Sunday, September 22, 2013

Race Recap: The Happy Girls Run Forest Grove. (I'm not exactly a "happy girl", but I am a half marathoner!)


I was fortunate enough to run the Happy Girls Run at Hagg Lake for free (minus state park parking fees) after winning a contest they had on their facebook page!
Packet pickup swag
At packet pick up in downtown Portland, I got my tech shirt (also free for half marathon participants) and my free Sock Guy socks!  (I can't wait to try those out!)  The swag is your typical fare, with ads for other races, a protein bar and such... but I feel like I'm in the big times now that a tech shirt comes FREE with registration!  Yeah!  (It's the little things that make me happy.)

Extra swag bag!
 Then I won another contest on their facebook page for submitting a picture of my outfit for the race.  Part of the spoils' description was a "race and lifestyle" goodies bag (with an LE Bandz headband... but I didn't get the headband.  It was a free prize so I'm not going to go complain to them about it.  Maybe they'll find it and pass it along to another lucky gal.)  Some of the prizes are a little silly, like a kazoo with one of the sponsor's logo on it.  Also, a pretty neat tech shirt... in size "Women's small".  I'm very happily plugging along on my weight loss journey, but that isn't a fat issue, that's a frame issue!  I don't think I'll ever be a "small".  Oh well, my daughter can have a new running shirt when she rides around in the jogging stroller.

The half Marathoners starting their race

We got a bit turned around on our way to the race, but we definitely got there before the start!  Woo Hoo!  The website said that "Happy Girls" are known for their pre and post race festivities.  I guess getting there 40 minutes before start was too late to party with the Happy Girls?  Or maybe the party was just not festive with all the rain?

We're all from Oregon, we don't rust.   What's a little rain?  No big deal!  But, I just let the pre race party roll off like water on a duck's back.  No big deal.  Maybe a little disappointment, but I needed to stretch and enjoy my family before my first half marathon anyway.  :)  

After the start, we ran on the road for 4 miles.  The first mile was a pretty steep incline and I was impressed!  That was a tough way to start out a half marathon, but I was ready and excited for the challenge.  

The race venue is a small, intimate one.  The 5K had around 87 participants, the 10K had 76 participants and the half had 203 participants.  I stayed with the same group of ladies ahead and behind me for the beginning of the race, and it made me feel like I was figuring out this whole pace thing.  

At mile 4 we got to hit the trail!  This was what I had been looking forward to.  The canopy from the trees was lush enough that I could flip my hat backwards and enjoy the view without the rain pelting me.

Rain and mud and seeing where I was going was the least of my worries....


After plugging away on the trail for about a mile I start to hear what I thought were cheers.  Maybe the next aid station was getting pretty excited?  I got further on the trail and heard for sure screams of terror.  Someone screamed to me to "RUN!" and I was so confused.   My thoughts were "I am... running.  Run back for help?  Keep running and get away from you.  What the....  OUCH!  What the hell!?!"  My bum was hurting.  I was going to keep forward and get the hell out of there!  OUCH!  What the hell was going on?

And then I saw one of the women screaming.  She was no longer on the path... in fact she was quite a ways from it and screaming and tearing her clothes off.  Bees.

I heard more screaming and came to another group of girls.  They were screaming and instructing me to get out of there.  We all needed to get out of there!  As I passed by one of the girls, she screamed "oh my god!" and started swatting at my back and legs.  I overheard her later tell another runner that I had "hundreds" of them on my back.  Yea.

That fun fiasco was around mile 5.  I trotted ahead with the woman who rescued me from all the hornets clinging to me.  I'm not sure where the other six or seven ladies were, but we needed to get out of there fast.  
As we made a bend in the trail we saw a young woman wondering in the path.  She seemed drunk.  This race was only getting "better".   

I called out to her, "Are you okay?"
"No.  I don't know..."
As I got closer I asked if she had been stung.
"Yes!  All over!"  And the poor thing started to weep.  It became clear fast that she had been in a daze from shock.  We all were taken by surprise by it.  Then she started screaming, "My mom!  We have to go back for my mom!  She's allergic!"


Me or my new running friend said something like, "I think the best thing for us is to move forward so we don't get stung anymore and go get help."

