TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Run that Broke my Arm

Friday morning, about 3AM, I fell ill.  I don’t know if it was food poisoning or a stomach bug, but with body aches (though no fever) I vomited throughout the day.  At the time, I felt like I had been hit by a truck.  I was not well for a full twenty-four hours.  Saturday, I recuperated, sleeping off and on throughout the day.  Sunday, I awoke abruptly at 5AM. I had been dreaming that I was running down several flights of stairs. I mean I was flying, moving faster than I could imagine I would. Flight after flight, my feet never tangling, my step never pausing.  And then finally, I hit the ground floor.  I jumped down onto the road, and ran up a small incline toward an underground parking lot where I was parked, when WHAM.  I was hit so hard by an attacker that I fell in an instant.  With no warning whatsoever I was incapacitated, unable to see, unable to even move or fight back. I remember thinking to myself, “oh my God, it is happening to me.”  That’s when I woke, suddenly and abruptly.  I sat about in my pajamas and drank two cups of coffee before finally packing up my gear and heading out the door to drive to Trabuco Canyon for a long run (which I planned to increase two miles from 12 to 14).

I found two pleasant surprises upon my arrival.  First, a small portion of the bumpy off-road had been paved and much of the remaining road graded, which cut several minutes off that drive, perhaps as much as fifteen.  Second, I came up on two beautiful wild turkeys, a female and a male all puffed up and gobbling, gobbling.  There was another Toyota truck in the parking lot besides mine, with hikers standing outside of it prepping for a hike to the peak.  The female turkey, though smaller than her bo, but pretty enormous nonetheless, jumped up onto that truck and landed on the hood with a loud clang.  We all got a good chuckle out of that (and I for one was glad it wasn’t my truck).

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI saw two hunters coming down Holy Jim Trail as I headed up. A fast walking hiker passed me at about mile 2.5.  Two or three mountain bikers passed me here and there, but overall the infamous Holy Jim Trail was quiet.  The creeks were flowing good, something I have not seen in a long time in that canyon, or anywhere in our local mountains for that matter.  The weather was cold, but I warmed up by about mile three, enough to take off the gloves, beanie and jacket. I took my time going up that five mile switchback, but that’s not to say the trek was not strenuous.

I felt good reaching The Main Divide.  It was shady and cold tucked in there at Bear Springs.  Chatting briefly with two other hikers, I took off on The Main Divide at a comfortable trot, looking forward to the glorious views of The Orange County on one side, and San Bernardino and Riverside counties on the other.  I caught views of Lake Matthews, and then later, Lake Elisnore.  I chatted with a man in a truck who was headed off to Santiago Peak, but saw no other people on The Main Divide.  There were frozen puddles of ice that I delighted in cracking with my feet.  Countless branches were down from the last storm.  And my foot felt good, despite the miles thus far.  

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAt mile ten, I turned off of The Main Divide and headed down the extremely steep and rocky switch-back called W. Horsethief.  I gingerly made my way down W. Horsethief, careful, so careful not to trip on the fist-sized rocks.  I felt relieved to reach the bottom, knowing that I only had about 2.5 miles remaining -- all of it downhill and fairly runnable.  I picked up my pace.  I was so close to the truck now.  As far as I was concerned, my run was finished. I tripped twice when I picked up my pace some.  I thought I was going down for sure at one point, and that gave me a good scare.

And then.  BAM.  I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t feel my foot trip. I only felt the impact -- my body slamming, face first into the rocks.  There was no give, no roll on my part. It did not happen in slow motion.  I did not have time to realize that I was falling.  It was over before it happened.  It was like being blindsided.  Just BAM:  Body slammed against the rocks.  The impact was so forceful and violent, I really didn’t know what was damaged.  I was in a head-on collision with the rocks.  It was all bad.  Pain was everywhere, as I immediately coiled up there on the ground.  I felt panic, like my breaths could not take in the pain in time. It seemed like I rocked back and forth for a bit.  I know I was sprawled out the entire length of the trail.  I vividly remember that. And I recall realizing that no one was around, nor was going to be around to help.  I was alone, and I had to handle this myself.  Myself.

It seemed like I lay there on the rocks for many, many minutes.  But when looking at my garmin data, it appears that only six minutes passed from the moment I stopped moving up until the moment I began moving again.  First thing, I reached into my pocket grabbed my phone, which flew out of my hands and landed beside me.  I checked for service.  There was none.  Somehow, after six minutes, I stood back up and began moving forward.  I felt nauseated.  My legs ached, my arms ached.  I didn’t check for blood.  I didn’t check for anything (I didn’t even check to see if I hit my head, which looking back, I can say that fortunately I did not)..  My main goal was to move forward.  In the back of my mind I thought that I needed to get myself to the doctor.  Something wasn’t right in my left arm, it felt weird, it felt wrong, deep within.  My right arm hurt too.  But it wasn’t the same.  It didn’t have that inner-wobbly pain that my left arm seemed to have.

I had about two miles to traverse to get to my truck.  I stopped sobbing pretty quickly.  But I’m sure I moaned some the remainder of the trip.  I merely practiced the same technique I have always used on the trails -- that is, one foot in front of the other.  I stepped over fallen branches, and I kept my left arm bent and draped over my abdomen.  That was the only way I could bare the pain.  I tried to run for short distances, but the jarring to my body, especially to my left arm, was just too painful.

It was a dang long two miles. But even more terrible was getting the pack off of my back so that I could sit in the seat of my truck.  The turkeys were still in the Holy Jim lot, gobbling loudly.  There was no one around to help me get the pack off my back.  But I was able to get service enough to text my husband to tell him that I was hurt and ask for the address for the nearest urgent care facility.  We were only intermittently able to communicate.  The one-handed drive out of the canyon was hell, with my truck bouncing all over the road.  

Out of the canyon, I was able to talk with my husband, and I decided to go ahead and drive home.  I wanted to see if I could make it through the night, then maybe see the doctor on Monday.  It didn’t work out that way.  I was home for about a total of five minutes when my husband brought me to the ER in Laguna Beach.  Turns out, I did break my arm, not a bad break, but bad enough to cause quite a bit of pain.  I have a radial head fracture (my elbow), and my arm is in a splint cast.  Am I bummed?  Quite.  But, it is what it is, and there’s nothing I can do about it right now.  I have lots of thoughts concerning my Calico training, and my overall disappointment.  But it's Christmas Eve, so I am going to try and turn my thoughts toward that celebration, stay in the moment, and enjoy all the good things that I do have.

Merry Christmas!

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3 comments:

  1. You experienced my greatest fear in running - falling, being hurt, and being alone - and yet you managed to come out of this with a positive attitude (and a nice smile to go along with the scrapes and splint). I'm so sorry this happened to you! Hope you heal up quickly.

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  2. So glad you made it out (relatively) in one piece. I'm thinking all those ultras helped you train for that endurance and persistence.

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  3. Being able to get back to your car after that rough of a fall and breaking your arm exemplifies your toughness.

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