Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas 2011

Life does not owe you anything.

Life has given you everything.

It is not about you. It is all about you.

Look, listen, and chose wisely.

It is the gift.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Two Hundred Twenty Six

There have been many goals I have achieved - and a few not yet realized - on this path from what I was to what I am. Some, like running my first race and later my marathon, were large goals reached, while others, like being able to walk a quarter mile without crutches, were important first steps that had to be met before others were taken.

I try to be cognizant of all my goals, small and large, because each builds on the other. Last week while updating my run log, I realized I had reached a huge milestone that took me by surprise. In my able-bodied days I always considered a 200 mile month to be the mileage needed to run with some success, more or less depending on what I was training for. So when I reached this amputee goal, I was very proud of what I had done:

I had run 226 miles over a 4 week period.

This is about the distance from the Isle of Palms to Greenville, SC

This took a while to sink in...I had run 60, 45, 65, and 56 miles and shockingly, not missed a single day due to injury. Before going to Procare, I rarely went 2 weeks without some injury causing me significant downtime, from a swelling fibula head to the opening of my incision line.

This is not to say I will always be injury free as an amputee. Just as a person with all limbs intact, things happen. Achilles tendons get sore, hamstrings become unhappy, and shins decide to slow you down. As an amputee runner, the issue is generally compromised skin, leg skin (or some scar tissue) that was not intended to be used for bearing weight like a foot.

This means fit has to be as anatomically perfect as possible, which currently is nearly impossible since the limb is always changing shape. Here is where my prosthetist's experience is solid gold, in using elevated vacuum to help mitigate these changes along with a prosthesis that does not adhere to yesterday's thinking.

My marathon schedule, though aggressive, was designed to be long enough at 22 weeks to accommodate some downtime for the unforeseen injuries or life events. As it stands, I am ecstatic that am I training without my prosthesis limiting me in any significant way...only my age can do that now, and we duke it out every day.

As I write this I am working toward a 67 mile week capped by a 20 mile long run. Then it's some recovery time over the Christmas holidays, where the carbo-loading effort will be easily met. Shortly afterward in January, I hope to give a good half marathon effort at the Charleston Marathon where I should be able to better gauge what I can do at Boston.

Boston seems as if it is around the corner instead of nearly 4 months away. That is a good thing to me, there is no chance any thought will cross my mind that I can take a breather except for those I've planned. My schedule is proving to be tough but doable, and as long as I stay in one piece - which is only slightly ironic - I should arrive on that Boston starting line as fit as I have been in many years.

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”

Not going to happen, brother. It may be slow, but it will be my all.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hey 19

Sunday was my longest run of the year since the Charleston Marathon way back in January. I have been training hard, knowing at some point the long runs would get easier as my fitness improved. Indeed this did happen but in an interesting fashion.

After running nine miles on our soon-to-be-replaced treadmill, I gathered my outside running gear to prepare for the next 10 on the road. At the last minute I decided to take my small bottle of mineral oil, thinking if I need to make any adjustments far from home I might need it. Usually I don't but today would be different.

I was running comfortably though not quite as easily I use to on my long runs as an able-bodied runner. Out of our subdivision and over to Park West, down streets and onto a sidewalk and finally to an asphalt trail that is easier on the legs and safer than sharing the roads with vehicles.

At about mile 12 I felt some slight burning behind my knee that usually indicates the liner is pinching my skin. Sometimes this just goes away but occasionally it can take enough skin off in a narrow strip that will bleed and be very...annoying. When I hit mile 13 I decided I better take a look and see what was going on since the burning seemed to be getting worse.

I should mention, as a runner, we are use to pushing through discomfort. We can feel blisters forming and sometimes simply have to run through the pain. With a prosthesis this sort of bullheadedness may cause an injury that can cause down times from days to a week or more, as I've previously blogged about.

Off with the prosthesis and pulling down my liner, I see an angry spot about half an inch long with a layer of skin peeled away. Oh great. Time to make a decision.

I think about calling Jennifer to come get me, so I can immediately address the abrasion and set it to healing. However, it is not that big nor bleeding...but I know sometimes these things are worse than they first appear. Then I think...I really need this long run today, I have a marathon pace (MP) run next weekend and my plan builds workouts for other workouts. I couldn't squeeze in a long run later and be able to run the MP next weekend.

Since I don't think I am bleeding and the skin issue is relatively small, I squirt and rub in a liberal amount of mineral oil on the affected area, pull my prosthesis on, and set off.

I don't feel anymore burning but I do feel something else. Something I have not felt in a long, long time. Years in fact. I am running strong, faster with the less effort, and I feel damn good. I slow a little knowing I still have 6 miles to go and realize this may simply be a short lived post-rest boost...but the runner within is smiling.

Hitting my turnaround at 5 miles to go, I find myself in that runner's rhythm that makes us feel a little less mortal. Each footstep seems to be perfectly placed, the effort is there but embraced as easy as breathing; the runner within wants to go faster, further, and never ever stop. And for those who say you never see someone running and smiling, today was your lucky day.

At mile 17 I pull over to oil the machine, then I'm off again. Despite feeling some fatigue now, my pace is quickening, I am running strong and remembering so many other runs in my past. I am totally in the zone and one happy man.

I take one short break at mile 18, inhale a gel, and see a half moon low in the blue afternoon sky. The old man is watching. Watch this.

This horse is heading to the barn, picking up the pace, wondering if maybe, just maybe he should do one more mile. Given how well the run has gone and a skin issue that certainly needs attention, sanity prevails that today's work has been enough.

19 miles comes just before our house. I feel better than I did in the middle of my run, probably a natural high that has built on itself.

It is 65 miles for the week.

Holy sweet mother, I am going to be running the Boston Marathon next April. And I will be prepared this time to give my reconfigured best effort.

I. Am. An. Animal.