Blogs tagged with "dehydration"

Out of my element in time, space,
AND temperature.

An old saying goes: "There's a first time for everything." In the world of Ironman - or triathlon in general - this is the oft-spoken response to those who say things like "whoa, I never DNFed before," or "I never peed on my bike before," or "I never flatted in a race before." But on Sunday, just like that, one of those things-that-will-eventually-happen-to-you-if-you-do-this-sport-long-enough finally happened to me.

Yes, I flatted - in the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas. In fact, it wasn't your run-of-the-mill flatting. It was an old-fashioned blowout, right at mile 3 of the 56-mile bike leg.
But before I talk about my blowout at mile 3 of the bike leg, something else - much less likely - happened to me this weekend. Something SO unlikely and so downright bizarre that it would NEVER prompt that old response: "There's a first time for everything." It did, however, invoke that expression's not-so-common cousin: "Now THERE'S a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing."
We're calling it the Great Exploding Glass Disaster (GEGD) of 2012. And unlike the Great Smoke Detector Incident of 2012 (in Louisville, KY), the J-Team was the innocent bystander in the GEGD. Freakish events like the GEGD have usually been pinpointed as reasons for my nickname "Disaster Magnet."
GEGD glass carnage: this was only the
immediate area of the end table but the
blast radius reached much further

And so it happened in the wee hours of Saturday morning, without warning, my husband Jim and I were awoken by a loud crashing noise. We lept up and scrambled to turn on the lamp next to the bed. What we found was mystifying. The sheet glass cover on the bedside table in our hotel room had seemingly just "exploded." But infinitely worse was that it sent glass schrapnel everywhere. Several chunks of broken glass resembling a shattered car windshield were still lying on the table. There were tiny shards of glass in the bed, on the floor, in our luggage, and clear across the room. And all the objects from the bedside table (except the lamp) were now on the floor - the telephone, my watch, and my jewelry.

We glanced around the room in disbelief. What just happened? And how? And what should we do about it? Realizing the importance of sleep two nights before my race, Jim immediately started to clean it up to get me back to slumberland. But the cold hard truth was that glass was EVERYWHERE. We were unable to walk around or touch anything in the room without fear.
We called the hotel desk. They said they would send someone up. The bellhop arrived first and we showed him the disaster area. He was equally mystified - and intrigued. His explanation: there must be a ghost in the room. He called maintenance with instructions to bring a vacuum while he moved us to another room. I was almost done gathering up our unaffected belongings when the maintenance guy arrived. He had NEVER seen anything like it, but his technical assessment was a hairline crack in the glass set off a chain reaction. Seriously, though, I thought the ghost explanation was more feasible. Whatever the cause, it was hard to do anything but stand there scratching our heads.

I was eventually sent to the new room with instructions to go back to sleep while Jim and the maintenance guy tried to eliminate glass from my race gear. It just so happened (as it does with most disasters) that my most important race necessities - my transition backpack and bike shoes - were right in the line of fire below the end table. But miraculously, about 1.5 hours after the GEGD, I was able to put the whole thing out of my mind so that I could get up early for a practice swim.

The Hoover Dam: amazing feat of modern engineering.

The next day, although we found little conversation that wasn't directly related to the GEGD, we did some sightseeing. We visited the Hoover Dam in 105-degree heat and then spent the evening with my great friend, fellow athlete, and founder of Punk Rock Racing, Ron Harvey. It was Ron's first time at a World Championship event and hanging out with him and his son Nick was one of the highlights of our trip. I usually like to "get away from it all" the night before I race by finding a restaurant far from triathletes and the hype, and Ron had no problem honoring that wish. He's also a good person for me to be around because of his totally chill attitude (although, I think he's just as jittery as the rest of us and its just an act).

Race morning with Ron (before the flat): note that you
can see Ron's teeth in that smile - this is not his usual
pre-race "I'm cool, mellow, and collected" pose.

And so we had no more (exploding) disasters until race day. At mile 3. When I was struck by the aforementioned exploding tire incident. Thus the question became, and remains, were the two events related? (Was it the ghost?) Or was it a mere coincidence?

