Saturday, May 30, 2009
Mentors are kind of like fund-raising coaches, plus a little more. Each week, they contact every participant by phone and/or email. They are available to meet with their mentees to review fundraising. They brainstorm with participants. It is not an easy volunteer job. Many participants are intimidated by fundraising and keep delaying things until it is really late, and because they are not keeping up with fundraising, they kind of avoid contact with their mentors. Mentors feel a bit like a mother hen, keeping track of their chicks and wanting them to succeed. Mentors also do water stops each week and often bring a post-training snack.
Nicki was our mentor captain, and is great! She is also a patient honoree and a fundraising participant in the Shamrock Marathon - her fourth marathon as a lymphoma survivor. Mentor Captains coordinate all of the other mentors, including the cycle and triathlon mentors. It is a lot of work, but Nicki was up to it. She did an amazing job putting together our extremely successful silent auction. Nicki also came out and supported the Nashville team after her event was done, running with us and setting up roving SAG wagons. Nicki is amazing!
Theresa was my mentor for the second season in a row. She is a fun and creative mentor, always with good fundraising ideas. Plus she gives us gummy worms - mmmm! She was busy for a lot of training weekends so I was disappointed not to see her smiling face more because I really enjoy training with her and catching up on our lives. To show you how TNT works, in 2006 I mentored a wonderful lady named Mary Nell. Mary Nell came back the next year as a mentor, and she mentored a new participant, Theresa. A year or so later, and again this year, Theresa came back to be my mentor. Talk about coming full circle! Theresa, you're the best!
Paul is one of the most dedicated TNT participants I have met. He first came out for TNT, and did his first marathon, in the winter of 2007-08 when I raced Arizona - the first part of this blog. Since then, he has come out every single season as a mentor and/or participant. He trains hard with other particpants and supports them during training. He often brought great post training snacks, including delicious muffins. He did not fundraise this season - you can't do that every time - but he made the trip to Nashville at his own expense to be part of the team. Great guy!
I didn't get to know Jamey too well. Why, you ask? Well, because he can run a mile before I tie my shoes. The last I normally saw of Jamey was his butt and the backs of his heels as he disappeared from Byrd Park! But was always glad to see his smiling face at training and think that he must have been a great mentor.
To all of you, thanks for a great season and for all of the support.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Dear Fletcher Flyer and Lake Tahoe Teams,
I haven’t had a chance to meet your teams this season, but wanted to let you know how much I, and cancer survivors everywhere, appreciate all of the hard word that you are doing to prepare for the race and do your fund-raising. You are saving lives.
I can’t really imagine cycling for 100 miles. The longest distance I have ever ridden a bike, which was a battered one speed with coaster brakes, was about 15 miles down at the beach. Man, did my butt hurt at the end of that! So I am in awe of what you are preparing to do on June 7.
Some of my memories from dealing with Hodgkin lymphoma 7 years ago are getting a bit fuzzy, but my memories of my first week on chemotherapy are still pretty clear. Seven years before the date of your race, I was preparing to go get chemo for the 5th consecutive day. I remember feeling so ill and exhausted that day, and I had to drive about 25 minutes to the oncology center, get chemo, and drive home. My wife had taken me the first couple of times but could not miss work every day. I remember getting in the car and thinking “I can’t do this. I just cannot make it there again today.” But I knew that I had to, and so I forced myself to get there. I drove home afterwards, feeling pretty awful. But later in the afternoon, it hit me – I had survived my first week of chemo and now had 9 consecutive days where I didn’t have to get chemo. I felt sick and elated at the same time. I could do this! I knew that there would be some rough times ahead, and there were, but I was going to get through it.
I am guessing that you perhaps will have some similar emotions during that race. Maybe when you hit that first long hill and get partway up, you will think “I can’t do this.” But in the same way that I got over the crest of that first “chemotherapy hill”, you will do it. And even though there will be other hills ahead of you, you will know that you will climb them all, one at a time, and prevail.
