Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Wheelchair Clinic

December 18th saw me at the Wheelchair Clinic at the Lake City VAMC.

I have fought a long, hard fight to avoid a wheelchair; I fought to keep running; at some point you have to face the facts, and realize your physical well being takes precedence.

Earlier this year I was placed in a handcycle, and realized just how stressful it had been trying to run with the problems I have. i can still "run" in a lot of races, and I enjoy it just as much - if not more - than I did before during my run/walks.

Now, I have been sent to the wheelchair clinic because of my fractured foot ... or so I thought.

That was NOT the only reason (but it was a factor) - the risk of falling with an increased risk of a spinal fracture was DEFINITELY in play. The Orthopedic doctor in charge of the Wheelchair Clinic was there to see me o/O . She had some "words" with me, and said I should have been in MUCH sooner to see about a wheelchair! She had ALREADY approved a wheelchair for me! It was NOT pleasant to be on the receiving end of what was essentially someone calling me a horse's ass - even though she was right.

They did discuss a power chair, but I did resist enough - and get them to agree to - an ultralight wheelchair with Power assisted wheels.

The final product should be similar to this one:


Am I happy about moving to a wheelchair full time - hell no! Will it be for the better? In hindsight, I will probably admit that it is.

This will take the load off of my injured right arm (confirmed that it IS tendonitis along with the previous injuries) and allow me to resume racing in my handcycle at some point.

Bittersweet, but ...


December 16th, I traveled to the Gainesville VAMC to see Endocrinology.

After an extensive workup, the Fellow went to talk with the head of Endocrinology, and I had the (questionable) pleasure of having a workup by her, too.

They are concerned, and want to find the root cause of the Neuropathy and Foot Drop - possible causes mentioned in the Doctor's Notes are scary ...

1. Guillain-Barre syndrome - possibly caused by a VERY adverse reaction to a Flu Shot while on active duty;
2. Subacute Combined Degeneration of the Spinal Cord - oh joys.
3. Possible exposure to Agent Orange

They have also confirmed the bone density loss ... and the increased risks of spinal fractures - especially IF (when) I fall.

Lots of lab work ordered, and return in 2 - 3 months.

Tough Decisions

I had signed up for several races LONG before fracturing my foot and developing tendonitis.  Now I was faced with some tough decisions ...

I canceled my Space Coast Marathon run; I spoke with Jeff Galloway, and had the Jeff Galloway 13.1 entry changed to a Virtual Run; I cancelled out on the Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic;  and toughest of all ... I deferred the 2015 Dopey until 2016.

I haven't made any registrations for any runs - and won't until I have some improvement in my right arm.

Fracture Follow-up

November 19th, I saw the VA doctor for a followup on my fractured foot - not good.

Radiology says there is "little significant change" since the X-rays in October. Even with Large doses of Calcium and Vitamin D3 and the use of the electronic Bone Growth Stimulator, "little significant change".

I'm still supposed to stay off of it unless "absolutely necessary" Non-weight bearing and mostly bed rest.

To top things off, because of the use of a walker to keep the weight off of my foot (and the last two races), I have tendonitis in my previously injured right arm.

This is starting to SUCK!

Next up - Endocrinology and Wheelchair clinic in December ... and a fracture follow-up in January.

The Whine & Drown Half

Okay ... fasten your seatbelts.

The drive down went better than expected - very light traffic and NO construction!

First stop - the Expo at WWOS. More organized than the ones in the past, but not as many runners could have been a factor in that. Even with fewer runners, it was still very crowded and having to maneuver in a wheelchair makes it even worse. Some people are very good about letting you through - others seem to have their eyes stuffed up a dark hole and are oblivious to anyone else.

Packet pickup - no problem; transportation booth - no problem (but they gave me some bad information - more about that later); pick up shirt - no problem  ... and some Pixie Dust! I run for a young boy who cannot run, and the people behind the counter must have heard me mentioning it to a friend of mine picking up his shirt, also. I was asked what size the boy wore ... and I got my shirt AS WELL AS one for him! After checking out some of the other Expo Booths, I returned to the Information Booth where two assistants came out with me to my car to pick up my racing chair. They were storing it overnight, and would have it staged for me in the start area to save a LOT of transportation issues the next night.

This trip I was staying at Shades of Green, which was a first for me. A short drive, and I was there.

The Valet service there is exceptional. Got my Wheelchair unloaded and me on my way in no time at all. Check-in was a breeze. They explained things even better than Disney Resort CM's!

I was in the Magnolia Wing ... and all the decorations reflected that. Baskets of Magnolia Blossoms, etc. Unfortunately, it was a long roll to the elevator to my room.

Saturday was going to be a long day.

There was a Team AllEars Alumni meet up that I debated over, and decided to attend. It was being held at Boardwalk Bakery, I needed to be parked in the handicapped parking at EPCOT after the race that night, so I drove to EPCOT. First up - exchange my renewal certificate for my new AP. WTFort! there were several HUNDRED people in the Will Call lines! The regular lines to purchase tickets were backed up almost to the bag check area! Guest Relations outside EPCOT had a 2 HOUR wait time ... all this at 10:30 in the morning! Once I made it through that nightmare, It was off to Boardwalk ...

After the meet, I headed back to EPCOT, and spent most of the afternoon riding a few rides and grazing at the Food & Wine Kiosks.

After that, I slowly cruised around people watching until it was time to head out to the car to get my racing gear.

After changing shirts and dropping my pants in the parking lot ( I DID have my racing pants on under the shorts I wore, so no flashing involved :rofl2: ), I headed back toward EPCOT. The people there, directed me toward the regular bus stop area - which confirmed the BAD information I received the day before at the transportation booth! There was a small group of us there, and no luck spotting a race transportation person or vehicle.  We made our way back past EPCOT and ALL the way past the Race Finish area before there were any buses in sight! That added a couple of miles ...

Once at the transportation area, they quickly arranged my wheelchair van to pick me up, take me to WWOS, and drop me off at the wrong location a LONG way from where I needed to be. Once at the actual pre-race area, I needed to get to the Information booth to swap to my racing chair ... by rolling across a sandy, grassy field! Finally I made it there, and my racing chair was waiting.

We got staged for the Start; we are just a few minutes out; it starts misting rain!

By the time we started, the rain was picking up a little.

By the time we got to AK, there were puddles forming, the rain was really starting to come down ... and I was having to REALLY watch out for the faster runners. Wet brakes and face fulls of spray do NOT make for a safe way to move at higher speeds in a racing chair. The weather was starting to take it's toll on my shoulder, also. The Marine Corps Marathon two weeks previously had put a LOT of stress on it due to some outrageous hills, and it hadn't had time to really get over that, yet. Near the end of the loop through AK (around the 5 mile point), I stopped at one of the Medical Tents to get a large helping of BioFreeze rubbed into my upper arm and shoulder. That helped, but I knew it was just covering up the problem and I would pay for it later.