The most unfortunate thing about getting a flat in this particular race was that I had decent swim (29:50 for 1.2 miles) and was leading my start wave (and therefore my age group) out of transition that morning. I had no expectations on Sunday because I was looking at no taper and only two weeks of recovery since Ironman Louisville. But leading my age group out of the water was a pretty good start for a race with no expectations.

(Blog Interlude, Jim's photos from the start and T1):

Lake Las Vegas Bike Transition at 3:30 a.m. (from the hotel balcony)

My wave start at Lake Las Vegas
Last year's winner, Craig Alexander
(I have no doubt that Jim took this photo just for me) 
Craig Alexander's custom painted lid
Yes, that's me, all alone in T1 before anyone else got there.
First amateur up the hill, super happy, but not quite as cool as Crowie.

The blowout changed everything. I went from no expectations to high expectations to low expectations in a matter of minutes. It was the worst sound I ever heard while riding my bike. At first, I thought it was a gunshot (coincidentally, there was a police car right there when it happened). It was my front tire. I stopped on the side of the road and hastily went about fixing it. A lone spectator wanted to help me - he talked me through it, and he even called Jim (at my request) to tell him I flatted and would be slow getting to T2. It was a new tire and I struggled a bit with the long valve stem and getting the tube out. Then, by time I had the new tube in, the mobile tire/wheel support guy had arrived (the policeman called race officials). He was ready with another wheel, but I was almost finished with this one, so he helped me get the tire back on the rim, pumped it up, and I was on my way after many thanks.

I think I lost about 11-12 minutes to the flat, but mentally, I lost a lot more. When I got back on my bike, I had to regroup and reassess what I came Vegas to do. It was the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. My body was fried from Ironman Louisville two weeks prior. Upon learning the temperature would reach 100 degrees on race day, Jim's statement on Saturday was: "your goal tomorrow is to survive." I had been given over to Vegas being a training race, but until the blowout, there was that little part of me wondering if I could rise to the occasion despite the fatigue and no taper... that little voice saying: "what if?"

That voice was now saying "ok, raw deal, Jeanne-o, so NOW what are you going to do?"

My answer was, simply, to enjoy myself. I didn't want to chase. I wanted to get experience in the heat for that big race in Kona. I worked on the same fueling regimen from Louisville (Gu Roctane drink and gel and Gu Brew), hydration, and hill riding - because the Vegas bike course is full of long rolling hills. And I prepared myself for a run in 100 degrees. And just when I thought I had everything under control, one more thing went awry - with 10 miles to go, I hit a bump and launched my only remaining water bottle.

Ok, I lied, there was a slight shoe-launching disaster
as I dismounted my bike (note, I had to pick up and carry my bike shoes)

With the flat, the bike leg took me over three hours (last year it took 2:51), and when I pulled into transition, I had no idea where I was in the age group. Jim said he thought I was fifth - and 10 minutes down from the leader - surprisingly, I was in a lot better shape than expected.

Because of the dropped water bottle, I approached the run dehydrated. The 13.1-mile three-loop Vegas run course was challenging enough in 90 degrees last year, but this year it would be much worse. So I focused on getting rehydrated as quickly as possible and fueled properly. My only goal now was to hold a pace that could be termed "running."

That was warm water I dumped on myself.

The biggest issue in Vegas besides the heat this year was getting ice and cold fluids. People (including me) were asking for ice and when it wasn't available, we took to grabbing it right out of the buckets being used as coolers. At one aid station, kids were handing out (yelling) "warm sponges!" I think it just got worse as the day went on (Ron said he had trouble finding anything cold at the aid stations while he was out there).

There were more people walking and struggling through aid stations than I've ever seen at a race. People even got desperate. At the aid station about a half mile from the finish line, a guy yelling for ice water jumped right in front of the group I was running with. He slipped on a cup (or wrapper), strained his hamstring, grabbed it in pain, and then almost took us all down with him. Obviously the heat was getting to people.

Finish line (finally) - still managing a smile.

By the second loop, I was actually feeling better but not running much faster - my pace was about a minute per mile slower than 2011. I didn't really try to catch anyone, but I know I passed at least three women in my age-group. My keep-running attitude was working - two of them had given up and started walking. The only time I tried to run fast was in the last downhill half-mile to the finish. When I crossed the line, all I wanted was to get out of the heat. I found Jim in the crowd and he told me I did no worse than fourth in my age group. We found out later that I finished third. Not bad for no expectations and a flat.

