Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Zero Week

Christmas week was not planned to be a total bust, only some additional days off as expected due to travel and to let the body recover a bit from the added mileage and some piriformis pain I was feeling for the first time ever. I took Monday and Tuesday off, but was dressed and nearly out the door on Wednesday when I received a call from Jennifer letting me know my step-daughter Becca was trying to get us up to the Chicago area to miss the worst of a winter storm.

Since we had planned to leave on Thursday, I was not packed and had to quickly undress, pack, take a quick sink bath to get the sunscreen off, get the house ready for absence with our cats, then we had to drive to my mom's to drop our dog Baxter off and then rush over to the airport. To put icing on the pie, our plane had a flight computer problem so we ended up leaving on Thursday anyway. The weather was perfect for a white Christmas but not so perfect for a new amputee runner and I did not feel confident I could handle the ice and snow in my everyday running shoes.

I also had had some blister lines form at the top of my sleeve, which surprised me since I had not been running. I suppose sitting in the tiny, cramped plane seats caused some rubbing and friction that caused the skin irritation. I took the sleeve off my socket and found I could easily walk with just a tight prosthetic sock fit. I would not chance a run in this setup, but it is good to know I don't really have to wear a sleeve for everyday walking.

We had a wonderful time staying with John Ryan, Kristen, and of course "Oh no!" Jack and visiting with Becca and Mistah Chris. Several times I thought long and hard about going for a run and even tried a few steps, but decided falling and breaking something at this point wasn't worth the gamble, especially in an off week. So although I wanted to get a few miles in the log instead of a big fat zero, I'm not going to beat myself up over it either. Ah, the advantages of so-called maturity and wisdom that comes with age.

That said, when we returned home on Monday, I finally got on the treadmill for a couple of easy miles and the piriformis let me know it was still unhappy and rather liked retirement. It should know better. Tomorrow I will try to run 4 around the hood, and then 6 on Wednesday. I did run in my sleeve, however I moved it down the socket a inch or so to lower it under the blister line.

*******

Update: Today, Tuesday, I ended up running 5 miles instead of 4. During that first half mile I had serious reservations that today was going to be any better than the previous night's treadmill jog, but suddenly the body loosened up and I felt pretty good. I was concerned missing a week of running while just getting into some semblance of fitness would set me back more than I cared, but after about 3 slow miles I thought I could easily make 5 without undue stress.

I did have an incident at mile 3 when I stopped to stretch. I mainly do standing hamstring type stretches, with my head down while I reach my palms down to the ground, etc. When I finished I became quite dizzy, so much so that I placed my hand on a nearby pine tree to steady myself. Funny the things you think of, I was thinking, damn, I hope I don't fall and break my arm so I'd have to run with a sling. The spinning eased and I started running again only to find myself dizzy again. With the fear of falling, I sat down and closed my eyes, wondering how long it would take someone to find me if I passed out.

In a few minutes the dizziness passed and I started my run again. For a moment I thought I should just go home but that madness passed and I headed to the back neighborhood to finish up my run without further incident. I truly don't think it was anything other than something caused by my stretch and have felt fine the rest of the day.

I made one more stop to dry my liner and check for a hotspot that turned out to be nothing and completed 5 miles. Although I ran very slowly I was happy the piriformis never pinched my butt and felt my fitness had not taken a hike in reverse. I'd like to run at least 30 miles this week to keep moving forward and not a step back. I'll probably do 6 tomorrow, do some speedwork on Thursday, run the Cooper River Bridge on Friday, run 4 on Saturday, then do 8 again on Sunday.

*****

The main thing on my mind these days is when I will get my running foot. I am somewhat anxious about this because if I do not get a sponsorship/scholarship, I will have to cough up a considerable amount of moolah to obtain one. Everything I've been told or read indicates a running prosthesis will allow me to be the best I can be and I believe it. My goal is this: to have it before the Flowertown Races in March.

So let it be said, so let it be done. =:-)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Very Good Week

I ran 8 miles on Sunday; my longest amp run to date and my week's mileage was 34. My weekday mileage was 2,4,6,6,4,4, and 8. Since running Charlotte I've had a hint of piriformis syndrome and I've had to back off my pace a little and stretch during my runs; also I did no speedwork. Since building the base is the goal, I feel good I was able to make this mileage this week. The good thing at my age I've had most runner's common injuries and those I haven't had Jennifer has experienced so we know what treatment to do in most cases.

Unfortunately for Jennifer, she twisted her ankle rather severely while running to my SUV on Friday. She works downtown and we had some flooding rains that would have floated her VW Bug away, so the Man of Stainless Steel had to drive the Pilot down to rescue her. Traffic was backed up everywhere and many streets were closed. Jennifer didn't want us to have to deal with the traffic in front of her building so she ran out to the main road and I saw her do a little dip and grimace and knew immediately what she had done. She's going to the doc tomorrow to have it checked and make sure she didn't break anything.

Next week I expect my mileage to drop off but I will try to squeeze in the miles where I can. Since we will be in the Chicago area and snow is expected, I'd love to have the opportunity to run amid the flakes. I have the following week off so I can train like a Kenyan.

My 8 miles today was very easy; since I'm training consistently and getting solid weekly mileage the long(er) run isn't a struggle. I did have one extended stop just after 5 miles to pull off my liner and check my prosthetic sock fit; I felt I had hot spots developing below the kneecap and the fibula head and wanted to make sure I wasn't taking any skin off. Fortunately everything looked good and my adjusted socks felt quite good when I took off.

I felt really good on my last mile, an although a time of 9:37 is not exactly world class, I did feel like I was running and not jogging, and I had a good rhythm and form. Also my piriformis felt better and gave me little trouble. Finishing strong always helps instill a feeling of accomplishment and confidence, and confidence is a key for serious racing.

Even though it will be tough to get in runs next week, I am taking Monday off to rest the piriformis. I am scheduled for an easier week, just don't want it to be too easy, and I hope to manage at least 20 miles. Maybe 2 or 3 in a snow shower and who knows, maybe a pic for next year's Christmas card.

"And this is a picture of Richard just before he slipped and broke his...."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lights! Action! Kleenex!

On Tuesday several amputees and I met at the downtown office of Floyd Brace to be interviewed for a local television health segment on WCBD TV Channel 2, in Charleston. When I was growing up the station had to call letters of WUSN (Charleston use to be a major naval base) and was known for Happy Raine, a children's show hostess, and Susie Q from Channel 2, an elephant that kept their grounds flattened. I was on the Happy Raine Show with my brother David and sister Marcia, and I recall seeing Susie Q many times on the station grounds as well.

I also recall seeing this very Floyd Brace building when we lived in Melrose Subdivision in West Ashley, when we were driven downtown. They use to sell general disabled equipment like crutches and I remember all sorts of things being hung from their front window and asking my mom what they were. Now they are strictly O&P, and they have gutted this old building and are in the process of renovating it.

Once I arrived I met Ginney Basden, Director of the Patient Advocate Program, and Niki Johnson, wife of Maurice Johnson of Floyd Brace. Niki guided me to a patient exam room and I waited there with another amputee for our interviews. Niki was very kind and gracious and put us at ease.

Speaking of at ease, I was very nervous about this interview, not really knowing what to expect other than to show up in my shorts. I was last interviewed by chance and coincidence on Channel 2 a few years ago while I was training on the new Cooper River bridge. I'm not sure I've been on television other than the Happy Raine show when I was under 8 years old, maybe 5 or 6? My fear would be my stomach would turn on me and I'd throw up, which fortunately did not happen.

They first interviewed a little girl, 6 years old, named Miracle. I did not see her at all but look forward to her segment when it is televised. Next up was Richard Kennard (I'm not sure about his last name's spelling), who lost his left leg and arm in a tree chipper, yes, like those you see taking in branches but much, much larger, for entire tree trunks. Richard now plays on an able-bodied softball team and is nothing but positive. We talked a good bit about deciding on amputation and how able-bodied people are horrified at the prospect. He's a good guy, no-nonsense, and lives life on his terms. I watched his interview from the back of the room, which helped me understand what would be asked so I could be somewhat prepared with my story.

