Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Big Thank You to My Friend Alan, and to his Friends

When I participated in the Anchorage Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon for TNT in 2005, my team assigned roommate was Alan Raflo, whom I had never met. Alan was a seasoned marathoner, and turned out to be a great guy. I really enjoyed meeting him and hanging out together. We both had a natural resources background from school, and Alan still works in that field. He also took one of my favorite photos of me at a race. In the photo, I am soaked to the skin, had put my windbreaker on to try to warm up, and am holding up my medal in one hand and my cap with my new TNT 26.2 pin in the other. And I have that big first-time marathoner’s smile.

Alan was (and still is) a lot faster than me. After he finished the Anchorage marathon, he went back to the hotel, showered, had lunch, and drank a couple of beers. Then he relaxed for a while and read the last half of “War and Peace.” He finished a course in conversational Japanese, took a scenic cruise of one of fjords, then came back to the hotel and baked a batch of from-scratch cookies. He then came back to the marathon finish area to bring a warm coat for Sarah, our LLS coordinator, who was soaked and cold. He got there in time to see me just after I finally finished my race, and snapped the photo I spoke about. And man, I am here to tell you, those fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies he brought sure hit the spot!

This past Saturday, Alan ran the Blue Ridge Marathon, which starts and ends in Roanoke, Virginia. This is a rather hilly section of the Old Dominion, and the marathon has more than 3,000 feet elevation gain along the way. Alan’s time was under 5:09, a time I could not currently attain if the marathon was all downhill and I was riding a Segway. Yes, I know that I will ultimately set a world record in the marathon, but that day is still more than a decade away.

The cool thing about this was that Alan decided to do some fundraising for me in conjunction with his race, so he put a note out on Facebook about what he was doing and asked friends to donate to my LLS efforts so that his race was about more than just running. So through my fundraising and his running, Alan turned a tough run in the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains into a race for a cure. So I wanted to thank and acknowledge his contribution, and the resulting donations of his friends Janie, Suri, Sue, Anne, Helen, and Katrina. These friends of his, thanks to Alan making them aware of what I was doing, contributed $300 to my 2010 Cancer Kickin’ Campaign, and it is very much appreciated.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Those Scary Words Eight Years Ago

This was my campaign update tonight to potential donors to LLS, sent on the 8th anniversary of a momentus day in my life....

Greetings from my 2010 Cancer Kickin’ Campaign, “Survivor in Seattle!” Eight years ago today, I heard those seven scary words that no one ever wants to hear. Not “Hey Dad (or Mom), can I borrow the car?” Nothing quite that terrifying! No, the words I heard were “It looks like you may have cancer.” I’ll discuss that more in a second, but first I want to give an update on how my campaign is going.

With exactly two months to go until the race, it is actually going pretty well! Our training this past Saturday was eight miles, so I am getting closer to my goal of 13.1 on race day. Much more importantly, thanks to the generosity of so many folks, I have raised about $6,100 so far. A little over two thousand dollars more, and I will be running with purple hair on June 26 in Seattle! Want to help make that happen? Go to my TNT web page and make a donation, or contact me to get me a check payable to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society:


You can also go to my web page to get campaign updates by way of my blog, to see my honoree list, or view my Purpleometer. As with all of my past endeavors for LLS, if you make a donation to LLS I will gladly write the name of a loved one affected by any type of cancer on my blog and on my race singlet in Seattle.

Now, back to those words I heard on April 26, 2002. What the doctor actually said as he viewed the X-ray was: “You have a large mass in your chest, something that should not be there.” I stared at the X-ray, unable to speak for about 10 seconds, my mind reeling. I focused on the words that the radiologist had written on the edges of the X-ray image: “Mediastinal Mass” and “Lymphoma?” Those words, combined with what the doctor said, had the same effect as if he had actually said "you have cancer," because I immediately was certain that was what I would be dealing with.

I wondered how I would tell my wife this news. I wondered what my future would hold, and what chemotherapy would be like. I wondered if I would see the end of 2002, or if 2002 would see the end of me. I decided in those initial few seconds that if this was going to be my fate, I would fight like hell to delay it as long as possible.

Obviously, I survived that year, and seven more years since, and it turned out well for me. But every four minutes of every day on average, another American is told they have one of the blood cancers: leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, or myeloma. I am sure that they have some of the same thoughts going through their brains as I did that day. And every 10 minutes in this country, a person will die from blood cancer, so clearly it does not turn out well at all for over 50,000 Americans each year.

When I was ill from the effects of chemo, I swore that when I recovered, I would somehow use my example of surviving cancer to do something good for others so affected, and to ultimately better their prospects. I don’t have the knowledge or skills to actually develop a cure. But maybe I can use my strong legs and spirit to inspire people like you to make a contribution to this cause, which will ultimately lead to more and more cures, and higher survival rates. I need your help, because running a half marathon in itself won’t cure a thing. It is donations to this cause that will lead to a cure, not anyone running 13.1 miles.

To all of you who donated already, many thanks. But if you are getting this and have not yet donated, then consider that your donation, when combined with those of so many others, is going to save lives. Maybe even the life of a loved one, because when you or a loved one has cancer, the phrase “War on Cancer” is no longer an abstract slogan. It is a difficult and exhausting fight for survival, and all too often a deadly one.

Like a bolt from the blue, that fight began for me eight years ago today. I am very lucky to be here, not only alive but healthy and strong as well. On June 26, I will be a Survivor in Seattle, and with your help, my hair will be purple, and we will be that much closer to a cure.

Thank you from my 2010 Cancer Kickin’ Campaign!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Eight Miles in Spotty Weather

The fact that the Country Music Marathon and Half Marathon occurred today in Nashville is a bitter reminder that a year ago, I could run / walk a half marathon. Today, eight miles seemed like plenty. Despite a rainy start to training, most of the time it was cool and cloudy but with very little rain. And after a couple of miles, I wished I could trade my long sleeved shirt for a tee.
The physical issues I discussed yesterday were not a problem. Lots of body glide and a “men’s sports bra” took care of the chafing problem. And the neuroma pain didn’t surface, maybe because we had a pretty flat route. So that was a relief.

