The long journey of a cyclist with no hands

Why am I writing about a cyclist? Because this post is as much an appeal for help from New York’s athletic community as it is a fascinating human interest story.

Damian Lopez-Alfonso, 34, is a Cuban athlete with considerable athletic achievements — ones that are made all the more impressive by the fact that he has excelled despite competing with major disabilities. Details about him appear in the links below, but here’s his story in a nutshell: At the age of 13, while trying to retrieve a kite stuck to a streetpost, Damian hit a power line and sustained a range of catastrophic injuries as a result of electrocution: facial disfigurement, blindness in one eye, severe burns, and the loss of his arms below the elbow, among others.

Damian is self-sufficient and has adapted to his disabilities, but he nevertheless wants to benefit from whatever reconstructive surgery and prosthetics are available. A group of organizations — including the U.S. Cycling Federation, Achilles International and NYU’s Reconstructive Plastic Surgery unit — are working together to facilitate a better quality of life for Damian.

Here’s what this post is about: Damian needs hosts while he’s in New York for his surgeries at NYU. He will be arriving sometime in mid-March and has his first round of surgeries scheduled for April 3. Then he’ll be recovering at NYU and preparing for the next round on May 5. So hosts are needed from around March 15th through April 2nd or so, then again from the end of April through the end of May.

Achilles is funding his food, transportation and other costs so that he will not be a financial burden to his hosts. Since he doesn’t speak English, Spanish-speaking hosts would be ideal. Someplace within reasonably easy commuting distance to NYU would be desirable, I’d think, but I don’t know that it’s essential.

If you’d like to open your home to this inspiring athlete for a few days or weeks, please contact Tracy Lea for more details: tlea@tracylea.net

If you’re not able to host but you’d still like to contribute financially to this effort, then you can PayPal to: teamdamian2011@gmail.com

This guy’s pretty interesting. Read more about him:

Download a complete bio (PDF)
Cyclists Helping One of Their Own
A Tale of Ultimate Survival and Human Kindness
Cyclists Rally Around a Competitor
Armless Cyclist to Get Reconstructive Surgery in NYC

Okay, that’s enough recovery

I’m going to consider this week as my last week of post-marathon (as it were) recovery. Which means basebuilding begins anew tomorrow.

I know I’m recovered because I have been determined to run a race. Not because I expect to PR in anything (especially in the summer heat and humidity of NY), but mostly because I’ve missed running fast in a crowd. I tried to race in a brand new 10K up in Rockefeller State Park yesterday, but had to skip it after getting horribly lost. So I tried again today, with greater success, and ran the Achilles Track Club 5 miler in Central Park.

I’m not even going to bother putting together a race report, because this wasn’t really a “race” race. I just wanted an atmosphere in which I could run fast for more than a mile or two. I went in with no expectations and a liberating “I don’t give a shit about this race” attitude.

As a result, nothing bothered me. The lady at registration gets annoyed because I only have $25 (that’s what the NYRR web site said it cost) and they suddenly wanted $35? I don’t give a shit. I get stuck behind a bunch of 8:00 pace people for the first half mile? I don’t give a shit. Four women pass me in the last two miles? I don’t give a shit.

Yes, it was fun to race and not really care much about it. Although I did find one thing to motivate me: a woman with 12% body fat passed me in the first mile and said, “Nice job” and instead of appreciating her innocently offered good tidings, my inward competitive bitch muttered, “Lady, you’re dead meat.”

We spent the next 3.5 miles passing each other. She’d pass me on the uphills, I’d pass her on the downhills. At mile 4.5, a downhill, I passed her for the last time and kept up the effort all the way through the uphill finish. I did not hear “Nice job” again.

Final time was 37:17, good for 45th Female overall and 4th in my AG. I realized somewhere after mile 3 that I could have run harder. I guess it’s been over half a year since my last short race (a 10K), so I’ve forgotten how to run them. I knew I hadn’t raced all out because I still had plenty of energy afterward. So I came home and then went out and ran another 8 miles. Now I’m tired.

All in all, this was a good transitional week between the relative slothdom of the weeks immediately after the Newport race and next week, in which I hope to keep running some faster miles and get the mileage up around 70. I may even try to race again next week. I covered 58 miles this week, which is close to the 60 I wanted to hit.

I’ve not yet built the new spreadsheet for this season, so here’s the low-tech, unflashy breakdown:

  • Monday: 5 miles, recovery
  • Tuesday: 9.6 miles general aerobic with last 15 mins at harder effort (~91-93% MHR)
  • Wednesday: 7.1 miles, recovery
  • Thursday: 8.2 miles, recovery
  • Friday: 4.9 miles, recovery
  • Saturday: 10.1 miles, recovery
  • Sunday: 5 mile race, 7.8 miles general aerobic

Tomorrow I’m scheduled to get the results from last week’s bloodwork. I’ve held off on posting a post-Newport post-mortem until those come in. I have lots of theories about what could have been done better in the training (opinions that are shared by Coach Kevin), but if the bloodwork comes back with neon numbers pointing to an obvious problem at the cellular level then I’m apt to revise some (but not all) of those opinions. I still think there’s room for improvement in the next cycle, but the extent to which (and how) I think the training should be tweaked will rest in no small part on what the lab numbers say tomorrow.

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