s an aspiring Olympian in his 20s and an
amateur mountain bike racer in his 50s,
Sam Osborne closely tracked his physical
performance. But after a blood clot in his
leg led to a life-threatening pulmonary
embolism in August, he realized he had
a lot to learn about his risks and the dangers of simply
pushing through pain.
Osborne’s career as an elite cross-country skier was cut
short at 28 when he was diagnosed with Wolff–Parkinson–
White syndrome, a condition in which the heart’s
electrical system includes an extra conduction pathway
which disrupts the normal heart rhythm.
He retired as an athlete and was careful not to overexert
himself until the condition was corrected a decade later.
Osborne didn’t resume intense training again until his late
50s, when he set his sights on the prestigious Leadville
Trail MTB 100, a 100-mile, high-altitude race across the
After a disappointing performance in 2014, Osborne
skipped the 2015 race to better hone his training. But in
August, less than two weeks before the race, Osborne’s
left calf became incredibly painful after an intense
“It was like someone was driving a nail in my calf,”
Thinking it was a pulled muscle, Osborne, 63, treated
it with stretching, ice and anti-inflammatory medication.
The next day, he was getting treatment for a four-week-old knee injury on the same leg, when Osborne’s physical
therapist noticed the area around his calf was swollen and
hot to the touch.
“She’s the hero in all this because she sent me right to
the doctor,” he said
After preliminary testing at his doctor’s office, Osborne
was sent to the hospital, where additional tests revealed
he was among some 900,000 people in the United States
who are affected by blood clots, or thrombosis, each year.
Osborne had a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or a clot that
formed deep in the body, usually the leg.
He was treated with blood thinners, and, after
consultation with a hematologist, cleared to do the Aug.
13 race. Although he’d felt good in training, Osborne
experienced cramping in both legs after three hours of
racing, failed to make the cut, and returned home to
Burlington, Vermont, on an overnight flight.
While unloading his bags from the car, Osborne felt a
sharp pain his back and again attributed it to muscle strain.
Over the next 24 hours, he also experienced shortness of
breath and fatigue.
Osborne returned to the doctor, and was immediately
sent to the hospital, where testing revealed that the
THROUGH THE PAIN
Mountain bike racer
learns the dangers of
deep vein thrombosis