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.



  1. Hi RB- so sorry to hear about the loss of Cutie. It sounds like she was a really special kitty. So many people don't understand cats and their unique personalities. My cat, Viola, makes me laugh every day with her antics, especially the "wild kitty" routine where she leaps through the air and bounces off the walls.
    On a happier note, great news about finally getting to try a running foot. I'm sure once you get the kinks worked out you'll be running LH!

  2. Hi jaydee,

    Yes, they all have such different personalities, Cutie was intensely loving, you pet her once and she's yours forever. Viola sounds like our cat Lexie, also 13, who plays fetch!

    I am hoping this fever goes away soon, just enough to get my attention. I should be doing my first 10k with the blade!

    Hope you and Bob are doing well.

    - Richard