Saturday, April 8, 2017

4 weeks 4 races 4 personal bests just 5 months after a blood clot

I had no idea what running would look like after I had a blood clot last November. I did not know if I would be racing this spring, next fall, or in the years to come. I did not know if I would be able to push myself in the same ways I had been able to before. I did not know if I would be able to run as fast as I had before. In February I really started to feel like myself again. My mileage was getting closer to what I would consider normal and I was able to do some workouts again. I hopped in an early March 5k and ran 16:51. Not bad. I followed that up two weeks later with a 9:24 3k which had me pretty excited. It is a much stronger mark than the 16:51. This started a string of races over the last 4 weekends. I did not taper for these races or back off my mileage so they were sort of a mixed bag. I feel like I could have gone faster in all of them but each one served a different purpose for training. Here is what I was able to manage:

3/18- 9:24 3k in a college meet- I was close to 5:00-flat pace for just under 2 miles. This is a very good time for me. I hung onto a small pack early and ran a strong/consistent race with k splits of 3:07-3:08-3:09.

3/26 Couve Clover 10.3 miler- I had tickets to the Blazers on 3/25 and stayed with a buddy who was running a 5k the next day. I had a long run with some tempo miles planned so I hopped in the 10.3 miler. I averaged 5:50 pace for the whole thing, running consistent splits the whole way. This came at the end of an 80+ mile week with a hard 4 x 1 mile workout the Friday before (3/24) and 7+ miles on Saturday (3/25). I hit 10 miles in 58:19. The only 10 miler I had ever run before this was a 59:06 at Pear Blossom last spring so this is a new pr on some tired legs. My thought is that I can roll through 10 miles of a half at this pace or faster on tapered legs. We will see.

4/1 Linfield 10k- It might have been too much to ask for running a 10k just 6 days after a decent 10 miler and with a mid-week workout. I wanted to run 34-mid, something that seemed possible based on the 3k two weeks previous. I, however, ran like an amateur and went out way too fast in this one. It was a small field and I went with a small pack of guys and ran 5:20 for mile 1. This is more or less 5k pace for me and I had 5.2 miles to go. I ran 5:30 for mile 2 and was in over my head. I slowed to reach 5k in 17:22. If I could do that again I would have had a time I would be satisfied with but I was trending in the wrong direction. I ran 5:50s the rest of the way and finished in 35:31- gross. My road best is 35:32 so this technically is my PR now even though I think I can go much quicker...

4/7 John Knight Twilight 5k- 8:50pm on a Friday night under the lights! There were only 11 in the field and it was a D2 meet with some D1 runners in the field. The pack went out hot and I hung off the back in last. There was a pacer up front going through 2 miles in 10:00 which is close to my 3k pace so I was in over my head. I went through the first 1600 in 5:05 and was already a few strides back from 10th. By 2 miles (10:28-30ish), I was about 10 seconds from 10th and this gap would stay the same to the finish. After a much too fast 5:05, I ran 5:23-25 for the next 1600. I was basically where I wanted to be a 3200- 5:15 pace- but trending the wrong way after a hot first mile. I wanted to run 5:15s but ran a 5:30 third mile. I hit the last 200 in 36 to go 76 on the last lap. I feel like I left some time out there with some bad pacing but you can't say that I didn't go for it. I need to be in a 16:10-30 race. I was on 16:00 pace through 2k and 16:10 through 3k but then faded hard because I went out too fast. I want to be in a race where I come through 3k in the same time but do so with even splits. 16:36 beats my old 16:37 road time. That came on a downhill course so it is good to have a more official PR in the 5k.

4 weeks. 4 races. 4 PRs. I don't know what I was expecting post blood clot but I have proved to myself that I am a fighter. I will not quit. I will not give up. I did not focus on any one particular race here and am excited that there is more room for improvement. The goal right now is the Eugene Half Marathon. My training over the next month will turn more half marathon specific. I am optimistic that a 1:14-1:15 time is within reach.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Some semblance of normalcy (March = Blood Clot Awareness Month)

I finally am starting to feel like myself again. The anxiety still comes and goes in spurts but I am slowly convincing myself that I am okay. I have been able to do this largely due to running. The more I am able to run and get through each day, the more I feel like I can get through each day- if that makes any sense. Over the last 5 weeks I have averaged more than 70/week with a high of 84. This is what normal looked like to me pre clot. I have been able to race twice this March: one 5k and one 3k- both on the track.

