Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Radnor Visits in Spring

I've always admired the beauty of nature. Yesterday, the kids and I walked three miles at Radnor Lake with Pepper. Kathryn and I talked about all the pretty things we saw - mostly flowers, seven deer drinking from the lake and caterpillars - while frog-crazy Will spotted a turtle in a creek. The blooms in late April are impressive.

Today after work, I took Pepper back to Radnor. The plan was a short, slow run - about four miles. Glad that was the plan because my engine's running like a 1987 Renault Alliance. I know because I owned one when I was living on restaurant tips 20 years ago. The French make great cheese. Cars, not so much.

I did enjoy the run. The weather in Nashville is outstanding - low 70s, low humidity, light breezes. Come late July and August, we will be getting our punishment. Pepper and I cruised over 10:00/mile, passing many dogs. Pepper and a mixed puppy named Toby seemed to strike up a great, though brief, friendship.

Dori goes for her monthly clinic visit tomorrow. She's a little apprehensive. Can't blame her, but all of this is in God's hands. I pray every day for the obvious. I want my girl with us for a very long time.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Post-Race Tidbits

After the race, I took a long catnap with Dori. Will and I then took in most of a Vandy baseball game. Around 6, I meandered over to my sister's house to decompress and drink a beer with her and husband Stephen. While there, a woman with Emily Litella hair and glasses (think Saturday Night Live, late 70s) approached their fence. With her medal around her neck eight hours after the finish, she started talking about the race with a semi-crazed look in her eye.

Anne said, "You raced? So did my brother!" ... and headed inside for an imaginary refill. Talk about backing over your brother after throwing him under the bus. Cordial Jim handled the matter with aplomb, congratulating her, then issued Anne her demerits. On the way to dinner, we saw "Emily" getting in a post-race jog, medal a-swaying. Bless her heart.

Dinner was at South Street, a favorite hangout. We grabbed a beer at the bar and met a guy from Boston who ran the marathon in 4:25. He said he was running a marathon or half marathon every month this year "so he can lose 30 pounds." There are other ways to do that, you know, I thought, but how can you spoil a dude's vacation? "Great time," I said, as he nodded while slurping oysters.

We ordered the BBQ Feast for 4. I'm a BBQ snob, but the platter was excellent - a full rack of ribs, two halves of chicken, pulled pork, corncakes with corn, cuban corn, black beans, fries and a killer white sauce. Best Q I've had since I fired up my smoker. Tasted good on Sunday, too.

The only way I'll run the CMM again is if I'm in a front corral. The logjam thing is really an issue, especially starting from a corral past 7 or 8. (Whine alert) Too many walkers and very slow runners start near the front, too many teams walk in a row of four or five, and too many people seem determined to run over you with their iPods at maximum volume. It's a great race, but it seems like organizers need to tighten things.

It's nice to have beer and coffee back in the rotation. Frozen yogurt and ice cream are on deck. I'm only planning one short run this week, a few walks with the dog and a long hike on Saturday. It's hard to whine about that.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Special Running Partner

Yesterday's run was meant to be.

Before my body would race Saturday, my mind decided to go on its own run - I didn't sleep a lick the night before. I "woke up" at 5, stuffed down a banana and a few Clif bars, applied Body Glide, and woke the kids (Dori was already up). When my crew dropped me off at Centennial Park at 6:30, a heavy rain came to an abrupt stop. The temp was a comfortable 57 with high humidity.

Before the race, I saw Carey Clifton, Dori's nurse practitioner at the longterm care clinic at Vanderbilt. She was having an issue tying her timing chip to her shoe, so I jury-rigged it for her. Dori loves Carey, and for good reason. She has a lot of spunk and spirit. We shared our corral numbers (12 and 14), wished each other luck and headed for pre-race bathroom visits. I saw my sister Anne and Mom at the start. Anne took some photos, posted above, of the start and at 4.5 miles where the family situated.

I ran the first mile in 8:50, which was too fast, so I backed it down a notch. Actually, the Country Music Half Marathon is so crowded, even with the wave starts, you have no choice in many spots but to back down. Miles 1.5 through 7 are very tight quarters. You're always aware of the Rambos who sprint through the crowd. One girl pushed me aside to break through a logjam, almost clipping my feet. One dude playfully brushed a friend, almost knocking over another.

At mile 2, heading up Music Row, I thought of the blood cancer patients fighting their battles on 11 North at Vanderbilt, to the right of us about a half mile away. Whenever I pass the hospital, I say a short prayer of hope and strength for everyone on that floor. As the pack cruised up Music Row, one young mom in Team in Training garb passed me. Her shirt struck me, as she had pictures of her with her young son who is fighting blood cancer, along with some inscriptions that included "11 North." That gets to you and inspires you.

