Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Blackbird

On Friday we let Cutie, our friend of 13 years, go. If you've ever had a pet you've loved, you know what we went through. I finally decided to let our regular vet euthanize her only because I thought it would be the most humane, painless way to end this small life.

Jennifer stayed with Cutie Friday morning, making her comfortable and placing her in a favorite sleeping spot on the bed. All the way to the end, Cutie seemed content and never fussed, her motor running whenever she was petted until she would fall asleep.

I buried her today next to Snickers. In the spring they will share flowers: passionflowers, stargazer lilies, azaleas, and wildflowers. Beautiful and sweet memories are our friends.


A few hours after this long goodbye and feeling emotionally and physically exhausted with a flu-like ache, I headed up to Floyd Brace for my appointment. I was bringing the running blade, a Freedom Innovations Nitro that Scott Rigsby had given to me. While I was running on Thursday, the thought popped into my head about the name of this particular foot: Blackbird. Since Scott's initials are SR, then this foot had to be the SR 71 "Blackbird," the fastest manned airbreathing jet aircraft ever flown, made right here in the good ol' USA.

Lockheed SR-71B, NASA 831

I chatted in a patient room for a while with Anna, Larry's assistant, and we talked about the different running feet. She took the Nitro back to Larry and he attached it to my previous plastic socket, one that always fit well but due to volume changes in my leg needed to be replaced. However, for testing out the Nitro, it would be perfect. 

While the foot was being assembled, Larry brought in the Otto Bock Sprinter foot that had been mistakenly shipped instead if the C-Sprint. We were shocked at how much stiffer it was for my actual weight classification as opposed to the Nitro. We will still be trying the C-Sprint when it comes in, it may well be the foot I use for higher speed interval work and racing shorter distances. I would like to try the 800 again, maybe next summer when I retrieve some of my lost speed.

Larry brought in the finished foot and I slipped it on without a sleeve. This is not a walk-friendly foot, it means business for running. I took a couple of tentative steps and quickly discovered I needed to change my walk gait to avoid hyperextending my knee. Back and forth, back and forth, then a couple of jogging steps, a bit wobbly but...oh man... Larry suggests we move to the lobby where it is carpeted and a bit safer.
I can manage about two or three steps and the energy return is astounding; not only that, but I am able to compress the foot nicely with my current 163 lbs. I had harbored some trepidation that the foot would be so stiff that I would not be able to evaluate it other than clearance, and even that depends to some degree on compression. A running foot will actually be higher when I am not running, giving me a lopsided look, which, for those who know me, may or may not be noticeable.

Larry, Joshua, and I talk for a while about other things, including other amputees and the challenges they face, often nothing to do with their situations but those of friends and family members. This is worthy of a separate post which I will address soon. For the record, limb loss does not equal life loss; in fact, it offers an improvement in the quality of life. I am living, breathing proof of this. 

I come home and try to get a short run in on the treadmill, first with my current socket that Larry adjusted as I intended to wear it at a race on Saturday. I run one mile in it and it feels good, then I switch to the Nitro. I find it initially more difficult to run with the blade because of the nature of the moving belt; I do not think it allows full energy return of the foot. I work on slightly different foot strikes and stumble a few times, catching myself on the treadmill arms.

Since we had a race in the morning, I didn't want to overdo it and planned to run in my old foot until I felt confident with the Nitro. Unfortunately, the flu-like feeling I had before going to the prosthetist's office turned out to be something more than exhaustion. Sometime around 2 a.m. I woke up with chills and found I was running a temperature. Having run the Cooper River Bridge Run with oncoming flu one year, I learned that lesson the hard way. You are foolish to workout with a temperature and it can lead to dangerous complications.

Just after 6 a.m. I tell Jennifer the bad news and she decides to forgo the race herself. I had wanted to lower my 5k time as I will not be running another until April; next month I plan to do two 10ks. I wasn't terribly disappointed about the race, but I was a bit miffed I would not be able to try out the Nitro afterward. I had planned after the race to finish up with a couple if easy miles at the town Mondo track, so if I were to fall it would be on a soft surface.

