Monday, November 22, 2010

What A Difference A Year Makes by Karen Cole

Karen Cole leaping for joy at the 2010 Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco.
Like many of you, I had received those aspirational Team in Training brochures in the mail – the ones with pictures of triumphant athletes, proudly wearing their race numbers affixed to their purple Team jerseys. I remember thumbing through them thinking: these people just ran and biked a very large number of miles, yet they still look glowing and fabulous. Could I bottle this in a face cream, I wondered? I always just stacked those brochures in a “I’ll-get-to-that-one-day” pile.


Then that “one day” came suddenly last year in September, and I went digging through my pile. This time I was driven by a promise I wanted to make to my oldest and dearest friend. Evie was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma just a few short weeks before her wedding last October. Talk about the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. For Evie’s bridal shower, the plan was to not give her gifts that we purchased, but instead give meaningful expressions or tokens of friendship and love. Driven by fear and a sense of helplessness for what to do, I decided that my gift to Evie was doing a race in her honor and raising money for LLS.

As I sit here writing, it dawns on me that this week marks my one year involvement with TNT. I saved my “Welcome to Team In Training” email and I recently opened it and a smile came across my face. The person who opened that email exactly a year ago was, lets just say, a little frightened wondering how the heck she was going to fundraise and run more than…well, to her mailbox. I remember driving home from the information meeting thinking, what have I done?! But the email I received the next day confirmed I had indeed signed myself up for my first race, the ING half marathon on March 21, 2010. It was official and in bold letters, so it was true.

Opening that same email today, I feel a huge sense of accomplishment and pride. Little did I know, I would actually run WAY past my mailbox and exceed my fundraising goals. My Team in Training journey this year includes completing three half marathons, one marathon and mentoring a team of new participants. Whew! Evie has been my inspiration through it all, propelling me farther than I thought was even possible. She’s still battling lymphoma, so I keep going for her putting good TNT vibes into the universe.

As the winter TNT season is winding down, and the participants I’m helping to mentor are achieving their goals, it’s hard to believe I was in their exact running shoes just a year ago. I was with my mentees at the ZOOMA half marathon at Chateau Elan a few weekends ago, and it was so awesome to see the excitement of race day through their eyes and all the hard work pay off. While I know to a lot of veteran TNTers, one year maybe isn’t a lot, but it feels like I’ve been wearing purple forever!

Well, a year later I am still sort of wondering about that miracle face cream – but on second thought…nah, I don’t need it. I’m wearing my own post-race glow.

Karen Cole has been busy with Team In Training in 2010 having finished the Nike Women's Marathon with the TEAM back in October and even more recently having acted as mentor for the ZOOMA Atlanta Half Marathon TEAM. As she puts it, it's almost as if she's been wearing purple forever. Follow her blog at http://www.teampurpletrain.blogspot.com/. Thanks Karen for sharing and for being a part of Team In Training!

Friday, November 19, 2010

I Can't Believe I Can Call Myself a Marathoner by Jenny Li

Jenny Li (left) and Sherrie Dougherty celebrate after crossing the finish line during the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco, Calif., on Sunday, October 17, 2010.
Photo: Laura Morton / Special to The Chronicle

As my breaths puff in and out of my tortured lungs, I think, "My legs are hurting; my shoulders are sore and this rain will not stop." But the people are cheering me on and I know, deep down that I will not give up. Because when I think back on the days I have trained for this moment—this fleeting, evanescent moment—I know that this was what I was meant to do, to finish this race strong.

To this day, I can’t believe I can call myself a marathoner—a title of less than one percent of the world's population can claim. Running the 26.2 miles of the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco, California transformed me inside and out in four hours and thirty-nine minutes.

During the summer when I first began training, I was skeptical about my chances of finishing the race. When I was younger, my parents had insisted that I take tennis and karate lessons. This experience seemed to dilute my natural passion for sports. However, as I undertook the marathon training, I found that passion being created and my drive to succeed being restored. Now, I understand the difference between having to do something you are supposed to do and simply doing something that you love. No matter how hard, how painful, and how incredibly impossible that sport is, you will always want to keep going when you love it—when your heart is there. In all, it took six hard months of training, incredible guts, strict endurance, and swollen feet for me to reach the starting line.

Still, despite all I had done to prepare, I found it difficult to outrun my own vicious doubts. By the 13th mile, my lungs burning and my feet as heavy as ingots of lead, I began to question myself. Can I really do this? Will I be able to run another 13 miles? Suddenly, an image appeared in my head. It was of my close friend, Doris. She was a girl I had met in China who had suffered from Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia in 2009. She was the key reason I had signed up for the race. When I found out about Doris’ illness, I had felt so helpless. This terrible disease was slowly killing my friend in China while I was in Georgia unable to even see her. So as I struggled to confront my doubts, I realized that my race, my pain, and even my fears were not about me. They were about a friend I love and millions of other cancer victims. It was about the lives that were saved with the money that was donated by generous hearts. And with that, my feet and legs began to feel better—muscles pumping, heart throbbing with emotion. Ironically at that moment, my friend had saved me.

They say that a marathon is divided in halves: the first twenty miles and the last 6.2. Thoughts of Doris had revived my flagging spirits, but in the final 6.2 miles my flagging body became an issue all on its own. All I could do was keep moving. These miles were a blur. There were people who were cheering but I could not hear them. The volunteers handed out water but I could not even drink. The scene was moving fast and I did not know where I was going. My leaden head tilted up and the finish line was 50 feet away... 25 feet away... 10 feet away. Swoosh. All of sudden, I could hear cheering, but my eyes were still a blur. I touched my cheek to wipe off the sweat, only to realize there were tears streaming down my face.

