Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Happy reunion

I went riding with the TNT cycling team last Saturday and what a fun day it was.

I got to go riding with my TNT cycling coach from the 2003 season. It was so nice to see Gary again. Sometimes when you haven't seen someone for a long time, it is hard to pickup where you left off. I hadn't seen Gary since 2004 in Lake Tahoe and we didn't miss a beat. It was a great day.

Gary has such a love for the sport of cycling. We were about 5 miles or so into the ride and he pulled up alongside a very nice lady(Kathy) that is training for the Moab Century ride, introduced himself and immediately went from being out for a Saturday ride to being a coach. Once a coach, always a coach. I tried to get as close as I dared so I could benefit as well. We both got some great tips about stretching on the bike. I never knew you could do Yoga while you were on a bike. Gary showed us how to do a little backbend on the bike. How amazing.

It was such a neat experience. I had so much fun watching Gary at his best. I don't think Gary thought much about it. Kathy was so excited to have him reach out to help her.

Gary loved to watch over his flock, make sure they were safe and enjoying their experience. It just brought back such great memories for me.

We did about a 56 mile roundtrip ride from the REI store, up the Platte River bike path, through Chatfield State park and over to Deer Creek Canyon. Deer Creek has a pretty challenging climb, just a long slow steady grind that is much steeper than it looks. You don't realize how steep it is, until you start descending and then you are just smoking down the hill. I need a refresher about descending. I kind of miss out on the part that most cyclsits love, speeding down a hill that you have worked so hard to climb up. I think something is wrong with me. I would rather climb than descend.

The miles just flew by. I was kind of sad when I got back to the car and the ride was over.

I hope it isn't 4 more years before we go riding again.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Keegan knows Kelly

I have a picture of Kelly and me on our refrigerator from the trip to Cut Bank for Prom in spring 2006.

Every time Keegan(my great nephew) sees the picture he always points and says "Uncle". He calls me Uncle, not Uncle Ross, just Uncle.

We always ask him if he knows who I am with in this picture. Sometimes he says her name right away, sometimes not. The other day I couldn't get him to say her name, it could be part of being 18 months old. When he does say her name he says it with such sweetness, it just melts my heart. We always tell Keegan that the picture is of Kelly and that we love Kelly. It is a nice moment for me, being able to share with Keegan the love I have for Kelly.

It's nice that Keegan knows Kelly. I love to listen to him say her name.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

My new training partner

I had the coolest training partner yesterday for a brief time while riding my bike to work yesterday. A portion of my ride takes me on the Cherry Creek state park bike trail. Watching a deer run, what a thing of beauty and power that is. Effortless power and grace.
The deer ran parallel to where I was riding about 20 yards to my left. It was really neat because the deer would run and then stop and wait for me as if saying, "Hurry up , slowpoke". My new training partner waited patiently for me to almost catch up and would then decide to let me enjoy watching her run. Then she would turn around again and wait for me to get closer to her. It was really fun. Finally she decided that she had dawdled long enough waiting for me(I don't think she was getting a very good workout with all of that waiting, but I sure was) and away she went.
I hope I get another chance to train with my new partner. I will see you on Monday :-)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Is there a mall in heaven?

I attended the funeral service today for Patti Kaufmann. This was a traditional Jewish service so many words were spoken in Hebrew.

One thing that was really neat was all of the pallbearers were women. They were all members of a book club(The page turners) that Patti belonged to. I have never seen that before.

A couple of things came to mind as I listened to members of her family and the Rabbi talk about her. Much of what was said reminded me of Kelly.

Patti loved her family.
Patti was a fighter.
Patti never gave up.
Patti was always moving forward.
Patti was always giving back to those around her. She had tremendous compassion and love for her friends and family.
Patti loved to shop.

If there is a mall in heaven, I am sure that Patti and Kelly will be spending a lot of time there together.

Friday, July 11, 2008

At a loss

I received an e-mail this afternoon informing me that Patti Kaufmann had suddenly passed away.

Patti served on the board of trustees of the Rocky Mountain chapter for the Luekemia and Lymphoma Society. Patti was a cancer survivor of many years.

Patti's passion was the Light the night event. The Light the Night walks are really a community celebration. The walks are held at desk and participants carry either a red balloons(for hope), white ballons(for survivors) and this year they have added gold ballons(in memory of those that have left us too soon).

The Denver walk began as a pilot program in 1998 with very modest attendance. Last year the Denver walk site had grown to thousands of participants and revenue for the walks brought in over $700,000.00.

The Rocky Mountain chapter is on track this year to join the chapters that raise over one million dollars with the Light the night walks.

Patti was deeply committed to being relentless in pursuit of a cure for blood cancers. Her leadership, passion and enthusiam will be deeply missed by all of us that knew her and were privledged to be able to serve with her.

I just saw Patti at a board meeting three weeks ago. She was so excited about the walks this fall. We are all stunned by her passing.

Please keep Patti's family in your prayers.
We will continue to Light the Night with hope this fall for Patti, for Kelly, for Laiken and for everyone that needs hope.
Relentless for a Cure.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Memories of Kelly and Calgary

Seven years ago today I ran my first marathon outside the United States in Calgary.

It was the most special marathon of the fifteen I have done. While Kelly was always in my heart at all of my marathons, this time she was in Calgary with her family. I would be able to see her while I was running for her.

