Race Report: Rock n Roll Philly Half (part 2)

 

We surged into a jog, crossed the timing mat and …

… we were off. Of course I hit the start on my runkeeper app. I was not the last to the start line but it was damn close. I remembered this from before. The start line was very similar to that of the Philly Marathon. I headed down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. With all the flags and stuff. It is real cool seeing the flags of the country then going by the Franklin Institute Science Museum. Because I was the back end of the start I had a lot of elbow room and that was cool. I was just trying hard not to get swept up in the start and go out to fast. That did not work as planned but it never does.

About a mile in I looked up and realized I had the whole fricking street to myself. You could see only runners on the road and that was it. It was awesome. I am so glad that cities are able to clear things out for events like this. It really encourages people to get off their ass and try something. At one point I was heading toward city hall and I saw my friend Donna up ahead of me. We had run together on many occasion in our training sessions with team. I figured I would try to catch up and run with her if I could. If was not soon after I picked up my pace to catch up that I realized that she may be out of my range. I decided to try a good surge to catch up and hope that it would not drain me. It was a risk because I was pretty set on just steady pace running with very little speed work. I caught up and it was real cool.

I must say, that with all the wonderful organization that the Rock n Roll series has, there was one thing that was lacking that would have been a real help. Clocks. It would have been nice to get some splits to work with. At least at the 5k, 10k and 15k mark. Instead there was really none. Sure I could have pulled my phone out and checked the Runkeeper App and eventually I did but it used to be pretty common to have a few timer clocks on the course of the big race like this. So there Donna and I were moving along the course. At one point, while on Market St., we passed by the block that Jefferson Hospital was on. I realized the irony that I would be there in just a few hours getting hooked up for some more anti-fungals. Still we moved on enjoying the city in this unique perspective.

Now my new pace has made for some certain changes that didn’t used to happen way back in the day. One is that I now carry water with me. I used to detest carrying bottles as much as I could but these days I have found a good belt that feels comfortable and works. No dehydrating for me. The other big changes is that pit stops are becoming a little more normal. It is not that I never had to stop at the plastic box before during a run but a new body is giving me new conditions to work with. So on my way back down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway I had to make a quick stop. At that point, I did check my Runkeeper App and it showed we were going fast. I had done it. I got swept up in the excitement and went out too fast. I felt good so maybe it would not be so bad. Things were actually going well. The bladder was now empty and I was still feeling okay. Then came the down hill.

We reached the Art Museum and went down into the Kelly Dr. Most people hate uphills and love downhills but I am opposite. I thrive on uphills because they are the challenge that gets me rocking. Sure they may kick my ass but I still like them. I can kind of put the legs into low gear to get up them. Downhills on the other hand are the Batman to my Joker. I just don’t have enough leg strength and control to go all out on them. So there is me putting on the brakes all the way down the hill. It is just a lot of stress in places that are not usually stressed. Sometimes I think I psyche myself out with them but still the suck. So I started down Kelly Dr with a small suckfest of downhill. It really wasn’t that bad but I could have done without it. The good part was Space found me and ran along side for about a quarter mile. It was fun.

I was at the base of the little hill that something very odd happened. I have had trouble with neuropathy in my feet where there is some numbness and pain. For the most part I had never felt the neuropathy while running. It is a type of euphoria that gets rid of the everyday pains. But with about 7 miles to go the my toes started to sting. The thing I was wondering if this would happen during some of my training but it did not so I figured it would not come up. After about a mile I was able to tune most of it out and it really did not affect my stride to much. So on I went with my teammate Donna running along with me.

So the course was going around Fairmount park by the river. I knew this course. I have run around it so many times I have lost count. It is relatively flat and quite honestly a pleasant place to run. It was relatively well shaded but the sun was coming up. Because of the foot issue and that fact that I had gotten off to a fast start I was starting to fade. The worst part about knowing the course so well is that you know just how long you have to go. In any case, a question came up that needed an answer.

Where is the effing bridge. We had to get to the Falls Bridge to cross over the river and head back to the finish line. Well, the thing is that no matter how many times I have run there I never can figure out which turn that effing bridge is after. Donna and I were really starting to help each other through each mile but our new mantra was becoming, where is that effing bridge. It was becoming kind of a comedy of errors. I would swear that it was right around next corner but I was wrong. My mind was totally effed with on that. The good news was I was right the last time I predicted it was around the last turn. The relief I felt when I saw that beautiful white painted steel. It was across it and 4 more miles to the finish.

