Guest Post: Why I Started Riding, by Teagen A

05.25.2012 | 1:08 am

A year ago I was a runner. Training was going well. My body was holding up (no injuries), my track workouts were consistent, I was running doubles and my mileage was starting to get up where I wanted it. I ran a see-where-I-am half-marathon in July in 1:35:20 and learned a lot (for example, don’t run a 6:08 split for the first mile). Running was my passion and I was excited to take the lessons I had learned in that half and apply myself to become the absolute best runner that I was genetically capable of becoming.

Then, I woke up one morning in August and noticed that it hurt to breathe. I went on my normal run, and it seemed okay, but over the next few days it got worse. It hurt to talk and even to take shallow breaths, I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t eating. Being a runner I am used to ignoring twinges until they really become a problem, and by the third day I was forced to admit that this was a problem, and if it was a strained chest muscle (my suspicion) maybe at least I could get some stronger pain killers because the Ibuprofen was not cutting it.

I got an x-ray and, after finding fluid in my lungs, the doctor sent me to a clinic 30 minutes away to get a CT scan. I knew I was in trouble when the scan lady came back with oxygen and told me that they had called an ambulance. Apparently I had multiple blood clots in both of my lungs, a potentially fatal condition.

I had just turned 26. I made good life decisions. I hadn’t been in a hospital since I was born. The next two weeks were probably the worst of my life. I couldn’t lay down and breathe at the same time, everything hurt more than I had ever known anything could hurt, and the doctor told me that the blood clots had cut off circulation to parts of my lungs which resulted in “infarctions” or basically that parts of my lungs had died as a result of lack of oxygenation. He said I would have to wait and see how much lung function I recovered and that because there was no discernable reason for the clots, I would be on blood thinners for the rest of my life.

I started trying to recover my fitness immediately. I was told to do very VERY minimal activity because a side effect of the antibiotic they had me on for pneumonia was tendon ruptures, and also there could still be clots between my heart and lungs (as it takes around six months for clots to dissipate) and they didn’t want me to further damage my heart. Walking was hard. Running was impossible. I was really stressed, and the way that I usually deal with stress (running) was entirely inaccessible to me.

And that’s when I remembered my bike. I started riding inside on a spin bike. There were no hills that way so I could keep close tabs on my heart rate, and I could stop whenever I needed to stop without being stuck miles from home. And then, a couple of weeks later, I started riding my real bike, a Kona Honky Tonk named Lydia. We had spent time together before. I liked to bike commute when it was convenient. But my bike had always been merely an inexpensive, but slower and wetter, way of getting somewhere.

Running was soul-killing. Because of the lung damage, etc. my heart rate jumped up FAST whenever I tried to run. I was jogging at 12-minute mile pace with walking breaks. Whereas before, running was the highlight of every day, relieving stress and helping me to gain perspective, at that moment in my life, running, or more accurately trying to run was torture.

But cycling was a different story. On my bike I was free. I could exercise. I could get places fast and feel like an athlete again. And most importantly, with biking, I didn’t have a constant comparison of before the clots and after. It was new and exciting and I fell in love.

At the start I had to walk my bike up hills because my heart rate would get too high. But as the weeks and months continued these breaks disappeared. I started riding to work. I made a rule that if a destination was within 6 miles of my home I had to bike there regardless of the weather. I bought a Honey Stinger waffle and biked to Gresham (a little over 18 miles), ate it (it was great), and biked home. I crashed my bike for the first time and got over the fear that because I am on blood thinners all bike crashes will be fatal. I got banged up a bit. Lydia got banged up a bit, but we both emerged stronger and more confident on the other side (well I did anyway, she needed some brake adjustments).

Running has come back slowly. I am not the same runner I was, and I don’t know if I will ever PR again (though I have definitely not given up hope and am going to work my ass off to run a sub-3 hour marathon some day). But this whole ordeal has introduced me to a new love. Last week I biked all of the way to work and all of the way home all five days (over 14 miles and 1,000 feet of climbing one way, which is significant for me). I live on a main bikeway in Portland, and I went from being passed by everyone, to breathing deep and racing my way home. My mantra is light and strong and I smile so much I am always fishing bugs out of my mouth.

Right now my bike is a symbol of strength and flexibility. It reminds me that my life isn’t under my control, but there are no dead ends. Life is hard. The last year has been hard for me and it’s been hard for many of the people I love. But in the midst of struggles there is still joy. And that joy is worth pursuing and worth working for. I love running. I love my bike. And if someday I can neither run nor ride, I will find something else to do.

PS from Fatty: Don’t forget, the contest to win a trip and a bike, all while fighting cancer, is still on. Click here for info on the trip, then click here for information on the bikes, and click here to donate. Thanks!


  1. Comment by stu | 05.25.2012 | 2:25 am

    Great story, really inspiring and I hope that your recovery continues. Keep enjoying your bike.
    PS – great name for a bike – my daughter is called Lydia too!

  2. Comment by Mary Timberlake | 05.25.2012 | 6:06 am

    Very inspirational…Way to take some lemons and turn them into lemonade.

  3. Comment by Darien | 05.25.2012 | 6:30 am

    Loved your story Teagen, and I’m glad you were able to find a way to continue on.

  4. Comment by Justin Barrett | 05.25.2012 | 8:57 am

    Great story. My wife had a pulmonary embolism at 33, just out of the blue, too. I can empathize with your situation, Teagan. So scary. She, too, is on blood thinners for life. That, too, seemed scary, but now it’s life as usual and it all seems in the past.
    Keep on riding! And running!

  5. Comment by Kristina | 05.25.2012 | 9:19 am

    Love this: And if someday I can neither run nor ride, I will find something else to do.

