Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wish You Were There

Sadly, I am not photogenic--mostly because cameras have a tendency to capture me as I am. Over the years, this has caused me to avoid taking pictures and losing opportunities to document some incredibly happy moments and experiences. Left to my own devices, I don't even take a camera with me to typically camera-worthy events. Lucky for me, during my race weekend I had my husband, my brother and best friend (Tall Lanky Guy) with me--and all three are pretty good photographers. M was sweet enough to compile some of the pictures and video clips to make a slide show-video of our weekend.

The bad news is, I am still not photogenic. The good news is, I was so ridiculously happy that I was not too bothered by that minor fact.

I wish you were there to see and hear everything I did. The best I can do is share M's perspective with you.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

3: 14: 04

I was looking forward to last weekend for almost six months. I dreamed of who I would meet, how we'd get along and my performance overall. I was a little concerned that after all that dreaming the weekend wouldn't be what I had imagined. Except it was so much more.

I called Amanda in April and asked if I could run with TNT in her honor. With her blessing, I signed up and joined Team In Training, where they promised to make an endurance runner out of a heavy little couch potato. For six months, I did things I never thought I would to prepare for the Nike Women's Marathon on October 19th. And finally the big weekend arrived.

Last Friday, I was up at 4 am and at the airport not long after. I sat nervously waiting for our flight, listening to everyone's excitement. There was a large group of people in green and purple jackets, waiting to catch various flights to San Francisco. I knew many of them, I was one of them. I don't remember the flight or the ride from Oakland to the Grand Hyatt in Union Square (the hotel was lovely), I just remember the excitement. There were people--mostly women--everywhere. Nike Town was conveniently across the street from us, with all of the participant's names posted on a pink wall. The Wall and Expo, where we were to pick up our runner's numbers were already packed. Some of the activities were ridiculously 'girlie' and I gladly participated. Who am I to pass up free manicures and massages? But beyond the girlie-ness, while waiting in the lines you met other runners--many of them TNT members--who were there exchanging stories, encouraging and cheering each other days before the race. Among the more humbling moments was listening to Sarah Reinertsen--an amputee who competes in triathlons, marathons and other endurance events--speak about how she prepares for events. The whole time she was speaking, I kept thinking to myself that I have no excuse for being inactive. I have two whole legs!

Saturday was spent hanging out with my best friend from college, my husband and my brother who had both flown in to support me. I was touched to have my three favorite guys in one place looking out for me. M was commissioned with taking pictures and video of all the excitement. We eventually went to the big Pasta Dinner at Mascone Center, to be greeted by all of the TNT coaches, capitains and mentors, dressed in costumes and cheering us from the entrance all the way down the stairs and into the huge center that was setup to host thousands of giddy people. It was incredibly emotional being greeted by the people who have spent months training you, listening to survivor's stories and seeing slide shows of the people we are running for and with. My nervousness pretty much went away at that point when I remembered what and who I was there for. I was ready for the race.

Sunday morning, I was awake at 4am--again--and this time without my alarm clock. Our wake-up call wasn't for another hour, so I lay in bed thinking of Amanda and her family, planning next year's trip and thinking of things that a three-four year old boy would enjoy. I didn't really come up with many details, other than things that involved Ghirardelli Square and Mitchell's Ice Cream (sorry, Manda--kids love me for the treats). We got up at five, got ready and met what seemed like half the hotel's guests downstairs. By 6 am, the early starters had already left and everyone else was checking in their coat bags and finding their corrals. There was just so much excitement and anticipation it was hard to stand still. There were people EVERYWHERE. Almost 20,000 of them. And I was but a drop in this sea. The last thing I remember before I started running was our coach's advice to smile while we ran. I thought that was odd advice at the time. Once we started running, I was smiling almost non-stop.

The run was amazing. The temperature was perfect for running--cooler than the previous two days. The streets and views were gorgeous. Unfortunately, shortly after Mile 2, my right ankle started hurting and by Mile 4, my left knee was kicking in. Both are injuries I have had on my longer distances all season, but was hoping to avoid during the race. Neither injury stopped me. I ran up the first hills, and about half way up the Giant Hill. I walked the rest of that hill going up, took a few pictures with my cell phone and continued to run again. Every step of the way was literally amazing to me. The views, the cheering volunteers, our coaches and the sign holding survivors all made the 13.1 miles go by so quickly. The last three miles were the easiest both because the path had evened out and because the energy just moved us forward. As I approached the finish line, I saw my Three Men again (they had greeted me at Mile 7) cheering and taking pictures. I was greeted at the finish line by a group of very well dressed firemen handing out Tiffany's boxes. I could not believe I had finished my race. I felt nothing but joy as I watched others follow me across the finish, claiming their necklaces and sneaking in hugs from the firefighters (yes, they were all exceptionally handsome and polite). I actually bumped into Sarah again, shook hands with her and thanked her for her talk. She graciously congratulated me and encouraged me to keep up the good work.

