Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Thousand Steps

From left, moi, Ashley, and James
Yesterday we finished up with the test socket fitting at ProCare. I had hoped to run 4 miles on the treadmill in the morning, but after 20 minutes I got a message that the internet was down at the office. Oh joy and happiness. So back to my room and laptop for some troubleshooting. With my appointment coming up, I packed up and headed out.

Even with the added stress of the office without net access, I could not lose my happiness in seeing our SuperStar friend Ashley. Her mom Carol, sister Emily, niece Mia, and friend James would join us for lunch.

I ran for another 20 minutes on the treadmill in the gym at ProCare to see if any of the initial sensitivity I often get in my limb would appear. It did not show up. Good. As in good riddance!

Next my "everyday" foot was installed on the test socket. I am having this prosthesis set up to double for trail running. The blade is not suited for some of the trail runs Eagle Endurance concocts like the Almost 9 Miler Trail Run. It is a fantastic course, many lowcountry vistas best experienced on foot, or rather feet. When Jato and I ran it, I spend most of my time planning my right footstep to miss a root or depression in the ground. I spent nanoseconds enjoying the views.

I ran over some roots on the side yard at ProCare, then over some loose gravel and rocks on a small rise near the drive entrance. Running on a blade and on a shoe are very different animals; the shoe definitely handles these terrain changes better, but is not as natural as blade running has become to me. I did my first running on a much less advanced prosthesis with a shoe, so although this felt a little odd it was not unexpected.


Just before I started this trail run test, Ashley arrived and they waited in the lobby while I finished up. Sometimes the thought comes to mind about how my life has changed, that my desire to run again had bought me to this place, to meet these people - these friends. I would not have been here today but for a lifetime of circumstances that brought me to this place, this now. How improbable that I was here, and how strangely blessed I was to be here, more than I could imagine.


We caravanned to a local restaurant and enjoyed a good meal. I was interrupted by work twice, but we finally resolved the internet issue so that was a relief. So good to hear old and new stories and, of course, the plans for Boston. Ashley's first race will be The Color Run on April 6. Since this is so close to the marathon we won't be attending, but I know it will be one fantastic day for Team Ashley. Join her team for this fun event if you can!


Started this Thursday off with another work issue, but since I don't go to ProCare until later this afternoon I wasn't pressured as much. We are getting near the finish line for the new prostheses, but I will be coming back in two weeks to make sure my new inserts fit and take care of any issues I may uncover as I continue my training.

I plan to participate in a walking and running study at Georgia Tech Friday evening and Saturday morning, then back to home later that day. It has been a great trip so far and one I really don't mind making in the least. We've had to work hard to make this happen, and soon I will have...magic legs. They will help me fly.

45 days to go.

Band of Brothers

Impossible is Nothing 

- Jason Pisano

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Dude Abides

Ready for a Twenty (S&L Photography)

Sunday was a scheduled 20 miler. It would be a marathon day in that I would be driving to Buford, GA, afterward so I could be there bright and early for my Monday appointment at ProCare. My confidence was better for this run, but knowing my leg could revolt at any time tempered my enthusiasm.

I began with 4 miles on the treadmill. After that I ran 7 miles with Jennifer, we had a good run and it was very nice to have some company for my longer effort. I rested for a bit after this, then headed out for the final 9. This went well, but as expected the later miles were tougher. From 17 on I was wishing I was finished and on my way to Georgia, the last mile was not exactly pleasant in Mount Pleasant.

After my shower I finished packing my bags which was mostly my prostheses and prosthetic supplies. My sweet wife prepared a treat bag for me, healthy snacks that I was so appreciative of during my trip and now here in Buford. Leaving around 6:30 pm, the traffic was far lighter and I-85, often a madhouse, was a leisurely cruise.

That evening when I doffed my prosthesis I was shocked to find I had bled a little from a small abrasion on the distal end of the tibia. Seemed I got in town just in time.


