Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ring in the New!

So another memorable year is rapidly drawing to a close! Happy New Year! Out with 2009, and in with 2010!

I think that it helps sometimes to write goals and resolutions down. That way, it is more difficult to just forget about them. So here goes with a few of mine for 2010:

1. Do my fifth Team in Training event. Whether I take the plunge and do a biking or triathlon event for the first time, or do my fifth marathon / half-marathon, the important thing is to do it! Just do it! So I will!

2. Get a bike. Even if I don’t do a TNT event that requires a bike, I want to save up my money and get a bike sometime in 2010, and practice riding it to get proficient enough to do an event next year that requires a bike. If I don’t, it just becomes a convenient excuse next year to not do a century or tri.

3. Eclipse $50,000 in fund raising (cumulative for all my events) for Team in Training. I will need to raise about $9,000 - $10,000 to achieve this goal. It is not easy in this continued stinky economy, but who said goals have to be easy? It is attainable, with some work, planning, and effort.

4. Lose my extra weight. It is only eight or nine pounds right now, but that is more than enough. I resolve to get back to 172 pounds, and keep it off, not topping 175 (with clothes on) by the end of 2010. Gotta give myself a few pound margin for holiday gluttony, right?

5. Practice swimming. I’ve done almost nothing to improve my horrible swimming technique, and there are no excuses. Whether I do a triathlon or not in 2010, I am at least going to be able to swim at least ½ mile by the end of the year. Going forward, not backwards, that is!

6. Write something, get it published, and get paid for it. I have never tried to earn money for my writing. I resolve to learn how to do this and then do it in 2010. I have some good stories to write. For starters, there is the time my ex-brother in law made a fool of himself (with a little help from my brother and me) by thinking he was a wine expert. Then there is the tale of me buying my first car, what a classic (the story, not the car)! Or my first backpacking trip, a real snafu, where said car broke down 500 miles from home. I could go on, but won’t. I really see writing in my future, but it won’t happen on its own.

7. Run the Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K this March. Go for a PR! ‘Nuff said!

8. Hike more, and try to backpack again. This is difficult, because training for an endurance event and having the time and energy to hike a lot seem to be mutually exclusive. And backpacking again means using vacation time I don’t have, or using flex time to slip out of work early on a Friday to hit the trail. I don’t have that either. Which leads to…

9. Do something about my work situation. Yes, I am lucky to have a job and a paycheck. But it has changed radically there, and the biggest minus for me is that we can no longer have any flexibility with working hours. So whereas before, I could work an extra eight hours now and then and skip Friday, I can’t even do an extra hour anymore. It is simply not allowed there. So instead of complaining about it, I need to take some action where I have more flexibility in my life, while still having an income.

10. Continue this blog, as well as my blog “Oh, to be Hiking,” through 2010. I don’t get a ton of comments on either one, so I am not sure if people are enjoying them or not. But I enjoy writing them, so why not continue for a third year and see where that goes?

Ten things - I think that is a pretty good list for 2010! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Flyer in the Mail

I got my Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K flyer in the mail, and have to say, it excited me to get this and just start thinking about this race. It is probably the most fun race I do. I’ve done it every year since 2005, my first year of training with TNT. Here are links to my posts for to this race in 2008 and 2009.

No matter what event I decide to do with Team in Training, I will definitely plan to run this race. I’d like to go for a personal record, although I will have to work hard to attain that. I was in much better shape this time a year ago, having been training with the marathon team for two months. This year, I’ve been mostly sleeping in till 6, doing very little running, walking some, working out a little. A 10K is not a hard race unless you don’t train for it, so I think I should just sign up and hit the roads for some training. I am finding the thoughts of those 4:30 wake up calls really tough to think about, I have to say. But there is no other way than to just do it.

Even if I do a cycle event for TNT, a 10K is short enough that I can still do run training. I’d like to also do the Shamrock half marathon, which is about a week before the Monument Avenue race, but I can’t commit to that until I decide whether to cycle or not. If I decide to cycle 100 miles, that is going to have to consume most of my fitness attention. I don’t even own a bike, so that is a big shift for me, and not something I can do unless I devote a lot of time and effort to cycle training. Training for a half marathon in less than three months would take too much away from that. But I can surely do the 10K.

It's also cool that the main charity for this race is the Massey Cancer Center at the Medical College of Virginia, and that Team in Training has a team in this race, starting last year. I like seeing those purple people in the race, and I always see friends and former teammates running or cheering. It is a great race and a ton of fun!

Monday, December 28, 2009

The 1.3 Kilogram Blob

I was thinking about the recent terrorist attack on the aircraft coming from the Netherlands to Detroit, Michigan. What makes some humans willing to blow up a plane with 250 people on it, including themselves? And even more amazing, what makes a human willing to strap highly flammable explosives to their groin and then ignite it, with a significant risk that instead of exploding, it will burn like hell when ignited (as happened in this case)? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I would just as soon keep fire away from that part of my body, or from any part for that matter.

I guess the answer lies in that 1.3 to 1.4 Kilogram blob of tissue hiding in our skull, otherwise known as our brain. It just doesn’t make sense to me that some people are so prone to hatred, to violence, to murder and mayhem, while others give in to doing good, to helping others, to trying to better the world. Maybe God can understand why this young man’s brain was so badly wired, but I sure can’t.

The people I associate with tend to be on the positive side of things. People that help others, that want to make the world a better place. Every day, although it never makes the news, people do incredibly good things. People are providing humanitarian services to refugees and impoverished people, often at tremendous risk and sacrifice. People are working to cure diseases, building housing for the poor, working on solving environmental problems, and providing medical services and food to those in need. And so many people, to use Team in Training people as only one small example, sacrifice their time to raise money for good causes. I could go on and on.

It is sad that so many of our species use our amazing brain, which would look like a big grayish blob of goo if we could see it but which puts the most advanced supercomputer to shame, for such horrible purposes as that young Nigerian attempted – on Christmas day no less. I don’t get it. Each of us can use our brains to choose to do good or evil, or I suppose to do neither. We all have the same basic circuitry in our brains. I wonder what makes the difference, why so many in this world are told by their incredible brain to hate and do evil. I guess I am grateful that I don’t understand it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Wow, only three more days until Christmas. I am pretty sure that Christmas was my favorite holiday when I was a kid. Now, I still enjoy it, especially if family get-togethers are involved. I love Christmas music and the decorations, but I don’t like the commercialization of it. I think we just emphasize the wrong things this time of year. It just stresses people out: the crowded malls, the traffic jams, the tense faces, the attempt to buy the perfect gifts.

I’d rather see everyone relaxing a bit and appreciating what they have. If you have Christian beliefs, remember the reason for Christmas and what it really means. Whether or not you are of a Christian faith, use it as a time to be especially kind to others, and thankful for the good things and loved ones in your life. If you are warm, have a decent place to live in a safe area, are well-fed, are healthy, and are loved by someone or a pet this Christmas, then you really have it pretty good. I know I do. The little things that don’t always go our way are not so important compared to those things that are truly important.

So this year, have yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Do something nice for someone! And remember to be nice to yourself! Relax! Smile! Be grateful!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Workout Doldrums

If Tiger Woods had the same lack of success with women that I have had lately trying to find the time to work out, he’d be having an easier time with life right now than he is. Plus he wouldn’t be looking at a divorce and losing custody of his children. Of course, if I had the same success with working out that Tiger has with women, I’d be running sub-two thirty marathons, bench pressing 400 pounds, and dropping in 30 foot jump shots.

And my lack of success in finding time to work out is showing. Last week, I actually found an hour or so to walk five miles. I put in a brisk pace of about a 14:30 mile, which is a little slow for my normal (or at least old normal) walking pace. The five miles felt pretty good, although I felt a bit tired. But when I woke up the next day, my legs were sore, especially my hips. In fact my hips were sore about three days! From five miles! The same guy who did a half marathon, 65% of it running, just last April and felt fine the next day, and my hips were sore from just five miles!

This past Saturday, I was going to try for about six miles, walking only, with the Spring Walk Team for TNT. It was our annual Jingle Bell Run, but it was cancelled because of our big snow storm. That was a convenient excuse to take it easy all day, other than some heavy lifting with a snow shovel, but I was really disappointed not to get in a workout with the team. With all the snow, work obligations, and Christmas coming up, I don’t see much chance of speed walking or doing some running for the next week or so, but we will see. Even lunch time walks of a mile or two downtown are out for now because of all of the snow and ice.

I did get in a nice upper body weight workout tonight, but that was the first time in a week or so. Hopefully though, even with the paltry amount of exercise I am getting, Tiger is getting even that less action than that prowling around and chasing young women.

The New Year is rapidly approaching, the time when so many of us make resolutions that we don’t keep. But this is one time that I really do need to resolve to work out a lot more and lose those extra pounds going into the New Year. After all, at some point in 2010 I intend on doing Team in Training again, and I need to start getting back in shape for that. I always feel better when I work out regularly. I just need to get off my butt and make time to do it more. Of course, the New Year is still 10 days away so I guess I will stay on my butt a little longer. Tiger, on the other hand, had better not wait until the New Year to swear off chasing women.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Message from the Captain (#6)

Ahoy Mateys! ‘Tis your captain speaking once again, Mentor Captain Art that is!

