Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Dear Wildflower Participant,
My name is Fran and I am a Lymphoma survivor.
I have two reasons to write to you: first, to thank you from the bottom of my heart for commiting yourself to raise funds to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). The LLS is truly one of the great organizations working in support of cancer patients today. As you probably already know, the LLS provides critical support for blood cancer research funding, You may not have heard of, however, the unparalleled patient support services provided by the LLS.
Before I had cancer, I never knew how terribly hard it is to be a cancer patient. I knew that chemotherapy could make you bald, and that cancer was a frightening diagnosis – but I didn’t understand how this disease impacts every part of your life. For me in particular it was coping with the uncertainly of cancer that proved to be the most difficult. At the time of my diagnosis I was overcome with fear of the unknown. I tried talking to friends, bugging my doctors, going on the web (a very bad idea), reading Lance Armstrong, but nothing seemed to make a difference. That was when I called the LLS. They answered all of my questions, even those I was too afraid to ask. They understood that having cancer is so difficult that you really want to speak with someone in your shoes. Through the LLS’s unique First Connection Program I was able to speak with fellow patients who had my exact diagnosis and who were one year cancer free. Believe me – it was a huge boost to me to speak to someone who had been where I was, made it through chemotherapy, and was cancer free for a year.
Today, I too am in this fortunate position: 16 months out of chemotherapy, with no evidence of the disease and training to be a First Connector myself. However, not a day goes by that I don’t think about if or when the cancer will return. My fellow patients tell me that for people like me this is the “new normal.” Once again, it’s a lot easier because the LLS continues to be there for me. Every month they hold seminars to help those living with cancer and I am a regular at the meetings. The topics range from treatment advances, to how to talk with your medical team, to employment issues surrounding cancer.
As you can see – you are making a real difference in people’s lives. Without your efforts there might not be someone at the end of phone answering those difficult questions, making the key first connections or setting up that seminar. Without you I know that the over 900,000 blood cancer patients in the US today would be much worse off.
My second reason for writing is about YOU! Congratulations! You have embarked on an athletic endeavor that may seem a bit scary, but, trust me, will be a hugely rewarding experience. As I’m sure you have learned already, your TNT coaches and mentors are dedicated, skilled, inspirational and generally fantastic. You will make sacrifices over the next few months – training can be hard in the cold and dark of winter but it is well worth it. Believe me, you are going to be so proud of yourself and your teammates when you cross the finish line! (And you will cross it!) Rarely in our lives do we get to experience the unity that Team in Training is able to foster. It helps all of us be part of something larger than ourselves.
I have close friends, relatives and others who asked when they found out I had Lymphoma; what can I do to help? You have already figured that out. By being part of the Team in Training Program and raising funds for the LLS you are helping me and all blood cancer patients and survivors to live better and longer lives.
So again, thank you so very much for being part of Team in Training. And if you are training and you hear someone groaning behind you – way behind you. It’s probably me! I am doing the St. Anthony’s Triathlon in the spring. It is my second tri with TNT. Last year, four months out of chemo, I was close to the last person over the finish line – but my smile was as big as that of the first place finisher. This year, I am looking for a few people to pass on my way to the finish line – so keep training!
The Team In Training runs for the last two weekends have been somewhat intense - not because of the workout, mind you (our coaches have a better sense than I do of how hard we should be pushing at this time), but because of the frigid temps we've been training in. How cold was it? Well, the bike option was cancelled because they don't encourage cycling when it's under 30 degrees outside. Yeah.
The first of the last two Saturday workouts was a 30-minute out-and-back with an extra 10 minutes out-and-back for those crazy long-course Wildflower folks (i.e. me). As we turned to the traverse at 72nd street, the coaches decided to work some stairs into the mix with 5 sets for the group. Then, at each traffic light we passed (there are about 10), we were stopped and required to do a set of squats or lunges. A tough workout by any standards but me being, well, me, I also decided to run home for a total of 7 miles.
The second Saturday, the bike was again cancelled. Brrr. I warmed up on the way to the park with an easy 3-miler, and then joined the group for a 30-minute out-and-back, followed by a bike clinic at a nearby shop where we learned how to change a flat, were taught what to wear on the ride (in case you're wondering what to get me for Hannukah, I need a cycle jacket. Thanks!), and were schooled on the importance of leg warmers (think Lance Armstrong, not Jennifer Beals) for those in-between weather days.
