Thursday, February 8, 2007

Everything Disney

Final Disney Entry (2.5.2007)

It has taken me nearly a month to write this. And, as I attempt to finish, I am watching the clock for “bed time” as I have promised a friend of mine that I will run the Tallahassee Half Marathon with her in the morning (2.4.2007). It will be her first Half-Marathon. I have been trying and trying to figure out how I am possibly going to be able to put down in words my Disney Marathon Weekend experience without crying all over the keyboard. It is all so wrapped up in the Team in Training experience that I think I might be best off trying to write a synopsis of the last several months with a grand finale' of the Disney Half Marathon. So, with that said, here goes "nuttin' " as some people would say.

I have been on the Team in Training mailing list for about three years. I have received the registration and commitment packet twice and twice looked at what I then considered a daunting fund raising goal and thrown the packet away. I first became interested in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society after meeting Harold Van Wie (you have read about him on my web page). I thought that I was ready to take on doing something "worthy" in addition to just running the half-marathon distance. Twice before I declined to commit. In August, my very VERY near and dear friend Cathy Cushing "bamboozled" me into going with her to the Kick Off meeting for the Winter 2007 Season (events that occur in early 2007). Yes, the same Cathy Cushing who got me started down this silly endurance distance running road. So, I went to the “Round Holiday Inn.” I met Leo Sanchez-Thurber (Walking Team Leader), who refused to let me look at the TNT binder because I had not yet committed. I met Jill Ashoo (Running Team Leader), who told me, "You can do it. I did it, no problem." Or something along those lines. I called my husband and explained what I was considering, and then I called Harold and his wife Margaret. I would definitely need their support if I were going to commit to this 20+ week program of running and fund raising. Mike and I agreed that I could “do it” if, at the Re-commitment date, I would back out if I had not raised the minimum required funds necessary to participate in the event.

So, I signed on the dotted lines. Yes, siree Bob, there are more than one. I looked at that figure: a minimum of $2400.00 by October 27, 2006 (or so I thought at the time). I took the participant binder home (Leo was happy to give it to me then ...) and immediately set up my personal web page. Yes, I know that you all got so sick and tired of my e-mails and updates, and thank you's and pleas for money. However, you should know that each of those e-mails generated a chance for me to win a quarterly drawing for 250 dollars towards my team's goal. And, you know what? Out of ALL the people utilizing a fund raising web page hosted by, I won the $250 quarterly give-away!!! So, in the end it paid off. I apologize for inundating you and harassing you. But, my team overshot it's goal by 58%. We earned $3941! Thank you. Okay, okay back to the story.

My team – The Lucky Seven - made its goal by 9/11/2006. Which, in my eyes, was a fortuitous coincidence. WOW! Here was something positive to share on the Fifth Anniversary of the most horrific event I could recall in my lifetime. The Boys learned a lesson that morning. I learned a lesson that morning. But best of all, I learned that people from all walks were supportive of the cause I had chosen to befriend. Not only that, but by having the minimum "in the bank" early meant that I could really focus on the running part of the program.

The full marathon runners began running Labor Day weekend - and so did I. I didn't have to, but I felt that I needed every edge and advantage to guarantee the best 13.1 miles that I could possibly get. So, I took it slowly. Short runs. Cool runs before the sun rose. Spinning at the gym when it was too hot or raining. Weight lifting two days a week in addition to 3 or 4 days of running. It all worked up to a great payday. Slowly but surely. The running coach had mapped out a pretty regular schedule of weekly runs for the full marathoners. But, he managed to run once a week with only me. I told him every Tuesday morning that he did not need to run with me. I had trained alone for this distance five times before and I could do it again. "Blah, blah, blah." Yet, Chuck met me every Tuesday at 5:45 a.m. unless it was below 40 degrees (yes, it happened a couple of times) or raining. I tried to make some of the team runs during the week in the early going, but with our family’s schedule I could really only promise myself the time before the sun rose. I remember the first time I did run with the full marathoners. We ran Old Centerville Road. It was a 7 mile run - which was slightly ahead of my schedule, but I felt I could do it. Wow that day felt awesome. We ran, and ran, and ran it seemed. I remember being so pleased with myself: That was just beyond half of my total goal distance. I was ecstatic!

From the very beginning - four years ago - I have followed the Hal Higdon Half-Marathon training program. It has worked for me five times previously, and it worked like a gem this time around as well. I tried to make the Team runs on the weekends when I could, and when my son's swim team was in town (and not hosting a meet). I made more than I thought I would, but not as many as I had hoped for. My goal was to catch the full marathoners on their "fall back" runs. That seemed to work well for me as distance builders. I was ready for the longer distances earlier than I had thought because I started earlier, and trained SAFELY and CAREFULLY and SMART. I ran a team run one weekend (that same route: Old Centerville Road) for just over 12 miles the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I high-fived myself all the way home. Just think: more than a month away from Disney, and already near the total distance. A couple of weeks later I would go nearly 14 miles with the group - my personal distance record so far - in my best time yet. I was ready! I knew it that weekend in December. The finish line at Disney was in my sights, and I was going to get there. And, I was going to get there in 2 hours and 10 minutes or less. Woooops! Slow down there, Girl Friend! Time for a TEAM check:

I haven't mentioned that some of the team runs included one of my newest and “bestest” and dearest friends, Jill Ashoo. She got involved with Team in Training in the spring of 2006 after her brother Max was diagnosed with Leukemia. She had begun her training with TNT as a full marathon hopeful for the San Diego Rock-n-Roll Marathon (June, 2006). Unfortunately for her, but fortunately for me (read the selfishness coming out here), she injured her Iliotibial Band during training. And, as she has related to me, she got to the 20-mile training run and "hit the wall." Jill doesn't live far from me, so it was kind of easy to coordinate some of our runs and rides together. During one of our runs it became very clear to Jill that she was going to finish Disney, and was ready, and more than capable. However, because of her nagging injury she knew that she was not going to be able to "blaze" through it as we had once predicted. I promised her on that run, I would stay with her the entire time. I would not leave her. This run was not about time: It was about TNT, and Max, her brother, and being a TEAM. It was not about my trying to set a Personal Record.

