Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mentoring e-Mail # 21

Hello my coming down the stretch Nashville Mentees –

‘Tis I, your Artful Mentor with yet one more Tuesday night message for you. This one will discuss the “Final Four”.

No, not North Carolina, Michigan State, Connecticut, and Villanova, although as a Villanova grad, I am pretty excited by this turn of events. It is only the third time that the Wildcats are in the Final Four! GO WILDCATS!

But the Final Four I am talking about relates to these concepts:

The three of you plus me makes four of us going to Nashville among my mentoring group
The fact that we have only four weeks of training left before the race, including the week that we are in
The even more important fact that we essentially have only four weeks left to fundraise.

Technically, yeah, I know, I know, we really have more than that amount of time because we can fundraise after the event for a couple of weeks. But seriously, don’t you want to go to Nashville, your mind clear of fundraising, and just concentrate on your race? And on having a great Team in Training event, the first one for two of you? So KEEP PRESSING AHEAD WITH THAT FUNDRAISING. And kudos to Dave, who got a $500 donation this week. Now that is the kind of news that puts a big smile on a mentor’s face!

I got to talk to the two of you who are still below minimum and it sounds like both of you have solid ideas, help from friends and family, and money starting to come in. So just keep on with that full court press (getting back to basketball for a second) and pull out all the stops.

Congratulations to all three of you for completing the Monument Avenue 10K last week. Wasn’t that a blast? I put a few photos on my blog, and coach Vicki has some photos that she sent as well.

I have a mission moment for you. One of the things that LLS does, that the money you raise helps to fund, is called First Connection. This is where volunteers who have survived a blood cancer get in touch with someone who currently is dealing with leukemia, lymphoma, or myeloma. I volunteer for this, and when I am given an assignment, I give the patient a call and we chat for 15-45 minutes about all kinds of things that they are going through. Volunteers don’t get paid, but where the money you raise comes in is paying for the LLS patient services coordinators (this is just a small part of their job), training materials, maintaining the database of patients and connections, and so forth.

This week, I called a lady named Cindy who lives in Tennessee. She just finished chemotherapy in December for Hodgkin Lymphoma, and is dealing with some troubling left over side effects – neuropathy in her feet and hands, and joint pain. I could not help her with that a lot, because I was lucky enough to feel pretty good within a month or two of wrapping up chemo and never had either of those ailments. But we did chat about some other things. So what is the mission moment in all this? Well, there are two. First, the dollars you raise are helping real people, right now – not just funding cures 10 years from now. Second, even curable cancers like Hodgkin lymphoma can have pretty awful cures and lasting side effects. Hopefully the money we raise can not only help discover more cures, but more humane and less destructive cures.

By the way, Cindy’s husband is in the Nashville race so even though none of us will know her, someone out there cheering the racers is being helped by what we all do.

I am proud of each of you for sticking through training and fundraising despite injuries, recessions, tough fund raising climate, and job loss. Keep going, just for four more weeks. Don’t let up now – you are almost there.


Mentoring e-Mail # 20

I realized that I never posted this note to my mentees, written a week ago....

Hello My Hard Working Mentees,

It is I, your Artful Mentor, with one more Tuesday message. I decided to leave you two Shamrockers on my list for one more week so I could tell you congratulations on completing the marathon and half-marathon. I was thrilled to see that you both completed as your events – as if there was any doubt. Well done! I hope it was a blast – not just the race but the whole weekend. I would love to hear your stories and see photos if you wish to share them.

Congratulations, Lexi and Leslie – you both rock!!!!

And to Kristi, too, I know you were there at the race helping out as a coach. I hope you had fun and didn’t overdo it, because you have a big event coming right up in another month.

I am going to keep this note very short. Mainly I wanted to congratulate you Shamrockers, and of course remind you Country Music Marathoners about keeping up with your fund-raising. I have been in contact with all but one of you. So if you are that person, please let me know how you are doing with fundraising, what you have going on, and what is working and not working for you.

I wanted to give you a brief mission moment from tonight. I will probably blog about this later this week in more detail. I was in Ukrops tonight, wearing my purple TNT windbreaker. A woman came up and asked if I had done Team in Training. I told her that I had done TNT three times and was training for # 4 right now. She said that she wanted to thank me, because she had recently received a stem cell transplant for multiple myeloma. She told me that her daughter had done TNT, and that she (the survivor) wanted to do TNT in a year or so once she got back to full health. She wants to do a triathlon, just like her daughter did. We chatted for a few minutes, she thanked me again, and we went our own ways. It just made me feel good that someone would want to thank us for what we are doing, and that medical research has helped save this lady’s life. When I had Hodgkin lymphoma just 7 years ago, multiple myeloma was considered one of the really bad and incurable diseases. Now, it still is a tough disease to fight, but in just 5 years, several new treatments have come out to help people survive something that would have previously killed them.

It occurs to me that when someone like this lady, surviving a deadly disease thanks to new discoveries, thanks any one of us, she is thanking all of us, because we are all doing the same thing – trying to help to defeat blood cancers. We are all in it together! So I wanted to pass that on.

I hope you are well. Enjoy the 10K if you are in it, and cheer for the other purple people. If I don’t see you at the race, see you on April 4 for our last long training run / walk! How cool is that?

Go Team!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

One More Thing That We Can’t Fully Enjoy!

What to blog about this Sunday morning? The only day of the week I can sleep in, but once again, I am awake before 5AM? Why did I wake up so early this Sunday? Is it the sadness I feel about my terminally ill kitty as I know her remaining days are going by too quickly? The excitement I feel about Villanova making it to the “Final Four” last night by nipping the University of Pittsburg in a classic and tremendously exciting basketball game? Or is it the cold, icy fear running through my veins upon learning yesterday morning that I am risking a horribly painful death by living such a risky lifestyle?

I was never a fan of hot drinks, other than of course hot chocolate. I’ve had probably less than 50 cups of coffee in my whole life. My first, second, and third of these were when I was camping on Isle Royale in Lake Superior and “slept”, tentless, in a violent thunderstorm. I stayed up all night, soaked and shivering, and when other campers offered me hot coffee in the morning, I was only too glad to drink it. I never liked the thought of tea. My mom drank it all the time, but put so much milk in it that it just always looked awful to me.

