Saturday, December 23, 2006

Happy Holidays!!!

I sincerely hope that you and your family have a wonderful holiday season!
May 2007 bring you much Joy, Good Health and Happiness!
Keep Living STRONG!

2006 Wallace and Grommette Holiday Card!

Nikon D70 Camera: $$$$
Fabric from Joanne's Fabric Store: $$
Pet Costumes from Pet Smart: $

Spending 2 hours* on a Sunday photographing
your kittens for a Holiday Card:

2006_xmas card

*No kittens were Photoshopped in the making of this card!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Wallace & Grommette - Holiday Card - OUTAKES - Part Two

Nikon D70 Camera: $$$$
Fabric from Joanne's Fabric Store: $$
Pet Costumes from Pet Smart: $

Spending 2 hours on a Sunday photographing
your kittens for a Holiday Card:

2006 W&G Holiday Outakes - Part Two
(we're getting closer to a useable picture...)

GO HERE - to see Outakes-Part One

After some cajoling on the photographers part, Wallace reconsiders the costume change...

Wallace: "I told you I don't LIKE this hat!"

So Wallace tries another hat on...

Wallace: "Hat's are soooo 2005, I need something other than a hat! Give this to the girl..."

Grommmette, the ever patient kitten, naps while Wallace changes, yet again...

Come back Tomorrow, don't miss it!


Thursday, December 21, 2006

It's beginning to look alot like Christmas...

About two weeks ago, Jim and I took it upon ourselves to shoot and design our own Christmas Cards starring "Wallace and Grommette", our 8-month old Bengal kittens. Yes, these are kittens...they still have a good 6-8 months before they reach their full size.

The card came out fantastic! Better than we could have ever dreamed. But first, some outakes ... I'll be posting outakes for the next few days, with the final product debuting on Saturday night before we head out of town for the Christmas Holiday....

Nikon D70 Camera: $$$$
Fabric from Joanne's Fabric Store: $$
Pet Costumes from Pet Smart: $

Spending 2 hours on a Sunday photographing
your kittens for a Holiday Card:

2006 W&G Holiday Outakes - Part One

The Stage ...

The Talent ...

Costume One - Lovely Ms. Grommette

Grommette primps while Wallace gets into costume ....

Enter Wallace - Stage Left

Grommette to Wallace: "My...What big ears you have!!"

Wallace: "Don't bother me kid, I am working this hat!"

"Who do I have to talk to in order to get a costume change here?"

Wallace: "Get that Wardrobe human in here, PRONTO!"
Grommette: "Ahhhh....Time for a little cat nap..."

More pictures to come tomorrow!
Hope you are all having a good week and Living STRONG!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas Light Run 2006

"Blue Christmas Tree..."
"Blue Christmas Tree.."
"We love our Christmas Light Run!!"

Last night was my second time doing the Christmas Light Run and I have to say that this is fast becoming one of my favorite DC holiday traditions. How can you possibly have a bad time running 4 miles all over the National Mall and downtown Washington, DC with 200 other people, all of whom are dressed in blinking lights, Santa hats and misc. Holiday garb (I saw Rudolf hats, antlers, elve ears, tinsel headbands, and so much more...) while singing holiday songs?!!? And at the end of it all - your run ends at a pub!! Good Times Guaranteed!

You simply can't have a bad time, unless of course, you don't like to run, in which case - you should probably stay home.

This year I was joined by my friend Keri and some of her (and now my) friends (Hi Mike!!) whom she met through Team In Training this past season. We stuck with the "Commet" pace group (as opposed to the blazing fast Blitzens and the walker-paced Dashers) that seems to keep around a 10-11 minute pace which slowed down as the group became bigger (after regrouping at the National Christmas Tree) and the sidewalk became narrower.

It really is amazing how much of an impact running in a large group; running in the dark; and singing Christmas carols can have on your overall pace. I have been run/walking this season, all season...and last night I ran the 2 miles to the first stop at the National Christmas Tree (about 20 minutes) with only about 2-3 brief moments of rest (along with the rest of the pace group) due to stop lights. Nothing like a little "fun run" to illustrate that you are fitter than you have been giving yourself credit for, huh?

