Thursday, July 23, 2009

Grab some tissues, trust me

The link above will take you to a touching story about a young cancer patient getting to meet his favorite sports team through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Although Team In Training and the Make-A-Wish Foundation are not affiliated, we have a very similar purpose. I implore you to read the article underneath the video, written by Ian's father, Shane Gregory, who articulates exactly what we try to do for these families - give them a means for some comfort during the difficult time when their loved one is going through treatment.

My favorite excerpt from the article is: I know this day is supposed to be about Ian, but it was also great for me as his Dad. With what we've been going through it was great to see him in a situation where he was getting attention from people other than doctors and nurses. It was great to see my little boy out there running drills and plays with the Cowboys. His favorite part was getting to do the fumble drills and closing out practice with Cowboys' head coach Wade Phillips.

I know I mainly talk about the aches and pains of my training in this blog, and quirky stories that go with my experiences with the team, but the truth of the matter is - I am running to raise money to help find a cure and help support patients and their families dealing with blood cancers. Families, just like the Gregory’s.

On a brighter note - make sure to watch Ian's face after he hugs his second Dallas Cowboy's Cheerleader. There is a noticeable glint in his eye that makes his whole face sparkle.. I wonder what could have caused ;0)

Monday, July 20, 2009

So how do you like you start your birthday off?

For me, I like to wake up at 5:45 am, eat a small bowl of oatmeal with honey, put on some spandex pants and a dry fit tee-shirt, miss the call from my ride because I (like a genius) turned my ringer off the night before so I wouldn’t be woken up from all of the midnight birthday wish text messages, frantically call my ride back when I realized what happened, and, then, finally head off to the National Mall and run 8 miles. I think I should stick to the traditional ritual of: 1) blow out candles, 2) eat birthday cake, and 3) sit on butt while people bombard you with gifts, instead.

This society is amazing. I know I have said this before, but if you have ever contemplated doing a marathon (triathlon, miles long bike ride...) sign up to do it with Team In Training. They always seem to have some way to motivate us each week – whether it is an inspirational story, a new volunteer idea/ opportunity, picnic, or bringing in a professional photographer to snap some shots for us to use in our running blogs (*cough, cough – focus of blog entry…). Unfortunately, my Old Lady knee is prominently pictured in the shot he got of me – which was right around the 6.5 mile mark, as Jess and I made out way around the WWII Memorial. Two seconds before this was taken I spotted our photographer and let Jess know to wave and smile for the camera. I believe her exact words at the moment of capture were, “Ha, ha, what?” Net effect – she looks like she is looking lovingly at me (Sorry Jess!). I do give her thanks though, I had to stop and stretch out my knee a few times – it definitely was not liking something about that day, so I was taking things extra slow. She stayed with me the entire way.

Although I get up at, what I deem, unheard of hours on Saturday mornings – it always shocks me when I see other people – not associated with the Team – out there either running or sightseeing before 7 am. People, what’s WRONG with you? Sleep in for crying out loud. It’s your weekend, spend it in bed like a normal person! This was no exception. About a mile into the run, we run into the folks who are lined up, literally, around the block to get up to the top of the Washington Monument, and have to continually side step around them. Typically, to keep with the American road etiquette, I like to pass on the left of people (who like to walk, molasses slow, in a group of 5 wide, wearing the same outfit) when I run by them - notifying them by yelling out a friendly but firm, “On your left.” I also like to give people the benefit of the doubt that they will then know their right from their left – and which way to step in order to let me pass. I now am more aware, however, that around tourist season I need to hesitate just a touch longer then I typically would. I blame it on them being so overwhelmed by our amazing capital that they have, temporarily, forgotten directional cues. Temporarily.

This past weekend’s run was again at Fletcher’s, and passed with nothing much to note. My knee much preferred 10 miles to 8…so fickle. It may have been more of a mental thing since I love trail running, so much more so then city running. Something about running through a tube of foliage makes it more enjoyable then bopping around the city streets. I was, unfortunately, unable to stay for the cookout TNT was putting on for us after the run (hotdogs and hamburgers at 10:00 am?! Why, of course – that’s an excellent idea!...barf!) – I had a final to prepare for. However, my class is now completed (YEAH!!!!!!!!!) and I am free and clear to stay as long as I want without the threat of homework looming over my head on Saturdays. Can’t tell you how good that feels. My true summer has finally arrived, just in time for August!