Next up was The Puke, uh, me. The setup was simple: one light, camera, and the young woman who did the most of the production, Ms. Burbage. Her voice will likely not appear in the final product, so we had to listen to her questions and then rephrase it in our answers.

I started by talking about the cause of my accident, the series of operations that I had, and finally about the fact that I ran my first race 6 months after my amputation. She asked about mentoring and who helped me, so I mentioned Dr. Ohlson, some details of the Ertl procedure, and talked about being honored to be able to talk to such athletes like Rick Ball and Scott Rigsby. Really, I am nothing special, so many have done so much more...and I don't remember the exact time it happened but the tears came up and I couldn't go on.

Well.

Larry got some water for me and tissue and I apologized to Ms. Burbage. She was very kind and said sometimes speaking to the camera causes such a reaction. I really hadn't talked at length about my journey to anyone, and I think the wave of emotion of what I had gone through and what I have been able to do in so short a time overwhelmed me. Not tears of sadness or loss, if anything, of climbing the mountain and realizing: I have done this.

After I settled down, although it might have been just before, I talked about some of the races we had done and the next ones coming up. We also talked about Floyd Brace, and I mentioned I had done my "due diligence," - which is a phrase I hear at work all the time - and had talked to other O&P firms but choose Floyd Brace. I talked about how they stayed open for me before the Turkey Day 5k, insisting I come in for an adjustment. I wish I had mentioned how I met with Larry, Jared McNeill, and Ricky Miller to talk about the operation and what would follow in prosthetics before I had my surgery.

We wrapped up and as I left Ms. Burbage said something like: "Gosh, I feel like I need to go home and run now!"

And that's exactly what I did.

*******

I don't know when this will be aired and whether or not it will be available on WCBD's website, but when I have the information I will include it in a follow-up post. After my, uh, moment, my thoughts were a little more scattered and it took me some time to fully calm down.

I can say this: at least I didn't puke. I'll keep that for a future thrilling episode, preferably at the end of a race.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Thunder Road Racing Team

Jennifer trying on warm headgear at expo

This past weekend Jennifer and I traveled north to Charlotte, NC, for the Thunder Road races. Jennifer has a current goal of doing a half marathon a month and I tagged along for the 5k. As she liked to say with some animation afterward: "I did the THUNDER ROAD HALF MARATHON while you did the jingle jog 5k." It's her sense of humor that I hope I have properly conveyed. :-)

Earlier in the week the race forecast was rather bleak, temps at or below freezing with some sort of wet or frozen precipitation. As the days marched on the forecast improved with a rain chance of around 20% and temps in the 30s. I was mainly concerned about running in the rain with this current prosthesis and the running gods allowed me a reprieve.

Jennifer's race started a half hour before mine...under better conditions I would have seen her off, but since it was so cold I stayed behind until about 15 minutes before my 5k. I wore some compression tights under running shorts, and then a light singlet with two long sleeve technical tops, gloves, and an ear warmer headband. Since I am running slower I don't generate as much heat as I normally would, and the layers worked out perfectly with only my right fingers getting a little numb from the cold.

There was a good size crowd for the 5k, I read they had 1465 finishers, and since there was a marathon, marathon relay, and half marathon, this was a respectable field. Also wheelchair athletes can compete in any of the races, but there is no specific amputee category. Given the hilly course, I was still hoping to run a little better than my Turkey Day 5k, but was prepared to know if I ran the same or slower it would still be a better effort due to the tougher route. Hey, I will look under any rock for a victory. Or grubs.

I have a hot spot on my leg above where I had my original blisters on my tibial crest, kind of odd in the it was about an inch long and at an angle to the tibia instead of on top of/parallel to it. I had a blister block bandage on it and as long as I manage a good prosthetic sock fit it doesn't bother me.

The race is run in downtown Charlotte, quite clean and well manned by volunteers to help us on our way. While waiting for the start, I look around for any other disabled athletes and see none, and then make sure my watch is set for manual mile splits. This time it would have been better to have done automatic splits, but who could forecast that? Also I watch my heart rate and try to calm myself as it is a bit high for standing around and doing nuffin'.

"Runners Start Your Engines" is the call to arms - and legs - and off we go for a mostly downhill first mile although it still rolls some. I seem to pass about as many people who pass me, so I think my starting position was about right. We come up to the first mile and I hit the lap button on my watch: 9:20 something. Yikes! By far my fastest amp mile split and I don't feel bad about doing it on this first mile since I wanted to take advantage of what gravity was offering. Thankfully it wasn't frozen apples this day.

Shortly after mile one I notice my right fingers are feeling numb from the cold...I am thinking it is good that I am only doing the 5k because otherwise I'd be in trouble. I had forgotten how my fingers tended to be more cold sensitive as I aged, another side affect from my long running layoff.

Mile 2 rolls a bit and I look for the mile marker but never see it. During this mile I am aware of another runner on my right side who seems to be keeping pace with me. I don't look directly at him as I am concentrating on my own pace and effort. It doesn't really bother me except to be a little distracting because I feel like I have a shadow. As I wrote on Twitter, he was "a wordless friend but what needs to be said? We were doing."

Somewhere around 2 1/2 miles a kid runs along my left side and offers some encouragement. Later when I was back at the hotel the thought came to mind that he was about my age when I was run over, and not unlike the boy who spoke to me at the Turkey Day 5k. It made me smile and wonder if I would have been as sympathetic at that age. I would like to think I was that boy and the answer was yes.

From 2.5 to the finish was mostly uphill, not a difficult grade but certainly noticeable as my breathing and effort increased without any perceived quickness in pace. My shadow fell behind and I could see the finish line, also NASCAR themed. Finally I could see the race clock and realized I might be able to break 30:00 minutes...as I bore down I knew I would not quite make it, and went under the banner at 30:02. BUT we have chips and my race time was 29:42, a significant improvement from my last 5k a little over two weeks ago! This was good for 5th place in my AG of 22 runners. (Note: Since been revised to 6th place on the website, 23 runners.)

Soon afterward I can feel an unusual amount of sweat in the upper part of my prosthesis so I head back to our digs to shower and change. Most races I would return to watch Jennifer's finish, but by the time I was fully recharged it was close to her expected time, so I wimped out and stayed in our room.

When Jennifer does arrive at our room she seems more energetic than her Conway finish even though this is a more demanding course. No doubt she is getting in better shape as well, running a half marathon a month. For the rest of the day we lounge at the motel, not wanting to go out in the freezing conditions that would degrade to the nastiness we had hoped to avoid for our races.


*******

When we came home on Sunday, we unpacked and after a short rest I did a 7 miler. I was rather tired after this run, struggling a little at the end. Even though the race the day before was 5k, it was hilly and I used muscles a bit differently than here in the lowcountry. Also driving for 3 1/2 hours with my residual propped on the console I was less than rested for my long run. Times like this makes me think how one feels come mile 20 in a marathon.

Time to stop thinking and keep moving.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Glory Days: Part Two

1971 Explorer Olympics

I was more despondent than I let on with missing my final track season. I don’t recall going to any of the meets, not because I didn’t support the team, but because I couldn’t bear being a spectator when I should have been a participant. Coach McCurry was also unhappy with me, and given what he had done for me I felt I let him down as well. As my ankle got better I trained on my own, both at the track – ours was dirt – and around my neighborhood, back through the soybean fields to the Salisbury Brick clay pit mines. This latter course was right at 3 miles that I usually covered in 18 minutes or so, using our old Rambler American station wagon to measure the course and timed with my Hanhart stopwatch, which I still own.

My training was not very scientific, except for longer runs of 10 miles (and one of 15 with my friend Paul down SC Hwy 61) most were done about as hard as I could manage. As I write this a flood of memories are coming back to me, people I saw and images of the past….

