Running

Surround Symphony of Wonder

Wow. This morning's run (yes! that's two days in a row now!) got me higher than yesterday's. I rode my bike to the trail head at the far end of town, to the trail that goes up to the plateau(ish) on the north slope of Pikes Peak. This is what I was blessed to run through… Enjoy!

Panorama of Aspen in full glory. To the right is the trail I ran up, on the left is the trail heading up to the Pikes Peak access road.

No red carpet treatment, but gold will do. Grin.

Gold bespeckles the skirts of Pikes Peak and a misty day brings out the depth of layers up toward the Peak. This view is from North Catamount Res.

Often the undergrowth changes at a different time than the aspen. This year they are happening together. Stunning to run through.

 

Rose bushes blush rust and red, rivaling Spring's gentle pink blossoms.

 

Seeing Daylight, though the Nights Grow Longer

Golden aspen leaves on a bed of moss at a wee stream trickle in the Colorado Rockies.

Autumn colors at Fairie Glen on the Thomas Trail.

Running is active contemplative prayer uniting the clay of our body with the clay of the earth and the fluidic motion of water and wind. Running restores, rejuvenates, fuels, inspires, aspires, perspires, heals. Running aught never be a chore or a burden, for those are signs of misstep. The better I run, the better I live; the better I live, the better I run. Running is at the core of returning me to God's engineering.

Yesterday I ran again for the first time in I'm not sure how many weeks. I have been recovering from numerious things that overwhelm my brain. Perhaps the most apt way to describe these last six weeks is that I found myself in a pit, like a deeply dug well, climbing my way up the side. Unlike when standing on ground, where if something knocks me down I have only to get up, all “brain cusion” is gone. A slight pebble falling from above is enough to jar me loose and send me back down to the bottom, getting to start over.

I see daylight now. Time will tell if I am out of the well or not. The next time I fall will tell if I am out of the well. But one gift of this time has been reflection on what it means to run.

After weeks of not running at all, it was fascinating to experience yesterday's run: 4 miles of steepish mountain trail through the warm afternoon crisp and newly autumnal leaves. The aspen are just coming into their glorious symphony. I needed to walk most f the uphill portions I normally run with ease. To run would have moved me into anaerobic running, which tears down the body. I stay within my aerobic threshold, which builds my body. My leg muscles groaned at having to defy gravity step after step, either lifting me up the mountain or slowing my decent. Only my upper legs groaned, but despite their challenge, they joined the rest of me, joyously embraced the labor for which they were made.

The rest of me seems well enough in shape, at least by comparison with my dwindled aerobic capacity and upper legs. My core, calves, feet, back, arms, neck — everything else moved and flowed with ease — something I attribute to floor living, which actively engages the core throughout the day and uses muscles in a way that keeps them limber and lithe.

This pit has been a wondrous way to test the approach of living aerobically, feeling what my body, brain included, needs, and letting it take the lead. Rest. Down time. Gathering of resources.

Who knows, perhaps reorganizing neural pathways for better recovery and brain healing in the long run. Afterall, this began after a ten day pilgrimage to Chimayo, NM, two thirds of it by bicycle on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail. After my previous pilgrimage there, four years ago, I discovered going barefoot, gained the ability to use ear plugs, discovered running need not be jarring, abrasive, destructive, and within a year was running the trails of Pikes Peak with light, thin poles for ballance, poles which three years later I no longer need. Perhaps… perhaps…

May God startle you with joy!

 

Stunning Revelations of Brain Healing

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Bear with me on this post. It is going to be a longer one.

Yesterday, for the first time and second time since my brain injury set in, I ran 5k without holding anything in my hands. See “No Sticks! Alleluia!”

On my first run, the biggest challenge for me was telling my brain to quiet down, to stop trying to figure out where I am in space, but instead to trust my body and my feet to know where I am. The obvious question to this is why could I do this yesterday, when my regal past attempts all failed with me unable to cut through the vertigo raging? What’s changed?

First and foremost, the glory is God’s. He is healing me, step by step. Our God is an incarnate God, who works through the real and tangible mechanisms he created. The more we learn to access those, the more we access our natural God-given healing, demonstrate our faith that God is with us on the journey, and are open and prayer for additional miracles along the way, the more we will heal over time and in sudden larger steps. I am wondering just how large a step of healing this was.

