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:
- Amy's journal: If I'm not mistaken, I actually crossed paths with her at the Expo when I was working the TNT booth with Nancy. She had only trained for a half-marathon, only to arrive here in Honolulu to find that we had only a full marathon. She did decide to do the whole thing...and finished. Way to go!
- Write Enough from TNT Los Angeles
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.
December 12, 2005
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.
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.
December 09, 2005
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.
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!
October 06, 2005
Stepping Up to the Plate(let)
As I mentioned when I discussed the National Marrow Donor Program in a previous entry, I'm a regular blood donor at the Blood Bank of Hawaii. I think at last count I've given three gallons (24 units) over the past ten years. And I keep getting called back.
There are three reasons why I seem to be such a popular person with the BBH recruitment staff. One, I have O positive blood, the universal donor, which is always in high demand. Second, my blood is CMV negative, which means that it has special applications in treating immune-suppressed patients and very young babies. And third, I also have a rare blood type (to the tune of one in about 10,000 people) that is also in demand. Put those together, and I really should have a standing appointment with them every eight weeks.
But often I don't, and it's partly because of the way my body reacts to a whole blood donation. Actually, everything is fine when I donate; I hardly ever bruise, and my veins are in good shape. It's what happens afterward. I find that it sharply reduces my oxygen capacity to the point where a hard workout leaves me short of breath, and it takes me a couple of weeks to fully regain my ability to run hard.
So when they called me in a week or two ago, I decided, for practical training reasons, that I'd try giving platelets instead of whole blood. They transferred me to the apheresis department, where they gave me the lowdown on platelet donation and why it's also important.
Basically, platelets are needed mostly by cancer patients (and blood cancer patients in particular), whose own platelets are often destroyed by chemotherapy, and most definitely during bone marrow transplants. It takes six whole blood donors to produce enough platelets for one dose. One donor going through the apheresis process can produce the same amount, in a little more time.
So I went through the process on Wednesday. I answered the standard questions that need to be answered every time any blood components are donated, and was escorted to the apheresis unit of the blood bank.
One thing that I noticed right away is how comfortable they make you feel. After all, you've got a needle stuck in you, and as a result you can't really move much for about 45 minutes to an hour, so you're basically treated like a king or queen. They're quick to give you blankets when you get chilled (which is part of the process).
I was especially struck by the state-of-the-art machine that was used to separate out the platelets. It's all computerized...punch in my size and estimated platelet count and it calculates about how long I'd have to stay attached to the machine to get the necessary amount of platelets. From there it's all automatic...the machine draws the blood, centrifuges it, separates out the platelets, and sends it all back, all through the same needle. It took a while for me to get used to the machine and pump out enough blood to keep up with it, but soon got the hang of it.
In all, I spent about half an hour on the machine, doing some reading and listening to music while the machine was doing its thing. And then, it was over. And it felt good.
I was even able to run a light workout that day with no ill effects.
This might become a habit for me. Yet another way to help cancer patients. I'll definitely go back to giving whole blood when the season is over, but platelets are definitely a viable alternative. I'll definitely do it again.
September 10, 2005
Generosity That Goes Clear to the Marrow
Along with the $100 in donations that came in on Thursday was a 5" x 8" postcard reminding me of a commitment that I made more than a decade ago. Although I've never had to follow through on my commitment (one time I came very close...more in a minute), I still remain committed to it today.
It was from the National Marrow Donor Program, thanking me for being a committed donor, and reminding me that, "As a volunteer marrow donor, you offer a patient a second chance at life. If you ever match a patient in need of a transplant, we will need to get in touch with you right away." I remember that a few years ago they used to send eight-page full-color glossies that had articles on successful bone marrow transplants. I guess now with rising costs and privacy laws, that become impractical.
But anyway, a little bit about the NMDP. In the past, bone marrow transplants were effectively limited to those who were lucky enough to have matches in their families. The NMDP changes all that. Started back in 1987, the NMDP has facilitated more than 20,000 bone marrow transplants for patients with no matches in their immediate families. They maintain a database of the tissue types of more than 5.5 million people, and manage the whole matching process from patient request to donor identification all the way to post-transplant.
I first joined the registry in 1994 at Lewis & Clark, when I was a member of a college service club. We were in charge of the quarterly blood drives on campus (that was also where I first gave blood, which led to several gallons more...more on that in another entry). At one blood drive, our student government offered to pay the tissue typing fee for up to 100 donors, so I was one of those that took advantage of it. It was easy...just a few extra vials of blood on top of my one-pint donation. No muss, no fuss.
And other than receiving the full-color glossies once a year, I didn't think much about it.
Until July 24, 2001, when the Red Cross blood bank in Portland called me, saying my tissue type was a potential match for a young child (an infant girl, I would later find out). My records were transferred from Oregon to the Hawaii Bone Marrow Donor Registry at St. Francis Medical Center, and I was taken care of by the staff over there. They answered my questions, and drew a few more additional vials of blood to be sent to be tested.
