In 2010, I ran three marathons and intended on running three more in 2011. Sadly, I tore my meniscus playing soccer with my son Ty. My doctor assured me I would be back in time to run the Chicago Marathon after a 12 minute surgery in August. A week later while standing in the garage with the boys I felt like I had just done a 10 mile workout. I was short of breath, my heart was racing and I was sweating. Sue, my wife rushed home from the ER and took me in.
Turns out I had massive blood clots in my calf (DVTs) and multiple bilateral Pulmonary Emboli (PEs) in my lungs. After getting through the initial diagnosis the doctors did a bunch of blood work and discovered a blood clotting disorder. Luckily I only spent 6 months on Coumadin. Some people need it for life. *Important Note* you do NOT have to have a blood clotting disorder to get a blood clot.
I am a wedding photographer. A normal day is 10 to 14 hours of running around. When I returned to work it was hard to breath and the near 100 degree temps and humidity didn’t help much. The first couple weeks my heart rate would sky rocket and every time I felt a pain in my leg or chest I wondered if I should go back to the ER. I actually developed a little anxiety. Funny to think how much mental prep I do for ultra marathons then my brain actually convinced me of a problem that didn’t exist. That said, anxiety sucks. I would have sworn my heart was racing in the 140s-150s but sure enough I took my pulse and it was 60 or lower.
I tried running a few days after I got home from the hospital. 1 mile in 15 minutes. Realizing there was no way I could run I took 4 months off. I spent some time in the gym but that was almost as hard. My heart rate would hit 175 or higher lifting. I had to take breaks to catch my breath. I’ll never forget the day an old lady was walking by with her walker and looked over at me trying to catch my breath. I’m pretty sure she was taunting me as she mimicked my breathing. I had to laugh. I also made some new 80+ year old friends in the locker room. We traded a lot of stories about Coumadin and compression stockings.
I finally started training again in January 2012 almost 6 months after a week in the hospital. I started with one mile at a time on the treadmill and worked my way back up to 26.2. I actually started with walking. Training was frustrating. I was minutes per mile slower than previous years. It took me a while to come to terms that recovery was going to take longer than I thought. In fact it took me about three years to finally feel normal again.
Running is a constant reminder that I can go past previous barriers and push on. It also helped give me a goal to focus on after blood clots. It can be pretty easy to let depression and anxiety take over when recovering. I want to show people that you may be stuck in a terrible place in your life but you can make it through. I hope people will hear my story and find hope and motivation.
2014 was my 3 year anniversary from surviving blood clots. 1 in 3 die from PEs (blood clots in chest). I ran 2,111 miles this year which included my 20th marathon, 3rd 50 mile race and 1st 100 mile race.