Monday, February 5, 2018

IM Los Cabos 2017: DNF

Let me start off by saying this isn't your typical race report. If you're looking for some course recon on IM Los Cabos, this post is probably not going to be very helpful. However, if you're looking for some course recon on IM Los Cabos, you should also know that the race has officially been discontinued.

Right before lining up for the start, with my teammate.

I was expecting Cabo to be hot but I wasn't expecting it to be so dry. I've been noticing this trend in my ironman races (more so in the hotter ones) that I get extremely bloated while I'm racing. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but it's not just a little bloating in my stomach; it's my whole body, and it's very uncomfortable. I also don't sweat very much, so over the course of a race, I'm literally gaining weight. Usually I don't notice how bloated I am until I start running because I'm noticeably heavier. In Cabo, however, I noticed it around mile 60 of the bike because my watch was getting too tight on my wrist and I had to rip off my athlete wrist band because it was cutting off my circulation. I then noticed that my biceps felt like they were full of water and the skin around my neck was tight from being swollen as well. At that point, I started panicking. My first assumption was that I had taken in too much salt, which was causing my body to retain water, which also made me concerned about my blood pressure. I started getting off of my bike at every aid station to calm myself down, dump water on myself to lower my core temperature, and switched to only drinking water (which I later learned was a big mistake). I made it through the rest of the 112 miles with this strategy.

I took my time in transition and started off on the run. It didn't take me more than a few steps to realize that I was too dizzy to run so I looked at my watch and saw that I could maintain a moderately paced walk, and still finish before the cutoff at midnight. I'd like to think of myself as persistent, but I think you could also call it stubborn... or just stupid. Either way, I set off to walk a marathon and finish my 5th Ironman. Something about my new quest felt oddly noble and exciting. I made it through 11.5 miles and I wasn't getting better. I made it to a point where I could either start the next little out-and-back section or cut off the course, give up on my day, and head back towards transition. I knew it would be irresponsible to pass out in the middle of Mexico or end up in a Mexican hospital, so I sat down at my crossroads, cried for a couple minutes, then picked myself up and started heading back to where I could get some help.

I made it to a bench outside of our hotel, where Ryan called an ambulance that took me to the medical tent. In the tent, they assumed that I was dehydrated and proceeded to give me 3 liters of IV's (biggest mistake of the day). The rest of the story is based on Ryan's recollection of the day because once the IV went into my arm, I don't remember anything for the next 8 hours. Apparently I couldn't say where I was from, what my name was, or what Ryan's name was. The only questions I answered confidently the whole night were about who my dogs were: Ralph and Luna. In my defense, look how cute they are:

I've never DNF'd before. I wasn't sure how I was going to handle that once I wrapped my head around it. The one thing I knew was that I had to get some answers about what's happening to my body and why. I started off with getting my blood work done to make sure I'm ok under the hood. Everything was normal. I also started to inquire about where I could go to get some testing done, and it turned out that the best place to go is at my alma mater: the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut. This seemed like a sign too strong to ignore so we made plans to head back east, and maybe squeeze in a basketball game or 2. I've since been put through the ringer with 2 days of intensive testing in KSI's brand new Heat Lab and I'm currently waiting on the results. What I have learned is that what happened to me in Cabo was the opposite of dehydration; a condition called hyponatremia where I have so much water in my body that my blood sodium becomes diluted. After reading a bit into what this means, I've learned that the risk factors for hyponatremia include being female, pre-exercise over-hydration, excessive drinking during an athletic event, low body weight, exercise duration over 4 hours, and a hot environment; I've also learned that hyponatremia is potentially fatal. But the GOOD news is that it is entirely preventable by following a nutrition and hydration plan tailored to my exact sweat rate and the race conditions, which is what the Korey Stringer Institute is going to help me put together. Results of that testing to come!

So here's the persistent/stubborn/stupid part that I'm using to rationalize my DNF. Maybe you've heard that saying before, that your mind will quit before your body does. It's supposed to be used as motivation to understand that even when you're uncomfortable and in pain, that your body probably has more to give. Well I think I might have taken this just 1 step too far. My defense mechanism for my DNF is that my body quit on me long before I actually stopped. Knowing what I know now, I definitely should have listened to my body before my condition became that extreme (hence the persistent/stubborn/stupid thing). Regardless, I'm proud of my effort in an F'ed up way, and once I get these results back, I'm excited to see what I can do in the next one. Look out IM Texas.

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