On 3/4, I raced the Willamette Opener in Salem. Workouts in February showed me that I was getting closer to pre clot form. My weeks in February generally included one tempo of 3-4 miles, 1 short speed workout, and one long run. The tempos were all done on the bark at Amazon so I was mostly going by feel instead of for time but I could tell that I was getting stronger from week to week. I was originally thinking of doing the Willamette 1500 on the 4th so I was doing things like 2 x (k-200-200) or 1k-800-600-400-200 all at mile pace. The long runs really helped me with the anxiety as I was going 15-18 miles every Sunday. I did a 3k time trial on the track in 9:38 and then a couple days later ran 5 x (1k, 400m) averaging 3:16/k and 75/400. Those two results made me switch to the 5k at Willamette. I was definitely fit but pulled a classic marathoner move before the race. In the few days leading up to the race I ran 10 miles, 8 miles, and 7 miles. I did the 5 x (1k, 400m) workout the day before the 10 miles. I should have cut the mileage in half the three days before if I wanted to run faster but I kept the volume up and the race played out accordingly. I wanted to go through 3200m in about 10:30 or so to give myself a chance at 16:15. I, instead, ran my first 1600 a couple seconds under 5:20 and the next 1600 a couple seconds over 5:20. I was locked into 5:20 for the first two. I could not move and quicker and my legs felt very heavy. I slowed to a 5:30ish on the final 1600 and then brought it home in 16:51. This was a college meet so the race was hot from the start. I was near the back of the field and went through the first 400 in 74ish. I went through 800 in 2:35 or so. I started too quick and then my heavy legs had to endure the full 12.5 laps on the track. I beat a few college kids and ran under 17:00 so not all was lost. I'll be honest that I was a little nervous before the race, attempting to run all out just four months after discovering a blood clot. This race showed me that I can run fast again and not think about the clot at all.

I put in some solid training for the next two weeks and ran the Lane Community College Preview 3k on 3/18. There were two heats for this one, as the first heat featured two University of Oregon runners and two elite Japanese runners. In between the 5k and the 3k, I got in two solid workouts that made me feel like something good was coming. I did a 2 x 1600m workout w./ an 800m jog and hit 5:05 and 5:02. I then added on a fast 600, 400, and 200 to cap off that workout. The Tuesday before the Saturday race I did a big double workout. In the morning I did a 2 mile tempo, an 800m, and another 2 mile tempo. In the evening, I got to workout at Hayward Field with the UO Running Club and did 3 sets of 600-400-300-200. I ran faster splits in that evening workout than anything I had ever done before. I ended up with 18 miles that day. I was smarter Wednesday through Friday as I ran 8, 7, and 6 miles. The 6 on Friday included 4 x 200m averaging 34. The race on Saturday was in the afternoon so I did 2.5 mile VERY EASY in the morning around 8am. I got to the race and warmed up around 3:15 for the 4pm race. I tried something a little new during the warmup and did a 2:00 tempo about 1.5 miles in. The segment was at 5:40 pace and then I finished nice and easy around 2.25 miles. I then did drills and some strides before changing into spikes. There were maybe 8-9 runners in our heat. I went out in 74 for the first 400 and felt like I was in control. We were single file but everyone was still in contact as the leaders were 71-72 or so. I maintained the pace on lap 2 and hit 800 in 2:28-29. I was sitting behind a Western Oregon runner and a UO Club runner was just in front of him. The UO Club runner started to gap us on the third lap but we were consistent and were 3:43-44 at 1200. I wanted to maintain contact with the UO runner because we had done the workout together on Tuesday night at Hayward but I did some quick calculations and figured it might be best if I stay behind the college runner in front of me. We passed 1600 in about 4:59. That's 9:20 pace for 3k and was consistent with our first 3 laps. My race plan had been to go out in about 5:00 and then try to hold on/see what I could do. I moved around the runner that had led me through the first 1600 on lap 5. When I got to 2k, however, I was maybe 5-6 second off of the UO runner who I wanted to try to stay on. It's tough to make up that kind of ground in a 3k. For the final k, I basically just maintained pace. I did not catch the UO runner but he picked off somewhere around 4-5 people to finish close to the top. I passed one more runner and was closing in on two more but just ran out of ground at the finish line. I missed the runner in front of me by 1 second and another person was just ahead of him. In retrospect, I should have worked harder to maintain contact with the UO runner who ran 9:13. I finished in 9:24 which I am really happy about. I don't think that I would have run 9:13 but maybe could have dropped under 9:20 if I wasn't running alone on the last k. My splits were very even- about 3:07-3:08-3:09. 9:24 equates to just over 10:00 for 2 miles and about a 16:20 5k, 34:00 10k and 1:15-flat half marathon. I still have to do the training but the potential is there this spring for some solid times and PRs.

