With temperatures hovering over 40 Celsius during the day the 2006 Primal Quest adventure race in Utah turned into a nightmare for several teams that lost members to heat stroke, dehydration and exhaustion.
One of those affected affected teams, Team DART-nuun, included Sea to Sky athlete Jen Segger.
Midway through their fourth day of racing, team member Ryan VanGorder came down with severe heat stroke, and was evacuated to a Colorado hospital where he was stabilized in a medically induced coma. It was a battle of life and death for almost a full day, but VanGorder at last emerged from his coma and, according to one report, almost immediately requested some enchiladas.
He has since made a full recovery, surprising doctors who thought he had about a 20 per cent chance of survival, and returned to work this past week. He also plans to return to adventure racing next season.
"It was a pretty scary experience," recalled Segger.
"We were sitting in 11 th place, and just getting ready to crack the top-10 – happy we were keeping up with the leaders for the most part, and still taking it pretty easy when it happened.
"We had just finished a long mountain bike stage, with some pretty technical trails (outside of Moab), and passed three other teams that night. We got into Moab at around 10 a.m., had something to drink, had sandwiches, took care of a few things, and headed into a place called Pritchard Canyon. It was about 125 degrees (Farenheit, 50 Celsius) in the canyon, there was a heat that we hadn’t felt before in there, and all of a sudden Ryan was heading up on this trail that didn’t exist. We yelled, ‘hey, you’re going the wrong way’ but he kept trying to push his bike over this boulder, then all of a sudden he collapsed with his bike on top of him."
Segger was the first team member to reach VanGorder, and she started performing first aid immediately.
"His core temp when he reached the hospital was 106. I am so thankful that I had just recertified my CPR and first aid, as knowing what to do when his body was going into shock was critical."
Another team came to the rescue, and they proceeded to empty their water over VanGorder, while fanning him with their packs. Segger used the satellite phone to call in a helicopter, which arrived within minutes. By the time 45 minutes had elapsed VanGorder was in a hospital in Colorado, where doctors put him into a medically induced coma while bringing his body temperature down.