Monday, October 31, 2011

#374: Scan-ziety: The Fear of Finding Out

Available at Hope and Dreams Designs
Once you've had a positive biopsy for cancer, you can never look at tests the same way again. So I was awake at 3:30 this morning, thinking about my upcoming colonoscopy.

I don't have any symptoms or warning signs. It just seemed to me that it was time to do the thing. I know too many people who waited too long to have it done. I don't want any surprises. On the other hand, finding out is not that pleasant a process.

I first experienced Scan-ziety while waiting for results from the CT scan they ran a month after my last radiation treatment. It seemed to take for ever for the week between the test and the appointment with the doc to pass. I had already spent four weeks wondering if we had gotten it all. Now, somebody out there knew, some radiologist or something, and they weren't telling me. I remember working hard to stay positive, but that didn't stop the haunting thoughts. What if I still have cancer? What if it spread somewhere else? What if my family and I have to go through another few months like we just survived?

As it turned out, all my fears were unfounded. No new growth. Meet my new best friend, "NED," (No Evidence of Disease.) Finally, a happy ending.

It is my impression that when a person goes to war, they never really come all the way home again. Being in a firefight changes them in ways that can never be undone. Cancer is a little like that. Surviving teaches you a lot about your own strength, your own courage. When I'm working out with my LIVESTRONG friends at the gym, and things get really tough, I sometimes joke, "It's not as hard as chemo." Sometimes we all laugh, but often somebody will just nod grit their teeth, and get back to work. Nothing in an exercise class is that hard. Not once you've kicked cancer's ass. Still...

It is always there. The Possibility. Smoking? Drinking? Sexual promiscuity? Obesity? Small potatoes. Nothing puts you in a higher risk group than having had cancer once already. I met a woman at the Y last week who was on her third relapse of ovarian cancer. One of my friends is waiting to find out if she's on her fourth. The Possibility.

You wonder, will the next one be harder? Harder than surviving? Harder than coming back? Harder than a half marathon? You wonder and you worry and you watch the numbers change on the alarm clock and finally you get up and start writing about it because thinking about something else just seems impossible at the moment.

OK, let's face it. There's a lot you can say that's funny about a colonoscopy. Not in good taste, perhaps, but funny. I'm sure that in come Wednesday evening, I'll have plenty of humorous anecdotes about the prep, the procedure, and my recovery from anesthesia which is always a laugh riot. I'll write one of those posts that makes Mum roll her eyes and Mrs P say something like, "Hmmm. Not one of my favorites." We'll all have a chuckle. To tell the truth, I'm not exactly consumed with the drama of the thing, even now.

I'm just thinking about it.

Living with it.

The Possibility.

It may never arrive. It won't ever really go away. But it better think twice before coming back to our house.

We've already kicked its ass once.

Peace,
Pennsy

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

#373: Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

TALE OF THE TAPE...


1/20/08 4/27/08 7/20/08 4/16/10*3/17/11 7/1/1110/23/11 Change
Weight 405 366 357397 292262261 (1)
BMI 49.3 44.5 42.9 48.435.532 31.8(0.2)

Body Fat %
43.8 31.1 31.4 29.1 24.523.7(0.8)

Lean Mass
228 231 245 207 1981991

Resting HR
87 70 68 64 6258(4)

Neck
19 18 18 17.25 1616NC

Shoulders
59.5 55.5 59.5 55 5252NC
Chest 58 57 58 50 46.547.51
L Biceps 15.5 16 18 13.51313 NC
R Biceps 16 16.5 19 14 13141
L Forearm 12.5 12.25 13 11.5 1111NC
R Forearm 13 13 13.75 12 1111.50.5
Waist 59 52 50.5 6046 4341(2)
Hips 61.5 57.5 56.5 51 48.548(0.5)
L Thigh 29.5 30 26 27.52725.5 (1.5)
R Thigh 30 30 26 28 2724(3)
L Calf 20.25 20 20 1818 18NC
R Calf 20.5 20 20 181817.5 (0.5)
*4/16/2010 was the day Pennsy was diagnosed with Cancer.

This update is based on my measurements from Sunday morning, before the Iron Horse.The changes continue, but have slowed down considerably. I plan to spend the rest of the year giving much more attention to the weight room. I want to build some more upper body strength and cut some weight before I start training for the spring races.

RUNNING LOG
68 degrees. 4.17 mi/59:14 @ 2:30(est). Legacy out and back. Red Pegasus. 3:00 run/1:00 walk. PERFECT day. EZ recovery run.
Today's run was an easy recovery jog on the Legacy trail. I deliberately slowed down every time I felt myself starting to slip into my familiar, 11:00/mi pace. I also started experimenting with more frequent and longer walk breaks. The Nike+ site is down, so I don't have split times, but I'm sure they were level. It's the easiest 4 miles I've ever run, and my legs felt a lot better after I was finished. I still had quite a bit of lingering soreness from Sunday's race. I did a little reading, and it seems I did not walk as much as I should have after the half. But this little jog helped a lot.

WEIGHT ROOM
3 sets / 15 reps / Super sets / 1:15 rest between sets
Exercise Weight
Squats 135
Seated Cable Row 170
Supine Hip Extension  40
Dumbbell Push Press 20
Dumbbell Rotational Lunge 20
Swiss Ball Crunch

OK, here's how this workout goes... You do one set of squats, then one of rows, then squats, then rows, etc. Once you've done three sets of each, you move on to the next "super-set." this is part of the Fat Loss program from Schuler and Cosgrove's New Rules of Lifting. You know how crunches feel a little wussy sometimes? By the time you get to the crunches at the end of this workout, you have a lot more respect for those little sit-up things. The way I was grunting and groaning, you'd have thought I was pushing a broken down truck.

I didn't intend to do all this today, but I vegged yesterday, and wanted to get back on schedule. I'm looking forward to some exhausting, undramatic days at the gym.

And speaking of the gym... I just got word, I've been hired to work at the Y where I've been working out all summer. I'm so excited to start. I'm hoping I'll be of use... might ever be able to steer some survivors toward the program. And I'll always have an excuse to be at the gym! Fall is shaping up...

Peace,
Pennsy

Monday, October 24, 2011

#372: The Iron Horse Half Marathon

It isn't going to be easy to write about this race. There's a lot about it that I don't really remember. I think I was just so caught up in the moment that I forgot to keep mental notes. Here are a few scenes that I managed to hang on to.

Saturday Night
I've been concentrating on eating more carbohydrates for a couple of days. Tonight, I want to eat light so I don't have a belly full when it's time to run. The only thing worse than not having a port-a-potty nearby when you need one is having to sit on that 40 degree seat at 7:30 in the morning.

