Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lighting the Night, and Thinking of “BJ”

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few photos from last night.

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

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Running of the Snails

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 15, 2010

Join the Spring Team!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


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

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

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

Sunday, October 10, 2010

On Getting Back Out There

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

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

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

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Reflections on the 5K

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Living Strong!

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

1. Run the race for the first time

2. Take the first step at the start

3. Just finish the race, in any time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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