Running to Stand Still

…busy Dad trying to make it all work

Category Archives: Running

A Cancer Ass Kicker

I’m a charity runner for the American Cancer Society’s DetermiNation Team. For me it brings a great deal of pride and satisfaction knowing that the endurance sports I compete in can bring someone that much more closer to being cured of this awful disease. At least that’s what I dream of….then you hear the stories. The stories that people tell you after they find out your a charity runner. The stories of pain and suffering and loss and hopelessness.

Then you hear other stories. Stories from out of the blue. Stories of hope and inspiration and courage. This story is about someone very close to me…literally…she sits in the office next to mine. Her name is Amy Keilman.

In a nutshell Amy is a cancer ass kicker.  Everyone knows one.  Amy is one of mine.

In March of 2005 Amy was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer that had metastasized to her bones. She was 28 and newly engaged.

After a few consultations with doctors and specialists, she decided to begin her battle with hormone therapy and radiation versus traditional chemotherapy based on the make-up of her cancer cells.  Hormone therapy requires you to suppress your ovary function (as her cancer was fueled by estrogen) while taking a hormone pill.  Prior to having her ovaries removed in early 2006, the ovary suppression was accomplished by a monthly shot to the stomach. Each hormone treatment is effective till the body builds up a resistance to the drug – on average each treatment will last anywhere from 6 months to a year.  Hormone therapy is less destructive on the body and the “good” cells and the side effects are not as intense as traditional chemotherapy.

In December of 2006, she had surgery on her right arm where a large tumor exists. The doctors inserted a titanium rod into her arm bone to secure the bone and prevent it from breaking.   This also allowed her to have radiation treatment to the tumor in her arm.  In 2008, she started chemotherapy with a pill called Xeloda and underwent intensive radiation treatment for three months.  Once the Xeloda stopped working, she switched to a weekly IV chemo treatment that’s side effects did not include hair loss.  Eventually, she reached a point where she had to undergo chemotherapy that resulted in hair loss.

This is when she sent out an email to the department basically saying “Hey all…I might be losing my hair soon because I’ve had stage IV breast cancer for a few years and I’m starting a new kind of therapy and who wants to go to the Hawks game and drink some beers?”

At the time I had been working with Amy for about 2 years never knowing what she was going through. I had noticed that she had been out of the office for longer periods of time lately but most of us thought she was pregnant. Her attitude definitely did not give it away.

I thought you’d like to hear from Amy herself so I sat down to ask a few questions…

1. Back in March 2005 how did you know something was wrong?

I found a lump in my breast a few months previously which I ignored while trying to get my insurance set up to go see a doctor. The doctor’s initial thought was that it might be a cancer tumor and scheduled additional tests right away. I wasn’t shocked by my diagnosis. My father had been diagnosed with a rare form of male breast cancer that ultimately defeated him. I had never given too much thought to the genetics of cancer since I was only 28 at the time but was not surprised by the reality of it.

2. Have you seen any major advances in cancer treatments in the past 6 years?

I know that there has been continued progress on chemo medications, treatments, scanning equipment and medical care however I approach my treatment on a drug by drug basis. By that I mean that I focus on the drug / chemo that I am currently taking and don’t dwell on how many drugs are left to treat the kind of cancer that I have. I don’t know if there are 3 more drugs left that I can take or 30 drugs left. I don’t want to live with a period at the end of my sentence. I want to live with a …… (a little Bachelorette cliché!)

3. Your attitude toward your cancer is really inspirational. Have you always been this way?

I am guessing that there are many people out there that would say that I am more of a pain in the ass than I am inspirational. My approach has always been to “just be normal”. I don’t want the fact that I have cancer to change or define me in any way. I am the same person I was before I was diagnosed except that I have some physical limitations and I hang out at the hospital more than the average person.

4. What advice can you give to anyone fighting cancer right now?

The only real advice that I have is to be well informed. There are so many hospitals, doctors and treatments to choose from so it is important to do your research and to be prepared with questions. Everyone needs to be comfortable with what treatment they get and what hospital they receive it from.

5. Have there been any positives in this whole experience?

Of course! At the time I didn’t think it was a positive, but I changed jobs a little over a year after my diagnosis. I wasn’t looking to leave public accounting but knew that I needed to reduce the stress in my life. My current position became available and with mixed emotions I took it. It worked out – I love my job and love the people that I work with and have so much more time and less stress. I have been able to spend more time with friends and family and have picked up a bunch of hobbies over the years. I am much happier and love the change in career challenges.

