TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Falls

I used to keep track of my falls.  Now it’s been so long, I lost count.  And I’m too lazy to go through old blogs to figure it out.  As far as I recall, this past weekend’s fall was number 9, that’s 7 on the trails and two on the road.  I’m not sure.  But what I am sure about is that this past weekend’s was different.  Different in the way that I hit my face on impact.  I’ve never done that before.

The worst damage I can remember was to my wrist.  My wrist made first impact on Santiago Truck Trail over a year ago, perhaps two.  I remember my running partner, Tom, said he heard the thud and feared it was my head.  I thought that I broke my wrist the pain was so bad.  Then about 2 weeks later I took a terrible spill at a Malibu Creek State Park race (Bulldog counter-clockwise) were I ended up on my back.  I scared all the runners around me so badly, that as I lay on the ground I looked up to a circle of faces, fellow racers.  Oddly, with such a landing, I reinjured that wrist that I thought I broke on Santiago Truck Trail.  The next week I was in for x-rays, and oddly, all was okay with the wrist.  What was bad was my hip.  Go figure.  (Physical therapy for 6 – 8 weeks taught me a lot).

Falls.  They are not fun.  And when they happen, they happen in slow motion.  I’m always amazed at how many thoughts go through my mind during a fall.  I remember my first fall, it was on the road.  The sun had not risen, and I had made a very stupid move that sent me flying down at the marina on PAVEMENT.  Since that was my first fall, and there was not a single other person out there, this was what went through my mind:  “Who out there is going to see this and call an ambulance?” 

Fortunately, I didn’t need an ambulance.  I don’t even remember my bruises.  That was back before I began trails.

Then my first trail fall, I’m not positive, but I believe it was when I was alone and I had “discovered” this new trail.  In awe at its beauty, I thought to myself, I’m going to take this trail EVERYTIME.  At that very instant, I tripped on a root and made the plummet downward.  And I remember thinking a host of things.  One of those things I thought was, “Oh my gosh – I can’t believe I’m falling!  I’m falling.  I’m actually falling!”  That was one of my good falls.  Instinctively when I hit, I rolled, and my impact made minimal injuries. 

And so on and so forth.  Like I mentioned above, I believe the total is about nine.

So falls aren’t so unfamiliar to me.  I’m just extremely relieved when I come out unscathed, or minimally unscathed.  (Right now, my eye is still bloodshot and my chin is purple and my shoulders ache – that is what I call unscathed.)

Anyway, I got to thinking, after my last fall, about my fall count, and I realized that my falling is not exactly inherent to running as a sport or training.  I remembered in fact one particular time, I was about 26 years old, working the corporate world.  I was so young, and more stupid than I am now.  I had spent about an hour at Barnes & Nobles Books spending way too much money on books. (I used to spend hundreds of dollars during my lunch breaks – yikes, how wreck less is that??)  I opted for a last minute lunch at Mac Donald's (Not my first choice).  I remember I was wearing black pumps and black pantyhose when I ran out to my car with a Mac Donald's bag in my hand.  Then suddenly, I fell flat on my face.  I had actually tripped over a wheel stop in the parking lot.  I tore my pantyhose to shreds.  My knee was bleeding.  I remember people walking about, not even noticing that I lay there on the pavement.  And I remember weeping in the parking lot with bloody knees, not because it hurt, because not one single person stopped to ask if I was okay.  Doesn’t anybody care?  I was so naive.

No.  I wasn’t that naïve.  I think I was still hopeful.  HOPEFUL.  Does it make sense when I say that the trail is hopeful?  Falls like mine at the Mac Donalds more than twenty years ago are nothing like falls on the trail.  If there’s people around and I fall on the trail, THEY STOP.  If someone else falls.  I stop.  I gasp.  They gasp.  They ask if I’m okay.  I can fall in the middle of Highway One, blood gushing from the knees and no one will stop.  Out on the trail.  Runners, bikers, hikers, they all stop and they help. 

Why is that? 

Even though my friends and family are nervous about me running trails.  I actually feel safer, despite the falls.  Trails are actually the kinder and gentler place to run.  I tell no lie (right now : ).

11 comments:

  1. Hitting your face can be bad. Hope you heal fast. My worst fall was on the trails when I hit my chest on a stone and damaged my sternum and some ribs, but I agree, the trails are/feel safer. I've had my share of falls including those in my last two races. Luckily it has never impacted my running at all.

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  2. Oh man, I fall ALL THE TIME. Like, every other run. It's a huge contributing factor in me being a trail runner. Pavement is SO unforgiving. On the trail it's all about "tuck and roll, tuck and roll" . . . I have been falling literally all of my life, so I very rarely ever hurt myself. Maybe here's a tip: when you realize you are falling, just let it happen. I think the injury part comes when you try to stop yourself. Fall like a drunk and keep it all loose, don't fight gravity, go with it. This works much better on the trail; on the road, pavement bites. Hard! Both my knees are still funny looking (skin wise) from pavement falls from last summer. Ouch.

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  3. Wow..While reading this I was thinking about my experience with falling. I think I have fallen 3 or 4 times while running.. once just the other day right into a stream that developed from the rain in the middle of my regular trail run.. I stupidly was trying to cross it using a sketchy tree stump and slipped off and had to run the last 7 miles with muddy wet feet. :P

    I have been lucky enough to escape from the falls you are describing so far (knock on some wood). Although you run much more than I do and you run those advanced tech trails that I don't run.. which are probably contributing factors. I do aspire to run like you someday though so I need to ready myself for the falls. Yikes! They sound very painful!!

    May you heal fast!! I am glad it wasn't too bad of a fall- like broken bones or something. It still sucks that it was injury to the head though. Ugh. :(

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  4. Oh and I totally agree, out there on the trail people are just generally kinder I have noticed. Maybe it is all that fresh air! :)

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  5. Running on snow and ice 13 months a year, or so it seems, I seem to fall only when I slow down to walk. Something about my centre of gravity and using my heal more when I walk. I've found that I seldom take a tumble when I run...but I've done had a few AFV-worthy moments during walk breaks.
    Yes, even the dog-people and kinder and more polite on the trails.

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  6. Johann, oh my gosh, hitting your chest on a stone? I can't even imagine. That must have really "knocked the wind out of you." Fortunately, I haven't experienced anything like that. I'm glad you are okay now.

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  7. Bootchez, thanks for reading. Every other run?!!! You must be a really rad runner : ) I agree about the tuck and roll. I have accidentally rolled on most of my falls (it's like an instinct thing). I also agree with you about pavement. Ouch. It is the worst! I have drawn more blood on my 2 pavement falls than my 7 or so trail falls.

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  8. Thanks for reading Kate! Wet muddy feet -- yuk! I don't like that.

    I am healed now. Most of my falls, because they have been on the trail, once they are over, I am fine. The falling is the worst part, the fear of the injuries I might have that go through my mind while I'm falling. But mostly, I roll when I hit, which saves me a lot. I just wrote about the worst ones in the blog above.

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  9. Thanks for reading Windnsnow. I have never run in the snow. In fact, it takes us about 2 hours driving to get to any snow. But I will say that it got pretty cold today. It got down to 55 F : ) I'm glad you seldom fall in that white stuff!

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  10. What is it they say about trail running? "If you look up you're going down!" We've all been there. Some of us more than others.

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  11. Yup, it is true Glenn. But I can't help but looking up. It's just all too awesome. I see trail running like the game chess -- you have to look several moves ahead (oddly, I very seldom play chess : )

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