Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bee-line to the Sea... with some misadventures thrown in...

Skyline to the Sea
50K Race Report

Well, before I start to regale you with some of the less than stellar moments of the day, let me just say that I had a great day overall and I'm pretty excited about the next race I do (whenever that will be...).

So. Let's start at the beginning. I got up at 3:30 this morning to make sure I had enough time to get down to Santa Cruz in time for the shuttle. This ensured I was tired enough to sleep on the 1 and a half hour bus ride from the finish to the start. This was a good way to start the race though-- being in a bus with a bunch of people excited about the race and trading quips back and forth set the tone for the day.

After waiting through an interminable port-a-potty line, talking with Mike, Catra and Jo Lynn (finished her first 50K with her friend Kristy-yay!) we were off! My plan for this race was twofold: first, I wanted to go out nice and easy. I have a tendency to go out WAY too fast, and I wanted to work on holding a steady pace throughout instead of dying midway through. Second, I wanted to work on running as relaxed as possible. I have realized that my knee hurts less when I am running relaxed, and I wanted to focus on being as calm and relaxed through the whole race as possible.

I did manage to go out relatively slow, but 15 minutes down the trail, I looked down and saw a yellow jacket on my leg. I smacked it off, only to realize that I was being stung on my posterior region and on my head as well! The man in front of me had a sweatshirt covered with them in a matter of seconds. After an adrenalin-inducing minute of smacking wherever I felt bitten (yes, I WAS smacking my own derriere as I ran down the trail, but this was far less titillating than it sounds. Trust me.), we continued on down the trail, thankful that part of the race was over.

Ha. Less than 20 minutes later, we ran through a similar bee attack zone, and I was stung several times by bees. Fortunately, the billion shots I had as a child to develop an immunity to bee allergies seems to be holding strong. If not, it would have been a ridiculously rough day.

We all were hoping that this would be the end of the bee/wasp attacks, but minutes after the second aid station, we ran through ANOTHER zone. To put it mildly, this was not fun. There were several theories floating around about why the bees and wasps attacked-- someone said something about the vibrations of peoples' feet irritating them. Apparently the next time I run this, I will have to run with the lead runners in order to escape the wrath of the hives.

Despite the insect attacks, I was running really well. I felt strong on the uphills (admittedly, there weren't a whole lot of them-- this course was a much easier run than Ohlone) and the downhills were feeling great-- calm and relaxed like I wanted them to be. No knee pain whatsoever.

Plus, this course is gaw-geous. The majority of the course runs through the Santa Cruz Mountains, lined by redwood and bay trees, and while it has some sections of uphill, most of the day was spent in the cooler shadows of the forests. (I even forgot to put on sunscreen, and while normally this would be a disaster for this extra-white girlie, the trees made this less of an issue than it could have been.)

One of the few sections of uphill came on an added loop (they needed more mileage to get to 50K, and why not add hills?), but the view and the change in flora made it worth it for me.

After a reasonably steep section, the trail left the redwood cover and ended up on the top of a hill with pine trees and other scrub plants on a sandy road. The shift in landscape is actually quite amazing and I'm sorry I did n't take more pictures.

After we were done with the loop, we had about 12 more miles to reach the finish, and I was feeling pretty good about things. My knee was in great shape, I felt tired but able to keep running and there were rumors of a bee-free trail to the finish.

However, the universe had other plans, because at about mile 21-22 (my Garmin decided to lose satellite reception and I forgot to reset it, so I'm not exactly sure), I took a big fall on the trail, and smacked my foot hard on a rock. (Actually, I think it was a rock-- I only remember the pain from something hitting my foot very hard.) I pulled myself together and took stock of the situation. My foot hurt. A lot. I thought the next aid station was about 4 miles away, all downhill. The aid station behind me was straight uphill all the way back. No one was going to come get me. I started limping down the trail, convinced this would be a better option than returning to the Gazos Creek aid station.

While I was absolutely in pain and very frustrated and upset about this turn of events, I also want to say that the other runners on the trail were amazing. Just about every person who passed me asked if I was ok, and tried to offer their help in whatever way possible. People volunteered to walk me to the aid station (at least 4 miles away), gave me painkiller, found me a stick to help me walk, offered food or drink-- it was really encouraging and gave me much hope for the human race. Good people, trail runners.

