2014: A year’s adventures

Walking to the Start Line through The Siq

Walking to the Start Line through The Siq

2014 has been a busy year. There have been more events than what I’ve recorded here, but these are the highlights.

Winter

The first of the year had some of the worst snow in this area we’ve had in many years. Over 10 inches in some places with freezing rain, hail and sleet on top of that. People walked away from vehicles stuck on the interstate. The local municipalities do not possess equipment to deal with that type of weather, so we just had to wait it out. I was one of the lucky ones and never lost power.

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I stayed at home and watched the Sochi Olympics.

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I am a biathlon fan and Ole Einar Bjørndalen has been the man for many years. He has won more Winter Olympic medals than anyone, ever. He took a Gold medal in the Biathlon Sprint and helped the team take the Gold for Relay… and he’s 40. Most Olympians are in their teens or early 20’s yet Ole beat them solidly. It was awesome to watch.

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This year my volunteer work in the fight against cancer has continued. Working with The LIVESTRONG Foundation progressed to my being elected Senior Leader last year. The position brings the responsibility of training and directing new and existing Leaders within my region: NC, DE, VA, MD, and KY. I also assist LIVESTRONG HQ with their efforts, in building and maintaining relationships with our affiliated partners, like the YMCA and Camp Kesem. Over the winter I volunteered as a member of the Leader Training Advisory Council where I worked diligently with HQ and a select group of other Leaders helping to develop the new online training platform which will bring a clearer focus and better understanding of duties and responsibilities to an appointed volunteer Leader.

Spring

 

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In March I traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark to run in the 2014 World Half Marathon Championships. 30,000 other runners from all over the world came to take part. I was there working with my fellow LIVESTRONG Leaders, Anne Chen, Karen de Kerk and Jacob Elkjær. It was through Jacob’s hard work and organizing we were joined by over 100 supporters all wearing shirts bearing the LIVESTRONG Foundation logo.

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Over 30,000 runners took to the Copenhagen streets in the 2014 World Half Marathon Championships

Cancer does not care what nationality you are, who you pray to or what colour your skin is. Cancer is a bastard who wishes to rob you of joy. The LIVESTRONG Foundation works with their extensive network of survivors to bring hope, options and yes even joy back into the lives those dealing with cancer right now.

While at the World Half Marathon Championships I was able to meet with the reps of Polar Denmark and view the new V800 and V650. At the time, the V800 had just being unveiled to the public, but the V650 was still just a prototype.

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Copenhagen was founded as a city more than 600 years before the United States was even around. The food, culture, and atmosphere of Copenhagen is addictive. I look forward to spending more time there.

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LIVESTRONG CEO Doug Ulman addresses the Leaders at the 2014 Assembly in Austin, TX.

In April, I traveled to Austin, TX for the LIVESTRONG Leader Assembly. While this beautiful group of people does not get together every year, when we do, it is fantastic. Leaders are people from all over the world who have but one common element: We hate cancer. We also love life and when we get together, it is easy to see how much. The Assembly is how we have received training, guidance and direction from HQ, not to mention fellowship with other survivors and caregivers. Every time I have the chance to be around other Leaders it fills me with purpose and hope.

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Dinner at LIVESRTONG HQ.

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Copenhagen Crew in Austin!

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Unity is strength.

Summer

I was asked to once again to travel to Washington DC and address Congress and the Senate for One Voice Against Cancer’s OVAC Lobby Day. 27 different cancer related organizations come together to ask Members of Congress and the Senate for their support of a $32 billion package which supported the National Institutes of Health, (NIH), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Cancer Programs, and the Health Resources and Services Administration, (HRSA).

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With Congressman George Holding R-NC in The Rayburn Room of The Capitol Building

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Presenting Senator Tom Harkin (D – Iowa) with a lifetime achievement award for his work for Cancer.

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With Senator Kay Hagan in her DC office in Dirksen Senate Office Building

The 2014 OVAC was a wonderful success, gaining a lot of commitments and support. Congressman George Holding (R-NC) came off of the floor just to meet with me. It is wonderful to meet with professionals who care so much. I was also able to take part in presenting Senator Tom Harkin a Lifetime Achievement Award for is unending support.