You see, in 2003 when my dear friend Cathy Cushing "bamboozled" me into training with her for my first half-marathon (yes, her again - do you see a trend ...?), I did not stay with her during the run even though we had trained together; and had said that we would stay together. I left her. I started out with her, and then I fell into a pace, and I just sort of stayed there. In the pace that was not "there" with Cathy. So, I was not going to make that mistake twice. I know now that I made a mistake then, and that I can't go back and change it. But, I can keep it from happening again.

The Disney Marathon Weekend:

Friday afternoon we arrived in Orlando and made our way to the Marathon Weekend Expo at the Disney Wide World of Sports. We picked up our race/run packets with numbers and timing chips. Then we retrieved our Official Run shirts (way cool). Then, well, we wandered, and ogled, and wondered if we "needed" anything; was there anything we just had to have. If you have never been to a race/run expo, it is kind of like a fair, but geared towards the runners. It was amazing: so many "Running" things in one place, and all for me to pick over. FYI, I didn't buy a thing for myself.

The Team In Training Pre-Race Pasta Dinner was Friday evening in EPCOT. I did not know such a gathering place existed within the confines of EPCOT. However, tucked behind the British and Canadian pavilions, there is indeed a "convention" like place, and it was filled with nearly 2,000 Team In Training participants, Honored Team Mates (yes, Bill and Harold were both there with their families), Family Members, Coaches, Team Leaders, and FOOD. Lots and lots of food. The speakers were great, and inspirational, and moving, and regular people.
The Emcee for the evening was a man by the nickname of the "Penguin." We loved him. It is from him that I learned about the infamous "Bite Me Zone." He explained that "The Wall" is a myth, but the "Bite Me Zone" is a reality. I'll explain it someday if you are interested. I believe that everyone has their own Bite Me Zone in their own particular athletic endeavor - it is in no way limited to running. By-the-way, my "Zone" is apparently the night before the run, not during the run. Good to get it over with ahead of time, and be able to then enjoy the ENTIRE RUN! We met a participant who was running his second marathon since overcoming and surviving Leukemia. He was an inspiration to everyone there - especially those of us with children and Honored team mates who are also survivors.

Saturday, January 6 2007, 2:15 a.m.

The alarm goes off and I kind of roll out of bed so that I don't wake up my roommates for the weekend: my friend Cathy Jones and her daughters, Melissa and Clare, who have come to be my cheerleaders. I have only been in bed for about 4 and 1/2 hours, but I am ready to go. I gather up all my things, get ready, and head out to meet Chuck and the other girls from the team that are joining me for this early morning excursion to the Start Line.

Picture the parking lots at Disney World: Normally filled with cars, and trams filled with people being shuttled to and from the gates at the front of one of four Parks. At 3:30 a.m. in one of the smaller (yes, smaller) lots at EPCOT, there are spot lights, a band, tents, and THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS (16,000+ runners/walkers in the end) of people: Runners, walkers, volunteers, family members, coaches. Team Tallahassee scoped out a piece of asphalt real estate and settled in for the wait until we were called to the Wave staging area. Around 5:00 a.m. we are called to "pass through the reunion tents" to check our extra gear - dry clothes, cell phones, Body Glide, etc. - and move to the Wave Staging areas. Did I mention that there were Porta Potties as far as the eye could see? I have never seen so many porta potties in one place ever. There were hundreds, I kid you not. Anyway, in the staging area, we claim another piece of black top property for our now smaller group because we have been separated by predicted finish time. We wait. We can hear the band playing, and has been playing since before we first arrived, solely for our entertainment. Now we are starting to get a bit nervous. There are a LOT of people. What if we get separated? What if we get trampled? What if ...? Then we started "The Walk" (which turned out to be almost one and 1/2 miles) to the starting area. It is an area. The starting line is only one thin strip along this access road crammed from shoulder to shoulder with 16,000+ participants. Ka-zam! Along the way there are huge video monitors with "Radio Disney" videos, and the race officials, and then the Star Spangled Banner begins...

We are trying not to cry, but it is really hard. Then the wheel chair racers line up, and get ready. There are fireworks for the start. The only start I have ever witnessed that I might consider better was the Blue Angels squadron fly over for the start of the 20th Anniversary Blue Angel Marathon in 2003. There are more fireworks: one display for each wave's start of the Half Marathon. Truly a Disney-esque beginning to the day. We are in the third “start.” Now, we are off and running. Well, not really running because there are so many people. We kind of shuffle along for quite a while. Somewhere near Mile One the crowd thins ever so slightly; just enough so that we can now call what we are doing running. So run we do. Along the way there are crowds of people, more in some areas, but nearly every expanse of the shoulder of the road for 13+ miles has people yelling and cheering. There are people who are reading OUR names from the fronts of our race singlets as we pass and yelling words of encouragement to us. There are people passing us who are reading the names from the backs of our singlets and telling us how much those people admire and appreciate us. There are people in Team in Training shirts yelling, "Go, TEAM!" And we SMILE, yes we smile, and wave back as we pass them. Team In Training is a well-known entity here: They are the beneficiary of the Disney Marathon Weekend.