But maybe 10 years ago, I discovered that I really like hot tea, not with milk, not with sugar, but with honey. On the rare occasions that I eat breakfast out, the waitress is guaranteed a more generous tip if she can find honey for my tea. Plus, they are always talking about how good tea is for you, all of the wonderful antioxidants and other organic compounds. When I was on chemotherapy in 2002, I could not stomach tea or many other things that I normally loved, and really missed drinking tea for all those months. And not starting the day off with a mug of hot tea is something that I really miss on Team in Training Saturdays, but when you are running in a city for miles with no bathrooms, I don’t need a bunch of liquid caffeine coursing through my veins sending “Evacuate! Evacuate!” messages to my bladder. Even though it doesn’t seem to bother many men to pee on a public street corner, that was just not how I was raised. So, no tea on Saturdays!

So imagine my chagrin yesterday morning to read in the paper that hot tea causes cancer! What the hell? You have to be kidding me! And not just any cancer, but esophageal cancer, which has to be a particularly awful, painful one since you are going to starve to death at the end. Is there anything in life that doesn’t try to kill you? I know that it is a dangerous world, but hot tea???? Come on!

It turns out that it is the temperature of the tea and not the tea itself that matters as far as esophageal cancer is concerned. If you drink the tea at under 140 degrees (F), then you are probably going to be OK. So while I like my tea really hot, I also like to let it steep for at least 5 minutes, which maybe cools it down a bit. It never occurred to me to stick a thermometer in my tea. But maybe I should start doing that.

It is a pretty sad state of affairs when even a nice cup of hot tea is a deadly danger. Cross one more thing off the list that is supposed to be good for you while moving it to the “danger” list. The next thing you know, they will find that honey causes MS or something like that. It’s a dangerous world out there. But I guess if something is going to kill you, it might as well be a mug of hot tea.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Monumental Time!

The 10K race today, substituing for a normal training day, was a lot of fun. My left foot hurts but it held up and I am going to try to ice it and take it easy this week, to prep for our last long mileage day next Saturday - before the Country Music half marathon, that is. I am pretty sure that I knocked 4-5 minutes off last year's personal record but won't know for sure until I can check the race results tomorrow. (Note: my friend Kristi told me that my time was 1:03:21, which is nearly 6 minutes ahead of last year, so I am really pleased with that. I know that would be a depressing time for most of you hard-core runners but I am happy. It is a very good time for me, the "runalker".)

It felt cold standing around for two hours this morning in shorts and a tee shirt before the race, but once I finally started running I warmed up quickly.

After the race, I saw a co-worker who ran the race - his first ever. He told me that I had inspired him to do it and he made it his goal a year ago to run this race. I am glad that I was a factor in this because he was clearly and justifiably proud to have run today. He told me that there were over 33,000 people signed up - a record for this event.

Here are some photos from this morning:

Country Music Team gathered before the race. In four weeks from this morning, we will be in Nashville getting ready to start our races.

On the steps of the Sacred Heart Cathedral, just after the blessing of the runners.

Nicole and me before the race. Nicole is my mentee this season and is preparing for her first marathon. Today was her first race and she did great.

The starting line approaches - we were so eager to start running after standing for two hours.

Confederate General JEB Stuart watches the race at the turn on to Monument Avenue.

Heading west on Monument Avenue, past some beautiful cherry trees. On the left are runners who have made the turn and are heading back towards the finish line.

At this point, the race course has doubled back on itself and we are heading down the backstretch with the finish line just a few miles ahead.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee has a prime vantage point for watching the race, with about a half mile left at this point.

My friend and teammate Nicki snapped this shot of me (in the purple shirt of course) about 0.2 miles from the finish.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Run or Limp, Rain or Shine, it Will be Monumental!

Tomorrow will be my fifth Monument Avenue 10K race, sponsored by Ukrops Supermarket. The race always occurs near the date when I first learned I had cancer, so it is a great reminder of my good fortune to live and to be healthy enough to race in a 10K. They were calling for rain earlier, but now it looks like the rain will end in the very early morning hours, and it will be low 50’s (F) and cloudy for the race.

A bigger issue than whatever happens with the weather will be my left foot. My miracle cure is not working. I have tried to rest my foot since Tuesday’s 5 miles caused so much pain, only doing some walking and elliptical. Last night, I ran (with a little walking) for two miles on a treadmill, and the pain started after 1.5 miles. At the end of the two miles it was quite noticeable – although not nearly as bad as after the five miles Tuesday morning. Today at work I am trying to stay off my feet as much as possible, even taking the elevator – which is sacrilege for me! I have iced my foot 4 times this week. I am wondering if my fairly new orthotics are just shot and may try to replace them tonight.

Anyhow, I am going to do the race tomorrow. If the foot pain is too much I will stop running and walk fast. If fast walking still hurts too much I will slow my pace. Unless I feel like I am doing serious damage I will finish the race. I wanted a PR but it is more important to have fun and not get hurt.

I have great memories from the last 4 races, but this one will be really special – I will explain why in a minute. In 2005, I was training with TNT to walk the Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage, and we walked the 10K to get race experience. I walked with teammates Michal, Janice, and Mary. Michal and I walked 4 miles to the start of the race, did the race, then walked 7 more miles for a total of 17 that day.

In 2006, I was training for the San Diego Marathon with TNT but also mentoring, so I walked with a couple of my mentees to encourage them. The next year, Michal and I walked the race together, doing the 10K in about 1 hour 21 minutes, which is a nice walking pace. I also was a member of “Team Tommy” that year to honor Tommy West, a local man with incurable liver cancer.

Last year, it rained steadily but I ran and walked the race, again as a member of “Team Tommy”. It was poignant because Tommy had died from his year-long fight with cancer just days before the race. I wore my orange “Team Tommy” race shirt, and it was the first time I ran some of the race – about 4 miles of it – so I set a PR.

Tomorrow, I will wear Tommy’s “Hope” bracelet, and also Nicki’s “Decade of Strength” bracelet and my purple TNT “T.E.A.M.” (“Train, Endure, Achieve, Matter) bracelet:

But more importantly, I will be wearing my purple team shirt from the Arizona Marathon, covered with the names of people who have had cancer. And we will have a team out there on the race course! These two things make this year’s race really special.

Sprinkled among the 32,000 or so runners and walkers tomorrow will be Team in Training’s first official Monument Avenue 10K Team of about 35 people. And those of us currently on the spring and summer teams will wear our shirts, plus I hope TNT alumni will wear their purple from the past. We won’t paint the race course purple but we will at least speckle it purple, and there will be a few TNT cheerleaders out there.

