Brain damage , experiences and everyday life

Brain damage , for most people something they can’t really get grips with. It’s hard too imagine one day waking up and being unable performing even the most basic of tasks without these simple things being incredibly difficult. And in most cases it’s ‘ invisible’ . Nearly 3 years in too my recovery I have learned a lot. Maybe I have written about some aspects in earlier posts but it helps putting my thought in order, so bare with me.

After my revalidation process where I learned how to handle the most mundane daily tasks, comprehending my place in the larger world began. Where the first steps were about not forgetting putting out the stove when going outside, taking your keys when going out, and more of the sorts. It was now about issues much bigger. What is my place in society , what can I still offer in terms of work, helping people and what are achievable goals for me?

These questions were much harder too awnser than expected. During the second year keeping the routines as learned during my recovery had the priority. Creating a stable day to day environment was one thing I underestimated greatly. Easy weeks give a false notion of being able to do more or a lot more the following week or weeks.

All too soon the I found this to be a mistake , your efforts need to be in balance , creating a tension between rest and activity good enough to keep you going. An excess week in efforts will cause weeks of instability.

After the second year and getting a rhythm going, it was time looking ahead. My internal optimist was still thinking in terms of careers , and being ‘normal’ again. The first difficulty came when looking for sorts of an internship where I could experiment with how far I could go and what I could still do within a working environment.

Everybody I had been speaking with was full of admiration with my commitment and tenacity but ultimately most didn’t see a possibility for me working with them. Doubts about risk and the practical issues with providing me with the right support were dealbreakers.

Fortunately you just need 1 person taking a leap of faith. Which in my case someone did. It is of the utmost importance to be joining society again, in any way, in this case being back in a work environment. I have the freedom setting my own limits , have a group of very friendly colleagues, there are coffee machines (you miss those when not around). And most importantly I have work at my own level and in my old profession.

These seem small things but very important in terms of your self esteem. It’s also useful with planning your weekly activities , parts of it are filled with work and I don’t need to fill in my own. You get out the door and there is a rhythm.

Getting back in my area of expertise was very important , where learning new things doesn’t come easy if it’s related too older knowledge which I had before my brain damage it’s much easier. I am a lot slower and I can manage far shorter hours of focussing and need a lot of rest. But by relying on some basics from the past it’s easier to maintain. It takes less energy than totally new stuff.

I have tried learning something new. Working with my hands for example. Fixing bikes, soldering and the like. Fun as a hobby maybe, but it took me ages and lot’s of energy getting the most basic routines under my belt. My motor skills were simply not good enough anymore. This way proved to be a dead end.

Returning in my old profession, albeit at a slower pace and less demanding, proved vital in my succes in the workplace. A lot of people try different professions after a serious accident and recovery, and for me this was a first reaction, let’s learn something ‘easier’ than I was used to. This turned out to be the wrong way. At least for me. Maybe there should be a bit more room for exploring the stuff people already know before doing new things. For one I am not less intelligent , just a lot slower. A full time job is hard but it doesn’t make you a complete ‘write-off’

So all in all getting back in my old ways is a good thing, and has resulted in a parttime job. I have left the idea of full time employment. It’s still in the back of my head though. And I will try and bent it a bit further in the future. For now it’s been a boost in self confidence and gives back a bit of independence. Very important indeed.

Society is equipped for people who can run at full speed within the society. Preferably a bit faster. As soon as you get to an abrupt hold , for whatever reason, it’s very hard getting back in. In theory there are guidelines, programs and projects aimed at letting people with a disability being part of society again.

All good intentions and efforts aside, theory and practice are far apart. I have been lucky, met the right people willing to help at the right time. Others are not as fortunate and have daily hindrance on top of their usual problems. It takes an extra toll on these people. Because I know they would love to find a place to make a positive impact on society.

Under 3 – New training schedule

Part one of my second attempt at running a sub 3 hour marathon has begun with testing out a new training schedule. It’s not that different from my old one but has some significant improvements. It has 6 instead of 5 runs a week , and more marathon pace km’s in it.