I've chosen my gear for the race. I'll wear the Adidas. The Nikes are prettier, but my best runs are all in these gray trail runners, and I almost never get blisters when I wear them. I'll wear my new, UK blue compression shorts under the black and gold Livestrong shorts. I'll decide on the tights in the morning. I picked them up for about $12 at Meijer and they look like they'll be just as good as the $60 ones on eBay. The brown jersey work gloves for my hands. The white wrist bands and sweat band. The fancy Feetures socks. Other than my shoes, they're the most expensive thing I'm wearing. If they take good care of my tootsies, they'll be worth it.

Pin my number on the front of my shirt. Pin the Once for the Five banner I've created on the back. I have it tucked into a zip lock bag so I don't smear it during the race.

Bed time. Shower. Powder and tape the feet. I put a half-inch wide strip over the end of the three middle toes, then wrap a 1 inch strip around each one. One wrap. No seams. No overlaps. No bumps. At 9:00, I kiss Mrs P good night, turn out the light, and stare into the dark wishing I could get up and start the race right now.

Sunday Morning
5:00 AM, and the alarm goes off. I've been watching the numbers change since about 4:30. Jake, Clare, and I go out to the yard for a pee. Well, you know, I watch and they... never mind. The moon is beautiful, a sliver turned on its back like a glowing bowl in the sky. Standing there in my pajamas, I realize that yes, I will be wearing my tights today. It is about 38 degrees outside.

A Gift from Eric
Turn on the coffee. Toast an English Muffin. Check the email and Facebook. A friend send a contribution over night. One for the Five,  our fundraiser on Crowdrise is sitting at $3480. If no more comes in, I'll throw in the last 20 bucks after the race. Eric sent me a graphic he created that was inspired either by John Updike, Pink Floyd, or Eminem. I download it as my desktop background at once.

Lots of good wishes from friends. I've promised to carry them all in my heart. I'll actually be carrying them in a little plastic bag pinned to the back of my tee-shirt, but I've decided that still counts.

Get out the jar of Aquaphor to grease my feet before I put on socks. Tape the nipples. Damn. Forgot to shave again. That's going to hurt coming off.

At 6:00, Mrs P stirs. I've told her I want to leave by 6:30 so we can park and I can warm up. She is a remarkably good sport about it. Double check to make sure the camera is in my bag with dry, post-race clothes. Feed the dogs. Hit the road.

Midway
Sunrise over Midway
A few miles outside of Midway, I notice that there are lots of headlights behind us. They all make the left turn off of Leestown Road into town. It occurs to me that this is the last time I will lead this race, so I may as well enjoy it. In town, the scene is eerie. Police direct traffic in the headlights. People in sweats and warm up suits, and a few Viking souls in short are jogging around or stamping their feet in place. Lots of people sipping coffee. We drive around town for a couple of minutes, finally settling on a parking spot on Main Street. Mrs P give me a kiss. sets her alarm for 7:50, and curls up in a blanket on the front seat.

I walk down the street, toward the starting line. There are already a couple hundred people gathered. Some are chatting and smiling. Some are staring with that, "What the hell am I doing awake in the cold in short pants?" look in their eyes. The sound of port-a-potty doors slams echoes across the square. Poor girls.

I begin trotting gently around the square. My body starts waking from my feet up. No little aches or pains. Everything seems to be working as it should. My arms are a little chilly under my warm-up suit. I'm glad I threw a long sleeved technical shirt into my bag. Of course, after resolving not to wear anything new for the race, I'm now going to be running in tights and a shirt that just came out of their wrappers. Thank goodness for baby powder and adhesive tape.

The Land of the Sparkle People
At around 7:30, I make my way back to the car. I pull off my warm-ups, strip off my white cotton shirt, and put on my racing top. Sweat band for my head. Wrist bands to hold the sleeves closed. Gloves to keep me warm and to use for handkerchiefs along the way. The cold I brought home with me from Pittsburgh is not bothering me too much, but my nose is running and shows no signs of slowing down. Got to remember not to shake any hands till I take my gloves off.

I settle into what seems like the back of the pack at the starting line. Before long, several hundred more runners are behind me. I should move back, but the road is plenty wide enough for them to blow past me. Just before the start, Mrs P appears, camera in hand. She is so proud of me. It feels terrific. The flash of her camera lights up the whole crowd. Seems like everybody is wearing something that's reflective.

There is no gun at the start.
I guess they figured that 1300 people in the front yard is enough to ask the good folks of Midway to endure at 8:00 on a Sunday morning. The elite runners head out, and we mortals follow behind. It only takes me about a minute to get to the starting line. I am way too far up in the pack. Race etiquette dictates that the slow-pokes stay to the rear. So does common sense. I need to start slowly if I'm going to make it to the end. The tide of stronger runners carries me along through the first mile about a minute and a half faster than I planned to go. I put the brakes on and find a lower gear.

What the Well-Dressed Marathoner is
Wearing this Year
As we pass the beautiful campus of Midway college, the road is filled with runners as far as I can see. This is one of my favorite moments in a race. We are a river, flowing through the countryside in our brightly colored clothes. We wear crazy hats. A couple of people are in costumes. A handful of us imagine we can actually win this race, but the rest are here to share this thing that we love with a few hundred friends and strangers. Soon, the pack will begin to string out as the stronger runners pull out ahead, but for now, we are a crazy quilt of panting, sweating joy. It's great to be alive.

I start to hear beeping all around me. I am not the only Run/Walk devotee in the crowd. One fellow is running for 30 seconds and walking for 30 seconds. He is funny at first, but then the sound gets a little annoying. 30/30 seems kind of excessive. How is he ever going to finish? After about five minutes, he disappears around a turn up ahead and I never see him again. I'm going to have to try shorter intervals for my next race.

From time to time, I tuck in behind another runner whose pace seems to match mine. After about two miles I've settled in to the 12min/mile pace that I planned. I have a good enough feel for it that I know when to let a runner go when they're pulling me along too fast. I make friends with another Galloway runner from Chicago who is doing 60/60 intervals. We run along together for most of the middle of the race.

At the half-way point...
...there are people by the side of the road cheering the runners on. A cowbell thunks in the morning air. I guess most of the townsfolk are awake by now. I run through a scheduled walk break during this stretch, the only time during the race that I skip one. My ego wouldn't let me stop in front of all these nice people. Hope I don't regret it later.

