Sunday, January 25, 2009

PF Chang's Rock N' Roll Marathon, Part I- the calm before the storm

We arrived to the hotel on Friday afternoon- right downtown, kitty corner from the convention center (and a few blocks north of the Hard Rock Cafe!!). Coach Rick was there to meet us in the lobby and fill us in on a few details. We were assigned to the 18th floor. Out of 31 (yeah, this is a big hotel). We wheel our luggage over to the elevators and hop on, and just as the door is closing, I'm reaching for the "18" button, I realize that the elevator we're on only goes to 17!!! Uh....ok. So Todd and I ride up and get off, expecting to find the "18-31" elevator......but nothing. So back down we go- turns out the 18-31 elevators were on the other side. Derp.

We get settled into the room which was beautiful, and soak it all in. Huge flat panel TV, everything pristine and crisp, and an awesome view!

I was SO anxious to get my corral number changed, that we hopped over to the convention center early so I wouldn't have to wait in line on Saturday (when a majority of the 35,000 plus participants pick up their numbers). I showed my ID, turned in my confirmation sheet, and there I was, participant 9047 with race bib and computer timing chip in hand, and VERY overwhelmed. So many people, so much information to take in- how to properly place my timing chip on my shoe, my gear check bag, zip ties, tags for gear check bags, etc. I thought changing my corral was going to be an ordeal- they don't care if you're moving down, but moving up can be pretty difficult. But not today- I explained that I needed to move from 9 to 8 and they slapped a green dot with an "8" in it, no questions asked. Allrighty, then!

Then it was off to pick up my official t-shirt and goodie/gear check bag. Everything was so streamlined and official- parts of my bib (which is my race number that I safety pin to my shirt) tore off to serve other purposes (how resourceful, huh? And it made it harder to lose things). One small square was my t-shirt ticket- I turned it in to get my official "Marathon" t-shirt. The other part that tore off was my official ticket to attach to my gear check bag. Ok, get this (I loved this part). Every participant is given a goodie bag as they enter the expo- there's all sorts of stuff in there- flyers for upcoming races (Rock N' Roll Seattle has just been introduced!), samples of sports drinks and shaving gel (um, ok), etc. But that exact bag is also the same bag you use on race day to pack extra clothes, nutrition, sandals, and other stuff you may want after the race. You seal it up, attach your tag to it, and then drop it off to the row of UPS trucks at the start line. While you're racing, they're driving your stuff to the finish line! It's the simple things. I was highly amused. parents arrived in town the same afternoon, so we all walked to the Hard Rock Cafe and enjoyed a nice (albeit loud) dinner sitting next to a corduroy jacket that John Lennon wore in the 60's. It was great to have them in town- I was feeling pretty overwhelmed still. Even though this was the weekend that I had been training for during the last 6 months, I was still a bit shell shocked and it was comforting to have them close by. Todd also provided a much needed "grounding source" for me. His ability to remain calm and not get swept away with hype is the perfect yin to my yang- when I don't know what's going on, or if I'm in an unfamiliar situation, I can go from 0 to freakout pretty quickly. In fact, the running joke was that I was "Anxiety Girl" all weekend.

Friday Evening: Jersey Decorating Party!!!! One of our honored heroes, Alex, passed away from Lymphoma in 2006, and her mother was with us all season training alongside the team. That night, she gave us all patches that said "Alex's Angels" and our chapter name on them (Go Desert Mountain States!! Woohoo!!). Ok, so here's another thing about TNT: people LOVE to decorate these purple jerseys- glittery fringe, pictures, puffy paint up the wazzoo, you name it, it's probably been on a TNT jersey. I went the simple route with a hot pink "elsbeth" on the front, and the names of my honored heroes on the back. Uncle Ralph and Granddad, and (unfortunately) the many others who have either survived or lost their battles with blood cancers.

Art, you were on there too. :) One of my honored heroes.

This is where I feel so conflicted. Let me preface this by saying, I LOVE Team in Training, I am so thrilled to be able to train and raise money for such an important cause. HOWEVER: I absolutely *hate* that this is how it has to be. I love being able to run in honor and memory of everyone, and I am proud to be their warrior, but I looked at the list of names on my shirt (and on the ribbons that I carried with me), and I could think was "This is too many people". TOO MANY PEOPLE. I get mad, then sad, then righteous, then overwhelmed, then inspired, then back to being sad again. I feel guilty for hating this part of it. There shouldn't be ANY names on my jersey- or it should be of people who have all survived, not perished from this stupid cancer....But if we don't do this to find a cure, who will? It makes me cry. Stupid cancer.

A quick trip to Coldstone after decorating, then off to bed. Here we are pre-pre-race!

