The Ridge Run’s rocky terrain and poor footing love to inflict injury on the unsuspecting running. A few posts ago, I said I would discuss some common sense things you can do to minimize injury. An unexpected injury can abruptly ruin your Ridge Run experience or your preparation for the Ridge Run.
Injuries from Falls
Unless you have the agility and balance of a Russian acrobat, there is a good chance that you will eventually trip or slip resulting in a fall. The most common result is a few scrapes and scratches. The sharp limestone on the Ridge Run course is very good at ripping flesh.
Besides cuts and scrapes, more serious injuries do happen. Ask Scott Creel to show you his permanently mangled little finger. Personally, I have broken my tail bone, broken a rib and cracked my head in such a way that it still gets a bump whenever I get a fever.
While training in 2000, my feet slid out from under me going downhill below Baldy. This slip resulted in the broken tailbone.
During the 2002 race, I tripped going down the steep scree right below the Baldy aid station. This resulted in me doing a flying superman impression. It ended badly in a belly flop and broken rib. I bounced off my chest back unto my feet barely missing a step. It stunned me, but I was able to finish the race. It also shocked the hell out of the person running next to me, Mike Carey. As is common with traumatic events, some images are indelibly etched in memory. Out of the corner of my eye, I can still see an image of Mike Carey running along right next to me. Our heads are at about the same level as we go down the steep section below Baldy. Only problem is that he is vertical with his feet on the ground and I am horizontal flying through the air.
Adopting a running technique of lifting your knees and bringing your foot right down underneath you instead of swinging it forward helps mitigate tripping. This gets harder to do as you become fatigued. It requires concentration and effort.
As it happens, most of my trips have occurred in the later sections of the course when I am tired and not paying attention. I’ve tripped many times between Saddle Peak and Baldy. This stretch contains some very runnable, but rocky sections. The combination of running in the rocks while being fatigued is a receipt for tripping.
If you do trip, sometimes you can get your feet back underneath you. Sometimes it becomes quickly apparent, that you are going down. If at all possible it is better to tuck a shoulder and land on your side or back than do a face plan or belly flop.
Slips mainly occur on steep downhill sections where the footing is either dry dusty and gravely or muddy. Slips can also occur where you have to make sharp turns such as the wooded section above the M. To prevent slips, put feet down directly underneath you, bend your knees a little bit more than usual and lean slightly forward. Slipping occurs if you plant your foot too far out in front of you or too far out to the side. Try to run in the middle of the trail. Loose rocks tend to get shoved to the edges of trail.
The foothill trail section between Sacajawea and Ross pass is also an area where slips are common. The trail is narrow and on a side hill. I’ve slipped off the trail quite a few times here, but have been fortunate and have not tumbled down the hillside. My recommendation is to keep your feet in the center of the trail. Do not get to close to the edge.
Ankle sprains are probably nearly as common as scrapes from falls. Ankle sprains have ruined my race plans on more than one occasion. A severe ankle sprain in 2006, took two years to fully heal. I’ve previously blogged about how to prevent ankle sprains so I will just link to that post.
For more information on preventing ankle sprains Click Here.
Whacking your toe on a rock is fairly common and can make the rest of the race a test of pain tolerance. In the 2005 race coming down off Baldy, I stubbed my big toe. It was as if I had been hit by a hammer. The nail had come off and blood was oozing out. Blood filled my shoe making each step a painful squish-squish. It is hard to keep moving at a good pace when in pain. I slowed dramatically. Wouldn’t you know it, Matt Lavin caught up to me at the top of the M. It is not good form to give up and get passed in view of the crowd gathered at the finish line, so I had to get back into gear and painfully charge down the hill. Matt finished just a step behind me. I think he was being polite by not passing me.
The advice on preventing a stubbed toe is the same as preventing a trip. Lift your knees, have your foot come down directly underneath you and concentrate.
Blisters may not seem so bad, but they can ruin your day. The uneven footing and the side hills can cause your foot to slide in your shoe more than running on gentler terrain. The resulting blisters can make for a miserable experience.
Make sure you experiment with different sock, insole and shoe combinations on the Ridge Run course during training. Find a solution that does not result in foot slippage and blisters. Whatever you do, do not first use in a race an untested new sock or insole or shoe combination.
Some people put grease (lubricant like Vaseline) on their feet before the race. I do not do this. Experiment in training to see if that works. There are lots of theories and resources on how to treat and prevent blisters. Other than getting your footgear lined out ahead of the event, I’m not going say any more about that.