This race was a replacement for Black Canyon Xterra, which got flooded out. In Arizona, where it rarely rained. The local news showed a raging wall of water in what normally is a timid creek. The massive rain storm made the requisite stream crossings hazardous, so the race organizer probably didn’t want to have to do water rescues. I had the option of transferring to another race, so I picked Estrella Mountain. It was the wrong choice.
I had done trail races in this park before. At the last one, I fell and my lacerated knee required six stitches to repair. This weighed on my mind because I was nervous about it happening again. Trail running always had this danger of self-inflicted injury. It was fun when I was relaxed and not worried about bodily injury. It was not fun when I belly-flopped against the stony, unyielding ground and bled all over my leg. I would pick up my knees and run with small steps and still sometimes trip on a rock. I ran slower than I would on pavement out of fear. Sooner or later, though, my clumsiness caught up with me.
This area had many rocks; so many rocks. I hate rocks. I did training runs on rugged trails, but not like this. This park had it in for me, just waiting to catch me off guard. I knew it was coming at some point.
The race started with the typical lack of fanfare. Xterra is usually pretty laid back. Most times, I am left by myself, as much faster runners bolt away, but for some reason, I always had people around me. I couldn’t believe they were as slow as I was. I ran cautiously, tripping a few times, but always caught myself. The hills were a lot of effort, but not extreme to the point that I thought I was dying. I felt tired, though. I was 1.5 miles in and thought, how the hell am I going to finish? This was not a good feeling when I had some three miles to go. I kept climbing.
On the last mile and a quarter I passed someone I knew and said “Hopefully, I won’t trip,” and promptly did so. Four whole miles I had made it without harm, but the downhill waited to snare me. Out of nowhere, I caught my foot and suddenly hit the ground, with no chance to slow my momentum. My first thought was I hope I don’t need stitches. My second thought was I am stupid. Oh my god my knee really hurts! It was bleeding profusely. I got up gingerly and brushed the dust off my leg. I tried to wash the wound off with some water, but it was hopelessly dirty with mushy tissue. People stopped to ask how I was doing. How the hell should I know? The blood was dripping down my leg, but all I could do was keep going, limping like a lame pirate. I was alert, but not happy about my crippled state. I tried to “run” because I was about .75 miles from the end.
I hobbled towards the finish line, passed a photographer and managed to trip again. Now I had two wounded knees. Trying to run in pain didn’t make for a fast time. Undoubtedly, my two bloody, dripping knees were a spectacle as people cheered at the sight of my finish. Total time was 64:27 for 4.79 miles.
|I got a medal and medical bills.|
The first aid guy tried to clean the dirt out of the raw flesh. He lifted a big flap of loose flesh and predicted fifteen stitches. Great! He suggested I go to an ER, rather than urgent care because the wound was deep. Medics at Xterra races can’t do much because they lack the equipment. This was depressing. I dreaded huge medical bills and a long wait. I usually go to urgent care to have my wounds cleaned, but they can be hit or miss. Some don’t have x-ray machines. Some have doctors who don’t know what they are doing. Sometimes, the wait is still not short.
I had the foresight to bring my insurance card with me, because what could have possibly gone wrong running on a rocky trail? I stopped at an ER on the way home. They cleaned up the wound, washing out still more dirt. They numbed the knee, sewed eleven stitches and put on vast amounts of dressing. An x-ray showed no broken bones. They wanted to do an MRI, because some radiologist who probably wasn’t on my insurance plan thought the knee might have a tear. I was tired, dirty and hungry after being there for four hours and I didn’t want to wait indefinitely to have a procedure that I may not even need. I refused the crutches they gave me. Why do I have to battle with these people? I broke down and wore the knee immobilizer only to the car. I couldn’t get my leg in the car with it on, so I ripped it off and tossed it on the seat. Who knows what I will end up paying for this device that I had on for five minutes?
I didn’t bother mentioning my banged up elbow at the ER, but I noticed it was painfully swollen when I got home. It still hurts two weeks later, but I will ignore it. I never got the MRI. The swelling was in the front and not in the knee, anyway, and was fine once most of the skin grew back.
So, not only did I incur medical bills, I lost the entry fee for another triathlon race the following weekend. Immersing a stitched wound in dirty Tempe Town Lake water at that race wasn’t recommended. I would have probably end up banging it again, anyway, and it hurt to even walk. I couldn’t bend my leg enough to ride a bike.