Sunday, November 30, 2008

This Persistent Cold!

Well, my cold has lasted two weeks now. Great combination, Thanksgiving feasts combined with not working out much because I have felt so crummy. Too much more of this and none of my clothes will fit!

While it has been long lasting, the cold is not extremely severe. It has mostly been annoying congestion for the past week or so if it, with a lot of coughing when I first wake up. I am really looking forward to getting in some runs and fast walks, but just don’t have a lot of energy for it right now. On my short 3-4 mile hikes over very flat terrain this weekend, I even felt tired at the end. When I am in normal health, a three mile walk feels so easy.

Well, eventually my immune system will decode this virus and wipe it out. I just have to be more persistent than this cold. I am hoping to be training again by midweek, even if it means setting the alarm early before work.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Thankful Anniversary

So there I was this morning, preparing to speak at a TNT recruitment meeting to form a corporate team for the Monument Avenue 10K next spring. I was finalizing in my mind what I wanted to say in my five minutes, speaking as a survivor, a TNT marathoner, and as a mentor. I looked at my watch, and noted the date: 11/25. I thought about this for a minute, did some quick calculations in my head, and it hit me: exactly six years ago, at the exact same time of day, I was sitting in an oncology room a few miles away getting my very last chemotherapy treatment!

It was the Monday before Thanksgiving in 2002 and I don't think I can adequately describe the excitement, thankfulness and joy that I felt as I headed into the chemo room that day, praying that my white cell count would be high enough to get the final dose and get it over with. Even though I knew by then exactly what the next 12 or so days would be like, I realized that very soon all of the misery that I'd had to cope with for the past six months would be coming to an end.

During my many chemotherapy sessions, I met many others with all types of cancer: leukemia, lymphoma, lung, colon, bladder, and breast to name a few. Many of them, maybe most, faced a much more difficult, desperate and in some cases deadly battle than I did. On that last day of treatment for me, the man in the chair next to me nearly died right there. Whatever type of cancer that he had was not responding, and so they tried a new treatment that day, fortunately in a greatly reduced dose. He went rigid, passed out, and peed all over the floor as the nurses frantically tried to revive him. When he came to, I remember the doctor telling him how there were not a whole lot of options for him since the new treatment that had just nearly killed him was the last available treatment. I wondered how overwhelming it would be to get that kind of message and felt really bad for him, and for his daughter, who had driven him in. I also felt even more thankful about finishing that saga in my life with the expectation of being in remission from lymphoma. After nearly 6 years in remission, I still feel as thankful.

If you read this and you are doing or have done Team in Training or something similar, I really believe that what all of you are doing means that future patients will have more effective, less horrible options available to them. You should all be proud of yourselves. As you give thanks for the many good things in your lives, know that many people down the line will be thankful for the assistance that you will be indirectly providing them. I don't know the names of people who funded and conducted research back in the 1970's and 1980's that led to effective treatments for Hodgkin lymphoma, but I guarantee you that I give thanks for them nearly every day. During my Alaskan, San Diego and Arizona marathons, they were with me every step of the way.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Mentoring E-Mail # 3

This is my third email to my "mentees":

Well, hello, my fine group of TNT Participants,

‘Tis I, your artful mentor, with another weekly message for you! I know you are excited by this! You have been impatiently waiting and wishing for this message to arrive. You are thinking - What will I learn this week? What mysterious new TNT secrets will be revealed to me? Will there be a contest where I might win something?

Well, I don’t know about the first two questions but the answer to that last question is YES! I am going to look at each of your web pages tonight, and record how much each of you has raised to date. Then, whoever raises the most between tonight and 12/31/2008 will win the contest and the prize that I have in mind. So what is this prize, you ask? Could it be a two week deluxe trip to Paris? C’est domage, mais non, mon petites. Could it be a 54 inch high definition TV? Well, I suppose that is possible, although the odds of each of you all winning the Virginia lottery tonight is probably more possible. Could it be a nifty TNT item? Well, that is possible, too. The one who raises the most over the next 36 days will just have to wait and see. So to clarify, it doesn’t matter whether you have raised $2,000 as of right now or $20 – the winner will be the one who raises the most over the time period. Make sense?

We have a new participant, Dave, who joined our merry marathon team this week. Look for him at training. I will have to miss this coming Saturday, but will plan on seeing you all next week. And before that, please enjoy Thanksgiving. Then burn off that extra piece of pumpkin pie on Saturday!