So rain or shine, run, walk, limp, hop, or crawl – I am doing this race. I will have 4 weeks to figure out whatever this foot issue is – metatarsalgia, Morton’s Neuroma, whatever – before the Country Music Half Marathon. But I am in this 10K, and I will try for a PR if my foot miraculously holds up. If it doesn’t maybe I will have my worst time in the race while having a great time at the race. But regardless, I will wear my purple with pride, and I will wear a big smile!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One Million Steps!

As I have blogged previously, I started keeping track of almost all of my steps using my trusty Omron pedometer starting January 9. A couple of days ago, I passed the one million step mark for the past two and a half months. Pretty cool!

This translates to about 559 miles on foot for this time period, an average of about 6.5 miles every day. About 294 of these miles are aerobic miles - mostly formal half-marathon training outings.

For the past couple of weeks, I have put in this amount of miles:

Week Ending -------- Total Miles ------- Training Miles
March 12 -------------- 49.7 ----------------- 24.8
March 19 -------------- 54.2 ----------------- 26.9

My left foot continues to bother me since Saturday, so I walked 4 miles Monday, then ran (mostly) five on Tuesday. After that run, my left foot hurt a lot, despite more ice. So I did eliptical today for 48 minutes, which didn't bother my foot. My goal is to try a few miles tomorrow but not to overdo it. I have unlaced the lower part of my left shoe and will see if that helps. On Saturday, I will run in the Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K, and want to make sure everything works pretty well for that. So even though I am missing a few miles of training this week, I am clearly in half marathon shape and want to do well in the 10K.

My Shamrock Teammates

I got a few photos from a Shamrock teammate, and decided to post one of them on my blog. If others of you who did Shamrock want to share a photo or two, send it along and I will add it.
Here are Leslie (my mentee), Gina and Kate showing off their medals and smiles after the half marathon this past Sunday. Don't they rock?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It’s Snot Funny!

Hello boys and girls, Doctor Ozone here, with another fascinating science lesson. This week’s topic is one near and dear to the hearts of cold-weather runners and walkers: mucous! Or as it is better manifested to us during workouts – a runny nose during cold weather.

I was reminded of this phenomena (as if I needed any reminder) during this morning’s five mile run in 30 degree (F) temperatures at 5AM. Let’s just say if I ran as easily, as continually, and as well as my nose does under those conditions, I would have finished my five miles this morning in about 20 minutes – and be on world record pace for both the half and full marathons. It has been that way for most of my training since around November, which more often than not has been in cold temperatures.

So what causes the cold-weather runner’s runny nose? Essentially, there are two factors, the first of which is the function of one’s nose to pre-warm cold air before it hits the lungs. This causes the capillaries lining the nose to expand in an attempt to pump more warm blood into the nose to warm the air. As part of this expansion, the blood vessels “leak” some liquid. The second cause is that much warmer air is being returned from the lungs to the relatively cold air in the nose and mouth. Warm air, as we well know, contains more moisture than can cold air, so the water vapor condenses when the warm, moist air from the lungs becomes cooled in the nose and mouth. The resulting water droplets have to go somewhere. Guess where they go?

So those of us who work out in cold weather need to accept this as the way it is but find creative ways of dealing with it. Dr. Ozone has come up with some suggestions, which I outline here, along with advantages and disadvantages. However, Dr. Ozone can not accept responsibility for the consequences of trying any of these.

Suggestion 1 – Stay indoors and sleep or read a book. Advantage: your nose won’t run at all and if it does, just grab a box of tissues. Plus you catch up on sleep and/or your reading. Disadvantage: marathon day is going to be a bear!

Suggestion 2 – Carry a large box of tissues while you run. Advantage: whenever your nose runs, you just pull a tissue out of the box. Disadvantage: it is cumbersome to run with a box of tissues. You might get arrested for littering. If it rains, you will be lugging a heavy, sodden, and unusable box of tissues.

Suggestion 3 – Carry a large box of tissues and a trash can while you run. Advantage: whenever your nose runs, you just pull a tissue out of the box, use it, and discard it in the trash can. Disadvantage: it is even more cumbersome to run with a box of tissues and a trash can. You won’t get arrested for littering, but if it rains, you will be lugging a heavy, sodden, and unusable box of tissues and an even heavier water-filled trash can.

Suggestion 4 – Carry a handkerchief while you run. Advantage: whenever your nose runs, you just pull the handkerchief out of your pocket. Plus this is a “green” solution – no trash. Disadvantage: Unless it is a short run, the handkerchief can get kind of nasty. It might get so nasty that you just toss it, then maybe another runner comes by in the dark and slips on it, taking a bad fall and breaking a hip. CSI is called in, and match the DNA on the handkerchief to you. You are arrested for littering and the injured runner sues you for everything you have. Your spouse and kids leave you, you lose your house, and you can’t even afford a box of tissues for the next time that you run in cold weather.

Suggestion 5 – Run with a kind of push-cart, sort of like a baby carriage. It has a place for a box of tissues and a trash can, and has a large umbrella to keep everything dry if it rains. And it has a compartment for snacks. Advantage: whenever your noses runs, you just pull a tissue out of the box, use it, and toss it in the trash can. Disadvantage: It is cumbersome to run pushing a cart along in front of you. And in the dark, you could run the cart into a tree, slamming the handles violently into your midsection. This ruptures your spleen and pancreas, and what starts out as a fun run turns into a really crummy day.

Suggestion 6 – Use your sleeve, or the back of your glove, or carry a few tissues in your pocket. Advantage: Minimal stuff to carry, low tech and easy to use. Disadvantage: Your coat or gloves can get pretty nasty. If it rains, the tissues in your pocket will get wet. Don’t forget to do the laundry before you wear that jacket again!

The bottom line for dealing with this situation is that all runners and walkers find a way that works best for them. But now you know some of the science behind why your legs aren’t the only thing running when it is cold. Pass the tissues, please.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Miracle Drug

About 9 miles into my 13 miler yesterday, I started having some pain in my left forefoot, which continued for the last 4 miles. A short time after I got home, I realized that I needed to use the miracle drug – ice!

It is not pleasant to soak your foot or body in ice water, but sometimes it is necessary. I have had an issue with my left forefoot for years, and I think it is metatarsalgia, inflammation of the metatarsal area. When I trained for the Anchorage Marathon 4 years ago, it was apparent that this was going to be a problem. Every training walk of more than 5 or 6 miles became very painful. I discussed it with a podiatrist, who X-rayed my left foot. It turns out that there is a very narrow gap between my third and fourth metatarsals and, to make it more of an issue, a little “bump” of bone on one of the metatarsals. His theory was that the walking and running would cause pressure and swelling, and the already narrow gap would become even more narrow, putting pressure on the nerve in that part of the foot. The solution – shoes that are wide in the forefoot, orthotics in each shoe that give arch support to take some of the pressure off the forefoot, and icing when necessary.

