Monday, December 3, 2012

This Dream of Boston






I dream and dream and dream about the Boston Marathon.

Always as I commute to and from work plus several times during the day I conjure imagines of being in Hopkinton and what it will feel like to stand on the starting line; of what I might say to my family and friends and guides; and how impossible it will be to run in front of the entire field if only for a few minutes, something I had felt once in a race a lifetime ago.

This being my second attempt to get to that famed starting line, I can say a very minute edge has been taken off the exceedingly sharp emotions I feel about the race. Even as I write this I know circumstance could take me out of the marathon on a whim as it did for 2012. Now whenever the first thought of Boston comes into my spacious head, it takes a few seconds for the magic to happen...then it does happen.

Having lost beloved family members, friends and pets, I can tell you, for me, being told my running days were over was just as hard a loss. When you first lose something you love it does not quite seem possible...you still have fleeting moments when they are not gone and then you know you will never see them again. Although in the back of my mind I knew I would somehow, some way run again, to run Boston would just be impossible.

Now it isn't. I just have to make it to the starting line.

Without dreams we move through life uninspired and with little purpose. When we touch our dreams we dream bigger, it serves to move us forward. Many people will try to dissuade or even ridicule your dreams; it is not really your dreams they find abhorrent, it is their lack of courage to dream as big if at all.

Start of fund raiser for Ashley Kurpiel's racing chair

Any moment this life can be taken from us. Every heart that ever beat is going to stop and return to dust. What is the purpose in any of this if we do not chase our dreams, even when we fall short of attaining them? To give up? Give in? Quit?

Here is what you do with one of the rarest conditions known to the human race, where your connecting tissues turn to bone and your mobility is forever compromised. You find your way to live an exceptional life, that by your very being you inspire others to lift themselves up. When you cannot run a single step, you learn to fly. This is the life of our friend Ashley, for whom I run at the Boston Marathon.

The dream of ending FOP is a good dream to dream, and when we awaken to the end of it all, we will have run a good race. It is one we must win. We must touch this dream. Together.

You can help here.

Superstar Ashley Kurpiel and race-organizer-angel-friend Cindy Ferst at the finish
 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Being


"It's not what you do, but who you are."



The quote was from a friend of Aron Ralston, who was not impressed by what Aron had accomplished as a mountaineer, but rather who he was as a person.

I know this nuance gets lost on many, myself included in that esteemed crowd. It's who you are not what you do that defines us. You can win the Tour De France 7 times, but if the person who did that is a cheat and a liar, then that defines the person no matter what accomplishments were achieved. The doing does not supersede the person, the being.

We all have failings, every one of us. We also have the ability to look within and decide...is this me? Self-promotion disturbs me particularly when I see it being done unabashedly by the disabled. Is this what I am, who I am? Sometimes things external to us cause this introspection. Whatever the source, the price of honesty can be very high...and most rewarding. But honesty must win or we lose. And when we defend the dishonest I see that as embracing and enabling evil. It must not be done.

My running, especially as my reconstituted self, has sharpened my eyes where they were once myopic. I see my most courageous and sweet friend Ashley Kurpiel, showing us all how to live life every day; I became friends with The Greatest, Jason Pisano, who defined precisely who a hero is; and then there is my amputee running mentor Kelly Luckett, who quietly goes about helping others without need for self-promotion.

It's not what you do, but who you are.

The way to do is to be.
- Lao Tzu



Saturday, October 13, 2012

Advancing Amputee Distance Running and Records

 After far too long and too many conflicting excuses, leg amputees will finally be allowed to run in an IPC sanctioned distance event, the 2013 London Marathon.

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I have written a number of posts about  the fact no official world records could be set by amputees in distance events because of the IPC's discrimination toward leg amputees. You can read about this injustice here.  An individual cannot claim a world record unless it is certified by the sport's governing body. The IPC has fervently denied leg amputees to run in distance events, thereby preventing official records from being set. It is a maddening Catch-22 against the very people the organization should take every opportunity to help.

This is unbelievable....here is just one of the excuses the IPC had offered up to discriminate against Richard Whitehead in the 2012 Paralympics:

"The IPC refused him permission to race in the marathon against upper body amputees because it would confuse spectators and other athletes said it could be dangerous. An appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport was thrown out."

Confuse the spectators? What the hell?  I think they were looking for something else, the excuses simply do not add up.


*******

Here are some of the posts I wrote about this disgrace. While seeking information on world records - and claims of them - I was often personally attacked which was astounding. Some cursed me and others no longer corresponded after I found no one could point me to official records for leg amputees outside of personal claims. (I have been aware of some effort by others to make this distinction clear which is progress.)


IIAGDTR: Goal Setting


Amputee Running Distance Records - Can you help?

 

IIAGDTR: Distance Running Records for Amputees

 

IIAGDTR: The Big Fail: Amputee Distance Record Keeping


I wanted to verify that records would be indeed kept but to date there has been no response to this lowly grand masters runner. I posed the question to the IPC on Facebook and Twitter, and here is what I asked:

Facebook: Will the 2013 London Marathon certify T42-T44 times as official world records for leg amputees? Will these records be officially kept outside of personal claims? Will all other distances (800m though marathon) be available to these classifications as well in future Paralympics?  

Twitter:


I reposted the tweet this morning to see if I could get a response. Best I can tell my post on Facebook was deleted (!) but does show up in Google searches.  

I still do not know if the IPC will continue to discriminate against leg amputees in other distance events (i.e. 5k, etc.) but it would not surprise me in the least. Not seeing my challenged friends competing in their preferred events in the 2012 Paralympics took a great deal of gloss off the games. I can only hope pressure will continue to be applied to the IPC by the athletes and the media to correct this great injustice foisted on the challenged athletes of the future.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Life of Me



Questions easy. Answers hard.


