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My 2017 Story – Setbacks, Cows and Blood Clots

It has been almost a year since I last wrote a blog post. So why the radio silence?

Last year I had grand plans on completing my back-to-back Comrades Marathon and to take on the infamous 100km SkyRun Challenge. However, my body decided that it had other plans for me, which left me feeling uninspired and completely demotivated. I am finally in a better place now both physically and mentally and I am ready for my blogging “comeback” starting with sharing my 2017 story…

TIME TO FOCUS ON RECOVERY (June-August 2017)

After accepting the fact that my back-to-back Comrades dream was no longer possible due to an ITB injury, I decided to focus my time and energy on my recovery so that I could hopefully start training again for my next goal for the year being SkyRun. I continued to see my physio to break down the tightness in the ITB band with deep massage and dry needling. I then started working with a leading biokinetics instructor once a week to strengthen my weak areas such as my glutes, which were causing my hip alignment to be out when I run.

During this time I was trying to get back into my running; however, my knee was still painful and I kept getting this terrible pain down into my ankle which was believed to be possibly posterior tibial tendinitis. The weeks went by with no major improvements so I went to see a Chiro for a second opinion. After a few sessions and manipulations the ITB pain was improving but the pain in my ankle was still there as well as a new pain in my quad and hamstring.

Before I knew it, it was August and my hopes of running the annual Skukuza Half Marathon were out the window. I managed only 6km of the race before turning back to the start feeling very sorry for myself. I was not in a good place as I was feeling very demotivated and disheartened by the fact that I was still in pain despite spending a lot of money seeing specialists. Shortly after the disappointment of not finishing the Skukuza Half Marathon, I was recommended to go and see a Bowen Therapist as an alternative option to fixing my pains but sadly after 3 sessions my pains in my leg remained.

TIME TO CHANGE THE PLAN (September 2017)

At this point I made the decision to sell my SkyRun entry and cancel all running races I had entered and switched my focus to cycling. I signed up to a local cycling power studio called Cyclezone to help get me back into form. Whilst cycling my knee was no longer giving me issues but I still felt a pain into my ankle and some strange pains in my glute and quad. I was also finding it very difficult to get my fitness back on track despite taking the advice of dropping my FTP% and doing the “easier” classes at CycleZone.

I tried to stay positive by continuing to work hard at my strength work with the biokineticist, visiting the chiro once a week, completing 2 spinning sessions a week at CycleZone and riding my bike on the weekends. I signed up for the 947 Cycle Challenge taking place in November and decided to link my participation with raising funds for my chosen charity Qhubeka. However, despite all this I was still struggling to get my fitness back and the pains in my leg remained.

As part of my training plan for 947 Cycle Challenge I decided to enter the CHOC Cows 55km MTB challenge. I was keen to see how I would fair in this race especially considering how unfit I was feeling. On the first climb of the race I was already suffering and so I knew I was in for a tough ride. About half-way through the race I was riding along a dirt road, which was blocked off by a herd of cows (these were real cows and not people dressed in CHOC cow suits). I was feeling uneasy about walking through the herd of cows but as there was no other option to pass them I had to suck it up and started to walk through the mud with my bike in tow beside me.

As I was walking through the herd, from behind me one of the cows’ horns literally caught hold of my hydration pack strap causing me to lift into the air. The cow then flung me down into the mud and as I looked up all I could see was a ring of cows surrounding me. I literally thought I was going to be trampled by them all but thankfully some MTB’ers behind me started shouting and lifting their bikes to scare off the cows. I was in absolute shock and couldn’t stop shaking.

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Finishing the CHOC 55km MTB Race 2017 – My expression says it all

One of the MTB’ers kindly gave me some sugar to help with the shock and I soon found the energy to get back onto my bike to continue the race. I felt terrible the rest of the ride, which was a combination of the shock of what had just happened and the fact that I was feeling so “unfit.” But I pushed on and managed to finish the race. It was only once I saw my husband, Warrick, at the end of the race that the tears started to stream down my face as it dawned on me how lucky I was to be alive. The MTB’ers that had saved my life during the race came to greet me to check I was alright. The organisers’ of the event also got informed of the “cow incident” and were very apologetic about the fact that the cows were blocking the route as they should never have been there as the farm was closed for the race. The organisers’ insisted I go see the emergency medical team to make sure I didn’t endure any injuries and I was given the all clear.

TIME FOR A DIAGNOSIS

I was pretty stiff and sore the day after the race which was to be expected considering it was my first race in a very long time but on top of the stiffness I had the pain in my ankle and leg. The following day I was at work and noticed that my right calf was ever so slightly swollen and the pains were still there. I didn’t think to much about it though and still went to my normal Monday evening pilates class. That evening I popped an anti-inflammatory and hoped that the swelling and pain would be gone by the next morning.

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My swollen right calf – first sign of a Deep Vein Thrombosis
Front view of my swollen right calf

When I woke up my leg was still swollen and it was starting to throb. As the day went by the pain got worse. I also started to notice I was coughing and just feeling ghastly so I decided to walk myself down to the nearby Rosebank Clinic Emergency Room to see a doctor. Upon inspecting my leg the doctor immediately sent me for a Doppler Ultrasound. During the Ultrasound they picked up that I had a blood clot behind my knee in the Popliteal vein, which is one of the major blood vessels in the lower body. It runs up the back of the knee and carries blood from the lower leg to the heart. The doctor advised me that I had a Deep Vein Thrombosis and prescribed me a blood thinner called Xarelto.

Two days later I went for a CT Scan that confirmed that I not only had a Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) but that the blood clot had dislodged from the popliteal vein and had travelled to the right side of my heart and through to my lungs, which is called a pulmonary embolism (PE) which can be life-threatening.

As you can imagine this diagnosis was a massive shock to me and my family. In my naive mind a DVT was something that older, unfit and overweight people got whilst flying? But here I was a 30 year old, relatively fit girl being diagnosed with a DVT and PE. It did however provide an explanation for all the pains in my leg and why I was feeling so “unfit” whilst training but this did not provide me comfort as to WHY I got a blood clot?

Unlike the highs of 2016, 2017 certainly was a very tough year filled with many setbacks but it has taught me a huge amount about myself and given me new perspective on my life.

In my next blog post I will elaborate on my road to recovery both mentally and physically from a Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism.

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3 thoughts on “My 2017 Story – Setbacks, Cows and Blood Clots

  1. Oh My Word Cam… that certainly is a rocky road of a year. I’m so pleased to know you are on the road to recovery, and know you’ll strive to reach your fitness aspirations, and continue on your fitness challenge. 🙂 Thank-you for sharing your inspiring, insightful experience. 🙂 All the best for a healthier, happier and fitter 2018.

  2. We all know how hard this has been for you and are so proud of how brave you have been. We support you and hope for a full recovery

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