Sunday, November 15, 2009

My Most Embarassing Race

Race Notes: Rock N Roll San Antonio Half Marathon

My calves were sore the day before the race. When that happens, I use Sportscreme or Aspercreme or Flexall the morning of the run. Brand doesn't matter to me as long as it doesn't smell. The store didn't have any brands that I'd used before, but they had Capzasin. It was odorless and came in a roll-on. Fine.

What I didn't know is that Capzasin is made of the stuff that makes chili peppers hot and makes pepper spray burn. I was fine before the race. Then I started running and sweating and the Capzasin started burning. By mile 2, it was scorching. I looked at my calves because I was sure they'd be bleeding; they hurt that badly. No blood, but I had raised welts where the roll-on went over my skin.

I stopped at the first medical assistance team. I sat on the bumper of the ambulance and put my water bottle and race pack down. They looked at my calves and started to rinse them with a bag of saline solution - that's salt water. Ouch. Then people started running up saying that someone was having a seizure on the course. The EMTs grabbed the gurney and bolted off. A few minutes later, they were back and yelling about full cardiac arrest. Two runners who were doctors or nurses had started doing CPR on the course. They tossed the guy in the wagon and sped off to the hospital.

Said a prayer for the guy and went back to running. I spent the next 3/4 mile alternating between praying and trying to block the memory of the guy on the gurney. I went to take a sip of my water and realized that my bottle and race pack were gone. They were in the ambulance when it sped off. My race pack had my credit card and my ID that I need to get on my flight home.

I turned around and ran back, hoping they had tossed the stuff out when they put the guy in the ambulance. I was asking if anyone had seen my stuff and a very nice young woman offered to drive to the hospital and find the EMTs and get it. I don't know how she did it, but she managed to weave through the marathon's closed streets, get to the hospital, find the EMTs, convince them to give her my pack and drive back to the same spot to return my race pack to me. Bless you! I don't know your name, but you are the most awesome of awesome people. I hope the whole world treats you as kindly as you treated me.

This whole adventure took well over an hour and I still had searing, burning calves. I might have given up, but this is race 6 of a 7 race series. I've been running this series since January - literally hundreds training miles and airplane miles. At this point, I will complete this series no matter what the pain or problem. Burning skin or not, I'm finishing this race.

When I passed the timing clock at Mile 3 it said 1 hour 47 minutes. Depressing. By mile 5, I was nearly in tears because every time the hem of my running capri touched my calf it was searing hot. At every water station I'd pour water on my calves, but it was making it worse.

Ding! Idea!

I remembered that water doesn't quench chili pepper, but there is something in sour cream that neutralizes the hot in chili peppers.* That's why they serve sour cream at Mexican restaurants. I bolted into the next quickmart, bought at 32oz. Diet Dr. Pepper (don't judge me!) and a tub of sour cream. I slathered sour cream all over my calves. It didn't work immediately, but within a mile the heat wasn't tear inducing. Within 2 miles I was okay.

Chili peppers, sour might as well serve me with a side of refried beans. I'm a running burrito.

But I'm a running burrito who finished that race.

*Milk has the protein casein which cools the capsaicin.


  1. Wow, what a series of events. Congratulations to you for finishing the race, especially when in pain like this.

  2. I don't see a single embarrassing thing about this - you overcame a bad product interaction and two serious crises, met a kind stranger, solved a problem by thinking creatively, AND may be the only person to run a race covered in that very nectar of the gods, sour cream. I hope you kept the lid as a memento.

    You didn't have to finish; you had several good reasons to stop, but you persevered. I think you should be really proud.

  3. Congrats on finishing a very tough race! It would've been so easy to quit, but you didn't. And what a great story you have to tell!

  4. wow! WTG on getting to the finish line. It's too bad that you didn't know about the affects of it, but either way you did it where many people would have stopped, that's a huge success!

  5. Great Story!

    What dedication! I'd have quit.

    Thanks for the sweet comment.

  6. Y'all are sweethearts!

    What a crazy race. Now that I look back on it, it was as absolutely nutty!