One action silences many words.


Find in your own will a way.


Cynicism is cyanide to the spirit.


Being silent for truth is more damning than shouting the lie.


You stand and fight or you quit. You can lose two ways but win only one. And winning is not always first place.  


Follow your heart, not others.


Courage is taking a stand when the outcome is uncertain.


Be not say.


When perfect, you may criticize. 
Having fallen, be silent again.


Death is patient. Death does not quit.
Life is impatient. Life does not quit.
Do not quit.


Prejudice is the last bastion of ignorance.


There is no comfort in the thinking, only in the doing.


Don't tell me what you can't do.
Show me what you can do.


If I wanted to be liked by everyone I'd change my name to Bacon.


Aging is the ultimate adversary.


There is little worth seeing and nothing worth remembering along the easy road.


One shortcut to glory is demeaning to all.


A friend is not someone who does things for you. A friend is for you.


An excuse is a transparent cover over the deep well that is regret.


Love is not always easy but it is always worth the love.


Courage is often heroic. It is also the ability to see tomorrow.


Should we live for one million years, it will not be enough time at the end.


Love wins over hate. Humor takes second place.


*******


Passionflower

Giving birth

Newborn on passionflower leaf

 
Consuming passionflower
 

Time to sleep, to dream


Time to fly

Courage transcends mortality.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Ferst and Ash

Cindy Ferst and Ashley Kurpiel

Last week Jennifer and I drove to Buford GA so I could have a few prosthetic issues tended to. My leg has not fully healed from the cellulitis although in the previous week it did look much better. I would be getting fitted for new liners in case the old ones had the infection embedded in them. Only later would I think...had I not gone to ProCare this particular weekend, we would have likely missed another not-so-little miracle.

Shortly after making my appointment some weeks back, I received an invitation from Kristin Carnahan, a prosthetist at ProCare, to the AmpItUp 5k which would be on Saturday. Having recently restarted my running for the second time this year I knew my race would be slow, but the cause - providing a camp for kids with amputations or limb length differences - was compelling. So I signed Jennifer and I up to do the race, programmed my NordicTrack treadmill with the course information, and began looking forward to doing the race.

The day after the 8 month mark to the Boston Marathon I learned that my courageous friend, Ashley Kurpiel, would be doing her first race ever, and it would be this 5k! She would be pushed by Cindy Ferst; they had become great friends after meeting at this year's Getting2Tri camp. I was stunned. I was overwhelmed. It was as if some giant puzzle was slowly coming together. This was suppose to happen. Always suppose to happen. Would happen.

*******

Freedom Innovations Catapult Running Foot
My appointment at ProCare resulted in new liners being ordered, leaving my walking leg (I have an older backup) to fix a vacuum leak, and replacing the secondary filter on my running leg Jato. I asked about the new Freedom Innovations running prosthesis, the Catapult. I really, REALLY want this foot; my right leg, particularly the hip abductors, are more stressed over distance and I think this foot would help. However, this will necessitate an entirely new socket since my vacuum pump is in the space where the secondary "power spring" is located on the Catapult. My residual has changed since I first ran with Jato at the Charleston Marathon, so at some point we will be looking into a new leg with this highly desired new running foot.

Jato with Nitro Running Foot
For this race I would be running with old paint Jato. It is always difficult for me to run races when my fitness level is low. Mentally, when I race I want to have some goal for it. It may be a marker for where you are in training, or the actual goal race where you want to do your absolute best. I had only been running again for about 6 weeks, and although I was slowly coming back, I knew it would be a less than stellar finish time for me. Turns out that was true, but it was also one of the best times I have known running.

*******

 Ashley's friend Christy Coholich drove her up from Peachtree City and we visited a while before the race. They left as I got ready for the race. I was beginning to regret a decision to have Mexican food for lunch, chicken tacos, as they seemed to be sitting heavy on my stomach. Well, not much to do but hope than with over an hour to the race that the feeling will go away.

The race is not far from the hotel. While Jennifer parks I grab our race packets and we get ready to go. There are more amputees than I have seen at any race, including many old friends from previous Getting2Tri camps. Cadie Jessup is sporting her new running leg, Michael Thompson looks ready to go, Mary Beth is looking very fit, and Thomas Morris is game-day ready.

We mill about the starting line and are told to line up opposite the direction the race map had indicated we would go. Well, maybe I made a mistake I thought, but some details I usually get right. With a good luck kiss from Jennifer, I still feel the heaviness in my stomach and wonder if I will embarrass myself by, uh, spilling the beans.

*******

Off we go and I know I must pace myself and hold back. The course is basically a one mile tour of the park run multiple times. For the size of the field the pack clears quickly and I settled into my pace. It feels good but I know it is a little fast.

Round and round we go. I note my GPS watch that the mile markers are not even close. I expect there to be some differences, but these far exceed margins of error. I see lots of amputees ahead of me, pass a few, and always try to express some encouragement as I can. 

I see Ashley and Cindy ahead of me and slowly pull up alongside. Cindy is working very hard and they are one impressive sight together. How is this possible? To me this is, and remains, one beautiful picture: these two women, working together, doing what neither ever imagined. I was blessed to see it happen.

As I approach the finish line area I see by my watch that I can't be finishing just yet, so I continue on. I am getting very tired now; the slight hills are not steep but take their toll on this lowcountry boy. I take a couple of walking breaks, somewhat depressed I have to slow down. As I near the starting line once more, by my watch, I should cross the road to the finish line but there is no volunteer there directing traffic, so I continue on, feeling I am barely moving.

