Monday, December 17, 2012

A New Star Shinging Brightly

Tonight on the way home, I listened to one of my favorite carols on the radio: "Silent Night."  It made me think of my sister Ann - Mimi as we called her then - singing that carol as a little girl.  This will be the second Christmas without her since she lost her four year battle with breast cancer.

I wrote this in her memory last May, on the one year anniversary of her death, and decided to post it today.  If you have lost someone you love recently, and mourn them, maybe their star is out there shining near my sister's.

“A New Star Shining Brightly”

You were a daughter and a sister, a mother and a friend;
Whenever someone needed help, your hand you would extend;
You created lovely landscapes; you were an engineer,
Bringing good things to life in your distinguished career

You loved your peaceful mountain home, and the creatures of the earth
You loved a great joke or pun, and would laugh with glee and mirth
You had dreams of your retired life, and rewards for job well done:
To look on Tremper Mountain, aglow from setting sun.

I remember still that day at work when I got your shocking news
Of cancer diagnosis, for I’d walked in those same shoes
I was so sure you would become a survivor just like me
But cancer, it had crueler plans, and ‘twas not meant to be

Remember, Ann, when we were kids, how we would laugh and play?
Not once did it occur to me that you’d be gone some day
But high up in the Heavens, there shines a brand new star
Whose brilliant light beams down upon us brightly from afar

You fought so hard, gave it your all, so brave and tough and strong
Enduring such an awful fight, so difficult and long
You inspired each one of us with your spirit and your grit
Cancer may have won this war but not because you quit

In two-thousand eleven, on the thirtieth of May,
You took your final labored breath, a sad Memorial Day.
To any angel listening, when next you see my sister,
Please tell her how much she is loved, and how much we have missed her.

Remember, Ann, when we were kids, how we would laugh and play?
Not once did it occur to me that you’d be gone some day
But high up in the Heavens, there shines a brand new star
Whose brilliant light beams down upon us brightly from afar

Oh Ann, I miss you every day, and remember you with love
But a new star’s shining brightly in the Heavens far above

Art Ritter
May 30, 2012

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Hey! Shouldn't I be in Hawaii?

Well, here it is, December 9, 2012, the date I thought for years I would running the Honolulu Marathon to celebrate 10 years in remission.  And here I sit, in my home in Virginia, drinking a mug of tea and updating my blog - an increasingly rare event.  (updating my blog, not drinking hot tea.)  So what happened?

I had lofty goals for 2012, ten years after cancer.  I wanted to run the Shamrock Half Marathon and the Monument Avenue 10K.  I wanted to consider TNT again.  I had the idea of forming one of those 48 hour, 200 mile relay teams - maybe of cancer survivors - and doing a relay race.  And the crown jewel was to have been today, my 10 remission date: the Honolulu Marathon.

Ah, the best laid plans!  Well, I did the Shamrock and the Monument races, tying my personal record in the 10K to the second.  But in the process, I have caused pain that would not go away in my left knee.  I stopped running, which helped some, but didn't fix the problem.  I did PT religiously, which helped some more, but didn't fix the problem.  I did PT a lot less religously, which didn't help at all.  Even walking and hiking ends up causing some pain - but not nearly as much as running.  I dropped the idea of TNT.  I dropped the idea of a relay team.  And as the year progressed and my knee pain stayed and my bank account balance did not grow, I slowly came to terms that I would be not going to Hawaii.

I've never been to Hawaii.  I had decided that if I went, it was not going to just be for the race weekend.  I wanted to do a 10-12 day trip, culminating in the marathon.  And you know, that takes serious money, money I am not willing to borrow.  I wanted cash in the bank for this trip.  There is a lot of competition for that money.  And with the knee pain, it seemed foolhardy to try to train for and run a marathon.  And I was not willing to go to Hawaii and not run.  So since I wasn't training, I wasn't setting money aside for the trip.  If my knee had been good, I would have found a way to set the money aside, but it wasn't, so I didn't.  Therefore, my goal of being in that race today faded as the year churned by.

Instead, I celebrated 10 years remission this morning by making a donation to a friend doing Team in Training once again.  She and I were partners for much of the rainy Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage going on eight years ago.  And yesterday, I gave the mission moment to the local run team, and I walked with the walkers.  That felt really good.  It was a very small team but the typical good bunch of folks that always seems to gather to do Team in Training.

It feels a little sad not to have accomplished so many of my lofty goals this year.  Would I have done so without the knee pain?  I'll never know.  But on the whole, I am just happy to be here on God's green earth 10 years after having had cancer, and to say, for the 10th time, "Remission Accomplished!"  That is just going to have to be good enough.  But I know that later today, as the runners start moving in far-away Honolulu, I will feel a little wistful.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thinking about Team in Training

I've been thinking about TNT lately.  It has been more than two years - going on  three, actually - since I have done TNT.  Last year I did the Susan Komen 3-Day in memory of my sister.  Earlier this year, I ran the Shamrock Half Marathon to celebrate nearly 10 years surviving cancer.  Some of my TNT friends were in the race, and since then, I have donated to several people, and plan on doing so again.  And of course, I walked in Light the Night in October, and raised almost $2,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

I can't quite seem to get past this knee pain that came, especially in my left knee, during the Shamrock training.  As a result of that, I have not run since March.  I've been walking a lot, and hiking, and even that makes my knee hurt some.  But the pain has lessened without the running.  I know I need to get back to the intensive exercises the doctor gave me, and do them religiously.  But I am not sure if running is a good idea anymore.  Will it continue to make my knees worse and lead to problems walking?

I know I could walk a half marathon without any real trouble.  I've gone for hikes in rugged terrain, carrying a pack, of nearly that long.  What I could not do right now is walk a half marathon with any kind of speed.  My walking speed has slowed down to something south of 15 minutes per mile but well north of 14.  So I might be able to walk a half marathon in maybe 3:15 or 3:20.

I keep wondering: should I go back to Team and Training and be a walker again?  Should I take up biking?  There are a number of reasons why biking is unappealing to me, but for one thing, I get a lot of joy going places using my own two feet.  All I know is, I have been thinking about TNT a lot lately and wondering how to best get reinvolved.  It has been a while since I raced for a cure, and I think it might be nearly time to do it again.

I walked with my friend Lelia - one of my first TNT walk coaches - last night and was chatting with her about TNT a little.  She does not want to do the fundraising.  That does not bother me as much, but for me, it is coming up with an event that I can do without crippling myself.  I have a lot to think about.  In the mean time, I will be speaking to the run / walk team Saturday and give the mission moment, the weekend of my 10 year remission anniversary.  It is always an honor to see such a dedicated group, and to talk with them.  And I also will walk the walk with them in my brand new New Balance shoes.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Silent Mile Message

On Saturday, our local TNT groups will do the Silent Mile once again.  I wish I could be there, but I cannot be.  So I wrote something for Kate to read to the group.  Here it is.  If you, too, are engaged in Team in Training (or some other cure for cancer fund raising) right now, then this is for you as well - so, THANK YOU!

Remission Accomplished! In December 2002, nearly exactly 10 years ago, this was the message I received from my oncologist. For anyone going through treatment for any type of cancer, this is the news they want so badly to hear. Doctors are reluctant to say “cured,” but they will say “remission,” or “NED” (No Evidence of Disease). These were among the sweetest words I have ever heard – sweeter than if I were to learn that I had won the half a billion dollars Power Ball this week (although that would be a close second).

Chemotherapy is tough. In my life to date, it is the hardest thing I have gone through. It was tougher than my three marathons and three half marathons – even the marathon in Alaska in a pouring, cold rain with mosquitos the size of small airplanes. And keep in mind that compared to some other cancer patients that I have heard about, my cancer treatment was like a first-class vacation on a tropical island – complete with one of those drinks with the little umbrella sticking in it.

I am very lucky to have reached 10 years remission from Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and I plan to keep on going. I feel like I have a lot of living yet to do before I see my last sunset and hike my last trail. Yet, I know that there are no guarantees. I know people who say, “If I had to go through chemo again, I would not do it.” I don’t feel that way. I would not want to do it again, of course, but I would. But if I ever have to, I hope that it will be easier the next time around because of people like you – people raising money not just for a cure, but for a cure that doesn’t make you feel so ill that sometimes you don’t focus on getting through the day, but just through the next minute. Where your stomach does flips so spectacular that a Cirque de Soleil performer would turn green with envy. Where your brain is so foggy that the light from an explosion from a Chinese fireworks factory wouldn’t cut through the fog. Where you go into the ER in the middle of the night, and the doctor suggests that dynamite just might be required to get things moving again. (“Give me the paper to sign and light the fuse!” I told him).

