Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Good news ... and then not so good.

The good news: Yesterday I was at the Top End factory to be fitted for the handcycle that the VA had approved. The technician felt that the Force RX
would be the best fit for me, and made all the measurements after I went for a test ride - WOW, what a thrill! I was flying on the test run!

The not so good news: While I was on the way back home, I received a call from the VA ...

The VA would not approve that model unless I was a diagnosed quad or paraplegic.  They had discussed it with the technician, and settled on the Force 2 - with a few modifications.

 Not as sexy; not as many tweaks for speed ... but still a nice ride.  One thing I give up - being able to chose a color - mine will be blue. I have thought of a few tweaks I can add ... and may do so as things move along.

What kind of tweaks am I considering?

1. A gear hub. Why a gear hub? With a 3 speed hub, I will have a direct drive that wouldn't change the current gearing - BUT, it would add an underdrive for an extra low granny gear to climb those @#$% hills. It would also add an overdrive for screaming down the other side of those hills.

How fast was he going? 75 KPH (over 45MPH)!  Pretty fast when you're only sitting a few inches off the road! That was without an overdrive, so I might end up a good deal faster if I wanted to push it on the right hill ...

2. Upgraded wheels. There are some VERY nice carbon fiber wheels that have much better aerodynamics than standard wheels. I particularly like the specs on the Zipp 303 wheels - especially since you can get those with disc brakes.

3. Tires. The Continental Grand Prix 4000 tires on that Zipp wheel would be my choice.

What the hell is that? It's NOT round!  THEORETICALLY, it takes some of the load off of your legs (arms in the case of a handcycle) when you are at the weakest point of your stroke and adds extra power when you are at the strongest point.  The judges are out,  but it seems to be a personal choice. Some people love them - some hate them. There are other companies that make oval rings (and these aren't a true oval), but this company has addressed some of the issues people had with the oval rings. Will I love them - or hate them? I don't know, but I WOULD like to try them out.

5. Who knows! There will always be something you want to tweak.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Fingers crossed!

The Marine Corps Marathon Lottery opened today. I have my entry in ... now all I can do is wait and hope. There are other options if I'm not selected, but this is the way to start.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


I received word this morning that the VA has approved a Racing Handcycle for me! I go down to the factory that actually builds them to be fitted next week. Getting a custom fit will make sure it's just right for me.

They will also determine which model is the 'best fit' for me. I am going to end up with either a Top End Force G
or the Top End Force RX
Isn't that one sexy handcycle?

I am so excited right now I can hardly contain myself! No more leased units - MINE!

Racers frequently give their chairs a nickname ... and I'm in the market. Please leave suggestions in the comments ...

Monday, February 17, 2014

another word from our sponsors

I am Half Fanatic #4919 and just got accepted as Marathon Maniac #8762. If you frequently run half or full Marathons, I encourage you to check out those sites. Even if you don't join, they have great calenders of upcoming races to help you feed your addiction - and running IS addicting.

I am also a member of Idiots Running Club #986. If you feel like an Idiot - or friends and family call you an Idiot - because of all your runs, this is where you belong! Fill out the application and don't be an Idiot and forget to click the submit button (scroll down the application). ti no trid emos buR.

All three have FaceBook pages - feel free to join there, also.

Do you like camping out? Did you know that Walt Disney World has a Campground? Join the Fort Fiends! Lots of information; lots of friendship ... and a dose of Snark!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Another Weekend and

Two more races.

Saturday, 2/15/2014, I ran the 12K Flash in St. Marks, FL. VERY cool, but a nice flat course mostly on a scenic bike path. I love this course! Finished 1st in the Wheelchair Division with a time of 54:47 - a PR since it was my first 12K in the chair.

I then drove to Gainesville, for packet pickup for the 5 Points Of Life Marathon. Today, 2/16/2014, I got another PR by doing a 3:03:09.7. 1st place Wheelchair; 13th overall and 3rd place Master. The course was HILLY! A lot of the roads could use some work - potholes and just generally rough (and my butt is letting me know it isn't happy about 3 hours in the chair on a rough course and then 4 hours driving home). Part of the course goes though The Swamp - at least you go through part of the Parking Garage and Concession Stand area. You also get to watch the lowlights highlights from some of the Gator Football games on monitors on the course.

Next up - the Albany Marathon in Albany, GA on 3/1/2014.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Tallahassee Marathon

Sunday, Feb 2, 2014 was my next race - the Tallahassee Marathon.

Lined up for the start:

 and then I'm off - followed by a few people

Overall, it's a nice course - BUT! It has speed bumps - handcycles have a low ground clearance, and don't like speed bumps!