I lead the way while my rescuer explained very soothingly to the young girl that her stings looked very small "like mosquito bites" and she was going to be okay.  I told her we were just going to take this one mile at a time and hope for an aid station at mile 6.

It honestly seemed to take forever, but I started to hear cars again on the road aove us and started screaming at the top of my lungs for help.  No answer.  "Can you hear me?"  And I got an answer! "Yes!"

At mile 5.5 we had finished that bit of trail and were on a wide shoulder of the road.  Two race volunteers or officials were parked there greeting us with big smiles on their faces.  I wanted to smack them!  Did they not hear me saying "help" not, "Hi, how are you?" ?  They were just sitting in their trucks with the doors open with ear-to-ear grins.

"Bees.  Yeah we know."  He cut me off.
"There's people injured!  They need help!  They are still back there!  Her mother is allergic to bees and still back there!"
Then my poor little friend went frantic again.
One of the men asked his coworker, "Should we call 911?"
A pause of thought and then "Yeah."  and he pulled out his walkie talkie and called for help.

If they knew there was an issue of bees from other runners passing through, why on earth did they not send an official down there to see if they could see any runners down or injured or in need of assistance?  

With my backside inflamed, I ran on and hoped that the young lady was going to be okay and that her mom and her would be reunited (safely) very soon.

The race continued again back on the trail and I watched the ground, looking for holes that might be hornet nests.  I was a bundle of nerves.  I started to settle into a peace of mind and calmer demeanor when I noticed some garbage in the bushes bearing the Xterra logo from my last race in August.  Bummer!  Just as I was reaching for it to minimize the footprint racing in the area is causing, I heard screaming.

Mile 7 was un passable and another woman was covered in stings... or bites.... or whatever it is these tough yellow and black fighters do.  It hurts bad!  She instructed me that no one should under any circumstances attempt to get past mile 7 on this path.

So, I turned around and told every runner I passed to do the same.
"Turn around!  Bees on mile 7!  We can't get past.  Go to mile 5.5 and take the raod!"

When I got back to mile 5.5 where the guys had so chivalrously called 911, there were paramedics and firetrucks on the scene checking the runners over.   They asked me "Are you stung?"
"Yes, but there are more bees at mile 7!  We can't get past them and more runners have been stung down there!  We need to take the road past this section."  So, with that, the race had been rerouted.

We ran on the road again until mile... well, according to my garmin, I had gone 12 miles.  Someone ahead of me stopped during a torrential downpour to put on her jacket.  She turned around and saw me and exclaimed, "It's so good to see you still smiling!"  I think I might have been gritting my teeth with the pouring rain and the chills setting in, but I'm glad she thought it was a smile.

Smile, because you never know who you are inspiring.

We got back on the trail at mile 12, I think mile 10 of the race course and stayed there for 2 miles.  It's amazing how much can happen in a little space of distance.  I was getting very turned around with the poor marked trail.  There were some places where the trail forked in three directions and I had no idea which path to choose.  Remembering my 10k race, I tried to hug the paths closest to the lake.  I remember the Xterra race mentioning to stay away from the stream.  The stream meant we had gone the wrong way.  Well, another three part fork and I look over to see the stream.  I cursed out loud and was feeling completely lost and angry since I had already done more than 13 miles and looking forward to some warm clothes and someone to check over these damn bee stings.  What was i supposed to do?

"Are we lost?"  We?  What?  I turned around.  A group of women had been following me.  Crap.
"Yup!  Which way do you think we should go?"  What was I going to do?  I didn't want to lead anymore.  I was tired and cold and getting disheartened.  Someone looked to the steep monster of a path on the far left and we saw a small white sign on the top.  I ran up it and could see the happy girl logo.   "Mile 12".

We weren't going to freeze to death at Hagg Lake!

We entered back out onto the road and finished our race...

I hurt so bad, but I gave it my all at the end.
 The icing on the cake for this race was when I crossed the finish line, I asked the gal running the packet pickup from the day before where the "first aid tent" was.  "Oh.  Are you stung?"  I replied I was and would like some help.
"Well, if you go down there, someone will get you an ice pack."
I go "down there" where the awards assembly was held earlier and where the vendors used to be.  Everyone was packing up to go.  The brewery who was a sponsor had cosmos and cocktails lining his card table, so i asked him, "Do you know where to get an ice pack for injuries down here?"
He had no idea.  He was clearly the only one in the area with any ice at all, so he gave me a cup of ice.