Please make sure you read Jen’s note that arrived today. As always, she has provided a lot of great information and I am not going to repeat any of it other than to give you a quick reminder.

She discussed these topics:

* Silent auction information
* Shoe clinic information
* Fund raisers that your teammates are doing
* A great mission moment

Also, remember that Jen is happy to meet with each of you one-on-one if you have any questions or ideas you want to bounce off her. And of course, I am very willing to as well – just let me know how I can help.

Last week, I spent much of my note discussing your letter writing campaign. This week, I am going to stress on-line fund-raising. For me, on-line fund raising with email solicitations is my #1 fund-raising method, my bread and butter so to speak. I use the other methods as well, but really count on this one. So I will share some of my techniques in case they resonate with you.

* I customize my web page. I think most or all of you have done this, but you should have a photo that is germane to your message, and you should write text that is specific to your quest. Why are you doing this? What event? What do you hope to accomplish? Are you doing this for an honoree or honorees?

* I like to add links to my event site, my blog, the list of honorees on my blog, and a link to email me names of donor honorees.

* I put training and other updates on my blog. Last year I tried to give brief updates at the end of my web page – usually one a week. If I didn’t have a blog I would do that again this year, keeping the most recent update at the top.

* I changed my photo weekly last year, so the web page had a fresh look, but this year I will change it less frequently since I have the blog for updates.

* If I have your email address, you are going to get my solicitation emails. The only exception is TNT contacts who have not specifically asked for updates. Family, friends, co-workers, vendors who dropped off a business card, former co-workers, people I’ve met on the job – you name it. Raising the kind of money that each of is trying to do is largely a matter of numbers, and reminders. Assume that only some percentage, let’s say 75% of friends and family and 25% of anyone else, will donate. So the more people you ask the more donations you will get.

* I send out frequent email updates. Unlike my letter campaign, where I only send one letter, I don’t need to support the US Postal Service with each e-mail. So I send ‘em out every two to four weeks.

* I don’t just resend the same email each time. I write each one separately. I word the email reminders as (1) an update on how I am doing (2) a thank you for all who donated (3) a reminder that donations are welcome (4) a link to my TNT URL and (5) some kind of a message specific to that email.

* If you go to my blog, I have posted every solicitation email from last year’s Arizona campaign and every donor email to date in this year’s County Music campaign. Some of these may have ideas that you can use. In my blog, I have recently added an area on the right to search my post by labels. The label that says “note to donors”, if clicked, will bring up all the posts that show my emails that I have sent out to prospective donors. There are 14 of these to date (4 from this season and 10 from Arizona). You may have not any use for them, you may have your own ideas and approaches that you want to use, but they are out there for you if it is helpful.

* My next donor email will go out next week, and I will remind people that they can donate in the 2008 tax year or 2009 and get a tax deduction in whichever year suits them.

* When people donate online, I always send them a thank you email, even though the web site automatically sends them one. By the way, when people donate by check I always send them a thank you letter or a hand written note, along with information on LLS and the gift receipt.

My blog URL:

Well, I think that is about it, other than wishing each of you a Happy Thanksgiving. I know that I have a lot to be thankful for, and I hope that each of you does as well. I will end my message with a quote:

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900-1944)


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Getting Back to Some Workouts

After nearly a week in Michigan and a week with a cold, I started some basic working out again, starting with the team training yesterday. We did three miles, although I did about an extra mile afterwards going out to meet a teammate who started late, then running a lap around Swan Lake. Other than the run around the lake, I walked my miles. It was low 20’s and tough to keep our hands warm.

Theresa, my teammate and mentor from last year who is also my mentor for this season, was there to walk with. I also walked with one of my mentees, Cathy, to get to know her a little better. Theresa is a great mentor. She gave each of her participants a little goody bag with a chocolate square, other candy, a TNT pen, a little notepad, and most importantly of all – some gummy worms!!! I shared the latter with Cathy. Gummy worms are always welcome, even on a short training day like yesterday. Last year, when we would be 12 or 15 miles into training and we came to a stash of gummy worms that Theresa had put out for us, we all just wanted to kiss her! She is so thoughtful!
Cathy, Theresa, and Art walking in the "Museum District" of Richmond during training

After training, eight of us met for breakfast, including my friend Susan from the cycle team. Their training started at 10:30, so she could fuel up a bit.