With the shorter training distances for the half-marathon, 10-13 miles instead of 16-22 miles, it has not been a huge problem for me this season. But yesterday it was, so I applied the miracle drug and am taking it easier today. So far, so good!

Incidentally, I have the same issue when hiking. As my feet swell, the left foot can become very painful, especially if I hit a rock against my boot and foot compresses laterally. I am thinking that if the metatarsal gap were just a millimeter or two wider, or even if the little bump of bone were not there, then all would be well, because I never have the pain in my right foot.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Summer Team for a Day

On this first weekend of spring, four of us on the Spring Team joined our Summer Team colleagues for training. Our Shamrock Teammates for the past four months are doing their race this weekend at Virginia Beach, so the Summer Team welcomed us to their training session.
The weather was on the cool side, starting out about 32 degrees F and warming up to perhaps the mid-40's by the time I finished running. My route was 13 miles, and I walked the first 3 or so miles with the walk team, which is coached by Michal - my terrific teammate from my first year with TNT and my walk coach last year. Also walking today are Kathy, my former mentee who switched to the Summer Team when she got a stress fracture, Lynn, and Sarah. Sarah is a strong runner and was our team coach in Arizona last year, but is walking now because she is due to give birth to her first child in about two months.

We gave head coach Chuck B. a lot of crap about the route, which he took good-naturedly. The route was very complicated at the start (and end, since it was an out and back) and the roads in the park were not well marked, so everyone got confused and a bit lost - both heading out and coming back. But it was a fun route, and even though the weather was not real spring-like at the start, we saw plenty of spring colors.

After hanging with the walk team for a few miles, I switched to my run-eight-minutes, walk-five-minute routine and was by myself the rest of the way. Coach Sarah kindly checked on me several times by car, gave me some twizzlers (very tasty when you are running low on energy), and snapped a photo of me running along the VCU campus.

Here are some more photos from the route today.

The Kanawa Canal runs from Richmond to around Lynchburg. This section is between Maymont Park and the James River. It was hand dug - with some assistance from gunpowder - with a lot of slave labor. It was put out of business by the railroads.

Pretty Bradford pear trees in bloom in the VCU (Virginia Commonwealth University) area.

Spring flowers on the State Capital grounds

Virginia State Capital grounds

Running along VCU

Cool mural on side of VCU life science building

Maymont grounds - combination botanical gardens, zoo, landscaping, walking trails, and an historic mansion

One of the lakes in Byrd Park on the confusing way back

Beautiful cherries in bloom

Forsythia in bloom with its shocking yellow color

Michal and me

Go Shamrockers!

Tomorrow is the race date for the Shamrock half and full marathons, and I have a lot of teammates at the beach participating in the races: Lexi, Leslie, Nicki, Donna, Rose, Chad, Jamey, Kate, Nancy, Gina, Bethany, and Sarah, as well as Coaches Vicki, Chuck, Kristi, and Cathy!

I wish I could cheer them in person, and had planned to, but we have an extremely sick kitty and need to be around to try to comfort and take care of her. So I will have to cheer remotely.

In solidarity, I am wearing Nicki's "Decade of Strength" bracelet for training today and for the weekend. But for Nicki, it is now a Dozen Years of Strength since surviving lymphoma with a bone marrow transplant on February 27, 1997. Such a critically ill young woman on that date, and now preparing to run her fifth (I think) marathon. I am wearing the bracelet not only for Nicki, but to send vibes of strength to all my teammates down there at the beach - wonderful people!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mentoring e-Mail # 19

Hello, my green-clad mentees!

‘Tis I, your Artful Mentor, wishing you a happy Saint Patrick’s Day, and hoping that plenty of green is coming into your fundraising coffers.

To Lexi and Leslie, once again congratulations to you both on a job – fundraising and training – well done. I know that you will have a fantastic time at your race. And since you have already gone past you fundraising minimum, reaching Rock Star status in Lexi’s case, you can just enjoy the event, kick-back, and not worry about fund-raising anymore. And that means that I will take you off my mentoring email list after this week. So no more will you be troubled with weekly email reminders from your Artful Mentor. No more will you be vexed thinking “What in the world is he talking about?” So glad you are that you signed up for the Shamrock event and not the Country Music Marathon, to have to endure six more weeks of my emails.

Seriously, I am really proud of both of you. You have done all that was necessary to be successful, and then some. So go reap the rewards of all your hard work with a great race and a fun Team in Training weekend at the beach! Well done!

Now, to my Nashville Teammates. Today, I heard from one of you the four most beautiful words in the TNT mentor’s dictionary, words that we dream of hearing from each of our participants. No, not “How do I fundraise?”, not those words! The words “I reached my minimum!” Those words! Music to my ears! I crossed that mentee off my worry list, feeling a bit like a mother hen fussing and worrying over her chicks. And that got me thinking – what else do we TNTer’s have in common with Gallus gallus, the domestic chicken?

Well, the first obvious thing is that we are up before dawn, with the first sound of “cock-a-doodle-doo”, getting out there for training in all kinds of weather. The crowing of a rooster should be our official animal call. Then there is the soft clucking of a hen, like a mother hen calling her chicks. This is the sound of your mentor – “Bruck, bruck, bruck – have you raised any money this week?” “Bruck, bruck – what is your fund raising plan for next week?” Yes, I know we mentors can get repetitive, just like an old hen, but it is only because we want to see you succeed at fund-raising, to at least hit your minimum, and not have to pay out of pocket. Don’t worry, though, unlike a mother hen, I am not going to feed you bugs and worms. Promise.

How else are we like chickens? Well, we flock together during training. We strut our stuff during the race, showing off our colorful purple jerseys. We crow when we cross the finish line. We work tirelessly at our tasks. But in one important way, we are not like the domestic chicken: we don’t “chicken out” when faced with a difficult task. Like doing a marathon or half-marathon. Like raising thousands of dollars. Like helping in the war against cancer.

