Yesterday, I wrote a post that questioned Bradley Wiggins “occasional” use of IV’s. An IV is a abbreviation of the word “intravenous” as a noun refers to an intravenous fluid drip, a solution administered directly into the venous circulation. Also called a drip.
In athletics, an IV can either be a saline IV or dextrose (sugar) IV. The saline IV can be administered super quick. A sugar IV is really a drip. It takes a while to get in because you can overload your blood with too much sugar too quickly.
Anyway, that is all I really know about IV’s. I do know they work amazingly, by personal experience.
I wrote yesterday that I’d done two IV’s in my lifetime. In a comment, Mike Crum wrote- “Steve, if wiggins read ur blog, he probably question u , at ur highest level of racing , of only taking two iv’s. I’m not questioning you, I’m just saying Nobody tells the truth anymore, espically with the $$$$$$$ on the table.”
I know it is hard to read, I’m no one to judge here, but Mike says he’s not, but I really think he is questioning the truthfulness of my statement. And by going back reading the post, it wasn’t exactly right.
The statement should have been, I’ve done IV’s at two races. One race I did it for 3 or 4 days straight. The 2nd race, just one night.
The first time was at the Tour of Guatemala. I was riding for the US National Team and was riding pretty great. The stage race was just short of two weeks long, with a rest day after the first week. I was leading nearly all the categories going into the rest day. I had the mountains jersey, points jersey, combined points jersey, plus I was winning overall.
But on the rest day, it all went downhill. I got the Central/South American stomach bug. I spend the whole night on the toilet. I was horrible.
I pretty much had most of the points categories wrapped up, I was so far ahead. All I had to do was ride to the finish. I was going to win a couple thousand dollars, which even splitting it with my team, I could live on for 1/2 a year.
So, I started the next day, without eating the night before. I barely got to the finish. I was riding in the last group, with a guy that was wearing tennis shoes and a couple guys that had wingnuts holding their rear wheels on.
That next day, after the race, the race doctor came and hooked up a sugar IV. Plus he gave me an antibiotic injection. I didn’t eat anything, just the IV. I started the next stage, still riding with “my group”.
A funny side note, I was carrying toilet paper and stopping every so often while racing. My guys, the groupetto, would say something and all the guys would stop and wait when I stopped.
This one time, I stopped, took a couple steps off the side of the road to relieve myself. They all waited. I got back on my bike, rode less than 200 meters, and then had to stop again. They all stopped and waited again. But this time they were all talking really animated. At the time, it was mildly embarrassing, but looking upon it, it is really humorous.
Each night I wouldn’t eat, just do IV’s. Plus, I got another antibiotic injection.
Anyway, the last day, the Costa Rican team said they would help me win a point sprint, which would secure the points jersey, if we tempoed the next 50 miles, to the bottom of the climb up to Guatemala City. I won the point sprint and went to the front to set tempo with David Mayer-Oaks.
When we got to the bottom of the climb, which was pretty substantial, a Costa Rica guys came up, tapped me on the butt and thanked me. Then their whole team went to the front and started racing up the climb. Riders started getting shelled and pretty soon it was just a small group of us left, maybe 8 or so. 4 Costa RIcan riders, one was winning, the Guatemalan guy that was in 2nd, and maybe a Colombian.
I was still there, which surprised the shit out of me. Anyway, the Costa RIcan guys helped me at the finish, which was in a soccer stadium and I won. I won the final stage without really eating anything for 3 days. Only IV’s.
The 2nd time was two years later. It was during the Coor’s Classic. I’d crashed in the British Milk Race and destroyed myself. I broke my leg, collarbone, and hand after running into a car at over 100 kph. I had two months until the Coor’s race started, so I went out to Boulder and hung at Roy Knickman’s house. I didn’t ride for the first month at all, obviously, but went out to California and started a stage race in Mammouth Lakes.
