The day J. Marshall Thomson should have died, he was on a nice bike ride on a trail near Gunnison when a sudden storm turned into an aerial assault, lighting bolts stabbing the ground to his left, to his right, his fate inescapable no matter how furiously he pedaled.
“It felt like we were being hunted,” said Thomson, who biked that July day with his girlfriend, Stevie Kremer. “I was thinking, ‘I’m done.’ ”
All Kremer heard was a scream. She didn’t see her boyfriend catapulted into the air, his helmet shooting off his head, his body splattering nearly 50 feet from his bike.
Thomson rose from the ground — “to make sure I was in one piece” — while engulfed by a smoldering smell. His stomach had a burn mark the size of a golf ball. His back was acupunctured by spikes; he had landed on a cactus. Thomson and Kremer scurried to their car, darting through the thunderstorm. “Where I sat in the driver’s seat, shaking and crying,” Kremer said. “For a solid minute, no words were exchanged. Finally Marshall said, ‘I think I was hit by lightning.’ ”
Welcome to the wild, alternate universe of J. Marshall Thomson, whose life is a carnival of adventure. This uber-athlete from Crested Butte wins 50-mile trail races, runs half marathons twice a day for exercise and medals in nine-hour ski races during which he climbs one side of a mountain and skis down the other side. Oh, and he wins fights with lightning. On that fateful day at the Hartman Rocks Recreation Area, he was wearing a heart-monitor watch that sent data back to his computer. When the lightning struck — he’s still not sure if it struck him, the bike or both — his heart rate was 261.
“From what I’m told,” the 33-year-old Thomson said, “normal people’s heart will stop over 230.”