Wow. Today’s Monday, and the marathon is this Sunday, June 3. I’ll be flying out Friday evening to San Diego. Here’s the website for the marathon, if you’re interested — San Diego Rock N Roll Marathon
I’ll be bringing the camera, and my laptop. I’ll be blogging over the weekend, including after the event. Check back to this blog Sunday and Monday.
As I get closer, the butterflies commence. I have run several miles several times since the Monterey run, and I’ve felt ready…. I can tell I am processing the run/walk in the way that I’ll be able to do it for several hours. I get into that “zone” and stay there. Still, I know what it was like to have some problens on mile 19 in Monterey, and know it will happen again. While ready for it, I can’t help thinking about it.
So a few things keep me going, and let me know I’ll make it.
The first is all of you — the many diverse family, friends, co-workers and others who have honored me by donating for me. I am proud to say that, with the last few donations, and when the matching funds from work is counted, I will have surpassed $6,000 in donations. Thank you to all — you’ve made this all worth it.
Another thing that will keep me going is remembering the honored patients, friends and family I’ve introduced you to will be there (go to the link at their names below their pictures to go to that blog entry) —
and others who have been mentioned privately to me — I’ll remember them all.
Another that will stick with me is remembering an origami crane.
One person from AIG in the SF office, Mary Hancock, who made a donation also gave me a little goodie bag for the marathon. In it were some sunscreen packets (nifty!) an AIG cap, and an origami crane. The origami crane was also in purple, one of TNT’s colors. (Mary whas been a past participant, having walked the San Diego Rock N Roll marathon a few years ago for TNT.)
We got to talking about the origami crane, and we started talking about he history of it. While origami cranes have been around for centuries, it has a history in the 20th century involving leukemia.
In 1956 a young Japanese girl in 1956 named Sadako Sasaki was running a race and collapsed. Turns out, she had leukemia. As a toddler, she had been in Hiroshima and had been exposed to radiation.
According to a Japanese legend, the crane lives for a thousand years, and a sick person who folds 1,000 origami cranes will become well again. So, in an attempt to find a cure for her leukemia Sadako started on a quest to fold 1,000 of the cranes. While she passed away before getting to 1,000, she is remembered as a symbol of peace, along with the crane itself.
The ironies in this story really struck me. Here’s a young girl who discovered she had leukemia while running, while we run to find a cure for leukemia. Also, she attempted to find a cure for herself through legend, while we attempt to find a cure through funding scientific research.
Here’s hoping that the money we raise for research can help to keep other young girls like Sadako to be able to run later in life and survive leukemia.
I’ll be taking the crane with me on the run.
I’ve learned a lot about myself this season, and from writing this blog. I’m certain that as the days come up to the marathon I’m going to have a number of epiphanies and lessons learned about what I’ve gone through. So, I’m going to start a new category of posts – what I’ve learned from this season. I’ll start with a couple here.
The first is that long distance running, even running very s-l-o-w-l-y as I am, isn’t nearly as hard as it seems daunting before you start. The first 20 minutes is about how you’d imagine – I hate it, it feels terrible, I want to quit. Then, something interesting happens. I get into a rhythm, a pace, both physically and mentally. The breathing isn’t labored; it’s steady and even. I get into a nice stride that is easy and I repeat endlessly. And mentally, all the “I want to quit” impulses end. It doesn’t feel hard and not doable. I can go on like this for hours, literally and figuratively. This was a nice surprise.
But perhaps the biggest, most important lesson I’ve experienced has been on the longer runs, but most especially in Monterey. Like I said previously, it was a very good experience for most of the run, until the last half mile, when I ran out of steam and was sooo ready for the end. All that I said about it not feeling doable ended, and the “I want to quit” stuff came back with a vengeance. Note to self for the marathon: be wary of that milestone.