The second half of the race is made up of long rolling hills. I think to myself that they should re-name this race the "Just One More" half marathon. I keep whispering "just one more" to myself, which tickles me, and helps me get to the top.

I'm feeling strong at mile 8, and start testing my legs a little. I slowly pull away from my companion from Chicago. I'm just going a few second faster, but if feels really good. "I eat hills," I think to myself. I'm looking for just the right combination of confidence and humility.

The humility part is easy. The leaders have long since begun passing me going the other direction. As a matter of fact, the winner finished before I got to the half-way point. I never even saw him. I start seeing other people from John's Striders. We point and smile and call each other's names. It lifts my spirits. Never even occurs to me how much faster these runners are than I am.

After the 10 mile sign...
...I really am on my own. I see a few runners ahead of me, but don't hear any footsteps behind. I won't have anybody to help me pace these last three miles. I'll have to just trust my training and put one foot in front of the other. The sun is up, now. The thoroughbreds raise their heads up from grazing to watch me curiously as I trot past. "You call that running?" they seem to ask. Another reason to smile. At least I don't have to carry anybody.

Mile 11
I had planned to really press the tempo from here. I try stepping on the gas, but my legs are getting heavy. I'll keep on taking my walk breaks every 4 minutes. Suddenly 2 miles seems like a very long way.

Mile 12.
Angels Behind Me
A young man in black Adidas shorts sails past me. Where the devil has he been hiding? I have to admire his discipline. I wish I had saved a little more for this last mile. My thighs feel like they are made of stone. My strides are no longer automatic. Each one requires a conscious decision. "Lift. Pull. Put it down. Lift. Pull. Put it down." I struggle to hold my form. My upper body wants to slump forward, but I know that will just make me jam my legs into the pavement and wear me out even faster. I feel the doubt weighing on me. Is this "the wall" that the marathoners talk about?

Then, I remember the sign on my back. The reason I'm running. I remember the Five. With each stride, each time my right foot lands, I begin chanting their names. "Doug. Alan. Catherine. Elvin." I remember Alan's email, thanking me for my blog and how it gave him strength during his chemo. I remember Catherine's son telling me how hard she had prayed for me. Elvin shaking off the fog of the tumor in his brain and struggling to his feet to walk me to the door at his mamma's funeral. Doug smiling on his death-bed, telling us, "It's all going to be worth it." "Doug. Alan. Catherine. Elvin."
"We did it."

They ran with me. They breathed for me. I felt their hands lifting me from behind, lightening my legs, lifting my feet, pumping my arms. A fireman waved me into the last turn. "Three tenths of a mile to go!" he shouted. "Three city blocks," I thought to myself.  "Doug. Alan, Catherine. Elvin." The clock at the finish line read 2:39:50. I was going to break 2:40. I called their names out loud. Mrs P was there with the camera and burst into tears when I sprinted through the arch. "Doug. Alan. Catherine. Elvin...We did it."

A man handed me a bottle of water.
Mrs P ran weeping across the finisher's corral and gave me a sweaty, snotty, tear-soaked kiss. We walked together in the morning sunshine, her holding my now glove-less hand, me waiting for my eyes to focus. A lady approached me and reached toward my face. She hung a finisher's medal around my neck. "I heard you," Mrs P whispered. "I heard you calling their names."

One knick-knack you won't be seeing on eBay
When I got home, I checked online and saw that two folks, one a stranger, one an old friend hand made contributions while I was running. One for the Five had raised $3555 for the Markey Cancer Foundation. I called Mum. I gave a victory howl on Facebook. I drank a smoothie and some chocolate milk. Then I went to sleep. For a long time.

For the Five... for Them All
13.1 miles.
Look, lots of people run half marathons. You see the stickers on car bumpers all over town. It isn't that big a deal. Unless you run one. It's something you can be proud of without bragging. You don't need anyone to know. Because you know. You did it. You can do it.

26.2 miles is a very, very long way. I don't know if I'll ever run a full marathon. But I really want to. Because I've never liked myself quite as much as I did in the morning sunshine of Midway Kentucky with my beard filled with snot and a medal hanging around my neck. It's a feeling I'm going to carry with me for a long time.

Doug. Alan. Catherine. Elvin.

We did it.

Peace,
Pennsy



Saturday, October 22, 2011

#371: Homecoming Part 2: At the Confluence

Pennsy at "The Confluence"
There are some words in our language that are so loaded with meaning that they carry their own context with them.  "Harbinger" is one. When you hear "harbinger," you think of robins heralding spring. If you're a football fan, "confluence" is another one of those words. There's only one reason for any sports announcer to use the word in a sentence, and it goes like this...
This evening, Ladies and Gentlemen, two teams will meet at the confluence of the Allegheny, the Monongahela, and the Ohio rivers in a battle for AFC supremacy as the Baltimore Ravens visit the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football!
We called it "The Point. I doubt if any of those sportscasters even know what a confluence is. They certainly never know how to pronounce "Monongahela," but they are right about one thing... This is a place where giants meet. And last Sunday, I got a chance to walk among them.

The alarm went off at 5:00 AM. For a 1:00 kickoff. And I was already awake. Mrs P groaned softly, mumbling something about driving carefully and having a good time. I pulled on my black and gold turtleneck and hooded sweatshirt, then made my way down the steep steps of Mum's house to the kitchen. Coffee. Poppy seed cake. English muffin. I looked up at the clock over the sink and tried to do the math. If I left now, I could be at Skip's house by 7:00 AM. For a 1:00 kickoff. What the heck. I had nothing else to do.

The road to Gramma's house
It was pitch black, country black outside when I steered my little Honda down the two lanes of state route 66 toward New Bethlehem. The GPS chattered helpfully, but I didn't need it. I've know these twists and hills since before I could talk. We would drive up into the mountains on Friday and visit with Gramma and Grampa Cole till Sunday after the noon meal that they called "dinner." Then we'd pile into the station wagon, Mum would cry, and we would head back home to Pittsburgh.

Unless the Steelers were on TV.

If they were playing, We would settle down in the living room, Grampa in his big vinyl recliner with the little round burns in the arms and a pack of Camel cigarettes. Dad sat on the couch with his Bel-Airs. My sister and I rolled on the floor, usually arguing about something, while the little men on the black and white console TV ran around losing football games to teams led by players like Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, and Joe Namath. Grampa would joke about how bad we were. The Pirates were the only decent team in town. Gramma and Mum would sit in the dining room with Aunt Grace or Aunt Marylin playing cards or gossiping. After the game, which the Steelers always lost, we said our goodbyes and Dad steered the big Pontiac Tempest wagon down state route 66 toward home.

