Normally, I would not be inclined to share a race report for a DNF. But, since this was not the run-of-the-mill situation and I had so much joy at Tahoe Rim Trail 100 2018 despite the outcome, I wanted to share. Also, I learned a new definition for DNF (thanks to I-Tao Tsai) that I think is far more appropriate than the usual – Do Not Forget. That motivated this report!
Was also really happy that part of my pre-race Truckee time coincided with the DPMR Trail 10k and Half Marathon, and I had a chance to be more than an East Coast ghost and to volunteer at the event. I had great prep and acclimation in the 10 days prior to race start. Tuesday preceding race weekend I went up to the top of Granite Chief for one last bit of real “work” in the 8000-9000 ft zone. I felt so fit and couldn’t wait to start the race!
Race briefing came around on Friday, and there was so much smoke from the Ferguson fire. That was a bit of concern but by later in the evening that had cleared, and I was pretty optimistic about that for Saturday and Sunday. A bit more disconcerting was the thunderstorm forecast, so I just made sure to have what I needed in case storms hit us during the race.
Despite doing all the “right” things, I didn’t get a wink of sleep Friday night! Oh well! Was up and at ‘em and just wanted to get going. Morning was pretty warm all things considered. Was fun to see friends at the start and get the trail party started. Had a wonderful run up through North Canyon on the way to Hobart that morning and was really enjoying the start. Rolled into Hobart right on time, albeit feeling the climb a tiny bit – just needed to wake up the body a bit. Loved the Dia de Muertos theme at Hobart!
From Hobart to Tunnel Creek, I was really in the flow, with fun miles with Julian. Unfortunately, my brain turned off for the nanosecond it took to catch my left toe hard on a rock and get thrown to the ground very hard. Landed mostly on my right quad and my right calf instantly starting seizing. Man, was I annoyed with myself, both for tripping and opting to not tape my left psoas/glute and right calf because I thought that I would be annoyed later in the heat. Popped back up so that I could get the calf to stop seizing, brushed off and got going again.
One of my goals for TRT 2018 was quicker turns in the aid station. I hit Tunnel Creek fired up and ready to go. Grabbed coconut water from my brother Matt and my good friend Eric Ellisen, who had hiked up to cheer me, and was out in under 20 seconds! Woohoo! Had a very good Red House loop, scoring a big hug from Frankie Stone on my way up as she descended in the 50 miler. I was feeling a bit of a low point coming into to Tunnel the second time, truth be told, because my non-cooperative GI was an energy thief in my legs and was kicking myself for not taping. Asked Matt to bring my KT tape to Diamond Peak and I would remedy things there. Thankfully that was my only negative mental state of the whole event.
I felt the best that I ever had on the Tunnel Creek to Bull Wheel segment and beyond on the way to the Tyrolian downhill. No altitude or heat stress and was right on the pace that I wanted. So stoked! Julian took off in this stretch as if on jet fuel, but I restrained myself because that was a “speed kills” pace. When I was by myself, I was even singing out loud (sorry surrounding flora and fauna, ghastly, I know.) Hit Diamond Peak in a great split. Matt’s crewing was so on point – he helped me tape, gave me my ice shirt/bandana/hat, fuel and hydration and got me out of there to hit the hill. Attacked Diamond Peak climb with constant and relentless forward motion. My friend Baldwyn Chieh passed me as we were part of the way up – he is amazing on that hill!! Unfortunately, the tape job on my legs was for naught, as the direct sun on the climb melted the tape right off of me. Very near the top, I had an odd sensation that, with the benefit of hindsight, was probably the initial flare sent up by my body regarding the brewing infection. I had this flash headache and a hint of nausea. So, I took a few minutes to regroup at Bull Wheel and ate and drank there rather than on the move. When that sensation passed, I hit it to get to Tunnel.
At Tunnel, I visited the medics to see if they had tape. In what was pure stubbornness and foolishness on my part, I tried to apply it to my slimy self. They patiently watched me fumble, and then offered again to help me. They alcohol prepped me and then applied glue and then applied the Rock Tape. They instructed me to not pull it off because of the glue, and that it had to come off on its own or I would rip my skin. Took me a bit of extra time at Tunnel, but I was sure that that was worth it. Still have some of the calf tape on today, 7/28/18!
Climbing back to Hobart, even with the medics’ expertise, dang tape on the left leg started flapping in the breeze. Oh well! Figured that was a message from the universe so I decided no more taping was to be. Was really looking forward to some beer at Hobart and motored along. I was also motivated as there was a storm that seemed to be advancing northward to us and I really wanted to be through Hobart and out of Snow Peak Valley if that came along. Saw some lightening far off and heard some thunder, so was processing contingency plans as I moved along. Nothing came of that on course, fortunately, with the storm staying east of us off of the ridge. Hobart did not disappoint and had wonderful Brewer’s Cabinet Dragon’s Punch IPA, apparently a session IPA. The Boy Scouts were also amazing as always at Snow Peak – my favorite there was a Nutella & strawberry jam sandwich on gluten free bread; was sorry to only get through there once as it turned out.