While the weather was down right balmy at 50 degrees (compare to last year's temps of 25 and windy) the holiday spirit was alive and well! If you live in the "NOVA VA/DC BELTWAY" area and you are a runner, you owe it to yourself to do this event at least ONCE! I promise you, you will enjoy it!

By the way ... this run is FREE and the organizer intend to keep it that way for as long as they can!! How is that for showing not only a love for running but some Holiday Cheer as well!

:) Now it really is beginning to "look alot like Christmas...."


Keri and Mike (kinda blurry ...sorry!)

Myself, my hat and Keri! (Do you like my hat? hehehe)

Jingle All the Way 10K Photos

Keri - working hard for the finish...Looking STRONG!

Holly, Thumbs Up (Hair up too!) - Life is Good!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Champagne and Jingle Bells - A Race Report

This weekend was a good one. Last night Jim and I went to our first Holiday Party of the season. A good friend and fellow co-worker had a Champagne Tasting party! It was a wonderful time with good food and some tastey and some not-so-tastey champagnes. Knowing that I had a 10K to run the next morning kept me in "tasting mode" as opposed to "drinking mode". It was a wonderful party and semi-formal so we got a chance to dress up a little! A good time indeed and a great way to kick off the Holiday Season!

Today, I got up at "O'Dark Thirty" (aka 5:50AM) to meet my good friend Keri for our second annual Jingle All the Way 10K. We ran this race last year and it was my first 10K in 2005 following a long break after my Marine Corps Marathon finish that season. I ran the event in a time of 1:20:13 last year and was perfectly content with my 13:00 mile average pace while under the influence of "Interferon" treatments.

This year, however, I am 6 months post-treatment and have been trying to "find" shades of the "old athlete Holly" in the new "CANCER-FREE Holly". Part of that search includes losing the 40 pounds that I managed to find over the last 18 months and finding the sub 11:00 minute miles that I know I am capable of.

Last weekend I ran a 5K, to gague where I was and was pleased to find that without too much trouble, I could still maintain some kind of 12:00 mile pace while run/walking. So the goal for today's race was to be more structured on my run and try not to take additional walk breaks and see where the clock stopped.

At first, my plan was to run until I could not run any more and then drop into a 5/1 Run/Walk Intervals. Keri, who has run by my side in races for more than a year now, pointed out that I seem to do better when I start with an interval plan. It didn't take much considering to realize that she was right and so we decided that we would run the race together doing 5/1 Run/Walk intervals and above all, "Have Fun".

As we walked to the race start, Keri's phone began making dialing noises from inside her fuel belt. As she pulled it out to see what it was doing, my cell phone in my fuel belt began to ring! Her phone called mine! Probably trying to plan an escape from the early morning chill. We had a good laugh over that but I didn't think to turn off my phone, thus every five minutes, my phone would "beep" at me to indicate that I missed a call. It would take about 4 miles and several beeps to realize that it was my phone beeping and not the strange tone of some runner's watch around us. We got a good chuckle out of that!!

So the run was a familiar one. Keri, myself and 1,698 other runners in jingle bells heading down and around Haines Point and back. "Jingle Jingle Jingle, All The Way", indeed! There were great holiday hats and costumes of all kinds. We saw Santa Clause, elves of various types, a juggler and even a gal in black racing tights and a holiday G-string...(she needed the tights, it was too cold for less!)

Keri and I fell into our own pace just after the rise of the only small climb on the way out to the 5K turn around. By the 5K point we were solidly on track and doing well. Keri kept the conversation lively and I did my best to chat too.

Around Mile 4.5, I suddenly began to feel very tired and a wee-bit cranky. That is when I realized that my Gu was still in my race belt. I quickly pulled it out and added a minute to our mile by taking a walk break to eat the GU. I imagine if I had remembered it at the 5K turn around, I never would have had that brief bad patch. Still Keri stuck by me and said not a word when I apologized nearly 3 times in a row for needing to slow down.

The last mile went smoothly with no more interuptions. As we passed the Mile 6 marker and could see the finish line, Keri got her second wind and asked me if I was ready to "Go Lance Armstrong" yet?

