Fusion to 5k part 11 ( Braces, Big Shoulders & Jack Daniels )

It’s been several months since my last post and several things have happened during that time. Last March I went to see a pedorthist (Bob) to discuss the pros and cons of having a foot-drop brace made for me and decided to give it a try. After being fitted in the brace, he had me try running with it in the hallway to see if my foot would clear the floor and if it was comfortable. My foot definitely cleared, but the comfort was not something I could imagine running very far with. Obviously the brace designers didn’t have running in mind when they designed this thing. The following day I brought it with me to therapy, so Kim could video tape me running with it on the indoor track at the arc. My running form wasn’t exactly the way it used to be, but all things considered it wasn’t bad. For a few yards I could tolerate the brace, but there had to be something better.

I had a follow-up appointment with Bob two weeks later and he made a couple of modifications to make it more comfortable for every day wear. I asked him if there was a brace designed for runners and his best suggestion was to try an over the counter brace called the Freedom Brace that strapped around the ankle and connected with a buckle to my shoe tongue. It didn’t appear to be designed for serious running, but since it didn’t cost that much, I decided to order one. When I received it, I brought it and the larger foot-drop brace with me to PT so Kim could video me running with both braces to see which one was best for running.


The bulkier AFO one gave me more clearance but the freedom brace was close and didn’t dig into my leg quite as bad. I was told that having to use a brace shouldn’t be a permanent thing but exactly how long was not known.

While all this was happening my wife informed me that she had just signed up for the Big Shoulders 5k swim in Chicago, on September 7th and since I wasn’t running yet, it might be something I could start training for, having 6 months to get into swimming shape. It had been almost 25 years since I competed in triathlons and the thought of doing a 5k swim in Lake Michigan wasn’t on my radar screen. A few days later I had one of my “What the hell” moments and found myself on the Big Shoulders 5k website checking things out and a couple clicks later I was signed up for the 5K (It’s way too easy to sign up for races) and by noon I was heading to the pool to do my first swim. I was hoping that the seven months of water running I had done would translate over to swimming, but after a few laps I was gasping for air and my arms were trashed. I was starting to wonder what I had just got myself into.
After a couple of weeks of swimming, a swim coach suggested I come to one of his swim stroke clinics, to see if they could improve my technique. Considering that I was moving though the water like an anchor and didn’t want to end up on the bottom of Lake Michigan, I took him up on his offer. During the class, they worked on my body position,video taped me swimming and gave me several swimming drills to improve my stroke.


With only one swim lesson under my belt, I started cranking out the laps after my everyday 1 hour water run, and then would go home and do a few 1 min runs mixed in with some walking. The cheaper brace I was wearing was allowing me to run, but it was digging into my ankle and causing blisters. Considering what I had already been through, this was a small price to pay to run again and I just purchased several boxes of band aids and plunged ahead.
After three weeks of alternating one minute runs with short walks, I was discussing my progress with Greg Walters (a local Track/XC coach) and he suggested I might enjoy giving the Jack Daniels running program a try. I was familiar with the program, but didn’t realize that he had a training plan for beginning runners or runners that were coming back from a long layoff. After reading the program I decided to give it a go and even recruited my next door neighbor Norman to train with me. He first thought the program involved drinking Jack Daniels Whiskey, but when I explained it was just a coach with the same name and how the program worked I found myself a training partner.

For the next four months I swam six days a week, (including more swim lessons) ran three days and continued to do my physical therapy. By the end of the summer I had developed into a swimmer and had survived the first phase of my running program. To celebrate my accomplishment my running partner gave me a bottle of Jack Daniels with a card saying congratulations and not to drink until after I finished my 5k swim which was only a week away.

To be continued……


About runvan26

Endurance Athlete & Avid Fly Fisherman
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