Friday, September 30, 2011

Thin Air

On Wednesday I received word from 7 and soon-to-be-8-time Boston Marathon MI (Mobility Impaired) runner Kelly Luckett that we were indeed confirmed to run the 2012 edition of this legendary race. Kelly spoke to the woman in charge of our division and was told she (Kelly), Shariff Abdullah (Singapore Blade Runner) and I (goober) were all in. Although we were waiting - and still are as I write this - on the "official" word directly from the BAA (Boston Athletic Association) in the form of an email or letter and wanting to see our names on the entrant's list, I knew I was officially in the race.

Shariff Abdullah, the Singapore Blade Runner (SBR)


The week had started with an early morning 6 mile run on Monday. This was the first time ever I have run with a headlamp, and I found it worked extremely well. The lamp I have was purchased in Maine when Jennifer and I were vacationing with my brother Mark and his wife Debbie some years ago. I used it to get around at night after my surgery when I was on crutches or in my wheelchair; this was so I could see without waking Jennifer and to avoid tripping/running over rugs, pets, or any other inventive obstacles.

Back to the run, as I started my 6th mile, I felt my residual leg pistoning some (moving up and down) in my liner. What I should have done was to stop, check my leg, and likely added a prosthetic sock to snug up my fit. Trouble was I did not have an extra sock with me...or much good sense.

I continued to run and when I got home I found a previous hot spot had the skin taken off and was bleeding a little. The nickel-sized spot was right on the tibial crest, where it is difficult to protect from the pressures of running. Further irritation would only deepen and enlarge the wound, so I would need to take some time off.

Since I have had some issues in this area in the past, I made an appointment with my prosthetist and will get an adjustment soon. To help mitigate pressure on the area, I applied some material to either side of the tibial crest to push the affected area away from socket. This should remove the most intense forces from causing any more damage.

Such an injury will cause several training days to be missed. Usually this upsets me some, but given I did not heed the warning signals, I have learned yet another hard lesson. In a stroke of questionable fortune, I developed a seasonal cold that would require some downtime as well. So now I am taking care of two mortal conditions simultaneously, but should be pieced together and ready to go in a few days.


After I learned of my acceptance into the Boston Marathon, I posted the news on Facebook and Twitter and sent a few emails. It was great to share this announcement with people who have been there with me for this journey, many supporting my fund raising efforts at the Charleston Marathon for The International Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva Association (IFOPA), honoring our friend Ashley Kurpiel.

As I sat at my desk processing what this meant, I kept thinking of the day my surgeon told me my running days were over. I was not ready to give up, yet those words fell on my spirit with the weight of a thousand tons. Going from that dark moment to this one is nearly impossible to convey.

It crossed my mind that miracles are not some kind of supernatural magic, rather, a very real condition that deep belief can bring to pass on sheer will. The will to take what is not, and transform it into what is. Even if it is not to be, to never yield to the dark. Dr. Ohlson took what was not, my damaged right foot, and in its void a the miracle arose.

Out of nothingness, this bright thing. Being.


I still plan to celebrate the direct, official email or letter that the BAA will send that confirms my place on the starting line, no doubt to be framed and cherished for the rest of this life. Life is strange and surprising; few if any of us see the voyage from beginning to end with clarity of the journey. There are a few more surprises along the way, and I hope I can make a few dreams come true.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Nine Twelve Two Thousand Eleven

On this morning at 10 am I registered for the Boston Marathon. Mobility Impaired runners will not get official word until around September 28, so barring something completely unforeseen, I should get my notification then by email.

Going back to 2007 when I still had two anatomical feet, I had given up on this dream ever becoming reality. I was training for the Jacksonville Marathon and my running times had been become stuck with my foot pain only increasing over time. One day that November my right foot found a small pavement depression and I believe the last of my peroneal tendon shredded. I limped home and knew I'd never make the starting line in Florida.

Not only was I not going to run another marathon, but a lifetime of running came to a hard stop. There would be no more races. No evening runs where twilight transformed me into a golden, winged messenger. I would not stand on another starting line chasing ever distant PRs. The life of this runner was over. Finished.

Yet I could not let go. Something in my mind, despite the reality, would not let go. I had faith in nothing at all but faith in what I was.

Then I let go.

