Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thank You, Seagull Century Team!

You’re moving a bit slowly, but still making progress along this route that you have never before traveled. It’s not so bad, as things have felt fairly level. Then you get to an uphill tick in the grade, and it’s harder, but still doable. Suddenly, you round a bend, and you see an impossibly steep climb ahead. But you know you have to climb it, so up you go. You’re giving it your best shot, but feel yourself slowing down despite your most determined efforts. “I can do it,” you say to yourself. “I can do it.” The hill gets steeper and steeper. “I can do it.” You cannot believe how tired you are. “I ---- can ---- do ---- it,” you gasp. You reach a place where the steepness and difficulty is more than you can imagine. You have never felt more fatigued, exhaustion wrapping itself around you like a shroud. You feel like you are barely moving. Waves of nausea and mental confusion sweep over you. But you don’t stop. You shift into a lower gear, reach deep inside, and keep moving. And suddenly the hill crests out! You know that there will be many more stretches like this before this race is through, but for now, you are on a little downhill section. You’ll face the next hill when it comes, and not before.

Maybe you think that I am talking about a bike race, but I am not. I am trying to communicate what a blood cancer patient going through chemotherapy or radiation is experiencing on their wild, multi-month ride. And what a tough ride it is! Not everyone is lucky enough to finish this race, and when they don’t, the outcome is not a “DNF” in the results page, but an obituary.

But thanks to you, and to so many like you who are part of Team in Training, the race through the valley of cancer and over its the imposing mountains will become less difficult in the future. Your hard work, your dedication, and the fundraising you do will help level the hills and add an extra gear as people struggle through their difficult treatments. Just as many more people survive cancer now than did 10 or 20 years ago, so even more will be surviving 10 or 20 years for now. And you will have helped make that possible. I, and all survivors, thank you deeply for this.

You’ve done the hard work, the training, the long rides, and the all so important fundraising. Now it is time to go enjoy the Team in Training experience at an event with your teammates. It is your reward! I am in awe of your ability to cycle 100 miles! And while I doubt you will experience any hills in Coastal Maryland like the ones I described earlier, you just might encounter some wind. From my limited experience with cycling – mostly on old one speed bikes – wind in your face seems as hard as a hill. I remember once riding along the hard sand of a beach for about four miles. I decided to go into the wind, so I would have it at my back for the ride home. As I reached the end of the beach and turned around, the wind immediately switched 180 degrees, and it was literally like riding uphill both ways! I trust that won’t happen to you at the Seagull Century.

So, go have a great ride, and a great experience. Create amazing memories to tell your grandchildren and your great grandchildren about. And please accept the sincere thanks of this blood cancer survivor. You are making a difference, and it is appreciated.


Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday Musings

On this Monday, I thought I would try to relate three seemingly unrelated events over the past few days.

Last Friday evening, we were invited to a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society discussion about blood cancer research and how LLS plays its role. The event included a delicious dinner donated by Morton’s Steak House in Richmond, and also gave everyone a chance to socialize before and during dinner. A presentation was made by Deborah Banker, PhD, who is Vice President for Research Communications for LLS. Dr. Banker is an expert on blood cancer research, having worked at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. She discussed several different specific researchers among the 400 currently sponsored by LLS, and the development of such drugs as Gleevec and Rutuxin. She showed us graphs that clearly demonstrated that the five year survivorship of all major blood cancers is up dramatically. Even one as difficult to treat as multiple myeloma has gone from 12 percent survivorship 40 years ago to 36 percent now. Dr. Banker stressed the importance of continuing to raise money for cancer research, and how many advances in blood cancers lead directly to advances in other cancers as well. With Federal funding down for cancer research, other sources such from organizations like LLS are even more important.

Early the very next morning, I was up before 6AM to go greet the Richmond TNT marathon team for the Nike (San Francisco) and US Marine Corps (Washington, DC) marathons. These dedicated people, including their coaches and mentors, have been giving up their Saturdays for months now, and working very hard to train for their marathon while raising money for LLS. I spoke to them about Dr. Banker’s talk from the previous night, and how important what they are doing is – and how much cancer patients appreciate them. I did a water stop / SAG wagon at the 4 mile point and got to cheer them on. GO TEAM!

Last night, I checked some blogs that I follow and learned that the four year old daughter of the best friend of one of the bloggers was just diagnosed with leukemia. The family, while ready to fight, is scared and devastated about what their daughter must endure.

Three separate events – Friday, Saturday and Sunday. How are they related? People doing Team in Training, with all their hard work, are raising money for LLS. LLS provides dollars to researchers, who come up with enhanced understandings of how cancers work, and how to defeat them. And children like little Ashley, just diagnosed, has a tough fight ahead but a fighting chance to survive and lead a happy, healthy life.

So if you do Team in Training, and wonder sometimes why you do it, that’s why!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Should I Tri?

With no moon shining, it was quite dark as I moved along the path through the woods a couple of hours before dawn. I was concentrating on not tripping over something or turning an ankle in the dark, but I was also preoccupied with another dilemma. Not since I debated the half vs. full marathon question with the little red devil and the little white angel have I been so conflicted over an issue. In a way, this one is an even tougher question. In 2010, should I do a marathon once more for Team in Training? Or should I do my first triathlon? All of the options kept tumbling through my brain.

The flash of a tiny thunderbolt very close by jolted me out of my thoughts! My nose wrinkled at the malodorous scent of sulfur as it wafted on the breeze on this cool morning. Seconds later, the melodious sound of a harp gently caressed my eardrums. “Oh no!” I said. “Not you two again!”

My old “friend”, the little red devil, blew some smoke rings and displayed a somewhat false looking smile as he placed a little asbestos pillow on a branch to my left and sat down. “Hear you’re having a tough time making up your mind again. I wanted you to know that I’m here to help anyway I can, Big Guy” he said.

On my right, I heard a tender feminine voice speaking, and turned to see the same little white angel that I had met earlier this year fluttering in the air. “He’s not here to help you,” she said with conviction. “He is going to try to confuse you. But I’m here to help. I know you are conflicted once again. Let me help you sort things out!” She plucked an E-flat on her harp to accent her words.

“Look,” I said, “It’s true that I am going back on forth on this, but I don’t see how having this conversation with the two of you can do anything but make me late for work. And I don’t think my boss is going to believe me if I tell him why I am late!”

“Come on, Art! We can be done with this conversation in less than a minute,” said the little red devil. “You know damn” – he chuckled with glee as he said this word – “well that you want to do a triathlon. Break the mold. Think outside the race course. Do something different. Earn a TNT tri pin for your hat! 2010 is your year!”

“No, Art. It is too difficult, too dangerous,” said the little white angel. “You could drown. You could flip your bike and crush your skull. Do the marathon again. Maybe a tri in 2011 would make sense.”

The red devil laughed so hard that tears poured from his glowing vermilion eyes and sizzled down his face, disappearing in little puffs of steam. “Crush his skull? Oh, now that is funny! Like that would hurt him!” He doubled over with laughter.

“Laugh it up, you sulfurous little glow worm,” I said. “I know that it doesn’t always show, but I do have a brain in there – somewhere. Besides, as much as I want to do a triathlon, I really like the idea of doing a marathon in San Francisco. The Nike Womens’ Marathon. I have family there.”

