Brain Injury Awareness Month

On April 2, 2011, I completed a marathon, winning age group and placing 20 overall. On the 25th, my life changed forever in a roll over car accident resulting in a  TBI.  
It’s been a journey of recovery and challenge. I have reduced perioception in my feet, issues with visual depth perception and reduced peripheral vision. I had to relearn how to walk and balance. I had intense speech therapy to address aphasia and recover writing skills. The recovery therapists helped develop strategies to reduce problems with sensory overload.
Diagnosing brain injury and the residual issues was an exercise in frustration. I underwent countless tests: MRIs, CT scans, neuropsychological exam, EEG. I was diagnosed with a seizure disorder secondary to the TBI. The neurologists eventually diagnosed Diffuse Axonal Injury. 
Like many survivors, I suffer from anxiety, depression, and mood instability. My treatment team (clinical social worker, neurologist, psychatirst) and I have a solid regime to improve my life and function. Things are much better.  
Eight months after the accident, I ran again. Well, shuffled was more like it. Running became my release and hope. I constantly saw improvement in endurance and speed.  I celebrated milestones such as achieving my longest run and my first road races.  Running is now my stress relief and source of peace and mindfulness.
This is Brain Injury Awareness Month. I am a brain injury survivor. This month I celebrate being a survivor and what I have overcome. April 1, 2017, I meet a new milestone: my first marathon post brain injury.  

Determination

Some days, nothing goes right.  Staying with it is determination and discipline.  No matter if the challenge is a run where everything is going wrong or struggles with life, keep moving.

 There are times hat I just want to give up when the depression and PTSD are doing their worst.  In the past I found that getting back into the race seems so much harder than keeping moving, no matter how difficult, painful, or frustrating it can be.  

Discipline and determination.

It remains to be seen if the marathon will go well… or not.
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Long Run

A bad rehearsal is said

Should not fill one with cold dread

The concert will go just fine

The Planets will all align

I hope the same concept holds 

For marathons sevenfold 
The forecast called for bright sun
A warm balmy day for one

Fluffy cotton clouds above

Early spring; a day to love
But it rained with icy sleet

My clothes did not demand meet 

I froze my toes, feet and hands 

This was not what I had planned.
We stopped for rocks in our shoes

Then one had to number two

A shoelace came untied twice

A water flask did drop thrice
Walking by a person called

Into bushes I did fall

Woonnnk! A car’s horn was blasting

Balance was not long lasting 
I wasn’t hurt. Not really

Do I need stitches on knee?

I have scrapes and bruises too

But no blood on my new shoes!
Twenty two long miles of jinx

Now shaking out hamstrings kinks

It truly sucked but is done

The final long pre race run. 

Getting There is Half the Fun

Running presents its own challenges in snowy, cold, and icy conditions.  You’d think the treadmill would be safe.  It isn’t.


My feet slid out from under

On my ass I fell asunder

coordination I clearly lacked

Like turtle flipped on its back

It’s too bad there wasn’t a video
It would go viral; this I know.

Not once, not twice, but it numbered three

That my feet slid out from under me

Help me I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!
I finally got traction; oh what luck!

I almost did my feet regain

But I slipped and fell again

Rising up from fall number four

I skated and slipped my way through the door

Inside makes a safe workout
No more falling without a doubt. 

Oh, now here comes the fun

It’s a Ten mile step up run

Ask me again and I’ll tell you still

I truly hate the dreadmill

Fartlek  Humor

Finding humor in difficult times makes it a bit easier to cope.  This may be about running but I hope it still brings a smile or at least a groan.  Groaning can be stress relieving as well.

A brief explanation of the word “fartlek.”   In Swedish, fartlek means “speed  play.” The idea is increase your cardio threshold and reduce recovery time.   A fartlek is an unstructured run with the pace alternating between easy to hard effort for varying distances/time.  The runner decides when to do the pickup and for how long. It’s a workout form that I enjoy.  


