Little Baby Shuffles – Milestones in recovery, running, and life after brain injury

“Little baby shuffles”, is a phrase coined by a woman I run with. She used it at a race, encouraging a friend to keep moving forward. It is a fairly accurate way to describe the pace at which many of us finish 100 miles. I am a month out from the IMTUF 100 miler, and feeling recovered. I’ve been picking up my mileage again, and returning to early morning speed and hill workouts with URT. At this point, I don’t really know what my next race will be, but I’m sure it wont be long until I’m signing up for something.

A couple of weeks ago, I was out running on the Coal Creek trail for 10 flat, “easy” miles. At the same time, there happened to be a local race, and I started passing the runners at the tail end of the half marathon. These folks were moving slow. Some looked to be in pain; grimacing or limping. Some looked like they were simply trying to keep moving. After running ultramarathons, when 10 miles becomes an easy recovery run, it is easy to lose perspective. But in that moment, seeing those runners come by, it was so obvious that with 11 miles down, and 2 still to go, those runners at the back of the pack were pushing themselves just as hard as I was at mile 80. They hurt. They were tired. They might even have wondered why they were out there! It might only have been little baby shuffles carrying them forward, but they weren’t stopping. Their finish line was just as big of an accomplishment as mine, and I cheered every one of them as they passed.

Sunrise from the Flagstaff trail.

Recently, I’ve been responding to a lot of emails and Facebook messages from folks recovering from brain injury. Some of them I know, and some I’ve never met. As I answer questions about my own recovery, I realize that at two years out, I’ve made it through the hardest parts. Hearing from folks that can’t go to a grocery store, or cook; socialize with friends, or even interact with their own children, I realize how far I have come. I’ve encouraged several folks to keep a journal of their symptoms and struggles.  This blog has provided that format for me, and if I go back to look at an earlier post, I am reminded of my own struggles at the time it was written. Brain injury recovery isn’t fast. It is little baby shuffles. For my wonderful TBI friends reading this, I’ll remind you that sometimes the steps are so small that it may not seem there is any forward progress, but I see you, and I’m cheering as you tick off the milestones in your own recovery.

Sunrise from the Flatirons Vista trail

This week I reached my own milestone, as I turned the calendar on my 40th year. If you asked me at 30 where I would be at 40, this isn’t exactly what I would have envisioned. It is easy to see other people and compare your life, complete with words like “what if“, “should have“, and “not fair”.  At 40, I thought I would have a successful career as a veterinarian, with enough income to save for retirement, pay off student loans, and travel.  I never thought my parents would be financially supporting us, but I am incredibly grateful they are willing and able to do so, and we have so far been able to keep our home. A lot of folks with brain injury aren’t so fortunate.

On that note, my goal for 40 is to find a job. I still cannot handle being in a noisy environment all day, every day, under fluorescent lights, but I am ready to find more structure in my day. Although I haven’t completely ruled out veterinary home visits, the market here is incredibly saturated, and I don’t know that I am up for the stress of starting my own business. Of course, any day now the ultrarunning sponsorship dollars are going to start pouring in, but in the meantime… I’m very organized, a meticulous planner, and enjoy writing, so, if anyone is looking for help with something I can do from home, please reach out.

Sunset at Dry Creek Open Space

Little baby shuffles – whether running 100 miles, a half-marathon, or even learning to walk again – let’s stop comparing our pace to those around us, and start celebrating each step forward.  Recovery isn’t a race, and I will be continuing my own little baby shuffles down the path of recovery and on to my next adventure.



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