Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ending 2011 Right

2011 will never be my favorite year. It began with the death of a good friend, Judy, in January from multiple myeloma. My sister Ann lost her fight with breast cancer in May. I spent much of the year with foot problems, although those pale in comparison. So I am looking forward to seeing 2011 disappear in the rear view mirror, and plan on staying up until midnight just to be sure it does go its merry way.

But I ended 2011 on a good note. Despite doing hardly any running this year, and none at all from April through September, I joined Team in Training for a seven mile run today. I did walk part of it, maybe two miles worth. I spent most of the time with Nicki and Babs, both of whom are blood cancer survivors too. It is a cool thing when three cancer survivors are all running together. Nicki is at 15 years, I am coming up on 10, and Babs is coming up on four.

It was good to see the Team out there, although it is a painfully small group - hopefully because of the holiday weekend, a lot of people weren't there. It was great to catch up with Nicki - she and I go back nearly six years together with Team in Training. And it felt great to run on a beautiful winter day that felt more like spring, with the Shamrock half-marathon less than three months away. It felt good to go more than half of that distance. Now I just have to work on speed and endurance while gradually increasing the length of my runs. Seven miles is probably the longest distance I have covered this year with running my dominant mode of locomotion.

Along the way, Nicki introduced me to a coach she has had through some of her training, Lynn. Lynn is 67 but looks and moves more like someone in their fifties. She is getting ready for one of those 48 hour relay runs. Now that is inspirational - how many 67 year-olds do you know that can do that?

Goodbye 2011. It's been a nasty year, but I ended the year on my feet and moving, and I guess that will have to be good enough for now.

Monday, December 26, 2011

What Are Your Pet Locker Room Peeves?

I've found that I get really annoyed by a few things men do in locker rooms. (Maybe women do them as well, but I have never used a woman's locker room.) And I was wondering: what annoys other folks? Maybe the same things? Maybe something else?

For background, our community center has a nice little fitness center, and indoor and outdoor pools. We have very small men's and women's locker rooms to go with these. There is a row of over-and-under lockers - 24 in total. There are three small benches. There are a few hooks to hang towels and so forth. And there are two shower stalls. In such a small space, one would think that people would be very considerate of others. Think again! In order of most annoying to least (but still, very) annoying, here are my three top pet peeves in the locker room.

1. People get the benches wet. The either throw stuff on the benches that is wet, or they hang wet stuff above them to drip. It is wonderful to come back in to get dressed and all three benches are wet. There is no place to sit and stay dry as one attempts to get dressed in dry street clothing.

2. People use the benches as lockers. You come in to change and the benches are covered with people's gym bags and clothing. For good measure, they hang clothing from the hooks. If every locker were full, I could see it, but that is never the case. Hang your stuff in the lockers, people! That is why we have them. Which brings me to ...

3. People either leave a lock on the locker, or leave it full of stuff, essentially claiming one of the 24 lockers for their own. Right now, about half of our lockers are claimed for sole use by one person or another. When it reaches about 18 out of 24, I might just bring in a pair of bolt cutters!

Okay, I've had my rant. What ticks you off about people in locker rooms?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Sobering Evening of Helping

A runner friend of mind, Chelle, does a really nice thing every year a week or so before Christmas. She gathers a bunch of runners to do a five mile run on a Wednesday night, and they each bring a poinsettia. Then on the next night, she and whoever can help takes the poinsettias to a local nursing home to try to put a little Christmas cheer in the lives of some of the elderly.

I've never been able to make the run, but last week, I was free Thursday to help distribute the flowers at the Hermitage Nursing home. About six of us showed up to help distribute maybe 60 plants. We would go into rooms and just leave a plant if the resident was not there or asleep, or chat with them a bit if they were there and awake (and aware). We did the nursing home side first, then took the remaining plants to the assisted living side.

It was sobering and a little sad. I've not spent a lot of time around really elderly people. My grandfather died at 69, and my other three grandparents were long gone before I arrived. Neither of my parents made it to really old age. A lot of these people are essentially warehoused, waiting to die. Some are very mentally confused, others on medication I would guess that made them sound asleep at 6:30PM. Most of them are extemely weak. Many of them were thrilled to get the plant, and to chat a bit, even if they were a little confused about why a poinsettia was being given to them. "Who is this from again?" one elderly lady asked me for about the tenth time. "There is no one I know who would send me this beautiful thing."

Most of them were alone, having outlived a spouse. One 90 year old man I talked to was grieving for his wife of 50 years who had died. He was a World War II vet and started crying when I shook his hand and thanked him for his service. But he pulled it together and we had a long chat. Another man was 97, and still in assisted living rather than nursing care. Most of them were watching TV alone in their room, or wandering about a little confused. But some of them had gathered in a common room and were chatting together. Some told us of family in there area who visited, of grandchildren who called regularly. Others were clearly alone in the world.

I guess all of us, if we live long enough, will get there. We'll outlive a spouse. We will get too mentally feeble to understand how to take care of ourselves, or we will be too physically feeble to be able to even if we still understand what needs to be done. Maybe our kids will care, maybe they won't. These strong legs which carried us through marathons and up mountains will barely be strong enough to help us get out of a chair, and eventually, maybe not even that. When you are younger and have strength, it is hard to visualize being feeble, infirm, and confused. But I hope if that is me someday, someone will bring me a poinsettia at Christmas and have a little chat.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

One Second Between Life and Death

Had I left my parking garage one second sooner yesterday, a man would have died. Had this idiot cyclist been one second slower, he would have died. But he didn't. Fate, God, luck, random chance gave him a narrow escape. I wonder if he thought about it as much as I have, and used the reflections to change his ways.

I left the parking garage around 11 to go volunteer for LLS at an event. Because of a movie being filmed in town about Abraham Lincoln, traffic is messed up. Trucks are parked all over the place. Horses, oxen, and Civil War soldiers walk around. When you leave the garage, you have to turn left down a narrow alley that exists on Ninth Street. Ninth Street is one way, heading north, so you must turn left at its intersection with the alley. I stopped at the end of the alley - with buildings on each side, you must do this to make sure that no pedestrians are about to step in front of you. The sidewalks were clear, so I pulled up over the sidewalk, and stopped again to make sure no one was driving up Ninth Street. It was all clear to the right, the only direction traffic should come from. To the left, parked along Ninth Street, was a solid line of large movie trucks parked along the side of the street, totally blocking the view of the road in that direction. It was if there were an impenetrable wall there. Since no traffic would come from that direction and it was all clear to the right, I took my foot off the brake and hit the gas pedal.

At that exact instant, a cyclist appeared from behind the parked trucks just feet away and almost exactly in my space. Ninth Street is all downhill there, and he was moving at least 20 miles per hour, probably faster. With amazing reaction time, if I do say so myself, I hit the brake and stopped just in time as he zipped by. I screamed "You moron!" at him. Well, okay, I may have prefaced moron with an adjective, a rather colorful and useful one. Had I gotten there one second earlier, or had he gotten there one second later, I would have been pulling out into the street in front of him, and he would have slammed into the side of my car. At 30 or 40 feet a second, he would have either catapulted over the car and landed in the street some distance away, or he would have smashed his head or broken his neck against the side of my car.