To finish, let me take some time during this blog to THANK all of you who have donated to me so far. Through these hard economic times, it means just that much more to me and the people who benefit from the funds raised through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society that you gave what you had.

- Konah, buddy, first one to give to my fundraising! You are definitely a #1 “Star” all the way! Once that leg is healed, let’s get you out there training for something and whip you in shape for the wedding.
- Derek, looking out for your younger sis’ all the time. Not sure what I’d do if you didn’t have my back throughout the years!
- Joan, miss you out there this year! Let me know if you have some time to get in a weekday run together – and, I haven’t forgotten that I still need to come in and see you for an evaluation!
- Jason, I miss your smile and laugh! I chuckled when summer rolled around this year and thought of what you do to your poor Maine Coons. Such torture ;). Where is the new office – lunch, soon, please?!
- Laura, I still have, and consequently have not watched, your copy of “Chariots of Fire.” It’s a lost cause…I can’t stay awake during it. I think you need to come visit DC so that I can give it back to you J
- Dibs! I haven’t randomly run into you in awhile. Let’s make sure to randomly, on purpose, do that soon!!!
- Ranga, it is such a blessing to work with such wonderful people like you. I’m so glad I made the switch!
- Mom, sorry you didn’t win the car…love you for supporting me through whatever crazy new thing I’ve gotten myself into though!
- Anonymous, well you know who you are, and I can at least narrow you down to one of 359 of my closest friends, family and co-workers on Facebook. Although you have kept your identity secret, please know that I was extremely shocked and pleased to see that my simple request was answered in such a grand fashion! Not an hour after I posted, “If I raise 500.00 more bucks by this Friday - my coach comes to practice in an embarrassing costume...what'd ya say? Donate!” you graciously donated the full $500, leaving me to stand in front of my computer screen, close my eyes and proclaim, “Okay, now I want an all expense paid trip to Maui with a hot, extremely intelligent, swimsuit model.” That one went unanswered, apparently if I don’t post it on Facebook, I don’t “fish my wish.”

Whether I know who you are, or you are clouded in mystery – THANK YOU. The smallest amount can make the world of difference in someone’s life. You are rockstars in my book, and I am so grateful to have you in my life.

Newest Running Song Obsession (THROW BACK to 2002):
NSYNC - Girlfriend Remix

Monday, July 13, 2009

So much time and so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it.

The picture to the right is of me and a few of my amazing teammates from this year’s Honored Teammate Picnic held at Fletcher’s Boat House a couple weeks back. Why anyone thought it was a good idea to take a group shot AFTER we had run 5 miles, on what was a rather hot morning, is beyond me. Thankfully the shade and my amazing Picniking skills have toned down the after effects for the most part. I am going to have to start training folks to snap shots prior to the run instead of this afterwards nonsense. ;)

Meeting for the Honored Teammate Picnic means many things. First, it means that all of the teams - Run, Tri, and Cycling from Maryland, Virginia and the District – meet and train from the same location at the same time, something that doesn’t happen again all season. Second, it’s an opportunity to bring along your friends and family to meet your fellow participants, mentors and coaches and partake in the sweet spread the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society put out [a cornucopia of fresh fruit (bananas, oranges, apples, watermelon…), muffins, bagels, peanut butter, donuts, coffee, tea, juice, water] to say “Thank you,” to us for being a part of Team-in-Training (as if we needed one…). Finally, it’s a chance for us to hear personal stories from individuals who are going through/ have gone through treatment for these blood cancers and are in remission, giving our training a human perspective instead of just a statistical fact. Sure, it’s shocking to hear that:

An estimated 139,860 people in the United States will be diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma in 2009. New cases of leukemia, Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma and myeloma account for 9.5 percent of the 1,479,350 new cancer cases diagnosed in the United States this year (Facts and statistics from Leukemia, Lymphoma, Myeloma Facts 2009-2010, June 2009).

But meeting someone who is part of that statistic, someone who went into doctor’s office one day and came out completely changed, someone who sought after answers and was able to find the support and information needed through the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society – that sticks with you so much longer then a statistic. I bet that you, having read it only a few seconds ago, would not be able to tell me what the estimated number was for the people in the US who will be diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma this year without glancing above. (Did you have to look?)

