Saturday, May 31, 2014

Four



In my dream we have run a long, long way. A lifetime. We have been this way before but never this far.

Time moves where it once stopped.

We push beyond into the unknown, where we go under, not over the bridge. Voices of thousands aloft in the air. Life vibrates, ringing. Lifting.

Shouting.

I am.

We. Are.

We turn right. Pain falls away.

Faces are many deep. Ahead I see one more. One more turn.

Left. The weight of the miles falls away.

I am lighter than air.

I stay left. Was it here, I think, as we move past. 

I glance up, to the side, unsure where I am, this place of dreams. I think of them, the lost, the beloved.

And here...was it here...

Up go my arms, my wings, I hear only the wind. They flutter away, released from this place.

Time will not slow, it will not stop, it moves and moves and moves and we cross over, we who live in this place. This now.

We stop, returning to this earth.

They circle and are gone

where we all go

into forever


Boston Marathon - April 21, 2014


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Kelly Luckett - Amputee Trailblazer


Kelly's CAF Trading Card!

We first met Kelly at the Getting2Tri camp in March of 2010. I had read some articles about Kelly and had looked forward to talking to her about amputee running. Kelly has been an amputee for most of her life, far longer than anyone else I knew. She has been a mentor to me and helped with all the questions I had about running Boston as a Mobility Impaired Athlete over the years.

There is a wonderful article written by Kelly in the American Coalition of America's InMotion magazine here about the Boston Marathon. Kelly talks about the race last year from the unique perspective of an amputee who will be running her 10th consecutive Boston.

Hope you enjoy this special blog interview about a great friend and runner, Kelly Luckett!

*******

You lost your foot at age 2 and you've told me you don't really recall not being an amputee. Probably the best known amputee runner at the time was Terry Fox. How was life as a child amputee?

As a child amputee, in the 1970's, I never knew another amputee, neither another child nor an adult.  I'd hear stories from people about their uncle or grandfather or whomever they knew wore an artificial limb, or an "appliance" as they would often call it (seriously, some older people at that time used to call a prosthetic limb an "appliance", and it would always give me an amusing image of someone wearing a washing machine on their leg!). 

Sadly, I never heard of Terry Fox until I was well into adulthood.   

The term "amputee" was actually pretty foreign to me until I was in high school, and even then, I did not feel any connection to that term.  I'm not completely sure why my family never used that term with me, but they didn't.  We just referred to my prosthesis as my "artificial limb" and there was never any label assigned to me.      

My parents did not put limits on me of what physical activities I could try, so I was active in Girl Scouts with hiking and camping trips, climbed trees, went ice skating, played all the usual games with kids in the neighborhood, etc. 


Many amputees find sport after losing a limb, like triathlon. What were you thinking when you first began running? What was the most challenging thing or things you had to work through?

What was I thinking when I first began running?  I was thinking I was just going to run the Peachtree Road Race 10K and that would be the longest distance I'd ever do!  It's very funny to look back and remember that 10K seemed like such a long distance to me then, and I had no idea I would end up doing ultramarathons. 

When I first started running to train for the Peachtree Road Race 10k, I remember thinking that maybe it was a mistake.  Maybe it was ridiculous to think that I could run 6.2 miles with one leg.  I told Brian of my doubts, and he told me to just try it, that it wasn't ridiculous, and that the worse thing that could happen is that I'd have to slowly walk to finish the race.  With his support and confidence in me, I kept training and not only did I finish my first race, all 6.2 miles, but I finished it running!  Little did I know that I'd somehow end up running marathons, 50Ks and races as long as 24 hours, and using walk breaks in those races is not uncommon and is acceptable!  

The most challenging things I had to work through when I first started running were really the same things that all new runners have to figure out, such as what to wear, what shoes work best for me (errr, “shoe”!), what to eat and when, and how to build up my mileage, etc.  I really did not have much in the way of challenges of running with a prosthetic leg, other than I only had a walking leg/foot for the first few years and it was much more difficult to have an efficient running gait with a walking leg than with the Cheetah running blade that I have now.     


Boston 2013 was so tragic, and 2014 will be your 10th consecutive year running the race. What are your feelings on this year's race and the personal milestone you will reach there?

Brian and Kelly at Boston 2011
I have tremendous emotional pain from the horrific tragedy of the 2013 Boston Marathon, knowing that innocent lives were lost, including a child, and that people were injured and lost limbs.

I am hoping that the 2014 Boston Marathon will be a celebration of the human spirit and the ultimate example of "Boston Strong".  l hope it will help with the emotional healing for everyone affected.

For me, being back in Boston and running the marathon will be very emotional. I do not expect it to provide closure, since I personally do not think there is closure to such a traumatic event, only acceptance of what happened and strength to continue with our lives the best as we can.   

This will be a milestone marathon for me, since it will be my 10th consecutive Boston Marathon.  I was stopped at last year's marathon on Commonwealth Ave at the Massachusetts Avenue tunnel.  The only part of the course BethAnn and I had to cover before crossing the finish was to run through that tunnel, then the legendary "right on Hereford, left on Boylston".  But we were stopped, and at that time had no idea of the unspeakable events that had happened and the damage that was caused.  Not getting to cross the finish line was completely insignificant compared to the lives lost and horrific injuries.  

To cross that finish line in Boston this year will be bittersweet.  I’ll be thinking of those who were injured, the first responders, and the families and friends of those who were killed.  Martin, Krystle, Lu, and Sean will often be in my thoughts during the marathon, as they have been this past year.