We had a nice group of people today. My mentee Beth is mentoring next season, and she brought one of her mentees out to do a few miles. Beth is fighting a knee injury. Nancy was out to walk 8 miles with my good buddy Kristi doing the coaching, and they were stepping along at a great pace when I saw them come in. Chuck was out to provide head coaching, and my former mentee and teammate Kathy, who mentored the spring team, also came out. It was great to see her and to hear the she is considering coming to Seattle to run with Chuck and me. Finally, Lelia and I, doing a run / walk combination, completed our group. A year ago, Chuck, Kristi and I were in Nashville together. How time flies! Lelia started our training with a great mission moment: a poem written by a 10 year old boy about how he wished he could cure cancer. We were all moved.

For a good chunk of training today, Chuck, Kathy, Lelia, and I were all together. With a few miles to go, Kathy and Chuck kept running when we switched to a walk mode and that was that. Lelia and I did about 8.5 miles at a reasonable run / walk pace of about 12 minute miles. Sorry – no photos. It was just too wet at times and threatening other times to risk my camera. But it was a fun workout together, and good to creep our mileage up. Lelia’s race is only six weeks away, and mine is nine weeks, so we have to start doing more miles soon. Eight today was a good start for this, and felt like enough at the same time.

Lelia was talking about the importance of consuming proteins after a hard workout. So when I went home, I made two eggs with broken yolks, cooked three pieces of bacon, and made a sandwich with those and some slices of cheddar on a bagel. Combined with a mug of tea, man oh man, did that hit the spot.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Running is Hard on You

It felt good to have a rest day today, and other than walking about a mile at lunch to get some fresh air on a pretty spring day, I totally took it easy. Tomorrow's eight miles could be rough for a couple of reasons.

First, running Wednesday in the rain and thus in a soaked shirt led to some serious and painful chaffing. I am going to liberally apply Body Glide tomorrow for the first time this year. And I think that even that will not be enough, so I think I might wear a "men's sports bra" (a pair of bandaides) for the first time ever.

Second, my neuroma had been no issue for a long time, but it is clearly raising its ugly head again. I have felt pain in my left forefoot the last couple of weeks. For many months, I had kidded myself a bit to think that the last alcohol shot had done the trick, and the neuroma was history. But clearly, that was a pipe dream. I may have to go back to the podiatrist, get some more shots, and then just gut it out for the next nine weeks. I am wearing orthotics and wide toebox shoes, but with that left foot, it just looks like this may always be an issue.

I wonder if I should consider surgery? I hate to do that other than absolutely as a last resort, after the race of course. For now, I will just see how it goes.

It looks like rain tomorrow again, so my next training post might not have many photos.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Nine and a Half Weeks

No, gentle readers, we are not talking about some sexually explicit, sadomasochistic movie. We are talking the amount of time left until the Seattle Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon. And I am starting to get pumped up about it!

My running has started to pick up a bit these last few weeks. This week, I have only done two running workouts, and my hamstrings are just a bit sore, so I stuck to cross training and a short walk today instead of running. This upcoming Saturday, we have an eight miler, which will be my longest distance since participating in the Country Music Half Marathon nearly a year ago. So I want my legs to recover in time for that.

Tuesday, I did speed work. Well, I call it speed work – you might not. Using my trusty Ironman watch, I set 30 second run intervals and 60 second walk intervals. Then I ran the 30 second intervals at about as fast a pace as I could maintain for that length of time, which is probably about a six minute mile. I planned on doing this for two miles, but after just one mile I was getting really tired and cut back some during the return mile. Even so, it was a really good workout. It did leave my hamstrings sore, though. From there, I went and spoke at a fall team recruitment meeting.

Yesterday, I ran after work with Chuck, head coach for our team. It was my second after work Wednesday “group” workout, and felt really good. We started out in a cool, moderate rain, and were soaked to the skin within minutes. We could see the sharp line between rain and sun just to our right as the rain and wind pounded us. After about a mile and a half, the rain stopped, and after about two miles, we were casting shadows as the sun attempted in vain to dry us. I put on a dry shirt back at the car, which helped, and did stretching. That was a four mile run, and it took 42 minutes. Hopefully, we start getting additional teammates to come out during the Wednesday runs.

For yesterday’s run, I changed my run interval to 4.5 minutes and the walk interval to 2.25 minutes by adding 15 seconds to the run and subtracting 15 seconds from the walk. When I first started training this winter, I was walking 3 minutes and running 2, so this is a nice improvement. I’ve seen a corresponding change in speed from about a 12 minute mile average to about 10.5. I am also beginning to find a run pace that feels comfortable, although it still seems to vary all over the place. When we started yesterday, we were running at 9.75 minutes per mile, according to Chuck’s GPS. But the last couple of miles were at an 8.5 pace. My walking pace is somewhere between 13 and 14 minutes, depending on how my legs feel. Using the new watch makes doing the intervals so much easier. I love it, and consider it $50 well spent.

It is pretty cool to think that I am just over nine weeks away from another Team in Training event, and my first time in Seattle. My goal – and we will see if I get there – is to be doing six minute run and one minute walk intervals by the time of the race. If I can do that, I’ll cover about 4,000 feet with every seven minute cycle, or a mile every 9.25 minutes on average. That would mean a half marathon of just over two hours, although with a porta potty break or two and time to snag a few photos, would probably take it up to 2:05 or 2:10. Now frankly, that time just is not likely, but my original goal of under 2:30 seems very doable right now. More importantly, where running seemed like a struggle a few months ago, I am actually starting to enjoy it right now.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

My Future World Record Marathon

Yep, you read it here first. Someday, most likely in 2021, I’ll be setting the world record in the men’s marathon. How do I know this? Simple mathematics! Let me explain.

