Sick in San Juan

2015 marks my 20th season of racing. And, if it is one thing I have learned in these 20 years of Triathlon is that we cannot have wins without losses. Nothing improves an athlete more than losing or facing adversity. It forces self-examination, it reveals flaws and if you chose to learn something from it, it inspires something better.

I had absolutely no control to what happened to me on Friday night in San Juan. But what I had absolute control over was my attitude and the way I would handle the next 48-72 hours.

Let’s step back to my preparation for my race:

To kick off my 20th season, I wanted to do something out of my comfort zone AND something out of my comfort zone.

With that in mind, I signed up for Puerto Rico 70.3 that was slated to be on March 15th. There are a lot of reasons why this is not a good idea..I have not been on a bike (apart from a few days in Tucson) since November outside, I would be far from acclimated – and I would probably be a bit heavy coming out of Chicago’s winter. Oh yeah, and the course was hot, humid and hilly. Considering Eagleman 70.3 is my favorite half ironman, this was a stretch. I hit the enter button for this race on December 15 before our real winter hits.

I came off a bigger year in 2014. I raced a lot. I did well. I had fun. What I wanted in 2015 was simpler. I wanted to go “big” early and then race local. I wanted to be around in the summer while my kids are still around and while we are selling & building a new house.

On February 2nd we got an offer for our house after 3 years on and off the market. Jerome was in China and then next 30 days were insane. Alone, I got the house ready for a house inspection (not easy we live in an 1880s house), looked for a rental and fought our new house plans in front of the Village Board of our new town. (we won). I was privately barely holding it all together. On top of this, of course, being mom and coaching full time. AND training for a 70.3 without any reservations. I was ALL IN.

I loved the training – I worked hard, trained hard, ran hills, ate hills, I did everything right to prepare for San Juan. I was lucky enough to be in a great relationship with Element Multisport in Chicago and Chris put me on a new PINK Trek Speed Concept TT bike and Rob put me on SPARKLY PSIMET wheels. I was so excited to race.

Elizabeth and I headed to San Juan on Friday. I ate normally – did not eat anything on the plane and brought my own food for the traveling. We arrived in San Juan at 2pm on Friday, took a van to our hotel and started to put our bikes together and got ready for dinner. Easy peasy.

At dinner we joined some friends and ate in the hotel, a Hilton – I had chicken and pasta and water. Many of the athletes ate similar food. Elizabeth and I went to bed at 9pm or so and talked about our next day and plans and that was it.

I woke up at 1am thinking I was going to VOMIT all over the place. I tossed and turned to fight that urge. I felt so miserable. BUT not flu -like – it was something I had never really experienced. I got up, went to the bathroom – back to bed, repeat. I was SO tired. I felt like shit.

We got up the next morning and Elizabeth wanted to go for run. I really could not get out of bed. At this point, I am thinking, “this will pass.” And, a little bit more personal information is that I was getting my period and ALL I kept thinking of is “god this is a bad one.” I could not really get out of bed. Elizabeth ate a bar, and went outside. I laid in bed. She came back and wanted to swim – so did I. I got up, we went down to the water and my stomach was a mess. We swam 15 minutes and my body did not feel that bad but I just swam super easy. I was thinking, “oh I just need to eat and then I can do this.”

We then went to Denny’s for our big pre-race breakfast. That is when I realized the extent of my problems. I could not eat – I could not talk to Elizabeth and lost my entire personality. I had to go outside to get fresh air and I just wanted to go to bed.

We went back to the room and I went to bed. I just had to sleep. I just laid there thinking, “I can do this if I just eat.” I still had not thrown up – just the other issues but nothing violent at all.

When it was time to check our bikes in, we rode our bikes to transition and my legs felt good! But, I knew it was bad. My stomach was like a vice. I checked my bike in and was solo (and Elizabeth was at the expo fixing a flat). The moment of truth was when I was walking back to our hotel, I just could not do it. I had to stop multiple times to take a break. I was dizzy, ill and exhausted and well, sick.

I got back, went to bed and slept.