From this cancer survivor, and on behalf of the thousands going through cancer therapy every day, thank you for what you do. Thank you for having our backs! Thank you for racing for a cure!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Lighting the Night for Faith and Judy!

After a long silence, I can finally post about something I have done in the Racing for a Cure arena!  This past Saturday night, I walked in Light the Night (LTN) to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, to support cancer survivors, and to remember those that didn't survive.  Two of the latter were my friends Faith and Judy, both gone well before their times because of these awful and ruthless diseases.  Faith died from Hodgkin's lymphoma - the same thing I've now survived 10 years - just before three years after diagnosis.  She was just 43.  Judy died from multiple myeloma, one month to the day from her diagnosis.  She was 65, having reached the so-called golden years, which for her, were not so golden.

In 2009, Faith - while still undergoing chemotherapy - walked in Light the Night.  Her team, Faith's Hope, raised over $10,000.  I met her in person that night, and was a member of that team.  She was so proud of her accomplishments to fight back and to help others.  Now, Faith is gone, but her cause and memory live on.  Her sister Leigh formed a LTN team called "Faith's Hope - 2012," and we walked to honor the memory of her sister, and many others.  I wore a photo of Judy and Faith, and Judy's husband Bill, himself undergoing chemotherapy right now for colon cancer, walked with me and wore his late wife's photo.  Faith's beloved dog Henry, now lovingly cared for by Leigh, walked along with us.

Our team did well, raising more than $6,000 (which includes some checks that have not yet posted).  Here is my LTN page in case you want more information (or even want to make a contribution).

Hurricane Sandy disrupted and destroyed many things, but it held off long enough for us to get our walk in.  I am posting a few photos from the night.  My camera was having problems with its flash sometimes, so I didn't get a lot of these.

Before the walk, we had a remembrance ceremony to remember those who have passed away.  So many have been lost while we race for a cure.  I included my sister Ann in my thoughts.  I wrote a message to her on a paper flower and tied it to the trellis that they had set up.  I miss her every day.  These guys piped a moving rendition of "Amazing Grace."
Bill carries a gold balloon as someone who lost a loved one to a blood cancer.  He and I both carry white balloons as cancer survivors.  Bill had chemo three days before and I was concerned that he would be unable to do the walk, but he hung in there to the end.  He went home very tired.
I posted this so you can see our team banner.  Faith lives on in the love and memories of family and friends.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Silent Killer

With the Olympics just past, I am still thrilled by the performances that I watched on television.  It is hard to imagine all of the things that these amazing athletes are able to achieve.  Most of us probably think that the toughest thing they will ever face is the world-class competition as they strive for a medal - gold, silver, or bronze.  And for many, that may be so - but not for all.

Witness the case of Shannon Miller, a member of the USA's "Magnificent Seven" in 1996, the women's gymnastics team that was indeed magnificent.  Early last year, Shannon faced a new competition, one where first place is a gold medal, and any other place is the grave.  She battled ovarian cancer, the "Silent Killer."  Read her story here.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Did Racing for a Cure Fall off the Earth?

Short answer - no.  But not having posted in five weeks, it does seem like this blog has gone dark.  I've kept my other blog, Oh, To Be Hiking!, fairly active because I've managed to get in a hike every couple of weeks.  But I have neglected this blog.

I guess that is because, for the first time in a long time, I am not engaging in a Team in Training or Susan G. Komen activities this year.  The knee pain I had from running so much this winter and leading up to my half marathon and 10K in March has continued to some degree.  It is not as constant or as severe as it was earlier this year.  But it is still there, especially while walking down stairs or after a tough hike, and especially in that pesky left knee.

Part of me wonders if I will ever be running again.  I accomplished two goals that I had - to run a half marathon as a 10 year cancer survivor and also as a 60 year old - but that might be it for long runs.  I need to continue doing my exercises and see where that leads, and maybe see a knee specialist if the pain continues.  I am walking a little bit, and hope to do more when the weather cools, but even that is hard to fit in with my new work schedule that has me getting up at 5:40 for work.

As far as the cure, that is still needed.  I am reminded of that every week, or every time I look at a picture of my late sister, gone now just over a year.  She should be getting ready to enjoy a well deserved retirement right now.  Instead she only lives on this earth in the memories of all those who loved her.  This week, I had lunch with an ill friend, a 43 year old man dealing with the awful consequences of his fourth bout with cancer.  He told me that his 78 year old aunt just got diagnosed with leukemia, AML, the same type that my friend had when he as 19.  Cancer is an equal opportunity killer - it ignores gender, race, age, economic status, political views.  We need to find a cure.  And at some point, I hope that my blog will be more active again as I get more involved once again towards this goal.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Relay for Life Survivor Walk

Last Saturday, I walked the first survivor laps in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.  I went at the request of my friend Bill, who is about 9 months into treatment for metastasized colon cancer, and on his second round of chemo after two surgeries, the second of which was really rough.  It was a very hot afternoon, upper 90's, and I found myself glad that I was not walking laps all night like some of the folks would be.  I didn't raise money for this great cause, but came out for a little bit to walk as a survivor and support Bill.  As things turned out, he was too wiped out to walk more than a partial lap due to the heat and his exhaustion from chemo.  It's 10 years after cancer for me, and I feel very grateful to be able to still be breathing and moving.

The main speaker, an ovarian cancer survivor, lost her sister to leukemia a couple of years ago. I could relate to her experience, as a survivor myself (not ovarian cancer, in case you are wondering) and also having lost my sister a year ago. I wanted to post a few photos from the night, and publicly thank those who walked the walk that night after raising a lot of money for this cause.

Here are Bill and I before the walk.  I like the new purple shirt and the new purple "survivor" wrist band they game me.
 People set up tents and canopies inside the "track."
 "Team Joe" walks along in the 97 degree (in the shade, which they are not) heat.
 I used to work near here and often walked around this lake at lunch.  It is about 1.25 miles as I recall for a single lap.
 One of the speakers told us: "Take a minute and go down to the lake.  Throw in a pebble.  Notice the ripples you create.  In the same way, when you do some positive thing, small or large, it has its own ripple effect."  So I tossed in a pebble and reflected on the ripples it created.  I wonder what ripples I have created with my life?  I wonder what ripples I have still to create in the (hopefully) years ahead?

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Great Honor

I've done a lot of things over the past seven years for LLS and Team in Training: five events as participant, and a sixth season as a mentor.  Speaker at numerous meetings to recruit volunteers and at kick-off.  Cheering at events.  Light the Night three times.  But until Saturday night, when I addressed the "I Love the Tavern Triathon" Team, I had never been the honored speaker at a TNT inspiration dinner.

If you have attended an inspiration dinner for the Team, you know they can be pretty massive and inspirational events.  This one was a lot smaller.  Instead of addressing hundreds of participants, there were 15.  But that was fine.  It was my great honor to speak to such a fine and dedicated group.

So what did I say in my 10 minutes of fame?  I talked about how I found out that I had Hodgkin's lymphoma 10 years ago, and what the treatments were like.  I tried to interject a little humor by recounting my story of the ear hair that wouldn't die.  I spoke of why it is so difficult to cure cancers, and although I was a lucky survivor, there were many more who never make it.  I spoke in particular of three people in my life who have passed away in the last 18 months: my friend Judy from multiple myeloma in January 2011, my sister Ann from breast cancer in May 2011, and my friend Faith from Hodgkin's lymphoma this past February.  So there is plenty more to do before we can consider cancer defeated.  Then I closed with these three thoughts:
  1. You never know if and when your life will change radically, as mine did 10 years ago.  So enjoy the good times while you have them, and seize as many days as possible - starting with completing the triathlon the next day.
  2. Someday, all cancers will be curable or at least manageable.  When that day comes, each of them can smile, knowing that they all had a part in that.
  3. As a 10 year cancer survivor, they had my sincere thanks.  I can't thank the people who figured out 30, 40, or 50 years ago how to get most people to survive Hodgkin's lymphoma, but I can thank them.
I don't know if this fine team was inspired by my talk, but I am sure inspired by their hard work, dedication, and courage to tackle a triathlon while trying to make a difference in the war on cancer.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Running Again!

Well, I am running again - sort of.  After more than two months of not running a bit because of knee pain, I started back last Sunday with a walk-run mix.  It is heavy on the walking, a three minute walk interval and a one minute run interval.  That means I am running about one third of the distance, at an average pace of something like 12:30 to 12:40.

