My battle scars are adding up.
While I stared facedown in the dirt, I thought at least I will have cool bruises and scrapes to show off as I tell my thrilling and climatic tale.
I had just run 21K and I was trying to keep my eyes on a speedy runner ahead as we ran on this gosh awful, exposed gravel road. The heat was turning up and I wanted desperately to reach the trees to soak in the shade.
I’m a little foggy on the details so bear with me. Basically while I was (no doubt) daydreaming and thinking about the next aid station, I tripped over something (maybe my own feet) and I hit the dirt.
Nothing new in trail running. Sometimes we trip and catch ourselves, and sometimes we trip and fall.
The left side of my body – shoulder, hand and quad – bore the brunt of it, serving up scraped knees, bloody hands and wicked bruises on my shoulder and leg.
A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to fill in a spot on Slower Than Molasses, a Sinister 7 relay team in this year’s edition of the 1oo-mile run in Crowsnest Pass. I was thrilled to join this Slave Lake team, which was made up of Jason and Vickie Wiebe with their son Curtis, 15, Heidi Robinson and Eric Leclair. This group of runners (plus a few others) have been entering teams in this widely popular race for about seven years.
I was tasked with running Willoughby Ride (leg 3) a.k.a Satan’s Sack over double track, single track and gravel road.
On the difficulty scale, it was rated six out of seven with its elevation gain and loss of 1357m and distance of 31.4k. An interesting section of the leg crossed the remains of the 2003 Lost Creek fire burn scar.
Neither the distance or the elevation worried me too much. I have been running consistently since January. I was slightly concerned with the heat but I knew if I was well-hydrated I would run strong. I learned my lesson in Lethbridge at Lost Souls about the importance of showing up hydrated.
So as I slowly rose to my feet after taking a few seconds to breathe, I took stock. Nothing appeared broken until I looked down at my wrist to see my cracked Garmin watch face. Lovely, I thought with a smile. I just bought it a few months ago.
I was very close to tears so I started to walk quickly to calm myself down. I didn’t want to disappoint my team. They would look for me around four hours and 30 minutes, and no later than five hours at the transition spot.
That’s the thing about being on a team – you can’t just think about yourself. You don’t want to be the one runner who makes your team miss the race cut off. I had only just met most of the team. (Eric was bragging me up to be some kind of rockstar runner, which I only learned about after the race. Thanks, Eric.)
Thankfully my legs were OK. After walking a bit and running some, I stumbled into to the final aid station at 24K.
One runner says, I need to take a salt tab. I said, “good idea. I want one too.”
What was I thinking? Clearly, I wasn’t thinking at all. I’ve never taken salt tabs in my life.
Only 7K to go.
One by one, we left the aid station. I hoped to put this leg to rest in about an hour. Less than 15 minutes later, runners were passing me as I tried to get my heart rate down. Suddenly I was very hot. Sweat beads were forming quickly on my arms. I was talking gibberish when a runner stopped. I had chatted with him after I fell so we were old friends now.
Without asking, he poured all his water over my head. On top of that, he waited at sections on the mountain to make sure I was moving.
That’s the beauty about trail runners – we’re all in it together. Helping another runner is a given, even if it adds a few minutes to our finishing time.
I can’t tell you how grateful I am to this runner. I think his name was Michael from some place in British Columbia.
His kind gestures (and his water) were my saving grace. I happily ran to the transition area.
I finished just under five hours. Our team finished in 26 hours and three seconds, well under the 30-hour time limit.
Crystal is a NAASFP certified running coach and mentor. You can find Running with Rhyno on Facebook and @CrystalRhyno on Twitter. Send your column ideas, photos and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org