We wind our way around people and through the water stops until just outside of The Magic Kingdom. The course takes a slight dip under the monorail and then a small incline toward the park. There are Team in Training cheerleaders every where. We speed up. We speed up some more. You just can't "plod along" when there are so many people who are there to support you (and the other 15,998 runners in the day's run). We get past that throng and realize that we have to slow down. We slow back down to our original pace, and as we do we approach one of the "backstage" gates to Main Street USA. Travis, Jill, and I (the We I keep referring to) turn onto Main Street, USA. It is still Christmas in the Magic Kingdom. The holiday decorations and lights are all still in place, and lit. It is an awesome sight and feeling to be here. We run up Main Street and "hang a right" towards Tomorrow Land. We wind around in there for a while: catching a glimpse of Stitch and Lilo near the Buzz Lightyear attraction. Then we curve around near Space Mountain and head towards "The Castle." Disney is so very clever in its planning: The runners go through Cinderella's Castle from the back running down towards Main Street again. It is a fantastic photo op. Thank goodness we were warned by Disney Vets to smile as we come through the castle. It is one of the most photographed locations along the route. Then we turn and head out of the Magic Kingdom via FrontierLand and another backstage exit point.

From there the route is mostly flat and access roads until you get back to EPCOT. The last couple of miles are through EPCOT's World Showcase and the plaza with the tiles that light up under your feet. And, here it is also still Christmas. The lights are on, there is a band playing, and there are people. TONS of people. And supporters, and cheerleaders, and more people. We know that from EPCOT it is not far to the finish line. I have been keeping Jill pumped and motivated by telling her how far we HAVE run, not how far to go. And, we tell each other "The last mile doesn't count." True to our mantra, by the time we get to Mile 12, we know we are home free. The last mile does count - but only so you can cross the Finish Line. Jill's knees don't hurt anymore. Neither of us are breathing heavy even though the pace is the same. Truly, it is a GRAND feeling. The last mile is nothing but adrenaline. There are so many people that they stand 5 and 6 deep in some places. We can hear the announcer at the Finish Line calling out numbers and names and hometowns that are being fed to him by the spotters just a bit out from the Finish. We come around a bend and then we see the Grand Stands. We see the Finish Line and the Giant monitors that are displaying the run for those who can't be at the actual finish line. We see the clock.

It is now about 8:50 a.m. We have been running for 2 hours and 35 minutes (we crossed the start line at approximately 6:15 a.m.).

I grab Jill's hand, and we run - really run - across the finish line like we were all that! She is crying; I can hear Travis just behind us; and the crowds - they cheer for everyone. We finished! We finished running, not walking, not crawling, and we are sooooo happy to be done. Just past the finish line Harold and Margaret VanWie are standing up front next to the fence camera in hand. The picture I have posted on my web page is the one Harold took. I can’t tell you how special it felt to have him and Margaret and Bill there for the finish and the entire weekend.

The finish area is even more of a set up than the start area. First we get a mylar blanket (you take one for when you all of a sudden start to cool down); then water and Power Ade. Then … there are the medals! Thousands of shiny, gold-colored Donald Duck profiles hanging from brightly colored ribbons. You bow your head ever so slightly as the race volunteer puts YOUR medal around YOUR neck. Then you look at the crowd and, again, you SMILE. We slowly, as we are done running for today, make our way to the Reunion Tents to pick up our gear that we checked earlier. There are photographers just outside the tents to capture you on film in all your sweaty glory. But, you know what? You stop, you gather your team mates next to you, and you SMILE for the camera.

Once through the reunion tents we make our way to the Team In Training tent to check in so that the TNT staff know we have finished; that we are uninjured; and so we can claim our “13.1” pins. Waiting at the TNT tent are many of the gals that will be running the full marathon on Sunday, and they are nearly as excited as we are to see us come around the bend. They take our pictures. They hug us close, even though we are beyond disgusting, and they SMILE. They know that tomorrow it will be them.

The rest of the morning is taken up with getting back to the hotel, showering, and taking a nap. Wow! I never knew a nap could feel so good. But, nap I did, for the first time in many, many moons.

12:00 Noon

The phone rings and it is Cathy Jones telling me, “Wakey Wakey! Eggs and Bakey!” It’s time to get up; have lunch; and enjoy the rest of the day. I get out of bed, head to the hotel lobby where I am met by Cathy and her daughters and Bill and his family. We have a great lunch and then hop a bus to the Magic Kingdom. We meander from attraction to ride, from snack stop to attraction. There is no hurry, no rush. I have done that already today. We ride Big Thunder Mountain, and Pirates of the Caribbean; the Haunted Mansion, and It’s a Small World; we ride the “people mover” and Stitch’s Great Escape. We spend all afternoon in the park. As a matter of fact we don’t leave until after the Closing Fireworks display and the shops on Main Street are all closing. We get back to the hotel around 10:00 p.m., have dinner and a “Marathon Margarita” courtesy of our server, and then mosey our way back to the room for sleep. The lights go out about Midnight. It has been a day that I will never, ever forget. Never.

Sunday, Janauary 7, 2007

By the time I get up, the Full marathon runners have been at it for a couple of hours. I know from training with them when the first ones expect to finish. So, I know when I need to be at the finish line. I get to the finish line a good 30 minutes before I think the first of Team Tallahassee should be there because I don’t want any of them to not see anyone from our group there waiting. I see my dear friend Cathy Cushing finish, and then rush to where I will actually be able to put my arms around her in the reunion area. She is wearing a gold-colored Mickey Mouse profile around her neck: the Marathon Medal. She is beyond happy with her run and overjoyed by her experience. She and I then begin the wait for the next wave of Team Tallahassee runners who will be finishing in about an hour. Sure enough about an hour later and with pretty regular intervals from then to the end of the allotted 16 minute per mile time frame our team arrives at the Team in Training tent. They are all on their feet; none of them are in need of emergency medical attention, and they are ALL SMILING!