Since I have a unique empathy for those who lost one or both legs, I will continue to have them in my thoughts, and I hope the 1-year anniversary of the bombings and this year’s marathon will be a milestone for them, to help continue their emotional healing and transition to the next chapters in their lives.


Since your husband Brian will be your guide this year is he excited to share this with you? Will you continue to extend your Boston streak?

TNF Endurance Challenge 2013
Brian is excited to share this year’s Boston with me, since it will be such a significant year, not only for my 10th consecutive Boston, but to remember those who lost their lives and honor those who were injured in last year’s bombings.

It’s also exciting that this will be my 10th year being sponsored by Challenged Athletes Foundation, who has given me a grant to help cover my expenses to every single Boston Marathon I’ve done.  To add to the excitement, this will be my first year running Boston as a Hanger Clinic Patient Advocate!  I’m honored and proud to have earned a sponsorship from Hanger Clinic.  I had thought for a while that 10 Boston Marathons might be enough, that I should move on and try different races that time of year.   Now that I’ve been given the opportunity to represent Hanger, I’m planning to continue my Boston streak for a while longer, to represent both CAF and Hanger Clinic, as well as to enjoy running Boston a few more times.


Do you find yourself thinking of anything more often during runs?

I think of so many things while I’m running, but sometimes I just zone out and think of nothing at all.  I’m often trying to enjoy the scenery while I run, and to also be aware of my surroundings to avoid any trips, falls, collisions, or other problems.  I’ll often think about my mileage, pace, and breathing, and I try to do the math in my head of when I should finish, how many miles I have left, or when is the next time I need to have an energy gel or whatever I’m planning to eat for calories and electrolytes.  

When running gets tough on the longer runs, I think about people who inspire me, who do more than I do with less physical ability than I have.   I also think about the people who tell me that I inspire them, and that I don’t want to let them down.  I want to live up to whatever it is they think I am.  

What most people don’t know is that I always pray on my long runs.  I always thank God for specific blessings (including people) in my life, and then I pray for all the things I want to ask Him for.  I’m usually praying for friends who are going through a hard time, or have asked for prayer for a family member, etc.  Even friends and family who are doing ok, I ask God to protect them and watch out for them.  It probably goes without saying that I’ve done a lot of praying this past year for everyone affected by the bombings.


Any favorite memories of past races or training runs?

Rails-To-Trails 50k Finish Line
My favorite memories of races and training runs are the ones I did with friends.  Even though I almost always train on my own, and often run races by myself, the times I’ve run with people I enjoy are my favorites.  Some examples are the very long training runs I did when I lived in Atlanta, while training for a 50-mile race and a 24-hour race.  One of my very favorite running buddies when I lived in Atlanta was Holly, who would always join me for at least a few miles, often more, and I could always count on her if I needed good company on a run.  She helped me run 42k around Stone Mountain on the 42nd anniversary of when my foot was amputated in a lawnmower accident! Also, Anne and Drina, who were always willing to say yes to a 20, 30, or even a 40 mile run!  Anne and I ran the Silver Comet trail all the way from Smyrna to somewhere past Rockmart for 30-something, maybe 40 miles one day in 2010.  Good times!

Favorite memories of races that I’ve done with friends include every marathon I’ve run with BethAnn, which includes the several times she has run the Boston Marathon with me as my mobility impaired guide.  Her daughter, Mia, who I also consider a friend, ran the 2012 Boston Marathon with me as my guide, in the 2nd hottest year in Boston Marathon history!  Mia was melting from the heat but never gave up and made it with me to the finish!  I also ran with Mia in her very first marathon, so we’ve had some wonderful marathon memories.  More recently, I ran the last 11 miles of the Savannah Rock n Roll Marathon with Nancy, a Savannah runner friend, in her first full marathon.  I enjoyed every minute with her, and it was such a wonderful experience to see her very first marathon finish, knowing she had trained so hard.

Another favorite race memory is the Savannah Rails to Trails 50k in 2012.  My friend Jennifer ran the 25k (she won 2nd place!), then hopped on her bike and rode alongside me for most of the last half of my 50k.  I hadn’t finished a 50k in a couple of years, so it was a personal accomplishment for me as well as a lot of fun with Jen.

Of course, races I’ve run with my husband, Brian, are some of my favorite race memories.  He has run with me as my guide for several Boston Marathons, as well as running with me in the Iron Horse 50 mile and FANS 24-Hour race.

Last but not least, one of my favorite race memories is my very first race, the Peachtree Road Race 10k in Atlanta, July 4th, 2003.  It’s what started this whole crazy running thing I love!


We both know the story of the great Jason Pisano, the West Warwick runner who, despite having CP and only the use of his left foot, completed 52 marathons in his running chair. You did see him run at Boston. As the years go by, can you tell me how seeing Jay at Boston made you feel? Did you ever speak?

Seeing Jason Pisano at the Boston Marathon was one of my favorite highlights each year.  He and his two guides were truly a team and it was obvious they were pros at this marathon thing!  To say that Jay was an inspiration to me is such an understatement.  He made me realize that what we perceive as a challenge is all relative to our experiences.  I thought I had a difficult time running 26.2 miles with “only one foot”; Jay pushed himself backwards for 26.2 miles, including those hills, with only one foot!  Whenever I saw him at Boston and thought about him at other times, I’d remember that if Jason Pisano could have the determination to do marathons the way he did them, then I could push through the tough miles of my marathons with a prosthetic leg.  He had such a presence, such a shining example of how strong the human spirit can be.

