I’ve fallen, and it hurts to get up.
My switch off the roads and onto trails has been an adventure. The excitement of a new thrill and new scenery has not come without a few missteps along the way. One of those missteps came just last week when I went out on what I thought would be decent terrain (leaving my Yaktrax at home).
If you know Washington, DC, you know the weather can be a little tricky. Sure, it gets really cold in the winter and really hot in the summer, but it can also be 60 degrees in early February and snow the next day. This means that snow will fall, begin to melt, refreeze, begin to melt, and refreeze again, all before melting into a muddy mess a few days later. Make running or any other activity on foot a bit tricky.
Last week as I pounded down Western Ridge Trail, I was faced with that awful mix of leftover snow-turned-ice, mud, and clear trail. Within 5 minutes of my run, and I had fallen into what I considered a steady stride, taking advantage of the clear trail and not worrying much about the mud. Then it happened. I hit not old crunchy snow, but a solid sheet of ice, and a big sheet at that.
Now let’s back up a minute and tell you a little more about where I was. I was on a section of the Western Ridge Trail I dare not attempt again under wet conditions. It is the southern most part of the trail, where a steep climb up the ridge parallels Rock Creek. The trail is narrow and footing is iffy. On one side you have steep hill, on the other, a steep bank leading directly into the water.
So here I am, running along at a near full stride pace. I see the ice, begin to slow, planting my left foot directly on the frozen land just long enough to see a safe spot a few feet away for my right foot. I push hard off my left in order to change momentum for my right to land in safety.
SLAP! I hit the ground.
My right knee is the first thing to hit with my neon yellow chest following shortly after. I’m now on my stomach, sliding down the ice patch at what feels like rocket speed. My left leg is the first thing to fall of the bank, my left arm the next.
I see a root…grab for the root…success…crap, still falling…i see a rock…move my leg to land on the rock…success…I stop.
My eyes as big as Pluto, my heart pounding like a jackhammer, my head clears enough to realize over half my body is hanging off the trail danging over the bank, mere feet away from falling directly into the half frozen Rock Creek. Then I realize my knee hurts like hell. I begin to pull myself up, at least 5 feet down the slip-and-slide of a trail from where I originally fell, and try to walk. After several minutes and very little distance, I’m able to jog the most direct route home.
Thankfully it was just a surface bruise, not doing any real damage to my knee, only swelling (that is still there a week later). I’ve been back out a few more times, and guess what, slipped every time. Thankfully nothing like the first incident, but plenty of muddy butts and bruised egos.
Moral of the story, be careful. Watch your step. Tell people where you are running. Use Yaktraxs when you can. And sometimes, as much as it might pain you, just run on the sidewalk and not the trail.