We all get back to the hotel around 2:00 p.m. and the runners know that they need showers, ice baths, and a nap, along with something to eat. The Team In Training Victory Party/Celebration is supposed to begin at 5:30 p.m. and there is going to be much celebrating happening. The party takes place in our hotel which is very convenient for us, and the number of people there is, once again, astounding. There is a DJ and a constant slide show of photos taken from the two days worth of runners. The food – lots and lots of it – is wonderful. The cookies are by far one of the best parts: they are nearly as big as our dinner plates. There are balloons, and streamers, and people wearing medals: Donald, Mickey, and Goofy. Oh, yeah … you get the Goofy medal if you run both the Half Marathon and the Full marathon in the same weekend. Those people are truly weird – or Goofy as Disney calls them, and thus rewards them. Every single person in that room is somehow related to Team in Training as a participant, honoree team mate, honored patient survivor, family member, coach or team leader. And they are ALL SMILING!

Entry #18 (1.11.2007) Post-Disney Marathon Weekend

So this is the story of how a group of very diverse individuals came together for what they thought was one run: The Disney Marathon/Half-Marathon. Little did those individuals realize that by the end of the journey they would become a TEAM. And, not just team mates, but a Family. This TEAM would train (run and walk) together; they would fund raise together; they would laugh and cry together; they would whine together; they would suffer together; they would heal together; they would eat and drink together; and then they would train some more - TOGETHER! The next part of the journey remains to be seen. But, the journey of THIS "one run" is best remembered by the coach. He "saw" it all. He remembers the beginning, the middle, AND the Finish Line! My Purple LLS/TNT hat off to you all! I love you!

from our Running Coach, Chuck Davis:

"That's the mystery of a moment. It's small enough to ignore and big enough to change your life forever. Life is the sum total of what you do with the moments given you. Contained within the concepts of a moment is its potential for eternal ramifications."

- Erwin Mc Manus, "Seizing Your DIVINE MOMENT"

Was Diana correct? Could I finally be finished with this group? I had to be tired of all the complaining and whining right? My work is done. Everyone finished. I can go on to my next venture. It is all about me. How can I become fitter, faster, more spiritual? Wrong! I can not move on until I tell you about my "DIVINE MOMENTs." We all started for different reasons. We were in a room listening to a person speaking about a run that would become so much more. I told everyone that it would be a journey. How prophetic would this become? Boy! What a journey it would be.

Richard, I remember you from our first meeting. I don't know why. You just stuck out. Maybe it was because at 280 pounds you thought you could do a marathon. I'm thankful I learned a long time ago that you can not measure a persons will or the size of a person's heart. Richard your heart out measures your weight. Saturday night while riding back from dinner Richard calls out to “Bernice.” Berinice says to Richard, “Richard can you say Berinice?" Richard looks at her bewildered and responds, "is that your name?" DIVINE MOMENT ONE. Two people: one from Wakulla County chasing another from The Virgin Islands down on a track during Thursday night intervals.

Berinice, because you didn't show up for about 2 weeks I don't remember you early. When I did meet you, I knew you had to be fast, just look at those legs. "Coach can we just run straight and flat.” Little did I know when you finally got your request, St Marks Refuge, you took off like a deer and you didn't stop until the finish line at Disney. DIVINE MOMENT TWO. I knew Berinice loved her family and church so I went to share those two things with her one Sunday. Little did I know that I would be the only white person there. During the service, I realized that my Angel would not be pure white, she would be a lady from the Virgin Islands dressed in red.

Amanda, How could I forget you? You are my 911. You are so directionally challenged. How did you ever make it to Orlando? While trying to get Amanda to the expo at Disney, I was giving her directions to Leo who was at the Coronado at the fountain. After several calls, Amanda, while driving, asked me if she needed to get out of the car to find Leo in the building. DIVINE MOMENT Three. I now realize a person doesn't have to be able to navigate a car to succeed in life. I know you have a map for your life and you want have any trouble getting to your final destination. You navigated Disney to be the first from our chapter to finish.

Katie, You have so much potential. What I love the most about you is that you don't realize it. You would rather run with someone else instead of worry about your time. You have taught me to be selfless. Never underestimate yourself. Katie you signed up for the 1/2 marathon. What a waste that would have been. DIVINE MOMENT FOUR. Katie does not own a car. The best things in life are free. Who needs a car?

Diana, You are the social director of our gang. You are one of the original "pound cake girls.” You are always looking for an edge. I'm glad you got your "fast pants" for Christmas. My guess is that you will not be on the market very long. You have so much to offer. DIVINE MOMENT FIVE. Watching a meteor shower at 12:30 am after running 16 miles the morning before. Diana always remember the "run to eat" motto.

Kay, Did you miss one single workout? You are a silent motivator. You let your actions speak volumes. I know you have to because you can't get a word in around Paul. You did everything and more that I asked, including running the steps. DIVINE MOMENT SIX. Because I now know Kay Posey, I will never look at the slogan" Life Is Good" the same ever again.

Robin, You couldn't let us be first. You had to rush and run a marathon. Thank you for your perspective from your race. I know everyone used your experience to their advantage. I now see things clearer thru your camera lens especially what someone shouldn't look like in a bikini. DIVINE MOMENT SEVEN. I always saw a person running at Overstreet wearing her running hat and i-pod. I didn't take time to get to know the real person behind the facade. I will now take the time to get to know that person. You may never know what you are missing.

Jess, The run was on Old Centerville Road. I was waiting at the 2 mile mark. You slowly approached with tears streaming down your face. You were in so much pain. How could you ever do a marathon? While running Sunday, I thought about that pain. How could I quit when you were there after enduring all that you did. I'm thankful for your perseverance. Also, I will miss our time together in the car. DIVINE MOMENT Eight. I saw where you work at the hospital. What a special person you are to do what you do. You are making a difference.