Around the entrance again and finally back to the finish line area. I am well over 3.1 miles and my body is letting me know it. Around some sharp corners and I am done. Finished. Kaput. The main victory is I didn't puke.

*******

Nearing the finish line
After recovering a bit Cadie and I head out to run in with Ashley and Cindy. Ashley has a most sweet and joyous expression on her face. Angelic. My fatigue falls away. The moment is all there is.

Ashley tells us she is going to walk across the finish line. We all stop and Ashley rises from her chair. Together with Cindy, in Ashley's one-footed hop, they cross the line.

It is a finish and a new beginning.

*******

And this they did together.

The Real Dynamic Duo

*******

We had a good time taking photos and catching up some with our friends. ProCare, my team of prosthetists and a sponsor of the race, impressed me with their support. It wasn't about just their company and their athletes, but all athletes and the cause of the race. 

Steve Ehretsman presented Ashley with a special award for "Most Courageous" at the race. We were all so proud of what she had accomplished; it was indeed a crowning star for a most wonderful evening.

Our Fearless Friend

Where does Ashley go from here? Anywhere she wants to go. More to come...much more. And we cannot wait to see this new journey unfold.

With wings.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

8 Months With A Purpose

It is now 8 months until the 2013 Boston Marathon. As I was thinking about that future event, I read the words below from Ashley's mom Carol on Facebook:

*******

Ashley, Carol, and Emily
Yesterday proved to be quite an eye opener for me. As most of my friends know, Ashley is out and about collecting donations to raffle for her upcoming event...Dancing (Zumba) for a Cure .... This of course is not an easy task for a girl with no motion in one leg bent in a kneeling position, the other laboring in quiet pain trying to keep up with the other, her one arm permanently resting to her side while tucked underneath 2 inches of skillfully copied articles of her disease and announcements of the upcoming Zumba event, to show local merchants just what this is all about in order to solicit gift card donations; gift baskets or the like in order to make this event worthwhile.

Meanwhile as I lay on the sofa yesterday, exhausted from washing and folding laundry, the door opened and in she came dragging her sore, calloused foot and the other painfully arched on a 5 inch sole with papers tucked under her one arm, balancing on her cane, face beaded with sweat and her paper thin sundress pasted to her wet, bent frame. Her labored body screamed 'help' but her face held a smile as she dragged herself to her usual position on the chair and smiled with 'I did great.' Suddenly my laundry didn't look so bad and without going into detail of her accomplishments (which were award winning by the way), Ashley once again displayed her ambition and desire to serve others.

Her FOP body is pretty much taken over aside from the little movement she has and hopes and prays to keep at least that, but has shown to all of us how important it is to her to keep the research going as they are so close to the cure. There are still so many children and young adults who still have the chance to keep their legs and arms moving and have so much promise just to remain as a functioning human being.

I know how hard it is every day for Ashley to walk to the bathroom or kitchen. I know how hard it is for her to put her make-up on and to drive her golf cart with 5 fingers and cross her left leg over to a right foot pedal to drive it. But her unselfish desire to find the cure for not only herself but others and her labor of shuffling in painfully to each merchant to display herself as the visual aid as to how cruel this disease is and how important their donation is to her cause, gave me an awakening yesterday just how unselfish she really is.

Feeling quite thankful this morning I can sit here and type with two hands and then run to take my own shower, dry my own hair and fix my own breakfast. Better yet, off to Zumba to gear up for the upcoming event that will hopefully bring more to the financial table to keep the lab functioning so Ashley can keep her foot dragging and her one arm slightly moving. Functions she so desperately desires to keep while she continuously encourages and inspires others just by moving at all.

*******

This same week again I was able to witness another one of those small miracles I have written about before. The AMP It Up 5k is a race that happens to be on the same weekend of my next visit to ProCare in Buford, GA. Although my training in being restarted after my leg infection, I felt I needed to do this race in support of the cause: helping kids with amputation and limb differences attend a camp that meets their needs.

Ashley is not only attending this race, but will be a participant in her first ever 5k! When I read this at work on Thursday, to say I was overwhelmed would be a severe understatement. Work worries dissolved into the mist and hope remained in the light. It was unbelievable. I spent some long moments looking out my window, reflecting on this amazing person, our friend, Ashley.

As if I needed any more fuel for my Boston fire, here it was set ablaze anew. Ashley is not sitting around waiting for the day to come when FOP is beaten, she is out there every day living with it, helping others understand it, and by god doing something about it.

You can too. Please help us here.

*******

OMG! I always get an email alert when someone has made a donation to my FirstGiving page. I just went there to copy the link for the sentence above and saw where there were two more donations I was unaware of! I always write a note to our donors and feel terrible I missed these.

Mike Nice and Jen Price, THANK YOU so much for the donations. I know you two understand how much this means to us, as friends and as compassionate people of the first order. I am sorry I missed seeing your donations but know when I found them this morning it was a wonderful surprise! I am contacting FirstGiving about why I did not receive emails, and will keep closer tabs on the donations when they happen.

Thanks everyone who has helped and continue to support the cause to stop FOP. Jen and Mike, a special thanks for making the morning before my long run one that will have added inspiration...that of friends helping friends helping those we have not met yet.

I run for you all today.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Tiffany

Tiffany S. Linker
5/2/1989 - 7/26/2012
Our dear friend Ashley Kurpiel posted a message and video last week that will take your breath away. Ashley's mother Carol wrote this: "Another child lost to FOP...She and Ashley were two of the 8 original children to join the IFOPA....please view this dedicated video that was placed in Tiffany's honor. After viewing this, please understand why we have such urgency in raising funds to cure this (one of the world's most devastating) disease."

