Tuesday, November 9, 2010 arrived with a clear early morning that promised to become a chilly, sunny, and typically autumn day. I zipped my coat, buckled my helmet strap, unlocked my bike, and headed off to work. A few minutes later, a garbage truck crossed a bike lane to make a right turn. I was in that bike lane. The tires of the truck crushed my left leg and caused other internal injuries. An amazing team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my leg to do so.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Confucius.

In July 2011, I set off to walk a thousand miles as an above-knee amputee in my new prosthesis. The journey has held more twists, turns, and detours than I ever imagined.

I reached Mile 1000 on March 30, 2013.

But of course, that wasn't the end.

I'll keep walking!

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Sweetness of Sweat

Mile Marker 2582:

Spring is as sweet as a juicy peach.

And as moist too.

I make my way along 2nd Street, boots splashing over mucky puddles.  A drainpipe, encased in ice, runs like a faucet onto the sidewalk.

I peel off my gloves.  I tuck the hat I've been wearing all winter into my backpack.

Everyone I pass smiles at me.  I smile back.

It's our first warm weekend in months, and I'm heading south to tutor at a coffee shop in Queen Village.

The sidewalks are better than
the parking spaces anyway!
But here's the biggest news... I've left the car at home.

I'm actually WALKING!!

Predictably, about 6 blocks into the journey, there's trouble.  My socket comes loose.  I can feel it slip a fraction of an inch with each step.  The prosthetic liner glides against my skin.  The sidewalk isn't the only thing that's wet today!

By the time I reach Philly Java, my steps are loping and exaggerated.   I hike my hip higher.  Tighten up my quads and glutes in an effort to keep the socket in place.  I'm a soggy mess.

Hello, old friend!


SWEAT SEASON is here.

It's so good to be out, I don't even care!


Of course, it quickly gets tiresome.  Within days, I'm searching out public restrooms.  Peeling off my damp harness and liner.  Balancing on one leg and grabbing grab bars.  Juggling socket components in one hand when there's no clean place to set things down.  I start stuffing extra towels in my backpack.  And sock-ply.  And vacuum seals.

Stopping to fix my leg is a pain-in-the-you-know-what.  Sweat makes me clumsy, but it's a project to dry everything off.

Still, most of the time I fly under the radar.  Nobody even notices.

Mile Marker 2607:

Until the day I'm caught with my pants down.

Literally.

I can't exactly blame the weather for this one.  Exercise makes me sweaty in any season.

After rock climbing at Go Vertical, I sit in the locker room peeling off my sweaty liner and drying off my leg.  My Genium's propped against the bench, waiting for me to put it back on.

The locker room's empty.  I've positioned myself in a corner between a wall and a row of lockers.  I might even get this whole process done before anyone walks in.

That's when the door opens.  And in walks a pair of little eyes.

I glance over my shoulder.  A young girl, maybe 8 years old, parks herself on the opposite bench.  Her eyes meet mine.

I smile.  Then I turn back toward the wall, apply Adaptskin to my leg, spray the seals of the liner, and roll it on.  I tug on the extra vacuum seal.  I do all this with my back to her.

But there's no way around the next step.  I have to stand up to don the prosthesis.  This will not be discrete.

Ok... Go.  I take a deep breath and do it all in one motion.

I push up from the bench, aim my leg into the top of the socket, and press down.  Shift my weight back and forth from foot to foot.  My jeans hover somewhere around my knees.

The girl's eyes grow larger by the minute.  Her lips form a surprised "O," revealing two crooked front teeth.

I tug up my jeans, haphazardly tucking everything in.

"I bet you've never seen someone put on a prosthetic leg before!"  I say, hoping to turn this awkwardness into a teachable moment.

Silence.  Her hair's pulled into a messy ponytail.  Her climbing harness bunches up over her green sweatsuit.  Her feet swing inches above the floor.  She doesn't blink.

So I start again.  "Have you ever seen the movie Dolphin Tale?  It's about a dolphin that has a prosthetic fin--"

"--I'm not allowed to talk to STRANGERS." she interrupts.

"Oh ok," I say. "You don't have to talk to me.  I just wanted to tell you what I was doing because you probably haven't seen anything like that--"

But before I can finish, she interrupts again.

"--Is that a FAKE LEG?!!!"

(Apparently, she's not allowed to talk to strangers unless they're really, really interesting....)

I tell her it's like a robot leg.  I show her the leg I use for climbing, and then I yank up the bottom of my jeans to show her the one I use for walking.  She asks if she can touch it.  I hand her the climbing leg.

"Where's your REAL LEG?" she asks.

Luckily, she accepts the simple version.  "It got hurt.  The doctors couldn't fix it, so they gave me a robot leg."

Then she rattles off everything she knows about prosthetics...

"I saw this guy on American Ninja Warrior who got run-over by a tractor, and he has a robot leg too.  And hey, did you ever see How to Train Your Dragon?  There's a guy named Hiccup, and he got his leg cut off too!  He even has a robot leg!"

As I'm pondering all that, another kid walks in.

"Look, she has a robot leg!"  the girl tells her.   "You can touch it if you want!"

Then she turns back to me.  "Show her your walking leg!"  she commands.

I tug up the left side of my jeans again.  Show and tell.

The conversation shifts.  In a flash, they move on.  "Ok, now you close your eyes and count, and I'm gonna go hide," one girl says to the other.

They both scamper out of the locker room.  I realize I may go down as nothing more than a cool Hide & Seek location.

I gather up my leg stuff and put on my jacket.

Yep, it's Sweat Season... funny, inconvenient, awkward, and challenging...

...but all in all, pretty sweet!

Bring on the HEAT!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

CrossFit

Mile Marker 2540:

You want me to cross WHAT?

Wet floors, icy sidewalks, slushy streets...

The PPA should pay ME
to cross that!!
I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  This time of year, everything seems tough to cross!

Last week, I was fortunate enough to discover a shoveled-out parking space.  But, alas, the parking kiosk was another story.



At Mile Marker 2540, I try out CrossFit.  Luckily, it's INSIDE the gym.

But the luck ends there.  This is the craziest workout I've ever seen!

CrossFit's Workout of the Day (WOD) is a series of exercises done repeatedly, at high intensity, until your body's about to give out.  Or at least that's how it feels to a beginner like me!

Today's WOD consists of Muscle-Ups, Box Jumps, Thrusters, Toes-to-Bar, and Burpees.  If it sounds like a fancy circus act, don't be fooled.  It's more like American Ninja Warrior.   Here's a demo.

video

 Go Chris!!!  (Yep, that's me yelling in the background!)

Today's event is a fundraiser for Global Abilities, a foundation that helps people with disabilities get into sports and recreation.  Adaptive athletes are welcome, and I'm one of them.

My friend Todd's here too.  He's brave enough to try the first heat.

The exercises are adapted, but they're still quite a challenge!



As the timer ticks down from 15 minutes, Todd works through Pull-Ups, Thrusters, and all the rest.  I can feel his sweat and determination even from my spot behind the caution tape.   No wonder they call it a HEAT!

You rock, Todd!!!

When the buzzer goes off, he's beat... but VICTORIOUS!


I'm signed up for Heat 6.  That means about 2 more hours to wait.  Chris and I go into a back workout room to practice with a coach named Micah.

We work on adapting my exercises.  I attempt the rings (epic fail!) but it turns out I have a pretty good grip on the bar.  Guess all that rock climbing has paid off.  We decide to build on it.

My workout will include:

Dips
Pull-Ups

Step-Ups

Toes-to-Bar
(See my toes?)
Thrusters
a.k.a. "squat lifts"

...and Burpees
(I'm pretty good at falling on the floor!)

We work on the moves for a while, but we've still got an hour before our heat comes up.  So when I find a wall of jump ropes, I take one for a spin.   I have a feeling it might be my best performance of the day...

video

Then I join the crowd to cheer on athletes in the other heats.  And that's when it dawns on me.

This is going to be like WORKING OUT ON STAGE.  I panic.

Squatting is hard.  Burpees are unfamiliar.  And my toes never quite reach that bar.   If you know anything about me, you know I don't do things in public until I can do them well.  For that, I'd need many, many more weeks of practice!

I tell Chris I don't think I can go through with this.

He says that's ok.  He says, "We can leave if you want to."

But we both know that's not going to happen.

When Heat 6 is finally announced, I take my place at the workout station.  Micah sets up the equipment, and Chris moves in to spot me.  The giant digital timer is set for 15 minutes.

And GO!

(Thanks to CrossFit athlete Mikaelyn for capturing it on this awesome video!!)

video


It's a 15-minute frenzy!
BYO PT :)

I can't remember the sequence of exercises, so Chris cues me at every turn.  He hands me the bar for squats, loops the band for pull-ups, and offers a hand for step-ups.  He even comes to my defense when Micah says to dip lower on my dips.  Now that's a great spotter :)

My heart is beating so fast I could use an extra lung.  But with challenge comes ADRENALINE!

The tougher stuff you cross, the sweeter the success.  There's something about making it past an obstacle that seemed insurmountable.  And coming out the other side.

When we leave the gym, it's snowing again.  I grab Chris's hand as we step into the slippery street.

I could probably cross it myself.
But why take the chance?


Thanks to Chris, Todd, Anna, Mikaelyn, Micah, A.J. and Global Abilities for the motivation, encouragement, and all-around amazing day!