It left me shaken as I drove away. This fool - I call him a fool because he was riding the wrong way on a street, and riding very fast - came very close to dying. I reflected on all the things that could have conspired to save his life. We arrived at the same point in space at almost exactly the same instant in time. But not quite - there was a matter of a single second's difference that saved him. If I had gotten to my car one second sooner, if I had walked just a tiny bit slower, if I had taken one more second to make sure that the mirror was adjusted right, he would be dead. Although we could argue that someone that stupid shouldn't be in the gene pool, I am glad that I am not the one who removed him from it. Really glad, actually.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Another Run, and Continued Heel Pain

It has been two weeks since I did a run of more than two miles. Now that I am going to participate in the Shamrock Half Marathon in 14 weeks, I need to start running consistently. So this morning, I put on a few layers, gloves, a hat, and started running, going just over four miles. I did a run - walk combination, the same splits as last time. It seemed harder, maybe because it was cold and I had layers on instead of shorts and a tee. Or maybe, with as little running as I have done in the past year, it just is harder.

I generally stuck to my splits, but a few times, I seemed tired and out of breath, and walked a little longer. Another time, I ran a quarter mile around the track to see what my running pace is: 9:30 per mile. So I decided to do some math. My running speed of 9.5 minutes per mile means I average 9.26 feet per second. My walking speed of about 14.5 minutes per mile means I cover 6.07 feet per second walking. Given a run split of 1:05, I run 602 feet in that time, and my walk split of 1:30 means I walk 546 feet in that time. So I average 7.41 feet per second overall, which means an 11:53 overall pace per mile. That is if I strictly follow all my splits, which I didn't completely today. Today, my 4.1 miles took over 50 minutes, or a slower pace than 12 minute miles. So I have a long way to go.

The bummer is, my left heel has hurt all day. This plantar fasciitis has hung in there with a vengence for 7.5 months now, and it clearly means to bug me still. I should have iced it, but it didn't even cross my mind until this second.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Silent Mile Message

The Team in Training Spring Team has formed and is having a silent mile, like the one last July, today. Unfortunately, I can't be there, but I asked Kate to read something from me. Here is what I submitted to her.

I wish I could be here today to say hello and more importantly, to say "thank you." Yesterday marked a big milestone for me, my nine year remission anniversary from Hodgkin's lymphoma. Yes, nine years ago, I was celebrating finally being done with six months of chemo, one of the hardest things I have ever been through. I was eagerly awaiting a CT Scan in a few days, which would turn up no evidence of cancer. It was a thrilling time, but also a little sobering. A couple weeks before, in the chemo room for the last time, the man next to me nearly died when they tried a tiny dose of a new kind of chemo on him. For a few minutes, doctors and nurses frantically ran around the room like ants at a picnic. "I'm sorry," the oncologist said to the man and to his daughter after they revived and stabilized him. "That new chemo clearly isn't going to work for you, and there are no other options left for you because the current treatment isn't working at all." Imagine getting that message just before Christmas or Chanukah. Here I was, getting ready to return to my regular life and hopefully feel healthy again, while at the same time, this guy three feet from me was essentially being told to get his affairs in order. He was about the same age that I am now, which still feels far too young to die.

I've tried to do a lot of living in these nine years. Nine more birthdays and wedding anniversaries. Get-togethers with family and friends. Trips to Alaska, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and Glacier National Park. Lots of great hikes. Lazing at the beach with a cold drink. Being there when my granddaughter was born. Being a comfort to my sister Ann as she fought, and lost this spring, her four year battle with breast cancer. None of this could have happened for me without research that figured out how to effectively fight Hodgkin's lymphoma, at least most of the time.

When I had cancer, I was struck by two concepts. The first was that if I indeed survived, I owed my life to people who came years and decades before me. They were the patients who suffered horribly; they were the nurses who tended to them; they were the doctors who tried new things and made observations; they were the medical researchers and the biochemists and the geneticists who figured out what would work and not work. And they were the people who provided funding for medical research. Without their efforts, I'd be pushing up daisies - or as I like to say with the Shamrock Marathon coming up, shamrocks - right now.

The other key concept was that when I was well and healthy again, I wanted to do something to make a difference, to pay it forward, to help others. I wanted to be one of those people that cancer patients, when reflecting on their survival, would be thankful for. So another thing I have done in my nine years of earnest living has been to participate in Team in Training five times, and also, most recently, the Komen breast cancer 60 mile walk. And by virtual of your participation in Team in Training, you are also one of the people that future cancer patients - unknown to you - will thank. None of us can cure cancer by ourselves - even the greatest doctors and medical minds cannot. But just as tiny rain drops, one by one, will form a mighty river, so too are each of you helping to create a flood that will one day wash away incurable cancer. So from this cancer survivor, in absentia, thank you so very much. And - GO TEAM!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Winning the Lottery

I play the lottery with 19 co-workers, and we all dream of that day when we will split a big jackpot and be done with the work-a-day world. We'll have money to help friends and family members, give to good causes, travel a bit, and live reasonably well without having to work everyday. Nice dream.

Well, you know, in a way, I hit the lottery nine years ago, big time. Bigger than any multi-million dollar jackpot. Far bigger, actually. For I won my life. Nine years ago today, I went into remission from Hodgkin's lymphoma, and as far as I know, I am still there, strong and healthy once more. I've done a lot of living in those nine years, and hope to continue to do so.

Getting chemo for the last time two weeks before, after the sheer misery of six months of it, was the most amazing feeling. Now, here I am, nine years having gone by like the blink of an eye. I am one lucky guy. I have won my health and my life back. I am a survivor.

Come back tomorrow to see my message to the team for their Silent Mile.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Another Leap of Faith

Well, I'm all in! I signed up for the Shamrock Half Marathon yesterday. Now, all I have to do is finish getting over the plantar fasciitis, and start doing some serious running.

As I've written before, 2011 has been a year of minimal running, even though I did manage to get in two 10K's - the first coming off of foot surgery, the second with continuing plantar fasciitis and coming off the Komen 3-Day 60 miler. And even with the foot pain, I have done hundreds of miles of walking this year.

2012 is a big year for me - my ten year mark of surviving lymphoma. Now technically, I almost surely had cancer 10 years ago from right now. It wasn't detected until late April of 2002, but it didn't just spring up overnight. So you could say that I have already survived 10 years. Cancer survivorship is measured from diagnosis, though. That would be late May for me, because it took them a month to figure out what it was and give it a name - a specific type of Hodgkin's lymphoma. But March 18, the date of the Shamrock, is pretty close to that official 10 year point, and I wanted to make a strong statement at the start of my 10 year mark.

I was wavering. The race is 100 bucks, right at Christmas time, with my wife's birthday just two months later. Plus, I still have heel pain. Will it ever heal completely? It is a fraction, maybe 10%, of what it was in May. But how will it be after a lot of running? I was not sure I wanted to find out.