Where is this leading, you ask? Well for those of you not yet at your minimum, it leads back to completing the difficult task you started last fall – getting at least to your minimum dollar amount. We have only about 4 weeks until charge date and only about 8 more weeks until the final date for getting reimbursed back for any out-of-pocket funds you were charged to get you to your minimum on charge date. So if you are one of my mentees still trying to get there, let me know how you are doing. That time will go by so quickly, and you need a strategy, a plan for each of those weeks. So talk to me at training. If you are not going to be at training, shoot me an email or call me – let me know how you are doing. If I don’t hear from you then I don’t have a great sense of how you are doing or if your website reflects the total you have collected, or if you are sitting on checks. If you are holding checks, SEND THEM IN!!!! Keep fundraising, keep pressing ahead. I want to cross you off my “Mother Hen Worry List”. Soon! Real soon!

Remember, Nashvillers – cheer for your Shamrock teammates Sunday, and also, stay turned for information from the summer team coaches about training this weekend. Shamrockers – go have a blast, and bring back pictures and great memories.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

My Second Press Conference

My Fellow Americans, and Citizens of the World,

The following is a transcript of the second press conference for my 2009 Cancer Kickin’ Campaign. I was hoping that, with McCain and Obama out of the way, this press conference would dominate the news circuits and “talking heads” last week but I think that only RONN (Really Obscure News Network) covered it.

Transcript follows… thanks for everything. Art

"Good evening,

Before we get started with the questions and answers, I will make a brief statement about my campaign’s progress. I’ve been training for the Country Music Half-Marathon and fund-raising since September. With both the race and the fundraising campaign coming to a close in less than six weeks, I am making my final pushes in both areas. So far, I have raised $6,364, which is about 43% of my goal of just over $14,600. So while I have a ways to go, people have been very generous once again. My web-site, where you can check on progress and make a donation, can be reached at:


Once again, my Team in Training (TNT) experience has been amazing, with colossal coaches, terrific teammates, marvelous mentors, superb staff (at LLS), and charitable contributors. So if you want to help me with my final push in my 2009 campaign, just go out to my web-site or contact me directly to donate by check. To all who have donated already, thank you so much! Now, let’s go to your questions. Yes, second row, left side…”

“Art, all along you have said that you will go the distance for us in 2009, yet you have switched to the half marathon. What’s up with that?”

“I am going the distance for you, and that distance is 13.1 miles. And I am trying my best to go the fund-raising distance to help the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to make progress with their mission – a cure for blood cancers. That distance is by far more important than how far the race is. Yes, front row, pink dress…”

“Art, first you were walking, then you’re running, now you are doing both – sometimes one more than the other. Have you considered doing a fund-raiser at a waffle house?”

“Look, I was against running before I was for it – my record on this matter has been unequivocally ambiguous. And I know it may seem that by running some of the race and walking part of it, I am waffling. But I’m not. This is a well-established long distance race technique called the ‘Galloway Method’. Next question, third row, left-side, with the Louisville Cardinals baseball cap. By the way, the Cardinals are looking strong …”

“Art, when you kicked off your Cancer Kickin’ Campaign back in September, the economy was looking pretty bad. Now it is, in a word, dreadful. The news just gets worse and worse. How in the world can you raise $8,300 additional dollars in less than six weeks?”

“My friend, the economy is fundamentally sound, my friend. What? Can you please excuse me for a second?” Muffled whispering. “Oh, sorry, I just talked with my mentor, and she said that the economy is not fundamentally sound anymore. So that is actually a pretty good question, my friend. Look, I would never want anyone to donate to my campaign who is out of a job, or who is at financial risk. Anyone in that predicament should treat any material that they get from me as informational only, OK? But 90%+ of Americans still have jobs. And if you are one of those 90%, and you would like to donate to my campaign, your help, and your generosity, is welcome. Do you have a follow-up question?”

“Yes, thank you. But even given all of that, doesn’t your fund-raising goal of $14,645 seem outrageously high?”

“No! It is hard, but it is doable hard. I have met people at the events who have raised $20,000, $30,000, even over $50,000. So I am not giving up on attaining my goal. I deliberately set my goal high each time so I will keep working at it, keep plugging away. The horrible economy hasn’t helped but I am not giving up. Hey, President Obama raised $150 million in a single month! I am trying to raise just $1 for every $100,000 that he raised that month, spread out over 6 months. Oh, if I could only have access to his fundraising team for a few days! Yes, the lady in the red dress, right side…”

“Art, you’ve said before that cancer is not recessionary. Can you clarify this?”

“Certainly. Every time I answer two of your questions, someone in the USA is diagnosed with a blood cancer. That is one diagnosis every five minutes, and a death every ten minutes. That happens whether we are in boom economic times or in a slump. Cancer never gets laid off. It never gets furloughed. It never even takes a coffee break. So recession or not, cancer is going to happen. We need to remember that and try to raise money to combat it, even in these very difficult economic times. But if we keep making progress then some day, in our lifetime, cancer indeed will be out of a job. Yes, the guy in the maroon shirt and teal pants…”

“Art, if someone gets blood cancer every time you answer two questions, would it stop happening if you just didn’t answer any more questions?”

“No, that would not help. Next question, man in the seersucker suit…”

“We heard rumors about a new stimulus plan that you have developed. Can you fill us in on that?”

“Yes, the plan is quite simple. Make a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through my Cancer Kickin’ Campaign. In turn, this donation will stimulate the fight against blood cancers, help patients with cancer by delivering many different services, and provide advocacy for people affected by cancer. One donation – three different stimulus results. That is why I am calling it the ‘Triple Play Stimulus Plan.’ One thing it won’t do though – it won’t be used to give a $165,000,000 dollar bonus to anyone. This is LLS, not AIG! You can go to this spot on my blog to get an idea what your donation will accomplish:

http://racn4acure.blogspot.com/2009/03/what-your-donation-will-accomplish.html. OK, the lady in the green pants suit…”

“Art, at your first press conference, you had not yet named your running mate. Do you now have a running mate?”

“I have the best running mates I could ask for. Competing in the Country Music Marathon and Half-Marathon with me next month will be Kristi, Dave, Nicole, Paul, Tammy, Fred, and Maritza. One of them is a lymphoma survivor, and two of them lost a child to leukemia. We have spent hours training together over the past 4 months in all kinds of weather – mostly cold. We are all looking forward to more spring-like conditions in the days ahead. And we are looking forward to going the distance together in Nashville on April 25th. OK, last question – very back row…”

“Art , how has the training gone this time around?”