“Family is so important!” The little white angel was quick to capitalize on my words. “Think how cool it would be to have your sister, nieces, and nephew cheering for you on the race course. Oh, you would love that!”

(continue to part 2)

Should I Tri? (Part 2)

(continued from part 1)

“Get real!” the little red devil chimed in. “Your family has better things to do than watch you go by for 5 seconds on the race course. Of course, at your speed, maybe it would be more like 15 seconds, but still, come on! Step up! Do a triathlon!”

“Art, I saw you attempt to swim the other day,” said the angel. “I was off to the side at the tri team swim practice. And I’ll be plain spoken. You swim about as well as a bucket of iron.”

“You know, I thought I heard a harp playing at the Y, but the lifeguard had the radio on and I figured I just had water in my ears. You didn’t wander into the men’s shower, did you?” I asked. The little angel’s face turned a faint shade of crimson but she said nothing.

The red devil rejoined the debate. “Look, I know you aren’t the world’s best swimmer, but you’re not the world’s worst either, at least assuming that 98 year old one-legged guy I met last week is still alive. But where I live, there are plenty of guys who can help you. They know all sorts of ways to cheat the system and never get caught – at least not in this lifetime. We’ll help you.”

“Art, you can’t cheat!” said the white angel in shock. “Your accomplishment would be meaningless and cheapened. You need to sink or swim on your own. And you tend to sink. Do another marathon, or better yet, another half marathon.”

“By Satan, what is the big deal about cheating just a little bit? It adds spice to life.” The little red devil shook his head in disgust and spat on the ground. I quickly pulled my water bottle off my fuel belt and dumped out half its contents before the smoldering leaves got fanned into a forest fire. “Look, Art. You are capable of doing a triathlon without cheating. You are capable of learning to swim well enough, even though it won’t be pretty. And you already know you can ride a bike, even though it’s been a while. You’ll pick it up again. It’s, it’s… it’s like riding a bicycle!” The tiny devil laughed in delight at his attempt at humor while the little white angel shook her head and started playing a Broadway show tune on her harp to calm down.

She regained her calm and spoke back up. “Art, another thing you might like about the San Francisco Women’s Marathon is the scenery. The Golden Gate Bridge. The Presidium. The Pacific Ocean. Alcatraz. Fisherman’s Warf….”

“24,000 cute women in running shorts and skimpy tops,” interrupted the little red devil. “Now that’s what I call great scenery! Hey, maybe you’d get lucky!”

“That is outrageous!” the little white angel practically shouted! “He’s married!”

“Oh, lighten up, you pompous moralistic little harp-playing flying freak,” mocked the devil. “Like he would have a clue what to do with 24,000 women. Now, there are some guys where I live that, oh, never mind. Anyway, what I meant was maybe he would get lucky and not finish dead last with all those women running. There has got to be at least one that is slower than he is.”

“When have I ever finished dead last in a race, or even close to it? You’re not winning me over, little devil,” I said grimly.

(continue to part 3)

Should I Tri? (Part 3)

(continued from part 2)

“I know that,” said the quaint little red devil. “I’m just joking around. Where I live you really don’t hear much joking or laughter. Trust me on that. And it turns into a real buzz-kill at times. So when I go out on a little road trip I just like to lighten the mood a bit. That’s all. I apologize if anyone’s feelings got hurt. I’m on your side, Big Guy. I know that deep inside, you really want to do a triathlon. We devils have a sixth sense about what lurks in the hearts of men, and women.”

I pursed my lips. “I do want to do a tri,” I said. “I am worried about the swim, and about some maniac clipping my bike during training with his car as he looks down at his Blackberry to fire off a text. But I do want to do a triathlon; to be able to say that I am a marathoning, triathloning, cancer survivor. I also want to do more marathons – I know that. I like the idea of running Nike or Seattle in 2010.”

The little devil stroked his pointy red beard thoughtfully, smiled slyly, and with a snap of his fingers produced a thick document written on some kind of asbestos paper. “What if you did both?” he said. “I know the top guy where I live, and he will cut you a fabulous deal. Do as many events as you want. Get top fundraiser in the country at all of ‘em. Even win them all – not just your age cohort - win the whole race. Win the triathlon. In fact, he will throw in a gold medal in the 2012 Olympic marathon. You’ll be famous! You’ll be rich! All you have to do is agree to a few simple, harmless terms!” He waved the last page in front of me and with another snap of his fingers, produced a tiny fireball for me to read by in the dark. The contract said something about deeding all rights to my immortal soul for eternity or until hell froze over, which ever came last. I squinted at the scrawled signature. “Louis? Lavinious? Oh, Lucifer!” “The Big Man himself,” the little red devil said proudly. “Just sign here, right below his name. Your fingerprint is signature enough – we trust you,” he said with a wink.

The little white angel could see that I was tempted and looked alarmed. “Oh, that is a terrible idea,” she said. “What does a man profit if he gains the world but loses his soul?”

The little red devil was clearly annoyed. “Little angel, you must be a real joy at a party. Look, Art, you don’t lose your soul – you just loan it to my boss for a while,” he said. (“A really long while,” he muttered under his fiery breath.)

“You know,” I said, “I have no interest in making a deal to accomplish something for a good cause. I may do a marathon, I may do a triathlon, but I’ll decide myself and train without any help from some mysterious power, evil or otherwise. Thanks but no thanks. Now, if you will excuse me, I need to finish my run and get ready for work. Goodbye.”

I took off slowly running along the path through the dark woods, feeling my way along with my feet. I could hear the two of them arguing behind me, their voices fading and eventually disappearing as my separation from them increased. I hoped that the little red devil wouldn’t get too agitated and start a conflagration by accident.

Rather than the little angel and devil helping me to clarify things, my dilemma seemed even deeper after this bizarre conversation. There are so many things I can do next for Team in Training, but I can’t really fundraise for more than one event. Each event has its own advantages and disadvantages. How in the name of heaven will I make up my mind with such a devilish impasse? It all keeps coming back to these two related questions: should I run again? Or should I tri? The issues are not red or white, but all kinds of shades of pink.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Do I Worry About Getting Cancer Again?

I am asked now and then if I ever worry about getting another cancer. I have to say, most of the time, I really don’t. Oh, now and then I will get a little twinge in my rib cage that kind of reminds me of how I found the lymphoma seven years ago. When that happens, I will spend some time thinking about the possibilities, and worrying just a bit. But usually, I don’t think about it. There always seems to be other more pressing things to worry about, in any event.

Certainly there is no hard and fast rule about it, no prohibition of “double jeopardy.” That would be nice: “Hear ye! Hear ye! By decree of the emperor, it is hereby proclaimed to all that any subject who has survived one form of cancer will never be asked to go through this experience again! Let all subjects obediently follow this absolute ruling, under penalty of death!”

But alas, life doesn’t work that way. I know several people who have had multiple cancers. My sister-in-law Christine got breast cancer 20 years ago and ovarian cancer 3 years later. Talk about a double kick in the gut for a young woman, but she survived. My sister Ann got a new cancer while getting her third type of chemo for the first cancer – when that happens, oncologists are pretty sure that the chemo they are using is not going to be very effective. My TNT teammates Ed and Kristi have survived three and two cancers each, respectively. A former co-worker, Linda, survived one cancer and was killed by another about nine years later. Another Linda, a friend I met through First Connection, is on at least her third cancer, maybe her fourth – what a terrible time she has had. And a number of people that I’ve met through blogging are on multiple cancers. I’ve had to tell several folks that they are not getting their names written twice on my race shirt just because they got cancer more than once, so they might as well knock it off.