In 1971 the regional Explorer Olympics (older Scout troop) were held at Parris Island, yes, where they make Marines. I found out there was a rule that no one could compete in any event if they had been on a high school team in that same event. However, we had no cross country team – only a single trial race – so I would be able to run it. I seized on this as my race of redemption, and although the thought of winning it was not the specific goal, the thought of dying in the race did come to mind. I was going to give it everything I had.

The race


While I was a senior in high school, my dad suffered the first of his heart attacks. My dad and I were not very close, but like most boys, I sought his approval. His sport was baseball and he was a very good first baseman, playing for the Navy in San Diego after WW II. He came to see me finish nearly last at one track meet. He was in the hospital when we were to go to the Explorer Olympics, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to attend the games. I don’t recall the specifics, but I did travel down with my post, sponsored by the Summerville Fire Station with Jackie Sweat as our adult leader. Some of my best friends were there, Eric, Tommy, the Steves and Joey.

The morning of my race was a typical hot, humid, sticky South Carolina morning. We were piled into a Marine troop carrier and were trucked to our starting line 3 miles away. I recall sitting on the end by the door, glancing at my competition, one being Billy Long, an outstanding kicker for our football team. Some guys were chatting it up with him about winning the race. I sat alone with my thoughts, thinking how I would like to win this race for my dad. I wanted him to be proud of me. It wasn’t really about the winning to win. I wanted him not to die and to be proud of me.

We arrived at the start which it was a picnic/recreation area. The course was a rough inverted U design, and for some reason I had it in my mind that each element of the U was of three equal mile lengths when in reality that was not the case at all. I don’t recall how many runners were in the race, I was off in space, lost in my thoughts, totally absorbed in the moment.

Runners take your mark, get set…GO. The thought of pace wasn't on my mind; I was in a mental place I had never been in before. By 100 yards I was in the lead with Billy, who soon dropped behind and I did not look back. After perhaps a quarter mile I could hear a muffled conversation in the truck, they were trying to decide whether to stay with me or the other runners…I don’t think they believed I would be able to hold pace and the truck slowed down.

I ran and I ran and I ran my heart out. By the time I (thought) I was halfway it dawned on me that I was winning, that I had a chance to win this race. Not just run it, but win it. It lit me on fire and I ran like I was being chased by some wild animal intent on making me its meal and I was running for my life.

As I made the last turn that would take me to the finish line, I could not see it…I think the course bent a little to the right and it was much further away than I had in my mind. I was also feeling the intense stab of pain from an increasingly angry side stitch, something that was a nemesis of my youth. I ran on grabbing my side, trying to get some relief from the knife twisting deep there, and finally slowed to a stop where the hurt ceased. Oh how sweet. I then noticed perhaps a quarter mile back the next runner was approaching.

Explode, burst, kill me but I am going to run. Off I went with something larger than the usual runner’s distress of racing, I don’t think I have ever hurt like that and not been bleeding or broken.

Finally, in a distance that was actually arriving, I saw the finish. I dug down, not looking back, running for all that I was, through the pain, into the blinding grayness of another world. I barely remember crossing the line, collapsing on a bench, heaving my lungs out while trying to catch my breath.

A sergeant tells me my time: 15 minutes, 4 seconds. I can’t comprehend it; I have never run so fast before. I ask him if he is sure, to which he explains to this skinny civilian he is damn sure. Ah, but later he admits to a mistake, uh, time adjustment. 15 minutes, 12 seconds, he misunderstood my average mile splits of 5:04. I was in shock. I had won the race.

*****

Later at the hospital I told my dad what I had done, he smiled and told me he was proud of me, then the conversation shifted and that was that. My friends were happy for me; we were close and shared in our accomplishments and failures. They saw me finish, had an idea of what I had done, and celebrated.

My plaque was displayed at the firehouse for several weeks and I think they wanted to keep it there. But this was something I had to have, knowing what I had done I wanted this small momento of a race far beyond any I had dreamed.


I went off to college and did not run for the school, but I ran for myself still. One night on the cinder track I believed I ran faster than this race, much faster for a mile, but I had no watch time for an unofficial PR. I did have some friends who were spectators who later said I should have run for the university after watching me that night.

Who vainly the dreams of youth recall;For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: "It might have been!"
- Whittier

I have no idea what might have been, and time eventually takes the last rose of summer. But I am thankful for the memories of what I have done, and for the ones to come.

They are already shining.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Glory Days: Part One

Half Ryun

My life as a runner has been rather unspectacular with some minor exceptions. I believe I developed late as a runner, a couple of years behind my peers in a sport that tends to reward the early birds with first place worms.

Like most wannabie distance runners of my generation – late 60s and early 70s - we all wanted to be the next Jim Ryun. I remember being aghast at the times and workouts he did, just beyond comprehension based on my meager talent. And marathoners? They may as well been from another planet…how could you possibly run all-out for 26.2 miles? Of course they didn’t, but looking at their times and mine, I believed that is what they did.

After finding the mile was going to gain me a long period of ridicule from my loving classmates who managed to attend an occasional track meet at Summerville High, I switched to the half mile. My thinking was it would be a better event for me, not to mention shortening the time I was left alone or nearly alone in a race. Without a deep love of running I’m sure I would have quit, but that thought was foreign to me and since the coach never asked me to leave, I stayed on as one of the slowest runners on the team.

Speaking of the team, we had some good runners but one spectacular sprinter, Harry Blake. Harry, as Pre would say, was an artist. He held several state records and it was not usual for him to win the 100, 200, 400, long jump, and be a member of the winning mile relay. When he ran it was something to behold, sheer magnificence of what a human being is capable of.

Back to the back of the pack: I struggled through my junior year with my friend Paul Smith, who kept to the mile and was faster than me. I think my best time in the half was 2:24, very slow but I ran as hard as I could, often having a faint taste of blood in my throat afterward. I believe this was from asthma that I had from my childhood, better now but not controlled with any medication.

The lower state meet was held at the then Baptist College, now called Charleston Southern University, which happens to be across the street from my prosthetist’s office today. I figured I would be left off the traveling team given my times, but somehow Coach Olin McCurry snuck me into the 880. I don’t think I impressed Coach much except when we ran the two-mile relay in practice, a relay where a team of four each ran 8 440s in relay fashion. My first quarter or two put me back in my usual lonely position, but after that I would soon catch the sprinters and blast past them to give my team a lead. Coach McCurry would say: "Always give me distance men in the 2 mile relay!" It had a feeling I didn’t enjoy except for this one workout. My best distance simply was not run in high school as we had no cross-country team.

At lower state, the slower runners ran in a separate heat – I can’t recall if it was first or second – and we were doubled up in lanes. I was in lane one with another school’s runner, wearing a white tee shirt because I wasn’t good enough to have a rare school jersey. The gun goes off and we are running like madmen, with me at the back of the pack.

I clearly recall how much I was hurting after the first lap and thinking…how much more can it hurt? I was either last or next to the last when it happened. I began passing people; I was reaching inside and passing more runners. I was running like I had never run before, pure guts...along the back stretch I passed most of the runners and was told later even Coach was excited: look at Blalock go!

Turning down the homestretch I was in second when the bear jumped on my back with the baby grand piano he was playing. Seconds seem to turn to minutes, and the finish line as far away as it was from the start. I glance to my side and see another runner bearing down on me. I manage to hold him off and nearly collapse, but hold myself up as Coach hates to see us do that.

2:12.6

Still not an exceptional time for an 880, but a huge improvement for me. Later I find Coach McCurry lobbied hard to get me in the final; I truly don’t believe so much for getting a point as knowing what had happened and wanting to strike while I had confidence. I was denied, however, and we lost the meet and rode home in silence. But no one would take my victory from me or the glow inside.

As a senior the following year, after a few workouts, Coach had us run time trials. My first 880 was 2:14 and I was intensely disappointed it was slower than last year. As I was getting down on myself Coach asked me what time I started last season at: it was probably close to 2:30…and what did I finished with? So I am starting with 2:14 this year…it was a good moment to put things in perspective.