"Going Lance" on somebody is how Keri and I refer to the sudden burst of speed that can kick in when you realize you are almost done AND you might be able to pass a person or two on your way in.

At that moment, I was feeling good but not up for "Going Lance" so I told Keri to "Go for it and have fun and I would meet her at the finsh line." I watched as Keri slowly picked up her pace and began to pick off runners one at a time, coming in at the end along with another fellow runner who she said saw her come up beside him and said "All right, you ready? Let's Go!"

For me, I just kept my pace nice and steady and focused on the finish line and smiling for the cameras. Of course over the last 200 feet with the finish line so close, I found that little extra bit in me and did a "mini Lance"... with a big smile and thumbs way up as I crossed the line in 1:15:12 for an average pace of 12:07 minutes for the 10K distance. A full minute per mile off of last year't time!

(5/1 Run/Walk Intervals Used)

Mile 1: 11:16
Mile 2: 11:51
Mile 3: 11:53
Mile 4: 12:10
Mile 5: 13.01 (*oops, GU stop)
Mile 6: 12:36
Mile 6.2: 2:36

After the race, Keri and I met her "Team in Training" friends for a brief "Hi and how was your race?" chat, grabbed some water and a bannana to share and then walked back to the cars. On our way we stopped and fed the seagulls at the reflecting pool some very hard, cold bagel from the post-race buffet. It was a riot to see the seagulls slipping and sliding across the ice past the bagel pieces. We even talked briefly with some asian tourist who were asking about the seagulls and taking pictures.

Later this afternoon, I stopped into Keri's for a Holiday Cookie-Making/Poker Party to celebrate Keri's Birthday (which is tomorrow!!! HAPPY B-DAY KERI!!!!) and I enjoyed meeting some new folks and indulged in some good food.

The weekend was a good one and I really feel like I have some good base building as I start getting serious about my training for the 2007 season ahead! I am very motivated and excited for the potential for the Myrtle Beach 1/2 Marathon with my Sisters in mid-Febuary. It feels like it is going to be a good year!

Now I have my eyes set Wednesday night's Christmas Light Run with Keri, Nancy and *Jeanne*. It is going to be a "Caroling good Holiday Time in the Nation's Capitol!"

Live STRONG!!!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


"Mile 26 to the marathoner is confession. Mile 26 is where all the sins you committed in training are forgiven, for if you get to mile 26, you've done enough. Mile 26 is where the pain you've been fighting all day - pain that might have had you on the ropes, tempting you to just stop and quit - surrenders. Again. It leaves you - every ache, every pain, every thought you had that you weren't good enough or strong enough is banished. Mile 26 is where you know it was worth it."

"Hurricane Bob", Philadelphia Marathon 2006 Race Report

"Bob" .. aka Hurricane Bob, writes great race reports. If you are ever bored or looking for some inspiration ... you ought to check him out here :

Monday, December 04, 2006

Snow Flake 5K Race Report - Being Last Never Felt So Good.

I have never been last in a race until this Sunday and if every last place finish makes me feel as good as this one did then I have to say being last ain't too darn bad folks!

Sunday was the Snowflake 5K race. It took place at Haines Point. Site of numerous DC races in the area of various distance. In fact I am doing the Jingle All The Way 10K there this coming weekend with my friend Keri. It's a popular race spot.

I have not done any formal running since the Maine Half Marathon in the beginning of October due to some calf problems and back pain which seems to be related in some way to my latest adventures in perimenopause (a story for another post...) so I felt like I had to get out and do a race to kind of judge where I was at before I showed up at the 10K next weekend.

The race was small - 46 people. So I knew as soon as I stepped out of the car at 7:15AM that I was likely going to be alone in the back of the pack. I simply hoped that there might be a few runners who were in the 30 minute range so that the finish line volunteers didn't feel they had to wait forever.

Lately my local 5K route from my front door have been taking me around 40 minutes. It's a pretty hilly route but the pace has not wavered much. I was hoping that with the "pancake flat" nature of the course around Haines Point that I might finish closer to 36 minutes.

The race started with a blast of a air horn and off I went with the group. Pretty quickly I settled down and found myself around the same 4 runners. SInce I have still been incorporating RUN/Walk intervals, I found myself leapfrogging with the same two woman who seems to be keeping a steady 12:00 pace.

