Sunday, March 28, 2010

2010 Cooper River Bridge Run

 Cooper River Bridge Run 2010 (Post and Courier photo)

Friday morning at work I started noticing an odd feeling in the back of the roof of my mouth, usually the first sign of a sore throat. I knew with all the pollen flying about that it could be allergies, or allergies triggering a response that could lead to illness. I had been taking my allergy med since early in the week, so I thought I might be coming down with a cold.

By night things seemed to accelerate downhill. I could not sleep, wondering if I would be able to race on Saturday. No, I wouldn't have been horribly disappointed, but my training had been going well and I felt my fitness had improved a level. I was confident I would have a good race at the Cooper River Bridge Run (CRBR).

Due to lack of time, I did not blog about my first 10k in Summerville. I did meet my goal of sub-one hour at 59:00 official time, and learned I must use Drysol, at least for now, to prevent my liner from getting sloshy with sweat and potentially causing me to have to stop to dry things out. As for the race, the first mile was a little fast but not red-lined, second mile was more reasonable with every subsequent mile a little faster. I rarely ran so smart a race as an able-bodied athlete although I strove for negative splits.


My alarm went off at 5:30 am Saturday morning. Only getting a couple of hours of sleep, I sat up and took inventory of my situation. My throat was a little sore but not raw; at least it still seemed no worse. I was not running a temperature. Let me say right now I am glad it didn't get worse, for it was a good day to run.

For once, yes ONCE, Jennifer and I wore the exact same top on purpose, short sleeve Getting2Tri shirts to support that fine organization. I get up a little earlier on race day so I can put on my prosthesis and walk around so the residual volume can stabilize. Since I am in a suction-only socket, my prosthetic sock fit is very important. So far I prefer to have a slightly tighter fit so any loss will not cause problems later in the race. Elevated vacuum systems, from what I've read and been told by others, eliminate this fit problem but comes at the price of added weight. 


We arrive at the race and it is chilly, overcast, with some breeze coming up Coleman Blvd at our backs. Jennifer and I part for our respectively starting positions and have to wait about 30 minutes for the race to begin.

The race gets underway and it takes some time to cross the starting line, but once there we can break into at least a jog and soon a run. It is very congested but not nearly as bad when the race did not use corrals. Bolder Boulder (BB) still has a huge advantage here, where each corral is brought up to the starting line and sent off, avoiding nearly all of the logjams that the CRBR still suffers from. Also BB requires confirmation for the faster corrals, as I had to send them my Flowertown 10k time to get seeded. Although there were not as many walkers in the way, there were enough to be irritating. Since my right "brake" does not work as well as the left, I was using my hands to tap a shoulder or two so they knew I was back there slowing down.

I ran negative splits at this race too, and was very surprised at the relative ease that I climbed the bridge. On my way up the incline, my neighbor, Brian Gray, pulled up alongside of me. Brian had been training very hard but his knee has been revolting lately, so he's had to cut back these past few weeks. He's lost a lot of weight and made some huge strides in lowering his time, next year he'll likely go sub-50 with ease.

During the race I heard a number of comments, a few I recall (as best I can) were:

"We just got passed by a one-legged guy!"

"Did you see that...there is inspiration! Running on a prosthetic foot!"

I had a couple of shoulder taps and words of encouragement, and one woman told me how she used my shirt to pull her along at the end of the race. I thought I heard my name called out, but since I am not the only Richard on the planet, they may have been yelling at someone else. Richard II no doubt.

I want to say such comments, particularly the motivational ones, cause me to be inspired in turn. This side of my journey is/was not one I thought of much prior to my surgery. But now that I am often running as the only amputee in a sea of able-bodied athletes, I find it is a two-way street that benefits us all. 


Down where we come off the bridge ramp and make a left onto Meeting Street, we noticed a runner cutting the corner. I was pretty sure he was looking to catch up and run with some friends, but in a race this is not allowed. It is called cheating. You simply don't do it. If you must step off the course then you have to enter the race at the same spot. There needs to be some plastic fencing at this corner to prevent the shortcut. A number of fellow runners yelled at the guy, but he ran his abbreviated course, arms raised in the air like Rocky Balboa.

I ran comfortably through 5 miles and then felt the stress of the race creeping into my mind and body. This is the point we, as runners, make some decisions. This is when the same effort of the previous mile magically transforms into a slower time, one must increase the effort to keep the status quo, and you must realize the likelihood of dying, although the brain begs to differ, is small. Phidippides' should have trained smarter. 

Wearing my waist hydration pack, I always had my Gatorade, extra prosthetic socks, phone, and small towel at the ready. Having my drink at hand was very convenient so I didn't have to slow to grab water along the course.

As we ran down King Street the crowds were very loud and supportive. I couldn't hear much now as runner's distress was becoming my close friend. A left turn on Wentworth, past Jestine's Kitchen, and then we stampeded for our home a.k.a. the finishing line.

I did manage a bit of a kick and was aware I was under an hour on clock time, meaning I was well under my Flowertown 10k time. I had thought, with the bridge, that I would do well to run the same time or a little slower, but my chip time turned out to be 54:42. I think I was so surprised I actually uttered a "wow." My pace was faster than even my prior 5ks.

As runners we have good days and bad days, and as we age PRs become as rare as winning the lottery or hearing the dog recite the Gettysburg address. As an amputee runner, I get the chance to set all new PRs in every event, and watch my times improve drastically under my training, whereas as an able-bodied runner those new times had to be AG bests that were always slower than lifetime bests. I do hope to eventually catch and maybe surpass that able-bodied runner that was me in a few events, but age has loosened the reins on gravity so it will be an uphill battle.

That said, I love climbing these mountains.


Jennifer had an excellent race and met me back at the Pilot to do some light stretching and then we headed for home. Since it was rather cool and with this head cold (?), I didn't want to stand around and get chilled at the post race party at Marion Square.

I'll likely see the allergy doc to try to knock this inconvenience down on Monday. I had planned to run 40 miles next week for a new high, but depending on what I have I may need to delay that goal. I have a 5k I'd like to do in two weeks, but if I am not ready I have another one planned for later in the month.

Quick note: I applied Drysol to most of the right leg from the thigh all the way to the distal end of my residual on Monday and then Thursday nights. For some reason the Thursday application seemed more severe than Monday, but the result was a dry leg for the entire race with no loss of suction or having the sleeve and liner slide down and bunch up on my socket. And no squishy sound effects either. I can embarrass myself quite nicely without a soundtrack, thank you very much.


IF I get my running prosthetic foot in time, I may be going to this run clinic that my friend Ashley Kurpiel told me about here. I won't go if I still don't have my running blade, as I don't see the point in spending any more time on this current foot as I know how to run on it. The running blade requires I make some changes for optimal use, and that is my next goal.

One way or another, I will have a real running foot by the end of April. There is a reason I am waiting and trying to be patient, which will be revealed in time.

Good things come to those who wait. Or so I've been told. = :-)


  1. "We just got passed by a one-legged guy!"

    You ain't seen nuthin yet buddy! :)

  2. Joan D'AlonzoApril 1, 2010 at 1:31 PM

    Great race RB! Glad you decided to run- always fun to surprise yourself with a faster than expected time. Good luck with getting the running foot worked out!

  3. Can't wait until next year with a running prosthesis!

  4. Fantastic result, Richard. Well done! Your progress is a real inspiration to me.