But prior to that, particularly in the second half, miles 10 or so and beyond, when things were going well, I realized something really great, that I wish I could feel every moment of every day.…
It felt so good to be alive at that moment. And I was alive – pushing my body physically to limits it’s never been, feeling the energy of the moment, feeling gratitude for all the people who’ve supported me in my training, being outdoors in easily one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and snapping pictures of it endlessly- here are a few more:
Perhaps I’ve had these moments before, but in the spiral that is our lives I haven’t appreciate them as I should. I’ve been to those locations before, so it’s not just being at the coast of Monterey. I’ve done athletic things before, but never anywhere near this scale. I’ve appreciated my recovery before, but it’s never been five years out, and I’ve never had the change to almost say “cured.” In Monterey, the perfect storm of opportunity created the chance to feel the full extent of the beauty that life had to offer in that moment.
Very few experiences are like the ones I get when I run long distances, such as in Monterey. I’ve begun to feel it most times I run over an hour or so. It’s a shame everyone can’t experience the feeling of being alive like this. I know that the people in whose honor I run would have loved to have this experience. I have it for them.
We may live each day, but only on very good days do we feel alive. May we feel that way every day.
On Saturday, May 12, we had our biggest and last major run before the Rock N Roll Marathon on June 3. This was 20 miles. Yes, that’s 20.
I was a little worried before the run. I had only run 14 miles as the longest, due to the injuries. I had asked the TNT coach his opinion, and that morning, he said, it would be best if I ran the full 20, if I was feeling well. So I did….
Luckily, the long run is in one of the most beautiful places in the world, starting in Monterey and continuing through Pacific Grove and down the area. We started in Monterey, near Cannery Row and along the water, seeing harbor seals and other animals….
Here, you run along paths for several miles through beautiful ice plants along the ocean….
And I met new friends along the way…..
(That was a mural on the history of the area along the run….)
For many miles we ran long the beaches past Pacific Grove, with incredible blue water….
And by Pebble Beach golf course along the water. Green fees for the low low price of several thousand dollars, no doubt….
It was a truly spectacular run. It really helped to run in this area.
Not that it was all great. I did run six miles more than I had ever run. I was fine, mostly, taking pictures and going along fine, until about mile 19, with about a half mile to go.
I didn’t take any pics at that time. I was sooooo ready for it to end. That last half mile was really tough.
But another great thing about this run – when you finish, you take a dip in the ocean.
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What I’ve learned is, very cold water on the legs help them to recover much more quickly. Professional athletes use ice baths after strenuous workouts all the time. So after this long run, we were encouraged to get into the water – northern California oceans are about 50 degrees, so just a little water is plenty.
Over all though, the last half mile can’t take away how great it was. It was really special.
One of my very good friends from many years back with whom I’ve kept up – Susan – told me recently that she was very proud of me for all I’m doing training for a marathon, being a recovering (recovered?) patient.
I thought that was very odd, for a couple of reasons. First, Susan herself has done a fundraiser/endurance event for Team in Training – she did the Treasure Island Triathlon in San Francisco in 2002, and at that time I was one of her honored patients in whose honor she ran. I saw her do it, and have a picture of the two of us just prior to the event.
Susan did an Olympic distance – no small feat herself. Training for a tri is very demanding, with many days twice daily training events. I was as much proud of her as she is me now.
The other reason I always find it odd for people to tell me how proud they are of me for how far I’ve come, is that I still feel like I haven’t gone through anywhere near what other people have gone through, who inspire me. I’ve already introduced you to two honorees, Doug and Carol. Another is Travis.
I’ve known Travis for several TNT seasons. He was a speaker at a recent honoree event, and it reminded me of what so many other people have gone through – are going through – will go through some day, without better treatments.
While in high school, Travis had a form of leukemia. He underwent chemotherapy, and went into remission. About 4 ½ years later, he relapsed. This time he had to have both radiation and a bone marrow transplant, after being lucky enough to find a bone marrow donor. The BMT required SIX MONTHS straight in isolation. He mentions that he had vomiting over 40 straight days while there.
But he made it to remission, and currently has no evidence of the disease himself. He has gotten married, and leads a healthy full life. He’s been both an honoree and a participant for TNT for several seasons.
Travis is a reminder of me of just one of the countless examples – ones whose stories we may not have heard – of people who have struggles that go beyond what we can comprehend. And right now, there are people in hospitals all around the country – Stanford, UCSF, MD Anderson, everywhere – who are going through similar or worse. I run in honor of all of them as well. The patients of all ages, parents, spouses, children, grandchildren, friends – all of whom struggle with this.