So, yeah. I knew the way.

Skip playing college ball at Davidson... not too shabby
When we were in high school, our basketball team made a rare appearance in the WPIAL tournament downtown at the Civic Arena. The Pittsburgh Press interviewed our coach, and he talked about our star, "Downtown Skippy Brown." He was trying to coin a catchy nickname, but I don't think it ever took. The nickname I remember was "Wilhelm." Don't know if that's right or not, but in German class, Frau Grubesky gave us all German names like "Max" or "Friederich." Mine, oddly enough, was "Robert." If I remember right, Skip's was "Wilhelm." He was a hard kid to ignore in the halls of Keystone Oaks. When I had my growth spurt, I shot up to 6'-3" over the summer. Skip kept going till he hit 6"-10". When pestered about it, he always claimed to be 5'-8". He still does. He was a skinny, gawky kid, like most really tall teens, and the day the class bully, who had some success in the Golden Gloves took a poke at him in gym class, it didn't take long for word to spread around the school that skinny Skippy Brown had kicked the lunk-head's ass. He may have looked like a toothpick, but he was tough as re-bar. Still is.

"It's in your blood..."
Skip has been a volunteer fire-fighter for over 30 years. His grandfather was a city fireman, and use to take him down to the station house to climb on the truck and meet the rough men who risked their lived to keep the smokiest city in the world from bursting into flame. "It's in your blood," he says. He always wanted to be a fireman. I can't imagine a more reassuring figure coming through the smoke to rescue me than this gentle giant. His heart is even bigger than he is.

So it was not really surprising when I got the message on Facebook. He had Steeler season tickets. If I agreed to beat cancer, he would take me to a game. I called cancer and let him know that the deal was done. I had better things to do than die this year.

I arrived at Skip's front door around 7:45 AM. For a 1:00 kick-off. After a decent interval, I called and Karen answered the phone. Skip was in the shower. I told them I was about half an hour away, and drove off for a little tour around the neighborhood. The South Hills of Pittsburgh are like nowhere else I've ever been. Houses aren't built on these hills, they are carved into them. Here, you might have to climb 10 steps to get from the street to the ground floor. My dad grew up in a five room shot-gun house on the South Side and none of the rooms was on the same level. He knew people with coal mines in their basements. In their basements! As I drove the perennial lousy pavement of Pittsburgh, I fell in love with my hometown all over again. It is not a pretty town, not by a long shot. But it is a beautiful one. This city makes you tough. You learn to climb up the mountains and to enjoy sliding down the other side in the snow that never seems to go away. The city was built by entrepreneurs and union workers and robber barons and immigrants who were willing to dig in and make a life for themselves in a place where a lot of sensible people would stop, enjoy the view, and then move on to flatter, friendlier places. In my heart, Pittsburgh is the capital of Pennsyltucky. Coal and steel. That's who we are.

Pennsy and the Chief... No, I don't mind if you smoke...
When I finally got up the nerve to stop in front of Skip's house, he was coming out the front door to greet me, wearing Antonio Brown's #84 on a black Steeler home jersey. He extended his hand, and I plowed right past it, offering him one of my patented Pennsy welcome hugs. I'm sort of used to wrapping people up in my arms. Hugging Skip is like being embraced by a grown-up when you're 8 years old. It wasn't to be the first time I'd feel that way. I spent a lot of time that day following his footsteps and peeking out around from behind him to see what was going on. We went inside and I met their handsome pit-lab mix whose name I seem to remember was Winston, but I'm not sure if that's right or not. Karen introduced herself and welcomed me. Then we went downstairs into what Skip calls his "museum." First thing you see is his handsome son, in annual 8x10's lined up on the wall. The school pictures show a boy growing into a man who mercifully favors his Momma. Skip's office is a shrine to Pittsburgh sports. The walls are covered with autographed photos and memorabilia from the Pens, the Bucs, and the Steelers, as well as trophies his grandfather took from the Germans in WWI and a collection of fire-fighter collectibles. A bushel of Terrible Towels hangs from the rafters. The chair is a handsome black leather number with you-know-what emblazoned on the back. This is not the home of a "fan." This is the home of a devotee, a lover of tradition and greatness. It is a little nook in what they call Steeler Nation. It's a great place to hang out.

All the way from Mexico City...
Steeler Nation knows no boundaries.
We shared a few stories as I thumbed through a couple of albums filled with autographs, photos, cards, tickets. I showed skip the Terrible Towel I had tucked into my sweat shirt pocket. We said good bye to Karen and Winston, and hopped into his SUV for the drive through the Liberty Tubes and into town. Skip's family has had Steeler tickets for 50 years, so he has the routine down. Just over the bridge a man greeted us and waved us into a small parking lot outside of a business that was closed for the weekend. Skip introduced me as his old friend who was seeing his first Steeler game today. The man wished me well, took Skip's $30, and sent us on our way up the hill toward Heinz Field. We walked through the parking lots filled with tailgaters. The air was filled with the smells of burgers, keilbassa, brats, and fried onions. One table was laden with about 20 gallons of top shelf liquor. Next to it was one covered in home made brownies and cans of pop. Black and gold were the only colors. Except for the Mexican flag flown by two fans who had flown up from Mexico City to see their first game at Heinz Field. They had been fans for years, they said. I took their pictures with my big friend, and we made our way to the Great Hall. Here, beneath the bleachers, all the greats are enshrined, from Ernie Stautner to Ron Woodson. Giant replicas of the six super-bowl trophies line the center of the hall, and the place is filled with parents and kids passing the stories down.
Canton? Go north and turn left.

The first glimpse I got of the field took my breath away. Heinz field is supposed to be the worst surface in the NFL for visiting players. Just like the streets of Pittsburgh, you have to live here to love it. I looked out from the North end zone, the open side of the stadium, the side that cost Jeff Reed his job, and felt my eyes mist over. Heath Miller and Heinz Ward ran routes toward the end zone as Charlie Batch lofted rainbows to them, one after another. Lawrence Timmons and Lamarr Woodley ran sprints toward us under the cool gray sky. If you want to know the truth, I could have left right then and been happy.

Skip's seats are ridiculous. 25 yard line. Behind the Steeler bench. 10 rows back. to get much closer, you'd have to put on a helmet. Everybody seems to know him. That's because Skip treats everybody like an old friend. He knows their names and their kids names. He always introduces me. Everyone is glad to meet me and knows I'm going to have a great time. We stand and I sing the national anthem, our black and gold caps over our hearts. This is not the kind of stadium where people mill around chatting during the anthem. When the young woman finishes, my neighbor says admiringly, "That was a great job. She didn't junk it up." We know steel in Pittsburgh, and we know scrap. The came begins, and it becomes obvious to me that there's going to be a problem. When I raise my arm and twirl my towel, it is just about level with Skip's head. I whack him in the back of the noggin with nearly every wave. He never says a word.

