Sidelined Again - Ice is Slippery

Scot and I signed up to run the inaugural Groundhog Day Marathon months ago, during a warmer season.  It was to be held in February.  In Michigan.  Yes, we knew that could mean extreme weather.  But it was Groundhog Day!  And Scot's mom Sally was celebrating her 70th birthday that day, so we thought we'd run it for her.

In this multi-leg road trip, Scot first drove from his old home in the Outer Banks up to his new home with me in Arlington VA.  The next day we drove to Columbus OH and stayed with my stepmom Kim.  Then we drove our final leg to stay with friend and fellow Double Agent Janice outside Kalamazoo MI.  We hit some bad weather upon our entry into Ohio on Thursday, and more in Michigan on Friday.  With a huge swath of lake-effect snow headed to the race site in Grand Rapids, we knew we were in for an adventure.

Pre-race weather.  Lovely day, no?
 Caravanning with Janice in the wee hours of February 2nd, we saw many cars in ditches off the side of the road.  The usually short, direct route between K-Zoo and Grand Rapids was quite treacherous.  Finally, we arrived safely at the race site, said hello to a few friends, grabbed our bibs and timing chips, and made it across the starting line just a tad bit late.  But then, I'm told almost everyone was a few minutes late across the starting mats, so no biggie.

Scot and I before the start. Those snow covered cars had JUST parked there.  (Photo credit to Michael Hoyt.)

The Groundhog Day Marathon course consisted of six 4.4 mile loops through a beautiful park.  Normally, we'd have run on a paved trail, but we were shuffling through inches of soft, fluffy snow.  More snow was falling during the first couple hours of the race, and the temps were in the twenties.  So, that sets the stage.

Scot's photo of the course shows both its beauty and its danger; we had to run in those ruts.

The course was not cleared of snow, but someone had driven the route, therby creating two tire ruts in the snow.  Runners would run in the ruts.  Many of us had a hard time maintaining an even footing because the snow was packed at different angles based upon the footfalls of those ahead of us.  I kept up a pretty decent pace of running and walking with my friend Ruth for the first lap, but fell behind afterward.  I always admire Ruth, because she has a way of finding a burst of energy when I least expect it.  I was happy for her to go on ahead, and I fell into pace with a runner named Jill who was doing her very first half marathon.  Imagine...your FIRST half marathon is in twenty degree weather and several inches of snow.  I thought she was awesome for coming out.  Jill and I did two laps together, mostly walking, but running on the downhills and whenever the urge struck us.  Jill completed her half marathon after her third lap, but I still had three more laps to go.  At this point, I was becoming mentally weary.  Because of the snow and my slow pace, I did my slowest half marathon ever, and I knew I'd be out there for a few more hours before I finished my full marathon.

With Abbi and Ruth after loop 1, and still feeling good.  (Photo credit to Doug Dahlberg.)
Feeling good before the halfway point with half marathoner Jill. This gives you an idea just how bundled up and layered I was. (Photo credit to Groundhog Day Marathon.)

But fate had something else in mind for me.  The friction of the other runners' footfalls, and the little bit of sun we got caused some of the snow to melt a bit and then freeze over into ice.  There was a spot at approximately Mile 18 in my 5th loop that was a bit icy.  I saw the ice, and as I'm sometimes clumsy on ice under normal conditions (read: while not running a marathon), I slowed my pace and very carefully placed each foot as I walked across that area.  But it didn't matter.  I must have hit that ice just right, because my feet flew out from under me and I landed on my butt.  The snow softened the landing of my posterior, so that wasn't so bad.  My right leg landed straight out in front of me, so that was fine too.  But my left leg...oh, my left leg!  It was bent backward at the knee, sort of "frog leg style" with my left foot behind me.  OUCH!  The position itself is a nice yoga stretch when you ease into it, but not when you land that way with the full weight of your body on the legs.  I had twisted my calf and my knee and was down for the count.

Not an actual sign on the Groundhog course, but this is probably how I looked.  "Nice Jazz Hands" said my friend Nikki.  Gee...thanks!
 Some kind ladies came along the trail shortly after my spill and helped me up.  For a second, I debated hobbling the remaining 1 3/4 loops to the finish line to complete my Michigan marathon.  But I thought better of it.  I couldn't walk without a pronounced limp and distictive pain.  I hobbled backwards on the trail to the water station I had recently passed.  I stayed warm by the heater under their tent and tried to call Scot.  But his phone was turned off.  I thought I'd see him coming by the water station shortly, but he had opted to travel the opposite way around the loop - for all reasons - to see me!  But I didn't know this, and he was far from where I was.  I left a message with friends Frank, Ruth and Doug to let Scot know what happened to me when they passed him on the trail.  Then I got a ride back to the race HQ tent and waited. 

Here is Scot all bundled up: before, during of after I dropped out?  We'll never know.
 The good news: because I had completed more than 4 loops, and the half marathon was only 3 loops, I was able to receive an official finish time and medal for the half marathon.  That was a small consolation.  The bad news: even though I saw Scot on his next trip past the timing mats, he still had another loop to go, and his ankles were in excruciating pain. He kept going, and I kept waiting.  Until all the other runners had left.  But the other good news: Scot eventually got his full marathon finish for Michigan.  For the great support at this ever-challenging marathon, we'd like to thank race director Don Kern and his staff, including our friend Marathon Maniac David Thierjung.  They couldn't control the weather, but they put on a great, small inaugural race, and made sure everyone was taken care of.

Scot with his painfully earned Groundhog Day Marathon medal.  My medal is smaller and reads "Half Marathon."

It's been more than a week since my "slipping on ice" injury.  I will not call it a running injury because it could have happened on any ice, anywhere.  And I wasn't even running...I was very, very carefully negotiating my way through the icy patch...I just didn't negotiate quite right.  Well, I had to skip a 50K (would have been my first) this past weekend.  How many more races will I need to skip while I'm continuing to heal?  I'm registered for another double this month: Myrtle Beach Marathon and Mercedes Marathon in Alabama.  I think I'll need to make a game-day decision on these, as I'm a little better, but still not great.

So, those are the risks of wintertime running.  Or really, just being out and about in the snow and ice for any reason.  Be careful, everyone!  Oh...and did that Groundhog see his shadow or not?  I never heard...I just want spring to come NOW!


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