Friday, December 31, 2010

Final Report on my 2010 Goals

At the end of 2009, I identified ten goals for myself for the upcoming year. Here is where things stand 12 months later!

1. Do my fifth Team in Training event. On June 26th, I ran and walked the Seattle Half Marathon. Mission Accomplished!

2. Get a bike. Initially, this meant saving money for a bike. Nope, had other priorities for my money. Probably I will get a new computer before I get a bike even in 2011.

3. Eclipse $50,000 (cumulative) in fund raising for Team in Training. I needed to raise $8,500 this season to hit this target. And I surpassed this, people so generously donating over $11,000 to my cause. Mission Accomplished!

4. Lose my extra 10 pounds. I ending up losing about four pounds net, counting what I gained back in the last month with too many Christmas cookies. So I will treat this as a partial success.

5. Practice swimming. Ouch! I made no progress on this goal.

6. Write something, get it published, and get paid for it. Well, I did two out of three, but the getting paid was a big part of that. I got this poem published in a newsletter at Virginia Beach. No money, other than the currency of satisfaction, changed hands.

7. Run the Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K this March. Mission accomplished!

8. Hike more, and try to backpack again. I have gotten in a lot of great hikes this year, and even did a two day backpacking trip in up Priest Mountain earlier this month.

9. Do something about my work situation. As stated in August, given the economy, I am just going to hold pat. Things have improved, including my attitude. So maybe that is what I am doing about my work situation - improving my outlook. But I did buy one last lottery ticket for tonight!

10. Continue this blog, as well as my blog “Oh, to be Hiking,” through 2010. I've kept both blogs going pretty well this year, although I struggled with this one a bit after running in Seattle.

Summary – mixed. I have accomplished five goals, partially accomplished two of my goals, made no progress on two more, and kind of abandoned one goal. Not wonderful, although it would have been tough to do them all. And as people have commented, if this were baseball, I'd have a great batting average.

Next up: figure out what goals I want to set for 2011. Hint - you know that one of them will involve Team in Training. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A New Year Coming

Here we are, just days from a brand new year, my ninth year since surviving lymphoma. I feel so blessed to be here for 2011, especially as a I know so many people currently suffering from cancer.

My work outs lately have been in shambles. Between things to do for the holidays and cold and snowy weather, the best I have had the discipline to do is a walk now and then, maybe a short run, and a very rare upper body workout. And it is showing, as I've gained at least three or four pounds since Thanksgiving. I have also noticed that the same sneaky son of a gun who was coming in during the middle of the night and replacing my trousers is doing it again. It is really annoying.

I did take a three mile walk on my lunch break yesterday, and two the day before that, plus that same day, I ran a mile on the treadmill and did 16 minutes on the eliptical machine. But that needs to become a habit again. One thing I am learning about myself is that I need that goal out there to force me to run. I need to have that scheduled race. But first, I have to make a final decision on surgery or not for this neuroma. I think I need to do it, but just seem frozen with indecision. My problem is that when I am not running and walking a lot, it is barely noticable, and I get complacent about it, and think it is fine. I think I just need to suck it up and get the surgery. I will have 10 days of sick leave in one more week, and that is the time to do it.

Anyone have any new year resolutions? I am thinking of my goals for next year, and will post those after the new year begins. I think I had too many goals last year and just could not reach them all. So I will try for a more modest list for 2011 (maybe). One thing you can count on: I plan for racing for a cure again in 2011.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

Joseph Mohr and Franz Xavier Gruber

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cancer Sucks! It Really, Really Sucks!

A friend asked us to come over last Saturday night, because she wanted to share some news. We knew that she had had a medical appointment to examine a large mass in her tibia the day before, but all her husband said when we asked about it was “Not good. We’ll tell you tonight.” Well, the news was “Probable multiple myeloma,” a tough-as-a-nut blood cancer of the plasma cells in the bone marrow.

She had surgery Wednesday to implant a titanium rod in her tibia, because the bone was in danger of breaking without it. And that diagnosis was confirmed: multiple myeloma. It is looking pretty advanced, maybe even stage 3, which is the most advanced stage. She has had a ton of weird illnesses over the past year, and now it seems apparent that many or even most of these were caused by the myeloma as it remorselessly grew in her body.

Cancer just sucks! One more person, one more family, turned inside out and upside down, worrying about their future in fear. Every four minutes, an American is diagnosed with a blood cancer, and Wednesday morning, it was our friend Judy’s turn. She is facing the same difficult future that all newly diagnosed cancer patients do. Plus she is in a lot of pain and very sick from the side effects of the surgery. Her husband and daughter have been spending nights at the hospital. I’ve been trying to research things for them, and yesterday, I shoveled their driveway from our fresh 2-3 inch snowfall. It wasn’t much, but it made me feel better that I could do one tiny thing that might help them when she comes home from the hospital and won’t have to face getting through an icy driveway.

One more name for my next Team in Training race shirt. One more person dealing with the almost unbelievable misery of radiation and chemo, worrying how long they will live, trying to stay positive. One more spouse worrying if he and his wife will grow old together, how to get her the best treatment, feeling scared and overwhelmed. I added it up yesterday: I now know ten people personally who are currently dealing with cancer, and in more cases than not, they are very difficult cancers that are proving to be relentless, and very evil. And that number does not include the many survivors I know, nor those that have not made it.

Last February, when I wrote “The Limits of Cancer,” I was trying express how the human spirit is stronger than the evil powers of cancer. I still feel that way, but I also know that our friend is in for a very difficult time of it. Just how difficult will be made clear in the coming months. I feel really bad about her situation, and have that initial feeling of helplessness that everyone gets when a close friend or family member gets this diagnosis. Cancer sucks! It really, really sucks!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Talking to the Teams

I wanted to meet the Spring Team and give a mission moment about my eight year remission point. I am not doing TNT at this moment in time, but know a number of the people on the teams.

So I got up early yesterday and went out to meet the run team at 8AM and the cycle team at 9AM. I got to the park early and had time to run and walk three miles or so in the cold. I had hoped my friend Lelia would want to come out and run, but she ended up going in Florida, so I ran by myself, doing laps around the VITA track in the park. It felt like it could snow, but after my workout, my upper layers were soaked through, and my fleece was covered with frost on the back. I sweat buckets when I work out, even in the cold. Standing around afterwards for a half hour left me feeling chilled.

The spring team has a lot of people, which is fantastic to see. The last few years, it has been small, and it is always more fun with a bigger team. They were an enthusiastic group. I talked to them about my great fortune in reaching eight years in remission, but how even though Hodgkin lymphoma is considered a “good cancer” to have, 15% of people so afflicted will die from it. Why is that? Why is it that the drugs that cured me so successfully will not work for someone else? There has to be something at the cellular level or sub-cellular level that is different enough, and that is why more money is needed for research.

It was great to see so many old friends on this team, and I felt wistful that I am not on it, training for Vancouver. But about 8:30, I left to drive 25 minutes to meet the cycle team, coached by my friend Susan Ann. It was across town, and I got to meet six people who came out that day. Their training does not officially start until January, so this is preliminary workouts. They were riding 25 miles on the cold day. What a nice bunch of men and women!

I really appreciated the chance to talk to these fine groups of TNTers, out there in the cold and trying to make a difference with blood cancers. That difference is still badly needed, despite recent successes in the war against cancer.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Eight Years in Remission

Well, here it is, the eighth anniversary of my remission from Hodgkin Lymphoma. Eight years ago, I was totally worn out, weak, and very hopeful that I was cured and done with all this chemotherapy. A CT scan confirmed that a couple of weeks later. Now, I am still on Planet Earth, surviving and living strong, a multiple marathoner and half marathoner for Team in Training and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

On this date, eight years in remission, I thought I would look back on 2010 and write about eight great memories I have for this year racing for a cure. These are not in any particular ranking order. If you want to read about eight great moments in the great outdoors, click here.

1. The half-marathon in Seattle. This was my fifth TNT event, my second half marathon, and my first time in Seattle, Washington. It was amazing. I hit my time goal of under two hours 30 minutes despite a continually painful left foot and two injuries in the preceding month. Every time I do a race for TNT, I am sure it will feel routine at the finish line after so many. But every time, the emotions of running as a survivor are overwhelming at the finish line. It is like no feeling on earth.