Skip knocking the lid off of Pennsy's bucket list...
And yes, we are both standing...
At half-time, I am frozen in my seat. I contemplate the possibility of actually sleeping here tonight. This is something like Skip's 500th Steeler game. "I wish there was some way for me to tell you what I'm feeling right now, Skip." He grins, "I can see how you're feeling." "I'll remember this day, as long as I live."

And I will.

By the way, We beat the Jacksonville Jag-offs 17-13. Icing on the cake.

Peace,
Pennsy

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

#370: Homecoming Part 1: Mother Fair

I can remember seeing them every autumn. They gathered in little clumps on the quad. They took up tables in the pizza joint and the sub shop. They milled around the library and the student union and the chapel, telling stories about ancient days. I never knew what to make of them, these graying junior executive types in their cashmere sweaters and their carefully creased khakis.They were goofy, semi-grown-ups who couldn't get on with their lives, lurking around in the hangouts of their youth, reminiscing about drunken nights in a dry college town. I used to laugh at them. This week, I joined them.

Back in time...
Ring out the bells in Old Main's tower again...
Home of the Towering Titans
New Wilmington is a pastoral village, the western capital of Amish Pennsylvania. Unlike her eastern cousin, Lancaster, New Wilmington's Amish community doesn't market itself very aggressively. Sure, you can buy some cheese or a rocking chair. But the souvenirs available are pretty minimal. Mostly, the Amish of New Wilmington go about their business quietly, living in comfortable proximity to the private college students and "English" natives of this little town, tucked into the Alleghenies. And at the heart of the town stands Westminster College. Founded in 1852 by the Presbyterian church, Westminster looks like a college from a movie about college. There is ivy on the walls. There is chalk dust in the classrooms. The faint aroma of generations of pipe tobacco teases your imagination as you walk the halls of "Old Main," the administrative and historic center of campus. The ancient "Westminster Chimes" ring each hour, half and quarter hour. For a working-class kid from Pittsburgh, coming to Westminster was a dream come true and the chance of a lifetime.

Erin, Pennsy, and Jeff... Titans, all...
Mrs P and I arrived just a little late. We missed the class photo, but we arrived just in time to catch everyone hanging out on the library steps afterwards. I heard her laughing voice from halfway across the Quad. Erin was one of the first people I met when I came to school. She smiled that smile and gushed over my voice when I sang in chapel and I was smitten for life. We took classes together, spent our summers at Bemus Point, even met for tea when she was a RA our senior year. We were never sweethearts, but I was sure sweet on her. I guess I still am. She gave me a big hug and kiss, and asked to meet Mrs P. As I introduced them, I saw Jeff on the steps. We were room mates, class mates, cast mates, brothers, and fellow artists. Jeff went off to be a professional song-and-dance man. I went off to get my MFA and become a Broadway star. We both did ok. He's been teaching at a very prestigious university for 16 years. He has a beautiful wife and a little girl who lights up his eyes every time he mentions her. He's just as handsome and compassionate as ever. Mrs P fell in love with both of them on sight.

A place for joys and concerns...
Ever the social butterfly, Erin flitted off with another group. We would catch up at the banquet. Jeff, Mrs P and I wandered through the gray autumn afternoon, the wind blown leaves dancing around us almost as fast as the memories swirled around our every step. We entered the silent chapel reverently. So many prayers had been lifted, so many tears shed, so many joys celebrated under those great oak arches. "It's very Presbyterian," Mrs P observed, and she was right, but it was so much more. A lot of important things happened to us inside the stone walls of the chapel. A lot of friendships were started, even a love affair or two. In the sentimental memory of an alumnus, all of campus is special: but the chapel is holy ground.

Where I learned there's no such thing as a "sex ghost."
A very nice lady saw us wandering the halls of Old Main and gave us a tour. Many of our old classrooms are "smart" now. I'm not sure what that means, but I'm sure it's very expensive. We saw the room where the brilliant Peter Mackey taught C.S. Lewis wearing the crazy National Health glasses he got while a scholar at Oxford. We saw the corner spot where Patty Lamb taught us about Keats and Joe "Sure Shot" Hopkins gave us the toe-the-line, hard-core Presbyterian version of New Testament studies. Finally, we visited the room where Fritz Horn taught Shakespeare. This too was hallowed ground. I was delighted to see that there was still a pencil sharpener screwed to the dark wood trim around the slate blackboard. Maybe this old museum room wasn't "smart," but a genius used to teach here, opening our minds to the words of a writer who would change my life. He also taught me that just because somebody published it, doesn't make it true. And the best lessons are the ones you teach yourself.

Beeghly Theatre was home for all those years. That's where I auditioned and won my scholarship. It's where I played my first part in a straight play. It's where I almost failed Theatre History. And on my last day of college, it's where I stopped to say goodbye. While normal college kids were home studying or out drinking and trying for a little Calvinist nookie, we were studying lines, rehearsing scenes, practicing dialects, even learning to ride a motor bike. There was a ghost, whose name I can't recall, and a lot of hard working kids whose faces I will never forget. As we sat on the steps of the auditorium, laughing about our chain smoking mentors, the door opened and in peeked one of the loveliest of those faces.
Pennsy, Joellen, and Jeff... If you ask me,
The halo is on the wrong angel.

I remember Joellen like a little bird, vulnerable and beautiful with a lovely face and a sharp mind. Westminster wasn't always an easy world for a good Catholic girl, but Joellen found her niche. She tried acting for a while, but her heart wasn't in it. She became an English major and a writer. Now she's a mom with three handsome boys who make her so proud that she tears up when she talks about them. I embarrassed her by remembering how great she looked in her blue leotard when we were 19. Mrs P thought I was being a little inappropriate, but if somebody remembered liking my butt after 30 years, I think I'd appreciate knowing that.

Pennsyltucky's Allegheny mountains
We kissed our goodbyes in the fall afternoon, stopped by the bookstore to replace my long gone Towering Titans tee-shirt, and headed back to Mum's house to change for the banquet. How i love these mountains. I drove a lot of miles through them. Hiked them. Camped in their forests. Fished their lakes. Dreamed under their clouds. I am a city boy, but those trips to the mountains, that's where I was really raised. The best parts of me all grew out of the loamy soil under these hardwoods.