“It’s gone pretty well. I am a year older than the last time, which never helps. And running a lot of it has been challenging at times. I am running about 65% of the miles right now and hope to be at 75-80% by the time of the race. The cold weather and especially the early mornings – as early as 4:30 this year – can be tough. I often marvel that on Saturdays, we are completing 10 miles by the time many folks are just getting out of bed or having that second cup of coffee. But I have been injury-free to date – knock on wood – and certainly switching to the half marathon has helped with that. So I feel blessed and grateful to be strong and healthy enough to do this. The toughest training day I ever have is less difficult by far than the easiest day a cancer patient gets.”

“I have all of my training updates out on my blog:”


“OK, guys, thanks – I need to wrap this up. Remember to vote for Art Ritter in 2009 with a donation to LLS – I’ll go the distance for you!"

What Your Donation Will Accomplish

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, with a mission to help to cure blood cancers, uses funds in three major service areas: donations to research to find cures and better therapies, patient services, and advocacy for cancer patients and their families. If you are considering a donation, you might want to know what your generosity will accomplish:
  • A donation of $25 provides patients and their loved ones with FREE booklets that contain up-to-date information on their disease and help them make informed decisions about their treatment options.
  • A donation of $50 makes possible a Family Support group with a trained facilitator where comfort can be found and experiences can be shared among patients and family members.
  • A donation of $100 helps supply laboratory researchers with supplies and materials critical to carrying out their search for cures.
  • A donation of $150 provides 10 patients with access to a web-conference specific to their disease to learn more about the disease and developing treatments.
  • A donation of $300 will train 25 peer volunteers who can provide emotional support to newly diagnosed patients.
  • A donation of $400 provides 40 teachers with an educational Pediatric Manual to assist with a child’s return to school after cancer treatment.
  • A donation of $500 could provide patient aid to a person with a blood cancer for an ENTIRE YEAR.
  • A donation of $1,000 makes possible one- on-one conversations with health care specialists who provide patients with information about their disease, treatment options, and helps prepare them with questions for their health care team.

Two Mission Moments

Yesterday at training we had two mission moments. The first came from our Shamrock teammate Nancy. She is a Hodgkin lymphoma survivor training for her first half-marathon, and she is also a teacher. She talked about a 9th grade student with leukemia and how ill the girl has been, how many month she has spent in the hospital. It is awful hearing about kids who are sick - this girl should be playing sports, hanging out with friends, participating in school activities, and so forth. She is now back at school and doing much better, which was good to hear. It was one more reminder of why we have all sacrificed so much to do Team in Training, but how anything we have gone through are minor compared to the experiences of people with cancer.

Our second mission moment came at the Shamrock Send-off breakfast at Vicki's home. Walk Coach (and Nashville teammate) Kristi also is a Hodgkin lymphoma survivor, and she was pregnant with her youngest son at the time. She got radiation and chemotherapy, both pretty tough things to go through. This was about 14 years ago. A few months back she noticed a lump on her neck. To cut a long story short, she had surgery a few weeks ago and it was thyroid cancer - almost certainly caused by her radiation. Kristi is going to need no further treatment except for a single radioactive injection. Of course she will need to be on medications to replace the thyroid function for the rest of her life. But the point is that we need to develop treatments that don't cause serious medical conditions later in life. Anyone who has received radiation and chemo is at a higher risk of contracting leukemia and other cancers.

Thanks Kristi and Nancy for two more reminders about the importance of developing more effective and humane treatments for cancer.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Paint My Future - A Child's Images

Training today was fun but cold and damp, with a light rain at the end - so I don't have photos of our 8 miler. Even though the weather was not spring-like, much of the scenery was - lots of pears and cherries in bloom, plus daffodils and forsythia. It was the last training for our Shamrock teammates. They will be at the beach next week doing half and full marathons, so while we cheer for them, we will miss them! We had a great send-off breakfast at Coach Vicki's home today for our teammates, and it was a lot of fun, plus the pancakes and the egg dishes really hit the spot.

I am sure I am missing someone, but Run like the Wind next weekend Lexi, Leslie, Nicki, Donna, Rose, Chad, Jamey, Kate, Nancy, Bethany, and Sarah, as well as Coaches Vicki, Chuck, Kristi, and Cathy! It has been great training with you guys. You are great!

LLS has a program called "Paint my Future" where young children with blood cancer create artwork that depicts their hope for the future. I was really touched by this drawing by J. P. Law, age 6, who has Non-Hodgkin T-Cell Lymphoma. I hope he realizes his future dreams.

From left to right, the drawings depict:

(1) J.P. in the hospital at age 5 (2) A bald J.P. getting chemo (3) J.P. at age 15 playing professional baseball, and (4) J.P. as an oncologist helping a little girl with cancer.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Miles are Piling Up

I’ve been keeping track of my steps and miles since Friday, January 9, or for about two months now. I use a week starting with Friday and ending with Thursday.

I’ve not reported on this for some time now, but thought I would jot out a quick post about my mileage for the last month. Since I have decided to train for the half marathon, not the full, the training miles won’t be totally outrageous. Here are my miles for the four weeks between Friday February 6 and Thursday March 5:

Week ending Training Miles Total Miles
2/12 -------------- 28.3 ------------ 50.8
2/19 -------------- 32.3 ------------ 58.6
2/26 -------------- 26.9 ------------ 53.0
3/5 --------------- 23.7 ------------ 49.5

For that four week period, I trained 111 miles and traveled on foot approximately 212 miles. The later includes my training miles and all my miscellaneous walking during the week – up 7 flights of stairs at work multiple times a day, walking to points in the office, taking a quick walk at lunch, and so forth.

The rate that my training miles are accumulating tells me that I may need a new pair of shoes by the time of the half-marathon, something I would dearly love to avoid if at all possible. I bought my shoes on February 1, and the majority of those 111 training miles are on these shoes. At this rate, I will have nearly 300 miles on the shoes by the date of my race.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mentoring e-Mail # 18

Hello my Hard Working Mentees,

It is I, your Artful Mentor, with my weekly Tuesday message. Shamrockers – you can relax and ignore my note, other than the part that says “YOU ROCK!”

I am going to dispense with any clever comments tonight, because I don’t want the message diluted this week. The message is “What do I need to do to hit my minimum?”

For you Nashvillers, we are coming down on crunch time. No – wait! I just checked my clock and we are already in crunch time with the time change this weekend. That’s right, we have just about five or six weeks until Funds Due Date – April 10, so we want to all work together to make progress. The goal, as I said last week, is to raise your minimum by April 10. If that is not possible, then plan B is to hit that minimum by May 11, which is reimbursement date. So, write down those dates - April 10 and May 11. There are 5 weeks until April 10, and almost 10 weeks until May 11. Figure out how much more you have to raise to hit your minimum, and divide it by 5. That is the amount you must raise each week to hit that goal by the Funds Due Date. Then divide the amount by 10 – that is the amount you need to average each week to hit your minimum by the Reimbursement Date – Plan B.

