I did the Flint Ridge Trail 4 and 10 mile race on Saturday with Mike. We chose to do the 4 miler, and it was the perfect transition from the hot and humid KT82 endurance race just 2 weeks prior.
The race began at 9am, which was an excellent start time. Other races should take note! I left my house at 7:30am and we had to drive about 45 minutes to get to the park. We arrived a good 45 minutes early, and had time to meander about and use the porter john. Michael had an interesting stretch routine. The temperature was nearly perfect at around 60 degrees.
The race had about 300 participants, and we were sent off in waves every minute depending on pace. I stood in the middle of the 10 minute mile folks.
For the first two miles, the trails were a flat, winding single track through the woods. This was extremely pleasant and a great way to warm up. Eventually we crossed over a road and started climbing a ridge into the woods. This wasn’t a hard climb, but a rather gentle slope, and I was feeling great. Curiously, I was hearing screams in the distance ahead of me. My thoughts were “Oh, there must be some cold creek that people are romping through. That might be fun!” Oh how wrong I was.
In about 3 minutes, I noticed the screams were right in front of me, and they didn’t seem like the “Wooh this is fun!” type of screaming but more of a blood curdling “Oh my god I’m gonna die!” type of screaming. I soon realized why when I found myself amidst a swarm of yellow jackets (or possibly hornets?!) There was really nothing to do but run through it as it was on a high ridge… and boy, did I. Two women in front of me were screaming and I was pretty much just shouting expletives while getting stung. One of the women, gasping for air, said she had to stop and came to a halt while we were still nowhere near clear of the swarm. I darted around them and just took off. I heard more screams behind me and noticed they had continued running and swatting. Finally I stopped at the top of a hill, pretty sure that I was clear of it. Another guy and gal had stopped as well – all gasping for air. We look at each other and I just say “fucking hell!” That was some real Hunger Games shit.
The last 1.6 miles (my GPS read 3.6 rather than 4 for a final distance) were fine, though I could feel the painful reminders of the swarm. At that point, however, I couldn’t help but laugh about the whole experience. I talked with a lady near the end who was supposed to run the 10 mile race but she said there was no way she was running by that nest again or chancing another one. Mike got stung 8-10 times, I ended up counting at least 5 stings on me. We each had a cup of Goldfish and a beer, then decided to hit the road rather shortly. While changing near the car a yellow jacket flew off of my hat, and one was in the car when we got in. Those mean little bastards just don’t know when to stop. The swelling has finally gone down this morning.
Now, before the race even began, the announcer told the 10 milers that near the end of their route there was a white 5-gallon bucket overturned over a hornets nest. They said the nest was already treated and they just needed to give it a wide berth. I guess they didn’t notice the yellow jackets’ nest at mile 2, unless it was the same spot… perhaps the leader kicked the bucket over and bolted ahead?!
As a not so fun aside, I did hear about a runner going down and possibly having allergies to the stings. That is kind of scary, but I haven’t heard any thing in the way of accidents so I assume that all runners made it out alive.
Besides the yellow jackets, the race was excellent and I do plan on participating again next year.
Happy trails everyone!