I’ve done three marathons, the Midnight Sun in Anchorage in 2005, the Rock ‘N’ Roll in San Diego in 2006, and the P. F. Changs in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe in 2008. I walked the first two, and walked over 90% of the third one. Now I am starting to run more, and consider myself a runalker, so my time per mile is decreasing. Here are my times in those races:

Anchorage – 6:41:39 (walking in heavy rain)
San Diego – 6:14:15 (walking in sunshine)
Phoenix – 5:56:44 (mostly walking in sunshine)

If you will do the math, you will see that, on average, I knocked 22 minutes and 46 seconds off each successive marathon. So projecting this forward, as any intelligent person might, leads some fantastic future times. Of course, I am not scheduled to run a marathon right now, so let’s assume I start up again in 2011, and my time will be about 5 hours and 35 minutes. Then going forward, because I want that world record as soon as possible, I will crank out a marathon a year. This leads to some remarkable milestones in my racing career:

2013 – my first sub-five hour marathon
2015 – I qualify for Boston
2016 – my first sub-four hour marathon (in Boston)
2018 – I break three hours, by a hair, for the first time
2020 – I run a marathon in 2 hours 12 minutes, just missing the world record. Ethiopian and Kenyan runners are looking over their shoulder in fear. “Who is this old geezer?” they ask in wonder. It is possible I even get a medal in the Olympics that year.
2021 – I shatter the word record at age 70. What a way to celebrate the big seven-OH! Sports Illustrated cancels its swimsuit issue to put me on its cover (but not in a swimsuit). Sales of Wheaties, with my photo on the box (but not in a swimsuit) go berserk!

But wait, there’s more! Now things start getting really incredible. In 2024 I win Olympic Gold in a new world, Olympic, and PR: less than 43 minutes. In 2025 I defy all reason by setting a new world marathon record in a shade under 20 minutes. Just for grins, I also win the Kentucky Derby, Belmont, and Preakness, leaving the world’s best thoroughbreds gasping in agony and shame. An enraged jockey tries to shoot me after the Preakness when I humiliate him and his horse. I’m not fast enough to beat a cheetah over 200 yards, but can easily beat one in a half mile race.

By 2026, I enter a marathon and win it before it even starts. At that point, age 75, I decide to slow down a bit and jog the Boston Marathon in about an hour and 5 minutes. It is time to hang up the running shoes and take it easy.

All it will take is me doing a marathon a year, and the application of simple mathematics. After all, it was Mark Twain himself that wrote the following: “In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Big Thank You to Country Music and St. Anthony’s Tri Teams

If you are on Team Richmond, Team Virginia, or any Team in Training Team for the Country Music Marathon / Half Marathon, or the Saint Anthony’s Triathlon, then this thank you message is for you.

I know that several of you on Team Richmond are cancer survivors, and that others among you have lost loved ones to these awful diseases. And then there is Ed, originally on the St. Anthony’s Team, who is currently undergoing a tough battle with melanoma. So there is not a lot I can say that can match the personal reasons that you are doing this. I did want to say thank you, though, and that I know how hard you have worked to get to this point – fund raising and training.

To those headed to Country Music, I was there for the same weekend and same purpose a year ago. You will have a great time. Hopefully, it will be a tad cooler this year. Make sure you spend a few hours in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Special best wishes to Debbie and David from Team Richmond, who I trained with a few times this year.

For you triathletes, I always hold you in a bit of awe, and hope to be one of you someday. I just need to get a real bike, and learn to swim better. Okay, I need to learn to swim a lot better. And I probably have to learn how not to fall of the bike, and to understand those clickety-clack shoes you all wear. I’ve never been to Tampa, so I’d love to see photos and hear race reports.

For those of you who have survived cancer and are doing this for the first time since cancer, the feelings you will have when you cross the finish line will be incredible. For you to do something like this after surviving is an amazing experience, and a wonderful memory – particularly since you have used your recovery to help others. It is also an inspiration to cancer survivors everywhere.

So Team Nashville and Team Tampa Bay, go have a great time. You’ve earned it. For everyone of you, sincere thanks for what you are doing – for taking your time to make a difference in the lives of current and future cancer patients. For racing for a cure!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tales From Hollywood

Yesterday, we did our team’s Hollywood Cemetery run – always a lot of fun, combining exercise, scenery, history, and (this time of year) the beauty of flowers. Two US Presidents (Monroe and Tyler) and one Confederate President (Jefferson Davis) are buried there. Every time I do the TNT route through the cemetery, I can’t help but remember our 2006 Spring Team’s sojourn through the azaleas and dogwoods.

It was my second TNT season, and my first as a mentor. I mentored several women on the walk team as I trained for the San Diego Marathon. I was the only person training to walk the full marathon, and so did most of my training by myself because of the distances involved. But on the last day of training, I cut it short a bit to train with Allison and Vaunda, my two San Diego Half Marathon mentees. And my mentee Mary Nell, now a veteran of the Country Music Half Marathon the prior month in Nashville, came back out to do a final walk with the team. Three great gals and me walking through the cemetery – what could go wrong? None of the three of them had ever been in there before.

As we entered the cemetery, Vaunda got a little nervous. “This place gives me the creeps! There is no way I’d go in here by myself.” Allison on the other hand, was fascinated and kind of liked it. “If I were homeless,” she said, “I’d come sleep in here. It would be quiet and peaceful, no one to bother you.” Vaunda was horrified. “Sleep in here? No way!” The run team passed us coming down the hill maybe three fourths of a mile ahead of us and we all yelled “Go Team!” Then we headed up the steep hill.

