Sunday, July 27, 2008

Latest Honor Roll Inductees, Liam Update and the NYC Half Marathon Race Report

My lovelies,
The latest and greatest members of the FRED'S TEAM HONOR ROLL:

SANDRO SEGALINI (who advises, "Intervals, intervals, intervals!!" and he couldn't be more right)

bringing the total going to the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Research to an amazing


Thank you so much, dear readers and dear contributors. If you've been keeping up with my blog, dear little Liam is about to undergo two more rounds of chemotherapy at MSKCC to eradicate the recurrence of the neuroblastoma they found during his last series of tests. Fortunately, thanks to the thoroughness of the MSKCC staff, they found this recurrence when it was so small it didn't even register on standard tests. Regardless of its size, they will attack it swiftly and aggressively. MSKCC doesn't just treat the cancer, they treat the patient, and their goal is to get Liam to his first day of school in September, because that's what he wants.

A lot of the money for Liam's treatment comes from the Aubrey Fund. Thanks to all of you wonderful people who read my blog and donate -- or who I harass for money and donate -- Liam is receiving cutting-edge treatment that will allow him to lead a full life, and research is funded that will one day hopefully negate the need for the Aubrey Fund's existence. If you've ever donated money to a cause before without really knowing anything about it, let me show you where your money goes:, February 2008: A Day In the Life Of Liam: Pediatric Cancer Patient

If you would like to contribute to my third NYC Marathon effort, which I'm running in Liam's honor, please click on the links to the side and bottom of the page. Okay, and here, too.

Let's talk about running, shall we?
We shall.

This week we had our first Team speed workout at Riverbank. I've said it before, I'll say it again: such a nice place, you hardly notice it's built on top of an active sewage treatment plant. This being summer, the track and field is choked with folks of all ages. The field is full of soccer games (hence, most of our workout is spent dodging flying soccer balls. And no, you don't get to take the workout off if you get beaned. I tried that.) The exterior of the track has exercise classes and parents playing with little kids, and the track itself has health walkers, sprinters, and, if there's room, us. It's a real community, but a real crowded one. My hips were still bugging me from the previous weekend's step workout/12 miler combo, but I was game. It was, for a speed workout, fairly easy -- one-mile warm-up, then six repeats of one fast lap, one slow lap. Two lap cool-down at the end. I didn't bring my stopwatch for actual split times, alas. I did two repeats before stopping for water. Oh, and I recalibrated my Nike+ on the track. More on that anon. It was really humid, but because we're near the water there was at least a breeze. As easy as the workout was, I was tired by the end, but my hips felt a whole lot better.

So much better, in fact, that I was all set to do a 5 or 6 miler Wednesday morning before rehearsal (I discovered on Monday that I won't go to the gym after steno class, now that I'm going to night school.) At 5:15am the LOUDEST crash of thunder woke me, and I thought hmmm, maybe the gym is in order instead. I hate the treadmill, it's so boring. So I did the elliptical, which I have discovered is equally boring. Not enough time, so I didn't get a strength workout in.

Thursday, a delicious step workout! And yes, I was indeed a little harder on myself than Jeff was on us. Although I did forget one of my favorite variations, going up the stairs sideways. No wonder my hips hurt for three days. I am still jumping- and hopping-averse; I'm afraid I'll knock my hips out of alignment, like I did repeatedly the first year of training. Last year: no jumping, no hopping -- no injury. Why mess with success? Hot and humid (no way!) Afterwards, some of us got wee beers at the Boathouse. A nice cool-down.

Two days off from running, and today was the NYC Half Marathon. It's funny, I think I prepare less for longer Team training runs then I did for this one. I tried to get a good night's sleep, I had a whole bag packed, I tapered...why? I don't taper for our longer runs. Maybe because this was my first longer race of the year, and I wanted to race it. I really don't know.

The alarm goes off at 4:30am. The weather reports thunderstorms coming in the next hour, which oughta hit right as I'm getting to the race, as I decided it was easier to walk the mile and a half to the start that to find a mode of transport. I consider it my warm-up. So I pack my shoes, put on my Crocs and a raincoat, and head out. Sure enough, it starts thundering on the walk over, and just three blocks shy of the baggage check, the rain starts. The police on the Park side of the street shoo us all away from the Park and across the street to hang out under the Guggenheim awning. I wait under there with a huge bunch of people, and change into my sneakers. Eventually the rain subsides, I check my bag and head into the corrals. I don't see anyone I know, but see a familiar orange shirt and befriend a Team member named Scott. Then Teammate Julia appeared, running the Half as part of a 20-miler. She's doing two -- or is it three? -- marathons almost back to back this year, so her training is a little wacky.