A cup of ice.  Lovely.  Not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but that was a little more awkward and hard to deal with for icing injuries on the back of me.  The website stated this would be a "fully supported race."  I guess they define that by having water tables, porta potties and booze at the end.  I'd think it meant having a cooler full of ice packs... if not an actual first aid station.

It's a race on a trail, for goodness sake!  Apparently no other sport has as many injuries as running does, and on a muddy, wet trail nonetheless.  It would be very beneficial to have a first aid station for those sprained ankles, sore IT bands... and god forbid, attacks from hornets or other wildlife.  

I didn't finish with a stellar time, 14+ miles in 3 1/2 hours, but wasn't the race cut off 4 hours with the finish line open for 5?  Where was everyone?  I guess if you're slow and have to back track to avoid being attacked, you miss out on the after party.  So, I took my ice, that the bartender kindly dumped into a soggy cocktail napkin and snapped a few pictures before going home to recoup there.

If you sign up for a race for the "bling", you can pass on this one.  It is poorly made, with pockmarks on it's surface from the mold it was made with.  It's on a cotton thread of a cord and the words are too small to read.  The letters run together.  

Which is bigger?  My finisher's medal or the welts from my adventure?

This is a poor picture, but you can take my word for it that the welts are bigger.

If this race has you interested for the view, just go run Hagg Lake on a weekend and save the registration fee for another race.   If this race has you interested for their festive environment, there is none.

But to be fair, everyone's spirits were pretty damp with the rain and the hornets... which are two things that are not the race director's fault.

One girl crossed the finish line with a hornet still in her shoe!  Ewww!

As we pulled out, a runner called out in general "I'm NOT a 'Happy Girl'!"
That pretty much sums it up.

At least this race was free?

Have any race horror stories or mishaps to make me feel better about this one?
What do you think about races not having medical staff, basic first aid or anything like that?  Is that fair to the participants?  Or is it a silly request that races have that?


  1. Wow. That does sound like an awful race. I would expect to have aide stations of some kind. :(

    1. They had a couple water tables with gu and such, (if i remember right, 3.) but it would have been super fantastic to have someone there to take a peak at my stings at the end. Even just a person stuffing ice in ziplock bags! :( That was frustrating. I knew I wasn't bad off enough to take the attention of the EMS from those really in need. I am hearing rumors that people were taken to the hospital. :(

  2. You are an amazing lady. So proud of you and glad you are okay. Thanks for the inspiration. Hugs, Bobbi Jo -AZ

    1. Thanks for the cyber hug! :) I'm starting to let go of my frustrated anger and feeling proud of myself too. Thank you so much for your support! :)

  3. Hey Sister... we were right there with you. (The 2 blonde walkers right behind you at the finish) <3 <3

    1. Oh my gosh! Talk about small world! How are you doing? Did you get stung too? I tried to ask those around me how they were doing, but I was just so "done" at the end. I don't remember if I was very "chatty" anymore.

  4. Wow! That's scary....death from bee sting allergies can happen VERY fast. Glad you're okay and hope the others are too. What an adventure to say the least!!

    1. Thanks Kiera! I'm hoping that "no news" is good news. I'm not seeing anything in the press about it and heard rumors that people were taken to the hospital... but nothing confirmed. I'm feeling guilty about running away from the bees and leaving the other ladies behind to hit the nest first. I hope they got out of there too and weren't so injured that they couldn't leave or something. I had nightmares last night for sure.

  5. Wow! I am so impressed you finished the race. That one goes down as one of the best worst race day stories I have read.

    1. Thanks! The stings definitely hurt then, but I think the adrenaline must have helped yesterday. :) Man are the welts HUGE today and so very very painful. I think I'd like to move in to my hot bathtub today and never get out. :(

  6. Oh my gosh that sounds awful! I had my first half this weekend and was complaining about lack of organization but it wasn't as bad as bees! I finished mine gasping for air and was ignored by medical personnel as I stumbled over to the tent...I was thinking "geez do they not see this girl gasping for air and stumbling all over?" But I was fine after sucking down a bottle of water I managed to get to after fighting the crowd of spectators...we had 4,000 runners at ours. I don't know if I could have continued after getting stung by bees, they freak me out! I hope your next race is better!