A couple of weeks later I played in a student-faculty basketball game – another late blooming sport for me – and I was tripped by the assistant basketball coach and wrecked my left ankle. I would not run any track meets until late in the season, when I had to step off the track because my ankle was killing me.

That was the end of my high school running career with the exception of Explorer Scout Olympics later in the spring of 1971.

(To be continued in Part Two)

Monday, December 7, 2009

30 Mile Milestone

A whole me, 12/20/2003

30 miles for last week's total, I had to work to get it in around all things life, but I did it.

With this week's 5k race in Charlotte I will try to at least get 30 in again before pushing up the mileage hill next week. I ran 3 at lunch today on the treadmill and had to hustle because of an early afternoon meeting. It went well even though I did my longest run so far of 7 miles on Sunday, my legs recovered quickly. I'm now going to have to look into recovery drinks and gels and junk, stuff I use to use "back in that day" that I am going to need again. Yay!

Looks like this next 5k will be mostly uphill for the last half mile or so, which might make a faster run than Turkey Day somewhat difficult. I really like running hills but know they do not inspire PRs. If I break 30 minutes on this course it will be unexpected, running the same time would be reasonable but I don't think I would be terribly happy about it even so.

I plan to run 6 tomorrow and then do 4 or 5 on Wednesday with 4x400m just for yucks...well, not really for yucks as all workouts should serve a purpose. After doing the 8 x 200m last Friday this seems like a logical progression to start building a little speed stamina with the increased distances. Since I'm going to be in base building for a while, most speed work is just to get the legs moving a little faster while helping later when I hit it hard. I'll talk more about my theory of training later, but it is the basic rule of easy/hard carried from workouts to weeks to months ending with a goal race or two.

There is talking and then there is doing. I prefer the latter so I best get at it!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Goal Setting

I have been thinking about what more specific goals I may want to set for myself in the future. I am still a long way from being in shape, but now that I am running more consistently this thought creeps into my head.

After a frustrating Google search, I could find no US National records for any amputee distance running. No 5k. No marathon. Nothing, although I did get plenty of hits for Rick Ball, Richard Whitehead, and Amy Palmiero-Winters but no listing of times or records for my sex or AG in the US.

I contacted Scott Rigsby who told me there are no official records...are you kidding me? It does appear to be true as I write this, only distance records I can find are US Paralympic 800m and lower, in other words, sprint distances. Wow.

In marathons I see wheelchair racers have a category, but not amputees or even disabled. Maybe it's the HUGE advantage we one- and two-legged hoppers have with these amazing prosthetics, since we win all the races we enter and set world records with the greatest of ease. Okay, that was sarcastic but you get the picture. But no, I'm not wanting to trot home with a trophy because I might be the only T44 class amputee in a race, but I would like to have some official times and records to hold up as goals for my training. I am quite happy - ecstatic even - to be running with my able-bodied pals, but we all want to know the mountains we climb.

I am continuing to look into this, and will post any US national/AG records as I can find them. I am even more impressed with what Amy Palmiero-Winters has accomplished, as her marathon time may be the best for any US runner, male or female. You are an animal, Amy!

Time to get ready for the Sunday 7. Temperature is 52oF as I write this, very light breeze at times, should be a good day to run with Jennifer.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Sat'day Night

With the exception of school kids on the track distracting my focus, I had a good workout on Friday. I thought I would run at least 4 miles total including the intervals - 8 x 200m with 200m rest jogs. Turned out I ran 6 miles: 2 warmup, the intervals, and 2 cooldown.

When I arrived it was cool and overcast, sprinkling a little on my trip of about 4 miles. I figured if it rained I would see how it would really affect my prosthesis, something I will need to know anyway. There were a couple of people walking when I arrived, though both soon departed. Later another runner did a few miles but also left before I finished.

A teacher came over with maybe 20 kids and I heard him tell them to stay off the inside lanes...if you know kids this came out: try not to let me see you while you get in the inside lanes. I had one near miss while a kid kicked a ball in front of me; I simply cannot stop quickly with my prosthetic leg, not to mention how this disturbs my concentration while trying to run hard. I don't want to be an angry old geezer, I just want to run. In the future I'll have to speak to the adult and ask for more cooperation.

Anyhow, I ran my 200s in 54, 55, 54, 55, 52, 53, 51, and 49. I pushed a bit on the last one to break 50, one of those many small goals that build to the larger ones. From my last 200 workout I could feel the improvement in my fitness; I should continue to make solid gains and more once I get my running foot. If you've ever worn a boot-type cast, imagine it fitting more snugly and you have an idea of the overall feeling of running in a prosthesis although the latter fits better and is easier to move through the gait cycle.

When I finished I noticed I could park on the far side if the track, which is actually closer to the start/finish line. Also I had a realization of something I hadn't had in a while, the passing of other runners and groups of people coming and going while I did my workout. When I left another group of kids were making there way to the track and I was glad I was done. The teacher did ask if they ran me off and I said no, I was done but I did appreciate the consideration.

My goal this week is 30 miles which, barring any skin problems, should be attained. Many years ago I ran a sub-20 5k on this amount of mileage but much more speedwork. 30 mi/wk is a first stop on my mileage road, if/when I do another marathon I like to push this upward to 60 or more. The most mileage I ever did was in the lower 80s, and I felt great. Given the extra time it takes to monkey with the prosthesis I'm not sure I'll ever be able to do this amount of mileage again but we'll see. There is always the balance of quality and quantity and a plan to get you to your destination.

My racing goals are modest for now, mainly using 5ks as disguised speedwork. Next time goal will be sub 30 minutes, then I hope to work my way down to the lower 20s; I will need my running prosthesis soon to avoid having an anchor on my leg and my training.

I'm planning on running 4 miles today and 7 tomorrow for my 30 miles. Morning storms are clearing here so I will be heading out in an hour or so. (Update: 4 miles done.) The 7 tomorrow will also be my longest run to date and the weather should be nearly perfect. Jennifer has a 10-miler scheduled so we'll run some together.

And that should be a good ending to another goal-setting week.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rain Out

Unless it was lightning - and occasionally if I was caught out by surprise - I would run in the rain in my past life, in fact I liked feeling that extra bit of self-satisfaction when I finished. And I can't say I would have found any on-looker's comment "look at that crazy runner!" to be anything other than flattering. It's also nice to mutter, just before heading out the door while looking at the gentle drizzle or driving storm:

It is a good day to run.

Because one day it will be the last day and you do not know when it will be.

*****

With my current prosthesis - and the freakishly creepy foot shell - running in the rain presents real problems. The foot shell would actually hold about a cup of water, and my socket would also likely fill with more moisture although I haven't had the pleasure of a real-world experience yet.

It was pouring on Wednesday morning, cats and dogs and pachyderms. I came home at lunch thinking I might have to run on the treadmill and later after work to get my mileage in. It worked out, though, and I was able to run 6 miles outside around 11 min. pace with only one equipment adjustment, the silver sheath liner slide down around my somewhat tender knee owie and needed to be rolled down a bit lower. It stormed like mad in the evening with threats of tornadoes.

I hope I can run in the rain without too much concern in the future. I really am not partial to excuses, although I have a backup with the treadmill. I prefer to use it when it makes sense, like being short of time, lightening striking here and there, or if it's so hot that running outside would have a detrimental effect on my training and/or general health; a heatstroke is not a red badge of toughness.

A running foot would remove the creepy foot shell from cistern duties, as well as my not having to spend considerable time cleaning my walking foot and drying the soaked liner. Still patiently waiting on that item but thinking about it no less.

In the meantime my Freedom Innovations Renegade LP does allow me to run about as well I am able given my current state of fitness, yet there are times I feel it is holding me back somewhat. The design of this foot does have some characteristics of its cousin, the Nitro. I know my CP is trying to obtain a running foot for me, and I am soon approaching the point where my residual limb will be more stable in volume loss and I will need definite prostheses.