In between, I've been doing my best to work on what I think is the scariest part of the tri: the swimming. With swim practices not starting until January, I have employed the very scientific method of learning by watching YouTube videos, trying to copy the technique of the really good swimmers in the pool with me, and harassing Marissa until she came to the pool with me to critique my style. I'm up to 60 laps with some drills suggested by our coaches. 74 laps = a mile, so I'm on my way!
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
We met at the start line at 7:30am, all of us tugging at our purple tees to ensure they fit over multiple layers of warm clothes. I'd like to think I made my Jewish parents especially proud that day by completing my look with a santa hat.
I raced solo at my own pace to the soundtrack of "merry christmas" comments from fellow runners (coming out sometimes as a grunt, sometimes as an excited shriek, depending on their levels of exhaustion). At the finish, I turned around and doubled back along the course to shout words of encouragement to Sari (racing her first 10k!) and to run my mom and George to the finish line. By the time I reached them, they were moving at a fantastic pace and were still sporting smiles!
This marks the third race I've done with my mom (well, fourth if you count the Advil Mini Marathon - more accurately a few miles - we did when I was in middle school), and second with my stepdad, and the very first time we've all done one together.
I couldn't be more proud!
Thursday, December 10, 2009
That was my response to the seemingly simple question on TNT's "Get to Know Me" form: Why did you join Team In Training.
And it's true. As mentioned in the last post, I'm not entirely in tune with my body when it comes to understanding its limits for exercise (or cookies for that matter, but that's another post entirely). I've run myself into at least 4 (diagnosed) stress fractures. Me and my 5'3" 115lb body decided it was an excellent idea to play roller derby for a year. Downhill skiing wasn't tough enough so I opted for telemarking (essentially cross-country skiing downhill, or, as I like to call it, downhill walking lunges for 7 hours). After four marathons, I decided to do a triathlon last year. I also decided it was a great idea to train myself.
All this to say, I'm grateful for the TNT schedule of workouts to ensure I remember that two-a-days are not necessary and that yes, there is time to properly learn everything instead of, say, jumping in the pool and swimming a mile on day 1.
Last Saturday's workout started with a lesson about proper running apparel and riding technique. Biking lesson #1 (self-taught): a tee shirt and a thin running jacket are not appropriate apparel for a 30-degree ride. The workout was a frigid bike ride around Central Park for 1.5 hours, but lovely in that our coaches were waiting at the end of each loop to watch our form and pace.
On Monday, rather than just throwing us in the pool and yelling "swim, Phelps!", the coaches spent time walking us through drills including "sculling." I have determined that sculling is a cruel joke and/or hazing ritual of the coaches. Essentially it involves lying face down in the water with a buoy between your legs and trying to get from one end of the pool to the other by moving only your forearms and wrists. That is to say, it gets you absolutely nowhere fast. For the entire first lap I was positive that if I looked up I'd see all the coaches snickering and pointing at the new kids.
Since I wasn't able to make the Wednesday practice, the rest of the week's workouts were drawn from the coach-provided calendar and included another solo swim and a few runs, meaning that, for the first time since I've been training for any event, I seem to be exercising proper restraint.
Here's hoping that next time I can answer that Get to Know Me question with a sunnier: Because I have a perfectly reasonable understanding of my physical abilities... but I'm going to train for this endurance event anyway.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
So it shouldn't have surprised me that over Thanksgiving weekend, my training schedule more closely resembled the daily activities of an entire summer camp than one person's weekend agenda:
Thursday, 8am: 1 hour 10 minutes trail running with dad in NJ
Friday, 7:45am: 50 minutes trail running with dad in NJ
Saturday: 45-minute run, one-hour Pilates reformer, 2 hours/9 holes golf at Jon's parents' gated community in Florida (aka summer camp for adults)
Sunday: 1 hour tennis practice with ball machine, 50 laps in outdoor pool in FL
This was followed by a 2-hour trail run at Bear Mountain on Tuesday and a 5.5-miler with running buddy Sari on Wednesday. Yeesh.
Given my lack of ability to restrain myself athletically, I've decided to attempt to master a new kind of restraint: quitting candy cold turkey. At least for a few days. As of lunchtime, day #4, I'm happy to report that with one minor slip into the chocolatey carress of a Hershey Kiss, I've shown remarkable control. As someone who frequently wears a cookie monster t-shirt for the sole purpose of stealing cookies from others, this is a HUGE achievement for me.
Now if you'll excuse me, there's a candy bar wrapper in my drawer I have to lick.