I was looking for a new experience heading into the Cuyamaca 100k, but got one I hadn't bargained for.
With Gobi 100k merely 6 days prior, my main goals were two-fold. For one, I wanted to get a Western States Qualifier on the books. For two, I was curious if I could deliver a poor man's Michael Wardian by competing in two events with little recovery time. Granted, Mike would have given himself hours between races, while I gave myself the luxury of a few days.
I am always fascinated with recovery and how it varies. This race looked to provide some new information on this front, as the quickest I have ever done back-to-back ultras above 50 kilometers in the past had been 13 days.
The race began quite relaxed. I basically settled in with last Kris Brown, last years winner, for the relatively flat early miles. I remember thinking things were really smooth and the first aid station at mile 8.5 came up quickly. I hadn't been looking at my watch, but rather focusing on how my body felt and targeting an approach that would make the final loop of this three loop course not feel like a death march. So, when I glanced at my watch upon leaving the first aid station I was pleasantly surprised to realize we had come through the first aid in approximately an hour.
The next section went equally as smooth with slightly slower paces due to an increase in climbs and technicality. Kris and I rolled into the mile 14.5 aid station relaxed and enjoying getting to know one another. In retrospect, I should have taken on more water at this aid station as the next 9 mile stretch was the biggest climb on the course, quite exposed, and I had been taking electrolyte tabs in a quantity that merrited more water than I had been drinking.
After leaving the aid station this realization that I hadn't been taking in quite enough water to match my electrolytes surfaced. My stomach turned a bit and I pulled over briefy to assess. I ended up dry heaving a couple times. My stomach didn't appreciate the sodium wter imbalance, so I took a minute to drink the water I had taken from the aid station.
I took the climbs up to the next aid station really chill as I knew it might be a bit of a stretch since I had downed my water and wouldn't see another drop until mile 23. I was definitely feeling a bit dry upon the final climb into that aid station, so I took an extra minute to drink plenty of water and load up on some for the road. I left the aid station feeling really good! It's funny how such a simple thing as adequate water can make such a profound difference in such a short period of time. A good reminder for future events and training.
As I descended from the aid station down to the trail entrance, I thought to myself that it was going to be fun to open up a bit on some of the downhill ahead. I felt smooth and was pleasantly surprised with my energy levels and leg strength given the short turn around from Gobi 100k.
As I turned left onto the singletrack, I was met with a relatively smooth trail covered in pine needles. This section was brief and quickly turned into exposed rock singletrack. I remember thinking that I had plenty of water to get me the four miles to the next aid staion and all I had to really think about was moving smooth and sipping water. Then it happned. THUMP!!! I had no time to even realize I had tripped before hearing the sound of head on rock. I knew right away I had banged my head pretty hard as the blood began to pour off my forehead. I dodged a huge bullet by managing to remain conscious as it couldn't have been more than five seconds before I ripped my head buff off and applied pressure to the gash on my forehead. With a noticeable bump on my head and the amount of blood, I knew I had to head back up the trail to the last checkpoint. Going forward with no real idea of how much damage I had done was not an option, especially when dealing with the head.
I slowly worked my way back up the singletrack, making certain that I maintained pressure on the forehead gash. About midway up I remembered I had a wad of toilet paper in my pocket and thought it would be smart to switch over to that as the head buff was pretty well saturated at this point. I made the switch quickly and kept moving up the trail. Shortly after I got back to the volunteer who was making sure the runners made the right turn onto the singletrack. He immediately knew something was wrong, so he walked with me up to a shady spot and chair where more volunteers were stationed.
I couldn't have been in better hands as multiple volunteers and aid station workers from the peak aid staion made sure I had some first aid provided before a ranger was able to make it up the mountain to get me down to the EMT. They cleaned me up as best they could and continually checked to make sure I wasn't exibiting any signs of head trauma (nausea, dizziness, etc.). Since I hadn't passed out, I was able to recall the whole event.
The ranger was up the mountain before I knew it. He also made sure I was not exibiting any head or neck problems and ushered me down to the start finish line.
I spent about an hour and a half with the EMT, checking my vitals and for potential signs of more damage. I checked out on all the truly serious possibilities, so the next step was getting cleaned up and a doctor's opinion on the next move.
After being given the okay by the EMT, I decided to wait a few hours before having the bandage removed to make sure the wound wouldn't reopen. After all, the damage had been done. After a bit of rest and cleaning up, I slowly took off the bandage to see what the gash looked like. I was a bit surprised how big it was and knew there really was no choice to be made other than getting it cleaned out and stitched up.
I rebandaged the gash and went into Urgent Care. I showed them a picture of the wound, and they sent me to the nearest hospital where they knew a doctor was available who had experience with stitching these types of wounds as cosmetically as possible.
The doctor did a thorough job of cleaning out the wound and explained to me that what was required was some internal stitching, which would dissolve, followed by another layer of stitches to close the gap in my forehead. He used a suture procedure with two bows and a weaving technique under the surface skin to minimize scarring.
I was in and out pretty quick, all things considered, with a newly sealed up forehead and an appreciation for medical staff. Going forward, I have been advised to revist my local doctor to monitor potential infections and follow up on any other potential head trauma.
I can't thank enough the folks at Cuyamaca for how prepared they were for the unexpected. The organization of this event is class act, and Scott Crellin (RD) has a special event that has a very traditional ultramarathon feel to it. The 24.5 miles I managed to cover were covered with spectacular scenery and views. I would strongly encourage anyone looking for that ultrarunning community this sport has been built on to check out this event. Especially if you are more competent with technical descents than I apparently am.
Pre-race checkin and prep
Start/Finsh during the wee hours of the morning before the start
Post stitching gash