Clearly my brain and body had managed to develop my proprioception capabilities deeper and broader than they had been before. However, as we shall see, this seems more than just another step of increased nerve networking and proprioceptive mechanisms body-wide. This appears to involve rewiring of the brain itself.

After my first run I intentionally tested out keeping my brain from trying to figure out where I am in space. I go barefoot in the house year-round, despite our cold wood floors in winter (we keep our house at 62˚F). Though last year my feet got cold and I wore slippers, this year, my feet do not get cold due to increased mitochondria and blood flow and adaptation of going barefoot all the time. Thus, walking about indoors, I have nothing dampening my proprioception. I “normally” walk about the house either touching walls all the time, or if I am doing very well, only when I change direction around a corner. The added spacial input through my hands meant I did not experience the vertigo in a way my brain could not handle.

Briefly, to describe the vertigo, is is neurological (not inner ear) and due to damage in my brain stem, which can be seen on my SPECT scans. It is constant, happens in two axes of motion (like being in a random speed and direction rotating “Da Vinci Man” gyroscope seat in a random speed and direction roller coaster. It is ever present. The only way I “compensate” is to distract my brain from paying attention to this unending, screaming, torrential motion hurricane raging inside the rickety boards of my head. Life can look somewhat normal when that happens.

Yesterday, walking around the house, I intentionally did not touch any walls when walking. Not even when turning a corner or changing direction. I fought hard to prevent my brain from jumping in to “protect” me from the vertigo by trying to figure out where I am in space, instead telling it to trust my body and feet.

This began a process I can feel continuing this morning. My brain is changing its neuroplasticity, it’s normative pattern of function. And I’m already seeing some remarkable results. While out with my family, without my noise canceling headphones on, I heard a lawn mower (really, late November in the Colorado mountains and you’re mowing? But that’s someone else’s brain injury, not mine!). I didn’t realize the significance of this until this morning, but this would normally cause me to immediately get up and go to my hobbit hole/sanctuary and put on my earphones. I did not. Though I was sitting on the floor (not on my feet), the pattern of thought of my brain not seeking spacial orientation was still in place. My brain was capable, for untold minutes (20-30 my wife thinks) of filtering out that noise. Wow. That is huge.

We’ve seen small signs that the same effect may be working with other types of overstimulation as well. My 2 year-old launched a stuffed toy at my face (usually ends me for a long time), and I still stayed out with them longer. How will it handle smells, other sounds, flashing lights, and other stimulation that tend to “end” my brain capacity rapidly? Time will tell. It will also tell the extent of what I am able to handle now, but even having a brain cushion of 20-30 minutes with the neighbor’s lawn mower is a dramatic improvement in life. I’m even beginning to see the possibility of serving at a regular Sunday Mass without needing to have less music. God willing (and that seems like the kind of thing he’d go for. Grin.).

What has led me to this point? God’s glory. Persistence. Entering into life as fully as possible, with the motto “as fast as I can, as slow as I must.” Diet. The nutrition I get on the Perfect Health Diet is amazing, and ensures as few toxins enter my body as possible while providing the building blocks I need to rebuild what is damaged. Running, barefoot and in Luna sandals, which builds and strengthens my proprioceptive capacity. God’s grace. God’s grace. God’s grace.

By my second run, as the glorious time of sunset, this pattern was already comfortable and familiar (comparatively speaking) to my brain, and I did not need to wrestle with it to get it to stop trying to do a job that is normally, rightfully, its, but which it has no capacity to accomplish anymore. This new pattern seems to free me and my brain in ways I’m a long, long way from grasping, but I’m grasping as fast as the wee squirrels can crack stones inside my skull. Grin.

May God startle you with joy!

No Sticks! Alleluia!

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Last night I dreamed I ran without my sticks. This morning started off a “hard” brain day. I did a “recovery” run of two-tenths of a mile. When My wife returned from Mass, I asked her to watch me, as I was going to run without sticks and I’d have no way back of I couldn’t do it.

I ran 5k!

To put this in perspective, I have constant neurological vertigo. in 2003 the vestibular therapist told me he’d done all he could for me and the best thing for me was the hiking I kept insisting on doing (which he’d be extremely cautious about). In 2009, I discovered barefoot hiking, which led to barefoot running, which led to running with my simply carrying two light bamboo poles (instead of 4 pound bludgers) within a few months.

