Run (painfully) interrupted at Stillwell Woods

Scene of the crime

Today’s run (Stillwell Woods): 2.5 miles

I never saw the rock that took me down at Stillwell this morning but I knew it would be bad before I hit the ground. I’d been extra cautious throughout the run, scanning my path for roots and artifacts that could trip me up. The section where I fell was directly in front of a fork that I normally follow to the right, but I’d decided to go straight this time. Big mistake. I ended up with a bunch of bad cuts and scrapes and a slightly dislocated shoulder.

Today was supposed to be an easy trail run and I planned to follow that by watching the NYC marathon when I got home. Although the temperature showed 54°, it felt colder. The interior of Stillwell Woods is usually cooler than the general temperature. Knowing that, I elected to wear light track pants, a long sleeve tech shirt and a pair of running gloves. That turned out to be the best decision I made today. As bad as it was, it would have been worse with shorts, short sleeves and no hand protection.

I started off well enough and came through my first mile and a half ready to run another two. I encountered another runner whose path intersected mine as I came up a hill. I pushed a little to gain some distance from him and veered onto another trail to continue my usual loop. I stayed ahead of the runner, but took a loop trail off that path. The other runner reappeared when that loop connected back to the prior trail.

As we ran together, the runner asked me if he was going in the right direction. I said that depended on where he wanted to go. He needed to get to the high school and I told him he’d reach the main field in a couple of minutes and that the ring path would take him back to the main trail head. We said our goodbyes and I decided to do another small loop which led to my unexpected catastrophe.

The scariest part of my fall was feeling my shoulder go out of alignment when I hit the ground. I’d dislocated that shoulder years before playing hockey and later during karate training, so I wasn’t surprised that happened. I was concerned about being able to move under my own power, but my shoulder reset itself. I had no idea how much I was bleeding so after I established nothing was broken, I continued on. At that point I only wanted to make it back to my car that was parked almost a mile away.

Red: cuts & scrapes, blue: shoulder injury

The fall deflated my energy level and I struggled to get through the remainder of my run. Oddly, the Garmin data showed that I covered the post fall distance at my fastest pace of the day. Sure didn’t feel like it. I got home and took a hot shower before my wife dressed my wounds. I elected not to show a picture of the damage, but the above illustration shows all my impact points. I tried to watch the marathon but my heart wasn’t in it. I still have it on DVR so I might watch some highlights tonight.

Post-Thanksgiving Stillwell trail run

Taking the “More Difficult” path

Today’s run (Stillwell Woods): 3.7 miles

Unless you work in retail, the day after Thanksgiving is like an unofficial holiday. Much of the world went shopping for bargains today but I chose to go out in the freezing cold for a trail run at Stillwell Woods. I’m not sure why runners choose to be uncomfortable, but it’s a factor in every run. You know you’re going to sweat, feel the burn in your legs and (if you did it right) end up both exhausted and depleted.

I thought about that after the first of many close calls at Stillwell this morning. I was running on a muddy trail in 33° weather when my toe caught a root and I nearly lost my footing. I somehow kept upright through that and promised myself I’d pay closer attention to obstructions on the path. Besides the slippery mud, the trails had long sections covered with leaves that hid potential hazards. My Brooks Cascadias provided great protection and traction – far better than any other trail shoes I’ve owned.

Stillwell was almost empty. I didn’t see any mountain bikers until I was taking my last steps leaving the trail head. There was a young couple running briskly toward the woods when I arrived. We crossed paths twice and they gave me big hellos both times. If there were any other runners today, I didn’t see them.

Just for fun, I deviated from my normal route a couple of times and encountered some steep terrain. Due to the grade, I actually did better on the uphills than the downhills. One trail had lots of packed sand and many sharp rocks the size of softballs. Once again I was grateful to have the Cascadias that have both a rock plate and a beefy toe guard.

Today’s route

I tried to be careful but my toe would occasionally catch something on the path, forcing me to prepare to hit the ground. I was fortunate that I didn’t fall once. It would have been a muddy mess. I wasn’t aiming for a long workout today and made my way back after I’d covered about three and a half miles. I finished feeling like I’d worked off some of yesterday’s calories and the ever changing (but forgiving) surface of the single-track made my legs feel energized.

I’m probably going back to the road tomorrow, but I haven’t decided where. Rob’s Run is happening at Stillwell on Sunday. I’m sure that would be fun, but I’ve had my fill of those trails for now.

Bethpage rudely corrects an assumption

Scenes from today’s Bethpage run

Yesterday’s run (treadmill): 3.1 miles
Today’s run (Bethpage State Park trails): 3.4 miles

At the exact moment that I was thinking how Bethpage’s wooded trails are less tricky and technical than Stillwell’s, my foot caught a root and I came very close to tumbling down a very steep hill. That moment captured the dichotomous nature of Bethpage’s dirt trails. The main paths through these woods are beautifully groomed, but watch out for the network of challenging side-trails that connect throughout the preserve. Along a given mile, you can find cushioned (almost too cushioned) loam, followed by sand, gravel, packed dirt, rocky ledges, knotty roots, sharp rises and deep drops.

Thankfully, I didn’t hit the ground after connecting with that root. It was a good reminder that complacency during a trail run can easily lead to injury. I continued with caution and made my way up a twisty rise that led to what I call the “sand trap.” I don’t care to run on sand, and when you reach this section you really have no choice – unless you turn around and head back the other way. My ego wouldn’t let me do that, so I toughed it out for the next quarter mile, when I was able to switch to another path.

I had lots of company on the trails today. There were numerous groups of cross country teams doing summer conditioning. I saw a group of boys practicing drills across the field adjacent to the trail head and groups of high school age girls at various times running on the paths. I was very glad that I didn’t have to keep up with anyone today, because I was still recovering from a late workout on Friday.

Yesterday’s schedule made a morning run impossible, so I aimed for a mid-afternoon neighborhood run. Things got unexpectedly busy and I ended up pushing my run to 5:00 PM. By that time, the humidity was unbearable, so I opted for an indoor treadmill session with the AC on and the fan set to high. It was still hot and humid, but far better than outdoors. I set a fast pace and got through the run, although I’ll admit I watched the clock like I was in high school math class.

Tomorrow I plan to go out for a base run that will kick off my taper for the Dirty Sock. I expect to go for 6 to 7 miles and hope to get an early start to minimize the heat and sun. I had originally planned to run the Dirty Sock course today, but I’ll need to wait another week to see that course again on race day. And when I do, I’ll be sure to scan the path for roots.