I let go of a part of me, one of a pair that had carried me throughout my life. I had to lose a very real part of me, to regain myself. How odd to feel a part of you has preceded you into the forever, detached and no longer living.

And from that loss I become alive again, alive in a way far beyond any dream possible. Seeing life as a new citizen, living a new life as a different me.

From reality to dream to reality, I will now find myself standing on the starting line of the 2012 Boston Marathon. I will be there with my mobility impaired friends, two who will be Kelly Luckett and Shariff Abdullah. From our losses we will look within and find spirits that will not be stopped, the spirits that are us.

Human beings.

With wings.

Monday, September 5, 2011

This and That

Random pic of jackass parking at Charleston Bagel

I have several posts in the works, including a rather negative one about the way runners are treated by the Town of Mount Pleasant Recreation Department. I don't like dwelling in the negative, which is why that post has been in editing mode for over a year.

This post will cover several things that happened this week and a few rambling thoughts as well.


First, two things have happened for the 5k at the Francis Marion Dirt Dash on September 10. We thought there was a chance the race might have national network television exposure for our cause, the International Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva Association. However, scheduling did not work out despite our best efforts to come up with an event with the extraordinary help of Chad Haffa, the race director.

Second, Ashley Kurpiel, our friend and FOP champion, had a previous engagement before the network expressed an interest in this story. Considering all of the circumstances, she decided to attend the prior event since it would be very expensive to come here for the 5k. The trip would be by car and it is uncomfortable for her to travel 6 hours. We'll miss having her at the race, but I know she is doing what she needs to her life every day.


Last week's training went well, only downside was missing my run on Monday due to travel and then my speedwork suffered from a bit of fatigue. I rallied and ran 10 miles on Saturday and 16 on Sunday to make 50 miles for the week. My goal was 55 miles so a little short, but the two back-to-back longer runs was a great workout. The weather was a tad cooler, something I felt out on the road on Sunday where I kept a good pace and finished strong.


Small cut on skin from pinching liner with benzoin protectant
I still have trouble with my liner pinching my skin at times. For protection I had been using A&D ointment at the direction of my prosthetist. However, it was clogging and disabling my vacuum pump far too often. We were then told to start using mineral oil, but it does not protect the skin as well as the A&D. In short order I had some skin breakdown in the creases of the liner where it bends behind my knee.

I decided to try some tincture of benzoin as a skin protectant. This worked for shorter runs, but the mineral oil tended to break it down and I still had some broken skin. For the past weekend run I used the benzoin and then a layer of New-Skin the night before my runs. This protected my skin but I still noted the covering was breaking down and wondered if it would eventually clog my pump again.
Sweat in the frame when vac pump goes on vacation

Doing a bit of research, I found another skin protectant I have ordered. It has great promise and if it works I'll blog about it later.


Boston Marathon registration is in one week. I can't find anything about signing up as a Mobility Impaired athlete. My friend Kelly Luckett, a veteran of the race many times over, is trying to get in touch with her contact to see what our procedure is. I still feel a little hesitant to say "I am running Boston in 2012!" until I am confirmed with a number. So for now we'll let this pot simmer.


I have nearly finished the book "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand. It is the life story of Louis Zamperini, Olympic runner and B-24 bombardier in the Pacific in WWII. I could not help but think of what he and so many other POWs endured during the war, horrible, inhumane things. I think of whining I hear at work and at times online, and wonder how any of us would survive a day, an hour, hell, a few minutes of the abuse these men endured. My patience is short with these malcontents knowing we have life so easy even in these challenging economic times.

Read this book. It will make you a stronger person. And you may just remember it when you think about whining the next time you have to reboot your computer and think you are enduring the unendurable.


I am looking forward to the 5k on Saturday and hope to run well. Last year I ran the half marathon, my first as an amputee. It was a hot, humid day and a struggle for me to finish. This year the races start an hour earlier so there should be more shade. Given I am running 3.1 miles instead of 13.1, I suspect I will fare better physically, plus my prostheses last year was not the extraordinary one I have now.

I will run thinking, a little, what might have been had this event received a national audience, highlighting our friend and, I think, life-teacher Ashley Kurpiel. I will run for her, knowing every, every day is precious and none to be wasted.

And I will try to fly.