Wherever I am and whatever I am doing on June 7, I will pause and think of you and your ride, and be thankful that there are people like you out there who are working on this very difficult problem that we call cancer. I guarantee you that people in the future will have thoughts of gratitude about all of you, because the money that you raised will become part of future cures and saving future lives – their lives.
Thanks for all you do, and have a great ride in the North Carolina mountains and around the big lake!
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Coaches do so much in addition to having overall responsibility for each participant’s welfare each Saturday. Between our two events and the half and full marathon teams, we have people doing four different distances on any given weekend. The coaches plan the routes each week to accommodate this, keeping safety in mind. They run with different participants at different speeds, make sure that water stops are covered, make sure that the routes are clearly understood, deal with injuries, and make sure that everyone is back at the park. They often give us great mission moments as well.
Vicki was the head run coach this season. This is the fourth time that she has been head coach for teams I have been on, including 2007 when I was a non-fundraising mentor. She is fantastic, working with each person to understand their goals and come up with a plan for achieving them. I always know that it will be a special season when Vicki is coach. In 2006, when I was the only one on the team walking the full marathon, it was often Vicki who waited back at the park to make sure I got back in OK.
Chuck was the assistant run coach, and was the Virginia Team Coach in Nashville. He is incredibly enthusiastic about TNT, our mission, and each participant. He would put in extra miles most weeks, switching from teammate to teammate so that everyone would be running with a coach at some point. Plus, he led us in dynamic stretching – every Richmond participant should always remember “scraping the goose poo off our shoe” – and always had an original cheer for the team each week.
My intent at the start of the season was to combine running and walking, but if we had a large walk team, I could have been persuaded to walk instead. However, we only had one walker who was not a coach, so I went with my original plan. Even with just one walk team member, coaches Kristi and Cathy came out every week. Kristi is also a patient honoree and fund-raising participant who walked the half-marathon in Nashville in about 2:54 (not 3:54 as I originally typed following a bout with dyslexia), walking every step. Cathy walked the half marathon in Virginia Beach (Shamrock). And after her event was done in March, she still came out every week to walk with Kristi and support the rest of the team
Our coaches were amazing and did so much for us – both the big and little things. We were lucky to have them.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The Spring Team was Jen’s first team. She joined LLS after doing the Nations Triathlon for TNT. She worked so hard all year to recruit the team and keep it going. She was willing to meet one on one with every participant to go over fund raising if they wanted to. She ran fund raising clinics, and often was out early on Saturdays to run with us. Amber also was a frequent visitor to our training sessions.
I was saddened to learn that Jen accepted another job a month ago as the Fall Team was forming up. I know she will do well and excel at it. I am really glad that I was part of her very first team that she was responsible for. No one working for the Team in Training program is going to get rich. They work their butts off and I would guess it is not for a ton of money, but believe in the mission and work very hard to attain it.
Amber was our LLS staff for the Nashville trip and took care of so many details. She was also out there on the race course all day cheering for participants. There is no way we could be successful at what we do without people like Amber and Jen. No way! Of course, they are doing their jobs but go above and beyond every week. They give so much of themselves to our teams and I think that every participant appreciate this. I know that I do, big time!
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Now I need to take a break from fundraising so that people don’t start shooting me. The trick will be to stay in shape and get in even better shape while not doing TNT. I’ve neglected upper body workouts in preference to legs. I’ve knocked off about 10 pounds since the first of the year and am within about 5 pounds of my ideal weight according to the body mass index charts. I want to hike a lot more now that this season is over.
But eventually, I will get up the courage to try fundraising again. Here are some things I am pondering for my next event in 2010. I will leave a poll open for a about a month to see what readers think. I seem to get anywhere from 1 reader to 25 or so a day, averaging about 10 or 12 a day lately.
Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco – 800 men running with 20,000 women? If I were single that would be a no-brainer! But in any event, I love San Francisco and I have a sister, two nieces, and a nephew living in the Bay Area
Mayor’s Marathon in Anchorage – I’d love to do this marathon again, this time maybe not in driving rain. And I’d also like to see more than one day of Alaska.