The first thing I felt was pain. When you stop running, your muscles immediately condense and the lactic acid fills the muscles. I felt the pain in my legs first when I started walking. But then, it became worse. I felt the pain in my shoulders and in my feet and in my arms and in my back. For the first time, I felt the cold. And I felt the rain.

But even then, this whole experience from beginning to end was worth every ache in my entire body, every tear that was shed, and every bead of sweat that coursed down my face. In this unique and solitary moment I felt truly alive, filled with a universal energy. I knew that these moments of unimaginable bliss was what I wanted to experience again, and that I could infuse each moment of my life with this depth and power.

There is a saying that goes something like “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the moments that take our breaths away.” At that split second when I crossed that finish line, I genuinely and wholeheartedly experienced what that quote truly means. In those seconds, I knew I could do anything. I knew I could take on the world. And I knew that I would succeed.

Jenny Li joined thousands of other Team In Training participants from around the country at the 2010 Nike Women's Marathon to complete her first marathon. A High School Senior, Jenny wrote and submitted the essay above with her college applications. Great job Jenny and good luck!

The photo above appeared on www.sfgate.com on October 18, 2010 and is credited to Laura Morton.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ironman 70.3 Augusta: Deke & Brittany Share Their TNT Experience



Deke Copenhaver is the mayor of Augusta and is set to do his first Team In Training event at the 2010 Ironman 70.3 Augusta. Deke draws his inspiration for TNT from two local boys in Augusta who are both dealing with leukemia.


Brittany Banker, a TNT alumnus since running her first event in 2008, is a cancer survivor and single mom. Now also an assistant coach with the TEAM, Brittany shares her recent Ironman Louisville finish experience.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's Time to Ride by Julian Cowart

Coach Julian with his wife, Catherine,
and son, Lawrence.
“Daddy, it’s not wake up time. The sun is still asleep”, said my three year old, momentarily befuddling his intensely drowsy father. He was right, and sitting on the side of a strange bed in Peachtree City, I was overwhelmed by the urge to heed his advice. But a glance at the desk brought my jersey into focus, the Team In Training jersey soon to be on the backs of so many remarkable friends. It was time to ride.

I have had the good fortune to wake up next to my beautiful wife most mornings for the past six years as well. More mornings than I care to recall, however, the rail of hospital bed separated us as she fought through her latest treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But on the morning of August 29th we rose together, along with our son, to be a part of the Team In Training that has meant so much to us, that has raised, nationally, over $1,000,000,000 for blood cancer research.

After overwhelming the stunned breakfast steward at our hotel, the green and purple swarm rolled south, to East Coweta Middle School. Local and regional rides generally abound with warmth and energy, and the Wilson 100 proved an excellent example from the moment we were shepherded though our arrival by the multitude of volunteers. The team coalesced on our blue minivan, a mix of multi event veterans, century virgins, supporters, and one tricycling three year old. Our venerable coach called the team to order, and following the reading of “Close the Door When You Leave”, our traditional inspirational poem, we were off. As the team turned right and headed out for mile one, my son implored his mother to push him along with us on his tricycle. His mother later informed me of his immense disappointment when he could not keep up.

Our ride followed some roads southwest of Atlanta, roads we had seen in our training. As the miles passed by we settled into the pace groups forged over the season and passed the miles singing badly and telling bawdy jokes.

When hunger or thirst arose, we soon found ourselves under the care of locals wielding water and peanut butter sandwiches. After chattering along the chip seal from Greenville to Warm Springs, team members glared at the Warm Spring Wall that had proven such a formidable training foe, enjoyed the support of the Team In Training SAG stop, and turned for home. Enduring a torrential downpour at mile 65, a flat tire soon after (the changing of which was truly a team event), an uncooperative rear derailleur, and an unplanned extra hill climb, we powered through the closing miles of the ride. As made our last turn towards the finish, our first time participants moved alongside each other at the front of the pack, and we followed these newly minted century riders across the finish.

Barbeque, beverages, hugs and pictures closed our Wilson 100. Following my group’s arrival, our teammates rolled in to rousing cheers until our final participant, struggling through injury but unbowed, turned left into Coweta Middle School. She too was feted with hugs and pictures, testament to the enduring power of fellowship and support.

Close the Door When You Leave


I never asked you to visit ... at least I don't believe I did
Maybe...I don't know
It's so confusing


At any rate, you're a rude guest
You take my energy, rob my sleep, and with a stick
You swirl and distort my dreams


All right, you are here --- for now
But understand
There are two places that are forever off limits


You may not tread on my spirit
You may not occupy my soul


I have heard of your visits to others
I know the damage you leave in your path
The wanton disregard for innocence, value, and what some would call fairness


Also, I hear that laughter confuses you; that good foods make you feel bad, and
That nothing causes you more distress than an autumn sunset, the forever blue of a summer sky,
Or the unconditional radiance of a child's smile

Listen and understand
You might pilfer my closets, empty all the drawers, and trash my house
But there are two places forever off limits


You may not tread on my spirit
You may not occupy my soul


Do not mistake my nausea, weakness, and pain as signs of your victory
They are simply small dents in the armor I wear to fight you
Instead, look deeply into my eyes


They will once again remind you that there are two places forever off limits


You must not...


