Running THROUGH Trauma

005My answer never changes. You ask, “Drew, why do you run 100 miles?” I respond, ” Funny you ask, I was just wanting to ask why you don’t run 100 miles.” If we are built to move and built to run it’s really not so abnormal. Maybe the real abnormal is what we have normalized… physical inactivity. Okay, that is just a rant to get some emotion going. Think what you want about my opinion 🙂 I guess before I truly stop that rant I must say I am not necessarily suggesting that everyone must run 100 miles; rather, I am arguing that moving for an extended period of time is not all so bad.

Two and a half weeks ago I ran the UROC 100k, a grueling 62 miles on the Colorado Trail and Copper Mountain trail system found in the heart of the Rockies. A race that either went up or down peaking four times close to 13,000 feet. It was a blast! Now, I find myself just 48 hours away from embarking on a journey that feels like a life of its own, the Bear 100.

44,000 feet of elevation change is what I will be attempting in this race. 100 miles of beautiful fall colors through the morning, day, night, and then morning again. Doesn’t that just sound exhilarating? Of course! Here’s what I am really facing though, trauma! Let me explain.

You always hear about the post 100 mile depression that some runners slip in to after completing a 100 mile race. It happens. As a psychologist and an endurance athlete I would venture to say this isn’t exactly termed accurately. I believe it is best defined as acute stress disorder, and I am serious. Acute stress disorder is what happens to someone after a significant trauma in their life and if the symptoms are prolonged for several weeks turns in to PTSD. As enjoyable a long race can be the body and mind experience multiple significant stressors that can be perceived as trauma by the body and deep in the brain, in the limbic system/amygdala to be precise. So, why do I talk this psychobable in relation to my current situation? Just keep reading…

I am not necessarily diagnosing myself with acute stress disorder from my last race, specifically because it is not interfering with my life; however, I am saying it is only natural to have some symptoms related to the trauma my body/mind went through 19 days ago. Now, I am preparing to toe the line in two days and I still get a little panicked when I reflect on the UROC 100k. This means that the moment my body/mind starts to struggle during this race I could be susceptible to a serious low spot and possibly threaten my race. And that, my friend, is why I am attempting two big races so closely together. It is my attempt to see how deep I can go. It is to see if I can Endure. It will only only allow me to grow as a person.

The question is still sitting there unanswered, “How do you prepare for the recent trauma being triggered in this race, Drew?” In the therapy I use most often, Brainspotting, we use a technique called “resourcing.” I adapt it to preparing for this race by spending a few minutes each day reflecting back on sensations in the body I felt during difficult times of the UROC race. When I allow my body to feel those sensations in present moment I then shift my attention to a full body scan to notice where I feel grounded, or tranquility, in any other area of my body. I breathe into that tranquility and ask my body what it needs to generalize that tranquility to the areas in my body that are associated with the traumatic sensations. As this happens, my heart rate slows and my blood flow shifts in my brain that allows me to feel like I am not in a threatening situation and the trauma is no longer happening. This preparation allows me to be ready for the moment during the race when I am triggered I can ground myself in the areas of my body that maintain any bit of tranquility. Geeeez, that is deep!

So, now I am sitting here driving across famous Wyoming. Well, I am not driving… that would be dangerous. I am enjoying this moment with my family and having conversations with my kids about dogs chasing cats, poop, and peeing on the side of the interstate, which is the true joy in life.

I hope you enjoy your week!

Dr Brazier

4 thoughts on “Running THROUGH Trauma

  1. Geez that is deep! 😉 But I totally understand what you are saying!! I love that you can do this…. you have tools and knowledge to get through those rough spots, something a lot of endurance athletes haven’t tapped into yet or may never! Added to your knowledge will be your sister….me!! Before mile 50 I will be cheering you on from the sidelines, after mile 50 I will be with ya every step to the end, cheering you on and having an absolute blast!!! Lets hope we don’t get lost this time!!! 🙂 Love you Drew!!!

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