Then two nights ago, I was at an LLS function, and Kate wanted to chat. Kate is the Team in Training Coordinator. "How would you feel about doing Shamrock for us? And how would you feel emailing some local alumni and telling them that you are doing it and trying to convince them to join the team? Our recruitment is really suffering, even though the season has already started." I told Kate that it was too soon for me to fundraise, just two months after Komen, but that I had been thinking of doing the race on my own and, sure, I'll do it. I am still going to hold off on fundraising because while I could probably raise the minimum for this race, I want to do an event later for my 10 years and raise even more money. Hopefully, my note will convince some alumni to re-up once again in the battle against cancer. Maybe it will even convince you! Come on, join the team - you know you wanna! We need you!

So now, I'm all in. I have to really start running, and doing all the stuff needed to stretch and continue to get my heel to heal. Shamrock, and 10 years surviving, here I come!

Here is the note that I wrote and sent last night to over 400 TNT alumni:

Hello, Fellow TNT Alumni -I've felt for a long time that I have the luck of the Irish. Anyone who has survived cancer almost certainly feels this way. And for me, coming up on 10 years surviving Hodgkin's lymphoma this spring, I feel doubly lucky to still be on God's green earth! I could easily be pushing up shamrocks right now, but instead of pushing 'em up, I plan on running for the shamrocks! That right - my plans are to run the Shamrock Half Marathon on March 18, so close by in Virginia Beach. I've had a rough year with foot surgery in January, and then severe plantar fasciitis in the same foot in April, and I am still trying to get past that to see if my foot will hold up enough to run the race. But I am hopeful, having gotten my foot to the point of being able to walk nearly 60 miles in September for the cause of fighting breast cancer in memory of my sister Ann.

As a fellow alum of Team In Training, I am asking you to join me for the race, and fundraise for the cause of ending incurable blood cancers. I know that a lot of people associate TNT with heavy-duty fundraising, and that can happen if you are doing the West Coast or Alaska. But the Shamrock doesn't fit that category - it is a local race, and you are not going to find a sweeter deal to do an amazing TNT event for a very reasonable fundraising minimum: just $1,250 for alumni such as yourself. As alums, you already know the great fun, camaraderie, sense of accomplishment, and mission of TNT. Now, combine that with Irish stew, people decked out in green, cold beer, and Coach Bob dressed up as a leprechaun! What more can one ask for? So what do you say? Are you ready to Train, Endure, Achieve, and Matter once more?

Ten years ago from right now, I certainly had cancer growing in my body, but I had no idea. I was living my life, going to work, feeling completely healthy. Cancer would not have crossed my mind, not even as an afterthought. Just months later, I was in the fight of my life, facing all kinds of weird things and consequences that were all new to me, and quite often amazingly miserable to boot. My life has never been the same, even though I have been fully healthy for all these years now. I try to give thanks for surviving almost every day, while at the same time mourning my friend Judy, who died from myeloma last January, and my sister Ann, who died in May from breast cancer.

With a decade of surviving cancer ccoming up shortly, I want to start my celebration of living strong these last ten years by running the Shamrock Half, foot willing. I hope you will join me and Team Richmond again, to fight cancer and save lives! The team and cause need you! Sign up TODAY by calling Kate at the Richmond office (xxx) or by email at xxx. Thanks for all you have done for this cause, and I hope to see you wearing purple in Virginia Beach in March!

Go Team!

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Hike Down Memory Lane

Nine and a half years ago, I was preparing to start chemotherapy. The day before starting, I took a little hike to the Black Rocks in Shenandoah National Park. I knew that this would be my last hike for a long time, and even worried a bit about whether it would be my last one ever. A couple of weeks ago, while backpacking in the mountains, I returned to Black Rocks for the first time since that hike. While there, I reflected on that time so many years ago. You can read about that here.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Running Again

This weather is crazy! Eight days ago, I was huddled in a heavy sleeping bag camped out in the mountains at 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Today, I ran and walked laps around Echo Lake near my home in shorts and a tee-shirt. I covered 4.25 miles in my six+ laps around the lake on such a nice day, taking me about 48 minutes. I set my Ironman Timex to do 65 second run intervals and 90 second walk intervals.

It felt good at times to run this afternoon. Other times, it felt crummy. I started thinking about how little I have run in 2011 or even since the Seattle half-marathon in June 2010. I had the foot surgery for a neuroma last January, and that laid me up for weeks. I got in just enough running to be able to run and walk the Monument Avenue 10K the beginning of April. Then, two things happened, almost at the same time. First, I made the decision to walk about 60 miles in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure instead of doing a marathon for Team in Training. Second, I developed really bad plantar fasciitis a few weeks later. As a result, I did not run a step between April and September. I did run part of the Livestrong 10K the first weekend of October, and a tiny bit of the Traverse City Zombie 5K just before Halloween. And that has been about it for running in 2011.

What's next? I think I will try to run a few times a week, and every couple of weeks, I will add five or 10 seconds to my run interval. I'll have an initial goal of getting up to about a 10K distance in the next month, then gradually increasing to a half marathon with a goal of running the Shamrock half in March. That will depend on (1) finishing healing my plantar fasciitis and (2) getting a race entry. With all the people dropping dead in long races, some of them far younger and in far better shape than moi, I may also look into a really comprehensive physical to make sure my aging body will handle this without dropping dead mid-stride somewhere.

It is almost like starting running over again, it has been so long. But it feels good to know I've made a start. And also, I burned off at least one of the pieces of pumpkin pie I consumed over the last four days. Maybe.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

And Yet Another Cancer Comrade

Man, is there something in the water? I talked about Amy and breast cancer last time. This past week, I got a punch in the gut when I learned that my friend Bill not only has colon cancer, but that it has metastasized to his liver. And he was doing everything he should, including regular colonoscopies - in fact, he got his latest one, the one that showed he had a problem and needed surgery, a year early!

Early stage colon cancer - cancer that has not left the intestinal wall - is highly curable. Late stage colon cancer - in the liver or lungs for example - has a really bad prognosis, like as low as a 5% or 10% five year survival rate. I know that Bill is in shock right now, especially since his wife (and our friend) Judy died from multiple myeloma not even 11 months ago. He is weak from the surgery to remove the 10 inches of his colon, confused by all the tests, and scared about what the future holds for him. He really hadn't even finished grieving for his deceased wife yet, and now he has to face this. We all really feel for him. And we are worried about what the future holds for him. As he said the other day to me, "I was just getting to the point where I hoped I could have a few years to relax and rebuild my life."

I sent Bill this photo I had taken in June 2006 at the Cancer Survivors' Park in San Diego, California. I was there to walk the San Diego Marathon with Team in Training, just a couple of days after my four year anniversary of starting chemotherapy. So it meant a lot to me to visit this park, funded by a cancer survivor and dedicated to cancer survivors everywhere. The words on the plaque are words of wisdom for anyone diagnosed with cancer.We just finished Thanksgiving, a reminder to count our blessings. All of us whine and complain about silly things now and then, some more than others. But I tell you, if you are healthy or even relatively so, there is no greater gift than you can ask for. If I could have five million dollars, but have to face what Bill is going to have to go through, I'd tell you to keep your money. It is a terrible thing.

