I’m hoping to be able to blog periodically through the weekend, shorter messages than what I normally do, adding pictures when appropriate.
It’s now Friday evening, and I’m flying out of SFO to San Diego. We’ve been delayed for 2 hours, so I’m here in the boarding area…. Waiting….. I travel a lot for work so I know, you can’t get frustrated by travel troubles. Things are going to work out the way they’re going to, whether you get upset or not. So might as well just go with it.
I’ve been getting a lot of calls, emails, cards, and other messages from a lot of people wishing me support the last couple of days — family, friends, co-workers, It’s been terrific and I’ve really appreciated it, but it has also has had the effect of slowly making me a bit more nervous.
I’ve been finding myself a little antsy the last couple of days. Between the packing, and the messages of support, I’m realizing: It’s here. It’s coming. I’ve been thinking of doing one of these for years, and have been planning for at least a year mentally, and training the last 5-6 months. I know physically I’m ready as I’ll be, and I know it will be a good experience. But still…. The closeness of the event is getting to me.
Also, there’s the fear of the unknown. I’ve never done one of these, and I have never run more than 20 miles. I know from a training standpoint that I’m ready, but there are so many things that you hear about that could happen.
Finally, there’s the internal mind game that is coming back. There’s a part of me mentally that has kept me from doing a number of things in life, that is somewhat controlling, saying “You can’t do that. That’s not you.” I suppose in some ways in some things we all have that little voice, but for me it’s kept me from doing things outside my comfort zone, like athletic things.
I’ve been keeping it at bay for this training season, mostly because I’ve been so motivated and focused on the five year anniversary, and the fundraising, and knowing that the TNT program will take me through it. And none of that has changed. But the “You can’t”s have returned in the last couple of days.
This afternoon on the way home from work and before getting home, I finally broke through. I know I don’t have to let my own internal limitations keep me from enjoying the weekend, and appreciate all the good things that will happen this weekend. It’s like, it was the “You can’t”s last chance. And they’re not going to win this one. And, going full circle on this, the support of everyone reminds me that I can do it and I will enjoy it.
Enough psychobabble. I’ll get in pretty late into San Diego tonight, but will get a good night’s and morning’s sleep tomorrow. They say two nights before the marathon is the time to get lots of good rest, since it’s hard to sleep the actual night before, and marathon day provides a lot of adrenalin and starts very early.
OK, so this wasn’t a shorter message. Will keep you posted.
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.
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.
When I was in New York I felt some unusual pain in my left shin. Sure enough, when I got back, after my TNT coach looked at it, he diagnosed a shin splint injury. It was hard to walk for a couple of days, but it got progressively better that week with a break from the training, ice and stretching.
That Saturday April 14 was supposed to be a long coached run within Huddart Park in Woodside — 12 to 14 miles. With the injury, the coach told me to run only six, and do a lot of walking with the running, about 50/50. I got lucky, actually, since that day it poured — it started raining about in my last mile, and by the time I finished it was really bad. The other runners, who did at least an hour or so more than I did — really had a “character building” exercise.
I did take some pics — some hills, and the trail went past Highway 280.
Over the next few days the shin did well, and I progressed back into a normal schedule. On Tuesday April 17 I went to a track workout. We did laps around the track at the College of San Mateo. We did some speed work — nice to go all out. The shin felt fine.
Then…. The flu. I had been sniffling and ok earlier in the week, and then by Wednesday and Thursday it hit bad. I really didn’t get over it until Saturday, when I basically didn’t get out of bed all day. On Sunday April 22 I was feeling good enough to do six miles, but at about mile 5 I started having that flu-like lightheadedness, and walked most of the rest.
Off to Philadelphia for work all this week, and then this weekend another long coached run — 14 to 16 miles. Wish me luck.
On Saturday, March 31, we had our long coached run. It was at a local town in the hills on the SF peninsula west of Palo Alto, Portola Valley. It was to be a 10 – 12 mile run.
It started off okay.
Then we got to a turning point for the 10-12 mile trail. Note the soon to be ironic smiley face.
Here’s where things got interesting. As I knew from previous years as a volunteer, this training run had a lot of hills, going up trails in the area. I didn’t know how many or how intense. After the smiley face, we went up a hill.
And boy was it a hill. Check out the incline in the pic.
It was about 30 yards of fairly steep incline. The next pic is of people having traversed (walking mostly) the hill, and coming to the other side.
You’ll note there are no pics of me. The point of this run, along with understanding hills, was to build endurance. Most all the runs I’ve done so far had very few or minor hills. This one had about 6 or so miles of hills in it. So it kicked my behind, aerobically. No pics of me. Only a few pics overall, actually.
The other tough thing about the hills – going down. After several miles of steep declines, the knees start to hurt. They hurt through the entire remainder of the run, and into Sunday. Luckily it didn’t last, but it made the experience tougher.
I ended up missing the turn off for the 12 mile, but I ended up doing the 10 mile trail. They tell me it was actually 10.7 miles, by GPS. It felt really really really long.
Finally, at the end the last couple of miles were relatively flat, with only a few minor hills.
