Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Friend Earl Barnes

This post is a tribute to my friend Earl Barnes. Earl and I started talking to each other via a post on Scott Rigsby's Facebook page; Scott certainly understands and perpetuates the idea of "paying it forward." I want Earl's words to speak for themselves, unedited, the excitement and joy of his first triathlon as an amputee transcends any poetry.

I made it! After all the nervousness and panicking about the run, I made it through with flying colors! The triathlon was a blast, and I had such a good time. It was tough right off the bat, which I hadn't planned on. The water was bone chillingly cold. Even with my wetsuit I was freezing, and i felt like I was just flailing my arms until about 100yds from the finish. So that was pretty bad and quite depressing when That was the only part I was looking forward to!

My wife met me at waters edge, and, silly me, I thought I would just hop up the beach a little ways to her. I couldn't even balance on one foot for a couple of seconds much less try and hop up out of the water through sand and people pushing me!

So, my highly developed crawling technique took over and I was covered in sand by the time I made it to her. Luckily she could see that I was completely wasted and came down to me. One volunteer told her to leave, so she just held up my leg and the lady gave a very meek "oh, ok then".

I rinsed off my stump, which i pulled my wetsuit down to cover, then I just put my liner over the top of it. So I was able to walk around with my wetsuit on and the prosthesis on top. It was a pretty good system and allowed me to run up to to the transition area. From there, I just peeled the suit of and got everything really dry and I was off.

The bike was easy, I tried to coast and recover the whole way which worked pretty well. I just told myself over and over again "its ok that they're passing you, its ok that they're passing you..." And believe me, thats tough!

So then we get to the run. I pull on both of my top socks and grab my shamwow and start. I knew right away that i had the right thicknesses on so I just took off! Its an amazing feeling to run through the gauntlet of spectators that are cheering just a little bit differently for you than the people around. Know what I mean? Its like they cheer a bit louder when i run by and say different phrases than the usual 'good job' type things. I don't know, I could just hear what they were yelling for the groups ahead of me and then when I passed it was just different.

Oh well, anyway, long story even longer. I took a potty break at the two mile mark and walked through that water stop. That little break alone made a world of difference. I picked up my pace and was good until just before the three mile mark, then i got really tired. All of a sudden.

But as I rounded a bend that took us to the finish line, I could hear my wife's cowbell. And I knew that she could spot me from quite a ways off so I picked up the pace so she would think I was tanking. The funny thing is though, I was so focused on taking small strides that when I sped up, it wasn't that bad! As I got closer I could hear a whole group shouting "Go Earl Go!", so that made me go even faster (although I really wanted to climb under a rock). As I passed I saw she had recruited about 50 people to cheer. Very embarassing, but nice!

And then I made the turn down the finish line and I was the only one going through, so the announcer had plenty of time to find my name and call it out. What a feeling! So I pretended I was winning Kona and held up my arms as I crossed. Hopefully the photographers got a good shot so I can send it to Hanger and start begging for money-I mean-sponsorship!


I was moved by Ear's account because we are brothers without limbs or limits. The fact we are different yet not different and that our friends - and strangers - recognize this dichotomy. We lost our limbs through very different circumstances but the result was the same:

I am a 37 year old firefighter/paramedic living in Lawrence, KS with my wife and three year old daughter. I'm an avid swimmer and cyclist, and am just starting to run again after a motorcycle accident in 1997 in which my right foot was amputated at the ankle. In October 2009 another surgery was needed so I had an Ertl procedure done in Oklahoma City, making me a true below the knee amputee. 

Earl sets no limits on his future. His wife is an accomplished marathoner and no doubt Earl will be one too, perhaps an Ironman, one day soon. His daughter will have a father who, over time, she come to know as something a little more than mortal, yet still her father and very much alive.

Heroes are all around us, yet we are blind to most. 

Earl, my eyes are wide open.

Monday, May 24, 2010

No Fibbing

Tomorrow I will be going to get my new carbon fiber running socket. My current plastic sockets are responsible for this nastiness, which is swelling over the fibula head due to the poor fit and running 10 miles yesterday and 40 miles for the week:

I could barely walk in my prosthesis today due to the pain and pressure, so I called for an appointment and found my new socket will finally be ready just in time. The problem is as an athlete, even a small socket hotspot can cause such a large problem, and I need to never try to 'run through' something so uncomfortable unless it happens to be in a goal race where I can afford some down time afterward.

