Saturday, July 31, 2010

Marathon Planning

This morning I decided it was a good time to write out my marathon training plan. I am going to follow a Jack Daniels program from 1996 with a few variations; I ran my best marathon at Chicago in 1997 with this plan, just falling short of my Boston qualifier due to cramping hamstrings.

I started searching my old paper running logs for a few things: my past yearly mileage totals, my modified Daniels plan, and my first marathon training times at Kiawah in 1991. On November 18, 2007, after many prior entries about my sore ankle I wrote: "unable to run." It was my epitaph as a runner. My entries afterward were spotty, about treadmill walks and short jogs, cycling, but mostly there are blank pages. Lots and lots of blank pages.

What stopped me for a while was what I had written on the back cover from my 2006 log while still an able-bodied runner. It was from a book my wife Jennifer had given to me, and it is this: 

"Now I will turn the miracle into routine. The amazing will be seen every day." 

Now, 4 years later, this amputee runner is living in that future. I know there are no guarantees in life and every day is a gift, but I feel - I know - I have a destiny to fulfill. I think about it every day. Were I not to make the starting line I would still be there. Nothing can stop me now.

Not a missing foot. Nothing.

P.S. I have finally named my bike after a couple of years of being "My Bike." Jennfer and I road 10 miles last Sunday and the name came to me as I dismounted at the end: Richard Parker or "RP." Yep, perfect.

if i was

my god
no one would toss
into the blaze

nor would
my god
the snake to cannibalize the bluebird

my old cat would sleep
a long long time
on my lap
to awaken to a smile

my god must hurt
more than

Thursday, July 22, 2010

First Half

 Photo: Francis Marion Dirt Dash

We're already signed up for the Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon, but another half on September 11 has my attention, the Francis Marion Dirt Dash. The race blog is here and they are on Facebook here.

The last few years before I ended my able-bodied running career, I could not have considered this race as it will be on uneven dirt roads. My old right ankle begrudgingly tolerated smooth asphalt and profusely complained with every other step. Walking on an uneven surface caused shouts of pain and why I had to give up cutting my lawn. Those are silent cries these days, muffled with some phantom pain that I deafly ignore.

Before I sign up for this race I am going to run at least part to see how well it is maintained. I believe it will be well within my limits and I shouldn't have any trouble negotiating the small stones and dips with my blade. After all, if Amy Palmiero-Winters can run Western States, I can make 13.1 miles on a dirt road. (Note: since writing this I have signed up for the race and Jennifer will run the 5k.)

As a boy and through high school, one of my favorite running routes was through several fields and by the clay pit mine. Homes have long since sprouted in the fields and an elementary school is situated near the clay pit; the latter you can hardly see anymore with erosion and vegetation reclaiming the mine. But when I was a boy, running in my nylon shorts, cotton tops, canvas shoes, and a sweatband to keep the river of sweat out of my eyes, this was home to many a run.

When I was not running around the block I would run these narrow field roads: sandy, rough, with some hard packed clay and pieces of brick filling larger holes. I rarely saw anyone, but was shot at once when I rounded a bend and startled some trespassing hunters; I suppose I had the "deer-caught-in headlights" look. The shotgun blast rattled leaves in the woods and my heart outran me all the way home.

Most days were peaceful, just me and my hand held Hanhart stopwatch. I recall my pace as typically being in the 6:30/mi range. I can see myself now there now as I write this, a tall, bespectacled goofy kid who ran not because of talent, but because of love.

 My old stopwatch kept by someone who knows good time
So now when I think if this half marathon I have set my sights on, I see that same boy. Now and then, changed but not changed. Oh, I will wear a GPS watch on race day; my old stopwatch hangs in a place of honor in our workout room. One day I hope I will know someone who will honor it, and it will be passed along with joy. Time, precious time, it is stored within that stainless steel case.


These are some of the thoughts this race brings back to mind. The fact the course will be more of a challenge than a road race draws me to it. Knowing I could not have run it with my old ankle brightens the prospect even more. It will likely be my slowest half marathon ever but definitely my fastest as an amputee runner.

I am hoping there are no nervous hunters in the vicinity. "Bagged me a one footed geek, boy howdy!" "Throw 'em back for bait, ain't no meat on those bones, what's left of 'em anyway!"

 Photo: Francis Marion Dirt Dash
Proceeds of this race goes to help the Mount Pleasant Fire Department Wildland Firefighting program.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sweet Week

As I sit here watching Le Tour and thinking about my long run coming up this evening, I am remembering what a good week I have had training and how my fund raising for IFOPA has given me an additional boost for my marathon goal in January. I am so fortunate to have friends and families who have contributed to this cause. It is my hope that one day this disease that so few know about will be easily diagnosed and cured.


I did speed work on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. On Tuesday I ran a total of 7 miles with a 6 x 800 interval session at a moderate effort. Thursday I started with 5 easy miles on the treadmill, then did a 3 mile tempo run out in the heat and humidity. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't feel more stressed in the hot weather, which has always sapped a huge chunk of time out of me in my past running days. This gives me hope when the weather turns cooler that my times will continue to march toward those of my old abled-bodied self.