Skip this running stuff, do a triathlon – I would like to attempt a triathlon at some point with the Purple People. The Olympic distance tri’s in Philly and Washington DC come to mind. I would need to learn to swim much better and buy a bike, but it would be a cool experience.
How about a 100 miles on a bike – TNT does century rides. I’ve never been more than about a dozen miles on a bike, and that was one of the old one speed coaster brake bikes at the beach. So a century would be a great accomplishment for me. As with the tri, it means plunking down $1,000 for a bike and gear, and learning a lot.
What about the Komen Three-Day – I could skip TNT for a year and do something for the breast cancer cause, walking 60 miles in three days. I am tempted by this because the cause is good and the challenge is good, but I hate to skip TNT.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
I’ve crossed the 40K mark in all three of my marathons, and it always feels pretty good. But in the last couple of weeks, I crossed an even more important 40K mark – I’ve now raised more than $40,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society during my four events – marathons in Anchorage, San Diego, and Phoenix, and the half marathon this spring in Nashville.
People often think that I must be a pretty good fund-raiser, but I don’t feel that way. Except for the first year that I did TNT, I haven’t reached my fund raising goal any year. I always feel like I could have done a little better. In any event, it is really the generosity of people that I solicit funds from that gets the job done, not whether I am a good fundraiser or not. I do try hard, and work to come up with innovative notes to remind people of the cause. I never know for sure what works or what doesn’t work. I’ve written what I feel are some pretty good notes that get very little response. Others get good response. But in case they are useful to someone else, every one of my notes to potential donors for the last two seasons in on my blog.
It is funny thinking back to that time in 2005 when I was debating whether I could raise the minimum to race in Alaska: $5,000. How in the world could I raise $5,000? I don’t know rich people, or famous people. My family is not wealthy. I don’t party with the jet set or work out with world-famous athletes. I don’t vacation with the wealthy. I have no political power to promise access to someone in exchange for a big donation. You can read about some of my struggles with pondering whether to do it here. But I decided I had to try Team in Training. If I didn’t at least try it, how would I ever know if I could do it? I remember thinking “If I don’t at least try, I could be leaving $5,000 on the table that could go to cancer research.” As it turns out, I would have left $40,000 on the table, and I never would have known it. One of the mentors at that first meeting told me “You Can and You Will!” And as it turned out, I could and I did: through persistence and hard work and the generosity of so many people.
Even though I am no fund raising star, I always go into every event now absolutely confident that I will pass the minimum required. I will accept nothing less than this from myself. I set my goals a lot higher than the minimum, as I will the next time I do this, even if I don’t reach them. I start fund raising early, design a campaign around a theme (like this years presidential campaign theme), and do something every few weeks. I try not to take it personally if I get no response from many people, not even a “good luck”, who I know can afford a donation. It comes down to the intrinsic generosity of so many people, being willing to reach out to them, and believing in the cause and in myself.
Passing 40K feels pretty good. That money by itself won’t cure cancers, but it is step in that direction. I hope someday I will pass 100K – now that would be worth blogging about!
Sunday, May 10, 2009
My 2009 Cancer Kickin’ Campaign culminated with me running, with a good bit of walking in the second part of it, the Country Music Half Marathon in Nashville on April 25th. If you want to read all about it and see photos, you can do so here:
Despite the heat that day, it was a lot of fun. We had such a great team in Nashville!
A few of you asked if people can still donate to my campaign, and for those folks, as well as those who previously told me “Great cause – remind me later”, you can still donate at my TNT web page for the next two weeks:
Or you can get me a check payable to Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, or simply LLS.
I hope that you have enjoyed my sometimes whacky update notes this campaign as I poked a little fun at our presidential campaigns while raising money for a good cause. Speaking of the latter, over 130 generous souls donated over $8,600 to my campaign this year. Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is my fourth campaign for Team in Training, beginning in 2005, and people have donated over $40,000 to these campaigns to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I am overwhelmed by the generosity of people.