It seems totally unjust when a child gets cancer or when someone gets a second (or third, or fourth) cancer. Realistically, though, anyone who got cancer once is probably more likely to get it again than the general population is. For one thing, there was a reason they got it the first time: something in their DNA, exposure to some toxin or other environmental factor, stress hormones, immune system problems. For another thing, anyone getting chemotherapy and/or radiation is getting exposed to carcinogens. By example, I was told that by getting ABVD chemotherapy, my likelihood of getting a leukemia downstream would be from 1-3% higher than it would be otherwise. My friend Kristi’s thyroid cancer was almost certainly caused by the radiation that she received years earlier for her lymphoma.

I haven’t met a single person who, having cancer and maybe even getting something positive out of the experience, would volunteer to go through it again. I don’t know if I would want to meet such a person. I know if I had to go through cancer treatments again, I would dread the experience. But I also am not going to worry about something that hasn’t happened and may never happen. For all I know, my health may more at risk from scarfing down a bacon double cheeseburger than I am at risk of another cancer.

I do try to stay aware, eat reasonably well, and get some reasonable exercise. And I know I need to check in with an oncologist – mine retired two and a half years ago and I am way overdue to get a new one and have a baseline checkup. In fact, I am more than a year and a half overdue. I’ll get to it soon! Hmm, seems like I said that like a year ago. OK, I know I have to do it. And I will – right after I go eat a bacon double cheeseburger.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Something’s Afoot!

My left foot is feeling kind of miserable today, but that is because yesterday, I got my second injection of alcohol after that initial cortisone injection. The podiatrist believes that the neuroma, although still there, is getting smaller. He said that it generally takes three shots of alcohol, so I will still need one more.

I was asking him what a neuroma looks like. He said that the nerve running between the metatarsals is about the diameter of a strand of spaghetti. The pressure against the nerve as we run and walk long distances makes it react by growing material around the nerve to try to protect it, so it gets more like fettuccini. It is like a fatty and fibrous material, and the increased size means that there is even more space for the nerve and it gets even more irritated.

As he stuck the needle into my foot, he said “Tell me when it starts to hurt. That is the only way I know when I have reached the right spot for the injection.” He pushed the needle in more. A little more. Another quarter inch. “It should hurt soon,” he said, as he pushed the needle in a little more. ‘Whoa! Right there!” I said. He depressed the syringe and my forefoot felt flooded in pain for a little while. But walking out of the medical office, it just felt kind of numb, like part of my foot was missing.

Today, as is the norm based on my prior experiences, my foot hurts and I am trying to take it easy. It is not agonizing or anything like that, just painful in a strange kind of way. I have no desire to run today. Until I get back into running more or at least doing heavy duty speed walking for more than 7-8 miles, it will be hard to tell how improved the situation is. I did notice that it didn’t hurt much on my last long, tough hike, and that is really encouraging. I’ve been tolerating this for years and it just kept getting worse and worse, and I would love to have neuromas in the past very soon.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Running on the Last Day of Summer

I woke up early with things on my mind, lay in bed thinking uselessly for a while, and finally got up at 5:15. It was time for a run!

A run - that is not a typo. Yes, I know it has been weeks or even a couple of months since I ran. And you know, it felt good! I ran about 2 miles, a half mile at a time, while walking in between for about five minutes, for a total of nearly four miles. Running felt really comfortable – other than when I nearly sprained an ankle stepping into a little drainage gully in the dark as a car came by - maybe I need to do this more often. I could have run more distance at a time even, but I know that after so much time sans running, I could easily overdo it. My legs have felt a little sore all day – just a touch – and I am really looking forward to water aerobics tonight.

The stars (and planets) this morning were incredible. A few parts of my route were in total darkness, and for those parts, the sky was just amazing. I could not quite see the Milky Way, but there were thousands of stars twinkling away. I know so few of the constellations. The Big Dipper, pointing to Polaris and the Little Dipper, was easy to find, as is Orion. Venus shown brightly like a beacon. But other than that, they were just stars. I need to set a goal of learning a few more of the stars and constellations.

A few hundred years ago, I bet people everywhere knew most of the constellations, how they should appear at different times of the year, and how to find a route at night using them. Certainly sailors did, and overland explorers. They could not comprehend the GPS that we have today. Their livelihoods, and their lives, depended on their knowledge. We consider ourselves so advanced today, but in many ways our ancestors were more knowledgeable than we are. Going to Henricus City yesterday was an interesting reminder of how much we take for granted in our modern lives – and how easy day to day life is compared to a few hundred years ago.

I cannot believe that summer is over. It has just flown by. As we get older, and we realize that the very finite number of summers (or falls, winters, or springs) that we have remaining in our lives has just gone down by one, we realize how so very quickly life goes by – even on days when we wake up a little too early mulling things over. So remember to live, and enjoy, each day.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Light the Night Page is All Set Up!

As I mentioned a week or so ago, I am doing Light the Night for LLS on October 29. My fundraising page is all set up:


I've joined the Team of Faith's Hope. I am not going to go nuts with fundraising, but would love to reach $200 by a series of $5.00 donations. C'mon - five bucks! That's like a Chai Latte and a donut, and no calories are involved.

Plus you'll feel better! So "Gimme five!"

Recent Cancer Deaths

Thousands of people die each week from cancer, and their passing is only noted by their loved ones. But this week, there are a number of well-known people who died of various cancers. They represent all of the lesser known folks that also passed away from these terrible diseases. May they all rest in peace.
Patrick Swayze – Perhaps the most well known of recent cancer deaths, this great actor died after a two year battle with pancreatic cancer. His quick feet couldn’t dance away from a deadly foe that fights dirty.

Mary Travers – Of Peter, Paul, and Mary fame, she died of leukemia this week, just a few years after a bone marrow transplant seemed to turn things around for her. If I had a hammer, I’d smash cancer to bits.

Monte Clark – The former coach of the Detroit Lions died from bone marrow cancer.

Myles Brand – This president of the NCAA died from pancreatic cancer. He was tough enough to fire Bobby Knight in a prior job, but couldn’t out-tough cancer.

Keith Floyd – Dead from colon cancer, this chef was popular in Britain with TV viewers.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Topics You Voted For

A few weeks ago, I conducted a poll on my blog about the topics you most want me to write about during the time period up until I start training and fund raising for my next event. I didn't get a lot of people voting, but here is a summary of what visitors to this blog voted for:

Humorous reflections on things - 75%

A survivor’s mind – what are we thinking and how is it different than before cancer - 62%

Inspirational stories about people I meet along the way or have heard about - 37%

Tales from past TNT events - 12%

Tales from my cancer experience - 12%

Ways to cope for people with cancer, their family, and friends - 12%

Training updates (I am not training for a specific event right now) - 12%

Reflections on TNT and the war on cancer - 0%

I appreciate everyone's feedback, and I will try to use these as guidelines for upcoming blog posts. For example, I'll try to write something funny (humor is in the mind of the beholder) at least every week or so. I like writing funny stuff, for this blog and in general (like the story of how I bought my first car, which is not on this blog - too long and doesn't really fit "racing for a cure.")