I've run a low grade temperature all day with minimal other symptoms, so I hope this is a 24 hour bug and I can turn the Nitro loose on Sunday. This reborn runner is nearly complete.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Our Friend Cutie

This should have been a spectacularly exciting week, but like another recent one that comes to mind, it has turned out to be bipolar in nature, highs and lows intermingled into a uniform shade of dull brown.


One of our cats, Cutie, started showing signs of illness over the weekend. A trip to the vet on Monday and then specialist seems to indicate she has cancer. How quickly it struck her down to the point she cannot use her right hind leg and the left is compromised. Masses are seen in her lungs and intestines. Cutie has been the most loving animal I've known, she even tried to rub the vet's leg as she was being evaluated. Her motor ran the entire time we were at the clinic.

 Cutie as a kitten

The only good thing is she does not seem to be in much if any pain, but she has not eaten since maybe last Friday and is rapidly losing weight. I know she is not going to be our pet for many more days. She has been a good friend and it is my wish she could have had a longer life and one night of endless sleep.


On Tuesday I received a Freedom Innovations Nitro foot from my friend Scott Rigsby. Although this foot is a category 6 and I should be a category 4, it will still be very useful in finding out any clearance issues short of my weight being insufficient in compressing the blade. I never felt I had a light foot strike as an able-bodied runner so one category higher may yet be best for me. Scott has indicated he has a category 5 blade I might be able to try later. (Note: I talked to Scott for a long time today; if the shoe, uh, foot fits he will dig up the other blade if I need to try a softer one.)

                       (NEW ATHLETE)   (EXPERIENCED ATHLETE)
100-115                      1                              1
116-130                      1                              2
131-150                      2                              3
151-170                      3                              4
171-195                      4                              5
196-220                      5                              6
221-255                      6                              7
256-285                      7                              8
286-325                      8                              9
326-365                                                      9

I have an appointment at Floyd Brace on Friday. Not sure if the Otto Bock C-Sprint foot will be there by then, haven't heard anything else about it since Larry was sent the wrong Sprinter foot. It will be interesting to try both of these foot types and to be able to offer personal experience findings to others.

I just couldn't get terribly excited about this event as I had anticipated I would be and not sure I can, at least not right now. Not having a running blade is still not holding me back as much as my overall fitness is at this point, although I do feel as of last night that I have moved from beginner to novice. I ran 6 miles on the track and outlasted everyone who was there while finishing after the recreation department folks turned off the lights.

I love running at night as long as I can see where to place my feet; it is so much quieter than during the day. It felt particularly good this night, lap after lap in the dark, alone with my thoughts.


 Cutie resting in my wheelchair about a month after my surgery

No call from the vet today, by the time I called they had already gone. In a stressful situation it seems only proper that I would have been informed, and on the other hand, deep down, I am not disappointed with the delay for one more day. Sometimes it is best to leave tomorrow alone.

I feel so sad for this small life coming to an end. This never, ever gets easier. This is our friend who I know loves us.

Wherever you go, I will keep your memory here.

I will be with you at the end.

Remember old friends
we've made along the way.
The gifts they've given
stay with us everyday.

- Mary McCaslin


I have been listening to Górecki's Symphony No. 3, first movement all this time. It was released "to commemorate the memory of those lost during the Holocaust." When I first heard it I thought: these are souls ascending. How one of man's most violent and inhuman actions against fellow human beings could lead to the sublime is unnerving. The composer has given a voice to those who have been stilled: they will never be silent.


Today, Thursday, and Cutie is still not eating. I have given her subcutaneous fluids twice today and rubbed some food around her mouth but she appears to have given up on eating. My vet said she has noticed a pattern with horses and cats shutting down when on some level they have given up...they do not want to extend the end where they will be weaker for a longer period of time.