I've done this three time in the last week: five miles Sunday, four miles Thursday morning, and four miles today.  It has felt pretty good to run even a little bit, even though I am a little winded at the end of my minute interval.  I hope to build it up after a couple of weeks of this.

So what I am training for?  Good question.  I had grand plans to celebrate surviving 10 years, starting with the Shamrock Half Marathon and the Monument Avenue 10K.  Those I accomplished.  Anything else is on hold, pending making sure my knee pain is in the past.  Maybe a 10K this fall?  That is a big come-down from early plans, but we must adjust to life's events.  Maybe being alive and healthy 10 years after cancer is celebration enough.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cancer Survivor's Day

Today marks 10 years since my very first chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma.  I can still remember the emotions of that day fairly well.  I marked my 10 year anniversary - which happens to be National Cancer Survivors' Day - in two ways.

First, I laced up my running shoes at 6:30 AM and went for a run - my first real running since the Monument Avenue 10K on March 31.  The knee pain is a lot better, and it was time to try some running.  I did more walking than running.  For my five mile workout, I ran about 1.7 miles of it in intervals of three minutes walking and one minute running.  That seemed like enough for me, but it felt good.  Why five miles?  Well, I was thinking of how the holy grail of cancer survivorship is five years, and neither my sister Ann nor my friend Faith made it to five years.  So since I dedicated my TNT Silent Mile yesterday to the two of them, I decided to dedicate five more silent miles to them today.  When you run or walk by yourself, being silent comes kind of naturally.

Second, Mary and I joined our friend Bill at an event for cancer survivors put on by a local hospital.  Bill found out last fall that he had stage 4 colon cancer.  It was a pretty good event - food, music, educational talks on various subjects, and clinics on massage and meditation.  It was another chance to reflect on my amazing fortune of surviving cancer, because so many people don't.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Silent for Ann and Faith

This morning was the Team in Training Silent Mile ceremony.  I am always inspired by this - always!  About eight or nine of us survivors spoke, relaying tales of courage and endurance.  In particular, Robin's tale of fighting back after the loss of her right leg two years ago to cancer and Ed's story of his continuing fight with melanoma (after dealing with leukemia at 19 and two other cancers since) were moving.  As Ed put it, tongue in cheek, "cancer can be the gift that keeps on giving!"  My talk was easy, for 10 years ago today, I was preparing for my first day of chemo the next day.  I tried to prepare mentally that June 2, that beautiful Sunday 10 years ago.  I took a little hike in the mountains, knowing it would be the last time for a while, and wondering just a bit if it might be my last one ever.  There is no certainty or guarantee when dealing with cancer.

We also paid tribute to the Tahoe cycle team and the San Diego Marathon team, in action this weekend on the west coast.  After the talks, we walked, ran, or biked the first mile in silence.  It is a time to reflect on why we do Team in Training, and those who have fought the good fight but are no longer with us.  As I walked, I thought of my sister Ann, dead from cancer one year this past Wednesday.  I listened to the wood thrushes singing in the woods along the road.  She loved this bird's song, as do I, and I felt the connection to her.  I miss her so much!  There are days I feel as if we just haven't talked in a while - after all, we had lived nearly 500 miles apart.  And then the reality hits, and hits hard.  The reality that as much as I wish, I will never see her again, at least not in the flesh.  All because of cancer, something that started with a single cell gone haywire that could not be supressed.  It sucks.

I also thought of my friend, Faith, who died in February.  She was so young, 42 or 43.  She died from Hodgkin's lymphoma, the same thing I had 10 years ago.  She should have survived.  She should still be here.  90% of Americans with Hodgkin's survive 5 years.  I've lived for 10, so far, and hope to keep going.  Faith lived only for three years.  Faith came to one of our Silent Mile celebrations two years ago, and she did a mission moment for me on a bitter winter day's training in 2010.  She was a special person, so gentle and caring, and missed by many.  One more grieving family.  One more too many.  So for the last part of that mile, walking along with a little running for the first time since the 10K two months ago - when I wore Faith's photo on my shirt - I thought of Faith and how badly she wanted to keep living and enjoying life.  It is so unfair.

In the afternoon, Faith's dad and sister came up from North Carolina and had a memorial get-together for Faith's Richmond friends.  While I was there, I learned that they will have a Light the Night team on October 27 in memory of Faith.  Faith was so proud of the awesome job she did with her LTN team "Faith's Hope" in 2009.  I walked with her on that team, and I walked with her the next year with Light the Night.  So I plan on walking on Faith's memorial team this fall.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Good Luck, Lake Tahoe Cycle Team!

To the Tahoe TNT Cycle Team, Coaches, and Mentors:

I had lunch with your Team Virginia Coach, Susan, today, and she was telling me about your upcoming race, er, ride around Lake Tahoe this Sunday, June 3. It got me thinking about what an adventure the group of you is in for – 100 miles around a beautiful lake, all the ups and downs, peaks and valleys, tremendous scenery. You’ve trained so hard for this race, er, ride! You will need all of your training, grit, and determination to complete 100 miles in California on Sunday. It should be a wild ride, eh? All for a great cause – to help those enduring cancers, and to help develop more cures for blood cancers specifically, but for all cancers ultimately.

As Susan talked about your race, er, ride, it got me thinking about another more distant June 3, one that is important to me personally. For exactly 10 years from this Sunday, June 3, 2002, I took my very first step into the chemotherapy room to get my first batch of chemo for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I had not trained for this. It was a surprise, a bolt from the blue that had arrived just weeks before. I didn’t feel ready for it. I didn’t want to get chemo – in fact, I dreaded it that first day, and that first week. As in your race, er, ride, there were lots of ups and downs, peaks and valleys for the six months I had to get treatment. Not much nice scenery though – leaning over the water in a toilet bowl is not quite a scenic as Lake Tahoe should be. At least I sure hope not, for your sake! But like you, I needed grit and determination – that feeling that I would take it one day, one hour, one minute, or if need be, one second at a time to get through it. That is what cancer patients need to get through such an experience, if they are lucky.

I was one of the very lucky ones. I survived, and am happy and grateful for this. And I am particularly grateful to have lived 10 years now, to the point where the awful experience of chemotherapy is greatly faded. But I also feel sadness when I think of some others who didn’t have my luck: your Coach Susan’s dad several years ago. My good friend, Judy, who died in January 2011 just four weeks after her multiple myeloma diagnosis. My dear sister, Ann, deceased exactly a year ago today after her four-year difficult fight with breast cancer. My friend Faith, dead from Hodgkin’s lymphoma – the “good cancer" – this past February.

You can see that there is still plenty to be done, and you are out there helping to do it. I wanted to be sure to thank you for all you have done and are doing, and to wish you the very best on June 3. I’ll be thinking of you, cheering you from afar, and wishing you all have a great race, er, ride! This 10 year survivor salutes you!

Go Team!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Knee Pain Update

My knee pain is a lot better.  I've now not run since the Monument Avenue 10K on March 31, though.  I see people out running and my skin turns a curious shade of green.  Nor am I walking as much as I have in the past, but it is now at the point where walking doesn't bother my knees, so it is time to step that up - and time to try some hiking.  I got a different pair of patellar support bands from the doctor, since the first ones did more harm than good.  I've also been doing specific exercises a fair amount - you can read about some of them over here.  I've been taking an oral anti-inflammation medication twice a day, and rubbing this topical liquid on my knees two to four times a day (it is supposed to be four times but easier said than done while at work.)  That medication is nearly gone and I can't wait to be done with it.

When will I run again?  I don't know, but I see the doctor in two more weeks.  I may try a little running before that point and see how it goes so I can discuss it with her.  But mainly, I want to try to walk more and go for a hike.  A nice long hike!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What if a Race Were Like Work?

"We're going to need Molly off your project for a few days," they told me at work the other day. I tried to mentally calculate the effect of losing Molly on my already-behind project, but my mind started to wonder. What if a race were like work...........

I know I can set a PR. The course is flat, I've trained hard, and the weather is perfect for a run of 13.1 miles - cloudy and cool. I look at the thousands of other runners and walkers as I find my gate. "Lets do this," I say to myself. "The PR is there, waiting for you!" The gun sounds, and soon enough – just minutes after 7AM - my corral crosses the start. After dodging other runners for a mile, the field opens up, and I fall into a nice, steady pace. For once, the effort of running feels nearly effortless. Three more miles fade behind me.