Fartleks on Ice

The ice on the ground glinting
Fartleks mean a bit of sprinting

It has become its own game
Scored by five; this is the aim:
A five is when you run without a hitch
While two is when you land in a ditch

With a four you slip once, without falling 
A one and you land flat and sprawling 

Somewhere in between is the three
More careful of score you must be

You really don’t want to score a zero
That will make your ortho a hero

You will be off the road to injury recover
It is such a pain, such a bother

A dreadmill is the wise choice to run

But the extra challenge makes the workout more fun.
A four I scored by golly
 I wasn’t hurt by my folly

One more time to score a five
Always a perfect score I’ll strive.

Running

I just noticed that I haven’t blogged about running for a long time.

Finally, I came to an uncomfortable acceptance that I will most likely never run another marathon.  In a way, this is good.  I can run now without the pressures of long training runs and time commitment.  My “competition” is against myself, the course, and time by running virtual races.  I still train for them like a “live” race.  My training varies from slow long runs to speed work.  The longest distance I race is 10k. My goals right now are a post BI personal bests in a 10k and 5k.  I also want to run in a road race again.

on a nature trail


Now that my training is less intense I notice the beauty of my surroundings.  I was so serious before that stopping in a training run was forbidden; never mind taking picture.  The tree is next to a nature trail never my house.I noticed my surroundings but I didn’t take time to really see them.  Now, I hear the wind, birds, running water and other sounds of nature if I’m at the lake.  I also notice traffic noises on the road which is not quite as nice.   Running is more enjoyable.

I must admit that sometimes I feel slow and I’m frustrated by changes to my body and brain.  These days are frustrating.  I like a challenge but not comparing before and after.  It accomplishes nothing.

I want to run a marathon again.  I enjoy the challenge.  If it doesn’t happen, it’s ok.  Running again is ultimately more important than running a specific race.

Find something you love and allow yourself to enjoy it.  It matters.

Fear

So easy to say. So,hard to do.  Some many times I am haunted by my past for various reasons.  It’s hard to outrun the monster behind me whose claws want to dig in and drag me back into the “I should have….” “I would have”.. “Why did/didn’t do that?”  “Why did I trust that person?” “I wish that..” “I failed to…”

The largest one for me is: ” Why did I take that route.”  If I went the other way, the brain injury would never had happened. 

 Many times people have to let go of trauma. 

Sometimes people have to release something or someone they lost.   Sadly, many dreams die.

That’s a lot of crap for people to carry.  But so hard to release. Learn from the past but don’t take it for a hike in your backpack. 

The future is similar. Here exist the “What if’s” “What will happen.” And anxiety and/ or fear of what might happen.  We give the future power over our present and are generally miserable.  Yes, visit the future to set goals such as getting a job or going to school.  The key is to look to plans but be flexible within them.   The future is not what you might think. Don’t  stay there.  Don’t play the fear game of what might happen. Frightening place if you get stuck in the fear game. 
  

The present is where things happen.  You might want the job but if you don’t apply or go to the interview, that future won’t happen.  We take action. We adapt as the future unfolds.

Yet, we often make the mistake of rushing to the next thing: trying   so hard to meet the needs of life.  The future becomes terrifying. Our present becomes fearful- often because we are projecting the worst of our fears in the future that may never be.

Don’t be so busy that you forget to enjoy the present time.  Take time to motive and enjoy your surroundings.  Taste you food fully and slowly.  Experience the smell and texture of that orange you eat.  Be fully present in the moment. 

Marathon running highlights these concepts.  

Future: We fear the future.  Will I catch the shuttle? Will I finish? Will I get hurt?  What if I have to pee? Will there be an aid station?  If I fail, what would people think? Will these shoes give me blisters?

Past:  Was my training enough?  Did I eat the wrong meal last night?  Did I bring the right shoes?