I have decided if she is not eating by the morning to have her euthanized. My vet uses a gas method and I could not be present with Cutie due to state regulations. At the clinic they would use the injection method; I am all too familiar with this procedure as our cat Kiki, also a cancer victim, died in my hands last year at this very clinic.

I have decided to place Cutie's beautiful body along side Snickers, our little dog that passed with heart disease not long after Kiki. It has been a good season for Mr. Death, and I hope he is satisfied for a few more years. You are not welcome at our house.

When cancer is cured, that will be a day to hold mass celebrations. I hope I live long enough to see this brightest of days.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I was watching a documentary of the first moon landing this morning. As a minor historical footnote, I was present in Titusville, Florida, to watch the Saturn V launch of this mission; I was also present with fellow Astron Model Rocket Society members David Leaphart and Randall Lewis for the very first Saturn V launch at a distance of a little over 3 miles. Even as I write this I can feel the incredible pounding on our chests of the shockwaves from the beast taking to the sky.

The thing that inspired this post was the first step on the moon, and if the full impact of that moment could have possibly been felt by Neil Armstrong. I've read that Mr. Armstrong felt the moon landing itself - not the actual first step - brought on the most elation as it was seen as the most difficult and challenging aspect of the voyage: to land a spaceship on another world. In the words of Buzz Aldrin: "Hell we've just done...done the impossible."

It reminds me time and time again of those lines from the play "Our Town":

"Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it - every, every minute?"

"No. The saints and poets, maybe. They do some."


None of us can know how we will feel and react under the stress of circumstance. The soldier under fire. The young woman hearing the verdict: breast cancer. The moment your child is born. The police who know no greater love. The firefighter entering the inferno. The final goodbye. The first hello.

What a loss not to be able to embrace the changes, the fear, the love, the many circles of life. To stop a life before it can begin, what a tragedy.

Some never get the chance to experience life in all of its colors and moods, others may see far too much. Most seem to move from day to day on the fringe, compromising as thought necessary to come to terms with everyday.

What is it I am trying to say? This, only this: live. Whatever it is that makes you alive, accept it, embrace it, and live.

Live now. 

Fear not.

Charleston 9 Firefighter Memorial, Mepkin Abbey

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ashley Kurpiel - Please Nominate for Nobel Prize

I thought of this last night, and would like to start a grassroots push for this award for my friend Ashley. Here is what I posted on Facebook:


I think Ashley should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize or the Medicine Prize. If you are or know someone who can nominate, please contact them:

I believe Ashley's courage and positive outlook on life and her work in fostering awareness for FOP gives her the unique qualification for this award. She is a bright light in all humanity and deserves this recognition for her life's achievements.


 Ashley Kurpiel

I wrote about Ashley here.

Please read and/or research her story, and if you are on the nominating committee or know a nominator, please encourage them to give Ashley Kurpiel the consideration for a prize.

Also please spread the word as you can with links to her YouTube video or other pages as you find appropriate.

Thank you.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Waiting for Godot, uh, Jato

If you've been following my blog you know I knew the name of my future running blade (prosthetic running foot) long ago, the legendary Jato, even before my amputation surgery. As the story goes, Jato finds its master, it can neither be bought or sold.

This past Thursday, 4/11, I had an appointment at Floyd Brace. I always look forward to my appointments because usually it only means good things are going to happen. A new socket that will feel better, or a new sleeve that won't tear up every couple of weeks, or an extra liner that means I don't have to wear a wet one after my run. This day I did get a new socket but also the news I was finally getting my running blade (foot) soon, very soon.

At first Larry Wiley, my CP, mentioned a junior foot might be used due to the length of my residual limb. A junior foot is shorter than a full size foot and does not have as much energy return, so I was unhappy with this development. I did go through a number of conversations prior to my surgery to get my residual limb at the optimal length meaning I could have a long limb and wear the best running foot.

We finally got things worked out. Scott Rigsby, that huge-hearted Ironman, is sending me one of his Nitros to try. This is a full size foot that goes directly under the prosthesis and is an excellent running blade. Larry is ordering me an Otto Bock 1C2 C-Sprint foot at right, a terrific blade and one that attaches to the back of the socket, so clearance is not an issue.