While in DC I was also able to visit with a fellow Polar Ambassador, Cheryl Hori. Cheryl works on Capitol Hill and rubs elbows with the President like it’s no big deal. Cheryl was nice enough to give me a tour of the Capitol Building pointing out some really crazy details like bullet holes and beautiful out of the way art few tourists ever see. She also allowed me access to the secret underground Senate train which runs from the Capitol Building, to the Russell Senate Building. It was a very special thrill to ride the same rails as Presidents, Senators and heads of state! The ride only lasts a few minutes, but it is a part of Secret Washington I had only heard and read about. Thank you Cheryl!

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In the room intended to be George Washington’s tomb in the Capitol Building. That Star is the geographic center of Washington DC.

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In the Russell Senate Office Building Rotunda

 Late Summer

Most of the rest of my summer was spent working, eating right, watching the hummingbirds fight over the sugar water and training for the Petra Desert Marathon.

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Training for Petra

The idea of traveling to the Middle East and running a marathon through the desert came from speaking with friends about their travels and adventures. Jacob earned the Norseman Black T Shirt, Anne summited Kilimanjaro… wanderlust and adventure burn deep in my soul like the red hot magma of a volcano. I trained in the middle of the day to prepare myself for the desert heat.

The Middle East

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Amman, Jordan

The sights, the sounds, the foods and the culture of Jordan brought adventure at every turn.

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Freshly squeezed juice from a street vendor in Madaba, Jordan.

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Anne and I visiting the Madaba Mosaic Map in the early Byzantine Church of Saint George at Madaba, Jordan.

Seeing the Madaba Mosaic Map was a real thrill. It was made sometime around 542 AD. Years later, in 746 Madaba was destroyed by a massive earthquake and the entire town was abandoned. The mosaic was not rediscovered until 1884. More than just art, the Madaba Map has proven to be a very accurate map of religious locations once thought lost, or even fictional.

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The 2014 Petra Desert Marathon

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Atop the desert precipice.

The arid desert heat was not the only challenge of the Petra Desert Marathon, the relentlessly brutal hill climbs would have taken any runner to task. The terrain was brutal with its steep pitches, and undulations. The 5km climb which happened at the deep end of the marathon, took its toll on me and I had hallucinations while on the course. I had been running with a woman named Odette from Cape Town until we got to that bloody hill. In the photo above you can see the road half way up becomes a wall which you have to somehow climb. I had to walk, I had to crawl, I had to… I blinked and as clear as day I was sitting in my mother’s winged back chair in the house I grew up in. The large red brick fireplace was in front of me with the huge, black steel, wood stove in it. I have the memory of this vision as clear as if it had actually happened. I saw the brass knobs on the wood stove and the small brass kettle which always held a bit of water. Then… things… shifted… and I was deep in the heart of a Middle Eastern desert, running a marathon again. It was surreal. I realized I had pushed my body’s reserves of sugar past a place I had ever been before. But then I remembered the my hidden trick for it: Pepsi. One of my running flasks held a few ounces of flattened Pepsi. It’s sugars react in my body much quicker and in a different way than Gatorade. Within minutes my mind was working again and I was able to catch up to Odette and Finish with her. It was the hardest bloody marathon I’ve ever done. I would do it again in a second!

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Running a marathon through a city carved from the living stone thousands of years ago was an adventure of a lifetime.

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Winners Dinner in Little Petra

Our Winners Dinner was held in an ancient smaller place known as Little Petra which is some 600 years older than Petra itself. We dined under a night sky so clear and so uninfluenced by light, we could see the Milky Way. We ate, we drank and we rocked out to German House Music.

The Jordan Adventure was awesome. The food, the friends, the history, the professionalism of our guides and of course the challenge of the marathon itself. I would go back and do it all again in a moment.

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Cancer doe not care what nationality you are. Cancer does not care what colour your skin is. Cancer does not care who you pray to. Cancer does not care about your hopes, dreams, goals or loves. Cancer does not care. I do.

Back home I moved into a new place. While I did not move far, I did move. My parents also moved. Their move was much more significant as they were coming from a house they had been in for almost 20 years.