6. How are the treatments going?

The treatments are going as well as can be expected. I just recently started a new chemo drug called Doxil (or Kool-aid as I call it because that’s what it looks like) because the last chemo stopped “working” on the cancer that is in my lung lining. I will have my second round of Doxil tomorrow and will likely have another one or two doses before I have tests to make sure that the drug is working. Fingers crossed that I will stay on this chemo for a while!

7. I know the answer to this but I want to ask anyway….How has cancer affected your career?

In some regards it hasn’t affected my career but as I said I changed jobs because I needed to reduce stress. I am happy with the change and like what I do now so much more than public accounting. Sometimes I think that I would be more proactive with my career if I didn’t have cancer but at the same time I don’t know. It’s a hard question but I would like to think that I haven’t done anything different just because I have cancer.

8. If cancer was a physical person what would you like to do or say to him (by the way I purposely used “him”)?

Leave us alone!

9. So do you want to run the New York Marathon with me on the ACS DetermiNation team in November?

Probably the easiest question yet – um no! And I mean that in the nicest way possible!

I told you she was a cancer ass kicker.

It’s stories like this that make marathon training easy. What I do is nothing compared to what people like Amy deal with on a daily basis. Her story is uplifting. Unfortunately there are many more that aren’t.

My goal is simple. To one day find that there’s no longer a need for the American Cancer Society or Livestrong or the Susan G. Komen Foundation or any of the dozens of cancer charities all fighting against the same enemy. As long as I’m fit enough to help I’ll be at the start line.

Please help if you can by making a donation to the American Cancer Society.  Just click on “Why I Run” tab at the top of the page or use the link below:


ps – Also you can follow Amy on Twitter @amostbass

My 20 Years of Bike Commuting Tips…A Survival Guide

So you want to start riding your bike to work to save money on gas and public transportation and to start getting in shape right?

Well there’s a few things I’d like to share with you on bike commuting in a big Northern city.  For me that would be Chicago.

First up let me tell you about how I started bike commuting.  I started seriously commuting back in 1991.  I had been a pretty avid racquetball player playing around four to five days a week.  Complete gym rat.  I loved it…but it didn’t love my knees.  After playing for three hours I’d limp home like a 47 year old (hey! I’m 47 now!) soak my legs and go to bed.

Someone at the club told me to ride my bike more.  “It’s a more fluid motion and would help strengthen your crappy knees” he said.  So I did.  And I remembered that as a kid I always loved to ride my bike.  My Dad would sit on the front porch and time me as I raced around the block.  Soon I found myself riding more and more and I’ve never looked back.  Over the years my bike has become my therapist with wheels.

OK so here are my tips for bike commuting.  They are in no particular order except for the first one.

RULE # 1 – Always Always Always wear a helmet.  In 20 years of commuting I’ve seen cars hit bikes, bikes hit cars and bikes hit people.  All with bad results.  Wear a helmet.  And if you’re one of those people who hang your helmet on your handlebars because you don’t want to mess up your groovy hair when you ride then you’re a fool.

– Wear bright colors…night or day.  You need to be seen.  Period.

– Always look over your left shoulder before you pass cars, other bikers or runners…and always say “On your left” on a bike path.  Know there might be someone much faster than you trying to pass!  Runners also need to do this…especially runners wearing iPods.  Both bikers and runners need to look before they make their turn arounds.  One of my biggest bike crashes happened when another biker didn’t look back before she turned into me (she also didn’t hear me say “on your left”).  The impact of that crash catapulted me WAY over the handlebars and the force of the bikes hitting each other bend her front wheel like a pretzel.  Thank God I was wearing my helmet!

– Learn how to change a tire on the fly.  I see new commuters walking their bikes all the time because they didn’t have a spare.  I carry a spare tire, CO2 and tire irons.  I also carry 2 surgical gloves.  Keeps the grease and grime off the hands when I’m changing the tire.  Then just toss them out and ride home.

– Please stop at stop lights.  Rolling through red lights is just plain stupid.  Experienced bike commuters stop at stop lights and will probably give you an ear full when they have to pass you AGAIN in traffic!  Remember you can’t bike if you’re dead.

– Beware of Starbucks!!  Or any coffee shop for that matter for people in need of the java loose their minds if they see a spot near the store.  They’ll cut you off in a heart beat then fling the door open and really ruin your commute.

– Always have lights to snap on your bike.  When the sun goes down earlier toward the end of the year I’m lit up like a Christmas tree.

