Monday, November 21, 2011

58 Does 60

This will be short, but I have hit a goal that has been a long time coming: yesterday I ran 18 miles, but more importantly my week's mileage hit a new amp milestone at 60. Not bad for a 58 year old one footed runner.

I had thought I had run some 60 mile weeks back in 2006, maybe even early 2007, but as I reviewed my run logs it turned out to be 2004. My old ankle was becoming increasingly painful and my mileage was dropping through those years.

I need to be able to do this kind of mileage and more if I am to have any chance of having a good day at Boston. Later on Sunday I completed my training plan for the marathon, and I will likely top out around 70 mi/wk for some training sessions. My speed is still around 1 min/mi slower (at best) than my old biped self, so I need endurance to run this throttled body at a good pace for 26.2.

Thanks to my team at ProCare for giving me a state-of-the-art prosthesis that does not artificially limit my efforts. I will need to run consistent weeks of training to prepare for this marathon of a lifetime, and I intend to give it my best.

Jato At Ease

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Guiding Lights

(Note: I quickly mentioned my guides in my last post, but felt I needed to give this subject a little more depth, as without my guides I would be lost and wandering about the greater Boston area for years to come.)


Boston allows and encourages the use of guides for the MI (mobility impaired) runners and not just for those who have a sight impairment. Because we start before anyone else in the field - which is like, dude, totally awesome - at some point those swifter runners will catch us.

As Kelly Luckett explained to me, the guides are there to protect both the runner and equally if not more importantly the elites and then main field from collisions. Running at this level takes a huge focus, and if an elite running 4:40 miles comes up on yours truly poking along at 9 min/mi there may be an unwelcome greeting:

"Hello Mr. Macadam, hate to meet you!"


The One and Only
The choices for my guides are two extraordinary people in my life. I present my #1 best friend and wife, Jennifer Starrett Blalock, a.k.a. "Sweetness and Light,"  who will guide me from the motel to the starting line, attempting to keep me from losing my marbles, prosthetic supplies, clothing items, and all things running I will need for the race.

Jennifer has supported me on every step of this journey, even writing some articles that appeared in the print version of the Running Journal. Her best advice ever to me was to "keep your eye on the prize." The journey has been made brighter by her ability to keep my feet, uh, foot in the ground through humor and understanding.

She has been my rock and supporter. I'd conservatively estimate well over half of my fundraising for the IFOPA came from her quiet efforts. So yes, I love her and happy she lets me hang around.


Be Like Mike
Mike Lenhart is the founder and president of The Getting2Tri Foundation. I have written quite a few posts about the amazing work Mike has done to help and support disabled people find hope - and often a part of themselves they did not know existed - through sport. Through Mike I have come to know many people that have enriched my own life beyond measure.

Mike has run marathons as a guide with Scott Rigsby, Jason Gunter, and Richard Whitehead. I am in the best of hands with his experience; not only that, Mike is simply a great guy and cares deeply for his athletes. They are never obligated to be a means of funding for the organization simply because they disabled. This is the very reason I intend to fund raise for G2T in the future.


I know much of my race day anxiousness will be alleviated by having Jennifer and Mike at my side. Both know me and my love for running, and beyond that, I am so grateful and blessed that I can share this most special day with them. 

Here is a video of the start of the MI division by one of the athletes, Stephen Gaudet. Stephen has greatly diminished lung capacity due to severe asthma that causes permanent decline. Having had childhood asthma that nearly killed me, I have heroic respect for this man who has done the Boston Marathon. My disability is quite visual; his is not. Stephen shows great courage, courage that few possess. His is true inspiration.

You will also see our friends Brian and Kelly Luckett in this video. I hope this gives you a sense of what we will feel on April 16, 2012, as we stand in the starting line of the Boston Marathon and leading the race if only for a short time with our MI brothers and sisters. Indeed, it will be a day like no other.