The trip from AK to DHS was a nightmare of puddles and even harder rain. I had a bike escorting me, and I told him to just ease along and clear my path and I would follow his lights ... because I couldn't see very far in front of me even with an excellent light. The Studios - major puddles; Osborne lights that were just glaring glows of color through the downpour ... and one hill runDisney had assigned a helper to - because it was so slick NONE of the racing chairs could get enough traction to climb it.

The walkway from DHS to Boardwalk - it's narrow. Did I mention poor braking; poor vision ... and some runners that didn't seem to understand that. One runner literally stepped in front of me and slowed down. Luckily another runner snatched her out of the way, because I was skidding toward her. The Boardwalk itself ... have you ever been on the Boardwalk when it was wet? Greased Goose Fat is sticky compared to it. When it's still raining, it's even worse. NO ONE ran there - it was walk carefully ... or else!

Into EPCOT next to The Land; across by SSE and out backstage to a CM Parking lot ... and the finish.

I had people that met me at the finish; helped me to my wheelchair; helped me transfer back to the wheelchair; and then pushed me around to collect the swag and take me and the racing chair out to my car. They got everything loaded and me on my way ... because I was NOT going to stay for the party by that time. I was really beginning to feel the effects of the weather, etc on my shoulder ... and another part of my wet body that had been sitting on a wet cushion for 13.1 miles+ was NOT happy either.

Back to SoG - and the Valet (24 hours service at SoG) was waiting for me right up front. Got me and my wheelchair unloaded and I headed to my room and a warm soak in the tub!

It didn't take long to fall asleep once I made it out of the tub.

No one can control the weather ... especially in Florida. It was unusual weather for the run, but stuff happens. It lessened the Disney run experience - few characters; little music; a lot less energy and enthusiasm than normal; the volunteers were troopers - they maintained a positive attitude and cheered people on in spite of being drenched, themselves. runDisney did all they could given the bad weather, but it was really beyond anything they could have planned for. At the time, a lot of people were disappointed, but now most of us are joking about it.

Keep swimming, keep swimming; t-shirts with funny comments about surviving; I've started calling it the Whine and Drown Half Marathon; ... Runners are so easily amused (and forgetful, I guess). 


As previously blogged, Achilles International invited me to race on the Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans in the Marine Corps Marathon. This is the result - long delayed because of other issues:

Friday, October 24th, I flew out of ECP on my way to Washington, D.C. - Delta Airlines got off to a bad start.

6 weeks previously, I had called and let Delta know that I was flying with a wheelchair and a racing chair. It was all set - help would be available and the chairs fly free.

No help was available at ECP; at first they said the racing chair was too large to fly - even though the same chair flies on the same class airplane all the time; the cargo supervisor came.in, took one look and said, "no problem"; then they tried to say I would have to pay $150 to fly the chair on each leg - $300 to D.C.; when I said it was supposed to fly free, they got snooty; they said there was no information about the fee being waived - I pointed out they said it flew free, so there was no fee to waive; it started to go downhill, until I insisted they contact the CRO at Delta's headquarters; suddenly, they said they would do me a favor and waive the fees.

They convinced me to check my own wheelchair ... unfortunately. More on this later.

The Delta supervisor came to my loading gate, and told me he had upgraded my seat. I guess he had a guilty conscious, because he had stood nearby while the whole brewup over the racing chair went on and said nothing.

Boarded with no problems, and it was a nice seat - aisle and nothing in front of me, so I could stretch out my booted foot.

ATL is a quick flight, but you lose an hour because of the time zone change.

The Delta wheelchairs in ATL SMB! They have no padding and hard cushions. On top of that, I got the bum's rush from one arrival gate to my departure gate ... Then they left me. It was a layover of a couple of hours. It would have been nice to be able to get around by myself so I could grab a bite to eat. I eventually got a push down to T.G.I. Friday's and got a nice lunch, but ... SMB Delta.

Lunch and a little pood forn.

I started off with Pretzel Bread and Craft Beer Cheese Dip

 Then on to a Jack Daniels glazed Sirloin with Spinach and Sweet Potato Fries

I then had to head back to the loading gate - it was getting close to flight time.

No luck getting a better seat, but they did move me closer to the door. An uneventful flight to Reagan National ... and the wheelchair waiting for me was better than the ones at ATL - but not by much.

Achilles was to meet me at Reagan, but no one was in sight. A quick phone call, and I found out they were at Reagan loading another Veteran, and would be over momentarily to pick me up.

Lots of help getting me and my chairs loaded, then off to the Holiday Inn Rosslyn - my home for the next 3+ days.

The room was fantastic!
Achilles was to meet me at Reagan, but no one was in site. A quick phone call, and I found out they were at Reagan loading another Veteran, and would be over momentarily to pick me up.

Lots of help getting me and my chairs loaded, then off to the Holiday Inn Rosslyn - my home for the next 3+ days.

The room was fantastic!
Achilles was to meet me at Reagan, but no one was in site. A quick phone call, and I found out they were at Reagan loading another Veteran, and would be over momentarily to pick me up.

Lots of help getting me and my chairs loaded, then off to the Holiday Inn Rosslyn - my home for the next 3+ days.

The room was fantastic and there was A little swag from Achilles waiting for me ...

 and some relief after a long day ...

 Pizza Party for dinner  ... and a good nights rest, because ...

Zero Dark:30 the next morning ...

 At the Starting Line ... along with 139 other racing chairs!

 The course has a lot of hills - not bad hills, but MUCH worse than any I can train on in relatively flat Florida. My right are was REALLY complaining by the time I hit the finish line!

And a shot with a Marine after I finished - finished FIRST in my age group in the handcycle division!

It's all about the Bling!

Up early the next morning to catch my flight home ...

Achilles had phoned ahead, and each of us had a personal escort through check-in and TSA! None of the SMB like I had at ECP! Not even a question about the racing chair flying free - of course it does ... that's your mobility! I did NOT check my personal wheelchair this time - ATL had taught me that lesson. TSA was a breeze. A couple of swabs, and off we went to the loading gate - where I had a bit of a wait, but a LOT of people were impressed with the Marine Corps Marathon shirt and that I had 'ran' it in a racing chair.

Nice flight to ATL. They shuffled me to my next gate in MY comfy cushioned wheelchair, and I could get myself around to grab a snack before my next flight.

Flight to ECP was no problem and they took me and my racing chair out to my car and got everything loaded. Maybe someone had had some words with ECP ...

The drive home was uneventful, and as much as I hate bed rest, I was glad to see my own bed!

Worth repeating - A little hindsight - the hills were VERY rough on me. Not that they are that high, but they are steeper than any around here. I had to put a lot more stress on my arms and shoulders than normal.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Happy Birthday - the followup

Yesterday, I was called in by the VA ... to pickup a temporary wheelchair. They REALLY want me to stay off of the fractured foot!

After that, I had an appointment with my Primary Care ...

My B12, D3 and ... were low. Consult to endocrinology, prescribe D3, ...

Had concerns about lack of healing in my foot. Wasn't happy about the CT and Dexa Scans of my Spine. Prescribed Alendronate Sodium 70mg once a week.

This has not been a good week for me.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Happy Birthday?

