I have two badges of courage from the day: The finishers medal from my triathlon around my neck and a hospital bracelet around my wrist. This is going to be a long story. But just to be fair, I should let you know before reading that I am okay today, home safe and sound thanks to being rescued from Boston by my valiant husband. Read on:
Susan, her sister Johanna, and I spent the night in Auburn, Mass on Saturday night and raced our triathlon on Sunday morning.
|finish line chute of the swim.|
For me, the swim was my favorite part. The water was warm (too warm, even), and I got to the front of my wave and took off like a bandit as soon as it was go time. This is my strategy: to charge ahead of my wave so that I don't end up in a pile of flailing arms and legs. It worked. I was off with a few strong kicks and pulls and into clear water and swam strong the whole way without ever getting kicked. In the previous 2 years that I did this course, the "1/2 mile" swim was actually just more than a 1/4 mile (my times were way too fast and it just looked way short). This year it was definitely a full 1/2 mile. I knew it as soon as I saw the buoys way out there, and it felt like I was swimming a long way before the final buoy and turned toward the shore. My time was 13 minutes and change which is really good for me for an actual 1/2 mile in open water.
Usually when I get off my bike and start to run, it's my legs that protest. During this race my legs were okay, but I was sucking wind and I couldn't get my breathing to calm down because of the thick, humid air. I even walked up a couple of hills. I kind of hated the run and just wanted it to end. I felt like I was running through quick sand and at like a 12 minute pace. So I was pleasantly surprised that my pace was actually 9:58. Not the best I could have done, but fine. I was very happy to make the final turn into the finish.
See the medical sign above my head?
|sisters!!! I love this one.|
Things were fine and good and normal in a post-race sort of way. We collected our gear, we walked down to the lake and went swimming, we checked our results and went back to the hotel to shower. We had coffee and hung out. Normal stuff.
Because I know you are going to wonder later, and because I was asked by a hundred medical personnel, I felt fine after the race, and I had plenty to drink to refuel myself. I didn't feel differently than I ever do after a race. That is to say, I felt proud and exhilarated by the experience, and tired in a good way, and hungry.
A few hours later, Johanna left for home and Susan and I drove to Boston. Because Susan had to stay in Boston overnight to pick up a relative at the airport the next day, I had purchased a ticket home on the 6:15 pm bus out of Boston's South Station and would arrive home around 10:30 Sunday night. So, we had about 4 hours to kill in Boston, which was a lovely thing. We parked in a lot near Quincy Market and walked around the shops. We had lunch at a really delicious Asian noodle/ salad type place. We debriefed the race and drank a ton of water.
My hands were crazy itchy. Not like a little bit, or in just an annoying way, but in a kind of instantly panicky way. I was going out of my skull itching them. Then the bottoms of my feet started itching. Then my head and neck. I walked outside and found Susan. I said: "Something is wrong with me." I described my itchiness.
She suggested we get up and walk but I was kind of freaking out and needed to be in a cold, quiet place. I charged into Nine West shoes, right next to where we were sitting, and said that I was having an emergency and needed their bathroom. Within the next 10 (or less) minutes, this is what happened, as best as I can remember it:
I felt really sweaty and faint. I tried to sprinkle water on my face but I couldn't stand up. I laid down on the bathroom floor because I was so hot I needed to feel the cold floor. The manager of Nine West knocked on the door and asked me if I was okay. I said I didn't know. I was nauseous and so sweaty that my skin was wet to the touch. The manager knocked on the door again. I said I needed help. She asked if she should call 911. I said yes. She asked me to unlock the door. I reached up and opened it and she saw me on the floor and I heard her say: "Oh my god she's passed out on the floor!" I heard her call 911 and describe the situation. She asked if I was alone. I managed to say "Susan" and "outside" so in a minute Susan was there. Susan took over answering questions for the 911 people on the phone, I think. I could hear people talking about me, but I don't know who it was.
What seemed like 30 seconds later I could hear sirens. In hindsight, I think it's amazing that I so quickly wanted and needed an ambulance. You would think that I would have wanted to wait it out for at least a few minutes. I just knew something was wrong with me. And I wanted someone to just pick me up and give me some drugs and make this all over. And I was SO hot.