May not...


Will not tread on my spirit


You must not...


May not...


Will not occupy my soul

Copyright © 2000 by Michael Hayes Samuelson
Author of "Voices from the Edge: Life Lessons from the Cancer Community"
Longstreet Press, www.TheNationalCenter.com



Julian Cowart first joined Team In Training in 2005 and has completed almost a dozen events with the Team. Now a coach for the cycling program, Julian is leading the Team at the 2010 Six Gap Century Ride.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The People You Meet on the Way to the Finish Line by Bruce Scruggs

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of being able to address the Atlanta TEAM at this season's All Sport GTS. One of the messages I hoped to convey was the all too often unrealized, sheer awesomeness of the group of people we train with every week. I've had the opportunity to be part of several TEAMs over the past two years, and I continue to be amazed by the people I have met, so, since public speaking isn't my forte', and some of you may not have been at the All Sport, I wanted to share this story with you again.
Bruce & cancer survivor, fellow
teammate, Mallory Chandler

It is difficult to tell much about someone when you first arrive at a Saturday morning run. You may be wearing the same TEAM jersey that many of them are also wearing, so it's hard to tell who's who. It may be a little intimidating waiting for the coach to address everyone; some of the people seem to know everyone and talk about upcoming races, while others are nervously anticipating the start of the run. But if you take a little time once the group gets started, and talk to one person, you will quickly realize you are in the presence of some of the most incredible people you will ever meet in your life!! Trust me, it happens to me several times every season, and it is not because they are all gifted runners (although you may meet some that have run over 100 marathons). They are incredible just because they are there, as are you, and you will help each other throughout the season (often without even knowing you're helping).

You won't know at first that they are lawyers, vice presidents of corporations, doctors and even celebrities. They won't tell you they have been participating and supporting The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for over ten years, or they've been acknowledged nationally for their contributions, they're far too humble to boast. If you take the time however, you may find out one of them is an alumni in your college fraternity or sorority, or they just took a week off their job to travel across the country supporting a TEAM on the Race Across America. You may have an opportunity to hear they are participating because they lost a loved one at some point, or they participate because they can't cure the disease but they can run, so that's what they'll do. You might not even meet the person who inspires you "in person" at first, you may become friends with them because you saw their story on the TNT Georgia Facebook page, and became friends with them via the internet until you have an opportunity to meet them at an event.

I know this because every one of these has happened for me in the short time I have been on the TEAM, and each person I have met along the way to my finish line now have a special place in my life forever. So I urge you, take time to get to know someone each week at your GTS and you will be rewarded with relationships that will last a lifetime. By the way, if you are reading this blog, I now consider you my friend, and I hope to get a chance to talk to you sometime soon at a GTS or event to hear your story. Until then, Train, Endure, Achieve, Matter, and GO TEAM!!

Bruce Scruggs first joined Team In Training in 2009 and has quickly racked up several TNT events under his belt. Next up for Bruce, the 2010 Chicago Marathon.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Open Letter to the TNT Fall Season Teams by Mitzi Jiles

Mitzi with her mom and dad at the Nike Women's Marathon
I can't believe that the Nike Women's Marathon is only six weeks away! What a season we have had so far! Friendships have been made, miles have been logged, money has been raised and we are hopefully only going to have cooler temps from here on out!. I just wanted to say with the race so close--Nike Team, it has been my honor to be your honored hero, THANK YOU! The encouragement, tenacity and support you all have graciously bestowed upon me has made me even more appreciative to be apart of the Team In Training family. So, with that, I wanted to share another aspect of why I am apart of TNT.


Yes, being a cancer survivor is a blessing. Yes, research for a cure is important. Yes, it's for those patients still fighting and those who lost their lives. But it's also so much more.

I've flashbacked to when I was sitting in the emergency room over 10 years ago waiting anxiously for my test results. At that moment I wish I could have been alone. I wish it could have just been me, the doctors nurses and anyone else who worked at the hospital, but it wasn't.

As I was in a daze being told terrible, change your life in a second, type of news.... there sat my mom.

Her eyes filled with tears, her heart breaking, her world crumbling...she had to witness the "you have cancer" diagnosis. The fact that she was a mere bystander to the words that I had Leukemia and that I could die in two weeks still haunts me! It's one of the most painful memories I have from my entire experience with cancer.

Parents should NEVER have to hear that the son/daughter they have raised, loved, and nurtured get diagnosed with a deadly disease. No matter how old they are.

When those words "you have cancer" came out of Dr. Morris's mouth I turned to my mom and I smiled. I told her that it was going to be ok. I was going to be fine and she had nothing to worry about. I became the parent. I comforted her. I was watching her watch me and all she saw was my life flashing before her eyes.

Why am I a part of Team In Training? Lance Armstrong said, it's because I have an obligation as a cancer survivor, but for me it's for the parents, siblings, family members, friends and caregivers. I hope there comes a day that they no longer have to hear someone they love is sick.

To all the members of Team In Training Fall events, what you have done this season has not only helped those who are sick but those caregivers who have been just as affected.... so, Thank You, Good Luck and GO TEAM!