At mile 4, I clocked a 36:20, a 9:05/mile pace. I began to recognize this race wasn't the day to shoot for a 2:00:00 finish. The humidity precipitated a very heavy sweat. I knew there were reasons to chill out and enjoy this race. This week, I recognized I was in between things - I'm still drained a touch from the Tom King Half Marathon and not 100% trained for this one. Yesterday's goals were to never stop and to punch through my last two nemesis miles on this course in 2006 and 2007.

As I'm heading down the hill on Belmont Blvd., getting ready to see Dori and my family at Christ the King Church, I thought about all of this. I saw a few friends of ours - Avery, Merrill, Laura and the Doyles - who yelled, "Go Jim!" Very encouraging. My dominant thought was how I really wished I were running with a friend. One hundred yards before I saw Dori, I saw Carey again. We looked at each other, shocked that we were reuniting among 30,000 entrants. I asked if she wanted a partner, and she said absolutely but she didn't want to slow me down. She was running 10:00/mile, so we compromised ... I dropped my pace and she upped hers to about 9:40/mile.

Then we saw Dori and the kids, along with my sister, Mom and our friend Linda. Dori beamed when she saw Carey and me running together. She had made a sign for me, Carey and two college friends, Dana and Jen, along with a thanks to everyone doing Team in Training. The kids held up their "Go Daddy!" sign. In a flash, Carey and I were on our way.

At Mile 5, I asked Carey how long she'd been working in the clinic. Seven years. I asked her what she thought of her job. "Bittersweet," she said with no explanation needed. Thirty seconds later, she said everyone in the clinic is very encouraged with Dori's progress. I mentioned Dori's cut on her foot had almost completely healed. I noticed the mile 6 marker, where my time was 55:15. Miles 7-9 went well, with light chatter between us. I asked Carey to tell me every song and artist that played on her iPod ... Queen, The Police mixed with some new stuff. Time was passing nicely, and we were enjoying the crowds, feeding off their energy.

Before Mile 10, I noticed Carey was beginning to drop some off my shoulder, so I slowed my pace a smidge. This was her first half marathon, and I was not going to let her slip back, if I could help it. I clocked at 1:34:18 at mile 10. We were on a 2:04:00 pace for me, 2:08:00 for her; Carey's goal was to go sub 2:10:00. As we headed through the Gulch, Carey started feeling it. I told her often how great she was doing. Right before Mile 11, I started feeling it. Minutes before, I saw the best sign of the race - "Click your heels," with a drawing of a pair of red shoes. In front of the Farmer's Market, Carey said, "I want to walk so bad." "Me, too, but we're gonna keep going," I said. "We're almost home."

I thought, "15 minutes left ... that's how long it takes to get the kids to school."

As we turned up James Robertson Parkway to begin a slow gradual hill into downtown, extreme pain visited. Carey dropped off my shoulder again, and I started getting more focused on me. At mile 12, I lost her as the hill began to steepen. I thought, as my legs burned and lungs went into overdrive, "This finish is for Dori," recalling visions of her hanging over the toilet repeatedly last October. I also thought of Robin and everyone I mentioned a few days ago. No giving in, only getting it done.

When I saw Titans Stadium at about 12.5, my adrenaline rushed. I picked up my pace, running harder until .15 miles before the finish line. I felt a bonk coming on, and instinctively popped my last energy gel. Things started to blur, as my body faded and mind clouded. This wasn't how I felt finishing the Tom King six weeks ago. I crossed in 2:06:10, besting my 2006 course record by 25 seconds. Instead of celebrating, I focused on staying upright. I almost keeled over a few times and thought a blackout was possible. I'm glad the wind didn't blow hard.

I grabbed some bananas, bagel and fluids, again feeling totally spent. I knew I'd run a good race because I'd left everything on the course. I wanted to lie down, but knew better. I couldn't chew my bagel because I was too tired, so I parked it in my mouth until I had the energy to munch again. It would be 45 minutes before I reunited with Dori and the kids; I actually experienced a little separation anxiety. When I finally found them, I bear-hugged my sweet wife. Will asked me if I was still going to run in San Francisco this fall. "Yes, Will, I am. That's our fundraiser this year." Dori said to remember how I feel before I ever take the full marathon plunge. Good point, as I watched the marathoners finish.

Carey finished in 2:12:26, an excellent run for her first half. I am very impressed by the grit she showed. My place was 3738 among 7921 men and 6341 overall among 21938. In my age group, I was 426 out of 935.

Congratulations to all of you who ran yesterday! What a great day for so many.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Course Record

I'll blog tomorrow with some details, but today's Country Music Half Marathon, my third, was a course record - 2:06:10 - by 25 seconds. The last mile was the hardest mile I've ever run, but I never stopped the whole run. No, not with Dori's and others examples of endurance and courage. To all you 26.2 runners, I have the utmost respect for your moxie. Until tomorrow ...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Experience Matters

I've enjoyed talking this week with several fellow runners who are planning to run Saturday. For most, the CMM is their first half marathon. I've realized I've been giving lots of advice this week about preparation and raceday approach and adjusting. Some examples:

- One girl is dreading the expected rain. I recommended she use lots of body glide on her feet to avoid blistering. Another girl just doesn't like rain ... I shared she won't notice it after she gets started and is focused on running. The rain will actually cool you!
- One girl said she hates hills. I told her looking up can be deflating when you're in pain. Instead, I foucs on watching my feet as I conquer tough hills because I'm proving who's boss - me, not the hill. Put your shoulders back and your eyes down, relax and run.
- One guy said he doesn't like most fruits, so I went through all the good carb fruits until he settled on apples. I told him brown rice, which he loves, is great, and he's loading up on it.

