Wednesday, February 25, 2009
At one point, I had so much in common with the national tickets that many direct comparisons were made between me and McCain, Obama, Palin, and Biden. At this point in my campaign, there are only two things I was missing: the fundraising success of the presidential tickets and a big-name interview. Well, I will never raise $600 million for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (oh, to have access to President Obama’s fund-raising team for one week). Hey, if you did fundraising for the president and are reading this – give me a call! I need help reaching my goal!
But the interview is now in the bag. Below is my interview by Coach Liz of Texas: coach, TNTer, triathlete, marathoner, and “Ironwoman”. And to boot, she is one heck of an interviewer. It is a little known fact that several years ago, Larry King suffered from interviewer block and spent a couple of days working with Coach Liz – now look at him! Look at the great questions she came up with!
And now, without further ado, here is Coach Liz’s interview of Racn4acure!
Coach Liz: If I could only visit one National Park, which one would you recommend to me? Explain. How should I plan for my trip? (P.S., I have not been to the ones you highlighted but I would love to go to them all).
Racn4acure: There are so many great National Parks out there that I have been to, although there are still many more I would love to see. Picking just one is the problem, but since that is the question, I would respond with Yellowstone. Why that one? Because it has it all, other than deserts. There are thermal features of so many kinds that it boggles the mind – geysers, fumaroles, hot springs, paint pots – and in incredible forms and colors. There are huge canyons and gigantic waterfalls. There are quiet trout streams, scenic mountains, forested landscapes, and picturesque vistas galore! And the wildlife is amazing – in just a few days there we saw so many elk and bison that it became almost routine. We saw bighorn sheep so close you could almost touch them (see below), pronghorn, mountain goats, timber wolves, a grizzly bear, mule deer, and a weasel. You can stay in a resort hotel, a motel type lodge, a campground, or camp in the backcountry. Plus you can lose yourself in the backcountry on the many trails, and you can also access all the variety I spoke of on roads with maybe a very short hike thrown in now and then. Some of my other favorite parks (Glacier, Zion, Isle Royale) have very limited road access. As far as planning your trip, I would start with a map and how much time you have, then decide what you most want to see in that time and whether you want the backcountry or highway experience – or a blend. But no matter what, you must see these: the “Old Faithful” area, the Mammoth Springs area, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and the Lamar Valley.
No butts about it - Yellowstone National Park is an amazing place!
CL: What has been the funniest, craziest, or wackiest thing that you have seen during a marathon that you have done? Explain.
RAC: This was really hard for me to come up with, Coach Liz, despite the fact that I am always looking for humor in things. In my three marathons, I haven’t seen too many crazy things that I can remember, believe it or not. In fact, I have heard much funnier stories from others from their events – usually involving portapotties or lack thereof. And actually, those stories are probably not so funny if you are the one that is the protagonist of the tale. So I would have to say, the wackiest thing I remember seeing were the cheerleaders all dressed up like “Kiss” in last year’s Arizona Marathon. It was just a totally unexpected sight, and very creative!
CL: What is the one essential piece of training gear or clothing that you could not live without? Explain.
RAC: First let me say I will assume the following are givens, in order of importance (1) socks and good pair of running shoes (2) shorts or pants so that I don’t become everyone’s funniest racing memory (3) a watch so I can keep approximate track of when to switch between my run and walk intervals. So if we can assume that these are givens, then the one thing I always carry during training and races is one of my guardian angel medallions. They remind me of the circumstances I came from – being so ill when I got the first angel that I could barely leave a hospital bed for four days, and the replacements remind me of the power of friendship. I don’t really think that a little medallion will keep me safe from harm, but the memories of overcoming hard times and remembering the power of friends who care might just keep me going during tough moments during training and during a race.
CL: If you had a spare day to take in a tray of cookies and a thank you note to the hospital where you received your treatment, who would you give them to? Why are they the most deserving of this gift? Explain.
RAC: This is actually something I once did, and it was fun. I took in enough for people getting chemo that day, those who had the stomach for a cookie anyway. But I digress. These people literally saved my life seven years ago, and I am grateful for it nearly every day. For six months, I saw them 16 out of every 20 work days. One of the downsides about more and more time in remission is that the people who helped save your life have moved on. Now that it has been seven years, my doctor, Dr. Riddick, has retired. Most of the nurses have moved on. The last time I visited the oncology center was two years ago for my five year check – yes, I should make an appointment for a routine check-up with a new doctor. Only 2-3 of my nurses were still there. The nurses I remember are Cheryl, Margaret, Vernette, Hillary, and Liz, but I know I am missing one or two. I would share the cookies and the note equally with whoever is still there. And if Hillary is there, I would give her an extra cookie because she is a huge Steelers fan, so I know that she was celebrating after the Super Bowl.
CL: You have been given an all expense paid trip for a week to any where in the world for you and a guest. Where would you go and who would go with you? What would you want to do or see when you got there? Explain.
RAC: Oh, another really difficult question, because there are so many places I would still love to see. But I think it would have to be Africa, to see some of the rich wildlife in the parks while it is still there. I would have to research the exact locations, but I would guess some of the parks in Eastern Africa or Southern Africa. I would invite my wife, Mary. Now she could potentially decline, since her idea of roughing it is a Motel 6 where the cable TV is out. But since the trip is all expenses paid, I bet I could find photo safaris that are pretty deluxe that she would also enjoy with relative comfort. I would want to see the large herds of hoofed animals, lions, hyenas, leopards, cheetahs, buffalo, giraffe, elephants, hippos, crocodiles, and rhinos. I would want to be out each day with the guides searching for these animals, including maybe a few treks at night. I would throw in a balloon ride over the savannah. And at the end, I would do a trek to see the extremely rare and endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda. A week would probably not give me enough time, so I would pay for that part myself. And if it became necessary to go to other parts of Africa to see all the other animals when my week was up, I'd pay for that as well. When should I start packing?
Want me to interview you? To play along:
1. Leave me a comment saying, Interview me".
2. I will respond by giving you five questions (I get to pick the questions).
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions and include these five statements.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
‘Tis I, your Artful Mentor, once more. Well not once more, just once more this week. Fear not – this is not the last note you shall receive from your Artful Mentor.
