(Jan 2018 Facebook Post)

A very special Medal Monday for me.

I had the privilege of using Corporal (Ret) Owen’s handcycle his parents donated to the Houston Chapter of Achilles International for a Veteran to use. I was honored to take Captain Casey (handcycle) on road at the Houston Marathon.

Casey Owens (born c. 1981 − October 15, 2014) was a United States Marine, Iraq War veteran, and paralympic athlete from Houston, Texas, United States.

Corporal Owens deployed for a second tour in Al Anbar Province Iraq August 2004. On Sept. 20, 2004, while responding to a wounded Marine, his vehicle struck two anti-tank mines which resulted in the amputation of his right leg above the knee and his left leg below the knee. In addition to losing both legs, his injuries included a broken jaw and collarbone, shrapnel wounds, collapsed lungs, and blood clots in his lung.

He had multiple obstacles to overcome, and became an advocate for the treatment of Veterans, speaking to Congress about how difficult it was for Veterans to navigate the maze of regulations the VA has in place.

In a 2012 interview with CBS News’ David Martin, Owens said: “I really don’t think I’ll ever be free. I don’t think the burden of war is ever gone.”

Corporal Owens struggled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder despite his many accomplishments, and eventually took his own life in 2014.

Yesterday I completed my 11th marathon and 1st Houston marathon. Capt Casey got me to the finishline as a 2019 Boston Qualifier.

How did it feel? My arms aren’t sore, there is minimal discomfort is nothing like running on my legs. I experienced burning in my arms and abs while racing. Once it was over it was as if I had done some bicep curls and push ups for a while. There was no lower back pain, blisters, pain standing up, sitting down, pain going up stairs, messed up toenails. My toes and finger tips were frozen. Initially I was stiff trying to get out of the cycle. There is minimal discomfort when I laugh. Not sure if I will handcycle again, but it was much easier on my body than running. Very challenging because of the upper body weakness, there is no brace to help my arm like there is for my foot.

I may be the 1st handcyclist to take and pose for selfies, smack kids hands, wave a the crowd, stop for watermelon and drink water and Gatorade at ever stop. It was my first event weekend. I raced the 5k (kinda) the day before. I didn’t go all out, but I didn’t stop cycling I was happy to come in 3rd.

For those who don’t know I am a mobility impaired athlete. I have an incomplete spinal cord injury Brown-Sequard syndrome. I have loss of movement on my right side to my upper and lower extremities and everything internal on that side, with preserved sensation, while the other side of the body has loss of sensation but preserved movement. I typically run my races with a leg brace for my foot drop. However my doctor recommended I stop running marathons and since I am allowed to use a handcycle on certain races I decided to give it a try.

The scariest moment during the marathon was when I almost knocked a child over with my momentum. I didn’t realize how fast I was actually going. The light hand smack was quite forceful especially for a little one. So I had to slow down to smack the hands of the others.

The best moment was when I wanted watermelon and missed the table. I was so dissapointed. My guide grabbed the watermelon and continued to ride her bike. She then caught up to me and gave the watermelon to me after my slow ascent up an incline. Best watermelon EVER!

The funniest moment was after I stopped to take off my jacket. I rode fast to catch up to my teammate Adessa. Her guide was between me and her and my radio was playing Ludacris’ Move B get out the way. Alison, Adessa’s guide moved over too funny.

The coolest moment was as I was going over West Park bridge. It felt mountainous to me on a handcycle. I switched gears for the climb I felt like I was going nowhere I was able go 3mph when I decided to squeeze the brakes and stop. I needed a lasting memory of this struggle. My guide asked me if I needed help. I said yes! She said do you want me to push you? I said heavens no. I want you to take a front and back picture of me. I gave her my phone after I set it up. From then on she had my phone to take a few cool pics of me on the course.

I definately mastered the art of grabbing water and Gatorade with out getting anyone wet. I just can’t throw the cup in the trash. My hand won’t release on command. Note to self don’t forget the right handle is free and will swing up and hit your cup while drinking. Which will cause you to get liquid in your nose and on your face.

I enjoyed cheering on runners, much like I do when I run. I give them energy and they in turn give me energy. Unfortunately I can’t share my story with other’s while hand cycling because I won’t see the non competitive runners on the course. While I can inspire others I can’t share the miracle I have been tasked to share on foot. 13.1 is just enough for my body on foot. I will attempt to run Boston each year I am able to qualify. When I can no longer run I will roll.

We became friends after the race and he tagged me.

Take aways from this post. Get up and get moving. Don’t lay in the bed. Don’t work your life away. Don’t drown in your sorrows. I used to do that after my accident I wanted to commit to die, but so glad I learned to live. You can learn to too. Exercise, movement changed me. I just had to find an adaptive way to do what I wanted to do. What’s stopping you from getting out and moving? Let me know I want to hear from you. Drop a comment below.

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