Only moments before the official start of the Mt. Falcon Trail Race last Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m. on what had started as a cool, breezy morning, I felt like cracking a joke. “Joe, don’t fall! Dakin, don’t fall! And this race will be a success for all three of us!” I was only half joking and meant the advice more for myself, as I had been the most accident prone of the three of us this trail season.
I wish I had shared my typical, “Good luck. Have a good run!” instead.
I was looking forward to telling you about how good I felt, how much easier the first uphill portion of Castle Trail was, about my brief conversation with another racer on the second, longer uphill portion of Castle Trail:
“Oh, it’s you again. You’re starting to make me feel bad.” “Don’t worry, you’ll catch me again.” As he passed me a second time just a few seconds later, I said, “See?!” Then he laughed, said, “You’re just like my wife. You do things to help me out.” “Oh, I’m not trying to help you out, believe me!”
I wanted to tell you about the race staff stationed near the intersection of Two-Dog and Castle Trails once the course finally flattened out a bit after about three solid miles of climbing. When I passed her the first time, I had a little fun: “Tag! You’re it! I’ll wait for you here, then finish the rest of the race once you get back.” When I passed her on my way down, I only gasped a “Thank you” as she clapped and cheered, “Good job!”
I wanted to share how I passed one guy – he actually heard me, stopped, and stepped aside before I could announce myself by yelling, “Trail!”, then told me, “Good pace” as I passed - and how I outran the sound of footsteps close behind and escaped being caught by someone on Parmalee Trail.
I was excited to tell you how I caught up to ‘shirtless dude,’ got right on his heels for a few feet on my way back down Castle Trail to the finish line a few miles out and then lost him again.
How I felt like I was flying down Castle Trail the last mile and a half of the race; shouted an excited “Yahooo!” in my head as I threw my arms out to my sides to maintain my balance while bouncing down a switchback; felt more like my old, fearless downhill trail running self – the equivalent to a kid in a candy store - than I had in what felt like a long, long time.
And, I was really excited that my mom, dad, and 4 1/2-year-old niece – visiting along with my sister and her boyfriend for the weekend – were at the finish line cheering us on. Reminded me of when my family would come to cross country meets my first two years of college – Still had the same butterflies in my stomach beforehand knowing they’d be waiting afterward.
It was, indeed, great to see them - and especially to hear my niece’s mousy little voice cheering my name – the last few feet before the finish line. And, it was nice to see that I had run the course faster than the first time JD, Dakin, and I first ran it about a week and a half earlier.
All of my excitement was put on hold, though, with my mom’s four words shortly after I stopped my watch: “I think Dakin fell.” Aimee’s – my niece – little hand in mine, we walked over to the first aid station at a picnic shelter just a few feet from the excitement of the finish line. And, there he was, two bloody knees, straight faced, next up in line for medical attention after a girl with a beat up knee.
Running at a full sprint, he clipped his left toe on a rock; landed first on the heel of his right hand a split second before falling with full body weight on his right forearm; then was flung on his back, trail dust dirtying more than not of the back of his shirt, about a mile before the finish line. With another runner’s help, he sat off the trail for a few minutes until he felt like he could run the last bit of the course.
Even after all of this, he not only beat his previous time by more than two minutes, but he also placed third in his age group and 14th of 39 men overall. Damn!
And as if that wasn’t impressive enough, he still suggested we all pose for a picture with our newest additions to our technical racing tee collections – and even smiled through what had to be pretty awful pain for it:
Dakin fractured a bone in his right arm, needed stitches in his left knee, and was still hurting Saturday night from a nurse’s scraping rocks out of his hand and knee with a needle that afternoon. Aimee had only this to say: “Your poor friend!” several times after that for the rest of the day and a few more times on Sunday morning before my family left. “Auntie Lissa.” “Yes, dolly?” “Your poor friend!”
My poor trail running brother. I wish I had shared my typical, “Good luck. Have a good run!” before the race instead.
Melissa Mincic, Ph.D., a long-time road and trail runner, conducts applied child development research and works to influence child development policy at the University of Denver. Follow Melissa on Twitter at @nerdinrunshoes.