Turbulence – McDowell Frenzy 50K

Hi there. It’s been awhile. It turns out that brain injury recovery is a bit turbulent, with more ups and downs than I care to think about. The last month has been rough. Really rough. I had some days that made me feel like I hadn’t taken a single step forward in the last year. I was back to not being able to drive at all. I couldn’t buy groceries, and I had to stop using the computer and even my phone.  As you might imagine, after making some progress, that was pretty hard to deal with. We don’t really know what triggered this setback. Maybe I started feeling good and doing too much. I had been feeling pretty good and was happy with how much more I could do, but this may have been a false sense of progress. Doing a little too much, day after day, turns into a lot too much if the brain doesn’t get enough time to recover. But the good news is that I have regained an interest in writing, so things must be improving again. I have my little timer set, and…oops, it helps if I start the timer, okay timer is set, and I’m ready to do this.

Last weekend, 12 folks from Ultrarunner Training, headed to Arizona for the McDowell Mountain Frenzy Trail Run.  I bit the bullet and got on a plane to Arizona. It. Was. Awful. I knew it would be bad, and I was correct. With my hat, glasses, ear plugs, and Bose Noise Cancelling headphones (thank you Forrest!!!!), we made our way through DIA. By the time Josh got me through security and onto the train to terminal C, I was ready to turn around and go home. We got off the train, and I discovered that Terminal C is a floating terminal, on the ocean, and not a calm ocean. Who knew? At least that is what it felt like trying to walk to our gate. We were allowed to pre-board the plane thankfully, and Josh helped me down the jetway so I could avoid the chaos of boarding. In an effort not to relive the whole painful experience, I’ll just say that we did finally arrive in Phoenix.

Josh taking pictures of me suffering through DIA

Several people have asked me what was so bad about the travel. It is so hard to explain this to folks who haven’t experienced it. There is a feeling of disorientation. Yes, dizziness is a part of that, and sometimes a feeling of motion sickness and nausea. But that really isn’t the main thing for me. It is a feeling of being so overwhelmed that I am just mentally paralyzed. I just want to crawl out of my skin, or crawl into a hole. I find myself wanting to yell at everyone around me to stop talking and stop moving, and stop breathing.  Typically, when it is really bad, I leave wherever we are and go home. That is really hard to do when you are in the middle of the airport trying to get on a plane.  It isn’t just one thing that is hard, it is everything together – the noise, the lights, the people, the freaking escalators!!! I didn’t even try the moving walkways. That was all just within the airport, and then there was the plane. Hopefully the bruises on Josh’s arm, from where I was clutching him in panic, are healing.

Anne Marie at the start of the 50k with me. I was in shorts, and she was freezing. She stayed to run the 5 miler with another friend.

Luckily, we arrived a day early so I had all day Friday to sleep in, recover, and have lunch with one of my best friends, Anne Marie, that lives nearby. On Saturday morning, the race at McDowell had a leisurely start time of 8am, which was quite nice. I had planned to just go out for an easy day on the trails, socializing with a few other URT ladies. Once the race started, I headed out, and started picking my way between runners to find my position, and I just kept going. I was feeling strong, and I wondered how fast I could actually run it. Here is my confession. I’m usually a lazy runner. I don’t think I have ever gone to a race to “race”. I’ve always just been out there to run on pretty trails. I can’t say that I went all out for this 50K, but I definitely pushed myself to maintain a faster pace than I normally would have. Crossing the line at 5:56, I found myself the 6th female finisher. It was my first top 10 finish ever at any race, and I was super excited! And my self proclaimed “not a runner” husband, finished the 25K in 2:04. It is a good thing he isn’t a runner.

After some delicious pizza at the finish, Josh and I hung out to wait for the rest of the group to finish. There were a few running the 50k, and a few more running the 50 miler. It was a gorgeous sunny day, they were playing great music, there was plenty of chips and cookies, and we were perfectly content to hang out. The problem is that when I run, I feel great. My brain loves the increased metabolic rate, so I can often do things that on normal days I can’t do…like sit around for 5 hours at the finish line listening to music. Josh tried to convince me that I shouldn’t stay, but I wanted to see the rest of the group finish.  Once again, I should’ve listened to my husband (Yes babe, you were right), and the next day I paid for it.

Coach Cindy Stonesmith finishing the 50 miler
Desert sunset
Meredith finishing the 50 miler

On Sunday, I felt horrible, and we didn’t do much of anything all day. In the afternoon, we drove up to Cave Creek so I could have another visit with Anne Marie. This turned into me taking a 2 hour nap in her guest room, and then eating dinner. It is good to have friends that understand. By Monday morning I was feeling better, and we all went for a jaunt up Camelback Mountain before heading to the airport. We didn’t get all the way to the top. There were some scrambling sections, and after going up a couple of them I realized I needed to turn back if I was going to get down without a helicopter. My brain does not like scrambling down. The trip back to Colorado was even worse than the trip out there. The flight had a lot of turbulence, and I was once again clutching Josh and crying. I’m glad we went to Arizona, but overall I don’t know if it was worth it. Before the crash, I loved to travel. Since Josh and I met in 2009, we have taken some amazing trips together. I hope someday I will look forward to traveling again. But after last weekend, I will tell you that it isn’t happening again anytime soon.

Quick jaunt up Camelback with the group, and a zillion other people. I was trying to figure out how to get down this section. Before the crash, this wouldn’t have been difficult.

My latest update is that I have started hyperbaric oxygen therapy. With setbacks of last month, we decided it was time to get more aggressive. It is super expensive, which is why we haven’t done it yet. But, come this time next year, I can’t be in the same place. There has to be progress. The therapy is 6 days a week for 40 treatments. It is a big time and financial commitment. Luckily, the facility is super close to my house. Many patients drive hours to get there. My doctor thinks that the fact I improve so much on my long runs means I should respond well to the treatment, which increases your metabolic rate. There is no guarantee, but here is hoping. I’ll post more about it next week.

p.s. I did not get into Hardrock 100, so my plans for 2017 are still wide open

Waiting for Josh to get our bags at DIA. Feeling miserable.



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