After I checked in, got my post race massage and got my Finisher's shirt, we went back to the hotel, where my college roommate was waiting for us. I hadn't seen her in almost 3 years and seeing her then was just like icing on a giant piece of cake. We spent the rest of the afternoon talking, eating and resting. My cheer team had been up at the same time I was and had watched hundreds of runners go by in an attempt to yell out my name as I slowly passed. We were all exhausted.

All in all, this was one of the most amazing things I have participated it. My intentions were completely altruistic when I joined--in then end I derived so much joy from it myself. I am proud of the $18 million dollars that was raised for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through this event alone--and proud of my tiny contribution to it. I am grateful for the support of my friends and family (real and virtual) who helped get me to San Francisco. I am humbled by the strength of the men and women I met last weekend, some of them survivors running/walking/cheering at an event that was meant to honor them. I'm already planning on raising funds and going back next year. Times like these, it's good to be one of the crowd.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The End Is the Beginning

Yesterday morning, my training with TNT ended exactly where it started: in the parking lot of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society offices. Twenty two weeks ago, I showed up full of joyous optimism, ready to train for a half marathon. The end of that training day put my physical abilities into perspective for me. I could barely run more than a mile, even at 5-2 intervals. Since then, I have had horrible runs and I have had some amazing runs as well. Exactly one week from today, I will be at the starting line of the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco, ready to run my first long distance event.

I ended the training season, much as I had started it: with a little bit of lost dignity and attempted humor. During my first weekly run, in what seems an eternity ago, I drove to Torrey Pines Lodge and met with my team. Considering how early in the morning it was, I double checked that I had turned off the car lights, locked the door and put my purse in the trunk of my car. After returning from the three mile run through Torrey Pines park, I found most of my team standing around my car (how sweet!). As I walked up to them, I realized they were staring at the wide open door. Doh! Fortunately for me, there are so many fancy cars at the lodge that my car would be an insult to potential car thieves. Unfortunately, most of them remember me as the "Open Car Door Girl" and not by my name which is clearly written on my jersey in neon green.

Yesterday, I finished my run and wanted to grab a couple of things out of the trunk and join everyone for instructions about race day. Paper, pen and cell phone in hand, I slammed the trunk shut--just as I saw my keys in the trunk. I tried to casually ask Coach if he knew of anyone on the team that could break into my car. To his credit, he kept a straight face and suggested AAA. By the time I called and someone came, everyone was quietly gathered and listening to the coaches. And the someone who came was a rumbling tow truck driver with a flatbed truck that could easily fit two cars on it. To open my car door. In a tiny parking lot with a rapt audience. No subtlety there. With his arrival, what tiny shred of dignity I had maintained was gone. Everyone had a smile, chuckle or comment for me. As one runner who witnessed both of my adventures commented, "It's like you had bookends to the season. Symmetrical and well placed." Thank you very much.

I'd like to thank everyone who has supported me with your kind words, suggestions and very generous support. I am very well aware of the economic realities these days and know that every dollar donated matters. While I have met my minimum fund raising goals, I ask that you continue to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society with any donation you can afford either through my site or that of others trying to raise funds. I know many of you have expressed the desire to donate and may have to donate less than you originally intended. The important thing is to continue to support the thousands of patients and their family members who benefit from your support of LLS.

Thank you again for sharing this experience with me.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Good News, Everyone!

Sarah Palin shows them who's boss and clears herself of wrongdoing! She's the most fair and balanced judge and jury ever!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

An Open Letter

Dear Governor Palin,

May Can I call you Sarah? I have been following your unexpected rise to the national scene and I have to say it has left me in a rage breathless. I'm not sure how you sustain the energy to tour the country with your family and the First Dude, read everything that crosses your desk (although, admittedly, Starbucks cups don't take too long to read) and speak to your hundreds of adoring fans. And while I am not personally your biggest fan, I realized that facing the possibility of eternal damnation or supporting you, I could offer some humble advice and thoughts.

