Thursday, August 30, 2007

"When it is dark enough, you can see the stars." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

The moon has shown brightly the last few mornings I've walked. The sun doesn't come up until I'm nearly done with my circle around the lake. Emerson's statement is a metaphor for all the challenges and the preparation for this walk, and often for what I see when I get up so early in the morning. It's a reminder that anything can be turned inside out, that anything you can imagine is possible, just perhaps not always the way you imagined.

I am most grateful for the support of Leroy, James and Lauren. Weekend training in particular takes away from time that we would have spent with family -- none of the three of them have ever complained. James & Lauren call from Paris to check up on my attitude and get a report on the training. They'll be back the night before I start the walk, and will be photographing and posting to this blog during the event.

Next on that list from an inspiration and suppport perspective, the credit goes to my trainer, Amy, who has helped me see through any darkness I felt from time to time on the complexity of the effort and the distance I've had to travel to be fit enough. I'll have two more sessions with her before I start to walk.

Finally, I was surprised and honored at work by gifts from my executive assistant and managers -- the North Face gloves, shirt and pullover will all come in handy during this camping/walking event. I owe these folks, for having kept things going while I've been off on vacation days of training , and for the ongoing encouragement they've given me the past six months.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"I get by with a little help from my friends." - John Lennon

A wonderful day today! I started with Amy, my trainer, who continues to raise the bar -- or, in today's case, have me carry a ten pound medicine ball raised high over my head all the way around the gym, clocking me as I went...and then, of course as is her wont, she had me do it again and shave time off. Then I drove out to Brier where my friend Jen lives...and she took me on a walk around and through Brier and a bit of Montlake Terrace, with curves and hills and steps. Jen is the reason I got interested in doing the 3 Day Walk. After reading about the walk and hearing her describe why she was doing it, and donating to her website, I thought long and hard about taking it on myself. I'm not nearly as well trained as she is, but we both agreed today that we will be more prepared than many who will be walking. Jen has had more flexible time than me, and creatively arranged (for example) to walk to and from her substitute teaching assignments; and then often walk 3-4 hours a day when she's not teaching. She started doing the longer training walks with Kindred Spirits pretty much at the outset of her training. She is at this point a true athlete. We have been friends for at least 22 years, with sons the same age who grew up playing with one another. We've managed to stay in touch and catch one another up on our lives as they've changed; and so it's like picking up a recent conversation when we get together. John Lennon had it right.

Unfortunately, of late our conversations are mostly about hydration, bathroom stops, what to carry in one's fanny pack, and how many layers of clothing to start with in the early morning. But each of our lives has been enlarged by the experience of this training, and it's one more bond that we share.

Monday, August 27, 2007

"What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything? -- Vincent van Gogh

They published the walk route out to us late last week, and it makes quite graphic just how challenging the first two days will be, the first at 23.5 miles and the second at 21.5 miles. The last day at 15 miles with no hills sounds glorious, starting on Alki Beach and then coming across the West Seattle bridge to turn north toward Seattle Center. The only day we will not have hills is the third day.

When I was first able to walk in the double digits, I had a talk with myself to set the baseline. Here's the deal I cut with myself: I will walk as far as I can each of the three days. I will restrain myself on competitive or overachiever behavior. I know that the size of the walking team and the cheering of the crowds help every walker do more than seems possible for each of those days. My training has made me more fit than I have been in 40 years. But if I cannot go the whole distance on foot without seriously hurting myself, I will raise my hand to be "swept" -- a glamorous term which means that I would be picked up in a van and driven the rest of the way to camp. If it is necessary, raising my hand will not take more courage than continuing to walk.

We found out last week that my tentmate Lisa will not be able to walk this year. Because of all the support she had when she battled thyroid cancer, she's trained and raised the money on behalf of all cancer survivors. But pain in her feet, legs and hips will prevent her from walking. She's spending time now to see other doctors, to find out the cause of the pain. We hold her close in our thoughts.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Our Lucky Penny.