Saturday morning, we all met for a group run at 8am. Turns out every other chapter met in the lobby with the same idea! I chatted with a few girls from the New York City chapter in the elevator. They thought the weather was GREAT, and thought I was crazy for wearing running tights, gloves and long sleeves, but hey, it's all in what you're used to, right? As the different chapters took off in different directions, shouts of "Go Team!!" echoed all over the hotel and sidewalks- it was awesome.

Then, that night, we had the Pasta Party. I was NOT prepared for this at.all. We met my parents in the lobby, and joined the rest of our chapter, all of us wearing our bright yellow "Hey, we're Desert Mountain States!" t-shirts. I could hear this faint roar of noise but had no idea what it was. Mentor Teresa told us not to worry about it, and led us up the escalator to the grand ball room. We were practically knocked over by a solid wall of sound. Every single coach had line up a la "Soul Train" and were cheering us into the ballroom with whistles, cowbells, noisemakers and a tambourine (thanks to Coach Lauren!!)

It looked like this:

A look back to everyone who was behind us. We were the first ones in out of 2000 people. Amazing.

A very surprised Elsbeth and very calm Todd. See his shirt? Yeah, dig it.

Coaches Sarah (Sierra Vista), Lauren, and Brian (he qualified for Boston in December!!)

I'm sorry this one's blurry, a better version is on its way. From left to right: Coach Rick, Mentor Betsy (Alex's mom), me, Coach Sarah, Coach Lauren, Coach Brian. Our coaches were smart. They brought earplugs. :)

The gigantic ballroom that sat over 2000 people, 1065 of which were Team in Training participants.

We got our dinner (which was DELICIOUS), and sat down, soaking it all in. Then we noticed that pictures of honored teammates and heroes were being shown on the screen. Queue the instant tears: pictures of Uncle Ralph and Granddad appeared on screen. I had no idea that they would show them- I'd forgotten that I'd emailed them to Louanne and was so touched that they were there. Mom and Dad were appreciative as well.

So, Team in Training raised over $3.2 million for the P.F. Chang's Rock N' Roll marathon (hereto for now referred to as the PFCRNR), the Tucson chapter contributing $90,000 of it. Since the inception of PFCRNR, Team in Training has raised over $22 million!!! Thank you so much for your support- you are helping save lives, giving a voice to those who don't have one. You have helped ME become a runner for these people, to have one of the most special experiences in my entire life. Words cannot express how grateful I am for your support.

We had several inspirational speakers, including John "The Penguin" Bingham, columnist for Runner's World magazine (, and the chosen speaker (they pick one TNT participant every dinner) was our very own Betsy Stuetze, Alex's mom. There wasn't a dry eye in the place when she talked about her beautiful daughter and her fight for her life.

Then the dinner adjourned and it was off to bed to wake up and meet in the lobby at 5:45 am. I finally had my "holy crap, what am I doing?" moment at our team meeting after dinner when I realized that in 12 hours, I would be running 26.2 miles.


Dano said...

Congratulations, Elsbeth!
Congratulations on exceeding your fundraising goal ... you're right - it is "too many." TNT will put an end to cancer. Cancer sucks. Keep up the great work: Thank you, Team in Training!

Karen said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful time so far. Looking forward to Part 2 :)Congratulations and a job well done!

Unfortunately, yes, it's wayyy too many people but 'we' are working to get that number down or a cure so keep up the good thoughts and hard work.

BTW,I like the new Blog layout.


Katie said...

Enjoyed reading about your pre-race!! I'm glad I'm not the only one who gets confused by elevators like that :-). And I agree that the list of names becomes overwhelming. One day, the list of survivors will be longer than the list of ones who lost their battle. Can't wait to hear about the race!

Katie said...

Awesome job Elsbeth - glad that you found my blog! I loved the bit about Anxiety Girl - that would have been my name that weekend as well - I'll have to share that with my sister and Dad - they'd get a kick out of it!! Congrats again on finishing!!

Racn4acure said...

Elsbeth - I enjoyed reading your account, and it brought back great memories for me of just last January ('08) - coming into Phoenix from the East, going to the race registration, getting so sick the day before the race from vertigo and having to get cleared in the ER - and worrying if they would let me race, barely getting out of the ER in time to get to the pasta party with all the teams and the noisy "gauntlet" coming into the center, "The Penguin", and the mission speaker!

Thanks for wearing my name - I am so honored that you did so. We will never make cancer go away, so there will always be names, but someday instead of someone dying every 10 minutes it will be every 20, then every 60, then every 200 minutes. And the list of names will mostly be lucky survivors, like me. And those who survive, instead of being poisoned with chemo or burned with radioactive beams, will have some type of effective not so horrible treatments. And you are helping to make that possible someday.

Thanks to you and your fine teammates, Elsbeth, for making a difference! I know that almost every person who survives cancer gives thanks for all those who made it possible. Art