We paused to admire the great river and city views from the chapel along the crest of the hill, talk of living in cemeteries left behind for a bit. But as we moved along, we saw some worms that had come out on the pavement. They were going to bake in the sun, so I picked up a few large ones. Mary Nell looked a little alarmed, and then I tossed them on a grassy area. “I thought you were going to throw them at me, Art,” she said. “No, I have not done anything like that maybe ever, but if so it would have been in grade school. I’m just trying to save them,” I said.

By now, we were a bit lost. It was hard to follow the instructions because they didn’t always mention streets. We could always retrace out route to get out, but were trying to follow the exact route to stick to our training regimen. We fumbled around for a while, looking at the instructions over and over, trying to figure which of the streets we should go down. Finally, we just headed along one of the streets that we thought was right.

Suddenly, like an old ghostly Confederate soldier, this apparition appeared on the rise directly above us. Okay, he was not really an apparition, but a real guy. He had a long unkempt beard, a floppy hat, and some kind of a walking stick. Or was it a club? We all greeted him, but he just stared at us and said not a word as we walked by. He became the latest topic of conversation among the ladies and I. “Boy, he was creepy,” Vaunda said. Allison added “Oh, maybe I wouldn’t really want to hang out here if I were homeless.” Mary Nell said “I’m glad that you were with us to protect us, Art!” I jokingly replied “Protect you? I was thinking the same thing about you three being here to protect me.” We all laughed, but a couple of them glanced over their shoulders now and again. And they all vowed there was no way they would come back in here alone.

Ultimately, we got back on track, went past the big pyramid and the iron dog (see yesterday’s photos), and headed back through the city. But now the three of them were Hollywood veterans, and I always think of these three wonderful women whenever I train in there. And I almost always get a little lost each time as well, maybe for old time’s sake. Hurrah for Hollywood!

Message #12 From Your Artful Mentor

Hello, my San Diego bound mentees,

It is I, your Artful Mentor, with my weekly message to you. You are counting the weeks, thinking “Oh thank goodness that I only must endure 6 more messages from my Artful Mentor, unless he gets wild and crazy again and doubles his messages for a given week.” Could happen, so don’t be too sure that there are only 6 more messages after this one.

In any event, the San Diego marathon / half-marathon is only seven weeks away. You should start to feel excited about this, or a little nervous if you are among the walking wounded. If you are in the latter group, please, please, please keep your coaches in the loop.

Only a couple of you made the Hollywood Cemetery run yesterday. It is one of my favorites, year after year, and if you want to see what you missed, my blog has some of the details:


As the season winds down, how are you all doing? Since many of you are not getting to training, and because I missed a couple of weeks myself, I am not able to see most of you much. My job as mentor is not just to talk fundraising, but to help you with the overall experience of TNT as well. So other than training and injury concerns, which should go to our fantastic coaches, I am open to talking about anything that is going on that is impacting your experience in a positive or negative way. Just let me know. It is the goal of every LLS staff person, coach, and mentor that you have a great experience and many fond memories of your time with Team in Training. If getting together and chatting over a cup of coffee or a beer is helpful to you, even if you are right on top of your fundraising, then I will be there for you.

I will throw out two fundraising ideas this week.

1. What are friends for? Do you have a friend or two in distant places, someone who has their own circle of friends? Ask them to be a special satellite fundraiser for you by telling their friends all about your efforts and trying to encourage them to donate for you. This has been a really effective technique for me over the years. In some years, I have raised $2,000 - $2,500 directly from a friend or two helping. Even this year, where friends I used in the past seem kind of tapped out, I had a friend contact me a couple of weeks ago and asked if he could promote what I am doing on his Facebook. “Sure!” was my enthusiastic reply. Since then, seven of his friends have donated nearly $300 to my “Survivor in Seattle” campaign!

2. Movie Night! Hey, everyone loves a movie and popcorn, right? So invite a few friends over for movie night. Provide a double feature, make the popcorn, and serve beverages of everyone’s choices. Instead of them paying $10 for a ticket, $8 for popcorn, and $4 for a soda, ask for donations towards your fundraising. Repeat a few times with different friends and it can add up.
Remember to let Chuck know if you will be at the Wednesday after work training or not. It was a fun run we had last week.

Let me know if you need anything. If you want to chat, give me a call or email. Weeks always seem so busy, but I will find the time for you.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Hills of Hollywood

Today, our tiny Summer Team combined forces with some of the bigger Spring Team to do our famous Hollywood Cemetery Run. Two members of this team, Debbie and David, are off to Nashville next week for the Country Music Half Marathon, a year after I did this race.

Only three of us from the Summer Team showed up, plus three coaches. Nancy walked with the Walk Coach Betty, and Lelia and I did our walk-run combination together, at times joined by Coach Chuck. We did a six mile route that went through the Fan, past VCU, looping through Hollywood Cemetary (sometimes called the Arlington Cemetary of the Confederacy), and then returned the way we had come. At the end, we added over a mile by going over to the VITA course and doing a lap. It was a pretty good morning for a run, and great to have a teammate doing the walk-run combo, like me. Here are some photos from the morning.

Lelia and I were terrified to enter the cemetary. "Why?" asked Coach Chuck. "Is it the rumors of ghosts?" "No!" we said. "Is it the rumors of a vampire that lurks there?" "No!" we shouted. "Then what?" asked Chuck. "There are hills there, Coach! Big hills! Lots of hills!" we said as we trembled in fear.

Chuck stands at the crest of a hill with a great view of the James River and the downtown district in the distance.

Striking a pose reminiscent of the great Confederate General Nathaniel Pierre Ambrose "Wrong Way" Overhill III, I order Lelia to take the hill!

Lelia takes the hill!

There is a great view from the hill of the Hollywood Rapids and Belle Isle, another favorite training spot, in the distance.

David from the Spring Team looks over the grave and memorial area of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Poignant grave marker for a family's pet.

