This was my second attempt at the 100k distance at the Canyons. At least it wasn’t raining this year. But after leaving Cal 2 and reaching the river with what I thought might be food-poisoning like nausea, something loud came barreling down the mountain through the understory – headed my direction.
“What now?” I thought.
A large brown bear landed squarely on the trail not ten feet in front of me and gave me a good looking over.
Fortunately, California bears are mellow – not like the grizzly bear in Alaska who still carries a grudge about the extermination of its cousins (ursus arctos californicus). I actually said “hello” out loud. Correctly reasoning that I was friendly, the bear executed what to my eye looked like a perfect pirouette and charged off in the other direction. I once heard it said that bears are not good down-hill runners. I am now in a position to refute this assumption.
But one-quarter mile later, I was on the ground for a different reason. The nausea was not improving, and I had abdominal pain. So I sat down. Then the rapid and shallow breathing that precedes a good technicolor yawn started. So I lay face down. That’s when other runners started coming by.
And this is what I find most endearing and comforting about the ultra-running community. To a person, everyone stopped and asked what had happened. Was I alright? Did I need water, s-caps, anything? Did I want them to stay and help in anyway? Runners were willing to give up their goals of finishing before cutoff to assist, which is why this is such a noble sport.
“I’ll be fine. Thank you. Just nauseous. If you could mention that I might need help at the aid station. Don’t let me hold you up…I need to rest for a while before I get moving.” Since brevity is the sole of wit, I condensed things a bit to “nauseous, resting, will get going, thanks!”
It was relaxing in a way to lay face down on the trail. The river was making river sounds, there may have been some birds chirping…there were lots of mosquitoes (but again, California mosquitoes are mellow compared with Amazonian mosquitoes). I did, however, notice it was getting cold and dark. This thought had me sitting-up debating which direction I should start to walk. Where would help be coming from?
Do I head uphill for two and one-half miles in the dark, or west along five and one-half miles of nice rolling trail? Well, I knew what the answer had to be. It was just hard to convince the body that help would come from Cal 2 (uphill) rather than Rucky Chucky.
Within five minutes of moving, Lesley Dellamonica and Naomi Plasterer came barreling down the hill charging in a way that would have made that bear nod gently in reverent praise. Afterwards, they said my face was white as a ghost, which is a hard look to pull off with a sun-burn. But they placed me between them, and we slowly made our way uphill, occasionally trying to get me to drink some flat soda, and occasionally, me pausing to sit on the trail for a moment.
I could go into minutia about how the rest of the evening went, but I’ll just end by expressing my immense gratitude to everyone who assisted along the way. There was never any doubt that I would get back up that hill. And that was mainly due to the optimism and encouragement of my companions, Lesley and Naomi. They kept me moving. There was also Bill Hunter at Cal 2 who checked that I would be fine and eventually drove me and another bedraggled runner back to Foresthill. There was Carrol Lindsay, the nurse at Foresthill who let me rest on a cot with a warm blanket and tried to feed me various edible tidbits – all the while saying I was looking better as time passed. There was the volunteer who retrieved dry clothes from my car. And finally, there was the Race Director, Chaz, who showed compassion at Foresthill and put on one-hell-of-an-awesome event. All these precious pieces of the chain that pulled me up from the river and the darkness, all these awesome people, these awesome runners…these are the kind of people who get things done! Thank you for making the world a better place…
Will there be a third attempt next year? The adventure continues…
You’re phenomenal! This is beautiful:
>And this is what I find most endearing and comforting about the ultra-running community. To a person, everyone stopped and asked what had happened.
What spirit .
What was this? Was it food poisoning after all? Sun stroke? Consumption? 🙂
Thanks for going back up that hill. Next time I hope to be there pacing!
Oh my goodness, Rick. I just died laughing and then felt bad for knowing that you were in such misery out there. I swear I think there is something in your blood that attracts bears. Is that 3 for the year so far?
I am so sorry that your stomach rebelled but I love that you can appreciate the compassion and the humor in this adventure.
We will get you that 100k finish but can I suggest that we start with Miwok? Cooler climate (usually) and not as demanding but by no means easy. It is very tough but maybe the sea air would help.
You’re an amazingly talented runner who always has to wait forever for this slow poke. Not only will we get you that 100k, we will see you run a 100 miler soon!
I do think you should have a test done to see if you’ve recovered from the food poisoning that you had over the last few months. I had to go on a special antibiotic after our honeymoon in Mexico to get rid of an intestinal parasite. Maybe something like that has been lingering in there ?
Hello Rick, great write up. The two ladies that helped you from Cal2 were Lesley Dellamonica and Naomi Plasterer. The gentlemen that drove you back to Foresthill was Bill Hunter, and Carrol Lindsay was the lady that help you at Foresthill.
We look forward to having you back next year!
Richard Watson said:
Thanks Sean. I’ve dropped in their names. It’s great to give proper credit to everyone involved in this exceedingly well run event. Cheers!
Also if you want to replace the penguin photo I snapped a few before sunset of you coming up the hill in the emergency blanket. 🙂 Hope to see you again next year, but in better shape of course!
Richard Watson said:
Thanks for everything Naomi! It would be interesting to see the photos if you can email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Did you say Bear ? I’m registered for my 1st 50 miler. I’ll be reading your articles for pointers.
When’s your next event?
Richard Watson said:
A furry bear, yes. What 50 are you training for? I have Rio Del Lago scheduled for the fall.
It’s called Tunnel Hill – it a 50 and a 100. In Vienna, Illinois. No bears. November. It’s a doable course – flat among old train route. No terrain to negotiate.