By Kelaine Conochan | Aug 21, 2018
Special to espnW
The mission was clear: complete 50 Ironman-distance triathlons in 50 days to raise money for an orphanage in Haiti. But Friday, four days into her Woman of Iron challenge, Ashley Horner stopped.
She had already completed her 2.4-mile swim that morning and transitioned to her bike. Feeling nauseous 10 miles into the 112-mile ride, Horner unclipped and dismounted from her bike on the side of a Delaware road, where she proceeded to vomit. “I think I puked like five times. Uncontrollably. It was everything I had in me,” she said.
Accompanied by her coach, Alex Viada, who had been riding with her for the first lap, Horner got back on her bike, hoping it was just nerves or something not settling right in her stomach. But when they made it back to the YMCA in Dover, Delaware, the staging area for the day, Viada recommended that Horner get medically evaluated to ensure she was fit to continue with the rest of the bike ride and the marathon. Paramedics on site at the YMCA performed an evaluation of Horner’s vitals before recommending she head to the hospital.
“It is so frustrating because aside from the dehydration factors, I felt fine. I didn’t have any soreness whatsoever in my muscles,” she said. “There’s a good chance that I started behind [on nutrition and hydration] and never got ahead of it.”
When Horner arrived in the emergency room, she was treated for severe dehydration and given a blood screening. She received intravenous fluids for six hours, then left the ER, sent Viada the results of her blood test, ate a pizza, and got a full night of sleep.
“I woke up the next day [Saturday] and felt amazing. I got in the pool and swam my 2.4 miles, then met with Alex,” Horner said. Her intention was to start the Delaware leg from scratch and push on.
Viada was in a different camp.
The blood screening revealed that Horner was suffering from both hyponatremia, a low concentration of sodium in her blood, and rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which a muscle releases a protein pigment called myoglobin into the bloodstream, which can lead to kidney damage. The conditions would not only jeopardize her body for this challenge, but they could be life-threatening if untreated.
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