I used to feel like my story wasn’t as good as others, that other people have struggled more than me, and perhaps with the good outcome I had (no radiation, no BMT) that I wasn’t as meaningful a story as others.
Then I realized it – my story is a good story for participants to hear: my story symbolizes the hope that new treatments can change deadly diseases to ones with positive outcomes, that allow for cures. We need more stories like mine, and research that TNT funds can help make those happen. So I don’t feel as undeserving to be an honoree anymore.
On Saturday 4/30 we had our next long coached run, again in Portola Valley, the place from a few weeks ago with the killer hills, which I talked about here. I did 14 miles, the furthest I’ve gone so far.
I wish I had good things to say about this run, other than I made it. Since it was the same route I did before, I didn’t take any new pictures — you can see what it looked like at that previous post. I did have my pic taken this time by the Team in Training photographer. It’s below.
I actually look MUCH better in the picture than I felt at that time. That was about mile 13, after all the hills. It’s a brutal trail. It has some stretches of very very steep uphill, followed by some flat trails, then often a steep downhill. That’s like getting on a Stairmaster, putting it on 14 of 15, running until you can’t breathe, THEN trying to run on a treadmill. Very tough.
And the downhill was another matter altogether. As you can tell from the pic, I have very little in common with the typical 140 lb. Kenyan who wins marathons. Running downhill is tough on anyone’s knees, but especially if, like me, you weigh two hundred and xxxx-ty pounds. That’s a lot of pressure. So, if it was a fairly steep downhill, I would walk down the hill.
So I would try to run uphill, might make it all the way, then try to run a bit on the straightaway, stop if my lungs had given out, and then walking downhill. As you might guess, it was a very slow run, for me. Let’s just say, in the parlance of marathoning, that I almost had a Boston Marathon qualifying time (3 hours 21 minutes for my age) for the half marathon mileage, or 13.1 miles. But, it was more important to save the knees and get the benefit rather than make a quick time. The coach said that running 14 miles on these hills has the training benefit of many more miles that were flat, so it was good experience.
And perhaps more importantly, it hit me over the weekend – there’s just under five weeks left before my event on June 3. At first contemplating this I had a bit of flop sweat – am I really doing this? Can I do this? Have I trained enough? Should I do more miles than what’s being recommended?
The coach in an email reminded me what I already knew – I can do this, the program has me in good shape, and I’m already running better than I already have. Proof of that came Monday, 5/1 – I ran out by the Embarcadero near my office in San Francisco, along the bay by the Oakland – East Bay Bridge and Treasure Island, for about five and a half miles, in about 70 minutes. A great run, beautiful. I considered it a short easy run. Get this – I now think running for more than an hour is a short easy run. I must be crazy. Therefore, I’m ready to run a marathon.
One of the things that’s been fun about this training season, and having a busy travel schedule for work, is to be able to run in a lot of great locations around the country.
This week I was in Philadelphia for work. But I was able to keep up with my training schedule. I didn’t get pictures of the runs themselves, but I did run by the museum where “Rocky” ran up the steps. (I know I could have never did what Rocky did — when he celebrated at the top of the stairs, it was after about 50 steps up to the top. I wouldn’t be celebrating; I’d be passing out from a lack of oxygen from running stairs. Yowzah!)
But it was a great run — if you know anything about the city, I ran along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, past the museum area, and along that river running along the eastern side of downtown. It’s a beautiful area. I was much, much more impressed with Philadelphia than I thought I would be. It’s a very old, historic city, with a compact downtown and neighborhoods that were walkable and full of great architecture and history. (Having grown up outside of Dallas, and knowning nothing about Philadelphia except that Eagles fans throw snowballs with rocks in them at the Cowboys when they played there, I had difficulty with the concept of Philadelphia being the “City of Brotherly Love” — if they throw rocks at people they “love”, what do they do to people they hate? But I was charmed by the city. And no one threw rocks at me, although I didn’t advertise I was a long time Cowboy fan. I’m not stupid.)
Here are some pics — Philadelphia City Hall, with its great architecture; a view of City Hall from Kennedy Plaza, with cherry blossoms and tulips in bloom; the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall (and one with me in it, to prove I was really there).
I really liked Philadelphia.