My CP Rachel worked with me most of today on my new running prosthesis. I have one area of intense discomfort that often goes nuclear and makes it either difficult or impossible to run. It often becomes apparent early in a run but if it happens later it can stop me in my tracks. If we can address and prevent this from happening I will be able to return to training without compromise. There is significant swelling around the distal end of my fibula and I hope to stop this from happening in the future.

Tomorrow I will be trying a new test running prosthesis. I am hoping we will be able to give some relief where I need it and proceed with the definite leg. I'd like to do a longer run on the new prosthesis before leaving ProCare, so we can address any minor issues right away.


I may be doing a running and walking gait study at Georgia Tech later in the week. This is the same place where Getting2Tri has camp every year, so I am somewhat familiar with the campus. I am in reasonable though not top shape, still, it will be interesting to go through these tests and see what my results are.


After this week I will have 4 weeks of training remaining, then the taper. The Boston Marathon is just 48 days away. I go through periods of disbelief that I will be running it, and extremely emotional moments when I think of being there and actually running it. I often think of everyone who has made this possible; today I was thinking it is not a small army, rather a very large one who has helped get me to that starting line in Hopkinton.

But I must thank once again Dr. Blake Ohlson, who believed in me and my dream and has always been available to help me run down this most incredulous path. I never grow tired of telling the story of when he told me: "Dude, I'm afraid your running days are over," to performing the very operation that brought me back to my running life.

The dude abides.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pre Valentine

I received The Call today, appropriately from a nurse at BC/BS.

My appeal was successful, I will be getting my new legs: a new running prosthesis and a new socket for my everyday leg.

I could hardly finish speaking to the nurse and my mind left the planet as she was telling me my prosthetist would be contacted. I had prepared myself for the worse, knowing I had to be ready for a denial...I could not let it crush me. Suddenly that massive boulder moved. And it moved off my shoulders and floated away, lifting the stress and uncertainly from my mind and heart.

Jato will be prepared for our greatest challenge yet, the battle that will be Boston. I won't have to entertain the thought of walking to the starting line on crutches to avoid irritating my leg before the race. I will be ready.

Thank you Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina. I believe I will be the first amputee from our great state to run the Boston Marathon. Thank you for understanding how the past year's issues caused my need for new prostheses; know that you will see what this means to me, to all of us, on April 15. It will be a day like no other.

And once again thank you my many friends, most whom I would have never come to know without the path adversity set before me. Your support and personal efforts by many helped bring this day into the light.

From all that I am, thank you.


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

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

Monday, February 11, 2013

Two zero!

I did it. 20 miles. 10 on the treadmill while watching "Rocky IV" and then a segment of "Into the Wind." I suited up with the Camelbak and ran 10 more on the roads. It went a little better than I expected; I kept a slow pace and stopped for a few moments every mile to gather myself. I also started taking my gels every 3 miles which tells you how slow I was going.

Around mile 19 my leg started to crave some attention, but it wasn't loud enough to stop me. It feels very much like a friction burn going on. My guess is it is the tissue moving over the bone with the sensation coming from inside my leg, not on the skin's surface.

I did finish strong if not fast, and held onto the mailbox for a few moments thinking of my accomplishment, of what I was training for. Of Ashley and our dream to stop FOP. It occurs to me now this was the very spot I decided to run for the IFOPA before the Charleston Marathon. I thought of The Greatest and how I would be running with his brother and Mike in April. I thought of Jennifer being able to run with Kelly on the same day. And I thought again of what I have been through to make this happen. It overwhelms me.


Today I hope to hear BC/BS has approved my appeal for new prostheses. It could be later this week but I was told I would get a call today. I am managing my feelings, mainly because although my current socket hurts at times, it is not stopping me in my tracks at this point since I lowered my mileage and adjusted my training. My biggest workouts are over the next 6 weeks and I do worry that it could cause trouble at any time. Some longer workouts I feel I must do to be able to run the marathon without blowing up and I can't replace them with shorter runs.

Assuming I am approved, I will contact ProCare and see when they will be able to schedule me in. This will be a little tricky with my current workload and training plan but of course I can adjust my priorities.