One day in 2010 I will look out on a cold, cloudless, rainy day, slip on my blade, and head out the door thinking....well, you know what:

It is a good day to run!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Rick Ball Named to Team Canada!


Today I learned Rick Ball has been named to Team Canada for the Paralympics in London in 2012! Not only this but Rick will be carrying the Olympic Torch for a leg across Canada in 2010!

Rick had been a godsend to me, answering any questions I've had about amputee running and going the extra mile to offer advice to help me avoid future problems like this last one I had with my knee.

As I wrote on his Facebook page: "I'm already looking forward to seeing you compete...you are a tremendous representative for the sport, for your country, and for humanity."

In a world that confounds us at times and makes less sense at others, we do find individuals who raise our stock as human beings. I would have never come to know Rick on a more personal level had I not become who I am today, a runner without a foot. This world would have been largely unknown to me, here but not seen in this crystalline focus. The Olympic ideal is personified in Rick Ball.

Rick has a massive amount of training ahead of him and I wish him every success in the Paralympics. Knowing how I feel about getting a plastic trophy for an AG award, I cannot imagine the pride and sense of accomplishment Rick feels today...and he deserves every iota of the experience.


Congratulations Rick! Run Like Hell in Two Thousand Twelve!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Pet Peeve




Caution: Rant on.

When I came back from lunch on November 23, I found this pickup truck parked on the handicap painted aisle, effectively not only squatting on two handicap parking spaces but also blocking the wheelchair ramp at the sidewalk.

I posted this photo on Twitter to the Mt. Pleasant Police Department and was told to call them to have an officer dispatched. Before I could call the vehicle left the lot.

There is no disabled license plate on the truck and there was no hanging placard from its rear view mirror.

To think of the total disregard not only for the law but for disabled people who need this access by this person disgusts me. Your convenience is NOT your right.

I use handicap spaces because I need extra room to exit my vehicle without opening the door into the adjacent vehicle. Originally I thought I would not need the disabled placard or license plate but most times I do for this very reason.

Should I see this vehicle parked here again I will not hesitate to call the police first. I don't care if all handicap spaces are available, you are wrong to assume you have a right to any of them if you are not personally disabled. Those who have disabled placards by false pretensions have been reported to Santa already. That lump of coal is no mistake.

Rant off.

For everyone else who do honor the handicap spots and go out of your way to lend a helping hand when needed, thank you. Goodness is something you cannot buy.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Gifts


This is a framed quote from Wilma Rudolph that my brother Mark and sis-in-law Debbie presented me at a small celebratory party Jennifer arranged. Wilma walked in braces until she was about nine years old...remind you of anyone?

The quote reads:

I ran and ran and ran every day, and I acquired this sense of determination, this sense of spirit that I would never, never give up, no matter what else happened.

*******

My knee is healing quickly and I should be able to get a full week of training in the books next week, although I will take it slowly until the skin fully healed. I did an easy two today without any problems, my bandage stayed put although it was soaking wet. No, this isn't the type of injury that would put any able-bodied on the d/l, but it is on a weight-bearing part of my prosthesis and it cannot be ignored.

Next race will be in two weeks in Charlotte, NC; Jennifer will be doing a half marathon and I will be doing the 5k at the Thunder Road Marathon. Charlotte is hilly so I might do no better than the Turkey Day 5k time-wise. Races are more of speedwork for me these days so I don't mind doing more of them, but even as speedwork I don't like doing them more often than every other weekend as it takes my legs out for the long(er) Sunday run.

Full work week this week. It is nice to look forward to my workouts, and if all goes well I'll head to the track on Friday afternoon to get the wheels turning a wee bit faster with 8 x 200 most likely. I hope to get in 25 - 30 miles.

I've enjoyed the long weekend and the time to write a few more blog posts, there's one good thing about sitting on the couch watching the skin heal.

I'd rather, and will be, running.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Holiday Ad

(I thought of this while on my easy 2 mile run this morning.)

Scene One: Car filled with cheerful holiday shoppers. It is late in the evening and there is a blowing snow outside. Someone belches. Diets are mentioned with laughter. All are overweight. It's a tight fit.

Scene Two: You hear step pat step pat step pat from outside and deep, labored breathing. The screen turns white from oncoming headlights.

Scene Three: Someone in the car says: "Will you look at that." All faces in the car turn and all grow silent as they pass the amputee runner.

Scene Four: Sound and light of the car disappears, you only hear the quiet step pat step pat step pat....

Scene Five: The driver of the car getting dressed next morning and going for a walk. "I have no more excuses."

What's your excuse?

Ossur Responds to Weyand / Bundle

Here is the Ossur's response to those scientists' claim that the slower Oscar Pistorius has an advantage over his faster competitors.

I suppose this will have to generate more time and expense to defend the obvious, that could otherwise go into research for amputees.

Thanks for nothing, Weyand, Bundle, Ross, et. al. Maybe you should find a positive line of work to help the disabled instead of attempting to tear them - or even one - down.

From an article here that quotes this "scientist" Weyand:

"Based on the data collected at Rice, the blades do not confer an enhanced ability to hold speed over a 400m race," Weyand said. "Nor does our research support the IAAF's claims of how the blades provide some sort of mechanical advantage for sprinting."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Nothing Is Impossible

From left, Nancy Cumbee, Richard Blalock, and Jennifer Blalock


The Charleston Turkey Day run was to be my "return to racing" event, but despite some minor setbacks that race was the Conway 8k on November 14. Still, this would be my first local race, and I became increasing anxious about it, as nearly as nervous as the start of my high school races where I most often only raced not to be last.

We were to meet our friend Nancy at the Knights of Columbus building, but as soon as we arrived I spied the port-a-potties and felt the runner's compunction to go stand in line. Shortly thereafter Jen met Nancy and joined me as ladies-in-waiting.

Although I am still very self-conscious of my appearance, I can't say I felt like I am being stared at by others and for this I am thankful. I'm sure the leg is noticed and I don't mind at all talking about it, at times that actually makes me less aware of it...these ironies seem part of many aspects of being an amputee. I am different but more the same than ever.

After our visit to the plastic potties, we head over to the starting line. Jen snaps a pic of me (my "Blackbird" outfit!) and I am rather proud to see the baby I was carrying around my belly is mostly gone. I've lost nearly 20 lbs of me from my couple of years of minimal exercise and slothdom. However, the main inspiration for weight loss was not for appearance or health or anything like that, it is in preparation for being in the proper weight category for my running prosthesis. Indeed, I must be worthy although my running times are not quite there yet.

We mosey to our rough time positions and wait about 20 minutes until the start among our fellow brightly colored flock - I now see us like that at races - and hear very little from the PA system. Nancy is a new home owner and is in the intense process of home improvement, something that is taking a lot of her energy and training time. Nancy is an outstanding cyclist; Jen ("Jencapie") and Nancy ("Nance") have done tris and bike rides together. I've only been riding for less than 2 years, and only a couple of times since my operation, but that will change once I get a riding prosthesis. More on that at a later date.

Although I am not a formal (?) religious person, I always look forward to the blessing of the runners, which is a religious experience for me. The Chaplain works down the middle of the runners and sprinkles us with Holy Water. I can't say this has ever made me run faster, but I do feel blessed to have received it evermore so today.

From the race website:

"The 2009 Turkey Day Run is dedicated to Father James Parker, Chaplain to the Knights of Columbus Council #704.

Father Parker
He is at the start line of every race to say the blessing and to sprinkle the participants with Holy Water. The Turkey Day Run Committee is grateful to Father Parker for his commitment to the run and walk and is proud to dedicate the 2009 race to him."
*******

The race starts right on time, the way it should. We start running almost immediately, but then have to do a start/stop/start as we attempt to take off into the running sky. Although we have chips on our shoes, for some reason there will be not chip times as I would learn later, so I will receive no accurate run time as I do not stop my watch at the finish. But that is time to come right now. I punch my watch when I cross the starting line.

