I am done trail running for at least three months. Even though I have written several posts singing the praises of trail running this summer, (you can read some of them here, here, and here) I am off the trails until at least the beginning of November.
Readers of this blog know I have been trail running with my friend and fellow former chemistry teacher Al, who repeatedly asked my hubby and me to register for a 15k trail race he was doing in July. For some reason, we didn’t bite. The race was close to our house, the race director had a reputation for putting on well-organized, fun races, and the trails were beautiful single track, but very runnable. None of these reasons were compelling enough to entice us to register.
I texted Al the morning after the race to see how it went. To my surprise, he called, rather than returning my text. He told me his race did not go well. I was surprised, because he seemed to be very well trained. I expected him to tell me a story of heat, humidity and slow race times; instead, the story he told me ended with him in the emergency room.
At approximately mile six, he was attacked by hornets! Several runners around him were also stung, but he got the worst of it. He was stung eight times by the angry wasps. (I researched after the fact and learned that all hornets are wasps, but not all wasps are hornets.)
He thought to finish the race and kept running but felt a numbness creeping up his fingers into his hands, then rising through his arms and legs. He was not previously allergic to any type of bee sting but soon realized that he was in trouble. He fell down on the trail, unable to get up.
Other racers came upon him on the ground and asked if he was alright. “No,” he responded, “I’m not.” Several racers dragged/carried him to the nearest park road (they were racing in a state park), and one runner who was carrying a cell phone called the race director. A park ranger soon appeared, loaded Al into his truck, and took him to the ranger station, where they were met by an ambulance. The ambulance sped him to the nearest ER with sirens blaring.
Doctors at the hospital were able to administer epinephrine, which reduced the immediate danger posed by the stings. Al will need to get blood tests to determine the exact type of venom he was injected with. Amazingly, de-sensitization to the wasp stings is possible, but until the de-sensitization treatments are administered, he will need to carry an Epi-Pen.
Al told me apologetically that he did not want to run trails with an Epi-Pen. We discussed our realization that if he had been stung on one of our trail runs, it could have spelled disaster. I could not have dragged him any distance, and Al was always the leader on our trail runs. To tell the truth, I am directionally challenged. I didn’t have any idea how to get back to our cars about 75% of the time we were on the trails. We often ran in locations with no cell phone reception and, in fact, never carried phones.
I told Al that no apology was necessary. Trails are usually part of my running repertoire only in late fall, winter and spring for exactly that reason – I do not want to encounter angry wasps (or poison ivy). I have heard horror stories from other trail runners who were attacked by hornets. We made arrangements to meet for some road running later this summer.
Right now the only races I have on my schedule are two road marathons – one in Washington state in August and Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. in October. This is so unlike my spring race schedule, which was filled with all types of fun, exciting races, some on the trails and some on the roads. Actually, I like to be busy; I enjoy having a variety of races to anticipate.
The combination of a sparse fall racing schedule and the sudden lack of a weekly trail run was disconcerting to me. Then I got a message from the race director of a very appealing three-hour trail race I have done for the last four years. Registration for the 2019 version of the race is opening. It is held in central Pennsylvania in a state park in January. The temperature at the beginning of last year’s race was 0 degrees F. The trails were snow-covered, scenic, and best of all….hornet-free! I am signing up for the race tonight. I will start training in November!
I am linking up with Running on Happy and Fairytales and Fitness for their Friday 5, and Holly from HoHo Runs,Wendy from Taking the Long Way Home for their Weekly Wrap, and Shank You Very Much for Dream Team.