Mitzi Jiles has been a part of Team In Training since 2007 and is doing her third TNT event with the 2010 Nike Women's Marathon, her first marathon. As an acute myeloid leukemia survivor for the last nine years, Mitzi is one of our Honored Heroes and motivates us all to continue the fight against cancer. Thank you Mitzi for the inspiration!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Honored Heroes, Jill, Dani and Lyndon Inspire

Below you will read several first hand perspectives from Team In Training Honored Heroes, Jill, Dani and Lyndon. The first is Jill's speech to a room full of TNT triathletes as they prepared to tackle the TriLatta Triathlon a couple of months ago. The second is an email from Dani to the Fall Season triathlon teams and the last is an email Lyndon sent to the Wilson 100 TNT cycling team. Prepare to be inspired! Thank you Jill, Dani and Lyndon.
Jill and Dani with the entire TriLatta triathlon team. Jill is cross legged
on the front left and Dani is in the white top in the front row.
Jill's Speech at the Tri-Latta Triathlon Inspiration Dinner on June 12, 2010

Welcome all the TNT Tri-athletes and athletic supporters (I’ve always wanted to say that!)

My name is Jill Powers and I’ve been invited to be your Honored Hero Speaker for this evening’s festivities. I’m a Non- Hodgkin’s Follicular Lymphoma Survivor and -- with your help -- I will continue to fight and one day I hope to live “Lymphoma Free” without the threat of the cancer coming back or developing another cancer as a side effect. Let’s just eradicate the crap out of cancer all together!!!

Let me share with you a little bit about what TNT means to me. I started participating in TNT events in late 2004 all because my sister, Annette, signed up for the Vancouver ½ Marathon in my honor shortly after I was diagnosed. This was one way she felt she could help me in my battle. I was so charged by her ambition, that I signed up as well for the Alaska ½ Marathon, which I completed in June 2005. Since then, I’ve become what I call “a TNT Junkie!” I can’t seem to get enough. It’s not about the events themselves or the challenges (ok maybe, a little,) but it’s about the mission, people, and family that I have made through my TNT journey – TNT just seems to be my kind of “Group Therapy.”

“Group Therapy” – you think I’m joking – but it’s no joke. TNT is the most positive place I could have put myself on this lifelong frustrating journey in the blood cancer battle. You see, my cancer is not curable. At least not today anyway. How many times will I have to make it to the treatment finish line? I have been through chemo and remission once…. I’ve already been there, done that and now I’m starting the journey all over again in July as a patient in a clinical trial.

I will be relocating to Houston, TX in July for 2-3 months for a clinical trial at MD Anderson Cancer Center and you can bet on it that TNT will be my “group therapy” while I am there. Keep your fingers crossed that it works. I’m doing my best to keep physically & mentally healthy so I won’t have to venture in to the land of a Bone Marrow Transplant any time soon.

You should be proud to know that the money you raise through TNT helps fund research and trials, like the one I will be doing.

So on the eve of this event , whether it’s your 1st or your 11th TNT event like me; be proud and hold your head up high (ok, not for the swim part unless spotting) and know that you are making a difference in the lives of many!! You may not have had a personal connection to blood cancers when you started your training 4 months ago, but I’m sure that’s changed now.

It always amazes me to hear the stories people share when you reach out to do something good for others. You learn so much not only about yourself, but about how small the world is and how connected we all are. Cancer is not picky; no one escapes this life without knowing someone who has it or is personally affected by it.

People tell me they are amazed by my attitude towards life & my cancer - let me tell you I’ve got “TUDE” and I’m sure that’s what gets me through sometimes or maybe it’s my stubbornness, but I’m going to kick cancer’s butt as many times as it takes! No pity party here! Move on with life, live it, take chances, and make the most of it. Just LIVE and enjoy the little moments as well as the big ones. And all of you help make it possible for me to have this attitude.

I am proud to call all of you teammates & more importantly teammates in the battle against Blood Cancers. I wish I would be able to see all of your shiny/salty faces as you cross the finish line tomorrow, but I think it will be the other way around; you will probably be waiting for me. As my Georgia Team can attest, I am pretty pokey. But I will finish with a smile on my face and a hug for each and every one of you! You are all rockstars and heroes in my book!!

Tomorrow morning as you get up early, correction-very early, enjoy every minute of the day! Even when you think you can’t go any further and want to give up – don’t – you’ve trained for this – you’ll get to the finish line!!

Again, many thanks for the millions of us whose lives are touched by the struggle with cancer. Every stroke you swim, mile you ride & run or walk tomorrow is one mile closer to a cure!!!!

One final note – I would like to personally dedicate my event tomorrow to Dani, the Georgia Chapter’s Honored Hero. She joins us this weekend with her family to celebrate life. Dani is currently in treatment and I wish her a long and happy life filled with love, laughter, health and only good memories of her cancer journey. Yes, there can and will be good, if not great memories.

Now go out there and kick some TNT Butt!!! GO TEAM!!!! ~ Jill

Dani's email sent to the TNT Triathlon Team on August 25, 2010

After the first week of classes, I am trying to go back to regular life.  After practically falling apart in my first class, and actually falling apart in my second class; I am beginning to realize that this year really happened.  I guess I thought that I may wake up some day and Ashton Kutcher would be there with a megaphone and a trucker hat telling me I had been punked.  Alas, I don’t think I will find Ashton in my bedroom any morning (damn) and this really did happen. 