On Valentine's Day Jennifer and I ran the first 3 miles of my long run  together, and then parted as she went to fetch Baxter for one more mile whereas I had 4 more to go, having done one warm-up mile on the treadmill. I could tell the new socket was not fitting nearly as well as the old one, which is not unusual except this one was not taken from a new casting but rather from the previous one. I noticed some discomfort behind my knee and just below the kneecap itself.

Socket fitting is not unlike a new brand of running shoes you try for the first time. Sometimes you find a problem right away and sometimes it takes a couple of weeks for a hot spot to emerge that you wouldn't otherwise notice. In the amputee universe, usually this means a trip back to the prosthetist's office for adjustment(s) if socks can't easily be used to make the fit better.

I had to stop several times to monkey with my socks and could not maintain a comfortable fit, finally feeling a raw spot developing on my knee and deciding to quit before I bloodied myself. My long run of 8 miles was cut 3/4 mi short, but I had to do it or risk lengthy downtime. No thank you! My mileage for the week was 31, which is okay for now plus I am still having no trouble with the Achilles.


On Monday, 4/16, I was able to get back to Larry to have the new socket adjusted. After a couple of reheating/reshaping efforts it felt really good. Shortly after I returned to my office I got a call from Larry's assistant Anna, who said my running foot had arrived! I was so excited that I don't know if I was making any sense to her, but I gathered she understood why. Hope so anyway.

Larry then sent me the picture at left, but even in my exuberant state I noticed a poke in the eye: the foot did not look like the C-Sprint. I immediately compared it to the Otto Bock webpage and was nearly certain, unless it was the camera angle, that this foot was the Sprinter. 

So today, Tuesday, I had it confirmed Larry was sent the wrong foot and he's in the process of getting it exchanged for the correct one. I am hoping a C-Sprint will be in stock at my weight classification; if not I would think it will be next week before I am able to get it. We have a 5k race on 2/27 and I was hoping to be able to race with it then, but I will need some time to learn how to run properly with Jato as I've been told it will be "different." The main thing, I think, is to make sure I don't get lazy or lose my concentration and drop my knee in the swing phase, where I might drag the tip on the ground and then see the pavement approaching my nose at a high velocity. 


This is the last piece of my missing puzzle, the one thing that will allow me to run the best I can as an amputee. It will be worth the wait to get it right, and although I am disappointed they shipped the wrong foot, it is only going to be a few days difference. Disappointment would be never running again. I faced that, so I can be patient now.

Well let's just say I'm making a mighty effort.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Real Carbon Footprint

This is a very exciting post (!) about my current foot, my prosthetic foot that is, and the suspension system components I am using. This is my third socket, which has been by far the best fitting. As the residual volume changes it's been easy to adjust the fit back to near-optimal comfort with the addition of prosthetic socks. When the socket was new it was several weeks before I needed to add any socks in the morning, but lately I start with 8 plies of socks. I will be getting a new socket soon so I thought I'd write this history of this old friend.

Here is the socket with the Otto Bock Derma ProFlex sleeve rolled down over the socket and the gaiter (light color) above. I'll explain more about these later. Also shown is the actual prosthetic foot, a Freedom Innovations Renegade LP (low profile). This is a high activity foot and you can see the similarity to running blades in the shape. To the right is the creepy foot shell. Why anyone thinks this is pleasing is beyond me. It is c-r-e-e-p-y. The carbon fiber foot is a work of industrial art, why hide it in the C-R-E-E-P-Y foot shell? Okay, enough of that. In the background is an optional cat, known as Cutie. I had the foot taken apart for cleaning after surfing through a deep puddle at the Charlie Post 5k.

