15 Days to WSER: Injured in the Redwood Canyon

Interestingly the first injury of my running trip took place during a fairly gentle section of running on what was possibly the easiest route I had planned to date. It was not an overuse injury and did not involve a fall, twinge or acute trauma. But importantly it was an injury that will impact neither my ongoing trip nor my running.

For my final night in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks I had stayed at the Acacea Campground in Grant Grove. The previous evening I had gone for a wander around the General Grant Tree, which has the widest trunk of any sequoia. It had been a very gentle stroll that was written up as being half a mile, although I greatly doubt it was that long. For my final day in the park I would run a loop around Redwood Canyon, which boasts the largest remaining grove of sequoia trees.

I woke early and drove down the highway to the dirt road that I would follow for two miles down to the trailhead. I would run the largest loop through the grove, which was almost ten miles. I had opted to run in a clockwise direction since that would leave me with a downhill finish for my return to my car. This did however mean that I would climb from the lowest point of elevation to the highest in a single ascent, whereas running the opposite direction would have split the climb into two halves.

There was only one other car in the carpark when I set out so I knew it would be a very quiet and peaceful run. I set out into the forest, and it was magical running through towering trees. Most people only visit the park to take in the monster trees titled as the oldest, widest or largest, or to look at those trees of interest which allow cars to pass through, or have fused together. I found it amazing to take in so many sequoia trees that had attained no significant milestone or had no distinguishing feature yet were still incredible in their sheer size.

I had set out for the run at 7:30 wearing my Rudy Project sunglasses in the early morning light, even though the sun was very low and the forest was entirely shaded. My glasses were fitted with a set of photochromatic lenses which adjust from almost clear through to grey as required. I had considered placing them above the peak of my cap (which I often do when it is too dark to require them) but decided to keep them on. About 1.5 miles into the run I was making my way along an easy section of trail at a comfortable pace when all of a sudden an insect whacks straight into the right lens of my glasses. I continued to run as it buzzed briefly on the lens and then dropped below the lens to the bridge of my nose. I realised it was a bee at about the same time as I felt the sting just under my eye. I swatted the bee away and didn’t even slow down as I evaluated what had happened.

Having just been stung by a bee I started evaluating my options. I was 1.5 miles from the trailhead if I turned around and returned via the same route or I was 8.5 miles from completing my run. I had been stung by a bee previously so I knew that I had no allergy, and therefore the only impact from the sting was likely to be some discomfort. I was in the middle of a national park so getting back to my car would not equate to receiving immediate attention anyway. It made for an easy decision so I continued to run.

From that point I ascended for a while before commencing the descent down to the lowest part of my route. I crossed a creek and commenced my climb for the day. I would ascend more than 1350 ft (420 m) over a distance of just over 2.5 miles (4 km). Similar to the previous day I decided that I would make endeavour to run the entire climb. Early in the climb as I started to warm from the climb I briefly slowed to a walk to remove the jacket that I was wearing. Then I continued to run the comfortable uphill gradient. There were a couple of brief, steep sections where I walked a handleful of steps but other than those I ran. I reached the top and received some views from the edge of the forest.

The bee sting caused a bit of discomfort but no pain, and had no impact to my run. I then descended down to my car, where the number of cars had only increased to four (including mine). I had not spotted another person on my entire run. I hopped into my car and drove out of the west exit of the park. By the next day the area around my eye had swelled a bit but it was still nothing to affect my running.

For details of my final run through the sequoia tree go to MovesCount.com here.


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