Bee Sting: We Met One Morning On A Dark Path

There she was, flying along in the near-dark of the shaded twilight trail, minding her own business, when, out of nowhere, something grabbed her, then blasted her through the air just as rapidly and unexpectedly. She responded valiantly, reflexively, with a defensive sting, her last act in life.

It was all over.

Just before.

There I was, minding my own business, running along the trail, just off a 3-mile marathon effort segment. I’d started my next workout segment, a 1/2-mile at an easy pace.

I began the 1/2-mile easy by walking a few minutes, then I’d just returned to an “easy” run pace.

I felt something, then looked down to my chest, alarmed. There, I saw a black lump about the size of a honey bee, and wiped away a beetle of about the same size.

False alarm.

I continued running easily down the path, enjoying the low sunrise at my back and the calm river to my right, along the trail.

The open, sunlit trail gave way to a shaded section beneath trees.

As I puffed along in the near-darkness, I saw something coming toward my face through the air. A bug. A winged insect. The specifics of the situation dawned on me, one realization at a time, moment by moment, in a matter of milliseconds.

I had just enough time, given by the distance we would mutually cover in 2 or 3 feet, to realize it was going to impact my open mouth, where my mild hyperventilation was ensuring sufficient oxygen to power my ongoing effort.

A winged insect in the open mouth…not so good.

Would it stop in the mouth, enter the lungs, or end up as hors d’oeuvres for my morning meal? It’s amazing how many specific thoughts can go through a brain in a split second.

In that moment, the awareness to slam the lips shut arrived. As I did so, the thought to spit also arrived.

My lips clamped down on a hard, firm, moderately large, wiry, spiny, stiff object, and as they did so, I spat forcefully.

Pfft!

I have no idea where she went, but it was immediately apparent she left a gift. If it was a honeybee, I knew the stinger would have to be removed, but I didn’t want to involve any other part of myself in the affair.

Finger? Tongue? Which to risk? Could they be stung too? Where is the rest of her?

So much to do… I couldn’t find the body anywhere in my mouth.

I ran my tongue over the injured area: sure enough, there was something there.

It wouldn’t budge with a wiping motion of the tongue. I reached in with fingers to the inside of my upper lip to grab it.

It took three attempts — feel with the tongue, reach with the fingers — to finally extract it.

honey bee stinger next to a dime
honey bee stinger next to a dime

I wondered about the possibility of an allergic reaction, then pondered whether they’d have epinephrine or Benadryl at the water stop, which was just around the corner.

Then I recalled I take 2 anti-histamines every day.

I don’t even swell with mosquito bites. I guess you could say this is one benefit of having allergies, though to me it is frightening that I, like many Austinites, perpetually dampen my body’s protective immune response this way.

I tasted a sharp, acidic flavor at the wound area for the next couples hours. My lip swelled a bit, though photos don’t show the 3-dimensionality very well.

My left upper lip and above swelled after a bee sting
My left upper lip (upper right side in this photo) swelled after a bee sting

If run training is about adaptation,I now know my body can complete 6 miles, overcome a bee sting, then run 2 more miles at half marathon effort, plus 2 more at 10k pace, for a total of nearly 14.

Unstoppable.

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