Although quite a few people spoke that day, the most memorable story came from one man, a father in his middle to late 30’s. He was one of the last people to go. I had been standing almost next to him during the previous speeches, but didn’t notice him until he walked up to the bullhorn, picked up his little daughter and began to speak. He took a second to get started, mostly because his daughter, who looked to be around 3 or 4, awkwardly buried herself into his right shoulder, hiding her face away from the massive crowd that was intently listening (with all of those eyes on her, I didn’t blame her for a little stage fright). My heart dropped, “Wow, this beautiful little curly haired girl almost grew up without a father,” I thought, “how terribly sad.” I, of course, thought about what it would have been like to grow up without one of my parents. Couldn’t (and still can’t) even imagine it. They were there for/ with me through everything: school plays, sporting events (and although I know how much they “loved” those cheerleading competitions, they were there videotaping, every, single, one), birthdays, bad grades, good grades, all national and religious holidays, vacations, punishments…the list could go on and on, and being such, I go back to – I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without one or both of them.

Then, he began to speak. “This is ____________, and she has been in remission now for a year.”

Wow, this father almost grew up without a beautiful little curly haired girl. Now switch everything I said before. My parents would have had no school plays to attend, no grades to celebrate or work on, no punishments to dole out, no need to purchase all those Barbie dolls and Barbie doll accessories during holidays, vacations sure would have been different (and, for their sake, maybe a bit more fun – “Mom! Dad! He’s touching me AGAIN!” Is only cute and funny when seen from a far and not said, in repetition, during an 18 hour car trip to Orlando, Florida.)…and the list could go on and on.

After ____________ father was done speaking, he took her down to the boats, and let her play on the water with her older sister. Something that she is able to do because she was diagnosed early and given the right treatment with advancements that were not available just 10 years ago.

That’s what is so amazing about this day. People you would have never expected, people who are running out there on the trail with you every Saturday, get up and share their personal story. Knocks you down a peg and gives you some real perspective.

On an unrelated note, I have been terrible about following up and asking for donations this season. My summer school schedule, switching jobs, physically training for the marathon, and keeping some semblance of a social life has drained my free/ get-important-stuff-done time like no other. After July 20th I will hopefully be better at putting together some Happy Hours and other assorted fund raisers. I am not going to hit my minimum goal of $3,800.00 by just wishing it to appear, that’s for sure.

Knowing that fundraising is one of the scariest and hardest part of our training, team-in-training set up a chance for us to volunteer at the recent
AT&T Golf Tournament that Tiger Woods put on in Bethesda, MD, and have a part of the proceeds made donated to our fundraising. I jumped at the chance, anything for an opportunity to eat away at some of my goal! I took the early shift on July 4th, along with my mentor, Kristy (pictured above), a few other lovely ladies and a TNT gent. Kristy was nice enough to allow me to carpool with her and since it was an 8:00 am call time at our concession stand, that meant a pick-up time of 6:45 am to allot enough time to park the car, hop on the shuttle bus to head over to the golf course, and get to our check-in table. All sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. A series of unfortunate events occurred, making us an hour plus late to our check-in – though, I have to say, rarely have I had such a good time getting lost before 8 in the morning.

Unfortunate Event # 1) Kristy gets lost coming to my apartment. It was bound to happen – stick someone who doesn’t normally drive in the city on the road, and one wrong turn/ missed exit later…you have one lost driver. Zipcar…GPS…in all cars…soon, please?! Thanks.

Unfortunate Event # 2) The shuttle bus driver fails to mention he is making two stops, and we pile out at the wrong gate. This was the most unfortunate of all the events that occurred that day. Had the driver cocked his head towards us and said, “Hey, you sure you don’t need to be dropped off at the back entrance instead?” our morning would have gone much, much differently.

Unfortunate Event # 3-6) No one seems to have any clue where we need to go, or who we should contact in order to find sed information. (I should pause the story a second to interject that we were explicitly told NOT to bring our cell phones with us. It was against the rules for volunteers, and being the good girls we are, Kristy and I followed that rule and were punished accordingly.) So we zigzag through out the main entrance area for the next 30 minutes until we finally have a break through and find a sister tent of the tent we are supposed to be at and talk to the lady in charge. “Oh yeah, that tent is waaaaaaay on the other side of the golf course. Hold on, oh there’s another Team-in-Training guy – follow him.”

Unfortunate Event # 7) That other TNT guy she pointed out to us had no clue where he was going either. *Sigh*

Fast forward another 30 or so minutes, and we have now covered most of golf course, on foot, because we are getting told contradicting information from everyone “in the know.” It wasn’t an ideal situation however I was enjoying the walk immensely. The grounds of the course were beautiful (would Tiger play on anything less?) and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get out and see everything (with the added benefit of being sans hundreds of beer guzzling people) had I not gotten lost early in the morning. Plus, it was kind of thrilling to walk on the same green the celebs would be walking on later.