Today I returned to the VA for follow-up on my broken foot. The news wasn't good. After 5 weeks, no signs of healing - other than one very tiny area. They are ordering a Bone Growth Stimulator - oh joy. They are also ordering a wheelchair. While that might be excessive just to immobilize a fracture, there are other reasons involved.

The previous CT Scans of my Spine and the DEXA Scan point point to an increased risk of a spinal fracture with NO trauma. Add in my risk of falling, and the chances of a Spinal Fracture jumps up markedly. As much as I don't want a wheelchair, I want a broken back less.

My B12 level is also low - low enough that Subacute Combined Degeneration of the Spinal Cord is a possible diagnosis being mentioned. This is NOT a good thing - but it does explain a lot.

Given all of the above, the Doctor is recommending:

Consult to Endocrinology;
The Bone Growth Stimulator;
a Wheelchair;
Prescriptions for some kind of Bone Growth/Strenghtener
Return in 6 weeks
NO weight on the fractured foot
Possible surgery in the future

What a way to spend a Birthday ... yes, it's THAT day. I am only 39 (plus tax) ... damn tax goes up every year.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Freaky Friday

A lot is going on medically behind the scenes - more on that later.

I am in a strange mood because of that 'behind the scenes' stuff, so I thought I would throw out some rumours and outright wierd things I have come across.

  1. REbola - I've come across some very low key hints that the Obama Administration has been developing a strain of Ebola that targets mainly Republicans. Apparently there are enough factors different in the Extreme Right to allow such targeting. They have also developed a 'cure' for this GMO Ebola strain - if you were a Koch or Walton, how much would you pay to save your life? Good way to pay down the National Debt!
  2.  I've heard that there actually ARE FEMA Camps - they are being constructed at Area 51. This will allow controlled human testing with security already in place to keep it concealed.
  3. The human testing at Area 51 - not that I believe it, but rumours say that Aliens actually are involved with that and Area 51.
  4. Drones - Police are getting surplus military equipment already. Drones (and missiles) are next on the list. Soon almost every second of our lives will be under militarized police surveillance - with missiles under the control of our trigger happy cops to enforce any suspected criminal acts. Buying green vegetables at a Farmer's Market? Obviously, it's a drug deal, so they will smoke you and half of the Market to stop 'the drug deal' in it's tracks.

I will edit this post all along as I get feedback and come across more rumours and conspiracy theories that seem to have some evidence to back them up ...

Saturday, September 6, 2014

A VERY Long Day

Yesterday was a VERY long day. Start with a 4 hour drive to Gainesville VAMC. Add in a 2 p.m. Neurology appointment that didn't start until 3:30 - and didn't finish until 5:30. Then spend 4 hours driving home through a thunderstorm most of the way. My Broken foot (the one I'm supposed to stay off of) wasn't happy about the almost 1 mile of walking to get around the VA hospital - I wasn't happy, either ... for various reasons.

The appointment was delayed because there were new Doctors for everyone (The VA Hospital in Gainesville uses the Students from Shands for a lot of routine things - like follow-up appointment). I DO like my new Doctor (actually a 1st Year Neurology Resident), and he did a good evaluation and was receptive to suggestions about my treatment from me. He agreed that I could taper off of the medication I was taking for Neuropatic PAIN - because I have no pain in my lower extremities. Once he was through and had a tenative plan in place, he had to get it cleared by his supervisor - a Neurologist on staff at the VA Hospital.

After a relatively long wait, he returned - with the on staff Doctor. The Staff Neurologist asked a LOT of background questions about my Active Duty time. Was I exposed to yada yada (Yes to Asbestos, Ionizing Radiation and probably Agent Orange) and then detailed questioning about those. Detailed questioning about my other conditions (Cardiac, Pulmonary, Migraines, Ménière's, etc.).  Then he said,

  • My lack of sensation in my lower extremities and foot drop was probably due to a problem in my Lumbar Spine at the L1 through L3 levels (narrowing of the spinal canal - AKA Spinal Stenosis) and there was nothing they could do about it. It would get worse with time and there was nothing they could do about that, either;
  • He wasn't happy AT ALL about the number of falls (and near falls) I have been having. More on this later;
  • The CT scans of my Lumbar and Thoracic spines were worrisome, and I would be consulted to Orthopedics for that;
  • There were some concerns about some of my lab work, so it is back to the vampires for more blood letting;
  • He wasn't happy about the fracture in my foot (and some of the CT Scan findings on my spine), so he was going to order a DEXA Scan (Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry) to check my bone density;
  • He wasn't impressed by the walker I have to use to take the weight off of my broken foot when I have to walk - so he is adding that to the Orthopedics consult and suggesting I should be placed in a wheelchair ... because of my foot and all of the above reasons.
It's easy to see why my appointment took 2 hours - and why I'm not real happy right now. This is far beyond what I expected, and far from the news I really wanted to hear.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Just what I needed

As previously blogged, I have no sensation in my feet. Yesterday, I stepped onto an uneven surface - but the lack of sensation didn't warn me that it was uneven ... AND that my foot was NOT firmly planted. Therefore, I almost fell - when my left foot twisted under.

I knew it was injured - because for the first time in years I felt pain ... LOTS of it. I applied ice packs and hot compresses and had no swelling or bruising - initially. I sent a secure message to my Primary Care at the Tallahassee VA just to cover myself, but didn't expect to need any further contact.

This morning, I could barely walk and the least amount of pressure was excruciating. There was also some swelling and bruising - therefore, I called the Tallahassee VA and left a voice mail for my Primary Care.

I was called back within a few minutes - X-rays were ordered; come over right now.

You know it isn't good when the X-ray Tech tells you to wait and brings a wheelchair because - Your foot IS broken!

Now I have this:

and a walker ... and orders to stay off of it!

For those interested, I have a 'Jones Fracture'.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wow ... just, wow!

The temperatures have been crazy hot; it has rained almost every day; it REALLY hasn't been a good time to try to train on my handcycle ... SO! I got a special deal from SportCrafters on an Overdrive Handcycle Trainer.

What's that, you ask? It is a roller trainer that increases resistance just as if you were rolling down the road.

I got everything set up - including the Garmin Ant+ Speed Sensor - and went for a short trial run. It is MUCH harder than I anticipated ... partially because I went "faster" than I anticipated.

How fast did I go? Average was a little over 6 MPH - which is NOT fast. HOWEVER, I hit a PEAK speed of ... wait for it ... 62.3 MPH!

Yes, it was a VERY short peak, but it shows what the new gearing is capable of. Going down a hill will put far less resistance on the wheel - and me. Going up the hills is still going to be a workout, but going down the hills is going to be a LOT of fun!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Good News ... and not so good.

I saw the Chief of Neurology today, and had some EMG studies.

They had baselines from 2010 to compare to ... My nerve conduction, etc has dropped 50 - 60% in the last 4 years - not so good. He said everything indicates progression of my previously diagnosed condition - and it's going to keep progressing. At some point, I will be stuck in a wheelchair.