I kinda feel like Yoda or Obi-Wan-Kenobee. Experience, the force, Jedi mind tricks ... the whole bag. My problem in the Country Music has been Miles 11 through 12.5. After you emerge from the Gulch, you glide around the Farmer's Market and Bicentennial Mall before going up James Robertson Parkway. I've stunk it up here in my previous two races. My goal Saturday is to push through this wall and shave many minutes off my previous course best.

My last training run was 3.75 miles yesterday morning at 5:15. I've been stretching some, but I can tell I'm a bit tired. I've slept well (important before a race), but something's got my energy down a smidge. I know I'll be good to go in two days.

The CMM race program is showcasing 12 testimonials of triumph and tragedy, and at least half are about blood cancer battles. It's emotional stuff that has reminded me what this race is really about - Thousands of people are going to display tremendous compassion, courage and endurance for a loved one or a cause. Here's a testimonial in The Tennessean, one of many to catch Dori's and my attention this week, that supports that.

If you sleep in and miss this race, you are missing out. My favorite part of the course is the Music Row-Belmont Blvd. corridor, an area I know well. I use it as a training run and a way to get into downtown for work. The energy on Belmont is electric. People throw parties (imagine celery stalks in bloody mary's, kegs of beer, lawn chairs and speakers), college bands play on lawns, and family members hold up "Run, Mommy" and "Go, Daddy!" signs. It's Southern Hospitality and Fun 101.

Nashvillians, we'll see you Saturday, bright and early.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Impetus to Run

A few days ago, our dog Pepper, who is prone to the occasional high-energy fit, ran by Dori and scratched her foot. Dori cleaned and treated the wound immediately. The good news is the significant scratch looks like it's healing up well. Dori says she continues to feel good and she's eating well.

So why did I enter Saturday's half marathon? Here are a few reasons, besides the weather looking like it will be decent:

1. Dori
2. Dori
3. Dori
4. To honor the fight and spirit of Robin Groff
5. Our friends, Chuck, Tammy, Candy, Kim and others, and their families
6. My friend, Beth, her Mom, Becky, and their family
7. The successful lobbying by two children I love
8. The idea of running for fun and not to raise money
9. The possibility of running 13.1 with a friend and no iPod
10. Leukemia pisses me off.

Our good friend, Ann DeNunzio, ran a super Boston Marathon yesterday. Her husband, Al, reports her 3:47 time (8:41/mile pace) beats her previous Boston best by 10 minutes. Ann ran the last few miles for Dori, picking up her pace at the end after three miles of torturous hills in the 18-21 mile range. Ann smoked a few impressive local runners who are younger than her. Ann, you are an amazing, inspiring chick with a lot of heart.

Lance Armstrong said yesterday running a marathon is a lot harder than racing a bike. The equation is three hard hours on the bike is the same as one hard hour on the road. Lance ran a 2:50 Boston Marathon. The men's winner ran a 2:07, while the women's winner ran a 2:25. All of those times are super-fast.

I snuck in a run Monday morning at 4:30. The six-miler was intentionally slow. My only company on the road was a Purity milk truck, a local newspaper van and the sound of braking trains the other side of a fairly quiet interstate. My last pre-race run, an easy four-miler, will be tomorrow afternoon. I'll probably do the middle part of it at race pace.

Nutrition and rest are important this week. I'm grading out at a B-plus so far. Breakfast has included mango juice, dried mangos, bagels and raisins, with lots of bananas and oatmeal on deck. Lunch has been a chicken sandwich yesterday and a semi-hiccup in BBQ with beans today. Snacks have been Clif bars, fig newtons, a banana and Gatorade. Dinner has been hummus and pita chips to start, with pasta and fresh tomatoes last night and tonight's fresh ravioli, walnuts and sundried tomatoes. I slept great last night - nine hours. More good rest is needed.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Time to Carbo Load

Tonight, while watching me slurp a mound of brown rice and chicken at P.F. Chang's, Dori barked, "You're running (the half marathon), aren't you?" I said, "Probably," and then made the mental note to check the weather for the morning of the 26th when we got home. The forecast is mid-50s at the gun with a high of 70, so that was the clincher. I'm entered to run Saturday's Country Music Half Marathon.