I had planned to take today off from running, and will take tomorrow off should the swelling still be so pronounced as to make even the new socket uncomfortable. My plans were to run 4 x 1 miles at the track tomorrow evening, but with the Bolder Boulder 10k coming up, I can't afford to let this thing get out of control and possibly compromise my skin...there is already some redness there.

We'll see how tomorrow goes. To run the distances I need to run for marathon training, this fit problem will be solved over the next few weeks because I know it can be. And will be.

Distance Running Records for Amputees

"That is why athletes are important, why records are important. Because they demonstrate the scope of human possibility, which is unlimited. The inconceivable is conceived, and then it is accomplished." 

- Brian Ganville, "The Olympian"


Originally I started writing this post in December of 2009. Before I posted I wanted to try to find official distance (leg) amputee running records or even a list of unofficial records. This is a follow-up to my post "Goal Setting" found here.

Before there is any misunderstanding of my intent, I was/am trying to find the truth about these records. Why is this such a problem? Because a World Record should mean that the time has been verified at a sanctioned event, that the course was certified, and the athlete, especially bilateral runners, met the criteria for equipment and leg length. Simply saying you have a world record because you do not know of a faster time does not mean you own a world record.

This is a serious claim as there is a serious distinction between a World Record and a World Leading Time.

After many conversations/emails with athletes and disabled organizations, the truth is, as I write this:


By distance I mean from at least the 5k to the marathon (and likely from 800m and up). There are World Leading Times, but there is no organization that verifies and maintains any distance World Records for amputees.

Athletes and the public alike should have access to the records at an official site, and should be able to see the progression of times by athletes over the years who held the previous record(s).

On a personal note, I could probably claim the fastest grand masters amputee records in the state of SC because as far as I know, no one has run faster. I don't even know any other amputee runners my age in my state. But I would never in a million years make the pronouncement that I am the state record holder unless my times were certified and entered into the state record books, a place I could point you to for verification.


I am making a point of this because something needs to be done. These records need to be kept by an official organization like the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), International Wheelchair & Amputee Sport Federation, or others.

The current records are kept by IWAS Sports hereYou will not find any distance world records for T42 class (transfemoral and knee disarticulation amputees) and T44 class (transtibial and symes).

Let's make the records official, let's give the athletes due recognition that will cause others to strive beyond limits.

Let's make it right.


UPDATE: Here are the official Men's and Womens World Records. You will not find any for T42 or T44 athletes. Let's hope they do begin keeping these important marks soon.



Note: See update here. It is possible records will be kept, but none exist as of today.

Friday, May 21, 2010


I did it.

As I was finishing my 4 mile tempo run yesterday evening, I was running through a small traffic circle that feeds two neighborhoods. Cars were coming around on the far side so I wanted to cross the road before they came down our road; since this was a tempo run I really didn't want to slow down or stop for them. No pedestrian in their right mind, no matter how clearly a crosswalk is marked or what lights are flashing, steps out into the street in SC without making sure Mr. and Mrs. Bubba are going to stop for them, because most times they don't and will be much obliged to run you over.

As I crossed the road and made a faster than usual right turn to head for home, Jato decided to lag behind and caught the pavement. As I was falling I knew I was indeed going down and would not be able to regain my balance. (Speaking of balance, I should to now mention I was wearing some favorite New Balance running gear.) Right hand, then left arm and shoulder took a hard knock on the asphalt, and I felt the sting of missing skin.

 It's just a scratch

As I picked myself up and checked for owies, a neighbor who was driving by stopped and asked if I needed help or a ride home. I was bleeding a moderate amount and did not feel like I had broken anything. Thanking the guy, I  said something 'I'm okay, I was expecting this to happen sooner or later' as if he would totally understand what I was talking about.

I jogged home, cutting the run a little short although I was thinking of finishing up...I felt the wounds needed to be cleaned. I also thought that, hey, the next 2 days are easy runs so I wouldn't miss any quality training for the Bolder Boulder 10k on Memorial Day. Yeah, it is all about priorities.

Jennifer helped patch me up and today I am quite sore on my left side. As I was mentioning to a friend on FB, I think I need a Sumo wrestler suit that auto inflates like a vehicle airbag when it senses a fall. We think this can lead to riches beyond our wildest dreams.

That's what I'm talkin' about!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Jato Sings

On May 15, 2010, race number 15 worn by moi, a below the knee amputee, and wearing his running prosthesis for the first time in a race, finished the Windsor Hill Hawk Trot 5k in 25:51 and was 2nd in my AG.