Then it was time for Florida.

Fall

This is the fourth year in a row I have run the Space Coast Marathon in Fla. It is always held the weekend after Thanksgiving which makes it a perfect event. I see family, have a wonderful meal and then fly out of town the next day, and explore Kennedy Space Center. Over the years, I have witnessed rocket launches, made friends with actual astronauts and collected photographs of all manor of space craft. I am a total NASA Nerd. This marks the second year in what race organizers have called The Big Bang Series. For five consecutive years, each medal for both the Full and the Half, commemorates one of the Space Shuttles: Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis. If a runner completes any three of these events, another medal dubbed the Milky Way will be awarded, and should a runner complete all five events a seventh medal titled the Intergalactic will be earned. I totally dig the Space Bling and intend to earn them all.

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All the Full and Half Big Bang Medals! 

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With Anne and Space Shuttle Atlantis

This year I was joined by my fellow LIVESTRONG Leader, Anne Chen. This was to be her first full marathon! It was also her first visit to Kennedy Space Center.

The Space Coast Marathon is special in a number of ways: First it does have the ‘space’ theme and each of the water stations have people dressed up in costumes like Mr. Spock, Jabba the Hutt, and Stormtroopers. The other thing to remember is that this event takes place in Florida, and is entirely on the waterfront. You can see pelicans, seagulls and if you are lucky, dolphins!

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Stopping at mile 4 for a moment to capture the sunrise

Anne and I separated during the start and I did not see her again until mile 20 or so. I had held onto a GU energy pack which had a little caffeine in it to give her, I knew she would need it. She looked tired, but was soldiering on. I said “You are doing it! Look at you!” She said her knee was bothering her, but she was OK. I gave her the GU, gave her some more reassuring words and I was off again.

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On the left is at mile 5 just after sunrise. On the right is just a few meters from the Finish Line.

This is my fourth Finish of the Space Coast Marathon, but I wanted to make sure it was special for Anne as it was her first ever. I collected my medal, (a lovely one by the way) found a Pepsi, and had a piece of pizza in the Finishers Village there in the park. While I was waiting I bumped into a few people I have only ever met through this race and congratulated them on their Finish. The announcer called Anne’s name and we all cheered and clapped! The final time did not matter because she Finished and we were all very proud of her. Anne collected her medal and mentioned her knee again. We found the med tent and had a nice sit down. A lovely attendant wrapped Anne’s knee with a large bag of ice and I got her a nice cold soda. I am very proud of Anne for pushing through the frustration of things not going exactly right and I commend her for having the awareness of not injuring herself further but accomplishing the goal. In my past I have at times “soldiered on” yet hurt myself worse.

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Finishers of the 2014 Space Coast Marathon! Anne’s knee wrapped with ice.

2014 has been a year of adventure and change. Last year I chose to end my career in the cycling world, so much of this year has been spent taking various classes and state proctored tests to acquire my licences to work in the insurance world: Life, Health, Property and Casualty along with a few others. Without the help, love and support of my family, friends and sponsors, this would all be impossible.My mother’s lasagna and a hug cures the darkest moments of self doubt. My father’s words of wisdom and his advice ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS works if I do what he tells me to.

It is my humble honor to be a Brand Ambassador of Polar Electro, makers of the finest, most accurate self monitoring devices on the planet. As a 46 year old athlete who travels the world and puts himself into new and different atmospheres, with new foods and differing qualities of water, I have to listen to my body and understand what it is saying in simple terms, and Polar does that.

X-Bionic manufactures articles of clothing which improve your body’s performance simply by wearing them. Whether it was the chill of the Scandinavian winter, the arid heat of a Middle Eastern desert, or the humid autumn of Florida, I have found X-Bionic provides tangible improvements to performance.

This year I have run my events in the Asics GEL Nimbus models 14 and 16. I hiked the ancient city of Petra in the Asics GT-2000. I believe Asics provides the highest quality, best fitting off the shelf running shoes on the market.

These adventures and this effort would not be worthwhile alone. A special thank you to my friend, colleague and partner in crime, Anne Chen.

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