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.


  1. It was nice to get out and race again. Had a nice time drinking our coffee afterward. :) BTW, Bill Boulter just turned 80. :)

  2. Yikes, how did I come up with 75? Corrected my mistake, thanks coffee mate.

    - Richard