Sunday, February 28, 2010

Training Screw-up

Well, nothing's perfect, and yesterday's training surely wasn't. Somehow, the time - place - whatever got miscommunicated, and the only ones to show up were the three coaches and myself. And I didn't know the time, either, but came early. I knew that the Spring Team was gathering at 7:15, so I got there about that time to say hello to those fine folks. Our summer coaches showed up a few minutes later and we waited for the rest of the summer team. And waited. And waited. And then walk coach Betty and I decided to do a couple of laps, walking fast, around the lake. So we did. Then we did a third. And a fourth, with run coach Walter joining us. By that time, Betty and I had covered 1.8 miles and still no one else from the team had come. So we chalked it up to a screw-up of some kind. I did five more miles on the day's training route through Windsor Farms, probably 40% running and 60% running. It was a nice workout, and badly needed!

I snapped a few photos of the spring team, since the summer team was elsewhere. Next Saturday is another day, and hopefully more teammates will be there for training.

Our big snows of four and five weekends ago are distant memories!

Some of the Spring Team starts their training run

Barbara and Mindy, both pretty recent multiple myeloma survivors, clowning around a bit at the start of training. In three weeks, they will not only be cancer survivors, but half-marathoners as well!

Spring is coming - it is still cold, but look at those buds! I, for one, cannot wait!

Message #5 From Your Artful Mentor

Hi Team,

How about those Olympics, and the great hockey finale between host Canada and the USA? Congratulations to Canada for winning the gold, and to America for winning the silver. It has been an exciting two weeks! Now, although none of you are likely to win an Olympic medal, as far as I and other cancer survivors are concerned, you are all up there on that medal pedestal when it comes to curing cancers!

With this week’s message, I want to remind you first of a couple of important dates, so write them down! A week from Monday, March 8, is the fundraising clinic at Buffalo Wild Wings on Broad Street at 6:30. Just eight days later, March 16, is our silent auction at Blackfinns, also at 6:30 – although you will have to get there a bit earlier to get your stuff put out.

For the rest of this message, I am going to talk about some of the fundraising things I will do this week, what gets on the back burner for another week or so, and why. I’ll start with the things that I feel I really must do:

#1 – write my silent auction solicitation letter. I sent you an example of my letter for last year, and I will also use that one as a model. Why – because this is needed for action # 2.

#2 – start collecting items for the silent auction. I will go around to local restaurants, stores, and hotels, asking for donations. I will have my letter with me, ready to hand out and leave, with all of my contact information on it. Why – because the auction is only two weeks away, I don’t have items yet, and if I don’t have some items, my fundraising take for the event is pretty much guaranteed to be zero.

#3 – let people I know about the silent auction, probably by sending out an e-vite. I may also put up a poster or two at work. Why – I want tons of people to show up at this. It is not like I want to buy my own items, right?

#4 – start preparing for next Monday’s fundraising clinic. Why – because as a mentor, I am one of the presenters. Fortunately, you don’t need to put this one on your list, but do show up!

#5 – Get out my fourth fundraising solicitation and campaign update. Why – it has been two weeks since my last one. However, I may have to slip this a week, because I have other more pressing things to get done, mostly because of the silent auction. Usually I have at least the start of a note drafted by the weekend before I want to send it out, but so far, it is a blank piece of paper, so I am behind on it.

Now, what won’t I get to this week, and why? Well, in the maybe category was my campaign update, discussed above. And a definite no is writing my fundraising letter. Why – because the silent auction has a fixed date, and the letter does not. However, the letters are very important, and I am going to need to carve out some time by mid March. So I’d better not just forget about them, eh?

Be on the alert for information from the coaches this week. I know things somehow got fouled up last week, but I am sure they will get straightened out this week. All of you missed training Saturday, maybe because of the confusion, so I hope I will see all or most of you this week.

That is all from now – go get those great items for the auction, and mark your calendar with those dates!

Message From the Captain #15

Ahoy Mateys! ‘Tis your captain speaking, mentor captain Art, that is! Wow, has it really been 15 weeks since we started this little spring cruise? It does not seem possible, any more than it seems possible that our Spring Team just completed our first event, the Mardi Gras Marathon and Half! Congratulations to our fine Mardi Gras crew. I hope it was a blast.

If any of your mentees did Mardi Gras and are still short of their minimum, it is time to help them make a final push to get funds coming in. At the least, a “hey, I did it!” letter and/or email is in order, stressing that they are short of their goal and could really use the help. If any of their friends told them “I’ll donate later, just remind me,” it is time to let them know that later is now! Another idea – have a victory party to celebrate their achievement. Or have a March Madness party! Wear that hat of a hated rival – like right now, for me, I am not liking Syracuse too much – at that party (for an appropriate donation, of course).

At this point in the season (other than for the new cyclists, Susie), it should be clear who has a good handle on fundraising, and who is struggling. It is time to make sure to offer to help those that are struggling. The next big target would be Shamrock. Anyone doing that race who isn’t at 75% of minimum is at risk of not meeting their minimum and having to pay out of pocket. So it is really important to give these folks a call and try to meet with them one on one, reviewing everything that they have tried, seeing what additional ideas are out there: fundraisers with companies, fundraisers with friends, personal contacts they may have missed. Go back over the on-line TNT Webinar on fundraising and see if that scares up a few more ideas to help them with.

Have any of your mentees been missing a lot of training lately? Even if they are okay with their fundraising, maybe they need some contact from you about how they are doing – just to talk with someone about their experience. Reach out to them, also.

Let me know if I can help with anything. I am mentoring on the summer team, and fundraising myself, but am always willing to pitch in with the spring team of course.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My Third Donation Hat

As stated previously, I was willing to wear a NFL hat of the donor's choice in return for a $50 donation. I expanded that to include any hat, and my first two donations of this nature had me wearing a colorful but geeky propellor head hat and a Seattle Seahawks hat.