A few words about Penny Kellam (on the left) leader of the Kindred Spirits team. She is unfailingly positive and courteous to all of us, and freely shares advice born of many years of doing this walk. Probably because of what she has been through, she is grace itself. And her team would follow her anywhere. This is her 13th walk.

Each person's motivation for walking is different, and on her own donation site she describes two defining moments that changed her forever:

"In my own life I’ve experienced this shift twice. The first time was when I heard the words 'You have cancer,' followed closely by 'with a 24% chance of survival.' I was 33 with two young teenage sons at home. I wasn’t ready to leave them. But I was incredibly lucky. Early detection and aggressive treatment quite literally saved my life. I was able to watch my sons grow up into amazing young men. But my world shifted. You simply can’t be told your world may be ending without something changing. My eyes were opened not only to what was really important to me – my family and friends – but also to how fortunate I was to have access to the treatments that saved my life. My outcome could have so very easily been different. It is different for tens of thousands in this country alone every single year. "

The second time my world shifted was December 28, 2005 when I learned that my oldest son Sean had died in a traffic accident on his way home from work. He was 22. Once again my world shifted. Learning to live without Sean just a phone call away has been a challenge beyond all explanation. I wouldn’t wish it on my very worst enemy and it’s a challenge no family should ever have to face…ever.

So why am I sharing these very personal stories with you? Because these shifts in my world are why I am committed to doing everything I can to help stop the monster we call cancer. No family should ever have to experience the death of a loved one from this monster - especially when the cure is just around the corner. It’s that motivation that brings me back to the Seattle Breast Cancer 3 Day. Before the sixty mile weekend walk in September I’ll spend countless hours walking in preparation, countless hours mentoring my teammates and countless hours talking to anyone that will listen about early cancer detection, regular checkups, etc. None of this will bring Sean back but it might save another family from losing someone so precious to them...someone that could be saved."

The last thing to tell you about Penny is that she set this year's Kindred Spirits team goal at $500,000. Two and a half weeks before the walk, you can access the Seattle 3 Day Site and see that the #1 Team fundraiser is Kindred Spirits . We know that a number of matching gifts are not yet registered to the site, so I would guess we are close to $300,000 at this point.

I am less than $5,000 from my goal of $25,000, but others on the team who have trained hard are struggling on the fundraising side. If you haven't donated yet, please take the time to google the Seattle 3 Day Walk site, then search for "Kindred Spirits." You can see just which members of the team could still use a donation. Pick someone to sponsor. If you can't think of someone you wish to remember or honor when you make your gift, why not indicate "In honor of Our Lucky Penny?"

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ailments...enough already!

My walking is going great...I got up early today again before work and did 3 miles in the rain. Either the rain makes me walk faster, or I'm finally picking up some speed in the 19th week of training. I knocked three more minutes off regular time this morning.

After toe and eye issues, I am going to dentist at 7am tomorrow to patch what looks to be a chip in one of my front teeth. Then I am going back to the eye doctor so he can reassess the diagnosis. Enough! These doctor visits and training walks all have to be layered into my regular work schedule, which right now requires juggling.

I am looking for a week of no new medical problems so I can get back to longer training walks. We're walking 21 miles at Wallace Falls State Park up near Gold Bar on Saturday.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Music makes the world go round.

Rainy Sunday morning at Green Lake...but I shaved 7 minutes off a 3 mile walk, including stretching time on both ends! I generally walk to music at Green Lake, more specifically to college fight songs, Sousa marches, the Royal British Grenadiers and the Coldstream Guards. Sometimes I try to emulate the days when I played trumpet in a marching band and could bring my legs up high enough, with toes pointed, head perfectly aligned with body, and horn swinging. It was such a wonderful rush to play for crowds in perfect harmony, and with physical precision. When you play music, you become part of something larger than yourself.

