Concussions and Trail Runs

The forecast for the day was in the mid 80s but I sat there my entire body shaking as the adrenaline high I had been on the past three hours started to dissipate. With my head in my hands and elbows resting on my knees I looked down at racing bib 325 as the bridge from Cody Johnsons song “The Only One I Know” played along with the ringing in my ears.

And I’d rather die than be caught crying’ So I’m just smillin’, wear my hat down low…. Wear my hat down low…

Cody Johnson

Thursday night I packed up everything I needed for a trail race on Saturday. I even spent time cooking potatoes which would be a big part of my fuel plan for the 32 miles I would be taking on Saturday. I had not attempted a race since my non attempt at the Brazos Bend 100. In fact, I was not running much at all. I found an April race in Arizona that caught my interest so I signed up for it. I caught Covid-19 and my training slowed down even more. I signed up for the 50K race this weekend to force myself back into training mode. It worked, kind of.

Race checkin was at 6:30am with a start time of 8:30. I grabbed my race bib with the number 325 on it. I had selected that number because it is the area code to the place I first fell in love with trail running! I miss running with my friends from San Angelo!

Sitting in the cab of my truck I mixed up a bottle of tailwind to fuel my run. I attached the racing bib to my shorts, applied Squirrels Nut Butter to a few areas to prevent chafing, and I laced up my trail shoes. I decided to bring a lightweight pullover for the start of the race. I knew there would be a nice cool breeze coming in off of the lake most of the race. I knew that if it got too hot after the first 13 miles I could always send it back in my drop bag.

I made my way to the starting line and chatted with the other runners standing around. The 50k and the marathon runners would be starting at the same time. The race director informed us that the first six and a half miles and the last 6 and half miles had the most elevation changes. I had an idea there would be lots of climbing when I signed up, just did not dig into it too much because I like surprises when I run.

The race started with two small loops on the park road before we got out onto the trails. Immediately after we got onto the trails the hills began! I kept my pace slower trying not to race anybody. I wanted to stick to my race plan. A few people passed me up and then I eventually caught up to one of the guys and we ended up running for many miles together. We talked about running while we were running. Doesn’t get much better than that in my book!

The trials were awesome! I ran over big rocks, roots, dirt, small rocks, logs, and even had to do a little climbing at a few spots. I would not say that it was super technical but there was enough changes that keeping my eyes up ahead was very important. The majority of the trails were under a canopy of trees and every now and then I could see the sun shining through. At around mile 7 I left the trees and entered an open area which led down to the lake and I ran through a sandy beach area.

After leaving the beach area I made my way back to the canopy of trees. The elevation began changing again and there were a few small creek crossings along the way. I felt really good as I pressed along. I felt like I could run all day long.

Somewhere after mile 11 the trail flattened out again and I was running on hard packed dirt. This is the part of the race that I have been thinking about for the past 12 days. I have been trying my best to piece it all together but to be honest I don’t know exactly what happened. What I do know is that I was running and then I landed on my head and the lights went out.

The next thing I remember is being on my knees with my arms flat on the ground wrapped around my head. I looked to my left and I saw a small root sticking straight up out of the ground. I got to my feet and started walking. I grabbed my bottle of tailwind and got a drink as I walked along. I put the bottle away and that was when I realized I did not have a clue what had happened. I felt my head but it did not feel like I had a bump on it. I did not feel nauseous. My ears were ringing and I was starting to get a mild headache but I kept on walking. I assume that my shoe caught a tree root under the dirt and I tripped but I really have no idea. For all I know Will Smith came up behind me and knocked me out.

I thought about starting up a light jog when another runner passed by me coming in the opposite direction. He looked at his watch and told me I was a mile and a quarter from the turnaround. I thanked him and decided to continue walking the next mile and re-evaluate my situation at the aid station there.

I came to a spot on the trail with no marker. I first kept straight, nothing. I turned around and went to the right which led down to the lake. That was wrong too. Another runner caught up to me as I was walking back up from the lake and tried the same thing. When we got up to the top someone from the aid station was waiting at the crossroad and pointed out a pink ribbon hanging in some trees which led 200 yards to the aid station. Apparently we were not the only ones to miss this ribbon.

I sat down in a chair at the aid station and I finished off the rest of my tailwind. They did not have a medic at the aid station but I explained what happened to the crew there. All I wanted to do was get up out of the chair and finish the race but I knew that I wouldn’t though. My head is hurting, my ears are ringing, Cody Johnson is singing about how he’d rather die than get caught crying, so I’m just smilin’ wear my hat down low…. I’m not a bull rider. I’m a trail runner and that moment I pulled my white MS Run the US hat down low. I might have had a few tears or maybe not only my hat and I know, but if I did they were not about any physical pain. Just the frustration of not being able to finish the race. It felt a lot like not making it to the starting line at the Brazos Bend 100 in December.

My mom reads my blog so now she can know that I am adventurous but I am also smart enough to know not to run with a head injury. The crew at the aid station was kind enough to drive me back to the starting line. The race director called an ambulance (for liability reasons) even though I did not want one. My vitals looked great! The medic was even impressed with my time to the 13 mile mark for that trail.

Full disclosure it took me a while to write this because I had 11 days of an annoying mild headache so I stayed of my computer as much as I could. I did go see a doctor and have a CT scan after getting back to Amarillo which revealed no brain bleeding. My headache has left me completely and I hope to put in a few miles over the next weekend. I will reevaluate with my doctor next week and we will decide together if I will be able to run the 91K I have scheduled at the end of the month.

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