Suddenly, a race official steps onto the course in front of me, extending his hand. "Stop!" he shouts. "We need you to do something. There's this old lady, and she ordered this book from the library, and they are closed today. We need you to hop on this bike, and deliver it to her. She only lives four miles from here. Then, come on back and resume the race. You still have plenty of time."

I stare at the man as if a gecko just crawled out of his left nostril. "Are you kidding? I'm kind of in a race here!" I state.

"Look, I hate to do this, but this lady really needs this book. Today! Come on, you can do this. It’s not like you were going win. Hop on the bike!"

"Bike? I haven't ridden on a bike in years," I say.

"No big deal. You'll do fine. It’s kinda like.... well, it's like.... yes, that's it! It's like riding a bicycle!"

Grumbling, I take the directions, the book, and jump on the bike. I see my PR flying away, wings beating steadily but slowly. But I find the lady, and she is so thrilled to have the book that it makes this all worthwhile. Less than an hour after leaving the race course, I'm back and running again. It takes a while to get back in a rhythm, but eventually I do, until the seven mile mark.

"Stop!" another official shouts. "We need you to move this Civil War cannon a few feet. A runner nearly crashed into it. Of course, if they hadn't been texting, maybe they would have seen it. But no matter, it will take you just a few seconds."

"Move a cannon? You might as well ask me to convince Lindsay Lohan to stop drinking," I say.

"No problemo! I have help lined up. Fred, Manny, and Joe are going to help you with this. It will take you guys one minute," the official says.

"OK, let's go, then! Where are they?"

“Should be here any minute. Manny has a leg cramp so it might take him an extra second or two. Just sit down and cool your jets for five minutes.”

32 minutes later, Manny hobbles up. Fred and Joe got here before, and the four of us manage to move the cannon enough so that someone who is not paying attention doesn’t end up with the barrel shoved up in an anatomical place that could cause them great bodily harm. I start running again, but have stiffened up. It takes me a while to get going, and I start passing a few stragglers. I reach the 10 mile mark, when another plea to stop comes.

“We need you to take this box of cookies to that hermit living on the island on the James River. It’s only a mile to the river, and we left you a canoe. We know you used to canoe, so it shouldn’t be a problem – just be careful near the rapids. The hermit is hard of hearing, and his dog isn’t the most friendly thing in the world, so just proceed cautiously when you get near his house. The last guy we sent there, well, it didn’t … You know, you don’t want to be bored with all these details. You’ll be fine. Here are the cookies, and take this steak for the dog. It just might save your … err, it might help make him friendlier,” the race official said.

I won’t talk about all that happens during the execution of this task, but let’s just say that when I stumble back to the 10 mile point – soaking wet, clothes shredded, shoes muddy, fang marks in my right calf – it’s pitch black and I am the only one left on the race course. I stagger more than run the last 3.1 miles, finishing just after 10:30PM. The only one still there at the finish line is a drunk, who applauds and cheers wildly before tumbling against an overflowing porta-potty, tipping it over. I only have partial success avoiding the noxious river of foul-smelling and dark liquid heading my way like some kind of deadly wraith in the night. Chip time: 15 hours, 22 minutes, 17 seconds. Yep – a new PR!

And that is why if races were like work, there wouldn’t be anyone there to do the race!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Hey, Isn't This Supposed to Help My Knees?

On Thursday, the doctor told me what I needed to do for my sore and aching knee: (1) an oral anti-inflammatory medication (2) a topical anti-inflammatory ointment (3) foot-turned-out leg raises 100 times a day (4) physical therapy.  Then, she added, "And knee bands.  I want you wearing them on each knee every waking moment for the next month, unless you are in the shower!"

Knee bands?  What are they?  Well, I think they were invented by the Marquis De Sades.  They are about an inch across and cinch with velcro straps around the knee just below the joint.  They felt miserable right from the get-go, but I wore them to work.  I wore them all afternoon.  I counted the hours until bedtime.  Hey, what if I go to bed at 8:00?  That might help!  I wore them after work while having a cool and refreshing Legend Brown Ale, one of the best beers ever, on the deck of Legend Brewing Company.  Maybe the beer would help.  It didn't.  I finally got home about 7:00, and contemplated going to bed right then so I could take the damned things off.

But instead, removing my trousers to put on a pair of jeans, I noticed how red and irritated and sore and painful everything was where the bands were.  I took the bands off, because it seemed like lunacy to keep wearing them.  "I'll put them on in the morning," I thought.  But in the morning, I still had bright red marks around each knee after nearly 12 hours of not wearing them:

So, I have not worn them since, and don't really intend to.  I walked 4 miles, briskly, this morning and things felt pretty good.  I'll do the other stuff - the drugs and the exercises - but these knee bands?  The Marquis can have them back!

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Leisurely Morning

What a gift a leisurely morning is!  Yesterday, I had a doctor's appointment at 9:00 to look at my knees, so there was no point driving all the way into work for a half hour.  Instead, I took a nice three mile walk, starting after 6AM!  No rush to get back, no pressure.  It felt so good to walk on a work day in daylight, listening to the birds singing away and to feel the cool air on my skin, as well as the warmth of the sun.

It reminded me how much of our lives are spent rushing around, and how much I hope to retire some day.  I got back from walk, and actually read the paper while sipping down a mug of hot tea.  How decadent is that?  I just got in a new situation at work, one that I think will be better for me, but it still doesn't compare with being retired, and taking a walk whenever I want.

The doctor said I have a little fluid on my left knee.  She said the root cause of my pain in weak hips, pretty much what the doctor who treated my plantar fasciitis said.  I got a couple of prescription anti-inflammatory medications, and a couple of knee bands which feel awful.  Maybe they are too tight, but they feel like they are doing more harm than good.  I also need to come to PT to learn some exercises.  Maybe I will stick with them this time once the problem is better.  Yeah, sure.  Maybe I will win the lottery, too.

As a bonus, I stopped by Amber's place of work for a few minutes.  Amber was the TNT campaign coordinator for several of my years with the team, and how works for another health-oriented non-profit.  She works less than a half mile from where the doctor is, and it was good to see her and where she works.  From there, it was off to work, and my leisurely morning was over!

Monday, May 7, 2012

How Can We Improve the Mission?

I am involved with a large group of Team in Training participants and alumni to come up with ideas to improve the TNT experience for people.  We split into sub-groups, and mine involves the mission.  How can we make the mission more real to people?  How can patient honorees interact more with participants to improve their experience?  What should we do more of?  Less of?

If you have ideas, I would love to hear them.  We are in brainstorming mode right now.  All constructive ideas are welcome.  You can comment on my blog, or just email me directly - my email address is on my profile.

Thanks, and I hope to get some good feedback to help our improvements to take wing!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Toasting Ten Years!

The expression “Time Flies” is used a lot. It sounds trite. But in what feels like the blink of an eye, 10 years have gone by since I found out I had a very big medical problem, which turned out to be Hodgkin’s lymphoma. And it makes me realize that time does indeed fly. Where does it go?

Exactly ten years ago, feeling perfectly healthy except for an odd pain in my side, I stood in a dark room as my doctor examined my thoracic X-ray. “You have a large mass in the middle of your chest, something that should not be there,” he said. I felt as if time, and I, were frozen in place. It was like a bolt from the blue! I wondered what it was, knowing somehow it was going to be terrible, and I wondered how long I would live.

I still don’t know the answer to that last question, but I do have a partial answer: at least 10 years. 10 more years now experiencing the joys, along with a few sorrows, of life. 10 more years to create good memories and to grow as a person. 3,653 more days (a few leap days were in the mix) to attempt to seize the day. I believe that I've tried to make good use of those days, most of them anyway. I am very grateful to still be here. And not just to be alive, but to be strong and healthy as well.

During those 10 years, I held my granddaughter on the day of her birth, and have watched her grow to become a happy five year old. I’ve seen places I’d never seen before, including Alaska, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Park. I've hiked in the mountains and at the shore, and seen amazing wildlife - including wolves pursuing Dall sheep. I've enjoyed great books and music.  I've experienced great get-togethers with family and friends. I comforted my sister during her final months. I walked 60 miles in three days last fall in her memory, with tears in my eyes a few times.  And I became a marathoner and a half-marathoner six times over, five of them with Team in Training! The sixth time was in March in the Shamrock, to celebrate my 10 year mark a month or so early.