Like I said last week, there is no plan C. So let’s come up with a way to make plan A or B work. What do you have planned? I have heard from one of you about your concrete plans to reach that minimum. If you are not that person, then please get me your plans. I will be glad to meet with you one on one if we need to go over anything. I know that between me, Jen, Nicki, and other participants that a lot of ideas have come your way. Not all of them will work for any one person, so figure out which ones you are comfortable with, then put them into action, and discard the others. Leave no stone unturned.

That is it for this week. Let’s go be successful with the end game of fund-raising!


Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Spring Team Springs Forward!

Since we formed the beginning of November, our Spring Team has been training in decidedly unspring-like weather for the most part. That changed today, dramatically! Spring has sprung!

A few days ago, this was the scene. Now it is this, our 11 inches of snow melting away starting Wednesday afternoon after a low of 10 degrees F. that morning.

Snow has been replaced with early spring flowers, such as these daffodils seen during training today.

Paul gave a great mission moment today. He talked about how he has now run over 2,000 miles since joining TNT about 18 months ago. Then he talked about an incredibly inspirational young man, Terry Fox, who lost a leg to bone cancer but started running across Canada with one leg to raise money for cancer research and to raise people's awareness about cancer. He started in Newfoundland and started running towards the Pacific Ocean, calling this "The Marathon of Hope". He ran for 5,373 km (3,339 miles) in 143 days, averaging 23.3 miles each day on one leg and his prosthesis. Unfortunately, at Thunder Bay, Ontario, he had to give up his quest, as the cancer had metastasized into his lungs. He died a year later, exactly one month short of his 23rd birthday. Canadians kept giving to his cause, and his dream of raising one dollar for every Canadian citizen was reached after his death.
Our route today combined the scenic and the kind of ugly, but it was mostly scenic. We crossed three of Richmond's four interstates, and went through some industrial areas, but most of the 12 miles went by parks and pretty neighborhoods. It felt great to be out in shorts and my purple race shirt from last year's Arizona Marathon. At the end, we got to meet some of the Summer Team and had a nice breakfast get-together at Kitchen 64, which has tasty meals. Here are some photos from training today. (PS: thanks to my mentor Theresa for the nice note and the fund-raising prize! She is the best mentor!)

Our route led up Boulevard past The Diamond, former home of the Richmond Braves, who have moved to Georgia.
Confederate General Ambrose Powell Hill, eternally watchful, guards the intersection of Hermitage and Laburnum. I think the general's remains actually rest underneath the statues base, but would not bet a million bucks on it. (Actually, I would - I just Googled him and that indeed is his burial site).

Nicki and Donna running up Hermitage
Future TNTers? These kids were preparing for a race on this gorgeous spring day.
Waterfall in Bryan Park. The park's famous azaleas are still about a month or so away from blooming.
Pond in Bryan Park.
After miles of running and walking through neighborhoods and along busy Dumbarton and Staples Mill Roads, our route entered the beautiful Windsor Farms neighborhood, starting by going down Locke Lane.
Homes in Windsor Farms
Beautiful Agecroft Hall, now open to the public. This Tudor mansion was taken down one brick and one timber at a time, transported across the Atlantic from England, and reassembled here in the Windsor Farms neighborhood.
Here I am, back at the park, displaying my new recommitment hat (along with the one I currently wear). On my purple race shirt are the names of dozens of people who had to battle cancer. I felt pretty tired today, but it is nothing compared to the exhaustion that cancer patients face daily, 24/7. Also, despite being tired, my knees didn't bother me too much, unlike the last couple of days after running like a hamster on a treadmill.
Chuck, Nicki, and Donna finish their 12 mile run. Chuck, as a coach, probably ran closer to 14 or 15 trying make sure he got to train with different people.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Snow Way!

So why am I back on the treadmill, feeling a bit like a hamster? Here’s why:

This was our first major (more than a couple of inches) snowfall in six years. Combined with highs at or below freezing and lows at about 10 degrees, and icy streets for a few days, running outside in the dark didn’t seem like such a great idea. Now, our teammates north of the Arctic Circle – you know, New England, upstate New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, and so forth – have to deal with this type of weather and worse all the time. But we don’t here in the Old Dominion, so we are kind of clueless when it happens. It did get me out of work Monday. Northerners would have laughed at this. They would have rolled naked in the snow, towelled themselves off, then gotten dressed in shorts and a tee shirt, and gone to work.

Ironically, the day the storm started – Sunday – I saw my first spring flowers: bunches of daffodils! They were no doubt buried alive since that time.

Monday was my cross training day, and cross training consisted of cleaning 11 inches of snow out of my driveway and helping some neighbors with their shoveling. Yesterday and today were 5 mile and 6.2 mile indoor workouts on the treadmill. As I’ve written before, the good thing about the treadmill is that I can keep a nice even pace, 5.8 miles per hour running and 4.5 miles per hour walking. I tried run intervals of 8 minutes and walk intervals of 5 minutes, which averages out to just over 11 minutes per mile. This is about a minute a mile faster than what I was averaging a few months ago, so I am slowly making progress as the half marathon approaches in less than eight weeks.

After tonight’s training, I have having some knee pain, which is a rarity for me. So I think I will do cross training in the pool tomorrow, rest those joints, and try to be well for my 12 miles with the team on Saturday. By Saturday, the highs should be in the 70’s, believe it or not, and we will be running in shorts, deep snows a nearly distant memory. I may even see some more daffodils along the route!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Award from Sandi

Fellow Hodgkin lymphoma survivor and blogger Sandi at Pregnant with Cancer gave me the "Perpetual Smiling Blogger Award". I have posted it on the right side of my blog.

Thanks Sandi!

Mentoring e-Mail # 17

Good Morning, My Mentees,

It is I, your Artful Mentor, with a surprise Tuesday morning note! My work is delayed two hours this morning, and I decided to get the note out now so I can concentrate on my fundraising stuff tonight. Isn’t the snow beautiful? The paper said that we got 11 inches here, which seemed about right when I shoveled out the driveway yesterday. I treated that as my cross-training workout for the day. Now getting in running and walking this week is going to be tricky, but I think I am going to have to see if I can use a treadmill. There is just too much ice around here. But the forecast calls for 60’s by the end of the week, so running surfaces should be ice free by then.