Here is a close-up of the carbon fiber (CF) foot. My guess is this will remain my everyday foot for the next couple of years. It is obvious a prosthetic foot needs a foot shell to properly fit in a shoe, but I would rather see a transparent, non-anatomical model that did not hide the CF foot. In an ideal design in Richard Wayne's World, the prosthetic foot would stand alone, no foot shell and no shoe required. Form follows function. Architects learned this about one hundred years ago. Just sayin'. This is the case with the running blade and it rocks.

At left is the plastic socket showing the sleeve and gaiter. My residual limb is already in an Ossur Comfort Cushioned liner with the socks pulled over it. By late in the day I sometimes have to add a one ply half sock; this has been my usual setup for my running. When I get my running blade I will probably want a sport liner like this one.

At right I've slipped my residual into the plastic socket and I'm ready to pull it all together. Many days I wear my prosthesis just like this under my dress pants as I don't really require the sleeve to keep the leg on. This leaves more skin exposed which I like and reduces the chance of blistering at the top of the sleeve. It's also just more comfortable.

This pic shows the gaiter rolled up over the socket. The purpose of the gaiter seems to be two-fold to me. First it serves to seal the socket so you get good suction on the residual limb. Secondly it softens the hard trim line (edge) at the top of the socket. The socket edge trim line has cut every sleeve I have in a couple of weeks; this Otto Bock sleeve has no such problem. It is made from better quality materials than the simple neoprene sleeves I have been using.

At right I've rolled the sleeve up over the gaiter and up my thigh and voila the prosthetic leg is ready for a run. Now imagine you're out running along and all is sweetness and light when you feel sweat collecting inside the liner in this get-up. At some point if enough perspiration gathers inside the liner the leg could lose suction and fall off; it gives plenty of warning with a sort of mushy feeling. Sooner or later the leg has to be taken off and the sweat dried off the residual limb and the liner. This is why I carry the infamous ShamWow as it does a great job soaking up the moisture. Using Drysol or Certain-Dri helps retard perspiration, but these products can be very uncomfortable to apply and I can't imagine long-term use is good for the skin.

You can also see why I have railed about sweating in the prosthesis in the past. In a warm distance race taking the leg off has a decidedly adverse effect on finishing time. A NASCAR type pit stop will likely lose me at least a minute's time, maybe longer. In the meantime my able-bodied pals will be passing me on their way to the hardware store for the top deals.

Every active amputee and some who are just naturally heavy sweaters could benefit from this problem being solved by the prosthetic industry. I am hoping it will be resolved in the next few years as I could sure use some help in our subtropical heat. If any prosthetic companies need a guinea pig to test new technology for this problem, by all means contact me.

Next leg review will likely be about my running blade, so stay tuned for details. We're also talking about a simple biking leg too, but first thing first.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Puddle Pushers

 Folly Beach Pier, February 7, 2010, near race start 
BB Photo by Jennifer S. Blalock

Jennifer and I ran the "Save the Light" 5k associated with the half marathon at Folly Beach, SC, this past Saturday. The forecast was only for a 20% chance of rain, which he did get just before the race and a few showers afterward. The temps and overcast conditions suit me, and we 5kers didn't bear the brunt of the wind the half marathoners enjoyed in less protected parts of their course.

I was a little concerned because I had not brought my waterproof pants, and would not have wanted to run in them because I would have overheated. This turned out to be a non-problem but the water on the road in several places was something to contend with.

Jennifer and I arrived with plenty of time and found parking not to be a problem. Again I had the dilemma of whether or not to park in a handicap space which I didn't do. In the future, depending on parking volume and need, I may use a HC slot which would open a standard parking space to another runner. I would still feel strange using one on race day but its not unlike, is some respects, to when I dress myself in my wheelchair before going for a run. That's just the way it is.

As we did a warm-up run, we passed David Quick who mentioned there were puddles on the course like Charlie Post. Oh boy. I looked down the road and could see two or three, but we didn't run far enough to determine how deep the water was. We would find out soon enough. We also meet a nearby neighbor who shakes my hand; I haven't run in Jeff's area for a couple of years but his street should be on my training tour within a few weeks.