The stretch to Stonehenge was great – I was motoring on the downhill. Matt says that he thinks I moved up ~20 places! I was so happy on this stretch, even as the pain began in my left lower shin area. Didn’t know what was going on there, but I could run and that I did. Matt was super at Stonehenge again – with everything that I needed. I wanted to get out of there a bit faster but took a bit too long on my feet; this is an area for time saving improvement for me in the future.
Headed out for the second lap in a great mental state and very energetic. Unfortunately, the left shin pain was increasing with every step. I still hit my planned split to Hobart so didn’t lose hope. Picked up Baldwyn there and we worked together to get to Tunnel with a very solid split for 2 lame horses. Stopped at Tunnel to look at the leg and there was the tiniest swelling under my calf sleeve but nothing to warrant stopping.
The Red House descent made the shin crazy angry. I couldn’t run down and was being passed left and right. My plan was to get some ice wrapped on at Red House aid station and press. However, when I got there and removed my calf sleeve, it was clear from the dramatic change in swelling and redness that the jig was up. The misleading feature was nothing warm to the touch at that time. Also, there was the early tumble due to the left foot toe catch so that pointed to possible trauma causing what I feeling. There was a bump but hadn’t ever felt a bug bite or seen one. Baldwyn came through while I was in the chair with ice trying to figure out what was happening; he gave me a hug and I told him to go get it done and he did! Red House folks were awesome, and after a lot of weighing of options, best plan was for me to self-evac to Tunnel to get to the medical team up there. A volunteer from there, Jacob, hiked with me the whole, godforsakenly slow way up. Even through that, my energy level was high and my mood was positive – it was beautiful night to hike and I just needed to hold on to that thought. Jacob got me to the check-in at Tunnel where I declared that I was DNF and went to the medical tent, take 2.
Due to the somewhat odd combination of things, it seemed like a fluke muscle injury, with muscle herniating through the fascia on the lower left leg. Dr. Pasternak said that if we were at the hospital, this would be one he’d bring all the residents to see. Dr. Pasternak and his team at Tunnel were very kind and helped me with how the injury presented itself at that point. As a proper precaution, Tunnel medical staff drew a contour around the swollen area so that if that was some type of infection, it could be more easily identified. I had texted Matt from Tunnel so that he wouldn’t go to Diamond Peak to crew me at 5 AM but he never got the text. He then ended up with time to kill at Diamond Peak and ended up helping tear down the aid station. I spent a few hours at Tunnel, until someone was available to give me and 2 others a lift down to Diamond Peak. Thanks, Jeffrey Connor for that ride!!
Got cleaned up and wanted to get to the finish to see Julian and Baldwyn finish. That turned out to be a fortuitous decision. Getting the right care quickly with the change in how the injury was presenting on Sunday afternoon was due to the phenomenal attention of TRT RD George Ruiz at the finish line. Huge thanks to him for that as well as putting together the most phenomenal team for TRT! In the midst of all that George Ruiz had going on at the finish, he once again showed how much he cares about all of us out there racing by making sure that I followed up with Dr. Islas. His care saved me untold time and likely cost, as the infection went asymptotic in the afternoon and I would have been in urgent care that evening. When I saw him at the finish line medical tent, the redness had spread outside of the boundary and was now hot to the touch.
It seems that the mostly likely explanation for what happened is that a bug bite occurred, probably in the morning on Saturday, that carried staph into my skin and caused cellulitis. How many thousands of bug bites have I had with dirt or mud covering me and never had such a thing happen! Add this one to the list of figurative lightning strikes. I wanted to share this as a PSA in case anyone else were to encounter something similar. Also, as a PSA, there aren’t any pharmacies open in Incline Village on a Sunday!
Very happy to report that getting the antibiotics prescribed by Dr. Islas on board resulted in a very effective counterattack with the swelling and redness down on Monday morning, 7/23/18. I have continued to improve and am seeing my primary care doc on Monday, 7/30/18. Once I have a clearer picture on full healing time, then I can plan the next adventure and capitalize on this fitness base. I had a wonderful, joyous race, had a blast with my brother, overcame health issues from late last year, and had an awesome training cycle for TRT 2018. This Do Not Forget was just a bad stroke of luck, so I press on with joy, eagerly anticipating getting back to it. Happy trails, all!