I only spoke to him a few times, very briefly, to introduce myself the first time I saw him before the start of the Boston Marathon, and to say hello when I’d see him each year.  Some years at Boston, the school gym (the staging area before the marathon for the wheelchairs, handcycles, and mobility impaired runners) was so crowded I didn’t make it over to where he and his guides were to say hello.

Tell us why guides for MI and VI runners have come to have "Guide" bibs worn on their fronts and backs as I believe you had something to do with this!

 The "Guide" bibs are worn on the guides' back in addition to their front so that when the faster runners catch up to and are passing a Mobility Impaired or Visually Impaired runner, they see the word "GUIDE" on a bright yellow bib and instantly know to be alert for a runner who may possibly be running more slowly than typical Boston Marathon runners, or not be able to see them if they cut in front of them.  This is very helpful to avoid collisions or other problems.  Because many MI runners get an early start time at Boston, the faster runners catch up to us in a few miles and pass us, and it can potentially be a bad situation if we impede their progress by being in their way.  They could trip and/or we could be knocked down, and no one wants either of those things to happen.

  The first year I had a guide run with me at Boston (my friend BethAnn, in 2007; I ran my first two Bostons without a guide), only one Guide bib was given to her to pin on her front, just like a race number.  Unfortunately, 2007 was the year of the Boston Marathon nor'easter, with enough rain, wind, and cold that the BAA almost cancelled the race.  Because of the weather, I wore running pants for the marathon.  During the marathon, no one could see my prosthetic leg since I had it covered with pants, and even though the Cheetah blade looks much different than a foot with a shoe, the runners were not able to see it in the sea of legs.  I am not a fast runner (I qualifying for Boston with the MI qualifying time), and I use the Jeff Galloway run/walk in my training and most of my races.  Therefore I'm at a much slower pace than most Boston Marathoners.  A few of the faster (and less kind) runners yelled "Get off the course!" to me as they passed me, because I was slower and they apparently did not realize I was one of the MI runners.  They couldn't see my prosthesis, and I'm assuming they thought I was a bandit, or one of the charity runners who started in a wave/corral sooner than I was supposed to.  Either way, I realized then that it was important not only to let the other runners know I had a right to be on the course, but to also make sure they had some indicator to let them know they were coming up on a slower runner.  My top priority when I run Boston is to make sure I am in no way impeding the other runners.

The following year at Boston, when I picked up my race packet, I asked if we could have two Guide bibs, so that my guide (my husband, Brian, that year) could wear one on his back as well.  We explained what happened the prior year.  We were given two Guide bibs, and it worked perfectly!  Since then, the BAA has required that the MI and VI runners' guides wear the Guide bibs on both the front and back of their shirts.


If someone was putting music to your amputee running soundtrack, what would it contain?

Runnin' Down a Dream by Tom Petty, Run Like Hell by Pink Floyd, and Long May You Run by Neil Young


One More Mile!


Sunday, April 6, 2014

A Good Day to Run. A Good Day to Live.


I had a good long run today, 15.25 miles with 4 on the treadmill and the rest on my favorite "Boston Marathon" course that takes me from Alhambra Hall to Charleston and back via the Ravenel bridge.

Rain had been in the forecast for this morning and I had planned to run outside whether it was wet or not and would wear warmer clothes if needed. Normally I don't mind running in the rain at all, but given a bit of soreness in my left calf I have been taking no chances on making it worse. As I begin my active taper my mantra is "don't do anything stupid."

I woke up at 5 a.m. Usually on the weekend I sleep until at least 8, catching up from the long weekdays where I sometimes run twice, before and after work. But I woke up as if to an alarm this morning and knew I would not be able to go back to sleep. I immediately was aware of the silence - no rain - so got up and checked the weather. No rain until around noon. Well now, a window of opportunity!

I fed the livestock - good dog Baxter and good cat Lexie - and enjoyed a bagel with peanut butter and banana, a staple in my running diet. After about an hour and a half I got dressed, hopped on the treadmill, and did 4 miles while watching a DVR of F1 qualifying on TV.

I've found it is almost always at least 5o cooler at the harbor than at home, so I made sure I took some warmer clothes to Alhambra Hall at old Mount Pleasant. Good thing too, because when I arrive in my short sleeve top it is much cooler and I change into a long sleeve top.

I check the forecast one more time the rain chance has gone from 0 to about 50%. Yeah, these climate guys really generate confidence...not that I blame them, but I do. :)

Well, it’s just after breakfast
I’m in the road
And the weatherman lied

- Paul Simon

*******

The run goes quite well, more like I expected last week's run would be. What is absolutely wonderful is there are far fewer people about. The Cooper River Bridge Run was on Saturday and apparently few wanted a redux which was fine with me. My pace was good, less than 30s over marathon pace (MP) for the entire run. 

The wind was at my back on the way out, but seems stronger and in my face on the return trip with a few light showers. Stiff wind is very distracting because I am not as stable on my prosthesis since I have no calf muscle for balance. I feel like walking on a high wire that far above the harbor and have to be careful not to topple over.

I finish strong, running the last three miles at MP or a little better and finish for a total of 15.25 miles. I recover quickly and feel the way I hoped I would, tired but not exhausted. A grackle flies close overhead and lands in the live oak that serves as my start/finish line and calls out. I take her picture below. I know, difficult to see but I do like the photo.