In less than a year, I've lost a friend and my sister to cancer. My sister's death this past year hit me really hard, even though I could see it coming. My friend's death was totally unexpected - she was diagnosed with myeloma in December and was dead four weeks later. Then I heard Amy's news, but was relieved about a great prognosis for her. Now, Bill's news - with a much more uncertain prognosis. Three friends diagnosed with cancer in less than a year. One of the dead. My sister dead. What's next? Amy, Bill, ... I hope we are not going to start working our way through the alphabet. Man, I hate cancer, I really do. We've made so much progress, but not enough. Not nearly enough.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

One More Cancer Comrade

I've been meaning to write about this for some time. Just after I got back from the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, I learned about one more person I know who just found out that she has cancer. In this case, it is breast cancer. Amy is a TNT alumni, a mentor, a runner and triathlete. In fact, she just completed her first Ironman in August. Then, a month later, she learns that she has breast cancer. She is perhaps late 40's - I hate guessing people's ages, especially those of women. Her prognosis is very good. The cancer is in one breast, and the tumor was surgically removed in a lumpectomy. But even so, it makes me sick to know that one more person has to go through this crap.

I woke up early this morning - too early - and I am not sure why. But as I lay in bed, trying in vain to fall asleep again, I started thinking about Amy. And while she was on my mind, I decided to write a little about her. Maybe someone reading this will give Amy a little prayer or some good vibrations, or a positive thought. I think she is going to be fine. She told me she was determined to survive, something I remember from myself nine years ago. But even so, a kind thought about her or a prayer for her can't hurt.

So here I sit, early morning, writing my blog. I have a mug of Earl Gray with honey. I have Beethoven on my CD player - Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, the piece of music that was so important to me nine years ago as I battled lymphoma. One of my cats is keeping me company. Still, I feel tired and I am thinking of my TNT buddy Amy, hoping she is doing well, saying a little prayer for her. One more good person with cancer. One more name to go on my next race shirt. The list never gets smaller.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Good Thing I Wasn't in That Field!

For the first time in six years, I was in the area for the Richmond Marathon, a race that I have never done. If I didn't have the lingering heel pain, I think I might have signed up for the half marathon and done a run / walk combination, starting after the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure ended in late September. But looking at the results, I am glad I didn't! I think I would have been humiliated! It was a really fast field.

Let's look at the marathon first. My best time in a marathon was 5:57, walking most of it. That is a great walking pace, but would be far behind any runner. So that we are comparing apples with apples, let's assume that if I trained for and ran a marathon, I could at least do it at double my best half-marathon time of about 2:28 as I recall. Let's add 13 minutes for a half minute per mile slower pace, a bathroom break, and so on. That would give me hypothetical time of about 5:09. Where would that have put me in the Richmond Marathon?

Well, in my age group of 60-64, I would have finished 45th out of 66 people - not so good. If I lied about my age and went up to the 65-69 age cohort, I would have finished in the middle - 13th out of 26. By the way, my neighbor John is in that age cohort, and finished in 3:45:29 - and he was undergoing horrific treatment for prostate cancer less than a year ago! And he would have finished in the top third of men 20 years younger!

What if I lied about my gender? Well, in my age group, I would have beaten 9 women and finished behind 10. Keep in mind, I have never run a marathon in anywhere near that time, so it is hypothetical.

What if I had indeed run the half marathon? Well, it would have been worse. Not only would my best half marathon time - I've only run two - have put me dead last in my age group, I would have finished over 30 minutes behind the guy who actually did finish last among 60-64 year olds. The last guy to finish ahead of me would have gotten his medal, had a snack, stretched out, and probably read a book by the time I came dottering in! And I would have finished dead last in the 65-69 age group as well, 15 minutes behind the last place man. Holy crap! I would have finished in the bottom half of 70-74 year old men. I would have beaten all five of the 75 and older men, though. Small consolation!

I feel I will eventually get over my heel injury and want to run again. In fact, I want to run a marathon next year, my ten year anniversary of surviving cancer. But clearly I am going to have to step up my game if I don't wish to see my name in last place among like-aged men.

But on the other hand, as Teddy Roosevelt once said: "Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failures, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy or suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." So the true last place is the guy or gal who doesn't have the guts to lace up those running shoes and cross the starting line.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Why Can't My Bank Account Behave Like Beer Does?

I went to my favorite microbrewery the other night, Legend Brewing Company, to quaff a brown ale and catch up with my friend, Ed. He has been having an incredibly rough time the last two years battling melanoma. At age 42, this is the fourth time he has had cancer, and this go around has been really rough. He somehow keeps smiling. I could write a couple of dozen post just about what he has experienced over the past couple of years.

Since I was driving afterwards, I limited myself to one brown ale of about 18 ounces. Really! After drinking it, I had to visit the mens' room, and made a quick trip. Ed and I talked for another hour after I finished my beer, and during that time, I had to make two more trips. Ed laughed pretty hard at the third one. "Wait till you get to me my age," I said. "The old prostate!" I stopped at the grocery store on the drive home, and had to pee a fourth time! From one beer! Seems like had to have peed a quart at least! Now, that is a lot of output from one 18 oz. beer!

It got me thinking - why can't my bank account behave like a beer does? Put in $100 and a couple of hours later, I get to take out $150 - $200? That would be pretty sweet, eh? If you find a (legal) bank like that, let me know.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Michigan Zombies

A week ago today, I was in Traverse City, Michigan to run / walk the Zombie 5K with my granddaughter and daughter-in-law. Over 1,000 people participated. It was my second timed 5K ever, but I did it for fun, not for timing. I ran the first 3/4 of a mile, then waited for my two family members to show up. I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Finally, there they were, in last place, walking on the sidewalk. I think my nearly five-year-old granddaughter had had enough of racing. So since I was waiting near her house, we grabbed a stroller and pushed her for most of the rest of the 5K. By that time, we were dead last! We caught some of the folks, then stopped for a potty break, and were dead last again! I was determined not to be last, so we ran and walked until we passed at least a hundred or so people. My granddaughter did get out of the stroller and and walk a little of it. My final time was something like 59 minutes! But at least I didn't finish last. Ironically, because they started several minutes after me but we finished at the same time, my granddaughter actually had a faster time than I did! Here are some photos.

My zombie granddaughter and I before walking up to the starting point.
My daughter-in-law is very talented, and did her zombie makeup for the race, along with that of her daughter. No, she is not a giant - I am scooched down a bit.
My daughter-in-law and granddaughter a few minutes before the start.
Zombies prior to the start of the race.
Straggler zombies on 10th Street, nearly last but still several minutes ahead of my grandaughter.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

"Slow Heeling"

Folks have told me for some time how painful and slow to heal plantar fasciitis is. Like anything else in life, until you experience it yourself, you don't really know for sure. Now I know. After just over six months, I continue to have significant heel pain. I have a slow healing heel, or "slow heeling," I guess. Combined with my foot surgery in late January, most of 2011 has involved a pretty sore foot. No real complaints, because at least I was able to get past it enough to walk the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. I can't imagine not being able to walk that.

I am not sure how to totally heal my foot at this point. I want to do some long distant events in 2012 for sure, and need to get past this in order to do that. I need to get back to more consistency with my exercises and stretches. The plantar fascia itself is so much more flexible than it was six months ago. But I still have this painful area on the inside left heel. When I roll my foot on a frozen bottle or foot log, I can feel this little "popping" feeling as I roll over one part of it. So there is still damage in there to heal. For now, I guess I will walk some, hike some, avoid running and extreme long distances, and stretch as much as I can. It is so much better than it was, just not good enough yet.