In the end, however, three months later I found out that my tissue was not as good a match as they had hoped, and the process ended there for me.
Later, I'll update this entry with some entries from my old journal, to give you an idea of what was going through my mind then. It's interesting for me to re-read and re-experience how I felt. In the entry in which I worked through the rejection, I did say, "Maybe next year I'll join Team in Training." Well, "next year" was four years in coming. And, now that I think about it, I think I did attend an information meeting back in 2002, but was scared off by the fundraising commitment. But here I am in 2005, raising money and training for the Team.
That's probably why receiving that postcard in the mail held special significance this year. One day I'll probably be called again, and perhaps that time I'll find my way to the operating table. But for now, training with TNT will do.
September 03, 2005
I Can't Put It Down
I've been blogging for a while, and have found some neat tools. There's a tool called Technorati that searches blogs to find posts that meet your criteria, and they serve up the freshest ones it can find. I found quite a few from people who are also doing Honolulu:
- Melathon from a young woman in San Jose
- Martin's Marathon from a man in Scotts Valley, California
- Sacrificing Myself for the Kids from a man in Troutdale, Oregon
But one blog in particular that found this way, I cannot put down. I'm reading it cover to cover and I suggest you do the same. Leukemia, Eh!? chronicles a young Canadian college student's fight against leukemia. Right now, he's recovering from a bone marrow transplant (and at one point thought about doing TNT in Honolulu but his current health wouldn't allow; that's how I found it in the first place). However, I suggest you start reading from November 2004 and read each entry, which chronicles his chemotherapy, lumbar punctures, bone marrow biopsies...the whole works.
August 26, 2005
Thought I'd share this poem from the blog of Linda Oosawhe, who is fighting thyroid cancer. Advances in leukemia and other blood cancer treatment have also helped the fight against other cancers, and thus can help people like Linda as well.
August 18, 2005
You Learn Something New Everyday
The exciting new treatments being developed for blood cancers are a perfect example of just how our fundraising efforts are helping others. Back in 1865 the first effective use of chemotherapy to treat a malignant disease was recorded. It was used to treat chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).
Notice the date...1865. At first, I thought it was a typo, that they had meant to write 1965. Chemotherapy, I thought, was advanced medicine, and I thought that it was discovered in the 20th century.
So, I called them on it, and it turns it wasn't a misprint, that leukemia was known since 1845, and that the forerunner of modern chemotherapy was...are you sitting down?...arsenic. Yes, arsenic. Rat poison. And apparently it worked well enough that it was used for many years, until advances in modern medicine rendered it unnecessary.
From what I understand, though, chemotherapy is pretty toxic in itself, so I can see how arsenic could have done its thing...killing the cancer cells (and some healthy cells as well).
Like I said, you learn something new everyday. And it makes you think about how much medical research has improved the treatment of cancer in general and leukemia in particular.
August 11, 2005
Strap on those running shoes, as the winter season of Team in Training has begun.
Tonight was the kick-off meeting for Team in Training at Dole Cannery, where we got our first taste of what was to come for the next four months. Chapter Coordinator Jen McVeay rallied the troops with a stirring opening speech, afterward leaving us to our fearless training leader, Jonathan Lyau, who laid out our training schedule for the first few weeks.
With all the preparatory work that I've been doing, I guess I'm ready to tackle the Advanced Run schedule, though my mileage doesn't seem to be quite up there yet. It assumes I'm running 25-30 miles a week, when right now I'm at about 15-20 miles total, 3-4 times a week. I might put a few shorter Intermediate workouts in there to help ease the transition. But we'll see.
And I found out earlier in the week that one of my friends, who did Team in Training back in 2002 and is a mentor this year, is my mentor.
I really should mention something about Jackie, since she truly is a model for persistence in the face of adversity. She's about three to four years younger than me, and trained diligently for her first marathon in 2002. But shortly thereafter, she experienced irregular heart rhythms that ultimately led to her needing a pacemaker. Since then, she has steadily recovered, and plans to do not one, but two marathons this fall: the Nike Womens Marathon in San Francisco as well as Honolulu.
Now that's a great recovery. And so far she's been incredibly helpful and encouraging. We went over the first draft of my fundraising letter, and the main thing she wanted me to do with my page-and-a-half letter was cut it down to one page. Oops. I guess when I really get into something, I'll go on and on about it when I'm writing.
So, the fundraising machine is almost ready to roll. I've set an initial goal to raise $100 a mile, $2,620 total...I wonder if it's realistic. It certainly feels like a stretch, since I can't even remember when I last fundraised like this. I hope I'm up to it.
The first training session is Saturday. Let's roll!