Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Fall From (Lack of) Grace

Rest assured, I appreciate the irony of the situation. The day before, whilst taking the scenic route home from Albany with my coworker Alex, I'd stumbled across the Appalachian Trail. Despite my well-established aversion to camping, or sweating, or generally being outdoors, I'd been harboring a curious interest--albeit in the most passive, voyeuristic sense possible--in the AT (as us seasoned hikers call it) ever since reading (and re-reading, and reading again) Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods a half decade ago. (Side note: if you haven't read this book, or any/all of Bryson's other work, what are you doing with your life?? Put down the new Grisham novel for goodness sake. Bryson is the best author in the history of authors in the history of Earth.) At any rate, now here I was, unexpectedly presented with an opportunity to be on the AT. A sign rakishly stapled to the parking lot bulletin board outlined various routes and landmarks from our starting point, including a ~4-mile round trip hike that would take us up a "very challenging" stone face hill and over wooded dale to a beautiful vista point overlooking the entire valley. Alex and I, previously having no intention of doing anything other than stopping in the parking lot to stretch our legs, looked at each other and said: why the hell not? A 4-mile hike, no matter how technical, shouldn't take more than a few hours at most. Never mind that we had minimal food, little water, no reliable means of carrying either of them, and spotty at best phone reception. What was the worst that could happen? I fired off a quick, relatively uninformative text to Sarah B. ("Stopped to hike on the App Trail. If I'm not back in two hours, I'm probably dead.)" and off we went. 

Upon returning fully alive afterward, I saw that the text had not even sent. But, fortunately, our hike was fun and "challenging" and beautiful and otherwise uneventful. I was painstakingly careful about picking up my feet, paying strict attention to the trail, singularly focused on not tripping and breaking my leg or plummeting to my death. "Wouldn't that have been the absolute worst," I chuckled ruefully (and, truth be told, somewhat smugly) to myself later that day, "if I'd done everything right for months, only to somehow manage to fall and hurt myself a mere two weeks before my goal marathon."

So, as I said, I appreciate the irony. The next day, the warmest, sunniest, most beautiful day that the commonwealth has born witness to in all of 2014, the day I took off from work with the express purpose of banging out a hard 18 miler because I'd been unable to run long on Sunday due to the aforementioned trip to Albany, a mere three minutes--yes, minutes--into my run, I somehow managed to very nearly eff it all up. Jordan and I were running out of Salem on Canal Street, a route we'd taken dozens of times before, on the sidewalk bordering the right side of the road. We needed to cross the street so we could run against traffic and eventually turn left on the bike path that would take us into Marblehead. Somehow the process of stepping off the curb, crossing the street and avoiding a stealthily pernicious tree branch proved too much for my brain/legs to handle, and before I knew it I was skidding across the blacktop and frantically gasping for breath. To his credit, Jordan--who, as anyone who knows him will attest, is not one who coddles--immediately swooped me up and shepherded me back onto the very sidewalk that had cruelly tossed me aside only moments earlier. Having witnessed firsthand the force with which my delicate flower of a body collided with the open road, he did not suggest that I walk it off and then get back to business. Instead, we made an about face and began to slowly walk (him)/limp (me) back in the direction from which we'd come. One thing was glaringly obvious: my long run was not happening today. Also: this was going to leave a mark.

 My view for the next few hours

The white part is Neosporin. The red part is layers of my knee I never knew existed.
The ensuing few hours were spent with Jordan springing into Florence Nightingale mode and me pouting/icing/elevating/Neosporin-ing and trying not to cry while thinking of all the worst case "what if" scenarios. Later that afternoon, infused with an indomitable (one could say stubborn) sense of determination and an elephant's dosage of Advil, I inched down the stairs intent on going for a run, any run, of any length, provided it was more or less pain free. I could tell that Jordan was against this course of action from a boyfriend/emergency contact perspective, but as my coach he knew that I knew that if I couldn't run without pain now, the remaining 12.5 (but who's counting) days between now and my marathon would be less about putting the finishing touches on a solid training block and more about pep rallies and damage control.

Fortunately, like all great sports biopics, this story has a happy ending (for now). After a few tentative, rusty steps, I coasted through eight miles with no ill effects. This morning, waking at dawn, I covered 15 miles at sub-6:40 pace--not quite the long run intended for yesterday, but not far from it. So whatever happens at Vermont City, I'm confident that this little mishap will have no bearing whatsoever on the result (unless I totally bomb, in which case it is 100% due to some invisible marathon sprite Tonya Harding-ing me yesterday). If I can get through the next 11.5 days without any other catastrophes, I just might be able to squeak out a Trials qualifier after all.

Salvaging the beautiful day with a picnic by the ocean
Post-picnic, unfiltered, sunset view from Salem of the Beverly harbor


2 wide feet + 1 big heart = 100 miles said...

Ned, you are a winner, champion and top of the podium kinda girl. Take reassurance from Chrissie Wellington's 2011 Kona story.
You're the best! Now go and crush your competition and let the ambulances sort them out.

jayholder8k said...

So, Jordan was with you when you fell for no reason at all. He was with me when I fell for no reason at all. Something is fishy.