My goal became to keep these two ladies in sight and never let them get to far ahead when I took my walk breaks. Running, I was definately at a faster pace because I *tried* to tuck in behind them and stick with them, at their invitation, but I found them going to slow for me. I guess that just goes to show that I need to work on my endurance at the pace that feel comfortable to me since I still needed to take walk breaks but could never just "slow down and keep running".

At the half-way mark, I looked behind me and there was nobody to be seen. I was last but I was still "hopping" back and forth with the ladies in front of me. I decided then that no matter how I felt, if I had to finish last, it would be last by seconds and not by minutes.

The final results: I crossed the finish line last at 36:11 - about 13 seconds behind Keyna and Kim (formerly "the two ladies")

While it is not a PR for the distance, it turns out to be a 5K PR for this season ....and while I was last, I know that this weekend's Jingle All The Way 10K will be a fun run, a good time and that I will safely finish somewhere in the middle of the back of the pack.

In terms of how I felt physically during and after the race, I could have kept up that pace for longer and my recovery was no different than any other workout over the last few weeks. As I said to Jim, "Imagine how much time I will make up if I can get back to only walking long enough to drink water at the water stops?" ......

From here ... I can only see myself getting faster next season. A cool place to find yourself when you are last across the finish line!!

Life is Good - Live STRONG!

I'm Back ..... and Happy B-Day x two!

No really ... I am back and I have been busy getting caught up. In fact, if you feel like it .. You can read all about the last 5 weeks.

I hope everybody had a wonderful Thanksgiving and is easing into the busy Holiday Season as best they can. I finally got some well earned down time and even got a chance to do a 5K race yesterday! But more about that later.

So, if you are interested, here are some links that will take you to some of the things that have been going on in my life lately...for a few of these, you may want to grab a cup of coffee... they are a little long winded! Hope you Enjoy!

I'm happy to be back to blogging and I am even more excited to finally feel like I am back on track in training for the upcoming 2007 triathlon season!

Live STRONG Summit Report

Ironman Florida Weekend

Ironman Gear and Stuff

American Patriot Award

Hope everybody has a wonderful Monday! A special shout out to my sister Cathy and to my good friend and college roomie Theresa, both of whom have Birthdays today!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY CATHY!!!!!!!!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY THERESA!!!!!

American Patriot Award - November 14th

I got home from the Ironman Florida Trip and work simply swallowed up all of my time. I was involved in a high profile display for the American Patriot Award. You can read a little more about the award on the website.

The upside of all the hard work (and subsequent lack of blogging/reading email/having a life outside of work) was that Jim and I were able to attend the American Patriot Award Gala and Jim even got the opportunity to meet Senator John Glenn, who was this year recipient.

The display is just one example of what I do as a Graphic Designer but I am very proud of the design and the final peice. I am also pretty happy with how nicely Jim and I clean up off the bike and out of the gym. :) Enjoy the pictures!

The Display that took over my life for 2 weeks...

Looking all grown up and snazzy....


The view from our dinner table....

New Gear and my IRONMAN Starter Kit!

As mentioned, here is a just a look at the stuff that I bought myself at Ironman Florida AND the wonderful Ironman Starter Kit that Linae, Nancy and Shawn made for me .....

Now all I have left to do is put in the training hours ....

DSC_0321141The best definition yet!

Fun Top!

A loud race skirt!! (No I won't be wearing it with the top!)

A motivating hat! (I might wear this with the skirt!)


Ironman Florida - Volunteer Report

FRIDAY, November 3rd:

After and uneventful Friday night flight, I arrived in Panama City, Florida and was met by my girls, Linae and Shawn. Because we had never met "in person", I stood at the Airport in my Tiger Ears so they couldn't miss me! The ears were a success and soon we were on our way to the hotel and quickly settled down for the night. We had a 5AM wake-up call to get to the IRONMAN Floirda start prior to the SWIM start where Shawn and Linae would volunteer.

RACE DAY - Saturday, November 4th:

We got up early, rolled out of bed and were on our way to the race start by 6AM. All looking marvelous in our Cat Ears. We got many smile from other volunteers, racers and specators on the shuttle bus from the Walmart parking lot to the Ironman Village/Finish Line/Transition area.

