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!)

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