Sarah, I first met you for a 3 mile morning run. My first thought was that you were pretty but that was not going to help you in the marathon. I was wrong. When I saw you at 21 miles, I have never witnessed anything more beautiful. Your smile is infectious. I enjoyed hearing about your relationships and can't wait for you to you get that proposal at your next marathon. After all, you know where to get the dress. DIVINE MOMENT NINE. Wisdom does not come with age. Sara is a bright star. She is wise beyond her years.

Jenny, I will never forget making you "throw up" at the Sickle Cell race. I will use that experience to learn what not to do in the future. I know you hate running right now because you were in so much pain during the marathon. I look at it as a measure of your fortitude. A weaker person would have quit. Good luck in the future with your new husband. Please use running to keep you sane. DIVINE MOMENT TEN. The mind is much stronger than the body. Jenny you never quit.

Cathy, I have heard that inside every person there is an athlete. You brought that person out with a bang. You are our version of the" biggest loser." DIVINE MOMENT Eleven. Age is a relative term. While running with 21 year old Amanda, Cathy had to remind her that she was old enough to be her mother. My goal is to do a triathlon by your side.

Lori, How big was the group that ran from Premier at 5:45 am? You were my one and only. You always had our mission statement at heart. I know you could lead any team to success. You are a true professional. DIVINE MOMENT TWELVE. Lori made sure before the marathon that I would receive my GOOFY recognition. She was not concerned about her race. She was concerned about my recognition.

Desiree, Do you remember the Miccosukee Madness run? Look how far you came. I know just by association you have impacted many people. Just look at your running circle. Would you ever guess that you would be a running example to so many?

Evangeline, I have never felt so much strength as I did when I grabbed your hand at mile 26. I knew you would not be denied. DIVINE MOMENT THIRTEEN. United we stand. Divided we fall.

Tom, Just wait. You are next to drink the kool aid.

Laura, You didn't let an infant deter you from completing your goal. Congratulations!

Jill, The only thing that surpasses your beauty is your generosity. Thanks!

Leo, I can't think of a better coach than you. I will use you as an example to improve.

I know we will now share pictures of our journey, however I have none. My memories are captured in DIVINE MOMENTS.

Entry #17 (1.2.2007) Week 21

Haaaaaaapppppppy New Year!!! I suppose that we could count down in days, hours, and minutes, but that would be way too much to calculate. Let me just leave this thought in your head(s): Marathon Weekend is THIS WEEKEND! The Disney Half Marathon is Saturday, and the Full Marathon on Sunday. We are there - we are sooooooo there. You did it! You brought this team to the finish line. The Lucky Seven Team and Team Tallahassee leave Friday morning for a fast-paced heavily scheduled itinerary in Orlando. We will return Monday after two exhausting , but FUN-FILLED runs and a lot of great memories from the weekend. I can't wait! I will post one or two wrap-up entries after we return. Stay tuned ...
Entry #16 (12.12.2006) Week 18

25 Days to Disney!!! I can't believe it! We are definitely on the downhill side of training for this event. Sunday (12.10.2006) I ran with the Full Marathoners who were running on a "fall back" week. We ran just under 14 miles - my LONGEST RUN EVER in my life!!! It was awesome. I ran 13.68 miles in about 2 hours and 14 minutes (give or take...) which for me is "blazing fast." I was beyond excited, and pleased and exhilarated. As soon as I stopped running, I looked over at the coach and said, "Give me my medal! I just ran the half-marathon!" Chuck laughed, but he knew exactly how I felt. Yippee!!!

I received my official check-in card from Disney last week. I have a number, and a packet waiting for me at the Expo. I have a ton of new friends and many old ones who will be there with me. This is and has been a once-in-a-lifetimer experience. I can't wait to see what the finish line looks like. After all, it will be "Where Dreams Come True."

Thank you for everything. All of your prayers, kind words, words of encouragement, support, time, and your contributions. I only wish that I could meet some of the peopel that will be helped by your generosity. Now that would be beyond awesome.

Merry Christmas! And prayers of peace and happiness for a Fabulous New Year!

Entry #15 (11.27.2006) Week 16
5 Weeks, 5 Days and counting...

The Disney Marathon Weekend is just over a month away, and this Team is ready to go! The holidays are officially upon us, and what a start to a wonderful time of year: We ran more than 25 miles last week (as a team...) with a short training run, a 15K Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, and a 12.25 miler on Sunday the 26th. Having run the 12 miles, I am now more than confident that the Finish Line at Disney is well within sight. Of course, continue to pray that the remainder of the training is injury-free, filled with great fellowship with the other TNT runners, and that our latest and final Fund Raising goal will be achieved.

This Lucky Seven Team has done so well, I can only imagine what we will be able to accomplish the next time we take on a task. Hmmm ... Maybe the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco in 2008 ... Whatcha think? For now, we keep our eyes on the race at hand. I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 9:24 and 25.

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25-Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever."

We are running this race not for one of us to receive the prize, but so that MANY may benefit from the funds raised and the message that we spread. Blessings to you all, and the warmest and most heart-felt of Christmas wishes to you!

Entry #14 (11.10.2006) Week #14

It appears that just about the time I get comfortable heading towards the "Number 1 Fundraiser" spot God sends me a message that this is not about me - even though I really, really, really want to have one of those #1-10 race numbers and tickets to Disney. It just may NOT be what God has intended for me. I sat down this morning and read my e-mail about the runners who are currently leading in their fund raising efforts and they all have touching and meaningful stories about immediate family members who have been touched by Leukemia or Lymphoma, or s/he has suffered personal injury while training for this or a previous event. Purely by virtue of the fact that they have been directly touched by these diseases these individuals deserve to be the leaders. And, in all fairness, they have raised far more money than I have.