I got a third donation from Suzanne, a former teammate in Arizona who's husband is a lymphoma survivor. She is not a fan of any sports teams but asked me to wear my Team in Training cap at work for a few days. So here I am:

GO TEAM! In just a few months, I will add a fifth pin to this cap, the 13.1 pin for the Seattle Half Marathon! And thanks for the donation and the request, Suzanne. May Warren and you have many more decades together!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I Hop, You Hop, We All Hop to IHOP!

A big thank you is due to IHOP (International House of Pancakes) for their charitable sponsorship today of Pancake Day. Every IHOP nationwide participated in this today, and 17 of them in Virginia selected LLS as their charity. Any customer who comes in can get a free short stack (three pancakes). In exchange, they are asked to donate to the charity in any amount, although the cost of the free pancakes is the suggestion. Where else can you eat pancakes and help to cure blood cancers at the same time?

LLS and IHOP has found that if there are LLS volunteers in each restaurant reminding customers of this day of eating pancakes for charity, and talking about the mission of LLS, that donations go up 400%. So as many of us as possible volunteered for one of the three five hour shifts at the various restaurants today. The donations at that restaurant will be credited equally to each person who worked a shift there. For example, if $1,000 in donations were received at restaurant A, and five volunteers worked the three shifts, then we would each get $200 credited towards our fundraising.

My shift was the 7AM to noon time slot at the Fredericksburg IHOP, which is an hour away. So I left home at 5:45 to get there early in case anything needed to be set up. But the restaurant staff was totally on top of things. They had hung the banners, put up the donation box, and had a card on every table reminding customers of the concept. I totally recommend this restaurant if you are in the area. The food was good, the service very fast, and the staff was friendly and on top of things.

I pinned on my volunteer button, taking care not to do an inadvertent nipple piercing in the dark, and started my shift. Melissa from Fredericksburg worked with me, and she had the most perfect “pitch.” We would have done fine if I had kept my mouth shut and let her do all of the talking, but that would hardly be fair, so I learned from her and tried to copy her approach. We repeated our pitch probably a couple of hundred times in the five hours. I also took advantage of the free pancakes, paid for a juice and sausage, left a generous tip for the full value of the meal, and made a $5.00 donation to LLS. I guess many people were not tipping, which is totally unfair to the hard-working wait staff. If you are getting a deal, always tip based on the full price of the meal.

Most people were friendly and interested in the concept of pancakes for charity. A few chatted at length about our mission, and talked of people they know with lymphoma or leukemia. One man quizzed me for nearly 10 minutes about my experience with lymphoma, and one woman told us of surviving lymphoma herself 12 years ago. Two parties told us of young children they know suffering from leukemia, five year old Cade from Mississippi and eight year old Matthew from Fredericksburg. So I wrote their names down and said that I will add them to my Seattle race shirt.

A minority of customers was plainly not interested and blew us off or just walked past, ignoring us. But many people stuffed everything from a buck to 20 dollars in the box as they left, and a goodly number made credit card donations. The volume of people coming in was constant with occasional bursts of six to a dozen people waiting at a time for a table. Most of them knew about Pancake Day and had come for the free pancakes. There were a few funny groups, like the ones who said “we don’t like pancakes” when we approached them with our pitch – as if liking pancakes was a prerequisite for donating to a great cause. The weirdest case was a group of about five people that turned and left immediately when told that the free pancakes were not all you could eat. Go figure! They didn’t want to each get three free pancakes, but would have stayed if the free flapjacks kept coming! Pretty weird, I have to say.

I was tired from talking a lot and being on my feet for five hours, but this was a great fundraising event. I am hoping to make $200 for LLS for my share of this, but we will see how it ends up. In any event, I very much appreciate the generosity of IHOP in doing this for our charity, and for their hospitality towards us volunteers.

Here are Melissa and I talking to a customer:

Monday, February 22, 2010

Thank You, Mardi Gras Marathon Team!

If you are a member of TNT Richmond’s, TNT Virginia’s, or TNT Any Chapter’s team for the Mardi Gras Marathon or Half Marathon this weekend, this thank you is for you!

You are headed to the Big Easy for your race. But nothing about what you have done, or the people that you are doing it for, is easy.

It’s not easy to ask people again and again to donate, even to such a great cause.

It’s not easy to raise thousands of dollars at any time, but especially not in a down economy that seems to have no end in sight.

It’s not easy to train hundreds of miles, to get up early on Saturday every week, and run and walk miles – often in cold or wet weather.

It’s not easy to do a marathon or a half marathon, at any speed.

And it is certainly not easy to do what the people you are doing this for have done – to go through cancer treatments. And some of these people will die or have died from cancer, and if you have ever seen anyone go through this, you know it is incredibly difficult and painful.

The ultimate goal of all your hard work and sacrifice is more cures, better cures, and less awful cures. Just in my lifetime, I have seen a tremendous difference in cancer survivorship, and it continues to improve. Imagine the day – and it will come – when nearly all cancers are curable and you can say “I helped make that possible!” Can you imagine how that will feel? Maybe no one will ever call cancer the “Big Easy,” but someday people will not dread it the way we always have, because it will be curable most of the time.

I, and all cancer survivors, thank you so much for all you have done for this cause. Now, even though this is all serious stuff, go have fun! After all, you will be in New Orleans, and I would guess they still have Super Bowl parties going on! Have a great race, and thank you so much for your dedication to this cause.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Message #4 From Your Artful Mentor

Hello My Marathoning Mentees! Yes, ‘tis I your Artful Mentor, with your weekly message. Today I will focus on going silent. What’s that, I can hear you say? My Artful Mentor is going to be silent this week? Hurrah!

No, that is not what I met. We are going to talk about the Silent Auction. But first, speaking of silent, I hope that those of you who were there enjoyed the Silent Mile yesterday. We only do that a couple of times a year. For me, it was good to see people from all of the other teams, and also to meet a couple more of you. I think I have now met almost all of you, between training and the event at Capital Ale House. I hope to meet the remaining ones soon.

All of you should have your web pages customized by now, and have sent at least two messages to everyone on your email list. That is a given. And you should be working on a letter to mail. Need any help with any of this? You know how to reach me, and you know how to reach Cate, so just reach out. Now, I am “going silent.”