I remembered Jennifer called the grackles "angel birds" after seeing the movie "City of Angels." We had grackles in our backyard making the raucous racket they are known for and were irritating me. She said, well, what if they are angels and you are chasing them off? Well now, that won't do. Ever since that day I no longer find their song quite so aggravating. I think of them as...angel birds.

*******

I walk under a magnolia, enjoy the view of Charleston Harbor, and with the light rain falling think what a wonder today - this moment - is. Small miracles. So perfect. So fleeting.

I go home, shower, and sleep.

In two weeks I will do this, get up, and run the 118th Boston Marathon.

And fly with angels.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Every Day

Less than four weeks to the 118th running of the Boston Marathon. In a turn of events, Randy Spellman and Mike Lenhart, my guides for last and this year, will not be able to run with me at the same time. Randy has graciously said he would start with me as he has had many finishes with The Greatest, Jason Pisano. Mike will take over as copilot around 20k and run with me to the finish.

I will continue to train hard for the next two weeks and then begin an active taper. There will be much going on the weekend before the marathon but most everything is within a short walking distance and not more than a couple of blocks. Lots of old and new friends to see.

And, at my third attempt, I hope to finally cross this:



To have my sweet wife Jennifer there, to see John Ryan and Kristen and running partner Jack and his brother "I Henry!" and so many friends along the course, to remember all that was and all we are, it will beyond the parts that make it the greatest footrace on our blue planet.

It will honor those we lost and those who remain. With every step, every breath, every heartbeat:

We.       Are.       BostonStrong!


Day of Magic

Magic Shirt
Sunday I ran just over 21 miles. I mapped out a route which should have made 22, but as I approached my finish line short I was not willing to push through. I had been doing my best to keep a certain pace and felt I had done enough. "Listen to the body, knucklehead." I get it.

Once in a while a long run goes extremely well, the kind of effort you'd love to bottle and uncork on raceday. Some are real stinkers where you struggle and possibly curse (who, me?) to get through. And some if not most are hard but you get them done, pushing through highs and lows. That was my Sunday run.

I did 9 miles at home then headed to Alhambra Hall to start the remaining 13. I was attempting to run not more than one minute slower than my planned marathon pace (PMP) and largely succeeded, slowing on the steep uphill climb of the Ravenel Bridge that roughly would come where the Newton Hills will begin at Boston.

*******

Jason Pisano and The Boston Strong Ducks
Before I had started this run I was sitting in my vehicle searching for a plastic bag for my phone. I had a Boston Strong Duck with me (I have 3 total) as I did not want to miss a chance to pass it along. It was one of those feelings that kept nagging at me, I need this bright little yellow fellow to fly with me today. I finally located a bag so I was all set. On the card I wrote (as memory serves) "In honor and memory of The Greatest, Jason Pisano."

I usually make a pit stop at the base of the bridge and did so this day.

As I began walking I noticed a man on a bike with a child seated behind him, little guy maybe 3 years old. We start talking and the dad asks me about my prosthesis, how I came to lose my foot, and where I went for my legs. He then said he'd like to get a running foot for his son and that's when it was clear his boy was a right foot amputee, same as me.

I immediately thought of the duck in my hydration pack and asked if I could give it to his son. "Oh, he likes ducks!" and I passed the gift from someone else's hands through mine into his tiny ones. They were heading back into Charleston and needed to go before I could get his son's story. What I received was a smile and a full heart as I ran on.

Small miracles.


Monday, March 17, 2014

Boston Strong Ducks!


Last week I tried to buy a Boston Strong Duck but had difficulty completing my transaction. I messaged them and they are sending me a duck to do what they talk about here (from their website):

Boston Strong Ducks was created because like so many others, I felt helpless and sad by the bombings that took place April 15, 2013 at the Boston Marathon. I wanted to do something. It needed to be uplifting when there was so much sadness, hurt and pain. Tiny little ducks helped Newtown, CT children as they took their first steps to returning to school after suffering enormous loss and tragedy. Ducks are not only cute, but they are very much a part of Boston. This is how the duck was chosen to be the one to travel and carry our message.

I started sending out 100 ducks with the positive Boston IS Strong message to facebook friends. Now, that 100 ducks has turned into 1000 ducks and that message has started traveling around the globe. People around the globe can take a picture of the duck and post it on our facebook page.  We can all connect in a positive way. Boston Strong ducks can be passed along with the message BOSTON IS STRONG, we will get back up and we will do it together.

Please share so everyone can show support!

*******

I had been thinking where I would leave my duck, maybe even dropping it in the Atlantic Ocean to go where the currents would take it. But once told they would send me a duck, I thought how special it would be to pass the message to someone along the course to from Hopkinton to Boston on April 21, perhaps on Boylston where I could honor those not with us.

My brother Mark had a pet Duck named "Henry" which bonded with him and lived a long life. I intend to name my Boston Duck "Henry" and add Jay Pisano's message to be passed along.

Is it strange or not at all how life moves through us, beyond us, beyond our circumstance? It simply is. It is our choice to make it better. These ducks do exactly that, a gift of BostonStrong love to be shared, to make life better.

Together.



Saturday, March 15, 2014

25402


I have received my bib number for the 2014 Boston Marathon, 25402. I believe I am the only MI (Mobility Impaired) runner from South Carolina, and along with three VI (Visually Impaired) runners we will represent these categories for our state. I didn't see any HC (Handcycle) or Wheelchair (WCO) entrants from SC.