I am training to fly.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


The Dream Comes True
Somewhere between Columbia and Greenville on our way to ProCare Prosthetics in Buford, GA, I received the email I had been looking forward to ever since registering for the Boston Marathon back in September. Even though my friend Kelly Luckett had been able to confirm we were registered, part of me wanted this official word to make it real, to prove I wasn't living in some dream or coma.

I was on my laptop doing a little work when I got the message, and in a rather exuberant moment tried to put the screen in front of Jennifer, who happened to be driving around 70 m.p.h. at the time.

MI = Mobility Impaired
Mobility Impaired runners start first at Boston, before the wheelchair athletes and before the elites. This will be like a recurring running dream I have, where I am leading a race without effort. Then I am lost, running off course, sometimes through a building with no idea where the next turn is on the course. Part of this will be a déjà vu at Boston.

Boston allows each MI athlete to have two guides. In the case of the visually impaired, it is understandable that a guide is required for negotiating roadway hazards. However, as I learned from Kelly, since we MIs start first, we will be shortly overtaken by the elites and then the main field, most all who will be running far faster than us. Part of the guide's duties are to let the oncoming runners know that a MI athlete is ahead. Those faster runners will be focusing on their race and may not see the slower moving objects until too late.

From left: Ashley Kurpiel, Mike Lenhart, and Robin Hiers at G2T Camp 2011
 My guides will be my wife Jennifer and my friend Mike Lenhart. Jennifer will assist getting me to the starting line and help me find my mind when I lose it on raceday morning. As it turns out, Mike's sister is running Boston as an able-bodied athlete, and he had previously expressed a hope to go see her run. Now he has an obligation to be there, and will get to see his sister as she breezes past us later in the race. Maybe. :)

Jennifer and me at the 2011 G2T Camp
I will be running this race once again raising money for The International Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva Association (IFOPA) and honoring our friend Ashley Kurpiel. We have come a long, long way in the past year with the exciting news that a drug will be in trials soon that WILL STOP this disease in its tracks. This is a finish line we can cross with your help here.

When I did fund raising at the Charleston Marathon I had no idea we were moving so quickly to end the destruction of this disease. The end is near for FOP, and we want to send it off faster with a good riddance kick in the butt as soon as possible. So please help get us over this hurdle and make a huge difference in so many people's lives?

Ashley has told me she, her family, and some other FOPers will be at Boston. I cannot imagine what that day will be like without waves of emotion overtaking me. To think of all we have been through and done together started with a few kind words from Ashley to me. Never underestimate the effect of human thought, kindness, and the spirit within.

We will get there from here.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Savannah on Six Feet

From left, Me, Jennifer, Kelly, and Brian

We had a nice three hour drive to Charleston's sister city last weekend to run the Savannah Rock'nRoll half marathon. We stayed with our friends Kelly and Brian Luckett who would both be running the full 26.2. Savannah is one of America's jewels and I was happy we got to spend some time there, seeing it from the unique runner's perspective.

My summer had been tuned to shorter speed work, and having to cut back on intensity and days with my recent skin infection, I knew a PR was unlikely. In reviewing my running log from the previous year, I was certain my endurance was not where it was at that time. Still, I felt I should be able to run under 2 hours, although I knew if I had a bad day 2:10 should be the upper limit.

We hit the expo just before what appeared to be the peak, and then headed to the Luckett's temporary accommodations on Skidaway Island. Kelly and Brian very much want to move into the city, and in the meantime have this rental to tide them over. Kelly is a Syme's amputee, and therefor has a long residual limb, so long that she has to use a Cheetah running blade, the same one that Oscar Pistorius employs.


Kelly and Brian had arranged to get us a close parking spot for the morning of the race. It was quite chilly, but I knew I would warm up quickly and decided to forgo gloves and ear protection. I did put warmer clothes in my gear check bag, only wish I had had the good sense to put those gloves in the bag for after the race.

We all walked to the starting area and split up to go to our corral areas. Jennifer took my gear check bag since her corral was nearby, and I went off shivering to stand in line where all runners go...and go...and go. I did find two ADA (handicap) units. These are not reserved for the handicapped, at least not at this event.