And at the end, I was able to notice the flowers along the trail. Being the week before Easter and spring is here, the lupines were blooming. I love lupines – my beloved Texas bluebonnets are in the lupine family, and the ones out here in CA look like them. I miss seeing the bluebonnets this time of year, covering entire fields in blue.
Finally I make it to the end of the run. It was really, really tough. The uphill part was bad aerobically, with the lungs burning; the downhill was very tough on the knees. I know it is good for me in the long run, so to speak, but it took a couple of days to get over.
Character building, I think they call it.
One of the challenges of my training this season is my work – I have an intense travel schedule this spring, so I’m working hard to keep up with the running while traveling. In previous weeks I wrote about running in Orlando and Denver. On March 28, I flew to Honolulu for a business meeting, and was to come back the next night on a red eye flight back to San Francisco. (I’ve made over 20 trips to Hawaii for work in the last five years. I’ve been able to enjoy some but mostly it’s work and not vacation fun.)
To keep from missing training, I’ve tried to run during every trip, either in the hotel gym or in the outdoors if I have a car. I arrived in Honolulu about 5 pm, went to the hotel, changed, and then drove to Ala Moana Park.
If you’ve been to Honolulu you might know the park – it’s right at the edge of downtown, between the downtown business district and Waikiki. It’s one of the largest urban parks in the US, and has its edge a very beautiful beach. I usually drive through it when I’m in the area, since even if I’m just working on this trip I can at least see a little sand and surf. It also has some nice ocean side trails, for about 3 ½ miles.
Just to prove I actually did it, I took some photos. The pics are a bit odd – I’m still trying to figure the best way to take pictures at night, and It was dark by the time I got there, so the yellowish night lights were on. But you can still make some of it out.
And, to top it off, I had time after I finished my meetings, and time before I left that night. So I went to the 24-Hour Fitness gym and did 45 minutes of elliptical cardio, plus some cross training, there. No pics of that, but I am proud of it.
Subtitled: The irony that is steroids in chemo to the overweight; or, Medication given for the side effect of medication given for the side effect of medication given for, etc.
The last posts here in the history section were about my discharge from the hospital after developing severe systemic infections and almost dying, and being started on the antibiotic “amphoterrible,” or amphoteracin, and enduring the side effects of that. While at discharge they had stopped giving me the amphoterrible, I still had one of the most difficult side effects – fluid-filled legs, the size of pineapples, and accompanying weight gain.
The fluid retention really wasn’t from the antibiotic, but from some of the medications to lessen the other side effects of the antibiotic. As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the major side effects of amphoterrible is really violent shakes and chills. I had that almost immediately on my first dose. So, to lessen that effect, when giving amphoterrible a whole slew of medications is given with it – IV fluids, pain medications, and others. Others they give are steroids. I was started on low doses, but they still had side effects of its own, in this case the fluid retention.
So, I was taking medication (steroids) to counteract the side effect (violent shakes) of the medication (amphoterrible) to counteract the side effect (systemic infections) of the medication (ATRA and other chemotherapy) for my leukemia (APML). Getting all this?
Of course, since I now had a new side effect from the steroids, the fluid retention and pineapple sized legs, I had to have more treatment, including, you guessed it more medication. I was started on diuretics.
Ready? I was now on:
- medication (diuretics)
- given to counteract the side effect (fluid retention) of
- medication (steroids)
- given to counteract the side effect (violent shakes) of
- medication (amphoterrible)
- given to counteract the side effect (systemic infections) of
- medication (ATRA and other chemotherapy)
- given to treat my leukemia (APML).
Truly, a case of cause and effect gone berserk.
I must admit, having water retention and weight gain as a side effect of having a form of cancer was, for me, oddly disappointing. I’ve been heavy on and off most of my life, going through Star Jones-like swinging periods of obesity to being mildly overweight to (very occasionally) a modicum of thinness. Easy to say, most of my life I’ve been mild to moderately overweight at a minimum. I’ve gone from being a lifetime member of Weight Watchers happily at goal weight to returning later, tail between legs, to attempt to get back to goal weight. I’ve considered myself someone who has a compulsive eating disorder (but having looked at super-sized families at theme parks I know I’m not alone in this). I have stopped and started and stopped running programs in the past so many times that I’ve probably already run enough to train for a marathon, quarter mile out of breath jogs at a time. But after a couple of months the lure of eating takes over, which gets me out of an exercising frame of mind into one of Cheetos on the couch. (This time I think I’m ok for the long haul with the TNT program.) To this day, I bristle when anybody calls me “Big Guy.” I know they don’t really mean anything by it, but it’s not a term of endearment to me. So when you see me and feel the need to call me that, consider yourself warned.
So, with that, some of my first thoughts after first being diagnosed with leukemia on that night before Christmas 2001 might not seem as odd. That night, one bit of comfort was that, assuming I lived, I’d become a Nicole Richie-esque thin cancer patient, and perhaps I could keep it off. And if I didn’t make it, I’d be thin on the way out.
Morbid? Sure. But that night was a morbid kind of night overall.
That’s why having fluid retention was such an irony. As my brother-in-law Rex said, “Leave it to me to find a way to gain weight going through chemotherapy.” I now know that giving steroids to chemo patients and their side effects are fairly standard, but not knowing that at the time, it was a bit of an ironic disappointment.