This is going to break your heart. It should. I know there are many devastating diseases that have no guilt taking the most innocent from us. 

*See the video here. *(Note: the video website is not functioning at this time and I could not locate another souce.)

This renewed my fire to do what I can in raising money to help put an end to this disease. I am running the Boston Marathon to benefit the IFOPA and I will be running the 5k at the Francis Marion Dirt Dash that benefits the IFOPA here. 

I would like to thank, once again and from the bottom of my heart, Barb and Geno Reich who have supported this cause multiple times over the years. They made the first donation for my Boston effort next year. We have had several people support us more than once and I deeply appreciate their belief in this cause.

*******

We have less than 9 months to Boston. Many with fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) have less than that to live their lives. It must be understood FOP can be stopped; this is not a mutating disease with a moving target. When it is defeated other diseases like the arthritis that took my foot can see the end of their reigns of pain and destruction of limbs and lives.

You can help us here.

And know, when I run Boston next year and see Ashley at the finish line, that you will have helped give her and all those to come with FOP the hope that it will not rule their lives. 

Please help us. And know when you do what you have done. 

You can be - and are - heroes. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fleet Foot

Blessing of the Fleet 10 mile race - view from my treadmill
Randy Spellman, best friend and brother to Jay Pisano, ran the Blessing of the Fleet 10 mile race at Narragansett, RI. This was a tribute to a favorite race of Jay's as you can read here, and a couple of earlier races here and here.

In Randy's own words: "Our trip to Jason Pisano's favorite race on the opening day of the Olympic Games was a great way to pay tribute to our own champion."

*******

I am not quite in shape to run 10 miles yet, definitely not ready to race that distance. Still, the thought came to me to map the course for my treadmill and run it over the next few workouts. I did about 4 miles of it on Saturday and did my 8 miles on the course today, having to restart my effort after a power outage.

It was impossible not to think of seeing Jay on this course in my mind's eye, of being on the same road the he and Randy had done so many times before. I know I cannot quite imagine how the day went for Randy, of being there for so many years with Jay and missing him this day. Randy did tell me he hoped to find someone who needed his help, which tells you the strength of his character and desire to remember his brother on this day.

*******

Back of Randy's race shirt
I was incredibly honored to share a spot on Randy's race day shirt. I love to say "It is a good day to run" on the starting line, usually to myself but I recall getting a laugh before a rainy start of the Myrtle Beach marathon some years ago. I like to think no matter what conditions we face that it is always a good day to run.

Something tells me Jay would understand this, more likely knew it already. It would have been something we could have talked about. Often the worst of times are the ones we remember most clearly, of the obstacles overcome on our path up.

We are on our way to 53.

April 15, 2013.


We will run...with The Greatest.




Saturday, July 28, 2012

Déjà Vu All Over Again

Maine Half Marathon - View from the NordicTrack Treadmill
 
For the second time this year I have restarted my training. Following the meniscectomy of my left knee I crawled back into shape only to have a cellulitis attack my residual; this took even longer to heal. It has been about 8 weeks since I started treatment for it and it is still a little discolored though nearly back to 100%. I am convinced using mineral oil for the skin lubricant was the exact cause of this unpleasantness.

When I was told to use mineral oil I tried to find out exactly what kind to use as there are many types of the product on the market. I received no definitive answer so I just started using off the shelf stuff I bought at CVS. While traveling to Hannibal MO with my sister-in-law, she mentioned how she completely avoided any skin care product that had mineral oil listed as an ingredient. It clogs pores, can actually dry the skin, and has other nasty properties as well.

I then researched the stuff and definitively put 1 plus 1 together and knew what had happened too late. (That's a joke, son.) An excellent article "Negative Effects of Mineral Oil in Skin Care" is here. I have since thrown out all of the oil and will never use it again.

That said, I completed 5 planned days of running last week and did all of my workouts while keeping close watch on my residual for any adverse skin conditions. There were no issues and the skin continued to heal. I ran 21 miles with all but two on the treadmill. I did not want to put my leg in the broiler that is our weather right now. Once it is fully healed I will do more running outside.

*******

We are going to Maine in this fall and Jennifer and I will be running the half marathon at the Maine Marathon. I ran this back in 2006; Jennifer was under the weather and became a spectator that day. I should be nearly out of my initial back-to-running phase at this race and must expect my time to reflect that fact. Since we fly into Portland before driving further north, this race simply demands we attend, who are we to say no to crisp fall weather especially considering what we are dealing with at the present. Somewhere I have a photo of the 2006 race and I'll post it when it is found.

I don't have a specific time goal for Maine except not to suck too badly. It will be several more months before I return to some semblance of higher fitness. With Boston as my goal race, I will only be running most races as fitness tests or as higher level workouts, with one half in January raced hard to determine a reasonable expectation for Beantown.

My long run this week will be 8 miles. It was back in May when I last ran double digits and I am looking forward to making those distances soon, perhaps 10 next weekend. To help protect my knee, I will do considerable amount of time on the treadmill where the impact is softer. I am so glad to have this terrific training aid and sorry to hear of the passing of the inventor, William Staub. I love my treadmill because it frees me from excuses, particularly from our late afternoon thunder-and-particularly-lightening storms. Having had a couple of close calls with the bolts from above, I do not care to push my luck.

I hope I am done with comebacks for a while. I've am currently updating my marathon plan from last year; I love writing up training schedules. This time I am hoping for more adherence and less deterrence.

Future, please smile on this small parade. We promise to honor the day. I believe we will make a difference in many lives. I have learned of life's small miracles.

Let us do more.




Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Question of Motivation...or Mediocrity?

 I do not run to inspire, but I do run an inspired life.
- RWB 7/15/2012


Jack and Me

*******

Some years ago before I became an amputee I bought Jennifer a book to help motivate her through triathlon training. It was "Up and Running" by Jami Goldman. Later I would read the book myself in a different light, that as an amputee. As I've written many times on this blog and elsewhere, it is not possible to understand some things until you have become them. You will not know what it means to be blind unless you are sightless; you don't know the difficulties of a certain disability unless you have that disability. Some of us are born with missing limbs; others lose them in accidents or war; and some have damaged limbs removed when they become a source of pain and no longer are functional.

A Lifetime of Inspiration
My first sports hero was Glenn Cunningham and he remains a source of inspiration to this day. While I was hospitalized after the bus accident of 1963, a boy was brought into the hospital with burns over 70% of his body from a gasoline fire...I remember the most horrible screaming I have ever heard, screams of intolerable pain that this little boy was enduring. He would not survive.

Glenn did survive and I think I at least had an inkling of what he had to overcome just to walk. The fact he ran world records on what was absolutely minimal training by today's standards was, and is...inspiring.

This year I was fortunate to learn of the heroic Jason Pisano. Inspiring? Beyond words and possibility. Impossibility made irrelevant. He had the use of his left foot only and was able to complete 52 marathons. So yes, leave your whining and woe-is-me attitude at home. You can do more than you imagine but not with the heavy anchor of negativity around your neck.

*******

When someone is disabled, be it by birth or circumstance, they remain a person, a human being. Their lives may or may not be more challenging than an able-bodied person. In many cases such as with amputees, there is a visual stimulus that may elicit a common response particularly in sport: they are inspirational.

There are other disabilities that are not as evident, in less severe CMT (Charcot-Marie-Tooth), CP (cerebral palsy), CF (cystic fibrosis) scoliosis, and others.  My sister-in-law Nancy has two titanium rods screwed into the length of her spine as a result of the latter. No one can see this without Superman's x-ray vision. Our friend Donna at first glance may not appear to be disabled in the least, yet a closer look at her feet and you may grimace. She has CMT. Ronnie writes that he has been "Blessed with Cystic Fibrosis and a positive attitude, it is my duty and passion to show the cystic fibrosis community that anything is possible."

All of these athletes have a far more difficult time being athletic than me, yet because my amputation is so viscerally apparent, it may be mistakenly thought of as the higher barrier to overcome. A well-designed prosthesis gives me back most of the mobility I lacked with the damaged anatomical foot with little of discomfort. I am slower but I have my freedom restored.
Oscar Pistorius with a little help (Oscar's Twitter pic)
An article "We're not here for your inspiration" was recently published here decrying that "inspirational porn" (see pic at right) was being employed to guilt the able-bodied into thinking they don't have it so bad; why look at the poor crippled thing in a prosthesis hobbling along, if they can do it I need to get off my lazy bum and go for a run too! Ms. Young's main point seems to be that the disabled are not any more inherently inspirational than the able-bodied, that what is going on is exploitation on some level. That disabled people are no more or no less inspirational than anyone else.

Your excuse, is indeed, irrelevant.
She also goes on to make inaccurate statements like this, speaking of availability of running prostheses: "Those legs, for the record, cost upwards of $20,000 and are completely out of reach for most people with disabilities." The fact is yes, these are expensive specialized prosthetics but the feet themselves are surprising affordable at cost. However, if insurance or out-of-pocket costs are too high, there are many organizations like CAF and Achilles International who can and do help. Defeatism and a poor attitude would be the main barriers to these feet, not the cost. If you want to run you can.

 “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” -- Albert Einstein

 *******

I can speak from personal experience here. Before I even knew what the cost would be for me to run again - and I was going to run again - I was contacted on Twitter by a group who proposed a charity run to raise money for my prosthesis. Later Scott Rigsby gave me one of his running feet to try out. My current leg was paid for by my insurance but I do know of other ways to obtain a running prosthesis if that was not an option. I can tell you a negative attitude would sink this ship on the spot. Wake up or go away you malcontents of personal despair and spiritual destruction.

Truly cynicism is cyanide to the spirit.

Every life is unique in this world; we are not a faceless community of cattle. That some are or become disabled is usually non-negotiable. You may not be able to control many elements of your life, but the person inside that is you, your attitude and spirit, is largely up to you. There is a choice to be made here, and I have always felt the one of negativity and criticism is the one to be avoided altogether. Run, run away from it.

It is possible that being a runner all of my life I have, pun intended, a leg up on understanding attitude. My early competitive days were generally spent near last place. What kept me from partaking of the sour grape vine? My love for running. First, last, or middle of the pack, I know not running is far worse for me. I never quit even when my broken body could go no further. There was a will. There was a way.




Images and video of Oscar running let me know what was possible. He inspired  me to, in effect, become disabled to enable my running again. This journey taught me about attitude and how incredibly important having a good one is, and how others react to being near it.

*******

We know there are terrible disabilities that many humans endure. No science or mystical words will improve their lives. But I have never, ever seen where taking a negative tact resolved anything other than to dig a deeper hole....or to enhance someone's self-inflicted fatalism. A bad attitude goes nowhere but down. If you choose to go there, fine, but don't rip your claws into those trying to climb up and improve their lives.
 
I never intended to be an inspiration to anyone. Being a runner all of my life, the only thing I wanted to do for all my life was run. That people see me now and often speak of my running as "inspirational" is not a thing I intended to do, but having once been an able-bodied runner I understand the sentiment. I know this: if we disabled athletes inspire or motivate someone to be active, and especially our peers who can see what is possible - then it is not just a good thing. It is a great thing. Anyone who chooses to disparage this has a personal agenda they are tending too.

To call inspirational pictures of individuals with disabilities doing amazing things as "porn" disgusts me. Oh, I understand how the term is used, and if used in a positive way then so be it. But it is being used to denigrate efforts and accomplishments as I see it, and I detest that "opinion" so much so that I found it hard to write this post.

If someone does not care for motivational posters of the disabled, what is the purpose of making it a contentious issue? Why call it inspiration porn? The answer, as nearly always, lies within.

*******

Here is my training partner, my inspiration for running the Boston Marathon next year. I never, ever lack for motivation anymore. I may be fatigued from a workout, but when I think of standing on that starting line in Hopkinton with my friends I am filled with such joy as to be overcome with emotion. I was told my running days were over and now I am going to run this legendary race.

What can't you do? Don't let them tell you, you show them what you can do. To those who think they can't, it's time to believe what you read.


"I run marathons not because I have Cerebral Palsy, but because I'm an athlete."

- Jason Pisano


Sunday, July 15, 2012

9 Months to Boston, Baby!

Boston Retro

The above pic is a running outfit Jennifer bought me many years ago as a present. I thought of it as an "elite" uniform, one I was a little self-conscious wearing since I did not fit in that category. I did wear it once at the Cooper River Bridge Run, but not in another race.

When I received it I told Jennifer "this is what I'll wear at the Boston Marathon one day." That day receded further and further as my old ankle degenerated and eventually caused my running days to end.

On occasion before that time I would wear the shorts on the treadmill just to remember what was once promised. After my surgery I would to think of what might be.

*******
 
Now, as a former biped, I hope to run Boston 9 months from today, on April 15, 2013. I say "hope" because as all runners know, things can and will go horribly wrong that can end a dream in the blink of an eye. Still, I will be doing all I can to prepare for this day, I feel at times that my entire running life as been aimed at this singular coming moment. Almost every time I think of it I am overwhelmed...just as I am now as I write this.

I do not know if I will wear this old outfit next year. It is a bit dated and I no longer wear tank tops as a matter of skin protection. Likely I will not, but I am wearing it today as I once again restart my training.

With my treadmill map set for the starting line in Hopkington, I will run the first few miles at a very slow pace. I will think of this day in the future when I am here, with Jennifer, guides Randy and Mike, friends Kelly and Shariff. I will be on that starting line thinking of one who is running with me, Jay, and one who will be waiting in Boston, Ashley.

We will all get there together. Every left footed step of the way.

9 months to deliver this baby.

What a day it will be.

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

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


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Cooper River Bridge Run Mobility Impaired Division - Or Not?

Terry Hamlin, Bridge Run Hall of Famer
On Wednesday, May 30, 2012, I found out yet again the Cooper River Bridge Run (CRBR) had not followed through on their promise - publicized here in Mount Pleasant Magazine and here by runner/news reporter David Quick. - to create a Mobility Impaired Division in the race.

"For the first time in 2012, the Cooper River Bridge Run will feature a Terry Hamlin Mobility Impaired Division."

We had been working toward this for years as readers of this blog are painfully aware. For 2012 there was to have been a division (not a team!), which simply had not come about. There was no division; disabled people could form a "Team" which anyone could do, like "5 Dudes Named Bob" or whatever. But not a separate division like the wheelchair race.

(The CRBR eventually did post the names of the first place finishers in the 2012 race. I am confident knowing how the sign up process was handled as the Mobility Impaired Team, that there was not a conclusive way to know all of the MI participants. I do think they did the best they could and probably did identify the correct "winners" after initially posting incorrect results. This award recognizes only those MI athletes with artificial limbs and is not inclusive of all mobility impaired runners.)

When I contacted the CRBR on Facebook, we were told "There is already a team created entitled "Mobility Impaired". Please register under that team name."

I felt like it was the movie "Groundhog Day" all over again. Frustration and infuriation were mounting. Controlling my anger, I wrote this:

There seems to be such a wide gulf between the able-bodied and disabled at times.

Once you remember we are all human beings and should be treated as such it should be easy. Sure there are differences but that does not make one innately superior to the other. Far from it, you will see things from the other side that most are oblivious to, and by actually listening you may find riches far beyond any *money* can buy.

I say this because once again the Cooper River Bridge Run considered the mobility impaired community to be less than worthy of a division, despite publicity to the contrary. I do take this affront personally, as once able-bodied and now as an amputee. You would think after all the past mistakes of prejudice and discrimination someone would have the intelligence to know better.

Let's hope doing the right thing still means something.

- Richard Blalock
Mobility Impaired Runner, Mt. Pleasant, SC

*******

I wrote many messages, with this one on the Cooper River Bridge Run Facebook page:

The team concept is not what was to be done, that was done in prior years and was a failure. No results were posted and few knew to even sign up for it. A Mobility Impaired Division would be similar to the Wheelchair Division. Check out the Boston Marathon for how they treat the Mobility Impaired Division. They do not give awards since mobility impairments vary (amputees, people with cerebral palsy, etc.) but they are recognized in the results in a separate division. Many progressive races do similar things.
 

(You can read can read about the BAA's (Boston Athletic Association) Mobility Impaired Division here.)

I also obtained specific contact information for the race organizers for someone at Achilles International, having had the great pleasure to speak to founder Dick Traum shortly after my amputation in 2009. Achilles would have the expertise and experience to help with the understanding and details of creating a Mobility Impaired Division.

Someone was driving me forward as I leaned into the wind. The Greatest:

PLEASE do this. We have many in the disabled community who will find a reason to show that, as my friend Jason Pisano proved every day of his life, that "Impossible is Nothing."