Monday, October 31, 2011

You're Only as Old as You Feel

You're only as old as you feel, they say (whoever "they" are). That is probably true to some extent. For me, that is usually about 40 or maybe 45, despite my chronological age of 60. But recently, I've had some back pain on my left lower back. Usually, it is not so bad, but a few times it has litterally almost driven me to my knees! During those times, I can barely walk for a short time, and I feel like I am about 90, not 40 or 60.

I am not sure what caused it. My wife says it must have been the Komen 3-Day. I guess that is possible, because I can't remember when it started. I just remember it was mild at first, and that the first really bad day of it was Monday, October 10. It has come and gone since then. I've applied ice and had a few chiropractic adjustments, and sometimes done some stretching. A few times, my stretches - especially side planks - has made it a lot worse.

I ran and walked a 5K the other day - more about that when I can get some photos downloaded - and my back wasn't too bad. Maybe I felt around 50 or 55. So like everything else, I will take it a day at a time and see what develops with it. For now, I'll just hope that how I feel is no older than 60 most of the time.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Now What?

Every time I complete an event, especially since I started blogging about it three years ago, I come to this same question: now what? There is always a little feeling of downer, not exactly a depression, as those are apparently pretty all consuming from what I understand of depressions. More of a "I've worked my ass off for five months and accomplished what I said I would do and there is a little hole in my life now that the event is over" kind of a feeling.

So what should I do now? Should I take next year off? 2012 is the 10 year anniversary for me of surviving Hodgkin's lymphoma, so I feel like I should be preparing for something. Should I start thinking seriously about (and saving my dollars seriously for) the Honolulu Marathon on December 9, 2012 - my exact 10 year remission date? Should I fundraise for another Team in Training event, or help in some other capacity - like maybe as a coach's assistant? And until any of that happens, what, if anything should I write about in this blog? I don't have a ton of readership from what I can tell. If I stopped blogging for a while, would anyone but me notice?

My plantar fasciitis still continues. It is a fraction of where it was even two or three months ago, but I still have pain in that left heel, especially if I start walking. I have to somehow get that completely over with, but I don't want to be a lazy couch potato - that is not me, and it would drive me crazy. I know that I want to do a lot more hiking between now and the spring. There is a lot to think about right now, as I mull things over. Any thoughts?

Oh - I am in a 5K Zombie run next Saturday - just for fun. More about that later!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

More Photos for the Livestrong 10K

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote how I walked and ran the Livestrong Dolphin Challenge 10K at Sandbridge in Virginia Beach. It was a lot of fun, and my first time in running in five months, both because of the plantar fasciitis and because I had been training for the long Susan G. Komen walk.

They had a professional photographer there, and I found these two photos of me on the internet. The first one is a few meters from the finish of the 10K, and I look like I am enjoying myself - which I was. The second one was me being presented my dolphin trophy for finishing second place in my age cohort by the Livestrong representative. Never mind that there were not very many people in my age group. If some other old geezer had wanted my little dolphin, he should have been out there running instead of sitting on the couch watching TV and stuffing his face, or sleeping in on a beautiful October day. Don't you agree? Now, the only way he is getting that dolphin is to pry it out of my cold, stiff, dead fingers!

By the way, I had gone for a workout with a friend last night after work, and I was still wearing my Livestrong shirt when I hit the super market on the way home. On the back of the shirt, it asks "We Fight Cancer. What do You do?" A man in line asked me what it meant, and I explained. He said "My wife and I just came from the MCV Oncology Center. She has two months to live." It turns out that she has liver cancer that has metastasized all over. It is so sad. What can you even say to something like that that doesn't sound trite?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Komen 3-Day Walk Report

Walking in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure was an amazing experience, and also a big experience. It has taken me three weeks to post the pictures and write the accounts. And now, you can access all of them easier from this single blog post!

How did I get interested in walking the 3-Day in the first place? Well, my walk this September was the culmination of several years of wanting to do this event. The terminal breast cancer of my sister made it imperative to do it this year.

Poised to race for a cure again, I display photos of my special honoree race shirt.

What should I do the day before walking for three days? Well, near Washington DC, I took a hike on Theodore Roosevelt Island, a bit of wilderness in the big city.

Like numbers? My account of my 3-Day walk by the numbers will scratch that itch!

Everyone deserves a lifetime! For some, it is too late, but the fact that it is not too late for so many others kept our feet moving for three days. Inspired by the grit of the walkers and the courage, hope, and strength of the survivors as they marched by the end, I just had to create a short verse to commemorate the 3-Day walk experience.

In pre-dawn darkness at Nationals Stadium, we gathered together to walk for three days for this cause.

The Opening Ceremony of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure was a moving start to our walk.

Do you enjoy listening to the sound of rain? Well, you would have loved the first long day of our walk!

To camp out in a pink tent as a manly-man is a challenge, but what about in a whole sea of pink tents?

There was lots of joy in Mudville as we camped out together without complaining about it. And while wet and muddy, it was nowhere as bad as my imagination had been about it!

A freak injury in camp to my previously undamaged foot was going to make the second day of the walk a challenge.

Walking along that second day through Maryland carrying a little bag of dripping ice, I am sure that I presented a sight!

Visiting the Remembrance Tent in camp and reflecting on my sister's recent death was an emotional experience.

Time to break camp, but I lucked out when young women from a local college field hockey team offered to strike my tent for me.

On the third and final day of the walk, I got a lot of inspiration from talking to survivors along the way.

When I crossed the finish line at the National Mall, I fulfilled the promise that I had made my sister in April - that I would walk this walk in her honor.

A special sign for me was somewhere at the finish, but I didn't see it. Even so, I deeply appreciate the gesture.

The last walker arriving each day was a very big deal, and at no time bigger than on the third day of the walk.

Did you ever tell someone that they fight like a girl? Well, in my mind, I think you paid them a complement without meaning to.

Our incredibly hard-working Three Day Crew was not important, unless you like safety, great meals, a well run camp, and good first aid care. Then, they become vital.

The Closing Ceremony was about as inspirational as you can get, seeing all of the breast cancer survivors marching along together at the end, decked out in pink!

60 Miles, Three Days, One Goal - to cure breast cancer! That pretty much sums up the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure in a few words.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Everyone Deserves a Lifetime!

One of the slogans you see a lot in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure is "Everyone Deserves a Lifetime!" You see it on tee-shirts, buttons, and signs, and I really liked it. It very succinctly sums up this cause: to cure cancers so that people can live their full lifetime and full potential. To have more birthdays, more of life's celebrations and great moments. To tell your grandchild your life story some day instead of having them read a letter you left them about your life and death. I am all for it.

So I dedicate this humble offering to all breast cancer survivors and victims, especially those whose names were on my shirt and those who walked along with me for nearly 60 miles on September 23-25. The inspiration that I received from them during the three days and at the closing ceremony was immense.

"Everyone Deserves a Lifetime"

Together we walked across our Capital City
Through aches, pains, and blisters, and a cool driving rain
We kept our feet moving, determined and gritty;
"We walk for a cure!" was our proud refrain.

About Maryland we tromped, past parks and through towns
People decked out in pink as we strode down the street
We were focused and upbeat; you never saw frowns
We'll stamp out breast cancer with thousands of feet!

