My first running mishap of 2015 came early. Tuesday’s program called for a loop and a half of Prospect Park, cutting across Center Drive to run the bottom of the park twice. On my second half-loop, for variety’s sake, I went off-road and onto the wide dirt path that hugs the south shore of the lake. It was cold and windy, but the bitterest of the bitter cold hadn’t yet hit, and a light snow softened January’s sharp edges.
What a beautiful morning.
Until – whoosh. My foot skidded on a sheet of ice, my arms flailed (great as a comic effect, useless as a practical measure), and I went down hard.
Next came the sound of ice cracking as a runner-size hole opened and half-submerged me in a deep mud puddle – mud pond, really. I had two immediate (and equally useless) responses.
Useless response #1: yell “goddammitshitfuck” at the top of my lungs.
Useless response #2: attempt to use the unbroken ice around me as a support to lift myself out of the freezing water.
As anyone who ever watched a child-in-peril melodrama (winter edition) knows, #2 does not work. But sometimes you have to learn things for yourself, and I was surprised and outraged when my efforts led to the horrifying sound of more ice cracking, a wider hole, and a profound sense of futility.
The only way up and out was to plunge my hands under the water to find solid ground. I did that and struggled to my feet, soaked to the skin. There was no Lassie to the rescue. There was no Saint Bernard with a flask of warming brandy. There was only a bundled-up walker, who clucked sympathetically as she passed but did not stop, and two miles between me and home.
I resumed my run, because what else could I do?
It was quite impressive how quickly my gloves and jacket froze solid. Running through the deserted park in that state was tough; running through the populated streets of Park Slope was even tougher. Knots of people are always milling around New York Methodist Hospital, and though you have to work hard to attract attention here in the Big City, I did get a few sidelong glances as I passed them. When I finally made it to our building, I understood why. The face reflected in the entry way mirror was that of a doomed polar explorer: frosted eyebrows, full-face ice beard, desperate, haunted eyes.
A plush robe, a hot drink and a warm shower chased away the deep chill surprisingly quickly. The bruise on my left hip is more stubborn, and I’ve spent the past two days charting its progress. It’s 6 inches long and 3 inches at its widest (yes, I measured) and is shaped like Jamaica flipped upside down. At first, with its concentric rings of different colors, it looked a bit like a topographic map. Later, I saw in it a swatch of old-fashioned chintz: two billowing pink cabbage roses surrounded by soft-edged foliage in pastel shades of purple, blue and green. Now it’s mostly darkened to midnight violet.
Though Eric can’t look at it without grimacing, I find it endlessly fascinating and oddly beautiful.
Postscript – when I ran by the site of the incident yesterday morning (safely on-road this time), I saw that park maintenance vehicles had been over the spot with a vengeance, breaking the ice and churning up the (now frozen) mud. It was my bad luck to be out running during what was probably a short window of danger, when enough snow had fallen to hide the ice but park workers had not yet rolled through.