Monday, November 8, 2010


The OO and I
 I signed up for this race months ago, mainly because of the race's charity:

The Gavalas-Kolanko Foundation (GKF) is a public charity established to help students with disabilities reach their secondary educational goals. By awarding scholarship assistance to College of Charleston students each year, the GKF helps make "Education Within Reach" for South Carolina undergraduates pursuing a college education despite physical limitations.

I have run this race in the past as an able-bodied runner. The last time I ran it it was stand-you-up-and-maybe-knock-you-down windy. As a plus I got the worst side stitch I have had since I was a teenager and actually stopped for a few seconds to try to work it out. My time was rather disappointing:

                 2006 JAMES ISLAND CONNECTOR 10K
PL             NAME                  SEX    AGE      CITY      NO.  TIME   PACE
=== ================   ===  ==== ======== ===  ====   ====
149  RICHARD BLALOCK     M     53     mt pleasant  355  52:24    8:26

Today I knew a time close to this would be a sign of continuing improvement and an amp PB; much slower than this would be similar disappointment as the '06 race.

The weather was rather chilly for the 2010 iteration of this event, somewhere around 40o. Jennifer and I arrived with enough time to warm up and do all the normal pre-race rituals like visiting the port-a-potties. Speaking of which, there was one unit with handicap access. Since I noticed the handle had the "green" symbol on display, I availed myself to the "perk" of my condition. As I reached for the door a little boy said: "It's occupied."

Ok. Shortly thereafter an able-bodied woman emerged and asked the boy if he wanted to use it because "it is so much larger than the other ones." The boy said no even when asked again, and I said: "it is larger because it is for handicap access." As I entered I heard her say..."oh..." People may think the larger unit is only for wheelchairs; it is not, the handrails are very useful for other disabilities. Same for handicap parking spaces; personally I need a little more space getting in and out of vehicles without dinging my door on their ride.


Jennifer and I did a short warm-up and we lined up for the start. After a couple of pics, we readied ourselves goes the horn and the stampede ensues. Although we have timing chips, we do not cross a starting mat, which means we will have "gun time" only for the results, not accurate for anyone except the first row of runners.

I head out and watch my step on what is the most uneven pavement of the course. Right turn and then left onto Calhoun Street and we run toward the James Island Connector bridge. This takes us in front of Roper St. Francis Hospital, the very place I had my two operations, the last being my amputation. A guy runs with me for a few strides and says something like: "Man you are an inspiration...a lot of people are going to run faster today when they see you." I thank him and wish him a good run, and vaguely think...I hope I run faster too!

I didn't quite remember the course from 2006 other than the first climb; I would be rudely reminded there are actual three "hills" on the bridge, meaning you get to run them twice on this out-and-back course. Yeehaw.

The first mile including this nostalgic hospital visit and incline comes at 8:38. Going down the steep decline I find I must slow down a little to keep control of Jato, my running blade. It is steeper than anything I've experienced and I realize I need to practice this scenario more for future races. Up the next incline and mile two is done in 8:20. A woman I am running near also offers some kind words...these utterances in the heat of our struggle always, ALWAYS inspire me as well. It reinforces my knowledge that runners represent the very best of sport. It is true. It is so. Olympians all.

There is one more smaller incline and then a long, slight decline before the 180o turnaround. Mile three comes at 8:21 and four at 8:22, approximate mirror images of each other. Somewhere I see Jennifer and she shouts some encouraging words, I wave but cannot return the gesture under my, uh, duress. The second pass of the next two inclines are taxing; I concentrate on smaller strides and turnover and hope I do not slow too much. It is a beautiful day that can be recalled later but not in the moment of battle. Mile 5 take 8:37, slower but under the stress is could have been much worse.

Water vapor off the Ashley River - Photo by S&L Photography (Jennifer)
Down the final decline and another pass by Roper. I look up at the very window of the room where I spent my post race recovery; I think I even pointed to it as a time traveler remembering the past and present, the near and the far. I do not feel the physical distress I was expecting, but I also find I cannot run much faster. Instinctively I know with more training I will continue to improve for some time. This is a good feeling to know, one that breeds confidence that is gold to a runner. Mile 6 is done...8:21

Right turn, then a left and I see the finish. Again the rough road and I take care not to trip; a few others pass me but I am not interested in taking a tumble and losing more than a little skin. Let it fly, run strong, I raise my arms as I cross the line.52:26 by my watch, this will be slightly fast than gun - and official - time.


Exchanging some well-earned words of congrats and short chats with other runners, I recover a bit and can feel sweat sloshing in my liner. I find a quiet place at the end of the road and take a moment to gather myself, then return to the course to locate a sunny spot to wait for Jennifer. Watching other athletes run is always a joy for me... soon Sweetness and Light appears and we run together until parting for her finish.

We check the preliminary results and find I was 6th in my AG but Jennifer was visiting the hardware store, finishing 3rd in hers. After changing into some dryer clothes at the car, we return to the awards ceremony only to find there was an update in the results and Jennifer was 4th. This being the toughest local race course, more so than the single incline of the Cooper River Bridge Run, we very happy with our efforts.


                           10 Kilometer Road Race
                 Charleston/James Island, S.C.  Nov. 6, 2010
   Results by Race Management Systems(RMS)

Pl     Div/Tot No.     Name           Age S            City        Time    Pace 
=== ===== == =========== === = =========== ====  ====
204  6/19     46  Richard Blalock  57 M  Mount Pleasant  52:33   8:28


We celebrate with a pancake breakfast at IHOP and take it easy for the rest of the day. On Sunday I plan to run 10 - 12 easy miles before having a hard week of training that should culminate with my first amp 20-miler, something that I should have done a month ago based on my training plan. I still hope to get some quality, higher mileage work in the bank that will allow me to have a better effort for my marathon.

I talked to Scott Rigsby after my 10k, where he noticed (via pic on Facebook) the test socket I was wearing looked big. Scott has been and continues one of the instrumental sources of knowledge and help in my journey - and many others that you may not know about. We talked about some of the technical issues and proactive things that can be done to improve amputee running. Scott is always so supportive of other disabled athletes, and showing this through actions, not just words. As I thought about my upcoming marathon, I know pursing dreams does not allow for much compromise; it has to be said:

Do, or do not. There is no "try."  -Yoda


Having run a few marathons as an able-bodied athlete, I do have a healthy respect and, yes, fear for the distance. Just as running has returned to me in a brighter light, so does the distance that will test me. On November 17, I will give a short talk to members of the Charleston Running Club about my race, and the charity I am raising money for here. I was both surprised and honored to be asked to do this; as you know I am certain my public speaking skills are rather pathetic. But I simply have to do what I can in honoring my friend Ashley Kurpiel and doing what I can to help find a cure for FOP.


During our lazy Sunday morning I heard "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," and thought about those twenty six point two miles, what I will be doing, and the why. I will do what I can do, there is no try.

I'll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

- Paul Simon


  1. major congrats! yet again you motivate me to do my best. keep it up. aaaaaaaaand good choice of celebration breakfast. pancakes are awesome :)

  2. That's a great performance from the pair of you! Well done, hope you can feel everything coming together nice and steadily now. You also deserve a ton of praise for your fundraising, nearly over $1,000 already. Brilliant, keep it going and stay strong my firend.

  3. I know at some point there will be lots more training for not so much gain, but I am enjoying these newbie runner days for what they are.

    I was a little ambitious on the fund raising goal total, but I suppose it is better to be high than low. Still hoping for some late help, already have some family members in my sights.

    Big workout week this week, hope you guys have good ones too.

    - Richard