Jen, Nancy, and I are running together at this point, but it is understood we will run our own races. Not far from the starting line we are running with Jannette Finch, a longtime friend and triathlete. We chat a bit but soon I get caught up in the race and increase my pace. I feel good and love running among my compatriots...how I've missed you all!

At first I am passing a few runners, but even though I end up running a fairly steady pace, I feel I am being passed by ever more runners. My first mile on my watch is 10:04, HR (heart rate) 167. I should mention I made the mistake of not even thinking of turning off my Garmin's autolap feature, as I should manually record my mile splits (lap time) because the Garmin and course markers are rarely the same...close but not the same.

We make a left then right turns around White Point gardens, a place that I've visited throughout my life. I am starting to feel the strain of running now, not bad, but definitely getting my attention. A boy runs up alongside of me and starts a conversation:

He says: "At least that thing doesn't get tired!"

Me: "That's what they tell me but I'm not so sure about that."

I can't recall what else we said, but I ended with: "Have a good race man!" and off he went. I thought to myself, what a fine kid, one of the many you don't hear about because the good are often missed entirely in life. I am seeing them with more focus than ever...Thanksgiving Day, and I am thankful in every way for my new life.

At mile two I realize the bigger difference in my Garmin and the race mile markers. Since we are running between gigantic houses and the canopies of live oaks embracing us, I'm sure the signal is lost on occasion. The Garmin goes off perhaps 50m or less before the mile 2 marker, saying 9:42, HR 163. I am sure my mile time was a tad over 10 min, however much I wished it had been under 10.

I grab a cup of water to cleanse my dry mouth, but do not stop. We are heading up King Street and this last mile is, as always, the longest mile. Seems I am being passed by many more runners now, a little disheartening but I am working hard to keep my pace with the thought of picking it up soon...real soon.

Suddenly I am working much harder and am only picking up the pace a little. I hear a woman pushing her friend forward, faster, higher, stronger. 'You can do it...come on! We can still break 30 minutes!" I have serious reservations about this 30 minute goal, although it will be my next one. I am struggling, wheezing some, aware of other runners working through our common foe of fatigue and gravity.

And as I am pushing up the mountain, thinking how it would feel to walk only a few steps. I feel my bandage slipping off my knee wound, and in lightning the thought comes into my mind and softly out my mouth: 

Nothing is impossible. 

It is a half mile to go and I bear down. Nothing is impossible. Not as many runners are passing me now, home is a finish line not far from here.

Mile 3 arrives at 10:00 even, HR 162.

I hear someone say my name from the crowd, I am too focused to look to see if I recognize the person, but it serves to lengthen my stride, pass one more runner, and transform myself from runner to knee-holding finisher.
I walk into the crowd and realize I haven't stopped my watch. It now reads 3.17 miles and with my extra walking it shows a total run time of 31:19, 9:52 mile average, yikes! My estimate is probably a time of 31:09, still far better than what I estimated on my race application some weeks ago of a reasonable 36 minutes. My official race results are: 

 Place      Div/Tot        Sex/Tot               Name                 Age   Time       Pace
===== ======== ======== ================ === ======= ==== 
 2054       72/157    1253/2027   RICHARD BLALOCK 56     32:17     10:24 
 
There were 4186 finishers listed here. I'm right in the middle of the pack and damned proud to be here! It took over a minute to cross the starting line.

As we walk off King Street and into Marion Square, someone asks how the leg did. It might have been my friend Mike Nice, looked like him but I wasn't sure. To my right I see our friend Cal Sinkler, who I make my way to for a celebratory hug. Happiness is unbound.

I now notice a little more soreness in my knee and walk between some vehicles, hold onto my knees, close my eyes, and remember what I've done.

*******

Jen is already at our meeting place, having made a Chicago-style shortcut through the race barriers and soon Nance joins us. We exchange slices of our race stories then head back to our SUV. Jen and Nancy return to the expo while I check out my knee. Not nearly as bad as I was expecting, the wetness turned out not to be blood but my friend excess perspiration. I dry everything off, fix a new bandage over my owie, and spend some time on my Blackberry tweeting and catching up on correspondence.

Rick Ball had emailed me in the wee hours before the race about using Spenco Second Skin for my injury, something he likes very much. I have used this in the past and checked my old able-bodied supplies. Yes, the box was there but the kit had been replaced with miscellaneous odd sized bandages. I did go by CVS to get some for the future, but made a mistake and got burn pads, ah jeese. I did pick up an assortment of other bandages and will heed Rick's advice and get the Spenco blister kit when I order more Drysol.

Rick has been an indispensable source of help and inspiration to me as I've transitioned back into running as an amputee. Thanks Rick, when you guys are needing a winter break we've got some SC sunshine and dinner waiting for you! Rick is waiting to be named to Canada's Paralympic team, something I feel confident will happen for him given his records and spirit. Again, I would have never known Rick as my old able-bodied self, now I know someone headed up that Olympic mountain.

Life, I am ever amazed.

*******

Jennifer comes back to the Honda with some future race fashions from the expo and we head for home and a later Thanksgiving feast at my brother Mark and sis-in-law Debbie "Martha Stewart Should Come to my School" Blalock's house. Mark, my mom, and Jen all give thanks for my successful surgery and return to running, as I do, but also for the love of all present. When people come together, things like politics fall away. We are individuals and connected; if we depend on ourselves we can solve most problems and find nothing is impossible. The things that divide us are artificial and fleeting.

*****

I am giving my knee a day off to toughen up, I will try a short run on the treadmill tomorrow and see if there any problems that irritate it further. It looks like it will heal much faster than the old blister problem on my incision line, which looks to be A-OK now, another little victory here.

My concerned CP Larry Wiley calls me later, which I miss while having breakfast. I text him that my knee is no worse for the wear, so the socket adjustment kept the pressure off my owie. My leg is still changing shape and will do so for the rest of my life, until you have to wear a restrictive covering over your limb you probably don't realize these small changes that happen every day. I am thinking eventually for my daily prosthesis that the elevated vacuum suspension system will be best to help with these volume fluctuations, but I might forgo them with a racing prosthesis. Time will tell.

My average mile times for this 5k was around 10 min/mi. whereas my pace at the longer 8k was 10:32 min/mi. I would guess the real improvement was around 20s / mile, maybe a little better but not the 40s / mile I previously thought. I will not be running the local Reindeer Run next weekend as I want to give my knee time to heal and to be able to get my mileage up.

Our next race will be the Resolution Run 5k on January 2 and then the Riverfront Race Festival on Jan. 16, 2010. At the latter Jen will run the half marathon and I will do the 5k. More to follow, including my beloved Flowertown races in March. There is also a local 15k I want to do, but I'm not committing until we get closer to the race date to see how my training and residual are holding up to increased mileage.

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving, mine was perfect this year.

My right leg having a well-deserved rest after the Turkey Day 5k.

Amputee Advantage? Part II of the Prejudicial Attack on Amputee Runner

 (Prior post is here.)

First, I want to clear up that the current attack on Oscar Pistorius is in regards to bilateral amputees only. These researchers realize the folly in thinking unilateral amputees have any advantage even with an advanced running prosthesis like the Ossur Flex-Foot Cheetah. In reality, most able-bodied people will not make this distinction just as many never realized Oscar was cleared to compete with able-bodied athletes in Beijing.

Here is a link to "Science of Sport" post that got my dander up:

"Oscar Pistorius gets a 10 second advantage in a 400m race"

The author of the above article, Ross, thinks that may only be a 5 second advantage, but still an advantage nonetheless. Please read the article and my comments on the bottom of that article's page.

Now note the title is "Oscar Pistorius gets a 10 second advantage" which is a very specific calculated time...or is it? If Ross says is may only be 5s, that is a 100% disagreement in the so-called science. In a 400m sprint, those are monumental/gigantic differences.  I say it is what it is: BULLSHIT.