You also head down a nice bike trail ... but it has canopy trees and in foggy, overcast weather the trees overhead drip as much as a modest rain puts out. Running in the wet isn't fun - it's not too pleasant in a handcycle, either.

There is a short stretch where you turn off of the bike trail and into a park ... with gravel pathways. Gravel is NOT easy to go through with any kind of racing chair. The course is an out and back ... so you get this twice.

You finish up on the track at FSU.

It's all about 'The Bling'! 

Yes, that IS a Groundhog - the Tallahassee Marathon is run on Groundhog's Day and the Groundhog is the mascot.

Set a PR in my chair - 3:53:10.2. Even with the hick ups, this is a nice run, and I will be competing in the future.

... and now a word from our sponsors.

Not really, but I did want to post links to items I've found useful, friends with businesses, etc.

Hydration! You CAN have too much hydration while running, but you usually have more issues with not enough hydration. While running, many people carry bottles or use a hydration pack - in a racing chair it is much more problematic. In a race, runners can just grab a cup from a water stop - in a chair, it is REALLY a problem. Getting your gloves wet when you grab one of those cups and slosh some is worse than getting your shoes wet! You WILL get blisters on your hands! Hydrations packs are your answer ... BUT I never liked the idea of having one with a bladder. The bladders are HARD to clean, can pick up flavors ... or even get moldy. Then I came across an interesting concept - the Jetflow Hydration System. No bladders to clean; no worries about picking up flavors; no worries, mate! Velcro one of these to the back of your chair and ... you're off! You don't even have to use one of their packs - you can get the system without a bottle and stuff it into your own pack ... or just strap the bottle down and fasten to bite valve tube in an easy to reach location.Personally, I got the Warthog Pack and added a second Jetflow System. Two different liquids (if I want); room to carry my helmet; room for a LOT of stuff.

Energy supplements - it's really a personal choice, but I liked GU Energy Gels while walking. The Salted Caramel is KILLER! 

In a racing chair, you do NOT want to get that sticky stuff on your gloves! My solution - GU Chomps (and I really like the Peach Tea flavor). Nothing sticky to mess with ... and I can spread them out to maintain the perfect level of energy.

Shoes - while walking I REALLY liked Saucony
Then I heard about the Hoka One One. I tried a pair and bought them!

 I STRONGLY suggest you go to a running store with the ability to test your gait using a frame by frame video. They will be able to suggest an appropriate shoe to match your strike and pronation. Then try on different brands to find the ones that feel right for YOU. A good store will let you take a pair out for a 'test drive' - mine does. They also give a discount for being a member of my local Track Club, so you might want to check into joining one. I HIGHLY recommend doing so even if you don't get a discount

A little side track here - my local Track Club is Gulf Winds Track Club. Why is that worth a side track? It was founded by Jeff Galloway! Yes, THAT Jeff Galloway! You really need to try out his Run-Walk method.

Nothing to do with running, but I belong to the Fort Fiends, a RV Camping group. One of our members rents campers at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort in Orlando. They have WONDERFUL themes available. You really need to check out Fort Camper Rental - and go camping (and running) at Disney World.

Have Special Needs? Then you need to check out Special Mouse and their podcasts (available on iTunes if you so desire). I - along with Kerry Kingdon - am featured on their You can runDisney in a Wheelchair podcast. Check us out!

Get out there and DO it!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The search is on - and then ...

The VA said they were going to get me a handcycle - but it was going to be MANY months in the future! What do I do in the meantime? I have runs I have registered for! I start looking for a handcycle I can beg, borrow, steal ... or rent.

I came across a website that had a program at a University to provide adaptive sports equipment ... and they dealt with their local VA. The problem - it was the University of New Hampshire!

I threw caution to the wind and called them - and they offered me a GREAT rate for renting during their off season. KUDOS to NorthEast Passage! OK - I can rent the handcycle, but what then? Jason Adams - a very good friend from mentioned he was flying to Disney World December 23rd and could fly it down for me.

December 26th saw me down at WDW to pick up my chariot!

I contacted runDisney because I had registered for The Dopey almost a year before. They told me, "no problem" - but I needed a time in a wheelchair run to compete at Disney. Luckily, I had registered over a year ago for the Panama City Beach Biggest Loser RunWalk. December 29, I "ran" a 1/2 Marathon. I hadn't felt that good during a run in years! I had been in denial.

Disney Marathon Week rolls around ... and so did I. (More snark -of course). With no training time, I finished all four runs for The Dopey. The pixie dust was flying - and so was I.

