Sunday, October 3, 2010

Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything

My race charms - "IIAGDTR" and "We love our Kingpop"

42. My race number today for the Beaufort Shrimp Festival Lt. Dan 5k, Jennifer was number 41. Was it the answer to life? Was running again, having the first cool day since spring, having Jen-nay at my side part of that equation? Definitely. Life is like a box of chocolates. And I like love them all.


We drove down to Beaufort on Friday, listening to "A Thousand Splendid Suns" audio book. It is difficult to imagine living in such inhumane conditions as under Taliban's backward, tyrannical rule. Man's inhumanity to his fellow man - and woman - is a story has been retold too many times. Evil deceives the parasite it breeds.

We enjoyed dinner with our son-in-law Chris Winn and his parents Kathy and Joe at our hotel. We sat outside for a while, enjoying some beautiful fall weather. Sitting there minding my own business I made a new friend.

"Hello sir, would you have a tuna for me?"
I didn't sleep particularly well that night, not so much concerned about this race but thinking about the problems I have been having with my socket for longer runs. It is difficult to stop thinking about running a marathon when I haven't run more than 16 miles over a month ago. My body is willing, but my socket is not. I had texted with Larry, my CP, on Friday and I will be seeing him on Monday to try to work out this issue.

I'd say I am probably more concerned about whether or not I can get a good socket fit for long runs now; I have used up the very liberal extra time in my marathon schedule. If the fit is not fixed this week, I will be looking at pulling back any expectation of a good race in January. I never intended to be the amputee runner who just limps across the finish line, I want to be the runner who has done his best.


The alarm went off at 5:45 am and I was up and at 'em. Jennifer gets ready in short order but it takes me much longer to work out my prosthetic sock and socket fit. Since my residual is largest in the morning, I put on Jato and walked around the room a bit to get the volume loss down. It felt good, no particular has not been a problem for shorter runs since we tweaked the fit before Kiawah, it just goes south when I am running long.

We parked about a quarter mile from the starting line and retrieved our race packets. The race tee has an illustration of an amputee runner wearing a Cheetah type foot on his right leg. I thought it might be Major David Rozelle but I am not sure. Still, very cool to see a challenged runner being so honored.

Jennifer and I had a good warm-up along the riverside boardwalk. It is a cool morning with a light breeze; this being part of the Shrimp Festival, a couple of shrimp boats are tied up here. Idyllic would be the only word you'd need to describe it.

The race is much larger than the organizers anticipated and the start is delayed by about 10 minutes. We are lined up in a narrow corral about one lane wide, but the runners are called into it by race pace times which works out very well, plus with chips we will get accurate times.

Until I knew we were running over a bridge, I figured I would run under 25 minutes for this race; with the bridge and the lost training from the socket, I wasn't sure what I could do, but likely at least as fast as my last 5k. The heart rate monitor on my Garmin had recently stopped working but I did get a replace on Friday before we left. However, it too did not work, indicating I am going to need a new watch. (Santa: this was a hint.)

The race starts smoothly, I can immediately get up to speed without having to weave around slower runners. In a couple of minutes we turn onto the bridge and head up grade. I keep glancing at my watch and noticed the HRM has stopped working; my pace is good for my effort level. I note about where the half mile point is for the return trip.

After cresting the bridge and heading down, there is a sweeping curve to the left before our next turn. We hit one mile and I am on pace but working pretty hard; no problem with the prosthesis. I should also mention I did not see any other amputee runners which surprised me since this race should have drawn a few. There were many Marines and other military people running and looking strong. I wore Marine colors and did get a Hoorah! as I passed two older soldiers.

Around the 180s turnaround and I am more aware of the other runners to my left. I know I have to feel a constant increase in effort to keep the same pace and note my splits are even, a good thing. Heading back into town and up the bridge I pass about as many people as pass me; the wind is more in our face and I can feel it conspiring with my brain to slow down. I am slowing some and tap my necklace, uttering the words: Up. Up.

I keep my eye on the middle of the bridge where gravity will become my new best friend. I have no problem running down as fast as I care to, and soon make the left turn to head to the finishing line. Somewhere in my brain the thought lights up about this struggle, that as hard as it is, difficult it can be to push on, you can work harder; that when you are finished you do not want to be thinking...what if. I am running at my limit and with a slight right bend in the road see the road clock. I am damn close to finishing under 25 minutes.

I dig down and run harder, faster, but find I just don't have much speed in reserve. Get up on that left foot, push, push, push! The clock seems to be speeding up, and as I cross the line I knew it was no better than 25 flat. Indeed it turns out to be 25:02, a solid PB and nothing left.

The race results are a mess and no way to know how the awards will go. The AG prizes are cool shrimp boat trophies, but I figure with the increased numbers in this race that we will be very lucky to win one. Indeed we are out of the money; I still don't know my AG place even now, rather disappointing race results from Setup Events that are not posted as I write this.

We had a good time but not sure we'll do the race next year since we have so many good local races. I am glad we did it though, nice to see this beautiful coastal town where I ran my best race ever on Parris Island. It was good to set a PB as the older, one-footed shadow of that young boy of so many years ago.

Oh yes. The answer. I know it.



Update: The official results are different than I report, and they seemed to be royally screwed up. Officially: 4/16 in my AG, time 25:44. Not sure where that time came from as it did not take more than 10s to cross the mat from where I standing. Quite a few 99 year olds apparently running it as well, now there is some kind of first. This race needs to get it's act together management-wise, as I believe as this year's growth indicates, it could be a raging success.


  1. Richard, you rock dude. I wish your blog and those like it were required reading for every human. Your drive, enthusiasm, and warmth is contagious. I wish I could make all people realize the battlefield is in the mind. It is not the fact that you lost your leg, it is the mindset that you will not allow it to keep you down. Instead of a stumbling block, it becomes a stepping stone. Keep it up! Larry

  2. Training is 90% physical and 10% mental, raceday the opposite is true. I never cease to be amazed at what the human body and spirit are capable of if only given the chance to fly.

  3. "I want to be the runner who has done his best" love the attitude. great race and, again, you rock :)

  4. Richard - I was so looking forward to reading about this race and you absolutely rocked it!

    Many congratulations to you and Jennifer - who I can't wait to meet at CRBR this spring.

    Best to you finding that fitment solution - what you said above about race day and training could not ring more true.

    Congrats again, tremendous effort - which of course I have come to expect nothing less from you.


  5. Thanks Joe...and I can't wait to read about your IBM 10k. You are on fire, keep pouring the coal and gasoline on!

  6. Karyn pinched the line I was going to quote already :), but this is what it is all about for you. I think this is going to be the case for you whatever happens. NO-ONE can or will doubt that you have done your best and given it everything. Larry and Joe's congrats and good wishes for you are also echoed by me. This blog is an incredible read, thanks for keeping it going with such great stuff!

  7. Karyn is fast, Ian, you gotta be quick! = :-)

    Larry is my CP and we had a good discussion today. Going to have a new test socket tomorrow which we will use to develop a new carbon fiber definitive one with some improved suction that should help mitigate some of the issues I am having. Just look at your knee as you bend it and then think about how difficult it is to fashion an interface for a prosthesis for walking, let alone running. We will get there soon. Thanks again for the amazing support my friends, I was thinking what a good day this Monday it should be!

    - Richard

  8. As always your attitude is inspiring! As Larry said above, your drive and warmth is contagious. I will be thinking about this post when I tackle Philly this year!

  9. Thanks Jill, I hope the Philly course shows you some love...I understand it is a great race.

    Make it your own.