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!