Today I did some water aerobics at the pool, a tiny bit of swimming, and later on in the day, some weights and crunches. I am trying a new crunch technique out – to hold the crunch for a few seconds. I am also trying a few crunches where I hold it for about 15-30 seconds. I would like to lose about 8 pounds around my middle, which is not realistic until after Christmas, but at the least I don’t want to gain anymore over the holidays.

I am a poor swimmer, other than underwater where I can swim like a frog. But I can only hold my breath long enough to swim about 75 feet or so. If I ever want to do a triathlon, I am going to have to learn to swim reasonably well, and get conditioned enough to swim a mile or so on the surface. I sink like a stone – if I orient myself vertically in the deep end of the pool and put my arms straight up, I can stand on the bottom with air still in my lungs. Since I doubt I would be allowed to wear a personal flotation device during a triathlon, it seems I will need to learn to swim someday!

Thursday, November 20, 2008



I awake with a start, what on earth is that sound?
I spring from the bed, and my feet hit the ground
And I dash ‘cross the room to shut off the alarm
Just a little more sleep surely wouldn’t cause harm

I throw on my clothes before I lose all willpower
For I’d rather be sleeping at this ungodly hour
I pull on my fleece and lace my running shoes tight
And step out, so quiet, in a world that’s still night

Cold air hits my face; from the streets, not a peep
“This is crazy,” think I, “All the world’s still asleep”.
It would be so easy to stay in a warm bed,
But the reasons I do this creep into my head

There’s the man saying goodbye to his dear grieving wife
As cancer is robbing what’s left of his life.
There’s the mother who’s weeping, her daughter’s so ill
In leukemia’s grip, she is going downhill

And somewhere, right now, a son’s losing his mother;
A father, his daughter; a sister, her brother.
And someone in this world, as I glide through the dark,
On a perilous journey is about to embark

They just got the news, like a bolt from the blue
Said the doctor “It’s cancer”, now their life’s all askew
“Will I still be alive at the end of the year?”
They ask the grim doctor in a voice laced with fear

If lucky, they’ll find that they have one of the cancers
For which medical science has developed some answers
But through the luck of the draw they also may find
To an incurable illness they have now been consigned

In the days just ahead they will sit in a chair
As the toxins drip slowly, as much as they dare
Their hair will fall out, their stomach will flop
Exhaustion is constant, the confusion nonstop

I quietly think, while past dark homes I sally,
That just six years ago it was I in that valley
Of cancer as I moved through on my difficult trek
My brain in a fog, my body a wreck

Even though at some times, events were quite dodgy
In the end it was I who prevailed, and not “Hodgy”
‘Twas God’s grace and great fortune led me to survive
To regain my health, and my strength, and to thrive

Seven miles I’ve now gone, and there’s still no first light,
Yet during this time ten more souls lost their fight
With deadly blood cancers as their time all expired
So how can I say, “I’ll just quit, I’m too tired?”

Back home and all warm, I think as I shower
“I can’t cure cancer, but it is in my power
To make a small difference, to raise funds, to inspire,
All to help cancer patients whose state is so dire”

And so I’ll continue to do Team in Training
Whether sunny and hot, or quite cold, or raining
Never mind if I’m soaked or if my teeth chatter
I will Train, I’ll Endure, I’ll Achieve, and I’ll Matter!

Art Ritter
Hodgkin Lymphoma Survivor
Three Time Team in Training Marathoner

November, 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mentoring E-Mail # 2

This is my second email to my "mentees":

Hello, Great TNT Participants,

It is I, your Artful Mentor, with another message for you, and also with my personal thanks for you wanting to make a difference in the world by doing Team in Training.

Fund Raising Clinic: I’m sorry that none of you could make the fundraising clinic last night. Please contact Jen for any electronic copies of information that she presented. You missed a good session, with some good brainstorming. I will be glad to meet with you one on one or in small groups

Training: I am fighting a nasty cold but hope to be at training Saturday. If you cannot make it, please, please contact one of the coaches: Vicki, Chuck, Kristi, or Cathy. If a last minute illness or emergency comes up and you get a chance to call them the morning of training, I know that they would appreciate it.

Web Pages: Almost all of you have customized your TNT web pages. This is so important, because potential donors can get a sense of why YOU are doing this. Each one of us has our own reasons, and we will be more successful if we can get those reasons across to potential donors. Several of you have extremely moving stories of your own personal patient honorees that you have written about, enough to make one to have to wipe their eyes a bit, and they were a great reminder to me of why I do TNT. So thank you for sharing the stories of your loved ones.

