Tuesday, February 21, 2017

LAKE PLACID DIET: 'Best Legs in the Tri-Lakes'

Start date (Dec. 22): 480
Last week: 465
This week: 457
Total lost: 23 pounds

Last week, I mentioned winning a "Best Legs in the Tri-Lakes" contest 21 years ago, but I never explained the history behind it.

In the spring of 1996, I had transferred from the Adirondack Daily Enterprise as the Saranac Lake reporter to the Lake Placid News as the staff writer, and I was getting involved with the community I was calling my new home. I lived in the Olympic Village, in the back apartment above the News office on Mill Hill, from 1996 to 1998.

By July 1996, the American Red Cross was hosting the second annual "Mega Blood Drive Challenge" in the Tri-Lakes, pitting the Lake Placid, Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake communities against each other. The goal was to see which village could donate the most amount of blood in one day.

In 1995, Saranac Lake Mayor Tim Jock challenged Lake Placid Mayor Jim Strack and Tupper Lake Mayor Mark Arsenault, and Saranac Lakers came out on top with 145 pints of blood.

In 1996, Strack posed the same challenge to Jock and Arsenault ... this time with a twist.

In order to encourage more donors, they adopted a "Best Legs in the Tri-Lakes" contest in which all the donors would get a chance to vote in this friendly competition among the three mayors, media representatives and other Tri-Lakes VIPs. Since I was covering the blood drive and "Best Legs" contest for the newspaper, I decided to enter this male-only competition. The other contestants were Jim Rogers of WNBZ, Bill Kush of Radio Lake Placid, Chuck Damp of the Saranac Lake Kiwanis Club, John Ellis of Tupper Lake and Clarence Perry of the Tupper Lake Knights of Columbus and Lions Club.

The "Best Legs" contest had first been held in the region in Glens Falls and was subsequently picked up by the Tri-Lakes chapter of the American Red Cross. I wrote about the "Mega Blood Drive Challenge" in 1995, donating blood in my home town of Tupper Lake, so covering the challenge in 1996 seemed to be a natural fit.

Before the blood drive, the nine "Best Legs" contestants met at Lily Rose's restaurant in Ray Brook so our legs could be videotaped. Each of us walked down a runway, while music was playing, to show off our gams and we each gave a unique dance to woo the voters. During the blood drive, donors watched the video and voted on the best legs. In all, 244 people registered to donate blood, and 212 pints were collected to boost the low summer supply.

I tied for first place with Lake Placid Mayor Jim Strack. It was probably my fancy dance moves, not the sexiness of my legs, that helped put me in contention.

Thus ended my leg-modeling career for charity. Today, that would be impossible because my legs have been scarred by leg ulcers and are currently being treated by the Adirondack Health Wound Center in Saranac Lake. Two weeks ago, I began visiting the Wound Center doctor to treat an open wound on each leg, one on the front (left leg) and one on the back (right leg).

Treatment this week included double-wrapping my legs with compression stockings to decrease the swelling and promote healing. The ulcers — cuts that did not heal because of swelling and poor circulation — have been open and "weeping" since last summer. Weekly visits with the doctor include scraping dead skin out of the wounds to promote healing. If that sounds painful, that's because it is painful, even with a topical ointment to lessen the pain.

Needless to say, I have to elevate my legs as much as I can to get the swelling down. I deal with the pain and discomfort all hours of the day while the doctor and I work on the healing process. And I began walking last week to get the blood circulating in my legs. It will take months to heal, and then I'll probably have to wear compression socks for the rest of my life.

I wouldn't have these leg problems now if I hadn't gained all the weight back after losing 80 pounds a few years ago. It's clear that losing weight this winter and spring is more critical than ever ... for my health today and for the rest of my life.

Working hard to recover from my leg ulcers, and looking at the reality of the situation, I know I'll never get back to my "Best Legs" days. But that's OK. All I want are healthy, functioning legs so I can get back to a normal life, a better life. I'd also like to start training again for road races, with my eyes set on competing in a third Lake Placid Half-Marathon.