I listed a goal of 2:05:00 on the entry form, which would be my course record. If I feel like I did at the Tom King in mid-March, I'll do better than that. My goal this race isn't time, though ... It's to have a good time. I want to find a few folks who'd like to sit on a 9:00/mile pace for 9-10 miles and then reassess if it's about finishing, helping someone else PR, or going ahead and burying the needle.

I ran a weird five miles at Radnor yesterday. The pollen had me coughing and wheezing a bit. I took the first 2.5 miles briskly, then headed up the steep hill back into Radnor. I tanked. I had to gather myself and walked for maybe two minutes, then got back on it at an easy pace. When I reached the top of that .75 mile climb, I felt fine again. In fact, I started feeling great so I decided to max out the last 1.75 miles. I sat on a hard 7:00/mile pace that I held the whole way. Final time: 44:00. When I was done, I felt like I could do another mile at the same pace. Bizarre and encouraging after the deflating tank 20 minutes earlier. I did wind up feeling the run later that night at the school auction.

Speaking of the auction, Dori and I bought a lovely platter that we gave sister Anne and her husband. We delivered it after mass, and Anne loves it! It looks great in her living room. The photo above does the platter no justice. It's more creme than white.

Before P.F. Chang's, we went to the VU-Auburn baseball game. We were named "fans of the game," so we hauled home a gift basket courtesy of the TN Pork Producers. In the basket was everything BBQ (like BBQ sauces, recipes and a meat thermometer), but buried at the bottom was a Harry and David jar of red raspberry preserves. Earlier this week, my Aunt Renee sent some information about some studies about the benefits of red raspberries to folks who have or had leukemia.

When I saw the jar, I looked at Dori, who was all slathered with SPF 70 sunblock on the bright day, and ruminated out loud, "Think that's a coincidence?"

"Nope," she said in wonder.

Our thoughts tomorrow morning are with our good friend, Ann DeNunzio, who is running the Boston Marathon. Her goal is a bold 3:45:00. Ann told me Friday she's dedicating mile 25 to Dori. We're eager to follow her and see her do well.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Looking Shocked

I forgot to share an encounter with a stranger earlier this week that struck me. While Dori and I were visiting Dan in the hospital, a lady turned the corner, saw Dori with her mask, and just stared at my wife. She couldn't hide what she was thinking - fear and shame. After Dori and I were out of earshot, I asked if she saw the lady's look. Dori said she hadn't. The stranger's expression was in contrast to the looks from many hospital staff. They looked at Dori and smiled confidently, knowing Dori had been through something significant. They congratulated her with their eyes.

Dori went to Will's ballgame last night, her first trip to see him play since last spring. Will is having a great time out there and playing well - making good defensive plays and getting on base. Last night, he pounded a few balls as hard as I've seen. I asked Dori on the way home if she enjoyed the game and seeing friends like Monica, Lisa and Laura. She smiled and said softly, "Oh, yes."

Where to start this paragraph ... The news about friends battling disease this week has had some lows. Of course, we've posted about Robin's death; her funeral was yesterday morning in California. Then we read about how her husband's car was robbed of her mementos, including her wedding ring that was going to be given to her four-year-old daughter. The whole thing is unreal. My good friend, Beth, is facing the reality her courageous Mom, Becky, has about six months to live. I'm pretty sure my open conversation with my wonderful Mom this week happened because I've been thinking about Beth and Becky a lot. I know my Mom knows how I feel about her - the same way I know Beth feels about her Mom, really. But I know I don't tell her enough. Becky and Rachel have earned our powerful love and tremendous respect. I'm sad for Beth and her family, but bolstered by her open approach and acceptance of the situation. Like my Mom said the other night, the only thing we can control is our own approach to life. The rest is in God's hands.

On a more positive note, I connected with another AML survivor this week - PJ, a Mom living in New England. I posted on her blog this week, and she posted over here. Like most folks who've been through the blood cancer ordeal, she doesn't like the germs. Her impressive dry wit and analysis are only rivaled by her great writing, and most of all, her honesty. Case in point:

"Since being diagnosed with leukemia two years ago, I've thought about death a lot, not as some vague distant event, but a sooner-rather-than-later possibility. Contemplating your own end isn't all bleak, especially if you consider some of the grisly stuff you'll avoid: cleaning out the basement; losing your soul at Wal-mart; blaming illegal aliens for the nation's economic woes; fretting about your carbon footprint; whatever."

I bellowed when I read the Wal-Mart-illegal alien-carbon footprint comment. The whole blog, The Plog, is like that. It's now linked to the left for easy access. PJ, I asked Dori, who reads The Plog regularly, if she's ever posted on your blog and she said no. This morning, I said, "Fellow AML survivor ... makes you laugh ... going through the same things you are ... c'mon, girl!" Keep up your great approach and recovery.

Kathryn is so quick these days. I asked her Tuesday if she knows a little boy any happier than her brother. She said, "John Antony," and then, "but yes, Will is very happy." I was giving her a hard time this morning while she was being a slug on the couch, watching cartoons. She said, "Your problem?" Nuff said. Girl's gotta watch her "Fairly Odd Parents," not have to deal with them.