2. Fundraising $50,000 for LLS. My fundraising this year for the Seattle race crossed the $50,000 mark over my five events for Team in Training. I also surpassed my fundraising goal for the event, and ran with purple hair to celebrate. I wrote a new fundraising note every couple of weeks. I think my favorites were this one about waiting for the cavalry, and this one about how chemotherapy is tougher than a marathon.

3. Running on the anniversary of my grandfather’s death. My mom’s dad was the only grandparent I ever knew. He died from cancer on June 26, 1959 – just a couple of weeks before my eighth birthday, yet in those few years he was a huge factor in my life, and wonderful memories. The Seattle race was on the anniversary of his death. I hope he would have been proud of me.

4. Writing “The Limits of Cancer.” I really like this poem. To me, it summarizes the triumph of the human spirit over the evils of cancer. I wrote it in honor of my sister and several good friends who are all going through cancer’s horrors right now.

5. Running the Livestrong 5K at the beach. This was my first 5K and my first race where I ran every single step with no walking. It was at Sandbridge in Virginia Beach, and was for the Livestrong organization, and was just a blast. I did not fundraise, but I carried the names of many people, living and dead, who faced down cancer.

6. Training with Lelia. Team in Training is always a great experience, but it is a lot more fun when you have a training buddy. We often have small teams and mix in my run – walk alternating style, and I sometimes have to train alone much of the time. Not this year – my friend Lelia was out with the team, also as a Galloway runner, and we trained together nearly every Saturday. It made the time fly by!

7. Mentoring / mentor captain. Once again, I was a mentor for the summer team, and mentor captain for the spring team. I enjoyed working with the other participants and mentors to help them reach their goals. Because participants tend to be young and female, and I tend to be old and male, I am not always sure I am communicating on the same level. But things generally tend to work out, and I hope that I can enhance the experience of others in this manner.

8. Light the Night. This is a beautiful event with all the lighted white, red, and gold balloons, and a special memory of surviving cancer eight years.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The “Good” Cancer

Hodgkin Lymphoma, what I was wrapping up treatment for exactly eight years ago, is sometimes called the “good” cancer. If you get it, and can get medical treatment for it, you have about an 86% chance of living five years. Compared to most other forms of cancer, these are pretty good odds, and if you are in the 86% group, as I was, then it does seem like the cancer to have. It is one of the few cancers that doctors use the word “cured,” I think, if indeed you do survive it and go into lengthy remission. Although I know anything can still happen, after eight years of being in remission, I would be considered in the cured group.

Every year, about 8,000 Americans will be diagnosed with Hodgkin’s, and every year, over 1,000 Americans will die from it. If you are one of those 1,000 plus people, then it is decided not a good cancer. It is horrible, painful, and life-ending, and devastating to the family and friends. Yesterday, I learned of one such person.

Jennifer Willey of Kennebunkport, Maine was just 31 – so young - when she died last week from Hodgkin Lymphoma. She was diagnosed on May 26, 2005, which was nearly exactly three years after my diagnosis and just weeks before my first marathon for Team in Training. I am sure that when she was diagnosed, she was told that she had the “good” cancer and had the same high hopes that I had to continue living. After all, she had an 86% chance of surviving. She finished treatment in November that year, but unlike my last chemo in November 2002, it was not to be her last treatment. She relapsed, got more chemo, two stem cell transplants, and fought the horrific effects of graft vs. host disease as a result. Her lungs were ravaged and she spent her last days in a wheel chair on oxygen. Technically, she was a five year survivor since she made it past last May, but that is a pretty hollow victory. From all accounts, she was a remarkable young woman, and I cannot imagine how devastating her death is for her family and friends.

I wish I could have known of her while she lived so I could have sent her some encouragement, and also told her that her name will be on my race shirt for my next Team in Training event. She had a website where she collected information about Hodgkin’s and also stories of others she had met virtually along the way who had battled this terrible disease.

Jennifer’s story, and her ultimate fate, is a sad reminder of how much work there remains to be done even with a “good” cancer like Hodgkin Lymphoma. The dirty little secret is there is no good cancer. Yes, with this cancer, medical researchers have figured out if you inject four very toxic substances (Adriamycin, Bleomycin, Vinblastine, Dacarbazine) into the blood stream every two weeks for several months, more people will live than will die. But many will still die, and all will suffer considerable misery. We really haven't figured out even a cancer like Hodgkin Lymphoma, despite the high survival rate. What makes it tick? Why do some people live, and others die? How can you really defeat it, without nearly killing the patient in the process?

So much more work remains in the war on cancers. It is staggering and overwhelming at times, especially when you consider how many people are suffering from various cancers at this exact moment in time. It is a disease that never rests, never tires, never takes a coffee break, never goes into recession. It is remorseless, pitiless, and relentless, and some times – as in Jennifer’s case – the best available medical technology, courage, and grit are not going to be enough. Even “curable” cancers are not really curable right now. If you are out there doing Team in Training, or taking some other action to raise funding for cancer research, and you happen to come across what I wrote here, thank you for helping to get us one step closer to a true cure.

Monday, November 29, 2010

December Progress on my 2010 Goals

At the end of 2009, I identified ten goals for myself for the upcoming year. I decided to do a little progress report at the end of each month to see how I am doing on each of these. Here is where things stand after 11 months into the New Year with December just around the corner! Diligent followers of Racing for a Cure will no doubt note that didn't do a summary since August. Sorry about that.

1. Do my fifth Team in Training event. On June 26th, I ran and walked the Seattle Half Marathon. Mission Accomplished!

2. Get a bike. Initially, this means saving money for a bike. Nope, had other priorities for my money. Probably I will get a new computer before I get a bike.

3. Eclipse $50,000 (cumulative) in fund raising for Team in Training. I needed to raise $8,500 this season to hit this target. And I surpassed this, people so generously donating over $11,000 to my cause. Mission Accomplished!

4. Lose my extra 10 pounds. I had lost about five pounds, so I will treat this as a partial success, especially if I keep it off during the Christmas season.

5. Practice swimming. Ouch! I’ve made no progress on this goal.

6. Write something, get it published, and get paid for it. Well, I did two out of three, but the getting paid was a big part of that. I got this poem published in a newsletter at Virginia Beach. No money, other than the currency of satisfaction, changed hands.

7. Run the Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K this March. Mission accomplished!

8. Hike more, and try to backpack again. I have gotten in a lot of great hikes this year, and even did a two day backpacking trip in up Priest Mountain earlier this month.

9. Do something about my work situation. As stated in August, given the economy, I am just going to hold pat. Things have improved, including my attitude. So maybe that is what I am doing about my work situation - improving my outlook.

10. Continue this blog, as well as my blog “Oh, to be Hiking,” through 2010. I've kept both blogs going pretty well this year.

Summary – mixed. After 11 months, I have accomplished five goals, partially accomplished two of my goals, made no progress on two more, and kind of abandoned one goal. And I would guess this is how the year will end up.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

On Uncertain Footing

I’ve written before, both seriously and also attempting humor, about my painful left foot. Two or three times over the last year or year and a half, I’ve gone through major campaigns to have alcohol injections in attempt to destroy the little nerve between my third and fouth metatarsals that has led to a painful neuroma. This last time in particular, we hit that thing hard. Each shot was quite painful, leading me to believe we were hitting that thing where it hurts and taking it out.

My last shot was about three weeks ago, and the doctor said to make sure I run and walk to see how it is doing. I did my tough backpacking trip just over two weeks ago, and was encouraged that I had no pain to speak of. Maybe it really is going away. Then I had a sedentary week in Michigan last week, and did a three mile run Saturday. Sunday I did a seven mile hike around town to enjoy this fantastic weather and the last of the fall colors. From the start of the hike, my left foot hurt with every single step. In seven miles of hiking, my left foot is going to hit the ground about 7,500 times, and every one of those footsteps hurt. And as the hike went on, each footstep hurt more and more. I guess that little three mile run flared things up enough to result in a lot of hurting on Sunday's hike.

