The Courage to Succeed

How do you define success in a race? For some, success equals winning. But “winning” itself may also take on different meanings for different people. Does finishing with a PR define your success? Or does simply finishing the race determine that your day was successful? Such that your finisher medal is your living proof of a successful day. Then by default does that mean that a result which is anything short of your determined point of success, is a failure? Maybe. I personally don’t believe that to be the case but a lot of that depends on one’s perspective and expectations. No matter what the result I try not to consider any race a failure.

The reality is that success isn’t a fixed measure of outcome. In 30 years of racing, I’ve defined success a number of different ways. When you first start out I think the measure of success for many people is simply to finish what you started. Crossing the finish line as an official finisher means your day was successful. As you gain a little more experience your point of success may then become besting your previous time. With a little more experience, maybe that success point becomes to finish in the middle of the pack, or the top third, or top 10, or to place in your age group. The definition of success changes over time.

Apost mirror lakeI’ve also defined success a number of different ways in any given race.  I may register for a race with a goal of finishing in the top 3 of my age group. But as we all know, despite our best efforts and plans, things don’t always go our way.  And Mother Nature isn’t always our friend. Any number of things can unravel and prevent you from reaching your original “success” goal. So then what? That’s a simple answer. Give yourself a tiered if-then series of success points  in a race. Missing the mark on your initial target goal doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Be open to having a “Plan B” that you can quickly adjust to while remaining positive.  And if Plan B implodes, you move on to Plan C. And you do so with optimism and positivity and do whatever it takes to get across that finish line.

Apost medalsBut what if you run out of plans? What if you exhaust your arsenal of fail-safes and do everything in your power to succeed and in spite of all of that are forced to end your day early?  That’s a tough pill to swallow. I’m speaking from experience and I’ve choked on that pill a few times. The first reaction is to hang your head and curl up into a fetal position and reflect (obsess) on all of the things that went wrong. But the reality is, even with a DNF, a lot of things go right. So, sure, maybe you need to go dark for a brief period to fully reconcile any emotional or physical bruising. But keep that period brief, very brief. Pick yourself up, assess your day, make any necessary adjustments, and move on.

Celebrate the fact that you had the motivation to commit, the courage to start, and have the ability to try again another day.

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Sunsets

The thing about racing sunsets is that in time the sunset will ultimately always win. In spite of our best efforts, and all the hope and belief we can muster, the sunset is going to win. But if we’re lucky, that sun can set with breathtaking beauty. The key is being able to enjoy that beauty while in the middle of the race’s chaotic intensity. The key is to find that balance. The key is to find that quiet. The key is to find calm. The key is to develop keen senses of both resilience and appreciation.  And with that, we not only get to run our race, and appreciate that sunset, but we also get to witness the rising of a new sun. Bringing a new day. And bringing a new race.

(The motivation behind this post came from the book Racing the Sunset by my buddy Scott Tinley)

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Blood Cancer Heroes

Check out this video on some of the ground breaking blood cancer advancements coming out of Penn Medicine. Dr. David Porter is one of my docs and I’m grateful to be associated with this organization. Watch Dr. Carl June talk about his unprecedented immunotherapy treatment which received FDA approval in August. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society invested more than $20 million in Dr. June’s research which pioneered this treatment.

Click to watch.

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Carpal Tunnel Surgery – All Clear!

Hey gang! I had my post surgery check up with my hand surgeon yesterday and everything looked perfect. He told me that he had no issues whatsoever during surgery and was confident that all carpal tunnel pressure should now be relieved. Woo hoo! He removed the stitches and set me free. Now I just have to wait for full strength and nerve function to return, and that should be fast.

