June 14, 2014

ITU Dallas Pan American Championships

After ITU Barbados I had an amazing block of training in Clermont, Florida with Alicia Kaye and Helle Frederiksen. I had never been training so well and so consistent in my entire career and I was feeling extremely confident leading into Dallas. The heat had been between 95-100F (33-35c) degrees in Clermont and I was waiting to do my workouts until it was midday to practice hard efforts in the heat. When I showed up to Dallas and it was only 87 degrees it felt almost cool and I knew I was well prepared.

I had an amazing homestay with fellow USA triathlete, William Huffman, and his family took care of me like I was one of their own. Thanks to the Huffman’s hospitality the pre-race preparation could not have been more perfect! The day of the race I went about my normal routine and I was feeling ready for a good performance. As soon as the horn blew and I had clear water in the swim, I knew this race was going to be a good one.

The Race:
I had a great start and was first to the buoy. I took a quick look to see where others were and noticed I had about a 5m gap on everyone. I slowed the pace a bit to make sure I could get some people on my feet to ideally have a breakaway out of the water. The swim was extremely easy, but after the second lap there were only two people who were on my feet and one of them decided to swim around me which gapped the third swimmer. We exited the water with a small gap to various other athletes, which was kind of frustrating, but I was prepared for any situation.

I had a good transition and was on the bike by myself with no one else around. I finally got caught just after the turn around by a group of five athletes and we had a gap to the first chase of about 15-20sec. Here is where it gets interesting – I don’t remember anything else. I don’t remember who was in our group, I don’t remember how long we were away for, I don’t remember if we were working together, I don’t remember ANYTHING. The only things I can remember are things that people have told me about the race.

The Hero:
From what I’m told, I was onto the run course first and then I was running in second place for a while and then on the final turn around I was in third (running with the second place guy). The last 1.25k I started falling apart majorly, and I don’t know what happened, but about 200m from the finish line, the hero of the race, another competitor named Felipe Barraza, sacrificed his own race to help me stay upright and get to the finish line. In the video and in pictures and from what people told me, he helped guide me until the final straight away and let me finish in front of him in 7th place. This was a HUGE gesture in sportsmanship as this race had extremely important Olympic Qualification points on the line. I don’t think I would have made it across the line had he not been there to guide me.


The Seizure:
Once I crossed the line I immediately flopped on the floor and started seizing. Personnel came over and moved me out of the way like a limp bag of rice and got me to the paramedics. I apparently had a heatstroke and then a seizure (which the doctors say can cause death, brain damage, and major organ failure). They airlifted me to a hospital and called my parents right away to fly out from California. I ended up being intubated and on a ventilator for 19hrs before they moved me to another hospital. I had major short term memory loss and had no idea what was going on. I don’t remember, but I need to thank Courtney Kulick from USAT, Rob Canalas from ROKA, the Huffmans,(and anyone else I don’t remember) for being there for me until my parents, and girlfriend (who flew from London!), came. The support I received was amazing!

After four days in the hospital the doctors finally released me and I spent one more night in Dallas with another amazing family, the Gilberts, before my parents, Katie, and I headed back to Santa Cruz, California for some recovery time.

The plan now is to relax and just “exercise” for about a month. After I get my follow ups with the doctors here in Santa Cruz I’ll be able to make some more decisions about what the next steps are. I’m definitely going to continue to train and race this year, but it’s going to be a slow process.

Bonus Material:
The doctors said that all my sodium levels were normal (if I wasn’t hydrated or if I didn’t have enough electrolytes these should have been completely depleted) so they think that I had a small virus which wasn’t showing any symptoms leading into the race and that the race conditions and effort put me over the top and caused the heatstroke and seizure. Having a heatstroke in these conditions isn’t that uncommon, but having a seizure is what caused all the panic.

My body temperature was 103 at the hospital.

No, I didn’t poop myself… I did throw up though.

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