Although I really enjoyed hiking along the James River, including passing near some old Team in Training places like Hollywood Cemetery, I was really discouraged at the end. The alcohol shots are clearly not working. The pain for the neuroma is as bad, or even worse, than it ever has been.

I am not sure what to do next. I guess I will cancel next week's alcohol shot. It just seems like throwing $40 away. I may have to consider surgery. My lifestyle is very dependent on having pain-free feet. There are too many things I like to do - hiking, running, and of course just taking a nice walk – that foot pain with every step will impede.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Where Does Time Go?

Wow, here November is nearly over and I have barely written in this blog at all. It doesn’t help that I am not doing Team in Training at this moment. I have been blogging a lot in my Oh, To Be Hiking blog, trying to catch up with posts about my Alaska trip and also some of my fall hikes and my recent backpacking trip up Priest Mountain in the George Washington National Forest.

I just returned from a week in Michigan. I took my running gear with the best of intentions. But I ran not a bit. It was always so dark in the morning, with daylight coming close to 7:30 each day. It was cold every morning, and rainy – even a little snowy – more often than not. I could find one excuse after another not to run or work out – too dark, too cold, too wet, too much going on. But now I am back home in Virginia, and the excuses are wearing thin.

So I ran yesterday for the first time in a while. It was a beautiful day, the sun was bright, and the fall colors still brilliant. I ran in shorts and a tee shirt. I ran and walked 4 laps around Echo Lake near my home, which translates to about 3 miles. My combined run-walk pace is in the 10:30 range for that distance. I was a little tired at the end, but would have done another mile or so if I had not forgotten my water bottle. Now, three or four miles is a long way from being able to run a marathon again, or even a half marathon, but it is something. It will be five months this week since the Seattle Half-Marathon. It is time to get going again, to start thinking of the next race – whatever that will be.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I Voted With My Feet!

I voted with my feet yesterday! No really, I did. I haven’t run in a little while, so I decided to run to my polling place, about a four mile round trip. Combined with a three mile walk to Libby Hill Park at lunch, I got some decent exercise. Now, I have a dread feeling that I accomplished more with my run to vote than the Congress will in the next two years, but maybe they will prove me wrong. Maybe they will actually figure out how to get some work done instead of just fighting with one another, spin doctoring every little thing that happens, posturing, and blaming the other party. But in any event, I voted, exercising my right and privilege, my duty and responsibility.

I hope that you did as well. It is not my business how you voted, but it is my business if you voted. And frankly, it is your business if I voted. That is how a republic works. And every Election Day is proof that our republic has survived another year. So I hope you voted.

If you are Catholic or Jewish or Hindu or Muslim, I hope you voted. At one point in this country, you had to be white, male, Protestant, over 25, and a landowner to vote, or to serve on a jury.

If you are an American of African ancestry, I hope you voted. At one point, many of your ancestors were brought here in chains under unimaginable conditions, and treated as beasts of burden with absolutely no rights. It took until the after the Civil War for black males to have the right to vote, and it took another 100+ years for full citizenship. Many people sacrificed tremendously to make it so. You owe it to them to vote.

If you are a woman, I hope you voted. 91 years ago, you did not have this right, and many women worked hard and sacrificed much to convince men – who had all of the power - to allow you to be able to vote. Suffragette leaders were unjustly imprisoned, force fed, beaten, and generally treated inhumanely. What would they think if they could see the large numbers of women who do not vote?

If you are a young person, I hope you voted, because it was in my lifetime that 18, 19, and 20 year olds were given the right to vote.

If you are an American citizen of any race or religion or national origin, I hope you voted. All you have to do is drive by the tombstones of Arlington National Cemetery to be reminded of the sacrifices people have made on our behalf to keep this country free. Hell, all you have to do is look at the news, with a major war still going on nine years later.

I voted with my feet yesterday. Whether you did the same, or got to the polling place by auto, horse, bicycle, or limousine, I hope that you voted.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lighting the Night, and Thinking of “BJ”

Even though I had not fundraised or even planned in advance to walk in Light the Night this year, my schedule freed up late yesterday afternoon, and I decided to go. I ended up running into several friends there: Kristi, Nancy, Chuck, Jenn, and Katie (who spoke as a survivor to the LTN crowd) from Team in Training, and awesome recent cancer survivor and fund-raising champ Faith from last year’s “Faith’s Hope” Light the Night team. I also met Faith’s cute little dog, Henry, for the first time. Like the rest of us, he had a good time walking for a cure. The weather could not have been more perfect for this event, with the nearly full moon shining brightly a day after the Hunters’ Moon, and Jupiter shining in the east like a beacon.

While waiting in line to register, there was a woman behind me wearing a shirt with a photo of a young man and the words that she was walking in memory of “BJ.” I told her I was sorry for her loss, and she told me that she was “BJ’s” mother, and how her son died on March 17 of 2009. He was only 16. Even though I am not a “weepy” person, I could feel my eyes filling with tears at the thought of this mother’s unimaginable loss.

If you know me, and you are familiar with what I do for Team in Training, you know that one of the really big things for me when I do my races for the Purple Team is running and walking in honor and memory of those who have had cancer. In all five of my events, my shirt on race day is covered with names, including four months ago in Seattle and 18 months ago in Nashville. So even though I am not yet signed up for Team in Training, I decided to start my name list for 2011 last night, starting with “BJ.” I told his mother that I would like to write his name on my shirt for my next race, and she seemed touched by this. She wrote his name down for me, and his birth and death dates. He was born at Christmas time in 1992 and died on St. Patrick’s Day in 2009, which should be two very festive times. But I am sure that for “BJ’s” family, these dates will always be tinged with sadness.

Cancer is always horrible. But it is particularly horrific when children are involved. My Nashville teammates Tami and Fred lost their son Blake to leukemia at age 15. My friend Holly nearly lost her daughter a few months old to leukemia. There is the little girl who’s mom talked about at our Seattle Inspiration Dinner – getting cancer twice by the time she was two years old. My teammate Ann lost her son to leukemia at age 19. Then there is the little girl in Nashville with leukemia that I ran into while I was there with the race. I will probably never see her again, but I will never forget her and hope that she is healthy and stays that way. And now, there is Maurice (“BJ”), whom I’ve never met and never will meet. I don’t know anything about this young man. But two things with absolute certainty I do know are that he had life stolen from him decades and decades too soon, and that his family will always have a hole in their lives. I can’t change any of that, but when I do my next race for Team in Training in the fall of 2011, I will remember “BJ” and wear his name on my shirt.

The Light the Night went through Carytown, and it was a beautiful walk. All of the lighted balloons glowing in the dark are so pretty. I saw many other people wearing the team shirts in memory of “BJ”, and of several other teams. It is always moving to me to see the teams, and all of the gold (walking in memory of a loved one) and white (cancer survivor) balloons. It has been eight years for me now since I was so ill, and by the grace of God, I walked last night once again as a strong and lucky survivor. One day, there will be cures for every type of blood cancer – I believe this in my heart. If we continue to be just a little more relentless than cancer is, it will happen.

Here are a few photos from last night.

It's still light, but people are gathering their balloons: red for supporters, gold for remembering those who have passed on from this awful diseases, and white for us very lucky survivors:
From right, Jackie (Hodgkin lymphoma survivor), her daughter Kristi (Hodgkin lymphoma and thyroid cancer survivor, and my friend and teammate from a number of events with Team in Training), Kristi's daughter Rebecca (may she always walk with a red balloon), and Nancy (currently with chronic lyphocatic leukemia, and one of my mentee's from this past Summer TNT season).
From right, my friend Faith (Hodgkin lymphoma survivor), her friend Marla (breast cancer survivor who just walked the 60 mile Komen Three-Day) and her husband, and Faith's and my friend Jenn, TNT alumni from this past winter. Faith and Jenn joined me this past March as cheerleaders at the Shamrock Marathon at Virginia Beach.
The walk starting, and underway through Cary Town. Light the Night!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Running of the Snails

Well, we all know about the thrilling and dangerous event in Pamplona, Spain: “The Running of the Bulls.” But what if there was another event for slower runners, like yours truly? Here is what just might happen....

