From left: Larry Wiley, Jeff Nolan, and me
This past weekend, September 19, Team Floyd Brace Phoenix Athletes participated in the Kiawah Triathlon, an Olympic distance event. We had two gimps, Jeff Nolan and myself, and our prosthetist Larry Wiley. Jeff did the swim, Larry the bike, and I was tapped for the run.
I am very proud of our group. Although we finished last in our team division it wasn't by a wide margin. Jeff has been an amputee for a little over 6 months and Larry had just recovered from the flu and dehydration. I have been having socket issues and not able to do my long runs; let's just say my happy place needed a makeover.
So last Friday I want in for another socket tune-up and then Jen and I ran at Sullivans Island on Saturday. The socket felt fine until I got out of the car to open the garage door (the Genie apparently escaped to the bottle and stopped working) when it felt sore again. ARGH! Desperate, I broke down and took a Lyrica, thinking the residual had become hypersensitive to the socket issues over the past few weeks and I needed to break that cycle.
Turns out that must have been at least part of the equation, because I had ZERO trouble on my run. I was flummoxed and flabbergasted. How I went from a socket that I was about to literally throw under the bus to one that didn't bother me at all was amazing. I believe my hypersensitive stump theory was likely correct, so along with the adjustments it became a non-issue. Finally.
With hurricane Igor churning up the Atlantic there as some talk of canceling or significantly shortening the swim. I don't know for a fact, but I think the course may have been shortened a little; the main problem was not the length but getting out of the breakers and then back to shore due to the strong current. We usually have rather puny surf except in storm conditions; today the swells were in the 5' - 6' range with dangerous rip currents.
That's Jeff's red cap left of center
Jeff had trained like a madman and I was very proud of the way he handled the mile swim. Scott Rigsby sent him a wetsuit to use and that eased my mind that especially in these conditions Jeff would have a safety margin with its buoyancy.
Jeff and his dad
I stayed in the transition area while the main crew went to see Jeff off in the swim. Jeff's dad helped him in and out of the water, what a great moment they will recall in the years ahead. With a very strong swim, and one that will build confidence for the future, Jeff exchanges the relay ankle band with Larry.
While Larry was out tearing up the roads, I fiddled with my socket and fit, trying to make sure I'd be ready to go when it was my turn to sweat. The left to right tilt seemed a little odd, but the fit itself was scary comfortable, but I knew from experience what feels good for a few practice yards can be way different a few miles down the road.
Larry "Wildman" Wiley
We never discussed or practiced the transition and ours reflected that lack in a very slow exchange. Out the lot and into the loose sand on my way to the beach, I concentrated on smaller steps and not shoveling with my blade. It was slow going but I didn't feel frustrated as I knew all runners had this same obstacle to contend with.
Coming through the dunes
As I turn on the hard packed sand I see Emily and Jeff Nolan, Emily snapping pics and both cheering me on. We run a total of about a mile on the beach before exiting onto a sort boardwalk and into a residential area of Kiawah. It is my plan to run as even a pace I can for 3 or 4 miles and then try to pick it up.
On the beach
There are four 180o turns on the course which steal time but allows the runners to size up their competitors. I received many thumbs up and words of encouragement, which I tried to return as best I could. As I passed one runner he shouted "Ooh-rah!" and what I thought was a "Hail Mary..." So much positive energy helped me maintain my pace despite feeling the increasing distress from effort and heat.
Finally I realized we should be nearing the way back to the race finish and hoped I had a little left to finish fast, something I could not do at the Dirt Dash. The run to the finish is through a parking lot and with many enthusiastic cheers I find that I have something in the tank and run strong to the end. I am baked with not much left...looking at my watch I am thinking I must have stopped it by accident around the start of mile 6 because the time seems too fast. My official time is 53:21 and I am damn happy with it. I expected to struggle to get under an hour given the sand and heat and many turns, but this was a 'real nice surprise.'
Dig man dig!
I plan to run the Kiawah Island half marathon in December along with my friend Kelly Luckett who will be doing the full marathon. There will be no running on the beach which should mean a better pace. This will be my last long race before my marathon although I will likely do one 5k before that goal race. This may be a historic race as the first in the state, to the best of my knowledge, to have a Mobility Impaired division that will for the first time include amputee runners.
I should be in shape to have a good race. I ran my able-bodied PR at Kiawah before the Myrtle Beach Marathon some years ago; I will not be close to that time - this time. I will, however, give it my all. Because others believe in us, give us a chance. It is both the least, and the most, I can do.
Photo Credits: Emily Becker Nolan