Lelia points out a beautiful rhododendron.

We tried to stage this photo so that it would look like we were holding up the pyramid by its point, but we were too close. It is a monument to Confederate women.

Kristi, Debbie, David and Chuck pose with the famous black dog of Hollywood Cemetary.

We were scared of the black dog at first, but once he sniffed our hand, he was pretty friendly and let us pet him.

Azaleas are so beautiful this time of year.

Lelia makes friends with a polar bear in the Fan. We know that the polar ice caps are in trouble, but this is ridiculous.

As I will explain in a future post, at some point in the future, I will be setting a new world record for the marathon. When that happens, Runner's World will want me on the cover. So we practiced getting some action photos. At the speed I was running in this one, only Lelia's lightening fast reflexes managed to get the photo as I flashed by near the Vita course.

This pose is the triumphant end of race pose. I think that Runner's World might like this one better.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Good Luck, Amber!

Man, time sure flies! You blink your eyes a few times and 4.5 years goes by. Time waits for no man, woman, or child. And today arrived a day that I knew would come some day – Amber’s departure as our Team in Training Director at LLS for the Virginia Chapter.

It feels like yesterday that I met Amber, but in reality, it was September of 2005. I had done my first TNT event and my first marathon the prior June, and had come out to speak to the fall team as a Survivor. The current coordinator, Sarah, introduced me to Amber, telling me that she was coming on as Sarah’s replacement. I chatted with this nice, friendly, young woman for a while. It was clear she would be very good for the job, but I never could have guessed how great.

I don’t know what Amber earned in her job, but I know two things: she will never get wealthy working at LLS, and if she was paid by the hour and by her dedication, she would earn a lot more than she did. Over the years, I’ve seen her out with the team so many very early Saturday mornings on her day off. She worked so many evening recruitment meetings, and if I emailed her with a question or idea after hours, I usually got an answer within minutes. She actually did two events fundraising for Team in Training so she could experience the program first hand. She approaches her job with a rare passion and dedication. Plus she is very smart, well spoken, enthusiastic, and interacts with people very well. She is the kind of person that was going to get a much better offer at some point – probably at many points – and at this time, she decided to take it. I know she will do fantastically well with the National Kidney Foundation.

During her 4.5 years, I have seen so many people come work for LLS and move on, but Amber worked away right through it all and was the only constant during this time. So it feels strange to think she won’t be there after today. She has meant so much to Virginia and Richmond Team in Training during this time, growing it and keeping it going through tough times. Whatever we needed as volunteers, Amber would help find it. She always supported and encouraged us in so many ways. Whether it was advice on fundraising or training, or just being a friend, well, that was Amber! She leaves the office in the capable hands of Elliot and Cate, but we will all miss this wonderful young woman.

So Amber, congratulations and best of luck in the new job. Everyone will miss you. I for one (of many) am glad that our paths crossed these past four and half years. And I expect they will again, hopefully both of us wearing the purple together as we race for a cure! Best of everything to you, Amber, and GO TEAM!

Here is Amber (front center with green jacket and antlers) with last year's Spring Team before our Jingle Bell Run:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mixing it Up a Bit

With the race in Seattle just ten and a half weeks away, I am trying to mix things up a bit. First, I know that I have to train more consistently during the week than I have been. My normal schedule calls for resting Sunday, cross training Monday, running Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, resting Friday, and running Saturday. Saturday is the longest run of the week, and is our team training, and Wednesday is normally about half the miles of Saturday. Tuesday and Thursday are normally just 3 or 4 miles. But it has been hit or miss for me most weeks, other than the long training on Saturday.

So this week, I am sticking pretty well to the schedule. I ran Sunday, 3 miles around Echo Lake. That was fun, and in daylight. Monday, I ran two miles in the morning. In the evening, I had to go to a Team in Training function, so there was no time for my normal water aerobics, which is excellent cross training. I did spend about 15 really hard minutes on an eliptical machine, tiring my quads and driving my heart rate high. Then I spent about 8 minutes on a treadmill set to 15 degrees of incline, and walked as fast as I could with tired legs. As fast as I could on that degree of slope was only 3.2 miles per hour, believe it or not.

I took Tuesday as a rest day, as I continued to mix things up. Then tonight, our coach started an optional midweek training after work, and I decided to go. I was the only participant there, but it was great fun. Normally I am doing my fairly long Wednesday miles (a) by myself and (b) in the early morning dark. Running in daylight, looking at all the flowers, and chatting with Chuck made the time fly. I did run - walk intervals using my watch, and did five miles in 53 minutes, which is a pretty good pace for me right now. If I could hold that pace for 13.1 miles, it would translate into about a two hour and 20 minute half marathon. My goal is 2:30 right now. Anything under about 2:44 beats my previous half marathon time. So I think I am going to try to go to more of the Wednesday trainings, and hopefully a few teammates will show up. It is a lot more fun than running alone in the dark while the world sleeps.

Tomorrow, I plan on going to water aerobics, but I am also going to try to spend about 20 minutes on a treadmill doing a speed workout. I am thinking 1 minute at something like a 7.5 minute mile (yeah, that is speed for me, given my normal running pace is somewhere around a 9 - 9.5 minute mile) and then maybe 2 minutes walking fast. I'll try to repeat that sequence six or seven times.

Friday, I will definitely rest, and Saturday I will go for 8 miles - my longest distance so far this season. And next week, I am going to add 15 seconds to my run intervals, making them 4:30, and maybe shave 15 seconds off my walk interval, making them 2:15. I'll see how it goes, but right now, it feels good to start ramping things up, and mixing them up a bit as well.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Message #11 From Your Artful Mentor

Happy Tuesday, my merry mentees. Yes, Tuesday – fooled you, didn’t I? ‘Tis I, your Artful Mentor, and you were just starting to think that I had forgotten about you. Some of you were happy about this (Oh, Yes! My Artful Mentor left me alone for a week!) and some of you were sad about it (Doesn’t my Artful Mentor care how I am doing anymore?). But no matter – glad or sad – here I am. I didn’t forget, I just was busy.

