An ailing Shanna Armstrong was eliminated Tuesday from the Swiss Olympic Gigathlon, after almost three days of brutally cold, wet conditions with temperatures between 40-50F - unusually cold and wet for this time of year in Switzerland.
"These conditions were not intended for a girl from Lubbock, Texas," joked Shanna at the end. "I've just been too cold, too sick, and I've been bonking all day," she added on a more serious note.
The day began with a 60km/37mi road bicycle ride with 1300m/4264ft of climbing. Performing a long way below her best, Shanna finished this with a time of 3:15:41, 36:40 behind the fastest rider, Tina Vliegen of Belgium. Shanna's time was good enough for eight place in the field of ten.
Following that was a 5km/3.1mi uphill inline skate, where Shanna recorded 1:07:39, losing 39:02 to Nina Brenn, the fastest athlete in this section. As in other skating sections in the Gigathlon, Shanna brought up the rear of the field.
The third section was a largely downhill run of 24km/16mi that ended in Davos. Struggling with the cold, the wet slippery conditions, and lack of carbohydrates in her system, Shanna again was last in, with a time of 4:31:59 - 2:15:41 behind the winner, Tina Vliegen.
Most athletes who were clearly having such a bad day would probably have called it quits at that point. The hero that Shanna is, she was determined to go on until she was no longer allowed to race. This she did, setting out on a mountain bike course that was technical far beyond anything she has ridden thus far. The course was 50km/31mi long, with a big downhill, some flat and then a 15km/9.3mi climb of 700m/2290ft to the finish. In the wet, slippery conditions, this created a challenge that was almost impossible for her. most of the way up the final climb to Lenzerheide, race officials informed Shanna that she had already missed the time cut and there was no point in continuing.
Her support crew, when they picked her up, said she was suffering from mild hypothermia, and were grateful that the race officials had pulled her out when they did.
"This race is harder than RAAM (the Race Across America), way harder. Looking back on it, I guess I needed a lot more skating and mountain biking experience. That is where I really lost a lot of time. The mountain biking today was a lot more technical than I could ever have imagined, but I've had bad stomach problems too. I woke up this morning and the stomach problems began. To be honest, I've been a little bit like this since the training camp - back then when I said that it was a scary race, I wasn't joking!" Said Shanna, who is already planning to come back to the Gigathlon five years from now - the next time they hold the full seven-day version.
Next big race for Shanna is Le Tour Ultime, starting August 30, a 4000km/2480mi bicycle race around France that she expects to complete in around 10 days. Suddenly back to her usual ebullient self, Shanna said: "Don't worry, I'll be in great shape for that one!"
The Swiss Olympic Gigathlon is a seven-day multi-sport race, with five events each day: swimming, inline skating, road cycling. mountain biking, and running. In total, athletes cover 1432km/890mi. There are 26,690m/87,564 feet of elevation change. Transitions from one sport to the next are done triathlon style, and each day runs dawn to dusk.