Saturday, May 30, 2009

Thanking Our Mentors

We had a great group of mentors this season - Nicki, Paul, Theresa, and Jamey. I want to thank all of them here. Scattered through my blog are a number of photos of these fine people, so I won't repeat photos here.

Mentors are kind of like fund-raising coaches, plus a little more. Each week, they contact every participant by phone and/or email. They are available to meet with their mentees to review fundraising. They brainstorm with participants. It is not an easy volunteer job. Many participants are intimidated by fundraising and keep delaying things until it is really late, and because they are not keeping up with fundraising, they kind of avoid contact with their mentors. Mentors feel a bit like a mother hen, keeping track of their chicks and wanting them to succeed. Mentors also do water stops each week and often bring a post-training snack.

Nicki was our mentor captain, and is great! She is also a patient honoree and a fundraising participant in the Shamrock Marathon - her fourth marathon as a lymphoma survivor. Mentor Captains coordinate all of the other mentors, including the cycle and triathlon mentors. It is a lot of work, but Nicki was up to it. She did an amazing job putting together our extremely successful silent auction. Nicki also came out and supported the Nashville team after her event was done, running with us and setting up roving SAG wagons. Nicki is amazing!

Theresa was my mentor for the second season in a row. She is a fun and creative mentor, always with good fundraising ideas. Plus she gives us gummy worms - mmmm! She was busy for a lot of training weekends so I was disappointed not to see her smiling face more because I really enjoy training with her and catching up on our lives. To show you how TNT works, in 2006 I mentored a wonderful lady named Mary Nell. Mary Nell came back the next year as a mentor, and she mentored a new participant, Theresa. A year or so later, and again this year, Theresa came back to be my mentor. Talk about coming full circle! Theresa, you're the best!

Paul is one of the most dedicated TNT participants I have met. He first came out for TNT, and did his first marathon, in the winter of 2007-08 when I raced Arizona - the first part of this blog. Since then, he has come out every single season as a mentor and/or participant. He trains hard with other particpants and supports them during training. He often brought great post training snacks, including delicious muffins. He did not fundraise this season - you can't do that every time - but he made the trip to Nashville at his own expense to be part of the team. Great guy!

I didn't get to know Jamey too well. Why, you ask? Well, because he can run a mile before I tie my shoes. The last I normally saw of Jamey was his butt and the backs of his heels as he disappeared from Byrd Park! But was always glad to see his smiling face at training and think that he must have been a great mentor.

To all of you, thanks for a great season and for all of the support.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mission Moment for the Spring Cycle Teams

I wrote this mission moment for our Century Cycle teams doing the Fletcher Flyer and Lake Tahoe races on June 7...

Dear Fletcher Flyer and Lake Tahoe Teams,

I haven’t had a chance to meet your teams this season, but wanted to let you know how much I, and cancer survivors everywhere, appreciate all of the hard word that you are doing to prepare for the race and do your fund-raising. You are saving lives.

I can’t really imagine cycling for 100 miles. The longest distance I have ever ridden a bike, which was a battered one speed with coaster brakes, was about 15 miles down at the beach. Man, did my butt hurt at the end of that! So I am in awe of what you are preparing to do on June 7.

Some of my memories from dealing with Hodgkin lymphoma 7 years ago are getting a bit fuzzy, but my memories of my first week on chemotherapy are still pretty clear. Seven years before the date of your race, I was preparing to go get chemo for the 5th consecutive day. I remember feeling so ill and exhausted that day, and I had to drive about 25 minutes to the oncology center, get chemo, and drive home. My wife had taken me the first couple of times but could not miss work every day. I remember getting in the car and thinking “I can’t do this. I just cannot make it there again today.” But I knew that I had to, and so I forced myself to get there. I drove home afterwards, feeling pretty awful. But later in the afternoon, it hit me – I had survived my first week of chemo and now had 9 consecutive days where I didn’t have to get chemo. I felt sick and elated at the same time. I could do this! I knew that there would be some rough times ahead, and there were, but I was going to get through it.

I am guessing that you perhaps will have some similar emotions during that race. Maybe when you hit that first long hill and get partway up, you will think “I can’t do this.” But in the same way that I got over the crest of that first “chemotherapy hill”, you will do it. And even though there will be other hills ahead of you, you will know that you will climb them all, one at a time, and prevail.

Wherever I am and whatever I am doing on June 7, I will pause and think of you and your ride, and be thankful that there are people like you out there who are working on this very difficult problem that we call cancer. I guarantee you that people in the future will have thoughts of gratitude about all of you, because the money that you raised will become part of future cures and saving future lives – their lives.

