Second adventure race completed this year. I won’t lie, it’s been a mission to complete this challenge and it’s also taken a lot out of me. I think I had pretty much made up my mind after the first race that perhaps it was time to move on to something else, and I’ve seen the second race confirm this for me. I thoroughly enjoy those races, but they are also the source of great frustrations. I put my best foot forward and went all in this year by linking these races to my Weird Wondeful Brain fundraiser, but it came at a huge physical and emotional cost...much greater than what I had originally expected.
Prior to encephalitis and acquired brain injury, I’ve always been a fervent competitor and entered so many running and triathlon events. Although I’ve rarely placed on the podium, I’ve always been holding up my own quite well...never too far from the front of the pack and making it top 10 on several occasions. I think I may have underestimated how competitive I thought I was. I feel I’ve now realised that part of my love for endurance sport comes from my determination to keep pushing the boundaries and to stay amongst the front of the pack. Ill health is making that aspect much harder to achieve and the comparison between the “old” and “new” me in terms of fitness often plays with my mind. What used to be piece of cake isn’t anymore and although I feel like I’ve somehow managed to retain a good level of base fitness, I am still nowhere close to where I used or would like to be. The go getter attitude is very much still there, but the brain shutting switches to off and the energy levels being lower means that those events become a real challenge and this tends to bring up a lot of frustrations.
Then, there are the all too famous paybacks that come hand in hand with me taking part to events. They can often be HUGE and the toll it takes on my body and mind is simply heart breaking. The list of Weird and not so Wonderful things that occur following a race is pretty long. There is the intense fatigue, all aspects of cognition take a huge hit (attention, concentration, processing speed, memory, flexible thinking, multi-tasking), my speech goes wonky for a LONG while, I’ll struggle with my balance and coordination, my vision goes blurry, my brain gets stuck in a pattern of overstimulation which can cause a lot of anxiety and confusion and my emotions tend to be all over place. I’ll switch from happy to sad at the flip of a coin and my tolerance levels become pretty short which can lead to undesirable outbursts. Maintaining my mental health in a good place requires a lot of conscious effort. That being said, sustaining those effort on a very low energy tank isn’t easy and as a result, I’ve seen myself falling in very dark places at times.
I hesitated a lot to talk about the following, but in order to move on, I think that I need to address this once and for all. I have put a HUGE amount of effort for several months in linking my participations to our all women adventure races with raising awareness of encephalitis, acquired brain injury and the Weird Wonderful Brain Fundraiser that I set-up. Over the last 4-5 months I’ve liaised with the event organisers, several media (radio, newspapers, tv), worked on recruiting teams to join our effort and where many successes occurred, there has also been hopes that didn’t materialised. Perhaps I had set the bar too high...maybe, but hopes are hopes and when you back them up with a lot of effort and they don’t quite come to fruition, it’s always frustrating and disappointing.
I was originally disappointed when media wouldn’t pick up the story or when the effort of the 24 ladies who joined me in my attempt to raise awareness of encephalitis and acquired brain injury weren’t acknowledged. I have learnt to deal and ultimately get through the physical and mental paybacks linked to participating to endurance sport, but not meeting some media criteria or acknowledgment omissions generated additional frustrations which weren’t sitting well with me. Whilst some aspects I had no control over, other aspects I felt I could act upon to help me get over some frustrations. I really didn’t want my original disappointment to take the shine off a passion of mine. So after the 2nd event, I picked up all my courage and had a chat with one of the event organiser which really helped me turn things around and reach what would ultimately be a super positive outcome. I really wanted to try to hang my adventure race bib on a good note and taking a few minutes to discuss my health journey following encephalitis &ABI was very helpful. It enabled me to end on a much more positive note. It’s ok for me to reassess my decisions in term of sporting choices, but it also has to be for the right reasons.
So all the above mentioned reasons sort of lead me to my decision to put adventure race on the back seat...for a while anyway. I’ll never say never again as the time might come where I wish to give this another go, but for the time being, I think it is in my best interest to put my physical and mental well-being first. Eliminating some frustrations and reassessing my sporting choices isn’t a bad thing. It might also lead me to discovering a new passion. There are many ways in which one can challenge himself and although I’m still nursing some disappointment at the time being, I know it won’t last forever. I am quite excited at the idea of discovering new types of adventures. I’ve also realised that all the frustrations in the world won’t keep me from sharing my passion for the great outdoors and my adventurous spirit with those whom I love the most, my three handsome boys. I have learnt so much about myself, life, learnt so many skills and experienced so much joy doing those races that I feel they too could grow heaps as individuals.
So once I have recovered from this payback, you will no doubt see me running outside here in there in the search of a new spark. Any ideas welcomed by the way! Until then, the Weird Wonderful Brain Fundraiser remains open until the 30th of April, please help us by making a small donation.
Until next time 💕