I’ve tried every now and again to run without the sticks. No doing. Today, on what looked like the least likely of days to go on a run let alone one that chucks the sticks — a miracle for the Feast of Christ the King!

Alleluia! May God startle you with joy!

Update here

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Slowly Recovering

No matter how long or hard the road we find ourselves on, God gives us glimpses of wonder and beauty to fuel us. We are far better for making the challenging choice to focus on the gift rather than dwelling on the pain. A few days ago I was given a day good enough to run one of my favorite runs, and this time of year is is light up with God’s highland aspen orchestra. The colors are stunning and my photos fall far short of their glory. Enjoy the wee taste!
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The End of My Colorado Trail Came at 12,000 feet

I was running along, climbing up to the Ten Mile Range’s tundra ridge when it hit me. If I’ve felt it before I did not know enough then to recognize it for my brain telling me to stop. I know now that is my brain’s message. I also knew my Colorado Trail had ended. Altitude was the final hurdle of questions between me and completing the full trail. The hurdle is literally set too high for my brain. What I do not know is why. I suspect it is somehow the thin amount of oxygen and that triggers my adrenaline.

I ran conservatively, slow, staying below my aerobic threshold. My breathing was not hard or heavy. Yet somehow the altitude was too much for my brain. Like a literal ceiling I ran into. It hurt. I walked, sometimes nearly crawling much of the 5 miles back to the trailhead. Intriguingly, as I returned to about 10,000 feet I was able to run again, body working fine.

That was Thursday. I’ve not been doing well enough to run or write since. Lack of oxygen in the air somehow triggers my adrenaline and I am recovering from a major adrenaline onslaught. Taking lots of B-12 Methyl, Magnesium, Calcium, and Resveratrol to help flush out the unwanted party adrenaline and friends is having in my skull.

Typically, I have massive cravings as my brain recovers from this. Not this time. This time I have been eating beef crackling (the solid bits from rendering suet into tallow). Amazing stuff. A few bowls of that a day and my brain is happy and slowly recovering.

I suppose now is as good a time as any to tell of the fading of memories. Over the course of a few days (for example, Thursday to Saturday, today) the memories of the experience fade into oblivion. I no longer remember the experience of running any part of the Colorado Trail. What I do “remember” is what is written in my notes and have put into this blog and my photos. I also remember all the love and support of so many people through prayer, email, and my family hauling me place to place. Thank you all.

Here then is the last, though far from complete because I did not make many notes before my memory faded, partial leg of the Colorado Trail.

Rain, sleet, snell, and snow at 33˚F. I ran this leg specifically without the overnight pack to eliminate the slew of variables it brought to the experience, so I was only testing out how altitude effected me (a test that was far too successful! Sardonic grin.). Aside from pictures, that’s it. That’s all I’ve got. So here they are, and I’ll caption them as best I can.

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Running through beauty makes accessing the joy of running hard not to do, no matter how I am doing. To be wrapped in beauty in the midst of strife and struggle brings a glorious sense of rightness and context to the struggle that defies word and explanation. A lot like the rays of light illuminating the path here, beauty brings hope into the darkest of struggles. (Can you tell that when I haven’t memory, I fall back on waxing poetic contemplative mysticism? What can I say, it’s where I live.)

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At our best, we each do what God created us to do in the time we are given to do it. Surely, though it is the last of the season for flowers and insects, their glorious colors and fragrance are not for naught? Yet they must feel at times how vain their efforts. How well I know their plight, for mine so oft feels similar. I may not understand all God does with what I struggle to do, but I trust it is far more than I can do on my own.

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Life is a juxtaposition of joy and sorrow, beginnings and endings. My goal was to run the Colorado Trail as far as my brain could take me. In so doing, I’ve learned a lot and discovered much about God’s engineering. More people know and perhaps understand a bit better about brain injury. Word is getting out about iPad/iPhone donation. In all the ways I ought to care about, this has been a wondrous success. Yet there is amidst the success, the sadness of a journey attempted that could not (yet) be completed. I embrace that too, as it is part of the larger journey of life, as I discover more fully how to live with sustainable endurance.

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Descending the last few steps of my Colorado Trail run. Thank you to all whose prayers, love, and support has made this part of the journey possible.

May God startle you with joy!