I limped along for probably 2-3 miles, having possibly the biggest pity party for myself I've ever had. (This meant I was probably less than enthusiastic when people tried to be positive with me-- oops.) I wanted to be DONE and stop walking, and the more time I walked, the more I realized it was going to take me a looooooong time to walk even to the aid station. I wondered if I could figure out some kind of not-running-but-faster-than-walking movement and tried to start shuffling my feet. While I'm sure I looked like I was 80 years old, it didn't make my foot hurt unbearably and it was faster than walking, so I continued with my grandma-shuffle until I finally reached the aid station. At this point, the aid station was less than 2 miles away from the finish line, so I declined the offer of a ride (which I was convinced I wanted 3 miles earlier) and shuffled to the end.

Continuing the amazing beauty of the trail--this is what you run over just before the finish line. Despite my fervent desire to be done running, I had to take a picture of it.

To cap off my comedy of errors, as I was trying to hop around and figure out how I could find someone to drive my car back to Richmond with me, I managed to step in a pile of stinging nettles that lit my left ankle (the unhurt foot) on fire. Perfect.

My foot, to put it bluntly, is not cute. It is swollen and starting to turn purple all along the outside. I have an appointment tomorrow to have it x-rayed, but right now it looks like a little fat thing with some toes.

All in all though-- when I think about this day, I had a great time. I am really pleased with how I ran before I fell, and I am feeling very confident that whenever my foot heals up, I will be back on my running game.


Derek said...

What a greatrace report. I am not a big fan of any kind of stinging insect and the bees and wasps would have ruined my day. Sorry to hear about your ankle, but way to tough it out. I hope it isn't anything very serious and you can get back to running soon. Hope you can enjoy the rest of your weekend!!

209Mike said...

I sure hope you drank some alcohol last night. What an adventure.

Kevin said...

Your race report: Gaw-geous. Sorry abou thee bees and the wasps and the bad foot thingy. Great job gutting it out.

Anne Carlson said...

Sounds like a blast--bees, wasps, stinging nettles, rocks, oh my! I was going to ask you for a favor, but I think not--you need to rest with your foot up and your whole body on ice.

Sarah said...

Oh, man - I, too, was hoping to hear that nothing was broken. I'm SO SORRY!!

You are so right about trail runners' caring and generous natures - glad that you were on the trail with them and that those guys could help you get home.

Congrats, though, on your finish and on running so, so well before you fell. Looking forward to seeing you back out there before too long - and hope you enjoy your shirt and coaster, 'cause you sure earned 'em!

Sarah (PCTR)

Jo Lynn said...

Great report and pictures. You still had a good finishing time. Trail runners are great, aren't they! To think that someone would have walked you four miles -- simply amazing.

Rick Gaston said...

You are tough, tough, tough. What a story. I've limped it in many times but nothing as painful as what you had to deal with. The stinging nettles was just the perfect way to end the day, just more gravy to make the story even better. Well I hope it all heals well and soon.

GB said...

You will never ever forget this race! Hard core, woman, you are hard core. I hope the wasp/yellow jacket stings are settling down now, the nettles too... and I love your cast! Pink is the sh/t! :) I so wish I was there with you and Mike and Rick and everybody else.

Heal well and heal fast! Maybe you'll get more writing done now. (I haven't written a word).

Donald said...

Wow - what a crazy race. That yellow jacket thing gives me the shivers.

Considering the difficult time you had on the course, you made a very inspiring race report. I hope your foot heals well (and quickly).

Scott Dunlap said...

Boy, you are one tough cookie to walk it out like that! Best of luck on your heeling foot/feet.

- SD

Cassie said...

Wow, what a crazy race! Congrats on finishing. I hope your foot heals quickly! I can't believe all the stinging critters on the course... geesh!

andyb said...

Wow, Victoria, I'm really sorry to hear about your broken foot. That sucks.

You had quite the adventure, it appears. And you finished it! Most impressive, especially considering you managed to do 6 or so miles with a broken foot!!!

I hope you heal quickly and can get back out on the trails.