The man who stopped during a race to save a life

Davis Frease was in second place at the Big Bear Triathlon when he noticed a man in trouble on the ground. That man who had been running in a concurrently held 5k race soon stopped breathing and Frease went into action with CPR. Luckily Frease was well prepared for such assistance and willing to help.

Slowtwitch: Davis, thank you for your time.

Davis Frease: Hey Herbert. Absolutely, it’s an honor.

ST: This past weekend you competed in the Big Bear Triathlon. Did you feel ready and fit and what goals or expectations did you have for this race?

Davis: The US Armed Forces Championship was two weeks ago and that was a pretty big focus for me this year, so I definitely felt like I had some fitness in the bank. I ended up signing up for Big Bear just because I had the itch to race one more time during the first half of the season. Coming in I didn’t really have any goals or expectations aside from racing hard. It was a bit of an experiment for me since it has been a while since I’ve lived or raced at altitude and Big Bear is up over 6000 feet.

ST: Talk about the swim and the bike.

Davis: The swim was pretty uneventful other than not having as much oxygen as I’ve become accustomed to. I swam very conservatively and tried to keep the heart rate down. I think about four of us came out within a couple seconds of each other and made the long run up to T1 in close proximity.

I love tough bike courses and this one didn’t disappoint. There was about 2000 feet of climbing over 30 miles or so and the scenery in Big Bear is amazing. I settled into second and time trialed hard to try and stay within striking distance of eventual winner Eliot Scymanski going into the run.

The course is open to traffic and just prior to the descent back down into Big Bear a couple cars overtook me. The descent isn’t super technical but there are some turns that limit the safe speed of vehicles pretty significantly. As a result, I ended up on the brakes far more than I’d have liked and gave away some pretty significant time. I was quite frustrated at the time, but I think this happened for a reason in the grand scheme of things.

ST: Something happened during the run, and maybe you best explain what you saw.

Davis: I rolled out of T2 and was about quarter mile into the run when a gentleman up ahead who was closing in on the finish of the 5k event that day collapsed onto the pavement. Another female athlete in the sprint race started yelling for help and I continued running towards him yelling for someone to call the paramedics.

ST: Were there multiple races going on at the same time? Sprint, 5k and your Olympic race? And were those other races ending as you started the run?

Davis: There were a bunch of races going on. Both the Sprint and Olympic Triathlon, a Duathlon, a 5K, and a 10K. I think the 5k was finishing up as I started the run since it had started quite a bit later.

ST: How fast did you realize that something was really wrong?

Davis: When I came up on him I initially thought it was more of a heat injury. Within 30 seconds though he stopped breathing and I lost his pulse. I knew he was in a bad place then as the outcomes for out of hospital cardiac arrest are really poor.

I immediately started CPR and after a couple rounds he came back the first time. After about 30 seconds of him breathing on his own he stopped, and his pulse went down again. I reinitiated CPR and about that time a Big Bear police officer came running up with an AED from the volunteer station. He hooked up the AED while I continued compressions and when we got it turned on we cleared him, shocked him once, and I started CPR again. After maybe two more rounds of CPR he came back to us the second time and stayed with us.

ST: Did that man have family members or friends nearby and if so were they aware what was going on?

Davis: Not that I knew of. We were probably a little over a quarter mile from the finish line so they may have been in that area.

ST: How long did it take until other help arrived?

Davis: The police officer with the AED showed up within a couple minutes and that was absolutely critical. If it hadn’t been for him I’m not sure we would have gotten him back the second time. The paramedics arrived probably around eight minutes or so after the whole thing started. There were a bunch of other athletes who stopped to see if they could offer assistance as well.

ST: It is pretty easy while racing to have tunnel vision, and many folks look at triathlon as a somewhat selfish sport. So kudos to you for seeing the light and helping out when help was needed.

Davis: Thanks Herbert. I’d like to think the majority of people, not just in triathlon but anywhere, would stop when they see a fellow person in dire need. I think the number of athletes that came up to see if they could help in any way during the situation speaks to that.

ST: Do you know how that man is doing now?

Davis: The last I had heard before I left Big Bear on Saturday was that he was in the hospital and was doing well!

ST: Have you heard from him?

Davis: I haven’t personally heard from him. I’m sure he’s focusing on his medical care and rehabilitation right now and I’m just glad that he’s doing alright.