During my 10 years of surviving, over 525,000 Americans have died from a blood cancer. I easily could have been in that group instead of in the group of survivors. What made me different from those 525,000 people, a few of which I have personally known? Luck? Good medical care? Divine intervention? Determination and grit? Winning scientific research? Family support? All of the above? I don’t know, but I am grateful.

No cancer is easy to endure or survive. Even the supposedly “curable” cancers often are not. If you are out there raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, or one of the other organizations fighting for a cure, this survivor thanks you. You, and people like you in the past, helped to give me 10 years that I would not necessarily have had otherwise.

You know what? I think I am going to go for 10 more now!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Three Weeks

Three weeks ago, I ran for the last time, 6.2 miles in the Monument Avenue 10K. Since then, the pain in my left knee, which has been developing for several months as my distances increased, has not gone away. It is not too bad if I walk, but if I run across a street to make a light, it hurts a good bit. I would have thought that it should feel pretty good after three weeks of rest. Other than one five mile and one six mile walk, I haven't even walked that much in that time period.

I've been slowly getting back to some stretching and PT work. That may help. The breast cancer 5K is about three weeks away, I think, or maybe four. I realize that I can sign up and walk it, although I would prefer to run it. The important thing is just to do it in honor of Ann, run or walk.

Five days from now marks the 10 year anniversary of when I found out that I had a very big problem - a problem that turned out to be Hodgkin's lymphoma. I had so many thoughts and plans of how to commemorate and celebrate my 10 year survival year, including doing a Team in Training event. Now, everything seems unsure. I don't want to keep running and ruin my leg or cause lasting damage. But it sure would be ironic if, in doing the Shamrock Half Marathon to celebrate 10 years of surviving cancer, I rendered myself unable to do a TNT event and raise money for LLS.

At this point, I will keep doing some walking and PT, and keep running on the back burner. I miss it though.

Monday, April 9, 2012

What Now?

The first two events that I wanted to do to celebrate 10 years of surviving cancer, the Shamrock Half Marathon and the Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K, are in the past. After hardly running in 2011 because of foot problems (although I walked the 60 mile Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure in September), I am back to running moderately well for an old guy. But it has led to knee pain, especially in my left knee. So what next? Do I sign up for TNT again? Do I do some races that I have heard about? Or do I try to figure out the knee?

I am guessing that the knee pain is some kind of IT band issue. I have not run since the 10K, now nine days ago. I've missed running, but the running break has felt good at the same time. I did take a nice five mile walk seeing some of Richmond's Black History sites on Friday, and my knee did hurt more after that. But it feels pretty good after two more days of taking it easy. Hmmm!

In early May, nearly a year after my sister Ann's death from breast cancer, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, a 5K, occurs in Richmond. It seems I should do that in honor of Ann, and go for a PR in the 5K. I've only run one 5K for time, so that should be doable. Then on June 3, a few friends are doing a 10K trail run up around DC. That happens to be my 10 year anniversary of starting chemo. I need to do something special that day, and maybe that race would be the thing to do. Other than that, I think the answer to "what's next" is to try to get back to some of my PT exercises and see if strengthening my hips will help with the knee. And of course, do some thinking about a TNT event.

Here I am, honoree photos on my shirt, after the Monument Avenue 10K:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Tying my 10K PR

I had hopes yesterday of besting my personal record in the Monument Avenue 10K. Instead, I did the next best thing - tying it to the second. Fortunately, I could still look up my best time on the Internet, which was set in 2009 at 1:03:21. I finished 170 out of 526 in my age group of 60-64 year old males.

I feel good about my results, even though I didn't set a new PR. My pace per mile was about 1.2 minutes faster than at Shamrock just two weeks ago. If I just skipped that last water stop though, I would have not had to slow down to a slow walk for twenty seconds or so - and I would have had a new PR!

As I reported yesterday, I left the camera at home, which was just as well. First, it rained for the pre-race period. Second, had I stopped for even one photo, I would not have tied my PR.

I pretty much stuck to my strategy of running 2.5 minutes and then walking for 30 seconds. There were a number of times that I ran for an additional minute or half minute, and a couple of times that I walked a little longer. I did not look at my stop watch once until the six mile point. Therefore I could not fret along the way about whether I still had a shot at a PR or not, and perhaps assume that I didn't. See - I have learned a few lessons along the way, and actually applied them. It really helped that I wrote down some of those lessons here and was able to review them before the race.

Mainly, my feelings of running yesterday were of joy. Joy at being alive. Joy at being healthy and strong enough to compete (against myself, not against the people that won the thing in under 29 minutes!) in this race at any pace. Joy at seeing all of the activity around me. This race is just a lot of fun - it really is. Yeah, it is crowded, and it can be annoying when some guy spits in the street right in front of you, or when four people are walking abreast and you have to scramble to get past them. But mostly, it is just pure fun! And I am thankful to be part of it once again.

Wearing the shirt I had made in memory of my sister, my joy was tempered a number of times by my reflections on losing her last year. I wish she could know that I was running in her honor once again. I wish Faith could know, too. At least Nancy, Bill, and Ed know. I even stopped by Nancy's home yesterday to show her the photo of her pinned to my sweaty race jersey!

The other thing I thought about yesterday a few times as I ran along was that 10 years ago, I had cancer growing in my body and didn't even know it. I would not learn of it until the end of April. Now, as far as I know, I have been cancer free for more than nine years. That fact alone is worth celebrating by completing my ninth 10K!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Preparing for the 10K

Today, I will run in my 8th straight Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K, sponsored by Martins among others. The race is still called the Ukrops 10K despite the Ukrops family selling the grocery chain to Martins several years back. The family is still prominent in charities and businesses in this area, and might still own a bakery which provides goods to Martins. I think they also help sponsor the race financially. One of the fears when the grocery chain was sold was that Martins would not sponsor this huge community event, something like the sixth biggest foot race in the good old US of A - but we need have feared not!

My first several times in the 10K, I walked it. I think 2008 was when I first ran part of it, and then in 2009, while training for the Country Music Half Marathon as a runner - walker, I ran a good bit of it. That was when I set my personal record of something over 63 minutes, which I hope to break today if my legs and especially my left knee are up for it.

I was going to run in my purple TNT jersey as I did at Shamrock 13 days ago. But yesterday, I changed my mind. Instead, I will run in the shirt I had made for the Komen 3-Day which honors my sister Ann. I have been thinking of her more and more lately with the first anniversary of her death approaching, and I miss her always. Because of how the photo of her on the shirt is, I have to wear my race number lower, so I won't have my camera with me on the race course for the first time in years. That will feel strange. But the water belt I wear to hold the camera would cover my race number (which also includes the timing chip on the back.) On the other hand, not stopping to take photos could give me the edge I need to hit that PR!

This shirt is covered with the names of my honorees for the Komen 3-Day Walk. And on my shirt will be pinned photos of four special honorees for the race. Two of these folks, Bill and Faith, were also on my Shamrock race shirt as honorees. For the 10K, I've added Nancy and Ed. Nancy was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and had surgery for this, and started chemo this week. She is starting her battle resolutely and with determination to kick this thing's ugly butt! Ed is a veteran cancer warrior, and at age 42, is fighting cancer for the fourth time. It has been really rough for him with this melanoma that has been relentless for the past two and a half years. A dedicated athlete and TNT Triple Crown winner, Ed is in no shape to run right now. So I will be doing the running for him today, and for Nancy, Bill, and Faith - and of course, my beloved sister.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Checking my Math

The other day, I wrote about calculating new run / walk intervals that might allow me to set a PR in the upcoming Monument Avenue 10K. My intervals are 2.5 minutes running and 0.5 minutes walking. The good news is that I think my math was right. The bad news is that I didn't sustain those intervals for my 4 mile training run.

The first 1.25 miles of my training took 12.66 minutes, which is right on course to finish 10K under 63 minutes. However, I got tired and had to walk extra several times on the 4.15 mile training run, which took 45 minutes, or an average of 10.8 minutes per mile. This would come out to a 67 minute 10K. With the race just days away, that may be about as well as I can do. But as a character in a book that I was reading to my granddaughter the other day was saying "We shall see!"

Friday, March 23, 2012

Thinking Ahead to the 10K

After a lot of preparation - maybe not enough, but a lot all the same - the Shamrock Half Marathon at Virginia Beach is in my rear view mirror. Just ahead, just around the bend, is the Monument Avenue 10K. It is my eighth time participating in this run, but for the first time, I am coming into it from the standpoint of having already completed a much longer event. So it gives me a unique opportunity to look on this 10K as a short race, and see where that leads.