My degrees are from the University of Iowa, home of the Hawkeyes, whose colors are black and gold, and whose fight song goes as follows:

On Iowa, proudly at the fore
On Iowa, on forevermore.
Every loyal son will sing a rousing song to you
Every loyal daughter loves you true

On Iowa, with your wealth untold
A heritage to us you did unfold.
Love of family
Love of home
Love of country too
Makes us proud for what you stand
Our Dear Old Gold.

That's from memory, mostly from my childhood rather than my college years. My father played football at Iowa, on one of the great Big Ten teams of his day. He would from time to time take me 300 miles south to Iowa City, home of the university, for a football game. My first conflict ever about who to cheer for came at a homecoming game between the University of Iowa and Notre Dame. (I am Irish and was raised a Catholic to boot.) Over the loudspeakers came the words, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame." I can to this day see the Notre Dame band in my mind's eye, with brass flashing, legs all perfectly aligned at 45 degrees, all columns perfect -- and in green uniforms! I turned to my father and said, "Dad, I don't know who to root for...." He looked at me and said "Do you want to come back?" I answered correctly and ended up not only coming back to games but taking two degrees in literature from Our Dear Old Gold.

That's a pretty long way of saying that when I walk, I try to march that remembered way to both the Iowa and Notre Dame fight songs. I remember how special those trips with my father were for me, and know how proud he would be of what I am doing. I suspect when we march into Memorial Stadium on September 9th, we will all feel somewhat like I did at that homecoming game so many years ago -- overwhelmed, stunned, and in awe to be part of something so much larger than our individual selves.

Friday, August 17, 2007

An eyeful.

From trouble with the toe to trouble with my eye: I went this afternoon to Northwest Eye Surgeons to have my right eye checked out. It's the one that had several surgeries last year. The eye had been feeling odd since last Sunday or maybe longer -- Sunday was the first day that my toe actually felt to be on the mend. Dr. Lightfoot diagnosed inflammation of the membrane on the eye, with the blood vessels also infected. Since it's not clear whether viral or bacterial, it's treatable with a combination antibiotic and steroid for ten days.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I'm back!

All is well with my toe. I worked out with Amy twice this week without strain; and Mary and I walked three miles on the waterfront yesterday without difficulty. I saw Dr. Berg late this afternoon, for what I hope was the last time before September 7th; and he and everyone else in his office wished me luck with the walk.

At the end of the fourth week before the walk, everything seems to be fitting together very smoothly.

Monday, August 13, 2007

If the shoe fits, wear it....

Even though I am technically on the "injured reserve" list, I was able to get a pair of clogs on this morning and work all day long without discomfort. The toe looks pretty good this evening, so I think I am past the worst of it. I stopped worrying about how I could do the walk without discomfort when my stepdaughter Sabrina noted that I could just cut the top of the shoe out if necessary. She is one of the most strategic thinkers I know.

We'll see how I do tomorrow morning in a training session in the gym with Amy, wearing an athletic shoe. If all looks good, then I may start walking again as early as Wednesday.

I do miss walking, very much.

We totalled up the amount I've raised, including matching gifts which don't yet show on the site, and to date I've raised a little over $20,000 of my $25,000 goal.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Carpe Diem

We translate it usually as "seize the day." Closer may be "pluck the day." In any case, today we celebrate my son James, who has received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Evergreen, with a late afternoon party. I've had more time to prepare for the party because I still can't put a shoe on. I'll try that on Monday, when I return to work.

Looking back, I recall clearly my own graduation ceremonies around college degrees. We sat for several hours wearing robes to listen to not very good speakers exhort us to go forth and change the world. Honestly, I think today will be more meaningful.