Cohonnahonna, Hawaii. October 14, 2010. FSEN (Funky Sports Entertainment Network). Several near-tragedies were barely averted as dozens of runners ran the streets of Cohonnahonna today, along with several hundred fierce African giant land snails in the first annual “Running of the Snails.” Most of the runners seemed ill-prepared for the speed and power of these massive mollusks, to say nothing of their impressive slime trails.

“It was pretty horrible,” said Kristin Snodgrass of Kentucky. “I thought I had trained hard for this event, but nothing can compare you for the real running of the snails. This guy at the beginning started too slow, and got bowled over and slimed. I can’t get the images out of my mind! I keep replaying them mentaly like a really bad slasher movie.” FSEN interviewed the victim in this near-catastrophe, Art Rittenhausen of Virginia, at his hospital room. “I’d trained hard with the biggest local snails I could find,” said Rittenhausen. “But these things here are really fast, and enormous. I just wasn’t ready, and then I tripped over this really big one, slid through a gooey slime trail, and had several of them slime me as they went by. It was kinda gross, but I’ll be okay. I plan on being at the escargot dinner tonight. I’ll do better next year, now that I know what to expect. If I can increase my speed by even a few millimeters a second, I’ll be able to keep up!”

Karl Mucosa, a spokesperson for event organizer “Out-Pace the Snail,” said the weather was perfect for snail racing: high 70’s and a light mist. This probably led to them being faster and more aggressive than normal. Plus it created ideal sliming conditions as the beasts moved rapidly along. Many runners struggled to keep up, and several fell as they were jostled by snails or slipped in slime trails.

The most serious injury occurred when Bill Bartalo of New York was “sandwiched” between two particularly large snails, lost his balance, and fell on another snail. The impact crushed the snail and broke several of Bartalo’s ribs, temporarily immobilizing him. But it could have been much worse, said Bartalo. “Lucky for me, most of the lumbering snails behind me reacted to their crushed buddy by swinging to the left or right and avoiding me. Otherwise I could have been trampled and slimed to death. The one close call was when a snail came along that seemed to hold me accountable for his pal’s death, and he became enraged and started attacking me. Fortunately, several runners intervened and fought him off while I could be rescued. People really care!”

“This was the first time we have held this event, and we’ve learned some lessons for next time,” said Mucosa, between bites of escargot and sips of his lager. “One thing we might do differently next time is to scatter a little sand at points along the race course to slow the snails down a bit. But overall, I call the “Running of the Snails” a big success.”

No snails or other animals were harmed in creating this account.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Join the Spring Team!

I was asked to speak at a Spring Team Information Meeting next week, and was looking over the wonderful events for Team Virginia. So I thought I'd have a bit of fun mashing them up in a poem:

Would you like to stay fit, make new friends and do good?
Well, here’s the most beautiful thing –
What if I told you there’s a way that you could
By joining the Team for the upcoming spring?

Come join Team in Training, we’ve five great events
You’ll train and you’ll matter, achieve and endure
All while you are raising dollars and cents
To fund the ultimate goal: blood cancers’ cure!

Would you like to compete at a race that is near?
Then the Shamrock Marathon would be mighty keen
At the end of the race you’ll enjoy stew and beer
And you’ll see lots of folks oh, a-wearing the green

You could run like a princess with a tiara of pink
Don’t worry buff guys, manly men are allowed
From the crowds at Walt Disney you just might catch a wink
And when you cross that finish, you’ll feel really proud

Or have yourself an adventure in the Canadian West
When you race for a cure in scenic Vancouver
The money you raise when you give it your best
Will help LLS fund more “cancer remover!”

Running’s too tame? What’s this that you say?
Well, does TNT Virginia have something for you -
St. Anthony’s Triathlon down at Tampa Bay
You’ll swim, bike and run – now that’s quite a coup!

Or how about "America’s Most Scenic Bike Ride?”
Cycle one hundred miles as you circle Lake Tahoe
You’ll be tired at the end, but bursting with pride
As you finish a distance few people can go

So what are you waiting for? Get the show on the road!
Believe in yourself, know that you can do it
Go have an adventure in a brand new zip code
While helping with cures – it’s time to get to it!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


I ran tonight for the first time since the Livestrong 5K. I met my friend Lelia, and we ran and walked five miles. Neither of us has run much since our races for Team in Training, San Diego for Lelia in early June, Seattle for me the end of June. But before that time, during the spring season, we trained hard together nearly every Saturday for months. So it was great to get together today after work and run and walk together on a very warm October evening. We put the emphasis on walk, using a longer walk interval and a shorter run interval.

As I told Lelia, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about another full marathon. It will be three years this coming January since I was in a marathon, and although it was a PR by 17 minutes, I walked the majority of it. I think it is time that I try another one in the next year, and try running the majority of it. I jokingly asked Lelia to talk me out of it, but she said instead that she would help me train.

So you read it here first – sometime in 2011, I plan on my fourth marathon. Exactly when and where is to be determined, but the first step is having that desire, because completing a marathon takes a lot of desire. For tonight, five miles was enough, never mind 26.2. But if I am going to get that world record in the marathon that I predicted, I need to start doing them again.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

On Getting Back Out There

Exercise can be an easy habit to quit and a difficult one to restart. I am kind of in the restart mode. I have not exactly been a couch potato since my Seattle half marathon, but no where near as active as I had been during training. A lot of it is time, but that comes down to priorities. Give up an hour sleep or work out? Clean the house (badly needed) or go to the gym? Read a book or go for a run? Watch baseball (Go Phillies) or go for a run? There are 24 hours in every day (Film at 11!) and getting ready for work, driving to work, working, and driving home from work consumes about 12 of them five days a week. Unless I win the lottery, that isn’t changing any time soon. And sleeping needs to take about 7 more every single day.

Since getting back from Alaska, with cooler weather, I am starting to work out more. I’ve done a little running, and ran the Livestrong 5K a week ago. I’ve hit the weights a few times, and done water aerobics. And I’ve taken some walks – about 3.25 miles Friday morning and four miles yesterday. My Friday walk was very early and it was pitch dark. I usually end up taking a trail through some woods to make that a 4 mile walk, but it was so dark I actually could not stick to the trail, so I aborted that part. I’ve also been walking some at lunch.

I need, and want, to do more. With cooler weather, there are less excuses. I think I need to sign up for the Shamrock half marathon. That gives me a definite March goal to prepare for, and try for a PR.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Reflections on the 5K

I am feeling good about the Livestrong 5K. I have not been running much since the Seattle half marathon, for a variety of reasons. The biggest of these, frankly, is laziness. On these hot summer days we had, it was always easier and more convenient to try to sleep in a bit and plan to “run tomorrow.” Oh, I did get out now and then, but you lose that edge and then it becomes even easier to skip. And suddenly someone who was in half marathon shape is in 10K shape, then 5K shape. I’ve not been a couch potato, but not real active either. When it is 100 degrees out, it is very easy to find an excuse to stay indoors.

I was too hot for months to walk at lunch at work, which I really like doing. I would try going for a one mile walk and come back soaked in sweat – kind of gross in the office. But now the cooler weather is here, and I will be trying to get back in that habit now that last week’s rain is done. Of course, yesterday would have been a great day to walk, but instead I went to lunch with a friend and consumed about 7,000 calories with a huge burrito.

So I need to mentally use the 5K success as a springboard. I don’t want to give up on the run-walk method, but it felt great to run the entire 5K, and I would like to do the same with the 2011 Monument Avenue 10K, and go for a PR. I also want to sign up for the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach and see if I can improve my sub-2:30 PR in March.

I’ve not been running this week, but I have gotten in two workouts with weights, which are definitely needed. I’ve interspersed those with crunches and planks, trying to keep my core strong. Tonight, I will go for water aerobics and try to get up early tomorrow and run. I could have run this morning, but it was more convenient to update my blog. And if it is cool, I will try a walk at lunch and try to get back into doing that. Even a 2 mile 30 minute walk is better than sitting in the cube at work surfing the web at lunch, wouldn’t you say?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Living Strong!

