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December 15, 2005

Other TNT News from the Marathon

Many of the TNTers who came here from the Mainland are back by now, and writing their own accounts of what happened that day. Besides the blogs Melathon and Martin's Marathon, which I had been following throughout my training, I came across these accounts on Technorati:


Posted by Keith at 05:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 13, 2005

Facing The Future Post-Marathon

Well, it's now two days after the marathon and I'm going through the "walking like a person twice my age" phase, walking stiff-legged. There are two things that I dread after a marathon or other long race...stairs and chairs. With elevators all around, I can easily avoid the former, but in my information technology job I can't avoid the latter. Getting in and out of my chair is now an monumental effort. Fortunately, though, this condition is temporary.

And I've been fielding questions around the office about my marathon, about how I did. When you talk to non-marathoners, I've noticed it doesn't matter much if you say you finished in 4 hours, 6 hours, or even 8 hours...you may as well have finished with the lead runners, judging from their reaction.

At the same time, I've been thinking about what to do next. I do see another Honolulu Marathon for TNT in my future. Maybe even as a mentor, putting the experience of seven marathons and a season of fundraising to use. And now, knowing what it takes to raise $1,600, I have the luxury of a year to prepare to fundraise again. I have a few ideas on what to do next time. Bottom line...there will be a sequel to this story.

Until the release of Not A Sprint II in July or August, though, I intend to keep this blog going on an occasional basis, looking for interesting bits about blood cancer research or about blood cancer patients who blog.

In fact, I found a blog on Technorati about a New York-based drummer, Lance Carter, who has played in many different bands. He has multiple myeloma and is currently undergoing an autologous bone marrow transplant.

And I'll also include some entries about running in general, as I try to prepare myself for the next challenge.

This is not the end, but only the beginning.

Posted by Keith at 07:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 12, 2005

Finishing Together

As a Christian, I believe that everything happens for a reason, and with faith good can come from even the most difficult circumstances.

Yesterday was a prime example. I went into the race with a set of goals. Although I didn't achieve the goal I started with, I nevertheless came away from it with a positive experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.

The first few miles went OK. I had a slow first couple of miles, but then as I passed Kapiolani Park my legs loosened up and I started trying to chase my 4:08 PR. By mile 11 or 12 I was about a minute behind my PR pace, with intentions to speed it up toward the end.

Then the difficulties began.

Just as I had passed the half-marathon mark, my iPod suddenly froze. I tried repeatedly to revive it by using the Menu & Select buttons together, but to no avail. Incidentally, it just happened that the song that my iPod died on was on Tim McGraw's recent hit, "Live Like You Were Dying." (I was able to get it working again...after I got my finisher's shirt at the very end.)

Maybe it was for a reason, because then I was able to hear every "Go Team!" and "Go Keith!" It's a weird experience to have your name on your jersey, and hearing people you've never met before cheer for you, by name, feels weird at first, but you get used to it. Often I'd respond in kind if I saw the person running the opposite direction with her name on her shirt.

I was able to keep a 9:30 pace until I reached Hawaii Kai Drive, and then I felt my right calf cramp, forcing me to slow my pace considerably. The cramp worked itself out after a mile (some pretzels from a spectator on the side helped considerably), but by then the damage had been done. I was forced to gradually slow down to a very slow jog, and exercise mind-over-matter, telling myself, "OK, next stop, Hawaii Loa Ridge. Can I make it to Hawaii Loa Ridge? Oh, yeah, I can make to Hawaii Loa Ridge..." Lather, rinse, repeat.

But one thing I decided I wouldn't do...walk. I knew from prior experience that once I stopped running I would have difficulty starting back up again. So I kept the slow survival jog going.

By the time I got to Kahala Avenue, I heard all the "Go Team!" and "Go Keith, you can do it!" cheers more often now. While earlier in the day I would have enthusiastically responded, "Thank you!" by the very end it was all I could do to utter, "Ugh, thanks..." I had reached what the Penguin had referred to as the "bite me" zone.

In any case, I somehow managed to make it up Diamond Head and over to the other side. With the entrance to Kapiolani Park on my other side, I heard a familiar "Go Team!" behind me. It was my teammates Brook and Heather, both first-time marathoners. Apparently they had had a better day than me or paced themselves a bit better, because they were behind me and caught up.