Of James, there is only pride and respect for what he has achieved. Like his father, the renaissance man, he knows how to reach for the best in every day. The photo here is his "signature pose," the basis for a full length painting of James that was done, including one of his favorite accoutrements: the typewriter. His degree is in literature, and he plans to go to graduate school in the area of literary studies. He writes poetry, reads a lot and has a small bicycle repair business. He appears to have temporarily set aside playing jazz on a bass trombone, painting, and composing music. He is on his way to Paris in a week, to practice upon the natives the intensive French he has been studying this summer at the UW.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

"Pain is temporary...." -- Lance Armstrong

I had planned to do the 7 mile Twilight Walk this evening, but ended up having surgery on one of the toes on my right foot. The toe has bothered me more as I've increased miles walked, especially after I finished the 12 mile walk. But wearing dress shoes to visit the Seattle Asian Art Museum yesterday put me in so much pain that I got an emergency appointment with my podiatrist.

An ingrown toenail is not a catastrophe except just before it is taken care of. I had a hard time letting the doctor touch the toe to examine it. And the shot to numb the toe up was no piece of cake either. He thought he would simply trim away an edge, but ended up taking over half of the nail off since he found a blister under the nail as he cut.

So no walking for a couple of days, which is still okay timing for training. I begged him to take the rest of the nail off if there was the slightest possibility I would end up back on his table on Friday to have the same procedure on what's left -- but he thinks rest of nail will be okay. He said "I like to get my players back on the field as soon as possible." I have a strong antibiotic ointment to use and dressings to change until it's ready to go walking again. At that point, I'll switch over to liquid skin product to cover it.

More than anyone every wanted to know about foot problems, I'm sure -- but we're close enough to the walk that everyone should be checking the condition of their feet and having any maintenance work done necessary so that issues are resolved now. I've been on vacation to train, now I'm on vacation to actually rest the foot.

They don't call me The Iron Woman for nothing.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

"Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week." -- Spanish proverb

I know there are a number of folks reading this blog now, many of them walkers in training just like myself. There's something inherently misleading in a blog, because it confers an artificial authority upon the author. It makes me sound like I know what I am doing. And it makes me sound like I have no self-doubts about my progress.

Any walker who takes on this training will tell you that there are good days and bad days--and that you can't hurry your body into fitness. People always want to know how many inches and pounds I've lost and how many miles I can now walk. Initially, that's what I thought were the important questions too. I've had to consciously remove the word "only" from my status reports (as in "I only walked six miles today"). Now when I walk, I understand that I am part of something larger than myself, and that others will help me get through it, and that I intend to thoroughly enjoy the experience of the walk.

I am not waiting until tomorrow.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

12 miles....

I'm just home from a twelve mile walk along the Sammamish River that started near Red Hook Brewery in Woodinville and took us north and west to Kenmore and back. Anna and I saw hot air balloons, a heron, and hawks. My aches have been soothed with a hot bath of epsom salts, baking soda and lavender oil. Now it's time to put my feet up and pick up a book.

Friday, August 3, 2007

" cannot step twice into the same river." -- Heraclitis

This is the last part of yesterday's Heraclitus quotation -- it means that new waters are rushing to replace old waters, that are moving quickly away from the place where you are standing. It seems to echo the challenge of the recovery work going on in Minneapolis around the collapsed bridge. Perhaps between the steam pipe explosion in Manhattan and this bridge tragedy we'll see a new level of action taken to replace critical infrastructure. For us in Seattle, it is the Alaskan Way viaduct in particular that is of concern. Not just inspecting it regularly, but replacing it and the 520 bridge along with it.

Yesterday nearly all my work in the gym with Amy was on the mat and devoted to core strength training. After I saw her, I did three miles at Green Lake then came home and iced the right foot, where several painful blisters have appeared under the bunion.

It's cooler this morning and was raining lightly when I did my three miles at Green Lake. I saw Dr. Berg this morning and got the soles of my feet carved upon for the last time before the walk. He also worked on my right orthodic, to smooth it away from the lower areas of that bunion.

The cool weather will make it possible to start some work in the gardens this afternoon.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

"All is flux. Nothing stays still." -- Heraclitus

Beautiful morning...the lake was like glass with three shells on the water, the rowers sitting momentarily and silently with oars at rest, as we all watched a luminous orange sun replace the light we had from the moon. I walked five miles before I headed home, to dial into a last meeting before I go on vacation later this morning.