Our team’s Silent Auction is going to be Tuesday, March 16th at 6:30. It is going to be at Blackfinn’s downtown on the Canal. It is a little out of the way and doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic, so it is going to be really important for you to let family and friends know about this. You will definitely want to participate in this and plan on being there yourself if at all possible, so mark your calendar! There are three keys to a successful silent auction, and you have control over two of them.

The first key is a good venue. Blackfinns has been very supportive of Team in Training, and they have a nice restaurant, easy parking in the attached garage, and a separate room to place all of the auction items. Plus at the last one that I was at, they provided great appetizers that were free to patrons of the auction. People could buy drinks and could eat dinner in the restaurant, but they didn’t have to. So Cate has taken care of the venue for us! Thanks, Cate!

What would a silent auction be without items to bid on? Really silent! So the second key to a success is great items. That is where we come in, for we come up with the items. How? Glad you asked! By asking for them! Do you know people who own businesses? If so ask, them first. Do you know crafty, artsy people, or are you such a person yourself? Get some donations of items from them. If, like me, you are not in either of those groups, just ask. Prepare a letter with information about LLS, the auction, and what you are doing. Include your webpage URL and email and phone contact. I have attached my example from last year. Then, practice your approach and hit the streets! Go into businesses you like, tell them what you are doing and why, and ask for an item or a gift certificate. Take your letters, and leave one if no one of authority is there to talk to. If someone gives you their card, follow-up with a reminder / thank you email. Like any thing else with fundraising, you are going to get plenty of non-responses. Just move on to the next place. If you go to enough places, you will get some items and these will add up. I personally made over $600 for LLS at our Spring 2009 silent auction, and I know someone who made over $1,000 at one. That is a serious chunk of your fundraising.

The last key to success is people coming through the door. If each of us gets six items and only the summer team members show up, are we all going to buy each other’s items? Not likely! So start telling people, everyone you know locally. Get that date out there to friends. Put up posters at work. Send emails. As the date gets closer, let people know what great items you and others will have. Once I start getting items, I will set up a page on my blog listing these, and I will be glad to add yours as well, and then you can send that link to friends so they can see what we have coming in. Sometimes people will see one special item they want and come just to get that item, but while they are there, they will see other great deals. Most things sell for 50-70% of retail value, so people do get deals. In a bad economy, everyone wants a deal! But they have to know about the deal, and you have to tell them. It is also a pretty fun social event, and people seem to have a good time at it.

Hope to see you all at training next week. After training is a repeat of the injury prevention clinic, so plan on going if at all possible. I will be at training but have to make a meeting later in the day and can’t stay for the clinic, but it will be great information for you.


Message From the Captain #14

Ahoy Mateys! You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you? Well, how about our first port o’call coming up this next weekend? Yep, the LLS Mentorship will be dropping anchor in the Port of New Orleans, the Big Easy, for the Mardi Gras Marathon and Half Marathon. Don’t you wish we were going? I do! Well, mentor Nicki is going, and running to demonstrate her good health and good fortune at surviving cancer. It is the 13th anniversary of her life-saving bone marrow transplant the day before the race. What a way to celebrate! Congratulations, Nicki! And congratulations to all of the Mardi Gras team!

It was good to see so many of you at the Silent Mile. I really appreciated hearing the stories of our patient honorees. A couple I heard for the first time, and for those that I have heard before, I never fail to get inspired upon hearing them again. By the way, it is sure hard to recognize you cyclists in those helmets and other gear, as you zip by at 25 mph. You make it look easy, other than when you walk in those clickety foot things.

By now, you should have a pretty good handle on dealing with your mentees’ fundraising, and hopefully those that are still on the team are making good progress as well. So I am going to focus on some other mentoring aspects with this email.

** Be There! One of the key duties of a mentor is to train with the team as much as possible. No one is going to be out there 100%, but make sure you are getting out for training in the 60-75% range. Talk to the participants before training, and during if possible. I know for me, with my summer mentees, I am not going to be able to keep up with those that run 100%, and I am going to be ahead of the ones who walk 100%. So I can’t count on actually talking to a lot of my mentees during training. But it is important to be out there with your teammates whenever you can. If you are injured, talk to the coaches about other ways to support the team, such as helping with SAG. The coaches will know better than I how you can best help if that is the case.

** Where Did that Water Come From? My first season with TNT, water and gator aid magically appeared during training. Did it fall from the sky? Did a generous homeless person put it out for us? Did Dumbledore conjure up a spell – Aquas appearicus – and have it magically appear? Well, it turned out that a coach or mentor put it out. As mentors, at least on the marathon team, a key responsibility is to help with water stops. We have had a break from this for a few weeks between cancelled training and revised training schedules, but this will start up again soon – like Saturday. So make sure to share the load with this. As the miles increase, there will be the need for more and more water stops. Cycle and Triathlon teams – I do not know how you handle this, so just see if your coaches need the help.

** Be a Cheerleader! If you can, cheer for your teammates at Shamrock next month. Contact Cate and Amber for details. If you are going to be down for the race, either as a runner or a cheerleader, I have room at a beach condo if you want to stay for free. It is in Sandbridge and so is a bit of a drive – 30 minutes or so – from the race course. I think that Kathy and her husband will be staying there, but there is a second guest bedroom with two single beds available. I’ll be going down Saturday the 20th right after training. Let me know if you want to stay there – first come, first served. Warning – I can’t guarantee I will cook you a gourmet meal, but I will feed you! And you might have to put up with some NCAA basketball on the TV, since that is the second round of the Big Dance that weekend.

** Be a Pal! Some mentees are fine with fundraising, but may want to talk to someone about their experience with TNT, what it means to them, why they are doing it, and so forth. This is particularly likely if they have a loved one who is going through or has gone through cancer. So be accessible to them as a teammate and friend, not just as their fundraising coach.

** Communicate the Mission. Give a mission moment yourself – all of you have done multiple events and there is a reason why. Share that with the team. Or maybe you have a friend or family member who is a survivor and would be willing to talk. Let me know anytime if you want to do a mission moment.