I know that I have not posted a lot about the second most popular topic (a survivors mind) and so I will try to pay more attention to that in upcoming months.

And while the three most popular topics need to get more attention, I will certainly write about the other topics at times as well - depending on what comes to mind at the time.

And of course, if there is something specific you want me to write about, send me an email or post a comment and I will try to accomodate you.

Thanks again to all of you who voted.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Things I’ll Need for Swimming

Based on my swimming performance, or should I say lack of performance, yesterday, I’ve compiled a list of some things that I’ll need if I get serious about this and decide to do a triathlon. These few things will really help with the swim portion of the race:

1. Swim goggles – My eyes will just be too irritated to not have goggles, but not wearing my glasses will be a problem. I have the eyes of a hawk – a blindfolded hawk, that is. Therefore, being able to see in the open water will be an issue because I don’t want to pay for prescription goggles. But for pool training, my extreme nearsightedness should be tolerable and I can figure out later how to navigate to the swim buoys.

2. A sleeker bathing suit – My beach and pool side bathing suit is not going to cut it, as it has too much drag. I may need to get something more like Spandex, although I don’t know if it is fair to subject the world to that. I have this vision of mothers covering their children’s eyes and women running away in horror.

3. A wetsuit – I won’t need that for a long time yet, but ultimately, I will need a wet suit.

4. An air pump to inflate the wetsuit – I sink like a stone, but I bet using an air pump to inflate the wetsuit will help a lot. I have this mental image of me looking kind of like a black Michelin Man, floating along the surface of the water like a gigantic marshmallow.

5. Flippers – Technically these are not legal for a triathlon, but I have a strategy to get around this that I will discuss later. Yesterday, they were the only thing that kept my feet pointing behind me.

6. Little hidden propellers for my flippers – I don’t think that these are legal either, but they would really help. I figure that I can find a craftsman to implant these in my flippers with an electric motor. Once I am in the water, I press this button in my wetsuit, little secret doors in the flippers open, and the propellers push me along. Who said that swimming is hard?

7. A snorkel – I swim pretty good under water but cannot hold my breath for a mile, so I figure a snorkel will really help with my breathing technique.

8. An inflatable life vest – If I develop a leak in my Michelin Man wetsuit, and it deflates, I will clearly need a backup plan to regain buoyancy.

9. A small echolocation device – Eureka! I just figured out how to find those buoys in the open water without my glasses. Problem solved.

10. Five one pound gold bars – I won’t swim with these, but I think they will be useful in having the race officials overlook the snorkel, flippers, life vest, and so forth. “Flippers? I don’t see any flippers.” “That’s not a snorkel – it is just a stick floating in the water. A moving stick. A vertical stick that is being pushed along rapidly with two little propellers.”

With just these few simple items, I feel confident that I can train for and ultimately complete the swim portion of a triathlon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Like a Wildebeest in a River

You’ve seen the nature film: a herd of wildebeests in East Africa, throats parched after a long trek across the arid savannah, reaches a cool and thirst quenching river. Despite their suffering, they approach the river skittishly and with a great deal of caution. But finally, desperation for a drink overrides their fear and they gather at the bank and begin approaching the river's edge to drink. A log drifts slowly with the current, being moved along closer and closer to the thirsty animals. Just a log… No, wait – are those eyes? The last time I saw eyes on a log, it was an ent chopped down by orcs in “The Two Towers” as the army of cool tree people attacked Sauroman’s castle with Merry and Pippen.

In horror, you realize that this is no log. “Look out, wildebeests,” you cry out. “It’s a crocodile! Run away! Run!!!! One of you is going to die if you don’t get out of there!” The wildebeests ignore your lunatic ravings at the TV and continue drinking greedily. Suddenly, like a bomb going off in the river, water and wildebeests explode everywhere as a huge crocodile grabs one of them in its merciless jaws and begins dragging it into the deeper water. The wildebeest struggles in vain, going nowhere as it thrashes around in the river. Water splashes everywhere as the doomed beast fights to get away. Well, take away the crocodile, trade a swimming pool for the river, and I was like that wildebeest today, thrashing around in vain while attempting to swim with the local TNT Augusta half-ironman triathlon team.

I joined the team at 6:30 AM at the YMCA to give them a brief mission moment. I expressed my thanks as a cancer survivor for what they are doing, and then told them about the young girl with leukemia that I encountered in Nashville this past April. Then Coach Steve, a certified triathlon coach and an ironman triathlete, got the team started with their 1,500 meter swim, and told me to go ahead and get in the pool in lane one.

“Is there a kiddie pool?” I asked as I lowered myself in, only half in jest. He asked how long it had been since I swam. Well, if you define “swim” as moving around one way or another in the water, then not long at all. I am not at all afraid of the water and can swim, just not efficiently, and I have never been good at the freestyle. I got a mental block as a kid trying to learn it, and just ended up doing other self-taught strokes, but none of them well or long distance. Coach Steve said “Swim a lap down and back, and I’ll see how you do.” I started down the 25 meter pool, struggling quite a bit with my stroke but slowly moving along as the triathlon team cruised without effort down the other lanes.

I was glad to stop at the end of the 50 meters and get my evaluation. The coach told me that we would talk about my arm stroke later, but that the big problem was my kick. He said that my kick was actually hurting more than helping. I was kicking from the knee, and my feet were pointing down, actually brushing against the bottom a few times in the shallow water. Coach Steve gave me some shortened flipper things to put on and a kick board, and said to kick my way down the pool. Man, it was hard! The kick board kept sinking into the water and I had to keep putting my head up to breath. I kept stopping for instruction and advice. At one point Steve said “Art – I don't get it. You’re not moving!” I could have argued with him because I was pretty sure that technically I was moving – backwards, that is. But that seemed like a minor distinction. Every now and then I would get it more or less right for about 4 kicks, and I could feel the difference. I did another lap with the kickboard, trying to get it right – but more often than not it was pretty pathetic. I am pretty sure that a 90 year old holding a 25 pound iron weight instead of a kick board would have gone faster, and a lot more gracefully.

He had me get out and watch the other swimmers – how they held their feet, how their arm motion was, how they rotated their bodies, how they breathed. He had me get back in and try swimming another lap, and gave me some more instruction. I snorted some water at times and actually had to stop and stand up for a second to avoid choking a bit. In particular, I could feel that my left hand stroke was very inefficient. I ended my time in the pool by putting on a long pair of flippers – albeit a mismatched pair – and using the kick board for one more lap. I could really feel the difference because they forced my feet to stay up and pointed backwards. Now if only I could bribe an official and wear flippers during a triathlon. Seems fair to me.

I am glad I did this. It was frustrating to watch the whole team gliding effortlessly along for nearly a mile while I struggled badly for 1/8 that distance. But as Coach said, I have the endurance – I’ve done marathons (though not for a while). It is just a matter of technique and practice - and of persevering and not getting discouraged. So I think I need to get some swim goggles and start attempting to apply what I was taught today. It was very, very instructive.

One thing for sure – I won’t go swimming in an African river any time soon. The wildebeests would be totally safe with me in the water. And I'd be crocodile food.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Thank You, Augusta Half Ironman Team!