Jennifer's ankle seemed to be fine but her fitness level had taken a hit from being on the D/L for the past 6 weeks. Still, she would go on to run the entire 5k - no Gallowalking for her!


The race start was very congested on the narrow 2 lane road, and since there was no chip timing few would get an accurate result. Jennifer and I moved up to about the first 1/3 of the crowd and waited for the start.

I didn't even see the actual starting line where I would begin my timing, so I punched my watch as we went under the banner. We had the usual spastic lurching as the runners tried to find their pace and place, and it seemed in no time we came to the first puddle. I really don't want to fill my foot shell with water so I follow many of the runners to the side of the road. Some guy directly behind me, in an agitated voice screams "run through the water people!" even though he is on the side of the road with us other lemmings. He does decide to then run through the puddle and we catch him shortly down the road. I guess those Olympic aspirations are hard to let go. :-)

During the first mile several runners sidle up alongside me, mentioning the newspaper article and chatting a bit. I have my pace under control and can converse without gasping; I thank them and wish them a good race. It feels so good to fly with eagles! One woman asks me how long has it been since my operation, and I say incorrectly about 9 is closer to 10 months in another week.

My race plan was to run two 9 minute miles and then save something for at least an 8 min/mi finish. Despite the slowdowns and puddle jumping, I manage to run the first mile right at 9:05. I did run through one shallow stretch because I could feel too much time being lost.  Somewhere around 1.5 mi. I started having a serious distraction...have I missed the 5k field split from the half marathon field? Uh oh.

Ahead I see what appears to be some people making a left turn, oh joy, but when I arrive it is actually everyone running through a yard to skip a huge puddle. On a good note this x-c jaunt feels good with my prosthetic foot; with my old arthritic ankle it would have been very uncomfortable and likely slowed down my pace for the remainder of my race.

I run mile 2 a little more leisurely then I wanted, 9:27, but I wasn't as stressed as I was at Charlie Post. I see 80 y.o. Bill Boulter ahead of me, a local legend. I would have loved a pic of us running together for some strides, he is what we babies aspire to be. Finally we make a left turn and then a right where we 5kers head back to the start/finish line.

I am trying to pick up the pace and look for the 3 mile marker, but do not see it in my distress. As we approach the finish I keep trying to dig down and run a little faster...a little faster...and cross the line in as much a sprint I can muster in this prosthesis, the last 1.1. mi. in 9:35: 

        MALE AGE GROUP:  55 - 59
1     9 Shawn Nettles     Walterboro     SC   20:49
2    78 Joe Kroll         Charleston     SC   26:35
3   110 Richard Blalock   Mt.Pleasant    SC   28:45

My watch time was 28:08, exactly one second slower than my amputee best and a welcomed improvement from the Charlie Post reversal. Awards go 2 deep at this race so the hardware store is closed today.

I return to the Pilot to dry off and wait for Jennifer. In the past I would usually go out and run in with her or applaud from the sidelines, but I can't get myself together with drying out the prosthesis in time to join her.

Although she is not happy with her time, Jennifer finishes 3rd in her AG too. Considering she has done only a smidgen of running since her high-level ankle sprain, I am extremely proud of her accomplishment. We attend the awards ceremony and find we didn't make the short list...but it is so great to see the others step up, especially the few who seem to have placed for the first time and are so excited. I still feel this emotion after all these years and it is addicting.

Bill Boulter gets a thunderous round of applause; he easily looks 10 years younger than his peers. As Jennifer and I leave and drive out, Bill waves us down and we chat for a moment about the race. What a guy, how I hope to be running in this rare air at his age. It is my intention to make it so, and I would not be shocked if he is still running then and probably beating me.


It was a good day to run, and I feel I will easily go under 28 minutes at our next 5k in 3 weeks. The Achilles is well under control so I will be able to do some speed work again. I am still keeping my focus on getting my base miles up, but the legs need to experience some faster pace running and it feels good to get some air under my feet.