I finally ran a race in a time that I feel like represents my fitness pretty well. I'm excited to race on the track some more this spring. I'm signed up for a track 10k and 5k in April. I then have a 5 mile road race and the Eugene Half Marathon to look forward to. I'm still going through some good and bad but I am starting to realize that a lot went well over the last several weeks.

Friday, January 20, 2017

the doctor said I have blood clots...

It's been a while since I have written a post. 2016 was supposed to be my year. For the first 10 months, it was. Work was going great. I was adjusting well to my new Oregon home. I was logging some of the best miles of my young life.

I closed out 2015 with a 1:17:50 PR in the half marathon in late November. I trained all winter and ran the NYC half marathon two seconds faster (1:17:48) in March, 2016. The result was solid but a little disappointing. Workouts were indicating that I was closer to 1:15-16 shape. I then set my sights on the Eugene Marathon. For whatever reason, this race did not go well. I ran 2:59 but my 2:47 PR from fall, 2013 is much faster and I was in much better shape heading into Eugene. I accepted this race and figured I would get my chance in the fall. I trained hard all summer and ran PRs in the 1500 (4:27 = 4:47 mile or so) and the 10k 35:32. The 10k was a little weak and was run on a warm day on a hilly course. I then started to attack marathon training for the Twin Cities Marathon. Here is a little sampling of the training:

8/17- 3.5 @ 5:54, 2.5 @ 5:42, 1.5 @ 5:30
8/21- 18 w./ 12 @ 6:01 pace
8/28- 19 @ 6:31 average w./ a 4 mile push from 13-17 in 5:55, 6:02, 6:05, 5:57
9/3- 21- 2 mile warmup, 4 mile tempo @ 5:55 pace, 9 miles easy, 4 mile tempo @ 6:05 pace, 2 mile cooldown
9/7- 4,3,2,1 x mile(s)- 4 miles 23:39- 5:56, 5:57, 5:55, 5:51 (4:00 rest), 3 miles 17:28- 5:48, 5:52, 5:47 (3:00 rest), 2 miles 11:29- 5:44, 5:45 (2:00 rest), 1 mile 5:36
9/11- 24 @ 6:44 average w./ a 4 mile push from 17-21 in 5:53, 5:57, 5:53, 5:45
9/18- 18.5 total miles w./ Albany Half Marathon as a marathon simulator run in 1:18:52 (6:01 pace)- rainy/muggy day, 1st AG
9/28- 4 x 3200m- 11:25- 5:44, 5:41 (2:11), 11:24- 5:44, 5:40 (2:10), 11:23- 5:45, 5:38 (2:09), 11:06- 5:39, 5:27

In short, I was in the best shape of my life and was ready to run under-2:40. I flew to Minneapolis and crashed with a good friend. On Saturday morning, the day before the race, I woke up with my calf cramping. This was not good but I had worked too hard to let something like this stop me from competing. On Sunday morning, it was cold (low-30s) but I like that for running. I had to, however, wait for a decently long time before starting my warmup. It could be that my body never got fully warmed up and that the lingering calf cramp played a role but the 6:00-flat pace I ran for 13.1 on tired legs 3 weeks ago felt much too fast. By 10k into the race, my legs felt like they were cramping. I tried to settle in with a group hitting 6:10/mile but I fell off it a little after 11 miles and went through the half in 1:22-mid. I was perplexed. I'm not a quitter so I just kept going even though my body was protesting with another half to go. At 22ish, my right calf cramped so bad I had to stop and walk for about 10:00. I started running once I could and crossed the line in 3:00:23. I didn't even break 3 when 6:00 pace was feeling pretty comfortable in training.