The good news - he doesn't think the CT Scan results are contributing to the neurological deficit; I'm NOT a candidate for surgery, so there will be no invasive procedures (such as a myelogram) done.

He ordered some more lab work, will do an in depth review of my case and leave notes for the Doctor I see in September.

St. George Island Sizzler 5K

Late Saturday afternoon, I rolled the St. George Island Sizzler 5K ... and it WAS Sizzling! It was over 100°! There are more photos on the way, but here's what I have so far ...

Lined up at the start ...

In the lead!

It was HOT!

Just over 1K to go ...

Rocking my tutu and 1st Place Wheelchair ...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

One more time

I hadn't heard from my 'New' Neurologist by 1:30 PM, so I called the Neurology Department at the Gainesville VAMC ... and was told:

  1. You have an appointment in September - as if that was supposed to answer my immediate requirements;
  2.  The Neurology Doctors (Fellows or Residents from Shands) are only here twice a month, that's why you haven't (and probably won't) be contacted by your new Doctor before your appointment in September. Only twice a MONTH - Really? This is the ONLY Neurology Specialty Clinic in the VA System in the North FL/South GA Region. It covers North Florida from Ocala. north to the FL-GA Line and from the Atlantic Coast to the Apalachacola River. It extends into Georgia up to Valdosta. You are telling me you only have the Clinic open TWICE a MONTH? They should be open AT LEAST once (if not twice) a WEEK!;
  3. I then asked to speak to the Chief of Neurology - he wasn't in, yada yada;
  4. I then asked to be put through to the direct line to the Patient Advocate (not the voice mail line) - suddenly I was put through to the Chief of Neurology that wasn't in o/O;
  5.  He took my information, said he would review my file and call me right back;

It was more than a few minutes, but he told me he had reviewed the past few YEARS of my chart so he would have a better understanding of my case. The CT Scans needed to be followed up on, but he didn't think the problems shown had any SIGNIFICANT impact on my Neurological issues; My progressive problems were PROBABLY just that - progression of my existing condition; he didn't want to do any invasive procedures such as a myelogram until more in depth nerve conduction studies had been done.

I have an appointment at Gainesville VAMC on Monday (nothing earlier than October, oops September - yeah, right). They are going to do a comprehensive EMG, and then I see the Chief of Neurology ...

The best part of all this ... I first saw the Chief of Neurology when I had my LAST EMG studies and HE is the one that pointed to my Lumbar Spine as the root (see that play on words - tell me I can't pun) cause of my lower extremity neurological deficits!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Since I never heard back from my Neurologist, I called the Gainesville VAMC yesterday. My Neurologist was a Resident/Fellow from Shands ... and graduated and no longer was associated with the VA; they had to assign a new Doctor to my case; he would review things during my follow-up appointment in OCTOBER; call my Primary Care Physician in Tallahassee; yada yada.

Needless to say that was frustrating.

I sent a Secure Message to my Primary Care Physician at the Tallahassee VAOPC ... and the Nurse noted that I had contacted Neurology at Gainesville, so the matter should be resolved. o/O

I responded back that it wasn't resolved, and called the Patient Advocate for my Region - and had to leave a Voice Mail and was told it may take up to 48 HOURS for them to respond.

It only took 24 hours for the Patient Advocate to respond. They contacted Neurology ... My October appointment has been moved up to September (something 'impossible' yesterday); I have a new Doctor assigned, but he is out today (but is supposed to contact me tomorrow); yada yada.

My Primary Care Physician called - he is filling the prescription that the out-going Doctor failed to fill; told me the new Doctor's name and verified that he has a message waiting for him; yada yada.

I feel a little better about things now - I was falling through a crack and managed to patch it up some. Now I just need to see where we go with the CT Scans of my Spine that show "Significant Abnormalities - Attention Required"

Saturday, August 2, 2014

On A Positive Note

I am trying hard to get the 'right' crank arms for my handcycle. Katie (RT at the VA) has a quote from Top End, and is advocating for me to get it approved by a Doctor and the money allocated. We shall see ...

I also have my neck rest in from The Finer Recliner!

Steve Sussmann is great to work with and has great products - I highly recommend him!

The neck rest will get it's first trial by fire next Saturday during the St. George Island Sizzler. Given the temperature and humidity levels we've had lately, fire might be an understatement.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The State of the Body

As I previously blogged, the Neurologist wasn't happy with my worsening issues, so he ordered a lot of blood work and CT Scans of my Lumbar and Thoracic Spine.

Reading the Notes by the Neurologist was less than encouraging. He suspects a couple of things that he 'somehow' failed to talk about while I was actual there.

The blood work was mostly normal with a couple of marginal results that MIGHT be contributing factors.

The results from the CT Scans of my Spine are in ... and it isn't encouraging.

The reason for the Thoracic Spine Scan ... "Symptoms suggestive of Thoracic Myelopathy" - which the Neurologist did NOT mention. The findings by the Radiologist - 'yada yada' SIGNIFICANT ABNORMALITIES - ATTN NEEDED (and, YES, he did put that in ALL CAPS).

The reason for the Lumbar Spine Scan ... "Neurogenic claudication" - something else the Neurologist failed to mention. The findings by the Radiologist - 'yada yada' SIGNIFICANT ABNORMALITIES - ATTN NEEDED (and, YES, he did put that in ALL CAPS also).

Google is NOT your friend when it comes to Medical Diagnoses (or suspected diagnoses). Even with a fair amount of medical background and knowledge, I was (and still am to a small degree) in a 'funk'.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Frigidaire pulls it's head out

Finally! A THIRD Repair Center was given the case ... and actually sent a technician out to troubleshoot my refrigerator before assuming what the problem was ... and ordering the wrong part to 'fix' it - like the second Service Center.

The electronic control MIGHT be an issue, but the real problem was ... wait for it ... the damper door was NOT attached to the servo that controls it. The damper never fully closed and air from the freezer side was pumped into the refrigerator side as long as the freezer ran. Because of higher than normal temperatures, the freezer has been running more frequently ... and the refrigerator side turned into an extension of the freezer.

This technician actually used the diagnostic features built into the unit to help diagnosis the problem. I feel a lot better knowing there is a competent repair service center to handle this - and any future problems. He made a temporary fix, and is ordering the parts to make a permanent fix - and he also fixed a problem that the second Repair technician caused.

I STILL think that Frigidaire has some real problems with Customer Support and Repairs. WhyTF would you dispatch someone over FOUR hours away as your FIRST choice? Why are they even considered to be in MY area? Why do you still have incompetents like the second Service Center doing repairs for you?

Saturday, July 26, 2014


The Frigidaire Repair Technician called this morning - the part had arrived late yesterday afternoon; could he come by this morning to repair the refrigerator?

They had to borrow some of my tools to gain access to the "bad part" ... the WRONG part had been sent to replace the "bad" one. Before he left, the Repair Technician said, "There might be other problems with your refrigerator".

SO, my refrigerator isn't fixed; he doesn't know when he can get the right part in; once he does get the right part, it probably won't fix the problem(s).

I think it's time for Frigidaire to give me my money back so I can purchase from a reliable company ... not that there are any of those still in business.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Frigidaire Sucks - sucks hairy, green, male donkey sexual organs!

The second Repair Technician said he would have to part about 10 AM; he said he would be here around 12 Noon. At 2:30 PM, I had still not seen or heard from him.

Another long wait (Due to heavier than normal call volume - the SAME message you get regardless of when you call them) for Customer Support; another long wait for a "supervisor" ... and AGAIN they tell me that they could not contact anyone at that Service Center. They were supposed to contact me "later in the day". Nope - didn't happen.

Guess what, Frigidaire - I no longer want the PIECE OF SHIT that you sold but apparently can't service! I will be attempting to return it for replacement - replacement from a different company.

You set up an appointment for Tuesday of NEXT WEEK for the SAME jackass that no-showed today to try again? Good luck with that - I probably won't be home. Your Customer Service rep seemed to think I would be happy about that and agree to it - sorry, I told him I did NOT agree to being rescheduled.

I think Frigidaire does NOT provide Customer Support (and they are lying about heavier than normal call volume).

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Really, Frigidaire?

Here we are 23 HOURS after a Repair Technician was due to be here - they 'no-showed' and NEVER called ... surprise, surprise.

Frigidaire must not have liked my Tweet from yesterday - they replied to it:

We reget that you have had such an experience. Pls email SocialCare@Frigidaire.com w your info so we can better assist you. Thnx!

I sent them an e-mail ... STILL WAITING, Frigidaire!>

A Repair Technician from a different Service Center was supposed to come this morning - I just got a phone call from him. He was given the wrong information about the problem; he doesn't have the part to fix it; he's not coming and will have to order the part needed; he MIGHT be able to come tomorrow.

I'm about ready to tell Frigidaire to stick this POS En al Sams la Raisa (a little Discworld humour ... but it IS how I feel right now).

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


We have a New (purchased in April) Frigidaire Refrigerator. Last week it decided to start freezing food in the Refrigerator side and the Freezer section REALLY got cold. Turning to settings to warmer made little difference, so I called Frigidaire and they set up an appointment to have a service technician check it out.

The appointment was for 8-12 this morning ... and here it is after 5 pm and STILL no technician.

I called about an hour after he was due, and all they could do was leave a voice mail with the service company asking for an update.

After that call, I did some checking on my own - there are FOUR Service Centers that handle my area ... 3 are about 30 minutes away and one is over 4 HOURS away. Guess which one they are sending - that's right ... Lagrange Appliance and Electronics - the one between Lagrange and Atlanta, GEORGIA!

I called back and spoke with a Supervisor at Frigidaire - she was clueless about why that Service Center was assigned my case, but she did get through to someone at the Service Center. The technician was spending more time than anticipated on another call; they have no idea why I wasn't notified; they are still expecting to handle my case today; yada yada.

In case they do NOT get here today (fat luck with that), they have one of the other Service Centers scheduled for tomorrow.

IF they had assigned that Service Center to begin with, then the problem PROBABLY would have been fixed the day after I initially called. As it is, I turned the settings to the warmest possible and it ONLY took 4 DAYS for the frozen items to defrost. Once they are here tomorrow, they MIGHT have to order parts - and god knows how long it will take Frigidaire to ship/deliver those. The way things have gone so far, they will ship them from Pluto by way of the Moon.

Frigidaire - I'm not real happy with you right now.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

And it's down, and up and down again

All of a sudden my connection has decided to play roller coaster. DSL looses sync and the modem has to go through the sync and authentication cycle ... over and over and over again.

Isn't it time to spend some of that money you take in on INFRASTRUCTURE for a change, Fairpoint?

Fixed ... for a while.

Fairpoint repair tech arrived ...

The modem (actually a dsl router, but who cares) is bad - replace modem.

Oops, the new modem won't authenticate, either.

Call and confirm that the username and password I gave him are correct - still no authentication.

Call infrastructure repair - they had a trouble call into the CO late Saturday/early Sunday morning and transferred "everyone" over to new hardware to fix a problem.

Whoops - we didn't finish Mr. Russell's circuit apparently.

I now have Fairpoint Internet ... again. 4.5 mbps (part of that UP TO 7 mbps package) down and 0.9 mbps up. Sucks to live in the boondocks with piss poor infrastructure and service.

Fairpoint - Part Douche

Here we are SIXTY hours later ... and STILL no internet!

I contacted a 'Supervisor' yesterday - she had my case "escalated". I have YET to be contacted by Tier 2 Tech Support or to have a local repair tech out to troubleshoot.

I just got off the phone with another Supervisor (one I have dealt with before that actually can get results). Several higher level people have been contacted ... and I am supposed to be contacted shortly - we shall see.

Monday, July 7, 2014


Time to rant about the piss poor service Fairpoint provides in my area. Their website claims that 30 mbps is available in my area - you can also choose 15 mbps or 4 mpbs service.

 Don't be fooled - the FASTEST service SUPPOSEDLY available in my area is 7 mbps.

Good luck with that ... only upon RARE occasions have we had anywhere close to that speed! After several calls (and one open trouble ticket that was ignored for almost 2 weeks), they "fixed" the problem and gave us ONE month credit.

Here we are a week later and ... Saturday our download speed dropped from the usual low speed down to a whopping 0.03 mbps - our upload speed was essentially ZERO. Almost an hour of frustrating time on the phone with "tech support" resulted in ANOTHER escalation and trouble ticket.

ONE hour later ... NO internet! Our DSL syncs ... just no internet. That was added to the trouble ticket on Sunday.

Here we are 36 hours later with NO calls from Tier 2 and still NO internet!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Vampires, Thunderboomers and hellacious heat ...

I've had the blood drawn for the lab work the Neurologist wanted - NINE tubes worth! CT Scans are scheduled - and you know it's not a good sign when the instructions say nothing to eat or drink hours before the tests ... AND you have to be there early to be "prepped". All that for CT of my spine - really?

Thunderstorms EVERY afternoon along with heat indices in the triple digits is making it difficult to get in my "runs".  I could try going early in the morning - but I REALLY don't trust drivers even if I do use lights. I may have to start doing so, anyway, but I'd rather find another solution.

St. George Island 5K Scorcher in August - was I crazy when I signed up for that? At least the weather now will get me ready for it - IF I can actually survive the training!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A definite improvement

At 7:30 this morning, I took my improved ride out for a 5K test run - in spite of the already hot temperature. Without really pushing things (or even getting into the 52 tooth chainring), I hit over 20 MPH on an essentially flat course and finished in 16:12 - which is over SEVEN Minutes better then my previous PR for a 5K. The SRAM DD3 hub was major factor!

Average speed 11.4 MPH - which is getting into the area I need to Boston Qualify (13.1 MPH average).

It will take a little time to get ideal shifting, etc down pat, but for a first time try in less than ideal weather, this was a BIG improvement. Once I get onto a course where I can really use the big chainring, my top speed should take a big jump upward.