What a tough 4 miles. My legs were turning to lead and of course the 4 miles back started with a downhill. So my thighs started burning as I put on the brakes for another quarter mile. It was quickly becoming a death march. I started to use some of the old tricks I had in the past. I started picking out signs and objects to make them little goals. It works real good. I know I will get to the finish but minor victories were the game. It was pure slug mode. Donna kept pushing me along as the miles went on by. It was weird we started noticing these signs for medical mile posts. There were more and more as we kept getting closer to the finish line. At first there was one a mile but by the time we were a mile from the finish they were like every 100 yards. What the hell. We people dropping off faster than the finish line could come.

It was about mile 11 when we saw Maria. One of our great TnT coaches. It was great. I was pretty well tapped and any encouragement that could come my way was greatly appreciated. We turned a corner and passed a mile marker and the rest of the Team coaching staff was right there with us. So much awesome to keep me going. That last mile was long but it was well shortened up by the help from those angels in green shirts.

Then there it was. We were just at the 13 mile marker. The finish line was in sight and the photographers were there for those wonderful finish line moments. Donna was still there with me so we locked hands and finished together. It was amazing. I was back. After all that shit with the cancer and losing my legs. I was back. And I had my good friend Donna their to share it with. Cancer be damned even though I later found out I had relapsed it didn’t matter. What an amazing experience with new friends and the family there as well. This is just the restart and I am on a roll. Just wait till next month with the Monster Mash Marathon. It’s on like Donkey Kong.

Daily Double

 

On 1 October 2013 I would have celebrated one year cancer free. What an amazing thing. One down and four more to go. I had to hold off on that celebration as some things got worked out. It was tough at times because I really wanted to scream at the top of my lungs that I had kicked the shit out of this thing or something. Instead, I kind of stayed silent. I was with a group of friends after a run having a beer when it came to me and I jotted this down quickly so I could share.

 

“Sitting here around people with the knowledge I have. Not telling them is like living with a shame. I won’t pretend to know what it is like for a rape victim but I think I feel some of that. It is odd, these people (the Team) may be the best to handle this but I am still silent. Maybe it is still because there is some uncertainty as to what it is. At least there is some hope.”

 

I am sorry I could not tell you guys but I was sure glad to be there with you. I had a lot of fun and shortly after I wrote that my spirits lifted. Beer, pizza and the Team really helps. So it daily double of a nasty fungal infection and cancer relapse. So this is sort of how it went down.

 

It was going so well. It was July and I was feeling great. I was running quite a bit and things were progressing. I had been off of any juice for two months and we were all considering plans for the future. The stem cell transplant was off the table and we were looking at a stem cell collection so we would be ready in case. But that was where it went all wrong. I had an appointment with Doc Weiss after a CT scan and he dropped the boom on me. My left lung was showing something.

 

We talked and it was probably a fungal infection so I went back on the micafungen. I had my PICC line taken out two months prior so that meant I was going to get stuck. I really hoped that my veins had recovered from the abuse a year ago. I had false hopes. Andrea had a fun time trying to find a good stick spot. After several trials I gave up and let her take the back of my hand. Honestly it was not that bad. It hurt going in but afterward I had quite a bit of mobility.

 

Now I was a real bastard at times. I was running on Saturdays prior to coming in for an infusion. Therefore, I was quite dehydrated and my veins were even more uncooperative. My rescue ninjas were frustrated till I just decided to give up my one good vein each Saturday. There was also this new system at the infusion center that printed out my meds list every time I came in. That list is a couple of pages long with a cover sheet. I was really pissed at the waste and tried to opt out of it. Eventually I got back at them by reusing the paper.

I should have been an aeronautical engineer. They enjoyed the entertainment or at least they pretended like they did. It was weird as I started to see the staff there and talk with them. They were surprised to see me and we discussed how it is weird. You get to know these people and become quite friendly with them but deep down they hope for the best. That is you get better and they never see you again. I feel the same way. Though I had gone there on occasion and stolen coffee it was not the same.

 

During the first couple of weeks on the micafungen I was collected for stem cells. This is a most unpleasant process. They inject growth factor to have your bone marrow make more stem cells and then they put this catheter in your neck. The bone pain from the growth factor was not fun. I had rough long run during that and it was not my worst run but it was in my top 50. It is weird because in order to get the stem cells they have to literally pump all of your blood out of you and filter it and pump it back in. Honestly, it was not that hard. I slept during the process and after one day of collection I was done.