One step closer to the starting line in Hopkinton. One step close to that finish line on Boylston.

One more.


We ALL Are BostonStrong!


Last year I made inquiries without success as to why the Mobility Impaired Start was not listed on the website on Marathon Monday. I never received any response on either Facebook or Twitter. I couldn't understand why this was happening, why the disabled seemed on one hand be embraced by the race but on the other ignored.

As the 2014 race approached I again made some requests that the Mobility Impaired start be listed on Marathon Monday. Still silence. Todd Civin saw my requests and took it up with the BAA. Todd, who wrote "One Letter At A Time" along with Dick and Rick Hoyt, is a sincere and dedicated friend to the disabled. He is the Senior Acquisitions Editor / Sales Manager at Mascot Books and Owner / CEO at Civin Media Relations.

Turns out the BAA considered that start time only for mobility impaired (MI) runners with expected finish times of 6-8 hours and other, faster MIs would get confused thinking they would start at nine too. I didn't really get that since it is clear in our mailings and registration that MI athletes with slower times start early and other go into corrals with faster times.

To clarify, the MI athletes have a category but it is not an awards division race at Boston. Times are listed fastest to slowest but there are no trophies or any special recognition. I think this is a good idea, because disabilities vary so much, and coupled with age groups, there is no easy way to provide fair and competitive groupings. Still, I feel someone like Jason Pisano should get special recognition for his Boston accomplishments, which transcends what any age group winner could muster as well as most elites.

Given what happened last year I did not feel comfortable pressing this issue home when Todd do not receive a positive response. And then on March 10 when I checked the website there it was, The Mobility Impaired Start of the 118th Boston Marathon. I am sure my jaw dropped and I as I excitedly posted the news to Todd and the world.

So there it is, one small step for...the 118th running of the Boston Marathon for the Mobility Impaired runners. Just then I thought it would never happened...one more small (inclusive) miracle.


Friday, March 14, 2014

State Run

Last weekend Jennifer and I traveled up to Columbia, SC, our state capital for the Run Hard Columbia Marathon Weekend. I was looking to run the half marathon at my planned marathon pace (PMP or MP) on this hilly course in preparation for April 21. Although Boston is net downhill, it does roll and the uphills of Newton are legendary not so much for the steepness as for where they appear on the course.

The day started a bit on a bad foot as a careless driver ignored the pedestrian crossing sign and pulled in front of a group of us crossing the road, so close I didn't have to reach far to slap the rear panel as it went by and give him a greeting I will not repeat here. The driver kept going but then stopped, not sure if he was mad at me or thought he may have struck someone. Ugh, HR and BP up, not a good way to start a race.

Once underway I was able to run at MP without starting too fast despite some early downhills. There seemed to be few flat stretches, which was fine with me as I wanted the training stimuli. I tried to keep better posture which I have been working on since last year's Boston. Although it was around 35o at the start, I warmed up quickly and wished I had just worn a short sleeve shirt.

I have run under 2 hours for a couple of flat half marathons, but I was making sure I ran at MP on this rolling course. There were some challenging uphills and my right hip flexor started bugging me after about mile 11, but I was able to maintain pace and picked it up at the end, passing a few struggling folks.

IIAGDTR!

Afterward I noticed a slight problem I should have been taking better care of was raising its voice. My left calf was sore, a typical running injury where the Achilles tendon attaches to the calf muscle. I took an extra day off after the race and started an aggressive regime if stretching and icing. I also am working on the right hip flexor and both are responding splendidly to the efforts. I am running the miles I need but dropped any faster speedwork scheduled for the weekdays.

I may be dumb for not getting after the injuries sooner but trying to push through them while maintaining a strict training plan would be dumber. They already made a movie about that so I don't care to star in the next installment. I will be doing some MP miles but not too many, there is a fine line sometimes of overdoing it even when being careful as the human body is not a mechanical things where parts are easily fixed or swapped out.

This is the only race I have done while training for Boston so the next race will be starting in Hopkinton. And I have a tiny tidbit of news coming up about that...



Friday, February 21, 2014

One more


2 miles on the treadmill, then 6 outside.

Don't stop, run all 6 close to marathon pace.

Cross the short bridge through the wetland. 3 miles done.

I stop. I am in the field.

Motion overhead.

Three crows flying.

Then one more.

And I understand.

Three. Then one more.

My heart breaks.

For you.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

60 at 60

This marks the halfway point of my Boston marathon training plan. Today I was to run 20 miles with the last 4 at marathon pace (MP). Mile 16 was partially run on the steep downhill of the Ravenel bridge; I held back a little and was able to hit the average MP. It did take some focused effort, but so much better than my 2013 training where often I'd have to walk or take some unplanned rest breaks.

I look forward to who and what I will see on my long run. Going up the bridge I got a high five from a couple; on the return trip Jim introduced himself and joined me for the downhill run. There were other waves and acknowledgements to and from my fellow runners soaring high above the Cooper River.

End of the Line
At the end of my 20 miles I was not quite to the Pilot parked near the great oak tree; I decide to push on and reach my finish line at 20.15 miles. I am tired but my spirit is filled with accomplishment. I finished strong and not with a death march. My confidence is building. This 60 year old one footed runner has run 60 miles this week.