For three days we walked, as sisters and brothers
Among footsore ranks, cheer and broad smiles were rife
We walked united to support many others
In their fight with breast cancer: a fight for their life

We walked for your sister, your mother, your friend,
Your daughter, granddaughter, your cousin, your wife,
Your grandma - and you, because in the end,
Each one deserves more good times in their life

And on that third day, quite worn out and tired
We watched fellow walkers - survivors in pink -
Take their victory lap, and I felt so inspired
When I reflected how close they had been to the brink

They had faced radiation with all that it gives,
And chemo, and cuts from the surgical knife;
But deep in their heart, their survival will lives:
The desire to have more time in their life

Cancer has certain limits to what it can do
Though with these survivors, it gave its best try.
"Take one of my breasts, or even take two,
But you can't crush my spirit!" was their battle cry.

I gazed at their faces, so strong and so proud,
Engendering feelings intense and sublime
"We will find a cure!" I silently vowed,
"Because everyone deserves a lifetime!"

Art Ritter
October 16, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sixty Miles, Three Days, One Goal!

Sixty Miles, Three Days, One Goal! This is one of several slogans that the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure uses. I saw it on buttons and tee-shirts, and I like it. Because that is what thousands of us were doing September 23-25 in the Washington, DC area - walking about 60 miles in three days to ultimately achieve one goal: stamping out incurable breast cancer.

Are we any closer to attaining this long-dreamed of goal? It is too late for my sister, my immense inspiration for me to walk this walk in the first place. But it is not too late for many others. Consider this fact that I learned during the closing ceremony: that the five year survival rate for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients in the United States stands at 98%! That is astounding! Just in the last week, I read about two amazing progress reports in the fight against breast cancer. In one, scientists at Penn State had discovered a virus that was annihilating breast cancer cells in the lab. It was so effective that they assumed that all the samples were contaminated, and redid all the work - and got the same results. In the other study, making an antibody from breast cancer cells in a person that was tailored to that person's proteins and cells was really effective if the cancer occurred again, and especially so it if was used early in the reoccurrance.

We are closer than we have ever been, but it is still not enough. For example, if you are 40 or 50 with breast cancer and have a 98% chance of living five years, but then die after six or seven, that is entirely too much of your lifetime to lose. The goal has to be to either make these cancers totally curable, or at least make them a chronic disease that people can survive for decades with minimal misery or impact on their lives. And with someone dying every 69 seconds somewhere in the world from breast cancer, we still have a long way to go.

Sixty Miles, Three Days, One Goal! It felt great to be a part of this in 2011, and I am really glad I did it. But I will be even more glad when they report, hopefully in the next 10 years: "You know that elusive goal we've been striving for? Mission accomplished! Thanks, everyone, for helping!" Won't that be amazing news? I hope I am here to hear it, but if not, I hope my granddaughter knows that her grandpa helped make it happen in his own tiny way.

Friday, October 14, 2011

3-Day Closing Ceremony

After the last walker came in, and after we cheered for our hard working crew, it was time for the final part of our three day long adventure - the closing ceremony. All the walkers were told to line up 10 abreast (no pun this time), with all breast cancer survivors in the back. Although everyone struggled with this, somehow we did line up eventually. Then we walked through the Mall towards the stage while spectators on both sides of us cheered us on. It was actually pretty moving. Towards the stage, we divided left and right, and merged into the crowd. It was time for the Survivors' Walk.

When we completed the walk today, we were asked if we were a breast cancer survivor. If not, we got a white shirt, if so, it was pink. Most of the survivors had put on their pink shirt for this final walk. I looked out on the pink mass, seeming to be several hundred strong. They had all survived breast cancer and all of the awful things that happen as a result: disfiguring and painful surgery, chemotherapy, burning radiation. And now they had all walked nearly 60 miles for this great cause, so that one day, others would have an easier time of it. I gazed at the line of pink women, feeling so inspired and so fortunate to be here, a cancer survivor myself, yet still on God's green earth. As I studied the women in pink, and cheered for them, I wished so that my sister Ann could be among the survivors. She was for more than four years, but her cancer was just too relentless, too remorseless.Look at them! Look at their faces! Sometime in the last year, two years, five years, or more, each of these women were given horrible news by a doctor, four words that changed their lives forever: "You have breast cancer!" Their hearts probably nearly stopped with terror. Yet here they are now, strong survivors to inspire us all.As the surviving women stopped before us, speeches were made from the platform about this cause, and about the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization. Many of the walkers took off a shoe and raised in in tribute. As a rookie, I didn't know about this, but I, too, removed my right shoe and held it aloft.Then the women in pink continued their walk towards the stage, moving between the two sides of the large crowd. Some of the survivors carried the banners that had inspired us for three days, since the opening ceremony:Just before leaving to grab my duffle and walk to a Metro stop for the trip back to my car, I took one final look around - at the crowd, the banners, all the pink, and to the surviving women on the stage. Doing this walk, being part of this cause these three days, will always be with me as a great memory.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

3-Day Crew

I could not complete my accounts of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure without talking about the amazing and hard working 3-Day Crew. Kind of sounds like a rock band, doesn't it? But without these volunteers, this event would be impossible. Susan G. Komen for the Cure is a charity, and charities have specific rules about how much of their revenues must to to the mission. Each crew member must raise about $500 to cover their direct and indirect expenses for the event, plus volunteer their time. And they have to work their butts off for at least three days. There were about 450 of them, or about one for every five walkers. What did they do?

Well, for starters, they were safety monitors. This walk had only minor police support. At every major, and many minor, intersections was a volunteer to make sure walkers obeyed traffic rules and didn't become roadkill. Many of them were in pink, including the men. They joked with us as we waited to cross. They were out all day in the rain on that first day. They also operated the vans that drove around all day in case someone needed a ride.

Along the route, there were lots of pit stops and "grab and go" stops. Every one of these had a staff to pass out food and drink, and a good sized volunteer medical crew - doctors and nurses. At the lunch stops, the crew served lunch, like these guys on the first day serving us in a driving rain. And at all of the stops, they collected trash and recyclables. In camp, the crew transported our luggage from the start (and back to the finish). They staffed the shower area, cooked and cleaned up from two great meals a day. The organized the lines to the buses, and manned the camp post office. They put up and took down all of the Remembrance Tents. They worked incredibly hard putting down mulch pathways in our pink tent city so that after the first muddy day, there were relatively dry areas to walk. They also camped out, like the rest of us, in their own camping area. Yesterday, I talked about how tough "girls"are. Well, the crew was plenty tough, too. One "lucky guy" had the job of patrolling the stinky porta-potty area all night while everyone else slept. He was a kind of security to make sure that women were safe in camp. Talk about a tough job!

At the end, during the closing ceremony, the crew walked through a double line of us walkers as we cheered them. Thank you, 3-Day Crew, for a difficult job well done!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fight Like a Girl!

