In July 2013 I will be competing in Ironman Lake Placid – the most physically gruelling thing I’ve ever done. It will consist of a 2.4 mile (3.9km) swim, 112 mile (180.25km) bike ride and a 26.2 mile (42.2km) run.
I’m not exactly a couch potato. I used to be a competitive track runner and branched out recently into distance running, having completed the DC and New York Marathons. Even more recently (2012) I caught the triathlon bug and have had some small successes – I like to think of myself as a big fish in a small pond as I’ve finished on the podium a couple of times at local events. Throw in some big guns from out of town, however, and you’ll realise how small this fish actually is!
Despite the level of fitness required to compete in these triathlons, they really are small change when compared with an Ironman in terms of endurance. The majority of races I have completed are sprint (usually 750m swim, 12 mile bike, 3.1 mile run) and Olympic distance (double sprint distance), which take me anywhere from 1 – 2.5 hours. The Ironman will take me closer to 12 hours. With a race that long there is not enough energy in your system to get you to the finish, so you need to strategically eat along the course and be careful to maintain healthy hydration levels.
Although it’s a tough challenge, what I go through will be nothing compared to what my wife, Brynn, has suffered throughout her pregnancy. She has endured a condition called Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG), which involves extreme nausea and vomiting that is far beyond morning sickness. What should have been one of the happiest times of our lives turned into a brutal ordeal.
One of the biggest problems with HG is that there are so few doctors that understand what it is and how to treat it. When Brynn first began suffering from HG her obstetrition had no idea about the condition and just told Brynn to toughen up and “eat some crackers”. After severe dehrydration, four trips to the ER and a night in hospital, we knew Brynn could not continue with the way things were going.
Brynn’s mother did some research and got in touch with the founder of the Hyperemesis Education and Research Foundation. She was incredibly supportive and suggested a doctor for Brynn to see. We were hesitant at first because of the distance, as traveling in the car tended to make Brynn even more nauseous. However, when she next took a turn for the worst we were able to admit her to the hospital where this doctor worked.
This doctor was incredibly understanding, having treated hundreds of women with HG. She was very methodical and after trying a number of different treatments we found a medication combination that reduced Brynn’s nausea and had her fitted with a PICC line so she could receive nutrients intravenously. After 11 days at the hospital Brynn was discharged.
The next few weeks saw Brynn improve steadily, until one day she developed a fever. It turned out her PICC line had become infected and we needed to rush her back to hospital. The PICC line needed to be removed and the infection treated, so Brynn was placed back on IV fluids in the meantime.
As fate would have it Brynn’s condition improved to a point at the hospital where she was able to eat enough without needing a PICC line. As such she was put on a less aggressive mid-line and discharged after five days. Once home, Brynn’s condition improved to a point where after two weeks she was able to keep down enough fluids that the mid-line could also be removed.
It wasn’t until around mid October that Brynn started to really feel really normal again. At least as normal as a full-term pregnant woman can feel! About a week later she went into labour and our first baby, Benjamin, was brought into the world
Although Brynn’s experience was an ordeal that no pregnant mother should have to deal with, we were very lucky that it was not more severe. Some HG sufferers don’t have any relief until the pregnancy is over. In some cases where a good doctor cannot be found women have died from the condition. In other cases doctors have carried out terminations that could have been avoided if effective treatment were available.
Brynn has been a big inspiration to me and I know that if just a fraction of her perseverance has rubbed off on me I should be able to get through the 140.6 miles of the Ironman course. I am dedicating my race effort to her and want to use it as an opportunity to raise awareness for Hyperemesis Gravidarum. Additionally I hope to raise $5000 for Hyperemesis education and research.