ST: Was this the first time you had to do CPR in a real life situation?

Davis: Yes. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve done it on a simulation dummy during medical school, but this was the first time in real life. Obviously, all of that great training is for a reason since it almost seemed reflexive when I was doing it.

ST: You eventually continued in the race once the paramedics took over, and I think rumor has it that you still finished second.

Davis: After I gave turn over to the paramedics I wasn’t really sure what to do to be honest. There was nothing else I could offer at that point that they couldn’t, so I eventually figured I might as well finish the run. I think one guy had come by me during the whole situation and I overtook him at about 6k. Eliot was well up the road at that point for the well-deserved overall win.

ST: Tell us about your residency at Camp Pendleton.

Davis: I just graduated from Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in May so I’m still pretty fresh at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton. The program has an amazing culture and the staff and senior residents are committed to teaching. I feel very fortunate to be a part of it and I’m really looking forward to the coming academic year.

ST: On Sunday you went back to racing, but this time it was the San Diego International. Were your medical skills required there?

Davis: Thankfully, no!

ST: I think you were top age grouper and second overall.

Davis: It certainly wasn’t pretty, but I was happy to put together a solid morning on some heavy legs.

ST: I think you played baseball in college. How did you find triathlon?

Davis: After hanging up the cleats my Junior year of college I enjoyed myself a bit too much and my waist line paid the price. I started running to shed some pounds and relieve some stress and eventually got in to triathlon.

My dad was a pretty good triathlete back in the ‘90s and early 2000’s (raced in Kona in ’90 and ’92). He occasionally took me along to races and I’d get to do the kids event if there was one. I still remember going to watch him at Boulder Peak back in the day when they had a pro field and being in awe watching guys like Tim DeBoom and Conrad Stoltz fly by. I think the sport was instilled in me back then and once I dabbled in recreational running the transition to triathlon was sort of inevitable.

ST: Which triathlon was your first one and how did it go?

Davis: I think my first triathlon was the Fort Collins Kids Triathlon when I was 4 years old. I got my lunch handed to me by a girl in the same age group, a fact my family will make sure I never forget.

My first race after picking the sport back up in my 20s was the Greely Triathlon in Greely Colorado. I remember there was a U23 division that I signed up for, I also remember I came in dead last in that division by quite a bit.

ST: You have apparently done also well at Superfrog.

Davis: Two years in a row I’ve been the bridesmaid to Brett King there. He’s a good friend and it’s always fun to line it up against him wherever that may be, but especially on Imperial Beach at Superfrog. I love the history of the race and it’s been very cool to share a couple words with Moki Martin the last two years at the finish, the guy is an absolute legend. I’ll definitely be back this year for another crack at it.

ST: Any result or race you are especially fond of?

Davis: 70.3 St. George is hands down my favorite race out there. I absolutely love that town and that course. I was pretty happy with a 3rd place overall amateur finish there this year.

ST: What kind of bike do you ride and how is it set up?

Davis: TT wise I’ve been on a Specialized Shiv with Ultegra mechanical components for the last couple years. Nothing too fancy, I race with a waxed chain and some 808’s. I have absolutely no idea what the measurements are on it to be honest. The fit has been an eyeball/feel work in progress over the last couple years, which is perhaps a cardinal sin on Slowtwitch.

ST: Where does cycling rank for you in terms of prowess within the 3 disciplines?

Davis: It’s probably my biggest weapon of the three.

ST: How much time do you spend training each week?

Davis: I’m usually in the 10-14 hour a week range. I’ve been working with Billy Edwards now for four years now and we’ve gotten to a point where the program is pretty dialed and focused for the time that I have.

ST: Tell us about one of your harder swim workouts you do.

Davis: A particular set of descending 200s is the one I love to hate. I always cringe a bit when I see it on the schedule.

5x2, 4x2, 3x2, 2x2 and 1x2 broken up with an easy 50 in between each round.

I usually start out with the 5x2 around 70.3 race pace and come on down from there with about 6-7 seconds recovery for each 200 with the last 1x200 being all out.

ST: Is there anything else we should know?

Davis: More than anything I’m just grateful I was in the right place at the right time on Saturday. The American Heart Association isn’t lying when they say CPR saves lives!