Highlands Sky 2011 – Joanne Fenninger

It was a typical beginning, runners lined up for the port-o-johns, loosening up, catching up with friends, Dan calling names of runners not yet checked-in.  However, shortly after starting off, we heard an unexpected noise and low and behold galloping down the road was a loose pony, his tether rope snaked out behind him, who had decided to break free and join the race.  Now I used to ride Thoroughbred race horses for a living and this fella certainly was not one but I guess some of us are just born to run and when the compulsion overtakes us we cannot deny the calling.  I am a first time Highlands Skyer so I had read the course descriptions and looked at all the maps and concluded that one should probably manage their energy expenditure in the initial stages of the run with the hope of picking-up a stronger pace in the latter half and having a solid finish. With that in mind, it seems that my climbing technique astounded the runner behind me as he remarked, “I’ve never seen anyone so methodical, almost mechanical”.  One of my drill sergeants had made a similar remark to me several years ago as he had us carrying furniture up and down stairs. Go Army!  We made our way along the trail and as I ran through a section that was almost like a medieval forest I have to admit, I was having a great time.  Some people do not seem to comprehend what pure joy it is to run and look at you as if you hail from another galaxy when you say that three letter word and if you continue on it seems that they are ready to fit you for one of those white coats with funny sleeves.  Aliens are amongst us.  Then we hit a rocky section where you had to have really quick feet and we were almost chuckling but making good time. Unfortunately it was about here that my foot slipped on one large flat rock, I fell forward and whacked my head on another rock bruising my chin and cutting my brow. Surprising – as hard as my head is you would think I would have busted the rock. The runner behind me stopped, took a look and said I’d need stitches and asked if I was dizzy or anything. I assured him that I was perfectly alright and that he should continue on – no need for me to ruin another’s race just because I bonked my fool head.  I always carry a handkerchief and pressed that to my cranium to prevent blood running down my face and in my eyes – head wounds always bleed a lot no matter how minor and if you walk in with a lot of blood on you people tend to become upset.  We were only about half a mile from the aid station and it seems the warning had been sounded as I was immediately directed to the EMTs.  I had simply hoped to be handed a band-aid.  As the medic started to explain to me that I required stitches and should have that done within six hours, I was distressed and asked him, “Are you telling me that I have to drop out?” – Only ten miles in and a dnf, unbelievable, can’t be!  However, he told me it was my choice, advising that I should have it sewn up sooner rather than later to avoid infection and scarring.  I already have a similar scar over my left eye (plus many others) this would merely give me a matching set. Those of us with slight OCD tendencies seem to prefer symmetry anyway. So they taped the cut together and made me a headband of gauze – looking absolutely ridiculous.  I spent at least ten minutes at that aid station but I was still running.  I felt pretty good into aid station three but my neck hurt and I was feeling a little like passing out going into four – not that I was going to admit that.  I took two ibuprofen kept going and felt better although walking more than expected and not making as good time as I had hoped.  Knocked down a notch or two but not out.  I had rinsed my bloody handkerchief out in a stream but you could still smell the blood on it.  I had it tucked in my waist band and images of the Anthony Hopkins/Alec Baldwin movie “The Edge” with the man-eating grizzly came to mind. (clips at- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdVa7p_jicE). I saw the EMTs again at aid station six; the bandage had not even bled through.  I believe the race photographer was actually taking snaps of me with that idiotic thing around my head.  Any way we continued through the “exciting boulder hopping” section and on to the finish.  Somewhere along the way, I had torn off a huge portion of the toe section of my left shoe – though God only knows when, where and how, I managed that. A doctor looked at my head concurring that I should get stitches and providing directions to the facility in Elkins but told me it was fine to take a shower first.  A blessing for which the personnel and patrons at the outpatient facility are surely thankful as I was exceptionally dirty, sweaty, smelly. I still truly believed that it was just a scrape and a band-aid would do just fine, however when I got a look at it myself the cut was longer and wider than anticipated and so off to Elkins I went.  I took me five hours and was past nine when I returned, certain that all had long since turned-in.   I planned to go out for an easy run Sunday morning before heading home but the rain changed my mind.  So I left WV with a few stitches, antibiotics, a tetanus shot, some bruises on my face and scrapes on my knee. I finished and enjoyed the day – not bad overall.  Happy trails.