Monday, July 27, 2009

Training Wheels

I have begun training again, albeit not running 50+ miles a week but my first steps to that event. Having started with that short walk at my mom's house, my goal is to walk one mile this week. Walking now means walking with the aid of my crutches.

On Monday I managed to walk about 0.3 mile, from our house to a nearby field in our neighborhood. Jen was at yoga so I did it alone. It was a little exciting to be out by myself with my new foot. I use to be a local fixture of sorts, being tall and running so much many people recognize me if not by name then by appearance.

Tuesday I stopped by a local store to pick up a shower stool. I use it while sitting at the sink when I shave; I had a plastic footstool that had cracked and nearly dumped me on the floor. While waiting for the new stool to be retrieved from storage, I checked out the canes to see if I could walk with one - I found I could take a few steps while going nearly full weight bearing, using the cane for balance.

In the evening Jennifer went with me on my walking trek along with our dog Baxter. We took the path that runs by the aforementioned field. The path has a short wooden bridge through the woods and above a wetland. At the far end it is 0.25 mi. from home and the turnaround point for this particular walk. The pic above is at this path and bridge.

We took a short break when a guy rides up on bike and wants to talk. He introduces himself as Allen McWhirt who works at Floyd Brace. He was at the Ossur seminar I attended a few weeks ago and recognized me. Allen is in triathlon training and was headed back from the pool; he's our neighbor. Pretty cool.

Wednesday I headed out by myself again as Jennifer and Baxter had a date at agility class. I plan to go next week to watch these shenanigans but I needed to get my walk in this evening. I went about 0.6 mi, crossing a main collector road while avoiding being killed at the crosswalk. SC drivers rarely pay attention to pedestrian's rights here, they view you as some kind of alien than a human being. Fact.

It was warm and humid and I felt some squishiness in my liner on the way back and was hoping I had not developed a blister. After a careful inspection the stump was pronounced A-OK (a little astronaut lingo) which inspired a sigh of relief.

I did PT (weights) on Thursday, giving my stump a day off just in case the skin needed to recover from the walking. Since I might not be able to tell when it is getting irritated to the point of a blister I want to be careful.

Friday evening I was again joined with Jen and Baxter. I felt good in my walking motion and while Jennifer was watching I raised the crutches and take three steps. Full weight bearing.

I am a 56-year-old amputee and I am walking again.

We just got back from the Saturday night stroll: 1 mile. Mission accomplished! Skin looks good but there sure is a lot of moisture in the leg and a little pool in the bottom of my liner.

It is now Sunday and I plan to walk to the field and then try walking a few steps at a time without crutches. My stump has a little soreness, I suppose it is to be expected and I am trying to avoid overdoing it. It will be 15 weeks post-op this Tuesday, almost 4 months.


We've been watching the Tour de France, expecting Lance to win but finding a new champion in Alberto Contador, who despite whatever controversy the press is generating, is the real deal, the best of the Tour. I've enjoyed watching the Schleck brothers work together, trying for podium places for both. Hated to see George Hincapie miss his stage win, but hoping he will come back to ride on Lance's new team. Also been fun watching the sprinters, with Mark Cavendish and Thor Hushovd's different strengths in the same competition providing a unique race for the green jersey.

My bike has been waiting in the garage since my last 26.2 mile ride before my amputation. Although running is my passion, I came to look forward to my bike rides when running was denied to me. What the bike did was make me think about what I might want to do for my 60th birthday, less than 4 years hence. We'll see if the whisper turns to something more urgent.


It looks like we may have a fall marathon in Charleston, SC in 2010. I have long thought a marathon from the town of Summerville down highway 61 and around White Point Gardens would be ideal, a sort of Boston South course. I haven't heard anything about the course design but I hope this might be considered as it is the best one possible, I firmly believe that.

This is along the same course my friend Paul Smith and I ran while we were in high school, from my house in Salisbury Acres to what was then a 7-11 convenience store, just past the train tracks at Springfield subdivision. 15 miles in the summer heat with about 12 oz. of water. Yeah, it was tough and the thought dissuaded me from marathon running for many years. That and the idea of running as hard as possible for 26.2 miles - we had no sense of pacing for it - was difficult to overcome.

I doubt I can run a marathon in 2010 since I can't even walk more than three steps now. It would be hard watching this one from the sidelines, but the day is coming when I get off the bench, uh, couch, and I'm back out there going as long and far as I want.

I have so much I want to do when I can run again, and I know marathons will be a higher challenge than before. Running one as an able-bodied athlete takes months of training and a bit of luck on race day; I never had an easy race and fell apart over the last miles in every one I ran. Thinking of the problems of running with a prosthetic limb with a non-breathing sleeve is a matter of compromise and one I will have to negotiate with one day soon...and the sooner the better.

It is not a matter of sour grapes; I have always enjoyed running a race of 3 miles / 5k. The best race of my young life was a 3 mile race at Parris Island as an Explorer scout. One day I will post my recollection of that race, it was during a rough time with my dad in the hospital following a heart attack. I think of it from time to time, it could have changed my life completely from the path I took but left me only with a well-worn memory of what might have been.

There is much to look forward to and I want race everything from 800m to the marathon with many 5ks to half marathons in between. But first I must learn to walk again, and it will be no less a miracle to go from walking to running a race in so short a space of time. I do not do it alone; it took a huge number people to make this happen. With this much support, I will run again and I will never forget how I did it.

To one, my wife Jennifer, I owe my love and thanks. Always at my side, doing all I could not do and still cannot do. I am making some progress here, using a hoe and my crutch to change the air filter. But you get the idea.


Sunday: I walked a little over one mile today but no crutchless walking. I had a funny twinge in my ITB (I think), I have to remember this leg has not walked for well over three months, and not much before my surgery either. I used a 5 ply and 2 one ply socks in my socket to get a snug fit.

On Tuesday I have an appointment with my CP and I will find out what is next on my journey. I imagine I will get some help with my walking technique, and I'd like to know what the future holds for new sockets and feet. I have a few questions as usual; I have to keep a list so I do not forget to mention them.

Lastly, as I learn to walk again I think about Oscar Pistorius and his earlier battle to allow him to compete with able-bodied athletes. One cannot imagine the difficulty in learning to walk with one prosthesis, much less run with two at world-class speed. It boggles my small mind. An advantage? All I can say is if you think so, you are ripe for a Nigerian bank transfer for 12.3 million US dollars. Well that and Al Gore's global scam.

You pick 'em.


  1. i love that pic of you standing up with your fancy new foot. love it. :)

  2. Thanks Becca! I AM WALKING TODAY...YAHOOEY!