I strongly encourage any of you struggling a bit with fundraising to get in touch. I will do all I can to help, but with your event only weeks away now, there is no time to lose. Or if you are coming to training and want to chat for a bit, I will be there Saturday and perhaps tomorrow night if I can get a car fixed in time. Or we can meet some other night. Just let me know what you need.

As always, let our coaches know if you can’t make it tomorrow night or Saturday.

Hopefully you are getting regular notes out, and hopefully you have letters out now or shortly to help close any gaps.

My fundraising idea for this week is Teamwork! Several of you are friends. Have a joint fundraiser, either splitting the money evenly or giving a larger share to someone who is still below their minimum. Or even if you didn’t join the team with close friends, find a pal who is still fundraising below their minimum, and plan out a fundraiser together. Here is one idea for a fundraiser idea perfect for this warm weather – a topless car wash! (It is not quite as exciting as it sounds):


For all kinds of other ideas, go to the parent site of the above link:


The key thing, especially now, is to do something every single week. You are literally coming down the stretch, with 7.5 weeks until your event. So if you are $2,000 short of the minimum, that translates to raising about $250-300 each week on average. Set up a plan to do just that. It is doable right now, so don’t let it become a crisis by still needing $2,000 four weeks from now.

Keep in mind that almost any fundraiser you can come up with requires more effort per dollar raised than a good email / letter campaign. So spend time on these other ideas if you feel you have taken the letter campaign as far as you can. Otherwise, keep updating potential donors as well, or as your primary focus.

Let me know how I can help.
Your Artful Mentor

March 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. So while my report for March is a bit late, here is where things stand after three months into the New Year!

1. Do my fifth Team in Training event. I am on the Summer Team to run the Seattle half marathon. Training has been going on for two months. Less than 10 weeks to go.

2. Get a bike. Initially, this means saving money for a bike. This takes money I don't have right now, and I have finally made some tiny progress on this goal by setting aside a little money for this purpose.

3. Eclipse $50,000 (cumulative) in fund raising for Team in Training. I need to raise $8,500 this season to hit this target. I've raised 59% of this amount so far, which is double what I had raised at the end of February.

4. Lose my extra 10 pounds. It is slow going, but I have lost about two pounds of it so far, about the same as I was a month ago.

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. Accomplished!

8. Hike more, and try to backpack again. I’ve managed a few more short hikes. This is a longer term goal for spring, summer, and fall, but spring is here and I've tried to get out when I can, even if it is a 4 or 5 mile walk to see the sights about town.

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 72 posts on this blog and eight posts on my hiking blog through March of 2010. So I am doing well on this goal.

Summary – mixed. After two months, I have accomplished one goal, made good progress on three of my goals, some progress on two others, tiny progress on one more, and no progress on the other three.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Lapping the Lake

Since I trained Friday for my long run instead of yesterday, I decided to do a few miles this morning instead of taking Sunday as a normal rest day. So I went out in the coolness of early morning and did four laps around Echo Lake, shown here:

This translates to about three miles. I used my watch for time repeating run and walk intervals. I did five run intervals of 4.25 minutes and four walk intervals of 2.5 minutes. My total time was just a shade over 30 minutes for the three miles. I alternated between being cool in the shade and hot in the sun. Some type of pink honeysuckle is in bloom, and is really pretty. Birds were calling, and a white breasted nuthatch came down at one point to entertain me by flitting from tree to tree. All in all, it was a great start to a Sunday.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Training with Lelia

I have Saturday plans and therefore am missing training tomorrow, and one of my teammates and mentees, Lelia, also was going to miss part of training. So she suggested that we get together after work today and do the six miles together. Great idea, because the miles just flew by with Lelia to talk to. Last Saturday's solo seven miler in the fog seemed to take twice as long as tonight's workout with a friend. Plus the weather was perfect, with the overnight and morning rain giving way to a breezy sunny afternoon with temperatures that were perfect for a run or a walk. The gorgeous colors this time of year were a great bonus, and the route is one of my favorites - across the Boulevard Bridge and along Riverside Drive. It is a good workout with some hills, but with some great views as well. It also intersects the Buttermilk Trail, where I did a nice hike last year - a bit of wildness in the big city.

We are both coming off some injury issues with Lelia spraining her ankle a couple of weeks ago, and me dealing with some knee pain. So while we did some running, we did more walking, probably averaging about 12 to 13 minute miles for the six miles. Lelia was rushing off afterwards to play dodgeball - oh, to be young again! I dodged traffic on the way home to get something to eat and to say TGIF with a glass of Chianti!
Here are some photos of the gorgeous Virginia spring scenery.
At the start of training, I knew I needed a photo of these beautiful cherry trees in full bloom by the lake.
We crossed the Boulevard Bridge, aka the Nickel Bridge, which has pretty views downriver (like this shot) and upriver of the mighty James.
Lelia was running incredibly fast here, but my camera's special freeze frame feature was able to make it look like she was barely moving.
From the route we ran and walked, there are sometimes scenic views of the river. The bridge we crossed is now far away, and a nice reminder of how far we came in just a short time.
This is a view of the Carillon, very close to where we started but now far across the James, and just a tiny spire against the sky, another measure of how far we have come since the start.
This home had the most gorgeous azaleas!
The State flower is the dogwood, and Lelia pretends to catch her breath in front of a pretty pink dogwood tree. I love Virginia this time of year. It is a feast for one's eyes!
Lelia runs back across the Boulevard Bridge.
No, this is not Holland, but good ole Richmond. How pretty! I am secure enough in my masculinity to admit that I think pink is a really pretty color!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Fundraising Progress Report

Woo-hoo! I hit a little milestone today with my fundraising on my "Survivor in Seattle" Team in Training campaign: $4,700. Why is that a big deal? Because that is the minimum amount I have to raise for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society with my recommitment. Actually, as a mentor, I could have raised just 75% of that for a minimum. But what kind of mentor tells their mentees "Go ahead! You can do it! I can't, but you can!" So I pretty much ignore the mentor discount and pretend I am raising the $4,700 as a minimum. And now I have reached that amount, my "C" fundraising goal. My "A" goal is $8,500, so I am now at 55% of that. And my Purpleometer now has a little more than half of his hair purple. When it is all purple, so will mine be for the race.