Having run with Jato for a couple of weeks and getting two decent speed sessions done, I was ready for my first race with my running prosthesis. I've talked about my real concern about falling with the blade, not so much the fear of some scrapes but perhaps a broken wrist or collarbone. This added to my anxiety but by race morning I put it behind me: if I fell I fell, but short of requiring an ambulance being called, I would cross the finish line.

We arrived at the race early enough for me to get in a long warm-up run. I find I need somewhere between 0.5  to 1.5 mi for the socket and blade to feel comfortable and not so awkward. Otherwise I have a sensation not unlike if you clenched your foot in a very tight shoe; this is how my residual feels in the socket. Until this sensation passes, it is disconcerting and makes me think I am working far harder than I should be for the speed I am running. Sometimes I stop to gather myself and then start again, knowing it will be better in a few minutes.

I'm not sure this is the same for others whether newer amputees or old pros, but I thought I would mention it for anyone experiencing the sensation and thinking it would not improve. No doubt your experience could vary from mine; I still have a very strong sensation of my phantom foot.


I warmed up for a mile, then trotted back to the Pilot to dry off my residual. I tried to get the most comfortable sock fit and used a single 3 ply in my plastic socket. We headed over in front of the school; I was calm and ready to go and lined up a few rows back from the starting line. The race was about average size for a minor 5k, I am guessing 150 - 200 runners; I do not have the official results for the details yet.

There is a guy next to me slapping his face, neck, arms, back, chest, and then legs as part of his warmup ritual...kind of hope this isn't proven to make one run faster as I'd rather not knock myself out. :-) We take off right on time, loop around the school drop-off circle and then head out to Windsor Hill subdivision.

I am immediately passed by several runners but maintain my pace, hoping to run even/negative splits. As we make a right turn onto a side street I pass about 3 runners and then I follow a woman runner until we turn out on a main road. I feel good, not worrying about Jato taking me down, and I try to relax while getting into a good rhythm. I can already tell I am feeling much better than at the iFive:k where I knew it was going to be a struggle very early on.

I pass the woman and coming up to mile one I approach what I think was a serviceman (Marine?) wearing a tee with a phrase runners know to be true: "Pain is weakness leaving the body." I run alongside him for a few strides, not needing to say anything. I have forgotten to turn off the autolap of my watch before this race, and my first mile is a couple of seconds before the course mark: 8:16.

We have a short stretch before a 180o turnaround where we can see the runners ahead of us. I recognize a couple of people from past races and use them as focal points to push me further. I pass a few more runners including a couple of kids...I caught myself thinking I hope I didn't scare them with my prosthesis, although I am sure it had to be some distraction to them.

My Garmin beeps about 5s before mile two in 8:12. I know I am having a good race but am feeling the engine heating up from the high humidity even with temps in the lower 70s. My sleeve is not sliding done much as I used Drysol (ugh!) on my leg the day before. God that is nasty stuff but it sure does the job.

As we head out on the main road again I pass another woman who has some supportive comments for me...and yes, they help. Ahead there are three guys and I bear down some, maintain my form and weave through them. I am feeling a lot of weakness leaving the body and hope it leaves some crumbs to finish this race.

Back down the road toward the school and I am running alone. I can't believe it. I catch my mind feeling the gravity of the day and rein in my emotions. Keep the pace. Stay strong. No looking back. Sing Jato. Step tock step tock step tock.

I approach the school and my body is ready to stop running...oh for a few steps of rest. I hear people cheering and do not, cannot slow down. My watch ticks off the third mile but I do not see the split (8:14). Around a smaller parking horseshoe and then up to the finish line.

If I am going to fall it can be now, I think, because I am going to run hard to the line. Each step feels good, no stumbling, no limping, a split second of flight. I see the clock, the time, and feel a crush of pure joy.

We are done.

Jato and I have run our race.

I have come full circle from my amputation to finishing my first race with my running prosthesis.

I walk to the SUV, my hands are on my knees, my breathing constricted, my heart full.

Never quit. 

Nothing is impossible. 

It is a good day to run.


Jennifer finishes her race and manages a smile for the camera; my pic is the classic "stopping-the-watch-at-the-finish-line" pose. We enjoy the kid's race and then attend the awards ceremony where we both get 2nd place in our AGs. Off we go to celebrate with a late breakfast before heading home.

I have replayed the race over and over in my mind, I can still see it as clearly as if I was running it this very moment; I am sure I will remember for as long as I live. It was, for me, as nearly a perfect race as I could have imagined, and faster than I had imagined. I know the PRs will eventually slow, backward steps will be taken. Races like this are rare.

I do know that just being able to run again is a small miracle, and the edge of disappointment is forever dulled. I have earned this concession from pain and loss.