If denied then on to Plans B, C, and D - possibly concurrently. I am dearly hoping that we can move on and not have to continue this process, but that is out of my hands. 

So now I wait.

And hope.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Two oh!

In an hour or two I will be starting my first 20 miler of my Boston training. I should have already had two in the books, but considering this time last year I was recovering from knee surgery with my Boston dream settling in the dust it's all good.

I ran a 19 miler back in December and 18.5 miles last week. Still, 20 miles is a milestone in marathon training, and it has been over a year since I ran one. My confidence has swung back and forth while thinking of this run today. Mentally I believe I can do it, physically I believe I can do it, prosthetically it is not possible to know if I can do it.


This past week our company's insurance agent arranged a conference call with our HR person, the director of insurance appeals, and myself. I should receive an answer on my prostheses next week. At this point nothing is certain due to the process that must be followed by BC/BS. However, the situation does not appear to be written I will be flatly denied, which does give me hope and eases my anxiety.

If denied then we will definitely fight on, but more delays at this point may mean I will not have the leg in time for Boston. On the plus side I have been able so far not to let this distract me, as I've mentioned negative thoughts can destroy a run with ease. While I am compromising my training with the ill-fitting socket, my mileage with 2 shorter runs many days is still reasonable if on the low side. The big question remains doing the long runs and longer interval sesssions; so far they have not returned me to crutches after those workouts.

My rough plan today is to do 4 miles on the treadmill, 6 miles (possibly with Jennifer) in the hood, then 10 miles to complete the 20. The weather will be very pleasant so shorts, short sleeves and sunscreen will be the garb, blissful compared to our New England friends in and around Boston who have just experienced a blizzard.

Nemo Visits Boston 2013 (Photo: Kim Gulko)
Time to get off the couch and prepare for battle. This will take most of the daylight hours now and I hope my next update will be about a successful 20 miler.

It is a good day to run!

63 days to Boston!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Waiting Room

This past week brought no news about my insurance appeal. Our agent is unable to get a response from the company, so I can't make any plans to get new prostheses. Because I have well learned that you must hope for the best but plan for the worst, I am looking into my next steps should the appeal be denied.

On Twitter I wrote: I read they can take up to 60 days to review. At least my appeal wasn't immediately rejected, hope is my drug of choice.

This week was been a planned easier segment in my training. I spent yesterday redoing my schedule, planning four 20 mile runs and alternate weeks of shorter marathon pace efforts. There are only 70 days to the race, with the taper taking the last 14.

If my appeal is successful, I will have to travel to ProCare to get my new prostheses. I am not sure if it will take one of two trips to get the process done. Since it has been several months since my initial test socket, it may need to be redone. Parts will need to be ordered, everything put together and then final adjustments based on my input.

Not unlike changing running shoe models, it sometimes takes several weeks in the new prosthesis before small issues make themselves known, issues that can cause blistering, skin abrasions, or worse. Whereas the foot has fat pads and the ability to callus to protect itself, the residual's skin  was never designed to be used as a foot. It can toughened somewhat from continuous irritation, but usually only in areas where the fit is bad.

Trying to fit this into my schedule will be challenging and would have been completely avoided had my claim been approved last November. Being pragmatic, I will have to wait and not let any negativity adversely affect my running. Outside of an injury and sometimes far worse, having negative thoughts can make running a disaster. When my leg is hurting I do get frustrated, knowing the source of the pain is completely avoidable. It is a test when the answer, not running, is not the answer.


Aside from the prosthetic issue, it was a very, VERY good week when members of TeamPisano stepped up with several donations for the IFOPA. Those who knew The Greatest were asked by Randy to help, and help they did. Sue, Colleen, Kim, and Heidi all pitched in and moved the progress bar several notches toward our goal. You can join these warriors here.

"Go Jay Go! You changed my life. And we love you."
- Kim's tribute to Jay

I will have the great honor to meet many of these heroes over marathon weekend. Running with Randy, having many along the course cheering, see how this day continues to grow brighter in my mind, and why I can let nothing stop me. And nothing we stop us. Because

Impossible.       Is.       Nothing.