by Andy Croley
On a cold Sunday morning in January, I headed out with the grand idea of running 14 miles along the Chubb Trail (west of St. Louis) in preparation for my first ultra marathon, the Double Chubb 50K. The temps were near freezing when I took off, and I quickly noticed the ice-covered ruts on the single-track trail. It was warmer the day before, so mountain bikers were probably out in force enjoying the muddy terrain. Now frozen, this created a challenge for my footing that I wasn’t accustomed to as a road-runner.
Entering the loop, I heard a train in the distance. The tracks were located on a hill along the right side of my route. Through the tree line I could see the engine and train cars begin to pass.
For the first 9.5 miles, worried about balance and traction, I paid close attention to the varied terrain—frozen bike tracks, black ice, occasional tree stumps and rocks. The passing train cars and the sound of the engine through the trees were truly captivating. I had the forest to myself to enjoy this moment. My eyes were up and looking to the right. It was strangely peaceful.
My wandering mind, and the childlike fascination with trains, got the best me though. Damn train. It was a little something like this…
Even knowing I was completely alone, I attempted to recover as quickly as possible. What fall? I’m totally fine. I started to laugh at myself, but after only 4 steps, the pain in my hip changed my laughter to a mumbling grimace. I stopped running to really assess my injuries.
My hip hurt. Considering I hadn't seen anyone on the trail in the last hour, it was safe to say I was on my own. Feeling embarrassed, as well as mad at myself, I skipped the rest of the loop and lightly jogged the 2 miles back to my car. I probably referred to myself as an idiot about 100 times during those 20 minutes.
A few days later, various ugly bruises appeared, but my ego recovered. I found humor in this story as well as a lesson or two. I was even able to relate to my six-year-old daughter, tears streaming down her face and knees scraped, from her own running fall. Even grown-ups like Daddy fall sometimes, and we still get back out there and keep running.
As I continue to train on the trails, I’m likely to fall again. Maybe a real squirrel or deer will be my excuse next time.
Check out more stories by Andy from his profile on our Contributors page!
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