Who was running this morning? Who was crazy enough to be out in the cold and darkness? It was so cold that I had to cover my nose with my ungloved hand for a little while because I swear I was getting a frostbitten nose. But weren’t the stars incredible? I felt fortunate to be out there, even though I was cold and missing some sleep, simply because of the luminous stars.
Speaking of stars – well, that is you all. You are stars because you are making a difference in the lives of people with cancer – now by way of patient services provided by LLS, and in the future by way of research money.
My note tonight will be very brief, with one simple theme. But to make it a little challenging, I will deliver you a cleverly coded message. A friend of mine who works for the CIA couldn’t figure it out, but I am pretty sure you can. Here it is:
Team in Training participants are:
Racing for a cure
On the ball
Making a difference
Have you figured it out yet? That’s right, we are not just committed, we are recommitted! Hey, speaking of being recommitted, that reminds me – who is recommitting to the Country Music Half or Full Marathon? I’ll be there, will you? Let me know, and let Jen know, one way or another. Talk to us if you have any concerns or questions. The deadline is – well, it is now minus one day, so there is no time to lose.
I did find a great mission moment on a fellow TNT blogger’s site. Take a couple of minutes to read about Brenda, who was freakishly strong:
I don’t want to leave out those of you doing Shamrock, so I will say again: great job with your fund-raising and training. In less than 4 weeks, you will be doing your race! I hope it will be the time of your life!
I will not be at training Saturday but I hope you have a great time. I will think about you all, and will see you on March 7.
Monday, February 23, 2009
I finally figured out my half-marathon vs. full-marathon conundrum. Some weeks back, my sister had asked if I could do ¾ of a marathon. “Only if I drop dead at about 19 miles, which is about the point when that is starting to sound like a pretty good idea,” I said. Of course, there is no ¾ check box on the recommitment form. So a half-marathon it is, and I am going to try to focus on just enjoying the half-marathon experience and not stress over whether I should have done the full 26.2 for the fourth time. The decision is made!
A tougher item for me what the “Runner or walker – check only one” boxes. What am I this time around? I am now running at least 60% of my miles, maybe even 65%. By the time of the event, I hope to be running about 80% if I can continue to shorten my walk duration. I was tempted to check both boxes, but figured maybe I would be scrubbed from the race for inability to follow instructions. “This nut-case can’t follow a simple ‘check one box’ instruction! How can we expect him to be able to follow the race course?” In the end, I checked the “runner” box, figuring that I would be doing more running than walking if all goes well. As I wrote last week, I am going to try to walk all the miles for one training day a week so I can try to maintain my typical fast and strong walking pace.
It feels great to have recommitted to my fourth team and my fourth Team in Training event, and also my fourth one as a cancer survivor. I hope that there will be many more!
Sunday, February 22, 2009
17 years ago, we went to see “Tosca” in Maine. It was the first time I had ever been to an opera. I always had said “I don’t like opera!” I had friends in the past try to convice me that opera is a good thing, and I kept saying, "Nope, don't like it!" But at some point, it occurred to me that I had never actually been to one. How would I know if I liked it or not? So we went, driving 60 miles each way in a raging snowstorm, getting home around 1AM and having to go to work the next day. It was worth it, because I learned that I do indeed like some opera. I’ve been to many of them since, and have liked them more often than not. Some I have disliked, some I have loved. Tosca is one of the latter.
It is the story of two doomed lovers and their confrontation with an evil, evil man. Even if you don’t know a word of Italian (and I know maybe 5 of them), if you can listen to the two love duets between Tosca and her lover Cavaradossi in Act 1 and not feel moved, then you don’t have a romantic bone in your body! In Act 2, Tosca is backed into a corner by the evil Baron Scarpia, who demands payment with her body to satisfy his perverse and lustful desires in exchange for the reprieve of her lover from hanging. In desperation, she sings a beautiful and poignant aria ("Vissi d'arte", or "I lived for art"), asking God why she is meeting such cruelty after living a life dedicated to art, kindness, and love. And in the final act, her lover sings one of my favorite pieces in all of opera, “E Lucevan le Stelle” (“and the Stars were Shining”) as he remembers the wonderful times that he and Tosca have shared, but how they are now coming to an end with his impending execution.
If I had not been open to throwing out my preconceived notions, and not been willing to try something new 17 years ago, I would not have had any knowledge of this. True, I would have gotten more sleep Friday night and not been as tired before having to run the next morning, but I wouldn’t have spent a part of the weekend happily whistling several of the themes from this opera. My soul would not have been moved by such glorious music.
There is a big, beautiful world out there, and sometimes we need to step outside our comfort zone to find it. I was willing to do that in 1992 by going to see “Tosca”, and seeing this beautiful opera again a couple of nights ago reminded me of that.
Maybe there is a connection to TNT – I’ve always said I am a lousy swimmer, and this is true. But if I can learn to overcome my crappy swimming, if I can work hard to learn to swim, maybe I can attempt a triathlon for Team in Training. Who knows, maybe I might find I like swimming and triathlons? Of course, one cannot drown by going to an opera, although some time back, an okapi in Denmark died from shock while hearing a cast practicing for a Wagner opera.
Try something new – you might find that it opens up a whole new world for you!
Saturday, February 21, 2009
I’ve not chatted with the white angel or the red devil since we had that discussion some time back. But I am guessing that the angel is pretty happy. In fact, when I made the decision, I thought I heard the faint, almost imperceptible, sound of a harp playing “We Will Rock You!” followed by “We Are the Champions!” I don’t want to talk to the little red devil because he would just give me a bunch of grief. But the decision is made!
Thanks for all who took my poll. 37 people answered the poll, and 36 of them said they would not be let down if I do the half and not the full. That is nearly 97%! If a lot of donors had said otherwise, it would have had to factor into my decision.
By shifting to the half marathon, I can focus on fundraising for the next nine weeks. I can still train hard but it is a matter of staying in half-marathon shape and avoiding injury, instead of pushing myself harder each week as the miles pile up. I can get a little more sleep, which also helps with the fundraising because I can work a little later on that at times. I can focus on helping my mentees get closer to their fund-raising goal. I won’t be as wiped out on weekends during training. And I can enjoy the race weekend a little more. Part of that experience is staying at the finish of the half if any teammates come in after me to cheer them on, and then hopefully getting over to the finish line of the full to cheer on my teammates doing 26.2.