8 more weeks until the marathon, 6 weeks of hard training then the start of my taper. The marathon has always kicked my butt and I suspect will feel confident it can do the same this year. I suppose the odds are it will, if so not because I haven't prepared. I am already in better shape than last year, I haven't had any indication of cramping, and I am hitting my training goals.

April 21. I am doing all I can to be ready for you. Embrace us all.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Four

8 miles today, 2 on the treadmill, 6 outside.

The temperature is rising and I throw on a short sleeve shirt. It is the same shirt I wore in the 1997 Chicago Marathon. It is the same shirt I wore under my IFOPA singlet in the Boston Marathon. It is black and I always think of Peter Snell, the great New Zealand runner.


I start whistling Blackbird as I ready myself for the run in the neighborhood. An easy day, with the purpose of fatiguing the legs a bit before Sunday's long run.

I go around our block and onto the path to the open field beyond.

I see them.

Three crows on my right and I think I of...and from behind a cart sign the fourth hops into my field of vision.

I slow. I soften my steps. The little miracle happens.



Krystle. Martin. Lu. Sean.

The four do not fly away. 

I run on. I do not look back.

(Remembering)

Blackbird...fly.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Week's End

Update to week 6 of training, made 16 miles with 10 at marathon pace. I knew this was going to be a tough workout, and when I was fatigued from the first easy 5 I was worried this might be one of those other days. The not-so-good-day-to run days.

It was tough, but I pushed through the heavy legs and took a couple of short breaks to recharge the batteries. It was definitely a struggle, and when I got to my furthest point out I took a break to make a prosthetic adjustment.

As I was leaning against the guardrail of a small bridge over a tidal marsh, a woman pulls into her drive but stops short, rolls down the window and asks if I am okay. "Yes, just taking a short break," I say. "I thought so, just wanted to make sure." "Thank you for asking!"

I did appreciate the concern from a complete stranger. It was heartfelt and sincere. In a world where usually the sensational creates news, here was a moment where a simple gesture, lasting no more than a few seconds, made a difference. Sensational? No. A few words, some concern for a fellow human being, and I was off running.

On pace.

Finishing strong.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

5 plus 6

My training is going very well, probably the best since just before the time my left knee was injured. Consistent training is essential for any degree of success in the marathon; without it that bad day will be a disaster, with it a good day can be exceptional. I admit, I know the former and have been very patient waiting on the later.

I could probably write a book on every long run. While clearing the mind of clutter, often near the end the quiet of moving one more step, one more stride, reduces running to the essence of life.

Last week's planned 16 to 18 was a strong 17.8 miles. Unlike last year's training when I usually struggled building my long runs, so far it has been better. My training is aggressive, just enough to have an edge of fear, of can-I-really-do-this? When those workouts are completed it builds confidence and strength to prepare for the next challenge.

*******

Hallman Blvd via Google Street View
Over the years I have found an odd anomaly on some of my training routes. There are places where I usually feel good or faster, and other places that make me feel slow no matter what effort I am giving. One such place where I feel less strong is Harry M. Hallman Blvd, a short stretch of road between Mt. Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park and Patriot's Point Road. I always feel like I am barely moving here, that I am supremely aware of my complete lack of speed, that I what I am doing is indistinguishable from walking.

I almost decided not to run this section on my outbound run, thinking I would make up the distance on the other side of the bridge or back in old Mt. Pleasant. My momentum carried me here along with a bit of gristle, not wanting to give in to a perceived weakness.

I pass a family on bikes and head down to the park, immediately feeling sluggish even though my pace has not changed. Jeese. I'm going slightly downhill and no amount of assistance from gravity makes me feel any faster. It would take a high speed camera to capture my movement...am I really this much slower than only a few years ago. I am pretty much living inside my head and then look up.

A couple is coming toward me, pushing a child. I smile. He is waving and says what I think is "hi!" I wave and return the gesture but run on. It is only a handful of seconds and they slip through my fingers.

I run down to the park, take a short break, then head up the bridge. I was thinking today's run could not be as good as last week's but it is. Better. I am thinking of Jay and this, his little brother, reaching out to me. Then it occurs to me I have seen this family before on the bridge...and I vow I will not pass them again without stopping to speak. I regret I did not have the presence of mind to do that very thing today, that I still have much to learn.

*******

Sit. Stay.
As I reach the far end of the bridge, I stop to make an adjustment to my prosthesis. A woman comes up to the fountains and stops for a drink, and finding they have not been turned back on since our few days of freezing weather, blurts out "f-a-duck!" and noticing me apologizes. I laugh and say I feel her pain because I wanted water to take my gel with and already shared her misery. "I am running 20 miles and need my water!" she says and runs off toward Charleston. I turn back and run the other way.

Shem Creek
It is a beautiful evening and I stop to take a few pics, not really having time with darkness falling but unable to resist the beauty of this place. I feel a slight anxiousness that I am holding up dinner, yet feel good and strong and wanting to run on and on.

Sunset at Alhambra Hall

I resist the temptation to run an even 18 miles, stopping at the oak tree that has come to symbolize this strength to me, that of BostonStrong. 17.8 it is, and the effort feels wonderful. The moon is overhead, the holy city is glowing in a silent night.

Thank you for this life, this blessing of every day.

For these wings on my feet.

For one more.




Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Weeks 3 and 4

Week three of training was to be challenging from a workout perspective as we were traveling north to meet new grandson, Joseph Samuel Winn. I decided to leave Jato at home as I'd be gone only a few days and it was unlikely there would be time or weather to allow for workouts. Joey was in a hurry to get started running himself and arrived before we did.