The rain, while initially refreshing, didn't cool the Park down much, if at all. In fact, it made it more humid, and the heat wasn't escaping as the gun went off.

The course: a clockwise loop and a half of Central Park, out at 59th Street and 7th Avenue, down 7th to 42nd St. right turn up 42nd to the West Side Highway and down the West Side Highway to the finish in Battery Park. Now, here's my one beef with this race: Couldn't the course be just a little more interesting? I mean, a loop and a half of the Park? Isn't there another street somewhere in NYC we can run on, so we don't run over half of the Half in the Park?

Anyways, the plan was to run easy in the Park, and then push it a little once out. No reason to lose it on the hills. I'm a lover of negative splits, and I knew that the crowds would hold me back. 15,000 people ran. Yikes! The other thing I wanted to do was what I did at the Miami Half -- track my miles without checking my watch time. I didn't think that I was going to PR in the heat, but that's what I thought at that last 10K, and look what happened (hint: I PRed.) My goal was to finish in under two hours, but a PR would be nice.

So I tried to be patient and ran easy, passing only people who were slowing me down as opposed to holding me back. Saw Teammate Ashley in the Park, cheering us on.

Stupid story: So last week, at the NYC Tri, Ash and I were cheering people on and our friend David finally came by. Ash took off running with him, with me after them. They're both much faster than I am. Just as I was about to catch up, one of them dropped a $20 bill. I stopped to catch it, and then I started back after them, yelling, "David! Ash! Wait up! One of you dropped money!"

DAVID, WAIT UP? David's in the middle of a TRIATHLON! What a dope I am!

And if you want to see some of the funniest pictures of me ever taken, Brightroom captured the whole thing on film. Scroll down to the fourth and fifth row of pictures. I look like David's stalker!

PS: It's Ash's money.

My times in Central Park:
My 5K split was 29:02, and the 10K 57:24

or for mile lovers:
9:07; 9:26; 9:27; 8:59; 9:20; 9:04; 8:52 for the seven miles in the Park

After the loop and a half of the Park, out 59th Street. That was fun! I had Meat Loaf on the iPod (is there any better music to race with?) and the crowds were cheering, it was flat, it was out of the rainforest humidity that was Central Park so there was a big gust of what felt like cold air. This is why I signed up. Running down 7th was so different and exciting. Running in the Park - meh. No offense to those of you who rarely get to do such a thing, but that's where we do the majority of our training, and I know every bump and curve. If I'm going to spend three times what I normally spend to run a NYRR race, I expect something a little different. Okay, enough harping, I think you get my point.

The best part of the race was on 7th Ave -- they handed out sponges soaked with ice water. HEAVEN! And let me also give praise where it's due: the water and Gatorade support was excellent. So excellent that even I skipped a couple of stations, that's how well-watered this course was.

A lot of people were out cheering, suprising to me given the time of day, but I really appreciated it. Also, now that we were out of the Park, there was room for bands to set up, and there was a lot of entertainment crammed into those 17 blocks.

Turned onto 42nd St and up to the West Side Highway. There was a Brazilian band there, very energetic. We ran on the southbound side of the road; I had feared we'd be shunted to the sidewalk, which on a normal weekend is hugely crowded. I had started picking up the pace a little once we left the Park, and at this point the runners had thinned out somewhat and I was able to maintain a slightly faster rhythm. The breeze from the Hudson felt great. It was hard, though. Even with the water and Gatorade I was beginning to cramp and feel queasy. I had taken my AirAides before the race, a Succeed cap both before the race and at the 10k, and I even took a salt packet. Had Gatorade Endurance at every other stop, and boy did they serve it full strength (which might have been why I was queasy; it did go away after a bit.)

15K split: 1:25:08

or in miles: 8 - 8:58; 9 - 8:57; 10 - 8:44

Past the Chelsea Piers, and the race is drawing to a close. I'm crampy. I should be feeling better than this. This is a half marathon. Chump change. It's still early enough in the season that I'm not a hundred percent used to any sort of distance. But still, I don't forgive myself. It forces me to keep pushing.

We're further away from the water's edge right now, and the breeze isn't there anymore. I'm getting hotter again. Also, the way the race was organized, the crowds were being kept away from the runners behind a double barrier, so it was hard to see people. Still, I saw Lucy (both at 59th St and again near the finish) Ann and Abby!