(Note: Jay would not be eligible for any MI award currently at the Cooper River Bridge Run. No one other than those with artificial limbs are included for for consideration. Discrimination is discrimination is discrimination. This is terribly wrong.)

*******

Much went on behind the scenes, some I was aware of but some, I suspect, that which I am not currently privy to. It was obvious that action was escalating; late in the afternoon I heard from Terry Hamlin:

MI Division is now set for 2013. Application will be fixed soon.

I went to the Active.com website and sure enough, there in bold print, was Mobility Impaired listed as a separate category. The downloadable paper entry was updated to include it a short time later. For some reason the wheelchair division does not appear on either but I was told it would be added soon. I have to say after the whole "Team" fiasco I would have preferred to see "Mobility Impaired Division" listed but I understand that is exactly what this is to be.

*******
I then wrote this:

This would not have happened without the effort and support of many people. David Quick has allowed the local community to see what we can do, Thomas Terry Hamlin, race co-founder and now amputee runner who made our voices heard, Larry Wiley was instrumental in setting up early meetings, Emily Becker Nolan and paratriathlete/runner husband Jeff Nolan kept the issue alive and kicking, and thanks for the near eternal patience of Jen Starrett Blalock for having to listen to my frustration. Many other friends like Madeleine Hirsch, whose father has MS, and knows what many obstacles the disabled face. It is a small victory that will allow many to find they are, indeed, the magnificent. Thanks one and all who commented and for the Cooper River Bridge Run for finally making this happen. You are going to see many small miracles next year.


*******

Yes, I was very happy this has finally come about. A bit sad it took such a mighty effort to get it done by many, but in the end, it is actions, not words, that matter.

The only element, and a huge one as far as I am concerned, has to do with MI awards; they will be ones for first place Male and Female: "Presented to first runner with artificial limbs." It is my strong opinion any awards would have to be equitable, and for this reason, it is nearly impossible to insure it since the physical challenges in this division are so far ranging. A 50 year old grandmasters runner with moderate to severe cerebral palsy will not be able to compete with a 20 year old former collegiate track champion with a prosthesis. Only very similar disabilities in the same age group would be fair, and our numbers are far too few to make this a realistic scenario.

The impairments and ages simply do not make for a level playing field. Therefore, like Boston, the names and times (and I would add ages) should be listed so those with similar disabilities can see how they did relative to their peers. But giving awards, without regard to disability, age, and gender is unfair in this division. This is not the Olympics where qualification is required to compete; but it is a world class event open to one and all. 

I will continue to make this point, but given the work that had to be done to get the division inaugurated, I hope it too will be modified as I have outlined. I believe the Boston model is best. The prizes being offered at the CRBR is meant to be a nice gesture and the old able-bodied me knows this; but given the inequities of the various disabilities, I believe it unfortunately is simply unfair to the athletes and cruel to those being excluded.

*******

Let us compete as the great, would-have-been mobility impaired runner Glenn Cunningham wrote:

"People can't understand why a man runs. They don't see any sport in it, argue that it lacks the sight-thrill of body contact, the colour of rough conflict. Yet the conflict is there, more raw and challenging than any man versus man competition. In track it is man against himself, the cruelest of all opponents. The other runners are not the real enemies. His adversary lies deep within him, in his ability, with brain and heart, to control and master himself and his emotions."

This gimp at the 2011 Cooper River Bridge Run
I still find it hard to understand why this has to be so damn difficult. What was the purpose in it? Was anything learned?

I learned something. When you know something is right, fight for it to the end. Never quit. Never give in and never give up. Impossible is nothing.

And lastly...do the thing that is right because...karma is patient.

*******

Since the 2013 CRBR is a little over a week before the Boston Marathon - my goal race - I am not sure if I will run it. If I do participate I cannot race it, Boston is too important to me to be racing when I should be in full taper mode. We'll see how the training has been going and whether or not I have any issues that need rest at the point. I have signed up to show my support for all of the mobility impaired athletes, but I have a real problem with this award. It is just wrong to discriminate against my fellow MI brothers and sisters.

In this division that demeans us all, good intentions or not.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Jato

Adversity forges iron into the finest steel.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Rawhide Part 3

Nearly healed
It has been more than 5 weeks since I first noticed a skin issue that looked suspiciously like a skin infection. Two rounds of antibiotics cleared much of the condition, but this Monday my skin was still quite red on the distal end on my residual limb, far too irritated looking for me to run.

I researched various skin problems and this sure seemed like cellulitis with an added measure of folliculitis. Given what further complications could arise from these conditions, I decided I must see a dermatologist. My family physician's office gave me a referral and I was able to see the Dr. Allison Morrison on Tuesday. Her office is across the street from where I work, also very close to Dr. Ohlson's office as well. (I should note I also called Dr.Ohlson's office; he was out of town but called in to say I should see Dr. Morrison too.)

At this point my leg is better but still bright red. Dr. Morrison says my diagnosis from my family doctor was cellulitis, but at this point she is not as certain. Skin issues are common with amputees, having their limbs housed in dark, insulated prostheses that are perfect breeding grounds for numerous critters looking for a meal.

Dr. Morrison prescribed clindamycin, and suggested testing a smaller area with hydrocortisone to calm down the inflammation. I was also told when cleaning my leg to use cool water. By Friday the redness had turned to a healthier pink, and my residual looks good enough now that I can resume running.

*******

It would be difficult to impossible to know for sure what caused this infection, but there is one thing that stands out. In the past I had used A&D ointment to provide the lubrication and protection between my skin and the polyethylene liner. Outside of some heat rashes and skin pinching that were largely resolved, I had not had any abrasions or other significant issues until I changed to mineral oil. This was done because the A&D was clogging my vacuum pump at times, rendering it inoperative.

