I rolled to the start. The downhill from the Holiday Inn elevated my heartrate to 140 bpm. That was just sitting and coasting. Then we rolled out for the neutral start, which pegged my heart rate in the high 160s. Each time the road tilted up, my heart rate rocketed into the 180s. I ran out of gears on every climb. I couldn’t recover when I needed to, and I didn’t have the strength to get up and over the climbs.
I pushed on as best I could, but my body was just shutting down. I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t fatigued. I was alert and cognizant of what was happening. I just didn’t have any strength. Then I couldn’t catch my breath. Then I was vomiting and heaving. I was sweating, then freezing, then overheating again. When we (the crew and I) decided it was time to pull the plug, I was unable even to walk unassisted around the van. There really wasn’t a question of taking a DNF. Maybe I could have pushed harder, but the crew was already looking for the path to the nearest hospital, and I think pushing up and over Towne Pass, let alone all the way to the finish, would have done permanent damage.
The time station crew at Furnace Creek were less than supportive, letting me know I didn’t look sick; that nothing looked broken. I told them I was sick, and that it was more than the “tummy ache” mentioned at the pre-race meeting. It was tough. I already was feeling run down and defeated, and I didn’t need the piling on of the race officials. I don’t understand that logic.
That was the race in a nutshell. I’ll write some more later, I’m sure. Here’s the rest of the story (nod to Paul Harvey):
When I got back to the Bay Area, I knew things were worse than I had originally thought. I called and set up a doctor’s appointment, and I went there as soon as possible. I spent the day getting x-rays and lab work, and explaining to my doctor why I still rode 200 miles feeling as crappy as I did. I don’t think she got it. The long and short of it is that I have pneumonia. I’m not going to die. But, in the words of my doctor, “most people wouldn’t walk up a flight of stairs in your condition, and you rode 200+ miles. You’re both fit and insane. Go rest.”
After the fact, I’ve had some riders send me some messages and wishes for a speedy recovery. I’m not hanging my head about the DNF. I hate that I had to bow out. It’s embarrassing, regardless the circumstances surrounding it. I hope I managed to do the race right. The 508 is important to me. It means something. I appreciate that some people respect me for still giving it my best effort, but I’m struggling right now to put it all into perspective.
In hindsight, I now know I rode 200 miles of “the toughest 48 hours in sport” with pneumonia. It’s going to take a few weeks to recover completely, not just physically, but also emotionally. Once I gain some perspective, I’ll address 2012 and my plans for riding.
Thanks for reading, and for all the support.
Special thanks and greetings to some of my friends out there on the road. I hope I get to hear from some of you (I have emails for the others I rode with) if you happen to stumble across this post:
and especially Gyrfalcon 2.