"Fight Like a Girl!" many of the tee shirts along the 3-Day route said. When I was a lad, to be told you fight like a girl or run like a girl would have been an ultimate insult. But now, older and (perhaps) wiser, having seen how tough many "girls" are - and how well they run - I would take it as a complement. I think many of the women wearing these shirts were breast cancer survivors, and when you get in a fight with cancer, it does not care if you are male or female; black, white, or Asian; young or old; rich or poor. Cancer does not care in the least, and you will be in for the fight of your life. As tough as walking for three days is - and it is tough, trust me - it is nothing compared to a fight with cancer. So you'd better be able to fight like a girl.

So I rejoiced each time I saw this tee shirt, and for each survivor. It was inspirational. They proved how tough they were by surviving, by being out here walking, by giving back. By fighting like a girl.

I'm guessing that some of the women were not cancer survivors, but just liked the shirt, and that's OK too. Because they went through a lot to do this walk, not even counting the hundreds of miles of training that most of us did. I saw much suffering over the three days. The wet day Friday (September 23) raised hell with people's feet, causing many, many blisters. I saw people with tape all over their feet. I saw a woman on the third day walking in flip flops, carrying her running shoes! At each pit stop, there was a medical tent, and every one of them after the first few miles of the walk had lots of people getting treatment - most of them for blisters. Walking on bad blisters mile after mile is pretty painful, yet I saw people doing it over and over. Because of my own injury Friday night, I had plenty of opportunity on Saturday each time I iced my foot to study what people were having treated. It wasn't pretty. There are some tough people out there, women - and some men - that just kept on going, determined to finish.

I also saw some people that if you saw them, you would think that no way this person could walk even five miles. Maybe they were overweight or looked out of shape. Yet they walked nearly 60 miles, found a way to do it, found a way to take that next step over and over again until it was time to take the last step. It was amazing to see such toughness and determination. Because when you get to those last few miles, every moving part from the hips down to the toes hurts with every step. And I am going to guess if you are carrying an extra 30 or 40 pounds, then that pain is greatly magnified.

The one thing I did not see was any whining or complaining. People knew this would not be easy ahead of time, and they sucked it up. I hear a little complaining about nasty porta-potties, but not pain.

So guys, if you are ever tempted to insult someone by saying they fight like a girl or run like a girl, be advised. That girl may be tougher than you are.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Last Walker

Each of the two nights in 3-Day camp, we had a pretty cool ceremony. At some point, usually around 6:30 or 7PM, an announcement would take place: "Attention everyone! The last walker is arriving!" Everyone, or at least many people, would get up and leave what they were doing and form a double row coming into the dining area. The last walker would walk through the people with music blaring and people cheering her. Then she would raise a banner, and everyone would give a final cheer and get back to dinner. Think about this - the last walker has been out there walking 11 or 12 hours! And Friday, it would have been that long walking in the rain. By the time she arrived, I'd had a shower, put on fresh clothing, relaxed a bit, and gotten something to eat. She was just getting into camp, nearly at dark, and still had all of these things to do.

So on Sunday, September 25, we got an announcement at the National Mall about 4:30: "Attention everybody! The last walker is arriving!" Everyone, thousands of people, walkers and spectators, got to their feet and started cheering her as she walked those last few hundred meters. It was pretty neat! We celebrated this person who, although slower than everyone else, never quit, never gave up, just kept on plugging away until she finished. And at the end, everyone cheered her and her persistence.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Cheering for Art

Donna, a woman from my wife's office, is a breast cancer survivor of several years, and has made a habit of going up to cheer for the end of the Komen race. When she learned that I would be in the walk, she made me a sign and was going to hold it for me. I was looking forward to seeing it. I finished the walk about 2PM, and didn't see the sign. I rested for a while and then walked back to the finish area to see if I could find Donna. Despite looking all over and waiting, I couldn't, so eventually I went back to the Mall to await the closing ceremony. No one had ever made a sign for me before, and I really wanted to see it. As it turns out, Donna had arrived about 3:30 and afterwards, walked all over holding the sign up and looking for me. Neither of us saw each other among the thousands of people there, and we were both disappointed. Later, Donna gave my wife the sign for me, pictured here. It was a very clever and artistic ign. Thank you so much, Donna! I so much appreciate you taking the time to make me a sign and to come up all the way to Washington to cheer for us participants, and to look for me.
As it turned out, Donna wasn't the only one there cheering for me. The US Government also put out two signs for me. Much appreciated, people of the United States of America!

Finishing the Komen 3-Day

I'd taken to walking the last few miles of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure with three woman, all about my pace, all wearing shirts with pictures of their collective little girls, with "I'm Walking so They Won't Have To" written on their shirts. One of them ran the San Diego Marathon in 2007, the year after I was in that race for Team in Training, so we chatted about that. We passed some of the places pictured in my last post - Cafe Mozart and the White House - and then finally caught sight of the Washington Monument, which was near our final destination. Soon enough, we'd passed down along the Mall and made the final turn to see the finish gate:
I asked the three friends if they wanted a photo of them at the finish, which of course they did. After that, I passed through the finish gate and, and was overwhelmed by the noise of the people lined up on both sides cheering. It was very moving. The doctor who was the master of ceremonies was there - she is a breast cancer survivor and one of the most dynamic people I'd ever met. She cheered me and gave me a hug. Being there by myself, it felt good to have someone to celebrate with, if only for a second. Then, I got my 3-Day shirt and walked through a narrow area where I stopped for a few seconds. I looked down at the photo of Ann on my shirt and touched her face. "I did it, Ann. I did it, just the way I told you would." I was fighting back tears, and so badly wished I could call my sister and give her the news. But since I could not, I lined up to have a photo taken in front of the Day Three poster instead:
I went back around to the finish to look for someone who was supposed to be there to cheer for me - more about that later - and cheered for some of the finishers for a while.
Then I asked a man to take a picture of me with my new 3-Day shirt and the finish in the background.
After that, I wandered back around to the Mall to wait for the closing ceremony.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Day Three of the 3-Day: Inspiration!

It is always hard to believe that something you have worked so hard for is about to be over, and that was true on September 25 as I finished packing my gear, loaded it on the truck, and headed for the line to get on the bus that would take us about 15 minutes to start the final day of my quest. This would be the shortest day of walking at about 15 miles, but I am sure that everyone walking today was already tired. It would be a very inspirational and sometime emotional day. Inspirational because of the many conversations I would have today with breast cancer survivors - one as recently as four months ago, and now out walking nearly 60 miles. Emotional, because so many times, I wished that I could call my sister and tell her that I was on track to complete this walk. At times, I tried talking to her. I'd say "Ann, I told you five months ago that I would do this walk, and now, I am nearly finished. This is for you, with love."

