In my wildest dreams I never thought that my first 50-mile race would be so eventful. After time training and planning, my wife, Carey, and I made plans to run the Tahoe Rim Trail 50 mile race. When you toe up to the start line, your first thought is “will my body hold out, can I make it?” Just a few days before this race the temps were mild, but today we were in for 90’s and when you factor in elevation all these things make running much harder.
The first 11 miles went well and I was running with Carey. I love being with her, but it was clear today would be her day and she was running with such ease. (Read Carey’s Run Blog) We spoke before the race and agreed that if she was feeling good, that I wanted her to run her race. Around 15 miles my back began giving me pain and within a few miles I was on my own. I had just finished a quick stop to stretch my back when a mountain biker came flying over the trail and clipped my left arm. It was like someone had spun me around, but other than a bruise I was still going. Soon the course was about to reward me with a long down hill run, my back was feeling better, and I set out to catch up with Carey. Close to the bottom of the down, I began to hear another biker approaching. Then I heard a yell and the biker plowed into my back. Everything went into slow motion and all of us know that isn’t a good sign. I just remember praying that I wouldn’t hit my head on a rock.
My right hip found the corner of large rock and it brought back memories of 9th grade football when you get that first hip pointer. Flipping down the mountain, I came to rest in a large sandy area. The first thing I heard was the biker yelling “I’m sorry dude, I was getting stung by a bee……oh shit my arm….” Looking back I saw he had broken his right arm and 3 fingers. The wind was knocked out me so bad that I felt like I was going to pass out. You know that feeling when you don’t think you will ever breathe again? With great astonishment, I was up and feeling pain only from my hip and left arm. This wasn’t anything you could plan for when setting out to finish your first 50-mile race.
Two racers ran down to the next aid station and called for ambulance and I began to help the biker to the road, which thankfully was only about a tenth of a mile. Now began about 40 minutes of firemen and police asking me if I was ok. About 3 years ago I had a large tumor removed from my chest and lost my 9th rib. It took some convincing for the emergency personnel to understand and believe this, but I was finally able to let everyone know that I felt good and wanted to continue my race. My right side of my body sticks out now because of my surgery and it looks a little strange. In these long races a paramedic or race organizer can take you out of a race if they feel you aren’t fit to continue.
After some ice and a short rest I began a long climb that was just the worst: 1750 feet up in just 2 miles. At times a climb like this with 95 degrees beating down on you can feel like hell, and I was in hell. Close to the top I lost my cookies and then from within my shoe came a burning pain that felt like my foot was on fire. I fell to the ground and opened my shoe to find a bee busting his ass up in me. Panic set in; I’m allergic to bees! By the time I got to the next aid station my right foot was as big as my knee. I needed an epi pen NOW! One nice thing about this race was how amazing the support staff was. The aid station first said that they would need me to go back down. That was the last thing I wanted to do and it was sure to end my day. A fantastic first aid biker got on his bike from 1750 feet below us in just 25 mins to deliver my epi.
Now my problems just got worse. The aid station was about to take me out of the race because they were concerned that the epi would take my heart rate to a dangerous level. They were right, but I just wanted to finish this race. After dodging broken bones in the bike crash, I didn’t want a bee sting to take me out. We agreed on just half the dosage and it was a good thing we did. My heart rate was elevated for about 20 minutes and it’s not the most comfortable thing when your heart is beating out of your chest and you’re just sitting on a chair at 8300 feet.
I’m blessed with the gift of gab, so I was able to get them to let me proceed to the next aid station with the promise of checking in with the aid team there. In the next 4.5 miles, I began to laugh, yes laugh. After all, I was sure that my first 50 miles would be me battling the heat, my body breaking down, and all things runners go though. It was becoming a comedy and I was the leading man. I guess you can look at things that happen to you and blame others or just suck it up and laugh. I elect to enjoy life and to try to make the best of what is coming, because it’s coming to all of us.
I had made it to mile 40!! But, I had to convince that final aid station that I was fit to make it home. After a nice 30 min nap, ice, blood pressure and general check-up, I was on my way. The downside of the epi was the shakes, but my body was making it. The miles were counting down. The forced rest had done well for me as my speed was advancing and I was thankful for all my fellow runners on the trail. Everyone, no matter how much pain they were enduring was saying “Great Job”, “You look great”, “GO!” Ultra runners are a great group of people.
There it was, the finish!! Carey was there yelling for me and waving me home. The pain seems to go away when those that love you are helping you along. You contemplate many things when you’re running and just like life you might have to deal with things that go beyond your control. Running that last mile, I was cheering on other runners and saying to myself “I made it! I made it!!” All things come to an end and there isn’t anything you can’t achieve or get through when you just go for it. The clarity that you get from training and running a race of this distance was a real honor to be part of. I’m sure that I will be toeing the line again with my brothers and sisters of Ultra Running.