My PR was set three years ago, at a time when I was less than a month away from running the Country Music Marathon in Nashville. So I was used to longer runs, as I am now. But this time, I have the added advantage of having completed a half-marathon just five days ago. I hope that will give me a psychological edge of treating the 10K differently. I'll still respect it - hell, 10K is a long way to run, a distance that frankly I doubt the majority of Americans could do - but I am going into this race thinking PR!

Nearly two weeks ago, I used my last pre-Shamrock training run of 6.3 miles in 68 minutes to use basic math, with some assumptions, and compute my running pace. Who needs a fancy GPS when you have a stopwatch and math? And from that, I have calculated that if I change my run / walk splits to 5 minutes running and 1 minute walking, I can attain a PR of less than 63 minutes. For the half marathon, I basically ran 1.5 minutes and walked 1 minute, so this is a dramatic change almost overnight. But to make it less dramatic, I will try this in a training run this weekend: run 2.5 minutes and walk just half a minute. If I can handle that for say 4 miles, I am going to think I can for 2 more miles next Saturday. I think I can handle this, because for most of my training the last couple of months, I was running 2.5 and walking 1.5 minutes. This got really tiring after about 6 or 7 miles, but with a 10K, that is not an issue.

Time will tell if my strategy will work. I've not run all week, so anything might feel like a lot. But that is my plan, and I'll see if I can make it work and go for a 10K PR on the 31st. It would be a great way to celebrate 10 years surviving cancer once again!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Reflections on the Shamrock Half

Time goes by so quickly. It seems like weeks ago instead of more than three months when I decided that running the Shamrock Half Marathon last Sunday would be the first big thing I would do to celebrate 10 years of surviving cancer this year. I came off a year where I did very little running because of foot problems, so I had to gain a lot of ground in three months. I feel like I did.

I missed a personal record by about 45 seconds and although my main goal was just to finish the race, I am disappointed to have been so close and not attained a new PR. On the other hand, it was my best long run of the year. In all of the others - about 4 or 5 of them - I totally faded about 7-8 miles in and was crawling at the end. In the Shamrock, I did get tired but it was after 10 or 11 miles, and I hung in there with a stronger average speed for the whole race. My times in my other training runs would have been 10-15 minutes slower than what I did Sunday if they had applied. So all in all, I gave it my best running effort of 2012, by far.

My knee didn't hurt much or slow me down. On the other hand, my effort to keep going resulted in really sore quads since Sunday afternoon, and they have just today started to be less painful. I have not run a step since Sunday. With a 10K in 9 more days, I need to start up and get in at least 3 runs, preferably at least one of 5-6 miles.

The spectators were great at Shamrock! There were a lot of them out cheering loudly and ringing cowbells. Some of them were coaches and teammates I knew out cheering or coaching. It was great to have the support. I hate to mention names because I always forget someone, but Debbie, Kate, Barb, Jane, Chuck, Jamie, and Susan were all out there cheering or coaching - or both!

There was a lot of bling at this race - a really great race shirt and finisher sweatshirt, a cool finisher hat, and a great medal - which doubles as a bottle opener. Yes, Yuengling was the major sponsor and there was beer! Not just beer at the finish - of which there was lots - but on the course, there were three beer stations passing out shots of Yuengling! Now how cool was that? Water, gatoraide, AND beer! It would have been rude to refuse, so I didn't. At the last one at about mile 11, I wavered, and then the guy called out, "Art! You look like you need a beer!" Who am I to contradict the judgment of someone who is clearly an expert?

So, now my first adventurous celebration of year 10 is over! It felt good to be in the race with my friend Nicki, a 15 year survivor, because we were both running for similar reasons. In addition, Nicki fundraised for TNT. Next up for me to celebrate by is the Monument Avenue 10K. After that? Well, I'm not sure. But I have wanted to run Shamrock for several years and am so glad I did, PR or not! Because when one has looked at maybe pushing up shamrocks 10 years ago, running any distance - let alone 13.1 miles - now feels pretty damned good! This was also my first long race as a 60 year old, and although there is no way I am keeping up with the 30 or 40 somethings (not even mentioning 20 somethings), I do have to wonder how many of my contemporaries could do a half-marathon? 5 percent? 1 percent? 1/10 percent? I don't know the answer to that, but it likely not a huge number, but I am one of them that can!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Did I Set a Shamrock Course Record?

Is it possible that I set a course record* in the Shamrock Half Marathon today? I know I missed a PR by less than a minute. My legs felt like lead for the last three miles. It was a lot of fun, though, running as a 10 year - less about a month - cancer survivor. That is why I did this, not to set a PR (which, I admit freely, would have been the cherry on the sundae!) I slept mere hours last night, and was awake for good by about 3:30. I finally got up at 4:45, shaved and grabbed a quick shower, smeared on some Body Glide, dressed, and hit the road at 5:20 - bagel in hand. It took a while to find a parking space, but by about 6:20, I was parked and walking the mile to the start of the race. Along the way, I ran into three TNT pals - Holly, Amy, and Pam. Holly told me she signed up for another 50 miler! Ouch! (I also saw Amy after the race before her polar bear plunge into the Atlantic - double ouch!) Moments before the start, I saw my teammates and fellow cancer survivors Nicki and Sheri in my coral. Here we are, from left, Sheri, Nicki, and me:
As I reported the other day, I had three special honorees for this race: Bill, Nicki, and Faith. I wore their photos on my shirt:
Nicki also honored Faith, gone way too soon and too young, with her run:
Just after 7AM, we were off. It was a good day for a run - cool and cloudy, but not cold. I ran way too fast during the first mile, the adrenaline taking over, and I paid for it later. During the first couple miles of the race, I encountered Cheryl and Bill, who were in Alaska with me in my first ever TNT event. What a great surprise!
We ran along Shore Drive for several miles. You can see lots of green celebrating the Irish. It was near this point two years ago that several of us came to cheer the runners. Included in that group was Faith, recently deceased. I felt really sad as I came up on that spot and remembered her being with us so recently.
From the road, the field ran through Fort Story for several miles:
In Fort Story is the oldest lighthouse in the United States, the old Cape Henry Lighthouse, commissioned by none other than George Washington and since replaced:
With about a half mile to go, the field turned onto the boardwalk at Virginia Beach. I felt like I was running through sand, and just could not kick it up:
King Neptune watches over the finish line:
Afterwards, as I strolled towards the tent to claim my beer and Irish stew, there was this cool sand sculpture with Neptune in it:
So, did I get that Shamrock Half Marathon course record?* I don't know, but it doesn't matter. I wore my Irish green and my TNT purple, I completed my third half marathon as a cancer survivor and my first as a sixty-something, I celebrated 10 years of surviving Hodgkin's lymphoma, I caught up with friends, and I ran in honor of many people. That is quite enough, course record or not. And afterwards, I celebrated by drinking one of my four allotted Yuengling lagers (very tempted to drink the others but I did have to drive), and by buying 20 pounds of ice and taking a refreshing (?) 15 minute ice water bath back at the condo!

* course record for 60 year old males celebrating 10 years of surviving Hodgkin's lymphoma

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Final Pre-Shamrock Thoughts

So, here it is, the eve of my sixth long distance event, and my first not with Team in Training. That feels a little strange, but knowing that I will be wearing my race shirt from Seattle is a comfort. Plus I have friends running for TNT, most notably my friend Nicki, and others that will be out their cheering. And I will also put on a TNT tattoo on my face.

I don't feel totally ready to run this. My last training, my six mile taper run last Sunday, went really well - except for this continuing pain in my left knee. I am pretty sure I have some IT band syndrome going on. It hurts some even to walk. After Sunday's run, I should have done two more three mile runs during the week, but decided to just rest the knee. A coach once told us: "There is nothing you can do training-wise in the last week before a race to improve your performance, but there are lots of things you can do to damage your performance." So I thought of his words and decided that resting and saving my legs for Sunday was the prudent thing. I did a little walking and also some pool work instead.

It's been an incredibly warm week, with highs in the 80's F several times. The unseasonable weather continues for the weekend, although with highs in the 60's. There is a chance of thunderstorms tomorrow. I brought gear for warm or cool temperatures, not totally trusting the weather forecast.

