Warning: This post is not for the faint of heart. It details how one woman’s perfectly lovely day descended into a harrowing nightmare from which she was uncertain she would escape. Not without a bunch of mosquito bites and/or extreme sunburn. Or on a stretcher. It is being retold here in an effort to avoid costly (and possibly out-of-coverage) therapy.
So there I was, enjoying a lovely summer lunch (cranberry/pecan salad with raspberry vinaigrette and 1/2 pimiento cheese on whole wheat toast w/tomato) yesterday when I realized that I was only a mile or so from the greenway, a walking trail I hadn’t visited since it flooded a few months ago. I had planned to go for a bike ride later in the day, but with storms forecast, I thought it might be wiser to go ahead and git ‘er done with a nice little three-and-a-half mile hike. So what if it was high noon in Memphis in mid-July. I’m an athlete (sort of), and 75% of the trail is in deep shade. Off I went, with great enthusiasm and carb-fueled energy!
My first not-so-great realization was that 75% of the trail is in deep shade in the early morning hours. In early afternoon? The Gobi Desert with a smattering of trees here and there.
So what, I thought. It’s three-and-a-half itty bitty miles, which means (for me) 50-55 minutes, depending on when I remember to turn on my timer. Not a problem. I’m an athlete (sort of); I’ll just walk super fast in the sunny spots. What a great plan!
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if life was like the movies and that little bit of foreboding music would play when we were about to do something dumb?
You see, my hip had been exhibiting a minor twinge over the past few days and had been particularly worrisome earlier that morning. It seemed to ease, though, the longer I was up and about. Maybe a walk would actually help!
With that in mind, and absent musical cues, I set off. Time of day and temperature had almost emptied the path, but there was a slight breeze for cooling, lots of trumpet vine and Queen Anne’s Lace for visual appeal, and the Black-Eyed Peas, Aretha Franklin, 10,000 Maniacs, et al. for audio companionship. Bonus: The sun kept disappearing behind clouds.
Big, dark clouds.
I do love walking this trail, especially starting from the east end, which means about a 1/2 mile of mostly flat surface before a series of short-but-steep hills deposit you at the comfort station and the western parking area. There’s a little 1/2 mile side loop, but I rarely take it because…well, it seems like it provides more snake hiding places than the main trail. I may be an athlete (sort of), but I’m still a big chicken. I usually just visit the facilities, slurp some water, and turn for home. Or, in this case, the car.
After I took a potty break (an athletic event in and of itself as the door must be held open while the facility is carefully inspected with for spiders, snakes, or other woodland creatures before any partial disrobing can occur), I noticed that my hip twinge was back. A few steps later, I realized it was passing the twinge marker and into the pain category. And now it had developed a catch in it as well. My left leg didn’t seem to want to move forward and support me, not without a lot of conscious thought and planning on my part.
I took a few minutes to try to shake it off (literally) and stretch. And think. I had myself what we call here in the South, a dilemma. Here’s a graphic I was thoughtful enough to snap later, just in case I could think of anyone to sue:
You see the problem, don’t you? I was 1.75 miles away from my car, and I had a broken hip. Broken as in not working, not as in fractured. I hoped. I had my handy iphone, but I didn’t know anyone in the immediate area to call. Besides, I don’t actually use my phone that much for just chatting, so most of my local friends and neighbors numbers aren’t even stored on it. And it seemed silly to call my parents and have them drive 20 miles to take me to my car just because my hip kind of hurt. I thought about AAA, but I didn’t have my agreement with me and I’m pretty sure it just covers auto emergencies. (Hmm, now that I think about it, the problem was that I couldn’t get TO my auto. Must check policy for pedestrian rescue provisions.)
Anyway, with the dark clouds growing in number, I decided I would ease back down the trail. No power walking, no fist pumping. Just strolling. With luck, the movement would work out the kink and everything would be fine.
And it might have been, too, if not for those hills I mentioned earlier. They’re at the beginning of the return trip, and they were brutal. At the bottom of each one, my left leg would just stop working. For 51 years it has operated on auto-pilot, and suddenly I had to really concentrate on telling it what to do. Crazy!
