Tillamook Burn- A Different Kind of Race Recap

This race recap is different than any other, and harder to write too. Actually, I’ve been avoiding it for about 2 weeks now.  But, it’s time to accept reality and make the most of the situation!

I was SO excited for this race, and to be in Oregon running again after the marathon I did in Portland in October.  The Tillamook Burn is a 20 mile trail race,   with a whole lot of elevation gain that promises to kick your butt.  I have never run a trail race over 16 miles, so 20 seemed to be the perfect next step!  Apparently I wasn’t meant to run more than 3.5 miles that day, because I mysteriously (seriously, there wasn’t a rock or branch or anything) face planted mid race.  One minute I was singing to Florence and the Machine feeling like a boss, and the next I was tumbling down a steep hill with my right hand holding my water bottle in the air (priorities).  At  the very least I’m sure I provided some entertainment to my new runner friends behind me.  I was able to hop right back up instantly, and stupidly tried to ignore the pain (and popping sound..) in my right ankle.  I tried to walk it off, but instead burst into tears and kind of started hyperventilating.  The entertainment continues.  My ankle swelling to the size of a small avocado literally right before my eyes was the reassurance I needed that I would not be continuing this race.  So the next step, was to somehow make it to a medic station.  It was around this time I discovered I had no service on my phone (the trail was in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nothing but wilderness-usually my favorite setting!).  More hyperventilating.  It makes me laugh thinking about it now because meanwhile about 10 runners stopped to ask if I was okay and I would mumble some nonsense that I was just fine so they would keep running.  I am sure I looked “just fine.”  I knew the next water station wasn’t for another few miles, and I had just passed one about 3/4 of a mile back.  Up.the.hill.  So I started hopping, hanging on to tree trunks dramatically while having a breakdown.  To be honest I was crying more because I was devastated about not being able to run, as opposed to the pain.  My ego was pissed. People kept asking if I needed help, but I kept turning them down because I did not want to ruin anyones race time.  But I very obviously was struggling.  A few hops in, an ANGEL stopped to ask if I was okay.  She refused to leave me, reassured me that she “didn’t give a shit” about her race time, and told me to lean on her while she guided me up the hill and I used my good leg (left leg-you the real mvp) to get up that damn hill that I’m certain was 10 miles long.  Honestly I don’t know what I would’ve done without her.  Just thinking about her makes me want to cry tears of gratitude!  We finally made it back to the water station, where a volunteer had to drive me TWENTY MINUTES (hours) back to the start line camp ground where supposedly the medic could meet me.

When I got to the campground, they carried me (the whole scene must’ve looked so dramatic) to a chair by the fire and basically gave me spa treatment.  My foot was elevated and iced within moments and suddenly there was a lavender kombucha in my hand.  Obviously I had to pee a few minutes later and two random women basically carried me to the port-a-potty. I waited about 30 minutes for the medic (and my bestie Elce who was inconveniently on a leisurely nature stroll!) to arrive, but the whole time random strangers working with the race or supporting runners kept asking if I needed anything and chatting with me to keep my mind off the hot mess of a situation I was in.

I’m sharing all these details  with you because never have I experienced an overwhelming amount of kindness from random people when I needed it the most!  Everyone from the runners, to the race director, to the volunteers, to people who just happened to be hanging out waiting on loved ones to finish their race.  That was the biggest light in this whole situation.  Not to mention LC having to take care of me for the rest of the trip!  Not like she reallyyyy had a choice, but still.

It’s supposedly a severe ankle sprain that put me on crutches, and the doctor said healing could take atleast 4-6 weeks.  I know that may not sound like very long, but to me that was basically a death sentence!  I strongly believe in everything happening for a reason, but this situation has been particularly challenging.  I missed my last few shifts of work before leaving for the Alaska road trip (post to follow).  I can’t do any hiking or trail running on said Alaska trip.  I miss running.   Heck I miss walking without things under my armpits holding me up.  I also miss being able to do things for myself.  BUT I am finding the lessons.  I admit, the first couple days I went into a slight state of depression and just felt pissed.  And then I decided I couldn’t live like that so I had to find a new approach.  I believe this happened because the universe is telling me to slow down.  Like  a lot.  I really like being a busy little bee, and I have a hard time sitting still.  I also easily ignore my body and mind when it’s yelling at me to chill out and rest for a minute.  Something I’m working on, but apparently I wasn’t trying hard enough and it was decided that an injury was the best approach.  So I slowed wayyyy down, because I don’t really have a choice.  But I am trying to enjoy it.  I have gotten really clever with ways to work out that don’t involve my right ankle.  And I will definitely never complain about a long run again.  I’m trying to embrace sitting on my butt for long periods of time and also being driven around.

Another thing I am not best at is accepting large amounts of help.  I like doing things on my own, when I want.  It turns out you can’t do much for yourself when you’re on crutches.  Who knew.  So I am beyond grateful for the insane amount of help I am receiving.  Chris had to leave to do bus things right when I got home from Portland (convenient babe), so mom had to step up to nurse mode.  That woman is theeeee best, and her long list of tasks to assist me included walking Kobuk everyday and being my chauffeur. Seriously, she’s the greatest.

So, I’m learning to find my strengths in ways other than running.  And trusting the timing of the Universe.  Alllllll the trust.  And appreciating the little things.  And focusing on what I CAN do.

If you’re experiencing a less than ideal situation, I hope you find this encouraging.  That  you remember it’s only temporary and to keep pushing through because it really will only make you stronger, if you let it.  That there is some good shit to learn.  You got this!  And listen to your damn body, it knows what’s up.

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  1. John S says

    Hi G. Good to hear from you, but I’m so sorry you hurt your ankle. Trail running is exhausting from what I recall because of always having to concentrate on footing. I’m sure many have suggested, plan to take the time to let it heal permanently, or it could be a nagging thing over a very long time. If possible, do some pool work, which compared to running, sucks really hard, but try so you maintain some cardio fitness. So sorry sweetheart. You’ll come back – of course – just give it time please.

    1. Gina Valdes says

      Hi John!!
      Thanks so much for the encouragement. I’ve definitely heard that it is very important to let it fully heal. I’m trying to be patient!!! I plan on doing some pool work for sure. Thank you!!!

  2. John S says

    PS: When I was hurt, and people said to “give it time blah blah blah” I just wanted to punch them in the face, cuz I didn’t want to hear that 🙂

    1. Gina Valdes says

      hahaha I do have those feelings as well! But, I also need the reminder so I’m trying to listen!!

  3. Linda Black says

    Yay for slowing down and lessons of gratitude!! I hope your ankle heals quickly and fully. Love this post. Very inspiring!

  4. Mike says

    Thanks for the detailed update. It was thoughtful and inspiring.


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