As I waited for the bus, I asked a lady to snap a photo of me wearing the special shirt that I had had made for today.
While waiting in the bus line, everyone seemed happy that the earlier rain had stopped.
This banner was at the bus line. As I had lost my sister in May, so had my nephew lost his mom.
At the start of the walk, these two women were honoring a loved one in the US Marine Corps. Semper Fi!
There were a number of support vans that continually drove by us. This one had really cool decorations.
We were all moving along pretty good, happy to be here, happy to have a second dry day in a row.
Of all the sentaments and emotions of the three day, I think that nothing trumps love.
I had followed this woman and her lemur for many miles in the rain on the first day of the walk, and finally got a photo of them in dry weather. I told her to keep an eye on the lemur once we got near the zoo.
We had passed this same restaurant in Bethesda, Maryland yesterday on the second day of the walk, and I thought it looked beautiful. I would love to come back and try it another day.
I had conversations with many survivors during the three days - including several on the third day. But this lady was the most inspirational. 28 years ago, she had metastasized breast cancer in her bones, always lethal. She was pregnant, and doctors refused to treat her until she got an abortion. The lady to her right is her 28 year old daughter, so you can see that she refused to follow that advice. How amazing to survive something like that, and walk 60 miles with that daughter 28 years later as a survivor.
We saw this girl several times doing the hula-hoop to entertain us.
As we walked up a steep hill in Washington, this little girl in pink blew bubbles for us.
I am indicating that I am on my third day of this little adventure, one that I am honored to have.
Our lunch spot today was comfortable and dry, unlike the first day. Everyone was in a festive mood.
We had supporters showing their pink all over the place.I love going to the National Zoo, and would have enjoyed a little stop here, but still had miles to go at this point. Another time...
One of our many supporters along the way.
I love Mozart's music, and couldn't resist snapping a picture of a cafe named after him in a city that didn't even exist at the time of this musical genius's life.
Here I am just a mile or so from the finish near the White House. It would have been so cool to see the President. It was feeling more and more emotional with each step, realizing that I was close to fulfilling my promise to my sister.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Breaking Camp at the 3-Day

On September 25, I awoke at 4AM, having to take a pee. It was drizzling and I could hear the rain pattering on my little pink tent. I had slept through the night, very comfortably, and felt pretty good. My new compression socks had really helped with knocking out some of the soreness I had felt the evening before. My newly injured toes even felt less painful. I put on my running shoes, went out to the porta-potty, and quietly walked back to my tent.

Snug in my sleeping bag, renewed sleep would not come. I could hear the women all around starting to stir about 5AM, and about 5:30, I decided to get up. I walked the third of a mile in a light rain to the shower area, and used one of the outdoor sinks to shave and brush my teeth. A woman at the sink next to me was applying makeup in the rain, which seemed fruitless. I took my gear back to my tent, and went to breakfast. I had some great conversations at breakfast with several women about the walk and why we were doing this - really nice people, as were the folks I'd eaten dinner with the night before. It is tough to be totally by yourself at something like this. Most of the people, all but a handful, were there with a team. But I had found most people to be open and friendly.

After breakfast, I grabbed a couple of napkins and walked back to the sink area. There, I wet the napkins and used them to apply the temporary 3-Day tatoos I had bought at the Komen store last night. I wanted to do something a little special for this last day, the culmination of following through with what I told my sister Ann I would do in her honor - and now her memory. Now, it was time to pack up my stuff and strike the tent. I was not looking forward to packing a wet tent in the rain and somehow stuffing it back in the ridiculously small pink bag. But again, I lucked out. Several young women from a local college field hockey team had volunteered to take down and pack up the tents. I changed into my walking clothes for the day, including my special shirt with my sister's photo on it. I packed my duffle, and stepped outside. "Anyone need help packing their tent?" called out one of the college women. "Sure!" I said. I introduced myself and we shook hands. She peered at my shirt in the pre-dawn darkness. "Ah, your sister," she said. "Oh, and she died just a few months ago. I am so sorry. She's beautiful." I told her a few things about my sister, and could feel tears welling up. I thanked the two young women, and hoped that their field hockey team goes undefeated. I grabbed my duffle and started the walk towards the bus that would transport us to the starting point of the day's walk. What a huge help not having to pack up my tent!

I took my duffle to a truck for loading, and walked slowly to the line of people waiting to get on a bus. It was now about 6:40AM, still pretty dark, and I looked around fondly at the camp that had been my home for two nights, bustling with activity as people ate, packed, cleaned up, and worked (our hard-working and dedicated crew, that is). But it was time to move on, to complete my tribute to my sister using my feet and legs. It was time to complete the 3-Day!

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Remembrance Tent

At camp during the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure was a really moving feature: the Remembrance Tent. This was an area with white - not pink - tents set up to remember those who have passed on due to breast cancer.

Outside on a little knoll was a row of small white tents set up as a semicircle. Each tent represented a city that holds a 3-Day Walk: Boston, Seattle, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and so forth. On each tent is written messages to someone who participated in a 3-Day Walk in that city who has since died from breast cancer.

The Remembrance Tent itself was set up with its front facing the semi-circle of small white tents. This tent was much larger and did not have messages written on it.

Inside the Remembrance Tent was one last small white tent - the one dedicated to Washington, DC's walk. It, too, was covered in written messages. At the far end of the tent was a long table with several notebooks and pens, some flowers and little lamps, and a box of tissues. Four or five chairs were placed at the table. On all four walls of the tent were hung pictures of women who had participated in various walks who were now dead. I spent some time quietly looking at each picture. Then, I sat at the table and wrote a message to my sister Ann in one of the books, thinking of her last months and how much I wish things were different. I wondered if somehow the words that I wrote in the book were being relayed to her spirit. There is no way to know. After writing my note, I sat solemnly for a few moments, deep in thought. Then I stood up, took a tissue from the box, and quietly left the Remebrance Tent.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day Two of the 3-Day: Ice!

Before getting started on the second day of the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, I checked my feet carefully. I was lucky not to have gotten any blisters despite the very wet conditions on the first day of the walk. I did have a couple of spots that felt "hot", so I put on some moleskin and coated my feet in Body Glide, then put on my socks and my new (and dry) shoes. It was going to be a 21 mile day, and I needed to get my injured toes checked out as early as possible. They were sore and looked even worse then they felt. I got my foot checked out at the first pit stop at the medical tent. The nurse felt it looked pretty bad and gave me packets of antibiotic and a bag of ice. She told me to ice my toes at every stop for about 10 minutes. So for most of the walk, I carried a slowly melting bag of ice. I'd get ice added at each stop, sit on the ground, and put the bag on my toes. It definitely helped with the swelling, and made the pain lessen. Compared to the many terrible blisters I saw on people's feet, not to mention the guy walking the walk with a prothesis from the hip down, my toe injury seemed fairly minor.

While I feel like I am walking this walk for anyone with breast cancer, or any type of cancer, there is one person in particular I am doing this for:
As I left the camp, I turned and snapped a shot of walkers coming through the row of banners.
A lot of the route went along parks and other open areas on paved paths. It was a very pleasant walk, with nice scenery a lot of the way. Plus, even though it got warm, it was not raining, which put everyone in a festive mood.
I saw more interesting decorations about and depictions of breasts today than I think I'd ever seen, including this truck:
These two buxom gals were at one of the pit stops. I wanted a photo and they insisted I get in the picture with them, at boob level. It would have been rude not to comply, don't you think?
Part of our route went through downtown Bethesda, where I had never been before. It seemed like a nice city, with some great looking restaurants and pubs. It was also the one spot on the route this day with a lot of people cheering, which made us move our tired legs just a bit faster.

I walked with this group for a few minutes and decided to take a photo of them.
At the end of the walk, I decided to pose with the day's poster back in camp. I'd survived 21 miles, my longest distance since the Arizona Marathon in 2008, with plantar fasciitis in one foot and bashed toes on the other. I knew that I could get through another day.