Sunday, August 16, 2009

Getting a Leg Up

It's been a good week. My progress continues in vertical direction with The Prize (running) - if I squint - on the horizon.

On Monday I took the one mile walk by myself. My leg was sloshing around in the liner halfway through it, which continues to remind me to buy a chamois to dry it out in the future. Man I wish perspiration could be controlled! I also called the Trek Store of Mount Pleasant to see when the best time might be to go in and try some shoes and pedals; Ben there said just come in as there's no predicting when they might be busy.

I decide to try around 11:30 am on Tuesday, the store wasn't too busy but soon it looked like they were having a fire sale. We tried the Speedplay Zero pedals but I had a great deal of difficulty clipping in and out of them. I think something had to be wrong with the setup as I couldn't clip in with either foot easily and it was nearly impossible to clip out of my right pedal with the prosthesis. We changed to a Shimano mountain pedal (M520) and it was the polar opposite, I could clip in and out easily and gave me great confidence I wouldn't have any trouble doing this on the road.

Unfortunately I wouldn't get a chance to try the new shoes - Bontrager RL mountain - and the pedals for a few days due to work and weather. I should mention I didn't want to spend much for my first shoes and pedals, as I don't have the experience to appreciate the difference with a higher end product. And I definitely didn't want to spend a lot of money only to find the shoes and pedals didn't really fit my style of riding either. I'll buy better when it makes a difference.

I did have a minor moment Thursday: while leaving the office my leg felt really good in the socket and I had the spontaneous urge to run. I did jog maybe five steps and stopped. No pain in the leg but the socket is heavy and it felt very different. Yes, it did make me smile but it is not close to running. I have a lot of work to do and I will not claim the victory yet. I did an upper body workout that night..I had a little tendinitis in my left arm that seems to be gone now.

I had looked forward since last week to going to see Larry at Floyd Brace on Friday to get my new socket and suspension. We tried it on, made several adjustments, and by the time I left it felt for the first time like a real leg. This is a suction only system; I pull on a liner, stick my stump in the socket, then pull a sleeve over the socket and my upper thigh. I don't have to monkey around adjusting the strap as there is none. Larry also showed me how to adjust the rotation of my prosthetic foot should I want to toe it in some for riding the bike.

This felt so good when I got home I just had to go for a bike ride. The more I thought about it the more excited I got, thinking that this would be the first time I could ride my bike since April 12 of this year when I rode 26.2 miles before my amputation. That post is here.

I threw on my bike togs, changed into the bike shoes, found my helmet and gloves, grabbed a water bottle out of habit, and went out into the garage and pumped up the tires. All the while I was getting a little nervous about the prospect of clipping in and out for the first time while riding. This made it all feel like riding a bike for the very first time, a sort of scared anticipation of what I hoped wouldn't be a kiss of the pavement.

Our driveway is on about a 4% grade and maybe 40 feet from garage to the street. I clip in the right foot and shove off, immediately careening to the left, into the grass by the palmetto tree. I steer right, narrowly missing the mailbox and make it to the street. I clip the left foot in, take a few strokes, then clip out on the left and come to a stop. Wow, that was exciting and the exact way NOT to do it.

Okay, I start again, clip in the right, shove off, wobble, clip in the left, and I'm away. I ride around the corner and practice clipping in and out. Nerves settled, off again for le grande tour of the neighborhood. Immediately I notice the liner/sleeve bunches some behind my knee. I decide I better not ride too far in case the pinching irritates my skin, so I go 5 miles and head home with a silly grin for my trophy when I finish.

Life is coming back to me.


Saturday I walked a about 0.75 mi., my leg never felt settled in the socket so I didn't push it. We went to a Riverdogs game Saturday night with our best friend Nancy Cumbee and her son Drew. Last time I was in my wheelchair, this time I walked in with minor assistance from Mr. Kane. The Dogs won, maybe the first time I've seen them do this rare treat. Not a knock on the Dogs, just my luck for their games. Having a Yankees farm team in Charleston is the kind of irony that is perfect. Thanks Mr. Bill!

This morning - Sunday - Jen, Baxter and I walked 1.62 miles. I know this exact distance because I wore my old running watch, a Garmin 305. Giant size, but it has all the features I wanted and needed. GPS watches keep getting smaller but the size really doesn't bother me. I think I could have easily walked 2 miles or more, again I am being carefully not to do too much too soon, and 2 miles would be a 100% increase in distance.

About halfway through the walk I could feel the sweat in the liner, which continued to feel more wet and sloshy. When we got home, I pulled the liner off and there was easily a quarter cup of sweat in the bottom. With the foot off I was in a bit of a pickle, a sticky wicket, a fishy stick it. I glanced at Jen at the other end of the couch; she glanced at me as if I had stepped in something equally offensive with my other foot.

I hop in the trusty wheelchair and dispose of the bodily fluid.

For the rest of the day I've been wearing my leg, thinking about maybe retiring the wheelchair. The main problem is the midnight pit stop; I am thinking all in all actually putting on my leg to make that short trip is only slightly more time consuming but probably a bit safer. It would be cool to have some sort of temporary leg that could just be pulled on without a lot of fuss. Opportunity in adversity!


It is my present plan to walk 3 miles before attempting to run much. I'll have to do some run/walking initially, and I'll have to use the old runner's adage, "listen to your body" for input on how much I will do. I'll keep a close eye on the skin as running will put more pressure on my leg and I don't want to do something that will reset the comeback clock. I fully expect to have some problems as I learn my limitations or lack of discretion.

Only time will tell.


  1. The bike riding sounds really exciting! It's amazing to think where you were a few months ago. Right after I read this post, I happened upon this one:

  2. I just saw that article this past weekend, as well as one about a pony. Great stuff!