Knight recovering quickly from collapse

Posted: Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Brent Knight, a 2002 graduate of Soldotna High School, said Monday that it does not look like there will be any long-term effects to his health after he collapsed just over a block from the finish line in 70-degree temperatures while leading the Mount Marathon men's race in Seward on Saturday.

Knight, 26, was transported via ambulance to Providence Seward Hospital directly from the race course. There, he was treated for severe dehydration, taking six liters of intravenous fluids before being released four hours later.

"Right now, my body feels slightly more traumatized than in years before," Knight said Monday via cell phone from Anchorage, where he now lives and works at Skinny Raven Sports. "When I got out of the hospital, I felt groggy and tired. I didn't sleep much because my body was mad at me.

"I feel OK now. I worked today."

Knight is an athlete with the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center and his goal is to make the U.S. cross-country ski team for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

He said he must get another doctor's checkup, but he expects to be training soon and does not think the abrupt end to the 3.5-mile tour up and down the prickly 3,022-foot peak on Resurrection Bay will affect his training.

"It was like every athlete's worst nightmare," Knight said. "It was like you're dreaming of first place, and you see first place in your sight and then you can't go any further -- your legs won't work anymore or your ski has come off.

"People start passing you up and you lose. Typically, that's a dream and you wake up, but I lived that nightmare."

Knight came into the race knowing he did not want to jeopardize his ski training, and knowing he wanted his first victory.

"I was going for it for sure," he said.

He said he drank a lot of fluids before the face and also took a few gulps of water when climbing up the trail, which has slopes as steep as 60 degrees. He said, thankfully, many fans also doused him with water.

"My body just runs hot when I'm racing," Knight said. "Add that to a hot day, and it's not a good combination."

Midway down the mountain, Knight said he could feel his legs get wobbly due to a lack of fluids and electrolytes. He said he slowed down his pace a bit, but he also said slowing his pace gave him the feeling that his challengers were quickly gaining on him.

The last part of the downhill on the mountain involves climbing down a chute of rocks. Due to his lessening coordination, Knight said he took special care slipping down the boulders.

By the time Knight hit the road, he heard a roar from the crowd and he was sure 2008 champion Trond Flagstad was right on his tail.

"I wasn't going to look back," he said.

As it turned out, Knight had about three minutes on his closest pursuer, eventual winner Matias Saari of Fairbanks.

"When I heard the crowd roaring, I figured it was now or never," he said. "I clicked it into another gear. I started running really hard -- harder than I should have."

As he ran, Knight said he felt that his body was on fumes, and then he felt his body burn through those fumes.

The final straw came when he turned the corner to head for the finish line.

"The last thing I remember, I turned the corner and I clipped somebody on the elbow," he said. "That broke the fine line I was on at that point -- the superthin thread."

Knight said he fell, tried to crawl a little, and then blacked out.

"Next thing I knew, I woke up and I was in the hospital," he said.

Later, the doctor told Knight that he was screaming at the medical personnel that took him to the ambulance so fervently that he had to be drugged.

"I told the doctor, 'Sorry,'" Knight said.

Soldotna's Paul Knight, who is Brent's father, said his son regained consciousness 30 minutes after collapsing, but Knight said he really didn't start functioning for about two hours.

When Knight was released from the hospital after four hours, even though the finish line was cleaned up and even though he had a nasty blister on his foot, he decided to finish the race.

So with his dad, mother Wendy and sister Nicole as witnesses, Knight crossed the finish line at 4 hours, 38 minutes. Saari's winning time was 48 minutes.

"I've never not finished a race before," Knight said. "The big question I had for the doctor when I woke up was, 'Did I finish?' In the back of my head, since I was in the hospital, I knew I probably didn't.

"When he said, 'No,' I thought, 'Oh, crap.'"

Knight said he feels fortunate that he did not do more damage to his body. He said the immediate medical attention he received kept him from doing more damage to his body.

The experience has not soured Knight on the nation's third-oldest footrace.

"You can expect me to be on the line ready to win it," he said. "You learn something new every time you race. I'm not accustomed to racing when it's superhot because I'm a winter-sport athlete.

"Next time, I'll drink a lot more on the way up. Second, I'm going to look back when I get off the chute and see where I'm at. If I have some space, I'm going to use it."

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