I think now that perhaps my purpose this Winter Race Season, since this team met its initial goal a while ago, is to encourage and aid some of the others who are encountering obstacles in meeting their fund raising goal(s). I am also now looking at the Marathon weekend as I know I should have all along: The Disney World Half-Marathon is going to be a great and wonderful once-in-a-lifetime climax to a very successful fund raising campaign for a most worthwhile and deserving cause. I can only hope that in the process I have not alienated my family, any of my friends, acquaintances, or Honored Team Mates. I hope that the message about Team In Training and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has reached many more people than it would have prior to this campaign. And, I hope that I will have the courage and fortitude to continue to be a voice and fund raiser for this organization in the future.

Great goals are set to be achieved, and along the way maybe re-evaluated. I hope that by taking this step back and re-evaluating, I can achieve more than I might have by "trying to do it all my self" as is my very nature.

Thank you so very much for being a part of this successful campaign, and for being a contributing factor in the success of at least one other fund raising campaign.

Entry #13 (11.02.2006) Week #13

New Notes: In case some of you were not aware, this team revised its Fund Raising Goal in mid-October. We got together, and based on the over-whelming response so early in our campaign, we upped the goal to $4500! And, you know what ... You are making it happen. In just a couple of short weeks, we have already increased the contributions to nearly $3500. And, we have quite a while to go before the donation period closes for this event (12.20.2006). Keep it up! Without you, your friends, and support of others just like you, this would not be the successful fund raising campaign that it has been.

I have replaced my running shoes! Yippee! I envision needing to break in at least one other pair in the near future - runners typically alternate between two pairs of shoes during training. The long runs are up to 7, 8, or 9 miles depending on the time of day and/or the weather that morning. And, with the time change comes the opportunity to see the sun rise rather than running for an hour or more with only the moon and stars as my companions. Now, for the fun things that come out of raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and training yet again to run a half marathon:

Disney's Fund Raising Incentives:
* Top 10 TNT overall fund raisers are given the Elite race numbers of 1-10 to wear on Race Day (1.6.2007)
* Top overall fund raiser for the half marathon will receive a VIP package courtesy of Disney
* 2 Highest fund raisers in the North Florida chapter each receive a Disney theme park ticket

Just so all of you know: my aim is to be one of those Top 10! Not just for me - even though these are cool things to be awarded - but for my Honored Team Mates, and for all the good the monies raised will do for the numerous patients who are counting on the research and the treatments we will fund.

Again, I thank you with my heart, my soul, and my running shoes!

Entry #12 (10.26.2006) Week #12
Happy Birthday to Me! Happy Birthday to Me!

What an awesome birthday present you all have given me: the peace of mind in knowing that the fundraising minimum goal ($2400) has been reached, and now I can fully focus on keeping my end of the bargain and run 13.1 miles in honor of so many people. On Tuesday, October 24th, I signed all of the necessary "recommitment" paperwork and officially registered to run the Disney Half Marathon on January 6, 2007! I have been waiting for Tuesday for a while - to actually fill out the Race Registration form; to put down on my "singlet" request that I am running to "Honor the Life of Harold VanWie"; and to have my two biggest fans (Harold and Bill) commit to being at the finish line to see me finish their race for them. Both Harold and his wife Margaret, and Bill along with his partner Billy and his mother Rosie will join this TNT running machine in Orlando for the Marathon Weekend. It is a great and glorious feeling that I wish you could truly share with me.

Thank you for all that you have done. All that you continue to do. And for all of the prayers, support, and strength that you give me each and every day of this journey. Today is a gift from God - use today as the present of His grace that it is meant to be.

Entry #11 (10.16.2006) Week #10

Yesterday the TNT/Gulf Winds Group ran just over 7 miles along one of the prettiest, albeit rolling, routes I have run in quite some time. With that said, we are into Week #10 of the 20+ week program, and we are cruising right along. If my calculations are correct, and they probably are not, we have about 260 miles left to the finish line in Disney! Whoo-Hoo! Can you imagine? Did you think that we could get here so quickly? Way to go! You are a spectacular group of people, and a wonderful reason to get out of bed before dawn every morning and lace up those running shoes - which need to be replaced, by the way. Thank you for giving me a reason! It is a gift I hope to be able to pass along to others along the way.

Keep praying: I need all I can get. Keep telling others about our team and our cause. And, remember, it might be someone you know whose life we are saving. God Bless You!

Entry #10 (10.8.2006) Week #9

I would like to recognize everyone who has contributed to the fund raising effort by opening their hearts and bank accounts and letting God guide their pens when making their donations. There are COUNTLESS others of you who are keeping me focused on the miles to cover; who are praying for this team's success; and there are hundreds and hundreds of patients and their families who are counting on people like those on this team to find a cure for blood cancers, diseases, and disorders. I cannot begin to name or thank all of those that are contributing in self-less and intangible ways. But, I can at least thank and recognize those that have monetarily supported the efforts of this team and myself. Thank you so very much to all of you! Keep up your awesome work in all aspects!

