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Jessi Stensland forfeits an Xterra first place finish to help injured triathlete

Posted Aug 20 2010 1:52pm


Editor's Note: Xterra triathlete Jessi Stensland (who recently spoke to us about her current training program MovementU) was one of 120 triathletes competing in a very hot Xterra race last weekend in Portland when the first place female triathlete collapsed. We'll let her tell the rest of the story in this email she recently sent us:

"I was racing XTERRA Portland.  It was an unusually hot day by the time we got to the run around 1130am.  There was about 1/2 mile to go in the race.  I was in second.  I saw the girl in first in the distance and then cam upon her passed out on the trail, basically unresponsive (and stayed that way for a while – even in the hospital.) 

I rallied help, stayed with her, while other athletes continued on the course including the women who finished 1st and 2nd respectively.  I was able to leave the scene once she was in the hands of the race director and others helping, and I finished the race in 3rd.  I then reconnected at the finish line, went with her in the ambulance to the hospital to take care until her family could arrive a couple hours later.   There is more to it than that but that’s the jist.

I have written up a more detailed post about it, but had to get it first to the race director and USAT while they work out any legal issues and then will be able to discuss more, and forward that recap to you, hopefully asap if you’d like. 

It was pretty crazy.  The athlete is doing well now, which makes it all good!!"

Today's Press Release regarding the race is below.


(August 20, 2010 – Portland, Oregon) It was a gorgeous Saturday at Hagg Lake near Forest Grove, Oregon. Bright blue skies, beautiful scenery, great energy. XTERRA, a national off-road triathlon series (swim, bike and run – multisport event) visited the Pacific Northwest once again on August 14th with close to 120 athletes competing in the second year of the event.

Sandpoint, Idaho athlete Heather Lien (33) traveled to Forest Grove for the event and was not able to complete the event after suffering heat stroke and dehydration, while former professional triathlete Jessi Stensland (Boulder, CO) competed as well, said of the event, “I wasn't quite sure what place I was in during the race. These days I'm more focused on the fun and my own performance on the course than where anyone else is. By the time we hit the run it was hot but I felt pretty good and was just loving being out there.”

As Stensland was finishing the final leg of the race (the run) temperatures reached the 90’s and she says, “I could see someone in the distance just over the grass, that looked like they were stopped on the course and bent over at the waist, most likely with hands on their knees. … next thing I knew I couldn't see her at all. I looped around on the trail and found her lying on the ground very close to unconscious.”

“Her eyes were not focused on anything, her body, including her hand, was dead weight.”

Stensland waited with the athlete signaling for help and as race staff and the medical team took over care of the fallen athlete, she continued on and was reports thinking, “Knowing there was nothing I could do at that moment, I ran toward the finish.” She still managed a third place finish in the women’s field with an impressive time of 2 hours 43 minutes and 13 seconds. After her finish Stensland accompanied Lien to the hospital to provide support to the out-of-town athlete and reflects, “[it is] hard to recall, now that I know Heather and how great she's doing, but I definitely remember moments where the thought of losing her seemed very real…I have never experienced anything like it in my 13 years in triathlon”

Lien is recovering well at home and has not only since discovered that her and Stensland share a close mutual friend, but has also discussed a rematch with Stensland at another XTERRA Off-Road Triathlon.

Stensland truly represents the spirit of competition while at the same time showing that she understands the value of the triathlon community as a whole, health and human life. A remarkable person to say the least.

Thanks to our British correspondent Danny Ward for help in tracking down this interesting story.

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