Saturday, June 24, 2006

It's heating up at Primal Quest

Here at Primal Quest in Moab, I just saw team Spyder from Boulder packing their bikes up in hard plastic cases to be transported who knows where. When they get to a biking section of the 450-mile race, they'll have to find their cases among 95 different teams', then put their bikes together. Doesn't sound too hard, but when you've only slept two hours a night for three nights, choosing the right allen wrench to tighten the handlebars is a little trickier.

The big news, since no one has any other specifics to talk about until they tell us the course at 4 p.m, is the heat.

I talked to one of the EMTs who will be on the trail.

"We're scared," he said. "We were talking about it last night and with this heat... heatstroke is very serious.... You can get to the point where you fall apart on a cellular level fairly quickly. I'm talking about your proteins denaturing... and if you get there, mortality rates are like 80 percent."

The medical crews that will be at every checkpoint have been told to look for signs of heatstroke: confusion, lack of motor skills, nausea. Unfortunately, all these things pretty much are the symptoms of long-term racing too.

I talked to team Solomon/Crested Butte. They had a team member go down with heat stroke in Australia this spring. They had to carry him for over 5 kilometers to get him to a checkpoint where he was taken away by ambulance. He sat in the ICU for two days, sucking in fluids by IV.

"If you get to the point of heatstoke, it's game over. You can't just rest and recover," said Jari Kirkland, Crested Butte's navigator. "So we're going to be really conservative. You can't rush here. You have to be cool."

Being cool, of course, is relative. Crested Butte is a powerhouse team. Captain Jon Brown and Kirkland are both seasoned mountain bike racers who can go hard for hours on end and barely break a sweat.

The whole team is looking forward to hitting the mountain section of the course. Since they live in Crested Butte they are used to the altitude, and being up in the La Sal mountains at 12,000 feet should be a welcome break from the heat.

Will the race go through the La Sals? Probably. Buzz around headquarters is that racers are being bussed up toward Green River, Utah, and they'll finish with a loop through the La Sals that swings down to a finish line on the Colorado River.
Paddling finish? Crested Butte says that's what they're planning on.

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