Thanks for all you do, and have a great ride in the North Carolina mountains and around the big lake!


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Thanking Our Coaches

Year after year, season after season, Team in Training Coaches do a great job! Our Spring Team was no exception to this rule. I am not going to repeat photos in this post, because many previous posts have pictures of the Spring Team Coaches.

Coaches do so much in addition to having overall responsibility for each participant’s welfare each Saturday. Between our two events and the half and full marathon teams, we have people doing four different distances on any given weekend. The coaches plan the routes each week to accommodate this, keeping safety in mind. They run with different participants at different speeds, make sure that water stops are covered, make sure that the routes are clearly understood, deal with injuries, and make sure that everyone is back at the park. They often give us great mission moments as well.

Vicki was the head run coach this season. This is the fourth time that she has been head coach for teams I have been on, including 2007 when I was a non-fundraising mentor. She is fantastic, working with each person to understand their goals and come up with a plan for achieving them. I always know that it will be a special season when Vicki is coach. In 2006, when I was the only one on the team walking the full marathon, it was often Vicki who waited back at the park to make sure I got back in OK.

Chuck was the assistant run coach, and was the Virginia Team Coach in Nashville. He is incredibly enthusiastic about TNT, our mission, and each participant. He would put in extra miles most weeks, switching from teammate to teammate so that everyone would be running with a coach at some point. Plus, he led us in dynamic stretching – every Richmond participant should always remember “scraping the goose poo off our shoe” – and always had an original cheer for the team each week.

My intent at the start of the season was to combine running and walking, but if we had a large walk team, I could have been persuaded to walk instead. However, we only had one walker who was not a coach, so I went with my original plan. Even with just one walk team member, coaches Kristi and Cathy came out every week. Kristi is also a patient honoree and fund-raising participant who walked the half-marathon in Nashville in about 2:54 (not 3:54 as I originally typed following a bout with dyslexia), walking every step. Cathy walked the half marathon in Virginia Beach (Shamrock). And after her event was done in March, she still came out every week to walk with Kristi and support the rest of the team

Our coaches were amazing and did so much for us – both the big and little things. We were lucky to have them.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Thanking Jen and Amber

Jen and Amber were the staff at LLS assigned to our team. Amber is the leader of Team in Training for all Virginia, and Jen is in charge of Richmond TNT operations. They are both terrific. Here is Jen (left) and Amber after our Jingle Bell run late last year.Amber is a seasoned veteran, having been an LLS employee for nearly four years now. I blogged about her last winter when she ran the Winter Team that included my Arizona Marathon in January, 2008. Everything I wrote last year is still true about Amber – she works so hard in everything she does.

The Spring Team was Jen’s first team. She joined LLS after doing the Nations Triathlon for TNT. She worked so hard all year to recruit the team and keep it going. She was willing to meet one on one with every participant to go over fund raising if they wanted to. She ran fund raising clinics, and often was out early on Saturdays to run with us. Amber also was a frequent visitor to our training sessions.

I was saddened to learn that Jen accepted another job a month ago as the Fall Team was forming up. I know she will do well and excel at it. I am really glad that I was part of her very first team that she was responsible for. No one working for the Team in Training program is going to get rich. They work their butts off and I would guess it is not for a ton of money, but believe in the mission and work very hard to attain it.

Amber was our LLS staff for the Nashville trip and took care of so many details. She was also out there on the race course all day cheering for participants. There is no way we could be successful at what we do without people like Amber and Jen. No way! Of course, they are doing their jobs but go above and beyond every week. They give so much of themselves to our teams and I think that every participant appreciate this. I know that I do, big time!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

What Should I do Next?

My fourth Team in Training event is in the bag. My brand spanking new 13.1 pin rests comfortably on my hat along with the previous three pins:
Now I need to take a break from fundraising so that people don’t start shooting me. The trick will be to stay in shape and get in even better shape while not doing TNT. I’ve neglected upper body workouts in preference to legs. I’ve knocked off about 10 pounds since the first of the year and am within about 5 pounds of my ideal weight according to the body mass index charts. I want to hike a lot more now that this season is over.

But eventually, I will get up the courage to try fundraising again. Here are some things I am pondering for my next event in 2010. I will leave a poll open for a about a month to see what readers think. I seem to get anywhere from 1 reader to 25 or so a day, averaging about 10 or 12 a day lately.

Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco – 800 men running with 20,000 women? If I were single that would be a no-brainer! But in any event, I love San Francisco and I have a sister, two nieces, and a nephew living in the Bay Area

Mayor’s Marathon in Anchorage – I’d love to do this marathon again, this time maybe not in driving rain. And I’d also like to see more than one day of Alaska.

Skip this running stuff, do a triathlon – I would like to attempt a triathlon at some point with the Purple People. The Olympic distance tri’s in Philly and Washington DC come to mind. I would need to learn to swim much better and buy a bike, but it would be a cool experience.

How about a 100 miles on a bike – TNT does century rides. I’ve never been more than about a dozen miles on a bike, and that was one of the old one speed coaster brake bikes at the beach. So a century would be a great accomplishment for me. As with the tri, it means plunking down $1,000 for a bike and gear, and learning a lot.

What about the Komen Three-Day – I could skip TNT for a year and do something for the breast cancer cause, walking 60 miles in three days. I am tempted by this because the cause is good and the challenge is good, but I hate to skip TNT.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Passing the 40K Mark

If you run or speed walk marathons, reaching the 40K mark is a good feeling. If you “hit the wall”, by this time you have hit it back. If you have entered the “bite me zone”, you have already left that zone far behind. You have come about 24.8 of the 26.2 miles, and you know that 1.4 miles is something you do all of the time just to warm up.

I’ve crossed the 40K mark in all three of my marathons, and it always feels pretty good. But in the last couple of weeks, I crossed an even more important 40K mark – I’ve now raised more than $40,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society during my four events – marathons in Anchorage, San Diego, and Phoenix, and the half marathon this spring in Nashville.

People often think that I must be a pretty good fund-raiser, but I don’t feel that way. Except for the first year that I did TNT, I haven’t reached my fund raising goal any year. I always feel like I could have done a little better. In any event, it is really the generosity of people that I solicit funds from that gets the job done, not whether I am a good fundraiser or not. I do try hard, and work to come up with innovative notes to remind people of the cause. I never know for sure what works or what doesn’t work. I’ve written what I feel are some pretty good notes that get very little response. Others get good response. But in case they are useful to someone else, every one of my notes to potential donors for the last two seasons in on my blog.

It is funny thinking back to that time in 2005 when I was debating whether I could raise the minimum to race in Alaska: $5,000. How in the world could I raise $5,000? I don’t know rich people, or famous people. My family is not wealthy. I don’t party with the jet set or work out with world-famous athletes. I don’t vacation with the wealthy. I have no political power to promise access to someone in exchange for a big donation. You can read about some of my struggles with pondering whether to do it here. But I decided I had to try Team in Training. If I didn’t at least try it, how would I ever know if I could do it? I remember thinking “If I don’t at least try, I could be leaving $5,000 on the table that could go to cancer research.” As it turns out, I would have left $40,000 on the table, and I never would have known it. One of the mentors at that first meeting told me “You Can and You Will!” And as it turned out, I could and I did: through persistence and hard work and the generosity of so many people.

Even though I am no fund raising star, I always go into every event now absolutely confident that I will pass the minimum required. I will accept nothing less than this from myself. I set my goals a lot higher than the minimum, as I will the next time I do this, even if I don’t reach them. I start fund raising early, design a campaign around a theme (like this years presidential campaign theme), and do something every few weeks. I try not to take it personally if I get no response from many people, not even a “good luck”, who I know can afford a donation. It comes down to the intrinsic generosity of so many people, being willing to reach out to them, and believing in the cause and in myself.

Passing 40K feels pretty good. That money by itself won’t cure cancers, but it is step in that direction. I hope someday I will pass 100K – now that would be worth blogging about!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Final Campaign Email of 2008-09

My Fellow Americans and Citizens of the World,

My 2009 Cancer Kickin’ Campaign culminated with me running, with a good bit of walking in the second part of it, the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville on April 25th. If you want to read all about it and see photos, you can do so here:

Despite the heat that day, it was a lot of fun. We had such a great team in Nashville!

A few of you asked if people can still donate to my campaign, and for those folks, as well as those who previously told me “Great cause – remind me later”, you can still donate at my TNT web page for the next two weeks:

Or you can get me a check payable to Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, or simply LLS.

I hope that you have enjoyed my sometimes whacky update notes this campaign as I poked a little fun at our presidential campaigns while raising money for a good cause. Speaking of the latter, over 130 generous souls donated over $8,600 to my campaign this year. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is my fourth campaign for Team in Training, beginning in 2005, and people have donated over $40,000 to these campaigns to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I am overwhelmed by the generosity of people.

So ends my 2009 campaign! Thanks again for all of the help. While I and I alone must run the race, the fundraising is impossible without all of you who generously donated. As my good health and good fortune continue, there will be a fifth Team in Training campaign for me at some point, but until that time, you can check your email without fear of another goofy update from me!

Thanks again for all of the help with my fourth Cancer Kickin’ Campaign!

PS: If any of you know anyone who fundraised for President Obama, please have them get in touch with me before my next campaign!

Art Ritter in ’09 – He Went the Distance for You

My Nashville Posts

Here is a summary of the posts on my trip to Nashville for the Country Music Half Marathon:

My purple shirt for Nashville - My shirt for the race is covered with the names of people who encountered cancer.

Celebrating seven years - Seven years to the day of first feeling the rib cage pain that led to a cancer diagnosis, I ran the Country Music Half Marathon

The little girl who touched my heart - A chance encounter in Nashville with a young girl reminded me of why this cause is so vital

Thanks, Coach Chuck! - My tribute to our coach for Team Virginia in Nashville

Team Virginia comes together - What a great team we had in Nashville

Pre-race report - Those last minute preparations for the race oh so early on April 25th

Race Report - On a very hot day, I ran my first half-marathon

Post race cheerleading! - In my fourth TNT event, I have never been with such a spirited team.

Seeing the sights in Nashville - Some of the sights of Music City from my visit

My race results - For the first time in 4 attempts, I wasn't in the bottom 10-15% for my age-sex cohort!

Nashville Touring

The reason I was in Nashville was to run the Country Music Half Marathon, but while I was there, I had a day and a little more to see something of a city I’d never been to. It is a delicate balance – without a car, my feet were the mode of transportation, and with 13.1 miles to do on Saturday, you don’t want to overdue it and walk for miles. Some of the main attractions, like the Grand Ole Opry and The Hermitage (Andrew Jackson’s home) are 10 – 15 miles away from downtown.

So most of my sightseeing involved being within a mile from our hotel. There was still plenty to see, and I have included some photos with commentary.

Right around the corner of our hotel was the Ryman Auditorium, original home of the Grand Ole Opry. They still do some shows in this beautiful venue.

The Tennessee Titans play football here, right downtown and across the Cumberland River. If the Eagles play here sometime, it would be really fun to come back, catch a game, and see more of the area. This is also where the marathon and half marathon finish. We also did a team three mile walk / run to here the morning before the race.

Nashville really is "Music City", and has a great looking Symphony Hall. In Richmond, our symphony has been relegated to playing churches for about 4 years now while the Carpenter Center is being renovated .

Nashville is the state capital and has a nice looking Capital Building.

Near the capital grounds is the Tennessee memorial to the Korean War and those native sons and daughters who served, died, and suffered there. I wonder how many Americans know much about this war, now nearly 60 years in the past.

Here I am hanging out with some of the legends of country music. On Sunday, just before the team left for the airport, my roommate Dave and I hung out at the joint in the photo for a while and listened to some great music being performed by a young couple. Several of usalso went to Tootsie's Orchid Lounge the night we got here, which was fun and just packed to the gills on a Thursday night. Nashville definitely has a livlier downtown than Richmond does.

Speaking of country music, this place is the Country Music Hall of Fame, and is a must see. I wish I had been able to spend more time in here that the hour and a half I had before our Inspriation Dinner Thursday. I was amazed how good this was. Seen from above, building would look like a treble clef, and the left hand side (the bottom of the treble clef) has what looks like the old time radio tower.

Priscilla Pressley gave Elvis this golden piano for their first wedding anniversary. I also saw Carl Perkins’ blue suede shoes and wish I had attempted a photo. Some of the guitars just had the most incredible workmanship.

Our hotel had a sculpture like this on each floor. Each one is different, but they all have a musical theme and were all made entirely of chocolate by the hotel's restaurant staff. I love chocloate but eating this would be like smashing up a painting to burn for heat.

I really enjoyed my short time in Nashville, and hope to get back there again. My race roommate, Dave, told me the other night that he is running in the Country Music Marathon again next year!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I Am Starting to Grow Gills!

I didn’t sleep really well last night, and eventually woke up from the alarm this morning, staggered into the bathroom, and flipped on the radio. “Today will mark the seventh day of rain in a row,” the meteorologist intoned. I’d heard the heavy showers during the night once again, and maybe that was one reason I didn't sleep well. I looked at myself in the mirror through bleary eyes. What in the world? Are those gills?

At work later, a co-worker said, “Man, you really cut yourself shaving today!” “Nope, those are just the start of some gills from all this rain,” I replied. He got a horrified look, said something about needing coffee, and disappeared. “Should have worn a turtleneck,” I thought. But you know, if I go for a triathlon next year, gills could really help. I can swim like a frog underwater, but pretty poorly on top of it. Maybe the rain will continue and these gills will keep growing and I can just swim 1,500 meters underwater. But by noon, the sun was out amid huge and ominous clouds, and I got in a quick two mile walk downtown. The James River was just roaring along, the color of weak coffee churning its way to the Chesapeake Bay a hundred miles away. And I noticed that the gills seem to be receding.

It’s just as well that the rain seems about over. My neighbors down the street, the Noah’s, started building a huge boat a few weeks ago. It is amazing to see it take shape. It is gigantic and like no boat I’ve ever seen. But somewhere, I feel like I saw a drawing of something similar. I can’t place it, though. A couple of days ago, the rain had slackened and I went for a run. As I ran by, I saw Mr. Noah working on the boat and complimented him on it. He smiled proudly. “I think it will be finished on time,” he said. “In time for what?” I asked. He got pretty evasive, said “Oh, you’ll see. You will see!”, grinned rather mysteriously, and disappeared into a big section of the boat divided into some kind of stalls.

Then this morning, as I drove by the Noah’s on the way to work, I saw the heads of two giraffes sticking up behind his house. Two chimpanzees were high in a poplar tree by the side of his house. A couple of Malaysian tapirs were lounging in a large, deep puddle in his front yard. A pair of Sumatran tigers rested nearby, the tapirs watching them nervously. The rain drummed steadily down. “Odd,” I thought. “I don’t remember seeing these kinds of animals in the neighborhood before.”

The rain has given me an excuse to slack off running, after training for so long for the half marathon. I need to find the time and not make excuses to skip running in the next week so. Exercise is an easy habit to get out of. It is so easy to come up with a valid excuse. Too busy. Too tired. Too rainy. Have plans. Need to clean the house. Might get attacked by a Sumatran tiger. I need to get up and run tomorrow before work. Just four miles would be great.

Whoops, I just heard the forecast – rain tonight into the morning. I’ll postpone that run tomorrow, sleep in an extra 45 minutes, and see if the gills start coming back again. I wonder if my neighbor needs help with his boat? The way the rain keeps coming, it just might come in handy.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

CMM Post Race - The Cheerleaders

So little did I know once I crossed the finish line that two of my most memorable TNT experiences were yet to come, experiences that were even better than the race. I had the chance to see a couple of my mentees race, and I had a chance to cheer for so many others with some of my teammates.

I waited for Kristi to finish. I wanted to see her race and cheer for her, but I was certain that if I left the finish area and tried to find the route near the end to cheer for her that I would likely miss her. So I waited a few minutes, and calculated my time. Hmm, started at 3 until 8, finished at 10:41 - do the math, subtract 3 from 41, 38, wow, 2:38 - not bad for such a hot day! Later when I saw my time was actually 2:44, and my brain was working correctly, I realized that I needed to add the three minutes, not subtract them! The "Penguin" was right last night - our brains turn to mush during a long endurance event.

I was thrilled to see Kristi! She finished only about 8-10 minutes behind me. She had been a fantastic mentee, and also served as head walk coach and patient honoree. Seeing her just after her finish with her medal was almost as good as seeing her race. We walked to the TNT tent together, checked in, and proudly laid claim to our TNT 13.1 pins. Then we ran into Kristen, Fred, and Tammy. We chatted for a while and relaxed, then Kristi, Kristen, and I walked the quarter mile or so to the UPS trucks to claim out gear. It was so hot, but I wanted to see Nicole and Dave race if at all possible.

On the way back from the UPS trucks, we ran into Kate, Kyra, and Meg cheering their lungs out at about mile 26.1. We decided to join them and spent almost 3 hours with them.

Kyra, Kate, Meg, and Kristen take a break from cheering

Kristi and I join them. Dig those half marathon medals!

There were a few other little groups cheering but none as spirited as our little band of Purple People. We cheered for everyone, but a little louder for TNT racers and especially those from Team Virginia. We were thrilled to see Paul running on his way to the finish:

We saw Coach Chuck escorting runners time and time again. He was easy to spot in his big country hat:

There was no water in this area and he was parched at times, so we would sometimes give him something to drink. I lost track of how many trips he made back and forth. TNT Coaches are the best - they go well above and beyond.

When I saw this guy running and strumming on the ole banjo, I knew I had to get a shot of him. Too late, I realized that hidden behind the runner to the banjo player's right was my mentee Dave! I couldn't react in time to snap Dave's picture, but we all cheered him. That's Dave's foot stepping on the shadow of the guy just ahead of him:

Nicole with her purple Afro was pretty distinctive and she wasn't hiding behind someone, so I did get her picture in the race:
It was Nicole and Dave's first marathon. I was so proud of my mentees and thrilled to see them in the race. Seeing my three mentees either in their race or just after they finished in Kristi's case will go down as one of my great TNT memories.
And cheering with some of my Virginia teammates will go down as another great TNT memory. Here is a view back at some of the team as they cheered for hours out in the hot sun. They were so spirited and I am surprised any of us had any voice at the end:
For some of my other great TNT memories, go here.
As teammates finished their races, they joined our group. Ultimately, Paul, Dave, and Nicole were with us. Amber found her way over and joined in. When Bridgette came running up, we all formed a "gauntlet" and cheered her as she ran through. Here is a shot of Coach Chuck escorting Bridgette - it was also her first marathon:
I asked Amber to take a photo of my mentees and me showing off our medals, and you can see it on this post.
Even though much of Team Virginia had met only a couple of days before, we really bonded as a team and on that day, it showed. I will always remember this. As our coach told us "As a coach I hate to see this, because you should be resting and hydrating. But as a teammate, I love this!"
Thanks Kate, Kyra, and Meg for getting the ball rolling on the cheerleading!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Country Music Half Marathon - The Race!

As our corale prepared to be released, I gave teammate and fellow cancer survivor Kristi a hug and wished her luck. She will be walking the entire race and is hoping for a PR, despite the heat ahead. I know I will get a PR, assumng I finish, because this is my first half marathon. At 7:57AM, I crossed the starting point. The first part of the route headed towards downtown, and I kept in the shade as much as possible. It already felt hot. Here is a view of the downtown from the race course:
There were pretty good crowds appreciating the racers. There were not as many bands as I had hoped for. Maybe the marathoners would have more on the second part of the course. Both races ran the same route for the first 11.25 miles. Any time a spectator or cheer squad would call out your name, it gives a little jolt of adrenalin! One time a young woman called out "Art, I love you!" I never had that happen in a race before! Another time, I passed an official TNT cheer and one of them yelled "I've been to your museum!" I realized that she was someone I met in the elevator the other day, and when when were exchanging names I told her "Art, there's a museum named after me." Sometimes people think I am saying my name is Mark or even Hart. I was impressed with her memory.

The race course went down Broadway and looped away from downtown. At one point, it doubled back on itself, and I was able to see several Virginia teammates going the opposite way. That was really great! This continued for several miles - people running back in the opposite direction like a mighty river flowing to the sea. I ran into Coach Chuck during this part of the race. We were running through neighborhoods and people were out in force with a really festive atmosphere. There were so many racers that it meant constantly being alert to pass people - I passed a ton of people out there for the first 10 miles - and to be passed. It would be so easy to trip over someone.
At about mile seven, I had a tough time. My non-run sports sunscreen sweated into my eyes. It burned like hell! I stopped running and went to a slow (for me) walk, barely able to see. My eyes were practically whelled shut, and tears were pouring down my face. My nose started running like a fountain from the irritation. I am sure people were thinking "That poor man is in so much pain that he is crying!" This went on for about three-fourths of a mile, then all the tears started to clear my eyes. At about that point, a family had a little water table set up in their yard and I took a cup and flushed my eyes out and was fine from that point.
At about mile 8, we passed Belmont University on the return route, specifically the Presidential debate site. That was so cool! If you followed my fund-raising campaign, you know I taylored it after the McCain - Obama race, and this was such a cool tie-in on the actual race day!
I was a little dissapointed at the small number of bands, but this one was GREAT! I could have stayed and watched them for a while, drinking a cold beer. But I kept running.
Speaking of music, these guitars were pretty cool, so I had to stop and snap a photo:
At about 8.5 miles, the route was finally reaching a point where we were no longer repeating itself. I really liked this statue, which was one of the things that I saw at the start of the section where the route doubled back:
By this point, I knew my pace was slower than I had hoped for. The incident with the sunscreen and my eyes had knocked a couple of minutes off, but I was walking more and more. I ran about 80% of the first 6 miles, but was now walking about 50% - not counting mile 7 where I walked most of it in my near blindness. It was just so hot! We had been training, with a few exceptions, in fairly cold weather. I felt like I would just move as much as I could and enjoy the experience, so that is what I continued to do. At about mile 10.5, I was snapping a photo and a lady asked if I wanted my photo taken:
AT mile 11.25, the King himself was directing traffic! The King lives! "Marathoners to the left, half-marathoners to the right! Thank you, thank you very much!"
For a couple of months, I had wondered what I would feel when I reached this point. Would I regret my decision to only run the half? Would I be tempted to run the full marathon for a split second? Would I get wild and crazy and actually take the left hand split? What I felt was relief! I was so hot and so glad that I was not doing 15 more miles. At mile 12 or so, we crossed the Cumberland River and could see the stadium where the race was ending, and it was a welcome sight:
Just before the finish line, I ran into our great coach, Chuck, again and he took these pictures of me running along. They are a little blurry because we were both running, but I rarely have photos of me actually moving in a race. In the first one, you can see my "Virginia Rock Star" shirt covered with names and the finish line just ahead:
In this one, you can see a sign over my shoulder that says "Go Grampy!" I am sure that is not for me, even though I am a grandpa:
Chuck and I parted at this point after he handed me my camera back, and I picked up my pace to run to the finish line and complete my first half marathon! This is my fourth long distance race as a cancer survivor, and I feel pretty proud of that! I got my medal, grabbed something to drink, and hung out to wait for Krisiti to finish. As fast as she walks and as much walking I did, I knew that it would be a short wait.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Country Music Half Marathon - Pre-Race

I awake with a start at 2:15AM on the morning of the race as a police car races by my hotel. I groan as I look at the clock - wake-up call in only 75 more minutes! As it turns out, the police siren was my wake-up call, because I will not fall back asleep. I lay there, thinking about the day ahead. I know that it will be difficult, but a snap compared to what anyone dealing with cancer is going through at the moment. At 3AM I hear the faint sounds of revelry coming from Broadway on Nashville's "Honky Tonk" district. I have to marval that as I prepare to get up at this early hour, there are people who haven't yet gone to bed!

Race day really began last night when the team assembled for nearly an hour to review what was going to transpire in the morning, including warnings about the heat. We were told to be in the lobby by 4AM, and Dave and I retire to our room to lay out all of our race stuff. This takes about 45 minutes or so, believe it or not - you do not want to forget anything on race day.
When I finally get out of bed at 3:25, it only takes us about 15 minutes or so to shave (in my case), slather on sunscreen and body glide, and dress. We head to the lobby and I wait until 4AM to buy a bagel and a banana for breakfast. Then we link up with the team. Dave and Nicole start spraying each other's hair with purple hairspray:
My team colors will be displayed on my right cheek, on my face, that is:
I ask someone to snap a photo of me and my three Nashville mentees. I am really proud of them. Two of them are running their first marathon today under very difficult conditions.
The entire Virginia team poses for photos from the multiple cameras that people have brought:
Then we join hands in a circle for a team cheer and head to the buses. It is now about 4:30, and is still pitch dark out. The temperature is very pleasant, maybe 62 degrees F. The wait for the buses in the dark is very orderly:
The bus drops us off near a park about 4:50. Some of the team heads to the porta-potties, and the rest of us wait until they are done. I marval at the beauty of the Parthenon, which is all lit up by spotlights. This is an exact replica of the Parthenon in Athens. I wish I snapped a photo, because the lights are suddenly shut off. We head in that direction and arrive a little after 5, sprawling out on one of the corners of the building. We chat, rest, and eat and drink. A few try to sleep, in vain. As the sun is rising, I snap this photo of the team sitting at the base of the Parthenon, and a while later I take the photo of the Parthenon:
In the photo above, note the long line of hedges by the side of the building, which apparently have special religious significance to the truly devout. I will explain this shortly.
During the time between 5 and 6:30, we listen to the same pre-recorded 45 second message over and over. It discusses the location of various things: the medical tent, the massage area, the information booths. We are ready to strangle the guy who recorded it after about 20 minutes. People are snapping photos, stretching, taking breaks to brave the porta-potty lines, and dropping off their gear off at the UPS truck. About 6:30 the faster teammates head to the starting corales, and eventually I am the only one there. I am waiting for a teammate who had taken her gear bag to be dropped off, but as long as she has been gone, I assume that she is now in a porta-potty line. Because she left her race belt behind, I don't want to leave it, so I wait. I wait. I wait some more. I start thinking how a trip to a porta-potty sounds like a really good idea. But I don't want to leave. If I take her belt maybe we won't find each other. If I leave the belt, maybe someone will take it. With the lines that trail each porta-potty area, the wait would be at least 20-30 minutes, and that rules out a quick trip. Then I notice these incredibly religious men.
Several men are kneeling devoutly on the ground at the hedge just a few feet away, heads piously bowed, hands folded reverently in front of themselves in prayer. Except, of course, they are not praying. Unless there is a Patron Saint of Full Bladders that they are praying to, but I never learned about such a saint in religion class as a child. I start praying myself that I won't wet my pants before my teammate reappears, but I think taking a pee at a hedge while people walk by feet away just seems a little too crass. Of course in the original Olympics near the real Parthenon, everyone competed naked. We are not doing this here. 32,000 naked people running through downtown Nashville might be entertaining to the local populace, but pinning on our race numbers would suck! Plus, the sunburns would be pretty incredible.
Finally I explain the situation to a couple of women who are sitting nearby. "Would you watch this belt for me," I plead, 'while I run over to those bushes for a minute?" They are willing so I run to a large shrubby area, go in far enough so it shouldn't totally gross anyone out, and take care of Nature's calling. I run back to the Parthenon, and not 30 seconds later, my teammate appears. Oh well. We head to our starting corale, #26, and she snaps this photo of me:
The race started at 7AM, but the mass of people - 32,000 are registered for the half and the full marathon - takes a long time to move slowly to the start. I note how tired I feel, having been awake for nearly 6 hours and standing for a couple of hours during this time. But I can feel the adrenalin strart to surge as we get closer and closer to the starting line. A few minutes from the line, I snap this photo of the start, and then at 7:57, I cross the starting line for my first half-marathon:

Country Music Team Comes Together

I am going to write a series of posts about the trip to Nashville. In this first one, I will talk about Team Virginia and include a few photos. The next group of several posts will discuss the race - which was the main event. Then, in the final one I will talk about some things I saw in Nashville. It will take me a few days to get it all out there.

We had a great team and we really clicked. For those of you not familiar with Team in Training, TNT is organized into chapters. A chapter can be a state, as in the case of Virginia. Or it could be a small geographic area with high population, such as Eastern Pennsylvania or New York City. Or it could be a widespread geographic area like San Diego - Hawaii.
Our chapter, Virginia, had several smaller subteams. On the Richmond team, we all knew each other well, having trained together for nearly 6 months. But we didn't know anyone else from the state teams, nor did they know us. So we met for the first time in airports - a few driving to Richmond for the flight and others meeting us in Charlotte. A few others drove all the way to Nashville. In the beginning of my Ode to Coach Chuck, this is what I tried to express - that we came from all over the state. Here is a photo of many of us in the Charlotte US Airways hub:
When we got to Nashville, we were all starved - some had been up since 3AM - and several of us went out to find a place to eat. Here are some of my teammates walking towards Broadway in Nashville, and then at the Expo where we got our race packets:

One of the truly great TNT experiences is the Inspiration Dinner, formerly known as the Pasta Party. Teams from all over the US and Canada come together and eat a dinner together and hear speakers, including a survivor who usually has an inspirational tale to tell. But first, as we walk into the room, we go through a gauntlet of coaches and LLS staff who make the most amazing racket cheering for us. It is so cool - on my fourth event now, I still really enjoy it. Many are dressed in crazy fashion, and it is such fun. Here is a photo as I entered the ball room:

And here is a photo of some of team Virginia at dinner:

John "The Peguin" Bingham was our speaker and master of ceremonies. Even though this is the fourth time he has spoken all of at the dinners at my events and of course has to repeat some of his stories and lines, it is still very entertaining. Everyone laughed at the line about what kind of endurance atheletes are the winners of the marathon? They are only out there for 2 hours, while we will be out there 4, 5 , 6 or 7 hours! He told the story of his high school girlfriend dying from Hodgkins lymphoma back in the 1960's.

Our inspirational speaker was named Jim and told of his fairly recent experience surviving stage 4 lymphoma and all of the horriffic things that he went through in the last few years. But he is surviving, and back to running after barely being able to walk to the mailbox at times. The next day, he will be joining us for a half marathon. I hope that he keeps going!

At the end, someone snapped this photo of me, Chuck, Paul, and Kristi. Dig our cool blue team shirts! On the back it says "Virginia is for Cures", a take on the famous "VA is for Lovers" slogan that has been so successful for 40 years now.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


Finally! Finally I have done a long race and not finished in the bottom 10-15% for my age and sex. That is what being a runalker will do as opposed to just a walker. For my division, males 55-59, I finished 221 out of 399, meaning that 55% finished ahead of me and 45% after I did.

I still need to do a bunch of trip reports, and I will, but here are my official race results. I had hoped to hit 2:35 or even 2:30 but I am not a good enough runner to do so on such a hot day. I had been averaging 11 to 12 minute miles doing my run walk mix so I definitely dropped my pace that day, especially for the second half. But since it was my first half-marathon after 3 full marathons, I am happy with the results. Even so, it is amazing that the winner of the marathon would have done his race in about 35 minutes less than it took me to go half as far!