I’ve always loved mountain biking.  Since I got my first bike in 1988, a Diamondback Ascent (rigid fork, no suspension), I fell in love with riding on trails Looking back, that was the wrong bike to be doing what I did with it, but there wasn’t anything else available.  Even if there was, I was a student, and all my money went to tuition and living expenses.  I think I paid $300 for the bike and when I got a new one, I sold that one for the same price 4 years later.

In the summer of 2002, I decided to challenge myself and gave triathlon a shot.  I did 5 sprint distance events that year on a road bike and caught the bug.  I also discovered off-road triathlon and found that there were multiple XTERRA triathlon events in my area, so I had a goal of doing those, starting in 2003.  I had a wicked cool mountain bike, a Rocky Mountain Altitude, that I had raced in a lot of MTB events, and I spent a few bucks upgrading all the parts that summer.  I think I rode it once before I had surgery on November 1.  The surgery didn’t go so well, and I woke up with my left leg paralyzed from the waist down and I lost feeling in the right leg.  A clot had gone into my left, front spinal cord artery, causing my spinal cord to be without oxygen for long enough to inflict damage.  A prominent neurologist told me I would never do another triathlon again and I’d be lucky to walk.  I don’t know if he did that to motivate me or to make me upset, but it did both and I began researching sports I could do in a wheelchair.  Shortly after I was released from inpatient rehab, I was fitted with a custom plastic AFO.  I hated it because it did not do much for me except make a lot of noise as I walked so, I tossed it in my closet, never to be worn again.  There’s a lot more to my rehab but it would take a few more paragraphs to describe.  The main thing was, I gained enough strength back to walk upright but I was left with weakness on my left side, mostly below my knee, the biggest issue being foot drop.

Fast forward to 2006 – I did my first Ironman in Florida, upright, not in a wheelchair, but I did it on my own two legs.  Granted, I still had footdrop, but since I didn’t know anything other than the plastic brace existed, I trained and raced in a lace up ankle brace.  It didn’t help with footdrop, but it helped me from rolling my weakened ankle joint.  After one more Ironman, and countless other races, I signed up for my first XTERRA off road triathlon in Lake Las Vegas.  I still didn’t have any knowledge of braces other than plastic, so I continued to use my lace up ankle brace.  I did five XTERRA events that year, earning the title of regional champion and an invitation to Nationals in Ogden UT.  It was there that I found out about Allard AFO’s, when I got smoked on the run course by a guy wearing this blue thing on his leg.  When I finally found him at the finish line, I asked about that magical device on his leg, probably 2-3 times because I got hit in the head a lot as a kid and my memory isn’t great.  A few months later, I met him at the Portland Airport when he had a layover and as he and I have our injuries on the same side, he let me try his out.  I ran down in the airport with his BlueROCKER® and I was in love.  The TSA people didn’t love me running in the airport, but I did not care.  The next day, I asked my Dr to get me one of these blue thingies (I had to ask him again what it was called…).

Since I had HMO insurance, it took a bit to get the brace I asked for. A few weeks before my second World Championships in Budapest, Hungary in September 2010, I finally got one.  During the race, I took almost 5 minutes off my run time – not because I was faster, but because I was more confident about not tripping and falling on my face.

Since 2010, the number of XTERRA races in my area has dwindled to only one in the Northwest, so I’ve traveled to a few races outside of the Pacific Northwest.  After qualifying for World Championships on a few occasions, but unable to accept my slot, I finally made it to one in October 2019 and what an amazing experience.  It was hot and humid in Maui but one of my most memorable races as I was on course with many friends and new acquaintances.  XTERRA has a different vibe than any other triathlon I’ve competed in.  It’s hard to describe but if you get the chance, try one, I think you will come to the same conclusion.

I think I’ve used almost every model of brace Allard has manufactured, starting with the original BlueROCKER®, moving to the ToeOFF® 2.0, the Ypsilon®, and now my current favorite AFO, the ToeOFF® 2 ½ FLOW.  Every model has been my favorite which just means, Allard keeps putting out better braces each time they come up with a new design/formula.  I’ve tried a lot of other AFO’s in the past and the tibial shell and lateral strut works the best for me.  If you want to know more, feel free to ask – I’m full of answers (most of them are true)! 🙂