This week started of easy with 4 short runs with a distance of 6,5 km, one 10 km hill training and a long run which consisted of 16 km. Next week will be a similar week with slightly more km’s.

I looked into my previous schedules and the corresponding times I ran the miles at. Which made clear I ran my long runs were structurally too fast. This is a point I think I can improve my training quality on by watching my pace more. Which should result in a better condition and faster recovery. Although in the past the faster pace in the long runs didn’t really seem a problem. But science tells it’s contra productive to run your long runs too fast.

The idea is to test the new schedule before I start my training period for Dusseldorf, getting a feel for the new training load and see if I recover fast enough and don’t get injured. The journey has once again started !

Under 3 – A new attempt

While preparing for my last marathon I set a goal , running under 3 hours. At the time it meant a 18 minutes discount from my personal best. Quite a bit, and a reach. But the effort of chasing this goal was a new Personal best , 3:09:25. Excellent progress, and thus proof that setting goals is a very rewarding activity. Now it’s time to try again.

The goal remains the same. A sub 3 hour marathon, the same location, Dusseldorf. What will be different this time is my training method, amongst other things. I have been training with a schedule for running a marathon and getting across the finish line in one piece. Which was a feat in itself 3 years ago after suffering my brain damage. Running saved my life when I got ill, simply because I had an excellent fitness level. Ever since it helps me function within my new boundaries to the best of my ability. So largely because of the running and the discipline it brings I am were I am today.

All the more reason to set this goal and get cracking. So the training schedule will be different. So the first step is figuring out what it takes for me to be able to run under 3 hours.
In the meantime I will keep training as usual. until I am largely confident of my new direction.

The second step will be nutrition , I already eat as healthy as possible without overdoing it. Om my longruns I always bring food and drinks , mostly gel and bananas for the food part. Only problem is I mostly don’t eat it. I simply forget when things go smooth, and when things get though, only then I start eating. Which means I am always too late.

When racing a marathon I never forget, simply because all the stations which can’t be overlooked.
But in order for me to get the most out of the nutrition I need to practice more. I am now looking into simply setting alarms on my watch so I don’t forget. Also the recovery food after my run can do with an improvement. So lot’s of work on that front as well.

Third step is a more efficient resting method. I already need lot’s of rest because of my brain damage. So I am not really sure how to improve this bit. I will need some research. Anyway I will update as much as possible on my progress and process. Until next time !

Personal finance, it’s very personal.

I read a lot on personal finance, just too learn from people and their approach. It’s not just the financial independence part I’m interested in. Mostly I am more interested in how people go about the decision making process. A always pick something useful out of that. One thing I have learned it’s an incredible personal journey. The math is different for everybody, as well as time span, risk adversity and all other factors one might take in consideration.

There are some basics , most people start off by paying off consumer debt, student loans and mortgages. The variation starts from that point on, one might want to pursue a world trip , others want a better retirement or really early. All of these goals have different metrics. So there is not one right way , generally speaking the basic and key metric is spent less than you make.

One thing I have learned along the way is , make sure you know what your end goal is. And make sure this is really what you want. This is generally the hardest part to figure out. It’s has partly to do with the amount of time it takes achieving these life changing goals.

Also goals can change over time. And that’s ok, nothing wrong with that. Just don’t change them every month week or year. The journey in itself is rewarding as well, focussing and maintaining an outlook with a better and more secure future will pay off sooner than you think.

As it being personal one key thing will change for most. Your stress levels will decrease once your debt decreases and your net worth increases. Your mindset will change for the better. More mind space is available for things other than worrying. In my experience things will get better fast, more relaxed and your mind sharper. The main thing is getting better not just financially but also mentally and physically.

As with all long term goals you will get lost on the way, it helps defining and keeping an eye on the main prize at the end of it , but setting intermediate smaller goals in sync with the end goal keeps you enthused on the journey. Find those small goals and make a list. Once you get one , mark it as done. Celebrate it ! Share it with people that are important to you. Once the list is done, make a new one and save the old one. It’s a nice reminder of where you came from. It has worked for me in every part of life, not just finance. With my recovery as well. It keeps you grounded and thankful for progress made. It’s not an easy task getting in (financial) shape, but the ups and down will make you stronger !