Old time sailors say “any port in a storm”, and we sure had a storm this weekend, didn’t we? It was time to batten the hatches and drop anchor in a safe port, just ride out the storm. I think that’s what we all did. Except of course, the cycle team, who put chains on their bikes and hit the road at 6:30 AM yesterday, right, Susan?

The next two weeks will probably be fairly quiet with Team in Training. Please remind your mentees to let the coaches know if they won’t be at training the day after Christmas or the day after New Years. That is really important.

Other than that, people are probably too wrapped up in the holiday season to respond to a lot of fundraising activities. I know I get bombarded this time of year by requests for donations. Given it is the last chance to make a tax deductible donation for 2009, it would be good to at least send out an update to their email list. It is a good time for participants to remind potential donors of what they are doing, and their progress. And at the same time, why not remind them that their donation is fully tax deductible in 2009, even if put on a credit card by December 31 and not paid until 2010?

The other things participants might want to be working on over the holidays is getting donations for the silent auction, and planning fundraising activities for the New Year. In particular, I would strongly encourage the latter. This is the time to plan for the big push in 2010 that will get them to their goal. What have they done so far? What has worked? What hasn’t worked? Are there things that they have been thinking of trying but haven’t yet? Do they have specific activities lined up? Are there businesses they want to approach about fundraisers or donations? How much more do they have to raise before recommitment and how much does that translate to each week? What is the plan to raise that much each week? And I would ask the same two questions for the rest of the season – how much each week will they have to raise to hit their minimum? If you have mentees that are not raising enough to stay on pace, you might want to remind them that every week that goes by, it means raising that much more on average for the remaining weeks.

If you have the time in this busy time of year, offer to meet with your mentees to help them plan. The goal will be to start off 2010 with a firm plan for completing fundraising, rather than starting to think about all of this after New Years. It is a time of year where it is very easy to put all this aside, which means essentially losing two weeks of prime fundraising and planning time.

That is about it from the Captain’s Chair this week. Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas, or a Happy Holiday of your choice. And of course, Happy belated Chanukah wishes as well. Let me know if you need help with anything.

Cap’n Art

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Jingle Bell Run That Wasn't

Oh, the weather outside is frightful
But inside, it's so delightful
And since we've no place to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Oh, but we did have some place to go! Our spring TNT team was going to have our annual jingle bell run today. It started snowing around 5PM yesterday, and by 7PM, we had a couple of inches of snow. The forecast didn't look so hot, so Coach Vicki cancelled training for the first time in six years. And it was a good thing, too - by this morning, I would guess we had 15 inches of snow. After six or seven years of hardly any snow, we now have had back to back winters with major snowfalls for this part of the world. Given that we historically average 14 inches of snow a year (with much less than that lately), a 15 inch plus storm is pretty big.
Nothing to do but relax and enjoy the scenary today, and revel in Villanova's football championship last night. Here is what my neighborhood looked like today.
Click here to read about last year's jingle bell run.

Congratulations, Wildcats!

Last night, the Villanova University Wildcats beat the University of Montana Grizzlies in the Division 1 FCS Football Championship, 23 - 21. It was an amazing game to watch between two great and classy teams. Montana had a great first half, Villanova a tremendous second half, and although either team could have won, it was Villanova's night at the end of a soaking wet game in Chattanooga.

In case you are wondering what FCS stands for, it is football championship subdivision (as opposed to FBS, which is football bowl subdivision). In other words, in the FCS, they actually determine the champion with a 16 team play-off as opposed to the nutty FBS system of selecting two teams and letting them play. Every other really good team in the FBS gets to play in a totally meaningless bowl game. Yes, the FBS has the bigger teams, more money, and the best players, but what kind of a crazy scheme to decide a champ is that? Fans of Texas Christian, Cincinatti, and Boise State, all undefeated this year but with no chance to even compete for a championship, might agree with me. Decide the champion with a champtionship series? What a novel idea! Hey, I know! Maybe they could try that in college basketball! We could call it "March Madness!" Naw, that would never work!

So Villanova (14-1) and Montana (undefeated coming in but now 14-1) did it the right way. They not only had to have great years to get in the field of 16, they each had to win three playoff games to get to the finals. As a Villanova alum, I am really proud of this championship and of the team. GO WILDCATS! V for Villanova, V for Victory.

And to Montana Grizzly fans - congratulations on another great year in the tremendous football tradition you have up in Missoula. I know it hurts to come up just a bit short, but I know that you are justifiably proud of your team. They had a tremendous year, and were three points away from an extraordinary one. You have great fans, a fantastic young coach, and a wonderful tradition. Good luck next year. I predict championships in your future.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Keeping the Faith!

About a month and a half ago, I blogged about being on the team “Faith’s Hope” for Light the Night, and how Faith, a local woman with stage four Hodgkin lymphoma, started this team to make a difference even while she was suffering through chemo, hospitals, and blood transfusions.

I got some great news today from Faith – despite her lengthy battle for most of 2009, despite having tumors throughout her lymphatic system, despite having cancer spread to her bone marrow, lungs, and spleen, Faith is now in remission. While she has a 35% chance for developing cancer again within five years, today she is cancer free!

As anyone who has had cancer knows, she and her doctors will need to be vigilant. There will be frequent checkups and CT scans – here, just drink three pints of this delicious chalky barium fluid, it tastes just like candy. You get an ache or a little pain, and you think “Hmmm, what could this be?” And usually the answer to that is “nothing.” She has a two thirds chance of having this cancer behind her for good.

As someone who just hit seven years remission a week ago, I think I know how happy Faith must feel today for getting that news. It is an amazing feeling. You become overwhelmed with gratitude for making it to remission, and for not having to get poisoned anymore. And you hope that in the ensuing months, you will gradually regain some degree of strength and stamina, and that the fog that seems to envelop your brain will burn off in time. And maybe, just maybe, you will eventually feel like your old self.

With an American dying from a blood cancer every 10 minutes, not enough people know that feeling of reaching remission, the holy grail for cancer patients. One of the goals of all of us doing TNT is that this ten minute number will increase because more people are hitting remission and less are dying. Research and a lot of work has made it that way for Hodgkin lymphoma – so now we just have to keep making progress on other cancers. Maybe in a few years, the time lapse will increase to a death every 15 minutes, maybe a few years after that it will be every 20 minutes. Maybe someday it will be one person an hour, or even less.

I wonder how many minutes go by every day on average for a patient to reach remission? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that today was Faith’s turn. Congratulations, Faith! Live each day! In 7 more years, it will be Faith talking about being seven years in remission, just like I was last week. You’ll get there! Keep the faith!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Hundred Pound Feather; The Hundred Pound Truck

Believe it or not, upper body strength is fairly important for marathoners. And believe it or not even more, I think this is especially so for marathon walkers. For one thing, you are on the race course longer when you walk, and for every step, your arm opposite to your moving leg moves a little. It doesn’t move by itself – it is propelled by your arm and shoulder muscles. So the longer you are out there, the more times you move your arms. For another thing, I think there is a tendency for walkers to move their arms a bit further than runners do. Not the extremely exaggerated motion you see with some walkers where they swing their arms like they are reaching for the moon, of course. That is a waste of energy and muscle power. But you need to move your arms when you walk and run, and repeated tens of thousands of times as happens during a marathon, you do need some upper body strength.

I learned this a few years ago when I was training for walking the San Diego Marathon. I was near the end of a 21 mile day when I came to a wall that was about five feet high. It was either clamber over the wall, or retrace my steps and do an extra mile. I eyed the wall, and thought it would be easy to hoist myself over it. Wrong! I tried twice, and my arms were so tired I couldn’t lift myself even a foot!

When I trained for my first marathon, in 2005, I did a lot of upper body workouts. This is me, five years ago, doing just that. I would do three sets of 15 repetitions each with 140 pound weights on a military press machine. And I would do three different exercises with that machine, plus lots of work with 15 to 25 pound hand weights. Compared to a football player, that is not a lot of weight, but it was plenty for an endurance racer, and for a guy my age. I was pretty strong. Now and then, I would lift 100 pounds just to see how it felt, and it was like lifting a feather.

Fast forward to 2007. Some time around June, I partially tore my right rotator cuff, probably lifting 20 pound weights laterally. It was painful for a couple of years, and probably was finally healed only within the last six months or so. I did the 2008 Arizona Marathon with this injury, and I had to just about give up all upper body training. When I could resume it, the doctor stressed using low weights but a lot of repetitions. This was after some physical therapy with specific exercises, which I still do at times but not often or consistently enough. I started with 30 pounds and worked my way up to 70, which felt like too much for the number of repetitions I was doing. So a couple of months ago, I backed down to 50 pounds, doing 50 reps for those same three exercises.

A few weeks ago, just for grins, I tried 100 pounds. That weight, the exact weight that felt like a feather five years ago, now felt like a truck! Okay, not exactly like a feather or a truck, but you get the idea. It felt very heavy, and it required real effort to lift it. Five years ago, it was effortless. So while I will stick with the lower weights and more reps, I am thinking of maybe every three workouts of doing more weight and fewer reps. Maybe that will build strength and not just endurance. Are any of you experts on strength training? I’d love to hear ideas.