Tomorrow morning, I will get up at 4:45 and hopefully be on the road by 5:15. With luck, I can find a place to park not too far from the start or finish by 6:oo and then make my way over to the race start well before 7AM. Maybe I will run into a friend or two along the way. I keep thinking how 10 years ago, how healthy I felt. I had no idea that deep inside my chest and abdomen, tumors were growing that would be life threatening. I would find this out the end of April, 2002. Now, 10 years have gone by in a flash, and I am strong and healthy again. I intend to celebrate that fact tomorrow morning by - slow or fast - running 13.1 miles. Running for myself, and for others - those that can't, a few who can run, and for those that are no longer here, like my sister Ann and my friends Judy and Faith. Running as a 10 year survivor of cancer!

Friday, March 16, 2012

10 Great Reasons to Run the Shamrock

In about 33 hours, I’ll step out from the starting line to run the Shamrock Half Marathon. I thought of 10 good reasons to do this.

# 10 - Drinking a Yuengling Lager after the race

# 9 - Running at the beach with lots of cheering spectators

# 8 - All the green for St. Patrick’s Day, including Coach Bob dressed as a leprechaun

# 7 - Drinking a Yuengling Lager after the race

# 6 - Great hot Irish stew!

# 5 - Drinking a Yuengling Lager after the race

# 4 - A flat race course

# 3 - Drinking a Yuengling Lager after the race (did I already say that? Well, we get four beers – hopefully not full size - at the end, so…)

# 2 - Running in the same race as my TNT pal Nicki, who is celebrating 15 years as a lymphoma survivor

And the # 1 reason to run the Shamrock Half Marathon this Sunday – Celebrating 10 years surviving Hodgkin’s lymphoma in a strong and grand fasion!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Who I'm Running For

In less than two and a half days, I'll step off the line to run - with some walking - in the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach. I'm not fundraising for this event. Instead, I am participating in this race as the first event this year to celebrate surviving Hodgkin's lymphoma for 10 years. I could be pushing up shamrocks right now. Instead, thanks to a lot of luck and medical science, I am running for the shamrocks instead.

I'm not officially part of Team in Training for this race. But I will be wearing my purple Team in Training singlet from the Seattle race in June 2010. My shirt is covered with names of people that I honored in that race, and so by extension, I will honor them in the Shamrock as well. But I have three special honorees for this race, representing the hope, the success, and the failure of cancer treatments. I will wear a photo on my race shirt of each of these three folks as I run along for 13.1 miles.

The hope for cancer treatment will be represented by my good friend Bill Zettel. He is currently battling stage 4 colon cancer, and will be having really significant surgery on his liver in a couple of more weeks. This is on top of initial surgery a couple of months ago, followed by chemotherapy. He will be getting yet more chemo later this spring once he recovers from the surgery. Stage 4 cancer is very serious, but we are all confident that Bill is going to beat this, and I will try my best to honor him with my feet on March 18 in the Shamrock.

The success of cancer treatment will be represented by my friend Nicki Morgan, who will be running the Shamrock Half, too. I wrote about Nicki a couple of weeks ago when she hit her 15 year mark of surviving certain death from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma after a bone marrow transplant. As I run my race to celebrate 10 years of survival, Nicki will be celebrating 15 years with her efforts.

The failure of cancer treatment will be represented by my friend Faith Eury, who died just over two weeks ago from stage 4 Hodgkin's lymphoma. I was lucky enough to survive Hodgkin's, but Faith was not, living just three years after her diagnosis. I had hoped to wear Faith's photo to honor her fight, round two in what we believed would be a victory. I am quite sad to wear her picture in her memory instead, and as a reminder that even the so-called "curable" cancers are not nearly curable enough.

Cancer being an awful, relentless thing, I've added a few more names to my Seattle shirt: in honor of Taquisha Jeffries - in recent remission from lymphoma - and my neighbor Nancy, recently diagnosed with a very serious cancer. Then of course, my good friend Judy Zettel, who was alive and quite healthy at the time I ran Seattle, was diagnosed with myeloma just months later and died 14 months ago. Then, my dear sister Ann, alive at the time of my Seattle race but dying from breast cancer 11 months later, will also be on my mind during this race.

I'll have plenty of company on the run - special honorees Bill, Nicki, and Faith, as well as the dozens of names from Seattle 2010 and the names recently added. I will do my best to honor all of them with my run this Sunday.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Better Late Than Never?

The Shamrock Half Marathon is just 11 days away - 10, really. I am in my taper after this past Sunday's last truly long mileage day. So is this when I should be screwing around with my basic pacing intervals? Well, I think so - not ideal, but I think it has to be done.

In all my long runs this year, I just got totally gassed in the second half. For example, if I had to go 10 miles, my last five miles would take at least 5-8 minutes longer than the first five miles. I am doing a mixture of running and walking, and as distance progresses, I tend to cheat more and more on the run interval of the long workouts. I'll trim it - often by a lot. My pace slows.

Last week with Lelia, I flipped the run and the walk, and then cut the run in half to accommodate what she is training for. So instead of doing what I had been doing, 2:30 run intervals and 1:15 walk intervals, Lelia and I did 2:00 walk and 0:30 run intervals. The running felt so easy. I mentioned to Lelia (who I still sometimes think of as my coach, since she was my walk coach the first two times that I did Team in Training) that maybe I should reduce my run intervals. It just seems that if I don't try something different, I am going to run out of energy and strength coming down the stretch in Shamrock.

The problem is, here I am in taper. It is very late to try such a major change and guess whether it will work or not. But tonight, I tried it. I ran with a 1:20 run interval, and I also shortened my walk interval to 1:00 for my four mile run/walk. So out of every two minutes and 20 seconds, I am running 1:20 of it. It felt pretty good. Every time it was time to run, I felt ready to run. It also felt good to walk more frequently just as I was getting a little out of breath. I felt like my pace picked up during my run portion. In fact, even though I did less running, my overall pace was better - a shade under 11 minutes per mile for the 4.2 miles, as opposed to about 11:20 a mile that it had been for the first five miles of my longer run intervals. I stuck to the new intervals religiously tonight and didn't "cheat."

So right now, I am going to try this with my remaining training, which is only four more runs, starting with tomorrow night's two miler. I'll evaluate how it is working out during the Shamrock. Ideally, I will feel strong for the second half of the race, and I can consider bumping up the run interval a bit for the last 3-4 miles. Yeah, it is a lot of experimenting with how I should do things so late in the training schedule - but if it works out, better late than never!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A "Thank You" to Team Shamrock

Last night, TNT Richmond had its send-off dinner for the Shamrock Marathon and Half-Marathon teams. I wrote a thank you to the team, and Kate asked if I would read it last night to the assembly.

To “Team Shamrock"

You’ve worked very hard, putting in lots of miles
In cold and damp weather, but usually with smiles
And now you can see that your goal's within reach -
In two weeks, you’ll take a long run at the beach

You’re up before dawn, running while it’s still dark
Meeting teammates and coaches for a run from the park
But it’s not about running, it’s more for the cause:
Ending cancers that kill without pity or pause

Others rise before dawn, but wake up filled with dread
For later that day, in a chair or a bed
Into their veins deadly poisons will flow
Will they live strong or die? Right now, they don’t know.

For those who can’t run you are running your race
Helping them reach the dreams that they desperately chase:
To live as survivors, to be healthy and strong
But for so many with cancer, the odds are too long

In the fight against cancer, you’ve now joined the ranks
We survivors, all over, give you our deep thanks
But remember, Shamrockers, as you fret about pace
It's not chip-time that counts but your time at the race!

I’ll be proud to be running alongside – well, okay, maybe behind sometimes – you in this race on March 18 as a nearly 10 year Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor: thanks to cancer research and a lot of great luck. Thank you most sincerely, Shamrockers!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Final Long Pre-Shamrock Run

Yesterday, I drove to North Carolina with my friend Nicki to attend our friend Faith's funeral service. It was a sad thing, especially to see more people who were older than the deceased than people who were younger. Why does someone that young with so much to live for have to die from a type of cancer that became curable more often than not 30 years ago?

Nicki and I are both running the Shamrock Half Marathon in two weeks, and since we missed Saturday training to go to Faith's funeral service, we decided to train this Sunday morning together. On the agenda were 12 miles, and we were joined by the first eight miles by Nicki's friend Maria. The 12 miles - 11.5 actually - were fairly uneventful. I continue to have left knee pain but it was not bad during the running. It does hurt more now that the run is finished. I am wondering if I have some ileo-tibial band issues going on? At least my legs did not act like the extreme left wing and extreme right wing that I poked some fun at the other day.

For our route today, we picked three separate four mile loops, each starting and ending at the lake. Despite snow coming in early tomorrow, we are in serious early spring right now in this area, and I enjoyed seeing the splashes of color as we ran along, with some walking on my part.

