While running with Jennifer on Friday, I mentioned I had received an email from my friend Bruce who passed along the weather forecast for Boston this Monday. At that time it was going to be 80oF, quite warm for a marathon, where most runners prefer something south of 55o. I can acclimate to hot weather, since our climate is semi-tropical, but I am a poor hot weather runner even when I am use to it.
I thought out loud something like: "Well, if the running gods did not want me to run this year because of the heat, they could have chosen some other method than taking a bat to my knee." After a laugh I thought about it some more, I wondered what worse things could have happened and decided the present detour may have been the best. None of my past marathons with the exception of Myrtle Beach were run in hot weather, and the MB race was more warm and humid than hot. If I was at Boston and caught up in the excitement would I be smart enough to take the newly offered deferment option and run next year? I doubt it. Seriously doubt it.
As I write this the forecast is 59/87. This could put many runners into the broiler of heatstroke; and being among the toughest marathoners on this planet most will not think of not running. No doubt the book "Duel in the Sun" will be on some minds when Salazar and Beardsley slugged it out in high temperatures. This video is just truly awesome:
One thing I can say with a high degree of certainty is that I should not have run Boston this year. Even if I had been able to do enough pool running or perhaps had access to an Alter-G treadmill to be fit enough, I do not believe it would have been a wise move on my part to run a marathon on my surgically reshaped knee joint after 10 weeks.
We runners are a driven lot, and some will simply not back off when it is imperative to do so. I've done my share of those knuckleheaded decisions; fortunately I don't recall making any terrible mistakes like trying to run on a stress fracture or pushing through the pain of a sprained ankle...although I did do the latter when playing some hoops in my youth. The only thing worse is encouraging others to push through such injuries, to me that is a crime against the spirit of this great sport.
I have three friends running Boston on Monday. Many times I thought of how it would feel to stand on the starting line with them, wearing bib number 21661, in a surreal world exceeding any dreams I ever had of running.
These friends are Kelly Luckett, Shariff Abdullah, and Scott Rigsby. They did the work to get themselves to the starting line. This will be Kelly's eighth Boston Marathon, a tremendous achievement for any runner, but on a prosthesis I can attest this is far beyond the norm. This diminutive runner is nothing but the will to persevere; her husband Brian is a talented ultrarunner as well and we are richer for knowing them.
Shariff, aka the Singapore Blade Runner (SBR), will be the first person from his country running in the MI classification. I met SBR through Facebook, and I so wanted to greet him in person at Boston. Today I awoke to this post of his:
At RPC on Friday evening and collected the number bib 21663; Race Date: Monday 16 April 2012 at 9am in USA Boston (9pm Singapore) I, Kelly Luckett and Scott Rigsby will be running the MI category and we will start the first wave to inspire the World.
We will dedicate this run to bro Richard Blalock. Wish you are here. — in Boston, MA.
Later I heard from Scott:
Very excited about heading to Boston. Wishing my good buddy and fellow amputee runner Richard Blalock was going. He will be there next year!
These are the friends I have. Friends I would not have known had my life not taken this different road.
This is it.
Today is my ampiversary.
And whereas I miss one part of me, it in return gave me my life.
This past Saturday was the eight week mark since my knee surgery. On Sunday I ran 8 miles, and, for different reasons than the Seinfeld episode, it was spectacular...even with a single event.
My family has a history of heart disease. My grandfather died at 66, my dad at 62, and my brother just shy of 50. So when my cholesterol went north of 200, my doctor put me on a well-known statin. These drugs do come with side-affects, but death is more, uh, dramatic and somewhat limiting to my running goals.
Still, after reading a few articles about statins, I decided to try to control my propensity for high cholesterol by keeping closer tabs on my diet and by taking some supplements to fight this nasty fellow. No more statins for moi. I have to say I think this contributed to my good run on Sunday. Certainly I am stronger from PT and my running had a good base and is coming back, but I don't think these alone explain the sudden improvement I experienced.
I did two miles in the treadmill, then headed out for the remainder of my run. Almost immediately I found I needed to pull back from my pace, because I wanted to run 8 miles and didn't want to struggle at the end. Around 3.5 miles, I felt something like a bubble in my chest; I have felt this before and every time in the past when I checked my heart rate (HR) it was not higher or erratic in any way. Today it was going higher, from the around 140 bpm to 160 then 170...174...I have not seen these numbers since well before my first ankle surgery.
I stop. Two more beats higher. Somewhere, way over there, I think...could this be...then...
As quickly as it accelerated my HR drops, down in to the 120s and I start running again. This feels good...this is the why of why I run. Many people are out, I am struck by several children who say "Happy Easter!" I feel good. I see myself, outside of myself, running from above. Thinking about Boston. Of Santa Rosa. Of this great gift.
On my prosthetic planet I typically have 3 different legs I wear in a 24 hour period. One is for walking, one is for running - you might note I run a little, and one is for backup/convenience. I am going to write about each one, with the new walking leg finally getting some press since I haven't talked about it much.
The Prosthesis for Convenience aka "Old Paint"
My plastic slipper
This leg is from my previous prosthetist. I walked in it for perhaps a year or more as my everyday leg. With my longer residual limb, I do not have a suspension system employed in this leg, that is, nothing holds it on except the friction between the residual and the socket; there is no suction or even a sleeve required, just prosthetic socks to insure a snug fit.