I embrace this day, this gift.

I remember all this. 
How could I possibly be sad when you have the chance to run again? I am with you 100% and I know everything will work out. I love you and am here no matter what you need...You are a very brave man. I'm sure David is celebrating for you. too! God bless you, my incredible brother.
Your sister, Marcia
b. March 18, 1950 d. January 17, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

Race Nerves

Since about Wednesday I have been having a case of pre-race nerves, more along the lines of the butterflies and anxiety I would have before high school track meets.

This will be my first race with Jato, my running blade, and I am aware of this milestone in a brighter light which contributes to the stage fright. I am very concerned about falling, because it is so easy to trip right now if I lose concentration. I have to avoid acknowledging others show of support because I tend to drag the prosthesis when I look up and around. I am getting better at this every week, but I still scuff the blade at times, more often when I walk in it than not. It's not the act of falling that concerns me, but breaking a wrist or collarbone in the process.

As my friend Rajesh Durbal said to me on Facebook; good luck! i've fallen a few times..u will be fine. tuck and roll :o)

I hope I remember these words of wisdom on my way to meeting MacAdam.  = ;-O

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Amputee Running Distance Records - Can you help?

I am looking for the official sites for amputee distance running records, both world and US times. I am NOT looking for what people are claiming as records, rather, official organizations like the IPC who verify and maintain distance records for amputees.

Case in point: Richard Whitehead claims several World Records, and based on his time I know of no one running faster, certainly not on IPC verified measured limb height. Limb length is a place where a bilateral amputee can have a real and substantial advantage over a unilateral amputee and may actually be able to run faster than an able-bodied person; not because of his carbon fiber feet, but because he can cover more ground with each stride.

Anyhow...if you can find any official site that would list this information for amputee distance runners please send the URL in a comment to this post. I started working on a blog post in December 2009 about this subject and want to have the facts as best I can find them before jumping to any conclusions. I have searched for the records/facts extensively, asked some of the athletes themselves, but no one can point me where the official records are located.



Note: Here is my followup post. Hard to believe, but you apparently only need to claim a record to have it, no official organization need verify. Amazing.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Me, Jato, and Speed *

Last week I ran 4, 5, 5, 7, 0, 5, and 10 miles for 36 miles total. I missed my Friday 4 miles due to several other activities and felt fatigued so I gave into a late nap. My current socket had been uncomfortable to wear for much more than 7 miles. I have been able to run 13 miles in an older socket with the Renegade foot, so I was disappointed I had taken some backward steps with Jato (the Nitro foot) on my long runs.

My Thursday run was speedwork at the track. I was somewhat anxious that The Church would be in use by the heathen, but when I arrived around 8 pm (after doing 2 miles on my treadmill at home) there was not a mortal soul in sight. Woohoo and hallelujah! I did another half mile warm-up and then settled into a 4 x 1 mile workout. This is the first speedwork I have done with Jato so I wanted to do it on the track with the Mondo surface; it would be way more forgiving than the asphalt street if I fell.

Oh, Mr. Ayoub, the Mt. Pleasant Recreation Director, told me about a button at the entrance to the track that would turn on nighttime security lighting. For some reason I thought some of the taller field lights would illuminate, but apparently only a few standard poles come on which do not light the entire track. I don't mind running in the dark, but I do not like not being able to see where my foot falls. This makes running a little more challenging and a bit harder on the knees. This track has a low aluminum curb on the inside lane so if you step on it bad things might happen to your wee bodkin.

My plan was to run moderately hard at a speed where I could control Jato. The first mile was 8:30, then 8:09, 8:10, with a final easier mile at 8:45; I jogged/walked 200 - 300m for my rest interval. I did miles for two reasons: one, I would not be tempted to run too fast and two, this is good preparation for the Bolder Boulder 10k we will run on Memorial Day.

After track running with Renegade in stylishly contrasting shoe.

I have to wear my Renegade foot to drive, and I didn't feel like changing it to match my running shoe just to mosey over to the track and back home in the dark when no one would see me. So the pic above gives the world a chance to see this (a) fashion faux pas or (b) edgy fashion statement. Now for some plaid running shorts....


The Sunday temps were very nice, upper 60s when I started my run and perhaps low 70s when I finished. In an attempt to extend my LSD, I drank a few sips of Gatorade every mile while walking for about 15s. Around 5 miles I sat down and took my prosthesis off for a while to allow the residual to rest, hoping the sensitivity I had been feeling in later miles would ease. I closed my eyes and listened to the leaf symphony and thinking...very little.

