Trail Sisters Half Marathon & 10k

September 14th • Buena Vista, CO

Down but Not Out

Kiley lives in Rifle, Colorado and enjoys spending every day outside. Whether that be running, exploring with her boyfriend and dog, or taking care of dogs as part of her pet care business, Alpine Canine. Kiley just completed her first ultra and has changed out her trail shoes for road shoes and will be running NYC TCS Marathon in November!

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About a year ago, I reached a breaking point with road running. Ten plus years of pounding the ground with little to no injury was finally catching up to me. My feet were tired and hurt, and the pain was starting to inch up my legs.

This was also around the time I experienced my first running injury. After racing Grandma’s Marathon and taking some time to recover, I tried to go for a run and my right hip could not achieve a running motion and it screamed in pain. Looking back, there were a number of potential culprits to why my hip locked up. For one, I didn’t look at the elevation profile during training and was not prepared for the large amount of downhill. Also, immediately after the race, I got in the car for a 2 hour drive and then hopped on a plane for 2 hours, too much sitting too soon. And previous to the race, I was having problems with my left foot. Maybe I overcompensated with my right?

I remember when I called the physical therapist’s office, I cried to the receptionist. I had never been injured to the point where I couldn’t run and I am someone who does not miss a run, let alone 6 weeks of no running. After some visits with my PT, my hip was ready, but I was scarred. Road running banged me up. Running on the sidewalks became unenjoyable, I craved softer surfaces.

This is when I found trail running. My feet were so much happier on the trails. Plus my slower pace on trails and the mantra “run when you can, walk when you can’t” helped with injury recovery. I completed a 10 mile race at the end of last year and I had a blast. Soon after, I signed up for my first ultra.

When the trails finally defrosted this year, I went out for a long run. In the last 20 minutes of the run, I fell hard. It was such a hard fall, my Garmin watch detected the incident and started dialing my emergency contact. I got up, assessed my now busted knees, and kept running. Incredulously, 5 minutes later I fell again! This time landing on my hands, not my knees. Now my hands are scratched up. I had no idea why this was happening. A couple steps later, boom, fell again, hitting my head in the grass. I had managed to maneuver my body to avoid the trail and land in the grass. I was bleeding and upset. Safe to say, I called it right there and walked it in.

I proceeded to fall 3 more times on trail runs after that. It was incredibly frustrating and it made me go into every run with fear that it would be my last. I found myself googling “falling on trails”, and scouring instagram posts of trail runners I follow, looking at their knees, wondering if they ever fall. I found some mentions of falling, but not why they were falling. I was embarrassed and felt like I was a “bad” trail runner because of how often I fell.

During my peak week, I decided to run on the race course. I was testing out a new handheld water bottle and at one point while running I thought to myself, “this seems like a bad idea if I need to catch a fall!” Soon after, I fell and since my right hand was occupied with the bottle, I caught the fall with my shoulder and my head. My right temple hit a lava rock. I sat there on the trail, in shock, doing a body scan to see if I was okay. Somehow, my BOCO hat, Shokz headphones and Smith Wildcats created enough of a buffer to prevent a wound and in the long run, a concussion.

With my head pounding, I ran as carefully as I could back to my car, and when I got home, I threw a pity party. I was now scared. I was questioning if I still wanted to pursue my ultra trail race. I almost missed complaining about my sore feet from the roads. This was a close call, I was covered in cuts and bruises from my shoulders to my toes, but not concussed.

So how do you get over the fear of falling, when you have a horrible fall on a practice run on the course? It was a mental battle that I had to resolve in the short time of taper. I think there are a lot of reasons people fall. Most likely it’s when we get tired and distracted. Personally, I believe I fall because of weaknesses in my hips and getting the lift I need to clear rocks. Along those lines, I know I need to work on shortening my stride when things get technical. By race day, I accepted that I was going to fall, and I was going to do everything in my power to prevent it and if it happened I was going to brush it off and keep going. I was excited because I knew I was ready for the distance, but I was also nervous for the technical terrain.

My first and only fall happened at mile 17 of 34, it was quick and I only lightly scraped my knee. I started to get tired at mile 19, and I was nervous about impending falls. That was when I made some friends on the trail and I proceeded to follow their feet for the next 8 or so miles, intently watching where they decided to step. The final 7 miles, I was mostly by myself, and I reminded myself again, “run when you can, walk when you can’t.” So whenever the terrain was smooth, I ran and when it got technical, I slowed down. I finished the race with that one fall and I was the second female across the finish line.

After I finished, I learned about the race’s carnage. There were a lot of falls out there. Someone I knew fell in the first mile, the winner of the 50 miler fell and broke her finger, and there were a couple DNF’s from twisted ankles. The course was a true knee buster! It made me feel better about my falls throughout training, now seeing first hand that it happens to everyone, and it became a bonding experience after the race.

I have come to the conclusion that you have to be equally tough to be a road runner and a trail runner, one is not easier than the other and both hurt in their own way. But also, they are both so rewarding that even with the injuries, we all keep coming back for more.

About the Author

Kiley lives in Rifle, Colorado and enjoys spending every day outside. Whether that be running, exploring with her boyfriend and dog, or taking care of dogs as part of her pet care business, Alpine Canine. Kiley just completed her first ultra and has changed out her trail shoes for road shoes and will be running NYC TCS Marathon in November!

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One Response

  1. Thank you for sharing your story, this is so encouraging to me as a fellow trail runner who also seems to fall a lot more than others! In fact, while training for my first trail marathon last summer, I took a hard fall that required stitches in my right knee. I was so nervous to return to trails after taking two weeks off but I missed them so much and knew I needed to conquer my fear. So now I wear volleyball knee pads on every run for extra protection! Doesn’t look cool but helps me feel better for when I do fall. I’ve since run my first ultra and fell a couple times during the race but still finished! I wish I knew why I fall so much and how to avoid it (other than being extra careful on technical sections) but it’s good to know I’m not alone! Keep running!!!

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Sept. 14th 2024

Buena Vista, Colorado

Half-Marathon & 10k

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