Last week was peak mileage week for me. It’s actually the highest mileage week I’ve had in 10 months. So why did I decide to donate blood smack in the middle of the week- just two and a half weeks before my marathon?
I work part-time on a University campus and on Monday there were two American Red cross blood-mobiles parked near my office. They had signs posted that they would be there Monday through Wednesday. I’ve always wanted to donate blood but for various reasons I was never able to do it. In high school and college I was actually below the weight requirement (not a problem now!) and then there was the decade of my life I was either pregnant or nursing. I never really sought it out but when I passed by the blood-mobile on Monday I felt like it was something I needed to do. I didn’t question it at all. I’m healthy and not afraid of blood or needles (four c-sections will do that to you) and I wanted to help someone. I knew I had a tough set of two mile repeats on the running schedule planned for Wednesday morning so I thought if I waited to donate until Wednesday afternoon I would be fine. I assumed recovery might last a few hours and then I’d be back in business and feeling fine by Thursday.
It wasn’t until I was laying on the mat with my blood pouring into a tube did the thought even cross my mind that just maybe this wasn’t the best timing from a running perspective. Why hadn’t I looked into this first?! I started googling donating blood and running. I found a few articles that left me feeling a little uneasy. There was this article that started off with this line- “There’s not much that’s more essential to your running (and your life) than your blood.” This article suggested it would take around 3 weeks for a blood donors VO2 max to return to it’s pre-donation level. Would this affect my upcoming marathon? Was I selfish to even think this? Someone’s life may be on the line and I’m worried about a race? I couldn’t back out now and ask the nurse to stop mid donation.
When I finished the nurse gave me a few reminders and a pamphlet to read. Of course the one thing that stood out to me was, “No physical activity for 24 hours.” I had an easy 8 miler planned for the morning so resting was not an option. I could handle it, right?
Thursday- This run was only about 14 hours post blood donation so I had a feeling it might be tough. Not only were my legs dead tired from the track workout I’d done the day before but the wind was awful. My body was generally fatigued and winded. It was one of those days I wanted to stop running before my watched beeped one mile. I was with a friend so I slugged through 8 miles but it took everything I had not to quit.
Friday– I ran 9 miles with another friend (remember my speed work partner from this summer?) which was a distance PR for her. We kept the pace pretty controlled and I felt much better than the previous day.
|9 miles and a new distance PR for Jackie!|
Saturday– Long run day. I had 20-21 miles to cover and my coach wanted me to run them in the 7:20-7:40 range. I really wanted to shoot for a just under 7:20 pace but that did NOT happen. Another friend ran the first 12 with me which was very helpful. The last 9 were very mentally and physically challenging. Surely I will feel better tapered and fresh in 2 weeks? Please say yes!
Sunday- Rest day. Hallelujah!
Will I be donating blood again? Absolutely! Next time I’m just going to time it a little better. Two and a half weeks before a marathon is probably not the smartest decision. Runner’s Connect posted a very helpful article on how donating blood impacts training and racing. I wish I would have read it earlier but I will definitely keep these in mind for next time. These are some great suggestions:
- A good time to donate is during the recovery time after your goal race when your body isn’t under the constant demands of a training season.
- Plan the donation around a rest day and follow with several days of short, easy effort workouts until you begin to feel 100%.
- In the 4-5 days following your donation, throw out your watch! Your times are going to be slower (the research shows it) so just forget about pace and put some time on your feet.
- Stay hydrated and eat well before and after the donation. This will help you recover faster from the donation itself.
Here is some additional information on why you should give blood.
Here are some Frequently Asked Questions and answers from the American Red Cross.