  6. Comment by Nancy | 05.25.2012 | 9:33 am


    I don’t know what you do for a living, but you’re not just a great inspiration, you’re a great writer too. Hope we hear more from you, and best of luck in moving forward with your recovery.

  7. Comment by JAT in Seattle | 05.25.2012 | 10:08 am

    “…we both emerged stronger and more confident on the other side (well I did anyway, she needed some brake adjustments).”

    Just the kind of comedy gold we expect from FC. Superbly worthy guest column.

  8. Comment by Andrew | 05.25.2012 | 10:19 am

    Great story.

  9. Comment by SaddleAmericana | 05.25.2012 | 10:38 am

    Beautiful story—all of life rolled up into one tale. Keep pushing those pedals hard and enjoying every stroke of your leg!

  10. Comment by Heather | 05.25.2012 | 10:54 am

    Awesome job writing this post Teagen! You really are an inspiration. Most people would have fallen victim to the Blood clots but you found a way to grow stronger because of them.

  11. Comment by mykill | 05.25.2012 | 11:09 am

    “…my life isn’t under my control, but there are no dead ends”

    Love it, great story told beautifully.

  12. Comment by Clydesteve | 05.25.2012 | 11:54 am

    “…But my bike had always been merely an inexpensive, but slower and wetter, way of getting somewhere…”

    I knew you must live somewhere near me when you said “and wetter”!

    (I live about 80 miles south.)

    Way to soldier on, Teagen A, I hope you are able to hit that sub-3 marathon someday – but don’t give up on the biking!

    Why don’t you come down and ride the Strawberry Century in Lebanon on June 9th? It is bar-none the best organized and one of the most beautiful organized centuries you can find anywhere.

  13. Comment by roan | 05.25.2012 | 12:01 pm

    Teagen, Great story, does scare the crap out of me though. I tend to pass on going to a doctor, what’s a little pain even if it hurts a lot but I’m sure nothing is broken, or so I think. A mtn bike crash did cause some hurt, co-worke5s were concerned about DVT, so off to the doctor for x-rays and echo scan. Nothing except the bills. Then a year later a bone scan for hip, knee and wrist pain…thinking arthritis. Question from doctors was “When did your break your leg ?”
    I’ve a name for one of my bikes…her name was McGill and she called herself Lil but everyone knew her as Nancy, causes an earworm when riding.
    Best wishes Teagen.

  14. Comment by Turn The Damn Cranks | 05.25.2012 | 12:31 pm

    No free verse.
    But an inspiring story instead?
    Tragic’s opposite!

    Thank you.

  15. Comment by lulea | 05.25.2012 | 2:57 pm

    Wow a scary but inspiring story well told. Thanks for sharing it as I can relate to being cut off from your source of stress relief. About 10 years ago I had some issues that resulted in severe knee pain. It made walking hard so I took up biking and slowly progressed as my body would allow. It became my stress reliever. Then 4 years ago I herniated a disc in my back and I couldn’t bike for a long time. I couldn’t figure out how other people got rid of stress without some physical activity. I did find non-super physical things that brought me some joy eventually and took the edge off. Took up container gardening and volunteered for events I liked. It was hard when I did start biking again to not keep up with others and now be the one panting up the hill instead of the one waiting at the top. It did teach me that all that doesn’t matter and I need to do what my body needs. This year I was feeling good and wanted to increase my biking again. Now I am sidelined again with no activity at all allowed. I am so frustrated and back in the what do I do now to get out pent up energy. I will eventually figure it out but each time it is a process.

  16. Comment by AKChick55 | 05.25.2012 | 8:55 pm

    I love this post! Sure makes one stop and think. Sure makes you realize what is important in life. Sure makes you stop sweating the small stuff, at least for awhile. And it sure makes me realize I have NOTHING to whine or complain about. Thank you Teagan!

  17. Comment by cece | 05.27.2012 | 1:08 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story of recovery and hope!

  18. Comment by Gags | 05.28.2012 | 7:49 am

    Great story and great determination. My wife is currently recovering from a Pulmonary Embolism – ambulance to hospital 2 weeks ago (initially with pneumonia) but then when she didn’t respond to antibiotics they did some more scans and found a clot on her lungs. She is on Warfarin (rat poison) for the next 6 months or so and is currently still coughing up blood. She had not flown or had extensive bed rest (apparently these can cause DVT) and the only thing that the doctors can put it down to is that my wife started oestrogen contraceptive tablets about 6 weeks ago (she had not taken them for 14 years or so but decided to get back on them in preparation for a 9 day family ride in November to avoid any issues during the ride). The doctors said that oestrogen-based contraceptives can cause clots in rare cases and this was the only cause that they could think of. Interested to hear if you were also taking oestrogen??

    I hope your recovery is still progressing well – out of interest, how long were you coughing up blood for during your recovery? Cheers, Gags.

  19. Comment by Teagen A | 05.28.2012 | 9:12 am

    Thanks everyone for the nice comments!
    Gags – I’m so sorry to hear that your wife and family are having to deal with a PE. I think, as with most weird medical things, that everyone’s experience is different. I did not ever cough up blood. Also, I had no risk factors (no contraceptives, no long flights/car trips, no smoking, etc.). Also, yes Warfarin is rat poison (this is the same drug that I’m on), but it’s not nearly as scary as it sounds unless you are accidentally decapitated or get hit by a car or something, though it did take my body a little bit of time to adjust. When I was first trying to figure everything out the following website was a really good resource!! I hope your wife has a fast and thorough recovery!

  20. Comment by Jennifer Callahan | 06.6.2012 | 1:58 pm

    Teagen, you are an awesome inspiration. I heard the brief version of you illness, but you really put it in living color here with “the rest of the story”! So thrilled that your mom gave me the link to read about you. You are amazing! God Bless you!


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