Geography matters: While I too, hated geography most of my life, I had a pretty decent idea of the countries that shared borders with the countries I lived in. In your case, geography will come in extra handy should you God forbid become Vice President. It will help you bomb countries more effectively and locate the 'heart' land where Joe Six Pack hangs out. For example, Afghanistan is not one of our neighbors. It is far, far away from us. We share borders with only two countries: Canada and Mexico. Russia is not one of those two countries. If Putin rears his head, he will probably see Afghanistan before he sees Alaska. I'm sorry to say you may be taking geography tips from Caitlin. Don't. As much as we hate support you, it is painful for all of us to watch you make a fool of yourself and your audience.

Stop Winking: I must admit that I am neither a fan of beauty pageants nor Hooters waitresses. But that is not why I am asking you to stop winking at the camera during Vice Presidential appearances. I say this for America. One day you may find yourself across the table from a head of state--God forbid. Maybe even with Dmitry Medvedev (the actual president of Russia). He will laugh at you. They'll all laugh at you--and us for somehow being stupid enough to elect a person who cannot conduct herself in a professional manner. Plus, I don't think it's appropriate for a Christian, married lady such as yourself to flirt with the camera. People may get the wrong idea and mistake you for a cheap hussy. Or worse yet, they will think you're leading them on and demand you flash more skin. Again, we will all be embarrassed. Learn from Margaret Thatcher. I did not agree with her politics, but that woman exuded strength and nary a wink at the camera.

Pretend to care: If you want to be the kind of Vice President you claim to admire, grabbing for more and more executive powers than your predecessor, learn the laws before you break them. If someone asks you about Supreme Court decisions that you agree or disagree with, you should know of a couple of them, even if you don't know them by name. I know a few myself and I haven't even been asked to be Vice President of anything. The Lilly Ledbetter case will help you appeal to all those hockey moms that are getting screwed at work and get paid less that Joe Six Pack. Or when the Supreme Court struck down the DC gun ban. You'd LOVE that decision. Other decisions you can throw out there are Hustler v. Falwell (watch the movie) or Marshall v. Marshall (otherwise known as the Anna Nicole Smith goes to DC case, reported in People magazine).

Don't get annoyed when the press asks you questions: In these United States of America, there is a thing called the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment guarantees the freedom of the press, to hold our government accountable. Lucky for you, they hardly ever exercise that right. But when they do, you shouldn't be 'annoyed'. It is actually not a 'privilege' that they are abusing, but their job. Again, you're lucky you got Katie Couric--known as the cute and cuddly news reader. You could have gotten someone like Andrew Sullivan, who like you, has a funny accent. Unlike you, he's an elitist and holds government accountable.

Learn English: It is technically not a foreign language to you. Sentences are you friend. 'Maverck', 'America', 'our United States of America', 'American' and 'our great nation' need a few verbs and concepts to connect them and not sound like fillers for words that you have forgotten or can't pronounce. I realize you're a Maverick, but if you don't learn to speak, you will be called George Bush with boobs and an eye twitch. That's not change we can believe in.

Get over high school: Your mean girl routine is getting tired. Seriously. I realize that the only times that people cheer you is when you do your pit bull schtick, but they're the lowest common denominator of this country and are calling you a bitch. They're the one's who never got over high school and are mentally and emotionally stunted. Surely, you've moved passed your shortcomings and can offer more intelligent criticism of your opponent that mocking his service to his community.

Knowledge is desirable: Just as you don't want a high school student with a scalpel and experience dissecting frogs to deliver your children (or grandchildren), we don't want someone who doesn't know the first thing about the office of vice presidency, the Bush doctrine, her running mate's policy goals or world events. This is no time to take pictures with Henry Kissenger and pretend like you know the first thing about anything. Those elitists you're mocking will know how to save this country while you wrinkle your nose and and ask if you can be dismissed from class. You don't have to be their best friends, just shut the fuck up and stop acting as if ignorance is a virtue.

Ok, so I realize that I am beginning to sound harsh, but as I am writing this letter to you, I realize that out of love and respect for this country, I cannot support you in any way. I also realize that no matter who you misquote (and really, did you admit to getting your folksy wisdom off of a Starbucks cup?) I'd rather spend eternity in hell than support someone who will endanger the future of this country and the world with her willful ignorance. As a dull man once said, "There's an old saying in Alaska Tennessee—I know it's in Texas, probably in Alaska Tennessee—that says, fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—you can't get fooled again."

Sincerely not yours,