Our first stop was Coffee for Linae and I. I also bought an Oatmeal Raisin PowerBar which I planned to eat as I watch the race start. We walk toward the swim exit/start area, to get the "lay of the land" and see who we could find pre-race. We were lucky enough to run into Shelley, who recognized us by our Cat Ears (2 points for the cat ears). We gave her hugs, met her friend who was also racing, and wished them luck as they headed to the swim start on the beach. Linae and Shawn, who were volunteering at the Chip Table of the Bike Out, went off to find their Volunteer Captain. I decided to stand right outside the exit gate to transition, hoping that I might catch Nancy, Ellie, Bolder, TriBoomer or any of the other Tri-Bloggers to wish them well before the race.

I quickly realized that EVERYBODY looks the same in wetsuits and soon began to simply hope that somebody who knew I was going to be there would see the Cat Ears and it would trigger the memory of my fellow bloggers. As luck would have it, my darling Nancy did not yet have her race cap on so when I saw her beatiful red hair, I yelled out "Nancy?!?" and BINGO! It was her AND Ellie! Wahoo!!! We gave each other hugs and I wished them luck and they eased back into the throngs of wetsuited Triathletes.

swim start
Swim Start - Somewhere out there were Nancy, Ellie, Shelley, Bolder and many more...

Feeling satisfied at having found at least 2 of the 10 people I wanted to see that day, I decided it was time to head to the swim area and stake out a good spot to watch the swim. I headed for the fence that ran along the short 100 yard run for the second half of the swim loop. I stood with many other Ironmates and friends and family and we all chattered about the wind, the waves and the day ahead. One woman, whos husband was racing his first Ironman and I struck up a kinship as we talked about how "someday" we both wanted to tackle the distance and laughed nervously together about how we both looked at the water and wind this morning and were thankful that it was not our race day. We tried to get the attention of Paula Newbury Fraiser, who was just 200 feet from us, getting ready to tape a segment but had little luck and we marveled, along with everybody else at how rough the start looked for the pros and then the age-groupers.

The feeling in the crowds as we watch the swim progress was electric and I can only hope that all those triathletes felt some of the energy that we were throwing at them as they ran across the beach and headed back into the water. While from the shore, I couldn't really tell that the water conditions had gotten worse, my watch was telling the real story. I had started my crono counter when the canon went off and hit the split timer when I saw Nancy pass me on the beach on her way to lap 2. While she tackled her second lap, I ran to the closest bathroom and then took up a spot along the swim exit, just past the wetsuit strippers.

T1 buttercup
Buttercup in Transition awaiting Nancy's arrival....She was in the transision tent.

Again I got lucky and recognized Ellie as she came through the exit. I yelled her name and was treated to a hug and very wet and salty kiss on the cheek. Ellie was looking great! Next out of the water was Nancy, I hit my crono as soon as I heard the announcer call her name and waited anxiously to see her get through the wetsuit stripping gontlet and into transition. When I saw her I yelled "Go Nancy!" and was treated to a good smile and wave. I ran long the fence and snapped a pic of Nancy as she went through the shower and then jogged over to T1 to see if I could see her get on Buttercup and head out on the bike.

I found Buttercup on her rack and settled in to wait for my photo oportunity. As I stood their, Dianne from Canada, found me and we gave each other big hugs and chattered excitedly about Nancy's good swim time (sub 2:00) and the surprise trip that she and Dawn had pulled off! Soon enough we saw the volunteers sweep up Buttercup and off in the distance, we saw Nancy accept her bike and head to the Bike out!

bike out
Nancy heading out on the bike ...(red helmet, green jersey)

With Nancy and the rest of the field on the bike, Dianne, Dawn, Linae, Shawn and I met up and headed over to the convention center for a long leasurely brunch. It was great to spend some time relaxing, warming up and spending time together. We were the last ones out and I wandered over to the RUN transition area to start my Volunteer Job for the day as the rest of the Ladies headed out to find good spots to post some great signs they had made for Nancy, Ellie and the TRI Bloggers.

GWO girls
"Here's to the Ladies who Brunch - Linae, Dawn, Dianne and Shawn" (I took the picture...)