I drove home from class, wondering if I had any business trying to help anyone considering my own current state of hysteria.  If a graduate level class and a simple assignment to state my fears can produce such emotional unrest perhaps I am only suited to cook dinner and knit blankets.  I daydream about becoming a Stepford wife, with no emotions, then remember that they all had long, beautiful hair and quickly rejoin reality. 

I am realizing there is no going back after cancer.  It is now a part of who I am.  It has changed the way I view the world and interact with people. I am no longer the same person I was, I am trying so hard to get back to who I was, to move on and away from this year, but perhaps I just cannot.  Perhaps, I am a different person now and I simply have to pick up and move forward, discovering myself all over again. 

I find myself getting angry; did I really spend a year kicking this thing physically just to turn around and have to process things emotionally?  Can we just be done?  I am sick of the word cancer, I am sick of cancer.  I am angry that my family and the family of so many others have been put through hell.  I am angry that I will forever live in fear that the cancer may come back in me or in someone I love.  I am scared that there will never be a day that cancer does not touch for the rest of my life.  I AM OVER CANCER.

Then I hear my beautiful daughter shrill from behind me and I am reminded, ever so quickly, what this is truly all about.  I am one of the lucky ones who get to be sick of cancer.  I am one of the lucky ones who have survived thus far.    Each breath I take is a gift, each day I have is another victory.

So I have traded my combat boots for flip-flops and I move about the day, trying to navigate the best I can.  I am reminded that I am no different from any other person on this planet; I do the best I can each day with the information and strength I have at the moment.

I guess, for all who are willing, I am welcoming you to join me on the journey back to life.  The journey after a cancer free diagnosis but not quite free of cancer.  The beauty of this process is that it is so cathartic for me; the fact that someone reads it is simply frosting.  Writing this stuff out, processing through and then sending it out to the universe (or cyberspace) is the most healing thing I do.  Thanks for loving us and praying for us!  We love each of you! ~ Dani

Lyndon
Lyndon's email sent to the TNT Wilson 100 Cycling Team on August 23, 2010

I'll be getting my second bone marrow transplant on Tuesday, August 31. The good news is, my 100 days of seclusion while my immune system rebuilds will be over in December, in plenty of time for the next cycling season. 100 days, like 100 miles, will go by one at a time, except for those parts where I'm totally in a daze and don't even realize how far I've gone. I think you know you're a cyclist when the last 20 miles get to be the bittersweet conclusion of months of preparation with the team instead of "Oh my god I'm not sure I can go 20 more miles..."

I'm not usually one to make a fuss, but if you want to follow my progress, look me up on http://www.caringbridge.com/. Where it says "Visit a website," enter my name, lsilloway.

To those who are riding this weekend's Century, may the wind be at your back, the gravel off the road, the dogs behind their fences, and the Gatorade cool and sweet like southern iced tea at a fine BBQ joint with red plaid plastic tablecloths. ~ Lyndon

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I'm on the IronTeam! by Katie Aguilar

Katie and her parents after the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon

This past Monday I called my parents all excited with terrific news….I had joined the TNT IronTeam to train and participate in Ironman Arizona in November, 2011. Not sure if that is the news most parents expect to hear from their daughter, but mine sounded like they were expecting it…and very supportive. They were not, however, as excited as me. I could hear it in their voices: they had a few questions like why?

The why for me is simple…because I know I am ready for the challenge. How do I know? Because my Team In Training family has been there to help me realize what I can do. I joined TEAM with no connection to blood cancers. Throughout training I realized I was amongst an amazing group of people. I was hooked, but hadn’t put everything together yet.

While training for my second marathon with TEAM I learned of a friend, Matt Uday, fighting testicular cancer. I followed his blog; captivated at his optimism, love for life, and firm belief he would beat cancer. As I trained, I thought these things …and I started connecting the dots between my life, Matt Uday, and the amazing people I consider my Team In Training family. I realized that when I train, I feel very much alive and that I am living the example set by the many survivors and fallen heroes.

As I connected the dots, my coaches quietly proved to me that I was capable of running faster, longer and achieving more than I thought possible. I started to believe that I could achieve goals I set for myself. I started to realize these goals add an extra zest and thrill for life. I may not reach all goals I set, but working for them is fantastic!

While training for Ironman 70.3 Augusta with TEAM (my first triathlon) I have been surrounded by many teammates and coaches who are like me…at least they look like me…a “normal” person. On my team there are a few that have done something I have not: Ironman. I started to realize that I too can do Ironman. I was amazed and surprised at this revelation…but it feels right. I am ready.

This is the year of Georgia Chapter’s inaugural IronTeam. I am ready for the challenge…and excited beyond belief. I get to be a part of IronTeam and train for an Ironman! I can think of no better way to train for Ironman then by helping give hope to those who have made my life richer, while training amongst those who have encouraged me to reach higher: my TNT family.

I know that my fabulous TNT coaches Mary and Mike will give me the tools and guidance so that I can succeed at Ironman. I know that my teammates and I will support each other and celebrate many personal and team victories along the way. I know that my teammates and I will continue to give hope to the heroes battling blood cancers. I know that this will be an experience of a life time…and I can’t wait.

Katie Aguilar first joined TNT in May of 2008 to train for the Chicago Marathon. After running three marathons with the TEAM, she is currently training for her first triathlon, the ESi Ironman 70.3 Augusta. Katie will begin training for the 2011 Ironman Arizona with TNT in January of 2011. (Blog post originally posted to www.ironteamgeorgia.blogspot.com.)