Present:  Staying in the present is a challenge.  We want to project into the future or just plain worry.  “What clothes do I wear: long sleeved, short sleeved?  Tights or shorts? Jacket or not?  Damn, it’s raining.  What do I eat?  MRunning, we are so focused on what we are doing: the course, aid stations, other people. 

Slow down mentally.  Enjoy the moment you are in.  Notice your surroundings.  Stay in the present.  This is where we run.  Enjoy the moment.  That is one pretty bridge. Taste life.  Understand life is a balance.  

  
The past is gone.  The futures is unknown. Stay present. Notice and enjoy what  surrounds you.  

Now, it I could only do these things myself.

Tread and Dread

Three firefighters died while fighting wildfires in Washington State. A total of 22 died throughout Oregon, California,  and Washington.  Several thousand  people lost their homes or were evacuated due to safety.  The fires set a record in acres consumed.  At this point, National Guard, Army Active Duty, and fire teams from other countries are involved.  The air quality throughout the state is horrible. May the firefighters stay safe and the fires controlled.  Blessings for the family and friends of those killed.

All I have to worry about with the fires is running inside on a treadmill because of air quality.  It’s a small concern overall.  This blog is about how a runner stays entertained while running on a treadmill because of air quality.   It is not meant to put down what is happening with the fires.

California-governor-declares-emergency-due-to-wildfires-firefighter-killed

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A bane of most runners’ workouts is the dreaded treadmill, or dreadmill.  Today was my turn to experience the boredom.

One must have a plan to complete a dreadmill workout.  You are truly on a road to nowhere; it’s the same scenery.  It gets worse as run time and mileage are longer.  Many runners zone out listening to music on iPods.  Since I no longer tolerate sounds well, I have to amuse myself in other ways.

The TBI affected my intelligence and attention span.  For example, my math skills are now at a 5th grade level.  I completed a class in calculus at one point.  Big change.  I practiced the multiplication table to pass time.  It went ok for a few numbers.  Then I got to 6.  The finger counting began.  Six times seven… Let’s see… Six times six is 36. So: 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42.  It’s 42.  Mind you, I counted on fingers or I lost my place.  Then, the sevens.  Seven times six is… So: 7×5 is 35.  And so goes the finger counting 421 that’s it.  I couldn’t reverse the numbers although I understand they are equal.  I last until the nines table.  My head was toast.  The thought.. “I’m not smarter than a 5th grader.”  Cute show.

Next game: watch traffic and come up with stories about the people.  One was about a man going to see his girlfriend.  He stopped at McDonald’s and choked on a McNugget.  Another: Her ferret stole the last apple, dragged it under the couch, and ate all of it. (note: ferrets are carnivores.  They shouldn’t eat apples.  And a full apple would be a huge meal for a ferret).  The horse trailer that stopped on the road in front of the gym so the guys could get coffee was interesting.  It was huge.  And had some nice looking horses at least their butts which was all I could see.  I rapidly got bored.

Next: Name animals in alphabetical order.
A: Anteater
B. Badger This is where it went horribly wrong. The song “Badger badger Mushroom” popped into my head immediately. For those not familiar with it, the song’s words are: “Badger, Badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger; Mushroom. Mushroom. ” This repeats several times, then “It’s a snake… a snake… oh, it’s a snake.” Now, back to badger. So much fun to have stuck in your head.
For those of you who are curious just how bad it can be, here’s the link. Listen at your own risk. Badger Badger
To get that charming little ditty out of my head I resorted to singing Marine and Army cadences in my head. It worked. (looking at the readout: crap, 15 more minutes)

I continued my alphabet game with C,D, and E. Of course, F was FERRET! Such cute little critters. I need to clean their cage…
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As I went through the remaining letters, there were some I couldn’t think of an animal. Others, I named food first. For example, “H= Hamburger… no, no. It’s a food. Hawk. That’s it.” I was getting hungry… mmmm… food. I wonder if I can get a friend to drive me for a Blizzard?

Eventually, the run ends. Just in time. R was for “Restroom.”

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