How do you assure a personal record (PR) in a race? Easy:

1. Run the race for the first time

2. Take the first step at the start

3. Just finish the race, in any time.

Yesterday, I ran a 5K (3.1 miles) in the Livestrong Dolphin Challenge in Sandbridge, Virginia - a quaint seaside beach community a dozen miles from Virginia Beach but lightyears away in character. The race was literally steps from the front door of our beach condo, and when I saw it a couple of years ago purely by chance at the end of a family reunion, I decided I had to come back another year and run this race. I originally planned on running the 10K but just have not trained since the Seattle half marathon three months ago. So I signed up for the 5K instead, which was plenty. It was my first 5K - I am not counting the Komen Race for the Cure a couple of years ago, because I didn't run it with a timing chip. I ran and walked that one in pink bunny ears!

This race benefits the Livestrong organization's fight against cancer, and fight for cancer survivors, such as myself. I was proud to run in it and do one tiny part in the long battle against these horrific diseases. And for the first time in a race, I ran every single step of it, foregoing my role as a runalker for at least one race. My time was 31:45, good enough for 61st place out of 154 finishers. I finished third in my age / sex cohort, out of only seven - but at least I wasn't seventh! It was a lot of fun to run a race right at beach front, seeing the dunes and ocean just yards away! Here are some photos:

I added a yellow Livestrong band to my pair of Nicki's "Decade of Strength" wristband and my purple Team in Training wristband. I also got a cool "technical" shirt with a dolphin on it. On the back it says "I fight cancer! What do you do?"

I wrote the names of a number of people who have died from or survived cancer on a slip of paper and carried it with me. I tried to honor these people with my efforts.

In my goodie bag for the race was a Livestrong pin, so I added that to my hat with my five TNT finisher pins.

Here is a shot of the starting area from my balcony, and a view of the beach yards from the starting line:

Before the 5K and 10K, there was a one mile race for children. Kids as young as four ran and walked a mile. Most of them looked happy coming in, although there were some tears. Here are a few photos near the finish:

"Coach Bob" was our team coach in Alaska when I walked my first marathon for Team in Training, and he is a dedicated TNT volunteer as the head run coach for the Hampton Roads, Virginia team year after year, season after season. He won the Virginia TNT volunteer award a couple of years ago - much deserved. Yesterday, he was announcer for the races, and even led us in singing the "Star Spangled Banner."
Just before the start, I had this photo taken of me holding up my list of honoree names. On my race shirt is a photo of my sister Ann, currently locked in a tough battle with stage 4 (metastatic) breast cancer:
Here is the field, running north on Sand Fiddler Road, just after the start of the 5K and 10K:
At the beach, you just might see a sea monster:
or a mermaid:
This was a really fun event. The weather was absolutely beautiful, I was at the beach running in my first timed 5K, it was for a great cause, and my time was respectible. What's not to like about that? In my mind, nothing! Live Strong! Race for a Cure!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Racing for a Cure in Yellow!

I was going to wear my purple Team in Training shirt Saturday for the 5K Livestrong Dolphin Challenge in Sandbridge. But then I got an email from the Livestrong organization - not in connection with the race specifically – requesting that people wear yellow on October 2. I’ve also seen this request on several blogs. So as much as I would like to wear my Seattle TNT shirt while I run, instead I will wear a yellow shirt I got some years ago when I signed up for a 10K as a cancer survivor. On the back it says: “Team Survivor – I Put Cancer on the Run.” Now, I don’t know if I put cancer on the run, or if it put me on the run and I managed to run faster than it does, but in any event, I will be 8 years cancer free this December. And that, as much as anything, is a good reason to run in yellow this Saturday in Sandbridge, Virginia.

But while I will wear my yellow “Team Survivor” shirt during the race, I will also wear my white hat with the purple and green Team in Training logo on it. On that hat will be my three “26.2” and two “13.1” pins, representing marathons in Anchorage, San Diego, and Phoenix, and half marathons in Nashville and Seattle for Team in Training. Each of those pins represents a tremendous amount of sweat and effort – many, many miles on my feet to train, and so many times of getting up early while the rest of the world sleeps, not to mention fund-raising over and over again.

I am not fundraising right now, and I will not be writing names of cancer victims and survivors on my yellow shirt. But I will be running 5,000,000 millimeters (sounds so much more impressive than 5K, doesn’t it?) in memory and honor of the following personal honorees who have died from or survived cancer. I will carry these names with me on a piece of paper while I run. And although I am so slow that snails gather in little groups and laugh with hilarity as I creep by, I will do my best to honor each and every one of my honorees with my humble efforts. As one of something like 28,000,000 cancers survivors worldwide, I am fortunate indeed to be alive, healthy and strong enough to do this.

In Memory of:
Alan Bernstein
Art Ritter, Jr. (my father)
Bob Caggiano
Bob Knapp
Joe Boisvert
Marilyn Libman
Steve Hauck
Stuart Silverman (my step-father)
Walter Lepson and Willis Lepson (my grandparents)
W. Scott Bivans

In Honor Of and Currently Dealing with Cancer or its Immediate Aftermath:
Ann Ritter (my sister – happy birthday, Sis!) – I’ll be wearing your picture while I race!
Barbara Moriarty
Ed Stone
Elayne Minich
John Hunnicutt
Kerry Alor
Lanie Evans
Linda Silver
Lillian Kerby (getting tested to see if she has relapsed)
Nancy Blevins
Paul Zamecnic
Robin Yoder

In Honor Of Those for Whom Cancer is Currently in the Rear View Mirror:
Bev Kuhlman
Blair Collins
Chris Ritter (my brother)
Christine Grudinskas (my sister-in-law)
Emma McFeeley
Faith Eury
Kayla Kuhn
Jane Kohler
Janice Wedwick
Julie Westcott
Katie Powell
Kristi Garstang
Mary Beth Gibson
Meighan Daily
Mindy Fast
Nancy Nelson
Nicki Patton (I’ll be wearing your “Decade of Strength” wristband, Nicki!)
Pam Pollard
Rhoda Ritter (my step-mother)
Rob Larsen
Warren Short

And finally, I am running in honor of the “Little Nashville Girl” I saw in April, 2009!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Someone is Going to Jump Off a Cliff

So, there is no way around it - someone is going to have to jump off a cliff! A month or so back, I did a poll about this blog and the results (among the six who cast votes) are in. Like politics, there is no middle ground - I guess people (who voted) either like this blog a lot or don't like it at all. The results:

2 - will jump off a cliff if I stop blogging (love it)

2 - will cry themselves to sleep if I stop blogging (like it a lot)

1 - will throw a party if I don't stop blogging (dislike it a lot)

1 - will jump off a cliff if I don't stop blogging (hate it)

So what can I do? I guess I will keep blogging. Thus only one will jump off a cliff, not two. And if they hate the blog that much, maybe they won't check back and won't feel compelled to jump.

In all seriousness, it is always more difficult to continue this blog when I am not doing Team in Training, since that was it's original focus and reason to be. I don't know what my next event will be or when, but until then I will just keep blogging from time to time with topics that hit my interest or strike my fancy. My other blog (Oh, To Be Hiking) is very active right now as a follow-up to my Alaska trip, so that is getting more attention at this moment in time.

But sometime in the next month or two, maybe I will join TNT again, and if not, I will surely join next Fall's team in the April or May timeframe. So until then, check back from time to time, and see what I am writing about here. And please don't jump!!!!!!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

A 5K in a Week!

Well, after doing hardly any running or even fast walking since the Seattle race the end of June, I signed up for a 5K today. The race is a week from tomorrow morning in Sandbridge, which is part of Virginia Beach. It is the Livestrong - Dolphin Challenge, and I have a place to stay right at the starting point, so it will be convenient.

Right now, a 5K seems challenging enough. I almost signed up for a 10K, but decided to save the extra $10 and just enjoy doing a 5K - my first ever, so a personal record is guaranteed.

The money goes to supporting two good causes: Livestrong and a dolphin rescue organization. I am excited about doing a race. I want to get in a couple of runs this week, then see what I can do about that PR. In any event, if it is not raining I will snap some photos. And rain or not, I want to enjoy the experience of a new race down at the beach, and hopefully use it as a springboard to start training again. After all, with the hot summer weather hopefully gone soon (it was about 98 today, I think), that removes one excuse.

