Thursday, March 4, 2010

Test Pilot

I ran a temperature all weekend and didn't run again after the treadmill trot on Friday evening. Between losing our pet and having this bug, it evaporated the child-like Christmas excitement of trying the new blade. By Monday morning it had returned somewhat, and I was becoming mildly nervous about my anticipated noon run with it.

Once I was dressed in my running togs I swapped out the legs and did a few jog steps across the kitchen to acclimate myself to the different feel of the foot. Whereas my everyday foot allows me to walk heel-to-toe, the running blade has no "heel" and mimics a forefoot running style. It has a considerably different feel than my everyday Renegade foot.

It is worth mentioning again that when I am standing, the uncompressed blade makes my right leg taller than my left, giving me a tilt. When running it compresses and makes this a non-issue. I did a few stretches and also found that was slightly more challenging...not only for the lopsidedness but the blade's contact surface with the ground is less, making standing and walking less stable. I had a few wobbles as I did my piriformis routines but managed to remain upright.

Okay...calm down nerves...out into the street, start the watch and off I go. The blade sound is much louder than my shoe, it has a hard rubber pad to protect the carbon fiber and makes a sort of TOCK! noise. After about 300m I definitely notice it seems to be stiffer than it was at the CP office, taking more energy to run with it than the heavier everyday foot. I was expecting to be able to load it (compress it down) even more than I was able to manage at Floyd Brace but that was not happening.

As I ran I came to the conclusion, based on looking at the design, that the blade progressively loads. It is thinner on the bottom where it strikes the ground and quite thick at the top where it attaches to the socket. I can compress it to a point with my 160 lbs but no further; if I was heavier I could compress it more and that would give me the full benefit of the energy return. Indeed, I do need to try the proper weight category foot to properly evaluation this foot.

Top of blade with hard rubber sole, approx 1/2" thick

Bottom of blade with hard rubber sole, approx 1/16" thick

It could have been that I was recovering from the weekend crud, but it felt like this category 6 blade took more energy to run in than my everyday foot. I was really concentrating on my form and trying to get it fully loaded, but it all took too much effort not to gain any notion of speed. It also felt very hard on my distal end, so much so that I was beginning to feel sore at the end of my run and glad I had only planned to go 3 miles.

This was a day I had hoped would be, well, one of those very good days, so it was tough not to be a little disappointed. I did anticipate it not totally working out because of my reservations about the category 6 foot, and I was extremely appreciative of my friend Scott Rigsby letting us try this foot to see if the clearance issue was going to be a problem.

I should point out that the Flex-Run and Nitro style feet were the type I had all along felt would be the one for me. To avoid confusion, here is a short history of my running prosthesis saga:
  • Early February: Larry, my CP, decides it is time to get a running foot. He contacts the major manufacturers to see if they can help us with a scholarship or cost reduction. Initial foot may be a "junior foot" to make sure I have clearance. I object to this type foot as it does not have the energy return of a full size foot. A junior foot is a smaller version of a full size foot and usually intended for kids or very lightweight people.
  • Mid February: I see an ad for the Otto Bock C-Sprint that a marathoner is running in here. I send this info to Larry and he arranges to get me one but is mistakenly sent a Sprinter foot instead
  • Late February/early March: Scott Rigsby sends me a category 6 Nitro foot. I believe it will be too stiff but it does allow us to check for clearance. Yes, it is too stiff and yes, it will work as there is no clearance issue. Scott has a category 5 foot he will send me to try.
We're still waiting for the C-Sprint foot. In the back of my mind I can't help but think had we just ordered a category 4 Flex-Run or Nitro foot, I'd be out running in my carbon fiber socket with it this very day. But here is what this bit of adversity is offering/teaching me:
  • I will know what running in a too-stiff foot feels and sounds like.
  • I will have the opportunity to run in the two main styles of running feet, sprint and distance. Brian Frasure told me some people prefer the Cheetah (the C-Sprint is similar in design) style foot for distance running.
  • I may end up with two feet, one for sprinting and one for distance.
Patience is something I've had to learn over the years. I can recall one of my elementary school teachers writing some nice things on my report card but adding "Richard can sometimes be impatient with his classmates." Years later at my job a coworker told me I was "the most patient person" he knew. I can't say I have zen-like patience, but I do work on it and know many good things come to those who wait.

So I wait.

I did hear from Larry today, he is trying to get Freedom Innovations to let us try an evaluation foot, but since these are custom fabricated they typically don't have any lying around for this purpose. So my option may be I have to buy one to try it, no return possible. Whereas I can understand the prosthetic company's position, I would think having at least one evaluation foot would be good business, even if folks had to get on a waiting list to try it out.

So I will definitely be trying the Otto Bock C-Sprint foot whenever it arrives, and if the category 5 Nitro Scott Risgby sends me holds promise, we will have to see what can be done to obtain a category 4.

The waiting continues.

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