Colorado Trail: Day 4: Passing Me By

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Panoramic shot climbing toward Georgia Pass. Beauty is God’s fingerprint upon creation and I ran in awe through this perfect print of God’s hand. This was the first test of how my brain handles 12,000ish feet at aerobic levels. Because of too many other variables, I am not sure how it effected me, but it did not send me for an obvious loop, which is a drastic success already compared with previous times hiking at this altitude since my brain injury.

I’m Sew Hip
Saturday’s run was a test of a hip belt system to see if my hip issue could be remedied with increased hip padding. As before, the issues on this run did not show up until mile 18-20. Knowing that, I chose to head out prepared to thru-run if the system worked, but knowing if it did not that my wife and family were spending the day in the mountains nearby and could pick me up. I learned a lot.

The quick version is that the hip belt worked as a proof of concept, was not steady and predictable or stable, and protected against raw nerves but not against circulation loss.
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15-20 pounds on my hips all snug and tight enough to run is a bigger challenge than I’d imagined. Slowly but surely I just may be getting there. Grin.

The longer version… this specific was gerry-rigged, shifted on it’s own and while it worked wonderfully for miles at a time, even after it hurt, I could not easily predict when or how it would work well. As far as I could tell, it worked best when squirrels threw 263 pinecones an hour down from trees rather than under 200. Sardonic grin. So, I spent much of the early part of the run fiddling with the hipbelt trying to keep it working and aligned properly (having no idea what properly actually was), and the last third of the run stopping every couple of miles to allow the blood to flow into my hips and upper thighs again. I am working on using the hip belt from an internal frame backpack as the base to which are sewn/riveted the various fanny packs, so it is one integrated system designed to carry heavy loads on the hips. Until then, I will section run what I can as I have sherpas to drive me to and fro. Grin.

Run Report
Wow. Section 5 of the Colorado Trail climbs from Kenosha Pass over Georgia Pass at the Continental Divide. As luck would have it, I did need to “go” at the divide, so got the commensurate experience of shifting side to side with the chant “California, Gulf of Mexico. California, Gulf of Mexico. California…” Neither should experience drought based on my efforts. Grin.

While the pack situation makes running by feel more challenging (running by feel works best when the equipment does not negatively effect how I feel), I truly felt good most of this run of 33 miles. Yes, all the stopping and fidgeting with gear and allowing blood to flow again made this run take 12 and a half hours. A blistering pace of just under 23 minutes per mile. But pace is not important when running by feel — the experience of the run is what matters. That was beautiful.

I am constantly struck by just how much this journey exemplifies the life journey of living with brain injury. Slow and steady; as fast as I can, as slow as I must. It is only possible because of the gracious gifts of my wife and family, whose support and love manifests itself in both caregiving, and driving and other very tangible support in addition to the boundless love that helps buoy me on the journey. The love and support of the people who share this journey with me, many via the internet, is immeasurable. Thank you all for the gifts you give. You are a blessing!

May God startle you with joy!

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Sun kissed aspen greet the day in the embrace of early morning light.

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South Park as seen from the northern rim on the way to Breckenridge.
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Mountains near Breckenridge

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I ran sunrise to sunset, receive the gift of amazing light along the way. These early Autumn colors are spectacular.

Padding My Chances…

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The simplest solutions to life’s challenges are often the ones to try first. So it is here. Hopefully this works in keeping the tension of the fanny pack off my hips. Tomorrow (presuming a good brain day) will tell!

Colorado Trail: Day 3: Joyous Wonder, Trials and Tribulations!

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Upper 30’s, rain, snell, mini-hail, sleet all combine to define the experience of these two days on the trail. Their incredible beauty and caress gave this a unique wonder and grace of literal mysticism.

Setting the Stage
Over the last 18 hours, I’ve pondered and struggled with how to describe what happened on day three on the Colorado Trail. I suspect I will fall short of what I want to describe, but pray my words may point the way for you to glean better than I can say what I am attempting to illuminate.

A huge part of the reason I am running the Colorado Trail is to help make visible the challenges and struggles people with brain injury experience invisibly every day. Why invisibly? Many reasons. Brain injury does not involve a cast or crutches. If those injuries happened simultaneously with the brain injury, they heal and people expect the person to be all better. They are not. Neural pathways in the brain remain broken. Though hidden, it is as real a physical injury as a bone that is broken, and it’s effects are far more devastating. And it’s not just one synapse shattered. Millions. Lines of communication down devastate a society. When mobile coverage goes out, or power is limited or out, society stops. That is what happens in brain injury. Invisibly. Things harm us without any visible cause. This is hard to grasp and understand.