I ran a single 100m semi-sprint after my Tuesday 800s, and found not only was it well north of my intact times, but indicated I should do some drills to improve my form. I did not feel comfortable lengthening my stride, which resulted in a short, choppy gait that lost time with every step.

Next week will be an easy week for me, I'll cut my mileage and do perhaps a single tempo workout with a longer run of no more than 8 miles. Then a similar week as this one before bumping the mileage up again.  As of now I want to be up to 50 mi/wk with a long run of 15 - 16 miles before going into dedicated marathon training. I will err on the conservative side as I do not want some silly injury wrecking my training.


My long run went extremely well. I felt rather average but never under stress other than what was expected. My plan was to go 13 but felt good enough after 12 to adjust my course to take me to a new high of 14 miles. The week's mileage is also a minor new high of 41; not particularly a big deal but it's been since the week of May 17 - 23 that I have had a 40 mile week due to socket and fit problems.

My leg looks really good after the long run, no noticeable hot spots. I have to give props to Aquaphor which seems to really help avoid those aggravations.

Next week will be an easy one, and we head to Valdosta, GA, for the wedding of my friend and fellow gimp Scott Rigsby. Having been the first bilateral amputee Ironman finisher at Kona, I am thinking he needed the ultimate challenge. :-) It's going to be great to see Scott and his beloved, as well as many of the people I have met this past year, most at the Getting2Tri National ParaTriathlon Camp back in March.

I'll have some fun workouts this week, including working in my sprint, well, alleged sprint form, and perhaps a beach run next Sunday. I have yet to run on our hard-packed beach yet, so it should be fun. Don't know if I need a mad dog license, but we'll find out.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My Marathon for FOP

 Ashley Kurpiel and Jason Gunter at the Getting2Tri National ParaTriathlon Training Camp

I have not done any direct fundraising for my races. Most events are held to raise money for a cause, so simply by participating we gave to a large number of organizations and charities.

This past year has been different. Physically, I am a different me. Mentally, I am a changed me. Not so much changed as more aware I think, aware in an enlightened way only the physical change was able to germinate in my mind.

My first marathon as an amputee runner will be the inaugural Charleston Marathon on January 15, 2011, which I will run honoring my friend Ashley Kurpiel while raising money for the International Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva Association (IFOPA).

What is FOP? From the IFOPA website:

"One of the rarest, most disabling genetic conditions known to medicine, it causes bone to form in muscles, tendons, ligaments and other connective tissues. Bridges of extra bone develop across joints, progressively restricting movement and forming a second skeleton that imprisons the body in bone. There are no other known examples in medicine of one normal organ system turning into another."

I have written a few posts about Ashley which I have linked to here:

How To Live A Life
Ashley Kurpiel - Please Nominate for Nobel Prize

and a mention of our meeting:

Here Be Eagles


Ashley was one of the first people to contact me after my operation to tell me about the Amputee Coalition of America (ACA). I did not know she had FOP - and her complete story - until later. I was taken by her caring nature and offer to help me find others who were amputee runners. Had I not had my amputation I likely would have never come to know her, another loss for me in this life.

I am asking that you help by donating any amount you can to help fund the research that will cure this disease. FOP is very rare and there is no specific treatment other than managing it's effects. You can make a difference in this life, and perhaps the next.

Please Help.

My FirstGiving website is here.

Here are some links to Ashley and her story:

Carol and Ashley Kurpiel discuss Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva

Mystery Diagnosis - FOP Part 1
Mystery Diagnosis - FOP Part 2
Mystery Diagnosis - FOP Part 3
Mystery Diagnosis - FOP Part 4

Thank you my friends.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

No Fall Zone

One thing I feel a desperate need to warn those considering lower limb amputation or possibly in the first stages of recovery: TAKE NO CHANCES ON FALLING.

I was told by Ricky Miller at Floyd Brace, who is an amputee himself, to slow down and think about what your next move is. If you are using a walker or crutches, you simply are not all that stable one foot if your don't have an IPOP on your residual limb.

Your mantra is: patience. patience  p a t i e n c e.  

During my recovery, I spent most of my mobile time sitting in the wheelchair. I never felt as comfortable on crutches with one foot and had a couple of near wipeouts from a wet floor and the threshold at our patio door. The thought of slamming my stump into the floor was tempered more by my wanting to do nothing to delay my recovery and return to running. There was simply nothing to be gained from not being patient and behaving myself.

Although I was in a wheelchair much of the time, I still was persistent in doing my PT exercises to build my upper body strength and especially my atrophied right leg. The guts in the glory are the mundane day after day after day tasks that take you to the finish line.

Remember crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs are assistive devices - tools - to help with your recovery, no more, no less. I still have a vivid memory of dressing myself in my wheelchair and then going out for a run; when I realized what I had done I was astonished. Many will not have this chance; they have been given a far more difficult path to follow.

Back to the specific point: do what you are suppose to do to insure your recovery success. If you need to wear an IPOP then wear it, I see a huge advantage in these protecting the residual if one falls from more extensive damage. In looking back at my own recovery period, I did not have one, and I understand the surgeon not wanting to disturb the healing process. However, after perhaps 2 or 3 weeks the danger for falling overrides this concern, and I think the use of an IPOP would be an extremely good idea for any BTK amputee.

If you insist on falling, wait until you get your running foot. Make it count.