This past Saturday was the North Fork 50K. It was a bit of a rematch for me. Last year it was my first post-TBI ultramarathon and a learning curve on what my brain could actually handle. For those following the blog you might remember that after a rough shuttle ride to the start line, I was sitting in the parking lot trying not to vomit and hoping I was going to be able to actually stand up before the race started. You can read more about it in my post from that race.
This year was a little different. For starters, Josh wanted me to avoid having that same experience so we stayed overnight in Conifer and he drove me to the starting area so I could avoid the shuttle. He is pretty awesome. Also, this year was about 20 degrees cooler than last year, and that made a huge difference. I’m pretty proud of how far I’ve come in the last year both in my training and my recovery. All those improvements added up to an hour and twelve minutes, with my time last year being 7:34, and 6:22 this year. I was the 13th female overall. The best part is that I finished feeling great, and I could’ve gone faster. I kept holding back a little though, because I knew Sunday was going to be another long day on the trails. After the race, a group of URT folks were going to camp and head out Sunday morning to run a 26 mile loop in the Lost Creek Wilderness.
So far this spring I’ve had a couple of bad races in Moab and Buena Vista, and it was nice to finally have a race go well! This small little victory for me was huge, especially with how difficult it was to simply get packed for the weekend. Getting organized for a race is hard enough for me, but getting organized for a race, followed by a night of camping, and then a long backcountry run the next day, was almost impossible.
In preparation for the trip I wanted to buy a new hydration pack with more storage capacity. I had been wanting something with more capacity so I would have room for emergency supplies and warmer layers for my longer backcountry trips. This trip was the perfect excuse to finally pull the trigger on that purchase. I went out and bought the Ultimate Direction PB pack, and within an hour of having it home I knew I had to take it back. The pack is great, it has tons of pockets and plenty of storage for anything I might need, but that is the problem. With all those pockets my brain was freaking out trying to figure out which out in which pockets to put everything. I was so overloaded that I had to return the pack . Instead I bought the Ultimate Direction Adventure Vesta, which is basically a higher capacity version of the Ultimate Direction Ultra Vesta pack I already have. Although it doesn’t have as much room as the PB, it was much simpler for my brain and I could use the same system of organization I already had in place.
After the pack drama, and subsequent two trips to the running store, on Thursday night I stood over my piles of gear crying. I was ready to cancel the whole trip because my brain had reached decision paralysis. Josh tried to help for a while, but finally made me stop. He could tell my brain was done for the night and I needed to go to bed. The next morning Coach Cindy called me to see how she could help. I finally decided to stop trying to organize everything, and just bring it all to sort out after the race. I knew that would lead to anxiety Saturday night, but I couldn’t handle anymore at that point.
Saturday night, with the race in the books, Josh headed home and I went with the URT folks for the rest of the adventure. I was able to get my tent set up and all my gear laid out inside. I did have a few private moments of panic and had to do some deep breathing to pull myself together while trying to get organized for the following morning. It doesn’t take much these days for my brain to be completely overwhelmed, and there is a lot of “self talk” that goes on to get me through those situations. Sarah, at Boulder Brain Recovery, had me start using the “self talk” technique, and it can really help. This blog has always been an honest account of my experiences with brain injury, so here you go:
Out loud, I will say “It’s okay, just take some deep breaths.”
“You can do this, just relax.”
“The first thing you are going to do is put away your race clothes from today.”
“Okay, good job.”
“Now you are going to lay out your clothes to put on in the morning.”
And so on…
I realize talking to myself in this way makes me sound crazy, but the fact is that my brain doesn’t work the way it should, and this is what I have to do sometimes in order to not completely panic when I have a task to complete. I don’t know why saying it out loud helps, but it allows me to take one step at a time and get through a task when my brain is freezing up.
After getting organized, we had a nice time eating dinner around the fire, having smores, and talking about the route for Sunday. We got up at 5am to take down camp, and get on the road to the Goose Creek trailhead. I had never been down in that area and it was spectacular. Unfortunately my phone died (even in airplane mode) and I didn’t get photos of the really amazing parts. At mile 9, one of the group members wasn’t feel great and we made the call to turn back instead of finishing the loop. We did some exploring on a side trail and ended up getting in 20 miles, making it a 52 mile weekend. I will definitely be heading back down there to explore the area. It may not reach the high elevations of some of Colorado’s other favorite backpacking loops, but the geology is fascinating.
Now it is 45 days until my next 100. This time, it is 100K instead of 100 miles. The Never Summer 100k has 13,000′ of elevation gain packed into 64 miles and will be plenty tough, and the next month of training will include a LOT of UP. Onwards and upwards!
*And for the record, I LOVED the UD Adventure Vesta, and my coach said after seeing mine she was heading out to buy one as well.
Edit: Since many have asked, no I have not worked any more shifts and I do not have any scheduled. I’ll update more in my next post.