Well, that’s about it from the Captain’s Chair this week. Have a good week. I will try to get out before summer team training Saturday to say hi to the marathoners.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Our Silent Mile

This morning, the Spring, Summer, and 10K Teams all came together to listen to team patient honorees tell their stories, and to do the first mile in silence in honor of all those suffering from cancer. We heard stories from Rob, Kristi, Katie, Nicki, Paul, and myself about surviving cancer, and could have heard from many more. One person who is not there is Ed, one of our amazing and inspirational teammates. As I reported earlier, Ed has cancer again and is in the hospital after some pretty major surgery to replace a huge chunk of his left foot, but not the two toes that he lost. He is such a positive guy, and he will be out again doing triathlons - I just know this!

Here is Kristi telling her inspirational story of surviving Hodgkin lymphoma while pregnant. She is a multiple times marathoner / half marathoner.

Some of the team applauding Kristi as she finished speaking
I am not going to repeat all the stories, because many of them are noted here from our Silent Mile last August. After we all spoke, we posed for a big all team (marathon, cycle, and triathlon) photo for Ed.

Here is the group of us -
Go Ed! Get well and get back out there!

Cate made a big "card" for Ed and his wife Leslie, which we all signed after training. Here is a zoom-in of the poster, which was in the front of the team picture above.
After this point, we started running, biking, and walking the first mile in silence. It was odd to here the sound of feet clicking along the pavement while no one spoke. The purpose of this is to honor those with cancer, and the memories of those who has passed on from these terrible diseases.
Here is some of the team running along through West Creek.
And here I am, slowing down to get a photo of me in all my athletic splendor! Call me Wrong-Way Art, as I missed a key turn and ended up doing over six miles instead of the five that I planned. For some reason, my legs felt like lead today for at least half my mileage.
Cate made mission posters and put them out for the first mile of training for us to reflect on.
Here come two cyclists, zipping along with seemingly no effort. Looks like fun, but so complicated. They have these wierd shoes that kind of clip on to their peddles. Running sure uses less equipment!
The day was nice - cold enough to start but with little wind. The snow is gradually melting, but there were parts of the road that were totally icy and hazardous to run on. And you can see that we still have frozen ponds, rare here most winters in Central Virginia.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

“The Limits of Cancer”

“Do you give up? Do you submit to my will?”
Snarled the malevolent specter called Cancer
“For months I’ve attempted your spirit to kill.
Speak, woman, and give me your answer!”

“You’ve taken my breasts and caused me great pain,
And the loss sometimes will cause me to weep
And you’ve brought about misery, that much is plain.
But you can’t crush my spirit - no, that’s mine to keep!”

So Cancer skulked off to a man in his bed
And it whispered with menacing tone
“I know I have managed to fill you with dread
And it appears like you suffer alone.”

“I’ve lost some of my parts to the surgeon’s sharp knife
But you have not severed my strong will to live
And you cannot corrode the love of my wife,
Or of family and friends – no, that’s theirs to give!”

So like a wraith in the night, it next preyed on a child
Her head, from the poisons, was bare
The Beast licked its lips and roared as it smiled
“Have you had quite enough of this scare?”

“There are times that I quake and I tremble with fear,”
And most days I feel desperately ill
And at times I must wonder if the end is too near
But you can’t steal my courage – no, that’s with me still!”

It can riddle our body, it can gnaw on our bones,
Turn our red blood all frothy and white
It can make us so fearful to face our unknowns
As we smear on our war paint and fight!

But fight it we must, though it means a hard time
For Cancer has limits, despite evil powers.
It can’t rob of us peace or of memories sublime
Or of faith, love, or hope – no, those are all ours!

Art Ritter
February, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Our Team's February Miracle Girls

This was my third note to donors. You can go here to see some photos of our February Miracle Girls!

A couple of weeks have gone by since my last update, and we finally got enough of a break from the snow to start training. I want to thank everyone who has donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through my Cancer Kickin’ Campaign. So far, 36 people have donated $1,805 to my cause, and I very much appreciate your generosity. If you would like to make a donation, see my list of honorees, or catch up with what is going on with my campaign, you can do so at my Team in Training web page:

Well, the snow finally held off long enough for our summer team to meet in very un-summer like weather this past Saturday. It was cold and icy, but it felt great to get in our first training at long last, and to run and walk five miles. But the main subject of this note is Team Richmond’s February Miracle Girls, Emma and Nicki.

Everyone on our team is charmed by Emma, whom I first met in 2005 when she was just five years old. If you are not inspired and touched by Emma’s story, please check your pulse, and quickly! Imagine that your ten week old baby seems very ill and you take her to the emergency room. After some tests, a doctor appears, crying. He tells you that your precious little girl has infant acute lymphoblastic leukemia. This was the experience of my friend Holly and her family with their newborn daughter / sister. They all said goodbye to Emma that weekend over ten years ago, sure that she would not survive the weekend. But thanks to cancer research, there was indeed hope, and after more tests, it was determined that Emma had a 50% chance of surviving the A.L.L. – up just recently from just 25% - if she could survive the chemo. All of Emma’s first major holidays and her first birthday were spent in the hospital. I still tear up when I see the picture of this little baby, so obviously in misery with her body all swollen, hooked up to all kinds of needles and tubes. And I always get a happy tear when I see the photo of Emma celebrating after finishing her first triathlon a few years back, for survive she did! Valentine's Day this year marked nine years in remission for this wonderful ten year old who loves all kinds of animals, but especially lions, tigers, cats, dogs, jaguars, cheetahs, rabbits, fish, turtles, leopards and elephants. To survive, she and her family went through hell, and the long term effects of this kind of treatment on children can be very severe. That is another reason we do Team in Training – not just for cures, but for cures that don’t nearly kill the patient.