So far, you have raised $1,875 towards your collective goal of $16,300! That is a great start! Keep up the great work!

The Number 4: There are 4 main ways to raise money while doing TNT:

1. Letter writing campaign
2. Email / web site campaign
3. Team fundraisers
4. Individual fundraisers

Team Fundraiser: I am going to concentrate this message on the letter writing campaign, since Jen is eagerly waiting to pay postage on your first 100 letters. I do want to mention, though, the Silent Auction Team Fundraiser, to be held early in 2009. It is not too soon to begin contacting businesses to donate items – the sky is the limit. If you personally know people who own companies, so much the better. But even if you don’t, start thinking about businesses you patronize, or that your friends and family patronize. Start thinking about this, because the auction will be here before you know it.

Letter Writing Campaigns: For the rest of my note today, let’s talk about letter writing campaigns. Personally, I use this as a secondary means to online fundraising, but for many people, this is there primary method and they are very successful at it. I am just going to throw out some ideas:

* Gather addresses – who do you know? Friends, family, business contacts, wedding invitation list, Christmas Card list, your mom’s Christmas Card list, college and high school alumni?

* Organize your contacts

* Prepare your letter. It should always have the following:
Ø Your name and address
Ø A statement about what you are doing
Ø A customized message that is grammatically correct
Ø Your financial goal
Ø Your webpage URL, because people may want to check that out, get more information, and donate online
Ø Your fundraising goal
Ø A date when you would like to receive the check by, and a statement that the check should be payable to LLS
Ø Always thank people in advance
Ø Include the fact sheet for LLS
Ø Consider stressing that LLS is a highly regarded charity and that at least 75% of their revenues goes directly to their mission: ”To cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.”

* You may want to remind people that checks and online donations made through 12/31/2008, even if charged to a credit card, can be used to get a final tax deduction for 2008.

* Depending on who gets your letter, you may want to have separate versions: one to family and close friends, one to acquaintances, one to work business / contacts.

* You might want to do something a little different with your letter. A couple ideas I have seen (a) one participant wrote a thing about TNT for each letter of the alphabet, and called it the ABC’s of Team in Training. She included one of these “letters” with each letter that she mailed. (b) Ed did a newspaper idea, calling it The Editorial. He had little columns with photos, each a separate little story to get his message across.

* Consider including a self-addressed and stamped envelope, using a privacy envelope. It will cost a little more, but is considerate of your donors. And think how exciting it will be when you start seeing them show up in your mail!!!

* Get your notes to Jen and she will pay outgoing (but not return) postage.

* If you live in a neighborhood with newspaper boxes, write a “Dear Neighbor” letter with all pertinent information and put it in the paper boxes (but never in the mail box!!!!).

I am really excited about the upcoming season, and about working with each of you. Once we get past Thanksgiving (and I get over this cold) I will start calling you on a regular basis, and also see if we can get together, either one on one, or in small groups. In the meantime, please email me or call if you have questions or need assistance with anything.

I will leave you with this quote from Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), which I think applies to endurance training and fundraising: Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance.

So let’s do great works, and persevere! GO TEAM!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Our Fundraising Clinic

Tonight we had our team fundraising clinic. It was good, as always, but I was disappointed that so few of the team showed up – only about a half dozen or so not counting mentors from a team of over 40 people.

All of us on the team are training for an endurance event, and we really want to cross that finish line, be it for a full or half marathon, a century bike ride, or a triathlon. But the really important “finish line”, the one that sets us apart for just being endurance athletes, is the fundraising finish line. We are, after all, doing this to improve lives of cancer patients and to help find a cure. Every ten minutes that passes without a cure, one more American dies of a blood cancer.

I know we won’t find a cure this year or next or the year after for every kind of blood cancer. But what if in 5 years, instead of a death every 10 minutes, it is a death every 30 minutes? And what if in 10 more years, it is a death every 10 hours – how amazing would that be? And what if, by curing blood cancers, researchers find that lymphoma really is the "Rosetta Stone" of cancers, and many other cancers are cured along the way. By crossing that second finish line, the fundraising finish, each of us doing Team in Training can hopefully make cures a reality.

The clinic was run by Jen, our TNT coordinator. She is new to the job and is really good and enthusiastic, running her first clinic in such a fine way. She got good brainstorming and discussions from the mentors and participants. Amber was also there, with all of her experience, to help with ideas and her wonderful enthusiasm. Between the two of them and the participants and mentors, we got a lot of great synergy going, and I hope that this leads to successful fund-raising campaigns for everyone.

Speaking of fundraising, after nearly 2 months of "campaigning", I have raised nearly $2,500. So while I have a long way to go to reach my goal, I feel like I have gotten off to a really good start.

Monday, November 17, 2008

That Pesky Rhino-Virus!

If you every read my other blog, Oh to Be Hiking, you know I love the outdoors and wildlife, and am very concerned about the loss of biodiversity and the horrific extinction rate for our fellow species. But right now, I am not including cold viruses in that mix, and would just as soon they go extinct - although I guess even they serve some ecological purpose. If anyone knows what that would be, let me know.

Rhinoceros - cool and most species severely endangered! Rhino virus - not cool, and none of the varieties endangered!

I went to bed last night with the hint of a sore throat, and I lay there thinking "Could I be catching a cold?" This morning, I woke up and my first thought was "I think I am catching a cold!". By about noon, my thinking was "Damn it! I have a cold!". So at about 4PM, I bought some Zicam and will hope it shortens this thing up.

I really planned on getting into morning training this week, now that I am back from Michigan and the team has formed up. But clearly that needs to take a back seat to getting over this cold. Right now I am just hoping to get through work tomorrow, and maybe be well enough in 4.5 more days to train with the team for our four miler. Time will tell! My last cold was very easy and over in about three days. The one before that was pretty bad and lastest a long time, and even had a role in making me sea-sick in the desert!

Not really what I had in mind for this week, but it is what it is, and people go through so many much worse things. This too shall pass.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Run or Walk?

Run or walk? That’s the question of the day.

I am not an experienced or good distance runner. One of the things that really attracted me to Team in Training, other than its mission of curing blood cancers, is that you could actually walk a marathon. Before learning of TNT, it never occurred to me that one could walk a marathon.

My first two marathons, I walked. Now if that sounds wimpy, consider that we are not talking about a casual stroll here. I move my legs to take about 130 steps a minute, each one about a yard long. It comes out to about a mile every 13.5 to 14 minutes when you factor in porta-potty lines. My first marathon took about 6 hours and 40 minutes, my second about 6 hours and 14 minutes.

Earlier this year, I didn’t feel as in good shape, but did the Arizona Marathon in about 5 hours and 57 minutes, because I started running for two minutes every mile at about mile 12. I hadn’t trained with running, and our coaches tell us not to do anything new on race day, but I just felt like trying it.

Running a marathon is clearly harder. Runners who try walking for 10 miles or so with the walk team tell us that they think that walking is more difficult, how sore they are. But it is all in what you are used to. I can walk 10 miles, fast, with relative ease, but if I ran 10 miles – assuming I could even do it – I don’t think I could get out of bed the next day.

Whether I run or walk this season will depend on the makeup of the team, the distance I choose (half or full), how I am feeling, and whether I have any injuries. If we have a good group of fast walkers like we had last season, I will likely walk more and run less. But if there are not many walkers, and especially if they are all slower than I am, I may make the transition to run more and walk less.

This morning, I did a 5K on the treadmill, alternating between walking for five minutes at 4.4 miles per hour and running for three minutes at 5.8 mph. It took 38 minutes to do the 5K, essentially shaving about 4 minutes off the pace had I walked only. My legs definitely felt more tired at the end than they usually would for just walking five kilometers. So I will have some conditioning to do if I make the transition. Combining running and walking is called the Galloway method, I think. This may be a good year to try something new.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mentoring e-Mail # 1

This is the first email I sent to my "mentees":

Hi ladies –

‘Tis I, your mentor for this fine spring 2009 season! I am heading for Michigan at 6AM tomorrow, but wanted to get out a quick note for you. I can’t promise I will answer emails this week – depends on the internet access at the hotel and what I have going on – but if you need something, let me know and I will try to reach you.

A couple of reminders:

1. FUNdraising clinic – November 18 (next Tuesday) at 6:30, Dumbarton Library (on Staples Mill Road about a half mile north of I-64). This is really useful, a good way to hear ideas and stories, and to meet your teammates again.

