TNT: back for more!

Four years before I started this blog, I completed the Big Sur Marathon with the amazing support of Team in Training, the fundraising arm of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  I didn't have a connection to LLS or TNT at the time; I just wanted to run a marathon and I didn't know how to do that. Today I went to the 2012 season kick-off in San Francisco and was reminded of what drew me into the effort over ten years ago: in addition to the support and organization they provide to guide you through the nearly five-month long training process and of course the endurance event itself, it's hard not to be won over by the other runners, walkers, cyclists, hikers, and triathletes, the kind of research and progress the over $1 billion dollars has provided for, and of course the honorees.  I've always been drawn to folks with a "mind over matter" approach to life and one thing I value more and more the older I get is enthusiasm. Despite battling a sinus-y head cold most of this week and recovering from a minor podiatric procedure on Tuesday, I was ready to complete our first training run after the kick-off. I was that pumped up and I'm looking forward to feeling that way over the next five months.

Of course, I know it will be a lot of work and I'll have my ups and downs, over the course of training and during the marathon itself.  That's where TNT comes in.  I'll share as much as time allows right here on this blog. I also know, from my previous experience, that raising $1800, my minimum commitment, will be no easy feat.  That's where you come in.  Take a look at my fundraising page, won't you?  And stay tuned for some crafty fundraising efforts over the next few weeks!

In the meantime, while I can't find my original fundraising letter, I did manage to dig up my Big Sur Marathon recap letter (proof that I can do it!) that I sent out to donors several months after the race (I promise it won't take me four months this time around! And that was before I had a kid - what was my excuse?!).  I thought I'd share it here as a nice way to begin again!


August 2001

Dear Family, Friends, and Colleagues:

Oh yeah…
Remember that check you wrote five, six, maybe seven months ago? The one for that little race in a big forest for a great cause? Have you often wondered what happened to your check or whether I actually made it through 26.2 miles alive? Well, as summer's end looms ever nearer and I hasten to finish a lengthy list of projects before another semester begins, I'd like finally to share my experience with all of you and let you know how very grateful I am for the support you all showed me during my five months of training for the big day.

A Big Sur-vivor…just barely.
April 29th has long since passed and while most of you probably couldn't tell me what you were doing between 7:00 am and 12:30 pm that day, I will always remember the grueling five and a half hours I spent along one of the most beautiful roads in the country. Here's a recount of my first marathon experience:

The day before
On the drive to Monterey, with a TNT sticker proclaiming "Go Team!" from the rear windshield, I listen to the Olympic Fanfare and Queen's 'We are the Champions'. At the marathon expo the idea of running 26.2 miles in less than 24 hours suddenly strikes me as oddly surreal and frankly kind of absurd. I'm finally in bed at 11:30 pm, after loading up on pasta and a couple of hours of preparation for the next morning. I wake up less than 4 hours later, catch the bus at 4:30 am, and enjoy the 45 minute drive along the very same course that I'm about to run back on…fortunately, it's still too dark out to really pay much attention to the hills.

At the starting area 
I wait 35 minutes to use a porto-potty, scramble to get my things together, and put what I don't need on a bus that will beat me back to Carmel by about five hours; I wonder if running is really the most efficient way to make it back. I'm nervous and excited; it's still surreal. 

6:15 am
I line up in the back. Some guy is on a microphone telling jokes in a futile attempt to take our minds off the inevitable. He eventually leads us through the National Anthem, sets about a half-dozen doves free, and warns us that it's almost 7:00 am and the gun will soon be sounding; I'm, meanwhile, worrying about the doves, circling above the man with the gun. Someone nearby reassures me it's loaded with blanks. And then suddenly it's gone off. You can tell how excited everyone is and we sort of lunge forward to a very anti-climactic start; it takes a full two minutes to actually cross the start line from where I am, but, eventually, I'm off.

Mile 1
For the first ten miles, I feel completely in control; I'm actually really enjoying myself. We weave thru the woods for a couple of miles toward the coast. The weather is great. 

Mile 10
We cross Little Sur River Bridge; I can see the daunting climb to Hurricane Point ahead. I repeat coach's words as I get closer to the base of the two-mile ascent: 'be the hill, don't run up the hill, run through the hill.' I am the hill, I am the two-mile, really steep, doesn't seem to ever end, hill. I tell myself this is the biggie, I get through this and it's just fourteen miles of rolling hills.  

Mile 12
Finally at the top of the hill, I enjoy the one-mile descent in front of me to Bixby Bridge and the halfway point. 

Mile 13.1
I manage a smile for the camera, but the hill has brought up every little ache and pain. A strong headwind begins to kick in. 

Mile 17
The water stops look a bit deserted. I think I'm still within the five and a half hour time limit. 

Mile 18
I've run twenty miles before, but I seem to be hitting my wall.  

Mile 19
I start to walk up some of the hills because my knee is sore and my muscles hardly stable.  

Mile 20
Down to the final 6.2 miles…the real challenge begins. I'm reassured at the water stop that the wind dies down about two miles ahead, as the road makes its way inland toward Carmel.  

Mile 23
I'm in a great deal of pain, both knees hurt in different areas, my lower back aches, my shoulders are sore, but most of all, I'm so tired of running. It's been almost five hours. I'm worried I won't make it within the time-limit and start to feel impatient. I'm frustrated at the wind, frustrated that my body isn't working the way I want it to, and just frustrated at the length of a marathon. I'm wondering why thousands of years ago, those Greeks didn't choose a closer city to run to. Every emotion begins to surface. Another runner passes and, trying to be helpful, calls out, "You're having a bad marathon, too?" With the way my knee's hurting I realize this may be my one and only marathon, and there's no way it's going to be remembered as a bad experience.

Mile 24
Just 2.2 miles to go and I'm determined to finish strong.  

Mile 25
At the top of the final hill, a race volunteer encourages us to the end, "At the bottom of this hill you'll turn a corner and be able to see the finish line just a half-mile away." The fact that I'm going downhill helps, but I really give it everything and feel like I'm picking up speed for the first time in about ten miles. 

Mile 26
Suddenly not so impatient, I really savor the last few strides, and as I cross the finish line and a volunteer hands me a medal, already the pain of the last 26 miles is starting to fade.

The 5:30 am training runs a distant memory
Three months later, I struggle to get up early enough to make it to work by 9:30 am. Completing one three-mile loop around Lake Merritt, site of our weekly training runs throughout the season, is a challenge once again. Still nursing an injured IT band on the side of my left knee, I've put off any immediate plans to train for another marathon, although I've got my eye on a few less torturous courses. But in spite of the endless hills and the relentless wind, I'm glad I decided almost a year ago, to join up with TNT and achieve one of my lifetime goals.

Finally, a little gratitude
All selfish reasons aside, I'm proud to have accomplished something even greater for TNT, now a little closer to finding a cure for blood-related cancers. I was more or less on my own for 26.2 miles, but I can't say I didn't get a lot of help along the way. All of you, my friends, relatives, co-workers, and the occasional stranger, helped me to reach and then surpass my fundraising goal, bringing in a total of $2,137. As part of the Northern California chapter of Team in Training, you helped to raise over two million dollars for cancer research during the winter season alone, funding six Bay Area scientists to research blood-related cancers exclusively for the next three years! So for myself and on behalf of the 100,000 Americans who will be diagnosed with leukemia and related cancers this year, thank you!

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