    1. Thank you! That sucks about getting ignored at your race. :( I guess having medical personal isn't a guarantee that they will be very attentive, but geeze! You hope that with the high prices of registration fees and what not that some of it would go to a good first aid station... or a few at a large race like yours. Maybe your volunteers were over worked at your race? i don't know, but it seems like something was going on!

      I am very much looking forward to my half in October which was originally going to be my first! :) I think (hope!) that my race experiences can only go up from here.

  7. What a horrible experience...and wasn't this your first half? I hope that you emailed the race coordinators. They sound negligent and poorly managed. Most races have people run the course ahead of the participants to check for these kinds of things. And no aid until mile 5.5? You poor thing!

    1. It was my first half! It can only get better though, right? They had their first station at the turn around point for the 10K, but there was no way I wanted to run back through the nest again to get to that station... So I ran ahead, hoping the next station wouldn't be too far. I did email the race coordinators, but I don't know how seriously they will take my email, so I cut and pasted it into the "recommendation" section of their facebook page with 1 star.

      I'm guessing that the faster runners went through with little to no issue and by the time we got to that point of the trail, the bees were angry that so many of us had been stomping on their homes. (But why do they have to make their homes ON the trail?! Ouch!)

  8. Yikes! What an awful race! Good job seeing it through though!

    1. Thanks! In a way though, there wasn't much choice. :) I wasn't seeing any shuttle buses or volunteers offering to take people to the finish. I think I might have quit if that were the case... but I worked so hard for this, I wanted to finish too. In the end, it wasn't what I wanted. I wanted to cross that finish and hug my family and be so proud of myself... but instead I crossed disheartened for the injured I left behind, worried and desperate for help with my stinging pain. October's race will be better....

  9. That is really scary! I probably would have had a total meltdown. I'm impressed you made it through!!

    1. Thanks Allyson! I think the first point where I wanted to melt down, i came upon that poor kiddo worried about her mom and I knew that If I had any reaction other than calm, she wasn't going to be able to hold it together well enough to get to the next aid station. :( I kept thinking of a song my 3 year old sings when she's frustrated... "Stay calm, and think things through. That is what we have to do!" I guess it's my new running mantra? That and anytime I want to quite, think of not quitting despite two hornets' nests.

  10. Wow!! I have never read a race recap like that!
    That is just horrible! That makes no sense that those guys knew about the bees and did nothing!! Sounds like a horribly planned race.
    And that 'medal'? Pitiful. Thankfully you didn't spend any money on it!

    1. I thought the medal had so much potential... but when they handed me the plastic baggie, and I saw the pock marks in the charm I just wanted to bag the whole race. :) I'm learning though. It isn't always about the bling or the time, it's about pulling up some inner force and crossing the finish even when you don't want to anymore.

      "When you put yourself on the line in a race and expose yourself to the unknown, you learn things about yourself that are very exciting." -Doris Brown Heritage

  11. A humorously written blog about a rather traumatic event!
    congratulations on completing it and also for keeping a cool head.
    The fact that they didnt have event marshals or first aiders along the course is terrible. And that they knew/found out about the hornets but didnt cancel or reroute the course is irresponsible. I hope everyone was okay.

    A quick story: This year's "Twilight Run" in March in Brisbane became a disaster when a freak storm hit during the 10km/21km events. No one was to know that the storm would be so harsh and although dark clouds were coming over at the start of the events (I was watching my friend run the 10km) it didnt look like any cause for concern.
    The storm hit so violently however that the races were cancelled when trees and branches began to fall on the course, some hitting participants!
    Sadly, one runner was hit on the head by a branch and was killed.
    Kudos go to the event organisers though who had the sense to call off the races (unfortunately most of the runners were stuck out on the course looking for cover or running for their lives back to the start/finish line) and also to the other participants who assisted runners who had fallen or been knocked over by the wind/trees.
    It's a 10km run my friend will never forget!

    1. Holy Cow! Sometimes the elements are so very deadly. Any time I feel like complaining about a bit of rain while running, I'll think of your story.


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