For those of you doing Shamrock, your season is winding down as your event approaches and as you learn one of the most beautiful words in the runners’ dictionary – taper! Both of you are past your fund-raising minimum, but if you want to keep raising money, I encourage you to do so. Every dollar counts in the race for a cure!

For us Nashville folk, taper is still a long time away. Everyone of you recommitted, and I am very proud of you! Plus, I am really looking forward to racing with you all. I have switched to the half- marathon and will hope to get to the finish area for the full to see you full marathoners come in. Of course that presumes that you speedy marathoners are not finished before I am. J

Now, the key thing is to come up with a plan by hitting your minimum dollar goal by the race date. If that is not possible, you still have some time after the race – up until charge date – to raise the minimum funds. That should be your fallback plan. So:

Plan A – raise at least $3,600 by April 25.

Plan B – raise at least $3,600 by charge date (I don’t have the exact date in front of me but have it somewhere and will find it)

Plan C – well, there is no plan C, so let’s focus on A or B.

Plan D – yep, you guessed it, no plan D either, ditto E through Z. A or B is all you get!

If you are short of the minimum, then you should consider fundraising to be a very well paying second job. Why – because every dollar you raise is a dollar you don’t have to pay later. So, if you are $2,000 short, and you spend 50 hours fundraising over the next couple of months, that second job is worth $40 an hour to you. Therefore I have a little homework exercise for the three Nashville racers: If you would be so kind, please get me a sketch of the things you plan on doing to raise the remaining money. It can be as detailed as you like, with specific plans and dates. Just email me your plans for closing that gap. I will look them over and try to make suggestions. The goal of every coach, mentor, and LLS staff person is that you (1) have a great time at the race (2) raise the minimum amount so it doesn’t cost you a dime and (3) enjoy TNT so much that you will want to do it again at some point. So let’s put our heads together for a way to raise that money. Get me your plans.

Enjoy the day, and be on the look out for Abominable Snowmen!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Seven Great Wildlife Experiences

This is the third in my series on “seven things” I have experienced since surviving cancer nearly seven years ago. The previous two were about seven amazing experiences and seven great Team in Training memories.

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with all kinds of animals. When I was very small, about 4, we went to a little zoo in Hershey, PA, and my family went on ahead. I was intrigued by a bobcat and crossed under the fence so I could approach his cage to get a better look. You can picture my mom and dad kind of freaking out when they turned around and saw me walking towards this big cat that was staring balefully at me.

My interest in animals and wildlife has continued all my life. So I decided that one of my great “seven things” posts had to be about wildlife experiences. Like my previous two topics, I had a difficult time picking just seven. Should I include the big male grizzly we saw by the road in Yellowstone? What about the timber rattler I nearly stepped on because I was paying more attention to my brand new GPS than the trail or the big cottonmouth I saw last fall in the marsh? The black bear and two cubs that I hiked within 100 feet of in the Grand Tetons while they gorged themselves with berries? Or the bull elk that I watched polish his antlers for 20 minutes on a small tree? None of these, as memorable as they are, made the cut. In no particular order, my seven most memorable animal experiences since getting lymphoma are:

Swimming with manatees. This was so cool that it is maybe the best of the seven! We went to the Crystal River, Florida area expressly to swim with wild manatees. Being wild, there is no guarantee you will see one, but we got to see about six of them. Swimming right next to a 1,500 – 2,000 totally wild animal in its environment was just incredible. You are not allowed to approach them, but they will swim right up to you to be stroked and scratched. It was amazing interacting with these gentle giants in this way, but sad to see all of the propeller scars.
Seeing an Alaskan brown bear catch a salmon. Everyone but the salmon enjoyed this encounter, in Lake Clark National Park in Alaska. I was up that way in June, 2005 to participate in the Midnight Sun Marathon for TNT, and took an incredible day trip that involved flying above total wilderness to a remote park. There was a small camping lodge there, and they took us to a salmon river, where a young brown bear caught a large salmon. We saw no more of these bears, but saw a black bear and two cubs, a river otter, and about six bald eagles.

Mountain goats in Glacier National Park. Seeing these white goats in the distance on the sides of mountains was thrilling enough, but imagine the thrill of seeing one appear on a little rise while we were hiking , and then walk right past us – 40 feet away? Just around the bend was a mother and kid. Yellowstone bighorn sheep. We stopped at an overlook in Yellowstone with a scenic view of the river. Just before we got back to the car, we noticed a small band of bighorn sheep on top of a steep hill across the road, so we watched them for a while. Eventually the band came down the hill and walked and grazed right by us, some of them walking to within 10 feet. I did not try to approach them, but they are just used to people. This is a closeness to totally wild animals that is so rare to experience. Gray wolf pack. On our last day in Yellowstone, we were driving to the Lamar Valley and lamenting that we had not seen any wolves. Suddenly, we came on a cluster of cars with about a dozen people standing around looking through spotting scopes. We stopped and started chatting with these folks, who had come on a seven member wolf pack. Barely detectable with binoculars, we could see them very well through the 30 power scopes that the people kindly let us use for a few minutes. It was an incredible end to a great three-park trip! (They were way too far way for photos).

Florida panther track. No, I didn’t see a panther, one of the rarest of North American mammals. There are only about 50-75 of these big cats left, as habitat destruction and highways have been lethal to them. But I saw the next best thing – a very clear footprint next to a boardwalk style hiking trail in Everglades National Park. It was like seeing the footprint of a ghost, and it was great to think that this rare creature has been at this very spot just a day or so ago.
For a while, I thought this was the closest I would get to a Florida panther.
Then, we saw this track by a path.

Pronghorn in Yellowstone. I remember writing a paper in 6th grade on pronghorn, the fastest North American mammal, and being an easterner, was fascinated by this animal of the western plains. We saw a few in the National Bison Range in Montana, but that is a huge fenced in rangeland and they were eartagged, and so that was not nearly as exciting as seeing them a week or so later on open range. On the way out of Yellowstone, just a few hours after seeing the wolves, I stopped to get some photos of the Lamar Valley. I walked towards a little rise, planning on catching the view from a little elevation when two beautiful pronghorn appeared on the rise just 30 feet away. They trotted past me as I stood there, gaping in amazement, then took off in a display of their speed, running about a quarter of a mile away where a herd of bison was gathered. I am not sure what my next “seven things” topic will be, but I am leaning towards seven great hikes.