My job at the "Run Out" involved helping 3 other young ladies track and log the runners as they left transition. We were "backup" incase something went wrong with the timing system. So we stood and yelled out numbers while one person wrote them down. It was a hard work especially during hours 7-9 of the race when a large bulk of the racers came through. I tried so hard to no just call out numbers but recognize faces but it was pretty hard to see a face when you are looking at people's race belts 90% of the time. Of all the people that I saw (and we are talking over 1900 racers or more) there were only two people who I know for sure saw me too!

One was Bolder and the other was Nancy! I was SO EXCITED when I recognized Bolder that I fear that I almost made him trip at the timing mat. I had looked at his number, shouted it to my partner and said "Looking good "G" (first names were on the race bibs)...and then I thought ...hmmm ... I know that name, HEY I KNOW THAT FACE!! And I screamed !! GO BOLDER GO!!!! He looked at me and a moment passed and I got the most wonderful smile and He said "Holly!" and he skipped over the timing mat and was gone! Later when we talked, Bolder would tell me that he was having a hard time transitioning and that my cheer gave him a boost! I was glad he remembered the cheer and not the little skip/trip.

The other person I got to see was, Nancy, and she was still going strong and looking good with just over 10 hours on the race clock. She gave me a wave and even smiled for my camera. While I never saw Ellie, I know she made it onto the run after I called Linae to check... Ellie just slipped right by me on the run start!

Nancy Starting the Run ...

My shift at the Run Out ended at 5:30 when they officially closed the bike course. It was sobering to see several bikes being rolled into the transition area through after the cut off and my heart went out to those athletes. After a rough swim, not making the Bike must have been heartbreaking and I was thankful that I didn't have to be the one to tell anybody that they could not continue their race day.

I took a 30 minute break, met up with Linae and Shawn, got some pizza and then headed over for ROUND TWO as a Volunteer at the Finish Line. While Shawn and Linae worked the SPACE BLANKETS, I worked the Volunteer registration table. At first I was worried that I would not get to see much but by that time, I was tired and hoarse and ready for a bit of a break so sitting at a table at the finish line handing out tshirts and pointing out Finish Line Captains was fine with me.

Linae and Shawn BUSTED THEIR BUTTS at the Space Blanket table. For a while it was just the two of them pulling blankets and helping the Finisher Escorts wrap them aroudn finishers. Eventually they got a bit of a chance to really enjoy their job but they were under alot of pressure and yet they still manage to look great and smiel for every athlete and my camera!

Shawn "strikes a quick pose" for me with a space blanket!

Linae had a smile for everybody!!

At one point, as I sat at the table checking somebody in, I looked up and happened to see Linae talking to a person who looked like Nancy and my first thought was "My god she just had the Marathon PR of her life" and then I looked at my chono on my watch and thought "Oh, I hope she is okay..."

Nancy had been having a very tought Marathon and had made the decision at the start her second loop, to end her race day. We got her a mylar blanket and I had her sit with me at the Table. We talked about her race up until that point and she sat quietly, drinking some water and chicken broth and growing paler every few minutes.

After some time under the tent, we decided that I would go with Nancy down to transition so she could change into some dryer clothes and bring her bags and gear over to her rental car. We walked to transition, found her bags and Buttercup and walked about a quater mile to the RV park where Ellie and her husband were staying and Nancy had parked. We left her bags, she changed and then we walked her gear to the check in to be returned home.

At that point, after racing over 13 hours, nobody would have thought twice if Nancy had said, "I am heading back to the condo for a hot shower and sleep. But Nancy simpley dropped off Buttercup and headed back toward the finish line with me to hang with Linae, Shawn, Dianne, and Dawn as we awaited Ellie's arrival.

Ellie had a hard marathon herself and was running about 2 hour behind expectations. We waited with baited breathe at the final turn to the finish line and eventually she came running out of the dark!! As Ellie ran into the finishing shute, she raised her arms high and the whole crowd let up a big cheer as she crossed the timing matt on her 2nd Ironman finish.