More photos from Jim's camera:

Men's pro race winner, Sebastian Kienle (again, way cooler than me)
Andy Potts, another one of my favorite pros.
(Do I have to keep stating how cool these guys are?)
Happy but wasted. Ron had enough energy for that pose, then he
"had to go lie down." The medals rocked.

Vegas was a good experience for me to have five weeks before Kona. I know there's no such thing as miracles. I now know I can recover from dehydration to feel good again during a race. I know I need to work on changing a flat faster. And with this race and IM Louisville, I now have a better understanding of how to race in severe heat.

And so... yeah, um... bring on Kona.

It's been three weeks since I crashed and burned at Ironman Lake Placid. The crash: with six miles to go in the best race of my life, I lost all my cookies (read: fluids) at an aid station, then stumbled one more mile to collapse from severe dehydration at the next aid station. The biggest questions in my mind are still there: Why was there no obvious warning? and why did I seemingly have no chance for recovery?

I've been analyzing what happened over and over in my head since the moment I arrived at the finish line in the ambulance. I asked the medical staff there -- the only answer they gave me for the vomiting and dehydration was that my stomach just "shut down." Why? "It just happens sometimes." Not good enough. I need a reason. This absolutely cannot happen again.

I came up with three causes of stomach shut-down: I ate (or drank) too much, I ate (or drank) too little. I ran too hard. Ok, that's really five causes. And there was a sixth: I didn't get any sleep the night before the race (as I've said many times, no sleep almost always translates to GI issues on race day). Then there were seven: too much water, not enough electrolytes. Eight: not enough water, too much electrolytes. Cause number nine? Anyone?

Basically, there are so many possibilities, it seems impossible to narrow it down. What if it were a combination of things? Now I want to tear my hair out. Am I the only one who has these problems? How could I have trained for it? All my long bike-run sessions went just fine with the nutrition I chose. No vomiting, no dehydration. I even ran a marathon in May to test myself. Will it now be necessary to do a full Ironman in training to test my nutrition and hydration plan?

I guess I have to start somewhere. The search for a nutrition reference has commenced. The first thing I did was Google "stomach shut down ironman" and the first reference that turned up was this: Competitive Ironman Nutrition Planning. There it was, in black and white:

If your stomach “shuts down” during the race you either 1) went out too fast - poor pacing strategy/control, 2) ate too much solid food, 3) did not take in enough water, or 4) are becoming hyponatremic (low blood sodium level).

In all honesty, I don't think I ran too hard. That's the one thing I'm relatively sure of. Well.. maybe 90% sure. So I'm going with it being a nutrition issue. Another reference online suggested, for another athlete's similar situation, that signs point to "dehydration or electrolyte imbalance." I guess I'll start there. In 2008, at age 43, I started experiencing regular vomiting during my long runs while training for the Philadelphia Marathon. I had never had that problem before. Research concluded it was caused by hyponatremia -- increasing my electrolyte intake during long runs took care of the problem. My electrolyte requirements had somehow changed with age, and I could no longer do a 20-miler with only water as I did in my 30s. Perhaps the electrolyte issues continue to increase with age -- I wonder, when I'm 50, will I need to add Marmite to my diet and put soy sauce on everything I eat?

My husband is pushing for me to find a sports nutritionist. I guess that wouldn't hurt either. And maybe I should find a sports psychiatrist while I'm at it.

It's been three weeks since I crashed and burned at Ironman Lake Placid. The crash: with six miles to go in the best race of my life, I lost all my cookies (read: fluids) at an aid station, then stumbled one more mile to collapse from severe dehydration at the next aid station.

The Ironman Lake Placid (IMLP) race report blog... I considered not writing it. I considered curling up in a ball and hiding for a few years until I could face my reflection again. Then along came an angel named Ruth. Ruth is my husband's cousin's wife. She is also my friend and, oftentimes, she is the singular voice of reason and perspective on Facebook. Ruth made me realize there's more to a race than the end result, and helped me pinpoint meaning behind my IMLP debacle. This could be it: the Disaster Magnet blog NEEDS the disaster stories. I mean, where would I be if it were another "look how wonderful I am" athlete blog? Ruth also said that I might inspire others to look at things differently through my own mishaps. That's all I ever could hope for as a legacy.