When I was told to use mineral oil I was not sure which product to choose. I did ask for recommendations but did not receive any specific answer. I did see there was such a thing as medical grade mineral oil, along with the usual items you can buy at any drugstore. Since I was only looking at this from a lubrication point of view, I bought a couple of brands and began using it.

A couple of months after this switch I was treated for a skin infection that was quickly cleared up, so I didn't fret over it. However, with this next problem I began looking seriously to all things I had control over and what had changed, and using the mineral oil seemed more and more like the culprit. I have no idea how sterile the oil is, and being cheap, would be surprised if it was of high purity.

I had visited ProCare the previous weekend and was told to go back to A&D, that whatever problems were causing the clogged pump would be addressed. An additional filter should help trap excess ointment that passes through the system. Also I know I do not have to use as much ointment as I did in the past so that should help too. For whatever reason, I do seem to be sweating less in my liner. When I have been able to run, I haven't passed large amounts of fluid through my pump. We'll see how it does later this summer when my mileage comes back up.

My NO2 injection tank, a.k.a. new filter
*******

For the second time this year I will restart my running toward my goal of running Boston. Week before last I learned I would have a deferment for running Boston in 2013. My good friend and amp running compadre/mentor Kelly Luckett called me after Boston this year to let me know this news, but suggested I get it confirmed since we had conflicting information from the race website. I called the BAA and got official word to which I was overjoyed.

Given this latest setback I would have 8 weeks to go from 0 to a marathon. With my recent knee surgery, I really did not want to push it so soon, but I am determined to make it to the starting line in Hopkinton next year. Not unlike my belief that I had to run the Charleston marathon despite many setbacks up to and during that race, I have to be at Boston next year. Few things can stop me but those things in my control will be handled.

And starting today, June 23, 2012, I begin training for Boston. Again. Determined. 

It is a good day to run.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Rawhide Part 2

After 10 days on an antibiotic my skin is looking much better, though not quite fully healed. I haven't run the past week since I didn't want to irritate the skin further and possibly extend my recovery time. I had thought it would have healed quicker than this, but staring at it does not seem to expedite the process.

The dark and always sweaty running prosthesis is an enhanced breeding ground for fungus and, no doubt, other wee microbes who love to feast on opportunity's hide. As I've mentioned, I am religious about cleaning my prosthetic wares, but I will be even more vigilant from here on out. There is a good article on this topic here.

I bought a bucket large enough to soak both of my liners in a bleach solution, and will clean them even more diligently with antibacterial soaps, hydrogen peroxide, and rubbing alcohol. Also at night I will use an athlete's foot spray on the residual. Now isn't that ironic, getting athletes foot where I have no foot at all? Cute, running gods, and well played indeed.


The Ugly - June 1, 2012

The Almost Good To Go
*******

I still do not know if I will have to requalify for Boston, I will be checking on that next week again and see if someone will be kind enough to talk to me. If not, I have about 11 weeks until my next marathon, once again being woefully unprepared for a race. It will be a slow one and I only plan to get my rusting carcass across the finish line in one piece without further injury.

There are promises to be kept and I mean to keep them.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Rawhide Part One

Skin infection on residual
A couple of weeks before Memorial Day weekend I noticed a red spot forming along the incision line on the front of my residual. I am very conscientious about keeping my liners clean, using antibacterial soap, and immediately attending to any skin issues like the occasional pinched skin break. This wasn't an abrasion, so I knew I had to be careful.

"Good good good lookin' out our back door" (S&L Photography)

We had been to Devil's Fork State Park where Jennifer had grabbed a great deal for a villa by staying up to midnight earlier in the year to snag it. We had a restful weekend, and did a little hiking at Oconee Station to Station Cove Falls. It was rather warm though not yet as hot as will be in another month. With my new walking prosthesis and the Renegade AT foot, I was enjoying the ease I could traverse the hills and uneven ground. With my old arthritic ankle, I could have not done this without a great deal of pain if at all; now I look for roots and rocks to walk over it because it does not hurt anymore. I never get tired of doing this!

Station Cove Falls (S&L Photography)
Anyhow I was sweating in my liner, not unusual and less than I have in the past, but still not the best environment for what was already starting on my skin. Despite applying a topical antibiotic to the spot, it continued to get bigger, and more red spots radiated from it. Follicultis? When we got home I noted things were degenerating, and was able to see my MD on Tuesday afternoon. He treated my previous infection with an antibiotic that quickly cleared it up; this time he used a different one that I began that evening.

I continued to run, not wanting to lose the microscopic fitness gains I have made since my knee surgery. This is obviously slowing the healing process so I am taking time off until the infection clears up. I'm also looking into changing my cleaning protocol, sterilizing my liners more often, and asking my amp running friends what they do to help prevent the problem from occurring in the first place. I don't want this to become a chronic condition or worse.

It is couch surfing season again, something I have done through my surgeries and other bumps in the road on this new running journey. I am hoping to heal in the next week as we have a race on June 14 at Charles Towne Landing. This is a Thursday evening event I choose because it could serve as a tempo run for me, since my racing speed, such as it is, will not return for many more months. With a few more workouts I should be able to run without someone mistaking me for a static park display.

Come to think of it, I ran my middle-aged PR at this location many years ago...it will be a nice reunion with the old me there, to see how far we have come and how far we will go. A little older, a little slower, but more thankful than ever, that...I...can...still...fly.

Red wing and all.

*******

Update: One of my CPs believe this may be fungal so some athlete's foot type medication may clear it up and be an excellent preventative.