I run the Colorado Trail to make visible the invisible.

“That Effects Me That Way Too.” Really?
Quite often when I describe to people what life is like with brain injury, using some specific example, they respond with a “that bothers me too.” I know it is said out of sympathy, or wanting me to know I’m not alone, or some other well intentioned but misguided reason. But in effect it prevents them from hearing what I am saying. Of course an unexpected gun shot in the woods would startle most people, but it would not lead to two weeks of recovery because your brain was overloaded and shut down.

That is what is so hard for people to get past. “I have trouble remembering things too.” Wow. I’m sorry you also can’t remember the names of your daughters, when they were born, what year it is, or if when you see them they will be toddlers or fully grown, married, with children of their own. I know how devastating that is.

I run the Colorado Trail to make visible the invisible, and to promote the idea that external brains like iPads and iPhones are tremendous gifts and if you have a used one, please donate it to a soldier or civilian with brain injury.

Within that context, I want to share with you the wondrous adventures of day three on the Colorado Trail. I am fully convinced that the best way to overcome any obstacle — be it brain injury, depression, diabetes, job loss, marriage issues, or any other challenge in life — is to enter life as fully as possible, discover the areas that do not work well, learn from those “failures” and find a way to continue in, through, above, or around them.

The Journey of Day Three
After a 18 hours of near continuous rain, day three dawned heavily clouded, highly humid, but without rain. My breath instantly misted and hovered before me, like smoke of a pipe dancing of its own accord in the still air. Rich loamy fall purple and deep golden smells tantalized my tongue as the first faint glimmers of soft purple grey light glowed through the clouds. It was another glorious day!

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The view from my campsite early in the morning, before the precipitation in various forms continued. It had a look and feel of the Adirondacks, just at 10,500 feet. With sustained endurance as my approach, I handled sustained running at this altitude very well, which bodes well for legs of the trail that are even higher.

I gave thanks for all my gear. It had worked splendidly under the wet and cold — some of the most arduous and challenging weather on the planet. I’d take 10˚F and snowing and windy over this upper 30’s wet that sucks the heat out the marrow of your bones. Yet my thin wool hoodie and water repellant wind shell had done exactly what they were supposed to: allow my own sweat out while keeping most of the moisture out, or at least keeping me warm enough despite being wet. When I stopped the night before, soaked to the bone, I set up my tent and then crawled into my Winter Wren sleeping bag. Within a few hours, I was toasty warm, all layers dry. Body heat plus a good down sleeping bag under a dry tent can not be beat.

My predawn breakfast was the same as dinner and the same as lunch and snacks the day before. Stunningly delicious, rich, fatty, hearty pemmican. Somehow, despite the damp cold making it quite solid, the creamy, fatty goodness melted in my mouth in savory delight. The choice to go without a stove seemed insignificant between my down bag and the warmth of pemmican in my belly. Amazing stuff, that.

I packed my gear, surprised by how dry my bag was and how wet my tent was (better than the other way round!). Now 6:30 am, I hit the trail, taking a good thirty minutes of slowly warming up to hit my stride. Wow! Did I feel fantastic! Running with true, sustainable endurance really does mean you can go and go and go. And I went. Covering more ground in those first hours then I had in any few hours the day before.

I was experimenting with eating pemmican as my only food. It was working. I ate a couple tablespoons every 90 minutes or so and did fantastic. I want to shift to pemmican being the food I carry on all runs if possible (at least ones I carry food, runs over 2-3 hours). This will take more experimentation, and I’ll keep daring dates or figs just in case, but so far, I’m good for 6-8 hours of solid running on pemmican alone (staying right at my aerobic threshold based on feel).

Which brings me to a thought on speed vs. effort. Perhaps because of motorized travel, in which we effortlessly maintain speed up nearly any hill or mountain, it is easy to presume that speed should be our guiding factor when running. Yet, by shifting to effort being the guiding factor (staying at 140 heart beats per minute, Maffetone style), something truly amazingly startlingly freeing happens. I run without thought to effort or terrain. I found myself multiple time these two glorious days suddenly realizing I was several miles into a 5 mile climb. With effort as my guide, terrains effect on me became insignificant and I loped along steadily (at varying speeds) rapt within God’s glorious creation, simply flowing through it, a part of it. No battle to maintain speed, just the freedom to flow among it. Beautiful. I believe this sustainable endurance way of living is something we need to recapture to reclaim our health and living well longevity. We need to learn to live within our aerobic capacity — this realization is one of the many gifts brain injury has given me.