I watched this race a year ago and really saw it as a festive and fun event. And of course, I will be wearing a purple TNT shirt for the race.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How Slow Can You Go?

So after about 4 weeks of no running or even fast walking for distance, I did some miles today since my cold was finally feeling better. I walked 4 miles this morning in great, cool weather at a 14 minute pace. And this afternoon, after the frustration of having the Philadelphia Songbirds almost blow a big lead against the Detroit Housecats, I decided it was too nice a day to not go out again. So I did four laps of a trail I like for a total of 2.8 miles, mixing running and walking. But I was slow. How slow was I? Consider…

The first to pass me was a young guy about half my age. “Well,” I thought, “I could be his dad.” So that was OK. Then a young woman, about the man’s age, zipped right by. She ran like a girl, so that was OK. By run like a girl, I mean running smart, running strong, and running proud. Most women I know can beat me in a race hands down. So that was OK, too.

Then a lady pushing a baby carriage with two kids in it sped by. Not so OK. A guy about my age roared past. Ouch! My testosterone level plummeted like a stone. His dad passed me a few seconds later. I felt the burn of shame across my face.

I heard a clickedy-clack behind me and turned just as a really old lady, maybe about 90, came up on me. She was using a walker, and was dressed in a sort of nightgown, of all things. As she went by, she turned and looked behind her, shaking her head grimly. “Damned Viagra!” she muttered half to herself. I heard more clicking and clacking behind me and looked back.

An old man, a little older than the lady, was wearing pajamas and was also using a walker. He was totally bald with a big paunch, and he sported a big grin. He was gaining quickly on me but gaining almost imperceptibly on the old lady. But he was gaining on her – that much was clear - and he put his head down and redoubled his efforts.

“Dude!” I exclaimed. “Give it a rest, why don’t you?” “No way, young fella,” he replied with a big grin. “There may be snow on the roof but there’s still fire in the furnace." I was tempted to tell him there was no snow or anything else on the roof, and that the furnace looked more like a pot-bellied stove, but then I decided that would not be nice. He passed me by, looking quite determined, the old lady just a few yards ahead of him now. Deciding I wanted no more of how this might turn out, I reversed course.

Within minutes, I was passed by a three-legged goat pursued by an old farmer on crutches. Then a box turtle lumbered by. I have always loved turtles and been fascinated by them, but I did get a vision of turtle soup. Finally, a snail crept by me. At that point, my 2.8 miles ended and I felt thoroughly defeated. But then I thought, “Hey, a lot of guys your age never even left the couch today. I was out there for 6.8 miles, slow or not!” So it was all cool.

Now, of course, I made some of this up. I was never passed by that snail. No way. Once he got close, I made a snap command decision. I won’t tell you what happened, but I will share that I had escargot for an appetizer tonight!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Musings

Man, TGIF! I came back from two weeks in Alaska worn out from playing and exploring hard, jet lag, the redeye flight home Sunday, and finally, a nasty cold that is kicking my butt. Finally, figuring I’d infected the office enough, I took the afternoon off sick today. My sneezes are shaking the foundation of my house!

So, my training has been nil lately. I planned on doing some running this week, but have been too drained with the cold. I did eat like a hog being fattened for slaughter during my trip, and between that and not enough exercise, I have gained about 6-7 pounds since my race in Seattle less than three months ago. Now obviously, that has to be turned around and quickly. And there is only one person who can make that happen. And he has a cold and is feeling miserable right now.

Meanwhile, the agony of da feet continues. I just can’t shake that neuroma, but got another shot of alcohol in there the other day, and it was a clearly a bull’s eye, because my foot felt like a big chunk of it was missing the rest of the day. I get another shot in two more weeks. I’ll keep trying to knock that baby out without surgery, which I’d like to avoid.

I need to set another race up, so I will have something that forces me to train. I could join the spring team for Team in Training, but right now it feels too soon to start fundraising again. I have a month more to think about it. If I don’t do it, I’ll join the fall team for 2011. But if I don't get training soon, that future world record marathon is going to be delayed.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Requiem in Pacem, Steve

My blogger holiday is over, and so is my two week vacation to Alaska. Before I went on vacation, I wrote about a man named Steve who was fighting a very tough fight with leukemia. During one of my rare e-mail checks from Alaska, I learned with sadness that Steve passed away about a week ago.

Every ten minutes on average, someone in the United States dies from a blood cancer. Last week, Steve became one of this terrible set of diseases latest victims.

I never met Steve, but he sounds like he was a great guy and devoted to his family. My heart goes out to them. Rest in peace, Steve. Your difficult and valiant fight is over, but you will not be forgotten.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Please Send Good Vibes to Steve

Okay, once I got some news today about my friend Michelle’s dad, Steve, I decided to delay my blogger holiday by a day.

I met Michelle last year when she was doing Team in Training in honor of her dad. He had a serious pre-leukemia condition, the name of which I cannot pronounce. He went through a lot of chemo to, futilely, hold it in check. This spring, it progressed to full-blown leukemia, and he was give a couple weeks to live without intensive chemotherapy leading to a bone marrow transplant.

Since that time, Steve has suffered immensely trying to beat the leukemia. I can’t list all of the terrible things he went through during something like two months at Duke – where he reported great medical care but terrible waffles (how can a place cure cancer but ruin waffles – the world’s easiest thing to make?) But things did not go well there. Despite everything, 100% of the leukemia cells could not be killed off, and without this, a bone marrow transplant will fail. To make things worse, he had a terrible bout with fungal pneumonia and they had to remove a big piece of a lung. They finally sent him home to regain strength and gain weight in preparation to try the whole thing over again.

I just learned today that Steve is back at Duke, after he lost the feeling in his right side. It turns out that the leukemia spread to his spinal fluid and also caused tumors on his skin. The doctors are afraid it will get to his brain so they started giving him chemo directly in his spinal fluid. In addition to all that, the he recently developed pneumonia in the remaining lung and that has recently worsened.

I am not sure how much more this poor guy and his family will have to go through, and things don’t sound good – as positive as we like to stay. But I do know it is a vivid reminder of why we need to continue to race for a cure. Please say a prayer for Steve and/or send him positive vibrations.

Okay - Now my blogger holiday officially (re)starts!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Taking a Blogger Holiday

No, I am not stopping my blog, but I am taking a little holiday until about mid-September, both from this blog and my other one: Oh, To Be Hiking. That will also give folks a chance to vote on the poll if they wish.

And after 2.25 years of steady blogging, it will give me a little time to think about what to write about next, now that my Seattle event is in the rear view mirror. For one thing, I need to start thinking about my next event. When will I have the courage to try fundraising again, and what event should I do? As written earlier, I pretty much spent the money I was saving for a bike (and then some) in Washington State, so if I do an event with the spring or summer team, it would almost certainly be a foot race.

It’s possible I will post something before September 15, but I doubt it. I wanted people who come here to know so they don’t see anything new for a while and assume that I gave up on this blog.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thinking About My Blog

So I have now been blogging here for over two years. I’ve been pretty faithful about it, posting my 500th post last night. I’ve fully recorded two full Team in Training fundraising and training campaigns, Nashville in 2009 and Seattle this year. In addition, I put all of my information from the Arizona Marathon in 2008 on my blog, albeit retroactively.

I generally enjoy writing this blog. But it is not widely read. I probably average about 6 hits a day. Since writers want to be read, I am not really accomplishing that goal with my blog. I am accomplishing a nice recording of a major component of my life these last few years, though. So I am trying to decide what to do going forward, especially since I am in between TNT events.

I’ll start with an anonymous poll, and leave it up for a month. What would it mean to you if I stopped blogging here? I may not base the decision of whether to keep blogging on the responses to the poll, but it could be a factor. The choices are:

If you shut down this blog, I will jump off a cliff. I love your blog and would miss it terribly, and cannot imagine not being able to come here from time to time and read all about it.

If you shut down this blog, I will cry myself to sleep for a week, but would eventually get over it. I really like your blog and would miss it a lot, at least for a while. But life moves on.

If you shut down this blog, there will be a hole in my life for a few days, but then I will forget about it. I like your blog and would miss it at least for a little while. But there is lots of other stuff to read.

I don’t much care one way or another if you shut down this blog. It is OK but I don’t follow it that regularly. I just don’t – sorry!

If you shut down this blog, I will throw a big party. I don’t like your blog and would be happy to see it gone. In fact, don’t ask me why I am even here answering this poll.

If you don’t shut down this blog, I will jump off a cliff. I really, really, really hate your blog and think it should go the way of the dodo, passenger pigeon, and polyester leisure suits.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Purple Runner

I am offering this, the 500th post on my blog, as thanks to members of Team in Training - from Richmond, from all over Virginia, and from all over the USA and Canada - who will be competing in the Rock 'N' Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach on September 5 and in the Nation's Triathlon in Washington DC on September 12. You guys rock, and anyone who has dealt with cancer who learns what you are doing will give thanks for your sacrifice and hard work. Here is my humble offering, as a cancer survivor, in appreciation and recognition of your efforts:

"The Purple Runner"

In pre-dawn darkness, she stumbles from bed
She splashes cold water all over her face
She tries to remember the things her coach said
As she goes out to train for her upcoming race

The house is all quiet in the dead of the night
But he tosses and turns, wide awake in his bed
For he’ll receive chemo just after first light
And the pit of his stomach is filled with deep dread

It’s already hot as she runs down the street
Sweat flows down slowly and drips off of her nose
Lately she has had lots of pain in her feet
And she dislikes the feel of skin sticking to clothes

The poison flows in with a slow drip-drip-drip
His cancer is proving elusive to treat
Sometimes he's afraid that he is losing his grip
And he's feeling worn out and so totally beat

As the distance piles up she runs with a slight limp
"Just have hang in there a mile or two more"
Thoughts of ill people make her feel like a wimp
As she remembers who she is doing this for

The doc grimly walks in, expressing his fears
But he says “There’s more cures just ‘round the bend
So keep hanging on, maybe one or two years
And try to stay calm – that’s what I recommend.”

She runs past the sign for the medical center
Ignoring tired legs, she presses on and endures
She thinks of ideas to discuss with her mentor
To raise some more money for much needed cures

He gets in his car and moves slowly along
And drives by a young runner in her drenched purple shirt
"Will I run once again? Will I ever feel strong?
Or will I end up under six feet of dirt?"

Her sore feet have gotten her to her last mile
She is struggling a bit so she drops down her pace
She’s exhausted and hot, but she thinks with a smile
This is not about running – for a cure I race!

As he passes her by, he gives one last glance
On the front of her shirt, he reads “TNT”
He smiles as he thinks “I still have a chance!
That runner is racing for a cure for me!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Iron Woman

One week from today, my good friend Susan will be in Louisville, Kentucky participating in her first Ironman Triathlon. She has done too many marathons and triathlons to count, as well as a couple of century rides. But this is her first Ironman: 2.4 miles swimming in the Ohio River, 112 miles on a bike, and 26.2 miles on foot. I cannot imagine it, and I am so proud of her.

I wanted to write her a little something to send her off, but I was pressed for time and the words wouldn't come. So I started to write a note about how I could not find the right words for her, and suddenly, the words came to me!

I'll be cheering for you from afar on the 29th, Susan! I want to see that Ironman tattoo after this is all done. You rock!

"The Iron Woman"

From me this time, no clever rhyme
(Though I think of you no less)
But there is insufficient time
To properly express

The admiration that I feel for you
As you chase down your quest -
The Ironman Tri you now pursue
While you strive to give your best

Though you will be both hot and tired
With little chance for rest
Think of us who’ll be inspired
‘Cause to the end you pressed

So whether swim or bike or run
Go strong, like one possessed
You’ll end your day in August sun
Ironman metal on your chest

With these last words, my verse I’ll end
Now to send you on your quest:
Go make us proud, my Iron Girl friend
To know you, I’ve been blessed

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Brett Drama

Well, it is almost time for another football season, so of course that means will Brett or won't Brett (Favre)? Pretty sly to get out of two-a-days in the summer heat by stating that you are retiring for sure and then end up playing afterall.

So since Brett can keep waffling year after year, I can at least point readers to last year's post about me retiring from Team in Training forever once again.

All joking aside, Brett Favre is an incredible athlete to still be doing this at, what, 40? My hat is off to him. Wish he was playing for the Eagles.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

July Progress on My 2010 Goals

At the end of 2009, I identified ten goals for myself for the upcoming year. I decided to do a little progress report at the end of each month to see how I am doing on each of these. Here is where things stand after seven and a half months into the New Year! Diligent followers of Racing for a Cure will no doubt note that didn't do a summary at the end of June (I was in Seattle) and actually here we are halfway through August. Oh well!

1. Do my fifth Team in Training event. On June 26th, I ran and walked the Seattle Half Marathon. Mission Accomplished!

2. Get a bike. Initially, this means saving money for a bike. Last time I reported that I set aside some money for this. Well, that was before the credit card bills from Seattle came due. That money is long gone!

3. Eclipse $50,000 (cumulative) in fund raising for Team in Training. I needed to raise $8,500 this season to hit this target. And I surpassed this, people so generously donating over $11,000 to my cause. Mission Accomplished!

4. Lose my extra 10 pounds. I had lost this weight by the time of the race but have gained about four pounds back, but I am still marking this as progress made.

5. Practice swimming. Ouch! I’ve made no progress on this goal.

6. Write something, get it published, and get paid for it. Ouch, ouch, ouch! I’ve made no progress on this goal.

7. Run the Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K this March. Mission ccomplished!

8. Hike more, and try to backpack again. I have gotten in some decent hikes this year, including three great days of hiking in Mount Rainier National Park. With the recent hot weather, and a lot going on, I have not been hiking lately. But I am satisfied with progress to date.

9. Do something about my work situation. Well, given the economy, I am just going to hold pat. Things have improved, including my attitude. So maybe that is what I am doing about my work situation - improving my outlook.

10. Continue this blog, as well as my blog “Oh, to be Hiking,” through 2010. I’ve written about 140 posts on this blog and 30 posts on my hiking blog through mid-Augustof 2010. So I am doing well on this goal.

Summary – mixed. After seven and a half months months, I have accomplished three goals, made good progress on three of my goals, no progress on three more, and kind of abandoned one goal. But the year is now nearly two thirds over. I still need to pick one of those neglected goals and at least get started by the end of September. So that is my goal for this month. Check back! I keep saying I will do this, and so far, it has not happened.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hot Weather, Cold Computer

I guess I am going to have to take the computer to an expert, a true geek. The other day, in addition to everything else, I took a drastic step: I removed iTunes and deleted all my music! It freed disk space from 14% to 29% in one fell swoop. Then I defragmented the disk one more time. Ever the optimist, I rebooted and, drum roll please, same result. Slower than tar running uphill at 20 below zero. The disk activity light just stays on for hours at a time, and everything is ridiculously slow so as to almost make the computer unusable. Tonight, after I let it run for almost three hours, I did a simple Mapquest. It took almost a half hour.

As cold as the computer is, the weather is hot. I think I heard that both June and July were the hottest on record here, and August is picking up where they left off. It has hovered near 100 degrees day after day, with a pleasant exception now and then. And it is so humid. I did run four miles on Sunday morning, in relative coolness, and it felt pretty good. But the other day, I walked 2 miles at 5:30 AM, and I felt like I was in a sauna. I know I should be getting back into running, but it is just too miserable. And at lunch at work, where I normally walk at least a mile or two, if I do that now, I get back to the office looking like I was caught in a downpour. So I have just been walking a few blocks, sitting on a bench in the shade, and reading Backpacker Magazine. Oh, all the places it makes me want to hike to!

On the plus side, I have been trying to do upper body workouts again after a long absence from them. It feels good. I have only managed to do it a time or two a week for the past few weeks, but that is better than nothing. More about that later. Right now, I am going to see if I can actually post this to my blog!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Why Hasn't Art Been Blogging?

Maybe you have wondered, or maybe not, why my blog has been so poorly updated recently. There are a number of reasons - competing demands for time, the natural post-TNT event letdown - but the biggest reason has been my computer, which has essentially gone on strike.

The computer is old, coming up on six years old. In fact, I need to enroll it in First Grade soon. And as time has gone on, it gets slower and slower. But for some reason, it has gone from very slow to glacial in the last few weeks. This week in particular has been terrible. The other day, it took an hour to open one page document in Word, make a half dozen minor changes, open Outlook, write a two sentence note, attach the document and a couple of photos, and send it. As I typed this prior sentence, everything froze up for about five minutes or so mid-sentence, and I just had to wait to continue.

I have done everything I can think of. I defragmented the disk, checked virtual memory, freed up disk space from 2% to 15%, run Spybot, and last night I downloaded and ran Malwarebyte free anti-malware software, which found and corrected about 10 problems that Norton overlooked. Whoops, just did it again - locked up for about 5-6 minutes. I've also knocked a couple of things out of the startup menu, and checked the swap space, because the disk activity light stays on almost all the time. Then only thing I have not done is taken a sledge hammer to the laptop, and that has been tempting.

I am kind of at the end of ideas, but hope to figure it out and get back to blogging soon. By the way, opening Internet Explorer, logging into Blogger, and writing this short post took me about a half hour.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

LLS Recognition Awards

On Monday, June 28, the Virginia Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society held their annual volunteer recognition and awards ceremony. I missed it because I was still in Washington state, hiking in Mount Rainier National Park after running the Seattle Half Marathon. But I learned later that three friends got awards, and they are three people who could not be more deserving. I was really happy to learn about them winning these awards, but sad to have missed being there.

Chuck Smith got the Team in Training award. Anyone who knows Chuck knows that there is not a more dedicated person out there. He has been involved in TNT for about four years and has done so much for the program and its participants. He has been head and assistant run coach multiple times, and also been a fund raising participant on several occasions. He is always ready and willing to help in any way possible, and is a supurb coach during the events, taking the time to run a bit with anyone who needs it. He typically puts in 30+ miles on his feet for our events.

Susan Ann Glass, my Triple Crown friend, won the Volunteer of the Year Award. In addition to doing something 25 events - or is it 30 now? - for TNT over the years, Susan has most recently been the cycle coach. She has done marathons, half marathons, triathlons, and a century cycle event. She has done a half iron man triathlon, and in a month and a couple of days, she will be an iron man (iron woman?) triathlete. Can you tell that I am proud of her?

Ed Stone won the Nike Winged Victory Award, given to a blood cancer survivor who has made a difference and inspired people. Ed has never done an iron man triathlon, but he is an iron man in everything else. He is a four time cancer survivor since surviving leukemia at the age of 20, and has gone through all kinds of hellish treatments for melanoma in the past year. He has lost part of his left foot to this disease, but has already been back out swimming and on the bike. He has done marathons, half marathons, triathlons, and century cycle events, and was Team Virginia's first TNT Triple Crown recipient. Ed is a constant inspiration to everyone on our team.
Congratulations to these three fine people. There could not be better choices for these awards.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Hot Silent Mile

Yesterday morning, the fall marathon, triathlon, and century teams from Richmond and Charlottesville - along with patient honorees and others affected by cancer - gathered at 6:30AM for our twice annual Team Silent Mile. This is always moving, as we hear from so many people affected by cancers of all kinds - many survivors and then also those who have been affected through the cancers of friends and family members. The most poignant yesterday was Robin's story. She survived cancer 30 years ago at age 18, and learned last week that she has a secondary cancer that was probably caused by radiation received to save her life so long ago. Her choices - have her leg amputated mid-thigh or have the femur removed and replaced with an artificial one. This will be followed by six months of chemo. It really sucks to hear about stories like this. Cancer sucks! What a choice - lose your leg or go through all the pain and misery of an artificial bone. Both choices have major drawbacks. I feel for this fine person. It is so unfair. She has been an athlete all her life and continues doing triathlons for TNT, and was training for the Nation's Tri. Now, three people will do a leg in her honor. Ed will do the swimming, her husband will do the biking, and a good friend - who's wife has brain cancer - will do the run.

Lanie's story was also sad. She is a young woman with a very lethal brain cancer. She is doing well so far, but it has been tough. She clearly has a great spirit. Both Lanie's and Robin's names were on my Seattle race shirt last month.

It was a hot, hot day, already 80 degrees at 6AM, and it reached 105 yesterday. I walked 3.5 miles with my friend, teammate, fellow Hodgikin's survivor, and fellow marathoner Kristi, and it was great to catch up. Our first mile was done in silence to honor and remember those who fight this fight against the beast. Here are some photos of the morning.

The big combined team gathers in a circle prior to getting started:

Four time cancer survivor Ed (blue shirt), who recently lost part of his left foot to melanoma, talks about his experience.

The runners start to leave the area and head out for the first mile in silence.

Members of the walk team walking in silence

Cycle and/or triathletes passing the walkers
LLS staff has put out numerous posters about the mission along the first mile. Here is Kristi posing by one of these:

And here am I, in my green Seattle half-marathon shirt. It is hard to believe that this event was four weeks ago already!

Holly and Amy from the triathlon team cycle towards us. Holly is the mom of Emma, one of our February Miracle Girls!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Seattle Touring - The Space Needle

June 26 - afternoon. After the half marathon, I took a frigid ice bath, washed as much of the purple out of my hair as possible, and took a hot shower. I shivered under the covers in bed till I warmed up, then decided to spend my last afternoon in Seattle seeing the Space Needle.

I caught Seattle's famous monorail to the Needle,
then I bought a ticket and went up. The gloom and clouds of the morning were gone, and the afternoon was one you wish you could bottle and sell. The views from the Space Needle were just amazing, like this one of Mount Rainier (tomorrow's destination) well in the distance from Seattle:
that of the Seattle downtown:
Puget Sound:
and this large lake in the city:

Then I reluctantly went back to the ground, and chilled in the park for a while, listening to this absolutely fantastic band (from Peru or Bolivia, I would guess) for a half hour or so.
From there, I decided to walk down to the Sculpture Garden I had heard about. As I walked through the garden, I passed a young woman who called my name. I turned and saw that it was Shanna, from the South Carolina chapter. She had also run the half marathon that morning, except she ran it in 1:40, and was walking around seeing the sights. We walked through the garden together for a while, and I snapped a shot for her:

Then I told her she really needed to see the Space Needle, which she decided to do, so we walked back there. Then she went up the Needle and I returned to the hotel to rest up for a little while before the Victory Party.

My time in Seattle was all too short, but I packed a lot into it before heading to Mount Rainier the next day.

Seattle Touring - Bainbridge Island

Friday June 25 - After the National Chapter group training run in the morning, Chuck and I headed for breakfast down at Pike Street Market. As part of this, we walked though the marketplace again, seeing some of the incredible displays of fruits and vegetables:
shrimp so big you would think they were lobster tails:

and flowers:

Outside in the marketplace, I posed with a new friend:
And then we walked through an alleyway on the way to the ferry terminal. Along the way, we passed this somewhat fascinating, somewhat gross display of chewed gum:
Then, we headed for the ferry to Bainbridge Island. We had considered a scenic cruise on a tourism line that would have cost $40, but opted for the Seattle Ferry to Bainbridge for a round trip of about $6.50 instead. I didn't want to spend a lot of time on my feet but felt like walking around a bit of the island would be fun on this cool and somewhat showery day, the only day I saw rain in my six days in the supposedly soaked Pacific Northwest.

I would not have time so see the fabled Washington coast, so this trip in Puget Sound would be the best I could do. The views reminded me a bit of the coast of Maine.

Once we got off the ferry, we walked on a trail through a mixture of natural areas along the shore, and the outskirts of a town. We came on a pretty neat marina,
and had tea and coffee in a cafe, chatting with a marathoner we met on the ferry. Then it was time to head back and enjoy the pretty views approaching the city, such as another ferry heading to Bainbridge Island,
a Celebrity Cruise Lines ship tied up in Seattle,
the Seattle skyline,
and the Space Needle, where I would go the next afternoon.
After this excursion, Chuck headed back to the Expo, and I headed to the hotel to relax for a couple of hours off my feet before the TNT Inspiration Dinner.