What is The Dopey? 4 Races; 4 days; 48.6 miles:

Day one of the races - the 5K Family Fun Run. This run is not timed normally (you are supposed to have fun with your family, after all) ... but the Dopey runners have timing chips. The Plan - take it easy and finish around the 40 minute mark (45 is the cutoff).

You start in a CM parking lot beside EPCOT, and that went well ... all the other wheelchair racers left me in the dust. Next you circle around to the right and go backstage. Nothing to see here ... move along, move along.

Now it gets interesting ... You enter the EPCOT under the outside speed run track for Test Track ... and start getting passed by the faster runners. Head down to the Countries and turn left toward Mexico ... and you start seeing some of the Disney characters. Circle around until you get to the #!$@? Bridge just past France. Have I told you I had no time to train; have I told you that inclines suck ... you will come to understand that going uphill in a handcycle is "not a good thing" with no training.

What goes up must come down ... a LOT faster! Going downhill to the International Gateway was FAST. For my first downhill run, it was almost frightening ... but it was also FUN! Backstage again ... and, again not much to see ... except a water stop.

Back into EPCOT near Canada; a short run; turn left and head to the "Ball". Circle around the left of the Ball, backstage one more time and you see the finish line back in the CM parking lot you started in.

How did my "take it easy plan" work? I thought I WAS taking it easy ... and finished in 24 minutes. I felt great; no shoulder issues at all ... and FAR less cardiopulmonary issues than I normally had while running. Hmm, maybe I was in denial about my running problems.

Day 2 - The Minnie 10K (you will learn that all the Marathon Week runs have a character name except the 5K). Awake at 2:30 a.m. to have time to get to the outpost, load my chair and take the shuttle bus to the race start area. The Plan - take it easy today ... yesterday was faster than intended; save it for the Marathon ... 1:15 (1:30 cutoff) sounds good.

Same start location, but we don't head backstage like we did for the 5K - we turn left, head down the road for just over a mile. They warn us that there is a sharp turn ahead. No kidding! Handcycles do NOT turn sharply - mine has an 18 FOOT turn radius. Of course, you have an incline to go with the turn !#$@+. Head back the way you came, and then go backstage - still nothing to see.

This time you enter EPCOT next to Norway. CMs cheering, characters, and that expletive deleted bridge at France again.

Out the International Gateway and take the bridge (why does it have to be bridges) across to the Boardwalk. The Boardwalk is ROUGH! $@#!+, it's another bridge! This time it's over to Yacht & Beach Club.

$#=@+ It's uphill to the International Gateway! Backstage again, but this time we head into EPCOT near The Land. No trip around the Ball this time - across to the backstage area and the parking lot finish line.

What the $@#/! I took it easy; there were inclines that really slowed me down; HOW did I finish the Inaugural 10K in 49 minutes? I still felt great; shoulder is fine; something is just not right and I'm going to pay for it the next two days.

Day 3 - the Donald 1/2 Marathon. Yes, I was up at 2:30 AM ... again. The Plan - I really need to ease off, because I have a Full Marathon tomorrow. Cutoff is 3:30, so 3 Hours sounds good.

Start on Epcot Center Drive. When you get near World Drive, you hit the on ramp (the first incline :banghead: ). It didn't seem to bad and I had some good speed going down onto World Drive. About the 5K point, you head through some of the Magic Kingdom parking areas. 5K split 20:44 WTH! Head up to the Contemporary, and then take the bus entrance to MK. Have you ridden a bus to the MK? Are you familiar with the Water Bridge? There is a steep downhill - and then an equally steep uphill. :banghead:   Downhill sounds good - except there were runners blocking my way and I had to ride the brakes - no momentum and then a HUGE incline. It was pure grunt it out to get up the hill :banghead: . Head backstage, and enter the MK by Tony's Town Square.

The left side of Main Street is PACKED by people cheering us on. They had to be up as early as I was to make it into the MK! Turn into Tommorowland (another small bridge that was nothing after the Water Bridge underpass.) Circle around and come through the Castle. Turn right and head through Frontierland.

Then you head backstage between Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain. 10K Split - 44:46 - I need to ease off!

Down Past the Grand Floridian and head toward the Poly. Oh, look - it's Golfing Mickey. Stop and have a Photo taken and waste a little time. Back onto World Drive, and head to EPCOT.

15K Split - 1:13:08. This is just crazy!

Oh %$#@^ - there is a long on ramp to the overpass over World Drive to get to EPCOT. Everyone is saying this is the last one. Grunt it out, and at the top I see TWO more hills :banghead: .