Marcia, Jeff, Pennsy, and Jennifer
The banquet was unforgettable. The company, I mean. Not the food.  I've already forgotten the food. I sat next to Marcia, a beautiful mom and dancer who used to wait tables in a yellow polyester waitress uniform at the Hotel Lenhart on Lake Chautauqua while I sweated away behind the dishwasher, wishing one of those lovely daffodils would go for a summer stroll and a smooch with me after the kitchen was clean and dark. Her daughter dances now, and her husband is an engineer. They live out west and the climate suits her. She looks as lithe and graceful as ever. And though we took a walk or two in the moonlight, I never did get that smooch.

Dear, lovely Jennifer. I'd like to tell you that she's as beautiful as ever, but the truth is that she is even more beautiful now than she was when we were all young and fresh and full of ourselves. Jennifer was an actress and a friend, and was very good at both. She once told me that she hated a monologue I did because of my "shit-eating grin." It takes a good friend to be that honest. Jennifer and I knew one another from high school when we competed on opposing speech teams. We kind of competed all the time. She was much smarter than I, so I had to find less elevated ways to take her on. We once had a bet about who could lose the most weight in two weeks. She struggled bravely through salads and yogurts while I smirked along gobbling mashed potatoes and ice cream. What she didn't know was that I was sneaking down to the track every night and running myself stupid. I won the contest, and she paid the bet. She was a woman of honor as well as candor. On her last night at Westminster, we all climbed up to the roof of the Beeghly and slept out under the stars. It was completely against the rules, of course, but we didn't care. It was a great idea and we were all actors: trained to seize great ideas and go with them. It was one of the most wonderful, magical, innocent nights of my life.

Still smitten, after all these years...
And so was Homecoming 2011. Erin kept her promise. We did catch up at the banquet. I laughed at her for the way she "worked the room," just like when she was hostess at the Lenhart, just like when she gave away that smile to each table as she made her way through the dining hall at school. We shared a few precious minutes of our own private joys and tragedies. A lot can happen to a person in 30 years, you know. Most of what we shared is just between us. But I can tell you that the laughter and tears that we exchanged were deep and heart-felt.

Much to my delighted surprise, I discovered that I really love these people. I guess I always did. Wish it hadn't taken 30 years for me to appreciate that, but I'm sure glad I lived long enough to get here. And so glad that I got a chance to share this wonderful part of my life with Mrs P. Maybe now she understands my affection for sandstone buildings and Reformation theology a little better.
Time is hard on hair, but good for hearts...

Much more happened on this special homecoming, but that's enough for one post. Tomorrow, I'll tell you about why I no longer need a bucket list. Here's a clue: Steelers 17, Jaguars 13.

Peace,
Pennsy

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

#369:Together, We Are Stronger Than Cancer!


Zumba is stronger than cancer



TOGETHER, WE ARE STRONGER THAN CANCER!

Believe it. One for the Five has grown bigger than any of us could have imagined. With 13 days to go before the Iron Horse Half Marathon, we have raised $2910. Cancer has hurt all of us at one time or another. Now we're returning the favor.

Chillin' in the Jacuzzi with some hot survivors
Fifty-four households have joined the effort. They contribute to honor the Five, or to give thanks for recovery, or to remember their own loved ones who fought cancer, whatever the outcome. Each one gives what they can afford, for their own reasons. Some give a few dollars. Some give hundreds. But all have made the choice to join the fight. Together, we can do so much.

Together, we are stronger than cancer.

I am so grateful to those of you who have joined our team. I don't want anyone to miss the chance to feel the prideI feel every time I read that list of names.

Together, we can lift each other
Less than two weeks left till the race. My training is going great. My legs are ready, and my heart is strong because I'm carrying all of you with me.

It's a great day. Will you spend part of it helping to support our mission to give hope to cancer fighters everywhere?

We can do it, because TOGETHER, WE ARE STRONGER THAN CANCER!

Believe it.

Peace,
                                                 
Bob

You can contribute by clicking this link http://www.crowdrise.com/fatmanrunning and using your debit or credit card to make an online contribution. Or if you'd rather, drop me an email at pennsyltuckian@gmail.com and I'll send you my address so you can mail me a check. Some folks have even handed me cash. Heck, I'll come to you if you want :-) ... Pennsy

Saturday, October 8, 2011

#368 I Wish I Were a Camera

If anybody ever asks me why I run, I'm going to take them for a drive down Colby Road. I would love to just post photos and videos of my run today, but my Kodak is too bulky and my phone takes very small resolution images, so I'll just have to try to put it into words.

I got a late start. I was up in plenty of time, Clare saw to that, but then I sat down with email and Twitter and Facebook and Coffee and Granola and the hour just got away from me. The drive took a lot longer than I expected. It was dark and a little foggy and by the time I arrived at 6:47, the rest of the Striders were long gone. I was relieved when two men in a car pulled up in the lot next to me. They were in running clothes, but were not part of our group. We exchanged greetings, and then went our separate ways. I turned on the little flashing lights that Mrs P bought me for night running, and started down Colby Road.

It was cool and comfortable in the dark. Maybe somewhere in the low 50s. I felt smooth and easy very soon, much sooner than usual. On the way home, I realized that this is because the first mile and a half is almost all down hill... which of course means that the last mile and a half is a heart breaker, but we'll get to that later. My breath came smoothly, three steps in, three steps out. I tried to stay slow, and thought I did a pretty good job. It wasn't until I got home and uploaded my run to Nike+ that I saw just how fast I had started out.

I could see nothing but trees and fence as I ran along. Occasionally a car came toward me. I tried to stay out in the lane long enough for the driver to see my jangling lights, then eased over to the side. There isn't much of a shoulder on most Bluegrass country roads. Usually there's just a ditch. I did not want to go exploring down there in the pitch black, 15 miles from home. The drivers all saw me in plenty of time and gave me a wide berth. They must have thought I was nuts. I suppose I am. Somewhere during mile 3, a magenta glow started to rise from the horizon ahead of me. Each time I came out of woods or to the crest of a hill, I could see the light growing as I continued east. "It looks like a promise," I thought as the sounds of animals waking up started around me. A lone cow lowed in a pasture. Some chickens stirred and a rooster did his rooster gig. Once or twice, a farm dog barked, checking me out, but not chasing as I jogged harmlessly past the gate.