2. Want to save some money? Have your fund-raising letter ready to mail next week. LLS will pay postage on the first 100 of these. So get them written (I am going to be challenged myself since I will be away until Monday night). You would put them in an envelope ready to mail. I usually include a self-addressed stamped envelope for easy reply.

3. Is your web page set up? Did you customize it with your own message? Emails out?

Here are some goals for you for the coming week:

1. Determine whether you will put primary focus on snail-mail or email.

2. Develop your mailing lists for US mail and for email.

3. Choose your fund raising goal. At the least it should be the minimum for your event, but why stop there if you can do more? Just like with a race, you can have multiple goals. In a race, I have a time goal – my “A” goal – that I can reach if all goes great. Then I have a “B” goal – things go pretty well but a few problems come up. Finally there is my “C” goal – just to finish the race in any amount of time. I do the same with my fundraising, both to challenge myself and to try to make every dollar count. Your goal is up to you of course – whatever you are comfortable with.

4. Depending on your answer to # 1, either (a) prepare your letter and get them all packaged or (b) get your web page looking great

5. Think of things you want to ask at next week’s clinic.

Even if you want to concentrate on emails and online fundraising, if you have more than a dozen or so people you will mail letters to, you sill might want to get that letter ready because it will save you some money if LLS mails it for you. So give that some thought.

Have a great week! Thanks for signing on with TNT to make a difference. I will leave you with this quote from Michelangelo: “The greatest danger for most of us is not that we set our goal too high and fail to achieve it. It is that we set our goal too low and achieve it.”


Sunday, November 9, 2008

TNT Update: Bizarre Coincidences with the Presidential Tickets

My Fellow Americans, and Citizens of the World,

The presidential election is over, after a grueling two years. Whoever you voted for, we can all agree that this was an incredibly historic event for the USA. May we all unite as Americans, and give President-elect Obama a chance to make our country better. Our country and the world face immense problems, and they are not going to get solved with partisan bickering.

While the presidential campaign is over, my 2009 Cancer Kickin’ Campaign has barely begun. So far, 42 generous donors have donated over $2,200, or 15% towards my ultimate goal of $14,645. I want to take this opportunity, again, to thank all those who have donated. If you would like to make a donation, get campaign updates, or see my donor list, please visit my campaign headquarters at:

With the election now over, it got me to thinking about all of the incredible, one could even say spooky, coincidences between myself and the four presidential and vice-presidential candidates. When I outline some of these for you, you will be amazed.

For example, John McCain went to the US Naval Academy. I flunked the entrance exam to the USNA. McCain had eagle-eyes enough to become a naval aviator. My eyesight is so poor that when I tried to join the Navy, I flunked the eye exam. Anchors aweigh!

Joe Biden was born in Eastern Pennsylvania, and so was I! Sarah Palin was born in Idaho, and I like potatoes. Plus she and I both like diet Doctor Peppers! Incredible!

Palin’s first (and only) governorship is for Alaska, and my first marathon was in Alaska. McCain’s third senate term was in Arizona, and my third marathon was in Arizona. OK, OK, his first, second, and fourth terms were there too – fine! What are you a lawyer, pointing out that kind of technicality?

Barack Obama is from Chicago, and I once hitchhiked through Chicago, getting stuck there for hours when I couldn’t get a ride, and nearly getting arrested for hitchhiking there. Every state I hitched through on the way north (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and ending up on Isle Royale in Michigan) went for Obama. Plus on that trip, I saw my first moose! Palin loves to hunt moose. I have never hunted moose but I did work as a biologist technician at moose hunting check points during two moose seasons. Can’t be mere coincidence, all these tie-ins between me and these two very different candidates.

Palin said that the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is lipstick. I say that the difference between a cancer patient and a pit bull is chemo. Palin is a hockey mom, and I celebrated back in 1974 when the Philadelphia Flyers won the NHL Stanley Cup. Come to think of it, could Biden have celebrated as well, being from that area? You betcha!

Obama is great at fund-raising, raising over $600 million. I also do fundraising but not quite with that degree of success. Want to help me close the gap? You know how!

By April 2009 I will have done 4 marathons – two in states that went for McCain / Palin (red), two in states that went for Obama / Biden (blue). Equal mixtures of blue and red, when mixed, form purple, the TNT color. How amazing is that?