Monday, July 26, 2010

There IS an I in TEAM by John Dapper

Since playing grouped sports as a kid, I have been told that “There is no I in Team”. The notion was that each member had a role to play and the whole was bigger than an individual. This conjures up the image of the poster that says, “TEAM – Together Everyone Achieves More”. I still believe that to be true but I would like to promote a different spin. I believe that there is an I in Team and that “I” stands for Inspiration. This is particularly true for Team In Training.

I am still proud and Inspired fifteen years later by how my father dealt with his diagnosis of CML and with the manner and grace he lived out his shortened final days. His inspiration is what eventually got me into the Team In Training program. I am just as inspired with how my mother, a cancer survivor herself, managed through losing her husband and carrying on alone these last fifteen years.

We are greatly Inspired by our current honored heroes and each of the honored heroes from previous seasons. They have opened up their lives and struggles to us as they manage through what must be a very, very scary thing. Their courage is amazing.

I find Inspiration in my fellow lane one swimmers. You will not find a group with more heart. By the way when my mother asked me how my swim training was going, I proudly told her that I was in lane one. She thought that was great. I chose not to correct her thought that the speedsters were in the other end of the pool. If you see my mother, let’s keep that our secret!

Great Inspiration is found by all of our fellow teammates who initially had the courage to commit to raise money while preparing for an endurance sport and then the additional courage to recommit through the event. The dollar tally announced at the Inspiration Dinner that represents the aggregate of all of the hard work from their silent auctions, garage sales, bake sales, car washes, letter writing campaigns, et cetera being still provides goose bumps. Extra inspiration comes from those Alumni that do this season after season after season.

We receive Inspiration by our TNT coaches, mentors and LLS staff, who give so much of themselves, well beyond what is asked but because they want to, so that we may be successful in our journey.

Don’t forget the Inspiration by the efforts of the researchers that our raised dollars fund and the progress that is being made every day. We are inspired that some day cancer will be a disease of the past and that we will have a grand last event celebration where we will claim victory.

I am proud and Inspired to be your teammate, John

John Dapper is currently training for The Nation's Triathlon 2010 team and has been involved with Team In Training in a number of roles including participant, mentor and now coach. John brings extensive experience from having participated with various chapters of Team In Training and has a strong passion for the cause.

Monday, July 19, 2010

What Can Happen in Five Years? by Mallory Chandler


I've always heard the saying that a lot can happen in five years. So I started thinking, what all can happen in five years? Well, it takes nine months for a baby to be born. You can start and finish college; well at least that's the theory anyway. In my case, you can graduate from college, move to a new city, train for and complete two half-marathons and a marathon with Team In Training. Oh yeah and be in the middle of training for your second marathon. It seems like I've done a lot in those five years and to be honest, I'm not sure where the time has gone. However, in five years, I still have not learned how to come to grips with losing a friend to a blood cancer.

You see, I recently celebrated my seventh year off chemo anniversary in April. While going through chemo, I met a lot of kids who were also fighting the terrible c-word. One of the people that I met who was also battling cancer, Todd, ended up becoming my best friend. I met Todd when I was fifteen and he was sixteen. He was diagnosed in May of 2000 and I was diagnosed in September of 2000. We both had ALL (acute lymphocytic leukemia). As Forest Gump would say, we went together like peas and carrots. We were completely opposite but yet, it worked. I was always really feisty (and still am); Todd was more laid back and would roll with the punches. I was an athlete and he was in the band. I was (and still am) an Ole Miss fan; he was an Auburn fan (which in the state of Alabama, things like that can make or break a friendship). The one main thing we had in common was that we each needed a friend, someone who knew what the other was going through and would take each other’s mind off of the reality of what was happening. You see, we didn't need sympathy, we needed normalcy and we provided that for each other.

It took us each about three years to finish chemo. I completed my chemo regiment before graduating high school, but Todd had to enter his freshman year at Auburn still on treatments. I finished with relatively few setbacks. Todd had a harder time. I was lucky enough to have never relapsed. Todd relapsed and needed a bone marrow transplant. He traveled to Boston for his transplant and I remember being a freshman in college and spending my weekends talking to him over the computer so he could have some company, so-to-speak. I remember one Saturday in particular, we talked for twelve straight hours, with only a few breaks to go to the bathroom or get something to eat. Needless to say, he was my best friend and I loved him dearly.

After he finished his transplant, he was allowed to come back to Alabama and start his sophomore year of college. He had decided to transfer to a school closer to his Alabama doctors, so he chose to enroll at Samford University in Birmingham. I was really excited about this, because I too was going to be a sophomore at Samford. That summer, I had to decide to stay at Samford or transfer to another school. I made the painful decision to transfer, but I knew that one day, the stars would finally align and we would find our way back to each other. Todd stayed right on track though and enrolled for the Fall 2004 semester. At least he was right on track until he hit another detour. A few months into the semester, he relapsed for the second time. This was not a good thing. The leukemia started showing up all over his body, not just his blood. I saw him a couple of times during this go-round and we would talk periodically. I just knew he was going to be OK. He would bounce back just like he did the previous two times.

Unfortunately, five years ago today, July 19th, Todd passed away. To say that I was devastated was an understatement. How could this happen? We were Mal and Todd, The Dynamic Chemo Duo. We were supposed to grow old together and conquer the world, because if we could conquer cancer, then the only thing left was the world. But I guess it wasn't in the cards for us. I had to learn a hard lesson in life, that sometimes things don’t go the way you plan.

