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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    northern california

    A note from the medical tent: Ironman Tahoe

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    This was my first time volunteering on something like this. It was an amazing experience! The tent was in the parking lot at Squaw Valley, right by the finish line. It was set up for 30 patients.

    I got there at 1pm. At that point they'd only had about 3 patients. (T1 was separate from T2 and the finish, so the main medical tent didn't get any folks from the swim.) We'd actually had snow down to lake level on Saturday. Sunday, race day, was clear but the morning was 30 degrees and it was only expected to get into the low 60's during the day. So we were expecting lots of COLD people. And that was correct...

    About 5pm we suddenly started getting the athletes. All of them were cold and exhausted. (Any trauma beyond simple road rash went directly to the hospital.)

    Ironman Tahoe is a TOUGH Ironman. Tahoe is cold. The bike ride is extremely hilly, with one 9% grade that goes from about 6200 ft to 7200 feet... and they do that twice. The run is luckily relatively flat. I spoke with one of the pros who came in to warm up after he finished. He told me he did about 3 Ironman races a year and this was the toughest one he'd done.

    By 6pm we had a room full of people wrapped in mylar space blankets and fleece blankets, sipping on chicken broth. This lasted until we were told to shut down at midnight. They earlier folks weren't too bad off. We were able to bundle them up and give them oral fluids. The athletes who came in later were more exhausted, and much colder. A lot of them ended up with IVs and medication for nausea.

    We had a lot of energetic, enthusiastic volunteers: docs, nurses, EMTs. We ran around keeping the athlete's spirits up for the ones who couldn't finish, and congratulating the ones who did. It was amazing to see how these people pushed themselves and what they put up with to finish the race. Since we were so close to the finish, we could hear the "YOU ARE AN IRONMAN" announcement when runners came through the finish. It was very inspiring.

    I didn't get to see any of the race despite being so near the finish. I was basically the doc in charge of the tent. I circulated and made sure that every patient was seen by a doctor. I was also available for "consultation" if one of the other docs wasn't sure if someone needed an IV or to go to the hospital. There was a nurse who took charge of the nursing aspect, and she and I worked together to keep things flowing smoothly. This freed up the Medical and Nursing Directors to take care of higher level problems.

    Since this was the inaugural event, there were a few glitches. But we worked them out. I think that we'll be having a meeting in a few days to start planning next year. I definitely plan to help out again.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    San Francisco Bay Area
    What a neat report! My chiropractor did the race. I figured there must be some nasty hill in there because he was REALLY slow on two short legs of the bike.

    I'm seeing him today, so it will be interesting to hear his view.

    Discipline is remembering what you want.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Marin County CA
    What a great way to get involved! We were out in Tahoe over the weekend, and so glad the race wasn't held Saturday! They would have been blown off their bikes! We drove through King's Beach Saturday to get to Mellow Fellow and the wind was crazy. Everyone was getting their bikes set up in the transition - and all those poor bikes sat out in the rain all day/night.

    I have several friends who did the race, and some very strong people DNF'ed.

    Beautiful course. Of course we're biased. It was fun to be able to walk down our hill and see some of the bike racers out on the road.

    When it's easy, ride hard; when it's hard, ride easy.

    2011 Volagi Liscio
    2010 Pegoretti Love #3 "Manovelo"
    2011 Mercian Vincitore Special
    2003 Eddy Merckx Team SC - stolen
    2001 Colnago Ovalmaster Stars and Stripes

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    northern california
    If you look at people's T1 times they were up to half an hour. The water-air transition was so cold that many athletes had to hang out in the warming tent at T1 for an extended period of time before they could bike.

    If the race had been scheduled for Saturday it would have been just a marathon. They would have had to cancel the swim and bike. We got lucky.

    If volunteering for the med tent sounds interesting to anyone, we'd love any medical, or even nonmedical help. The nonmedical folks work the "registration" desk. The get bib numbers and names, and enter them into the race computer. They run for the clean clothes bags, go for supplies, and help people into the tent. They also assist with anything that needs some extra hands. Of course, you'd have to deal with me, but I try not to micromanage...

    There are also "medical" jobs down at the swim: they have kayakers and paddleboarders in the water as well as volunteers in the warming tent on the beach. I don't know as much about those jobs as I never made it down there.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Columbia River Gorge
    Roadie gal, thanks for working the med tent and thanks for the report!

    I was wondering how things went on the medical side. I've worked at multiple events, including worlds for ITU and the Half Marathon and a couple of times we wer swamped with hypothermic people and the conditions were not nearly so bad as those at Tahoe this year. I had a coaching client that would have finished in around 12 hours at most IM events who didn't cross the line until 15:25!! That is one hell of a race.

    I might have to think about volunteering in Med some year.
    Living life like there's no tomorrow.


    2007 Look Dura Ace
    2010 Custom Tonic cross with discs, SRAM
    2012 Moots YBB 2 x 10 Shimano XTR
    2014 Soma B-Side SS



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