The day before the marathon we drove up to the campground that Kelly and her family were staying at. I was amazed to see the transformation in Kelly's appearance from when I saw her in March at Disneyland. It would not be the last time that Kelly would amaze me in the years to come.

Patty told me it was a very emotional moment to see Kelly and me together again. When we said goodbye at Disneyland in March, the odds of us seeing each other again were not good.

We drove up to Lake Louise and Banff and spent a fun afternoon together. However, I would not recommend going shopping with Kelly as the best pre-race strategy. How she loved to shop. I finally had to sit down and rest. She had worn me out.

The next morning Sue and Adam dropped me off at the start line and after the race started had a Calgary stampede breakfast, pancakes and "disgusting beans" as Adam likes to say. That does seem to be an unusual topping for pancakes.

Sue and Adam would later dub this marathon as the "marathon of blocks". While I was running 26.2 miles they were convinced they had walked 26.2 blocks :-)

I don't remember very much about the course. Around the 3 mile mark we ran through the Calgary Zoo which I would end up seeing again later that day.

Much of the course ran parallel to the Bow River which was a nice backdrop. One of the unique things about this marathon was the kilometer markings instead of miles. Since they come every .62 miles they seem to go by so much faster especially later in the race.

I ended up running much of the day with a nice young woman from Saskatchewan. She had noticed me looking at a picture I carried of Kelly while I was running and she struck up a conversation with me. We probably ran 4 or 5 miles early in the marathon and then got separated at a water station. We ran into each other again right around the halfway point and ran together for the rest of the day.

This was an out and back course so when I passed the 1/2 point, I knew each step the rest of the way was bringing me closer to Kelly.

I saw Kelly and her family very near to the finish line. What an emotional moment that was for me to see Kelly, Don, Patty, Molly and Rose as well as Sue and Adam. I floated the rest of the way to the finish line.

Pam and I gave each other a big hug after we crossed the finish line. This was her first marathon so it was a very special moment for her.

Then my dream came true. I saw Kelly and I went over to hug her. I had so many things I wanted to tell her. I wanted to tell her that she was my hero and how much I loved her, how deeply she had touched me life, but I couldn't find any words. I knew if I tried to talk, I would break down so I just hugged her and it was the best hug of my life. I felt such peace while she was in my arms. I am not sure how long we hugged. It was probably 5 minutes or more. We never said a word, but with friends you don't have to say anything. You just know how you feel about each other and trust that.

I gave Kelly my marathon medal as it was really her victory that day.

Later that day, we went back over to the Calgary Zoo and spent the afternoon walking around the zoo. There is no one else in the world I would have done that for after running 26.2 miles, but Kelly didn't limit herself because of her cancer. A marathon doesn't stack up against what Kelly dealt with.

Patty asked Adam to sit in Kelly's wheelchair and Kelly pushed Adam while we were at the zoo. Adam got a small taste of the funny looks and questions that Kelly would have to endure because she looked different. That was a very profound lesson. Something I had never thought about. One of many lessons I learned from Kelly and her family.

I consider myself so blessed that I got to be a part of Kelly's cancer journey. It was such an honor for me to run for her.

Kelly, thanks for being my friend, touching my life.

You will always be my hero. I love you so much.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Unexpected happy news

In the middle of a perfectly awful day at work I got a totally unexpected e-mail from my former TNT cycling coach.

Gary Thompson was my TNT cycling coach during the 2003 spring season for Lake Tahoe's Most Beautfiul Bike Ride.

I remember at so many kickoff's the ovation he would receive from the returning alumni. After having the honor of training with Gary, I completely understood the feelings he evoked.

A couple of things stand out about Gary for me.

When Kelly relapsed in December 2000, I had sent an e-mail to the staff asking them to forward to the current particpants so Kelly could enjoy a birthday card shower. I had just spoken at a TNT info meeting a day after hearing the news that Kelly wasn't expected to live. I was heartbroken. Gary spoke to me after the meeting and told me he had sent Kelly a birthday card. Gary didn't know me or Kelly. He responded the only way he knew how, with compassion.

I don't know if any of the other coaches sent Kelly a card. Gary was the only coach there that evening that came over to talk to me. That said a lot to me.

I was so nervous when I started training, really felt like I was in over my head. Gary assured me that my background as a runner would serve me well for doing a century ride. He patiently worked with me and taught me how to change the rear tire and seat it properly.

When we would go and ride as a team, Gary would always stay with the weaker riders. He would sometimes ride for a brief time with the stronger riders, but his focus was on helping the riders that needed the most support and encouragement. I think the days that we rode 60 miles, Gary would ride 100, if it was 80, Gary would ride 120 doubling back to make sure all of the team made it up a steep hill or needed help fixing a flat or other mechanical issues.

Gary would always remind us before we started our ride of why we were doing this, how our challenges on the bike were minor compared to our team heroes. He would always read a mission moment before the ride.

Gary really helped me believe in myself. He taught me how to climb, to be patient, gave tips on how to descend safely. He was totally there for every rider. I have done 15 seasons with TNT and he is head and shoulders above the rest. A great coach, but an even greater person.

Gary left the chapter at the end of the season and moved to Las Vegas.

Much to my delight I found out today Gary had moved back to Colorado.

One of the best things about cycling is you get to spend so much time talking with your friends.

Welcome back, Gary. I can't wait to go riding again with you.