I was pitiful. I couldn’t stay in the field for any time at all. There was a stage from Bishop to the ski resort in Mammouth which is close to 50 miles or so. I made it maybe 5 miles with the field and rode the next 3 hours solo.
Afterward, I called my sponsor, Michael Fatka and told him that I couldn’t start the Coor’s Rce the next week. He told me I was going to race.
The Coor’s race started in San Francisco. The prologue went up Telegraph Hill. I did alright since it was short. I think I might have finished 7th, but I’m not sure. I remember Michael Aisner doing a little announcing and saying that I had came back from the dead. He was in England when I was hurt.
Anyway, I made it a couple days alright, then there was a stage from Nevada City to Truckee. I hung with the front group way too long. Long enough to be a long way ahead of the groupetto. I got dropped after a couple hours and was done.
I couldn’t drink, was throwing up, and was done. The groupetto came by and I stayed on maybe 3 miles. Then I was riding alone again. Forever.
I was doing these rollers and a couple fans were riding behind me. After a long time, after listening to them tell each other about their whole vacations and plans for the fall, I turned around and asked them if they could drop back a bit. I told them it was demoralizing trying to race when they were having a casual conversation. They answered back, “No problem, Steve.” I couldn’t believe they knew who I was. It was so embarrassing. I was crawling.
Anyway, finally the last group came up. I think it was 4 guys. I’m not sure everyone, I know a Russian rider and also Raul Alcala. He was riding for the Mexican National Team then.
I was done and we had maybe 10 kms to go. Raul pushed me up every hill to the finish. There was no way I could have made it myself. It was super nice. Raul when on to greatness in the sport.
When I got to Truckee, my whole team, Thurlow, Roy, Andy, etc. was waiting. Like for over an hour. It was hot and I was destroyed. We got in the van and had to drive to Reno to stay the night. I remember getting stopped by a train just a few blocks from the hotel. I opened the van door and sat on a curb because I thought I was going to vomit.
Walking through the hotel was a nightmare. The smoke and noise were overwhelming. When I got to my room, the race doctor came. The doctor said I needed some IV’s. He left and came back. They put in a couple bags of Saline. Andy Hampsten came by and said that I needed a dexrose IV, not saline. The doctor agreed, but he didn’t have any and said he was licensed in California, not Nevada, so that was a problem getting them.
So I just sat there not eating, just laying. Late that night, the doctor came by with a couple dextrose IV bags. He hooked one up and hung the bag by the picture above my bed. He told me to change the bag when it was close to empty. It was slow. Probably around 2 am, I changed the bag. I was just watching gambling on the tv.
About 4 or 5, I started feeling better. I got hungry, so since I was staying in a casino, I could order room service. I ordered a double stack of strawberry pancakes with whipped cream. I finished those and got tired.
I might have slept 15 minutes, when it was time to get up. We were racing from Tahoe to Reno that morning, around Lake Tahoe and up through Virginia City. When the race started, I felt amazingly good. I climbed with the front group and finished in the top ten.
I went from dead to amazing, with no sleep, just IV’s, pancakes and whipped cream. We raced a criterium in downtown Reno that evening and I stayed in.
The next day was a rest day, we flew to Colorado. I was good the rest of the race, they whole Colorado portion.
So, my experiences with IV’s were amazing. I always thought that they would be great for MTB racing. We all hung out at the venue the whole week and got super exhausted. I think a IV the night before a long MTB race would have worked out great.
IV became commonplace in professional racing. Nearly like eating. I’m not sure how common it is nowadays, but I’d bet it is pretty common still.
But, hat is my whole IV experience. That was a long time ago and I haven’t had the need to get one since. It’s not that I have a personal no needles policy. It is just that I haven’t had any reason to get jabbed by one, other than lidocaine for sutures over the years.
So Mike, if Bradley Wiggins happens to be reading this, which I very much doubt, I hope that helped convince him of my honesty.