On Sunday September 27 in Augusta, Georgia, Team in Training Virginia will participate in the Half-Ironman Triathlon, sometimes called the “Augusta 70.3” because of the total distance involved. They will swim 1.2 miles, bike 56 miles, and run a half marathon (13.1 miles). To my knowledge, this is the first time that TNT Virginia will do a triathlon of this length. I know that Richmond has a big team, and there may be groups from the rest of Virginia as well. I don’t know everyone on the Richmond team, but I do know a number of them. Three of them were on my first TNT marathon team in 2005 – they did San Diego and I did Anchorage. I have been on teams with several of the others over the years, and known others from mentoring get-togethers. At least one of them is a cancer survivor, and a number more have lost a loved one in recent years from these diseases. Several of them hold the coveted TNT Triple Crown, having already completed at least one marathon, triathlon, and century bike ride for the Purple People.

So to those on that team in Augusta – from Richmond, elsewhere in Virginia, or any other chapter – thank you for doing this, for raising funds to fight cancer, for making a difference. As someone who has never done a triathlon – my triathlon in the mountains a few weeks ago doesn’t count – I am amazed at your hard work and achievements. As a cancer survivor, I am alive because people like you, decades ago, raised money to go towards Hodgkin lymphoma research. There will people alive in the future because of you.

Have a great time in Augusta, you awesome team! I am thankful for your efforts, and appreciate what you are doing. Here is my tribute to you.

"To the Half-Iron Women and Men"

You’re not made of iron, but of bone, blood, and muscle
You’ve got grit and pizzazz, determination and hustle
You’ve worked your butts off, you’re trained to a peak
Cause your upcoming adventure is not for the weak

For in less than two weeks, in the land of the peach
You’ll go seventy-point-three – no stroll on the beach
First, in a river, you’ll swim over a mile
Now I’d thrash around, but you’ll swim it with style

Then back on dry land, on your bike you will jump
And for fifty-six miles, the pedals you’ll pump
A half-marathon awaits when you’re done with that task
You’ll endure it, though tired, and the pain you will mask.

For many with cancer must do their own “tri”
And the outcome determines if they live or they die
First “event” might be surgery with much cutting and pain
And the loss of some parts with scars that remain

Next “event” could be chemo, they’re exhausted and sick
For many a month, since this treatment’s not quick
Radiation, with burning, is the final “event”
Leaving patients quite ill, so worn out and spent

Still others, to live, must replace their bone marrow
Surviving, or not, with a margin so narrow
For they may reject, with “graft versus host”
Cells so vital for life when they’re needed the most

With your heroic efforts and the money you raise
You are helping so many, earning thanks and our praise
On that day we survivors for you heartily cheer
As you race your hearts out for a cause we hold dear

So down there in Georgia, do your best and have fun
As you race for a cure while you swim, bike, and run
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:
I hold you in awe, half-iron women and men!

Art Ritter
September 14, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

I Want You - To Vote!

A couple of week agos, I set up a poll asking what types of things you would like me to blog about in the time between now and starting training and fundraising for my next Team in Training event (I decided not to retire).

As of this post, only seven people have voted. Now, I don’t know how many people check this blog at least every week, but I know it is more than five. I seem to average about 10 – 25 visits a day, with less on weekends. So c’mon! Cast your votes.

I say “votes” because you can vote for as many of the topics as you wish. So let me know what you want to read about, and I will do my best to write things as often as possible that fit that subject area.

Unlike so many votes around the world, this one is not crooked or rigged. And it is totally anonymous – I cannot tell who voted or how they voted any more than I could do an Ironman triathlon tomorrow.

So if you are American, or from a democratic country elsewhere, exercise your right to vote! And if you are coming here from a country where you don’t have the right to vote freely and fairly, here on my blog you have that right – so exercise it!

So no excuses – vote for the topics you most want to hear about!

Thanks for voting! And have a great weekend!

Friday Flashes!

I thought I’d spend my lunch time writing a quick Friday post. By the way, this makes 30 posts in the 30 day period that began August 15 and ends this coming Sunday!

I was up in Washington last weekend, and couldn’t help but think of the Nation’s Tri event that will happen this Sunday. That will so exciting for the people doing this Olympic distance triathlon! Many of them will be doing their first tri, and any of them for Team in Training are helping to defeat blood cancers. GO TEAM!

This being September 11, I have to pause for a second to reflect on the horrific events on this date eight years ago. I think for the first time in my life, I understood how my parents must have felt on December 7, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. To all those who lost their lives that day, to those who tried to save the trapped and recover the victims and now are often ill and dying from lung diseases as a result, to those in the military engaged in two large wars as a result of this day, and to all of their family members – this is a day to reflect on their loss and sacrifice. And especially to the members of the military fighting and dying so far from home, it is a day to offer special prayers and thanks.

I feel good about doing Light the Night this year. I did it once before and it was a great way to show support for the cause of fighting blood cancers, and to show support for all suffering from these diseases. It is also a beautiful event to be a part of, with all of the lighted red balloons with a few white ones interspersed. I will blog more about that in the days ahead as the event gets nearer, and as I come up with at least a minimal fundraising strategy. I am going to set my goal at $200 – to a least raise something without people feeling that all I do is badger them for money (for a great cause, I might add).

I met a young woman yesterday at a business meeting who lost her fiancé a few months ago to tongue cancer. He was only 35, and suffered horribly during his illness and eventual demise. It is a reminder to me about how awful these diseases are, how many people suffer from them 24/7, and how much more there is left to do.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I’m Lighting the Night!

On October 29, I’ll be walking in support of the Virginia Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in the Richmond version of Light the Night! As a blood cancer survivor, I will be walking with a white balloon in a sea of red balloons. I have joined a LTN team: Faith’s Hope. This team was formed by a local lady named Faith who was diagnosed this spring with Stage 4 Hodgkin Lymphoma, and is undergoing heavy-duty chemotherapy as we speak. Faith has raised over $5,500 for this cause while battling cancer, which I think is pretty amazing, and I am honored to join her team.

I just joined up for Light the Night today, and therefore won’t have time for a little while to customize my Light the Night page, which can be reached at:


After being done with fundraising for Team in Training for just four months, I am not going to do heavy duty fundraising for a Light the Night Campaign. I just can’t. Friends and family would shoot me, assuming that they stayed around long enough to shoot me. More likely, I would walk up to them and say “Hey! Guess what? I’m fundraising for the Light the Night, and I was wondering ...” Suddenly, I would realize that the only sound was crickets calling, and that I was by myself. I would notice my friend, now appearing no larger than an ant in the distance, sprinting away with a running pace that Usain Bolt would envy.

Of course, if anyone seeing this is led to make a donation, that would be great. But I am doing this primarily to support LLS in spirit, to support Faith, and to walk proudly as a fortunate and grateful survivor of a blood cancer. If I can somehow raise a couple of hundred bucks along the way, then that would be a wonderful exclamation point to my Light the Night experience. But that will not be the focus of my efforts. I’ll be happy to be out there among hundreds or hopefully thousands of others, showing support for a great cause and for the many, many people dealing with blood cancers.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Does Wellsphere Scam Bloggers?

