ST. PETERSBURG — At first, Teresa McCoy thought the man by the pool at last year's Meek & Mighty Triathlon was flirting.
"He told me that I missed my turn," said the 38-year-old triathlete. "I was talking to my friend and just kind of blew him off."
McCoy, whose race number was 96, was supposed to be swimming. Dave Laudano, No. 100, wanted to get started on his first triathlon.
She told him to go ahead. It was a decision that saved his life.
"I had been feeling kind of funny," Laudano said of the weeks preceding the event, which includes a 200-yard swim, 5.4-mile bike ride and 1-mile run.
"I kept having stomach problems while I was training. I just chalked it up to indigestion."
McCoy, a nurse in the cardiac department at Tampa General Hospital, in the past had completed Meek & Mighty. But she was in no rush.
"To be honest, I just wanted to race with my friend," she said. "Her number was 116 so I was waiting for her turn to go."
Laudano's race started well. The 41-year-old IT consultant breezed through the swim, then hopped on his bike. About 2½ miles in, he felt light-headed.
"Then I don't really remember what happened,'' he said. "I just went down."
St. Petersburg Police Officer Chris Dort and Sgt. Kevin Smith saw Laudano fall and went to help. Then McCoy, who should have started the race before Laudano, rolled up.
"As I rode by I yelled that I was a nurse and asked them if they needed help. They said yes, so I turned around and stopped."
McCoy realized this was the same man who had called to her at the pool. She got on her knees and felt for a pulse. Nothing.
"I knew right away that he was having a heart attack," said McCoy. "So I went to work."
The nurse began CPR and issued orders. The officers did as she instructed and radioed for backup. Officer Mark Williams was a few blocks away in his squad car, which had an automated external defibrillator that restarted Laudano's heart.
Laudano "came back right away and his legs started moving," recalled Williams. "He thought he was still cycling."
McCoy then hopped back on her bike and finished the race.
At Bayfront Medical Center, "they put two stents in my heart," Laudano said. He went on to have quintuple bypass surgery at Tampa General.
McCoy visited Laudano every day in intensive care, and became friends with his wife and family. Laudano also keeps in touch with the police officers who helped save his life.
Today, the two friends will be back in the lineup at the Meek & Mighty. "It's something I've got to go and do again,'' Laudano said. "This time I'm going to finish.''