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Foxglove carpet the aspen meadow in a last flowered hurrah! as the first aspen begin their golden crescendo.

I was four and a half hours and 12 miles into my rapturous run when it hit. Here is where I ask you to refrain from thinking or responding “Yes, that happens to me too.” Of course it does. But unless you also have brain injury the price you pay is relatively insignificant.

Brain injured brains have diminished capacity to filter out sensory input, no matter the source. Things from the outside world like light, sound, motion, touch, smell, taste, all can overload the brain like bombs going off inside the skull, or axes and spears hacking and slicing their way about the soft tissue of the brain (studies show that this overload actually causes damage and so is best avoided in any prolonged way — which explains why it took me 6 months to recover from a time when I was unable to remove myself from Mass when there was singing that was not supposed to happen — it literally did further harm to my brain). Neither can my brain filter out pain. I can not tell the difference between serious pain and insignificant pain because it all hits my brain with a huge explosion. Put simply, I am a wimp.

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My attempted pack system. Because of my vertigo, I an not carry any weight above my waist or use shoulder straps. In the photo you can see how snug the straps are around my waist — a sign of what would hit me down the trail.

The weight and tightness of my third lumbar pack (yes, three, two running packs, one in front, one in back, and a regular lumbar pack in back resting on the running pack) was digging into the nerves around my hip bones. Back when I wore 60 pound packs for week long trips, this was normal. I filtered it out, no worries. I have the scars to prove my stupidity. Grin.

Those nerves send a barrage of explosions to every corner of my brain, literally bringing me to my knees. I spent the next mile trying to work out what was wrong and if and how I could continue. The rain had been coming down hard for the last hour and was turning to snell (frozen rain, pre-hail or snow). Was I simply fading because of the cold and wet? No. I was not cold. I was happy with the weather. It was not the issue. I adjusted my upper pack. Made loose enough to not hurt my hips, it flopped around and wrecked havoc with my vertigo. I had to have it tight enough to run. But that caused pain.

Finally I reached the conclusion that whatever the answer to how to continue, I was done for at least that day. May options? Stop and camp near the top of Kenosha Pass, recover and try and figure out how to continue the next day. But I was only a mile from the pass (oddly below me — you know you are hiking when you drop down to the pass. Grin.), and the noise from the road was significant and would diminish my ability to recover. No, better to ask for Barbara to pick me up and regroup at home. It’s funny how when your guiding principle is long term endurance, such decisions are far easier. In the past, I would have tried to persevere in the sort term, failing to realize I was only digging myself in deeper. I texted my wife and she responded she was on her way, but it would be nearly 2 hours according to Google).

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Avenue of Aspen lined up to silently urge me forward along my last and longest mile. I took this picture on one of my many hip-relief stops.

My last mile was a gentle grade downhill and normally would have taken me 10-12 minutes. It took me 90 minutes. I was reduced to barely stumbling/waddling/staggering along, using my walking sticks poles to fall on with each step. I needed to stop every ten minutes to get the pack off my hips for a few minutes so I could continue. My brain was shutting down, overwhelmed by the pain. That has several ramifications. My body stops generating heat (bad any time, but especially dangerous at a nearly freezing wet snell/rain/hail/sleet/snow with a wind picking up). Thinking stops. All I knew was I needed to keep moving forward or stop and make camp. Motion had to generate heat, and it was only a mile to the highway and I could hear it even through my earplugs, which filter out 34 decibels. I continued on.

God’s graced providence had my lead-footed wife and I arriving at the parking lot simultaneously. Like a drunkard who can’t make his body go a straight line, I corrected and re-corrected my way to the car and collapsed inside.

I told my wife “now and then I get a glimpse of just how razor sharp the knife’s edge is on which I run.” She replied “You say that every time.” I replied “Then I’m right every time.” Big sardonic grin. Sections 3, 4, and 5 done, with the way forward yet to be determined, but another obstacle clearly identified. That is progress. That is how sustainable endurance is lived. Live for a positive goal, enter life as fully as possible, discover obstacles though mini-failure, transform mini-failure into longterm success though learning how to continue with sustainable endurance. Repeat, always seeking the gift rather than dwelling on the pain, yet using the pain to gauge when something is no longer sustainable endurance.

