Surprise... I did my first trail running event this weekend.
I got to the Wild Horse Criterium in plenty of time to register and was delighted to receive race number 226 - the number of kms you complete in an Ironman triathlon. I thought immediately that it must be a good omen, not only for my ever approaching eighth iron-distance at Ironman Cairns, but for my ambitious plan to become an ultramarathon runner.
As I attached number 226 to my race belt, I had no way of knowing that the day would unfold in a most unexpected manner. But as wild as the ride was yesterday, it isn't all bad.
I didn't know what to expect of the course for today. I was expecting it to be reasonably flat, but from the photos posted on the event Facebook page I thought the terrain would be extremely varied, with segments that would definitely push me outside my comfort zone.
It didn't disappoint. On my first of two laps I passed along fire trails, skirted around mud pools, eased through creek crossings, floundered in soft sand, and reveled in the sections through the pine forest, which were shaded and soft underfoot.
As always it took me time to warm up, but by the end of the lap I was feeling pretty good, and looking forward to the return journey. Uniquely, you run alternate directions on each lap at this event.
Just a few ks after the turnaround, running seemingly comfortably on a section of fire trail kind of terrain when I tripped over... something. A rock? A stick? My own feet?
I felt something funky in my right pinky finger as I picked myself up. One glance at my right hand and I knew things weren't right. That thing was bent. Badly.
A couple of blokes came up behind me, asked me if I was OK, so I stuck out my hand and said, "I think I've dislocated my finger."
"Ohhh... ohhh. I don't cope well with that kind of stuff." the first guy said, averting his eyes. What, did he think I was loving this?
"Well, its only two or three ks back to the start of the lap, it's a lot longer if you keep going," the second guy said.
After a bit of a pause, I said, "I think I'm going to keep going. I feel alright, it's just my finger that's stuffed." (I may have used a different word to describe how my finger looked.)
I took off, albeit tentatively. When I got to the checkpoint halfway through I told the team there about my injury. I thought it was the right thing to do.
"Common sense says you should sit down and we'll call an ambulance," the first guy said.
I looked at the chair he was gesturing to but didn't say anything, let alone move towards it.
Seeing my reaction, the second guy joked, "yeah, but common sense... Pfft!"
"Are you feeling unwell at all?" the first guy asked.
"I feel good, except my finger's bent. I can't risk falling over again. I think if I take it easy I'll be OK," I offered.
"Look, if you feel OK, keep up your fluids and sugar, and only run the fire trails. It'll be easier for us to get an ambulance for you at the end anyway."
I kind of realised at that point that my injury was kind of serious, and that an ambulance and hospital visit was probably inevitable. I almost reconsidered the waiting chair, but it didn't quite seem comfy enough. So on I went.
Back through the pine forest, around the mud pools, through the creek crossings, and ever so slowly across the soft sand.
Before too long I crossed the finish line, was given my chocolate bunny - it was Easter Sunday after all - and found KKB. At which point I started blubbering away with tears and words that probably didn't make much sense, and waving my injured hand around.
I must have got my message across because KKB was soon leading me to Alun, the race director, and explaining that he would take me to hospital to get it checked out.
"Someone told us about you, we were wondering where you were," he said.
He and Brett, the co-race-director sat me down, asked me all the normal questions (one in particular more than once), then got on the phone to call 000. Before I knew it I was in the back of an ambulance on my way to Caloundra hospital where an x-ray confirmed no fracture, just a dislocation.
A massive swig of happy gas was just enough to allow a nurse practitioner to pop it back in again. Only just. Apparently I screamed and laughed and my legs kicked out all over the place. Even through the haze, it was far from a pleasant experience.
I'm now splinted and bandaged up, and my finger is straight again. The next x-ray was perfect.
So. With an injury bad enough for an ambulance ride to emergency, how is it possible that 226 was a good omen?
When we were waiting for the ambulance, Brett (who had run 33ks himself that day) asked me for the second or third time, "so where did you do this again?"
I explained again that I'd fallen somewhere between the 13 and 14k mark.
"If you can run 8ks with that you should be an ultramarathoner."
Maybe it was a good omen after all.