Hiya Joey!
I surprised myself with a 2 hour treadmill run after the flight home. Usually sitting for that long and traveling causes fatigue, but once I got started I felt James Brown good and could have run for far longer.

*******

Week 4 was a good week, a very good week. I completed all my workouts and a terrific long run on Sunday. I did 5 miles on the treadmill then headed over to Alhambra Hall in old Mount Pleasant to finish with 10, maybe 11 if things went well.

I had slept over 10 hours the night before and got a late start; it was one of those days where time seemed to fly. I started a little fast for a long run and slowed myself down, remembering many long runs where the gas tank hit empty a few miles short of the finish.

The weather was suppose to be in the upper 50s but felt far chillier than that especially with the wind in my face. Although I brought gloves, I left my ear protection behind and made the mental note that if I think I will need gloves the ears would appreciate some warmth too.

The water fountains were shut off at Waterfront Park where I usually make a pit stop before heading across the Ravenel bridge. I try to take water with my gels (currently the most awesomely tasty Salted Caramel by GU) so had to settle for my diluted Gatorade.

As I head up the steep incline I notice I am not working as hard as I remember. I resist the impulse to run faster still knowing I have far to go. Cresting the bridge I see the sun low on the horizon and wonder if I should turn around to avoid running in the dark since I don't have a headlamp with me. My inner voice says no, take this small leap of faith and keep going.

I feel a smile in my face.

I think of us flying over the holy city today, and lines of High Flight race through my mind.


Up, up...I remember watching this as a child.


I stop at the benches on the downside, needing to take the picture below.

Running with friends
There are far fewer people on the bridge today, and we greet each other with a wave or a few words. Some give me signs of thumbs up. One with the "L" symbol over their heart.

I fly.

I think of a right turn, a left, and four faces appear in my mind.

*******

Coming down the decline back into Mt. Pleasant I hold back a little, not wanting to stress my legs too much as I will be running marathon pace back to the start. I make a quick stop at the BP station and then head out refreshed. There is fatigue in my legs but mentally I am strong and my pace quickens.

Although growing dark I can see well enough to avoid tripping. My pace is hard but I can feel my previous training and the Thunder Road marathon are having the desired effect. I will run one more mile. I will run 16 miles today.

I finish at the oak tree in the road. It has been a hard effort and I smile again. I am not fast but I am stronger. I take a moment at Adam's tree, think of the love, think of where I am going.

Going to be there honoring those gone before.

Going to finish.

Going to be #BostonStrong.


Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

- John Magee


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Marathon Street


Recently our mailbox address lost a digit. It occurred to me that SOMEONE was showing me where we really lived, so I added the lost decimal to it.

There, fixed the newel post.



Sunday, January 12, 2014

Week Two

I am happy to say this one is in the books. Or blog.

Although the right hip flexor is still whining on occasion, it hasn't brought tears to my eyes either. I managed 2 tempo workouts and a long run of 12 miles today for a week's total of 44 miles. The left foot feels better and I've put more cushioned insoles in my shoe which helps. I felt I could have run much faster on the long run but had to hold back to avoid the wrath of the flexor.

This week will be lower mileage because we are headed north to see grandchild #4, Joseph Samuel Winn. The labor was easier for Becca, mother of May and wife of Mistah Chris. What a wonder to be in this life, in their lives, to see another generation being born under the wings if these loving parents. We are blessed, blessed, blessed.

Time seems to be flying by as we run toward April 21. In the past marathons seemed far away when I was in this point in my training, but Boston seems to be rushing toward us. Arms open.

To embrace the angels.

BostonStrong

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Week One



I am now following the BAA's intermediate 16 week training program for the Boston Marathon on April 21. Just finished week 1 with 41 miles. I was happy to get both tempo workouts done and 11 on Sunday. I had hoped to go 12 (plan calls for 10 - 12) but the hip flexor was arguing with me so I cut it short. It did serve notice I can't let up (as I have done) on the exercises for it without paying a price.

It is going to be a real challenge to get the mileage this plan calls for and definitely some 2-a-days. I think it will mean going into work late and making up time on the weekend or digging into vacation hours. There is no doubt every second training is worth the effort to get to that Hopkinton starting line. I just hope I can remain healthy and get enough rest to push hard through this training.

15 weeks to go to one of the most anticipated races in history.

Let's do this the only way we know how:


BostonStrong



Saturday, January 4, 2014

Boston to Charlotte and Back

Nicole Gross speaking at pasta dinner

Charlotte will go down as one of my better marathon memories. Not that my race time was all that good - it wasn't - but because of all things running with friends make even those bad times, well, joyful in life.

Jennifer had months earlier planned to run the half, but bronchitis had been lingering so she did not pack any running clothes. From the moment we walked into the expo she headed to the clothes rack to - you guessed it - buy togs to run the race in the morning. We call this S.M.O.T., a.k.a. the Starrett Method of Training. Jennifer and her brother Gary have spent many years perfecting this art: plan to run a race, don't train (insert injury/illness here) show up at race and run, lick injuries until time for next race. Thing is, if they make it to the starting line they usually do okay and often better than that. For that race. Then repeat. I've seen elites/Olympians do far worse.