Visualize being handed a bag. Inside the bag are 100 marbles – 95 white and 5 red. You are told to reach in and to remove a marble from the bag. If it is red, you will live; if it is white, you will die. That is essentially the predicament of my friend Nicki, a young woman in college, 13 years ago in late February. All her treatments had failed, and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma was going to kill her, unless a bone marrow transplant could somehow save her life. At that point, she had a five percent chance of survival as she received total body radiation and chemo to kill all her marrow. The replacement marrow was coming from South Carolina. Had the donor changed her mind or gotten sick, or had something happened to the marrow in transit, Nicki had a 0 percent chance of survival because her own marrow had been destroyed prior to the transplant. So there was no going back – the bridge had been burned. Amazingly, Nicki did not only survive, but has also run a number of marathons and half marathons for Team in Training since then. And on thirteenth anniversary (plus a day) of her life saving bone marrow transplant, she will be running the Mardi Gras half-marathon in New Orleans next weekend to celebrate the people who helped to save her life. These include her donor, doctors, nurses, medical researchers – and the people who donated to money to cure cancer.

Our team gets constant inspiration from our February Miracle Girls! Want to help save the life of a future Nicki or Emma? You can do so with a donation to LLS if you have not already done so, for each donation of any amount adds up. When combined with all of the other donations, your donation accomplishes truly great things.

Thanks for your support of this cause – to complete the development of effective cures for blood cancers, and ultimately, all cancers!

Our Team's February Miracle Girls - Photos

Go here for the story behind these photos about our team's fabulous February Miracle Girls, Emma and Nicki. Both of them are constant inspirations to everyone on our team. Neither Emma nor Nicki would be here without cancer research.
Emma was diagnosed with leukemia at only 10 weeks old, and she and her family suffered horribly for the first 18 months of her life.
I first met Emma in 2005 when I joined TNT for the Anchorage Marathon. She was five years old then, and in good health.
Emma at six, dressed as a cat. She loves animals.
Emma having fun with a dolphin.
Isn't this a joyful picture, of Emma completing her first triathlon a couple of years ago? I always smile when I see it, but my eyes always get a little moist too, remembering what this girl had to endure as a baby.
Here I am with Emma on Valentine's Day 2009, her 8th anniversary of being in remission from childhood leukemia.
Here are both of our February Miracle Girls together last August at our team's Silent Mile.
Nicki ran the San Diego marathon in 2006. Here she is with her marathon medal with teammates Lissa, Sheryl, and Susan Ann.
Nicki and I have been on two teams together, and here we are last year on the Spring Team after running 10 or so miles.
Three years ago, to celebrate Nicki reaching 10 years in remission, family members had this "Decade of Strength" bracelet made for her in Team in Training colors. In less than 2 weeks, it will be 13 years of strength for this inspirational young woman.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Message #3 From Your Artful Mentor

Hi Team in Training Summer Teammates! It was good to finally meet a couple more of you Saturday, and to see a few more of you whom I had met before. There are still three of you I haven’t met yet, so make sure to look for me at Saturday’s training.

Speaking of Saturday, this coming Saturday will not be at the normal venue, Byrd Park. It will be out towards Goochland County off route 288. Please double-check emails form Cate and Coach Chuck for details on the exact time and place. This will be our very special, not to be missed if at all possible, silent mile training. We only do it once or twice a year. As always, if you can’t make it, please let Coach Chuck know.

Most of you have emailed back to one of my notes confirming that you (a) got it and (b) have a phone number for me. If you have not yet done this, please do so this time. It is important for both myself and your coaches to know that our emails are getting through.

If you want the little group photo from Saturday that Cate took, let me know, and I will send it along. I am also glad to take an action shot of you Saturday for your web page it you want.

Most of you are off to a great start with your fundraising. You must have a great mentor! Seriously, most of you are over 10% (or more) towards your goal, which is a great start. I’ve not heard from many of you requesting help, but if you need help, that is my job. Cate is always glad to help as well – just let us know. We can do one on one planning sessions, a group brainstorming session, work on customizing your webpages with you, review your notes and letters. Whatever you need to help you achieve that goal, we can help you with.

At this point, with your event still 3.5 months or more away, you all have plenty of time to hit your minimum. Like everything else in life, it can speed by and creep up on you, so just do something every week that will get you to that goal, and you will get there. For this week, I would suggest reviewing a few of the following:

* When did you last send an email update to your donors? If it has been longer than two weeks, time to write and send another one.
* Have you sent thank you emails or letters to all of your donors?
* Have you sent checks in to Paycor (see last week’s email for details and the form)? Actually, your Artful Mentor is a bit remiss on this. I have two checks to get in.
* Have you personalized your web page, including a photo?
* Do you have updates on your web page so it doesn’t always have the same information each time a potential donor goes to it?
* Have you started planning your letters? Hmmm, this is another area where your Artful Mentor is quite remiss. Too much going on – that is my excuse, and I am sticking to it.

Okay, so to summarize: (1) let me know you are getting my emails if you haven’t already (2) try to show up for the silent mile – but make sure you pay attention to where and when that will be (3) review your fundraising using some of the ideas above.

Let’s hope that the weather gods cooperate again Saturday. I hope to see a large number of you there, and meet the rest of you that I haven’t yet met.


Message From the Captain #13

Ahoy Mateys! Batten down the hatches, as we have a bit of a blow coming in tonight! But amazingly enough, the snowy weather for three consecutive Saturday’s missed us this time and at least the marathon team was able to train. Maybe the cyclists and triathletes were able to train as well, although I didn’t see any cyclists out there on the sometimes slippery roads Saturday.

I’ve been away for the weekend and am feeling a bit tired (or maybe it is just the thought of going into work tomorrow) and so am going to keep this note short.

Most of you have let me know how your mentees are doing. If you haven’t but will, I would appreciate that. If I don’t hear from you, I assume that all is well. Everyone but the Mardi Gras team still has plenty of time to complete fundraising. And even that group has time after their event. Anyone who is still short on Mardi Gras should be preparing a final pre-race update and appeal to all potential donors. Actually, any of your mentees who are not sending regular updates are overdue to send one. I always see a spurt of donations when I send an update out, then no or almost no donations until my next note goes out. With my own fundraising this year, I am seeing tighter wallets, and will definitely be sending regular updates out – every two to three weeks – in an attempt to loosen the purse strings a bit.

