The trail hates me.
That was my thought driving home from Rowlett Creek Preserve last week. I had run the ten-mile loop on several occasions and last weekend I planned to double loop for 20. Things went beautifully for a few miles. I was hanging back with a slower group, chatting and meeting new people. I anticipated the second half would be tough and I didn’t want to be fatigued because having tired legs on the trail for me usually means hurting myself.
Unfortunately, our slower group wasn’t exactly familiar with the trail, so about 7-8 miles in, we found ourselves standing in a field. Confused. Lost.
One of our sandbaggers, Alan, sprinted ahead, hoping to catch a glimpse of the more-experienced group. I stayed right behind him. I knew there were some even-newer-than-me trail runners in the slower group and I probably should have stuck with them, but at this point, for me, the pretty, laid-back trail run had quickly devolved to an every-man-for-himself sort of panic.
Within a 5-10 minutes, Alan hollered that we were on track. The faster group was just ahead of us. I fell in behind the rest of those bastards (sorry guys, that’s just what I was thinking of you at the time) for the remainder of the first loop.
We stop briefly at the trailhead and then three of us take off for a second loop. The pace is fine, but I am a little flustered from the whole getting lost thing. My knee is throbbing a little bit, which adds to my grumpiness. I run at the back of our little line, which is a good thing, considering what happens next. About two miles into the second lap, I kick a root. Hard.
Now, let me take a moment to describe my footwear: Sketchers GoRun. The shoes are great and light and flex-y, but when you hit a tree in ‘em, you might as well be barefoot. Ah! I yelled. You OK? My partners ask. Ah. Yeah. Fine. But my eyes were filling with tears and I could in no way land on my left toe.
So I run on the side of my foot for about another mile. Tired. Hurting. Frustrated. Off balance. Unable to land on my forefoot. Not surprisingly, this is where I belly flop into the hard, crusty dirt. (Later, our leader David would tell me, “I really thought I heard something break. You went down hard.”)
I jumped up fairly quickly, but the loudness with which I had hit the ground startled my fellow runners. Everyone stopped. I brushed myself off. I’m OK. I say. Their faces register extreme doubt. “You’re done,” Julia says. “No, I can make it.” We jog a few more feet and David says, “See that trail off to the right? You take that and the parking lot is less than a mile.”
I take the detour and return — shamed, filthy and broken — to my car. At least I am not thinking about my knee pain.
Unsure if the toe was broken or just badly bruised, I took the week off running (I was no fun this week). I returned today for a 13-mile road run and my knee hurt, which means my toe is OK.
Ordered some trail shoes and I’ll be back at it soon. Even though the trail hates me, I don’t hate the trail. I will make you love me you stupid trail.