2014 Marine Corp Marathon – I Teared Up at That

Those marines sure know how to throw a party. I will try to keep this brief as I know nobody likes getting lulled to sleep with long drawn out race reports. While my effort at this year’s Marine Corp Marathon was a slow run/walk, it was nothing short of moving and inspirational. This was my first MCM and I now see what all the fuss is about and what makes this “the people’s marathon”. I feel like we got in a week’s worth of marathon “vacation” activity in about 30 hours. Including a great dinner in Crystal City with Team Inspiration where we shared stories of survivorship and remembrance and why we do what we do. It was great catching up with teammates Roseann Dougherty and BethAnn Telford and meeting some new faces as well. I even survived the DC Metro system which for a guy who isn’t the most mass transit savvy, and who is also a bit (ok … very) directionally challenged, is an accomplishment equal to that of the marathon…or close to it.  

Race morning started off with some great energy and karma as I just happened to bump into our Eastern PA Team in Training marathon team exiting the metro station. Had I planned a rendezvous like that, it never would have come to fruition. We just “found” each other, which is telling of my relationship with TNT. The race start was one of the most moving things I have ever witnessed. The sky was filled with marine skydivers carrying American Flags descending to the start area. All eyes were fixed skyward as we watched these guys (& girls?!) circle their drop zone with their flags waving in the wind beneath them then hit their mark with laser precision. We were also treated to the impressive sights of two Osprey helicopters flying low overhead and of course the race started with the signature and ceremonious blast of a Howitzer cannon. Truly, truly moving.  And yeah, I have no problem admitting, I teared up at that.

The entire rest of the day was more of the same. The weather conditions were perfect although a little seasonably warm for late October in the Mid Atlantic region. I made a few friends along the way, including two marines who were running the same pace as I and employing the same walk/run interval. I only made two social stops along the way. The first was to jump onto the grass to say hi to Runner’s World editor Bart Yasso. It was great seeing Bart at mile 10-ish. I also pulled over to help a guy who I had been running with because his right hamstring went on strike and completely seized up around mile 20. After getting him on his back and helping him stretch it out, he was back on his feet and on his way. And yeah, I have no problem admitting, I teared up at that. I also ran by a marine with a note pinned to his back that read “I run for my fellow marines and fallen brothers”. He was walking, and obviously hurting. As I came up behind him I put my hand on the note on his back and just said “let’s go”. He replied with a “thank you sir” and ran with me for a bit. Nothing else needed to be said. And yeah, I have no problem admitting, I teared up at that.

The sights and sounds of running through the metro DC area are pretty awe inspiring. You pass by so many symbols that represent this country and its freedom. Add to that camouflaged marines EVERYWHERE cheering you on with an abundance of “oorahs” and “sirs” and, well, I have no problem admitting, I teared up at that. The finish was more of the same. I have been through my share of finish line chutes. I am not being critical of anyone who volunteers time to help out anywhere, but let’s be honest some volunteers are a little more spirited than others in some races. At the MCM, we were greeted by a receiving line of marines that you passed through as you crossed the finish line. Each one wanting to not just high five you, put firmly shake your hand, congratulate you and thank you for being there. And as I reached the last marine in the receiving line he shook my hand, congratulated me and asked me how I felt as he donned the most bad ass and stealth finisher medal I have ever received around my neck. And yeah, I have no problem admitting, I teared up at that.

A few thank yous are in order. First to my wife MG. We drove a lot of miles this weekend, and she drove them all. Her love and support is unwavering and I truly don’t deserve that or her. Also to my college buddy Andy Zipfel and his beautiful family who not only opened their doors for us this weekend, but made sure I had everything I needed pre and post race. We were welcomed with open arms and felt right at home. And lastly, to the MCM staff and volunteer nation of many, OORAH. You guys do it right. Thank you.

Next up, the New York City Marathon next weekend with Ethan Zohn and Grassroot Soccer.

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Healing, Regrouping, and Ducks

OK. I’m not sure where to begin this post so bear with me. Many of you know that I was all set to race Ironman Maryland last weekend.  Without dwelling too much on what went wrong or feeling too sorry for myself, I wanted to at least get the word out to people that I am ok. I’m a little emotionally bruised but this shall pass. The short version of the story is that I became uncontrollably sick during the race and was picked up and taken to medical for a brief visit then released.

After a little bit of down time back at the hotel room, we eventually made our way back into town to see and cheer the masses making their Ironman trek. We managed to make the most of our remaining time in Cambridge and enjoyed that magical little town to the fullest. This isn’t an easy thing to reconcile, but I will reconcile it. MG and I spent a few hours along the river drives yesterday playing with the ducks and geese after a therapeutic run loop. Nothing like a good fall Philly run and an outdoor lunch at the Cosmic Café to cure what ails you.

I am all registered for Ironman Maryland 2015 and am very much looking forward to going back. In the meantime, I have little doubt that the Marine Corp Marathon, NYC Marathon, and Philly Half Marathon will be just what the doctor ordered to straighten me out.

photo 2Many thanks to my always supportive family who not only supports me but encourages my every step of the way. And kudos to all who had successful races this weekend. I was a little too stuck in my own shadows to give you proper real time congratulations over the weekend. But you all deserve it. Job well done to all of you.

I’m a firm believer in taking something away from every experience, even if that something is learning to deal with disappointment, and keeping it in its proper perspective. At the end of the day, I am reminded of the wise realization that a really bad day on the race course is still better than a really great day in chemo. I remain one of the luckiest people I know.

Train safe, race smart, and thank the volunteers.

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To Endure

Ironman Maryland is now a week away and the usual pre ultra distance race thoughts are dancing through my mind. Did I train enough? What do I need to pack? What does the event schedule look like? What about nutrition? What am I wearing? Did I train enough? How many more swims can I squeeze in before next Saturday? What’s the water temperature? What’s the air temperature? What are the winds doing? What’s the extended forecast look like? And DID I TRAIN ENOUGH?

I’ve raced this distance enough to at least understand the inability to understand all of the messages and questions that are colliding into one another and competing for my attention. I’ve learned that I don’t really need to answer all of them. I just need to be able to hush them into a quiet lull of background white noise.

Some of these questions require a little bit of thought and planning. But the answers to many of these questions just don’t matter. What’s done is done at this point. Did I train enough? Who knows? I’ve learned that this race is always going to be painful. We don’t train in hopes of having a pain free race. We train to be able to endure pain for an extended period of time. We train to be comfortable being uncomfortable. We train so we know what race day pain will feel like.

I certainly haven’t trained as much as I did when I trained for my first Ironman 15 years ago. But I’m also 15 years older and hopefully a little bit wiser. I’ve learned the value of rest and the importance of taking care of my body. I’ve also been through a leukemia diagnosis, remission, two relapses, and two more remissions since my first ironman. So perhaps my perspective is different than that of others.

My cancer mindset is much like my endurance sports mindset. Control the things that I can control. Take things in small bite sized chunks. Understand that everything will be cyclical and I will run the gamut from elation to exhaustion in frequent boomerang fashion. The mind is capable of steering very large objects; like my physical body. Patience and positivity are crucial.

While I am a little nervous, I’m more excited than anything else. I know Cambridge Maryland. Between racing ChesapeakeMan and EagleMan numerous times I have created some wonderful memories there for me and my family. For me this race and this life are about creating experiences to look back on with satisfaction and fulfillment. It’s about doing something that you can be (quietly and humbly) proud of. Times mean nothing to me. Assuming of course that I make all of the required cut offs!

While this will be my 12th Ironman, it’s no more, easier, harder, better, or more important than my or anyone else’s first. I don’t proclaim to be any kind of expert. I’m just weathered, but I’ve persevered, I’ve endured. The same questions arise each and every time I race this distance. The only difference is that with the first couple of Ironman races there tends to be a sense of panic and uncertainty that scares you. Ironman consumes you. It is the focal point of your every thought and action. That never really goes away over the years. But over time, you learn that panic and uncertainty are just part of the game. So you figure out ways of loosening your grip a little to handle the anxiety with more of a quiet resolve. You learn how to temporarily tame the beast. You also learn that Ironman will be just one of many significant events in your life so you eventually find that balance and perspective as well. (And if you are lucky, it won’t be the most significant accomplishment in your life).

steve and mgIronman is huge. It’s an amazing accomplishment requiring an incredible amount of commitment and dedication. But at the end of it all, Ironman is just a race. It won’t define you. It won’t make you any better or worse than your neighbor. It can’t rob you of your soul or control or own you. It’s just a race. But it’s one long ass painfully blissful race that you will both love and hate a million times before midnight. And one that you will remember for the rest of your life and hopefully end up loving forever.

Train safe, race smart, and thank the volunteers.

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Dear Everyone in the World

I heard you are going through a bit of a rough patch. While I can’t say that I know exactly what you are feeling, I can say that I understand rough patches. I understand feeling a little lost and broken. One thing that only patience and experience teaches you is that “rough patches” really are just that – patches. They aren’t road closures or endings. They are like dark clouds that always keep right on moving and yield to a brighter sky.

And more often than not the blue sky that does return is even bluer and more beautiful than you remembered. I guess what I am trying to say is that I know your sky will clear. I also know that you are strong and know how to dig in and take a stance while the storm passes. And when it does, you will be even stronger.

Hang in there

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HEADstrong’s 1st Annual 5k Run Set for September 14th

Run The Park 5K Logo

Ridley Park, PA – With September recognized as National Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness Month the HEADstrong Foundation™ has unveiled plans for special fundraising event to promote blood cancer awareness, honor those in the fight and raise funds to support the essential programs and services offered by the organization to improve quality of life for those affected by blood cancers and their families.

The 1st Annual Run The Park 5k will be held on Sunday, September 14, 2014. Run The Park will be a challenging 3.1 mile race that will take runners on a scenic tour through beautiful suburban Ridley Park, Pennsylvania. In addition to the 5k, Mainstreets of Ridley Park™ will host its inaugural Rubber Ducky Regatta.

Race day registration is available. Fee – $45.00. Participants will receive an event t-shirt, pair of HF shoelaces and a complimentary goody bag.

Proceeds from the Run The Park 5k will benefit the HEADstrong Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to HEADing efforts to improve quality of life for patients and families affected by blood cancers in memory of Nicholas “HEAD” Colleluori.

Click Here to view a full range of sponsorship opportunities for the Run The Park 5k.

Event Timeline
7:30 AM Registration
8:30 AM Dynamic Warm-Up by Endeavor Performance
9:00 AM Race Start
12:00 PM Presentation
12:30 PM Rubber Ducky Regatta

About the HEADstrong Foundation™
The HEADstrong Foundation™ is a 501(c)(3) committed to being a resource for blood cancer patients and their families, helping them to navigate the harrowing ordeal of cancer by providing essential services to improve quality of life.

HEADstrong™ is an athletic rooted organization that serves the cancer community by granting direct financial assistance to those financially impacted as a result of the disease, by providing complimentary long-term housing and amenities for those traveling to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for cancer related treatments through Nick’s House™, by funding innovative blood cancer research through the Nicholas E. Colleluori Lymphoma research fund, by serving family meals and offering outlets of entertainment for those receiving care at hospitals, by delivering comfort kits to newly hospitalized patients preparing for treatment or transplant and by lending an arm of support through their peer to peer advocacy group.

The blueprints for the Foundation were conceptualized by Nicholas “HEAD” Colleluori in 2006, while he underwent treatment for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which ultimately claimed his life. Today, Nick’s vision is being fulfilled through the relentless efforts of his family, athletes and supporters across the country uniting in the fight against blood cancers.

For more information on the HEADstrong Foundation™ and how they are Getting aHEAD of Cancer™ go to www.HEADstrong.org.

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Upcoming Inspiration & Perspiration

Well it looks like my calendar is going to be pretty busy in the coming months. Next up is Ironman Maryland on September 20th. As some of you know, this is the old Chesapeakeman race recently purchased by the WTC. I’m looking forward to doing this race under the M-Dot umbrella and comparing it to its previous state of independence.  I was contacted my Ironman’s Dave Downey and it looks like I will be one of their featured athletes who will have their story told at the welcome reception and then followed around throughout race weekend with a camera. No pressure.

Thanks to Comcast for permitting use of my Net Impact story during the banquet. I’m also racing “IM Crabby” as part of Team Inspiration in support of cancer warriors everywhere. While I hope I don’t screw this up, I take stock and pride in the fact that we are building memories through our adventures and in turn inspiring others. That makes it all worthwhile.

I also received an invite to race the Marine Corp Marathon on October 25th also as an honored patient warrior with Team Inspiration. I’ve never raced MCM but it’s always been on my short list. Thanks to Team Inspiration for extending the offer to join them, and be honored. One of the reasons I jumped on Marine Corp is because I was undecided about racing the NYC marathon this year and was leaning towards not racing it. HOWEVER, the universe has a wonderful way of providing you with answers just by remaining open to her options. Last night, I received the below email from my good buddy Ethan Zohn:

Hi,

I hope you are well. Sarah and I spoke today and we think you should run with Grassroot Soccer for the NYC Marathon on November 2nd. In addition, we would love to make you an honorary captain and have you speak at the pre-race dinner about your inspirational journey, your love for GRS and visiting the program in Africa. Do you think this would be something you want to do with us?

Let me know your thoughts,

E

How does one possibly say no to THAT? That’s an easy answer. One can’t and doesn’t say no to supporting his friend’s charity for the 6th straight year. And in true and consistent fashion, my wife wholeheartedly agreed so we toasted and said “let’s do it”. So, I will race Marine Corp and NYC marathons a week apart, and a month after Ironman. It’s all about making a difference, making memories, and appreciating all of the opportunities this life affords you. I will be fundraising for Grassroot Soccer and our HIV/AIDS efforts in Africa. More on that will follow.

Stay tuned for some great stories and pictures of some great races, and causes.

And lastly, my next book is nearing completion. It will be a much more comprehensive view of my leukemia journey and all of life’s intersections along the way. Triathlon legends Karen Smyers and Dave Scott will be contributing their thoughts in the book as well. I will keep you posted.

A glimpse:

As I reconciled everything that I was experiencing, I made a few key decisions that both kept me sane and at the same time changed my life. One was to practice the simple adage of controlling the things I could control. I couldn’t control the diagnosis. But I could control a lot of how I reacted to that diagnosis. In that respect, my thought process was exactly the same as it is on race day. I drew many parallels between the challenges I was facing with the disease and the challenges we all face in sport, and in life. Another critical decision I made was to remain in motion.  I have learned through the years that I am always happiest when I am moving. I’ve never known if I am running towards or away from something, but when I am moving, I am whole. It is more than just a way to stay in shape. It is how I have always coped and it is my therapy. So I held onto that and kept up my training through my treatments – often running home from chemo. I made it part of a game. I challenged the disease back and made up some of my own rules of engagement.

Train safe, race smart, and thank the volunteers.

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Seeptember is Blood Cancer Awareness Month

During Blood Cancer Awareness Month this September, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is reminding everyone that while breakthrough therapies are saving lives, work still needs to be done to find cures – not someday, but today.

Thanks to LLS-funded research, new safe and effective treatments, once unimaginable, are saving lives today. Cures for many patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and Hodgkin lymphoma have been achieved, and the five-year survival rate for children with ALL jumped 3 percent in 1964 to approximately 90 percent in 2014. The survival rate for myeloma patients more than tripled in the past decade. 

And, advances are far-reaching. From 2000 through 2013, almost 40 percent of new anti-cancer drugs approved by FDA were first approved (or developed) for blood cancer patients – more first-ever approvals than for any other group of cancers – and many of these were advanced funding from LLS. Some therapies are even helping patients with other cancers and other serious, nonmalignant diseases. 

But despite the advances, work still needs to be done to find cures. Every three minutes, someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with a blood cancer, and more than 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with, or in remission from, a blood cancer.  Unlike with other cancers, you cannot screen for or prevent most blood cancers.  

About one third of patients with a blood cancer still do not survive even five years after their diagnosis, which is why more funding is needed to bring better therapies to patients, and faster. 

LLS’s goal is to raise $300,000 dollars in 30 days. To donate, please visit https://donate.lls.org/lls/donate or contact Mika Harding, Director of Donor Development & Special Events, at (610) 276-3190 or Mika.Harding@lls.org.

To learn more about our patient services, please contact Ilana Benyosef, Senior Manager for Patient Education & Access, at (610) 276-3199 or Ilana.Benyosef@lls.org, or visit www.lls.org/epa

For more information about getting involved with LLS, please call our Eastern PA Chapter at (610) 238-0360 or visit our website at www.lls.org/epa.

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A Wish

If I could have just one wish… OK so maybe I can’t really articulate my desires into just one wish. But if I could conceptually change one way of thinking, it would be that we stop living life through the I, me, mine lens, and channel our energies into the fine arts of compassion and humility.

Rather than telling the world how hard you’ve trained, how fast you’ve raced, how lavish your possessions or how exotic your vacation may have been, let’s reflect on what we can do, and should do to make “equality” a little more equal, move the bar of acceptance, feed someone who is really hungry, help someone attain the tools of education, help someone feel safe and warm at night, express our love and appreciation of others, and focus our efforts into making a difference in the lives of others.

Every single person that you encounter every day of your life is facing some sort of struggle. Some people manage their struggles better than others. And struggles come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. But everyone is dealing with something. Be that shoulder that someone else needs. Demonstrate a random act of kindness for no other reason than you can.

Have compassion. Show compassion. Live compassion. Be compassion.

Changing one life can change a community. Changing a community can change a society. Changing a society can change the world.

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The Running Lifestyle Podcast Interview

I recently did this podcast interview with Kari Gormley for The Running Lifestyle. We talk about running, triathlon, my leukemia diagnosis and treatments, family, and life. Check out Kari’s other interviews as well.

Click to listen

 iTunes

Posted in cancer, ironman, leukemia & lymphoma society, motivation, running, survivor, team in training, training, triathlon | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

Runner’s World Cover Contest

 I was recently encouraged to enter a contest to grace the cover of Runner’s World magazine. While I was a little apprehensive about this at first, I eventually realized it was a chance to give my blood cancer crusade even greater exposure, rallying the blood cancer community and bolstering all cancer crusaders in the process. So I went for it. I needed to respond to the questions below. Be sure to visit the link and vote. You can vote every day but only once per day through August 18th.  

How did you start running?

As an active kid and athlete growing up I feel like I have always been “running”. In high school my buddies were either fellow soccer players or cross country runners. So running wasn’t something we did, it was who we were. In college I learned to appreciate running as a therapeutic and zen like release and not simply a means for getting into physical shape. I started entering races in the mid 1980s and have never looked back.

What is the personal running accomplishment you are most proud of?

I have lived with a chronic form of leukemia since 2006 and have been a triathlon coach with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program ever since. There is nothing I love more than celebrating the accomplishments of all of our athletes. But the one that stands out on a personal level is the 2009 New Jersey marathon which my wife and I did with Team in Training. I ran, she walked and many many people won as we raised funds and awareness for the blood cancer community and celebrated my remission.

Why is running important to you?

I am always happiest when I am in motion. No matter how far, or how fast, if I am moving, I am in a good place. Running also means remission to me. I have used running and endurance sports as weapons in my treatment arsenal to keep my disease in my rear view mirror, helping others along the way to do the same. I often ran home from chemotherapy treatments to remain in control of my leukemia. Running is health. Running is freedom. Running is happiness. When in doubt – get moving.

Describe yourself in one word:  Relentless

Click below to vote.

http://covercontest.runnersworld.com/entry/644/

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