The Honakers have had a busy few months since we last posted. Stevi and I both ran the Rome marathon together, I raced the Flying Pig marathon in May and I had decided to run another 50k this spring. I signed up for the North Face Endurance Challenge 50k in DC.
Since the Flying Pig, I had picked my mileage back up to prepare for the 50k and attempted to get a few trail runs in as well. On the last trail training run where I hoped to get in 20 miles on some portions of the course, I ended up spraining my ankle. Whether or not I was going to 50k was up in the air until the last few days. I was able to get in a 12 miler the weekend before with little discomfort so I decided to go ahead and go for it.
My friend Matt picked me up at 5:30 to drive over to the start of the race at Sterling Park. We picked up our bibs did the usual pre-race stuff and waited around for the race to start.
For this race, I did everything wrong and slightly on purpose. I always stress out about doing everything exactly right and it usually turns out badly anyway. I bought a pair of shorts that had pockets in the back and never actually ran in them, I had a couple of beers the night before, had a late dinner, and ate things the day before I usually wouldn’t eat before a race (but eat normally). My ankle was still sore and not quite 100% yet, so the whole race was up in the air to begin with.
5 minutes before the start they ask us to line up. Matt and I walk up a good distance away from the start line and everyone lines up behind us. Uh…I wasn’t planning on being on the start line, but whatever. I had packed a few honey stingers into my shorts and had a few in my handheld. The race starts and we take off, immediately coming to a ditch that has to be hopped over. I am already cringing because I don’t want to make huge leaps with my bad ankle, but I hopped across and didn’t have a problem. As I start to run I notice that my shorts aren’t staying up very well. I took the honey stingers out of my pockets which helped, but I couldn’t hold on to them forever. I ended up just throwing two of them away, Matt held one for me in an empty pocket and I stuffed the other in my handheld. That worked for a few feet, but then I had to do something. I pulled over to the side and retied my shorts which took care of the problem. For now.
We ran for a stretch on some wide gravel road and just fell into a pace. We were getting passed quite a bit even though we were doing close to 8 min/mi. I knew that once we hit the single track we would get stuck behind all these people that went out too fast, but I also didn’t want to see a pace under 8 on my watch so we just went with it.
We ran on some singletrack for a good while through some tall grass and made our way into the woods. My shorts are starting to fall again so I am literally taking three steps and pulling my shorts back up. 3 steps, pull. 3 steps, pull. The guy running behind me was really close and a couple of times I almost fell on a switchback, but I was still upright and moving pretty quickly. We started to get to some more technical terrain with rocks and roots. I was paying close attention to where my feet were landing because I didn’t want to roll my ankle again when I look up I see a tree branch an inch from my head.
“F&*k…that is going to hurt tomorrow” and the guys running behind me chuckle. I had hit my head on the branch and can picture in my mind the large goose egg that will be there when I am finished with the race. We keep moving around some more singletrack and my head is starting to feel wet. I look down at my chest and I have blood streaming down the left side of my body. “Sh!t.” I said, and Matt turned around and said “Oh God…”. I am completely covered in blood.
I can see it dripping down the bill of my hat and I have to stop. I yell up to Matt and pull over. I take off my hat and squirt some water on my handheld on my head. The people behind me are gasping as they run by and asking if I am ok. I know we are about a mile away from the aid station and I am standing in the middle of the woods. What do I do now? The only thing I can think of to do is jump back in the race and get to the next aid station.
When I get to the aid station I take off my hat and a volunteer yells for the medic. I see Matt talking to a volunteer and the medics make me sit down and check it out.
“What is your name?”
“Did you pass out?”
“Can you see straight?”
“Are you feeling ok”.
I start formulating a story in my head about a mountain lion and saving a small child…
“I hit my head on a tree.”
They grab some wipes and clean up my head to get a look at it. “I know you can’t see this, but you have a couple inch gash on the top of your head. You are going to need stitches. We can call to have you taken back to the start”.
“Can I keep going?”
“Well…the bleeding looks like it stopped and if you are feeling ok then I think you’ll be ok.” They asked if Matt was running with me which he agreed he would stay with me. They put a bandage on my head, but tape wouldn’t stick and I told them I could put my hat back on to keep it there, which they agreed should be fine. They told me they would let me go, but I had to stop at the next aid station for them to check it. As they were cleaning up my face I kept hearing “you’ve got another cut here…no…wait…it is just more blood”. They thanked me for shaving my head before the race (ha!) and gave me an extra gauze pad and Matt and I started off again.
My hat was so soaked with blood than when I would sweat I would continue to have it dripping down all over me. I also think the bleeding would start again every time I started running, because there was way too much coming down. As we passed people everyone would ask if I was ok. I passed a guy and heard “Jesus…did you get attacked by a bear?”
More single track, more roots and rocks, some pretty scary fast downhils and we come to the Great Falls aid station around mile 12-13 where Stevi and Amy are cheering. My race number is pinned to my shorts and covered in blood (just like the rest of me). I pointed down to my shorts and neither of them saw the blood as we ran past, and they thought I was indicating that my shorts were falling down. (yes, they are still falling down at this point).
I am starting to feel my stomach gurgle a bit and we get to the aid station where a peppy young girl asks Matt hurriedly if he needs more water. She grabs his handheld to fill it up. Nobody asks me if I need anything, so I walk over and fill up my own. I decided I need to take care of the shorts situation, so I stepped over to the side. We are in the middle of a large park with a lot of spectators. I take one of the safety pins from my race number and untie my shorts. The hole the laces are coming out of is growing in size, which is why tightening my shorts is not working. I safety pinned the laces in after tying it to temporarily fix the problem. As I am doing so, a woman asks if I am ok. I said “sure, I’m fine”.
“The only reason I ask is because you are severely bleeding from your head”.
“Nah, its ok”.
“Oh sure, its just a superficial head wound that is bleeding profusely, I understand”. Then her husband tells her that obviously my legs are fine. I chuckled and tried to find a medic to take a look.
I walked over to the medics who were having a conversation that they were obviously very engaged in, because despite multiple attempts to get their attention, noone will look at me. Mind you, I am covered in blood. Finally one of them turns around and goes “Woah!” and then they scramble and try to figure out what to do. I’m not feeling very confident in their abilities.
They basically take a lot of time to do the same thing the other medics did and let me go. We take off for the next aid station and my shorts problem seems to be somewhat fixed for now. We are getting to a sections that is pretty tough because the trail is very narrow and it is out and back to the next aid station . I stopped and filled up with water and now am having the usual stomach cramps. Joy.
We head back down and head around a different trail. My stomach is getting pretty angry but I know there are restrooms at the next aid station so I try to keep up with Matt and tough it out. Matt runs up ahead and is at the aid station talking to Stevi and Amy when I get there. I stopped to talk to them and take some water they were holding when a drop of blood drips from my hat. The look on Stevi’s face when the realization hit was priceless. She started freaking out and was trying to take my hat off and I told her that it had already been looked at and I can’t take the hat off because it is holding the bandage there. Matt reassures her that the medics looked at it and I told her to be prepared for me to get stitches when I finish.
We ran off a few feet towards the restrooms where I stopped to take care of business. I looked in the mirror on my way out and my black hat was now a very dark red. We hit a technical section near the waterfall with large rocks and a lot of climbing. I didn’t do much running here and Matt went off ahead so I could just do my thing and take my time. He was waiting for me at the end of it and we were now heading back to the start area with about 10 miles to go. The bleeding has slowed down now but my stomach is really upset. The stomach would churn off and on, I started feeling woozy, I was getting a headache, and my ankle was starting to get sore. “Matt, I need to walk…I’m [woozy / having stomach cramps / having ankle problems]”. I felt bad for having to stop so much, but he kept stopping with me. We are in the middle of a 7 mile stretch without an aid station and I ran out of water. Matt shared his gatorade with me, which helped keep me going until we hit the aid station.
Just then, we can hear a dog barking in the distance, and I can see some of the runners heading the other direction looking up. Suddenly, a German shepherd pops out of the woods and chases after me. I have been chased by enough dogs at this point that I know to stop, but this dog is p!ssed. He was hunched over, baring his teeth, and generally being unpleasant. Other runners are coming up behind and running past which is getting on my nerves since I didn’t sign up to be the bait for this dog. The dog would give chase to someone ahead and I would tell them to stop to avoid getting bit but if I started moving again the dog would come after me. I can see a kid climbing down trying to get the dog but he has me trapped and seems to be really interested in my shorts, which are, of course, covered in blood. The kid comes down and the dog takes off so we start moving again. About a minute later the little sucker comes back out of the woods and stops me again, and the kid comes out again, and the dog runs away again. This happens about 4 or 5 times before I finally get away.
We finally get to the aid station and I loaded up on all kinds of crap here thinking it would make me feel better, which it did, but made my stomach worse. I did a lot of tripping over the next couple of miles until the last aid station. They said we had 2.5 miles to go, which I think we had about 1.5 miles left. I tried to keep running the whole way and my stomach cramps stopped thankfully. We were on the gravel path again and running at a pretty good clip. We got to the park where the finish line was and we both ran it pretty hard for the last quarter mile. I finished in 5:57 and change.
I pulled over the medic right after the finish line to get cleaned up. They confirmed I was going to need stitches and asked if I was the “tree guy”. They said that a call had gone in about me and they were supposed to keep an eye out. I told Stevi to throw out the hat because it had become so soaked that it wasn’t going to come clean. That was my favorite hat.
Stevi went with me to an urgent care facility so that I could get six staples. The good news is that I didn’t fall in this race. Always look on the bright side.