Kidney Function Lab Results of an Ultra Runner – 33-month time span

Time to talk lab results!

As an overall healthy person, I never paid much attention to the specifics of any lab work I ever received. I would often be told my blood pressure and then ask, ‘Is that good?’

Even with donating a kidney in May of 2017, I did not start to pay much attention to the details of my kidney function in lab results until I was training for my first ultra-marathon post-donation. There was very little information out there geared towards kidney donors that were endurance athletes and I wanted to take good care of my remaining kidney!

May 22, 2017

Let’s start at the beginning. The day before surgery. This is my kidney function when I still had two kidneys. (I have included the reference for the standard range for a person with two kidneys in the screenshots.)

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May 24, 2017

The day after surgery, my BUN and creatinine were tested.

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two days post surgery

June 13, 2017

At my three-week post-op appointment, my creatinine had gone down just a hair, and my BUN had shot up. Totally normal for someone who just donated.

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September 28, 2017

At four months post-op, I had just raced a half marathon a couple weeks before this blood draw. The BUN was starting to trend back down, and creatinine had dropped quite a bit (which was a good thing).

During all these results, I didn’t care about the specifics a whole lot. I wasn’t running long distances, I was eating pretty healthy, and having a few cocktails a week as my norm.

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half finish

June 29, 2018

With my June 2018 blood work, I became more curious about what my kidney function would look like. My diet and alcohol habits were the same as previously, I was now living at altitude and paying even more attention to hydration. I was also in the early phases of training for a 50 miler. As you can see, my creatinine was creeping back up, but I was assured that was fine. My transplant team was very well aware that I’d be getting back to running ultras and that kind of effort makes the kidneys work harder. I had their blessing.

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May 31, 2019

Fast forward 11 months and I got the blood work that really started to get my attention. My creatinine was even higher. Again, my transplant coordinator assured me it was fine considering how much I was training. At this point, I was two months into a 6-month training block for a fall 100k. I also learned how much your hydration the day of the blood draw could have an impact on your creatinine number! I distinctly remembered thinking about how dehydrated I was that morning since I flew the day before and had two glasses of wine the previous night with dinner. (Note to self – hydrate better for your next blood test!)

With their blessing, I continued to train hard for the next four months while paying even better attention to hydration. I was still eating the way I always have (pretty healthy, with a little meat and cheese on a daily basis as well as a few cocktails a week).

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October 2019

Only a few days after my fall 100k was over I started pondering how I could recover faster. I obviously was hurting everywhere and wanted to get that part of the healing process over with as soon as possible. Inspired by a podcast, I decided to jump on the bandwagon of ‘Sober October’ and give up alcohol for the month. Two weeks after that I decided to also try out a vegetarian diet for three months and see if I felt any different. (I have always enjoyed treating my body as a bit of a science experiment in an effort to feel as great as possible, as often as possible.) After about ten days I went full plant-based. (Dairy did not agree with me and somehow I never realized it until this process of changing my diet).

The alcohol-free lifestyle is still going strong for me, as is the plant-based eating. As I went in for my lab work last week, I was very curious if my numbers would look any different. I was working out every day, often twice a day so I was very active, and feeling great overall.

February 24, 2020

I was super happy with the results!

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My creatinine, BUN, and eGFR all look great. In fact, the BUN and eGFR numbers are in the normal range for a person with two kidneys, and my creatinine is only .01 away from the normal range for a person with two kidneys. Yay!

mt falcon

I am not sharing this to make a case for plant-based eating or living alcohol-free. It is what I have been tinkering with that seems to be working well for me. At this point, I am strongly considering training for another ultra-marathon next year with added blood work to see how my kidney function handles the workload with a plant-based diet.

I have received quite a few questions from fellow KDA’s about lab work, why certain numbers are going up or down, if other KDA’s have experienced this, how much protein can we really have…? And I definitely don’t have the answers, but I am very willing to share the details of my journey with this so far. I hope this post encourages other donors to speak up and even share their results. I hope people share what seems to be working for them, what concerns they have, and create a dialogue.

As this community grows, I am hopeful that the medical community will grow an interest in studying donor athletes so we can have some concrete research to refer to!

donor athletes
Two kidney donor ultra runners! Clinton ran the 50k the same day I ran the 100k!

 

5 thoughts on “Kidney Function Lab Results of an Ultra Runner – 33-month time span

  1. Love, love, love! Thank you so much for sharing! I am starting my fourth month into an eight month training program for an Ironman, living the same way you started out (pretty healthy, a bit of meat, and a drink or two during the week), but as the load begins to grow, naturally, I, too, am looking for ways to recover better and faster. This is hugely inspirational. Thank you!

  2. I have two cystic kidneys and am trying to figure how to sustain mine as long as possible while pushing hard for new PRs (half marathon and shorter)…I qualified for and ran Boston last year but I think the half and shorter are better suited for me. Thanks for posting this! I am considering eating plant based. Going to see my nephrologist tomorrow and will bring this up.

  3. Tracey, this is awesome – YOU are awesome, both for donating and for publishing your experience! I’m going in tomorrow morning to begin testing as a potential donor for a friend. As someone who relies on running for my own emotional health and mental stability, I’ve naturally been very concerned about whether becoming a donor would impact my ability to continue running. Your story is very encouraging!

  4. I had been getting creatinine testing following endurance events, but stopped when my nephrologist recommended against it. He explained that the creatinine test is not a very accurate measurement and, like using heart rate to read into your health, varies with many different variables (diet, time of day, recent activity, getting sick, etc.). Instead he suggested I monitor my blood pressure for any trend of increase, as that would be the first sign that the remaining kidney was starting to work harder. Anybody have any thoughts to share on that?

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