I set out with determination.
It was 75 degrees before the sun rose. 97% humidity. As per usual, I changed my previous plan for the day and decided on a new one when I woke up. Packed up and loaded up and headed out with my hydration pack full and my happy-to-be-going dog, Ellie.
My return to running from injury in February has been slower than expected and a little confusing. I’ve only been running 3 or 4 times a week since April started and mostly short runs, the longest was 8 miles, I think. I purposely took my time but I was starting to get nervous and wonder if I’d every make it to double-digits. Am I still a distance runner? Do I even care? Maybe I should stick to hiking? After 7 years of running many, many races, I haven’t run a single race in 2018. Today I planned to try to run more than 8 miles. However, we are having a heat wave in Texas and I really didn’t know what would happen.
I put ice in my pack and plenty of water, but I made the mistake of not bringing salt tabs or NUUN tablets. That really hurt me after about 2 hours. I also brought some GU and some leftover chicken strips and a couple of Larabars . I only ate the GU while running. That was a mistake. Not enough calories for what I did. The park is 1 1/2 hours away even with light traffic, so I ate a little breakfast on the way there, half a large banana and some raw pecan halves. I usually don’t eat before short runs.
The sky was full of clouds that were really just humidity rising as the sun warmed up the atmosphere. I figured I would not be so lucky to have a cloudy day to protect me from the heat. While driving I was still not 100% sure where I’d go, but this park is just so nice , even though I’ve been there many times lately, I chose it again. When I parked the van the outside temp was 80 degrees F at 8:15 am. I headed out after a quick stop in the very nice bathrooms which are there thanks to a Zip Line company that shares the park.
Everything was going great . I took off running the route that would take me to what I consider a big and steep hill. 168 ft per Strava segment, with an average 14% grade. My goal was do as many repeats on that hill as possible. First I took my dog down to the river to get a quick drink of water. I always bring water for her but she prefers rivers and streams! It’s only 1.4 miles to the river so I wasn’t really that warmed up, but I headed up the hill and my running slowed to walking. It levels out a little near the top so I was trying to run again when all of a sudden my life went into slow motion mode.
The retractable dog leash handle disappeared from hand when my dog took off after something that I did not see because my head was down. For what seemed like a long time, actually only a couple seconds, I was in a stunned state of falling forward with my arms outstretched like Superman and also being very conscious that it was going to be a hard fall that I had no chance of preventing. I have fallen on trails several times after tripping on invisible roots and rocks and it’s always surprising, but it has been a while and I was totally not expecting this. It was the leash being ripped out of my hand that made me fall this time. I actually had the thought flash through my mind to just relax and not fight the fall. I’ve tried to stop myself before with rapid foot movement and actually hurt my hamstring. But I didn’t have time to do that anyway.
Thunk! Sliiiiiide! It would have been a viral video if someone had caught it on tape. I got up fairly quickly from the dirt and sat down to catch my breath on the conveniently placed bench that is at the top of that big-ass hill. I was already out of breath from climbing that hill, and the fall had knocked out the remaining air in my lungs, or it felt like it. But I started calling my dog and hoping she was still nearby. I took an assessment of my body to see if I was okay. Just dirty and some scrapes on my forearms and hands from the home-base slide. My Garmin watch had a bunch of dirt in the band and the front of my shirt was dirty along with my hands and arms. I poured a little water on them and used the small sweat towel that I carry to clean up a little ,but I didn’t want to dirty up my towel. I need it to wipe my eyes.
All that only took a minute or two and then I got up and started looking for my dog. That hill ends at a trail intersection and she was just around the bush from where I was sitting . At first I thought she was being good and maybe scared since I’d yelled at her because of how she was sitting down looking right at me. Then I realized her leash had gotten stuck in a bush and she couldn’t get away. That worked well for me, but I did have to crawl into the bushes to get it free. So I got her situated again and decided to jog slowly back down that hill to gather myself .
The rest of the morning was all about just staying in the game despite the adrenaline drain from the fall, being dehydrated, under-fueled, and really hot, but I am happy to say I RAN 10 miles ! Goal achieved! I mostly walked the last mile back to the parking area because I was so overheated, it was over 90 degrees by this time, but I’m very happy with the day overall. I learned some things. I need to train my dog better. I assume she saw a deer and went after it. It’s hot and I need salt. I need to bring two towels. And I am still a distance runner.