In the couple weeks after the race (which was on 10/9), I started to log some miles, determined to get in a good marathon in 2016. I signed up for the California International Marathon. It is always the first weekend in December and is a point to point, net downhill course. The drop a couple hundred feet so it is not as downhill as other courses can be. It still counts, for example, for US Olympic Marathon Qualifying. I got back into workouts and hit a particularly good long run (10/30 22.3 total miles 2:26:55 (6:35 pace overall): 5 x (2 miles easy, 2 miles @ MP)- 14:31/12:09- 6:09, 6:00, 14:10/12:00- 5:58, 6:02, 13:53/11:55- 5:58, 5:57, 14:07/11:57- 5:59, 5:58, 14:05/12:01- 6:02, 5:59, 2.3 mile cooldown 16:05 (10 miles easy 1:10:45 (7:04 pace), 10 miles @ MP 1:00:02 (6:00 pace), 2.3 mile cooldown 16:05)) but my legs were cramping during the whole thing which was very weird and made things significantly tougher. What was going on?

The next night I woke up in the middle of the night to some pretty intense chest pain/pain in my lung. I went for my run that morning and to work. There was pain when I took a deep breath during the day. I woke up again in the night for the second time. I repeated the process and went for a run and to work. I then woke up for the third straight night and was sensing something was wrong. I did a workout on 11/2- 3 x 4 miles in 24:35, 23:57, 23:39- and then went to the hospital. The doctors did not seem overly concerned. My vitals looked normal. They were just going to do a CT Scan of my lung/chest just to make sure that everything looked good. A new doctor came into the room after the scan and told me that I would be staying the night. I had a blood clot in my right lung.

I don't think I was able to process this news in the moment. I'm 24. My health has always been good. I had never taken any sort of medication. My routine for the last 6 years had been to go for a morning run and then take on the day. I was given a series of shots and told that I was to be on blood thinners for the next six months but possibly longer. I was told not to run and to take things easy. I was told that I would not be running a marathon next month. 

I started to run again after taking two weeks off. My PCP said a few miles a day would be fine. I was starting to feel more like myself after the first month since finding the clot. The doctor had told me that I had to be careful because the clot could, at any time, detach and move to my heart or brain which could cause some serious medical problems (heart attack, stroke, etc.). The day before Thanksgiving, I was picking up a pie at a local bakery and everything went from being good to not so good in a matter of seconds. I felt dizzy, my heart started to race, my body was shaking. I did not feel in control. My partner was with me and she immediately drove me to the ER. After being there for 6 hours or so, everything was just fine. Things were better than fine. All of the blood testing was normal and we did another scan to see if the clot was getting bigger but the clot had actually fully dissolved. The problem was that I just did not feel well. I stopped running for a month and went back to the hospital once more feeling the same way. I checked out again. It was starting to sink in that I was having panic attacks. I was feeling anxious 24/7. I was not running. It was difficult to work.

When the calendar year switched to 2017, I was relieved to leave 2016 behind. I started 2016 feeling like anything was possible and closed out the year scared to live my life. Over the last few weeks I have got back to running. Work has gotten much better. The anxiety is still there and that is the biggest thing holding me back right now. I am fearful of developing another clot. I am fearful that if I feel a twinge in my chest that the worst is about to happen. There are days where I am unsure if I will ever be happy again, days where I forgot what happiness feels like. Anxiety/depression are often stigmatized and they are hard to understand if one has never experienced them before. It takes an incredible amount of patience to help someone through this and I am beyond grateful to people in my support system who have been helping me. I do not know what the future holds but I am determined to keep fighting. I am going to run a spring half marathon. I signed up for the 2017 NYC Marathon and will raise money for Team Stop the Clot. The race will be almost exactly one year after my diagnosis. Right now, things are still very difficult. I go through good days and bad days. But I'm not done.

I am a survivor. I will keep moving forward.

(shout-out to the entire blood clot community that I have connected with online- the support/love I feel from this group has been huge over the last several weeks)