Near mile 4, I looked ahead and saw a daunting climb. Three hills of increasing size rose before me like a roller-coaster. I remembered a mantra Jeff Galloway had mentioned in a podcast, and started repeating it softly to my self as I breathed out. "I love hills. I love hills." One step at a time, I found a way to enjoy every inch of them. Just before the crest of the last hill, around mile 5.25, I looked up and saw that the road was glowing gold. The sky was light by now, but I had not seen the sun yet. I could tell from the aura between the grassy banks on either side of the asphalt that I was about to see old Sol in all his glory. And glorious he was. I usually slow down a little to rest after a big climb, but now I was drawn toward the fiery warmth of the sun over the fields. Tucked into a little hollow at the top of the ridge stood a lovely church: High Point Apostolic. A perfect name, but an even more perfect message on the road sign out front. "When all my Strength is gone/ and I have no more Hope for tomorrow/ Lead me to the Rock." I laughed out loud as I spoke the words to myself. I wondered if the preacher could have known that a Fat Man would come running by on a 16 mile trek in the Saturday dawn. "Lead me to the Rock." I breathed. I remembered the days when my strength was gone. When hope felt more like wishful thinking than reality. I remembered the rocks God sent me then. My friends. My Mum. Mrs P. The theatre. When there was no way for me to get my little boat back to harbor safely on my own, God lead me to the Rock. And now he was doing it again. Right up and down the hills of Colby road.

Just past mile 6, I came to a big road. "Man! Am I in Winchester?" I didn't want to cross all those lanes of traffic, so I took a right turn along the shoulder and saw that yes, I had in fact run all the way to the next city. In my mind, I knew that it was only six miles from the starting point which was way out in the middle of nowhere, but I felt like a real marathoner for a while. There was a lot more traffic on the bypass. No more pastoral scenery. This was "Mall Land." Lowes. Walmart. Kroger. Rite Aid. Golden Corral. All the big boxes that are exactly the same wherever you go. You could have dropped me down on this road with a blindfold, and when I took it off, I couldn't have even told you what state I was in. So different from the distinctly Bluegrass pastures and farms I had just travelled through. I followed the highway as the cars zoomed by until my watch told me I had run 8 miles, then I turned around. I was eager to get back to the country.

I don't really remember much about the return trip. Only that I recognized very little of what I saw. One advantage of starting an out-and-back route in the dark is that everything looks new on the way back. I heard geese honking at each other. An Australian Shepherd woofed a warning when I ran past the goats who were safely behind the board fence and under their little black and white defender's care. Once a yippy little black dog of some kind actually ran out to the road and escorted me to the property line. I had my water bottle open and ready to squirt the little guy, but I was laughing so hard that I don't expect my aim would have been very good.

Climbing a very long hill, I looked down at my watch. 13.1 miles. I had just completed the distance of a half marathon. The last three miles were going to be gravy. I had two thoughts at almost the same time. First: I can absolutely finish this half in two weeks. Second: A full marathon, 26.2 miles, is a very, very long way. But then I remember when 5K was a long way. I remember when crossing the street was a long way. There's no telling how far we can run when we keep moving our feet.

I expected my energy to crash around mile 14. That was my previous long run, and that's how my conditioning has worked so far. When I extend past my longest run, the extra miles are hard and heavy-legged. That didn't happen today. Not even when I realized that I was going to have to climb most of the last mile. I kept remembering Melissa's motto from our training at the Y. "I don't quit when I'm tired. I quit when I'm done." So that's what I did. I ran to the end. 16.03 miles, just to be sure. I don't know when I've ever felt better.

The parking lot was empty, now. My lonely little Honda sat in the sunshine with a cool bottle of water and a soft, comfy seat waiting for me. I drove back to Lexington and stopped at Speedway for a bottle of chocolate milk and some Gatorade. Amazing, how fast you can chug a quart of chocolate milk when you put your mind to it. It was delicious. Then it was home to Mrs P, the dogs, and our friend Linda who spent the night here. I had some coffee and put this in my log.

55-65 degrees. 16.04mi/3:23:31 @ 6:50 AM. Colby Road. Red Pegasus. Intervals 5:00 run/0:30 walk. Splits: 11:54, 11:47,12:16, 12:04, 12:12, 12:20, 12:25, 12:22, 13:13, 13:00, 12:37, 13:08, 13:20, 13:22, 13:26, 13:33.


Now that I look at them, I can't help but marvel at how little of the story numbers can tell. This was a great run for me, in a lot of ways. But most of what made it great are things that you can't measure on a map. Life can be so fantastic when you put one foot in front of the other.


I just wish I could show you. I wish I were a camera.


Peace,
Pennsy

Thursday, October 6, 2011

#367: Great Workout

My day started with some letters and paperwork that needed attending to. Then I got a message from a friend about a really attractive acting opportunity that I won't jinx by going into right now. Then, I packed my bag and hit the gym.

I started with some boot-camp style circuit training. Squats, lunges, and presses with weighted bars, Swiss balls and dumbbells, laps around the basketball court, lots of belly and butt work that made me sweat and swear. I worked with a couple of friends from the LiveSTRONG group and our trainer, Carrie. I don't know when I've ever loved and hated a pretty woman as much as I do Carrie when she's pushing me to do "Just one more."

Then it was time for my run and it was a good one. Here's my log entry:

81 degrees. 4.03 miles/43:31 @ 2:13 PM. Legacy Loop. Adidas. Intervals. Podcaster 178 BPM intervals. Splits: 11:09, 10:27, 10:38, 11:00. That's a pretty high cadence for me, but I was able to sustain it. Miles 1 & 4 include warm up and cool down.


 I ran it much quicker than usual. I used Podrunner, to keep my cadence. You know I'm not a big fan of running with headphones, but I find that the steady beat of these specially designed mixes let me run and not have to think about speed or pace. Won't use them on the road, though. It's really good to be able to hear what's coming behind you when you're alone out in the country at 6:30 in the morning. Still, the music can be very relaxing. I'm sure I'm going to fall asleep while running someday. Now that will be worth a blog post.


Then it was back to the gym for some weights.


Exercise Weight Sets Reps
Deadlift 155 2 15
Shoulder Press 40 2 15
Step Up 40 2 15
Lat Pulldown 130 2 15
Reverse Crunch
2 25



I have one more week of these New Rules for Lifting Break-in workouts, then I'll take a rest from the weight room and taper my runs in preparation for the Half-Marathon on the 23rd. After that, I'm going to cut down to three runs a week, and hit the weights hard. I'd like to build more upper body strength while my legs recover in November.