After about 8 miles the sensitivity did seem to diminish instead of getting worse, so I completed the 10 feeling good. Naturally I wish I could have gone a little further and could have pushed on, but I wanted to make sure I had no leg issues and have all summer to build my long run distance.


I should finally get my carbon fiber socket for Jato this week. It is being customized and I am not sure what it will look like. Larry asked me if I wanted any specific graphics and I told him the Floyd Brace logo would be fine. I am hoping no flame-art is involved as that is not quite my style. = :-)

After my blade project is finished I hope to get a minimal bike really can be simple. I just don't want it irritating my residual because when I ride it will be for recovery or cross training. I still have no real desire to do triathlons; I want to get a couple of marathons done and am just now thinking about doing Boston in 2012.

I had thought I would only run Boston if I could qualify at the same time as my able-bodied peers, but more and more I am thinking this might be an artificial bar that I should set aside. In looking at the mobility impaired results, I would do well to run as fast as some of my slower (most!) marathon times, and sub 4 hours is likely a pipe dream. I don't want this to be a case of sour grapes, so running a couple of 26.2s next year should give me a more accurate indication of my new-found ability.


We will be running a 5k this Saturday morning, which will likely be in my new socket and definitely with Jato. The weather forecast will be on the warm side with higher humidity as summer approaches. I plan for us to get there at least an hour early so I can warm up with Jato, then get everything nice and dry prior to the race. I should be able to PR again, but mainly want to get experience with Jato before we run the Bolder Boulder 10k.

Jennifer wants to do speedwork with me at the track this week, but knowing how she prefers morning training to evening we shall see. I will probably do 6 x 800 on Tuesday night to run a little faster in the blade as my last hard training before the race. The race will serve as speedwork and everything else will be easy runs.

This race will be a milestone event, and I am looking forward to it. New socket, first race with Jato, and a course I have not run before. I like the tingle of the nerves, indicating this is not just another race. I hope Jato's song will be one to remember.

* insane tip of the hat to "Mother, Jugs, and Speed"

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Albert and We

Time is relative.

Without studying equations or considering theories, as we age we feel time gathering momentum as it slides by in an accelerating blur. When we were 10, each year was 10% of our life; 5 years was half of our entire lives. At 60 each year is only 1.67% of our accumulated being. We feel these later years as time's quickening pace, in a race where the finish line is As we age we catch ourselves saying...crickey, it is nearly June already and we just celebrated New Years. When we were children it took forever for Santa's annual visit.

I've heard people as young as 40 blame aging for why they are inactive, and recently I read about a 60 y.o. talking about slowing down because of age. Yeah, and the sun is burning out, summer will come and go, and the sky has been falling for as long as I can remember.

And yet there are those like Ed Whitlock who ran a 2:54 marathon at the age of 73; at Boston there is a long list of aging marathoners. We have the local legend and great good guy Bill Boulter, someone we all admire and hope to emulate with a whole lotta luck.

Time is relative. As is life.

 Whitlock setting the current 70+ world marathon record of 2:54:48 at the age of 73 at the 2004 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Again, setting aside disease - much of what exercise would prevent along with a reasonable diet - these are excuses, nothing more than allowing gravity to score the win. Yesterday I had to step aside on our small community wetland bridge to allow a golf cart to pass, not the first time this has happened. Golf carts are illegal to drive on pedestrian paths, but this law is ignored by my neighbors and the police. I would rather push my one-footed butt along on a skateboard than to give into the epitome of laziness.

We slowly become desensitized to what makes us human. The ability to outlast any land animal on the run. Our unique physical design where training stress tears down the body only to build it back stronger. The innate yearning to reach for the stars and step foot on other worlds.

Maybe we cannot yet cure the common cold, but we put a man on the moon in 1969 and you, my friend, can walk around the block. You can run a 5k. And with time, almost anyone can run or go the marathon distance.

Like Fauja Singh. 94. Here.

Ask anyone at the Achilles Track Club.

No excuses. No quitting. And for everyone's sake, most importantly yours:


Get on with it.  Live.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Physically Challenged Division at the Cooper River Bridge Run - BIG NEWS!

I just got a call from Anna, assistant to my CP Larry Wiley at Floyd Brace.

This Friday, May 7, we are going to meet at the Cooper River Bridge Run office to discuss creating the Physically Challenged Division!

I believe this can become the premier 10k race for disabled athletes due to the incredible organization that would be behind the event. It is a tough course for the able-bodied athlete, and more challenging for the disabled...but we will embrace it and climb higher!

More news as it develops!