So, then, how do tell this story? It didn't really start out a disaster-in-the-making. It started out a smart race strategy playing out exactly as planned, an almost-perfect execution backed up by strong fitness and brain-work. I did not enter IMLP to "finish" -- I entered with the goal to qualify for the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Upon arriving in Lake Placid on July 21, the J-Team (my husband Jim, my amazing friend Julie and I) had a plan. The plan was to stay calm and relaxed and scope out the area, transition zone and course logistics to ensure no surprises on race day. The rest of the time would be spent sightseeing in the little Adirondack village that had the distinction of hosting the Olympic Winter Games not once, but twice, in 1932 and in 1980. My parents-in-law, who also wanted to see the Adirondack region (and the race, bless them), would meet us there.

The plan worked well. By the end of the next day we had taken care of the vitals:

  • the race registration
  • the "scope out"
  • the "course drive" (viewing the bike course)
  • the yearly tradition of eating (and drinking) at a local brewpub -- this time we hit two: Lake Placid Pub & Brewery and the Great Adirondack Brewing Co.
  • the grocery shopping at the local Price Chopper (in college, it was affectionately known as a "Chopper Run")

In the following two days came sightseeing at the former Olympic venues:

  • the Olympic Museum -- which displayed such things as medals from different games, Sonia Hennie memorabila, and bobsleds throughout time
  • the ice rinks -- including Herb Brooks Arena, the legendary place where a bunch of USA college kids shocked the world by beating the Soviets and winning the Gold Medal in 1980
  • the massive towering ski jumps
  • the ski-slopes of Whiteface Mountain (via gondola)

It was a memorable three days, but race morning finally arrived on July 25. We awoke -- well, I "arose" after a sleepless night -- at 3:30 a.m. The pre-race preparations went smoothly: shower, drive to start, body marking, bike prep, final transition bag check and dropping off of special needs bags. The swim started at 7 a.m.

The 2.4-mile IMLP swim is a two-loop counter-clockwise course in Mirror Lake with a deep-water mass-start. Jim - the engineer - had already determined that the geometry of the course -- a very narrow rectangle -- provided just a small distance penalty for swimmers starting wide to the right. Using my husband's geekiness to my advantage, I started on the front line and my swim went perfectly. I stayed relaxed, found a set of feet to draft off and experienced none of the usual crowded Ironman swim clobbering, despite warnings from other athletes about this particular swim. The result was my fastest time -- just under an hour.

The swim-to-bike transition at IMLP is a long run from the lake, but it went very quickly, and I was on my bike in a flash. It did help that I had my bike racked at the very end of the bar, adjacent to the run path. (That was luck, not skill.)

The 112-mile bike course is also two loops. It starts with a very short steep downhill followed by a left turn. Here's where the fun began. In classic Disaster Magnet style, I hit a bump in the road at the bottom of the hill and launched both my nutrition bottles -- this, after SPECIFICALLY replacing my bottle cages with new "no launch" models a few days before. I had to stop and retrieve them for two reasons: littering is prohibited on the course and all my race calories were in them.

The bike course leaves Lake Placid via the road past the Olympic ski jumps -- another steep, short downhill. At the bottom? You guessed it -- another bump in the road. My bottles became projectiles a second time. Retrieving them took a few moments longer this time because a state trooper decided to help out by tossing a bottle back to me. Doesn't he KNOW I can't catch? The rest of my ride would be characterized by constant bottle checks. In fact, I got so paranoid about bottle catapulting that I almost didn't notice when my gel flask was ejected out of the pocket of my bike shorts. I am NOT making this up. It was a comedy of errors. At one point, I even collided with someone else's bottle left in the road. Fortunately for anyone behind me, the impact with my front wheel gave it a perfect spiral and sent it into the grass.