– When riding on a busy street with parked cars on your right always look for heads behind the wheel.  These are the people who might door you.  I also worry about the drivers passing you on the left but not as much.  They can see you…unless they’re texting… 😦

– When you swallow a bug on a ride don’t freak out.  If you can’t get it out then deal with it and take a drink of water.  Think of it as natures energy pill.

– If you decide to draft someone be prepared to then be drafted.  As they used to say in the 1960s…”ass, grass or cash…nobody rides for free!”

– Don’t wear headphones on a bike.  If I have to explain why you’re beyond help.  Also it’s against the law…I think.

– Always check the weather before you ride.  In Chicago it could be 80 at 7:30am and 35 at 5pm.  I’m not kidding.

– If you have to talk on the phone please pull it over.  My favorite is when I see a guy with no helmet talking on the phone with no hands.  Just makes me want to jam a stick in his spokes.

– Always have alternative routes for your normal commutes.  When it’s raining (I still bike in the rain) I always take side streets where there’s less traffic.  I don’t assume a driver can see me.

– I find that the most dangerous season to bike commute is in the spring.  Drivers aren’t used to seeing bikes on the road yet.

– Be wary of the following vehicles:  Cabs (obliviously) and shit wagons.  You’re probably wondering “What’s a shit wagon?”  It’s what I call the beat up pickup trunks with no brake lights or turn signals that go up and down the alleys and streets looking for junk.  They’d cut off their own Mothers if she were riding a bike.

– Get a RoadID (  Just in case you do get whacked by the guy in the shit wagon.  I wear mine cycling and running.  It’s a constant part of all my workouts.

If you have any thing to share please leave a comment and retweet it on Twitter or post it on Facebook.

I hope you find these tips helpful when you decide to hit the streets…maybe I should rephrase that…

My therapist

Yeah…I ran Boston…sort of.

I met my wife in May of 1999.  We had met through Kris, a mutual running friend.  I was biking a ton back then so I became the friend who took Kris and all of her running girlfriends out for their once a summer long bike rides. I wasn’t really a runner at that point.  The occasional 5k/10k but that was about it.  I had no problem helping out since it was me and about nine women riding bikes.  I used to call these rides the “Bike of the Dead” because they really didn’t want to ride.  They wanted to do what they did when they ran…talk….and talk…and talk.

Anyway on one of these rides I met my future wife.  I thought I had met all of Kris’s running girlfriends but on that Sunday morning this girl showed up who I didn’t know and who Kris had never talked about.  Her name was Donna.  She was a little late getting to the ride.  I didn’t mind because I was a bit “tired” from the Cubs game the night before.  So we start the ride…and they’re all just gabbing away.  After awhile I couldn’t stand going that slow any longer so I took off.  I figured they lived here…they can find their way home.  Anyway I’m riding for a few miles and I turn around and there’s Donna right on my wheel!  No one else is in sight.  It was love.

So we started dating.

The spring of 2000 rolls around and Donna and a few of her friends are training for their 3rd Boston Marathon.  They all had these shirts printed up with their names on the front and their motivations on the back.  Donna was “Discipline” and her best friend Julie was “Strength”.  She and Julie ran the exact same pace, so they planned to run the race together.  I was going out to Boston with Donna that year and she asked if I could jump in and pace her and Julie a few miles at the end of the race.  “Sure…no problem!”

Remember I had never run with her before this point.  I figured I meet them at about mile 22 with food, drink and some encouraging words.  I thought they’d be exhausted at that point and running at my pace which at that time was about a 10 minute mile.

She told me they’d be at mile 22 at this specific time and I’m like “OK no problem”.  Well they were there within 30 seconds of that time.  They were robots.  I jump in with all my gear, long cotton sweats and a long sleeve cotton shirt, and start giving them bananas, water and candy.  Not really noticing at this time how fast we’re running…which was between a 7:20 – 7:30 pace.  A pace, at that time, I can run for maybe a mile….maybe.

Now the Boston Marathon is run on Patriot’s Day.  The Red Sox always play an early day game that let’s out when the marathon is going past the left field wall of Fenway Park, which is one mile from the finish.  Because of this there are large storm fences put up to keep the drunks off the course.  The fences also keep the runners in until the finish.

I made it to about mile 23.5 when I realized I might drop dead.  So I told Donna and Julie go power on and I’d see them at the finish.  I’ll never forget the image of them just disappearing into the crowd.  I slowed to my normal pace.  I was quite bummed.  But then I heard a voice.  A drunk voice, but a voice.  It kept yelling “KEEP GOING…YOU’RE KICKING ASS DUDE….YOU GOT THIS FUCKING THING”  Then another drunk yelled something else, then another, so I started running down the side of the street, staying away from the runners,  high fiving these drunk baseball fans who thought I had run the whole thing.  I was having a blast.  I turned the corner on Boylston street and there’s the finish line.  I raise my hands in victory as I cross.

