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Pro Samantha McGlone shares some memorable med tent experiences.
After my October 2011 column about nutrition disasters, I’ve been asked about other misadventures while racing. It seems people, myself included, like to read about hilarious/crazy/disturbing failures of others, so here are some stories from the med tent. I’ve been fortunate to limit my need for post-race medical attention to a few minor incidents, but I polled a few doctors and athletes to gather some stories from the trenches. It seems public nudity and bodily functions never go out of style, therefore names and identifying features have been changed to protect the innocent and highly embarrassed. Enjoy.
My first trip to the medical tent was at a race in Muskoka, Canada, a few years ago. The format was a chase race between men and women, with a winner-takes-all prize purse. It was hot and humid, and after an intense sprint finish against one of the male athletes we were both carried into the medical tent. The staff gave us cold towels and IVs, but after an hour nothing seemed to be working. We managed to convince a volunteer to make a run to Tim Hortons (a Canuck institution featuring bad coffee and addictive donuts, found on every city street corner and small town in Canada). Under the skeptical glances of the medical staff, the two of us quickly polished off a box of Timbits [donut holes] … and strolled out of the tent a few minutes later. Medical science can tout the value of 4 percent saline solution but my vote is still for the restorative powers of fried dough covered in sugar.
A couple of years ago at the Hawaii Ironman an older gentleman wandered into the medical tent. The doctor started to ask the usual questions to find out what was wrong but he quickly cut her off, saying, “Honey, I’m just here to get my usual two IVs so I can recover faster and race next weekend.” The doctor’s jaw dropped when the patient turned around and she saw from his calf number: He was in the 80–84 age group.
After an incredibly hot Midwest marathon the medical staff was working overtime to deal with all the dehydrated athletes requiring IV fluids and ice. The food and beer tents were right next to medical, so one doctor ran next door to grab something to eat. A patient, a solid three-hour marathoner who had been treated earlier, approached the doctor with two beers in hand and said, “Doc, I still don’t feel very well; all I can keep down is beer.” It turned out he was concerned that he couldn’t stomach any solid food so had decided to replenish with beer only. He was feeling the effects of his post-race recovery beverage as he got down on one knee and proposed to the treating doctor right there in the finish tent. She politely declined.
After a summer sprint-distance triathlon an athlete came in seeking medical attention after vomiting all through the run. He was very concerned because this had never happened to him in training. After asking the usual assessment questions, the doctor discovered the reason he was having trouble keeping food down during the race: He had eaten a large beef burrito on the bike. Being his first triathlon, the athlete had asked his more experienced friends how to fuel during the race. They told him to eat as much as possible on the bike (remember that this was a sprint-distance race). The doctor gave him some water and directed him to the PowerBar booth for future reference.
Lastly, my personal favorite: A racer was taken to the medical tent after a serious crash requiring the doctors to remove his singlet to attend to the broken collarbone underneath. As the scissors came out he cried “Stop! Don’t cut my lucky shirt.” The tired, overworked medic raised an eyebrow and replied, “If it’s so damn lucky, why are you in the medical tent?” Snip snip.