St. Anthony’s Triathlon is one of my favorite races as it is well run, supported, and brings the best athletes from all over the globe. It always proves a memorable way for me to kick off the summer racing season. Months of hard work come to a culmination as I enjoy seeing how fit and fast my body is. This year at 33, I was in the best shape of my life. However, I crossed a thin line somewhere in my preparation and/or race and was dangerously close to making this my last race, not to mention my last breath. The last thing I remember is passing mile 4…somehow I ran on auto-pilot to mile 5.8 and passed out. I guess I wanted an all access pass to the sponsors of this awesome triathlon….St. Anthony’s Hospital. At the halfway point I was running comfortable with Stephen Hackett in 7th/8th place. I was having a great race and feeling good too. That makes the scenario scary to me; how fast I lost control and how depleted my body was. I’m still processing the visceral and intense weekend. It taught me a valuable lesson. Thanks in large part to the strength and courage of my wife, Hortense, I pulled through OK. I’m sorry for scaring my family and friends. Mostly, I feel horrible for having Hortense witness me in this kind of state. I’m going to learn from this mistake and work hard to ease any anxieties she might have in future races as I earn back her confidence.
St. Anthony’s Triathlon 2008:
Having airport pickups and home stay options are part of what makes St. Anthony’s one of the best triathlons around as well as having an outstanding pro field. This is in large part thanks to the Mad Dog Triathlon Club with 2500 members and a lot of fit happy people. One thing I love about this sport is meeting all the inspirational people. Hortense and I really enjoyed the Mad Dog dinner party on Friday night. This club is a huge reason that St. Petersburg has such an outstanding community. We enjoyed some low key days leading up to the race with some easy bikes and a lot of lounging. However, one mistake I made (ahh the power of hindsight) was drinking almost exclusively water…and lots of it.
Race morning came early and I prepared T1 for the day’s event. I filled my profile design aero drink (32 oz) with Gatorade and also loaded up the SCOTT Plasma with a 20 oz bottle of water. Both of which I finished during the biking leg. I also secured 2 electrolyte pills which I consumed at mile 15 of the bike as I polished off the last of my Gatorade and began drinking water. I should have filled both bottles up with Gatorade as I needed the energy.
I swam over to the start and continued warming up doing several pick ups until moments before we lined up for our beach start. The gun went off as I propelled my body aggressively towards the bay. Matt Reed had a great start (must be his tall frame and ability to run farther out than us short guys) but I was close behind nestled between Potts and Dye. Perfect. I was drafting Dye at what seemed to be a comfortable pace and one that I would maintain to the finish. However, after 600 meters I lost contact and Reed, Potts, and Dye went on to gain a further minute on the chase group.
I finished the swim relaxed and comfortable while envisioning a fast T1. I passed several guys once on the bike pedaling over a mile before putting on my shoes. While in 4th position and putting on my shoes, Bennett passed me. He got away from me while I finished securing my shoes. I kept him within striking distance for the next 10 to 12 miles. That’s when I realized I had company as Alexander passed. The two of us rode side by side and or traded leads pretty much the rest of the way.
I passed him as we entered T2 and was the 4th man on the run course behind Reed, Potts, and Bennett. It didn’t take long for Craig to run past me as he surged during the opening mile of the run. At the turn around point (not that I was going to catch him) he was still in my sights 200 – 300 meters up. After Alexander passed I was running comfortably hard with Hackett. I was confident that I would maintain this pace to the finish.
That’s when my memory goes into a haze. I remember passing mile 4 feeling OK but I had lost contact with Hackett. That’s it. Apparently, I ran almost another 2 miles that I have no recollection of.
After I passed out…I know this from Hortense, I laid on the ground in the heat with little to no water and no IV for 20 to 30 minutes while puking 6 or 7 times. Apparently, I was conversing and knew my name and place. The first thing I remember is opening my eyes to the brightness of the day, feeling hot and uncomfortable and promptly defecating in my suit. Gross, I thought to myself in my confused state of mind. I was fighting to stay alert with my sweaty body rolling in the dirt with vomit and feces on it. I assumed I had passed out after finishing. I wanted to get up and take a dip in the ocean to clean up. I asked if I could while making a feeble attempt at rising up. I was assured that I was not going to swim in the sea. The severity of my situation began to sink in. What happened to me? I thought over and over again. Surely, I had finished in the top 10.
After about 40 minutes that seemed like 2 minutes to me, the ambulance arrived and they loaded me in. I really did not want to go to the hospital. This meant things were serious, that we would probably miss our plane back to Boise, that I would miss the post Tri festivities, that I was being a problem and that I would have no chance to swim in the ocean…
In route to St. Anthony’s I literally stopped traffic with what the paramedics thought was a violent seizure but what I felt as a panic attack. Part of the problem was my oxygen level was at 37% when it should be above 90% I was confused, delirious, hallucinating, agitated, in pain, and very alert…alert for my life. I certainly didn’t have my higher brain functions or reasoning ability. With that being said, I thought they were going to cut my leg off. I know, ridiculous…right! I laugh now at my plight. However, I had this vivid image that at any moment I would feel the teeth from the saw slice through my skin like butter before getting hung up on my femur bone. I decided that I would beat everyone up and then escape to the ocean where I could clean up and cool down. Yes, it’s safe to say I was a certified nut at that moment. Another ambulance and police car arrived to assist in restraining me. Like a bull snake, I put on a good show of force but had little, to no, venom. I didn’t even manage to get out of the stretcher however; I did pull out the IV causing blood to squirt all over the white shirts of the paramedics. It was an awful scene. Hortense was able to get close enough and gain my attention; I finally met her eyes and instantly calmed down.
I have to thank all those involved in helping me; I realize now, how much of a problem child I was. I am very grateful that you guys put up with me; especially the St. Anthony paramedics; you guys are awesome. Thank you.
I had to stay the night at the hospital and was given numerous tests to verify something more serious wasn’t going on. So far all things check out OK.
One problem they found was that my phosphate levels were very low. That’s a quandary because without phosphate you don’t have the P in ATP for cell energy. What I think happened is that I drank too much water in the days leading up to the race. I drank a ton of water without having any sort of electrolyte drink. I should have alternated. This diluted my system whereby my electrolytes were not maxed out. I am an extremely high volume sweater so it is crucial to have my electrolytes bursting before the race. I started the race with a low tank, doomed to run out unless I consumed unusually high amounts of nutrients. Like a drag car without enough fuel in the tank for the race, I burned through my energy and coasted towards the finish on empty. Thankfully, I had enough energy to keep my vitals going once my glycogen ran out; shutting down my brain.
My affirmation: Nutrition, Nutrition, NUTRITION!
I feel good today. Life seems different, richer, more colorful and astounding. Every breath brings sweet life giving nectar.
Enjoy the moments… right now!