I'll sum up accurately, I hope:
  1. The mechanics of a bilateral and unilateral amputees are different
  2. Oscar Pistorius, if able-bodied, would be a 51 - 56s 400m sprinter
  3. Oscar Pistorius, due to his nearly lifetime spent as an amputee on prosthesis, through time and training has maximized his advantage like no other and this is the key to his success
We could probably expand this list a bit but this will do for now.

On point 1, I would agree the mechanics of bilateral and unilateral amputees are different. Being once able-bodied and now a unilateral amputee, I know how different I currently run, almost like two different people through my left and right motions. Bilateral in some respects would be closer to an able-bodied person, particularly for BK amputees. (As a side note, look at videos of Richard Whitehead sometime. He is a bilateral AK runner with a unique swinging gate. His current world leading time is 2:50:38). You cannot truly understand a bilateral amputee's challenges unless you are one. You cannot know what it is to be an amputee until you have lost your limb(s). You can put a blindfold on to experience semi-blindness, but until your eyes are out for life, you don't know blindness.

I think point 2 is the most unscientific and profoundly damning/disturbing evidence to the current argument that Oscar has an advantage. It is impossible to know what an able-bodied Oscar Pistorius might run for 400m. This is a pure speculation, lacking basis in any fact or historical precedent, since Oscar has been an amputee since he was a child. Any scientific pronouncement based on this rabbit-out-of-a-hat guess dooms the very unscientific conclusion. As best I can tell, these scientists backed into this guess based on their conclusion of Pistorius' prosthetic advantage. They are saying his 47.49 400m time means he is in reality a 51 - 56 second 400m runner. Really.

I've read that some believe Usain Bolt's magnificent WRs have come 20 years early, how did the science miss that mark by 180o? It's because the science of sport is largely in its infancy, and the lab-coated investigators know much less than they let own except when their pants are down and they are running for cover. Not that I don't think it's a field worthy of intense study and scrutiny, but I simply do not believe they are in a position to know within a reasonable margin of error about Pistorius' natural ability and even less to know, with any certainty, that he has an advantage over his faster able-bodied Olympian competitors.

Lastly, on point 3, read Oscar's book "Blade Runner" and take a look at the prostheses that he first wore as a child. That these gave him some advantage in later years is, to me, mind-boggling. Barely a cushioned cup on the ends of his stubby legs, if anything, outside of helping with balance, would take a huge amount of relearning and training to overcome the habits of walking and running in such crude, embryonic prostheses. It speaks volumes of the hard work that Oscar has achieved to maximize his performance on his Cheetahs, something that I find amazing, not something to try to tear apart with massaged science.

Here is a reasonable article Rick Ball sent to me by David Epstein at Sports Illustrated:

"A not-so-civil debate"

If science can definitively prove Pistorius has some advantage, then so be it. However, I can find no scientific evidence or physical records to believe this is true. I do think something is going on the peripheral, perhaps some not-so-scientific pride, but Pistorius is paying a high price for all amputees.

As an aside, recently bilateral amputee Rudy Garcia-Tolson became the first AK bilateral Ironman. I wonder how long it will be before the so-called scientists go after his achievements?

I'm all for science uncovering truth, but when politics get involved with science, truth is the loser.

As seen throughout history, it is the cry of the mediocre to tear down the achievers of greatness. Oscar Pistorius has overcome immense adversity to compete against the best sprinters in the world. This is something we, as human beings, should realize propels our species faster, higher, and stronger.

Fear not competition or excellence.

Or the truth.

I am going to say it again:

THERE IS NOT A SINGLE WORLD RUNNING RECORD HELD BY AN AMPUTEE THAT IS FASTER THAN AN ABLE-BODIED ATHLETE.

NOT ONE.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

2000 Hits

Thanks everyone who is reading my meandering thoughts here. I noticed this morning I just had 2000 website hits, though probably many of those come from my own updates and editing attempts to keep this train in its track. Still, it is a nice milestone on its own.

Whenever I think I'm going to run out of things to say it seems my muse pops me upside the head with something to mutter about so I suppose I will keep this going a while. I do know when I was first researching amputation and running that I had many questions and it took some digging to get the answers either on the internet, in books or magazines, or by others. I am still finding questions and looking for answers and learning every day.

So if there is anything you want to know about or think I could be more clear on, please drop me a comment and I'll consider it for a post.

Thanks again to my friends, family, supporters, and guests.

*******

Owie

We have the Turkey Day 5k in Charleston tomorrow. I've got a nice raw place on my right knee and a sore left knee but its going be a PR no matter what. = :-)

Update: Came home and right knee is much worse, a layer of skin has come off. I'll see if I can protect it enough to run tomorrow but for now it looks doubtful.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Amputees Runners Have Advantage: Or, Would You Like To Buy The Brooklyn Bridge, Mister?

There is a 'recalibrated' scientific study that concludes that double amputee Oscar Pistorius has an unfair advantage over his able-bodied competitors. You remember Oscar, who won the Olympic gold medal over his able-bodied competitors in Beijing, far ahead of able-bodied American LaShawn Merritt and setting a new world record in the process? Moreover, you've no doubt seen the pathetic attempts of once-great Haile Gebrselassie choking on the dust of amputee speedsters Richard Whitehead and Rick Ball, both running the marathon well under 2 hours, already showered and on their way to the airport before the gasping Gebrselassie stumbled across the finish line.

Right-o.

Let me say this in case you have some problem with processing facts:

THERE IS NOT A SINGLE WORLD RUNNING RECORD HELD BY AN AMPUTEE THAT IS FASTER THAN AN ABLE-BODIED ATHLETE.

Look at this link and show me just one: Outdoor World Records Men.

Scour at any other category and show me the money.

Maybe take a gander at this list and see where disabled athletes trash their able-bodied peers: List of IPC world records in athletics.

It's time to put personal prejudice aside for facts, and if the facts aren't backed by reality then one should examine the erroneous presumptions/flawed data input that lead to false conclusions. I hate the idea that some of my able-bodied running friends will one day think that I have some unfair advantage over them with my non-power producing prosthetic foot because of junk science. It takes a loss of all common sense by the myopic intelligentsia to make such appalling conclusions.

Can degrees be rescinded? Not to my knowledge, but it should be considered. And begs the question to be asked: who is the disabled among us?

Here is the real science you can believe:

No Sprinting Advantage With Prosthetic Limbs

Interval Time

On Friday, I did my first speedwork session at the town track, this is the same track that I ran my first amp mile on September 26th. I left work at noon and came home to change clothes, excited about my workout place: 1 mi warm up (wu) with 6 x 200 and then a half mile cool down (cd). I would jog the 200 m rest interval.

When I got to the track, I found a lot of school kids milling about. Apparently the middle school has rights to the town recreation facilities and the kids were walking back and forth from the soccer fields. They seemed aware not to be on the track, however, which would have made it unusable. I placed my amp bag on a bench, feeling a little self-conscious of myself, did a few light stretches and started my mile.

It takes a while to get in a rhythm, one I have not yet felt on par with my able-bodied self and not sure I ever will. I do hope over time it will feel more normal and I will not be so aware of my prosthetic. I end up running around a 9:30 mile, not bad but definitely a little fast for my current condition, do some more light stretching, drink some Gatorade, and start the heart of the work.

I am wearing my Garmin 301 watch, great for distance work but not so great for intervals as it is large and the lap button is too close to the stop button. I missed the first 2oo by hitting said stop button, which does not record the lap...I am guessing it was around 60s. I use to use my older Timex Ironman watch for track intervals, I'll have to dig it out for this next time. I've forgotten a few things while on the DL.

My other 200s weren't bad, all things considered: 56, 56, 57, 54, and 53. An upright start with my good leg, then loading my body weight over my prosthetic seemed to work well. It felt very good to stride out some, since everyday easy running has a much shorter gait.

Why 200s? These give me a taste of speed work without the danger of overdoing it, works on my stride mechanics, and gives me confidence to build longer intervals over time. I am still in a long base building period given my long absence from my sport, but the legs need to remember what it's like to run faster. And, btw, I like it.