In mid-July, while I was on vacation, I received a very flattering and interesting proposal from Wellsphere, which began as follows:

“Hi Racn4acure ,My name is Dr. Geoff Rutledge, and I am delighted to invite you to join Wellsphere's HealthBlogger Network, the world's premier network of health writers …”

You can view the entire e-mail here. In a nutshell, the email praised my blog and writing, and offered to increase my blog readership through their Health Blogger Network, as well as providing innovative new features for my blog. It stressed that while I was giving them permission to republish what I had written on Wellsphere, I would retain all ownership of my content, and they would not make other use of my content without my permission.

The email was effusive in its praise and in the benefits of joining their blogger network. Even so, I was busy at the time, and figured I would get back to it later. I got a reminder email two weeks later and at that point - without even taking two seconds and checking it out independently – I joined up. I did click on the link in the email that displayed the terms and conditions of joining Wellsphere. It was fairly similar to what Geoff Rutledge had said in his email, with the exception that it clearly said that I was giving them permission to republish my material in any form they wanted, without compensation to me. But even so, it stressed that I was the owner of the intellectual property. The link to these terms of service is here and here.

Nearly a week went by, and I just kept blogging without giving it much more thought. Then I got an email from a friend and fellow blogger to beware of Wellpshere, because they had been implicated in scamming bloggers. She gave some details about some harder to find terms and conditions that essentially would give Wellsphere ownership of my content. The note, in part, said: “However, when you read the "terms and conditions" which appear to be upfront but the reality is they are elsewhere on the site and much more detailed. The bottom line is that you loose ALL copyright to your work on your blog, past, present and future. They cleverly word it so you THINK you retain all rights but you do not. They can do what they want with your posts, make money from it and you loose all rights. They make money off your blog and you could not use your own work to say publish a book in the future. They retain the copyright.” The suggestion was to Google “Wellsphere scam”, which I did.

Holy crap! I got all kinds of hits with Google and started reading some of them. This was scary stuff! There were a lot of seriously pissed-off people out there! Had I indeed just inadvertently given away the rights to everything I wrote on my Racing for a Cure blog? How can they tell you one thing and then secretly have something else take precedence over that? I started digging around on Wellsphere’s site beyond what I looked at before, and found language here that included some really alarming stuff. Included were these two nuggets:

Ownership: “All Website Materials, including any intellectual property rights in such Website Materials, are the property of Wellsphere, its affiliates, licensors, or the designated owners, and are protected by applicable intellectual property laws.”

Content You Submit to or Post on the Website: “… You agree that any and all comments, information, photos, videos, feedback and ideas that you communicate to Wellsphere or submit or post to the Website or give Wellsphere permission to post to the Website (“User Materials”) will be deemed, at the time of communication to Wellsphere or submission or posting to the Website, to be the property of Wellsphere…”

This was clearly in opposition to any of the more obvious conditions that I had been fed. I am not a lawyer, and have no idea how the law interprets one rule that says I retain ownership and another from the same entity that says they are now the owner. But my guess is that if this was Wellsphere’s intent, they would have had a really good team of lawyers come up with this language.

In any event, given what I had seen using Google, and this conflicting language, I decided to pull out of Wellsphere immediately. I emailed them and said for them to delete all my content and my profile. To their credit, I got a message back from Dr. Rutledge in less than 30 minutes telling me that this had been done, and that my content was also deleted from their servers. Of course with computers, it is impossible to know for sure, so I printed and saved records of everything.

To continue reading this post, go here.

Does Wellsphere Scam Bloggers? (continued)

Continued from part 1

After reading a bunch of the articles I found – just Google “wellsphere scam” and you will see the same articles – and thinking about it for a while, I realized that best case, I had entered into this way too hastily. I should have at the least used Google myself prior to committing to be a Wellsphere Health Blogger. I had been seduced by the flattery in the note. But there was a huge clue in the soliciting e-mail that should have told me that this was just a mass produced come-on: the introduction:

“Dear Racn4acure:”

Anyone spending five minutes on my blog would be able to know my first name. Anyone spending 15 – 30 minutes and doing some poking around on links could learn my full name. Obviously no one had. They looked at the fact that I wrote about cancer in some way, saw that I posted things fairly regularly, and decided to see if they could add me to their blogger list with a flattering note. By stroking the ego of people who write, they got plenty of takers, including me for a week. And had my friend not filled me in, I’d probably still be part of Wellsphere.

Now if I were still a member, what would I be giving up? At the very least, if they really liked what I wrote, and published it as a book either by itself or with some works of other bloggers, and it became a best seller, they would not owe me a dime. Clearly, the conditions they listed right up front gave them that right. Thinking about it quite a bit since, I think that was foolhardy on my part.

Now worst case, what if I used my blog postings to create a book? Or say I wrote a book, and used a few of my blog postings in it? Let’s say it became a best seller (go along with me here, people, as farfetched as it sounds) and earned me a million dollars. If the terms of the more stringent section applied, in theory, Wellsphere could sue me because their loading my writing automatically gave them intellectual property rights and ownership of everything I wrote on my blog. Wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants – to be sued by someone because you published your own writings?

Not being a lawyer, it is impossible for me to know if (1) this latter scenario could happen and (2) if it was deliberately set up by Wellsphere’s lawyers to sucker and scam bloggers. But I was not willing to take the chance, and there are enough people out there saying very negative and angry things about Wellsphere to make me leery. The world wide web can be a very nasty place, so caveat emptor.

One of Wellsphere’s claims in their pitch was that readership of your blog would increase if you became a Wellsphere health blogger. But upon looking at the posts of bloggers who’s content was placed in Wellsphere, all of their blog links were internal. In other words, when you clicked on one of their posts shown in Wellsphere, it would go to that post in Wellsphere, not in their blog. There was a link to the author’s blog in their Wellsphere profile, but all other links to their material stayed within Wellsphere. So the claim that it would increase readership seems unlikely.

So does Wellsphere deliberately scam bloggers? Well, I don’t know how to definitely answer that. If they deliberately set up conflicting terms of service so that they can claim intellectual property to anything that a blogger writes, then clearly the answer is yes. But even if this is not the case, by allowing them to publish what you write, you clearly are giving them the right to use your stuff in any form they choose and make money on it without any compensation to you. That seems like a bad deal in exchange for possibly a few more people dropping by your blog – if they don’t just choose to read your blog totally within Wellsphere’s portal.

So for this blogger, the negatives and potential negatives far outweighed any potential gains that I might realize, once I got over the heady flattery of being chosen to be a Wellsphere Health Blogger. What I write may never make me rich – it may never even earn me a dollar – but it is my creation, and I am not willing to give the possibility of earning a buck to someone else for no compensation. And I am certainly not willing to risk giving away my intellectual property to someone else through a possible weasel clause created by clever lawyers. So therefore, I, for one, will remain unaffiliated with Wellsphere.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Uncivil Society

I was going to blog about something else tonight, but decided to leave the athletic and cancer arenas for a night to dabble in the political side of things. I am really concerned about the direction our country has been taking for the past 20 or so years with our lack of civility towards one another.

For a long time, whatever party is in power is demonized by the party out of power. Whatever you felt about George W. Bush, he is not a demon. Whatever you feel about Barack Obama, he is not a demon. Yet to hear their opponents talk about them, you would be surprised not to see them holding a pitchfork, sprouting horns, reeking of sulfur, and roasting babies alive to eat them.