So it feels good to get this monkey off my back. I've reached the minimum, and every dollar I raise for LLS for the rest of the season exceeds their budgetted amount for me to do this event. And in the race for a cure, every dollar counts as we try to turn rain drops into raging rivers to wash cancer away!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

If You Think a Marathon is Tough Try Chemotherapy

This was my recent update and note to potential donors...

Hello from my Cancer Kickin' Campaign, "Survivor in Seattle!"

I want to thank everyone who has donated to date to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society on behalf of my efforts. I am now just over 50% of my fundraising goal with a couple of months to go. If you want to donate or check progress, or see my growing list of honoree names for my race shirt on June 26, you may do so at my Team in Training web page:


I am having a fundraiser this coming Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Great Wraps on Lombardy just north of Broad in the VCU area. If you buy something there and tell them "Here for Art" when you pay, LLS will get 20% of your check. Please let others know about this, especially people in the Fan or the VCU area.

At the race expos where gear is sold, there is a tee shirt that says "If you think a marathon is hard, try chemotherapy." From personal experience in both areas, I can tell you that this is a true sentiment, and I thought I would do some comparitive differences.

Marathon – people prostrate themselves before you, the elite athlete that you are, in awe
Chemo – you prostrate yourself on the bathroom floor before the Porcelain God as your stomach does flops so spectacular that even Tiger Woods’ little black book pales in comparison

Marathon – You hate using the gross porta-potties that line the race course
Chemo – You would gladly use the grossest porta-potty you ever saw in return for everything working as it should once you got in there

Marathon – you drink nasty tasting sports drinks and eat nasty tasting “goos” to regain some energy
Chemo – nothing you eat or drink gives you any energy, and that luscious, ripe peach you would normally love makes you gag at the thought of it

Marathon - You are so worn out, you think you will just drop, but you keep going for 5, 6, 7 hours – whatever it takes
Chemo - You are so worn out, you think you will just drop, but you keep going for 5, 6, 7 (or 12, or 24) months – whatever it takes

Marathon – you wear a hat to protect your eyes from the sun, keep the rain out of your face, and to display your cool TNT “26.2” pins
Chemo – you wear a hat to protect your bald head from the sun, and, if you are a woman, to hide your bald head

Marathon – at about mile 19, your brain gets kind of slow. “Did I cover that last mile in 9.2 or 2.9 minutes, or was it 29.2?”
Chemo – most of the time your brain is in a fog so thick that the light from an explosion in a Chinese fireworks factory wouldn’t penetrate it. “Did it just take me 2 minutes or 2 seconds to shuffle into the kitchen, and why did I come in here? And why is there a shower stall and toilet in my kitchen? Hey, where’s the oven? Honey, someone took our oven and refrigerator! Or maybe we never had a refrigerator – I don’t know!”

Susan Butcher, the first woman to win the Iditarod, the 1,100 mile long sled dog race across Alaska’s wilderness, was no stranger to hard times and exhaustion. As she suffered through the exhaustion caused by her treatment for the leukemia that ultimately took her life in 2006, she discussed a key difference between an endurance event and blood cancers. "Running the Iditarod is a choice and something I loved doing and I never considered the things I was going through hardships. I knew they were hard and there were some really tough times. There was a lot of pain. I've broken a lot of bones out there, but it was what I loved doing. I didn't really choose to have leukemia. This is just a battle that was given me."

At one point during her leukemia treatment, this woman who could once mush a dog team more than 1,000 miles through the wilds of Alaska could only manage 97 seconds on an elliptical machine. The exhaustion caused by her disease and its treatment was that total.

In time, through lots of generous people and the research that their donations fund, I hope that someday the shirt says "If you think chemotherapy is hard, try a marathon!"

Thanks again,

Monday, April 5, 2010

Have You Talked to Your Doctor About Goteamtra?

I’ve said a number of times that if I could bottle and sell the feeling one gets from participating in Team in Training, then I would be a very wealthy man. So it got me to wondering – what if there were such a medication? What would its TV commercial be like? Maybe something like this…

Are you longing to make a positive difference in the world? Do you feel restless when you see people out running or biking while you sit lethargically on your couch or sleep half the day away? Are negative people getting you down? Maybe it is time you had an open conversation with your doctor about Goteamtra.

Goteamtra is a medication that will boost your energy, increase your smile factor, and help you bond with new people. Instead of lethargically sleeping late on Saturdays, you will bound out of bed ready and eager to train with friends. You will have the strength and energy to run, walk, or bike long distances, or to compete in a long distance triathlon. You will experience the glow of helping others, and knowing that you are contributing to the ultimate victory over blood cancers. During races, strangers will cheer for you and call out your name, and you will smile from ear to ear. You will experience feelings of euphoria, and have amazing and sharp memories that will last a lifetime. You will generate positive vibes to the people around you. You will have the strength to gladly stand for hours cheering for friends and strangers as they race along. Your weight and fat content should decrease while your muscle mass, strength, and endurance increase.