*******

We arrived Friday and headed directly to the expo. I was anxious about missing any of the pasta dinner and hearing Nicole Gross speak. Nicole would be there along with other members of her family who were at Boston this year, including Erika who was lost one leg to the FBers. (And that's not shorthand for Facebook.) The family was surrounded by people so I did not intrude on their conversations as much as I wanted to speak to them.

We sat with Mike and Janelle with Cadie Jessup was one table over. Running in a prosthesis, especially for distances, can be very challenging. Both Janelle and Cadie have had more than their share of frustration trying to run, Cadie more so because she is a high AK (above knee) amputee. Janelle's leg was healing and not comfortable and we were unsure she'd be able to run the half, her first effort at that distance.

*******

In the weeks leading up to Charlotte I finally felt some distance - and less physical emotion - when thinking to April 15. As Nicole spoke the day came rushing back to me, more real than being there as it happened. I drifted in and out of the present and past, seeing the faces of Krystle, Martin, Lu, and Sean in my mind's eye. How can this be? Yet there is Erika, missing a leg, moving gingerly with her walker.

How can this be? It is too real and not at all. Such is life, our short time in this sacred place. A place where evil lives, is embraced actively or passively, and where the strong hearts of good resist to the end...an end that has no end in sight. We fight the good fight for all time.

*******

Team G2T Alumni - Me, Jennifer, Mike, and Janelle
We meet up for the early start which Jennifer and I took. Mike and Janelle would go with the "official" start 30 minutes later. Janelle was going to run the half after all, and I knew with Mike at her side she would get to the finish line.

We are off with a checkered flag wave. There are quite a few early starters so we were not running alone for the first few miles. I had decided to try the run/walk (aka Galloway Method) for the first time. This being training for the Boston hills, I wanted to avoid beating myself up too much. So every 5 minutes my watch beeped and I walked for 1 minute. I noticed many around me doing variations on this, and I had dreams that I could maintain this pace for the entire race.

That did not happen. I was good for about 14 miles and then my pace slowed and the walk breaks began stretching out. Despite this, I had a good, no great race. The why was my fellow runners and the great communities we ran through in our circuit about Charlotte.

The number of runners from elite to back-of-packers who took a moment to say a word to me was astounding. Fortunately I was running so slowly that it really did not affect me like it would in a 5k where the need for air precludes speech. Sometimes it was a short conversation and sometimes it was a raised hand. To think I would not run again, to not be here, to never hear the sounds and words of my fellow runners, it is impossible. Impossible is nothing.


*******

IIAGDTR
As we passed through joyous and occasional inebriated clumps of community celebrations I began to love this course. Once again the marathon had beaten and reduced me to walking, yet my adversary could not claim victory unless I quit. Fat chance. None at all.

Near the end of the race a volunteer joins me carrying Old Glory. We talked about Boston as I tried to run up a short but steep hill which I could not do...it reminded me of the attempt to run the overpass at mile 25 of Boston. Shortly thereafter Juan pulls up alongside and we walk and run the last mile or so of the race together.

Juan is a big guy and something about him seems familiar. As we talk I start to see a faint resemblance to a brother and my dad. Again I have a sense of the little miracles I have seen so many times of late. We run a little and walk a lot. He tells me how I inspire him; I tell him we all have challenges and many are far harder and less visible than mine.

I tell him of Jason Pisano.

The end of the race is uphill. We walk until we think we can run to the finish. I see Jennifer to my left holding my Boston jacket. Juan insists on pumping up the crowd for me even though I wish we had crossed the line together. I hear my name. I did what we could not do on April 15, 2013. I have finished my second marathon as an amputee.


*******

Jennifer completed her half with a very good time despite recovering from bronchitis and lack of training. What's a little adversity that can't be resolved with a bit of expo shopping? Unfortunately after the race she still had some residual effects from the illness and then got a stomach virus that weakened her more. She's is starting to come back with a mix of running and walking and I hope to enjoy some Saturday morning runs with her soon.

*******

That evening we meet at Janelle's parent's house and then head over the Mike's sister's place for dinner. Such great people all around. And again the thought traverses my mind of how my life changed to be here, in this here and now, among people I would have never known I had taken the pain pill and kept the foot.

Isn't life strange.

*******

It is now January and I am starting my Boston Marathon training plan. After Charlotte my right hip flexor and then left forefoot became quite sore so I backed off training. I've worked on strengthening the hip flexor which works harder with the prosthesis, and it seems a cushioned insert helps with the foot pain.

I abandoned my Daniels inspired training plan where I should have been near max mileage for the intermediate marathon plan the BAA has developed. It was a perfect fit for my current mileage and I am running with it.

So I train. Work is very stressful and my mother was in and out of the hospital over Christmas. All of us working stiffs have the same battle with time to get our training done. In years past I could run at lunch, an option no longer available to me. For me running itself should not be so stressful and why after this Boston my marathoning is over until retirement.

April 21. It will be a day of remembrance and a day of honor. And it should not be forgotten, a day of evil that lives and is embraced among us. As long as we breathe we cannot be deterred.

We chose to live.

*******


Best friends Mike and Janelle

And Janelle...she decided to run the half marathon despite her severe obstacles in getting to the starting line. There is a wonderful story here about the picture above. Over and over I am reminded how my life changed for the better in meeting such courageous friends. I know firsthand that this half was extremely hard for Janelle, far beyond the "runner's distress" we all feel.

Everything about the race helped ease the pain I still feel over Boston, knowing the glory of the human spirit over the deep well of mortality. We make this journey worthwhile, we who chose to live.

To Help.

To Love.