swim leg itu multisport world Championship

2017 ITU Long Course World Championship

ITU Long Course World Championship

With the excitement of winning the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship fueling my excitement to hit a start line again, I was pretty oblivious to some signs from my body leading up to (and in the days following) ITU Multisport Long Course World Championship.  I managed to completely ignore that I had shingles.  Cue the geriatric jokes right now that will go nicely with all of my talk about racing after 40.  LOL.  Sigh.

swim leg itu multisport world Championship
Photo credit Kevin Mackinnon

Diagnosis Complications

In my defense, the presence of poison ivy complicated the situation.  The cross triathlon course in Penticton has a lot of signs warning that poison ivy is present.  I took two little nature breaks preriding the weekend before the cross triathlon worlds event on Wednesday.  When I started getting an unfamiliar rash on one of my legs, I assumed I had made the rookie mistake of getting some of the oil on myself.  The rash showed up on Friday, five days after my presumed exposure,  so I should have known this is not how poison ivy presents itself.  However, this is the conclusion I stuck with up until yesterday afternoon.

My google diagnosis of poison ivy allowed me to ignore the weird nerve pain in my hamstring where the rash first showed up.  I thought I had hit my hamstring with my seat at some point preriding and just didn’t notice at the time.  I also assumed the aching sacral pain I was feeling on one side was due to sore muscles from running the downhills.

I attributed headache and low grade flu symptoms to smoke in the air and post race tiredness.  Add to that a wasp sting the day before the race that left my hand swollen wrist to knuckles that distracted me from the rest of my aches and pains (I am severely reactive to wasp stings).  The excitement of racing can mask a lot of really obvious signs that something isn’t quite right.  In this pre race interview, I am discussing this “extreme soreness” that I chalked up to lack of racing off road.  Actually, this extreme soreness was shingles not trails.  Haha!


The Race

On race day things were going poorly from the first couple of dolphin dives.  Coming third last out of the water, I was shocked at how little power I had for anything.  I wondered if my allergic reaction to the wasp sting was just draining my mojo.  Riding alone all day, not very fast, I resolved to stay positive and enjoy the atmosphere.  Finally, nerve pain in my knee turned severe (thanks for the encouragement from the bystanders but it was definitely time to quit) and I called it in order to avoid injury.

I have huge respect for all of the long course girls.  I knew I wouldn’t be racing for a podium but I honestly thought I had recovered enough to put a real effort in for a top 10 – which is why I started.  When it was clear I had nothing for the day, I was really disappointed not only in my apparent inability to read my body correctly but obviously with the outcome of that decision.  It isn’t great for your confidence to race when that is what you get.


The symptoms from Sunday to today persisted.  My energy is low, I have low grade flu symptoms, and I am feeling nerve pain that was not fixed even after treatment from Jamie at Synergy (this should have made things obvious as I always walk out of there feeling like a million bucks). I finally went to ask a pharmacist about calomine lotion for my “poison ivy” and he sent me straight to my doctor.  It took about 3 seconds for Alex to diagnose shingles.

I got somewhat lucky.  Mine was attacking my sacral nerve, which although painful, is much better than those that get it in cranial nerves or closer to the head who deal with more severe symptoms and for longer.  For me, it feels like I have tweaked my si joint and have persistent raw road rash from my tailbone to my foot.  Pain comes in waves.  Shingles is no joke.  Get vaccinated.

What next?

Now I am listening to my body tell me that it needs down time and I have withdrawn from Santa Cruz 70.3.  Here’s hoping I can come back up to speed to get a rematch with Augusta 70.3.

Thanks again to Mike Brown, the Penticton community, and the Cronquist clan for the cheers out there.  It was still fun to be out there soaking up the energy on course.  Congrats to Heather Wurtele and Lionel Sanders for their podiums.  I love seeing Canadians at the pointy end of the professional triathlon scene.  It was a proud day for all Canadians.

Thank you to my sponsors Champion System, Rudy Project, Powerbar, Shimano, Blueseventy wetsuits, Asics Canada, Livefit coaching, and Synergy Wellness Clinic. Looking forward to putting my fitness to the test at Ironman this fall.

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