I wonder if I will ever get back to 140 pounds, and if 100 pounds will ever feel like a feather again? Maybe not, but I hope I at least get to the point where it doesn’t feel like a truck.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hold that Line! Hold that Line!

I stepped on the scale in the bank lobby the other day, and watched the dial jump to the right. “What the hell? 181 pounds? That’s it! I am holding the line,” I said. I heard the faint tee-heeing of laughter, but from where? I glanced around the bank lobby. A few customers lined up at the ATM machine a short distance away, but they looked totally serious. A security guard, pistol strapped to his waist, sat across the lobby. He looked like he had never laughed in his life.

I heard faint, high pitched peals of laughter again. I stared at the face of scale. No way! Was the laughter coming from the scale? To test my ridiculous theory, I said “There is no way I am gaining another pound!” The laughter got louder, and was clearly coming from the scale! “OK, scale, what is up with that?” The scale stopped laughing, and said “Oh, that’s rich! You’re not gaining another pound? Check your calendar. Do you know what time of year it is?”

“It doesn’t matter what time of year it is! I have gained eight pounds since running the Country Music Half-Marathon last April, and that is enough. I am holding the line!” (“I can’t believe I am talking to a scale in a public place,” I thought to myself.)

“Yeah, and I’m Santa Claus,” the scale said, laughing at its own joke. “You would not believe how many people say that to me at this time of year. But they forget about holiday parties, Christmas cookies, eggnog, family get-togethers, and pumpkin pie. How much pumpkin pie did you have recently?”

“Quite a bit, actually. That’s one of the many reasons I have gained this weight. But enough is enough. I am stopping this weight gain, and will start to reverse it,” I said. I thought of all of the extra deserts lately, munching on cookies or candy people bring into work, Thanksgiving dinner, a drink here and there, a few more meals at restaurants recently – often with a tempting desert. It all just adds up, an ounce or two at a time. I thought of how much more tightly my pants have been fitting. Jeans that were very comfortable a few months ago were now quite snug. Clearly, either some practical jokester is swapping my pants out in the middle of the night, or I have gained not just weight but inches. As a reflex to this thought, I sucked in my stomach.

“That won’t help,” the scale said. “Suck in your stomach or not, you still weigh 181 pounds.” Resigned, I relaxed my stomach. Suddenly, the button on my pants flew off, striking the bank window like a rifle shot. A customer screamed, several of them started to go to the floor, and the guard started to pull out his revolver. He quickly realized what had happened and began laughing. “Great,” I thought to myself. “He has a sense of humor after all.”

Around this time, several of the bank’s customers had noted that I was talking to no one in particular, looked at my ear to see if I had a Blue Tooth, and seeing none, began to look a bit nervous. So I stepped off the scale and headed outside. Damn! The last time I weighed myself I was around 178 or 179, and I resolved to get down to 176 or so for my class reunion. So much for that! It is now time to get serious about this – to stop eating as much - Christmas or not – and to start working out again. Mr. Scale, next time you see me, I will have the last laugh. I resolve not to go over 181 by the first of the year. I will hold the line, and ultimately, I will lose the extra weight. I hitched my belt tight to make up for the missing button, and got back to work. Hey, who brought the lemon poppy-seed cake in? Well, one piece won’t hurt….

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Message from the Captain (#5)

Ahoy Mateys! This is your captain speaking! Furl the topsails! Reef the mainsails! Set the sea anchors! Shiver me timbers! This weather has been so cold and wet that it makes one want to curl up in the fo’castle sipping an extra ration of grog! But my guess is that at least a few of you and your mentees were out training today in this mess. It seems like for the last month or so, we have had more that our fair share of cold rain.

Recommitment for our first port of call, The Big Easy, is this Friday. So it is really important to touch base with your mentees (if any) for this race and see how they are doing. Recommitment is a big decision for every participant, but one that one each of them can make. You can provide information, encouragement, ideas, and support, but you can’t make the decision for them. Let me know if I can help in any way.

We’ll be having a breakfast after training Saturday for the run and walk teams. Triathlon and cycle team members are free to join us. Coach Vicki will have the best idea when training should end, and thus when people will be going to breakfast. Ask your mentees if they are going to join us. We will need a reasonable head count. I am proposing Kitchen 64 up Boulevard, and would like to see if they can set a few tables aside, ergo, the head count.

After a month of so of the spring season, you should start to be able to separate your mentees into two major groups: those you feel are going to do just fine with fundraising and those you have concerns about. For the next week or so, I would concentrate my efforts on the latter group. What concerns do you have about them? Do they have a plan, and if so, where are they falling short? Are you seeing signs that they are struggling, or even worse, just not doing any fundraising? Are any of them appearing to avoid you? This would be a good time to reach out by phone or in person to meet with anyone that you are concerned about. If they seem stymied, help them pick one fundraising method that they want to try, and motivate them to do that one well. Could be letters, could be their webpage and emails, could be specific fund raisers. It could even be getting amazing items for the silent auction next month, although it would be risky to put all one’s eggs in that basket, since the results won’t be known for another month.

At the same time, don’t ignore your other mentees. While the one’s you are behind on fundraising need the most attention, every participant needs some TLC. Maybe they are fine with their fundraising, but just want to discuss the TNT experience with someone who has been there. Or maybe they have gotten off to a great start, but are not sure what to do next. The great thing about being a mentor is that you have been there before, and maybe experienced or felt some of the things that they are feeling or experiencing. Sometimes what a participant needs most is a smile and a pat on the back, and someone who can relate to their concern.

I am always looking for mission moments to remind me of how important what we are doing is. This week, a chance encounter at work was the source of my inspiration. I wrote about it here:

Speaking of mission moments, at the marathon training Saturday I have arranged for Faith Eury to come out and tell us about her experience with stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma. She just finished chemo a month ago, and has had a really tough go of it, with a lot of time in the hospital.

Let me know if you need help, or have concerns. You know how to reach me so if you need me, get in touch!

Cap’n Art

Thursday, December 10, 2009

“Who Do You Know With Leukemia?”

The question came as a bit of a surprise. I was helping to orient a new employee this morning, and we were at my desk signing some paperwork. I left for a minute to get some information, and when I returned, he asked me that question. I guess I looked puzzled for a minute, and he pointed to my Leukemia and Lymphoma Society mug on my desk.

“Actually, I know a number of people who have survived leukemia and other blood cancers,” I said. “That includes myself. I survived lymphoma seven years ago.”

“You’re kidding!” he exclaimed. “My mother died from lymphoma!” I expressed my sympathy, and we chatted a bit about it.

His mother was 52 when she died about seven or eight years ago, just a couple of years older than I was at the time of my diagnosis. She had been ill for a while, and they just kept thinking it was the flu, or something like that. They finally figured it out in May of that year, and by July, she was dead. I guess she never really had a chance.

I reflected again on my amazing good fortune. Why would I not only survive, but return to full health, while this woman died? It is just the luck of the draw, I guess. I had something that could be treated, she did not. I could survive the chemo, barely at times it seemed, but survive it I did all the same. She either could not survive the treatment or the disease, one or the other. Two months is a quick period of time for someone to die after diagnosis.

I thought of all of the things I would have missed had I died that July. My diagnosis was also in May – maybe even the same May. It is a pretty long list of amazing things that I have gotten to experience in my life since that time, and I would have hated to have missed any of them. I was not ready to die at that point, and actually am not at this point either, should anyone ask.

This brief conversation was one more example of how many people are affected by blood cancers. And it was one more example of the loss that those left behind feel as a result. It is easy for people to hear about people surviving cancer and assume that survival is a given, and that the cancer problem has a solution. Sadly, that is far from true.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Remission Accomplished!

Today marks seven years of being in remission from Hodgkin lymphoma. Was this the actual date that the very last lymphoma cell, gasping and weeping, totally alone in the dark confines of my body, died a terrible death from being poisoned? Undoubtedly not, but there is no way for me to mark that exact date. So therefore, I declare two weeks after my last chemo as my total victory over cancer date, because this was the date I would have gotten my next chemo. But there was no evidence of cancer, so that chemo wasn’t needed. Remission accomplished!

I’ve done a lot with my life over the last seven years, blogging quite a bit about the last two of them. I am happy and lucky to be here. But my sense of celebration is muted by the sobering fact that my sister is once again in a fight for her life with her breast cancer returning. My remission has lasted seven years and continues. Hers lasted just over a year and has ended, as we recently learned. It is difficult not to feel sad and scared about that.

It reminds me how much more remains to be done in the war on cancer. The more treatable cancers, like the one I had, are still very difficult to deal with and there is no guaranteed outcome. The hard to treat cancers, like the one my sister has, are infinitely more difficult to treat. We have a long, long way to go. There are some cancers where patients will never really reach true remission, where the disease will be managed to the extent possible as a chronic condition.

On this day, one for me to celebrate my amazing good fortune, something like 145 Americans will die from blood cancers. In the short time while I write these words, a few of them will pass away, remission not to be attained. Their loved ones will weep and wonder why this happened. All I can say is, and it is no comfort, that it is the luck of the draw. When my cancer hand was dealt to me, I got cards that I could play to live, with the help of medical science. And I have used some of my time and energy since then to try to make a difference for others, so that more people will eventually survive these awful, awful diseases.