So yeah, the IMLP bike course. The difficulty of this course is matched only by its beauty. It follows scenic hills, rivers, gorges and even takes in the slopes of Whiteface Mountain. Stunned by the scenery, you may reach a point of bliss during which you happily forget the 13 miles of hills coming in the latter part of each loop. The best part of the IMLP bike course is the aptly-named "screaming descent" into the town of Keene. Except, I was the one screaming -- from fear of spontaneous combustion upon reaching speeds I'd never seen before. The descent comes just after the climb out of Lake Placid.

The climbs on the IMLP course are deceiving, and I believe a five- to ten-minute deficit in the two loops is almost inevitable, irrespective of your ease of effort or biking prowess. I stayed in an aerobic state and finished the second loop about seven minutes slower than the first even though my bottles stayed put. I arrived at the bike-to-run transition feeling relatively relaxed and exactly where I wanted to be time-wise. OK, maybe not exactly. I had hoped to be a little faster, but I refused to panic. My bike nutrition had been flawless -- no nausea, no light-headedness, no dehydration.

The bike-to-run transition seemed like a maze, but all I had to do was follow the finger-pointing of the volunteers. They sent us right by a wall of porta-johns. This is a good thing if you have to "go." This is also a good thing if you DON'T have to "go" but want to give other competitors the slip because they DO have to "go." When I got to the change tent, I had yet another projectile awareness. As I grabbed my socks, shoes, hat, Gu Roctane and Endurolytes, I noticed I had lost one more thing on the bike course: my asthma inhaler. I started repeating the revelation: "my inhaler? my inhaler is gone!" The poor volunteer helping me dove desperately into my transition bag to find it. "No, no! I LOST my inhaler on the bike!" She was not amused, but, as I can say about all the volunteers, she is a saint.

The 26.2-mile run starts on a downhill, rolls a bit, then continues on a downhill -- the same downhill that the bikes follow past the ski jumps and out of Lake Placid. It would have been easy to hammer that hill, but I held back and listened to the voice of reason, the one that studied those "how to race Ironman" books, blogs and articles for six months. Jim and Julie informed me I was 12th in my age group and the leader was only 15 minutes ahead. I went out relaxed, took in water, sports drink, and Gu exactly as I trained. My pace was around 7:15-7:30 per mile on the downhills but then settled around 7:35-7:45. The run course is also very scenic, but eventually it's an uphill battle back into town. My pace dropped to 8:30 on the uphills.

Heading into the second loop, Jim and Julie yelled to me that I was now running in fourth place in my age group. After the downhills, I started to feel a bit bloated so I interspersed electrolyte tablets in my feeding regime. I had to walk a bit from the bloating, and noticing my distress, another athlete asked if I was ok. I said "I just need to throw up." His response? "Just GIT'R DONE!" Some people apparently have a much better grip on these things than I do -- that was NOT my first thought. Around mile 17, it got itSELF done. My stomach distress vanished instantly, and I was back on pace, feeling good aerobically but beginning to feel some fatigue in my legs. I continued to drink well and managed to pass two more women in my age group. The leader was all that was left. I was at 19 miles.

Little did I know that my race was about to come apart. The nausea came back, and at the next water stop, I was bent over vomiting many times. Out came the entire contents of my stomach -- basically, a LOT of liquid. The volunteers at the aid station sat me down and tried to work through it with me. They surmised I was severely dehydrated. They also noticed I was shivering. They gave me sports drink, pretzels, a wind-breaker jacket and a mylar blanket. I got up and tried to start running again. I managed to walk-jog to the next water stop, but I was losing focus and I decided to seek medical help. That was the end of my race.

The next thing I knew, I was lying on the ground wrapped in blankets with tremors in my body and begging the medical volunteers to help me finish. Instead, they stuck me with an I-V and put me in an ambulance to the finish line. At my request, one of them called Jim to tell him what happened and to meet me at the medical tent.

This was NOT how it was supposed to end. I was supposed to hear my name as I crossed the finish line. I was supposed to get my Kona slot. I was supposed to get my Ironman P.R. How did this happen?

At this point, I'm lost in analysis, determining where to go from here, what signal I obviously missed, and what I might do to avoid having the same thing happen next time. Did I say next time? Oh yes. There will be a NEXT time.

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