Dori is on a two-mile walk this morning. Tonight, we go to the kids' school auction, which is one of her favorite events of the year because she is close to many of the parents (and she likes to bid on things ... always a price-value proposition with Dori). My sister's donated painting made the cut for the live auction and we donated some VU baseball tickets. We're staying away from the painting ... we're hearing the bidding could be aggressive and we have several masterpieces in the house at the "family discount." Thanks again, Annie.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Honoring My Mom

Check out Dori's new haircut. Natalie Portman, stand aside. When I arrived home last night, some of Dori's head coverings were in the trash. The other photo of the kids is from a baseball game I'll soon describe. I love those young smiles.

A friend in my profession, who has been kind to check up regularly about Dori, asked me if I was OK the other day. I answered honestly, "No, not really." I told him about Robin Groff and how painful it was for Dori and me to hear the news of her death. When it comes down to it, I read the tribute postings to Robin, which were amazing, and couldn't stop imagining they were talking about Dori. It's made this week mystical, almost foggy. I've lacked my usual snap and haven't had as much confidence in what I'm doing. The last few days have been better, but the early part of this week was tough.

My mother and I had a great talk last night. I was over at her house to unload some new furniture for Dan, who had successful hip replacement surgery and is beginning a long recovery. Over a beer, I wound up unloading much more. Mom and I chatted for an hour about heavy stuff - mostly about relationships and loved ones. I told her how Dori and I feel so grateful to be where we are after Dori's bone marrow transplant, but intimated how we are continually dealing with the threat of potential relapse. People who really know me know I don't like the word "hate," but I hate leukemia.

The hour went by in a minute. At the end of the visit, I told her some things I don't share enough with her - how proud I am of her, how grateful I am for all her sacrifices and how much I credit her for my own success. My Mom isn't perfect; no mother is. But she's keenly aware of all that surrounds her, and I like how she looks at life. I owe her so much, just like I owe Dori.

Tuesday night was special with the kids at the Vanderbilt-Lipscomb baseball game. The whole time, I was filled with admiration of Kathryn and Will, who spent several innings joyfully tossing a foul ball that Will had snagged. Later, Kathryn and I snuggled in the cool air, while Will did what boys do - watched baseball and tracked other foul balls. He wound up with two, both of which were autographed after the game by many of the players and Coach Tim Corbin. He recognized Will, looked for me and then asked again about Dori. What a good person he is.

Last night, I decided to test my fitness on a long run through Radnor. My goal was to assess if I should enter the Country Music Half Marathon, with an entry dealine looming Friday night. So I headed out for 10 plus miles, settling on about a 9:15/mile pace over mostly flat terrain. Conditions were terrific ... probably 68 degrees and low humidity. I felt as good at mile 10 as I did at miles six and three. My last mile was probably an 8:30, and I had some energy left, too. Soreness today was minimal, thanks to some new Brooks, good stretching and the speed work on Sunday. Speed work can be tough, but the benefits are amazing.

Tick, tock, tick, tock. Do I enter the race? Clearly, I can run it and not embarass myself. The positives are I could find some race partners pretty easily because I know a lot of folks who are running. That would be fun. If the conditions are good, I probably could set a course record, but a personal record would be tough since it's hillier than the Tom King. I thought about running for Robin. That would be special. The downside? My body is saying "no" most days and my mind isn't arguing. I have no real objective. I'm not fired up to run if it's warm. Yada yada yada.

I'm being a wuss, really. The plan is to look at the latest long-range forecast tomorrow and make a decision.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Is Cancer Cooked?

I don't blog during work hours, except today. My Mom and Aunt Renee told me about the story on 60 Minutes last night describing the use of combined technologies (radio waves and nanoparticles) to kill cancer cells without the side effects. Click here for the story. God bless you, John Kanzius, and Godspeed to the research teams in Houston and Pittsburgh.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Robin G.

I'm a little angry and a lot sad tonight. The leukemia patient we've been following in Houston, Robin Groff, died Friday, the day after I mentioned her on this blog. Here's the post from her sister:

4/11/2008 Entry By: Lindsay Lark Rozier (Robin's sister) Subject: Robin Rozier Groff April 4th, 1977- April 11th, 2008

Family and Friends - after a courageous battle, Robin went home to live with our Heavenly Father tonight. None of us ever wanted this day to come, but we find peace knowing that she is free of this terrible illness and surrounded by family and friends who have preceded her in death. Thank you so much for all of the love, prayers, thoughts, cards, emails, etc. over the past 2 1/2 years that have meant so much to Robin, Jason, Hailey, and our extended family. I will update the website as funeral arrangements are finalized.

Robin had AML. She touched Dori with her stunning beauty, honesty and fight. She is another reason to keep running.

Cousin Laura, who lives on Long Island, has made us proud. On Saturday, she ran the Bear Mountain Half Marathon on a rocky, muddy course just outside NYC. She fell a dozen times, dislocated her elbow and endured excruciating pain. She also finished. Congratulations, Laura. You are a very tough nut.


Last night's dinner at Mom's was excellent - a shrimp/mussel/clam boil with cajun sausage, red potatoes, onions, corn, hot peppers and other goodies with grilled bread. She also had a tray of tender marinated artichoke hearts, earthy yellow beets, snappy carrots and crisp asparagus. Her spicy fried okra appetizer was phenomenal, as was a fresh strawberry, custard and creme dessert with a shortbread cookie. The wine selection was on the upper end for us ... it was Anne's birthday so we uncorked the good stuff. Anne's good friend, Kristin, who Dori and I really like, joined us. I hope the photos do the meal justice.

So obviously, I'm glad I ran eight miles yesterday. I planned an 11-miler, a double out-and-back on beautiful Belle Meade Blvd. The boulevard was packed with runners getting in their final long run before the Country Music races in two weeks. The cool, sunny day was perfect for training. I felt fine the first 5.5 miles, running in 49:17 or an 8:57 pace. However, I wasn't into it completely. The indecision about running April 26 continues; my mind seems to be telling my body to chill out for a little while. So I stopped at the halfway mark, rested and drank Gatorade, then did two miles of sprints since it was so cool. The first was a hard .75 miles at 5:15, a 7:00/mile pace. I also ran a half miler and several quarter mile sprints to build a better threshold.

Both Dori and Anne have friends coming in to run the half marathon. It would be fun to run with one of them or someone else I know. Race organizers have suggested an entry deadline of April 18. Today, I'm a no for April 26. Maybe, I'll change my mind by mid-week.

Dori is clearly in a transition period. Her energy level is generally higher. She's off most of the meds. She's resuming prior duties. The memory of long hospital stays and physical pain, however, aren't far from her mind. Coping with the threat of relapse is always with her and us. You don't go through the hell she endured without accumulating mental scar tissue. We talked about all of that this morning, and she had a good cry about it.

Like all of you, I think Dori looks absolutely beautiful. Does she look exactly like she did 12 months ago? No, of course not. How could anyone? But I've seen her progress physically by leaps and bounds. That will continue, Lord willing. But frankly I could care less if she's ready to enter a beauty pageant in a few months. Her beauty - anyone's beauty - is from within. I married a beautiful girl in 1994, and I'm married to an even prettier girl today.

I've encouraged Dori to take stock of everything she has today. I'm not in her skin, but I am aware she's in an adjusting and coping phase as she emerges from the cloud of medications, physical pain and dizzying analysis from doctors and nurses. She still has side effects like tight shoulders, occasional itching, foot swelling and fatigue. Some days, she has to do a whole lot more than you or me to get through her day. Some days are easier. The approach is the most important part, and that requires a renewed effort to be patient, calm, reassuring and stronger than ever. The positives clearly outweigh the negatives. Press forward, not back. That's my prayer for today.

Speaking of prayers, Dan, my Mom's husband, is having hip replacement surgery this week. Please say one for a successful surgery and recovery. He's a big part of our family, so helpful to all of us and someone our kids (and Pepper) just love. Good luck this week, GranDan!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Where Did That Come From?

It was a good exercise day for the Browns. Dori walked two undulating miles. The kids played basketball for a long time. And I ran tonight after work like a 30-year-old.

Dori called me three times today, once after making a big batch of pesto, again after her long walk and late today when I was stuck at work. I slept OK last night and felt I needed to run tonight since bad weather is on the way (again). After a good stretch, I put the iPod on shuffle, then shuffled my rump out the door for a 5.5-mile out and back.

I felt good early, unlike the Tuesday morning run when apparently one of the kids put kryptonite pebbles in my running shorts. I reached Mile One in 8:30. Even though it was warm (about 80), the stiff breeze was refreshing. The humidity and dew point were up, too, but it wasn't oppressive. I clocked in at 23:45 at the 2.75-mile turnaround. I set a goal for sub-47:00.

Some of my favorites popped up on the iPod (Trouble by Lindsey Buckingham and The Reflex by Duran Duran). I still felt under control at 4 miles and again at 5. I wasn't pushing it too hard. My heart rate felt under control ... I was probably running at 85% of my current threshold. It was a good feeling, especially since this evening is probably the first warm one we've had since October. As I neared home, I picked up the pace the last quarter mile. I clocked in at 46:59, an 8:32 pace. The gameplan is to run a long one Saturday (it's supposed to be cool) and assess fitness and attitude for the CMHM.

My sister Anne turns 39 this weekend, and we'll celebrate at Mom's. That's always a great time ... good food and beverages, good jokes (and bad ones) and wonderful family.

Please continue to pray for Beth Fortune's Mom, Becky, and their family. Becky has had a rough go of late. We're also following a leukemia patient in Houston who has touched Dori (and me). Please pray for Robin Groff, who is battling AML, and her young family. She's another very good reason to support LLS and get on the NMDP registry. Her courage and honesty is model. Her Jan. 13 entry, found in Chronology/Updates, about her donor is simply remarkable.

There is so much evidence in our world that we should continually give thanks, make the best of every day and go make a difference. Dori is one example; a girl named Robin who we don't know personally is another.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

More Milestones

Dori had a little beer tonight before dinner, her first since June 2007. Another milestone. Check.

She also got out of bed twice this week before 6 a.m., once at 5:20 to sit with me after Pepper and I went on an early run. She hasn't gotten out of bed that early since spring 2007. Check check.

I love watching dogs sleep. Usually, they are at such peace, but once in awhile they get the paws moving along with some chirpy, muffled barking. The picture above shows Pepper in a more peaceful moment, with his nose slightly out of his cage. I will always miss Otis, but this dog is a good one.

So sister Anne has her own food blog. My advice, if you like extraordinary food, is to bookmark her site. The chick can cook, just like Katie D in D.C. (scroll down and check out Katie's Mediterranean Chicken). Anne learned from the Jedi Master of Cooking, my Mom, and other accomplished caterers. She's also known to whip up a decent painting or two.

Not to be outdone, Dori can also whip up a great meal. Tonight's effort (above) was excellent, straight out of Oprah's magazine: pasta with sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, fresh asparagus, crumbled Italian sausage, olive oil, fresh mozzarella, parsley and a shake or two of parmesan cheese. Not the best light on the photo, so you might double-click to enlarge.

Running has been mostly on hold this week because of work. We had a very hi-vis event today that went well. I needed to invest a lot of time, so running hasn't been high on the priority list. Pepper and I ran 2.5 miles at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday. It was very slow since I felt so tired. We cut it short, too, because a few dogs down the street wanted a piece of us. Maybe I'll bring a milkbone or somethun' next time (Ghostbusters fans, rejoice).

My hat is off to friend Donna, who registered as a potential donor via the NMDP. Dori was so appreciative. You made our day, girl!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Spring is Here

Today's run went pretty well. I ran 7.8 miles in and out of Radnor Lake State Natural Area in 1:13:26, or a 9:24/mile pace. I took it easy, walking a few hundred yards to fuel at 5.5 miles, before going at it again. I ran a decent last mile, probably around 8:20.

Radnor Lake, as you would expect, was packed. Cars overflowed the lot, which only a few weeks ago was half full. When I ran around lunchtime, it was perfect - high 60s and low humidity - but maybe a little warm for runners with the bright sun. The activity in Radnor is one indication spring has arrived. Others of note: Our son played outside all day, mostly with a basketball or baseball in hand. A monarch butterfly ran a few hundred yards with me along the lake. Pepper panted hard on his afternoon walk. Everything in our yard is either light green, purple or yellow. You get the drift - Old Man Winter is toast.

It's looking like I'm going to run in the Nike Women's Marathon or Half Marathon in San Francisco on October 19, a Sunday. The race attracts 20,000 runners, all but 500 of whom are women. The race is a prime fundraising event for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society; last year, LLS fundraisers brought in more than $18.5 million to help find cures for blood cancers and bolster support programs. My goal is to raise a lot of money ... TBD on where I'll set the bar, but I certainly hope we can surpass last year's $25,000. Let the jokes begin, I guess, about running with 19,500 women. That's OK ... Hans already has had his way with my wife, "shacking up" back in October. That's a term that needed some dusting off ... I hadn't used since college. I did use the term "mugging" the other day ... it's been too long, however, to have flashbacks. Just glad I remembered the terms.

My thought process right now is for Dori and I to stay over a few days after the race so we can enjoy the Wine Country and San Francisco restaurants. That means I probably should just run the half. We could arrive early to enjoy ourselves, but that messes with pre-race nutrition and resting. Yes, I guess the half seems more appropriate, but I'm not 100% there with that decision.

Our friend, Ann, will run the Boston Marathon in a few weeks. Isn't it crazy that 40 years ago race organizers wouldn't let women run that race? Ann is fast and is shooting for a 3:45:00 to 3:50:00. Good luck, AD. Go kick some butt.

Reasons to Run

While researching future races, I came across an inspiring article in the San Francisco Chronicle. The quote by the Mom who ran for her son says it all.

Yesterday, I ran the 5.8-mile Percy Warner loop. I bagged the 11.2-mile run after bombing on Three Mile Hill. Final time was 55:36, a 9:35/mile pace. Some days, you just don't have it. I didn't eat great this week, and some beers on Friday probably weren't the best fuel, either. Total mileage this week is 17.3, with today remaining. I'm heading to Radnor soon to see what's in the tank.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Part of my job is to speak in public. I'm usually more of an extrovert, so speaking isn't a problem for me. When I'm feeling introvert-ish, I have to search for the fire.

On Thursday, I had a speaking engagement at the Massey Business School at Belmont University. I know the teacher, Jose Gonzalez, from some community efforts. Jose invited me to speak about my job, which I was glad to do. I was feeling mildly like an introvert, but the switch flipped when I started talking about Dori and her battle with leukemia. The reason I talked about leukemia? First, it was fresh on my mind. Earlier that morning, I learned someone else in my industry, a 30-year-old woman, plans to run the Country Music Half Marathon. I asked her why, and she said her 33-year-old cousin is battling leukemia and she's joined Team in Training. She then told me about another woman in my profession who organizes an annual Bone Marrow Donor Drive for Hispanics and African-Americans. I thanked both of them for their gifts.

You can see where I'm going ... shortly thereafter, I'm in front of a class of 21-year-olds with an Hispanic teacher I respect. Hans, Dori's donor, as you know, is 23. Young, healthy people are the best donors. So I talked for a few minutes with the class about my wife, why I run, the need for more donors ... all the things I care about these days.

On Friday, Dori and I met with Colleen Grady, the Executive Director of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for this area. Colleen has 12 people on staff, 10 full time. We didn't know Colleen, who is a recent breast cancer survivor, until she called us last year to thank us for raising money from my Virginia race. Apparently, she received an e-mail from headquarters congratulating her office on the achievement and alerting her about the funds.

Yesterday, we finally met. Dori mostly talked with Colleen about her experiences and outlook, while I talked mostly about raising more money for LLS and raising awarness for the NMDP program and activating more donor activity, especially in the minority communities. Colleen brought us a bag of t-shirts and information about LLS. Lots of information ... like nearly 825,000 Americans are living with blood cancers and nearly 220,000 are living with leukemia or are in remission.

I talked with Colleen about how I believe the donor registry for minorities is a shambles and I'm hopeful LLS can help address this. I told her I believe LLS efforts should boil down to two main goals - raising a ton of money for research and helping to expand the NMDP registry to save lives. Yes, patient and caregiver education is very important, but the other two objectives have the greatest impact. Dori's chances of survival were higher than an Hispanic woman or black woman of similar age with a similar diagnosis simply because of her color. Is that fair? Dori had three perfect matches for her transplant; most minorities have no perfect matches. Somewhere there is a 43-year-old African American named Jim whose wife is dying and children will suffer because she has no transplant match. That just makes me bristle.

So that's how many of my conversations go these days. Not adversarial, just passionate. Our frame of reference is strong. Please register today on the NMDP and save a life. Tell a friend or 10, too.

Before the rain season started (it's been pouring in Nashville for a few days), I ran twice this week. On Monday evening, I arrived home from work around 7. With a setting sun and fueled by Gatorade and a Baby Ruth, I went on a 5.5-mile run through the neighborhood. The smells and sights were as exhilarating as the run. Families were laughing and kicking soccer balls in their yards, women were walking their dogs, men were grilling burgers and chicken in their backyards ... it was awesome American scenery. My 9:00/mile pace was easy ... no stress. I thought the sprints a few days before might have helped. I also thought about the grilling smell; it's much nicer than the cigarette smell I sometimes experience from drivers who pass with their windows cracked.

On Wednesday morning, I woke up at 4:30 and hit the road at 4:50 for a six miler. An eastern crescent yellow moon hovered on the horizon. The only sound was the hum of interstate traffic three miles away, with an occasional faraway crack from train cars engaging. After a shaky first half mile, my body stopped arguing with my mind. I settled into a decent pace, about 9:15/mile.

I love solitary morning runs in the dark. It's just you and the road, with time to think or just run. Not until mile three did I see a car. Toward the end of the run, I noticed few construction workers were out compared to last summer. Our economy is a little different than 10 months ago. As I neared our house, I began to see others ... two women walking their dogs ... more cars with early-birds headed to their offices ... delivery men in their trucks. I was glad to get in these runs before our monsoon.

Today is a great day to run - cool and cloudy with an easy, refreshing wind. As we sing at church, "This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad."

Friday, April 4, 2008

Very Good Blood Counts

Dori's visit at the clinic went very well yesterday. I think she's going to do a detailed CaringBridge later today. Her white blood cell and platelet counts are now "normal," and her PCV (red blood cell indicator) is near normal. WBC is 4.1, platelets at 137 and PCV at 34 ... all much higher than a few weeks ago. So I guess we're moving to Florida! Clearly, last week's trip, full of sleep and food, was rejuvenating.

Dori gained six pounds the last two weeks, the staff told her not to come back for four weeks and she will taper off cyclosporine fully on Sunday. We celebrated last night by going to Mafiaoza's Italian Restaurant, which everyone thoroughly enjoyed. We talked with the kids about how last year's prayers for Mom were prayers of need; this year's prayers are prayers of thanks and her continued recovery. All of us are doing a good job, I think, of keeping the highs in check, just like we usually did with the lows. So no reason to deviate.

Please keep our other friends who we've mentioned on this blog in your prayers. I'll give a more detailed update about this special week later ... for now, I better wake up some kids.