Tips for the Trail – A Lesson in Trail Karma – Xterra 8-17-2012

By Rachel Cieslewicz

published in Xterra August 17, 2012

A few weeks ago, my worst nightmare on a trail came true.  I was on an uphill section of single track, enjoying a wonderful midday mountain bike ride on my favorite trail. It is a skinny little section where everyone needs to look out for each other to be safe. I looked up as I came around a bend to see a guy flying down the hill straight at me.  He made no move to slow down as I tried desperately to get out of his way. He hit me head on.

Me weighing less than half his weight went down the side of the mountain. I fell 10 feet and hit a tree.  Not only did he make no move to help me up, he stood at the top of the trail and yelled at me for being in his way and to learn how to ride my bike.  I sobbed as I tried to untangle myself from my bike and the tree and other flora. He took off.

The damage done to my body was significant, even if not critical: an injured sacroiliac joint, bruised ribs, neck completely out, and a mixed variety of blood and bruises and missing skin.  My shock was broken on my bike. I think what hurt more than the physical pain was my heart and ego.  Did this guy seriously not know how hard he hit me? He obviously had no care or sense of trail etiquette. Ultimately, that fact that he seemed unconscious about the wellbeing of others was something I struggled to wrap my mind around. Fortunately I was able to get myself home.

Setbacks can be hard, especially with the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship coming so soon.  Initially, I was scared about how long it would take me to heal.  I was angry as well. Last year I wrote an article called Trail Running Etiquette. I talked about how important it is to be kind, look out for each other, and enjoy. When I got hit, everything that happened was the complete opposite of what I love to exemplify.  But now looking back, I am strangely a bit fascinated. I have not run into the guy since. I have no idea what he was thinking that day. Hopefully he later realized he was completely out of line.

For myself, very cool things happened since the day of the incident. Many amazing people in my professional world stepped in to help me. I received massages and multiple chiropractic adjustments to help my hips and neck heal.  The same chiropractor did a technique on me called AMIT. Read about it CLICK HERE. It is an incredible therapy used to fire muscles. It has been a complete miracle.

Another very good yoga teacher friend of mine helped me almost daily to rebalance and strengthen muscles that had locked up. One of my sweet clients brought me fresh energizing produce each week to make sure I had the best vegetables.  My sponsor FLORA sent me high quality UDO’s oil to aid in recovery as well. Other beautiful people in my life, as always, made sure I knew that they believe in me and I would be flying again soon.

Karma. It’s a crazy thing.  One mean guy on a trail was cruel. This set off weeks of beautiful acts of kindness by many.  Today I am almost back to 100 percent. I still have time to be ready to fly at Trail Run Nationals on September 23. And the amazing thing is I know I am all the better having the opportunity to remember to make sure I am doing absolutely everything I can to properly train and recover. Do I dare thank the mean guy?

My lesson learned: Don’t take health and fitness for granted. If something goes not as according to plan, step back, re-evaluate and move forward when appropriate.  Take care of yourself and notice all of the incredible things that are going right in your life. See you at nationals! We are five weeks out!

Rachel Cieslewicz is an elite runner and triathlete based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She is a past winner of several XTERRA Trail Run events, and placed fifth at the 2010 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. She is a talented sports massage therapist, Pilates and yoga instructor and is a certified running form coach. She can be reached via e-mail atrcanyon1@gmail.com  or visit her website atwww.newageathlete.comor follow her onwww.twitter.com/newageathlete.