I also found out that the full size running foot best suited for me is here. Not 100% sure this will be mine but very likely. Must. control. anticipated. unbridled. joy.

Time to hunt down some fireworks for that big day when Jato arrives. Or maybe we'll just go for a run, the missing link missing no more.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Big Red Week

As mentioned in the earlier post, this week was full of red letter days. First, on Tuesday, the article about my amputee running "The Next Step" by David Quick was published in the "Your Health" section of the Charleston paper and in the Life & Style section of The State paper in Columbia here. I think I was more anxious the day before the article appeared, wondering what sort of reception the "What's ahead this week in The Post and Courier" announcement would generate:

Tuesday Health/Science Your Health -- Drastic Measure?: An avid runner with severe arthritis in his right ankle resorted to having his lower leg amputated. Now with a prosthetic leg, he's enjoying running and racing again.

I was quickly put at ease by many of my coworkers expressing comments of support and congratulations on my accomplishments. Now long after I got to my desk Larry Wiley, my CP, called and said we needed to talk about getting "a real running foot" when I came in for an appointment of Thursday. I think I went into sensory overload because other than the amputation and possibly first race, this would be a major milestone in my journey. A running foot will be the last piece on putting this running puzzle back together in a way that will me to be the best runner I can be.

Jato is finding me.


On Wednesday, January 3rd, I picked up a form for a permanent handicap placard at Dr. Ohlson's office. Before my operation I was not intending to get a permanent card, but given how I need extra room to exit my car I've decided it is best to accept the gimp gift. Additionally, there may be a time I'll not be as mobile and I should be prepared for that contingency. I also got a letter stating my disability should I need it to apply for an athletic grant or possibly for competition. I dropped off a framed picture of my finish of the Riverfront 5k for Dr. Ohlson and his office; there are so many who have been part of my journey and I feel a deep debt of gratitude for what they have allowed me to do, to have my life back, all of it.


On Wednesday afternoon I got a message from Mike Lenhart, who is the founder and president of the Getting2Tri Foundation. Mike wanted me to come to the Getting2Tri National ParaTriathlon Camp as an athlete. I was in a real quandary about this one as I consider Mike's mission in life one of magnificence and this was an unexpected honor. Yet, I must be true to myself, I am first and foremost a runner. Yes, I like to swim and bike but I just haven't felt the pull of triathlon's gravity. I've been to many/most of Jennifer's tris and love to watch them, but I've had too many running goals that I felt would be detoured by the tri...and falling off a bike might end my running for a long time. I informed Mike that "It is tempting but as a runner I'm not quite ready to do a tri...does sound like great fun. Not ready for half marathon yet but closing in." Believe me, it pained me to turn him down but at this point in my one-footed life I am keeping my focus.

The next day Mike asked me to come down and be part of the running staff. I am stunned. Mike convinces me I will be an asset to the team and I have to say...YES! The more I have thought about this development the more I have been overwhelmed by the extreme privilege I will have in meeting athletes of the highest caliber, those who will let nothing, nothing stand in their way. Limb loss or some other disability will simply be added incentive to strive beyond. Inspirational doesn't even begin to describe these athletes. I am so honored to be part of this event, and I can't wait to be there. How could I not feel my life is blessed? Yet I cannot help but consider something is amiss, so many in this world are in pain and need. Then I think...I have been given the opportunity to help, to know both sides, and to move forward.

And we will.

Not only that but Jennifer is going as a volunteer, so this just keeps getting better. Jennifer is a triathlete, knows at least one amputee runner personally, so I think she will be uniquely qualified to help in these athletes in a number of specific areas. She contacted our friend Ashley Kurpiel and we hope to meet her while we are in Atlanta. We will be meeting one of my heroes and that will put an exclamation point on the week!


At the end of my post "Doing the Charlie Post Deluge" I wrote: "Next week is likely going to be one not to be forgotten. It's not often we see such potential bearing down on us but for once at least I am getting a hint. Let's see if I can run with it." I took out something, because I had a moment of superstition, but not now. I wrote: "I feel my life is about to change."