The design is simple: thermoplastic socket and frame, an Ossur silicone liner, varying number of prosthetic socks, and the foot is a very good Freedom Innovations Renegade LP (low profile). It didn't need to be low profile, which has less energy return than full size, but that is another story. I ran some of my first races on this foot.
I can don (put it on) in less than a minute. If the house was on fire I could don it and escape. It's great for midnight kitchen raids or pit stops, and for walking around first thing in the morning before showering and dressing for the day. Also for travel it's great because in a tight airline seat my knees are jammed against the chair in front of me, and with this leg I can simply pull my residual out of it to have a little more room.
The downside is if I wear it for more than 30 minutes, sometimes less, I have to start adding prosthetic socks as my residual is squeezed like a tube of toothpaste; the fluid goes out of the anatomical leg and the volume decreases. The thing could fall off if I had to run or jump since it is only held on by friction. Lastly, the overall fit is not quite right. This is the same socket I ran some
races in, and it irritates the fibula head if I wear it for several
This is also why it and suspensions other than vacuum is less healthy for the limb; it is far less of a natural environment for the residual. Only vacuum systems like the Ohio WillowWood LimbLogic VS that I wear or the Otto Bock Harmony provide this outstanding feature.
Elevated vacuum does not work for all amputees, but for most transtibial (below the knee, aka BK or BTK) gimps like me it should be the suspension of choice in my opinion. It does take a dedicated CP to properly fit it, as considerations like keeping the system airtight is imperative in the prosthesis. The amputee must be educated to the advantages of elevated vacuum to offset what might be seen as inconveniences, particularly the longer donning/doffing processes.
These issues are largely solved by having a "convenience" prosthesis like Old Paint for times when donning/doffing the elevated vac is unreasonable, i.e. the aforementioned fire or the "I gotta go NOW!" 3 a.m. moment. Also if I am having my everyday leg worked on, I can wear this old thing and not lose my mobility.
I believe many who have other systems and particularly elevated vac need something like this that can be donned quickly. I did not have this prosthesis for a few weeks when I was first trying elevated vac and missed it every day. Now I have the best of both worlds and highly recommend this solution.
Although it sees less wear time than my other two legs, it definitely is a great convenience and I would miss not having it.
The Prosthesis For Running aka "Jato"
My right wingman
Here is my cool friend Jato. In the current iteration, Jato consists of these major components:
When I see other high level amputees using yesterday's technology because of other commitments like employment or because an organization requires them to use a particular prosthetist, well, that seems tragic to me. To settle for less than the best should not be the choice to make.
Is Jato perfect? No. No prosthesis is, but then again, neither is the anatomical body. The body remains the most incredible machine I know of, capable of healing itself from many injuries. Yet even the healing process may weaken it over time, or cause things like the very arthritis that rendered my old right foot deformed and painful.
I do know Stephen Schulte and his staff at ProCare never sit still, looking for ways to improve their products to help the disabled excel in life. And I am here to tell you now, my life has been richer since my amputation.
Originally we tried an Otto Bock Harmony pump, but the length of my residual limb meant the prosthetic foot had to be very low profile. That foot that felt awkward, did not have the rollover characteristics of my old foot, and was uncomfortable. With the more compact LimbLogic electric pump, I was able to use the newly designed Renegade A•T and wear a full height foot on my everyday prosthesis.
Holy cow was I impressed! For the first time I became UNAWARE of my prosthetic foot, the Renegade A•T is so natural and comfortable and a joy to wear. Rollover is entirely transparent to me; I remember thinking "if only my anatomical foot felt this good!" I believe this foot would be an excellent choice for running trails or other uneven surface where Jato is not as well suited to the terrain. I haven't tried this because the socket is not really designed for running.
As I've already mentioned, the elevated vacuum suspension system utilized in this prosthesis is key. Why is this so much better than any other suspension system? Because the residual limb is not squeezed, rather, uniformly pulled toward the socket, and as best I can tell, in similar position as a normal limb. An article appears here that discusses this giant step for amputees.
My limb is in a healthy environment and I rarely (meaning nearly never) have to adjust my prosthetic socks. Another huge plus is when set up properly, sweat can be removed from the prosthesis. In my old suction prosthesis this had been a huge issue for me. Now no more horrid Drysol or other anti-antiperspirants that made my skin far less healthy than normal. I have less issues like ingrown hair because the residual is not being compressed.
Socket comfort is usually outstanding, but after my recent meniscus surgery and subsequent return to running, I have felt some discomfort at the distal end of my fibula where the Ertl bone bridge is formed. This is in both my everyday and running prostheses. I believe the shape of my residual has changed some causing this, along with the fact there seems to be no specific loading on the end of my residual. Most "guillotine" amputees cannot tolerate load bearing in the end of their residuals; Ertl amputees can because of the nature of the procedure. That said, I have contacted my CP and we'll see if an adjustment is in order.
So there is my current lineup of right feet. These give me a life where I don't cringe at the thought of walking good dog Baxter to the field to play, or even to my vehicle to go to work. Prosthetics continue to evolve to improve the lives of people with limb loss. For me, running is a large part of my life, and that loss would be been the true tragic amputation.