Mile 11 - 9:05; 12 - 8:55. 20K split: 1:52:47

I pass Harrie and Rich somewhere around here. Harrie was walking -- cramping badly, he said after. I wanted to stop and run with them, but was afraid if I stopped I wouldn't be able to restart. I kept going. Now I could hear the bands and see the finish line. Laid out what I could.

Mile 13 and .1 - 9:25

For an official time of 1:58:29. Not a PR, but under 2 hours. 9:02 average pace, which is pretty good for a half but I'd like it to be about 5 seconds faster (picky!!) A negative split, which is always good.

The second best part of the race -- after we finished they handed out towels soaked with ice water. Oh MAN did that feel good! Were it legal, I would've married that towel. There was a food bag with pretzels, apples and water. For a half, that's a generous food bag and yet, I was disappointed. Don't know why. What was I expecting, gold nuggets? Ran into Rich, Harrie, and Lynn at baggage pick-up, also new Teammates Savi and Courtney. A bunch of us went into the post-race festival, where Fred's Team had a tent. Rich and Harrie's parents were at the entrance to Battery Park, and I now declare them the Official Parents of Fred's Team. They are at every race, nearly every Team run, and they are so lovely and encouraging to all of us (sorry, Mom and Dad, I love you, but you ain't Official.) The tent was a perfect place to hang for a while; and we met a lot of new teammates, some of whom ran just the Half for the Team.

All in all, a good day of running.

More anon!

PS: The "recalibrated" Nike+? Told me I ran 14.77 miles. Calibrated my ass!
PPS: For ladies only: I prayed to the menstrual gods to keep from bestowing gifts until after the race. My prayers were answered -- gifts came literally 20 minutes after crossing the finish line. Sometimes they do listen!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Liam Update, I Kick My Own Ass, and Team Workouts Begin

Liam update:

As you know from my previous post, Liam Witt, the amazing little four-year-old boy I'm dedicating my marathon to this year, had to go into the hospital on Friday for exploratory surgery. Though his blood tests were cancer-free, there was a spot on his kidney, the site of his original tumor, that needed to be tested. Well, they tested it, and while it is 95% "junk," the doctors discovered a few rogue cancer cells that need to be, in their words, "mopped up." So Liam is probably facing two more rounds of high-dose chemo, which will cause him to lose his appetite, lose his hair, and lose his energy. But one thing about Liam, says Gretchen, he will not complain.

And what makes Gretchen equally amazing is her drive, spirit and attitude. This is from today's blog entry:

As anyone who knows neuroblastoma understands, this certainly is not characteristic of the disease to do nothing. If I take a glass half empty view, this would be unbearable. If I take a glass half full view, we are incredibly lucky to have caught whatever this thing is in such an early stage that it doesn’t even register on any test. This is a manageable bump. This we can deal with. This we can handle. This, though, also serves as yet another reminder of how much we need to take e-v-e-r-y day as an incredibly special gift. Time is the most precious commodity and it needs to be celebrated and savored. And not knowing what the future holds, something none of us knows but that has a special poignancy with us, we’ve decided we need to step up our commitment to raise money for pediatric cancer research and cherish even more every day we have with Liam and Ella. This news didn’t defeat us, it rededicated us.

What an amazing woman Gretchen is. She co-founded Band of Parents, and you can click on that link, or the one to the right of the page, and read about what they do. She's the one who had the idea to have BOP bake and sell 96,000 cookies for Christmas and give the proceeds to MSKCC. And they did.

And as she has re-dedicated herself to raising funds to help MSKCC eradicate pediatric cancer, so too am I re-dedicating myself. Not just in raising money, which is hard enough, but in rededicating my desire to run the best marathon I can, because Liam deserves no less.

So, if you are a dear reader and want to honor Liam and his fight by contributing to my marathon effort, please click here, or on the link to the right or bottom of the page. It means so much more to Liam -- and all the people at MSKCC -- than a dollar sign.

Whether or not you can donate, please send friends and family the link to this blog. The more people contribute, the closer we get to not just imagining a world without cancer, but living in it.

Speaking of which, here are the latest members of the FRED'S TEAM HONOR ROLL:

John Felix

Carolyn Jacobson

Fred Weiner

Elissa White

Bringing my total to an impressive


I have a couple of unprocessed checks still to add, which will bring me a little closer to the $6,000 I'd like to raise this year. Those wonderful people will be added to the next scroll of the Roll.