It has, and it will.


Just before I got Mike's messages, Scott Rigsby offered to give me one of his running feet. I am still not quite sure all this was happening to me in one week. How could it? I've told Jennifer sometimes I think I croaked on the operating table and am living in the hereafter. At least that would explain it all. Oh what a lucky man I am.


On Thursday I had my appointment with Larry at Floyd Brace. Before we got started I gave Larry a framed pic of my first race at Conway, along with my medal for 2nd place. With all they have done - from meeting with me to talk about amputation to visiting me post-op to working through the fitting process and now to my running prostheses - I wanted to give them something that meant something to me. And yes they understood.

Ginney Basden and I had a very good conversation as she told me how a day like this made the bad days worthwhile. We were just talking, when I thought outloud how on a scale that the bad is heavy and weighs us down, while the good is light and rises above. The negative overshadows the good, just watch the news and you'll not doubt this. 

Atlanta will prove the opposite is the true thing.

Larry, his assistant Anna, and I talked at length about running and the running prosthesis. Larry mentioned we might need to try a junior foot, which is smaller and typically used for children and smaller people. In my case, because my residual limb is so long, Larry thought I might need one to keep me from dragging it on swing phase (moving the leg forward). The trouble is a junior leg does not have the energy return as a full size leg, so I will not be able to run to my potential with it. I also cannot run to my potential with my nose scrapping the pavement if I do drag my leg. I do not think I have to compromise here, so we will be looking at both type running feet.

On Friday I traded several emails with friend Rick Ball concerning the various running feet and the measurements needed for clearance, etc. We determined I might indeed be very close to having the distance needed for a full size under-the-socket running foot. Rick also posted a link to my newspaper article on his FB page, where I viewed a video of him setting a 10k world leading time under warm conditions. Watch out for Rick in the 2012 Paralympics!

Taking Jennifer's long standing advice, I will be my own best health advocate. I've contacted two of the major running feet companies; one did not impress me as much as I anticipated; I've not heard from the other which has a foot that should prove no problem to configure for a long residual. (Update: We have heard from this company and they will give us a break on the price of this outstanding blade. More on this later!)


We ran the "Save the Light" 5k on Saturday, which I will write about in a separate post. We had a good race despite having to puddle-jump, and Jennifer and I both placed 3rd in our AGs. I plan to run 7 miles today around the hood, once my breakfast settles and I publish this post. Beautiful day today, high 50s, clear skies, diminishing wind. This will give me 27 miles for the week, still on the low end, but my Achilles is giving me no trouble so I should be able to modestly increase my mileage over the next few months. 

Time to lace one up and head out. See you on the road.

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Word from the Management

It has been an extraordinary week with many things happening, from David Quick's newspaper article to word that I am getting my running blade to being asked to serve as a running coach at the Getting2Tri National ParaTriathlon Training Camp at Georgia Tech in March.

I will post more on these developments over the weekend, needless to say, it's been a runner's high of the first order.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Sweetness and Light

There is one person who has gone down this long road with me, who is strong and courageous and understands the why of it all. She never waivered in her support, and knew I had to do this and did not try to protect me from failure. She has been on a quiet, steady path to help me obtain my running prosthesis.

We have long run together, enjoying visiting fellow runners at out of town races or with friends at local events. Having coffee out of a thermos after a cold winter 5k is something I have sorely missed with her...and how I missed all that, unable to go to some races because of the pain of not being able to participate with her. The caged bird will never lose the desire to fly.

Jennifer is a longtime swimmer, runner, and triathlete, having run most distances up to the marathon as well as sprint, olympic, and half ironman distance triathlons. One of my nicknames for her is SLF - Swims Like Fish - because she has such a natural affinity for the water. She defines determination, because all she has to do is hear "you can't" to turn that into "I did."

So I want to thank my wife Jennifer for being the one who completes me. In this lifetime relay, we go together, hand in hand.