July 4th, there is the 'Walk to Liberty', which goes across the bridge between Calhoun and Liberty (wonder where they got the name) Counties. There is a nice hump in the bridge - and I should be able to max out my speed going down into Liberty County. The Speed Limit is 55 MPH - and I intend to see if I can break that limit. If I can spin up to 120 cadence, I should be doing 56 MPH - we shall see!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Getting my "Baby" back ...

I'm back from The Great Bicycle Shop -

SRAM DD3 Hub installed - check (36 spoke 3 - cross using DT Swiss Stainless Steel spokes and brass nipples!);

52T and 24T chainrings installed - check;

Move parking brake to left crank grip - check (makes it a LOT easier to double up on braking);

Mount the DD3 trigger shifter on the left crank grip - check;

Tune all the brakes, shifters, and do an "oil change and grease job" - check;

Do all that at a GREAT price - check!

Right now the 'feels like' is in triple digits, so I am NOT going out for a test ride ... yet.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sturmey Archer redux

I contacted Sturmey Archer with some questions about using drum brakes on a handcycle ... and after a wait of several days, received an answer.

They have two models specifically designed for recumbent bicycles, wheelchairs and handcycles that use bolt on wheels - the X-SD and the XL-SD. The difference - size. The X model is 70mm and the XL weighs in at 90mm.

I had been unable to find a source for these, so that was one of my questions ... and the answer was - Bike Tools, etc. $125 for ONE brake - and that doesn't include the brake lever or cable. Add in spokes (needed to lace this hub into my current wheels), brake lever, cable and other needed items, and you are looking at close to $200 for EACH wheel.

I would love to have the extra security (and possible steering improvement), but $400 isn't going to happen any time soon.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Neurological State of the Body

My VA Primary Care Physician has not been happy with my falls, etc ... so he set up a follow-up appointment with Neurology. I'm not happy with a FOUR hour drive to see a VA Neurologist ... and I'm not real happy with what he said.

He feels some of my problems are due to Intermittent Circulatory Claudication - so he is scheduling an appointment with Vascular Surgery for ultrasound testing;

He is concerned about some finding and is setting up Cat Scans of my Thoracic and Lumbar Spines (can't do a MRI because of the metal in the Right Ventricle of my heart);

Additionally, he is setting up a couple of gallons of blood work (maybe not that much, but a LOT), because some of my issues can be caused my some Vitamin and Mineral problems;

All this coordinated through my Primary Care Physician in Tallahassee.

Once the results are in, then more intensive testing will probably take place - oh joy!

Other than that, I'm in pretty good shape. I'm getting a prescription for an anti-nausea medication to take during my Migraine Headaches (and possibly be placed back on Fiorinal with Codeine - everyone needs barbiturates and codeine [NOT!])

Friday, June 13, 2014

Now I wait ...

I took my racing chair over to The Great Bicycle Shop yesterday - and was given a great price to have the two chainrings installed, the SRAM DD3 hub laced into the drive wheel, the shifter for the SRAM hub installed and all the shifters adjusted.

Unfortunately, after checking dimensions, they don't have the right sized spokes in stock ... so it will be "maybe Wednesday but probably Thursday" of next week before my ride is ready to pick up.

They already have the chainrings on ... but said that without the fancy Shimano ramps and pins, it was problematic to get a shift to the big 52 tooth chainring. I have some thoughts on that, but I don't see that being a real problem.

I mentioned some of my concerns about the crank arms and braking - they are going to check around to see what they can come up with for better fitting crank arms and the best choice of brakes for the rear wheels. They agreed that only having the one front caliper brake was "less than idea" - especially in the wet. Adding independent real wheel brakes would allow two things - MUCH better braking in an emergency stop situation and possibly better turning by braking just one wheel on the rear. Recumbent bikes use independent brakes on the dual front wheels to turn, and I'm hoping I can achieve a similar effect.

I've been doing some more looking into things, and decided that disc brakes on the rear would be problematic because of the lack of good mounting choices for the brake calipers. Another options I've came across - Sturmey Archer drum brakes. There are four basic choices - with or without a dynamo (powers lights, etc) and 70mm or 90mm brakes. Given the speed I can potentially reach going down steep inclines, I'm leaning toward a pair of the large brakes. They are only about $9.00 more per hub and provide a good deal of extra security. Yes, they do have the disadvantage of being a little heavy, but these brakes work in the wet, may give me better turning ... and the thoughts of the extra safety from better brakes overcomes any weight disadvantage. If I had had a pair of these on the rear on my leased handcycle, I would not have had my crash!

Another advantage to going this route - the higher flanges on the hub will make for stronger wheels on the rear.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Finally ...

Both chainrings are in

24 teeth at the slow end and 52 teeth for the top end - that looks like a HUGE difference. It looks a little better with the 36 tooth middle chainring in place.

Tomorrow, I'm taking the racing chair, the SRAM DD3 hub and the two chainrings to a local bike shop to have the hub laced to the rim, the 9 speed cassette moved to the DD3 hub and the chainrings installed. Once all that's done, the racing chair gets a good tuneup on the shifters, etc.

There are still some things that I want to change ... but they will have to wait.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A little off topic

I've been keeping track of browsers and Operating Systems used by people visiting my blog - and this week is rather anomalous.

By Browser:
  1. Firefox - 36%
  2. Silk - 35%
  3. Chrome -  14%
  4. Internet Exploder - 6%
  5. Safari - 5%
  6. Opera - 1%
By Operating System:
  1.  Linux - 35%
  2. Windows - 32%
  3. Macintosh - 23%
  4. iPad - 3%
  5. Android - 2%
  6. iPhone - 1%
  7. Other Unix - 1%
What does all this mean?

Safari is the primary browser for Apple products (the way Internet Exploder is for Windows) - however, with 27% of the Operating Systems being on Apple Products and only 5% of visitors using Safari, it looks like a lot of people are avoiding Safari for some reason. That's odd, because Safari is actual a good browser.

6% still use Internet Explorer Exploder! Haven't you heard that there are MUCH better options? IE is better than it used to be - but is still a long way behind other browsers. Do yourselves a favor and check out Firefox, Chrome, Safari or Opera.

Silk? What's up with that? I guess the Kindle Fire is much more popular than I thought, because that's the browser Amazon makes standard on the Kindle Fire line of tablets.

Firefox (as usual) is the number one browser - wisely so, imo.

Linux is the number one Operating System - really? Maybe the Kindle Fire users explain this.

Android users outnumber the iPhone users - which is unusual. Personally I prefer Android, but the iPhone is more popular most of the time. Who knows.

Just thought I would share this - and thank my visitors from Germany, Spain, Croatia and the Ukraine. Edit: Israel joined the fun - and so has Russia.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Better and Better!

The second chainring shipped today, and should be here Monday or Tuesday (USPS Priority Mail).

I contacted several bike shops in Tallahassee to get some rough estimates for replacing the chainrings, building the wheel with the SRAM DD3 hub and tuning up all the shifters, etc. and got a really good price from one of the top rated shops.

I should be taking my ride over on Wednesday or Thursday to get things started, and have it ready for pickup on Friday or Saturday. While it's in the shop, I'm going to see if they have any suggestions about the crank arms - who knows, they may know someone that can custom make a set.

Sunday I should be taking it out for a good test run including a few small hills to check out the low end and get an idea how the top end looks - the hills aren't really long enough to get a real head of steam up, but I'll get a good idea how it will handle on a longer run.

What am I hoping for? Getting my average speed into the 12 to 15 MPH range. To Boston Qualify, I need to average 13.1 MPH for a full Marathon, so ...

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Things are looking up

Cheap airfares are popping up ... and I found a round trip fare from ECP (Panama City Beaches) to DCA (Ronald Reagan National) and return for under $200. It would cost more than that in gas alone to drive, so ... I'm booked on the flight and Achilles International will arrange for pickup and return to Ronald Reagan National.

I have been tweaking my handcycle extensively, and have gotten a much better fit. Still not ideal, but a good deal closer. I need to drop the bottom bracket another 1" to 1 1/2" to be the ideal height - that won't happen without different crank arms ... which is in the $400 range.

Now I just need the final chainring to come in so I can get the new gears and SRAM DD3 hub installed. Once that's done, I will start some serious training. I REALLY want to get my times down so I can try for a Boston Qualifier ... which means a Marathon in under  TWO hours!

Two hours? Can I do it? Maybe - but it's going to take a lot of training ... and maybe some better additions to the handcycle. Next up on my wish list - competition wheels from Zipp ... but they are WAY too expensive on my budget.

Friday, May 30, 2014

A pleasant surprise

I had a package notice in my mailbox today, and in the package ... a SRAM DD3 hub with the trigger shifter and clickbox!

Now I just need the chainrings I ordered to come in - then I can set up an appointment with a bike shop to install everything and I'm in business.

Of course, there are a few more items on my wishful thinking list that would make things a lot better ...

1. Disc brakes;

2. Better crank arms;

3. Competition wheels;

4. 10 speed cassette, derailleur and shifter;

5. ...

But those are just in the wishful thinking stage right now, and I am MORE than satisfied with where I am now compared to a year ago - I have a handcycle (with some NICE tweaks) and I'm not falling when I go for run/walks!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


I've decided that I will stick what I have ... with a few modifications.

1. I already added the crank handle extensions. The cranks aren't ideal, but I don't see the $$ being available to change them any time soon, so ...

2. The Shimano Crankset (FC-M431) has 26-36-48 Chainrings with an 11-32 9-speed Cassette. This gives a "low speed of 2.5 MPH and a spin out top end of about 32 MPH. The low is a little high and the top end isn't nearly enough. Playing with the numbers (and finding what's actually available), it looks like a 24-36-52 set of Chainrings will give a low of 2.2 MPH (cadence of 40) and a high of 34 MPH (cadence of 100). Definitely a change in the right direction.

Who makes a 104 BCD 52T Chainring, you ask? Rennen Design Group does! You can choose from 32T to 52T AND you can also choose DIGITAL increments. But wait, that's not all! You can also choose your color from Black, Polished, Brown, Red, Blue, Green, Gold, Orange, Purple and Flourescent Pink!

I went with Blue 52T (ignore what the photo says for number of teeth)

64 BCD 24T Chainrings are commonly available - even in Blue. I went with the Blackspire Super Pro Blue 24T

3. The 9-Speed Cassette isn't ideal - a wide range 11-36 10-speed cassette is a definite improvement ... on the bottom end. With a 1.9 MPH low at a 40 cadence, there will be few hills anywhere I will be racing that can't be handled. The top end is still stuck at 34 MPH, though - which is NOT enough going down hill! Let's see - SRAM PG-1070 11-36 Cassette - $65; SRAM X9 10 speed trigger shifter - $61; SRAM X9 Long Cage 10 speed derailleur - $90 ... $210 to change the Cassette - not happening soon.

4. There is still that pesky top speed - time to look at the SRAM DD3 again. That moves the low end down to 1.4 MPH -  definitely a hill climber ... and the top end goes up to almost 47 MPH - which is MUCH more like it! Without changing the cassette, I'm looking at the same top end and a low of 1.6 MPH ... hmmmm!  DD3 Hub, shifter, etc - pretty close to that same $200 plus area and still out of reach right now ... especially if I go with the disc brake version.

5. Did someone say disc brakes? There goes another $170 ... nope.

6. Not really a performance enhancer (well, maybe a tiny bit), but a neck rest really would feel good and let me push just a tiny bit harder. Enter Steve at The Finer Recliner who is custom making one for my Force 2.

So, just where am I headed?

The extensions will work for a while - check;
52T Chainring ordered - check
24T Chainring ordered - check
Neck Rest ordered - check

I REALLY want the DD3 hub now - and the disc brakes ... but that's $400 or so that I just don't have right now and won't for a while.

What does that leave?
Fund Raisers - NO, not going there!;
Time - I have plenty of that;
Corporate Sponsors; etc.  If you happen to know a Company that would like to spend a little for some VERY active word of mouth advertising ... send them my way and I will talk with them.

Monday, May 19, 2014

BFD Catfish Crawl 5K

BFD stands for Blountstown Fire Department, btw.

So my handcycle isn't 100% perfect; so I showed up a little late; so I was the first ever handcycle entry for the 2014 BFD Catfish Crawl 5K; so I ... set a PR of 22:40.

It's a nice out and back on part of the Florida Rails to Trails, with plenty of shade. The boardwalk under the Highway 20 Bridge is ROUGH for a racing chair! Mostly flat with some small rollers ... and an uphill climb to the finish.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Not as much rant

Last evening I took the chair out for a spin now that I have the extensions installed and as much tweaking as I can do for positioning ... and turned in 2.8 miles in 19 minutes. That's a damned good time for me - not near what I want to be, but still very respectable.

BUT, it could be better:

1. I could tell that I could have gotten more power into my cranking IF I could have lowered the Bottom Bracket another 2 or 3 inches (you want the centerline to be about the level of your lower sternum for the highest efficiency). That can't happen without more clearance - and that won't happen with the current crank arms.

2. I could feel the flex in the crank arms under maximum load - that is NOT a good thing! I'm really afraid the arms are going to fail - probably during a race when I really need them the most.

Current options:

1. Keep using the current setup until the point of failure and then have to raise money to replace the crank arm system;

2. Start a fund raiser to replace the necessary parts to upgrade to a wider crank arm system now;

3. Try to get a sponsor so I can get the really nice things - such as racing wheels, better cassette (10 speed to go with a SRAM DD-3 hub), better crankset and disc brakes. You have to set high goals ;)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Rant ... Part Deux

I got the handle extenders in today ... and I could lower the crankset head 1/2 inch! That made such a difference ... NOT! Well, maybe a little bit.

It DID get the handles out closer to square with my shoulders - 18" versus 22" center line to center line of the shoulder joints.

The extensions are the longest I can use ... and to be honest, they are probably too long - I can see the crank arms flex and torque under maximum push/pull on the handles. That is going to lead to work hardening and stress fractures of the crank arms - I can see it now.

Short term, I can use the handcycle as it is now. Long term, the crank arms, etc need to be changed out.

Now that the handcycle is in realistically usable condition, I'm going to be putting a LOT of miles on it. I have a bunch of races later this year (up to 50 Miles in the Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic), and I will be doing a LOT of training. We will just have to see how it holds up under the stress.

Perspective - I put well over 200 miles on the leased handcycle in the 3 months I used it. I anticipate putting in that much every month during training. Between training and actual runs, I can easily foresee cranking out 3000 Miles every year.

3000 MILES?!? What can you expect? Replace the tires; replace the chain (probably); the lower end quality cassette and crankset will both be showing signs of wear; those pesky aluminum crank arms could very well suffer fatigue failure within the first year; etc. It can get expensive real quick ...

On the other hand (aka a short rant).

After actually doing some training runs on the Force 2, I'm starting to see a couple of minor issues.

1. I had to adjust the crankset to its highest setting just to clear my legs. Because it's so narrow, there is little room for adjustment. I have ordered some crank handle extensions that MIGHT let the handles clear on the sides and let me drop the crankset down some. With the crankset up as high as it can go, I'm not cranking at the most efficient angle!

2. I had to adjust the seat position some to try to clear my chest from the crankset and handles. Maybe the handle extensions will help here too.

3. I'm really beginning to doubt that the extensions are going to be enough - which makes the fix very expensive. The next step requires changing out the bottom bracket, crankset and handles ... which is about $500. I can't see why so much has to be swapped out, but Top End is looking at that bottom line. All you should have to do is swap out the crank arms, but Shimano has a proprietary spider on the crankset the Force 2 comes with.

4. That brings up another touchy subject - the crankset. Why the &@#$%^ have a 104mm BCD on a handcycle? It's not like it's a Mountain Bike that needs the clearance. It makes chainring selection rather limited. I see no reason they couldn't have gone with 110mm (or even 130mm) BCD - which are standard sizes for road bikes.

5. Yes, disc brakes would have been a little more expensive - key word LITTLE. Disc brakes require less 'squeeze' to activate - which IS a big deal when your arthritis is flaring in your hands. They are also more consistent in the wet ... such as after (or during) a rain or in a damp, foggy day.

6. An 8/9 speed hub - really? Yes, you can usually put a 10 speed cassette on the 8/9 speed hub, but an 11 speed hub works with all 4 cassettes and costs little - if any - more. The 11 speed hub is also better in a lot of ways. Why not go with a better product? My guess is the bottom line.

7. No, the VA won't furnish 'real' racing wheels (and I don't disagree with that) ... but it would be nice to have something better than the bottom end wheels and tires that come standard on the Force 2. If you are getting a competition  handcycle doesn't it make sense to get competition level wheels and tires?

Overall, I think the VA was penny wise and pound foolish. They HAD to bring the cost in below a fixed point because of rules, etc - and I can see that making sense in a lot of cases ... but I'm the square peg that doesn't fit that round hole. There needs to be some wiggle room for the special cases - such as the standard crank arms that I truly believe are NOT going to work out and will have to be swapped out in the long run.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A little off topic ...

About 10% of you coming here use Internet Exploder Explorer ... and you shouldn't. Why not? It never has been all that secure, to be honest ... and now even Homeland Security is advising you not to use it!

"The U.S. Department of Homeland security is advising Americans not to use the Internet Explorer Web browser until a fix is found for a serious security flaw that came to light over the weekend.
The bug was announced on Saturday by FireEye Research Labs, an Internet security software company based in Milpitas, Calif.
"We are currently unaware of a practical solution to this problem," the Department of Homeland Security's United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team said in a post Monday morning.
It recommended that users and administrators "consider employing an alternative Web browser until an official update is available.""

Alternative browsers? Firefox or Chrome are good choices. Safari  is another possible choice.

Personally, I like Firefox - and, in fact, I use Aurora, which is the Alpha (pre-beta) test version of Firefox.

Monday, April 28, 2014

OMG! Part 2

An update on my MCM Team Achilles spot - not only are they giving me a spot in the Marine Corps Marathon ... they are covering the registration fees AND providing accommodations at the Team Hotel! All I have to do is pay my way there and back! Maybe I'm not a total Idiot ... I DID join Team Achilles, after all.

I know there are some hills on the MCM course, so I need to get serious on my training! 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

That's a little better ...

I did my 2 mile training course again - and averaged 7.9 MPH and hit a top speed of 14 MPH. I still have a long way to go until I'm actually competitive, but it IS a new handcycle. A year from now I will be doing a lot better!

On a side note, the Shimano shifter is just NOT going to work where it's at. I'm going to move it over to the left hand crank and see if I can move it to a position where I can actually downshift the 9 speed cassette. with one hand. Right now, it is a little too far for my right thumb to reach and downshift ... and there is no room to move it closer or turn it where it will be reachable.

Other not so nice features:

1. The hub is 8/9 speed cassette only. I will have to buy a new hub if I want to use a 10 speed (or 11 speed) cassette. Getting the Dual Drive 3 would solve the hub issue ... and the SRAM shifters are MUCH more handcycle friendly.

2. The crankset isn't wide enough to clear my legs or abdomen, and it's only 170 mm. I'm wondering if the Force G "S" crankarms can be fitted to the Force 2. They add 6" in width and are 200mm for a little additional leverage. I have long arms, so the extra length wouldn't be an issue as long as I had the extra width for clearance. I predict a call to Top End in the near future.

Friday, April 25, 2014


My leased handcycle was from New Hampshire. My new handcycle was built for use in Florida. Do you think it might be geared just a little differently? DUH!

Let's just say that inclines are MUCH more challenging! In spite of the gearing difference, A quick 2 mile training run went real well. 17 minutes with an average speed of 6.9 mph and a max of 13.5 on mostly flat road with a several small (33 foot climb) rolling hills. That would be close to a PR for a 5K distance ... in street clothes!

Looks like it's time to consider getting the SRAM Dual Drive hub. Specifically the DD3-30 with Disc Brakes.

That would give me an extra low range, a 1:1 direct drive and a high end boost for going down any hills I have to climb. It would also change out the 9 speed cassette for a 10 speed cassette giving me an even lower granny low.

Because of the on going move, it won't happen "soon", but it WILL happen.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


I just received an e-mail from Achilles International ... they are adding me to their Marine Corps Marathon team!  That is such an honor!

My new handcycle; entry into the Marine Corp Marathon; I can only wonder what's next ... because "good things come in threes"!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


I was fitted for MY handcycle; took it for a test ride; had it tweaked; and took it for another test run.

it's the blue one.

Sporting my Achilles International shirt!

Katie Blunk is fantastic! She's the VA Rep that is in charge of the Adaptive Sports Equipment program in Florida. It's because of her and her staff that I have my new ride!

I wasn't the only one happy today - there were two other Vets getting recumbent bicycles today, also!

I took it for a little spin after supper. Not in a hurry; not really dressed to race; just a short little test run - 1 mile in just under 10 minutes with a max speed of over 13 mph on level ground.  Once I have taken some training runs, this is going to be a jet!