And then she fell . . .

At roughly this time exactly a week ago, I was a mile in to a planned 10-mile run – over the Brooklyn Bridge and then across to the Hudson, returning, I hoped, before the day grew too godawful hot – when one of my shuffling feet caught an uneven square of Carroll Gardens sidewalk and I went airborne.

There was no righting this fall, I knew in that long moment. There was only the sickening suspense of not knowing how bad it would be, and what part of my body would hit the ground hardest.
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Spills and thrills – Percy Sutton Harlem 5K (August 27, 2016)

img_4443For the last race of the summer (as defined by Labor Day, not the autumnal equinox), I headed uptown to Harlem.

I had company from the start. A couple of PPTC teammates were entering the F/G station at the same time as me, and another two joined us shortly after that. We talked, mainly, about coffee. My insulated travel mug, which I’d filled before running out of the apartment so that I could sip my morning coffee on the train, was quite the conversation-starter.  Continue reading

Limping toward Boston

Astute readers will notice that I’ve adjusted the title to reflect my status after last week’s blogging injury.

My foot is slightly less swollen – but considerably more colorful – than it was in the photo that accompanied the earlier post. The right side sports reddish-purple streaks against an indigo backdrop; the left side is violet-blue; and the top, around my toes, is just starting to take on a shadowy, twilit cast.

No pictures (you’re welcome), but an update on the past week follows. Continue reading

A clumsy runner greets the new year


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.

Fall migration: first blood

Bird watching in Prospect Park is not generally a hazardous occupation.  How, then, did I end up with a bruised and bloodied chin, abrasions on the palms of both hands, and second degree road burn on my right knee?

It started innocently enough, on one of the woodchip paths that splits off from the paved walkway along the Lullwater (such a gentle name!), sloping down to the water and then back up.  I was scanning the water for herons (unsuccessfully) and the trees and bushes for warblers (only slightly more successfully).  At the point where the trail rejoined the pavement – WHAM. It was as though someone or something had grabbed my foot.  I went down hard, leading with my chin, glasses flying off my face and skittering onto the grating of a storm drain.  (Mercifully, they did not fall in.)

The bucolic stillness of the Lullwater was broken by some truly vile curses.

I picked myself up and looked around.  I can’t be completely sure what happened, but let’s just say that strong circumstantial evidence points to a steel reinforcing rod, left over from a construction project and sticking out from the ground at more or less the spot where I went down, as the prime suspect.

Birder, beware

Birder, beware

Gingerly, I brought my hand up to the throbbing ball of pain at the bottom of my face. I was relieved to find my chin still there.  I was less relieved when I lowered my hand and saw that it was full of blood.

I speedwalked past the Boat House – locked tight, no park workers around – duly noting a black-crowned night heron perched on a snag in the Lullwater Cove.  A strange jostling sensation with each step had me worried that my chin might be fixing to fall off (worst case) or bounce itself into some painful and disfiguring angle (slightly less-worse case).

Out on the main road, I flagged down a park truck and got a wad of paper towels and directions to the nearest park maintenance office.  “They have a first aid kit there,” I was told.  I’m sure they do – however, at that moment, the first aid kit was securely behind locked doors.  The restroom was open, though, so I was able to clean myself up a little and inspect the damage as best I could in the prison-style, polished metal “mirror.”  Not only was my chin still there, it seemed to be quite firmly attached. And despite all the blood, there was no gaping wound that might require stitches.

So I did what any normal person would do under the circumstances, considering it was a beautiful fall day, the height of songbird migration, and the middle of marathon training to boot: I jogged along the woodchip path back to Center Drive, looking for warblers and thrushes.  I did have a moment of panic the first time I lifted up my binoculars to investigate something fluttering in the canopy.  I couldn’t see a thing: had I broken them in the fall?  Another small mercy – my binoculars were fine.  It was just that the eyepieces were covered in blood.