Elizabeth went down to meet with an athlete and (probably get some fresh air) and she asked if I wanted anything to eat – I said, “Pasta, salad and chicken.” She brought it to me and I wanted to eat it so bad so IN CASE I woke up a new person, I could race because I was fueled. I was able to choke down some of the salad, but the pasta and chicken was a no go. AND when I went to bed that night (Elizabeth fell asleep at 7:45pm – she’s nearly 40 now you know…) I knew that was it. Even with a miracle, I was not fueling at all and that would not work.

I did not sleep all night – and I was paranoid that I was keeping Elizabeth up, so I went into the bathroom and was texting Dr Mia and Jerome as I laid on the floor in the bathroom. Dr Mia said it was probably some food or water bourne bug (like Ecoli). I kept things VERY low key with Elizabeth all weekend because I did not want her to worry or it to effect her race, so I downplayed it all. No need to ruin two races.

Elizabeth was up on race morning at 4am and I did not feel worse – but my stomach was a disaster – like someone was stabbing me with a hot knife. I wished Elizabeth luck and told her I would be down at the swim exit.

I could not go back to sleep. In fact, when it hit me that I was not racing, I started to cry. I can easily keep perspective and absolutely realize this is just a race – but it was more the prep, the hard work, the travel, the money…..and well, I was in shape and wanted to race! And, it was all out of my control. Just bad, shitty luck.

I got up and walked to the start of the race (it was right outside our hotel) and was looking for Elizabeth. I found Joel and Ali Rutledge and wished them luck – and Ali blew me a kiss (she knew I was sick). Then, I gave Elizabeth a hug, said a few private things to her and started to cry. I did NOT want to do that – damn it! It was not about me at this time! I apologized but it was just my disappointment that overtook my emotions.

I decided to be the uber spectator and friend after that. If I cannot race, well, then, let’s cheer for everyone I knew there and I did. I was able to get around OK and sat on the roads and cheered, was able to give Elizabeth splits and who was in front, in back, worked out nicely! Elizabeth ended up getting 3rd in the AG /7th OA 6 months after baby #2. Impressive.

And, yes, there was a shooting on the course. I was worried because I never heard who was hit. Two athletes got hit by crossfire between two cars. One was hit with a bullet; one with shrapnel. Elizabeth saw some of the aftermath of this tragedy. How awful.

After the race and showers, we got some food – I finally felt OK to eat something and ironically, I just wanted to drink. I had two mojitos with Elizabeth and that made me very happy; I was finally getting my personality back.

I was able to eat 1 ½ tacos and that allowed me to turn around a bit and after the drinks and some food, I was feeling much better. Funny how quickly these things come and go – and no sooner was I feeling better when it was time to get ready to come home.

I spent a lot of time in bed these past 72 hours. And I had on a lot of mindless TV on. Poor Elizabeth is scarred for life now. I watched more hours of “Married at First Sight” than any normal person should ever watch.

The good news of this whole thing is that in 20 years, this has never happened to me. I have never gotten sick at a race and not raced. And, it is just, like I said, shitty luck. And, OF COURSE I was upset – of course, I cried privately a few times – I will not sugar coat this and say it was easy. But, perspective is everything and as I said to myself and others I talked to, “It is just a race!” And, I meant that.

Nothing improves an athlete more than facing adversity. It forces self-examination, it reveals flaws and if you chose to learn something from it, it inspires something better.


Comments

  1. I know that must have sucked after all that training! You’ll kick butt the rest of the season! xoxo


  2. Oh! I’m SO sorry that this happened Jen! That is really really awful :( . But I have to say – there is a lot of really good info in your post about overcoming adversity and learning. Not only are you a great athlete, but great coach and teacher as well. Heal & recover quick! Xxoo!!


  3. Jen I am so sorry! Sounds so much like my Kona 2013 … and I would not wish that on anyone!! Glad you are feeling better…hope to see you at a race or two this year!


  4. Jen,
    I’m so sorry this happened to you but thank you very much for sharing what you took away from it. “Nothing improves an athlete more than facing adversity. It forces self-examination, it reveals flaws and if you choose to learn something from it, it inspires something better.” So, so, true. It also makes us appreciate the times we CAN race that much more. I bet you CRUSH your next race. :)


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