Recovering from Frostbite, Former Green Beret to Compete in His First IRONMAN

By Drew Munhausen

After frostbite claimed the tips of all 10 of Jeff Scace’s fingertips, the former Green Beret was repeatedly warned that he would never be able to do the things he once loved.

“I was told I would never be the same,” Scace said. “It was a constant stream of people telling me things that I would never be able to do again.”

On Saturday, he will prove his naysayers wrong as he participates in the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Texas North American Championship.

Scace’s journey to the IRONMAN finish line began with a personal mission to honor his comrades who ad died. He was part of the first graduating class of the U.S. Army Special Forces known as Green Berets after 9/11 and was immediately stationed in Afghanistan. Years later, a friend of Scace’s approached him with a flag that depicted the names of the fallen.  Scace’s friend wanted to take the flag to the top of Ama Dablam, a mountain in the Himalaya range of eastern Nepal that Scace describes as the most beautiful mountain he had ever seen. Scace agreed to go with him.

“We climbed through the night during our first summit attempt and I was hanging on a sheer wall of rock and ice when the sun came up,” Scace said. “I knew my fingers were suffering frostbite, and by the time I could investigate them, they were too far gone. I decided to push for the summit anyway.”

Due to the frostbite, Scace had to have the tips of all of his fingers amputated.

Taking on More Challenges Despite What He’s Lost

While some people in Scace’s situation may consider taking a break from extreme activities, Scace didn’t stop pushing himself. He went on several more mountain climbs, picked up scuba diving and skydiving, and even competed in Utility Task Vehicle races (small off-road vehicles). This past August, Scace decided he wanted to participate in his first IRONMAN.

“It seemed like an awesome adventure and a great way to challenge myself,” Scace said. “I’ve been training since September.  I bought my own bike and it’s been a cycle of swim, bike and run as much as I can in between work, travel and spending time with my family.”

Using a Lactate Profile for Smarter Training

As a Christmas gift, Scace’s wife, Andrea, surprised Scace with a lactate threshold test package at the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute. The lactate profile is a powerful and reliable predictor of performance in aerobic exercise. The body produces a performance-limiting substance called lactate during exercise. The lactate profile test determines the level of exercise intensity at which the body begins to produce this substance at a greater rate than it can be removed. Knowing your lactate profile allows athletes to plan their training, raise their lactate thresholds and increase their work intensity.

“The staff was knowledgeable, professional and extremely friendly,” Scace said. “Having the physiological data was a great way for me to approach my training intelligently rather than my usual brute force attack.  Thanks to The Institute, I know exactly how hard I can or cannot push my body to maintain sustainable power.”

Not only is Scace looking forward to Saturday’s race, he’s already thinking about future races that will allow him to continue to push himself.

“I am already planning to do the IRONMAN in Waco after this,” Scace said. “I might do the one in South Africa after that.”

Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute offers a variety of sport-specific packages to meet the needs of all athletes. For more information of these packages, please contact us.

To learn more about the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Texas North American Championship, click here.

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