 

After about a month I had another CT scan and no it was not done. This was okay. Fungal infections like this take a while to respond to the medication and the spectrometric measurements always lag behind. I was cool as a cucumber. I was on top of my game. My training was going great and the Rock n Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon was coming up quick. Check out the race report. It rocked and I was amazing with the help of the Team. I was working on top of the world. Doc Weiss did want me to get a consult from Doc Evans about a surgical biopsy. What a mistake that was. I like Doc Evans but he wanted to take a lobe of lung out. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot! I only have five of those and I know that we were looking at a biopsy of some of the more damaged lung parts but come on. Space and I were not pleased. I got over it quick because why not. On a side note, Doc Weiss took me off of cyclosporin which is a immunosuppresent to see if my on immune system would kick in and help with this infection.

 

So it was on like Donkey Kong and I had a CT and PET scan in October. I wasn’t worried. The worst part is moving your arms after the PET scan. You spend about 45 minutes with them up over your head while not moving. Well, as you might guess it was not only bad but it was getting worse. The PET scan showed a couple of spots that glowed like a 1000 watt bulb. We were entered in to full biopsy mode. One problem though I was still feeling great. I was ramping up my mileage and the Monster Mash Marathon was coming up real soon. I was on such a role there was no way I was missing that.

 

Doc Weiss said it was time to go on with that surgery and we put the slam down on him. Really we just opened up a new possibility with Dr. Hehn better know as Boyd. He was the pulminologist that has been in my lungs the most and most recently. Space and I wanted get his input about it prior to the cutters getting all up in me. Weiss agreed and we met with Doc Evans and Boyd on the same day. Actually, Doc Evans had already consulted with Boyd and agreed to a bronchoscopy as a first step. I was in.

 

First thing was first. Boyd wanted to see what my lung function was before any surgery. So up to nuclear medicine and they injected me with technetium. When I asked me what it was that I was injected with they told me and told them it is the lowest weight element without a stable isotope. The doctor learned something new that day. I love chemistry. It has maintained such a wide open universe for me. As it turns out my left lung is crap. Over 75% of my lung function comes from my right lung. Well at least some part of me is conservative. Before the bronchoscopy I went and ran the Monster Mash Marathon. It was awesome. I cannot wait to get to that race report. Two days later Boyd asked me how the race went before he had me knocked out and lung scoped. Long story short. The results were inconclusive. So off to surgery.

 

At this point it was the end of November and thanksgiving was upon us but best of all Doc Evans was going for a new approach. He was going after a lymph node adjacent to my left lung and a wedge cut out from the upper left lobe where there was some good glow. I went in for the surgery and had to wait and wait and wait. I could not eat so I was getting real cranky. Naps were helping but not enough. I was taken from the pre-op room to the operating room area. There a couple of docs came and talked to me and explained to me what was going on. An anesthesiologist came by and put two elephant tranquilizer needles in the back of my hand and my wrist. He was talking more about the procedure and mentioned that they would probably use the robot for the surgery. I immediately asked if it was Three Laws Safe but all I got back was a puzzled look. What a shame. I am surprised I made it out of there alive.

 

I woke up with two chest tubes in my side and a foley catheter in. It was not a very happy time. Always avoid a foley catheter and chest tubes are a bad idea. Taking each of them out is beyond description. Needless to say it hurt. The good news is they gave me happy button for the pain. It was fun but it made me itch. After two days of observation I was out of the hospital and getting hungry for Thanksgiving. I tried to be patient and waited an entire week before calling for results. They were not in and I was told to wait till I saw Doc Weiss in two weeks.

 

So there I was. I had just gotten my stitches cut out from my side by Doc Evans. They were tough to get out. It hurt and he kept apologizing and backing off. I tried to convince him to just keep going. Pain is temporary except in torture which this was. He got on with it and they were out. They sucked and I determined that there will be no more major holes put in me for a while. Doc Evans wanted to know if I wanted the biopsy results but I declined. I wanted to stay ignorant for a few more hours. Back at it. Sitting there in room 24 with Space just waiting for the inevitable. Doc Weiss comes in and sits down. I ask him to “sock it to me and if the results were inconclusive I was going to scream.” Actually, my reaction may have been worse. Here comes the problem. He rambled. There was good information but it all boiled down to this. I do have a fungal infection and that needs to be taken care of quickly. Then the R word. Relapse. The cancer was back and a new fight was on.

 

Fucking cancer. After we take this fungal infection out with some new harsher drugs we will take this cancer on with a new chemo regimen followed by a stem cell transplant. We will kick this. I just have to continue fighting and running. I cannot forget that I have the Disney Dopey in less than a month. No reason I can’t have some fun along the way.

 

Race Report: Rock n Roll Philly Half (part 1)

 

I know this is a long time coming and I owed this quite a while ago but I tend to procrastinate with these things. At least I am getting it done. So here it is. I have been trying to figure out where to start. My training for this race has been quite a different experience. First off I trained with others. I am usually a loner out there. It is not that I don’t like running with other people. I love it but I tend to kind of go into my own world and that is cool as well. Moving on I was brought back from post recovery to race condition through the help from Team In Training (TnT). What a great organization and what an amazing group of people. I hope to never lose contact with them and look forward to more training and hanging out and making new friends as others join. Honestly, when I started at the “Kick off” I was having trouble running for more than about 15 minutes at a 16-17 min/mile pace.

 

Really, all the credit goes to my teammates, the coaches, mentors and staff for getting me ready for the starting line. I knew it would not be easy but all it takes is one step and then repeat. Over the summer the mileage grew and my pace settled in to about a 14min/mile. I could do faster for shorter distances but that is not the point. For those out there that remember me rocking out sub 9 minute miles might wonder what happened. A couple of things. When I went through some very rough patches I refused to eat and lost a lot of muscle mass. It will take a while to get my legs back and they will never be the same. Also, my left lung was the house of tumor for several months and like any crappy tenant they left a mess behind. Scar tissue and the like reduced much of that lung capacity. Less lung capacity means less energy flowing through the veins and a moderation of pace keeps things in check. Needless to say the tumors did not get their security deposit back.

 

So here I was, trained up and ready to go. It started Saturday morning where I gave a rambling mission moment talking about my man Timmy and his experience with TnT and my awesome friend and brother Abbey. Abbey is a survivor as well that inspired others with her TnT exploits and was an amazing resource when it happened to me. She was always there for me, even when I didn’t ask and she was unaware, her presence and share experience helped in those days I needed a little kick in the back of the mind. Well, I rambled then Space, the Psycho and I went for a nice walk at Fairmount Park. Afterwards we went over to the hospital for an infusion of anti-fungal that the doc had me on. I had spent that time sitting there writing and taking notes. We later checking into the hotel where the Team was staying and got ready for the Team dinner. The created an honor guard to the dinner that consisted of cheering, bell ringing and general noise making. It was awesome and loud. A nice dinner and then got to some business. Some words on the course and the plan in the morning and the like and then it came.

 

I had been asked to say a few words because they thought of me as an honored something. So there I was. Throughout I was told that I was an inspiration and the like. Really, I kind of thought I was just being me. Which is kind of an ass about things. I just could not give up on running it makes me happy. Instead of rambling I actually wrote something out which helped. I actually wanted to refocus some things. It was a my journey but really it was about those that where there for me from the beginning how the honor was mine to have had such heroes at my side the whole time. At points I choked up and perhaps the words on the sheet became blurry as my eyes may have teared up a little but I made it through and dinner was done. The girls and I said goodnight and it was off to the room for some shut eye.

 

Waking up at zero dark thirty, we made our way down to the lobby of the hotel and with coffee in hand I met with the Team and some pictures were taken. It was kind of fun walking in a group to the Team tent and the starting line. We hung out for a while before we headed for our coral. There were a bunch of first time racers and I could see their nervousness. I am old hat at this so I just kind of relaxed. It just another start line followed by just another finish line. Boy was I wrong. Because of my new pace I was relegated to the last coral so I had a while to think about what was going on. We walked and joked around wondering if the winners would cross the finish line before we started. We were only about 30 minutes behind the first starters and noone can get 13.1 miles in Philadelphia in 30 minutes not even in a car. It was about 25 meters from the start line when it hit. It was that holy shit moment. I had had a similar experience in a similar spot when I saw the finish line at the Philadelphia Marathon when I was about to break 4 hours for the first time. I was awestruck and a nervous wreck. I couldn’t believe I was where I was. I had made it. We had made it. Cancer be damned.

 

We surged into a jog, crossed the timing mat and …

A Tribute to Paul Field

This past Saturday I gave the mission moment at the Team practice.  Actually it was the last practice of the season.  I wish I could have done better justice to all that was Dr. Paul Field but this was a rambling of the great impression he made on me and a tribute the the amazing man I knew he was.  Those of you who knew him would most likely agree.

Paul Field

I want to talk about a Professor of mine at Virginia Tech. Paul Field. I met him in 1994 when he showed me how to solve the chemistry problems using programing in BASIC. For those of you that don’t know, BASIC is one of the original computing languages that we used way before the internet. In any case, Paul really stuck on us Freshmen that year. Especially with all the great characters we had in the chemistry department. For most Field was kind of a little antiquated and out there.

Really, he was the George Carlin of chemistry. His view on the universe and the science was distinct and he was totally dedicated to finding answers to those questions. Over the next 3 and a half years I had the pleasure 4 more classes with him. I actually got all grades from him, A-F. But during those hours and hours of education I started to understand true passion. I thought I was dedicated to chemistry and science and he managed to enhance that by orders of magnitude. It was the absolute astounding universe that wowed him and he shared that wonder with anyone that would sit back and listen. Even to those who wouldn’t listen.

He taught me to count in binary and that you could count to 1023 on my hands. His web site on the Tech chemistry site has how to count that way. A couple of years after I graduated I found it and e-mailed him asking why he was flicking everybody off when he got to 4. It was a rhetorical question. When I was a senior and thinking of graduate school I had asked him for a letter of recommendation and he agreed. A couple of days later he hunted me down in the lab and asked how on earth could he write a letter of recommendation when I failed his second semester physical chemistry class. I explained to him that I may have failed but I learned the more than I thought possible and that I failed his class is exactly why I thought he was perfect for writing a letter of recommendation. He thought about it and agreed… to the challenge.

I remember the arguments we had in the hallways and in his office about chemistry and nature. We were in disagreement about research. He was pure and I was applied. He taught me that the best part of science was the question, why? It is the why that we get to work on these great things from teflon to chemotherapy to plasma tvs and everything else.

It was shortly after the Rock ‘n Roll Half that I found out that Paul had passed. It hit me pretty hard. Perhaps it was interconnected web that is blood cancer or cancer itself. We all lived with the joking threat that the old chemistry hall was going to give us cancer but it was a joke. I any case, I am here talking about him. But I could never really do that subject real justice. In April he had lost his battle with leukemia after 2 years of fighting. I don’t have much more about the details and I don’t want to intrude on his family to find out. I am sure he fought it as hard as he could with more tenacity than I could muster.

I learned in the past couple of months that there was so much more to his life like writing, architecture and more why. I wish I had gotten a chance to stay connected over the past 10 years but he was never really far from my thoughts. This is for Paul and for the rest of us and we will fight.

Progressive Portraits

Help me, Help Someone Else Fight Cancer

This is a letter I sent out as a call for help.  If you care to contribute the link is below.  Thanks for yor consideration.
Good Morning,
As some of you may know I have restarted my running.  I am much slower than I used to be but I am much more motivated.  Last year I realized my dream and completed my first marathon at the 2007 Cleveland Marathon.  5 months later I ran the Marine Corps Marathon and this past May I ran both the Flying Pig Marathon and Cleveland Marathon.  Not my best move but still I finished and that is the first goal. 
Either way, I have taken on a new challenge and that is the Disney Goofy Challenge.  The Goofy is where the half marathon (13.1) is run on Saturday and on the very next day the full marathon (26.2).  That’s 39.3 miles in two days.  Crazy, right?  They don’t call it The Goofy for nothing. 
Enough about me.  I have a great friend that I met in my days in Minnesota.  He is already a tri-athlete and has decided to take on the Marathon.  We will be starting together at the Disney marathon and hopefully supporting each other to the finish.  Tim is not only running with me but he is running for Team In Training (TnT), a fund raising organization for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  TnT, is helping with his training so that his first marathon is a success. 
Hopefully, you can find it possible to contribute to this fantastic cause.  I know the economy is bad and times are tough.  Timmy knows this well, he is a real estate agent.  If we can chip in a little then it will add up to reach his fund raising goal.  Check out his site and pass this along so we can fight the Cancer.