Goteamtra does have certain side effects that you should discuss with your doctor. You may develop an unusual affinity for the color purple. You might ignore pain and exhaustion to continue running or competing. You could feel a compulsion to stick Team in Training tattoos on your face or on other body parts, and to shout “Go Team!” You might start talking to strangers about the difficulties of curing blood cancers, and how they can help. If you should experience a marathon lasting more than nine hours, seek immediate medical attention. In rare instances, Goteamtra has been known to become addictive.

Goteamtra is not for everyone. If you are an extremely negative person, someone who likes to rain on everyone else’s parade, or someone who is just plain mean, Goteamtra is not going to help you. However, you could have a frank discussion with your doctor about having an eyerectomy. This is a delicate operation to disconnect your eyes from your rectum, thus improving your shitty outlook on life.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Message #10 From Your Artful Mentor

Hi Everyone,

Yes, it is I, your Artful Mentor, with another weekly message for you. I hope that everyone is well. I was at the beach this weekend, running my seven miles in a cold, wet fog yesterday morning. Today was gorgeous, though. It was tough to come home.

Shout outs to Beth, Stephanie S., and Nancy for reaching their fundraising minimums a few weeks ago. I sense some potential Virginia Rock Stars. That rock star shirt will look great on you in San Diego.

A shout out to Lisa for taking her silent auction items that didn’t sell and having her own auction. That’s the spirit.

I met with Lauren last week to discuss fundraising. I didn’t get calls from anyone else, but if you need to review things and brainstorm ideas, I am glad to help. I am going to have to miss training this Saturday, but I plan on being there the week after.

Here are three concepts that Lauren and I discussed the other night. They apply to any of you who are still below your minimum:

1. Back in ancient times, a Roman general crossed a river with his army and then had the bridges burned behind them. His army had to fight or drown – there was no going back. In a similar, but less bloody and hazardous fashion, once you recommit, there is no going back. So you have to find a way to raise the minimum money committed to. You can, and you will!

2. Think of any time you spend fundraising as a really great paying part-time job, because every dollar you raise is a dollar you won’t have to pay yourself. If you spend 20 hours fundraising and bring it $1,000, that is like a $50 an hour job.

3. The goal of every mentor and everyone at LLS is that you reach your goal without paying a dollar yourself. We can’t do it for you but we want you to be successful and have a great time doing it. So let Cate or I know how we can help.

One of the things that Lauren and I discussed was how for most people, the bulk of the money you will raise, and the most efficient method (the most dollars raised for the effort expended) is going to be by using emails and letters. So do something this week in that regard. If it has been more than two weeks since you sent an email out updating what you have been doing and getting your message out there, it is time to send one. That is what I will be doing. My note will be called “If You Think a Marathon is Hard, Try Chemotherapy.” I will hopefully send it out by Tuesday night and then post it on my blog. It may have ideas that you can use if you want to try a similar theme.

If you are up to date on your notes, but have not mailed a letter yet, give that a shot. A couple of months ago, I sent you a number of examples and ideas. I have not yet sent a letter. I am waiting to see who has not responded to my email campaign, and who among these people are the most likely to respond to a letter. My goal is to send a letter about 2 months before my race. If I were doing San Diego and not Seattle, that would be right now (hint, hint).

That is about it from your Artful Mentor this week. Let me know if you need help.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Running in the Fog

Last night, we came down to the beach, and so I got up about daybreak to run my long training day. I wanted to run seven miles. My quads were still a little sore from my hard workout Thursday evening, but I was looking forward to seeing the surf from points along the run.

I planned two out and backs – four miles round trip into Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and then back to the condo for a water stop, and then three miles round trip up Sand Fiddler Road with the ocean just yards away. I ended up doing it as planned, but what was not planned was the weather – fog as thick as pea soup. Running south into a stiff breeze was uncomfortable in the 50 degree temperatures, and coated my glasses in moisture. It is pretty bad when I can see better without my glasses than with them.
I used my new watch to run with a 4.25 minute interval and then walk 2.5 minutes. I reversed this for the second part of the run, and my legs were really tired. I was soaked from running into the windblown fog after about a mile, and worried about my cell phone and camera. As is my habit, I brought the camera along to take pictures, but the fog was too thick for any great pictures. So back at the condo after 4 miles, I drank Gator Aid and left the camera and phone behind for the final three mile portion.

I never could see the ocean, although I could hear the surf roaring. That was nice, but all in all, I was glad to be done with this seven miler and get some hot tea and a hot shower.

Along the way, I think I ran into the Easter Bunny, getting ready for his big day tomorrow.

Friday, April 2, 2010

No More Watching the Watch!

A couple of months ago, I asked for advice on a sports watch, and got some good recommendations - a Timex Ironman. A week ago, I bought one, but there are many models and the one I ended up with was missing a very key feature for a "runalker" - the ability to set timed intervals. Mostly, I want to set a run interval and a walk interval, but it could work the same way for speed work: a short speed interval and a longer recovery interval. Without that feature, the watch would not work for me.

I did some research on-line and found a model that does everything I need, but it was a ladies watch. I can see it now: I'm running along in the Seattle half-marathon. The crowd is going nuts. Then suddenly, a spectator points at me and screams, "Oh my God!!!! He's wearing a woman's watch! And he has purple hair!" The cheers of the crowd turn to derisive laughter.

So I found a black and orange Timex Ironman manly-man watch with everything I need: light, chronometer (stop watch) with split timing, alarms, a timer, and two linked timers. The latter is what I need to do interval training. It cost a little more, about $55 at REI, but I used a 20% member's coupon discount and so only paid $45 or so.

I ran with it last night and it works just as I had hoped. I set a 6 minute run and 2.5 minute walk interval for my four milers. So I no longer have to keep staring at the watch and trying to remember when I started running or walking. It is harder to cheat, and if I do, I know it. One thing is plain: I need to lower the run interval for now. I am running seven miles in the morning and think I will try 4.5 run and 2.5 walk. I am very happy with this watch! I do need to work on understanding the stop watch and splits timer, though.