Fortunate Event #1) We are introduced to “The Skull,” a war vet who has been working the tournament a few years and truly does know the inner workings of the place. “Man, I told those people they were bad with communication earlier in the week. All of you volunteers are getting lost. Doesn’t look like they got any better now, does it?” (So we weren’t the only ones? Whew!). “The Skull” [whose real name escapes me, but with a nickname like “The Skull” who needs to be called anything else? (and yes, we got the back story to the nickname – though I have deemed it inappropriate for this “family oriented” blog.)] was kind enough to give Kristy, myself, and lost TNT boy (David) a lift to our destination, bringing me to…

Fortunate Event #2) I got to ride on the back of my very first golf cart! (and “The Skull” doesn’t go slow either) Seeing as how the cart was a bit on the small side, we let David take the passenger seat, and we hopped up on the back. White knuckling it, we drove straight through the different golf greens (read: rolling hills), and around the side patches (read: wooded area), getting some pretty spectacular views as we went. I’m thinking of getting a golf cart just for around the neighborhood – they are so peppy!

After, finally, arriving at our destination, I spent the next six and half hours working the cash register and doling out hotdogs, pulled-pork sandwiches, soda and beer to a thong of hungry golf watchers. (*Scary realization of the day – someone who was born, on this day, in 1988 can buy beer legally in the United States. 1988. Good night, I felt so old when I first realized that.) The day went by fast, and I even stayed an extra hour to help out since we were so busy. Although I got a few strange looks from others when I agreed to stay longer, I was rewarded handsomely for my sacrifice. Our tent was situated right in between the 6th and 7th hole. I didn’t have much time during the work day to check and see how everything was going, so I was clueless as to where anyone famous was at any point. I would sometimes ask my customers for an update, but they would throw some “foreign language” golf jargon at me as I stared blankly back, nodding and smiling with no comprehension of what I was being told. So coming out of the tent, I had no idea why so many people were lined up on the hill, intently staring off to the left. And there he was…Mr. Woods himself, finishing up on the 6th hole. The difference between seeing him live and seeing him on T.V. – you realize how absolutely jacked he is. I had no idea a golfer needed that much upper body strength. I had a great view of everything, and laughed a little to myself since I had just stumbled across this sighting, whereas many others had been waiting at this hole for hours, hoping to catch a glimpse of Tiger. I left shortly afterwards to shower the smell of BBQ off of me and rest up for other festivities later that evening. But, oh what an amazing day.

A huge thank you to Team In Training for setting that up for us! We don’t know how much we will each get yet (should be up in a couple weeks), but, again, anything to eat away at my goal is good enough for me!

I think I have made this blog entry long enough! I’ll try to stay on top of it more so that you all aren’t reading a novel each time. (Thank you to all those who asked, “I keep checking your blog. When’s your next entry?” – it shows me you are keeping up with my progress and motivates me to update my status!)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Let's Get Physical, Physical, I Wanna Get Physical

Ah, the classics never die.

So as I mentioned in my last blog, my knees have been really bothering me since I completed my ½ marathon back in late May. Bothering me to
the point where I have been “resting” during the week (not walking up and down the metro escalators like I usually do, wearing flip flops 24/7…even in the office…, keeping my left knee constantly wrapped, etc., etc.) and not completing the necessary mileage for training during the week. I sometimes feel like I have an 80 year old man living inside of me. I mean, what 27 year old complains about how painful it is to get out of bed in the morning or how they don’t want to bend down or try to stand up from a low seated position? Me, that’s who. I had made an appointment to see a Physical Therapist back on June 1st (thank you for the recommendation Gideon), but they couldn’t schedule me in until Wednesday, June 24th. Apparently lots of people are crippled in DC. So in I walk last Wednesday, shake hands with my new P.T., Matt, and get down to business. He pops me up on the exam table and starts poking around.

Matt: Does this hurt?
Me: Well, no.
Matt: Does it hurt when I do this?
Me: Nope.
Matt: How does this feel?
Me: Ah, just fine actually.

