Friday, May 15, 2009

Epic Shark Fail(s)

Let's face it. I gave my two weeks notice last Thursday and am mentally checked out. In the 4.5 days I have left in the office all I've got on my plate are the tail ends of two really tedious projects, each of which might take me about 20 minutes to do. What better way to take advantage of my need for distraction than by documenting some of my favorite injuries from a lifetime of klutzhood? If only there were photos to accompany these.

Senior year of high school. I'm at my friend Hillary's house late one evening, celebrating her birthday hard core by joining a small crowd of party-goers in dancing on a makeshift ballroom floor in the dining room.

In a random fit of seeking attention as a means to expel a sudden oncoming of internal energy, I place my right hand behind my neck while my left hand grips my elevated left ankle. I then begin to rhythmically convulse, bending my torso back and forth while pulling and pushing the leg my left hand has a hold of.

Why this was even once considered a good idea for a dance move is beyond me. Within moments my overzealousness got the best of me -- my own left knee met my face quickly and sharply, leaving me with a broken pair of glasses and my first bloody nose. I somehow had to drive home that night despite only barely being able to see the road.

While serving as a full-time missionary in Dallas, one of my zone leaders comes to my area overnight to see how the work is coming along. While getting ready to retire for the evening, I decide it'd be great to share with him my plan for a cross-country road trip when I get home.

Standing on my bed to adequately point at the map I had hung near the ceiling, I mentally note that the fan, which is currently on the highest speed setting, is hanging just inches from my noggin. "You'll be fine as long as you don't lean back any further," I tell myself.


I fall off my bed, hit the floor, and grip my head as I writhe in pain. Zone Leader stares in disbelief.

One or two weeks later, my OTHER zone leader makes an overnight visit to my area. Zone Leader #1 calls us to ask Zone Leader #2 a question, and we put him on speaker phone so all three of us can chat.

"Hey, did you tell him what happened around this time last week?" Zone Leader #1 chuckles over the phone.

I wisely respond, "Oh, let me reenact it! It was pretty funny!"

Standing on the bed, I explain, "Well, I was showing Zone Leader #1 some locations on my map, and then my head went like THIS --" Mentally I'm thinking that I'm not really going to stick my head in that fan again, I'm going to get just close enough to illustrate the direction it was headed.


Body plops to floor, hands grip head, teeth grit. Zone Leader #2 stares in disbelief. Realizing I'm okay, he loses it laughing. Zone Leader #1 probably rethinks my eligibility as a missionary.

A group of friends, including myself, decide to hike along a river running through Zion National Park -- much of the trail demanding us to hike in water sometimes up to our chests.

Months of preparation take place, including several safety disclaimers and lists of gear to bring along. Knowing that our feet are going to be submerged much of the hike, Darrell and I decide that regular shoes or hiking boots will only soak up water and get really heavy. We opt instead to go out and buy some hike-worthy sandals.

Of course, what footware store name is most equated with the phrase "hike-worthy"? Payless Shoes, duh! Without even bothering to look elsewhere, we head straight there and quickly find the cheapest pair of sandals money can buy -- I think each pair cost us about 12 bucks. Satisfied that our feet would be adequately protected for the twelve mile hike by a thin slice of leather topped by a few inches of cheap thread, we head to South Utah for the great outdoors.

The hike is awesome. Beautiful. We even think we're going to die from flash floods a few times when it starts raining in our particular part of the canyons. By the end of the arduous journey, the cold water combined with exhaustion have made my feet entirely numb. Since I can't feel any pain, I naturally assume that my feet are doing alright.

Getting back to camp and pulling out some shoes and socks to throw on, however, reveals the truth of the situation: the straps running across a the top of my feet, where callouses don't reside, have slowly been cutting into my skin, grinding away a large area of the top few layers bit by bit over the 12-mile trek. Removing the sandals reveals a bloody mess, and after some makeshift wound-dressing to now-thawed little tootsies, I find myself unable to walk without wincing in very real pain. For about a week after finishing the hike I walk like an arthritic old mule and even solicit piggy back rides from roommates. Some of the scabs are so deep that they literally take about 8 months to completely heal.

Darrell's feet? Totally fine. It turns out that he didn't tighten the straps on his sandals all that much, so there wasn't such a tight, constant abrasion. Darrell also hates tightening a tie all the way up to his neck and wearing pants where the crotch doesn't sag at least five inches below the point where his legs converge. I'm pretty sure that Darrell would wear absolutely nothing but a Snuggie everywhere he went if it were socially acceptable.

On the upside, the remaining scars remind me of the great charity of two of my roommates. Upon returning home, without me even asking, Mitch cleaned and dressed my hideous wounds (and re-dressed them at least twice in the days that followed), and Isaac ignored the throngs of women who were constantly chasing him for at least an hour as he ran around the ward looking for some medicine to prevent infection. These memories honestly warm my heart.

On another hiking venture about a year later, Darrell decides to take us to Henefer, UT (pictured to the right) to explore the vast expanse of rock and dryness surrounding his hometown.

Nearing the last two miles of a maybe-six mile tour, the first few members of the group, including Darrell and myself, reach a six foot drop off a great fallen tree we've been walking along. Darrell and a couple others gingerly climb down hand over foot to be safe. I, on the other hand, decide that the dirt beneath the tree looks soft enough to me, and six feet really isn't that far of a drop anyway, so I take a few steps and leap off and fall until...

... my foot lands on a fallen branch, causing my ankle to roll worse than it ever has in a million lifetimes. For the only time I can remember in my adult life, I scream in pain and lie in the dirt, nursing the wound while the rest of the group catches up to us and stairs at this pathetic ball of a man rolling around on the ground. Luckily the hike is mostly over, and the hardest part is behind us, although the last half mile or so involves walking across a sea of endless rocks and boulders, which I challenge anyone with a sprained ankle to do at a pace faster than that of a drunken three-toed sloth.

Later on, a crescent bruise will form under the ball of my ankle, and I won't be able to run comfortably for at least 6 months. I think I even use crutches for the only time in Shark history for a brief period.

Last year I decide to run from my house in Alexandria, VA all the way to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC -- a roundtrip totalling about 10.5 miles. Of course, up until this run I've only trained for 5 or 6 miles. Forget that I decide to make this run once I'm already out the front door, so I don't have any water with me.

I return a VERY dehydrated, queasy man who can barely walk, and it takes me about three months for my running injuries to heal enough that a light jog is even feasible.

And that, my friends, is just the tip of the iceberg.

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Friday, May 1, 2009


If you happen to be visiting this page from a link on Sonja's blog, I apologize for any confusion. "Mark Gillins" is dead. The Shark ate him.

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