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.

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