Our first circuit ran along Douglasdale and Portland through Windsor Farms, back through Carytown, and back to the park. Windsor Farms is an upscale and beautiful neighborhood, and color was provided by the spring flowers and by some quirky art work:
Our middle four mile loop went past the little lakes in Byrd Park, past Maymont, and through some of the neighborhoods. The photos are from Maymont: "Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam..." Scenic view of Maymont:

Our last loop, which we shortened to 3.5 miles, went into the fan and by VCU. I liked these colorful row homes, as well as the color provided by Mother Nature.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Body Politic

Left, right, left, right, left, right …. For six miles, the two legs had moved along cooperatively with only minor complaints, but that all changed in an instant. “Oww!” said Left Leg. “My knee hurts!”

“Oh, big deal,” Right Leg said. “Who cares? You lefties are always whining. Makes me sick. All I hear from you is complaints. ‘My neuroma hurts! My big toenail just fell off! My plantar fasciitis is killing me!’ Now, it’s ‘my knee hurts!’ Grow a pair!”

“Anatomically, that is not possible. But you know, you right-wingers have no compassion,” said Left Leg.

“How come it’s always you that has these problems? What are you, some kind of a left-leaning sissy?”

“Always me, huh? How about those two times you developed trochanteric bursitis and had to get those cortisone shots right in your hip?” Left Leg reminded him.

“Hey, at least I took the shots like a man! Ooh, ‘trochanteric!’ Big word, college boy. What a snob!” said Right Leg.

“As I recall, you attended every class I did in college. Man, my knee hurts! I think I need a doctor,” said Left Leg.

“A doctor? Why don’t you just use Obamacare? What a loser!”

“Both you and I happen to have great medical insurance through employment, so I don’t need the so called Obamacare,” said Left Leg. “But think of all those who are unemployed, have pre-existing conditions, and don’t have jobs that provide insurance. What should they do?”

Right Leg snorted. “Who cares? That’s their problem. They should have thought about it before they got sick. Damned liberals! Who do you think should pay for their care? You? Me? Ha! Just you wait until Rick Santorum gets elected!”

“We just need to tax the rich a lot more. You know, redistribute all the wealth. No one needs a million bucks to live on,” Left Leg said.

“You make me sick! All of you lefties do!”

“Lighten up, right winger! You are so harsh and judgmental!”

“Look here, left winger, or should I say left whiner? I’ve had enough of your complaining! You are the epitome of everything that is wrong with this country. I wish you’d never been born!” Right Leg spat. “But not because of an abortion, of course,” he hastily added.

“What are you, some kind of a Hitler Youth alum? Oww! My knee hurts! I need some Ibuprofen!”

“Typical of you substance-abusing, liberal jerks! When something hurts or you need to get in a better mood, just turn to drugs!” Right Leg smirked.

Left Leg retorted quickly. “Yeah? Like your hero, Rush Limbaugh?”

Right Leg quivered in fury. “Never, ever mock that great man again,” he screamed as he launched a vicious kick at Left Leg.

Brain jumped in and stopped the kick before it landed. “You’re always taking his side, Brain.” said Right Leg. “You’re as far left as he is.”

Brain said, “I’m exactly in the center. I swivel to the left and to the right as needed, but I always stay in the center. If Left Leg tried to kick you, I would stop him as well.” At this precise instant, Left Leg, thinking that Brain and Right Leg were preoccupied, tried a quick, sneaky kick of his own. But Brain, reacting with lightning speed, short-circuited that kick as well.

“See? I rest my case,” said Brain. “I’m your Commander in Chief, and don’t either of you forget it. When I say jump, you ask 'How high?' Now, both of you, shut the hell up, and keep moving.”

For another mile, there was relative peace. Then the sniping began anew.

“Stop limping! You are making me work harder. Typical of you liberals, let everyone else do the hard work so you can just be a lazy bum. Left leaning jerk,” said Right Leg.

“You are a little stronger and more capable than I am. Plus I’m hurting. So why shouldn’t you work a little harder than me? That seems fair, you reactionary Neanderthal,” replied Left Leg.

“Fair? What’s fair about it? What are you, some kind of Pinko?” asked Right Leg.

“Conservative Nut Case” shouted Left Leg.

“European Socialist!” retorted Right Leg.





As fast as Brain is, before he could even react, Left Leg and Right Leg launched kicks at each other simultaneously, and the entire body crumpled to the ground.

“I’ve had quite enough of both of you!” Brain shouted. “Pick us up and get moving! Now! I can play hard-ball too if need be! Remember Alaska in 2005? Maybe I’ll give you a good dose of that to make you get along and work together again. We’ll take a one minute break so you can think that one over.”

“Alaska? Midnight Sun Marathon? 2005? Oh my God!” said Left Leg.

“Pouring rain! 26.2 miles! Cold winds for the last four miles! I shudder just thinking about it,” said Right Leg.

“Mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds!” said Left Leg.

“Those were hummingbirds, you left leaning mor … er, those were hummingbirds, weren’t they?”

“Do hummingbirds drill a hole in you the size of the Lincoln Tunnel? Do they suck out enough blood that, were it alcohol, even Lindsay Lohan would beg to stop drinking?” asked Left Leg.

“Nope, you’re right! Ha, ha, get it? You’re right!” said Right Leg.

“Oh, God, remember afterwards? Brain submerged us in a tub of ice water for 15 minutes? My lips were turning blue!”

“Lips? You have lips?”

“It’s a figure of speech,” said Left Leg.

“Man, I had blisters the size of Cleveland on my feet for the last 10 miles of that marathon,” said Right Leg.

“Yeah, me too, but even bigger. More like Chicago.” Noticing that Right Leg was about to say something, Left Leg added, “Actually, you know, I think you did have the bigger blisters.”

“Well, maybe. We both endured plenty. Then at night, remember while Brain slept peacefully all night long, we suffered together in agony until morning? The heartless sunnuvabitch!” said Right Leg.

“Yeah, you’re right. He didn’t care. He drove us like slaves all day and then he just slept. Completely oblivious to the pain of others. Reminds me of, well never mind that. Remember, he even forced us to wear running shorts on that cold, wet day? Shorts!” said Left Leg.

“What’s he even doing to us, making us do all this running at our age? Who’s he think he is, Steve Prefontaine?” asked Right Leg.

“Uh, Righty, I hate to break the news, but ‘Pre’ has been dead since 1975,” said Brain.

“Well, who does he think he is, then, Bill Freakin’ Rodgers?” said Right Leg.

“More like Joan Benoit Samuelson,” snickered Left Leg.

Brain jumped on that one. “Lefty, was that a not-so-subtle put-down of women? I must say, I’m surprised at you, taking that position. Aren’t you being a little hypocritical?”

Left Leg retreated in alarm. “No, no! That’s not what I meant. Really! I believe in full equal rights, a woman’s right to choose, and all that feminist stuff. I’m proud when I can run like a girl!”

Right Leg grimaced and shook his foot slowly, but said nothing to make the situation worse. Instead, he reflected on what really matters. “We’ve been through a lot together, you and me. I’d be doing a lot of hopping if you weren’t here, Left Leg,” he said.

“I couldn’t do it without you, Bud! You always got my right flank, and help me stay balanced,” said Left Leg.

“Okay,” said Brain. “I’m glad we got that settled. I depend equally on both of you. You are both very important parts of the body that I command. If you two aren't working together, if one of you isn't doing your job, then the whole body is out of balance. Together, we can do great things! Hell, we did a marathon in Alaska seven years ago, ignoring rain and pain, and two since then. Aren’t you proud of that? We all need to work together, or we go nowhere. We become ineffective and incompetent!”

“Yeah,” said Right Leg with a guffaw. “We don’t want anyone to mistake us for the US Congress! Talk about ineffective and incompetent! Even I have to admit that Boehner and Cantor are an exercise in futility and are obstructionists.”

“We agree 100% there, pal! But I also realize that Pelosi didn’t get much done either, before Boehner took over for her,” said Left Leg.

“OK, boys! The meeting of the Mutual Admiration Society is now adjourned. Let’s get moving. We still have five more miles to go,” said Brain.

“Five more miles!” cried Left Leg and Right Leg in perfect harmony. “We’re exhausted. We need to stop! We can’t do it!”

“You can and you will, guys,” said Brain, as he sent a tiny jolt of electricity down Spinal Cord first to Left Leg and then to Right Leg a split second later. “You can and you will.”