Saturday, December 29, 2012

Blood Clots and Ultrarunners

I never thought I was a candidate for a blood clot. I am an ultrarunner. We ultrarunners don't sit still. We are not overweight. We don't smoke. In my case, I rarely travel by plane anymore. How could my blood possibly hang around long enough to stick together and become a life-threatening problem? Well, there are lots of reasons why blood clots excessively and it doesn't seem too picky about your previous athletic performance. If you are sitting still right now, post-injury, you are at risk. Even if only a few hours ago (before your injury) you finished a kick-boxing class, and only 6 days ago completed your third Ironman and only a few weeks ago failed to finish your second gruesome 50 miler after training all summer for a 100 miler, you are still at risk. Five days after ripping my calf to pieces (playing tennis...what a dangerous sport!), the deep vein clot in my lower leg had become so painful, I was unable to get off the couch. My daughter was put in charge of climbing up on a chair to reach the cereal and milk-dinner that night-and then find a mixing bowl in the lower closet from which to eat it in. My son was on teeth and bedtime story duty. When Erik came home, he had to literally carry me under the armpits to help me lower myself down on the toilet. And yet, I thought I had simply re-injured my broken calf from racing around with my kids and swimming, and all the not sitting still I had been doing. So, nearly two weeks passed before I dragged myself to the ER. Major, major clot, with 4-6 months of blood thinner. So, my injury, which put me off training for 6 weeks or so, had now put me off training for 4-6 months, because you can't train when your body can no longer clot. In case anyone is wondering what a clot feels like, it is a pretty sudden pain (in my case, directly behind and below the knee), which gets worse every day. The real clue that I had a clot in my leg was that my leg had turned cold, my foot had turned purple, and whenever I stood in an upright position (with crutches and my lovely walker), all the blood that was supposed to rush to my foot got clogged at the clot and set my lower leg into truly blackout-causing excruciating muscle-spasm pain. Once on blood thinners, the pain decreased overnight, and now, after two weeks of medicine, is pretty much gone.