It goes without saying that if any of your mentees has not sent a letter yet by way of the US Postal Service, then the time is definitely NOW! Offer to help them. Have an envelope addressing party, proof their letter, give them ideas. I sent several sample letters to my summer mentees as well as some other examples. If any of you need these for ideas, just let me know.

Remind your mentees about this coming Saturday for the Silent Mile. I don’t know the time, or can’t remember it, so have them also look out for Cate’s emails.

Are any of you going to Shamrock in five weeks to cheer your mentees on? I plan on being there (to cheer, not to race). Let me know if you want to get together and have a little cheering party down at the beach!

That’s all from Mentor Cap’n Art tonight. Let me know if you need any help.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Summer Team, Un-Summer Weather

Finally today, much of our Summer Team trained together for the first time! Summer weather occurred somewhere else, but not where we were. The seemingly ever-present wind coming off Swan Lake at Byrd Park chilled us thoroughly by the time we started training. The wind chill had to be in the single digits, even though the actual air temperature was probably in the high 20’s. The sidewalk was covered in sheer ice, and many of the sidewalks and streets we ran on were icy or snow covered in patches. From time to time, strong snow flurries would break out.

We were missing about a half dozen members of our team, but those that came were a spirited group. Coach Chuck gave us a mission moment about a little boy he knows, ill with leukemia. The child’s birthday is less than three weeks away, and he is not expected to make it. Totally sad, and why we do this, so future children and adults can have cures, not face untimely and horrible deaths.

I just realized as I write this that Coach Chuck didn’t lead us in a cheer, which has to be a first for him, because usually he has great team cheers. We did a brief warm-up, then started running and walking for our three to five mile routes through Virginia Commonwealth University and as far as the start of the downtown. I was pleased to learn that my prior walk coach and teammate Lelia is also doing a run / walk training, and so we ran and walked together. It was fun to train with her again! I did five miles and Lelia four, and she was kind enough to wait for me to do the extra mile so we could do the final two miles together on this out and back route.

Here are a few photos from the day:

Summer team at our first training on a wintery day. From left, Coach Chuck, Coach Betty, Ann Marie, Lauren, Art, Coach Walter, Lelia, Nancy, Stephie, Gus

Here is where we normally do our pre-run warm-up, but not today!

This is the memorial to the victims of the Holocaust at The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart near VCU. It never fails to move me, to think of the unimaginable suffering and loss.

The inscription that goes with the memorial.

Yours truly near the end of my five mile outing. Given my lack of running lately, I felt pretty good.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Our Team Grows

Well, I think I will be busier than Tiger Woods in a singles bar! I now have nine participants that I am mentoring for the summer team, the most mentees I have ever had. Our team has grown steadily, despite not having yet met or trained. We are now up to 27 people: 7 cycle, 7 triathlon, and 13 on the marathon / half marathon team. This means we have gained 8 participants since kick-off three weeks ago. The cycle team is really a combined spring and summer team, but the triathlon and foot-race teams are purely summer. The marathon team has gone from only eight to 13, which is a nice gain. And we could potentially add some more. 11 of the team are headed for San Diego, and the other two of us are doing Seattle. I’d love to add a few more for Seattle in particular. Come on, you know you want to join us!

The first year I did TNT, one of my walk coaches was Lelia, and she was my walk coach a year later when I did San Diego. After an absence of a couple of years, Lelia has joined the team for San Diego. It will be great to have a teammate from the past training with us.

Hopefully, the weather will be OK for this Saturday and we can finally train together. I will probably be training by myself most of the time. The two of us going to Seattle will have a different distance schedule from the 11 people going to San Diego. And then me, as a “runalker”, will have a different pace from the walkers or the runners. It is always more fun when it works out that there are others on the team to train with, but I will adapt to whatever the situation is. At this point, I’m just glad our team has grown, and I can’t wait to meet everyone and get started!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Poll Results - Running with Music

The results are in on my question about music and running: "Do you run or walk while listening to music?" The results are:

Never or almost never - 1 (10%)
Sometimes - 7 (70%)
Frequently - 2 (20%)
Always or almost always - 0

If you have those headphones on or are grooving to your iPod, be careful out there! There are a lot of careless people driving around. Thanks for voting!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Let's Go, Seahawks!

So my friend and 2008 Arizona Marathon teammate Rachel made a nice donation to my fundraising, and asked me to wear a Seattle Seahawks hat for a week as part of my hat challenge. She wanted to be sure that she made the donation before any Dallas Cowboys fans, so I would wear the Seahawks hat first. As it turned out, no Dallas fans "cowboyed up" so far.

I take Rachel wanting me to wear this hat as a good sign, since my race is in Seattle. Here I am at work wearing the hat that she sent me.
You can see that she wrote me a nice message on the brim: "To Art - Run like a girl". Oh I will try, Rachel, but most girls are better runners than I, it seems!
Very cool. I am wearing Rachel's hat proudly for a week, and wanted to share it with the world! Thanks, Rachel. I meet the nicest people doing Team in Training, and you are one of them!

Message From the Captain #12

Ahoy My Mentoring Mateys! Ahoy! Yes, it is your captain once again, Mentor Captain Art that is. Sorry I didn’t reach out to you last night. I was sipping a bit of grog at a Super Bowl Party. And how about that Super Bowl? I bet the part of Team Virginia dropping anchor in our first port o’call, New Orleans, will be in for a big party that will probably still be going on in three weeks. Wow, less than three weeks until the Mardi Gras Marathon? How amazing is that?

Well, Groundhog Day was this past week, and come Friday, I felt I was in some kind of weird Groundhog Weekend redux. It was snowing once again, training was cancelled once again, and by Saturday it looked like a winter wonderland once again. I half expected to see Bill Murray walking down our street, and to hear Sonny and Cher singing “I Got You, Babe” on the radio!

We’ll keep it short and sweet this week. First of all, I heard from several of you last week about how your mentees are doing, but not others. If you are in the latter group (you know who you are) then I’d appreciate that update from you.