We've had our first few Team workouts, but the week before I organized the first Felafel Run. There are a few people on the Team -- okay, Rich and Harrie -- who have differing views on what felafel place is the best place in the city. So last year we said, let's do some runs that end at a felafel place, and then we'll vote. But we never did it. This year I, as unofficial social director, revived the notion of the Felafel Run, and the first place we were to visit was Sido, on the Upper West Side. Now, there are two Sidos on the UWS, mere blocks apart. I didn't know which one to go to, but I charted the course -- starting at the 79th Street entrance, a clockwise loop, and then out and to one of the Sidos. Alas, neither Rich nor Harrie showed (losers!) but David, Sara and I give Sido a big thumbs up -- very good and also very inexpensive. Mamouns in the Village is next.

I missed the first Team long run because I was in DC visiting Laura, who will always be known as my roomie, even though she is no longer in the apartment and will most likely never return for more than a week or two every other year. She will be heading to the Ivory Coast -- excuse me, the Cote D'Ivoire -- next month as part of her new career in the US Foreign Service. Right now she's in DC learning French. So I went down for a weekend visit and we did the monument and memorial tour. I took no pictures, you can see pictures of these monuments, oh, everywhere, but wow are they impressive in person. The size, the scope, the symbolism. The Korean War Memorial is particularly moving; it's a series of soldiers on the march. And the Vietnam Memorial is beyond words. Laura was a good tour guide; she had info on a lot of the stuff we saw, plus her own memories of visiting them as a child (she grew up in VA.) I really miss Laura, but I'll get to visit her, and that's a more interesting vacation destination than, say, Boca.

The first Team hill workout was a little crazy -- Cat Hill was wicked crowded, between us, the other teams, last-minute NYC Triathlon training and the Philarmonic concert. I took pictures, but I haven't loaded them up yet. I call Cat Hill the "Zipper Factory" because at its worst it reminds me of the Zipper amusement park ride, which rotates up and down in a tight oval. It's also the only ride I ever tossed my cookies on, but that's another story. And it's a factory because it's so crowded you have to jump into any opening you can find and join the throngs running up and down. We did six easy repeats. I did two at a time to make it a little harder, which worked. Normally I can do three at a time, but it was really hot. Saw a spectacular bike vs. pedestrian crash, and I mean spectacular not in the good sense of the word. It was an older woman, they both went flying, she and the bicyclist. Both were at fault -- he was going too fast, she stepped out in the street without looking to her left. Thankfully neither were too hurt; the cyclist got scraped up and the woman lost a stone from her ring. The cyclist was super-apologetic, and we felt bad for him, since he was doing the Tri that weekend and scrapes and bruises wasn't going to make it any easier. Between the economy and gas prices and everything else, there are a LOT more people staying in town this summer, making an already crowded Park even that much more crowded. Coach Jeff observed that the Parks Department should post signs or extra personnel on the days when the Philarmonic is playing in the Park; it might help avert some of those accidents.

On Thursday I missed the first step workout because my school decided to test at my speed (for those of you new to this blog, I'm studying to be a court reporter. I'm in the final speed class and I need to pass six more speed tests before I can graduate. Testing is a good thing!) and I wanted to take advantage of it. But I wanted to get that workout in, so I went to the steps (the ones by the Bethesda fountain) at 6:00am Friday to get it in. Now, I don't know if I was harder on myself than Jeff would have been -- hard to believe, I guess -- but I kicked my own ass. I forgot how hard this workout is. It's probably the same kind of memory loss they say women get after the pain of childbirth, they forget how hard it was, so that they'll have more children. Same thing. My hips were so sore the rest of the day I looked like I had just stepped off a horse.

And then Saturday, not 24 hours later, two loops of the Park. My hips were still achy and it was super-humid by 8:00am (we started at 7:00) so this run was not much fun. I had to stop at every water fountain. I don't know how some of my 'Mates can skip a fountain or two. I'm old and can't deal with the heat as well as they can, I guess. Still, I was at about 1:47:00 for the run, not counting the water stops, so I'm happy with that. Unfortunately, no rest for the wicked after that, I went to see the final studio rehearsal for Cape Playhouse's "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," helped them load out of the hall and into the car, then went to meet my parents for dinner.