*******

On Thanksgiving Day, the lovely Jennifer and I will be running the Turkey Day 5k in Charleston. This will be my first local race, where many of my old running posse will see me for the first time in over two years. I still am very self-conscious of my new appearance; this was only a secondary thought when I decided to have my foot removed. Now the attention makes me slightly uneasy, but once I get rolling that feeling is mostly lost in running.

I think it's going to be a good day to run and I am very much looking forward to it. It's one of the largest 5ks in the area so there will be plenty of company on the course in The Holy City. Then across town for dinner with the family.

I'll have a leg, please.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Second Wind


It was a long day of driving on Friday the 13th, first to take Baxter to grandma's house, then up to motel at Conway, over to the race packet pickup, back to motel, over to Myrtle Beach for dinner, than back to motel. My coughing is minimal during the day and bad at night but should not prevent me from running the 8k in the morning. I am tired, though, and have had my prosthesis on all day.

It could have been any race in any small town.

*****

On Saturday, November 14, 2009, after two major surgeries and no running for over two years, I completed an 8k race. Exactly seven months prior, on April 14, 2009, I was in the OR having my right foot amputated. It’s hard to describe other than a sense of shock at what I’ve done. I have done something immense with my life, and I cannot grasp all of it. If I try, it overwhelms me. It’s as if I’m deaf from an explosion, and sound is slowing coming back to me.

*******

The race start at the Conway Marina had plenty of parking; we arrived about half an hour before the race and still parked about a quarter mile from the starting line. We eventually sorted out our last minute clothing and equipment choices and walked over to stand in the port-a-potty line. I felt they could have used some more units but few races seem to have really enough.

Afterward Jennifer and I did a short warm-up run. I stopped and made a last minute check of my socket fit, yes, nice and tight, and then we lined up where we thought we should be at the starting line. It was not a very aggressive crowd, lots of room in the group with many behind us. I was a little worried about being in the way, but it turned out to be okay.

The day was cool and overcast, little breeze, very nice. Because of some last minute course checks the start was delayed about 5 minutes, always better late than early, that's for sure. I chat with Jen and another runner and then the national anthem is sung and off we go.

I really wanted to make sure I don't start too fast, fast definitely being a relative term for me. Having run just a handful of miles since getting sick the week before I was concerned it might be a struggle to finish. The first half mile is slightly uphill; perhaps a 20' gain in elevation from the river up to the town. Thereafter it rolls a bit before flattening out.

I was running slightly faster than Jen, who was racing nearly 3 times as far. My prosthetic leg felt a little hard like my distal end was pressing on the socket, but this later went away until the end of the race. I felt very comfortable and hit the first mile in 11:04. The course was very scenic with many trees and old southern homes and charm. Mile two was 10:38, a little faster than I expected but I was not struggling at all.

We make our out and back turn in front of a church and head back to the marina. I see Jen approaching and she is looking good - as always dahlink! I am trying to hold pace and hit mile 3 in 10:29. Cool. Ahead I see an older guy who gives me a target to reach. Later in a race even if you feel you are running faster, you are also overcoming fatigue so sometimes what feels like more effort is just the effort to overcome increasing gravity.

As I catch him, he asks me how I'm feeling. It's an old runner's trick to see how your competition is doing, if the response is labored -and truthful - it let's you know the state of the runner's being. We pass mile 4 and he asks what it was: 10:39. I make the mistake of offering too much information, that I am saving something for the end. Although he said he was going to "try keep up" with me to the finish, shortly thereafter he picks up the pace and I find I am beginning to fatigue. I give a nod to his smart running.

The course starts to roll again as we head home. In my mind, I feel my old stride lengthening as I start to pick off slowing runners. In today's reality I do pick up the pace a little but there will be no blowing by anyone. I hear encouragement from the crowd; I reach down and find a little more speed, cross the finish line and I'm done.

I have finished my first race as an amputee. The thought comes to mind of the surgery 7 months ago and now today, of all the milestones these two stand alone. I'm quite spent and walk a bit to recover. Over by the port-a-potties I break down a little with my back to the crowd.

I have done it. It seems impossible but here I am. I have done it.

*******

I go to the SUV and change into my old Chicago marathon sweatshirt, a race I ran in 1997 in 3:32:10. My residual is not too wet, but I am surprised how much sweat ran between the outer and inner plastic pieces of my socket. There is perhaps a tablespoon of perspiration around the air valve. I dry everything out, text Larry that I finished the race, and head back to the finish line to wait for Jen.

While I wait I notice they are posting the 8k results. When I can get close enough to check my name I see:
Place Div No.   Name          Age S Chiptm
===== === ===== ============= === = =======
76 2 807 Richard Blalock 56 M 52:18
Yes, that is second place in my AG (age group). There were four races in the area this weekend, so I was lucky to rank so high. I can only think the running gods smiled on me - they certainly have had some fun at my expense in the past - because of my peculiar situation and recent illness.

Jen comes in looking strong and I run a few steps with her. We go back to the car so she can get out of most of her wet clothes and we trade stories about our races. I tell her I was second in my AG so we must stay for the awards...and when we return to the starting area we find she got first place in her AG. Wow and double wow.


I am very happy to get my medal and Jen snaps a pic on her Blackberry. Another woman from Mt. Pleasant gets her award and touches my jacket and says something I can't quite make out in my fluid-filled right ear canal. Jennifer is always sensitive about getting her hardware and asks that I not yell for her when she receives it. I know she has worked hard, probably as hard or harder than more genetically gifted runners. I am very proud of her and can't suppress her desire that I don't whoo-hoo her ceremony.

*******

I have a huge volume of work ahead of me to get close to my old running self. But I am on my way now, where all of my running is new again. I am indeed lucky to be given this second life, although I never took the first for granted and never thought I could love it more. From this high road, I see ever higher peaks all around that demand climbing.

Up I go.

It is a good day to run.

A very good day indeed.




Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cough It Up

The past few nights I have been coughing more than a politician found stuffing the ballet box. Not talking about Chicago politics here, but a nagging cough that appears more often than dead voters in the Windy City do. Sorry, couldn't help myself.

Last night it was hack HACK hack. I took a little more cough medicine than recommended as I was getting a headache from all the respiratory ruckus. This was accomplished while consuming two snackpacks of Mr. Salty chocolate covered pretzels. As the various ads would say, I deserved to treat myself to the indulged depravity because, well, I'm worth it. Yeah, that's the rationalized ticket. Unfortunately, I understand toga-clad marketeers and they have little truck with me. That's why I had two instead of one.

Finally I fell asleep for perhaps 4 hours of sweet, uninterrupted bliss. Woke up knowing I had Friday off and for a bonus, a cough syrup hangover of sorts. For the rest of the day I had only some muted barking, none of the bone fracturing, throat ripping, marriage dissolving spasms of phlegm expulsions of yore. Nice.

I visited Larry at Floyd Brace to get a minor adjustment to my socket, something he recommended that I do if needed before the race. The race? Yes, this evening I ran 2 slow miles on the treadmill to see if it would induce the convulsions that would spell disappointment and spectatorship. I survived with only some occasional rasps. I will race.

We mosey up to Conway Friday after dropping Baxter off at my mom's for spoilage to occur. On Saturday Jen-nay will run the half marathon and I will attempt to finish the 8k without walking. The forecast is for nearly perfect weather so all systems are a go, except for me not training a week due to something that could have been prevented if only...oh, sorry, no need to bring reality to this particular perfect picture.

*****

Tomorrow we figure out what we will likely wear...our running "outfits" as stepdaughter Princess Becca would say. Always prepare to be a little colder and a little warmer, a little wetter and a littler sunnier. And know if there is an expo, you can usually buy there what you left at home.

I've taken my bath, put Drysol on my residual, and thoroughly checked out my incision line and former trouble spots for problems. Having used Drysol earlier in the week, this application didn't sting nearly as much. Time to finish up and go to bed.

I am thinking of two days, April 14 and November 14, 2009. Seven months and two lifetimes. One finished and one started.

And one thing to do.

Run.