I Have A Plan – Struggling With the Organization Part Of Racing

Random toilet in the middle of nowhere – Hood River, OR.  I want to know who hauled it in there.

It has been 11 months since my crash. Just shy of one year, and that is hard to believe. When I registered for Run Rabbit Run 100 in January, I thought I would be fine by September. There wasn’t a single second that I thought I might still be struggling by the time the race came around. And yet, here I am. I’ve made a lot of improvements over the last year, but as discussed in my last post, I am far from “normal”. My biggest issues are “executive function”  and visual deficits. For this week’s blog post, I’ll focus on executive function, and next week I’ll get to the vision issues.

The ability to organize and plan is an executive function of the brain. There  are other things that fall into this category, including problem solving, decision making, multi-tasking, and more, and all of them are difficult for me. Ask any of my close friends and family, and they will agree, I’ve always been a “planner”. In fact, those people are probably reading this and thinking that is a huge understatement. It would be more accurate to say “Hello, my name is Kristin, and I’m a planner.” I’m the one that organizes travel itineraries. I’m the one that plans parties. I’m the one that coordinates family trips. I organize things to a fault, it’s an obsession. I may not have a Type A personality about everything, but I enjoy making all those arrangements. At least I used to. Now it is a struggle. An incredibly frustrating – I want to throw things across the room – sort of struggle.

Kristin & Kristen on a very soggy High Lonesome Trail
Kristin & Kristen on a very soggy High Lonesome Trail. It rained ALL day!

Training for 100 miles involves a lot of very long runs (who would have guessed?). When my coach schedules me to run 25 miles with 6,000’ of vertical gain, it takes some thought to figure out where to run, who might run with me, how I will get there, and what I need to bring.  Often, I try to join other people who have already planned out long run, so that I don’t have to do as much of that planning. I’ve got quite a few friends that are training for various ultras right now, but  training schedules can be different. They might have a race, or it is their rest weekend, and that means I don’t get the easy option. Looking at maps, or searching my Garmin account for previous runs, or looking at various websites, takes a lot out of me. There have been many nights that Josh has come home from work to find me staring at a topo map, and that is all that is happening – staring. I just look at it, and I get so overwhelmed with all the lines and tiny words and numbers, that I can’t even think. So he tells me to put down the map, and sits down to start helping me plan my route. Giving up control and letting my husband plan it all out for me is not easy.

Once I finally figure out where I’m going to run, then comes the next part, and that is trying to figure out how I’m going to get there. Since I can’t drive myself, I have to find someone who wants to go run that distance with me, and wants to drive to the trailhead. For those days that I can’t find anyone, I once again turn to Josh for help. On these days we try to find a place I can run where he can get in some time on his mountain bike, and we can both get the training we need. It has been working out alright so far.

Coconut, fruit and nut rice bars. One of my favorite trail foods.
Coconut, fruit and nut rice bars. One of my favorite trail foods.

The last big piece of planning comes in the form of nutrition. I have to figure out how much food to take. I aim for 150-180 calories per hour. When you are out for 8 hours, this is a lot of food. I’m normally a level-headed person, but I’ve nearly lost it a couple of times working out my nutrition plans. Thinking through how long a run will take, and computing that into calories, and making sure there are complex carbs, and simple carbs, and fats, and salt….blah, blah. Do I want Black Cherry Bloks, or Orange Bloks? Would peanut butter pretzels be better, or rice bars? The decision paralysis can make me want to scream. It is a lot of decisions and calculations, and it was never a big deal before the brain injury. This was BY FAR the hardest part of my last race. It was WAAAAAY harder than the actual running part. In the week leading up to Sheep Mountain 50 miler, my brain was beyond fried with all this planning. Trying to sort out what to put in my drop bags, and what to give Josh for the crew stations, was totally overwhelming. There were a few nights that week that I just cried, and was a complete zombie. Josh had to take over, and look through everything to make sure I had it all organized.

So as Run Rabbit Run 100 approaches, I’m trying to do a little bit every day. My cognitive therapist Sarah has given me tools to help with my organization and planning. I’m making 3-step lists of what I need to get done. I write down the goals, then I write down a list of what I need to do to accomplish those goals. Then I make a third list of where I need to start. It is a process, but it is the only way I can get through bigger tasks.

Now if only I could remember where I put the list.

42 days until Run Rabbit Run 100…

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