Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bridge Run Redux

 I wrote an article for the Cooper River Bridge Run (CRBR) online magazine you can find here. It was much condensed so I thought I'd post my original version below. It was my intent to relay some of the themes of this blog while remembering my first bridge run an amputee. My blog post about the 2010 CRBR is here.


I am standing on two good feet at a place I was told I would never be again. It is chilly and overcast and I am trying to keep warm, hands under arms, looking out on a sea of faces. All colors, sizes, shapes; a forty thousand voice chorus in a harmony of purpose.

It is the starting line of the 2010 Cooper River Bridge Run.

It is a good day to run. 

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly.
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

- Sir Paul McCartney 

Thoughts flood my mind, some I embrace, others are too strong and I put them away. This will be my first CRBR as a new runner, the old one now a living memory. When I thought I could love running no more, it left only to return to show me more than I could have possibly imagined, could not have imagined had I not gone down this path.

Our sweet national anthem is sung, and in my odd configuration only my right leg has intense goose bumps. Then we are running, the ebb and flow as we find our pace. I tap a shoulder to steady myself as my right foot, made of plastic, carbon fiber, and stainless steel, is slow to brake. 

We rise above the harbor, flying above the gulls searching below. Up. Up. Up. Cresting the Cooper River, we turn into the city, waves of footsteps beating the pavement like wings of birds in migration. I hear voices of encouragement that drive me forward. Faster. Higher. Stronger. Embrace this day, this gift. Life.

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

- Yann Martel

I cross the finish line and do not quite believe the time I have run. A small wow escapes me. In less than one year after my foot amputation, I have crossed this river, run this bridge, become this new runner. One race ends, another begins. Imagine what you can do, then do it. Because you can.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Pink Moon

Friday was to be an easy run for me, which usually means a couple of miles on the treadmill and then a trot around the neighborhood. From Andy Paras on Twitter, I got this link about what was to happen that night, so the thought hatched that a good place to see this event would be from the Ravenel bridge, aka the Cooper River Bridge, the very one we will be doing a 10k over on April 2.

I stayed busy most of Friday, getting off work at noon and then doing a few errands before heading home. Later in the afternoon I took Baxter to "Fetch Field" as I have hereby named it, and we played for a while so the little doggie could enjoy his sprints and burn off some energy. He is a joy to watch flying after his tennis ball, often catching it on the bounce and impatient to have it tossed again.

Back home I thought about my run and whether or not it would be easier just to do it there instead of driving into town. There wasn't much enthusiasm to get on the treadmill; it would be cooling off nicely in the evening and the thought of running on the bridge, perhaps a bit crowded, gave me an unexpected rush of anticipation. Okay, that's decided, I will do it.

Jennifer is in Illinois so would not be running with me. She had gone to be with daughter Becca who is expecting their first child any day now, but once there an unwelcomed development occurred...son John Ryan developed chest pains and had to be taken to the hospital. Apparently a respiratory infection had spread to his heart and caused what was thought might be a heart attack. Scary, scary stuff. John Ryan is resting in the hospital as I write this and will be released once his pains have subsided.


As I drove over to Waterfront Park I knew this was the run I needed to do and was happy I had not trudged it out at home. Got out of the Pilot, set my Garmin to do autolaps every mile, and took off.

It was already dark, but plenty of lighting from the park and bridge. As I ran up the concrete trail - and all of tonight's run would be on concrete - I saw a sign "Beware of coyotes." Good for a one footed guy to know, I suppose, and wouldn't the coyotes to be surprised and sad to find their meal would be a foot short for the pack.

There are bike and pedestrian lanes clearly marked, and equally clearly disregarded by many walkers there. I decided early on the ignore the ignorant, I get enough of that at the town tracks. Run, just run, enjoy the night.

And I did.

Climbing up the first span I was in a good rhythm. This was an easy run, and the climbs and descents would provide a little more effort but I was determined to keep it comfortable. As I crested the main span I stopped for a few minutes to take in the scenery.

Glorious, glorious. Some orange, yellows, purples, and pinks in the west, and behind me the old man in the moon was speaking volumes. The thought crossed my mind how beyond amazing this all was, how no one could possibly take it all in. You could live a lifetime in these few minutes and not be cheated of a single second.

As gravity led me down to Charleston, the stiff wind made me careful to watch my step. Although it was dark, I was expecting more people on the bridge; it was relatively deserted which suited me fine, thank you. Down to East Bay and another half mile or so to make 3. No one at all here and I was running very comfortably...hold it down fella, you have speedwork tomorrow and will want fresh legs.

I turn around and head back to Mount Pleasant, now I can look back from where I came and love to see the distance traveled across the Cooper River. A train is moving through the terminal yard, mechanical and rail sounds harmonizing with the a cappella highway traffic. In the distance a siren wails.

And the moon.

Up. Up.

Now we rise and we are everywhere

I remembered "Pink Moon" from our college radio station in the early 70s, and wondered why I didn't buy the album back then. Working on projects late at night, it was one that I always expected and often heard. Maybe it needed to stay untouched in that time of my life.

Until this morning I didn't know about Nick Drake's life, and was sorry it had ended tragically. That someone of such brilliance had lost his way and no one could reach out to bring him back. Perhaps in some situations this is the way of life - and death - but I refuse to believe one cannot know both the depths and heights this life has to offer without ending it before the short lease closes on us all.

The wind was blowing harder as I took a couple of unsteady pictures with my phone's camera, knowing I'd likely lose the sharp features of the old man's face, but god what a sight, how utterly incomprehensible all this is, this life, our miracle.

I did not want to leave.

Not yet.


As I was writing this post this morning, I came across something astounding. It made me wonder - what if he could have found what we have found in running, this release and meditation, the holiness of life, indeed, the near and the far:

"In 1957, Drake enrolled at Eagle House School, an English preparatory boarding school in Berkshire. Five years later, he went on to public school at Marlborough College in Wiltshire, where his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had all attended. He developed an interest in sport, becoming an accomplished sprinter (his record for the 100-yard dash still stands)..."

(This post dedicated to the memory of Nick Drake, musician and runner, June 19, 1948 –  November 25, 1974)

Monday, March 14, 2011

My Medical Stash

A few of my (least) favorite things
These are the multitude of supplies I've used - and then some - as I've been involved in The Battle of the Socket. I had no used any of these since my marathon and technically still haven't, but did use a band-aid today from the office on the back of my knee. It is one of the two places my liner bunches up. This happened in my old pre-vacuum socket in several places, but over time the skin seemed to accommodate the pinching with some help from Aquaphor. I suspect the same will hold true this time.

Owie tattoo from socket
I have gone longer than ever before with such an injury; I also had my first (left!) foot blister a week ago since my amputation. So whereas blisters are unwelcomed, having the ability to actually get a blister from running is truly spectacular!


I know I have taken a short break from blogging. It really wasn't voluntary, I think with all I have been through with culminating with the marathon finish, I just needed a break for a battery recharge.

I've been talking to several people considering elective amputation, which has given me pause to think over what I feel I need to say to those, like me, who want their lives back, free of pain and drugs and neverending surgeries. If only medicine looked as far ahead as is does backward sometimes...I am shocked at the absolute medieval practices that is still employed in the OR. To believe that a life on painkillers, every increasing in strength to ward off the paranoid monster that is pain, is somehow preferably to a life without a limb...and pain's constant companionship.  More on this later, but part of the reason of my absence here.

Life calls, do not miss it.