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.