, all at the same time. You do learn a lot about yourself, physically and mentally, when you complete such a demanding event.

4)  Tells about your clotting episode.  Are you on blood thinners now? How long were you out of commission?
In December 2012, I sustained an ankle injury playing in the final soccer match of the season after turning to chase down an opposing player. I felt a sudden sensation of pain in my left ankle and knew something was wrong. Unable to walk, I was helped off the field and the next morning, I made an appointment with a sports orthopedist to have it checked out. Unfortunately, the initial diagnosis missed the true nature of my injury and rather than scheduling corrective surgery right away, my left leg was placed in a boot and I was prescribed physical therapy. The traumatic nature of my ankle injury combined with having to wear a boot to stabilize my ankle caused a severe clotting episode, which exhibited itself fairly suddenly with severe chest pain 5 weeks after the initial ankle injury. 3 hours after arriving at the ER and after undergoing extensive tests, I received my devastating diagnosis, multiple DVTs and multiple bilateral PEs. This was definitely the scariest moment in my live as doctors would not even give my wife a prognosis at this time. Luckily, I did recover after I spent the following week in hospital receiving treatment multiple times a day to prevent the clots from growing further and to allow my body to slowly break down the clots.

However, leaving the hospital a week later was only the first step in my recovery. I still had to receive reconstructive ankle surgery to address an ankle fracture and tendon tear that had initially been diagnosed as an ankle strain, but that could not proceed until my blood clots were under control. I was put on blood thinners (initially Lovenox injections followed by daily doses of Coumadin, later I was placed on Xarelto after discussing the ease of use of this newer drug with my hematologist). I had to be taken off blood thinners and undergo surgery to receive an IVC filter before they would be able to proceed with the actual ankle surgery, followed by another procedure to remove the IVC filter. Once all of these procedures had been completed over the course of 4 weeks or so, I was placed on a daily dose of Xarelto for another 4 months. Since none of the extensive blood tests showed any genetic predisposition to blood clots, my hematologist and I decided that I would be taken off blood thinners once this treatment cycle had been completed. However, any new clotting incidents would mean blood thinners for life.

5)  When were you able to get back into your activity?  How did it feel that first time?
While on blood thinners, I was able to start rehab pretty soon after surgery, but I was constrained to the PT office and a local indoor pool. Once the ankle cast was removed, I was allowed to start walking right away, but nearly 6 months of immobility in my left leg had caused severe atrophy. However, having been given a second chance, I was determined to not only get back to walking, but to get back to running as well. While on blood thinners, I mainly did my rehab on the treadmill, but as soon as I was cleared to try to begin running again, I was out shuffling through my neighborhood. I toed the starting line of my "first" trail half marathon after recovery 12 months after my clotting episode and it felt fantastic, like an immense load was lifted of my shoulders. I immediately started setting my next goal, finishing another 100 mile ultramarathon. Since then, I have completed 8 ultramarathons and multiple shorter road races setting PRs at every distance. I've been training hard for the goal of finishing another 100 miler for the past 6 months and I plan to toe the starting line for this race on November 1, 2014.

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...)
There are two things I rely on when toeing the starting line of an ultramarathon, my Clot Buster tech shirt (I'm already on my second one as I've literally worn out the first one I owned) and my Altra running shoes, which have literally eliminated my "Morton's Neuroma", a foot issue I've experienced in long distance events.

7)  How much are you getting out doing your sport?  (Everyday you do some training, 2, 3, 4 times per week)
When you train for a 100 mile ultramarathon, you have to make a serious commitment to training, which often means running 7 days a week and running very early in the mornings to avoid the heat of the day and to try to minimize the impact of your training on your family. However, a commitment like this also requires the understanding and support of your family.

8)   What is your favorite food?  Either generally or after a workout.  For me there is nothing better than a Chipotle Burrito...
My wife and I have this weekly ritual. She's also caught the running bug having completed a few half marathons and a triathlon and is currently training for her first marathon. After every long run on Sunday mornings, we reward ourselves with a huge breakfast at our favorite local spot that consists of banana pancakes, omelette, home fries and biscuits. Other than that, I prescribe to a pretty "clean" diet.

9)  If you could go some place to visit and explore, where would like to go?
These days, almost every place I want to visit is tied to some type of amazing endurance event. In fact, I'm still working on a bucket list of places to go and experience. On the top of this evolving list are the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB) 100 mile foot race in the Alps of France and the Marathon des Sables (MdS) 150 mile foot race in the desert of Egypt.

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.
Never give up, no matter how devastating your diagnosis might initially seem. Reach out to others with similar experiences to help you through this, answer questions you will have and point you towards other helpful resources. I found the most effective way to get back to what you want to do is to make sure your doctor understands your goals. If he/she does not understand them or makes no effort to help you get there, find another doctor. No matter how big or small your goals, make sure you come up with a plan and find people (both health care professionals and friends) who will help you get there. I found my biggest challenge to be not physical but mental. Even though my doctor assured me that I would likely make a full physical recovery, in my mind, there still is that fear of a relapse, both of re-injuring my ankle and of experiencing another blood clot. And then there is the occasional phantom pain in my chest. But I try to look at the positive of this experience. I have received a second chance and I plan to live life to the fullest. Finally, be sure to share your experience with others and show your support for the National Blood Clot Alliance in any way you can. We as blood clot survivors should be the biggest and strongest advocates for this cause that, in my humble opinion, still does not get the attention and support it deserves.
This guy is a MACHINE!!!

Simply amazing that it is possible to recover from a significant blood clotting incident and get the body turned around to thrown down in Ultramarathons.  And on top of all that be competitive at them.  Just browse on over to Martin's own site and you can see for your self that this guy is a top performer.


I need Martin to become my personal runner coach so that I can break through my barriers and unlock some of the speed that I know is somewhere deep inside... It may not be in ultras but in the marathon it could be a possibility.  2015 will be a new year and since I am running out of bikes to ride then I guess running will be it...

You can be sure that tomorrow I am running not only because Martin's inspiration but all those blood clot survivors who are crafting their very own come back story.

Thanks for reading,

The Clot Buster

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My 100th Triathlon Finish !!!

My 100th Triathlon Finish !!!