By: Bob Schultz
The Grand Rapids Tri was my first triathlon nine years ago. I average five tri’s a year including Xterra off road triathlons. The Grand Rapids Tri in the Olympic distance was my third of 2021 season. The first on the year was in Oak Mountain, Alabama with the Xterra SE Championships where the temperatures and humidity were in the 80’s then I did the Greenville Tri two weeks ago.
I approached this year’s race knowing I had trained better than any other year and felt good about aging up to the 65-69 age group, which yes, made me the youngster. I enjoyed the rolling start for the swim and averaged within 4 seconds of my training swim pace and had a good bike ride within ½ mile off my planned pace, so I took off on my run feeling good wanting to do a 10 minute pace. I took my normal “Gu” in the transition followed by a swallow of water and headed out. I saw another guy in my age group in transition, so knew he was relatively close behind me.
The run-out on Thornapple Drive went as planned. I stopped at both aid stations on the way out and took my cup of Gatorade and water before heading off again. After the turn, I started to feel the heat a little more. Instead of cruising to the aid station, I could not wait to get there for my Gatorade and water. After drinking a splash of water, I would dump the remaining on me. Both stations had cups of ice, but I declined. I remember the final station throwing my cup in the basket and missing. My training teammates rode bikes out by me to encourage my final kick before they headed back to the finish line to watch for me. This is where things got bad. I thought I tripped and fell forward hitting my head on the pavement before the Camel Back bridge. I actually made it to the bridge and started staggering which caught the attention of a lady who is coached by Athletic Mentors and is in healthcare. She asked if I was okay, and I responded yes. This tipped her off I was not and started towards me. I apparently was trying to get myself to the side of the bridge, saw her and reached to her when I fell down face first. A volunteer on a cart was driving by and stopped and helped get me sitting up. The lady took my heartrate at 200 with erratic and shallow breathing. They got me in the cart and took me to the med tent where I was put in a chair and given water until I felt I could stand. Cheryl stopped to check on me and I assured her many times I just tripped. Only after a nap back home did I realize I had no memory from the time my teammates left until the med tent. If not for the lady who saw and helped, I would not know what really happened.
My takes on this episode are:
- First there is no normal race.
- The weather was 77 when I collapsed, not hot by GR Tri standards and much cooler and less humid than Oak Mountain Xterra.
- The bike and run are relatively flat straight courses.
- When I came in on my bike, I had trouble taking my shoes off and could not figure out the latch to release the strap which I have done hundreds of times. This should have tipped me off then something was not right.
- On the run I knew my competitor was behind me and assumed he was faster than he was. He never did catch me.
- When I knew I was getting hot, I did not take the extra time in the aid station to drink a complete cup or two of Gatorade to hydrate and pack myself with the ice provided and then run at a slower pace to the next station.
When my teammates told me I was not looking good and could slow down I should have listened to them. These guys train with me multiple times a week and know me as well as I know myself. Most importantly you know yourself best and need to listen to your body. While I did a couple of 15 second walks, when I felt myself heating up I should have walked until I felt my heartrate go down. I knew I was pushing myself, but I continued.
My incident turned out fine. I have had an EKG which was normal and will have an echocardiogram to rule out a heart issue and confirm it was just the heat and dehydration. I may not be so lucky the next time if I don’t keep track of myself. You do the same!