In the shop

So it’s been a while.

No, I haven’t been running. Not for a month or so. Haven’t been swimming, either, for about 3 weeks. There’s been problems. With both legs. Well, one prosthesis, and one leg.

The ankle on my swimming leg really wasn’t performing satisfactorily. The mechanism that allows me to extend the foot into a swimming position didn’t work as smoothly as I would like it to. Sometimes it wouldn’t unlock from the extended position, which meant that I couldn’t get the foot into a standing position–unless I wanted to stand on my toes like a ballerina. And sometimes when it was in the standing position, it would then unlock itself while walking. So, after my swimming class ended, I took it to my prosthetist, who was stumped by it, so he sent it to the manufacturer, who was stymied, so they sent it to the inventor, who said when he sent it back it was working fine. I picked it up this afternoon, and although I haven’t had a chance to swim with it today, it really didn’t seem like it was fine. It seemed to have the same problem as before. I’ll have to get it into a pool though to see what I think.

The other leg that’s been giving me problems is not my running leg. It’s my left leg. My real leg. Real leg with a real problem. The last time I ran was the day of my last post–April 5. Almost 40 days ago.  I decided to give my calf a nice long rest. One of the reasons I felt confident about the time off is that those physical therapy students I’ve been working with have decided they want to keep working with me. It gives them a chance to learn more, and gives me a bunch of pretty high-end education as well.

That seven-week session we had ended last month, but on their own initiative they contacted another PT professor who is also a running coach, and we’ve just started another session. The last session was a full class, with all the students working with amputees in groups of 4 or 5 per client. This one’s just me and my five guys. Okay, four guys and a gal. And this professor.

I showed up ready to start running.

Didn’t run.

Didn’t even walk.

Barely stood.

Sitting. He had me do a lot of sitting.

Slightly less sitting than laying down, though.

Best. Training session. Ever.

Turns out the reason my calf’s giving me problems is because of my ribcage. Or something. He spent a lot of time talking about my ribcage. Making the students look at my ribcage, too.

Apparently the position of my ribcage relative to my hips is important. It showed him–pretty much at a glance–that I’m overloading my left side (the side with the whole leg) not only when I walk, but when I sit, lie down, stand up, ride my bike, and swim. (Probably when I take a dump, too, but thankfully he didn’t get into that area.)

Furthermore, I don’t really use my core muscles on either side. Not only when I walk, but when I sit, lie down, et c. et c, which means that my left leg muscles have not only been compensating for my right leg, but for my core muscles as well.

No wonder the calf was cramping.

So, he had the students teach me some little exercises–essentially pushing my ribcage down towards my hips and then pulling them back again. I think much of the purpose of the exercises are to get me to become aware of the muscles and how they move with each other. And to notice the difference between how they react on the left side of my body as opposed to the right.

I got the movements figured out pretty quickly on the left side, but they had to literally guide me on the right, pushing and pulling so much that I felt like a lump of sourdough. But I eventually kindasorta got it figured out, and so the rest of the day I’ve been practicing such difficult maneuvers as sitting up straight, leaning to the left and right, and lifting my hands up into the air.

Seriously. I was doing most of those things wrong. And don’t get me started on standing up. Sheesh. I looked like an amateur in that department.

But I don’t want you to think that just because I haven’t been running or swimming* I haven’t been training. I have. I’ve been doing a lot of core exercises, and a lot of  balance work (yes, I’ve been standing and sitting on my balls), and an increasing amount of riding. After all, the Tour de Cure century ride is only a month away.**

One cool thing that’s happened with the riding is that an acquaintance of mine is also doing the century ride, so we’ve been getting together and getting some miles in. He’s in his thirties, and this is his first real venture into cycling. Which makes me, by dint of having maybe 18 months more experience, the leader of the rides. Which is kind of neat.

Last Wednesday, he met me for one of my 5:30 am rides. Near the end of the ride we went up Pinnacle Hill, which is a short but pretty steep ride. It took a lot out of him. As for me, well, since I rode up a mountain, this should be nothing, right? Wrong. It was hard. It’s always been hard to ride up Pinnacle. The only difference is that I know I can endure the difficulty.

We took a breather at the top, and he asked me “When you rode up Mt. Washington, how much of it was like this?”

I smiled. “All of it.”

Which was an awesome thing to say. Because it was true.

It’s pretty fucking awesome to be awesome.

§§§§§§

*Interestingly, this session helped answer a question I had about my swimming, namely, why was I always swimming in circles when I wanted to go straight? It’s because I wasn’t extending my stroke nearly as far on my right as I was on my left, even though it felt like I was. Makes sense now.

**A century ride is a bike ride of 1oo miles–although when I mapped out the route that’s planned for us, I discovered that it’s actually only 94.6 miles long. I immediately decided that I would make up for the discrepancy by riding to the ride, rather than strapping my bike to my car and driving it there. Luckily, my anti-moron defenses wrestled that idiotic idea to the ground rather quickly. Because, while riding my bike from my home to the event may not be a bad idea, riding my bike from the event to home is a worse idea by several orders of magnitude.

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