The Plan From Here
By now it is clear that with brain injury (as with most thing, but it is more acute with brain injury), the way forward is constantly shifting and changing based on what my brain can handle.

I have a number of options.

  1. Stop entirely. This is always a viable option, as my goal is sustained endurance for life, not a specific adventure. I do not like this option, but it must always be on the table and viewed with what St. Ignatius calls “holy equipoise” (detached evaluation and discernment free of preconceptions, judgements, or expectations). I prefer success in living as fully as possible to success in a specific quest.
  2. Delay until next year, allowing more time to assess how to best move forward. Best option if no clear way forward is evident.
  3. Continue with my current pack system, but with only 1.5-2 pounds of pemmican (vs the 5 I started with on this trip), requiring resupply every or two. Yet without guarantee that the hip issue would not reappear.
  4. Day run the trail, either with my family or a friend driving me to the section start, and either picking me up or camping with me so I can continue the next sections the next day, getting however far I can this year, then continuing next year if need be.
  5. Devise a hip pack system that distributes weight and pressure more evenly than on the single point of the hips. It needs a belt system like on a full pack, perhaps by combining a front and rear lumbar pack into one belt system. This would need to be a custom thing, as to my knowledge nothing exists. This is worth pursuing parallel to whatever option I pursue for the short term, as figuring this out opens up many possibilities. My equipment is honed so that with 17 pounds of gear, I can be out for 6 days 3+ seasons of the year. That is huge.

The Winner(s)
Options 4 and 5. I will experiment as I am able with a thru-running lumbar pack. In the meantime, I will section run what I can and get however far I can.

Brain Cushion
I have been stunned by how quickly I have recovered from yesterday’s adventure. I will be heading out on a short run today. Previously this would have been several weeks of recovery (as it was following the gun shot short-circuiting). To what do I attribute the change? My paleo/ketogenic diet. My brain simply has more “cushion” in how sensory impact effects it, helping my recover more quickly because I sustain less damage from it in the first place. Wow. What a gift from God’s engineering, all discovered by seeking to live sustainable endurance.

I Run the Colorado Trail to Make Visible the Invisible of Brain Injury
This journey makes visible the invisible challenges of living life with brain injury. Yet, I am attempting to do what many people find daunting who do not have brain injury. So what? The obstacles I experience effect me more and differently because of my brain injury and this helps illuminate the invisible nature of brain injury.

To the many of you who have shared your encouragement and support, thank you! You help fuel the journey!

God Has Startled Me With Joy Through Many of You!
I have been blessed and surprised by the emails I’ve gotten from people sharing how this journey has inspired them to seek ways to live with sustainable endurance and enter life as fully as possible. People with brain injury, depression, marital struggles, financial hardship, Parkinson’s, diabetes, fibromyalgia, and more have let me know how they see a way forward because they chose to look for one where they previously saw only burden and despair. Those emails both fuel my journey and deepen my devotion to God’s humble service. Thank you all for that gift!

The journey continues, differently, with equal abandon! May God startle you with joy!

Colorado Trail: Day 2

Three and a half weeks ago my first day ended with a bang a an impromptu rifle range was too loud for my brain. This morning, at the same spot, as soon as I opened the door, the 21 gun salute began, this time farther off and my plugs were in. This journey continued with a bang and prayer, as my wondrous wife and three grand lassies set me on my way.


29 miles took 10.5 hours. Temp is cool 50’s and 40 F and it has been a cold steady rain since late morning. A great way to test gear and food, and thankfully all passed with flying colors. Weather should be similar through Friday.

Sporadic autumnal gold is already busting out in these lower elevations.


Lost Creek Wilderness is tremendously gorgeous.

It appears a pound of pemmican is sufficient, as I only ate a half pound total today, after a bacon and smoked salmon send off breakfast. I need figs to add in carbs on the trail, pemmican alone was not enough.

Tomorrow the real test of my endurance begins. Will slow and steady get me there? How will I do at the higher elevations? Time will tell.

Donate your used iPad or iPhone! It’s an external brain for someone with brain injury. See the donate button on the left.

May God startle you with joy!

Deacon Patrick’s Round the World Progress

Deacon Patrick's Round the World Progress