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Glass More Than Half Full

I was being a little more reflective than usual on my run the other day. During that reflection I realized that I’ve had a fair share of little bugs that needed repair over the last 14 months. Some bugs were smaller than others, and some perhaps not that small at all in comparison. As I tallied the list, it looked something like this beginning in July 2016:

  • IV chest port inserted
  • Commence four rounds of chemotherapy
  • Carpal tunnel release surgery of the left hand
  • IV chest port removed
  • Repair of torn meniscus of the left knee
  • Carpal tunnel release surgery of right hand

It looks like a lot when you write it all down. And I suppose maybe it is. But then again, who defines “a lot”? Over these past 14 months, while I’ve certainly had a few more trips to specialists than I would care for, I can honestly say that the results have all been favorable and the experiences have all been very positive with minimal interruption of daily living.  I healed, repaired, and became a stronger body as a result of everything that was done.

Now, here is the real eye opener. Part of my reflection was to also inventory the number of things I’ve been able to accomplish during those 14 months of assorted and miscellaneous surgeries and treatments. I knew that I had scaled back my racing over that time frame. I hadn’t raced as frequently, and I hadn’t raced as long. But as I tallied that list, over those same 14 months, it looked like this:

  • Four 5Ks
  • Two half marathons
  • One ten miler
  • Two sprint triathlons
  • One Olympic distance aqua bike
  • One stair climb

So, while it’s true that I put health first and cut back on a few races during those 14 months, it’s also true that I remained pretty darn active during that time. Which I might not have realized had I not stopped and counted. And buried within those races was a 1st place and a 2nd place age group finish. Add to that some volunteerism and coaching and I would say I had a pretty rich 14 months.

So I guess the message here is quite simple. While it’s easy to get sucked down the drain by all of the things that appear to be limiters in your life, taking full and deliberate notice of all of the things that are going right in your life can keep your ship sailing and your perspective properly aligned.

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Dear Younger Steve

A few messages I’d like to relay back to my much younger self. I have a feeling some may be pretty universal…

  1. There is no always and there is no never
  2. Nobody owes you a thing
  3. Take that risk and don’t be afraid to fall flat on your face
  4. Be respectful of everyone around you as you never know what your relationship may be with them someday
  5. If you don’t know, others probably don’t know either so ask the questions
  6. You probably aren’t as good or as bad as you may perceive yourself to be
  7. Everything in life is cyclical
  8. Learn a foreign language other than snark
  9. Every single human encounter has purpose
  10. Your puzzle piece is important but it’s a piece of something much bigger
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Carpal Tunnel Take 2

So here’s a funny little story… you might recall that I had carpal tunnel release surgery on my left hand back in December. Well, my right hand apparently has gotten very jealous and wants in on the action. I’m not surprised as I knew both hands had very similar test results. So, long story short – I’m scheduled to have the right hand done on Tuesday 9/26. The pain has been pretty severe for about a week and I have no feeling in my middle finger. I think recovery for this one will be a little quicker because there appears to be a little less nerve damage. The same surgeon, Dr. David Zelouf will do the honors. This will make three surgeries in 9 months (2 carpal tunnel release and 1 knee meniscectomy).

I should be good as new for the New York City marathon.   Stay tuned!

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IM Lake Placid 70.3 Recap

Greetings!

I went a little dark immediately following the Lake Placid race but thought it was appropriate to share a quick update of my race with you. First of all – I’m ok. But I did have a disappointing day. The cold water temps and even colder air temps at the start presented a lot of problems for me with both muscle spasms in the low back and presented the perfect formula to trigger my condition induced asthma. That asthma thing doesn’t present itself often but when it does, it can be very problematic with breathing. Feeling those symptoms in the water forced me to stop often to try and breathe. Translation = missed the swim cut off by 2 minutes.

As I exited the water to a road block of orange cones and hearing the words “I’m sorry, your day ends here”, I was in a pretty bad emotional place. I made my way to the warming tent for a little bit not because I was cold, but more because I needed a place to privately “lose my stuff” before regrouping with my family who were eagerly awaiting my swim finish.

14498876-BE14-44F5-94CA-CBFD44717266Even after 30 years of racing, these things still sting. HOWEVER….., we all know that stuff happens. And the stuff doesn’t define us as much as our reaction to it. The rest of the day and next several days proved to be very memorable as we thoroughly enjoyed Lake Placid with our kids and grand kids. Including a hike of Mt. Jo and a visit to a couple of breweries. We created some more amazing memories in the gorgeous town of LP. And for that, I am very grateful.

If any of your are racing IMAC 70.3 this weekend, I will be running the 1st run aid station coming out of transition. I’ll wear a Team IMF cap, so yell hi on your way through. Next up for me is NYC marathon.

It was a pleasure connecting with some of you and an honor to represent the Ironman Foundation. Congratulations to all finishers. THANK YOU to all volunteers and supporters, and Peace to all.

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Happy Blood Cancer Awareness Month!

September is blood cancer awareness month. Blood cancers are cancers of the blood, bone marrow or lymph nodes that affect normal blood cell production or function.

Today, nearly 1.3 million people in the United States are living with, or are in remission from, leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma.

Blood cancer can affect anyone, at any time. There is no way to prevent or screen for most blood cancers, so we are focused on finding cures. Visit lls.org to learn how you can help.

Blood Cancer Awareness

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FDA Approves Immunotherapy for Blood Cancer Patients

Today heralds a new era in cancer treatment with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of a new, cutting-edge gene therapy that reprograms a patient’s immune system to find and kill cancer cells. This highly personalized therapy known as Kymriah (previously CTL019 or tisagenlecleucel-T) signifies the promise of CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T-cell immunotherapy, an approach that The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) recognized early on held great promise for blood cancer patients.

In fact, LLS invested more than $20 million in research for this groundbreaking advance over the past two decades through multiple grants awarded to Carl June, M.D., and his team at the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who pioneered this treatment. Novartis licensed the therapy from Penn in 2016.

LLS has also invested an additional $20 million to support CAR-T advances at other institutions, including Kite Pharma’s KTE-C19 (Axi-cel), also currently under review by the FDA for patients with lymphoma. LLS partnered with Kite Pharma to support its Phase 3 clinical trial since 2015 through its Therapy Acceleration Program® (TAP).

After receiving a unanimous recommendation from a review panel in July, the FDA approved Kymriah today for the treatment of pediatric and young adults 25 years of age and younger with relapsed or refractory B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). More than 3,100 children and adolescents per year are diagnosed with ALL. The overall survival for ALL in children exceeds 85 percent, with these children undergoing between two and a half to three years of intense chemotherapy treatments. However, even patients who achieve an initial response to standard therapy will eventually relapse, and the prognosis is extremely poor for these patients. This CAR-T therapy is designed for those patients who have not responded to multiple previous treatments or are unable to remain in remission from their cancer.

“This is truly an exciting new day for cancer patients,” said Louis J. DeGennaro, Ph.D., LLS president and chief executive officer. “LLS recognized the promise of this innovative approach to treatment nearly 20 years ago. We first began to see remarkable outcomes for some of these patients in 2010 leading us to increase our funding of CAR-T therapy by supporting more than 10 major laboratories developing this method. We at LLS are extremely gratified to witness this lifesaving treatment approved so it is accessible to even more patients who desperately need new options.”

The FDA’s approval of Kymriah is based on positive data from a clinical trial showing that 83 percent of the patients treated achieved a complete response rate.

LLS is now funding the next generation of CAR-T therapy, where we anticipate the method will be useful in many different blood cancers, and perhaps even other major tumors that are difficult to treat such as brain, lung and colon cancer.

About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society® (LLS) is the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. The LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world, provides free information and support services, and is the voice for all blood cancer patients seeking access to quality, affordable, coordinated care.

Founded in 1949 and headquartered in Rye Brook, NY, LLS has chapters throughout the United States and Canada. To learn more, visit www.LLS.org. Patients should contact the Information Resource Center at (800) 955-4572, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET.

For additional information visit lls.org/lls-newsnetwork

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