While goals and time lines may vary wildly , the benefits and rewards that come with more financial stability are around the corner. The beginning might seen hard but your persistence will pay off. Find your first goal and stick to it.

Under 3 – Fourteenth week of training

Another week of training goes by, fast. The end of my training schedule is in sight. And so is the big day. The ultimate goal of running under 3 hours might in this instance be a bit of a stretch. My newly acquired long run pace has just been on the right level for a short amount of time. Too short in order to do a solid attempt at under 3. So this adventure will go on for a bit longer. But with the new way of training, the adjusted schedule and all things considered I have made some serious progress.

So I will go on and continue in this fashion. So how did it go this week? To be honest, it’s about time to run that marathon. Training went fine but the real drive is a bit lost, I am just excited to go out and run that marathon!

At the beginning of the week there was a bit of fatigue due to lack of sleep and therefore I had a bit of a hard time getting into the groove. Luckily after a few Km’s this mostly goes away and I have managed too run all planned runs. The longrun was not that long anymore with 24K so I had more time for recovery.

Yoga is still part of the routine and as I have said before whether it really helps or if it’s just in my mind, it works ! So I will keep practicing Yoga. One more week of training, then a restweek and then it’s the big dat. I for one can’t wait !

Small improvements , massive result

Striving to run a marathon in under 3 hours I discovered something new, well for me at least. I had read about it but never really given it any further attention. The large benefits of the small improvements you make if you do something long and consistent enough.

In sports it has been a thing for a few years now, make small improvements in a lot of areas and the sum will surpass anything. Which is off course true , mathematical speaking, take a spreadsheet and set a few numbers and keep adding 1% , compounding in action.

During my training it’s been evident that regularity in workouts is hugely important in getting the most small improvements. But here comes the kicker, for a long time you will not notice any improvements at all. It’s like being stuck, and all of a sudden there is this breakthrough moment. My times improved , tartrate dropped and recovery was shorter.

I am am nowhere near as data driven as a top athlete , but I just noticed the effect and it was significant.
Like it came out of nowhere. Which when you look at it, isn’t true. The consistency and persistence combined with a slow and gradual increase of volume in training has made this possible. But at first there is a whole lot of time were you notice nothing of great significance, it’s just maintaining your condition it seems and not moving forward at all. This is a dangerous point, you get demotivated and you start focussing on something else. Or you quit.

During my revalidation it was always hammered down that you should celebrate small victories, I was mostly frustrated because I was not achieving my bigger goals. I tried and compensate it by working harder and having draw backs. Finally I kept my schedule and things improved. Still not too my liking and my real breakthrough moment never really came.

In hindsight it was just the amount of time that was simply too short, you can’t do that much in a year and I have to get back to the drawing board and see how I can get at these small improvements by means of regularity and slowly increasing my load. I am stuck in a vacuum of no progress for some time now. At one hand that could be it, I am at my maximum in recovery, but I believe in something better.

The running is the proof for me. And while thinking about this subject it really applies too all things that are hard in the beginning. Or stay hard for a long . long time. Take learning how too read for example, or paying off a huge debt. In the beginning nothing real seems too happen. All the effort looks worthless. But then there is a moment it all takes off. The ball starts rolling , and then it goes really fast.

What I have learned , it’s more important too regularly work on a goal and grab the small improvements. Than try and sprinting towards it. Persistence is key , it should become a habit and not a burden.

Let’s get more small improvements!

Under 3 – Twelfth week of training

Week 12 is a wrap. This week its been harder than normally, my brain didn’t cooperate at all last week, mentally I was very tired. My daily dose of outside impulses I could not process. Running mostly provides a way for me too process all the left over information my brain hasn’t dealt with during the period before the run. Now it was a nessacity just to get some of the unprocessed information out of my head.

But because of my fatigue I really had to force myself out of bed, starting a run and simply showing up was the hardest part. Once outside it was mostly ok. These hard weeks make me very appreciative of the good ones. Training itself went pretty good, the long runs in my new pace start too feel more and more easy and relaxed. I will not run a sub 3 hour marathon at my next attempt , but I am hoping this progress will continue.

Onto week 13 !

Under 3 – Tenth week of training

Another week of training is done, one less run but all the others were a bit longer. With some build in speed parts and hill training. I was a bit tired at the beginning but at the end of the week it all went better. Lot’s of rain and wind as well all week, I don’t mind a bit of rain but every training gets a bit too much.

This is the first week of a serie of weeks where the amount of kilometers gets too an all-time high. In order too get me into marathon mode if you like. The long run was especially cold , wet and even some hail too accompany me on this 32 Kilometer long run. I started out early and after a few km’s in, I was already soaked. So I decided too ditch all the watching the hart rates , speeds etc on my watch and just focus on running and enjoying a nice pace.

After the first half the rain got a bit lesser, and even the sun showed up sometimes. It went very well and also my gel intake was up too par. I wasn’t really fatigued at the end and my muscles were not sore after and not the next day.

It also was pretty fast, I did however got some rain damage along the way but it wasn’t too bad. A very good week again despite tired me starting out.

Onto the next one !

Fear

Fear, my biggest fear ? Losing control, or more accurate losing the illusion of control. I have always wanted too have as much control over my life as possible. More often than not pushing it too the extreme. Combining this with setting high demands for myself and big goals, I made it quite difficult for myself to really have control. Not in ways of getting towards my goals but controlling myself.

Eventually my biggest fear became reality, I now only have limited control over my life. The daily condition of my brain determines what I can and cannot do that day and it makes for a lot of unexpected moments. Offcourse I do all I can controlling this. It’s my nature.

The difference with the past is I am not trying too force this at all costs. All I can do is plan well , exercise and train well and rest. Controlling everything simply costs too much of my valued and scarce resource , energy.

It had taught me that living in the moment is very valuable, you simply cannot control every aspect of your life. You can work on creating the conditions and environment too increase your chances of achieving your goals, and thats an attitude I recommend too everyone. But in the end you are reliant on so many factors and moments that there is a point at which it simply does not make sense trying to control more. You end up in an illusion, and you keep pushing for more influence on a increasingly smaller effect on the outcome of events.

Energy better spend on fun things in life, or activity’s which you can do in reaching your goals. Not just trying too control everything.

It’s strange how you always fall back on old instincts , which have taken me far in life and still my discipline , controlling nature and perseverance take me far today. But in the past these attributes were in my way a lot of the time. It backfired numerous times when achieving my goals. Controle became a goal in itself. There was no more logic.

Now there is more acquiescence, frustration about my failing brain is still there, and also acceptance is a long way down the line, but this has given me the insight in the simple fact you can better put your energy in little steps towards a goal , the using it too control stuff you can’t. Or obsess over details. Problems will arise anyhow, and when they do , I will deal with them.

My life has a lot more direction and focus , and is more relaxed than it used too be. Everything is a bit smaller, at a lower pace. Unnecessary fear is bad guidance , and working at overcoming this fear is a very valuable side effect too my brain damage. I doubt if I would have ever gotten it otherwise.

Under 3 – Ninth week of training

Week 9 , time flies. This week was relatively calm in the way of training with a half marathon run as the piece the resistance if you will. Not a road race but a bit of trail run. Apart from a few patches of hard surface the track mostly went via horse trails and forest lanes. With the added bonus of a few climbs along the way.

The start was a bit slow, it was pretty busy and it took a while finding a free zone and picking the right pace. Ahead of the race the warning was too save a bit of energy in the first part , because the hard bits in regards too climbing were in the second half of the race. I took this advice , and didn’t go too fast in the first half. Retrospective , this part could have gone faster. But because I am in the buildup towards a marathon this isn’t a bad thing. It’s good not to go all out and exhaust yourself.

The second half of the run was easier then expected and I could keep my pace without a problem. Didn’t force anything towards the end and ran the remainder quite relaxed. Net finish time 1:29:59, just shy of 1,5 hour. Excellent result, and a happy me.

The usual Yoga strength training and the rest of the runs also went excellent this week. No complaints there either, all in all a good week. Hopefully this will continue in week 10!