“I’m such a fraud,” I kept thinking. It’s just like all of those times I have made a doctor’s appointment when I really and truly was sick, to show up with absolutely no symptoms, swearing up and down I spent the last two days in bed. *Sigh* He does a few more things, which mostly entail bending and stretching my legs in different directions, and then asks me to sit up. He explains that my legs, especially my IT band area, are quite tight and I have some muscles that are underdeveloped, which is probably causing my gait to turn inwards, putting an off balanced pressure on my knees. Multiply that with high mileage, and badda bing, my knees start to hurt. It’s kind of like being pigeon-toed, only I’m pigeon-kneed. With sneakers off, I stand flat footed on the ground so that he can check my arch and again points out that my inward turned knees are apparent even in my typical posture. How have I not realized this before? Inward turned knees – never would have guessed.

I wanted to chat with Matt a little bit about running shoes while I was there since I was passed due for a new pair. The weekend before, after our team run, I headed into Georgetown Running Company with the TNT folks to check out their stock of women’s running sneakers. The problem is, each time I go to get fitted for sneakers at a running store I hear a different story, making me skeptical that they actually know what they are talking about. I knew the shoes I had been using were not only past their mileage, but a completely wrong fit for me (I actually threw them out as soon as I got home to make sure I never used them again). I was desperate for a new pair, but everything I put on that day didn’t feel right. Truthfully, the day went downhill as soon as they measured my foot:

Sales Girl # 1: Okay. You’re a size 4 and half.
Me: In men’s sizes?
Sales Girl # 1: No. In women’s sizes.
Me: What!?!? That has to be wrong. Measure it again.”
Sales Girl # 1: No, it’s still…
Me: (cutting her off) Okay, measure the other one.
Sales Girl # 1: Let me get…hey, (Sales Girl # 2), what does this measurement say?”
Sales Girl # 2: 4 and half.
Me: Oh, for crying out loud.

Who wants to buy shoes from a store that clearly has broken equipment? ;)

Matt ended up recommending the shoe that I had picked out for myself before ever going to a professional – the Saucony Progridtm Omni 7 Moderate W – and I bought them off line to avoid any additional unnecessary embarrassment.
I absolutely love this shoe.

The only thing I hate is that they keep coming out with a new and “improved” model each year. I have to learn to buy running shoes in bulk. This shoe is good for people who are moderate over-pronators and would like a combination of cushioning and enhanced stability. Although I will swear by this shoe for myself, the Rules of Thumb for buying running sneakers are:

1. One size does NOT fit all. Make sure you get the right shoe for your foot;

2. Never, ever base your purchase on color, only fit. Who cares if they are neon green with purple stripes? Trust me, when you are out on the trail, in your third hour of running, you won’t notice or care what color they are, but you sure will notice and care that your feet/ ankles/ knees hurt;

3. If you are going to run long distances (8 miles and above) on a regular basis, be sure to buy a shoe that is ½ - 1 full size bigger then you normally purchase. (Disregarding my last experience, I now feel like a regular person when I go to buy running shoes. “I’ll take a size 6 please!”)

*** I do highly recommend the Balega Running Sock line though (pictured left). They are expensive (average is probably 10 bucks a pair) but well worth the cost. I don't run in anything else now.***

After completing some painful stretches and exercises, Matt cleared me to run that weekend and gave me some homework to do before I saw him again. Like a good student, I only missed one day of homework, and by the time I saw him next, I was already feeling better. I had run twice – once on Saturday and once on Sunday – my knee was wrapped both times and had minimal discomfort afterwards. I was still choosing to ride the escalator instead of walk it, but my other day to day activities were slowly become less painful. On our second visit, he asked me to do something very very simple – too simple, I thought at first. Step up and down on a Step, watching my knees as I did it. Wow, there it was. My knees instantly pushed inward as I stepped up and stepped down. I had to consciously force my knees to align each time. It felt like I was forcing myself to go bow legged, but my mirror image showed nothing but a straight up and down motion. By my 20th time stepping down, the pain was nearly gone from my right knee (my left one…well, we’re stilling working on it). I left feeling very satisfied – half of me could step down without pain! I felt brazen later that day, and walked the metro stairs, remaining aware that I had to keep my knees from falling inward. No pain, not even from the left one. Spectacular. I have walked the metro stairs, virtually pain-free, since. Riding the metro is another story. Here’s hoping that the Red Line starts running normally soon, and my 5’3” self no longer has to be crammed in someone’s armpit, in July, in DC.

In tribute to MJ – my new favorite running song:
Dirty Diana