Here are some reminders and ideas for this week.

* Remind everyone about the Silent Mile on the 20th. And remind them that it will be at a totally different venue for the run/walk team, so that they don’t end up going back to Byrd Park that weekend.
* This coming weekend being Valentines Day, maybe participants can come up with some kind of Valentine message to encourage people to donate. One of Team Virginia’s most loved people, Emma, was desperately ill from leukemia when she was 10 weeks old, and went into remission on Valentine’s Day nine of years ago. That could be a good message.
* Pancakes? Did someone say pancakes? Well, participants who still need to raise some funds should hop on down to IHOP on the 23rd and do a shift if they can manage it. Cate has sent out details. Raising several hundred dollars from this could make the drive worthwhile.
* The Super Bowl is history, but March Madness will be heating up soon. With all the rivalries, it might be worth a try for people to offer to wear the cap of a hated rival for an appropriate donation. Just imagine a Tarheel Fan wearing a Duke cap, for example?
* It goes without saying that anyone who has not gotten letters out most definitely should. Offer to help by reviewing their letter.
* Are participants copying you on their fundraising emails? It is a good idea that they do, because you can see if you think they need help, and you can remind them if an email seems overdue.

Well, that is about it from the Captain’s Chair this week. I hope I will actually see you (run team) this Saturday. I have a special person to give the mission moment if the weather finally cooperates.
Cap’n Art

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Message #2 From Your Artful Mentor

Hello Summer Team Mentees,

Yes, it is I, your Artful Mentor, with my second weekly message to you. Today, we will discuss letters and checks, so let’s get started. We will talk about letters first.

There are 26 letters, and the first is the letter ‘A’. It is a very useful letter, and one of only two that can also make a complete word. The second letter, ‘B’, is also quite useful. Let’s start a sentence with it: “Boy-oh-boy, I forgot to let my Artful Mentor know I got his other email and to give him my phone contact information – I’d better do that right now!” The third letter ….. Wait, wrong letters! You know about these! I meant to talk about fund raising letters.

For most people, their email campaign is more successful with fundraising than sending letters is, but even for this group, a postal letter campaign can yield good results because some people just ignore emails if they get too many. So both letters and emails should both be part of your campaign. You can decide how much emphasis to give to each one, but here are some letter specific ideas:

* Get letters out to any contact that you don’t have an email address for, and for email contacts who you know fairly well and/or are not responding to your emails.
* Include a self-addressed stamped envelope. Yes, this is a cost to you but yields better results and is a courtesy to your potential donor.
* Include the URL of your web page in case people want to donate online
* Stress that the checks should be made out to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (or just LLS), not to you personally.
* Stress that donations of any amount are welcome.
* Give your fundraising goal and give a deadline of at least a couple of weeks before your recommitment.
* Get letters out early – LLS will pay for outbound postage for the first 100 letters, I believe.
* Customize your message – why are you doing this?
* Include information about LLS, its mission, your event, and the Team in Training program.
* If you have a specific patient you want to talk about, do so in your letter, but get permission first. Anyone who is an official patient honoree for TNT consents to this without you getting permission however.
* Keep the letter to one page if at all possible.
* Stress the importance of this cause, where the money goes to, and what a big task it is to ultimately cure all types of cancer
* Get creative if you want – maybe use some photos, original artwork, or a poster style. Last year I wrote my letter as a newsletter and called it “The Genuine Article.” I got the idea from Ed Stone, who called his “The Editorial.” If you want my example from last year, let me know.
* Write a thank you note when you get a donation.
* Watch your mail with increased excitement as envelopes addressed to you in your handwriting arrive, because they contain checks to LLS! Send your checks in every week.

Now, that segues into my second topic: checks. Checks are processed by Paycore. I’ve attached the form that goes with them. Never send cash to Paycore, and never send checks without this form. Fill out your personal information on the form and save it. Then, just print it off each week when you have checks to send. Total the number and the amount of the checks and write these totals on the form. Make a copy of the form and the checks (shred the check copies at the end of the season once everything is accounted for). Then mail the checks and the form to the address at the bottom of the form – not to the LLS office. Easy as 1-2-3, and your checks should show up in your website totals within 2-3 weeks. If someone makes a check out to you instead of LLS, I would either co-sign it to LLS, or cash it and make an identical online donation with my credit card that is credited to that person. By the way, if someone gives me cash – more common than you might think – I always do the latter.

Let me and/or Cate know if you want ideas on letters, want us to review your letters, or need more help on either of these topics. Other than that, I hope that we can finally train this coming Saturday. Also, mark February 20 on your calendar. We will have a special event – the Silent Mile – where you will meet many of the team patient honorees and teammates for the spring and 10K teams, as well as the cycle and tri teams.

Finally, here is a great resource for fundraising: TNT’s fundraising Webinar. Use it!

Please let me hear from you if you haven’t so far. I’ll see you Saturday.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Summer Team??? Good Thing We’re Not the Winter Team!

Well, the inauspicious start for our summer team continues. We had a kick-off that wasn’t. Our first practice last weekend was cancelled due to the heavy snowstorm – about 12 to 14 inches – that began very early Saturday morning. It would have been the first chance for the team to meet up, since kick-off didn’t happen.

So we were all looking forward to today, to finally train as a team. But the weather gods interfered again. Yesterday morning, the snow started about 8:30AM. After accumulating about 5 inches, it turned to heavy sleet for a couple of hours, then a drenching, ice-cold rain began about 3PM. It rained heavily all the rest of the day and well into the night, turning the new snow to slush and finally almost washing it away but leaving an icy residue all over. Sometime in the early morning, it turned back into snow and our coach wisely made the decision to cancel training once again. It has finally nearly stopped as I write this, but I would guess we got close to eight or ten more inches today.

Even if I lived up north, where people are used to the snow, I can’t see how one can run safely in snow covered streets. It would be easy to slip and fall, or get hit by a car. Our summer team is not too lucky so far, although several of my six mentees are kicking butt with their fundraising. And given the difficulty of fundraising in a bad economy, and the importance of our mission, this is a really good thing. Because I know at some point, hopefully a week from today, we will meet as a team and start training for real. And it will be nice to know that so many of our team has already hit the ground running with raising funds.