I dressed and went to the pool for some cool-down, but the joint was full of firefighters training for water rescue on one side, and some sort of little kids' swim team that appeared to be made up of tiny human/dolphin hybrid creatures on the other. A couple of them must have had motors. There is something so beautiful about a really fine swimmer. The strokes are so smooth and efficient. The body seems to slip through the water. I stood enjoying them for a few moments, but old guys watching little kids in swimming togs are more suspicious than they used to be, so I went to the steam bath for a little stretching.

OK, I have been in the sauna. I guess it's good for you. It smells like the woods in there, which I like. The steam room? That's just weird. I suppose it's good for opening up your lungs, and I'm sure it must be fantastic for your complexion, but I just found it creepy. Maybe if there had been a few more fat old man wrapped in towels...? A soggy cigar or two? I wandered out and slipped into the Jacuzzi. Now this, I like.I love the hot water. I adore the bubbles. I even sort of enjoy the camaraderie of sitting in a big bathtub with a bunch of strangers. The thing is, all that full-body hydro-massage does something to my blood pressure. When I stand up out of the tub, I have to make a bee-line for the nearest bench before my spinning head blacks out and I fall crashing to the tile floor. I don't understand why this happens, and these head-rushes don't scare me as much as they used to, but I still need to be careful. With all the blood thinners I take, a hard crack on the skull could be pretty bad. Even if the place is filled with firemen.


Tomorrow is a rest day, then I'm joining the Striders on Saturday morning for a long, slow 16 miles: my last long run before the race. I feel fantastic. I know I can finish this half-marathon. I just have to make sure I don't get worn out or hurt between now and then.


For now, it's time for some beauty sleep. And maybe a couple of Tylenol wouldn't hurt either.


Peace,
Pennsy






Wednesday, October 5, 2011

#366: What's Left After Goodbye...

The trouble with people is that they go away. Nobody sticks around forever. Grandparents die. Parents let you grow up and move out of the house. Your summer romance goes back to school. Your shrink moves to Colorado for the skiing. I don't like saying goodbye. And this week, I have a couple of pretty big ones to say.

Today is the last meeting of my LIVESTRONG at the YMCA group. I signed up because they promised a free Y membership for three months, and a chance to work with some trainers and instructors who I figured could help me get ready for my half-marathon. I wound up falling in love with a bunch of women who I'll never forget.

The one who survived 4th stage lung cancer, and can lift MY weight on the leg press.

The one who came to the gym looking a little weary because she'd just had a radiation treatment.

The one who went out and bought a pair of those goofy Vibram toe shoes for a treat.

The one who didn't like to shimmy in Zumba because it made her breast hurt after chemo.

The one who cries when she talks about what it's like to train survivors.

The one who has beaten cancer three times, and is tough enough to whip it another three hundred.

I thought I was a pretty bad dude for outlasting cancer and running a 10K. I'm a wimp next to these champions. We'll stay in touch on Facebook, and they are putting an alumni class together that will meet once a week, but it isn't going to be the same. Today, we'll swim, and eat, and laugh and cry together. Then we're going to paint one of the walls in the lobby yellow and hang up the first of what will be many class pictures on the new "LIVESTRONG wall." Everyone who comes into the building will know that something remarkable happens there, and everyone who loves a survivor will know that there is an opportunity for them to be a part of that remarkable thing. Goodbyes are hard, but leaving that kind of a legacy softens the blow.

Then there's Dee. Dee is my cancer nurse. Every cancer patient should have one. Dee was mine. You deal with lots of nurses and doctors and techs and administrators when you're fighting cancer. But there's always one who can take you by the hand and lead you through the dark. That's Dee.

Dee was the first person to greet me in the exam room at the Oncologist's office.

Who laughed and reassured me that the green goo leaking out around my PEG tube was not my vital essence, but the spinach dal I had eaten at the Indian buffet the day before my first Chemo treatment.

Who explained how to treat thrush.

Who fought the insurance companies for me when dorks in suits tried to stand between me and the treatment that was to save my life.

Who gave me the daily injections when I had my saddle thrombosis, and nicknamed me her "My Little Pin Cushion."

Whose face was the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes after passing out in the lobby of the clinic one sunny afternoon.

Who brings people from the hospital to see me on stage.

Who created and facilitated the head and neck cancer support group that taught me I wasn't alone.

And last week, Dee packed up her office and moved on from the Markey Cancer center. She has a great opportunity to train other cancer nurses. She's going to pass all that knowledge and passion and compassion to new generations of healers who have never had to pick up an unconscious Fat Man from under the couch in the waiting room. She isn't going to be there the next time I go to visit the doc, but she will be in my heart for as long as it beats. Goodbyes are hard, but that kind of legacy softens the blow.

I wonder about my own legacy a lot. What's going to be left on the wall or in someone's heart when I finally say goodbye? Will it be a kind word... or a cruel one? Will it be a story I told? Will there be someone who runs a marathon or auditions for a play or starts a blog because they knew me? Have I built anything that will last, planted anything that will bear fruit long after I am gone? I think these are questions you once you realize that you are probably closer to your last birthday than your first one. We all want to know that we mattered to somebody.

Cancer taught me that I matter to a lot more people than I realized. People love me more than I ever dreamed. If nothing else, that's my legacy. I gave people a chance to love somebody in this world. Not a bad start.

Lots of people tell me that I inspire them. I am grateful, but I always wonder, "What are you inspired to do?" I have a friend who is trying to stop smoking and start running. I don't take any credit for that, it is a tribute to his own strength and love of life, but he says I put him to shame. I hate that. That's not why I'm alive. There is plenty of shame in the world already. I want to help make more life. If the Fat Man was saved for anything, it was for that: to be a living example of how love can beat death. In every life. Every time. Death can take us in the end, but it we don't ever have to let him win. "The Girls" at the Y taught me that. The Five taught me that. Dee taught me that. If I can teach you that, and inspire you to wrap your arms around life and never let go... well that's a legacy that will soften any goodbye.

Yeah, I'm feeling a little reflective and just a bit melancholy today. I'll get back to miles and weights and fund-raising tomorrow. But today, I'm just kind of nestled in the love of a bunch of cancer fighters who have made me a part of their own legacy.

Peace,
Pennsy

One for the Five, my half-marathon to honor my friends and family whose fight against cancer has ended has raised more than $2400 for the Markey Cancer Foundation with 19 days to go.


Running for Sabrina, my friend Charlie's marathon to honor his niece and fight Down Syndrome has raised $2000 with just a few days to go.


LIVESTRONG at the YMCA still has spots available for the afternoon and the evening sessions which start in a couple of weeks.


Feeling inspired yet?
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