At that point, I pictured the three of us with hands raised in victory at the finish line. In the moment, I suggested, "Let's finish together." And somehow, the energy that I had lacked for half the race seemed to come rushing back, and temporarily my cramping legs loosened.

From there it was a blur. I resolved that I would bring these two young women across the finish line with me, even if I had to drag them over. With yards to go, we linked hands, and raised them over our heads as we crossed the finish line. We finished as a group, together, at 4:34:26 gun time. (Our chip times were all different, though.) There were hugs all around.

Never mind that I had finished over 20 minutes behind my PR. Besides, it was a 28 minute improvement over last year. And, witnessing two people finish their first marathons, and knowing I had a part in making that happen...I wouldn't trade that experience for the world.

(And I apologize, Heather...next time, I'll remember that when three people link arms, the middle person needs her arms to run too. I must have had a brain meltdown after 26.2 miles; forgive me.)

And the moment I stopped running, while I was walking from the finish line to the TNT tent, I could feel my quads swelling and cramping. Jen immediately sent me to the medical corner of the tent where the team doctor gave me my quads an ice massage. It made them feel ten times better.

I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon hanging out in the TNT tent, hearing and relating the stories of success and woe on the course. Apparently the hot weather caused quite a few problems for people; and not even the elite runners were immune. Jimmy Muindi, the eventual winner, finished some 45 seconds behind his record; Coach Jon had his slowest marathon in years, ending his 12-year streak as Kama'aina Award winner (first Hawaii-born resident); and nearly everyone I met had had some trouble in the heat. When I saw mentor Mike, he was in the medical corner too with ice packs elastic-strapped to his quads. But most everyone on the team finished...eventually.

I'm looking back on what I wrote in my "Reflections" entry on December 6, and I'm surprised at how accurate everything turned out. So much depended on the conditions, and it just turned out that I had drawn a very difficult set. But the feeling of finishing as part of a bigger group made this the best experience ever.

When the proofs of my finisher's photos are ready, I'm probably going to choose not to have it cropped that closely. I'd like to see myself finish with my teammates, because that team spirit was what made this marathon better than all the rest I've done. And I'd like to be reminded of that.

Posted by Keith at 08:22 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 11, 2005

And The Results Are...

From the Honolulu Marathon website:

Keith Higa #2945
of Kailua HI USA

10K: 00:59:23
Half Marathon: 02:05:01
30K: 02:59:47
Gun Time: 04:34:26
Finish Time: 04:31:33
Place Overall: 4685
Place Men: 3426
Place Men 30-34: 482

More details to follow later on, maybe tomorrow.

Posted by Keith at 03:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 10, 2005

Of Pasta and Penguins

T minus 7 hours and 30 minutes and counting.

I just came back home from the TNT pasta party at the Hilton, and with the energy I've absorbed from being there, I won't be surprised if I don't sleep tonight.

To give you an idea of what was there...the excitement began the moment we got to the Tapa Ballroom. The participants had to run a gauntlet of screaming and cheering TNT staff. Of course, among them was our ever-indefatigable Jen.

On the menu was the traditional carbo-loading menu...tossed salad, pasta salad, rolls, rice pilaf, and penne with either marinara or meat sauce. And the token protein item was stir-fried chicken with veggies.

But the fun really began once the Penguin took the stage. John "The Penguin" Bingham was the MC for the formal program, and I have to say that if ever Runner's World ever decides not to take his columns, he could have a promising career in stand-up comedy. His jokes played on many of the little foibles that runners have, but his serious portions reminded us of the purpose of all the training and fundraising that brought us there.

The heartstring puller of the night was the guest speaker, Danny Pite of the Oregon chapter, whose daughter Hannah lost her battle with leukemia despite chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. Danny told the story of how the Pite family came out here last year with the TNT team and gave Hannah her wish of coming to Hawaii. By then Hannah's condition was terminal, and she had only months. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house. And when his speech was finished, the crowd gave him a spontaneous standing ovation. Not one where one person stands, then another, until the whole crowd is on their feet. It's as if the entire hall, on cue, got on their feet.

It's speeches like that that really make you remember what you're doing this for.

This will be my final entry before embarking on my final 26.2 mile journey wearing the purple. It's been a long four months, and now it's all come down to this. In less than eight hours I'll be on the road. As I said two entries ago, I'll be doing my best and trying to set a new personal best, but even if I don't, all will be well. It's now up to me, the course, and God.

