Giving blood is good. Giving blood when your marathon training plan calls for the heaviest volume you have ever done in your life may not be so good. And giving blood two weeks before a key race -- definitely not the brightest idea.
You would think I would have learned my lesson after last year's 5K debacle. The Inova Blood Center has been calling me since I was eligible in July, but I had so many races over the summer, plus the Ironman training was pretty intense, so I promised them I would give when the Ironman was over. I meant to give mid-September before the training volume got too heavy but then work got busy and I kept putting it off. After the 5th voicemail (Hello Mrs. Lynch, we have noted that you said you would give after August 26th... we have a shortage and you are the universal donor... please call us and make an appointment.) the guilt really hit. So after my 18 miler last weekend, I scheduled a donation. I figured since Sunday was a rest day, I could relax and I remembered I felt pretty recovered (despite the horrible 5K) by Wednesday the last time around. However, last April I wasn't doing much that was high intensity, I wasn't running as much and I definitely wasn't running as far.
Monday I had 13 miles scheduled - 9 in the morning and 4 after work. I headed out at 5am and noticed my "steady" pace was considerably slower than it normally is. I was annoyed with myself the whole run, but I couldn't get my pace under 8:50 without feeling like I was pushing it. The afternoon pace was no better. The next day was even worse - 9:20 pace in the morning and so pathetic after work that I turned off my Garmin (the fact that Susanna was in the stroller didn't help matters.) Wednesday was a recovery day so I have no idea what the pace was. Thursday was my tempo run. I left my house at 5:20am and did a two mile warm-up without looking at the pace, then I shot off at what I thought was my Lactate Threshold.... I figured my first mile was about 7:25 based on my effort. The Garmin clicked off and I glanced down -- 8:19. !?!?!?!?! I started running harder and assumed the next mile would be at least 7:50. When the watch buzzed again, it said 8:09. Seriously? I decided to bag the tempo at that point and just ran to the 4.5 mile halfway point. I glanced at my watch and saw that it was already 6:04am. Uh oh. How in the world did it take me that long to get that far? I had exactly 41 minutes to run 4.5 miles and get to my front door. Of course then I realized that I had to go to the bathroom. I zoomed into the Exxon station, waved to the attendant (we've become 6am friends), and then booked it as fast as I could. Luckily the elevation on my 9 mile route is uphill out, downhill back. Somehow I made it to my door exactly at my deadline (Jamie was waiting by the window.)
So how long was it going to take me to recover? As I made the kids' breakfast, I googled "Blood Donation and Marathon Training." Here's what I found:
When you donate blood, you give up a pint of fluid containing mostly water along with various proteins and cells in solution. During high-intensity endurance activities however, it is hemoglobin, found within our red blood cells, that is most important. Hemoglobin delivers oxygen to our tissues, and when we exercise our muscles require increased amounts of oxygen. If we lack sufficient hemoglobin, anaerobic, or without oxygen, metabolism will ensue (producing lactic acid) at even seemingly moderate levels of intensity. Donating a pint (450cc) of blood results in a depletion of about 10 percent of your total blood volume. Of that, only about 160cc are red blood cells. The fluid component, the remaining 290cc, is replaced within hours, but the red blood cell replacement takes about two months, (which is why you may not donate more often than every two months). What then are the lasting effects of this red blood cell loss? Assuming that your cardiac output (the amount of blood pumped by the heart) remains constant, a drop in hemoglobin concentration associated with donating blood will reduce your oxygen delivery to working muscles by 10 percent. Still, when you are at rest, or even during moderate levels of exercise, oxygen delivery, even at this decreased capacity, far outpaces demand. However, once you reach a heart rate that is around 5 to 10 percent below your usual anaerobic threshold, your body's demand for oxygen will outpace its supply. For example, if your metabolism typically becomes anaerobic at a heart rate of 170, then after donating blood you will become anaerobic at a heart rate of between 157 and 164 beats per minute.
Well, that explains why my Lactate Threshold run felt like Death-On-Toast.
I decided to take it easy the rest of the week. Friday was a recovery day and I did 4 miles after work at about a 10 minute pace (just guessing as I left work at 4:20 and got back at 5.) Today, luckily, was a Long Slow Distance run -- 18 miles at 60-90 seconds above planned race pace. I didn't look at my watch at all, told Tuan to run without me (he was being SO kind and going at my plodding pace, but since his BQ requires a 7:23 pace, I told him to run with Fast-Ethiopian-Jake.) I could make new friends. I met a guy visiting from Arizona who was training for his first Ironman and ran with him for awhile. I finished the 18 miles in 2:53 - almost 20 minutes slower than last week. Which is fine because last week was a pace run (2/3 of the run at Marathon Pace - 8:12.) 9:38 is still within that 60-90 second window, so overall not a bad run.
Weekly totals: 66 miles in 6 days. That's definitely a record for me.
Next week is a recovery week - a drop back to about 45 miles and culminating in a half marathon race on Sunday. And this is why I am SOOO mad at myself for the timing of this blood donation. This race was supposed to be my crystal ball into what pace I should run on December 2. Missing my red blood cells is not going to give me the ability to race to my full potential so the race isn't really going to tell me anything. Apparently they have tested hemoglobin levels of those who donate blood on a regular basis and it takes anywhere from 20 to 56 days for it to be back to normal (with 36 days being the average.) The more you weigh and the more athletic you are, the faster the recovery time. So I've got the fitness on my side, but at 127 lbs (speaking of which, the scale did not budge this week) I lost a larger percentage of my blood volume than a 180 lb athlete such as my husband.
Don't get me wrong. I am glad I gave blood. If people didn't donate, the hospitals couldn't save lives. However - I should have donated THREE WEEKS AGO!!!!
On another note, my husband also ran 18 miles today. In 2:20. Somehow I think he is still going to hold the Lynch Marathon Record in 2012. Just like he did in 2011. And 2010. And 2009.... Sigh.... no matter how many more miles I run, he will always be faster than me.