So on this day, I will give thanks to my four toxic buddies that saved my life seven years ago. Thank you, adriamycin, you Red Devil, you Jonestown Kool-Aid with your beautiful but deadly red color. Thank you, bleomycin, destroyer of lung tissue but also of cancer cells. Thank you, vinblastine, miracle gift of the Madagascar periwinkle. And thank you, dacarbizine, my slow companion with your drip-drip-drip delivery five days in a row. I appreciate all you did for me. You saved my life! You taught me a lot about myself and what I am made of. But most of all, I really appreciate that day - December 9, 2002 - when I could say “Remission Accomplished! I don’t need you anymore, ABVD! Goodbye!”

Monday, December 7, 2009

Message from the Captain (#4)

Ahoy me Hardees! This is your captain speaking, mentor captain Art that is, with another weekly message for you!

It was good to see so many of you yesterday at the fund-raising clinic and social. Thanks to Amy and her husband for opening their beautiful home to team members present and past, and for their hospitality. I know that everyone very much appreciated this. Not only did participants have some fun and get to socialize in other than running clothes and swim suits, but hopefully they learned something at the very interactive fund raising clinic. Thanks for all of the participation by mentors and coaches. I know that Cate and I wanted that. We didn’t want to be the only ones sharing knowledge, as vast and amazing as our store of knowledge is. J

Here are some things to look into this week, and some ideas. I don’t want to keep beating the drum of making sure people customize their page, get notes sent out, prepare letters and so forth. We hit, hard, that last night. Suffice to say, any participant that has not yet done at least two of these three things by now is having valuable time go by. So all that goes without saying.

Picture It! Some of the participants are interested in photos for their web page. I will not be at training this weekend. But maybe a couple of you could bring your camera to run/walk, bike, and tri training, and snap some photos – not just of your mentees but of anyone who wants to. They could be posed, group, or action shots. Or goofy shots, even. The next time I come out, I will bring my camera – beware – but for now, see if you can help with this. The same goes for coaches. Someone put across the idea of changing their web page photo every few weeks, which is a great idea. But you need a supply of photos to do this. If you want an idea on a little bit of an offbeat photo, look at the one of the running shoes in this older blog post of mine:

Go Online! Last week I sent you the link to the new LLS fundraising online slideshow. Make sure participants get this, because there is great information in this. And this includes some background information that participants might want to share with potential donors. I am pretty sure that the current team is the first to have this tremendous resource, so let’s put it to great use!

The Auction Block! Now is definitely the time for people to be collecting silent auction items. We threw a bunch of ideas out there last night, but see if your participants need any more ideas or help.

New Crew! A few of you have new team members. Make them feel welcome, and remind the coaches to introduce them to the veteran teammates. And if you lost crew, consider writing them a short note wishing them well and expressing the hope that they join us again in future times.

Leave no Sailor Behind! Work with the coaches to make sure that the slower runners and walkers don’t get left behind. If you are not training for an event, consider lagging behind to keep someone company. I think that the cyclists and triathletes pretty much stick together during training, but if not, the same principal applies. Training is usually more fun if you are with someone.

Time for an Update! For those diligent teammates who hit the ground running and sent out their initial notes a few weeks ago, it is time for an update and gentle reminder to potential donors. They can discuss training to date, progress in training and/or fundraising, people they have met, stories they have heard: whatever tickles their fancy.

Bon Voyage! For those of you lucky enough to be traveling for extended periods this month, just keep your mentees in the loop and load ‘em up with ideas in advance. If possible, check in by email with them during that time. And have fun! Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Holidays of your choice.

Mission Moment! Here is a personal one. This Wednesday marks seven years in remission for me. There is rarely a day that I don’t reflect with tremendous gratitude for not only still being alive, but healthy as well. And I know very well that a lot of things went into my survival. Things learned by doctors in the past. Patients who didn’t make it, but along the way, things were discovered about ways to treat these diseases. Money raised to deliver research. Dedicated researchers. I am thankful for life, and for what each of you and all participants in TNT and Light the Night do everyday to work for better and more humane cures. I am one of millions who is living proof that we are making progress with solving the mystery of these terrible blood cancers. So, THANK YOU!

We are heading along with fair winds and following seas as we cruise through the spring season, approaching our first port of call, New Orleans, in just a couple more months. Please contact me if you have questions or need assistance with anything. Thanks for all that you do.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Summer or Fall?

Well, Spring Team is pretty well out for me, kind of. So it is between summer and fall. If I do summer, it would be the Tahoe Century Ride or the Seattle Marathon, both in June. Technically, Tahoe is both for the summer and spring teams, just those that selected it with the spring team got a great head start on fundraising and training. If I did Fall, it would be The Nations Tri, Nike, or the Tour de Tucson. Oh decisions, decisions.

You may note that many of those choices requires a bike. I have determined that my bike is not going to cut it for even a triathon, much less a century. So that could be a factor if I choose spring. A bike and all the crap you need with it is a pretty big expense right smack in the middle of winter / Christmas. Not to say an economy that still sucks, with more rumors of layoffs where I work.

What to do, what to do? Fundraising wise, I would prefer to do summer, and get started with it in about a month. But I could do fall, as well. It would just mean a longer gap between events. A big part of it will be personal and family preference, conflicts with potential vacations, and so forth. I want to decide within a week or two, because if I do spring, I will want to start preparing for fundraising shortly, during a very busy time of year.

If I can't make up my mind in the next few weeks, it will probably be fall. The upside of that is that I would have several more months to get a bike, save money, and see where the economy is headed. So if I stay indecisive, it will probably be fall. If I get decisive, it may be spring.

No bad choice, just lots of choices.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Death Panel

There was much made earlier in the health care / health insurance debate about the “death panels” – these supposed panels composed of faceless, nameless individuals who would decide whether a person, especially the elderly, would receive any more health care or be given the thumbs down – write your will, and prepare to buy the farm, oldster! Your services here on Planet Earth are no longer needed.

Eventually, all but the most ardent opponents came to an agreement that there were not going to be these “death panels” in any plan being proposed. There was a provision in some of them, later removed I believe, to allow Medicare reimbursement for doctors to discuss – not mandate - terminal options with very seriously ill and elderly patients. Call me crazy, but it I were 80 years old and suffering terribly from some terminal illness, I would want to learn as much as I can about every option. I would want to make the final choice, but I would want information. Who wouldn’t?

But, you know, even though no one seems to get upset about this – where all of those folks who were really beating the death panel drum? – we have death panels right here in the good ole USA right now. Just check out this article about a young boy named Kyler VanNocker if you do not believe me.

But instead of “death panels,” we call them “insurance companies.” An insurance company has decided that this five year old boy, who’s birthday was a couple of days ago, will need to die from his neuroblastoma. The standard treatment did not work, and another treatment, which actually could be effective – or maybe not – is considered experimental. It is experimental because kids with this disease usually don’t live long enough to try this treatment, which sends a radioactive drug directly to the tumors. Why would we not try this for a child? Who knows if it will save his life or not, but what if it does? Not only is his life saved, but we learn something more about defeating this type of cancer to save other children’s lives. And who knows where this one life will lead? Didn’t these guys ever watch “It’s a Wonderful Life?”

How does the insurance company word this news, I wonder? Is it something like this? “Dear Kyler – We have reviewed your case and are pleased to inform you that we are going to cover death for you. There are other options, but our analysis shows that not only is death the most cost effective option, but it also will lead to a permanent treatment of your condition. Please do not hesitate to contact us in the future should we be able to provide you additional assistance. We value you as a loyal customer. Oh, and Kyler, happy birthday – have an extra piece of cake on us! Sincerely yours, Your Cost Effective Insurance Company, also known as your friendly Death Panel.”

Something is not right here. The only thing more wrong about a little kid getting cancer – which is out of everyone’s control – is a little kid not getting treatments for it. We are talking about a five year old kid, not a 95 year old person with terminal cancer, who is being denied treatment. If I win the lottery Friday night, I know where some of it is going. Sure, it is just one kid in this crazy world of 6,000,000,000 or so people, but I am going to guess that to him and his family, his life is a pretty big deal.

How Can I Get This Kind of Deal?

Imagine getting fired, and getting millions of dollars as a result? This is happening as we speak with at least two college football coaches, Al Groh at the University of Virginia and Charlie Weiss at the University of Notre Dame. Groh is getting 4.3 million bucks for the last two years of his contract at UVA. I don’t know what Weiss is getting for the last six years of his ten year contract, but I would guess it is a staggering amount.

And I wonder, how can I get this kind of deal? Where I get fired and receive millions of dollars? I’ll be glad to sign such a contract. I like sports as much as the next guy, but this just seems ridiculous to me. Things are out of control when college coaches make that kind of money for doing a lousy job. Hell, it’s out of control if they make millions a year doing a great job. Why should a college football coach get 2, 3, or 4 million dollars a year when department heads and professors are getting only a small fraction of that? Which contributes more to the true mission of a university?

The even more amazing thing is that the universities involved have to raise the money from donors to buy out these contracts, and that people will donate big bucks to get rid of a coach so that the university can at the same time pay big bucks for a new coach. How does that happen? Does the athletic director just pick up the phone and call some wealthy alumni? I would guess that the conversation goes something like this…

“Hi, Mr. Jones. This is Bill Smith, Athletic Director of your Alma Mater, Old Notre Dame. How are you? Great! Look, thanks for your past generosity, but we have a real crisis here. A few years ago, I really screwed up. I gave a new coach with only half a season on the job a 10 year iron-clad contract. Yeah, I know – dumb! My bad! Yes, I know. Yes, you’re right. Yes, he did talk a great line, didn’t he? Well, look, that is water over the dam. But it turns out that he has a worse winning percentage than the last guy we hired and fired. Oh, you were already aware of that? Yeah, six wins and six losses this year is not what we expect at Notre Dame, is it? So what we are doing is canning him, but we need to raise $20 million dollars for the last six years of his contract. Can you help? Oh, great! Can I put you down for two million bucks? Oh wonderful! Thanks so much, Mr. Jones, for your generous donation to such an important cause. Yes, that’s right, I will be a little more careful with the next coach’s contract, don’t worry. Thanks again. You have a wonderful day!”

One man’s opinion – you give a coach a long contract, you live with the consequences. UVA would not fold if Al Groh coached two more years. Notre Dame would still recruit good players if Weiss coached the last six years. Schools should learn from it – be careful with contracts. If I were wealthy enough to donate that kind of money, I would feel nauseous donating it so that someone could sit on their butt with millions of dollars in the bank. They ran the school’s program into the ground so we will give them millions of bucks?

As much as I would like to have a deal like that – fat chance - my second choice would be to find a wealthy donor who instead of donating a huge sum of cash to fire someone, donates that cash to a really worthy cause. To feeding the hungry. To curing cancer. To wildlife conservation. To providing shelter to the homeless. To making the world a better place. Wealthy University of Virginia and Notre Dame alumni, where are you? If you have that kind of money to fire a coach, donate to Team in Training! It won’t help win a football game at Old “U” but it will help win a fight against blood cancers. What do you say? I know you are out there – call me!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Message from the Captain (#3)

Ahoy, my mentoring mateys! Ahoy! Here is another message from mentor captain Art!

I hope that each of you had a great Thanksgiving. I am thinking that I will need to run about 60 miles to burn off the calories that I have consumed in the past week. ‘Tis the season to gain weight if one is not careful.

It seems like we are sailing smoothly along so far. Many of you copy me on your weekly notes to your mentees, and everyone is doing a great job. I have not gotten fundraising reports, but have heard of a number of participants who are doing great with their fundraising. As noted last week, it is especially important with the Mardi Gras folks for them to get off to a fast start.

In addition to being the season of gaining weight, this is also the time of year when many participants will have “shore leave.” Just remind them to let the coaches know if they will not be at training during a given week. Likewise, let your mentees know if you won’t be around for a while.

From a mentoring perspective, this coming Sunday’s fundraising clinic at Amy’s home is really important. It is at six bells, er, 3:00. If you can at all make it, please do, and be prepared to speak up with your fundraising ideas. And please remind your mentees about the importance of attending this event. Fundraising to generate money for our mission is the backbone of Team in Training, and participants will need every edge in this continuing down economy.

Speaking of bad economies, I am attaching a couple of documents in case they are useful and you wish to share them. One is ideas for fundraising in a challenging economy, and the other is 25 fundraising ideas.

A few other dates to remind people of are December 3 for reviewing fundraising with Cate one on one (they should contact Cate directly for this); December 12 for the shoe clinic at Three Sports (marathon team); December 19 after marathon training for a team breakfast (venue to be decided, cycle and triathlon teams are welcome to join in); January 12 for the Silent Auction at Blackfinn.

By now, every one of your mentees should have their web page customized and emails sent out, and hopefully be underway with their letters. If they have not, this should be your number one priority to get work with them on. You should also offer to meet with them and review their fundraising plans.

We are now nearly 4 weeks into the spring season from kickoff. It might be a good time to just touch base with each of your mentees one on one. How do they feel about their experience so far? Do they have any concerns or anxieties? Are there stories they want to share with you or other participants? Would they like to present a mission moment? How are they feeling about training and their coaches? Of course, you should encourage them to discuss any concerns or issues in this area with their coach. Although we often think of mentors as “fundraising coaches,” in recent times, I have been thinking of mentors more as “TNT experience coaches.” You have been through TNT before, and your insights and experiences could be keys to helping a participant who is having a problem or concern of some kind.

I’ll pass on a brief mission moment. I am not sure how many of you know Rachel Barach, who was a teammate of mine on the 2008 Arizona Marathon Team. She has since moved to California, and become the mother of twins. Recently, Rachel told me about the little son of one of her closest friends. His name is Jordan, he is two years old, and he was just diagnosed with acute lymphocitic leukemia. Can you imagine having your little child have to go through this? Or can you imagine being two years old and having to go through this? A.L.L. in children is now fairly treatable, but there can be lifelong side effects from the long and difficult treatment. As your participants go through the hard work of training and fundraising, maybe they can think about Jordan and what this little fellow and his family is going through.

Let me know if anyone has questions or needs help with anything.
Cap’n Art

Saturday, November 28, 2009

10K With the Spring Team

I am not training for an event with the Spring Team (yet), but had an opportunity this morning to put out a water stop, do a mission moment, and train with the team. They were doing 3, 4, and 6 miles, and I decided to try for six miles - 6.5 actually. I probably should have stuck with 4, since I have not done more than 5 miles since doing the Country Music Half Marathon seven months ago. And I have trained very little during those seven months.

But I did the six mile route, running mostly with Nicki and Mindi. Nicki is a seasoned TNT veteran, and will be running the Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans on the weekend that is the 13th anniversary of the bone marrow transplant that saved her life. Mindi is new to TNT, and to long distance running. She ran her first half marathon a couple of weeks ago in Richmond, and will also be running the marathon in New Orleans in February. Mindi's pink hair stands out, and I told her that she should switch to purple for the season, or better yet, half of her head purple and the other half green. She did not seem convinced.

It felt good to run. I ran at least 4, maybe even 5, of the 6.5 miles. I know it was a little too much, because I don't think I've run more than 2 miles at any given workout since my race. So I might be sore tomorrow. But for now, I am just glad that I still have enough of a level of fitness to go that far, mostly running. That represents about a quarter of a marathon. Back at the park, Nicki, Mindi, and I exchanged high-fives with the three coaches that waited for us. Everyone else, save for one really fast coach who was long gone, did 3 or 4 miles - so they were long gone, too.

In my mission moment, I talked about surviving cancer seven years ago, and some of the ephiphanies I experienced during treatment. One of these was the realization on my first day of chemo that as I walked into this pretty full oncology room, feeling kind of scared, that this was one oncology room in one city on one day. Imagine how many people all over the world were doing the same thing. Another ephiphany was how difficult some people had it. I talked to a woman that first day who was in her 80's and she was on her 12th year of dealing with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. That is a long time to deal with cancer, and she told me how tired she was of it.

Another ephiphany occurred on my last day of chemo, the 25th of November, 2002. The man next to me nearly died from a very small amount of a new chemo they tried on him, since the previous treatments were not working. He passed out and 4 nurses and a doctor worked on him and brought him back. They told him and his daughter that this treatment would not work, and that they were out of realistic options. How difficult would that be to hear, just a few days before Thanksgiving, or any time for that matter? It brought home how difficult some cancers still are to treat, and it tells me now that this is why those of us doing Team in Training must keep on doing it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

My New New Balance

Although the title to this post may not make sense to you, I got a new pair of running shoes a month or so ago. They are New Balance shoes, so they are my “new New Balance.” I finally took them out of the box this week and started wearing them. They are the “883” model, which is apparently the replacement for the “882” that I have had for my last few pairs. This model (both the 882 and the 881) has a wider toe-box, which I really like because when your feet swell after a couple hours of running and walking, that extra room comes in handy.

I am in the breaking them in process right now. I walked several miles in them a few times this week, wore them at work for several hours a day, and went for a four mile mixed run and walk yesterday on a beautiful late November day – weather to be thankful for that Thanksgiving Day. I am going to train with the team tomorrow, and will probably not wear them. They are not yet broken in, and I don’t want to go six miles just yet in them. My feet have a few sore spots as the rigid parts of the shoes get less rigid. So I will wear my old “882’s”, which served me well in spring and in the half-marathon last April.

My old ones still have some life left, but I will not use them for mileages longer than five or so miles after tomorrow. That can be the job of my new shoes. Running shoes are so expensive, and I try to make them last. I wear them probably longer than I should. Even though my old pair still feels good, I notices the difference in cushioning immediately.

I really swear by these shoes. This model shoe (which was called the "880" at the time), as well as orthotic arch supports, have saved my feet season after season. I doubt I would have been able to do the marathon in Alaska in 2005 without them, nor the ones since. Despite all this, the neuroma finally caught up with me this year, and hopefully the injections into my foot will help with that. Even so, I am glad to have these new shoes, and am thankful for the new New Balance in my life.

Here are my original New Balance 880's after the Anchorage Marathon in 2005:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Seven Things to be Thankful For

Tomorrow being Thanksgiving day, it is a good time to count our blessings. Of course, we could just as easily count things that are not good. Everyone has some bad things in their lives. I have a loved one who continues on a self destructive course, and this can be very painful at times. I learned yesterday that my sister’s breast cancer has returned, and woke up at 2:30AM worrying about her and her future. It would not be too difficult to dwell on the negative when major bad things are happening around us and to us.

But I won’t. Seven years ago today, I went into the oncology room to get my last chemotherapy, and I was rejoicing. So in grateful memory of that, I will list seven things that I am grateful for today. As you will see, several of them are of the glass is half full or half empty variety, and I am going to look on the glass as half-full. So, here's my list! In reality, it would be much longer than jus seven things - every family member and friend could be a separate item on the list - but these are seven things that popped into my mind tonight based on recent events.

1. I have a job. Right now, I am not enjoying my job a lot, nor are most people who work there. There are days I get negative about it. But when I really stop to reflect on it, I am very grateful. There are lots of folks out of work, and I am not one of them. I am grateful to be employed, and if I want something better, it is up to me to pursue it.

2. My sister is still with us. True, her cancer recurring is a horrible feeling for all who love her. But she could have died a couple of years ago, and didn’t. She had a pretty good run, all in all, the past 14 months or so. We had some great visits and memories together during that time. And while being back on chemo with a very uncertain treatment and outcome is not what we had hoped for, I am going to expect to have her around a long time.

3. My cat, Nellie, is still with us. Last February and March, every weekend for about 8 weeks looked like her last, as she had failing kidneys. We came within a cat’s whisker of euthanizing her, and finally resolved to do it on Monday after one last weekend of spending time with her. That Sunday, she perked right up, started eating again, and played a little. I guess she cashed in one more of her nine lives, and is still here, happy, content, and affectionate. Hear that purring? That's Nellie!

4. I have good medical insurance. That topic has been on the news a lot lately, the medical insurance haves and have-nots. I am very fortunate to have this.

5. I love my granddaughter. True, I could mope because she lives far away, and I always wish I could see her more. But I am so grateful to have survived to not only meet her, but to get spend time with her whenever I can. She is now three years old – a beautiful, smart girl with an amazing personality. I’m not biased, of course – but I am thankful.

6. I am in good health. When you once had cancer, that is a really big one! There is rarely a day when I don’t reflect for at least a few seconds on my good fortune.

7. I have never truly known hunger. Food is a big part of this holiday time, and yet I know that many people all over the world eat poorly, many barely at all. I went without solid food for about four days once when I was sick from chemo. But I have never truly known real hunger, and that is something to be thankful for. In fact, given the seven or eight pounds that have crept back on since I ran the half marathon in Nashville, maybe I should be a tad less thankful.

That’s my list of seven things to be grateful for seven years after wrapping up chemo. What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Da Feet, Not Defeat!

My friend Joe called the other day and asked how I’ve been. We hadn’t talked in a little while. “Not too bad,” I said. “But I am having a problem with da feet.”

“How long has that been going on?” Joe asked. “Oh, gosh, years and years. But I more or less sucked it up for a long time until this year, when it just seems to be a problem more and more often,” I answered. “Now, while I don’t think about da feet every second, a day rarely goes by without the subject crossing my mind at least once. And especially when I am training.”

“Wow! I never knew that about you. You always seemed like a pretty positive guy,” Joe said. “I never would have guessed you to be someone dwelling on defeat. What caused your problem to start?

“Well, I guess it was on those long hikes in the mountains,” I said. “Hiking? What does hiking have to do with defeat?” Joe seemed puzzled. “It has everything to do with da feet,” I said. “How could it not?” “Is it like a hiking race?” Joe asked. “Like, can you lose it and end up with a sense of defeat?”

“I’m sure there are hiking competitions, but I’ve never been in one,” I said. “But I’ve never hiked without a sense of da feet. Always on your mind, every single step from start to finish. The problem has gotten worse since I started with the marathons in 2005. It has gotten pretty painful at times, but this last year has been the worse.”

“Art, you didn’t seriously expect to win the Country Music Half Marathon, or even your age-sex cohort, did you?” Joe seemed very concerned. “I mean, man, you ran your first half marathon. OK, it was hot, you got sunscreen in your eyes and were blinded for a while, and you had to walk part of it. But why would that cause feelings of defeat?”

“You know, it’s funny, but the day of the race, da feet were not on my mind, and I had no problems of that kind. But nearly every time I ran in the months before or since, da feet have been an issue,” I said. “Has,” Joe said. “Has what?” I asked.

“Defeat has been.”

“Da feet has been what, Joe?” I was getting a little annoyed. “Has been nothing,” Joe said. “I was just correcting your grammar.” “Joe, what the hell are you talking about?” I asked.

“Look, forget about it. OK, so what are you doing about defeat and the painful feelings? You seeing anyone?”

“Joe, I’m married,” I said. “Yeah, married and dumb,” Joe said. “Are you seeing anyone about defeat and the feelings you are having? You know, like a doctor?”

“Yep, went to a doctor just today. He recommended alcohol,” I said. “Alcohol? You know, I never minded a good stiff drink, but don’t you think that will just mask the problem?” Joe queried.

“No, the doctor said that should help. Usually after the fourth shot, but it could take as many as seven. This morning was the fourth shot, and so maybe that will do the trick because seven seems like a lot.”

Four shots of alcohol? In the morning? Holy crap,” Joe said. “Then you went into work?”

“Yeah, no big deal. I limped for a while though. Man, it sure burned when I took that shot today,” I said. “Burned?” said Joe. “That’s not good. How fast did you drink it?”

“Drink it? How in the world would that help da feet? You inject it in there. The needle hurts and then the alcohol burns like a son of a gun going in there,” I said to my puzzled friend. “Inject alcohol?” Joe said, in extreme bewilderment. “You mean you are shooting up? Man, there is a huge side to you I never saw before. I’m a little worried about you, buddy!”

“Look, it is all under the doctor’s supervision,” I said. “He sticks that needle in between the metatarsals on my left foot where the neuroma is, and the alcohol should eventually shrink it. When that happens, da feet should be better despite all the pounding they take.”

“Metatarsals? Pounding they take? Neuroma? Wait a second,” said Joe. “When you say da feet, are you referring to your feet, those two things at the lower end of your legs and currently encased in running shoes? Or do you mean, defeat, the sense or event of being bested, of losing?”
“The first one, my two feet, those things that pound away for hours during a marathon,” I said. “Who said anything about being bested or feeling defeated?”

“That explains a lot,” said Joe. “Let’s go have a beer!” “Great,” I said. “I can tell you about my new New Balance that should help with da feet! Great running shoes!”

Joe looked puzzled again as we headed off for that beer. “New, new balance?” Joe asked. “Maybe that will make some degree of sense after a couple of beers, but somehow, coming from you, I doubt it.”

Monday, November 23, 2009

Message from the Captain (#2)

Ahoy, Mateys! It’s Mentor Captain Art, with my weekly message for you. I more or less missed this the other week, because I was in Michigan.

I hope that all is shipshape as we continue on our great spring voyage. I see from Cate’s updated rosters that we have gained considerable crew over the past few weeks, which is tremendous. In fact, at the joint training yesterday for the foot and triathlon teams, we had a really good turnout. Now it will be our job to keep everyone navigating properly on course to hit their fundraising minimum. This is always important, but especially so during these continued tough economic (and fundraising) times.

So, what are some things you can chat with your mentees about this week? Well, I’m assuming that you have already talked to them about customizing their web pages, getting letters drafted, and getting emails out. And I assume that you have offered to review letters and emails if they need help, and likewise made suggestions about their web pages if you deem it necessary. Several of you have shared your notes to your mentees with me, and they have been excellent.

If you were at the run / tri training yesterday, you heard Nancy’s very sad mission moment about the young student at her school who died Friday from leukemia. I think it is worth discussing this in your emails to your mentees this week, even though many participants were there. A lot of time with TNT, we emphasize the fun parts of our journey together – the teamwork, the fun of training together, the sense of accomplishment we all feel from completing our races. We often get mission moments from lucky patient honorees who have survived their incredibly difficult journeys through the valley of cancer. So when we hear a story about this wonderful teen-ager dying and missing out on so much of life, I think it is important to remind our participants about the serious side of Team in Training and how important is the cause for which we all work – to find humane cures. If you were not there and so don’t know about this girl’s story, you can contact Nancy. I’ve also written a short post about this girl on my blog that has some of the details:

What is the most important group of run / walk mentees to concentrate on right now? If you said “Mardi Gras”, you just earned an extra day of shore leave! This is because they have such a short time until recommitment, and indeed, until their event. If they are new to TNT, it is going to feel daunting at times to raise 25% of their minimum in just over a month. So my suggestion is to pay special attention to these folks if you are their mentor. This trip to the Big Easy is going to be a fantastic experience, and we don’t want anyone to miss out by getting discouraged early with fundraising difficulties. So let’s help each of them jump into their fundraising. Of course, if you are a cycle or triathlon mentor, you don’t need to worry about this.

Remind your mentors about the fund raising clinic at Amy’s home in two weeks. They will get a lot of good information there, and it will definitely be worth their while.

One thing that participants can focus on with their fundraising is that potential donors can make an end of year donation that can still go against their 2009 tax deductions. But because people are besieged with similar requests from so many worthy charities at this time of year, it is very important for your mentees to remind people of this in their notes.

Finally, this is the time that people should be contacting businesses for donations to the silent auction in January. Now, I know there is a lot going on with everyone right now – the holidays, end of semester stuff for anyone involved in school. So like everything else in life, people will have to prioritize the aspects of their fundraising campaigns. There probably isn’t time to do it all, which is why that fundraising plan for each participant is important.

I hope each of you has a great Thanksgiving. I know that I have a lot to be grateful for, and I suspect that each of you do as well. Please let me know if I can help you with anything. You know how to reach me.

GO TEAM! Full speed ahead!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Like a Candle Snuffed Out Too Soon

A bright and beautiful candle was extinguished this past Friday. A young girl, just 15, lost her 14 month long fight with leukemia, and left this world. Because I don’t know how her family would feel about me posting her name - even her first name - in my blog, I won’t. I did not see an obituary in our local paper, neither in print nor on-line. She was of South Asian descent, and perhaps in that culture, published obituaries are not done. So I will leave her anonymous.

We learned about her from Nancy, mentor on the spring team, a fellow Hodgkin lymphoma survivor, and my teammate on last year’s spring team. Nancy gave us our mission moment yesterday, and what a sad recollection it was, of this bright young girl, exceptional by all accounts. Of how hard she fought for over a year. Of how she got straight A’s last year at the school where Nancy teaches, despite only being physically able to attend class for a month. Of how the only thing this girl cried about, with all of the horrific suffering that dying from leukemia entails, was the fact that she might not live long enough to receive her Middle Years Program certificate. There were a lot of sniffling sounds from our somber band of TNT teammates when Nancy finished speaking, and it was not because of the cold start to the day.

As I walked and ran my two miles yesterday after our mission moment, I thought of all of the many things that this girl and her family have been cheated of by this vile disease. It just is not fair. Young people are not supposed to die of leukemia at age 15. All I could think of is that this girl was like a beautiful candle that was cruelly snuffed out way too soon. May she rest in peace, and may her grieving family and friends get some measure of comfort from all of the good memories of her, and by knowing that her tremendous suffering is over.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Spring in Our Steps

Today, I joined the spring team for their training session at Byrd Park. Because there was injury prevention training afterwards, the triathlon team joined the marathon team for run and walk training. It was good to see them.

Even with some people missing, we still had a really nice sized group. It was great to see that many people turn out to get another season started. So many in this group today have been affected by blood cancers - either directly themselves or through a loved one. Fellow Hodgkin lymphoma survivor Nancy gave our mission moment, and it was a particularly sad one involving the death yesterday of a young high school girl. This will have its own blog topic tomorrow.

After the mission moment, Coach Tim led us through dynamic stretching, and Coach Chuck led us on a "Train - Endure - Achieve - Matter" cheer. Then we started running and walking. I only did about 2 miles with the group, but it felt great to run on a nice fall day. I need to totally get back into running and speed walking.

Here is a photo of our merry band of positive people:

Monday, November 16, 2009

On the Day You Were Born

On the day you were born, it was love at first sight
When you popped into the world just before dawn’s first light
“It’s a fine baby girl,” the tired doctor said
As your mother, exhausted, lay back in her bed

You had ten little fingers, and ten tiny toes
Two eyes of bright blue, and a cute little nose
A fine head of dark hair, which would later turn blond -
A perfect new babe as this November day dawned

Later that day, I held you in my arms
Utterly, totally won by your charms
My precious granddaughter, with your life all ahead:
A sweet, much-loved baby, with nothing to dread

You gripped one of my fingers in your tiny hand
As you slept in my arms. Oh, the feeling was grand!
I gazed at your face, so peaceful in sleep
And wished from all harm you I could always keep

I smiled as I wondered how your life will be
Oh, what things will you learn? What wonders you’ll see?
Will you love art and music, and to read a great book?
Will you go through your life with a cheerful outlook?

Will you be kind to others, both two legged and four?
Will you hike in the mountains and down by the shore?
Will you like to play sports? Will you do well in school?
Will you do the right thing, even though it's not “cool?”

Will I dance at your wedding, should you fall in love?
As I pondered these things, I thanked God up above
That I’m alive and quite healthy, and still on His green earth
And present, right here, on the day of your birth

We cried as we left you, the very next day
For we had to return to our home far away
But no matter how many long miles we’re apart
I will carry my love for you deep in my heart

To my granddaughter on her third birthday, with love, from "Poppa Art"

Friday, November 13, 2009

My New Bike!

Well, I've been talking for a while about maybe breaking out of my running shoes and doing a different event for Team in Training. A triathlon? A century bike race? I've debated about it back and forth, and the debate goes on. But one simple truth emerges - unless I have a bike, no amount of wanting to do a triathlon or a bike race will suffice, because I won't be able to train.

But what kind of bike? Well, I don't know a lot about bikes, so it has to be simple. I can't worry about all kinds of fancy gadgets and gizmos. I just need a basic bike. And with the economy so uncertain, I don't want to spend a ton of cash right now. I have to get something that I can afford. Even if I have to get a different bike for if I really do a triathlon or century, it is important to get started with a bike for basic training. So today, I took that big step, and got that training bike.

I'm pleased with it so far, but I did struggle a bit on some hills. Maybe it is the bike, or maybe it is just my technique - a poor carpenter blames his tools, right? I like the color of the bike, a kind of pastel Team in Training color. That's really important. Now, I know that serious cyclists, the kind that pay more for their bikes than they do for their cars, might scoff a bit and maybe even guffaw as I peddle along, trying to pass them on the uphill climbs. But I don't care. I like my little bike and just think it is a matter of learning its idosyncracies and then I will be able to ride better.

Here is a picture of me on my bike. What do you think?

Survivors Making a Statement

So, about a month before my last TNT event, I was walking into the local supermarket wearing my purple Team in Training windbreaker, and a lady walks up to me. "Do you do Team in Training?" she asked. I told her that I do, and that I was training for the Country Music Half-Marathon. She said "I just want to thank you. I am a multiple myeloma survivor."

We chatted for a while, with me telling her about surviving lymphoma. She told me that her daughter had done TNT, and that once she is fully recovered, she thinks of doing it as well. At the time, she was only a couple of months past treatment and not feeling strong yet. Her name was Mindy. It was about that time that I had recently learned about all of the advances with multiple myeloma, which as a group is one of the most difficult blood cancers to treat. I felt such encouragement from this news, and from meeting Mindy and hearing this appreciation.

Fast forward to our informational meeting last week. There was Mindy, with her husband and a friend who also is a multiple myeloma survivor. They were all considering joining the spring team. The four of us chatted for a while, and I encouraged them to join. “Do it!” I said. “The feeling you will have when you cross that finish line as a cancer survivor will be indescribable!”

I learned last night that Mindy and her husband have joined the team, to walk the half-marathon (Shamrock) in Virginia Beach this coming March. I love it when cancer survivors make a statement. When they say “Cancer, you kicked my butt for months. But in the end, it was me who won this fight. Now look at me! I’m going to become a half-marathoner (or marathoner, or triathlete, or century rider)!”

I hope that when Mindy crosses that finish line in March, she will have a smile that lights up all of Virginia Beach! Go Mindy! Go survivors everywhere!

Monday, November 9, 2009

What is This, Which Morning Sunlight….

What is this, which morning sunlight
Guilds with golden beams?
‘Tis our Upper Darby High School,
Castle of our dreams.

So goes the first eight bars of the Upper Darby High School Alma Mater. Now I don’t know that my high school was the castle of my dreams, or that of my 650 or so co-graduates of the class of 1969. But we did get a very good education there, and I generally remember it fondly – mostly. But “castle of our fond and a few not so fond memories” is not quite as poetic, is it? In any event, this past weekend, I journeyed to Philadelphia for my 40th reunion, a little trip down memory lane. We had only about 80 people show up, and several people I really wanted to see in particular were not there, but it was still a fun reunion and a fun weekend in the City of Brotherly Love.

It is amazing to look at my yearbook photo from way back when, and realize that most of my life was still ahead of me. Even though things have not always turned out as I would have hoped or planned back in 1969, it has been a full life. And the 40 years seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye. If you are a young 20 or 30 something-year-old, those years will fly by for you as well. Trust me on this one! So remember to live your life fully and to live each day.

In high school, I guess I would have been considered a geek, although we didn’t have that term that I recall. I was a good student, but not an exceptional one. I was a crummy athlete, which is one reason why doing marathons this late in life has been so surprising. I wanted to go to the Naval Academy, although even had my grades been good enough, my poor eyesight doomed any realistic chance of that. But even so, the desire to go to Annapolis, and just the way I was raised, made me a real “straight arrow” in high school. I never got in trouble, didn’t drink or smoke – much less use drugs – and generally minded my own business and treated people politely. The few times I should have gotten in trouble, I had such a spotless reputation that the Dean of Boys let me off the hook.

I’m sure that when I was 18 I thought I knew more than I really did. That is one thing about aging – the more you learn, the more you realize you do not know. At 18, so much of my life was still ahead of me – college, grad school, marriage, fatherhood, career, developing as a person, becoming a grandpa, surviving cancer, becoming a marathoner. So much has happened in the last 40 years, both in my life and in the world. I am not likely to live another 40 years, although 30 seems possible and 20 seems likely. I wonder what those years will bring? At some point though, it will not be morning sunlight, but the evening setting sun that guilds the castle of my dreams.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Spring Forward

Last weekend, we fell back as we retreated from Daylight Savings, but Wednesday evening, we sprang forward. That’s right, Spring Team had its final informational meeting and then its kick-off!

The team is small so far, but hopefully will grow. Come to think of it, it wasn’t a huge team last year either, but we did good things. The turnout wasn’t tremendous for either meeting. Something like 20 people had signed up for the info meeting and maybe 10-12 showed up. And at kick-off, other than coaches and mentors, only about 8-10 participants were there. But I know that others on the team could not make it, so once training starts it will improve.

All of us who work hard for this cause are a little discouraged about it, but it is what it is. Fundraising is not easy under the best of circumstances, which these hardly are. But clearly, people can raise the money, and will raise it if they start early, develop a good plan, work with their mentor, and do something every week towards implementing their plan. But when you are looking at needing to raise $3,000 or $4,000 in an economy with 10% unemployment, it may not feel doable, even though it very much is.

My part on the team, other than speaking at the meetings, is as mentor captain. I guess I mentor the mentors, even though they don’t need a lot of mentoring. I haven’t ruled out a spring event, or a summer one either. There are a lot of options. My friend Nicki is mentoring and running the New Orleans half-marathon on the 13th anniversary of the bone marrow transplant that saved her life as a 20 year old. It would be fabulous to do that with her. Or I could branch out and do the St. Anthony’s Triathlon in Tampa, or the Lake Tahoe Century bike race in June. Both of those would require a bike, but they would be a step towards earning that Triple Crown. Or I could take the route of my fourth full marathon, in Seattle, a city I’ve never been to. I like to combine a little adventure with TNT.

As always, we have a great bunch of coaches and mentors, and of course the participants are always fabulous people. A couple of them have already raised $350 - $500. At least a couple of them have compelling stories. There’s the young woman who recovered from non-Hodgkin lymphoma a year ago, thanks to drugs developed in part with LLS funding. There’s the woman who will be doing her first triathlon who lost her husband, and her young daughters losing their father, to leukemia six years ago. Evil, evil diseases! We need to be as relentless as cancer is to defeat it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tape - The Natural Enemy of Men

There are some things that you should never, ever mix. Things that just don’t go well together at all. Things like gasoline and a lighted match. Peanut butter and garlic pesto sandwiches. Oil and water. Cats and mice. Tape (or anything that is sticky on one or both sides) and men.

When I volunteered for Light the Night a week ago, I finished my first assigned task and said to Tiffany, the enthusiastic LTN coordinator, “Okay, what’s next?” She handed me two big plastic signs that said “Food Tent” on them and said, “Why don’t you go hang these on two sides of the food tent? Here’s the tape!” Oh no – tape? Not the tape! My hand quivered a bit as I picked up the big tape gun and walked, with great trepidation, towards the food tent.

I am just not good taping or wrapping things, and to generalize, I don’t think that most men are. A popular Christmas time TNT fund-raiser is to wrap purchases made by shoppers at a store, with the store’s permission, and then the person that you wrapped the gift for makes a donation. I tell people, only half in jest, that stores will donate to my Team in Training effort if I promise not to wrap gifts on their premises.

At the food tent, I carefully studied the situation. There was horizontal pipe framing for the tent about seven feet off the ground, and it was hidden by the fabric of the tent. Anything hiding my taping would be a plus. Oh, why couldn’t this involve rope? Rope is a good medium for manly men to work with, but not tape! After years sailing my 23 foot sloop off the coast of Maine, I was pretty good with rope, and can still tie a good bowline with my eyes closed in a few seconds. My tape work just looks like I had my eyes closed.

I cut a piece of tape, a little too short of course, and looped it over the pipe, then attached the end to the back of the first sign so that it hung at a sloppy angle, dangling in the air like a fallen cat clinging desperately to a ledge with one paw. I repeated the process at the other end so that the sign was hung. It barely hung under the fabric enough to read it. And one side of the tape was straight down and the other at a ridiculous angle. So I kept adding tape, none of it neat in any sense of the word, but all hidden by the tent’s skirting. I repeated the process for the other sign, and it even looked worse, but thanks to the skirting, it was tolerable. If it were a Christmas gift wrapped with the same sloppiness, the person getting the gift would assume that I hired a baboon to wrap it for them.

It reminded me of the big 26.2 sticker I had recently put on my car. I’ve been a marathoner for over 4 years now, and have been meaning to do this. The sticker has a sticky side with two pieces of paper backing that you pull off, and then apply to a surface. Easy enough, but when I did it, there were about six or seven big air bubbles trapped under the sticker. I spent about 15 minutes trying to push them out with my fingers, to no real avail. It just looks sloppy. I am sure people see it and wonder “Did a baboon put that sticker on that car? Do baboons run marathons?”

I finished my task and went back to see Tiffany for my next assignment. “You can set up the Light the Night store,” she said. “See these big boxes? They are all stuffed with LTN sweatshirts. Just take them out, fold them neatly, and put them on the tables.” Fold clothing? Neatly??? Oh, no!!!!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Message from the Captain (#1)

Note - this is my first Mentor Captain message to my spring team mentors.

Ahoy Mateys! This is your Captain speaking, Captain Art of the LLS Mentorship, that is! It’s time to weigh anchor, hoist the sails, and set the compass for more TNT adventures! Ports of call will include New Orleans, Virginia Beach, Tampa Bay, Nashville (hey, we’ll have to navigate up the Cumberland River, so look sharp), and Lake Tahoe (we’ll need to keep a keen eye out from the tops on that voyage to not run aground).

Yes, that’s right, I will be your mentor captain this season, and I promise to be no Captain Bligh. There will be no need of mutiny as we work hard to extend our bounty of good health to others. I am looking forward to interacting with each of you as we work with our new recruits to turn them from landlubbers into seasoned Team in Training seadogs, helping them to have an amazing TNT experience while raising money for a great cause.

By way of background, I have done four events with Team in Training, all on foot, starting in 2005. I mentored in two of those years, and I also mentored an additional season when I was not racing or fundraising. I know first hand that it is a lot of work, but very fulfilling. And, being a 7.5 year Hodgkin lymphoma survivor, I also know first hand how important the mission is. I am not yet signed up on a 2010 team, but plan on it. Maybe even the spring team – I am looking at options and vacation plans, and will go from there. My easiest option will be another foot race, but I am trying to think outside the running shoes.

If each of you can email me back that you got this message so I know that I got your email address entered correctly in the ship’s log, I’d appreciate it. Also, please let me know your preferred phone contact, and maybe an alternate number as well.

Right now, thinking back to our own TNT experiences, you should be welcoming your participants to the Team, and encouraging them (and helping them if necessary) to get their on-line fundraising pages set up, initial notes sent out, and to work on their letters. This continues to be a tough fundraising environment, although we know it is very possible to meet and exceed the minimum fundraising requirements. The earlier people get started the better. LLS has done a great job in recent years allowing people to start with fundraising before the team even kicks off, and if people take advantage of that, it really works in their favor. If people hit their minimum early, it is so much less stressful on them when it comes to recommitment time. It gives them a chance either to relax and focus on training, or to keep pushing ahead with fundraising and exceed the minimum amount.

Some of you have mentored before, others not. I would really like to hear from each of you about how I can be helpful to you. This is a new role for me, so I want to be helpful, and not create unnecessary work for you. I am depending on each of you to let me know. I would love to meet with each of you in small groups or individually – or all at once for that matter, in the unlikely event that everyone schedule agrees – to discuss the season ahead, any concerns you have, and so forth. So one thing that would be helpful is when you reply to this note, give me some dates we could potentially meet.

Coaches, I am copying you on this first email. Please let me know if you want to be copied on future ones. Or maybe Cate will say – “copy the coaches!” I am not sure.

As far as contacting me, email works well. This address is fine, as is Both get forwarded to my work email. My home phone number is (804) 555-5555. And just a few days ago, I got a newfangled piece of technology called a “mobile phone!” My mobile number is 804-555-5555. So, there is no need to use Morse code or climb high in the yardarms with a semaphore flag to communicate with me. I’ll be sending out an email to you every week, unless I am away. And I will also post those emails (excluding any personal information) on my blog:

So if you are ever awake at 2AM, desperately searching for a note from me, thinking “Where, oh where is that incredible gem of wisdom and wit from Cap’n Art?” – fret not! Just go to my blog, and about halfway down on the right rail, you will see the labels that I have used to organize my posts. Click on the “Mentor Captain” label, and all of my posts on that topic will display. (Questionable) Wisdom found, problem solved, sleep coming.

I’ll be at the November 4 information meeting, and also at Kick-Off. I hope you will be there as well – come up and introduce yourself if we have not met yet. Thank you for mentoring, thanks for making a difference, and thanks for racing for a cure! I’m looking forward to the voyage ahead, and hoping for fair winds and following seas! Anchor’s aweigh!