I know that there is a chance that I might feel a little let-down on race day not getting that fourth 26.2 pin, but the TNT 13.1 pin will still look good on my hat. I feel strongly that I will do a marathon again – I hope I have the legs for several more ahead. I’d also like to do a triathlon some day soon and maybe even a century. But this spring, I am going to just try to be at peace with my decision and enjoy becoming a half-marathoner in addition to a three time marathoner. I am going to enjoy being one of the purple people once again, for whether 13.1 or 26.2, that is why I do this – to make a small difference in the battle against cancers.
13.1 or 26.2, triathlon or century ride – everyone doing Team in Training does four things: we Train, we Endure, we Achieve, and we Matter!
It never did get warm, but because of the unique route today, I took advantage of getting back at the park to drop one of my two shirts off at my car. I know I can't do that at a race, but I am glad I could this time, because both shirts were totally soaked through.
The Carillon at Byrd Park, built to honor the sacrifices of the World War I generation
Nicki and Art after our 12 miles. It was great to run with her for the last 4. This Friday marks 12 years in remission for Nicki!
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Tuesday's training was after work, and there was just enough daylight to take photos of a favorite local training route. It is an out and back combined with a loop. If I do the loop once, it is 3.85 miles; do the loop twice and it becomes 5.2 miles. The route leaves my neighborhood, and goes through another neighborhood. After a total of 1.25 miles, the loop begins - through a wooded area, past a ballfield, along a trail through a park, out behind a school by a ball field, tennis courts, and a track, then back along the school to the start of the loop. Do a lap around the track and one loop, and it becomes a 4 miler. So this is a favorite course for my 4 and 5 miles training - day or night. Tuesday was a 5 milers, so I did the loop part twice. If it is dark, I aways walk on the trail part. If there is no moon, the only way to see the foot path is because there are no trees in it, so you can't really see where you are putting your feet. So in really dark conditions, not only do I have to walk the trail part, but I have to slow down a bit. For example, today was so dark during my four miles that I could not see a thing other than the outline of trees along the path, plus the roads and trails were wet from yesterday's snow and rain. So I went really slow at times - beats tripping over something in the dark or turning an ankle.
I like running and walking this because it is more interesting than just doing the same miles along neighborhood streets, and because later in the spring I can even see wildlife and other little aspects of nature for part of it.
Here is that route in pictures:
Start out in my neighborhood for about a half mile
3/4 mile through the next neighborhood, The Oaks (see any oak trees?)
The 1.35 mile loop starts by going through a wooded area on the edge of the neighborhood.
After passing a ballfield, the route goes along a path in the woods.
It climbs a bit, and passes by a little stream. Even when I traverse this in pitch darkness, I can hear the stream gurgling.
A local kid identified and labeled many of the trees along the trail as part of his Eagle Scout project.
After about 0.4 miles on this trail, I come out behind the middle school.
The path goes past a baseball fields and tennis courts...
... coming out by a track in back of the school. Do this loop once and a lap around the track, and the whole thing from my front door and back is just over 4 miles.
After passing the track and some outdoor basketball courts, I return down this path to either start the loop over again or head back towards home through the neighborhoods.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
In my four previous seasons doing Team in Training, three as a marathoner and one as a mentor, I have had many great memories. It is very difficult to pick out only seven of these – nearly impossible, actually – but here they are, in chronological order.
1. Raising $5,000 for my First Event in Only Five Weeks. I blogged before about my apprehension about whether I could raise $5,000 for the Anchorage Marathon in 2005. This was the minimum amount I had to raise, and it seemed like a nearly impossible amount. But I decided I had to try it, and signed up for the Summer Team. People were so generous, and I passed this amount in the first five weeks. I doubled my fundraising goal as a result, and passed that as well, ultimately raising over $11,600. Since then, I have always set my fundraising goal high, and whether I meet it or not, I give it a good run for the money.
2. The Leukemia Survivor Cheerleader in Alaska. Near mile 25 of the Anchorage Marathon on June 18, 2005, I was soaked, cold, tired. My feet had huge blisters. My legs hurt with each step. Standing in the rain was a lady with a large sign that said “Leukemia Survivor – Thank You.” I will never forget seeing her and what it meant, even as a cancer survivor, to see a fellow survivor out there cheering for us on a cool, rainy day. It might be my all time best TNT memory.
3. Crossing my First Marathon Finish Line. Very shortly after that last memory, I became a marathoner, walking 26.2 miles that day at a fast pace. It was perhaps the proudest day of my life – to come back from surviving cancer three years previously and now to complete a marathon. When I am 95 and sitting in my rocking chair (or maybe I will be training for a 10k?) I will still remember that day and smile with joy!
4. The 2006 San Diego Marathon Team from Richmond. This was a really large and fun team, and we just had a great time together out there. Many of them became first time marathoners or half-marathoners, and it was cool to share that. I had two mentees complete the half marathon, including one doing her first.
5. Meeting Mary at the TNT Tent in San Diego. My wife Mary made the trip out with me to San Diego, and we had a great time visiting the World Famous Zoo, the Wild Animal Park, touring downtown San Diego, and trying to learn how to surf. Mary made it out to the TNT finisher tent and it was great to see her after the race.
6. Learning that Elaine Finished the San Diego Marathon in 2007. In 2007, I mentored for the summer team and had participants in the Nashville, San Diego, and Anchorage Marathons. Even though I didn’t do a race, I was especially thrilled to learn that two of my mentees, Elaine and Gwenna, became first time marathoners in San Diego. Elaine was age 62, had recovered from a really tough cancer just months before starting training, and had lost her husband to leukemia 20 years before. And a lot of people told her not to do the race: she was “too old”, too soon after cancer, too difficult to raise the money. Did Elaine listen? Nope, she just went out and showed what she could do. I will always remember her calling me that night to tell me the news that she was now a marathoner – so exciting!
7. Completing the Arizona Marathon in a Personal Record to Celebrate Five Years in Remission. My time was about 5:57 and was my PR for a marathon - a pretty good time for having walked most of it. It was so special because my praticipation was to celebrate my 5 year remission just a month earlier. At the end, I was greeted by teammates Chuck and Suzanne, who waited for me after finishing their races! Chuck was a new marathoner, finishing like a day ahead of my time and just missing qualifying for Boston, and Suzanne just did her first half marathon. Do we look proud and happy?
On the same day, I learned that teammates Robbie, Theresa, and Paul had completed the Disney Marathon, and teammates Joan-E and Rachel completed the Arizona Marathon with me. All were first time marathoners, and it is great to remember them and their achievements, along with Chuck's and Suzanne's, as I write this.
For my next "Celebrating Seven" post, I will discuss seven really cool wildlife encounters I have had since surviving cancer. Like my other lists, it will be hard to get down to only seven!
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
It is I, your Artful Mentor, with another thrilling weekly Tuesday night message. While I was out doing my five miles tonight, enjoying not having a cold this week unlike a week ago, I was trying to think of a clever little theme for this email, and you know, I don’t think I could think of a good one, believe it or not. Is your Artful Mentor slipping? Could it be that the accumulated miles have affected his brain? Could it be that he didn’t have much of a brain to begin with? Is it possible that the cold weather the last few days have slowed the synapses in his neural pathways? Yes, all of these things are possible, although I am kind of leaning towards the next to the last explanation as the most likely cause of this lack of creativity.
But wait – there is another, even more plausible explanation! And that would be (drum roll, please) that the importance of this week is so intense that it supersedes any desire for clever prose. And why, ask you, is it so important? Well, because it is the last week for you three Nashville people to make a major impact on fundraising prior to Monday’s recommitment. If you are Lexi or Leslie, already recommitted to Shamrock, you can relax and pretty much ignore this email. Oh, you were already ignoring it? Well, that is fine, too!
But for you other three, you fellow Nashvillers, this is truly an important week. I am filling out my recommitment papers this week – and it feels great to suddenly realize that this amazing experience is now barely two months away. Each of you needs to decide whether or not to recommit, and that is a decision that only you can make. If you are still short of the minimum of $900 to recommit, or even if you have reached that but are well short of the minimum, you need to be asking yourself how you will raise the additional money. Essentially, there are 10 weeks to go until the race weekend, actually a few days short of 10 weeks. So let’s say you have hit the $900 minimum for the sake of discussion, leaving $2,700 to go. That means that over the next 10 weeks, you have to raise an average of $270 a week. What are some things you can do to get there?
* Have you sent letters yet?
* Have you asked your employer for a corporate donation or a corporate sponsorship?
* Are there other companies you have an association with that you could ask for a corporate donation?
* Do any of your donors have a matching donation at work?
* Are there other emails you can send?
* Are you doing regular email updates?
* Do you have a friend or relative in another city who will fundraise for you?
* Can you do a fund raiser at work?
* Can you talk at church about what you are doing, and set up a table for donations after church?
* Have you looked at the fundraiser activity ideas sent previously and tried any of them?
* Could you try speaking at local clubs?
* Is there a professional group you can speak at?
I am going to contact each of the three of you by phone this week to see how it is going, and whether you have any concerns or questions. Or just call me if you want to reach me before I get to you. So far, I have talked with one of you, left a message for a second, and still need to reach out to one more.
If you have any concerns or doubts, please reach out to me, Jen, and/or Nicki and let’s see what we can come up with. How can we help?
I will see you at training Saturday – eventually we will get some nice spring weather for the spring team! So we can also talk then if you have concerns. I also would be glad to meet in person this week if you want, but please let me know ASAP if you wish to do that. I am busy Friday night for example.
OK, that will be it for this note. Good luck with fundraising and decisions this week.
Monday, February 16, 2009
We had a very special guest Saturday – Emma and her mom, Holly. Emma is loved by the whole team. February 14, 2009 marks the 8th anniversary of remission from leukemia (A.L.L.) for this little girl. She developed it when she was only 10 weeks old, and no one in her family expected this little baby to survive. I have heard Emma’s story many times over the past five years, but am always moved by it, and by the photos that Holly passed around of her baby in such misery from chemotherapy. Now Emma is a healthy girl, and a delight to see.
Our routes today were 6, 9, 13 and 18 miles. Mine was only 9, both due to later plans and to the fact that I am considering cutting back mileage to do the half marathon. My route was along Grove to the always delightful Westhampton area, then up Maple and along Patterson for a while, returning along the same route. I am now running seven minutes and walking 6.
Back at the park, I enjoyed the Valentine cookies that Nicki baked for us, and had a real treat – running into some of the Summer Team, especially Michal. She was my training buddy my first year with TNT and my walk coach last year. I miss training with her! I also saw my former mentee, Cathy, who has switched to the Summer Team to do the Anchorage Marathon. And I met a new Nashville teammate, Liz. She will be walking the half but just joined the team and so is training with the Summer Team. Victoria, one of the mentors, and Summer Coach Chuck and Coach Sarah were also there. So it was like a quick little reunion.
Here are a few photos from the day:
Art with Honored Patient Emma, both showing Valentine colors
Everyone in Richmond TNT knows exactly what is meant by “The Wall”, a popular water drop at Grove and Bunting
The Confederate Memorial Chapel on Grove near the Art Museum
Some of the Summer (mostly) Team. From left: Summer Coach Chuck, New Nashville Teammate Liz, My Walk Buddy Michal – Who is the Summer Team Walk Coach, Spring Coach Chuck (our Team Coach for Nashville), and Former Mentee and Fund-Raising Machine Cathy
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Please take a second to vote on my poll to the right. The question is:
Would you feel let down if I do the half marathon in Nashville instead of the full marathon?
If you made LLS a donation through my TNT campaign, check the first yes or no (I donated). If you didn’t make a donation, check the second yes or no (I didn’t donate).
Voting closes at 5PM on February 20th!
The poll is completely anonymous. However, I would love to get comments if you want to make them. You can make them anonymously as well. Just click the comment link below...
I can’t promise I will make my decision solely on how people vote, but I am interested and will take it into account!
Thanks - Art
Yesterday, my cold was much worse, and I felt that doing 6 miles of training just wasn’t feasible, especially since I felt bad enough to miss work. That also spared my co-workers from being sneezed and coughed on all day. I slept in this morning, figuring I could do some miles at night.
Then, about 10:00 at work, I started a migraine headache, my first in just over a month. I put a sign on my door at work, – “On Sick Leave” – turned off all the lights, and lay on the floor for an hour. I also took two Excedrin Migraine, which seem to work about 1/3 of the time. Today, they and the hour off seemed to work, and I never got the pounding headache and nausea I usually get.
Bottom line – I was able to run and walk my six miles tonight – probably closer to 5.5 actually. And as a bonus, about half of it was in daylight! It was mild but extremely windy, with enough wind at times to result in minor wind chill despite the mild temperatures. At the end, I celebrated with a bowl of spicy chili and a cold Anchor Steam beer. I felt like I had earned the beer, training with both a cold and the leftovers of a migraine!
Given all that transpired, I guess I did well to only miss about 4 miles of training this week. Hopefully next week will be better.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Thus, I thought I would write some posts, one every week or so for a while, noting seven things that could not have occurred in my life had I not been fortunate enough to survive. If you are doing Team in Training, or a similar cause, or you are donating to the fight against cancer, you are helping others like me create their own memories that would not have happened otherwise. Thank you!
For my first of these "seven year posts", I will write about seven amazing experiences I have had since surviving cancer. It is very difficult to pick only seven, and even tougher to rank them, so I am presenting them in chronological order.
1. Returning to work – This first one may seem odd, but when one has been too ill to work for six months, and living on 60% of their income as disability, this is a very big deal. Don’t get me wrong – a lot of folks don’t have a job or disability, and I was very fortunate to have 60% of my income coming in. But in any event, it felt great to go back to work to my job at the time with Computer Resource Team, Inc. They treated me very well during my entire diagnosis and illness, even though I am sure it affected their bottom line. Going back to work let me feel like I was helping the company out by billing revenue again, and also was a huge step in living a normal life again.
2. Climbing Mount Tumbledown – My story about this is posted here on my hiking blog, so I won’t elaborate. But in August 2003, hiking this Maine mountain with Mary and great friends was my statement that I was not only a survivor, but I had returned to health. A year before this day, I was lying in a hospital room, incredibly sick, and now, I was standing on top of a mountain! And as a bonus, we got to celebrate the Big Five-O for one of our best friends!
3. Going to the World War II Memorial – My step-dad, Stuart, was a proud WWII vet, and even though he was getting too weak to walk a lot, it meant so much to take him to this memorial to his, and his comrades, incredible sacrifices during this horrific war. There was not a dry eye in our group – me, Mary, my sister Ann, Stuart’s friend Anne, and Stuart's daughter Joy – when Stuart turned and saluted the section of the memorial dedicated to Buna in New Guinea, where he served. And it was so touching to see other old veterans come up to him and engage in conversations – like long lost comrades being reunited with a common bond.
4. Anchorage Marathon for Team in Training – Just a week or two after the experience with the WWII Memorial, I headed off to the Land of the Midnight Sun to do my first ever marathon on June 18, 2005. It was exactly 3 years, two weeks, and two days after I had started chemotherapy. Reaching that finish line, 26.2 miles from the start, as a cancer survivor was a feeling of joy that I don’t think I can adequately describe. Here is a link to a story about it that I wrote for one of the TNT newsletters. It was perhaps the proudest day of my life!
5. Trip to Glacier, Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone National Parks – When I had cancer, we had to cancel a planned trip to Yellowstone. So when we went there in September 2005 for two weeks, it was a wonderful feeling to see places I had wanted to see all my life. We hiked all over, saw incredible scenery, and amazing wildlife. Among the later were grizzly bear, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, black bear, mule deer, bison, elk, and grey wolves. This probably goes down as my favorite vacation ever.
Bearhat Mountain in Glacier National Park
Where the Buffalo Roam - Yellowstone
Impressive Mountains - The Grand Tetons! So named by very lonely French fur trappers, as the name in French means "The Large Breasts"!
6. Being Present at the Birth of my Granddaughter – In November, 2006, Mary and I were present when our granddaughter was born. Have you ever experienced love at first sight? Well, I did when that little girl popped into the world early that morning. I got to hold her on the day of her birth. Even though she lives far away, I hope to be a big influence on her life, and am so grateful to have survived to know her.
7. Family Reunion at the Beach – My brothers and sisters and I have been scattered to the winds since we grew up. So even though we all get along, not once in about 40 years had the five us been in one place at the same time. There were several times when four of us could get together, but never five. This changed in September 2008 when we had a family reunion at Virginia Beach. A great time was had by all, and great memories created for all who were present – about 20 of us in total.
These are just seven of many wonderful moments in my life that I would not have had were I not fortunate enough to be a cancer survivor. In my next "seven things" post, I will discuss seven great TNT memories.
Well, not so fast! TNT seasons are named after the approximate time of year of the events. So the “summer” teams had their events in late April to mid-June, which I always think of as spring. In fact, my first time or two, I kept referring to it as the “spring” team.
Our summer teams started training about the first of February, and often in cold and nasty weather. As the winter gave way to spring, we often saw beautiful flowers, listened to birds – and trained in heavy rain-storms. We never trained in summer weather on the summer teams, the last event being the Anchorage marathon just before the Summer Solstice.
Our “fall” teams, which I have not yet been on, essentially train through the hot Virginia summers, starting about the end of May and continuing through October. Often they start training at 6AM or even earlier on Saturdays to escape some of the heat. I would guess at the end, they get some of the nice fall weather, but one of our cornerstone “fall” events is the Rock “N” Roll Half-Marathon at Virginia Beach, held Labor Day weekend. It is almost always hotter than hell for this race, and even though everyone has a great time, fall it is not.
Then there is the “winter” team, which I was on last time for the Arizona marathon of 2008 in Phoenix. Of the teams I have been on, we actually trained through the nicest weather on the “winter” team. We started in mid-August, and went into mid-January, with a lot of fall-like weather, beautiful fall foliage, cool mornings and warm days. Of course, there was also that cold drenching rain in late December where several of us had bad colds and all of us were soaked from our heads to our toes within about a half mile. The bunch I was training with decided after 10 miles that we had had enough, cutting the final two miles off.
As for my current team, the “spring” team, we have not had much spring like weather to date. We started training in early November, and have gone right through the winter months. Five degrees one morning, so cold that our salt-laden Gator Aide turned to slush. Plenty of cold and windy weather where your core is warm and sweaty from exertion but your face and fingers are frozen. Then, the other night, it was so mild and spring-like that I did my 4 miles in the dark with just shorts and a tee-shirt. Especially since I have another cold, it was a pleasure not to be out in cold weather. And I have noticed more birds singing in the early morning, and the longer periods of daylight in the evening. These are all signs of the approaching spring, at which point my spring team will be aptly named. I think that everyone on the team looks forward to the days just ahead when mild weather is the norm, when the early flowers start to bloom.
Even though the seasons of our teams seem a little mixed up at times, the experience itself, in any weather, is joyful. I feel so blessed to be healthy enough to participate with Team in Training. Spring, summer, fall or winter, we are changing lives one mile at a time!
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
It is I, your Artful Mentor, with, yes, one more whacky note to spur you on to great fund-raising heights! Actually, I think you are doing just fine without me spurring you on, now that I think of it.
This week is the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, one of the developers of the Theory of Evolution, and to whom the concept of “survival of the fittest” is attributed. With my mentoring group down to five people, you five are now the fittest ones able to survive the ramblings of your Artful Mentor. We started with a cohort of eight, and one dropped out. Two fled their Artful Mentor, deciding that a marathon in the wilds of Alaska with the summer team was preferable to dealing with any more of my emails. One of them told me, as she fled in terror, that although she might run into an Alaskan Brown Bear on a remote part of the marathon trail, at least a bear wouldn’t try to email her!
Actually, neither of these two fine ladies were quite that dramatic about their reasons for leaving the Spring Team. One just wanted to switch to Alaska, and the other was injured and needed to heal before trying a long distance event. But in any event, the five of you are my mentoring survivors. Drink a toast to Charles Darwin, and to your persistence! And then, drink another toast to your teammates, Lexi and Leslie! Both have not only recommitted for Shamrock, but both have also passed their fundraising minimum. Way to go, Double-L!
Isn’t it great to finally have some spring weather for the Spring Team? I did my four miles tonight in shorts and a tee, and it felt wonderful! I have a cold, and so it feels especially good to not have freezing temperatures. I am hoping to feel well enough to be at training and to see all of your smiling faces!
I just have a few reminders for the week. First, remember to wear something red or pink to training Saturday for Valentine’s Day! I have my pink bunny ears that I wore during the Breast Cancer 5K last spring, but I think I need to find something else. Pink tights? No, don’t worry, I wouldn’t do that to you!
Second and more importantly, for the three of you joining me for Country Music, you should have gotten an email from Amber with all your recommitment paperwork. That needs to be completely filled out and returned to her by February 23rd. Whether you recommit or not has to be entirely your decision. You know what you have to do fundraising-wise. If you want to talk about fundraising, if you have questions or concerns, just give me a call. I will also try calling each of you in the next week to see if you have any questions or concerns.
One of the fundraising notes that has been going around and apparently has been successful is the one with the “Gimme Five” theme. If you haven’t tried that one yet and want an example of it, just email me and I will get you an example of it. We are coming down the home stretch now, both for fundraising and for training, so don’t let up! If you haven’t reached your minimum yet, you need to look at how much more you have to raise over the next 2.5 months, and plan how much you will raise each month to attain that goal.
I hope to see you all Saturday for our Valentine Run. As always, please let your coaches know if you won’t be there.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Did you relish today’s little moments
Though the skies were quite leaden and grey?
Did you whine and complain, or take a walk in the rain?
Did you remember to live fully the day?
It’s the small things give life the most meaning
Like a sunrise’s first golden ray,
A walk on a beach, the taste of a peach,
Little rewards from seizing the day.
Within every life rain must fall, so
While the sun shines, remember, make hay
Make the most of your life, don’t be mastered by strife
Live, love, laugh - all while seizing the day.
Some day you will see your last sunrise,
The Grim Reaper no more kept at bay.
Will you have the regret of things not done yet
Or be at peace, for you seized every day?
So to you, I proclaim “Carpe Diem!”
For this instant but once comes your way
Taste all of life’s flavor, deliciously savor
The enjoyment of living each day.
Saturday, February 7, 2009
I checked my Y-chromosome at the door, swallowed my male pride and did 11.
Coach Chuck led us in some warm up exercises: "wiping the goose poo off our shoes", "Frankensteins", "Butt kicks", and "Over the fence". Then he led us in a team cheer, and we did a warm-up 0.4 mile lap around the lake, and headed towards the Fan. From there we ran down Monument Avenue to the West, and zig-zagged down to Westhampton, reaching the half-way point at Patterson and Libby right in front of the Westhampton Pastry Shop. I stiffled a sob as I glanced into the window of this amazing bakery, seeing the incredible baked goods on display. I turned around to head back and chewed on a power bar, fantasizing that it was one of their delicious donuts.
It was a mercifully flat route, 5.5 miles out and 5.5 miles back. It was cold at first, but gradually warmed up, so it was one of those days that it is tough to dress for. At some point, you are going to be too hot or too cold. The team was spread all over the place today – some of us were doing 9, 11, 13, and 16 miles. Many of the team are fighting painful injuries as the miles and the pounding add up. I feel pretty good after this mileage, although it is clear now how badly worn out my old shoes are. The difference in the new ones and the old ones is so notable. I will have to make a real effort to break in the new ones this week, so I can wear them for next Saturday's long training. My feet and legs seemed to jar everytime they hit the pavement. It is also clear that 11 miles was a good choice, now that I am running more often but hadn't done much training all week. 16 miles would have been too much today.
Here are a few photos from the morning:
Lexi and Leslie, two of my mentees, have recommited to Shamrock in Virginia Beach. They both have done great with their fundraising!
Sunrise just before training with Swan Lake in the foreground.
Some of the team chatting and stretching before training
General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson guards the approach to Monument Avenue.
Friday, February 6, 2009
First, my miles for the week were not bad, despite missing 13 miles of training due to extremely sore quads. I trained for 23.7 miles and traveled a total of 49.9 miles on foot, from last Friday through yesterday.
Second, we had a great injury prevention clinic for the team last night, led by Dr. Tim Dey, who is also a team coach for the fall season every year and, very impressively, a TNT Triple Crown recipient. We had a small turnout, but most of us there were nursing one ailment or another as the miles add up, so we covered some "what to do when you get (whatever)" in addition to injury prevention and core conditioning. As Tim said, it sounds a little late for injury prevention right now - we need to get through the season and complete our event. Interestingly, not one biker or tri-athlete was there.
Third, I spoke as a survivor at the Summer Team Kick-off Wednesday, and it was a lot of fun. For one thing, I knew most of the coaches and mentors who showed up, including some that I hadn't seen in a while. I always enjoy thanking participants as a cancer survivor for what they are doing to help cure cancer.
Tomorrow is long training - 16 miles if I can do it. I will need to see what the coaches think. I still have some soreness and have taken it pretty easy since Saturday, and I don't want to overdo it. But I don't want to get too far behind either.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
I was dead to the world when the alarm went off at 5AM this morning. In confusion, I stumbled from bed and staggered towards the bathroom, where I set the clock so that hitting “snooze” is impossible, unless my arms grow about 15 feet long. As I stepped into the bathroom and flipped the light switch in one motion, I realized, too late, that something was not right. A split second later, I stepped – barefoot – into a little gift left by one of our cats on the floor. Yech! I was still barely conscious as I cleaned my foot and dressed as quickly as I could, and then stepped out into a very cold morning. It was time to try my new running shoes!
My last pair is nearly 14 months old, has one marathon on them and who knows how many miles. They are tolerable for 4-5 mile runs but anything longer, I feel my legs and feet are taking a pounding. So I bit the bullet Sunday and bought an identical pair of New Balance running shoes, plus orthotic inserts - $175!
I had not trained all week, other than some cross training in the pool Monday. First, it was a very hectic week, including some TNT events, such as speaking at Summer Team Kick-Off as a patient honoree. It looks like another great team! But a bigger factor than a hectic week was the pain in my quads, especially my left quad, since our hilly and long training in Charlottesville last Saturday. For several days, one area hurt enough that I thought I had an injury, but the pain has subsided and I think it is just from overuse.
The four miler at 5AM was fine. I had some soreness start to creep in, and took it easy with the running portion, only running for about 15 minutes of it. It was so cold though. My face was freezing. At one point I took my glove off and held my nose as I walked, as I felt like I was getting frostbite!
I hated to miss so much training this week – 5 miles Tuesday and 8 miles Wednesday. The male part of me wanted to do it. The sensible part of me said to take it easy. Sensible won out (this time). Now I must talk to my coaches Saturday and see how many of the 16 scheduled miles they recommend given that I missed so much training this week.
As to the shoes, they feel so much more supportive but I need to break them in. After 4 miles, I had a little sore area on the top of the second toe of each foot, so my long training Saturday will have to be in my old shoes.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
‘Tis I, your Artful Mentor, with my weekly message to you! I was speaking at the Summer Team Kick-off tonight, and almost had decided to defer writing you until tomorrow. I came home, ate a bowl of soup and some yogurt, and thought it would be nice to relax a bit. “I’ll just write my mentees tomorrow,” thought I. But then these visions went through my head… My mentees, eagerly awaiting my weekly message with the enthusiasm and glee of young children awaiting Santa Claus at Christmas. Some moments of anxiety when my note had not yet come. “Surely my Artful Mentor will not forget me!” The anxiety turning into outright dismay, as you stare at your blank computer screen. The tears coming, slowly at first, then in a torrent, when you realize that my note will not be arriving tonight. No, it is too much, and my conscience will not bear it. So I am writing you tonight instead of resuming the thriller I am reading.
I have photos from our Charlottesville training on my blog:
I don’t know about you, but after those hilly miles Saturday, I feel like I am dealing with a nagging quad injury. So what better time for Dr. (and Coach, and TNT Triple Crown Holder) Tim’s injury prevention clinic! I’ve attached a document about parking. But here is some additional information, the type of thing I often ignore and then later wish I hadn’t. So don’t be like your Artful Mentor – read this stuff and commit it to memory!
Injury Prevention Clinic - Thursday 2/5 at 7 pm - VCU Sports Medicine building
Important Information regarding clinic:
Some tips on the attached map. Please note that you can not turn left off of Broad into the parking lot. You may turn left onto Bowe St and then turn right into the alley behind the building or continue to Marshall St. and turn right and then right into the parking lot.
Please park only in spots marked for "VCU Sports Medicine PATIENT" or "Student Health" right behind the building. Please do not to park in the physician spots as they get mad! The spots closer to the Seigel Center are "UU Lot" and you may be ticketed for parking there.
I am proud of how each of you is tackling your fund-raising. I’ve heard a number of imaginative and creative ideas that you are using. Keep plugging away. I know that the Shamrockers are in good shape. You Country Music folk have about 3 more weeks before recommitment, so you will want to make a big push to maximize fund-raising by that point. Obviously, you want a minimum of 25% by then, but it is better to think in terms of trying to hit 50%. It will make the remaining fund raising push that much less stressful. Please, call or email me if you need help. I have not heard from any of you about doing a brainstorming session with Nicki, but if you would benefit from that, let me know.
Finally, if you still have auction items, Nicki is working on a second auction, probably in conjunction with the newly formed summer team. More details will be forthcoming.
For my mission moment, I am going to share news about multiple myeloma that I found so encouraging. It affirmed that we are making a difference with all of our hard work! Read about it here:
I hope I see you all at the injury prevention clinic! And I will be at training this coming Saturday!
My Fellow Americans, and Citizens of the World,
Hello once more from my 2009 Cancer Kickin’ Campaign! I’ve been busy with many fundraising and training activities in the three weeks since I last sent an update. On the fundraising side of things, thanks again to the over 80 of you who have donated to my campaign. I have now raised over $5,000 to support the vital mission of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and am more than a third towards my ultimate goal.
You can make a donation, see my progress, view my list of honorees, and see campaign updates on my TNT web page, which I have updated recently with links to specific progress reports and news:
Is your donation making a difference? Yes, it is! Multiple myeloma is a painful and incurable cancer of the bone marrow and is one of the diseases that LLS is committed to help cure. I was so excited to learn last week that within the past five years – literally the blink of an eye – six new and effective treatments for multiple myeloma have been unveiled! This type of advancement only happens with research, clinical trials, and money, so thanks again for helping. These advances help patients win their battle with these dreadful diseases.
Everyone loves to win….
“I won $500 from the lottery!”
“I won tickets to the game!”
“I won the election!”
“I won dinner for two!”
“I won a cruise!”
But in 2002, I won the best prize of all – I WON MY LIFE! When I received chemotherapy that effectively cured my lymphoma, my life, which easily could have ended, was won back.
Now, in gratitude, I am trying to help others to win, and with one person in America developing a blood cancer every five minutes, there are plenty of folks that need this help. If you have joined my campaign already with a donation, thanks again for helping. If you would like to make a donation to help others become winners, go to my web page. Or contact me if you would like to donate by check. Either way, online or by check, 100% of the money goes to LLS.
Join my 2009 Cancer Kickin’ Campaign! Let’s help create some more winners!
Art Ritter in 2009 – He Will Go the Distance for You!
Monday, February 2, 2009
That is why I felt so exuberant about some news I heard last week on the radio: that we are making tremendous progress with multiple myeloma. This is a painful cancer of the bone marrow that has been incurable, and is on the increase. It is one of the four major blood cancers that fall within the mission of LLS, the others being leukemia, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and Hodgkin lymphoma.
When I heard this story, my first thought is “We are making a difference! Our efforts, and the generosity of our donors, are helping to come up with cures and treatments.”
There is still no cure for multiple myeloma, but there are now many options for managing this terrible disease. Even if you don’t read the article, this one statement to me gave me such hope for the many thousands of people dealing with myeloma:
"The excitement here is that we have six new treatment options that we didn't have only five years ago," Anderson says. "And we have three additional treatment strategies that are in the last stages, so-called phase three clinical trials, that likely will create additional options."
Think about this – in only five years, researchers have come up with six new treatment options! And there are three more almost ready to roll out! Five years! Five years ago, I was just a year and a few months removed from my own cancer. These things did not exist when I finished cancer treatments.
This is incredible news! Just think what the next five, ten, or fifteen years will bring!
Help me make a difference by making a donation to my campaign!
The first milestone was that I reached the Virginia Rock Star status, meaning I have raised at least $1,000 more than the minimum amount I must raise of $3,600. I was only a few dollars away from the $4,600 point for a week or so, so reaching that goal soon was a given.
The second milestone was that I passed the $5,000 mark for the fourth time that I have done Team in Training. Why is this amount significant? Because the first time that I signed up for TNT, $5,000 was the amount I had to raise at a minimum to stay on the team for the Anchorage, Alaska marathon. And at the time, it sounded like an impossible amount of money to raise. In part, it was Jamal at that TNT recruiting meeting four years ago who helped convinced me to go for it, when he said “You can, and you will!” So every time I cross the $5,000 mark, I reflect a bit on believing in yourself that you can attain difficult goals. A goal that seemed in possible is now something I expect to attain with fund raising, each and every time.
If you are considering doing Team in Training, or some similar difficult program to better society, and you are having second thoughts, doubts whether you can do it – believe in yourself. You can do it! You can and you will! I am proof of that.
As of right now, I have raised a total of $5,394, thanks to so many generous people. Of that, $5,107 is posted on my web page, and $287 is in checks that I have received but have not been posted yet. I have donations for 84 people, not counting the people who bought items at the silent auction.
My ultimate goal is still over $9,000 away. Can I raise that much more and reach my goal with less than three months to go? It seems impossible right now, but I am not going to think of it in those terms. I am going to think outside the box, and see what I have to do to reach it. Yeah, it is a tough fundraising environment, the economic news seems to get worse each day. But there are still more people employed than not, and people are generous. So I say it is possible. I say “I can and I will!”
Sunday, February 1, 2009
While it is hilly, it is not mountainous. It looks like the steepest and longest climbs are in the first seven miles, when we should be at our freshest. And since what goes up must come down, there is a long, fairly steep three mile downhill right after that. Then, the last 16 miles of the race looks undulating up and down – short climbs and short descents without many flat parts.
One of my teammates, Dave, wrote about hills being our friends and I like what he said: “Hills are incredible. This is why: Without hills, there would be no fantastic cartoons of ever-growing snowballs barreling down on the heels of funny rabbits who always made us laugh on Saturday mornings while we wore our snuggly-footie pajamas. Without hills there would be no mountains. Without mountains, Julie Andrews would not have had a place to sing on her days off from the Abbey. She'd have to, like, go buy cheese or something on her days off. If we didn't have hills, there would be no opportunities to go downhill sledding in the winter. If there were no sledding opportunities, there would be no need for hot cocoa to warm your chilly-bones after sledding all day. Can you imaginea world without hot cocoa? I can't. It would be a dark, dismal place.” Dave, you are so right! Hills rock! And to add to what he wrote, as Julie Andrews sang, “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” And with the labored breathing of marathoners!
Yesterday’s training was an eye-opener, because it was far hillier than even our most hilly routes here in Richmond. It is also apparently hillier than the Nashville course, which is encouraging. But clearly, I will need to go out of my way to find routes with elevation change for training on, and not try to avoid running up hills. After all, who would want to avoid their friends?
Yes, THE BOSTON MARATHON!
Oh, and did I mention this one little thing - that her leukemia is now back, and she is undergoing radiation (Project Glow Worm as she calls it), and maybe chemotherapy as well? If you can't be inspired by someone like Julie, check your pulse! Quickly!
Her story, and her desire to seize the day, to work for cures ("Cures Rock!" says Julie), and to Live Strong have inspired me (my pulse is just fine, thank you) and you better believe that I am adding her name to my honoree list that will go on my next marathon shirt.
Here is a video that Julie put together that covers a bit of her journey: