Sunday, September 30, 2007

Good weekend

After a very busy week at work and late nights with some consulting and other activities, I was ready for a restful weekend.

Dori and I dropped off the kids at my Mom's Friday night and headed to Germantown Cafe in the used silver Honda Odyssey van I bought Thursday (replacing my old hunter green Ford Explorer). It's a nice vehicle. My first choice was a used Subaru Outback, but they are hard to find.

I highly recommend Germantown Cafe. It's not quite the experience I have at my favorite restaurant, Margot in East Nashville, which pursues more of a French or Italian cafe experience and a menu that changes daily. But the food and service were sharp. Dori had plum pork medallions with a creamy risotto, while I went for the garlic 7 oz. filet with risotto. The salad with blue cheese vinaigrette, strudel with feta, olives, onions, and artichoke hearts, and french onion soup were nice starts to our meals, as was the peppery red wine the server suggested. Can you tell we're food snobs?

Saturday morning, I helped my sister and brother-in-law move their heavy furniture and boxes into their spacious new home in the 37212 area. I caught the second half of Will's soccer game, just in time to see him score a goal. He and his buddies kept up the pressure the whole second half, but lost their first game of the year, 2-1.

Will and I joined Will's godfather, Al DeNunzio, Saturday night to watch Vanderbilt improve to 3-1 with a 30-7 victory over MAC foe Eastern Michigan. The game was sloppy and chippy. Hopefully, our QB will play a better game next week in Auburn. Our defense, however, is our best in 10 years. Our defenders aren't big, but they're lightning quick and aggressive. We have a chance to take down a big dog or two this year with a good game, but not with play like last night's.

The kids ran cross country today. Will ran a good time, I think just below 6:00 for 3/4 mile, even though he almost face-planted early in the race. He showed some toughness by getting back in the race quickly. Kathryn had a much better race this week, finishing in 7:43 for a mile, about 30 seconds faster than last week's time. She looked calmer today, which was good. Time and place matter less to her Mom and me than doing your best and showing maturity through good and bad results, which Kathryn and I talked about this week.

I ran five miles on Friday at the Stones River Greenway, for a weekly total of 12 miles. Remember the good old days this summer when I was running 35 miles a week? Don't miss 'em. I ran again after 5 p.m. tonight at Radnor. Temp was about 73 and humidity was low. The course is mostly easy, except one .75 mile stretch straight up a steep hill. I felt good the whole way (5.0 miles in 44:48).

The run was a great way to start what will be a busy week. We'll keep CaringBridge updated as Dori begins the next round in her battle to beat leukemia.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Dori is still on schedule to have her bone marrow transplant on Oct. 9, with a check-in to Vanderbilt on Oct. 3. Both of us are busy working on a check-off list before she re-enters VUMC. The main things that have happened over the last week: Dori received an oral hygiene OK from the dentist, her PICC line has been removed (finally), the preliminary biopsy results from last Thursday look fine and we had a good second opinion visit with Dr. Couriel today at Centennial.

The four of us went to Beersheba Springs, TN, last weekend for some much needed R&R and peace. We love Beersheba, an annual trek for us. It is a very small community, with houses and cabins that overlook valleys from the Cumbeland Plateau. The drop-offs are about 1,000 feet. Beersheba is about 45 minutes from Monteagle, but it might as well be two hours away. Like Monteagle, the climate is amazing. When we left Nashville Friday, it was 91 steamy degrees; two hours later when we arrived in Beersheba, it was 78.

We ate good food, took Pepper for walks and hiked to the Stone Door in the pristine Savage Gulf State Natural Area. The kids played in the sandbox for hours, and Will and I watched some college football. We went to bed early, and some of us slept in (not me ... I took Pepper for some walks at dawn). Dori really enjoyed the trip, as evidenced from the cell phone camera photos. We took some better photos with "the good camera." Maybe I can get those scanned and posted later.

We left early Sunday for the kids' first cross country meet. It was brutally hot ... 93 degrees. Will managed it well, finishing his 3/4 mile in 6:02 and I think in the Top 15 of 100 or so boys. He's in the red in the photo above. Kathryn is like me ... she is no fan of the heat. She runs better when it's cooler. Last year, her races in October were much better than September's. I know the feeling, girl.

I made a curious choice and run Sunday afternoon in Percy Warner Park. After two miles of wondering why I was running steep hills in 93 degree heat, I hiked a half mile, then finished the 3 1/2 mile trip with a jog. After work tonight, I ran a smooth four miles. It was a pleasant 85 degrees after a shower but humid. Pace was probably about a 9:15. I am not timing myself these days because I have no desire to - I don't have a goal or an upcoming race in mind right now. I am running for health reasons and to maintain a modest level of fitness before the next goal goes on the chalkboard.

I've got to be honest. My anxiety level is higher than it has been. It's simply because we're in an interim period. I prefer action and occupation, not down time. I also realize the transplant is almost here. Dori really seems mentally ready to get on with it. Once it gets closer, I'll be ready, too. I cherish life more than I ever thought I could (I thought I had already maxed out, but I hadn't). I pray hard every night for this episode to end and for Dori's full return to good health. I'll leave you with something I read in Time magazine today that has stuck with me. It's Sean Penn's take - while he's being interviewed about his new movie, Into the Wild - on his uncle and aunt as both faced their mortality. It made Dori and me laugh when I recounted the passage during our second opinion visit (We were talking with Dr. Couriel about how none of us know when it's your time):

... The thing I can't figure out about Into the Wild is if it's a happy story or a sad one. McCandless experiences so much joy, but then he dies in the end ...

PENN: Let me tell you what I think. My Uncle Bill, who was dying--with 13 cousins that he had all with my Aunt Joan, they had a great, happy marriage for all their years. So there he is on his deathbed. He'd been in a coma a couple of days, and a priest has come in to give last rites. This was the first time, Irish that they are, that my aunt let a tear fall, trusting that his coma would make him unaware of it. Well, open come the eyes, and he sees. He catches her--she can't get away with it. And his last words were "What're ya crying about? You're gonna die too."

Not my words, but can you hear the accent? The Irish have a way ... Here's something more visual that might evoke a laugh.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Still running

The last few days have been tough ones. The reality of Dori's bone marrow transplant is here, as she will re-enter Vanderbilt on October 3 for an October 9 transplant. Dori updated everyone tonight on, but I'll add that Dori has a biopsy tomorrow (number six), a visit to the dentist next week and a second opinion visit at Centennial.

Why has it been tough lately? I'll sum it up without specifics ... some folks have difficulty expressing themselves appropriately. They mean well but just can't rise to the occasion, or they just aren't equipped well. Dori and I talk about this a lot. Rather than get disappointed when someone slips, I encourage her to stay focused on the positive and when someone serves up a crap sandwich, just say "no, thanks" and move on. This isn't always easy, but Dori proved once again she can do it, after a little venting yesterday.

I will tell you God spoke to Dori all day long today. After the recent tough run of bull manure, Dori heard from many people who just wanted to tell her they love her. LOTS of people called her today. She also went for a walk at Radnor Lake, and the first song on her iPod was, "While You See a Chance ... Take It." This was an answer to lingering doubts about whether to go through a transplant. She also called the carpet cleaner guy she likes. He mentioned his daughter had blood issues, but is doing well four years after a transplant with some mild side effects, but overall she's fine. This was another answer to the concern Dori has about quality of life issues after a transplant.

Dori was peppered with gloomy statistics and information at the clinic the other day. She has a sharp math mind and really processes numbers. I'm a little different. They're nice to know, but statistics don't take everything into account. Your will, your heart, your mind ... that's what matters. Now tell me the statistics of people who have Dori's will, heart and mind. I always have had a thing about negative people. For better or worse, I've gone into lockdown mode to keep Dori exposed as much as possible to uplifting people. I can't control all of it, but I can have a big impact as her husband and primary caregiver.

I've been a little warm under the collar myself the last few days, so I decided to take it out on pavement at lunch today. I ran 5.0 miles on the Stones River Greenway, which is mostly flat but has a few nice gradients. It was not humid, but sunny and 83. I did not time myself, but I think I covered it in about 41 minutes or so, an 8:12 pace. I thought about Dori the whole run. When I called her in the afternoon, she told me about her 4.0 mile walk on hilly Ganier Ridge, an impressive trip when you DON'T have leukemia. BTW, I have a new trick when the pain comes during a run: I count down the estimated amount of time left. Seven minutes left ... well that's how long it takes to unload the dishwasher. You get the picture. This helped me at the Virginia Beach Half Marathon. The mind is stronger than the body.

I also ran Sunday (3.25 miles) and Monday (3.5 miles) in the neighborhood, the latter in 31:23, an 8:51 pace. That's 11.75 miles at mid-week, not bad when you're not training for anything specific. Today's run was the first time I felt 100 percent since Virginia Beach.

This weekend, Dori, the kids and I are going to a special place on the Cumberland Plateau - a cabin we visit each year. It is secluded, and the view is panoramic. The running and hiking are great, and we certainly plan to indulge in God's green garden.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dores win

Vanderbilt beat Ole Miss 31-17 last night in impressive fashion. They controlled the game, though they made it interesting with a missed field goal and a few other mistakes. VU fans are used to that ... but we take every win we can get.

The team showed enough promise to make me believe they will win more big games. Swami Jim sees wins against Eastern Michigan and Miami of Ohio, with big games against Auburn and Georgia in early October. I don't see us beating Florida or South Carolina, but every other game on our schedule looks winnable, including Tennessee and Wake Forest. What is up with Tennessee, by the way, which lost 59-20 against Florida? Did they quit, or is Florida that good?

The tailgate yesterday was great fun. My sister Anne really dressed up her house, and my BBQ turned out great. Mom said it was the best ever. The brisket was like butter, friend Paige Clancy (or was that Betsy Hindman?) said. Several friends stopped by and seemed to have a good time before the game. Everyone remarked how great Dori looks, and I think you'll agree from the picture above of her cheering on Will at yesterday's soccer match.

Will's soccer team won again 4-0. Will had one play that drew double-takes. While on defense, he collected a hard ball with his left foot, moved it to his right and blasted it away from defenders, all in one motion. Dori yelled with enthusiasm, and I gasped, "Did you see that?" The crowd acknowledged the outstanding play. Will has been playing mostly D, but I can tell he'd like to play some offense, too. He does seem to be a natural on defense. Dori says he looks intuitive out there. Wayne Gretzky once was asked why he was a good player, and he said he goes where he sees the puck is going to be, not where it is now. Will seems to have some of that. Proud parents.

Pepper and I snuck in our 2.5 mile run. The dog is now about 19 months old and seems to be developing some stamina. The perfect weather doesn't hurt endurance. I like having him along on short runs.

We'll be busy at VUMC this week with caregiver classes and Dori will undergo a thorough physical. We're encouraged with where we are ... Dori is in great physical shape and has a very good frame of mind as she nears the next big phase of this battle. Your cards and the stories you have shared have been very comforting. Have a great week, everyone, and thank you for joining us in prayer.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Game day

Today is a perfect day for being outdoors. It's 59 degrees outside and we'll have a high in the low 70s. Will has a soccer match this morning, I'll probably squeeze in a short run, and then I'll head to my sister's house for a tailgate before the Vanderbilt-Ole Miss game.

We'll watch UT-Florida on the tube. We're expecting about 25 friends and family to swing by ... I rolled out the smoker last night and cooked some Texas-style brisket, Memphis-style ribs and polish sausage. Yum ... no half marathons today.

Today's game is a must-win for Vanderbilt. They simply cannot afford to lose games in which they are favored, especially at home. Being a VU football fan is not for people who like bandwagons. We're kind of on an island. We watch thousands invade our stadium, often outnumbering us like last weekend against Alabama.

Being a VU football fan is also very rewarding. Meeting the players and watching them excel in sports, the classroom and life is invigorating. In this day and age of arrested athletes, mercenary coaches, greed and cheating (nice job, Patriots), a Vandy fan can be proud of the school's program. This team has more talent than recent squads, and winning today would be a big step to earning more respect and achieving the goal of going to a bowl game.

Dori's potential donor went through an information session this week. That's a great sign ... she's still engaged in the process. I thank God for this young person I don't know who is about to give my wife a chance at a cure. What many of you have done by getting on the Bone Marrow Donor Registry is amazing ... it is selfless and magical, really. Dori's transplant date is looking like early to mid October ... VUMC is targeting the week of October 8. Dori's blood counts have generally risen since consolidation chemo, with a little fluctuation on certain counts. She goes to bed early and sleeps a little more than pre-leukemia.

Each one of us still has a tough day or two, but we do well when we stay busy, while keeping an eye on each other. Dori is doing well, especially when she stays busy completing tasks and chores. The kids are doing great in school and after-school activities. My work, which I am enjoying, is keeping me busy. Yes, this situation dominates my thoughts, but I won't let it consume me. It's an ongoing thing that requires prayer, reflection and the continual realization I am very human.

I took it easy running this week. I am about 95% since the half marathon. Here's a recap:

Monday - 4.0 miles, treadmill, 35:18
Tuesday - 40 minutes on crosstrainer
Thursday - 4.25 miles, 87 degrees, moderate terrain, probably an 8:40 pace
Today - Probably 2.5 miles in the neighborhood with Pepper, mid 60s, moderate terrain

Weekly total: 10.75 miles

Monday, September 10, 2007

Next steps

When I was younger, it wouldn't have been inaccurate to say I was directionless. The Navy helped changed that, and some soul-searching later helped, as well. Today, I don't feel directionless in life, just aimless after the half marathon (goal set, goal accomplished). I have direction to see Dori through this fight against leukemia, to be a great Dad and to grow professionally, for sure. But after a summer of goals, I feel whupped and people who know me know it.

With the air out of the balloon, I'm just running for health reasons right now. Today, I ran four miles at the Y in 35:18. It was an easy run that I cut short because I felt calf tension again. If I have a running goal right now, it's not to get too far out of shape until I set my next running goal. Pretty aimless, if you ask me. Guys do better with goals and those honey-do lists we whine about.

My first run after the 13.1 was a very enjoyable 1.5 miler with my son. He had run cross country practice only an hour before, but when he heard I was going for a short neighborhood jog he said, "Can I come?" "Sure, son, let's go." I was impressed by his resolve. After two races that afternoon, he hung with me in some humidity and on some moderate terrain. He could have quit at the end up a hill, but he just plowed on and then surged ahead of me. He's trying to be like Dad, I guess, and I'm fine with that (usually!).

On Saturday, Will and his soccer team played their first match, winning 2-1. Will played a good game, clearing the ball often on defense and showing good skills (sideline photo above with his buddy William Antony). He's won three of four cross country practice runs and is doing great in school, according to his teachers. This is good stuff. How blessed we are as parents.

Later on Saturday, Will and I went to the Vanderbilt-Alabama game. I thought VU would win this game, but they executed poorly and still have shoddy special teams. They won't go to a bowl unless they fix their kicking coverage. It's atrocious. The refs made some bad calls, but that didn't cost us the game. Will had a blast, as always (photo of him above at the "Star Walk" one hour before the game).

Kathryn is also doing well. Today, while listening to a story on NPR about General Petraeus, I asked the kids what they thought about Iraq, not expecting much of an answer but just to see what they know. Kathryn proceeded to state her position and explain it plausibly (I took the opposite view, BTW, and we talked about how the country is generally split on the issue). I'm not a Rumsfeld fan, if that helps you figure where I stand.

Dori has several medical appointments, as do I, over the next two weeks. We'll keep you posted on CaringBridge. Have a great week.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Virginia Beach Wrap-Up

The Virginia Beach Half Marathon is over, but it's still not far from my thoughts.

After the race, our group celebrated in style with a tasty lunch and beverages at Chick's, which overlooks Lynnhaven Inlet. Chick's is next door to the Dockside Inn, which we visited the day before. That night, we had some fun times near the beach, most of it at Harpoon Larry's on 24th and Pacific. I love that place. We downed Yuenglings and steamed shrimp, got smoked by some locals in foozball, and listened to excellent tunes as we recapped the weekend. Earlier, Anne got on one of those Ellen Degeneres rolls for which she's famous ... a fly landed in her white wine, and the next 30 seconds went something like this (as she scooped out the drunk fly with some paper): "I was enjoying that wine. Boy is someone going to be upset tonight (as she starts to impersonate the fly's wife): 'Where have you been all night? ... I sure hope you didn't get an FUI.'" The fly lived, for those of you wondering, to torment other tourists and their drinks.

Dan Flagler captured the weekend and race aura with some great photos he posted here. I've included a few of those and mine on this page. Dan is a funny guy, as you can tell from the captions at the bottom of the photos. I'm grateful to him, Anne and Dave for being with me last weekend. The trip was more fun and meaningful because the experience was shared with great people. I'm proud of Dave ("The Baumer"), who had never run farther than 10 miles. I think he is a true runner ... his first half marathon at 2:02:43 is a strong showing. His pace remained consistent the whole race, between a 9:12 and a 9:17.

By the way, my official finish was respectable, I thought, especially on wobbly legs the last 20 minutes. I finished 4,526 out of 17,018 finishers and about 22,000 entrants. I finished 3,088 out of 7,442 men and 452 out of 1,102 men between 40-44.

Monday was one long reminder I ran 13.1 miles and walked another six as a tourist. The soreness in my legs was as deep as I've ever felt. Deplaning on the tarmac at Reagan National was no fun. On the other hand, eating some foods I haven't eaten since the spring has been fun. I feel about 90% today and will probably run tomorrow night or Friday sometime.

I am proud of my second grade son, Will, who finished first in cross country practice the other day. As Kathryn said, "He beat the third graders." Will is a natural athlete and I like that his competitive fire is starting to burn. I also like that the classmate who finished second to him waited outside his car the next day when he saw Will, then walked in to school with him. Friends first, competitors next. Two good boys at a great school. Kathryn is also a good runner. Both will be competing again in a league this fall, which they enjoy.

Sunday, September 2, 2007


Today was a culmination day in many ways, a day I will never forget. I ran the Virginia Beach Half Marathon in a personal best 2:01:02, 5 minutes and 40 seconds faster than my previous best.

The race started at 7 a.m. under bright sunny skies and perfect Chamber of Commerce conditions. Race organizers had to be pleased, race participants even more so. The temperature was about 68 degrees at the start, maybe 74 at the finish, and it was not humid. Navy buddy Dave Baum and I headed to the start line about 6:40 since our hotel room was right next door. My sister, Anne, and Vandy buddy Dan Flagler came to cheer us on. Anne and I walked to the course together with arms around each other, both of us thinking about beautiful, wonderful, sweet Dori, the best person I know in this world. I have to admit I got a little ver klempt, as Linda Richmond would say, before the start.

I started off semi-nervously in the 7th of 20 some-odd corrals, getting to the first mile in 8:32. Slow down, big fella. I settled in to a comfortable pace, and felt very good, alternating my thoughts between Dori, who has so courageously battled leukemia this summer, and my sore calf muscles, which have hindered my training since an arduous session on Aug. 11 in Nashville. I prayed to my Lord, asking His help to keep my legs loose so I could attain this important goal.

I saw tons of Team in Training race participants and their supporters on the sidelines, each one of them reminding me of Dori and bolstering my spirits. I saw other people running for other causes. Many people were running for Virginia Tech, and many VT supporters were screaming their lungs out along the course. You cannot imagine the emotions watching this outpouring. Along the way, I also thought about the 150-plus wonderful people who contributed more than $20,000 so far to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in honor of Dori. I thought about Candy Rucker, Chuck Hendry, Kim Swindall and other leukemia patients, and their caregivers. I thought about my training partner, Ann DeNunzio, who paced me on our longs runs, encouraged me, and referred me to Keith McCord, the invaluable therapist who helped loosen my legs with some deep tissue massages this past week.

At the 5K and 10K splits, I felt calm and comfortable, right on a 9:00 minute pace. The legs felt good, too. At around mile 8, I saw a black lab who reminded me of my beloved Otis, who I had to put to sleep just more than a year ago. We made eye contact, and I saw a look I hadn't seen in a while ... the look of an old but content dog.

When I got to Rudee's Inlet at about 8.5 miles or so, the course hits its only elevation point. Over the bridge I went, again feeling good. At the bottom of the bridge, I saw Anne, who was smiling and cheering for me. Later, she told me I looked like I was having fun. I was.

The race then finds Atlantic Avenue, which is one block off the beach. For two miles, you run past hotels, retailers and restaurants, with people lining boths sides of the street. I hit the 10 mile mark at 1:30:30, which is a 9:03 pace. My goal of sub 2 hours was well within reach.

At the 11-mile mark (now running on the concrete boardwalk), my right calf, which hasn't been bothering me like the left, began to tense. At 11.5, I had to stop briefly, maybe 20 seconds, to stretch it. Keith recommended I do this if I felt stress in the legs. After the short stop, I began fighting fatigue. This is where not running much since Aug. 11 began to catch up with me. The left calf then began to tighten considerably. I really slowed down, thinking the 2:00 goal was going to be tough. I stretched again after mile 12, again for about 20 seconds, playing it conservative for a good finish and a PR, rather than try to be a hero. It was the right move staying within my limits. Finish, don't flop.

I crossed in 2:01:02, happy as a lark with the effort and the results. I looked around and saw other tired but happy people. I thanked God, then all the people who supported me. My heart thought of Dori, then I saw Dan, who handed me the phone to call Dori. She had been following my progress on the Internet, and she knew I would be happy. It was a celebration call, no doubt. She told me she was proud. I told her I love her. Later, I called my Mom, who was ecstatic. The kids were with her, and they also gave Dad some love over the phone.

Anne joined us, and we looked for Dave. We couldn't find him, and began to wonder if he had a tough race. After roaming for awhile, we stumbled upon him. He had a GREAT race, finishing his first half in 2:02:43. STUD. I thanked all three of them for being with me, then we headed back to the hotel on a two-mile walk that was actually nice (get out the lactic build-up). Yes, I'm sore, but it is the sore of achievement.

I'll blog later this week about other fun stuff we're doing and post some pics. If you like hearing about steamed shrimp and Yuengling, you'll enjoy.

I am grateful to everyone who loves Dori and all of you who have been cheering me on this summer. Your love in this little corner of the world wide web has been good tonic during tough times. God bless you all.