Nancy & Stuart (Mom & Dad) Abbey; Kim Arrington; Brian & Jacqueline Ayers; Grandma Jan & Grandpa Alex Azary; Bob & Mary Bedford; David & Mary Bellamy; Terry & Carol Broadway; George and Marianne Brown; Connie Blackman & Tom Hanson; Bill & Stephanie Corry; Olibia & Gary Drzewiecki; Mary Joe & Don Esry; Susan Forster; Don and Cathy Griesheimer-Tarleton; Uncle Jim & Aunt Peggy Gutmann; Paul & Lisa Harrington; Mary Anne & Joe Helton; Bob & Marjorie Holladay; Homestead Sportswear &, Dave Watson; Bobby & Joy Johnson; Allen & Jane Johnston; Kristi Kelly; John and Nancy Kramer; Ryan & Missy Lewis; Brenda and Roger Luca; Cindy McDuffie; Amber "Grammie" Jean McEwen; Jane McPherson; Steve & Debra Meyer; David and Karen Money; Rick & Melissa Moore; Stephen B. Ray; Mom and Dad Rovelstad; Members of a Good Sam Club; Mark & Missy Shamis; Sheri Tatum & Tina Haddon; Smith Plumbing Co., Inc., Kenny & Stacie Smith; Edward Smith; Eric & Cindy Stockstill; Lucretia S. Thomas; Harold & Margaret Van Wie; Bill Wertman

Thank you also to the following people who have donated through my friend's, Cathy Cushing, web page. Your donations and support are just as appreciated there as they are by me:

Cori & JD Bauserman, Jean Swafford, and Caroline Collins - Mary Kay Pedicure Party

Thank you also to Karen Thibodeaux for waiving her $150 fee and allowing me to publish one of her photographs (copyright protected) on this web page.

Entry #9 (10.3.2006)
And, yet another update! This past weekend, I ran HALF the distance of the Half-Marathon (approximately 6.5 miles)! No problemo from here on out - it is all down hill. I just wanted to add another little bit of encouragement to some of you who are still pushing on, and to those who are reading who are suffering with a blood disorder, cancer, or disease.

I received an invitation to a fund raising event in Jacksonville this weekend, but I will unfortunately be unable to attend. However, this runner and I have a new motto and I want it here for all of you to read:

Dance like no one is watching! Live life like there is no tomorrow! Save lives like yours might be one of them!

Entry #8 (9.30.2006) Week #8

Good Morning, Dear Ones! Can you believe what you have done for this team? You have raised more than $3000 for research, patient support, and treatments for people suffering from Leukemia and Lymphoma. You Rock!!! I mean that from the bottom of my heart. And, I tell you that from the bottom of my running shoes that I will be replacing within the next month. Whooeeeee!
Today another great friend of mine, and Mary Kay Consultant, is hosting a Pedicure Party fund raiser for Team in Training. Caroline is right in there with us getting the job done! Today's funds will be donated through one of my very best friend's Team in Training web site ( to assist her in reaching her goal. You all did such a fabulous job in helping the "Lucky Seven" Team reach its fund raising goal, that I feel we should now turn our attention to someone who needs a little boost. Cathy is well on her way, but she would be soooo much happier (as would I) to be right at her goal by the end of October. If you haven't already dontated to this cause, would you please consider donating through her web site? I would appreciate it very much. You know, all the money goes to the same organization; the goal is the same; and everyone wins when someone makes a contribution.

There are 13 weeks until the Disney in Orlando, and I am well on my way in the running portion of our committment as a team. I am excited that many people have expressed an interest in being at the finish line with me in January: My in-laws, my Honored Team mates - Harold and Bill, my husband and sons, and of course all of the Team In Training runners will be there with me. This is a wild ride, indeed! And, I am loving every minute and mile of it! Thank you for getting me here! Rock On!

Entry #7 (9.15.2006) Week #6

I have a friend. I feel like I have known her for quite some time, even though I really have known her a relatively short time. But, today, I believe I was introduced to her for the first time. You see, my friend has a brand new, little boutique near where I live. I love to go in there. It is friendly, and fun, and full of her. I admire her in that she can own her own business, especially in retail, in today's economy. She has three children. All of them, as are all children, are a blessing and a gift from God. One of them, however, has looked Death in the face, thrown him a raspberry, and lived to see many other days.
Margaret was four (4) when she was diagnosed with Lymphoma. Not just lymphoma, but Burkett's Syndrome - 4th Stage Lymphoma. If I had known who Marg' was those few years ago, I think that I might have been scared to be her momma's friend. I would have been scared to be her friend. But, I remember the day she returned to school, and I didn't even know her. The principal at my son's school called an assembly: for the entire school. A student was returning. She had had cancer; she had been through chemotherapy; she had no hair; she looked different; but 'darn it all' she was going to be welcomed back as if she were a returning astronaut. Which, to these elementary school children she was. Honestly, that is all I remember of the story.

I had no idea until this afternoon, as I stood in this boutique, wearing my Team In Training tee shirt as if "I were all that," that this little girl was the daughter of someone who I saw as becoming one of my newest bestest friends. We were innocently chatting about other survivors and current warriors (my own term for those presently in treatment of one kind or another), and I became confused and lost in the conversation. I had to ask for a reference point: "How do you know this?" I said to my friend. Then she went through the saga of her daughter's tribulation. She began with misdiagnoses; she moved onto the not-quite-right diagnoses; and then to "the abandonment" of her youngest baby so that she and Margaret could move to Atlanta, Georgia, for Margaret to undergo the necessary treatments for Stage 4 Lymphoma.

Margaret is still with us today. I refer to her as "One Killer Kiddo-Widdo." Yes, she bears the scars of her journey. Yes, she is special - even more so than most children. Yes, her mother looks at her and thanks God every day. Yes, I have a deeper gratitude for my children and their good health. Yes, I am thankful every day for what God has granted me. Yes, I will make it my mission to do my best to not only be the best friend I can to this woman, but I will make it my mission to learn more and to further the cause of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Yes, she is one more example - like Harold VanWie - of what can happen when the resources are available.

Entry #6 (9.12.2006)

I feel I should acknowledge as many Team Mates and survivors as I can now that this team has made its way to the financial finish line. If I have forgotten anyone, please e-mail me or call me and I will happily add them to this list. I consider it a never-ending list.

