So what happened in Ironman Santa Rosa?

“Dude, WTF happened? WTAF?”

“The tracker’s messed up again. Did you finish?”

The short story:

I had entered Ironman Santa Rosa about two weeks before the race. In some ways, I had no business being there – I hadn’t really been doing targeted Ironman training – but my fitness was really good, and more important I finally had the motivation to do another Ironman. This one fit into my schedule and was close to home. I enlisted the support of my training buddy Mikey, and off to Santa Rosa we went.

The day went surprisingly well – easy 1:12 swim, then a surprisingly challenging bike (lots of rollers, and some really bad pavement), but I rode very conservatively, making sure I got plenty of nutrition in, and came off the bike in a not-too-bad 5:27, feeling great. Moreover, I was 4th in the age group.

By the end of the first of three run loops, I was 2nd in the age group and flying. I had what I believed to be the second Kona slot in my greedy little hands.

Within a few miles after about mile 11, though, it all went horribly wrong. First, my stomach was sloshing, and it became clear that nothing I was taking in at the aid stations was being absorbed by my GI tract. A portapotty stop after the halfway point didn’t really help. I started walking more and more, then apparently I started staggering (people passing me were asking if I was ok, which means I must have looked really bad). Then I threw up. Six. Times.

This was within sight of the mile 16 aid station, and a wonderful woman whose name I was unable to retain stayed by my side while the volunteers called the medics. I got checked out on the spot with everything they had – BP cuff, EKG, blood glucose – and the EKG, heart rate and glucose were normal, but the BP was 80/45, which pointed toward severe dehydration/electrolyte loss. Oddly, though – and contrary to my normal race experience – I had experienced no cramping.

The medics strongly recommended calling it a day, and I did after finishing the second loop so that I could meet up with Mikey. 8.7 miles short of Ironman #19, but happy with how I had raced it. I got cleaned up and we met a couple of teammates for a quick dinner, and I chalked up the day to nutrition problems.

That wasn’t the end of it, though. At 3 a.m. I had another sequence of vomiting, and this time I actually passed out on the bathroom floor, awaking in a disoriented, sweaty, vomit-soaked mess. I cleaned myself up, but had another episode at 9 a.m., and at that point I felt so weak that I knew I needed to go to the ER.

6 hours and 4 liters of IV fluids later, I was released to the care of my wife Jeanne, and we headed out to Bodega Bay to start a couple of nights of resort stays. I felt much better. However, the next night Jeanne was violently ill, which I initially chalked up to food poisoning until I got a text from Mikey in the morning saying he had been throwing up all night. The light kind of went on at that point, and I realized I must have had some sort of stomach bug, which explains a lot – I rarely have any kind of GI distress in races, and it had never been like this one.

So I’m taking the fitness and race experience I got from this and trying my luck again in Ironman Arizona. Back on the horse!


  1. I’m actually relieved to learn it was probably a temporary bug rather than a more general, pervasive problem. But what a bummer that it had to happen on that particular day. You were so strong!


  2. Sadly, with the crappy Ironman tracker, you can’t ever tell if it’s the tracker or the athlete that’s having a problem.

    Glad you’re OK and ready to do IMAZ.


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