Sometimes I catch myself wondering what could have been and how different the past five years would have been if he were still around. Last Wednesday, I really started thinking about how much I missed him. I called my mom and she told me the one thing I needed to hear. She told me that Todd would be mad at me for being sad and dwelling on it. And she's right. He would've wanted me to take that pain and sadness and turn it in to something good. I have finally started to realize that just because Todd's not here to conquer the world with me, I can still conquer it. People who find out that I run half-marathons and marathons ask me why I run. I usually tell them that I run because I can. What I should probably say is that I run because Todd can't, but more importantly, because I can and that's what he would want me to do.

Mallory Chandler celebrated her seventh year anniversary as a survivor at the 2010 Country Music Marathon. She is now set to do the 2010 Chicago Marathon with Team In Training. Mallory, thank you for continuing to inspire us all! You, Todd and so many others are why we do what we do.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I'm A Hero Too! by Elizabeth Kalifeh


I can't believe its all over. I ran 26.2 miles. I raised almost $5000 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. A year ago I would have told you neither was possible. I had originally signed up with Team In Training to run the Seattle Rock n Roll 1/2 marathon to have new people to run with and to get involved with a charity. I got way more than I signed up for...

After only a few weeks of group runs and getting to know my new "team" I knew I had found friends for life as well as the courage to switch from my 1/2 marathon to a full marathon. The fundraising it turned out, was the easy part. When I had signed up to run, I didn't think I knew anyone that had battled a blood cancer-most of my family members who have been affected by cancer were usually fighting a different type. Throughout the several months of training I quickly realized how wrong I was and that I knew several people that were my new honored heroes that were battling, have battled, or lost their battle to a blood cancer. I was also really touched by another survivor, one of my new teammates, Ryan Watton.

I knew that once I got to Seattle and began my 26.2 mile adventure that things would be emotional. Seeing the many other TNT'ers from across the country dressed in their purple and hearing "Go Team" cheers along the way really helped get me through my run. I also knew my knee and foot pain wasn't nearly as bad as a chemo treatment and thinking about my honored heroes and what they have been through, or what they are currently going through didn't compare. I knew that all of my training, hard work, and fundraising was for them. Crossing the finish line was an amazing experience that brought me to tears, but what really moved me came later that night.

After the race our team went out to celebrate. We got into the conversation of honored heroes and why we do what we do. Throughout training (and my race) I was asked why I was running and who I was running for. I was doing this for a cause greater than me and didn't think much more about it. Ryan brought it all into perspective. I quickly came to realize that I am a hero too. Our heroes think we are heroes. They are so thankful that we would spend our time and be so dedicated to running for them and are inspired that we would do this in their honor. Throughout the whole experience I never really looked at it this way. I never thought what I did could compare to what they were going through. I was wrong. We both inspire each other, but in different ways.

Team In Training has been a life changing experience that I will never forget. Not only did I make great friends, I learned a lot about myself, my capabilities, and the fight against cancer. I can't wait to do it all again. Big Sur anyone??

Elizabeth Kalifeh is a first time Team In Training participant and we are very proud of her accomplishment. Congratulations Elizabeth! Thank you for your commitment to Team In Training and sharing your story.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Paying It Forward by Danielle Howard


“It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters.” ~Mother Teresa

It is seldom in life that we are able to give back to the people that have given to us. Often, when we give back it is by paying it forward to another person. Yes, we have reciprocal friendships and familiar relationships, but returning kindness given to you from a stranger is rare.

This weekend, I was given the opportunity to do just this. Many months ago, I wrote of a wonderful group of men and women who were racing in a triathlon to raise money for Leukemia and Lymphoma. They have taken the time to get to know me, cheer me on as a move through the different phases of treatment, threw me a baby shower after Collins was born and have raised over 50,000 dollars towards research to find a cure for this horrible disease. Well, this was THEIR weekend! The triathlon was in Charlotte and I was able to attend. I was able to listen to THEIR stories of how they got involved with this wonderful cause, as they had been listening to my stories for the last six months.

The night before race day, I sat with them as they were given instructions for the following day. I saw expressions of fear, worry, self-doubt and I was able to place my hand on THEIR shoulder to say they can do this, as they had written to me so many times previously. I traveled with them to the track in the morning and watched as they prepared for their upcoming day. I listened to the prayers and pep talks. I watched this TEAM take their places as they began their swim. As each teammate surfaced from the water, I cheered. We cheered and cheered until the LAST teammate came from the water. It was at that point that the lump in my throat began to take form. I was the last one of my cancer friends to come out of the water. I cheered as each of them finished chemo and radiation, wondering if it would ever be my turn. As that last teammate made their way up the shore, I screamed and cheered as these teammates had done for me.

They biked, they ran, and as they did I was there to cheer them on. Each teammate passed with a smile. I watched as coaches ran along side their team to cheer them on. I made my way to the finish line to be present as Susan crossed the finish line. I watched as the ENTIRE team waited for their last member to cross the finish line. This team member has a special place in my heart. She is a fellow non-Hodgkiner whose cancer has recently relapsed. She raced knowing that in July she will begin treatment again. As she rounded the corner towards the finish line, to find a mass of her teammates waiting for her, she smiled huge and shouted “GO” to which the “TEAM!” was quickly given back to her.

