Why 100 Miles – Running Out Of The Fog of Brain Injury

I have a confession to make – I’ve always been a slow runner. My best friend likes to joke that I don’t need to stop to smell the flowers because at my pace I can actually watch them grow.  In 2008, I ran my first trail marathon at the Haulin’ Aspen in Eugene, Oregon, and I was hooked.  I realized that with trail running I didn’t have to run fast. It was totally reasonable to stop and take pictures and take in the scenery. My ultramarathon debut started with the Dirty Thirty 50k in 2011 and worked my way up to the Run Rabbit Run 50 miler in 2014. I contemplated 100 miles, and thought the slow pace might suit me, but it was so far! It seemed like a crazy distance. When I crossed the finish line of the Run Rabbit Run 50 miler, my husband stood at the finish line and with the camera rolling, asked me what I thought about 100 miles. I think he expected me to be exhausted after 50 miles and say there was no way I was going to do 100 miles. But at that moment, I knew with the right training it was possible. I looked into the camera and said, “It’s doable.”  We had big cycling plans for 2015, so my 100 would have to wait, but 2016 would be my year.

After the crash, there was never a time when I thought I wouldn’t stick with that plan. Of course, early on, I thought I would be back to normal after a few weeks….or maybe a couple months…or maybe it would take few months. Maybe it is a good thing that nobody told me it would be a very long time. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have believed them anyway.

It was in October that I started running again. After a month of laying around or going for walks, I started to realize that I felt a little better if I got outside. My doctors had told me not to run. They told me the motion and bouncing wouldn’t feel good, and I wasn’t supposed to get my heart rate over 120 bpm. But I felt okay walking, and I’ve never been a very good patient, so I started to do short intervals. I wore my heart rate monitor, and would run five to 10 yards until my heart rate monitor beeped at me, then I would walk for few minutes and repeat another short interval. I was very cautious, and at first only did two to three intervals a day to make sure it didn’t worsen my symptoms. Not surprisingly, the one symptom that it had a major effect on was my depression. Even those very short intervals made me feel a little more like myself, and it was the highlight of my day. After a couple weeks, I was able to increase my intervals and still keep my heart rate low. My pace was agonizingly slow, but at the time, I couldn’t have run faster even if I had tried. By November, I was up to two miles of running, with walking intervals. By December. I started to lay out a plan to see if it was remotely feasible to increase my mileage at a cautious rate in time for the Run Rabbit Run 100 miler in September 2016. It was doable.


The good news is that more research suggests aerobic activity and the associated endorphins are good for traumatic brain injury (TBI) recovery. Once I confessed to running, my doctor encouraged me to continue as long as my symptoms were not getting worse. In January, I told my physical therapist about my desire to run the RRR 100. I thought she would tell me it was a bad idea, and I needed to just give myself time, but that wasn’t her response. She looked at me and said, “If you don’t register, you won’t have a chance to even try.”  So I registered.
I may or may not finish. 100 miles would be a huge undertaking without the TBI. I may not even make it to the starting line. I won’t deny that I will be disappointed if that is the result, but more importantly, the rest of this blog is about my journey and healing along the way. My symptoms vary, and there are good days and bad, but when I’m out on the trails I tend to forget about all of it, and I’m just ME, running through the woods, and I’m happy. There is no denying that there are many things I can’t do, but I can run, and I have plenty of free time to do the training. So for now, I’m making running part of the rehabilitation process, and I’m living by my new motto:

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.
-John Wooden

2/14/17 Update: Want to find out what happened? Read through my blog to hear about the adventures along the way. Here is the link to my blog post about Run Rabbit Run 100.



4 thoughts on “Why 100 Miles – Running Out Of The Fog of Brain Injury

  1. I spend many summer vacations and winters in steamboat and I would LOVE to run a race in Steamboat one day. Do you think you would run another race in Steamboat if you had the opportunity? Also, how much time did you have to put in training wise in order to run the 100 miler? What was the longest distance you ran?

    1. Steamboat is a great area, and I’ve run several races there. My training is 7 days a week with a mix of speed work, hills,longer distances runs, and strength training. My longest weeks before the last 100 miler were 70-75 miles, with 50k and 50 mile races as part of my training. That 50 miles was the longest race. This year, I did a Never Summer 100k (65 miles) as my longest run. On the weekends my long runs are 25-30 miles on Saturdays and 10-20 miles on Sunday.

  2. I’m literally just back into running. I got my TBI in 2015; then had to rest up for several months with a toe tendon injury. Just yesterday back out on the trail ,running for the first time in what seems like forever. I have a forest on my back doorstep and it’s heaven. I’d forgotten just how exhilarating and good it is to help re-focus the brain. I actually feel like I have space in my head to breathe and think.
    I’m determined to continue despite my Doctors telling me the best remedy is to rest up and take medication.. avoid exercise as much as possible! Considering all the research that shows the complete opposite as you well know. Your determination and achievements are a huge driving force and I hope one day I can be fit and confident enough to compete and inspire others as you have.

    1. I love this, and if I got one person out on the trail this blog will be totally worth it. Yes there are still doctors out there that recommend avoiding exercise, sleep and stay in a dark room. But that is not what the latest research suggests. My doctor was the one that told me I needed to be getting at least 30 minutes of cardio a day. It makes a huge difference for me in both my brain function and my mood. On my bad days the fatigue sometimes wins, but if I can get out, even for a little bit, I always feel better.

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