Obama raised $150,000,000 in one month, Palin got clothes worth $150,000, and my entire wardrobe is worth about $150, not counting my running shoes of course. The Republican National Committee gave Palin clothing, and Team in Training will give me a purple race singlet. (Unlike Governor Palin, however, I will write the names of cancer patients all over mine – I think that would have been frowned upon had Sarah Palin done that.)

Biden graduated from the University of Delaware and played some football there. My freshman year, I performed at halftime at the football game in Delaware Stadium between the Villanova Wildcats and the Delaware Blue Hens as a member of the Wildcat Sometimes Marching Sometimes Standing-Still Sometimes Totally Confused But Always Having Fun Marching Band.

McCain is currently serving his fourth term in the US Senate, while I am currently training for my fourth event for TNT. Likewise, Governor Palin went to four separate colleges to earn her Bachelor’s Degree. I only went to one college to earn mine, but I was there four years. Obama has been in the US Senate for four years. Biden served six terms in the US Senate and ran for president twice. Six take away two is four – how weird is that? What it is about the number four and the four of them, and me?

Biden was accused of plagiarism in law school. I write stuff so whacky – like this - that no one would want to plagiarize it.

Both John McCain and I both had serious medical conditions ending in “oma”. McCain loves to hike, and so do I, although I think we must hike in separate places because I’ve never seen him.

Palin said that from an island in Alaska, one can see Russia. When I did the Anchorage marathon, I couldn’t see Russia, but I sometimes could see mountains through the rain, and Russia has lots of mountains.

In my first year with TNT, the distance covered in the marathon and 10K that I was in would have been enough to cross Biden’s Delaware on foot. During my first three seasons with TNT, all my race and training miles would have taken me from one end of Palin’s Alaska to the other, which is 1,480 miles.

I think by now, you are realizing that all these similarities among McCain, Obama, Biden, Palin, and I cannot be mere coincidence. There is something really mysterious going on here. While thinking about all this, it seemed so surreal that at times I started hearing that “Twilight Zone” music – Du-du-du-du – Du-du-du-du.

On a serious note, all four of these fine Americans said that the next four years can’t be like the last eight. I agree – in the last eight years, approximately 420,000 Americans died of blood cancer. And that is just American citizens – world-wide the numbers would be even more staggering. Work with me so that we can lower that number over the next four years, and maybe reduce it to a negligible numbers in 8 or 12.

The election of Barack Obama this past week is a landmark historical event. I am hoping that in the not too distant future – 5, 10, 15 years – we will hear the American President address the nation to announce another amazing historical event: that all types of blood cancer are now curable. When that happens, anyone doing Team in Training, and anyone who made a donation in support of the TNT endurance athletes, will have helped make that possible.

I thank you for your support!


Art Ritter in 2009 – He will go the Distance for you!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

First Training - Spring 2009 Team!

Today, our 2009 spring marathon team trained together for the first time. It was a low-key affair, with nearly 20 members of the team together. What a great looking crew!

The weather was more like early October than November, and it was a little rainy as well, but not too bad. Here is a shot of some of the team clowning around before we got started:

Our head coach, Vicki, talked about our training schedule, then I gave the mission moment. The mission moment is an important TNT tradition, because it reminds us that we are not just a bunch of people getting together for a run. We are trying to help cure cancer, and hopefully what I said reminded people of that. I ended my short talk by saying what an historic week this had been, but how cool it would be if in 10 or 20 years, the president made an announcement that every type of blood cancer had been cured. That would be an incredible piece of history, and everyone who has done Team in Training would have a part of that. Then we did a warm-up lap around Swan Lake:

Our actual training today was pretty short – we each ran or walked 15 minutes and then returned to the park. The goal is that the coaches can get an idea of our pace by seeing how far we got in 15 minutes. In my case, I am going to try to run more, and I covered 2.8 miles in 31 minutes by running about 2/3 of the time. We won’t have formal training for two more weeks because of the Richmond Marathon next weekend, but from now on the training will be longer and more intense, so it was good to take it a little easy today.

Friday, November 7, 2008

What a Wonderful Day!

This was written for a concert at the Hawthorne Cancer Resouce Center:

The Hawthorne The Cancer Resource Center invites you to our 8th Annual
Say It In A Song! Concert
Date: Sunday November 9, 2008
Place: Sheraton Park South Hotel, Richmond, VA
Time: 2:00pm
Admission: Suggested $10.00 Donation at the door

(Tricia Walker)
©Big Front Porch Music

Did you see the sunrise this morning?
Did you hear the mockingbird sing?
Did you touch the hand of a good friend?
Well that’s a beautiful thing!

Did you taste a strong cup of coffee?
Did you smell the freshly cut hay?
Did you sing I’m alive! I’m alive!! I’m alive!!!
What a wonderful day!

Do you feel like the road you’ve been walking
Is a little too lonely and dark?
I will walk here beside you
And I will listen with my heart.

I may not have all the answers
But I thank God when I pray.
That you’re Alive! You’re Alive!! You’re Alive!!!
What a wonderful day!

What a wonderful day! What a wonderful day!!
We’re alive! We’re alive!! We’re alive!!!
What a wonderful day!

There’ll be moments of laughter.
There’ll be time for tears.
And when you need a shoulder
I will always be here.
We’ve been through this together
Now we all can say…

That we’re alive! We’re alive!! We’re alive!!!
What a wonderful day!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Spring 2009 Kick Off!

Last night was our team kick-off! This is always a lot of fun, because the whole team comes together for the first and perhaps for the last time. After last night, the team will break into three sub-teams: cycle, triathlon, and marathon. Each of these groups will train together but separately from the other two groups.

Our teams are pretty decent size. The marathon team currently has 9 people who will train for Country Music and 20 who will train for the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach. The triathlon team currently has 7 people, all training for the St. Anthony Triathlon in Tampa, and the cycle team currently has 6 people training for the Fletcher Flyer 100 mile bike race in Asheville, NC. And who knows, we may add a person or two.

During kick-off, Holly told the inspirational story of her daughter Emma’s experience with leukemia at age 10 weeks! What a horrible experience for this family to go through. Despite it all little Emma survived, and is now a sweet and healthy 9 year old. Can you imagine dealing with your little baby so deathly ill and all of the torturous things that she had to endure? I sincerely hope that our efforts with TNT will make all this things of the past, for the medical museum, some day very soon.

One of my great friends, Susan Glass, is on the cycle team and will be going for the coveted “TNT Triple Crown”, meaning she will have completed at least one marathon, triathlon, and century ride for Team in Training. In Susan’s case, she has already done something like 25 events and just needs the 100 miler to close the deal. Plus she has raised over $100,000 in this time. I am really proud of her!

TNT is awesome, and the people one meets and trains with are awesome and inspirational. I am really looking forward to this team and to renewing acquaintances with old friends, and making new friends. All while trying to make the world a better place and to work towards a cure for cancer.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Thanking the Madagascar Periwinkle

Now and then, when I am in Washington D.C., I like to go to the most excellent Botanical Garden. It is off the beaten track a bit, near to the US Capital, but well worth a visit. There is a large rain forest exhibit, a desert exhibit, and orchids, among many other things. But one display I always linger at is the one for medicinal plants. I always pause and say “thank you” to the Madagascar periwinkle, the plant that helped save my life.

This humble, little plant is used to provide Vinblastine, one of the four drugs I took while dealing with Hodgkin lymphoma in 2002. Now, Vinblastine is a double edged sword. It is very effective against Hodgkin’s disease, and some other cancers, such as testicular, breast, and small cell lung cancer. But is has some really nasty side effects, which I will spare you the details of in the interest of not hearing you scream “TMI”!!!!

Even though the chemical composition of vinblastine is known, and obviously people have learned how to purify it from the plant, we have no idea how to make it artificially. So without this plant, there is no vinblastine. Another toxic alkaloid from this plant, vincristine, has been used to raise the survival rate of acute childhood leukemia from 10% to 90%. At one point in time, this plant was considered an obscure “weed”, and now it is critical to solving multiple types of cancer that were deadly before.

Why I am telling you this? Because every 20 minutes, a species of plant or animal becomes extinct. That is estimated to be 1,000 times the normal extinction rate in our planet’s history, and we are now in the sixth mass extinction period in history. The last of these was the extinction of the dinosaurs 65,000,000 years ago, but this one is caused primarily by humans. Even if we don’t take into account the intrinsic value of biodiversity and other species, what future medical miracles are we eliminating without even being aware of it?

I will leave you with this quote from John Holdren, an environmental scientist from Harvard and Woods Hole, as documented in Thomas Friedman’s excellent book, “Hot, Flat, and Crowded:”

“The biodiversity of the planet is a unique and uniquely valuable library that we have been steadily burning down – one wing at a time – before we have even cataloged all the books, let alone read them all.”