Next thing I knew I was looking at the shoes of the paramedics and hearing them talk about me. I couldn't really answer their questions. They took my vitals. I was annoyed they were touching me. Susan did most of the talking. When she mentioned that we did a triathlon this morning, both paramedics and the store manager said: "Oh! Well that explains it!" And I managed to say "uh-uh" as in, no way. This has nothing to do with the triathlon.
They wrapped me in a sheet and pulled me out of the bathroom and up onto the stretcher. I remember being pissed that they were jostling me around so much. Everything seemed so bumpy and jerky. Luckily, though I didn't care at the time, they took me out a back door and onto the ambulance in the alley, not through the jammed brick pedestrian walkway of Quincy Market. That would have been a scene.
I was asking for some pain medicine. They said "not yet honey" and then I heard someone say to Susan: "We're taking you to Mass General, and they will figure it out." They asked me a lot of questions but I couldn't answer any of them. Susan did a great job filling them in, and also she was so calm. I could hear her very matter-of-fact tone and it was very comforting to me.
After we got to the hospital, they put me in a different bed, I kept my eyes closed. Over the course of the next half hour, I started to get really cold and started to shake. Still very itchy and now blotchy around my ears (so I could hear people saying).
And then slowly I started to feel like I could talk again. Very gradually I started to feel a little better. I sat up a little. I opened my eyes. I could speak some sentences to Susan. Mostly, I kept saying: "I can't believe that just happened."
There was a lot of waiting to see the doctors. By the time the doctor came in, I had talked to Sam and farmed out the kids to our dear friend Kimmie for a sleep over, and Sam was preparing to drive to Boston. I was able to fully explain what happened to the doctors. I was even making jokes at this point, so she and Susan were confident I was okay. The doctor was quite impressed with our triathloning, and enjoyed telling us about a trail run she just did.
The doctors thought I had clearly had some kind of allergic reaction, but didn't know to what. I did eat shrimp for lunch about an hour before this happened, so that was definitely discussed (though I've never had a food allergy and I've eaten shrimp before, not often, but a few times a year). If it had been bad shrimp or some kind of food poisoning, they said, I would have vomited. Their best guess at what it could be? Exercise-induced urticaria: an allergic reaction to strenuous exercise.
So, I'm allergic to exercise? Everyone wanted to blame the triathlon. I said over and over: "People. I'm in good shape. I do a lot of these kinds of things! I've run 3 marathons! I'm not allergic to exercise!" I mean really, I trained more than adequately for this race. I think the triathlon may be a culprit if I had been under-trained, but wouldn't I have felt sick right after the race? And yes, I had plenty of water. And Gatorade. And coconut water. And then like 4 glasses of water with lunch. And yes it was hot at the race, but nothing I haven't dealt with before. And I'd had a good race!
I had to tell all of the nurses and doctors throughout the evening: " I do this kind of race a lot. And I've never had this happen before." And each one of them would say: "Huh" and scratch their heads.
Very comforting, right?
They moved me to a treatment area, gave me a bag of fluids, took a ton of blood samples, and gave me an EKG. Why, I'm not sure. Just to rule everything out.
Sam was on his way, I felt comfortable, I made Susan go to her cousin's where she was spending the night and promised to call her.
The end of my story is that my labs were all normal. My EKG was normal. I sat up and started to read my book. I even started to feel hungry.
Sam drove 4 hours to Boston, got lost in the city trying to find Mass General, parked and found me (I had been discharged about an hour earlier) in the waiting room at 11 pm, and we turned right around and drove back to Maine. I kept thanking him and thanking him and asking if he was okay to keep driving. He just kept drinking coffee and saying he was fine. He also said that I was the only person for whom he would drive the 8 hours in and out of Boston. And that's not even true, but it was a nice thought. We got home at 3 am and I went straight to bed.
I will follow up with my doctor here in Maine, I will avoid shrimp until I see an allergist. I will not, however, avoid exercising. Just ridiculous. I hope to have some more answers soon, and hope to not get intimate with a bathroom floor anytime soon.
I owe enormous thanks to Susan for taking care of me, to Sam for rescuing me, to the nurses and docs at Mass General for being so nice, and to the really nice manager at the Quincy Market Nine West store (I have to call her).
Maybe we should all go out and buy some Nine West shoes to celebrate the happy ending to this saga.
How is that for a race report!