Well, so far, it does not feel much like a summer team. I wrote before about Team in Training's curious seasons. I hope soon that we can all meet up in person and train together. Until then, the snowy days are perfect for fundraising, but not at all for running or walking.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Mr. Propeller Head

So a co-worker took me up on my hat challenge - make a $50 donation and I will wear the hat of your NFL team at work for a week (Dallas Cowboys is $100). He asked if I would consider a non-sporting hat, and I told him, sure, as long as it is in good taste. He told me it would be silly, but I am all for that. So hear it is - I've been wearing this hat at work for the last week. Here I am in my cube at work with it on - anything for the cause!

Here is a close up of the hat. It has a little pig, some multicolored beads, a little blue star at the top, and the all important propeller - perfect for an IT manager geek. It has every color of the rainbow, including purple and green!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Nashville Girl with Leukemia

This is my second fundraising note for my 2010 campaign.

Hello Again,

I wanted to reach out with an update and a message about a little girl I saw last April in Nashville that really touched my heart.

First, I want to thank everyone who has donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through my Cancer Kickin’ Campaign. So far, 19 people have donated $1,000 to this cause. I very much appreciate your generosity. If you would like to make a donation, catch up with what is going on with my campaign, or see my list of race honorees, you can do so at my Team in Training web page:

As far as other updates, the heavy snowfall we got over the weekend cancelled out our first training. So for now, I am getting in a little exercise when I can, but it might be a day or two before I can run outside again. Although based on the weather forecast we may not get to train this coming Saturday, either. And I am still waiting for Dallas fans to "cowboy up" with a donation of $100 or more to make me wear the cap with the star! Oh, the humiliation! But so far, no takers - well, a Seahawk fan and one other, but no Dallas fans. Hmmm, maybe the Cowboys aren't really "America's Team" after all!

I had a brief magical moment when I was in Nashville for the half-marathon last April, the kind of instant that makes you want to smile and cry all at the same time. I had decided to take a walk from the hotel to the Cumberland River the afternoon our team arrived. I was wearing a Team in Training shirt. As I walked by the convention center, two young women and two young girls passed me walking the other way. The girls were about six to eight, I would guess. I barely noticed any of them, given that I didn’t see them until I rounded the corner. But then I heard one of the women speak to one of the girls: “Look! There’s one of the Leukemia Society people!”. I turned my head and looked back at them. She was talking to one of the little girls, who happened to be bald with just a hint of hair growing back. And in an instant it hit me – “My God! This young girl has leukemia!” I smiled at her and waved, and she gave me a shy, sweet smile back. Then we went on our separate ways.

For a second I thought that I would go back and chat with them, tell them that I am a survivor and that she will be, too. But I felt like I might be intruding, and decided to keep on going. As I walked along, choking back tears for a short time, I thought of her. I thought about her as I sat by the river a little later. I thought of her during the Inspiration Dinner the next night, and again during the race the day after that. And of course since then, which is why I am writing this now. I know I will wonder about her for a long time. Will she ultimately survive? Will she graduate from high school and college? Fall in love? Get married? Have her own children and maybe grandchildren someday? Maybe do a marathon herself with Team in Training for LLS? Discover a cure for cancer someday or invent something that helps the world?

And I thought “This is why I do this.” Why I wake up at 4AM and 4:30AM to run and walk miles alone in the dark before work. Why I get up so early to run on Saturday mornings when sleeping in and then relaxing with a cup of tea might sometimes be easier. Why I train so long at times that I have to soak in a tub of ice water from the waist down. Why I am willing to run and walk 13.1 miles two days later in the heat, and 26.2 miles three times before. Why blisters and blackened and lost toenails are tolerable. Why I am willing to ask people for donations for this cause, even though it is always difficult to ask people to donate money. And it is why my teammates, thousands of them at any given time around North America, 650 of us in Nashville that weekend alone, do all of these things, too.

It is so this young girl, and others like her, can have a future. Nearly eight years ago, I received the gift of life when I survived a form of blood cancer that was treatable only because of much medical research and clinical trials. So to do what I can to help others have this same chance now and in the future feels like the right thing to do.

Whoever you are, young Nashville girl with leukemia, I hope you survive. I hope you have a long, productive, healthy, and happy life! And I am glad that our lives crossed for that brief, bittersweet instant last April.

Thanks for your support of this cause – to finish the job of finding effective cures for blood cancers.

Monday, February 1, 2010

January 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 the month to see how I am doing on each of these. So here is where things stand after one month into the New Year!

1. Do my fifth Team in Training event. I signed up for the Summer Team to run the Seattle half marathon. Training was cancelled by the big storm this weekend, and so starts next week.

2. Get a bike. Initially, this means saving money for a bike. With Christmas bills being paid, and Valentine’s Day and my wife’s birthday coming up this month, I have not made any progress on this goal.

3. Eclipse $50,000 (cumulative) in fund raising for Team in Training. I am cheating a bit by including the money I raised last year for Light the Night in my totals so I could set my Summer Team goal at $8,500. I really wanted a goal with an 8 and a 5 in it. I have raised 12% of this amount so far, which is a really good start.

4. Lose my extra 10 pounds. It is slow going, but I have lost just over a pound of it so far, which beats gaining more weight.

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

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

7. Run the Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K this March. I just signed up two days ago, and will incorporate the training for this race in my half marathon training. So I call this a start, but not a lot of progress.

8. Hike more, and try to backpack again. I’ve managed a couple of short hikes. This is a longer term goal for spring, summer, and fall anyhow.

9. Do something about my work situation. No progress on this at all.

10. Continue this blog, as well as my blog “Oh, to be Hiking,” through 2010. I’ve written 29 posts on this blog in January, and four posts on my hiking blog in January. So I am doing well on this goal.

Summary – mixed. After one month, I have made good progress on three of my goals, some progress on three others, and no progress on the other four.