So ends my 2009 campaign! Thanks again for all of the help. While I and I alone must run the race, the fundraising is impossible without all of you who generously donated. As my good health and good fortune continue, there will be a fifth Team in Training campaign for me at some point, but until that time, you can check your email without fear of another goofy update from me!
Thanks again for all of the help with my fourth Cancer Kickin’ Campaign!
PS: If any of you know anyone who fundraised for President Obama, please have them get in touch with me before my next campaign!
Art Ritter in ’09 – He Went the Distance for You
My purple shirt for Nashville - My shirt for the race is covered with the names of people who encountered cancer.
Celebrating seven years - Seven years to the day of first feeling the rib cage pain that led to a cancer diagnosis, I ran the Country Music Half Marathon
The little girl who touched my heart - A chance encounter in Nashville with a young girl reminded me of why this cause is so vital
Thanks, Coach Chuck! - My tribute to our coach for Team Virginia in Nashville
Team Virginia comes together - What a great team we had in Nashville
Pre-race report - Those last minute preparations for the race oh so early on April 25th
Race Report - On a very hot day, I ran my first half-marathon
Post race cheerleading! - In my fourth TNT event, I have never been with such a spirited team.
Seeing the sights in Nashville - Some of the sights of Music City from my visit
My race results - For the first time in 4 attempts, I wasn't in the bottom 10-15% for my age-sex cohort!
So most of my sightseeing involved being within a mile from our hotel. There was still plenty to see, and I have included some photos with commentary.
Right around the corner of our hotel was the Ryman Auditorium, original home of the Grand Ole Opry. They still do some shows in this beautiful venue.
The Tennessee Titans play football here, right downtown and across the Cumberland River. If the Eagles play here sometime, it would be really fun to come back, catch a game, and see more of the area. This is also where the marathon and half marathon finish. We also did a team three mile walk / run to here the morning before the race.
Nashville really is "Music City", and has a great looking Symphony Hall. In Richmond, our symphony has been relegated to playing churches for about 4 years now while the Carpenter Center is being renovated .
Nashville is the state capital and has a nice looking Capital Building.
Near the capital grounds is the Tennessee memorial to the Korean War and those native sons and daughters who served, died, and suffered there. I wonder how many Americans know much about this war, now nearly 60 years in the past.
Here I am hanging out with some of the legends of country music. On Sunday, just before the team left for the airport, my roommate Dave and I hung out at the joint in the photo for a while and listened to some great music being performed by a young couple. Several of usalso went to Tootsie's Orchid Lounge the night we got here, which was fun and just packed to the gills on a Thursday night. Nashville definitely has a livlier downtown than Richmond does.
Speaking of country music, this place is the Country Music Hall of Fame, and is a must see. I wish I had been able to spend more time in here that the hour and a half I had before our Inspriation Dinner Thursday. I was amazed how good this was. Seen from above, building would look like a treble clef, and the left hand side (the bottom of the treble clef) has what looks like the old time radio tower.
Priscilla Pressley gave Elvis this golden piano for their first wedding anniversary. I also saw Carl Perkins’ blue suede shoes and wish I had attempted a photo. Some of the guitars just had the most incredible workmanship.
Our hotel had a sculpture like this on each floor. Each one is different, but they all have a musical theme and were all made entirely of chocolate by the hotel's restaurant staff. I love chocloate but eating this would be like smashing up a painting to burn for heat.
I really enjoyed my short time in Nashville, and hope to get back there again. My race roommate, Dave, told me the other night that he is running in the Country Music Marathon again next year!
Thursday, May 7, 2009
At work later, a co-worker said, “Man, you really cut yourself shaving today!” “Nope, those are just the start of some gills from all this rain,” I replied. He got a horrified look, said something about needing coffee, and disappeared. “Should have worn a turtleneck,” I thought. But you know, if I go for a triathlon next year, gills could really help. I can swim like a frog underwater, but pretty poorly on top of it. Maybe the rain will continue and these gills will keep growing and I can just swim 1,500 meters underwater. But by noon, the sun was out amid huge and ominous clouds, and I got in a quick two mile walk downtown. The James River was just roaring along, the color of weak coffee churning its way to the Chesapeake Bay a hundred miles away. And I noticed that the gills seem to be receding.