Note the flap over President Obama addressing schools earlier today. Why would anyone of any party not want the president, no matter what party he belongs to, to encourage kids to study hard, to stay in school, to believe in themselves and their value, and to tell them that if they drop out, they not only let themselves down, but they let their country down as well? Most local schools here refused to show his talk. I am flabbergasted and appalled by this. Far right-wing talk show hosts apparently spread this message that somehow the president was going to indoctrinate our youth into his evil ways. God help us all!

Did anyone see where, at a rally about health care reform recently, two guys of opposing viewpoints got into an argument, which led to a fist fight, which led to one guy biting a finger off on his opponent? Did anyone see the tape of people screaming at and berating the woman in a wheel chair at a “town meeting” in New Jersey the other week? She suffers from two autoimmune diseases and was expressing her viewpoints about health insurance to the politician running the meeting. Her right to free speech is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, and these rude morons were just screaming at her. At least they didn’t attack her physically and bite her finger off, but that is about the best I can say of them.

Whatever happened to civil discourse, to polite and reasoned disagreement? Why can’t people agree to disagree? What has happened to basic human kindness, to respect for others? Ben Franklin was asked by a woman, after the Declaration of Independence had been signed, what they had just created. His answer was reputed to be “A Republic, madam, if you can keep it.” If we can’t start showing some civility towards one another and rationally discuss the incredibly complex and difficult issues facing our country and the world, I fear that our days as a republic are numbered.

Think about this, the next time you hear some right-wing or left-wing talk show host running off with diarrhea of the mouth.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Long, Slow Healing

I’ll tell you, as we get older, it takes such a long time for injuries to heal. I partially tore my right rotator cuff in 2007, probably around June. I didn’t know it at the time, only that it hurt every time I moved my shoulder a certain way. In retrospect, I tore the muscles one of two ways. It could have been from painting the inside my garage. This took me two full days of work and a partial third day, and especially painting the ceiling using the roller on a long pole made my shoulders ache. More likely, it was doing an abduction exercise, one in which you hold a weight by your hip and then extend your arm directly out to the side until your arm, and the weight, is parallel to the floor. I had been doing this with 15 pound weights, but then moved up to 20 pounds one time. I noticed some discomfort after about a dozen reps, and went back to 15 pounds.

Either could have done it. I read that painting overhead is a cause of rotator cuff tears, and the orthopedist that I saw said that the particular abduction exercise I had done was a leading cause of rotator cuff tears.

In any event, this was now about 27 months ago. It took a few months of doing the male thing and ignoring the pain, followed by several months of various examinations and trials of things, and finally an MRI to diagnose partial tears of the supraspinatus muscle and the labrum of the right shoulder. I could have had surgery, but with the Arizona Marathon coming up just a few months away at the time, I decided to do that only as a last resort. So I got some physical therapy, and religiously (for a while) did the exercises on my own that I learned. When it started to feel a little better, it was easy to no longer consistently find time for the exercises.

What they said was to do low weights and a lot of reps. For months, I avoided doing certain exercises with my right arm in water aerobics. For well over a year, moving my arm certain ways hurt a good bit. My shoulder made a popping sound during this time with any movement, even those that didn’t hurt much. At some point, most of the pain has faded and I guess the tears have healed for the most part. I can’t tell you for sure when that was, but probably within the last six or eight months.

More recently, I have tried to pick up some of the exercises again, and have increased the weight just a little bit. It is still a lot less weight than before. Two years ago, I was doing curls with 25 pound weights – now I am using 15 pounds. I was using 140 pounds on a “military press” style machine, and am now finally up to 70. This is after long periods of time with 30, 40, 50, and 60 pounds. I always try to be aware of doing too much, but I know that could happen in a blink of an eye without me even being aware of it. As long as it has taken for this to heal – at least a year and a half – I am not eager to have it happen again.

I guess as we get older, we have to strike a balance between doing too little and doing too much. It can be frustrating at times. The other day, as I was doing reps with 70 pounds, it felt a little exasperating to realize that I was doing 140 pounds a couple of years ago. For a second, I was tempted to try that much weight, but common sense over-ruled my male-sense. If I ever want to do a triathlon, I think I am going to need healthy rotator cuffs. But I am also going to have to have even more upper body strength. I’ve considered going back down to 50 pounds and just increasing the reps. Any advice?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Kind of Crazy

To each his own. I am sure that many people think that anyone who does a marathon is kind of nuts. Well, as a multiple-times marathoner, I saw something on TV tonight that seems quite nutty – the Badwater (aptly named) Ultra-Marathon, run each July across Death Valley. I had heard about this before, but was reminded about it tonight while watching “Nature” on PBS.

This race is 135 miles long, and is run non-stop. It starts at 280 feet below sea level, and ends up at 8,300 feet elevation at the Mount Whitney Portals. Cumulatively, racers gain 13,000 feet in elevation while crossing three mountain ranges after getting out of Death Valley. The winner finishes in less than 24 hours, which is pretty amazing. That is an average pace of 5.6 miles per hour, much of it across Death Valley in July! I don't think that Death Valley was named as a joke to scare people away from paradise, do you?

In 2008, 82 people started the race and 75 finished. The last place finisher took just over 57 hours, finishing nearly a day and a half after the winner! But they finished! The finishers that year ranged in age from 27 to 66, with most of them in their 40’s and 50’s, amazingly enough.

Do I think I would ever attempt this race? Not even tempted. It seems kind of crazy to put your body through this. How about you – any thoughts of ever doing something like this, of testing yourself to the absolute limit of your endurance?

If this race seems impressive (and it is, even though it is also nuts), go here to read about a non-human ultra-marathoner that goes thousands of miles non-stop.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Art is Retiring From Team in Training: Forever!

You heard it here first: I am retiring from Team in Training forever! Folding my beloved purple singlet and stuffing it in a drawer. Hanging up the running shoes. Putting away my white TNT cap with the three 26.2 and one 13.1 pins on it. No looking back. No changing my mind. No way!

By tomorrow morning, this will be big news, starting with my interview and extended coverage on ESPN Sports Center. In my press conference, I will blink back tears and tell the world that it is just my time to go. I will thank my teammates and supporters, and answer a few questions from the shocked audience and press corps. Then the other networks will pick the story up: NBC, ABC, CBS, and CNN. “We interrupt this programming for a special bulletin…”

There will, of course, be some statements from teammates. Some of them will get a little choked up, but you will hear things like: “Well, it did seem like he had lost a step lately.” And “I kind of wondered if he was losing his groove when he made that rookie mistake and had sunscreen nearly blind him in Nashville.” And “I hate to see him go, but I guess if he says it’s time, it’s time.” And “Truthfully, he has been kind of a disruptive force on the team lately.”

Out on the streets, women will openly sob quietly and hug one another. They will say things like: “He was such a hottie!” And “I can’t believe we won’t see his amazing physique lumbering down the marathon courses anymore.” Grown men will stare at the ground, shuffling their feet and pretending not to cry, and saying things like: “Dang!” And “I can’t believe he is retiring after all these years!” Little kids will go nuts with sports card trades: “I’ll give you two Derek Jeters and three A-Rods for your Art Ritter in the 2006 Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon in San Diego!” And Friday night, sports bars all over will do a brisk business as fans everywhere attempt to drown their sorrows. (Please drink responsibly!).

Yep, I’m hanging up the running shoes for good. Of course, expect to see some clips on the news of me out doing laps with some high school cross country runners. Gotta keep the publicity channels open, right? (I’ll be the one doubled over on the ground, gasping for air while I throw up.)

Nope, I won’t be back. Not now. Not next year. Not never. Never-ever! Until, of course, I judge the time is right, and I can get a huge donation and a lot of great press by jumping back into the game. You know that $25,000 donation I was hoping for? I bet I can get double that for LLS with this strategy. Just imagine the headline: “Walmart Agrees to Donate $50,000 to LLS if Ritter comes out of Retirement.” Or maybe a pro-football star will make a huge donation to lure me back? Maybe Peyton Manning or Donovan McNabb? Maybe Tom Brady? Maybe – dare I hope – Brett Favre?

So did I say never? What I really meant to say was, well, you know. So don’t totally rule out seeing me back on the marathon course at some point. Could be Virginia. Maybe New York – turning on those jets down the stretch. Perhaps even pack my stuff and head to Green Bay. Somewhere. Someday. Bank on it – I’ll be back in a purple jersey before too long. Hmmm – purple? Maybe in – Minnesota?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Thank You, Nation's Triathlon Team!

On Sunday, September 13, Team Virginia and TNT teams from many other chapters will converge on Washington D.C. to participate in the Nation’s Triathlon. If you are part of this, helped coach or mentor a team, or participated in some other way, I want to thank you on behalf of cancer survivors and people with cancer everywhere. I hope that if you are on a team for this race and see this post, you will share it, along with my thanks, with your teammates.

It sounds like a great course: 1.5K swimming in the Potomac River, 40K biking, and 10K running – including a run past my favorite Washington sight – the Jefferson Memorial. As much fun as I had running the Country Music Half Marathon last April, part of me wishes I was on your team for this race, doing my first triathlon. I know several great people that did this event last year and had a blast!

Of course, the only way you are getting this boy to swim nearly a mile in the Potomac any time soon is if I have a dive mask. And SCUBA gear. And I am being towed by one of those torpedo-looking things you see in the movies where the (pick one) terrorists or elite special forces troops are moving in for a surprise attack. But maybe in 2010, if I can get my act together, I will do this race or one like it. The idea appeals to me, and I really admire all of you for doing this tough race, and for raising so much money to help cancer patients and, ultimately, to defeat cancers.

When you think about it, many cancer patients also do a triathlon of sorts, except their events are not swimming, biking, and running. Their events have names like surgery. Chemotherapy. Radiation. Or maybe instead of one of these "events", the substitute a bone marrow transplant. Or a stem cell transplant. Unlike a triathlon, where one really hopes to be done with the race the same day that they start, a cancer patient’s “triathlon” can go on for months or even years. Their “transitions” often take place in hospitals. And when all is said and done, the outcome for completing their “race” is either life or death. For people with cancer, it is a very high stakes triathlon, deadly serious, and all too often, deadly.

But I believe, through your efforts, and the efforts of all the other “Purple People” now and in the past and future – raising nearly $1,000,000,000 to fight blood cancers so far - you are helping to tip the odds towards survival. There will be people alive in the future who would not have survived otherwise. They will not know you, but they will give thanks for you every day.

So thanks for making a difference, for working so hard as troops in this war on cancer. Go have a great time – you have earned it. Create amazing memories, ones that you will mesmerize your grandchildren with someday. When you get back I would love to get comments about your race. And I would also love comments giving advice about making the jump from being a marathoner to becoming a triathlete, because I hope to join your ranks another time!


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Discussing Future Events

During the Silent Mile Training, Kristi and I – both Hodgkin Lymphoma survivors – walked six miles together. It was the first time we’ve seen each other since the race weekend last April in Nashville, and it was great to see her again. First, it is still only months since she had her second cancer diagnosis, and it was wonderful to see her in good shape and out there walking at her fast pace. Second, it was fun to “catch up.” A big part of our catching up involved talking about what our next event could be.

Kristi had been in touch with the LLS office, and had a good feel for some of the spring and summer season (2010) events. For example, the team is doing the New Orleans Mardi Gras Marathon and Half Marathon – the first time they’ve done this race since I got involved in TNT in 2005. Now that could be fun – I’ve never been to the Big Easy.

Also on deck for Team Virginia is the Seattle Marathon in June (I think), which replaces Alaska for next year. Another place I’ve never been, and frankly, being an outdoors lover, Seattle and the great Pacific Northwest has a lot more appeal to me than New Orleans. Maybe I could get in some hiking or tour Seattle. In New Orleans, I think I’d be dodging people who had partied way too hard. And having been finished with fundraising for only four months, I don’t feel ready in this economy to start bugging people in just two more months, which I will have to do I sign up for New Orleans. But for Seattle, I would not have to start fundraising until December or January. It is very tempting.

I keep thinking that I would like to do a triathlon. In fact, being a Philly boy (GO EAGLES, yeah, go ahead, yuck it up with the Michael Vick and dog jokes), I was really tempted by the Philadelphia Triathlon this next June. I mean, come on, swimming in the “Sure-Kill” River? Oh, if my mom could see me doing that, she would turn over in her grave! When she was a girl there, they didn’t catch fish in the Schuylkill River, they caught fish skeletons.

But as it turns out, TNT Virginia took that one off the docket for next year. Damn! They are doing the Tampa Bay (St. Anthony’s Triathlon) but that is in April and that means starting that fund-raising in just 2 months, plus getting a bike in two months – yikes! Will I even have a job in two months? Better make sure of that first!

Kristi is intrigued by the Nike Women’s Marathon a year from October. And I am tempted as well. First, it was number one in my poll a few months ago. Second, I got that nice Nike Winged Victory Award from LLS in June, and is that a sign or what? Third, I wouldn’t have to grit my teeth and start fundraising again until probably April. Fourth, I have a sister, two nieces, and a nephew in the Bay Area. And fifth, I would love to do an event with Kristi again, although she will walk it. If I walk it with her, she will lose me after about 10 miles, and I’d be hurting by that point to hang with her incredible walk speed. If I run big chunks of it, I will likely lose her at some point, but maybe not – she walks that fast. My point it, it would be hard for us to figure out how to do the whole thing together. But it appeals to me to have two strong survivors doing this race together with Team Virginia – as examples to each other and to our teammates.

I also told her that I would be worried about being the last guy to finish at Nike. There are only like 800 guys in the race (and about 24,000 women – talk about great scenery on the race course!) and I doubt I would be one of the faster men, unless most of the others have one leg or something like that. On the other hand, if I were to be the last guy across, so be it as long as I finish the race and have a great time. But seriously, I doubt I would be the slowest man in the race.

Then there is the possibility of a bike race – Tahoe in the spring for example. I think Kristi wants to do a century ride before she does a triathlon and I probably want to do a tri first. Either way I would have to buy a bike – no getting around that. I think both of us, as survivors, have this wild idea of getting a TNT Triple Crown before we are through. I have a good 17 years on Kristi, so I have less time to get that done than she does.

And if I decide not to do Nike, but wanted a fall event, I could see what they have for triathlons. Since they are not doing one with the summer team, certainly the fall team will do one – maybe the Nations Triathlon again. That one sounds fun, and is popular.

So there you have it – a lot to think about. I guess the key thing is that I want to do another event in 2010, stepping up both athletically and with fundraising. That fact is more important than which event, and hopefully I can have fun – and more conversations with former teammates – while making up my mind!