Don’t Ignore the Warning Signs

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 by Coach Kevin

Don't Ignore the Warning Signs

I didn’t think it could happen to me. Nobody ever expects it to happen to them, but it happened to me.

I started that particular day at the Triple Threat Tough Lake DeGrey camp a bit fatigued from the hard workouts of the two previous days. But I pride myself on suffering so this was no big deal. Besides, this was a beautiful morning with the sun coming up over the perfectly still water of Lake DeDrey. What could possibly go wrong?

Apparently, I was color blind to the color red that day.

After swimming a hard 3,000 meter open water swim, I got my bike ready and stood listening to the plans for the 60 mile bike ride. While doing so, I noticed I was sweating more than usual. That was the first red light I missed.

The ride starts and I ended up out in front by myself. I had a hydration and nutrition plan that was pretty typical for me for the hot long ride. I was taking a bottle of water every 30 minutes and eating a power bar every 45 minutes starting at two hours into the ride.

That was second red light I missed. My normal routine doesn’t start with a one hour hard swim in a very humid and hot climate; therefore my normal hydration/nutrition plan should have been reevaluated.

I ran out of water once during the ride but only had to wait about 20 minutes before a sag truck came by and filled me up. At the turn around I started to feel fatigued but wanted to finish strong so I pushed through the feelings of fatigue. Somewhere during the ride back I crossed over pushing through the fatigue and over to hitting and passing through THE WALL.

I was fatigued, dehydrated, and I had not eaten enough. Worse I was unaware of this and continued to push on. With six miles to go I got a painful, walnut-sized muscle contraction in my quad. This should have been flashing red light number three telling me to reevaluate my situation. But instead, I pushed on. Luckily Coach Tommy and Kristen came by in the sag truck and told me I looked bad and forced food and Gatorade down me. I managed to make it back but by the time I did I was totally overheated. I was sweating a ton at the beginning of the ride but by the end of the ride I wasn’t sweating nearly enough. A sure sign that something had gone wrong.

The final red light that I missed concerned my mental state. I was not as focused as I normally am. My self-talking had stopped coming from within and was coming from some distant place. It was like I was looking down at myself from different place rather than sitting there on my bike.

How should I have done things different? Obviously, I should have altered my nutrition and hydration plans based on the red lights. A bottle of water every 30 minutes is fine normally but not this day. What’s good normally is not good in all conditions. I would have probably been fine had I drank more water and substituted Gatorade for every other bottle for of water. Second, I had plenty of warning signs that I had gone beyond just normal suffering on the ride. I should have paid better attention.

As an endurance athlete I take pride in my ability to suffer. In fact, without being able to suffer I wouldn’t be able to compete at the level that I do. Having said this, we all need to make sure that we recognize when we’ve gone beyond suffering and are getting in trouble. Don’t be color blind to your body’s warning signs.

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