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What is EPO?

Oh Lance, you make me sad. As well as millions of other people, I’m sure. When I first got into running and fitness, Lance’s book It’s Not About the Bike, inspired me. It made me push harder and believe that I could be an amazing athlete. I remember when I had to do the one mile swim test for my PE class, I told the girl who was counting my laps, “If I start to slow down, yell at me ‘What would Lance do?’.” Whenever I was injured and spending hours on the bike, I would wear my yellow Livestrong bracelet to remind me to push my limits. And I always remember thinking that Lance wasn’t the best person (the way he treated Kristin really bothered me), but I believed he was an amazing athlete who had a different understanding of what it meant to really try. He had been so close to death and now he wasn’t afraid to find that next level. I guess that next level meant “winning at all costs.”

After last night’s interview, and the constant mention of EPO, I realized I have no idea what exactly is EPO. Well EPO, which stands for erythropoietin, is  a hormone produced by the liver and kidneys and it can boost your endurance quite a bit.

Freya Peterson:

 EPO — which can also be produced in a lab using cell cultures — regulates how many red blood cells your body produces.Once released into the bloodstream, it binds with receptors in the bone marrow and stimulates red blood cell production — thus increasing the blood’s oxygen carrying capacity (red blood cells carry oxygen).

In addition to increasing endurance, EPO might also increase motivation.  (If I didn’t know better, I’d say that doesn’t sound so bad.) But EPO can also cause serious health problems. Due to the increase of red blood cells, it can lead to a thickening of the blood which can lead to a clot, heart attack, or stroke. Um, definitely not worth it.

Oh Lance, I had truly believed.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Running Update: I’m tired. My body is tired, my legs are tired, and I think I need more sleep. Today, I skipped my 5 miles and fell asleep on the couch. There is a thin line between training and overtraining. I desperately do not want to cross it. 17 miles in the morning.

Mario and I salsa dancing with our Livestrong bracelets

Mario and I salsa dancing with our Livestrong bracelets three years ago


Looking really awkward holding a baby, but supporting Livestrong

Looking really awkward holding a baby, but supporting Livestrong


I wore my bracelet everywhere

I wore my bracelet everywhere

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. It seems like you and Lance have the shared experience of walking a fine line. Lance with his lying (disappointing) and you with the over-training. Be careful! I’m glad that your body took care of you and let you sleep and skip the 5 miles yesterday.
    Enjoy the distance tomorrow.

    January 18, 2013
    • Thanks Tania! The sleep was much needed and I made it through the 17 miles on Saturday. But my leg isn’t feeling 100% today. I might actually be cross training tomorrow. The race is one month away so I just need to stay off the injured list. I hope you had a great weekend!

      January 20, 2013
      • Hi Tracie,
        I’m still rehabbing myself. Did a run and strength training yesterday and had to take today off and just did yoga class. It’s a tricky balance. You still have lots of time before your race, so don’t overdo it now! You are doing great!

        January 20, 2013
      • Hi Tania!
        How is your running going? Are your aches getting any better?

        January 24, 2013
  2. I agree with the above comment. As my mom says ‘Do yourself a favour and get some sleep.’

    January 19, 2013
  3. Thanks for the info about EPO.

    I take testosterone because I’m transgendered (female-to-male). I take a low dosage under medical supervision. One of the side effects of my testosterone medication is that I have false polythycema (sp), which is a fancy way of saying I have thick blood. Like you say, the risks of thick blood are high. I am not allowed to get dehydrated because my risk of stroke (if dehydrated) is extremely high. I can’t imagine why a professional athlete would play with those risks. I am just an amateur who can choose not to ride / run / paddle hard when the weather is hot.

    I also sometimes wonder whether my relatively high red blood cell count (i.e. not true high red blood cell count) contributes to my aptitude to endurance sports like Audax cycling and adventure racing. When I was female, I was a reasonably talented middle-distance athlete (4-8km cross country, sprint and Olympic distance triathlon, 10km road running) but pretty rotten at anything longer. Now, I find middle distance events too fast but find that my body adapts well once I’ve been on the move for at more than 4-5 hours and can keep going almost indefinitely (though I do hit the wall just like everyone else).

    I only participate in sport, I don’t compete. I take testosterone for therapeutic purposes so I can get exemption through the Australian and world anti-doping authorities. But at this stage of my life and athletic career, I don’t have any competitive aspirations so won’t have to worry about drug testing. But if I was that good or committed, I think I would prefer not to chase sporting glory in case its unfair to other male athletes (currently, research indicates that transgender men taking testosterone under medical supervision do not have an unfair advantage when our testosterone levels are within the normal male range – mine is in the low male range). So, from an ethical and sporting perspective, I have no time for anyone who cheats in sport. It’s unethical and inexcusable, even beyond the legal and health ramifications.

    Glad you took a rest day 🙂

    January 19, 2013
    • That’s really interesting how a small dosage can change what type of athlete you are. And I completely agree with you – why would anyone want to take those chances of a stroke or any of the other problems associated with PED? I guess for some athletes the desire to win at all costs outweigh the risks of health complications. I’ll just stick to my chia seeds and coffee for an extra boost 🙂 Happy Tuesday!

      January 22, 2013

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