Enter EPCOT from backstage just inside the entrance, turn right and head straight down the middle. Turn around, and head straight back. Just past the Ball, turn right, head backstage and end up at the finish in a CM parking lot.

Finish - 1:50:14 ... 45 minutes faster than my first Wheelchair 1/2!  My shoulder didn't like the on ramp and the two hills, so I iced it down. Tomorrow is going to be "interesting".

Day 4 - the Mickey Marathon. Surprise, surprise - I am up at 2:30 again. The Plan - I've got this; there is a 7 hour cut off; just take it easy.

Same start as the 1/2 Marathon

(Thank's to Chris Mushrush, I have a copy of the Marathon Start and another take on the run ) I'm at the far left under the Purple Banner ...

- the same ramp onto World Drive :banghead: ; the same damn Water Bridge underpass ... and the same damn people blocking me on the slope down :banghead: . That means I have to grunt it out going up ... again :banghead: .

5 Mile Split - 41:32

The same path through the Magic Kingdom ... and the same crowd of 'adoring fans' :jumpforjoy .  The same path past the Grand Floridian and the Poly and down World Drive until we hit the 8 Mile mark ... and then we took a loop out through some parking lots and through the Speedway,

and then turned on to Bear Island Road. 10 Mile Split - 1:28:02

I can't begin to tell you how interesting it was to go by the Recycling Center and the Water Treatment Plant.

Enter Animal Kingdom backstage by Kali River Rapids, and turn left (after a quick photo op).

Go by Everest and head to Dinoland.

Exit backstage, and head out to Osceola Parkway. 1/2 Marathon Split - 1:59:29.

Stop at a Medical Tent around the 16.5 Mile mark to get Biofreeze on my shoulder, and head into Wide World of Sports. Take a convoluted path through every part - all the tracks; circle the Baseball Stadium

, and head back out to Osceola Parkway. 20 Mile Split - 3:06:50.

Turn left onto Osceola Parkway and take the ramp onto World Drive. Another off ramp :banghead: , and we head backstage at The Studios. Enter next to Tower of Terror, circle around and head out to the exit.

 Oh look - there are LOTS of people waiting for rope drop! They may not have been aware that there was a Marathon taking place, but they were all supporting us :jumpforjoy .

Up the pathway to the boardwalk area, across the bridge :banghead:  to Yacht & Beach Club and on to EPCOT. A short jog backstage and right to ... the Bridge from Hell to France.

 Circle around the Countries, past Mexico, turn right and head up past The Ball.

Backstage again, and there's the Halleluyah Chorus
- which means I'm at the 26 Mile mark and the finish is just around the corner!

A very sad note here - about where you see the American Flag in the background, a runner was passed out surrounded by Medical Staff. Another Team AllEars member about 10 minutes behind me reported that an ambulance was picking her up as he went by.

Sprint to the finish (4:11:49) and get loaded down with medals (Mickey, Goofy and Dopey). Ice down the shoulder again - which isn't feeling bad at all.

I wasn't too happy with my shoulder right then.

After the ice, I was feeling MUCH better about things.

Observations and general info:

I did MUCH better than I expected - even when I started stopping to get character photo ops. I blame all the crowds yelling support almost every foot of the course. I wore shirts with Team AllEars and my name - so I constantly heard, "Go ED" and "Team AllEars" from complete strangers for the most part. How can you not give that little bit extra with that going on.

Race names? What's up with that. All the runs except the 5K have shirts and medals associated with one character - the 10K is new, and Minnie Mouse is the themed character; the 1/2 Marathon has always been themed with Donald Duck; the Marathon is named for the main Mouse - Mickey. What's up with Goofy and Dopey? 19 years ago, they started a special race combo - the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge. Do the Donald on Saturday and then the Mickey on Sunday and you were officially Goofy and got a shirt and a medal to prove it. This year they added the Minnie - and another challenge. Run all FOUR races, and you were officially Dopey. I'm not crazy, I'm Dopey ... and I have the shirt and the medal to prove it. (I also received the Goofy, because I did that also).

I went TOO fast. People behind me got to ride Everest right as it opened. A group of Team AllEars were on the first ride of the day!  The Team AllChEars Squad was passing out Margaritas in Mexico after the Margarita Bar opened - I just got a big cheer :banghead: . Next year, I'm stopping at EVERY character for photos! To heck with good times, I'm going to be there to have fun!

Toward the end of the Marathon, they had two stations passing out bananas - and a station in The Studios passing out chocolate and gummie bears. Those helped a lot.