27 January 2015

A heart in Texas

There were a few things I would be remiss if I didn't mention about my visit to San Antonio - caught up as I was in the euphoria of completing the race. Post is a little long...but worth it.

On Friday, LtCol Forney brought me to SAMC and, more specifically, to the Center for the Intrepid (CFI). It is where he has been rehabbing from his injuries once he was able to move from the Burn Gym. It is a remarkable place all contained within one structure.

He showed me where he goes for straightforward physical therapy (the gym), which looks similiar to many other clinics with the exception that 1) everyone there is missing one or more limbs and, 2) the machines are adapted to allow the users to work within their capacity while they find their new 100%. There's even a climbing wall.

We then toured the FATS (if you're a Marine, it's an ISMT) where wounded personnel who are working toward returning to duty go to practice their marksmanship. There are video projections which simulate shooting at the various required distances and a variety of rifles and pistols as well as sets of full gear so the servicemember can practice as though carrying a (not quite) combat load.

After that, it was to the Occupational Therapy clinic, where LtCol Forney received some treatment on his right hand (the one on which he'll be having surgery shortly) and a tour of the Activities of Daily Living therapy area, which, contrary to initial inclination, is specifically designed NOT to accommodate those with mobility injuries. Why? Because most of the public spaces, hotels, offices, apartments they'll come across will not be adapted to their needs, so they need to be able to overcome things like narrow doorways, high beds, awkward angles around kitchens and bathrooms. It was eye-opening.

From there we went to the area where all the prosthetics are made. Wow. What a labor of love to create these and what it takes, from start to finish, the refinements, the fine tuning and the end product which allows people to stand, move and walk again. There are prosthetics for cycling, for paddling and rowing, and I even saw some blades for running. I was humbled by the craftsmanship and the obvious effort it takes to produce the limbs and IDEOs. (I was close to tears at this point).

Our last three stops were the indoor track, the gait lab, and the rehab pool. The track  (27 laps=1 mile) was where LtCol Forney had been working up to the 1/4 we ran together. We even took a lap together, as he wanted to test out his pace (he was moving, by the way). The gait lab was awe-inspiring. There were harness slides across all directions, to allow the user freedom of movement on the floor below, which consisted of multiple surfaces to ensure that the user could stabilize regardless of terrain, as well as inclines and stairs. One section of the floor had sensors built into it, so the techs could test how well the subject was balancing their weight and then the PTs could work with them to strengthen the weak areas. Again, wow. Also contained in this area was a 300-degree projection dome (think video flight simulator), into which the wounded warrior was harnessed while standing on a triple-wide treadmill which was attached to a mobile platform. When the scenario was projected on the screen, the floor moved to simulate the terrain and the treadmill would move at the requisite speed. Again, this is both for rehab as well as for working on getting guys back in the fight.

I was overwhelmed at the thoughtfulness of the entire facility, I can't imagine a better place for our injured folks to be. The personnel, the director, everyone I met had a passion for what they were doing and understood it not just as a mission, but that they had lives in their hands. I was overcome with emotion by the time we walked to the exit.

Central Market
This is anecdotal but, as I learned, an example of the kind of town San Antonio is. After grabbing lunch from the CM deli, we meandered about the store gathering the items for the Friday/Saturday dinners (I was cooking the pre-race meal: sausage & mushroom risotto with a spinach & shaved fennel salad and LtCol Forney was doing steaks for post-race.) When we got into line, he said, "I'm going to pull the car around." I chit-chatted with the cashier about the dinner plans, and as he got to the last few items, I stepped toward the card reader and put my head down to open my purse and grab my card to pay. As I looked up to ask for the total, the woman behind me reached over and swiped her card. I tried to correct her to let her know I hadn't paid yet and she said, "I know, hon, I am buying your groceries today." I was speechless, touched and again, my eyes welled with tears. I told her my mission and asked if I could give her a hug. We didn't exchange names but she said, "It's the least I can do - enjoy your time here, hon." Her impromptu generosity is seared into my memory and I won't forget it. If you ever read this, thank you, again.

The Race
They don't call it the Endurathon for nothing. I ran this race 10 years ago when I was a flight student stationed at Corpus, and I always remembered how much fun it was and how much of an ass-kicker it was. It hasn't changed. The race is just outside of SA, in Bulverde, otherwise known as hill country. It's one of those local races that is no joke - which is why it's in its 36th year. The course actually ran long - 15.89 - and but that wasn't what caused me grief - it was the net gain in elevation, which included a 4% grade climb to the finish. Below is the course and the elevation. The food and libations at the end? Frito pie and beer from Karbach Brewing Co., out of Houston - I recommend the Mother-in-Lager. Oh yeah, and we placed 3rd AG and 8th female overall. BOOM.

The lollipop handle on top? Hills, both ways. (click to enlarge)
The last hill climbed back up to the start elevation on the far left. (click to enlarge)
And in case you missed it, here's the finish video (we are at 21:03 mark on video feed, around 2:10 mark on race clock):


  1. Fantastic story, and congrats on your race!

  2. Thank you! It was so incredible...words truly cannot describe!