It’s just as well that the rain seems about over. My neighbors down the street, the Noah’s, started building a huge boat a few weeks ago. It is amazing to see it take shape. It is gigantic and like no boat I’ve ever seen. But somewhere, I feel like I saw a drawing of something similar. I can’t place it, though. A couple of days ago, the rain had slackened and I went for a run. As I ran by, I saw Mr. Noah working on the boat and complimented him on it. He smiled proudly. “I think it will be finished on time,” he said. “In time for what?” I asked. He got pretty evasive, said “Oh, you’ll see. You will see!”, grinned rather mysteriously, and disappeared into a big section of the boat divided into some kind of stalls.
Then this morning, as I drove by the Noah’s on the way to work, I saw the heads of two giraffes sticking up behind his house. Two chimpanzees were high in a poplar tree by the side of his house. A couple of Malaysian tapirs were lounging in a large, deep puddle in his front yard. A pair of Sumatran tigers rested nearby, the tapirs watching them nervously. The rain drummed steadily down. “Odd,” I thought. “I don’t remember seeing these kinds of animals in the neighborhood before.”
The rain has given me an excuse to slack off running, after training for so long for the half marathon. I need to find the time and not make excuses to skip running in the next week so. Exercise is an easy habit to get out of. It is so easy to come up with a valid excuse. Too busy. Too tired. Too rainy. Have plans. Need to clean the house. Might get attacked by a Sumatran tiger. I need to get up and run tomorrow before work. Just four miles would be great.
Whoops, I just heard the forecast – rain tonight into the morning. I’ll postpone that run tomorrow, sleep in an extra 45 minutes, and see if the gills start coming back again. I wonder if my neighbor needs help with his boat? The way the rain keeps coming, it just might come in handy.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Sunday, May 3, 2009
One of the truly great TNT experiences is the Inspiration Dinner, formerly known as the Pasta Party. Teams from all over the US and Canada come together and eat a dinner together and hear speakers, including a survivor who usually has an inspirational tale to tell. But first, as we walk into the room, we go through a gauntlet of coaches and LLS staff who make the most amazing racket cheering for us. It is so cool - on my fourth event now, I still really enjoy it. Many are dressed in crazy fashion, and it is such fun. Here is a photo as I entered the ball room:
And here is a photo of some of team Virginia at dinner:
John "The Peguin" Bingham was our speaker and master of ceremonies. Even though this is the fourth time he has spoken all of at the dinners at my events and of course has to repeat some of his stories and lines, it is still very entertaining. Everyone laughed at the line about what kind of endurance atheletes are the winners of the marathon? They are only out there for 2 hours, while we will be out there 4, 5 , 6 or 7 hours! He told the story of his high school girlfriend dying from Hodgkins lymphoma back in the 1960's.
Our inspirational speaker was named Jim and told of his fairly recent experience surviving stage 4 lymphoma and all of the horriffic things that he went through in the last few years. But he is surviving, and back to running after barely being able to walk to the mailbox at times. The next day, he will be joining us for a half marathon. I hope that he keeps going!
At the end, someone snapped this photo of me, Chuck, Paul, and Kristi. Dig our cool blue team shirts! On the back it says "Virginia is for Cures", a take on the famous "VA is for Lovers" slogan that has been so successful for 40 years now.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
I still need to do a bunch of trip reports, and I will, but here are my official race results. I had hoped to hit 2:35 or even 2:30 but I am not a good enough runner to do so on such a hot day. I had been averaging 11 to 12 minute miles doing my run walk mix so I definitely dropped my pace that day, especially for the second half. But since it was my first half-marathon after 3 full marathons, I am happy with the results. Even so, it is amazing that the winner of the marathon would have done his race in about 35 minutes less than it took me to go half as far!