I had about 40 minutes to wait, and found some shelter in a stairway. I closed my eyes and try to relax and meditate some...for some reason I kept seeing the mental picture of myself on the 7th floor of Roper Hospital. This is where I stayed immediately after my surgery, the first days of the journey that lead me to this new life. Back then I remember trying to imagine what it would be like to run again. Now I know.


I was in the 4th corral and we got started very quickly. As always, my main concern was not to start too quickly. Usually my first mile is a little fast if I don't reel myself in, but today I was not running quite so easily. After 3 miles I was certain this was going to be harder than I expected, and I hoped I would not crash and burn given all of the training I had done.

There was tremendous crowd support on the course, very much welcomed to hear even if we cannot always respond to it. Many, many people talked to me, definitely a mixed bag of loving the support and feeling a lack of focus for the need to acknowledge it. I simply can't ignore it and must give some response, in my mind I have to think the support goes into the heart and will be needed some day.

There were many kind words. One of the most memorable was hearing a guy behind me say something like:  

'Man, looks at that guy with the prosthetic...with all the aches and pains I complain about I'm not saying another word.'

I wanted to say I was not in that kind of pain today, but it did take me back to what I had been through to get to this day, to be able to run again. My vision blurred and I could not speak these words to him.

Photo by Dan Clapper
Throughout the race my left hamstring felt like someone was plucking it like a string, just enough to let me know something was not quite right. I did not stop to stretch, only tried to massage it as best I could and trying not to stress it more. Luckily it never did cramp, but given this sign I know I need to attend to it before I step up my training for Boston,

Dan Clapper and Peggy Klimecki, both Charleston area athletes, passed me during the race, Dan taking pictures and Peggy offering encouragement. Another woman, wearing a Boston Marathon top, ran by and asked if I was Richard Blalock, and then ran on, I have no idea who she was but seeing that Boston shirt sure brought the goal race to mind.


Photo by Dan Clapper
For me, the best moment of the race was our run along Liberty Street. We were headed into the sunrise, the spectators were incredibly loud and excited, and we runners were moving together in a tunnel of live oaks to the brilliance of a new day. 'Run toward the light!' I thought. For a short period I felt no runner's distress, just the lightness of running with these magnificent people. How could I have missed this...forever? 

How beautiful. With wings.

Usually I like to have a little something left for the last 3 miles, but now I was struggling and not terribly happy about it. Even knowing the why if it, it is still hard for me to accept a slower time than I had hoped for. As we reached the final stretch to the finish line, I did try to pick up the pace one last time. My hamstring complained a little too loudly and I stumbled, looking like a wounded Big Bird as I regained my balance. 

S & L Photography
Crossing the finish line, a volunteer helped me, making sure I was okay after my stumble and there wasn't anything seriously wrong. I thanked him, received my finisher's medal, and headed off to pick up my gear as I was quickly getting chilled.

We had planned to meet at the letter "L" in the reunion area after the race, only I didn't see then letter on any of the pylons. Turned out they were on the other side of a walk/tree line, but Brian and Jennifer hunted me down and we soon all waited for Kelly after some coffee and food at a nearby cafe. Brian had a solid PR and would have gone faster save a nasty headwind that beat up the marathoners in the final miles.

Jennifer did quite well with her half and I was okay with my 2:04:42 finish. Kelly had an enjoyable race, no doubt even better that they have made the move from Atlanta to the Savannah area and this would be her home race for the future.

This was the first race in my new prosthesis from ProCare. the first couple of miles thought I might have some pressure on the distal end, but that abated and the leg performed flawlessly for the rest of the race. I have run in it a couple of times after the race and it feels incredible. I am looking forward to pushing my training with this, my state-of-the-art partner. More on it later!

We spent the rest of the day recovering and reliving the race while catching up on all things running and even not running. After dinner we caught up on our caloric expenditure at Leopold's Ice Cream, amazing how quiet we became over our pumpkin pie sundaes. Okay, so this is the real reason we burn 1500 - 2500 calories at a race, still too much stigma attached to this secret fact.


It is fair to say I was somewhat disappointed in my race time, but afterward the feeling I had was similar to other races where I did not run to my expectations. That feeling is the knowledge that with some changes in training I will run better, much better. I know it is in me to do so because I have done so already. I do believe this:

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

- Pi, from "The Life of Pi" (Yann Martel)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Catch Up

Two weeks Jennifer traveled with me to ProCare in Buford, Georgia. It is a 5 1/2 hour hike, and I was glad to have her company. The impetus for the trip was twofold, my running prosthesis had caused a couple of hotspots to arise on my residual leg and I needed to have my new walking prosthesis modified as well.

My running prosthesis has had no changes since the Charleston Marathon, where I was fitted and had one adjustment just before the race without me present to test it. Considering the speed at which all of this work was accomplished - replacing a plastic prosthesis that had opened my incision line from a prior company - it is a testament to their work that I've experienced so few problems until now.

Skin abrasions - blister bandages relieve pressure in socket
When one of the hotspots bled a little a couple of weeks ago, I decided it was time to get the problem fixed, as I must be able to train consistently to perform my best at Boston next year. Additionally, the spot on my tibial crest was getting larger and quite red, leading me to believe it might be infected. Indeed it was; when I got home I saw my family physician, and was given an antibiotic that started clearing it up in a couple of days.


White hot Jato cooling it
Stephen Schulte worked with me to determine how we could take the pressure off these hotspots while making sure we didn't move the problem elsewhere. I was given a clear, hard plastic test socket that I wore on a couple of training runs and didn't notice any specific areas of concern. Given the green light, Jerry Brown at ProCare fabricated my definitive running prosthesis and they shipped it to me, along with a new foot for my walking prosthesis that I am very excited about. It is an improved version of the Freedom Innovations foot I currently have and is called the Renegade A·T. I will be installing it on my prosthesis soon and will review it in a later post.

This is the first of several upgrades to Jato, some of which is proprietary to ProCare and invaluable to me as a runner. Also, at age 58, my body is not as resilient as it used to be 25 years ago, so a good fit just won't do, it must be a great fit. And these are the guys who can deliver.


I just ran a half marathon in this prosthesis and will do a race report as soon as I can get to it. Although my time was a little slower than I expected, I knew by reviewing my run logs and knowing the training I have been doing meant my endurance was less than optimal for a faster 13.1. I think it is human/runner's nature to always expect a faster time for a race even if we know we aren't quite prepared for such an effort.

Prior to the race I knew I might run as slow as 2:10; not that this really qualifies as slow, but of my 3 prior halves it would be the third slowest. I did run faster than that, but the last 3 miles were more of a struggle than I would have liked. I believe this may have been because of the recent skin infection and antibiotic's effects on my body, we are human beings and not machines.

I have a lot of upcoming news and hope to blog it over the next week. From my guides selected for the Boston Marathon (Guides? You need guides?) to my Savannah Rock'nRoll half marathon report there is much to tell. And I will...after the next run.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


There is a broad meadow, and on a small rise a single apple tree stands alone. Below an old locust wood fence runs along the shoulder of a rocky stream...squirrels chase each other on the rails.  Raccoons and opossums play on the bank, splashing in the water.

Deer stand along the far field, unafraid and unblinking. Birds flutter above, their wings beating a light rhythm.  The quiet thrum of insects is everywhere. Distant high mountain peaks cling to the sky, a deepening blue, in the indigo hues faint stars appear.

A wee white dog lies at the foot of the tree with several cats. One warm patch of summer grass is left bare as the sun filters through the leaves. Little will be here soon.

Little has been greatly missed by her friends.
She will be greatly missed by her friends.


Last goodbye
Little Little (Sabrina)
1994 – 2011

Found on a trash heap, you came to be our friend. I leave you here, in my mind and memory, deeply loved.