A volunteer puts a mylar wrap around me.  Another attempts to hand me a medal which I, of course, decline.

I find Donna and Julie about a block up and snap this picture…my absolute favorite running shot.

So it turns out that the girls here decided to run negative splits that year.  At the time I had no idea what that meant.  I do now.

Donna ran the 2000 Boston Marathon in 3:27.

I didn’t.

But I had so much fun running the last few miles of the race that I did the exact same thing the following year!

Once again I couldn’t keep up with her.

In April 2001 she ran the Boston Marathon in 3:24…her PR.

We were married a month later.

What a Pain in The Ass!

When I turned 40 I realized that I needed a new doctor.  I had a female doctor at the time.  Not that she wasn’t a good doctor but it’s just that I was at the point in my life that a male doctor was in order.  A male doctor with small hands.

According to the American Cancer Society there are five myths about colorectal cancer:

  • It’s a man’s disease
  • It cannot be prevented
  • African Americans are not at risk
  • Age doesn’t matter
  • It’s better not to get tested because it’s a death sentence anyway

These are all bullshit.

Lets go back a bit.  When my Mom was 72 she was diagnosed with a rectal tumor.  She had the surgery, went through chemo and radiation and KICKED IT’S ASS!  That was 13 years ago.

Because of this my new doctor (the one with the tiny hands) thought I better start getting the prostate exams at 40.  It’s always the interesting part of my annual physical.  He’s a runner so as we go through the normal parts of the exam…we BS about running and family then we get to the end and he says something like “Well you know what we have to do” so I get ready and then it’s over, he tells me everything is cool, I exhale then I go home.

But in 2009 (when I was 45) he told me that because of my family history he wanted me to get a colonoscopy.  Usually you don’t need one until you’re 50.  Unless of course you’re having issues down there then by all means get your butts to the doctor!

He gave me instructions on what I needed to do but…I blew it off. Honestly I forgot about it.  I had the slip of paper on my work bench then one day it was gone.

So I go back for my 2010 physical and he looks at me and says “I see you blew off the colonoscopy”.  I felt like an idiot.  I agreed I’d have it done right after the holidays.  I promised.  So January rolls around and I make the appointment.

Now the colonoscopy itself takes roughly 30 minutes.  It’s the prep that sucks.  I had to stop eating at 11pm on a Wednesday, not have anything solid to eat, then start drinking the laxative at about 5pm Thursday night.  You have an hour to drink 16 ounces of this crap that tastes like thick salty lemonade.  It’s the Godzilla of laxatives.  Within 30 minutes it’s working it’s magic and I’m hanging on for dear life!

My doctor was probably at home giggling his ass off because just as you’re feeling back to normal you have to repeat the whole process again!  Another 16 ounces…more eruptions.  I’ve never felt so cleaned out in my life.  You could’ve eaten off my colon.

My appointment was at 8:30am on Friday.  By this time I just wanted to get it over with because I’M STARVED! I hadn’t eaten for almost  35 hours.  They give me a gown tell me to change and go sit in the waiting room.

After awhile the nurse comes and gets me.  I walk into the procedure room to see the doctor, his assistant and in the corner two med students with clipboards.  “Northwestern is a teaching school as you know Mr. Schober.  Do you have any objections to these students sitting in?”  I say “No but I bet they’re wishing they didn’t draw the short sticks back at the dorm this morning.  I look at them and say “You guys have breakfast yet?”  I’m such an asshole when I’m nervous.

So I’m put in twilight and the procedure begins.  I can feel some pressure and a bit of discomfort when they need to expand things with a blast of air.  Then it’s over and he tells me he found two really small polyps but they look benign.  He said they would send them to the lab to make sure.  Asked if I wanted to see them.  In my twilight faze I say “Sure…why not?”  The problem is without my contacts in or glasses on I’m basically blind so he has to hold them 2 inches from my face at which point I tell him to get those things the hell away from me and where can I get a stinking cheeseburger?

He called with the results the following Monday confirming what he said earlier.  No need to have the procedure done for another five years.

Early screening is a major key to cancer prevention.  Don’t wait to get your screening completed after your doctor tells you it’s time to go. Just go and get it done.  It could save your life.

For more information on colon and rectum cancer please see the American Cancer Society link -> here.

I’m glad I got that behind me!

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