Last Sunday, I participated in the 21st Annual Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands, NM. It was my 5th marathon.
The course for this marathon is extremely difficult. Lots of uneven terrain, 2500+ feet of elevation change, and many stretches of loose sand and gravel. Participants had to arrive at 4:30am, and the race began at 7:00am.
I had been unable to sleep at all the night before the race, so going into it, I wasn't in the best state of mind/body. However, what transpired around mile 24 I never could have foreseen. And I have been confused as to what actually happened ever since.
Around mile 22, I began feeling nauseous and was unable to eat anything, which I know is not uncommon for marathoners. I could only choke down a few sips of water or Gatorade at each water station. I'd been previously snacking on orange slices and handfuls of trail mix, but hadn't eaten much since mile 15 or so.
Around mile 24, I began to feel dizzy and disoriented, so I briefly sat down, which I've never done in a race before. I re-gained my bearings, stood back up, and tried pushing on again. After about 15 seconds, my hands almost immediately lost all sensation. The dizziness got worse, and I nearly collapsed on the ground, but was able to lay down.
At this point I lost track of time, but within maybe 10 seconds or so, my entire body, from head-to-toe, seized into a giant cramp. My elbows, wrists and fingers were clenched in towards my chest, and my legs were extended straight with my toes flexed outward and feet pointed inward. I was stiff as a board and couldn't budge from this position for at least 30 minutes. A group of 4-5 ladies had gathered around and were trying to relax my muscles by massaging my arms and legs, which did seem to help. However, all my extremities, including my tongue, were numb, so I could barely speak. I'm sure I was babbling incoherently as far as they could tell.
After researching this awkward position my body was in, I found that the clinical term for it is "decorticate posturing," which is associated with severe brain injuries, and often happens to people who have suffered brain trauma, strokes and epilepsy.
Once an ambulance arrived, which I'm guessing was around 45 minutes after my collapse, my muscles had begun to loosen and I could straighten my arms enough for them to lift my into the ambulance and give me an IV. I could talk by this time as well, but was still cramping severely.
Once I arrived at the medical tent, I was cold, but relaxed and more conscious of my surroundings. Within about 2 hours, I was able to hobble out of the tent. I recovered fully, from what I can tell, but the ordeal was the most frightening thing that I've ever endured in my life.
I am wondering if anyone has an idea of what this incident was exactly. Was it a seizure of some sort? I had heard of people cramping up, but not in the way I was. It was more than just a few isolated areas of muscle tension, it was as if I was paralyzed. I could barely breath and almost blacked out a few times, especially when the medics gave me supplemental oxygen, which made the cramps even worse.
I'm also worried that due to the "decorticate posture" position I was in, it was due to some sort of neurological problem I wasn't aware of?
Any help or advice on this is much appreciated. I'm told it could have been the result of hyponatremia (not enough sodium in my bloodstream), hypokalemia (not enough potassium), or both of these. I hadn't had much in the way of salty foods during the race, and I hadn't gone to the bathroom at all. I was wearing sweatpants and a thermal shirt, since the temperature was around 50 degrees or so.
Thank you for reading, and again, any advice is welcome.
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