Current Team Mates and Team-Associated Survivors and Other Important Inspirational People To Me on This Journey:

Harold VanWie - Honoree Team Mate and Survivor Supreme
Bill Wertman - Honored Team Mate and One Awesome Dude
Mary Kay Rovelstad - Honored Team Mate, Survivor, and My Momma
Stephanie Corry - Honored Team Mate, Survivor, and the "Aunt" Above All Else
Peggy Burton - Honored Team Mate of more than one team, Best Friend's Mom, Survivor, Current Warrior, Gotta Love Her
Brenda Luca - Honored Team Mate, Survivor, Treatment Taker-Oner, Current Warrior, and We-Should-All-Strive-to-Have-Her-Attitude
Margaret Fowler - Honored Team Mate, Survivor, and One Killer Kiddo-Widdo
Kirk Watson - Current Warrior/Survivor: Colon Cancer
Joanna Francis - Survivor and Mom Outstanding
Kizzie Blackmon - Teacher, Role Model, Current Warrior
Ray Carrol - Memorial Team Mate, Grandfather, Husband, and Father
Katherine Schroeder (passed 1991) - Memorial Team Mate, daughter of wonderful friend Anne Schroeder and Hans
Numerous Others: Family of Joy Johnson, Family of Amber Jean McEwen

Entry #5 (9.11.2006) Week #5

As I was talking to my sons today about the 5th Anniversary of 9.11.2001, I opened my e-mail. And, I have to tell all of you how I am so thankful that there is a POSITIVE, JOYFUL thing to share about today: We have made our goal! We have crossed the first of our two finish lines. Hallelujah! You did it. I am running now without any other things on my mind (other than daily life..Ha!), and we are well on our way to Disney and a CURE!

Don't stop telling people about our project. Don't stop telling them how important EVERY single dollar is, even now. But, above all, don't stop praying; don't stop believing; and don't stop living the life! Way to go - You guys are AWESOME!!!

Entry # 4 (9.6.2006) Week #4

This week marks my official beginning in the Running/Training portion of this 21-week program. The Team's progress has been "most excellent" thus far: more than $2000 raised, and 9 miles down, I don't know how many to go. Okay, I just counted up the total miles (including the Disney Half-Marathon), and there are ONLY 366 miles to the PHYSICAL finish line. You have helped this team get there! Thank You. Keep believing in us; keep praying for us; and keep telling others that donations are still welcome and will be most gratefully accepted.

Entry #3 (8.29.2006)

I cannot believe your support of my participation in this program! I never imagined that you would all step up so quickly and generously to help fund/find a cure for Leukemia and Lymphoma. I don't know what to say except, "Thank You. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and my ever-tired footsies." You can never know how much you all mean to me and to the ones who are benefitting from your generosity and sincere heart-felt giving. We, the "Lucky Seven Team," have attained 70% of our fund raising goal. We may have to raise the bar... With this achievement came a request: My husband's grandmother asked that I add Dr. Ray Carroll to my Team. He was my husband's grandfather and died many years ago of non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. To honor his memory and the request of his widow, I proudly add that I will run for him as well as the others mentioned above.

Entry #2 (8.27.2006) Week #3

WOW! We have reached the Half-way point for our fund raising goal! Whoo-hoo! It's all down hill from here! Thank you so much to those who have already contributed, and thank you to all of you who are monitoring the team's progress and praying for a successful finish. Don't forget, donations can still be made. We are hoping to reach our fund raising goal by October 27th! You can make it happen. Please consider donating and helping us to cross the finish line with a cure. Also, please keep reading to find out more about the Honored team mates and our stories.

Entry #1 (8.12.2006) Week #1

The Walt Disney Half-Marathon in 2007 will be my SEVENTH endurance event since first meeting one of my Honored Team Mates SEVEN years ago. Harold is now 77 and was not supposed to see his 70th birthday. So, you can see that this run is all about the "Lucky Seven."
I am training to participate in this endurance event as a first-time member of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team In Training. All of us with Team In Training are raising funds to help stop leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma and myeloma from taking more lives. I'm completing this half-marathon in honor of all individuals who are battling blood cancers. These people and especially my honored team mates: Harold Van Wie and Bill Wertman; are the real heroes of my team.

When I first met Harold, in the fall of 1998 during my Disciple bible study, he was undergoing treatment for a rare form of Leukemia. He was told that he would most likely not see his 70th birthday (May 6th, 1999). In early August his oncologist pronounced him L(ucky) T(o) B(e) A(live). Today, he is a robust 77 (May 6th, 2006) and going like gangbusters! He truly is a living testimony to what CAN be done for a person with leukemia when the treatments and resources are available. My friends and I call him our “Walking Miracle.” I met Bill 7 months ago (January, 2006) when he came to work with me at the Alzheimer’s Project of Tallahassee. Bill was diagnosed with Myelomic Lymphoma after having a cancer-ridden kidney removed in February. He is currently being evaluated for an experimental treatment regimen through Shands Medical Center in Gainesville, Florida.

These men are only two examples of survivors and the wonders done by medicine and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Unfortunately, there are many, many others: my mother, one of my best friend’s mother, two mothers at my son's school, and another of my best friends are all Breast Cancer Survivors. My friend’s mother is currently battling in N-stage metastasized breast cancer after living nearly 12 years in remission. We - my friend and I - will run for these women as well as for the others whom we have never met. I need your help and support to cross the ultimate finish line - a cure!

Please make a donation to support my participation, and then tell your friends, family, and colleagues about Team In Training and help advance the Society's mission.

I hope now that you have visited my web site that you will share it with many others, and pray for me and my team mates. Be sure to check back frequently to see my progress. Thank you for your support and for your prayers for a successful mission!

God Bless You!

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Mac's "SwimSTRONG" Foundation

Mac's "SwimSTRONG" Foundation
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