By the time the major hill section was behind me, I had developed a waddle-limp-shuffle step that kept me moving forward. Mostly. Every so often, the pain ratcheted up another notch, and I had to stop and figure out how to alter my gait to get past it. But I persevered, and I was feeling pretty good about my progress until I saw this sign:
Initial excitement faded as I realized this wasn’t the distance remaining; it was how far I’d walked (shuffled). I still had a mile to go.
That mile was gruesome, as you can imagine. The clouds produced some threatening rumbles, which made me a little afraid of being caught in a lightning storm. Scary anytime, but especially so when positioned beneath trees and, oh, did I mention this path passes underneath a row of electric girders? And me barely able to walk, much less run should the storm materialize. But there was nothing to do except hope that if the lightning got me that it didn’t blow off my sneakers, because it’s been eons since I had a pedicure. And so I march-waddled on…
Fortunately, fate was on my side and the clouds rumbled but moved away…just as I was emerging from the “deep shade” portion of the trail, leaving behind an angry sun and 70% humidity (I checked). At mile marker 1.25, I found a bench and took a break. I didn’t care that it was in the broiling sun. At that point, I figured I was going to die out there anyway, and I might as well have a little color in my face when I went.
Thirty seconds of hot sun sitting later, and I was up again. I tried the shake and stretch routine, which didn’t help at all, and I briefly entertained the idea of calling 9-1-1. I discarded it quickly, because the imagined drama and embarrassment of it was too much to think about. There’s no way they could get an ambulance out there, which would leave only a chopper and one of those rescue baskets to haul my chubby butt out of the woods. I don’t like to fly, plus on a slow Saturday, a basket rescue is an instant cue for every media outlet in the region to swarm in. That kind of exposure I don’t need.
And so I continued limp-shuffling forward. At mile marker 1.50, the ultimate disgrace: I was passed…by walkers! I get passed by runners all the time, and I don’t mind. They earned it. But these women weren’t even walking that fast. It’s been a couple of years, at least, since I was passed by walkers. It was humiliating and humbling.
A bright spot just after that, though. A man approaching from the other direction asked if I was injured. I explained what had happened. He replied that he didn’t know that there was anything he could do to help, to which I wanted to reply, “Haven’t you ever seen An Officer and a Gentleman? You’re supposed to swoop me up and carry me to my car.”
But I didn’t. Although he was wearing a white uniform of t-shirt and shorts, he looked all sweaty and stinky. Not nearly the romantic wrap-up as the movie. So I just thanked him for his concern and continued on.
I spent the rest of the time trying to figure out ways I might MacGyvered my way back to the car. If I had had my axe with me, I might have even tried a couple of the ideas I came up with. Then again, if I’d had my axe, I might have cut off my leg. So maybe it’s a good thing I don’t carry it with me everywhere.
An hour and 24 minutes after setting out for my “itty bitty walk”, I arrived back at the car. I tell you, I have new admiration for the Jews who wandered through the desert for 40 years. That extra 40+ minutes of hobbling down a paved semi-suburban walking trail almost did me in!
But as evidenced by this post, I made it! There was a rough patch at the end, when the plan for getting n the car that I spent the last quarter mile figuring out had to be jettisoned. Some monster-truck bozo parked over the line, and I could barely squeeze my door open. I kind of fell into the car as opposed to the somewhat graceful sit-and-swing entry I had planned. Still, I got in, for which I’m grateful. I came home, took some Advil, and collapsed for two hours.
In happy/kind-of-frustrating news, today has been almost completely pain free, with a minor twinge here and there. I’m not sure what the problem was, but I’m glad it’s mostly gone. I won’t tempt fate with another walk today. In fact, I may end up taking another rest day, even though I just had one on Friday. Two rest days in the same week won’t kill me, and I do NOT want this to grow into something ugly and lasting.
One thing I do know for sure is that all of my organized exercise for the next few days will be executed close to home or car! I’m proud I sucked it up and made it back safely, apparently none the worse for wear, but I do not want to repeat the experience any time soon!
Have you ever been caught in a similar situation? Do you have contingency plans when you go hiking or biking or running?
This was therapeutic, as it turns out. If you’re still here, I thank you. And I’ll give you a brief hint as to what my next post will discuss, along with a promise to be much briefer: