Sunday, November 29, 2009

Message from the Captain (#3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 28, 2009

10K With the Spring Team

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 27, 2009

My New New Balance

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Seven Things to be Thankful For

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Da Feet, Not Defeat!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Defeat has been.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 23, 2009

Message from the Captain (#2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GO TEAM! Full speed ahead!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Like a Candle Snuffed Out Too Soon

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

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

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

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Spring in Our Steps

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 16, 2009

On the Day You Were Born

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 13, 2009

My New Bike!

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

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

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

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

Survivors Making a Statement

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 9, 2009

What is This, Which Morning Sunlight….

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Spring Forward

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tape - The Natural Enemy of Men

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Message from the Captain (#1)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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