Sunday was the NYC Triathlon. We had a lot of Teammates doing it, so Ashley and I went to 72nd Street and West End at 8:30am to cheer them on for the start of the running portion. It was a lot of fun, and I confess I got a little jealous. I think I'd like to try a triathlon one day. I can't swim, and I don't own a bicycle, but other than those two minor issues, I'm game. I really should suck it up and learn to swim properly and ride a road bike and just do one. I'd like it to be the NY one, just to say I swam in the Hudson. Most of them got bit by jellyfish this year, which was unexpected. And the men started so late, it was nearly 10:30 by the time we saw David come through, and we didn't even see Joe or Yan. Joe's wave started so late, and the current was so strong at that point that the police boats pulled them out of the water after 45 minutes and took them back to shore, no DQ, because they weren't moving. After seeing David, Ash ran up 72nd with him (she was in flip-flops!) I tried to keep up, but I had a coffee cup and a bag and I wasn't as fast. It's so sad that I'm slower than David after he's swam and biked, but whaddya do?

I shoulda done something yesterday but I was still too achy, plus which I had my first day of rehearsal for "Leader of the Pack" for the Cape Playhouse and school later that night. Bad excuse. I'm mad at myself for not doing something, but after a full day of rehearsal and school I didn't want to hit the gym at 9:00pm. So I'm trying to forgive myself and remember this Sunday is the Nike NYC Half, and I want to make sure I'm good for that because I'd like to race it.

Tonight's the first Team speed workout, and I'll keep y'all posted.

Contests coming soon!!

If you are the praying kind, please keep Liam and his family in your thoughts.

More anon.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Important Update

My friends,

There is so much to tell you about -- the First Annual Felafel Run, the first Team workouts, the latest members of the Honor Roll -- but I need to share this with you instead.

As you all know, I'm running my third NYC Marathon this year in honor of four-year-old Liam Witt, an amazing little boy I met last year who has been battling neuroblastoma. Thanks to the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research and the money donated on behalf of Fred's Team runners from generous people like you, MSKCC has developed treatments that is helping Liam win his battle. As recently as twenty years ago, a boy Liam's age with neuroblastoma had a zero percent chance of survival.

Here is an excerpt from his mother Gretchen's latest blog entry, posted yesterday, about Liam's latest round of tests.

"I wanted to take a minute to update everyone on what we have learned this week as it relates to our dear Liam. During his routine follow up scans (every 90 days) an abnormality appeared on the CT scan. Further review and a look back at his April scans revealed that this small abnormality, that looked like nothing more than a shadow, was present then as well but had not grown in the interim. The fact that it was not seen on his April scans was not ideal but because it had not grown since then it is considered a good thing. It was enough of a concern though to his doctors that they ordered two additional types of scans to see if there was truly something present and if so to try and determine what it is. The scans all confirmed that there is some small growth present on his right kidney but they were inconclusive as to what it is. The concern stems from the fact this is the same kidney that was entangled in his original tumor, and though only about 3% of kids relapse in the original tumor location, its existence is unexpected and unwelcome. All of the other markers monitored to look for signs of relapse were negative and show no signs of new disease. Yet the fact is all of these markers can show negative and new tumor growth can be present, so for this reason Liam’s team of doctor’s feel it is necessary to go in and see exactly what this 1-2 centimeter spot truly is.

You might wonder why such an aggressive approach is being taken if no other signs point to a relapse. The reality is Liam’s type of cancer is very aggressive, as many of you know, and the doctors at MSKCC do not take anything for granted when fighting this beast... The surgery is scheduled for this Friday and Liam will be in the best surgeon’s hands. We are fortunate in that Dr. LaQuaglia will be doing the procedure and is considered one of the best pediatric surgeons in the world. He is the same surgeon who operated on Liam for 11 hours straight to resect his tumor last summer. It is likely Liam will be in the hospital from 3-7 days depending on how everything goes. If Liam has anything to say about it I think it will be closer to 3. Your support and understanding during this very difficult time will be appreciated more than you will ever know. We expect this to be nothing more than a small bump in the road; anything else is just simply unacceptable for all of us. Please pray and and send good wishes to Liam as our dear prince endures yet another unfair challenge. A challenge he is far to young to endure alone and one that breaks our hearts to see him have to face just as he was making such amazing progress on so many fronts and so full of wonder and energy."

It doesn't matter that the Marathon is in November; it is more crucial right now, for Liam's sake, to support MSKCC and the Aubrey Fund. I know that nothing I am doing in my training can begin to compare to what Liam and his family are facing, but if running myself into the ground -- literally -- is enough to get somebody to donate to my marathon effort, it will be worth it.

So please keep Liam and his family in your thoughts and prayers, and if you are so moved to support my marathon effort on Liam's behalf, please click on the links either to the right or bottom of the page. You can also read Gretchen's blog about Liam, "Prince Liam the Brave," and the organization she co-founded, Band of Parents, by clicking on those links.