Tomorrow afternoon, my energy level permitting, I'll post at least a quick summary of what went on; at the very least I'll post my time and general impressions. A full report may not come until a few days later once I'm able to put the results in some kind of perspective.

Wish me luck, and I'll catch you on the flip side.

Posted by Keith at 08:33 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 09, 2005

Final Countdown

T minus 32 hours and counting.

As I usually do before the Honolulu Marathon, I took today off from work so I can give myself a long weekend. Mostly it's so I can give myself an extra day to take care of my marathon logistics so I don't feel rushed.

In the early afternoon I went ahead and picked up my race packet at the convention center, and spent the rest of the afternoon working the TNT booth over at the expo. Basically, we were selling TNT promotional merchandise and answering questions from behind the counter, so it was a pretty easy job. The most rewarding thing was seeing the people from all over the country visiting the booth...from various places in California, Oregon, Washington state, Alaska, Texas, and even one group from Michigan.

I guess it's a good time to point out that the marathon has a runner tracking system, where data from the ChampionChip timing system is transmitted to the Web server allowing nearly real time status. If you're curious as to how I'm doing in the marathon, go to www.honolulumarathon.org, follow the link for the runner search, and search for runner 2945.

Weather report for this Sunday calls for temps up to 70 at the start, but with moderate trades of 10-15 mph. Typical tradewind weather, and although that means I'll be fighting the wind going out, that will probably mean that I'll be that much cooler.

The carboloading is continuing, as I'm eating my traditional spaghetti meal tonight. And tonight I have to make sure I get a good night's sleep, as tomorrow night I won't be sleeping long, if I'm able to sleep at all.

Posted by Keith at 07:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 06, 2005


T minus 4 days and 8 hours, and counting.

The thing about taper week is having so much time on my hands and so much energy in reserve. I've been starting to work on my carbs even before I start fully carboloading. Yesterday I had tendon with a bowl of udon on the side for lunch, and chili and rice for dinner; today I had a donburi for lunch. And we had our last tempo workout before the marathon...3 x 4 minutes with 3 minutes recovery. I really needed that to bleed off the excess energy so I can sleep well at night.

With the excess time I've had, I've been spending a lot of it thinking about and visualizing my best marathon. I see myself running a well-paced race. Negative splits. With enough left to run the last 6 miles strong.

Yesterday, I wore the purple jersey and looked at myself in the mirror. And it surprises me to think that in a few short days I will be wearing this shirt and running my best marathon in my life so far. I know for a fact that it will be my best. Although I have had the best training in years, and am poised to run my best time in years, so much depends on the conditions.

However, I know this. I haven't had so much fun training in years. And being part of a cohesive group, training with a common goal even though we're all of different levels of ability, has really helped me. I've made many new friends and deepened some existing ones, and those will last for a long time. I'm starting this race in the afterglow of an significant accomplishment...exceeding a fundraising quota that at times seemed so insurmountable. And I'm looking forward to seeing all the TNT staff along the course. In my six previous marathons they seemed so ubiquitous...they were everywhere along the course, and the cries of "Go Team!" would energize even those not in TNT. Knowing that this year, they will be cheering for me, makes it even more special.

So even before taking a single step, I already know this will be my best marathon experience. And just thinking about that, mere time doesn't matter quite so much anymore.

But that doesn't mean I won't do my absolute best out there. Rather, I think I was probably putting too much pressure on myself in previous years and that was keeping me from doing my best. Knowing I'm a winner before toeing the line will probably bring out the best in me this time around.

So...sub-4, new PR, here I come!

Posted by Keith at 08:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 03, 2005

The Most Expensive Jacket & T-Shirt I Now Own

T minus 7 days and 10 hours, and counting.

So now it's official. The funds are in and I do in fact have my minimum.

The team met one last time for a 90-minute workout and Final Prep. It was a nice easy run with Kit, Victoria, and Christine, and we were chatting it up the whole way, up to the Diamond Head lighthouse and back. After having done 18 and 20 milers, doing nine miles seems like a piece of cake.

At about 7:30 after everyone got back, we went through our final prep meeting (which, probably not coincidentally, was the same time as San Diego's meeting; we gave a big "Aloha" shout-out to them). In our final prep packets were instructions that were obviously geared more to those who were coming to Honolulu from elsewhere. Only a few of us were staying at the Hilton Hawaiian Village; most of us would be coming from home. But most of the information was relevant and familiar...packet pickup at the Convention Center, and the pasta and victory parties at the Hilton.

