The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is the world's largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research, education, and patient services. The Society's mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.
Like many nonprofit organizations, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, must raise money to support its mission. One wildly successful program is Team in Training which has raised more than$660 million from more than 295,000 volunteer participants. Many people use Team in Training to prepare for their first marathon, half-marathon, triathlon or century bike race. For example, an athlete needs a coach to help them train for an upcoming event and signs up with Team in Training. As the athlete is training for his or her event, he or she is raising money to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Everyone wins: the foundation, patients, families, athletes. I love this business model.
I am training to participate in the Hawaii Ironman on October 21, 2006. While this is usually an individual pursuit, I am competing this year in honor of my friend and co-worker Dr. Mike Shertz, who recently relapsed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. For those of you who have not met Mike, he is a father, husband and emergency physician in his mid 30's. Before becoming a physician, Mike was a Green Beret and has since been an instructor for our local fire and police departments. A few years ago, Mike went to South America for intensive training in tropical medicine and has traveled the world on medical relief missions. The word that comes to mind when trying to describe Mike is 'inspiring.'
I'm completing this race in honor of Mike and all individuals who are battling blood cancers. These people are the real heroes, and need your support to cross the ultimate finish line – a cure!
As a follow up, he sent a email summarizing the event and graciously agreed to let me share it here.
Well, it all went down October 21 on the 'big island' of Hawaii. The earthquake a few days before the race definitely made things interesting. When I arrived, there was a lot of debris on the road including some huge boulders that had come by landslide. A few cracks in the pavement but nothing too wide. By race time things had mostly been cleared and the bridges repaired.
Swim (2.4 miles). All of the nervous energy from the six month training build-up is released at 0700 when the cannon fires. Watching it on TV, it looks like total mayhem in the water with people swimming over each other. There was a bit of that with a few face kicks and body blows but after 500 meters everyone fell into their swim rhythm and spread out. At the turnaround boat it was essentially open ocean and there was a lot of swell and chop. If I was alone in it, I would have been freaked out but with 1700 other people, it was pretty cool.
Bike (112 miles) This race is notorious for wicked winds on the bike course. When I was here in 2001, there were 60mph gusts and athletes were blown off their bikes (and couldn't get back on because they couldn't keep the bikes on the ground). This year the winds were much more mellow except for a headwind the final seven mile climb before the halfway turn. The upside was riding 40mph after the turnaround. It is the closest thing I have ever felt to flying.
Run (26.2 miles) If running a marathon sounds insane after swimming and biking for so long, it is. At some point on the run, there is a conversation between your body and mind where the body says, "Yeah, that's pretty much it. I think we should call it a day." This was about mile 11. At mile 15 I ran with an Army Captain who had his foot blown off in Iraq. He had given a speech the night before and closed with this, "If you are out there on the course and feeling sorry for yourself, you are missing the whole point." He asked me if I was racing for someone. I told him about Mike, the Leukemia fundraiser and all of your generosity and support. Thank you.
Congrats on a great event. Thank you RB for letting me include your story here. My best wishes to Mike and others like him. What an inspiration the Army Captain was during that long run. "If you are out there on the course and feeling sorry for yourself, you are missing the whole point."