Dr. Ramin Modabber aboard the air ambulance which was on standby throughout the race.

The Island House Invitational Triathlon. Never heard of it? Neither had we. And it’s no wonder, considering the competition is held on a remote private island and open only to twenty elite triathletes invited from around the world.

Dr. Ramin Modabber was contacted by competition organizers to provide coverage for the event as race doctor. A long-time veteran of covering mass participation events, this race presented some special challenges for Dr. Modabber. He spoke with us shortly after his trip to discuss the event.

An athlete races up rocky steps.

“Imagine that you are one of the best triathletes in the world,” poses Dr. Modabber, “and you are invited to participate in a one-of-a-kind, three-day event on a private island to compete against your peers.

Now, imagine that you are invited to participate as the race doctor for that same event – a journey to a private island in the Bahamas to care for twenty elite triathletes challenged to swim 1550m, bike 10.3k and run 16.9k over three days.”

An athlete tackles the bike challenge of the day.

He continues, “Sounds amazing. Amazing, but challenging when you process the potential issues. Are there sharks nearby? Yes. Is the island flat with straight roads? Not at all. Will there be smooth pavement for running and biking? Yes, but also a beach route and a short section up and down jagged rocks. You get the idea. It should all be fine, but covering an event from a medical perspective is all about the logistics of ‘what if’ scenarios.”

The race format itself is a unique form of the triathlon, spanning three days. This changes the demands on the athletes. According to Dr. Modabber, “the events are short but require more intense efforts each day so the three day component adds an element of overnight recovery, rehydration, and rest, which some athletes do better than others. This format clearly favored the ‘short course’ triathletes as opposed to the ‘long course’ triathletes which traditionally are stronger in longer events such as half ironman and full ironman distance events.”

An athlete launches in to his swim.

Of course, it is the unique location, rather than the race format, that forced Dr. Modabber to think differently when preparing for race coverage. “This event was unlike anything I have ever covered in my years as a race doctor. It took place at such a remote location with no medical services of any kind on the island to assist with supplies or staff. If a serious injury occurred, the logistics of how to manage it would need to have been prepared long before the event.

With not even a drugstore down the street, there would be no chance to re-stock supplies or pick up a few extra things you may have forgotten on the mainland. One would have to provide everything from bandages to defibrillators to cover all bases as well as arrange air transport, a float plane with the rear seats removed, for more serious injuries either back to Nassau or possibly Florida depending on the nature of the injury. A daunting but exciting challenge to take on.”

Dr. Modabber in the land ambulance that serviced the race.

In the end, everything went smoothly from an event standpoint. “The competition was nothing short of amazing. From a medical perspective, nothing more than some cut-up feet, blisters, and sunburn. What’s important is that we were ready just in case.” Dr. Modabber’s years of coverage of mass participation events no doubt helped prepare him for those “what-if” scenarios, helping him know what supplies were necessary, allowing him to work off of checklists from 100+ days of coverage, giving him familiarity with the mentality of endurance athletes and the uniqueness of their physical demands and their psyche.

“It’s a typical day in the life of physicians covering events,” he says, “it’s just that this was in a not-so-typical location.”