Then afterward we met with Coach Jon who went over the basics of taper week...lots of rest, lots of carbs over the last few days, salt to prevent cramping, some tips to avoid the pre-race jitters.

In my final prep packet were two pieces of clothing, which I can honestly say are the two most expensive pieces of clothing I own...the purple jersey I'll be wearing on the 11th, and the purple and green Team San Diego/Hawaii jacket. In a sense, both of those items cost me $1,600. To me now, they are more precious than gold.

Now comes the challenge of trying to keep calm. In this last week, I feel like I've got an intravenous drip of caffeine in me, except without the caffeine. And part of the excitement I feel is that a sub-4 hour marathon is so close that I can taste it. I have to tell myself, I can do that, as long as I keep calm and do things right this week.

The countdown is on.

Posted by Keith at 07:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 02, 2005

I'm Over The First Finish Line! Part 2

T minus 8 days and 7 hours, and counting.

It's my firm belief that nothing happens by chance. And sometimes surprising things happen at just the right time that you need them. Some people call it serendipity, others call it divine intervention. Whatever you call it, it happened to me today.

So here I was last night, the day before my deadline, just a little less than $100 short of my goal, making some final appeals to people to give. Granted, I was much further along than being $600 short at recommitment, and I figured if necessary I would just write a check to cover the shortfall and be done with it. But something in me still wanted to be over the top come today. After cashing in some spare change at a CoinStar machine, and having received another donation from Andrew, I started the day just $50 short, tantalizingly close.

One person to whom I had sent a letter but who hadn't responded was my dentist, Dr. Chad. (That's what the office staff calls him, and I actually went to high school with him, so I just call him Chad...very rare for a person to be on a first-name basis with his dentist. But I digress.) I had originally had a dental cleaning scheduled for today, and I figured it would be the best time to ask him in person for a contribution. But because I had a conflict I rescheduled it earlier that week to Wednesday morning.

Unfortunately, Dr. Chad didn't work that Wednesday. But I brought up an issue with the hygienist...I had an irritation in the back of my mouth behind my last molar that was causing some bleeding. The cleaning itself went smoothly, some areas of gingivitis and some bleeding, but the hygienist was concerned about that back area and decided to schedule me to come in to see Dr. Chad. The earliest time slot... Friday, early morning, before the meeting that forced me to reschedule in the first place.

Fast forward to today. I came in and was seated in the chair. If I seemed a bit tense, it's because I was. I was working out in my head how best to ask him for a donation, perfecting my pitch in my head.

Turned out it wasn't necessary. He said when he first saw me, "I think I should give you this," handing me the self-addressed envelope from my fundraising packet. What could I say, other than "thank you"?

But the story doesn't end there. After my appointment, his dental assistant decided to gather some cash donations from the other staff in the office, and even a check from Dr. Chad's partner, Dr. Motooka, whom I had never met. One of the hygienists thanked me personally, since she had an uncle who died of leukemia; and my trusty dental assistant told me that she's a cancer patient herself, going through chemotherapy for colon cancer.

Like I said, what could I say? I went in there just hoping to get a small donation to the cause, and when I did the math later on, it turned out I had taken in $195. Dr. Chad himself donated $100. Nga, Verna, Robin, Nancy, Ellaine, and Dr. Motooka, thank you all!

And added on to the money I had so far, I'm now at a grand total of $1,748...almost $150 over my quota. I'm still on cloud nine, 'cause I've crossed the first finish line of my journey!

So now, once I turn in the funds to Jen tomorrow at final prep, I can finally concentrate on reaching the second finish line, the marathon itself. And that I should know how to do. And if I could raise that much, who knows? A new PR is definitely possible...maybe even a sub-4 hour? Anything is possible now.

Posted by Keith at 09:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

FLASH: I'm Over The First Finish Line!

Today is our final fundraising deadline for TNT, and if all my calculations are correct, I've made my minimum!

It's not yet official as I haven't yet turned in my funds to Jen, but if my math is right, I'm currently at $1,748. Almost $148 over my minimum, and the last $195 was made today!

More details to come when I get home.

Posted by Keith at 11:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack