Under the circumstances, I’ll take 2nd

One of the cruel things about endurance sports is that you can train and prepare to the best of your ability, and then on race day your body can simply decide to betray you.

When you’re asking it to ride as hard as possible in sauna-like conditions, can you blame it?

Think about setting up your bike on a trainer in an actual sauna — not a dry one, but one with lots of steam — and then riding a time trial. That would be pretty crazy. But that’s what we essentially did at the state time trial.

The temperature was 105 degrees when I previewed the course Friday afternoon. And it was not a “dry heat”. It felt like I had a blow drier in my face the whole time. Even though I rode it easy I was still sweat-soaked when I finished. But my start time the next day was at 10 AM so it wouldn’t be so bad, right?

That’s what I was telling myself. And for the first 10k of the race it seemed to be going OK. But then my breathing became labored. So I backed off the intensity. Then had to back off some more. It was a struggle to the finish. The only thing keeping me going was the thought that others had to be suffering too.

I had been looking to win, but knew that wasn’t going to happen. But any disappointment was overshadowed by how horrible I started feeling. I’ve raced and trained in the heat, but never had a reaction as severe as this. 20 minutes after the race I still could not cool down. Ultimately it got to the point where I was about to faint in the parking lot.

Fortunately the racer parked next to me (and to whom I’m indebted) helped me out and got a towel and some ice and helped me to lay down on the ground in the shade. My glutes were so cramped that I couldn’t bend my legs. The paramedics came over and thought I should get an IV … and a trip to the local hospital.


So there I was, in an ambulance, getting stuck with a needle on the way to the hospital. 2 IV bags and a couple hours later, I felt much better and was able to make the 4-hour drive home. Not sure I would have been able to do that otherwise. The hospital staff in essence said, “you did a bike race in this weather”?

During the whole episode I felt pretty foolish. None of the other racers seemed to have such a problem. And I was supposed be one of those at the “pointy end” of the field. I’m not sure what went wrong, but I’m thinking that perhaps I started the day still dehydrated from the previous day’s ride.

One day later, I feel like I was out all night drinking.

A small consolation: on the way to the hospital my teammate sent me a text saying I’d finished second in the Cat 1/2 field. Under the circumstances, I’ll take that result.



Filed under cycling, racing

10 responses to “Under the circumstances, I’ll take 2nd

  1. ds

    The IV was overkill…all you needed was a Coke.

    • Brian

      interestingly … I was trying to get to the coke I had in my cooler, but once I got into the folding chair I had set up, I literally couldn’t get out of it.

  2. Wrong stance to this post. You were so damn fast and strong you destroyed the competition and your body doing it. I am sure this was worse than shivering in our cars with the heater on full after RATL. Imagine that.

    • Brian

      I dunno … seems like for most everyone I talked to it was a race of who did the best damage control. My power numbers at the end were so far off the target that it looks like a training ride (by the numbers). In hindsight (of course) the smarter way to ride it would have been to start out below threshold and then try to slowly up the intensity … if possible.

  3. Derek

    IV – not my favorite gig. A nice cold Coke would have helped. Glad your okay and were able to drive yourself home!

  4. Jim

    Now, the real question is, what did you learn from this AND what will you do differently next time?

    The good thing is that you did what the health care professionals thought was best (and I am SURE your bride would agree). A Coke isn’t the answer no matter how good it might taste. Your body is protecting itself from your will power.

    I had this same sort of thing happen to me about 25 years ago. I decided it was a great idea to do about 90 miles on a 95* day. Needless to say, I didn’t make it AND I suffered (like I imagine you did) for about 6 hours after. It was a miserable experience and I don’t want to do it again. After all, this is supposed to be fun and no one pays me to suffer like that.

    The other thing is that what the others are, or are not, experiencing has no bearing on what you need to do. This is not the time to worry about that.

    • Brian

      There are several things I take away from this. The first is that when the conditions are extreme, you’re not likely to put out the same power as in more normal conditions. As I said above … the better approach to pacing would have been to start out targeting a way lower number. Which would have been difficult at first, because I did feel pretty good for the first 10km+. But knowing that I was not going to be able to dissipate the heat from that effort, I would have started slower and then tried to finish stronger.

      The second is that I should have been paying more attention to hydration the couple of days before the event, given the expected conditions. I have to think I started out in the hole.

      And then … immediately after the race, the moment I started to feel bad, had I gotten some ice bags on me I think it might have made a difference.

      And perhaps finally: when given the choice between a race in 80-degree temps (which would have been in Canada), and one with triple-digit temps … take the cooler one. Even if it’s a longer drive.

  5. Yipes! It’s so easy to ignore that we all live in a vulnerable casing. Glad you’re OK.

    • Brian

      thanks. yes, this morning I was reminded of the lyrics from a Little Feat song: You know that you’re over the hill when your mind makes a promise that your body can’t fill.

  6. rjrussell59

    Brian, I experienced a similar scenario a week before TOV. Drove out to the RR course, intending to do a couple laps. Had been doing a lot of training in the heat for preparation and wasn’t too concerned about the conditions. But after just one lap, it was clear to me that this was not an ordinary day. I was smart enough to pull the plug and call it a day, but still ended up with an ice bag on my head and a head ache that took two days to go away. Heat is not our friend :/

    But despite the trip to the hospital, you’re still one bad ass biker 🙂

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