It was this moment where the lump that had been slowly growing in my throat, grew wings and became tears. I stepped back from the crowd, took a quick stock of all that had transpired over the last nine months, six months, week and day. I smiled, raised my arms in the air, screamed out loud and let my tears flow.

This was an amazing experience. I am so grateful to the TEAM for loving me and letting me be a part of this. When this journey began I wanted nothing to do with this process. The thought of being called a “hero” was entirely too self-serving for me. However, as I sat in chemo and watched the number of people that were treated I realized that a cure needed to be found. From my chemo chair there was little that I could do, but I could lend my face and my story to a cause that could potentially keep another from enduring the torture of my last nine months.

I have undoubtedly strengthened the bond between my self and Susan, who I now consider Momma Bear, as she is always thinking of others before herself. She took amazing care of me this weekend and is a remarkable woman. I have made friends with people on the team I would have never met if cancer had not been placed in my life. Jo, one of the coaches, and my sister from another mister, said it best – I hate the way I met you but I’m glad you’re in my life. To everyone on the team, I love you! I have images from this weekend that will travel with me for my entire life! You have each made a mark on my heart and are amazing people, you will help find a cure, of that I have no doubt. And to my fellow and hero Jill – see ya in 2012!

This post is published here with permission by Danielle Howard and taken from her blog http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/michaeldanihoward. Thank you for sharing and inspiring us Dani!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Four Men, Four Bikes, One Cause!

This Saturday, four local men will start riding across the country—on two wheels! With a goal of cycling from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland in less than a week, the dedicated men are participating in Race Across America (RAAM). Beginning June 12, Dave Armento, Frank Fuerst, Tony Myers and Jerome Rossetti, will ride through 16 states, rotating shifts 24 hours a day.
This is the second year the men have participated in this event. In 2009, they crossed the finish line in seven days, eight hours, six minutes, first in the four-man 50-59 age group, and fifth among all four man teams.
Known as the Georgia Chain Gang, the team is using the event to raise money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. The men are supported by a team of ten crew members, including two time Non Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor Warren Bruno, owner of Atkins Park Restaurant in the Virginia Highlands area of Atlanta. The team’s fundraising goal is $160,000 but they have already raised more than $90,000 even before the race has started!! Having Warren on their team and others in their hearts, serves as an incredible inspiration to continue to fundraise even harder.
Cyclist Dave Armento lost a sister, uncle and father-in-law to leukemia. "I am looking forward to the ride itself again but I am also looking forward to making a difference," he says. "Research has come a long way in treating blood cancers—there are now 85% success rates---so hopefully we can help raise awareness and success rates even higher."
The four men are all avid endurance athletes—having completed marathons, Ironman triathlons and long-distance cycling events. To prepare for this race, the men have trained inside about 7-10 hours per week and have completed multiple 60-100-mile rides outside averaging at least 300-400 miles week.
"We wish these committed and dedicated men the best of luck on their race," says Dick Brown, executive director of the Georgia Chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. "But most of all, on behalf of the 900,000 Americans now living with a blood cancer, we thank them. They are making a tremendous difference in the lives of so many people—one every four minutes—that are diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma."

Learn more about the Georgia Chain Gang at http://www.gachaingang.org/
Learn more about Race Across America at http://www.raceacrossamerica.org/
Donate online at http://pages.teamintraining.org/ga/raceacro10/GeorgiaChainGang
Follow on Facebook at www.facebook.com/gachaingang

Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gachaingang

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Julie's Challenge by Bruce Scruggs

Sugar and spice, and everything nice, isn't that what we were told girls are made of when we were young?!! I happen to still believe this is true, and for reasons unknown, I still prescribe to the "girls should have long hair, and boys should have short hair" theory. So when my friend Julie Wolfe, decided to chop her hair off to raise money for her Chicago Marathon campaign, it was a natural reaction for me to challenge her on it. Of course, as soon as I did, another friend, Mallory Chandler, reminded me I had contributed to her cause by paying her to cut her hair just a couple of weeks ago!! As Scooby would say, "Rut Ro!!", what to do now? I've told one friend she should cut her hair, and another one she shouldn't. Boy, did I get myself into a pickle.

Of course, this is all in good fun, and as anyone who has subscribed to receive this blog knows, we all have the same goal, to cure this cancer!! Julie's initial goal was to raise $500 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society by taking donations to encourage her to cut her hair. As many of you know, I'm always up for some fun, and a good challenge, so I threw down the gauntlet and pledged to get Julie to her goal if she DIDN'T cut her hair. So Julie agreed to amend the rules of her poll and allow people to donate and vote for which direction she should go with her hair cut!!

Now I need everyone's help!!! Since posting the challenge, I've been steadily losing ground on my efforts to save the pony tail. Let's have some fun, and get the word out about the challenge, if you have an opinion on the topic, make a donation and vote your conviction. Will it be "pixie" or pony tail? The "long and short" of it is that we can all help make a difference while having some fun!!

Julie Wolfe is one of our 2010 Chicago Marathon TNT Mentors, but is an 11Alive News backpack reporter by day. You may have seen some of her news pieces featuring TNT'ers in the past. Follow Julie as she blogs about her Team In Training experience and running in general at http://11aliveblogs.com/index.php/category/running/.

Bruce Scruggs first joined Team In Training in 2009 and has quickly racked up several TNT events under his belt. Next up for Bruce, the 2010 Chicago Marathon.