After Ellie's finish, we gave her quick hugs and all began to head back to our hotels/condos for the night. Linae, Shawn, Dianne and I were tired but hungry after such a long day. We made a stop at Waffle House (only because HOOTERS was at their last call) and had some breakfast at 12:30AM. As we payed the bill, about 20 people entered Waffle House, timing had been on our side!

We got back to the hotel and CRAWLED into bed. We may not have raced that day but 17 hours of volunteering and spectating can be just as taxing, in a different way, of course.

SUNDAY, November 5th:

My ONLY job today was to take one picture....that of Linae signing up for her first IRONMAN! Of course as she stood in line, I dragged Shawn with me to the Ironman Expo tent to look at all the gear and walked out with a running skirt, a dry-tech top, a new hat AND a bracelet. How could I resist? At least I didn't leave with a 2007 Ironman Florida Entry ... I left that to Linae for this year!

dotted line
With her penguin for support, Linae signs on the dotted line!

Linae's Ironman Florida 2007 Entry ...

The rest of the day was spent relaxing as a group at Kathy's condo in Panama City. We induldged in a few bottles of Champagne, toasting Ironman and our friendships. We had a wonderful dinner out and a quiet night in ... and in keeping with how completely loving and generous and thoughtful my TRI Blog ladies are, Nancy, Shawn and Linae suprised me with a very unexpected gift of my own.

They made me an "Ironman Starter Kit" full of all sorts of great books, gear and inspiration to get me started including my own IMFL waterbottle, towel and Nancy's actual race day swim cap. These wonderful, thoughtful crazy women made me cry!! And since the rule was that "Nobody Cry's Alone ..." a few tears were shed. (I'll post more on the Ironman Starter Kit later ....this post is already too long)

MONDAY, November 6th:

I had the chance to arrange it so that I could fly home with Nancy so I did just that. It was a real joy to be able to share so much of her weekend with her and I can only hope that I gave her all the support that she needed not only that weekend but throughout this past year. I didn't get to meet all the TRI bloggers that I had hoped to meet but I came away from the weekend with some stronger friendships and some amazing inspiration. Who can ask for more than that?

Nancy, Shawn , Linae, and Kathy .. you ladies have and continue to inspire me every day. Thank you for your friendship and support! I can only hope that I give you as much as you give me.

Dianne and Dawn, you gals ROCK even if you drive a "cold" covertable!!

Ellie, you are my Ironman and I will still ride with you in the pouring rain any day, you just ask!

Bolder, Nancy, Shelley, Kahuna, Ellie ... keep Living STRONG my friends! I am so following in your footsteps! IronBound in 2008!

October 27-29: LiveSTRONG Summit, Austin, TX

I have always been a Lance Armstrong Foundation supporter, from the beginning. I started as a "Lance Armstrong Fan" first and formost. I was inspired, like many fellow cyclists, by his story and thought that it was great that he had the courage to continue to help other Cancer survivors even after he was cancer-free. When I suddenly found myself in the role of "Cancer Survivor", I struggled with how much I was going to let that be a part of my life. Don't misunderstand, once you are diagnosed with Cancer, it never leaves your life, but you have the choice to deal with it and then, if you are lucky enought to survive, put it away OR you can choose to share your story, reach out to others and find a away to make a difference. There is no right or wrong choice because it is a personal choice based on your life, life style and desires.

Since I had already done so much by blogging about my day-to-day struggles while in treatment, I was pretty sure that I would continue the commitment beyond the day that I got my first "all clear" scans. Still, I wasn't really clear on how I was going to make a difference. With your help, I raised money for the LAF through the LiveSTRONG Challenge but I didn't consder that too much of a "challenge" it was more of a matter of "proving to myself" that I could continue to be athletic and raising some money for a great charity while I did it. I have had experience raising funds for other charitable causes and I knew what was possible, it was easy make that commitment of myself.

Choosing to apply to be a Delegate for the Innagural LiveSTRONG Summit was a much harder decision. I was stepping outside of my comfort zones. I was, even by applying, telling the Lance Armstrong Foundation, that I was a survivor who wanted my voice heard, who wanted to share my story and who wanted to do something more than just survive.

I had a big idea on how I could make a difference in the lives of other Cancer patients and Survivors. An idea that scares me most days because I know it is a good one. You can't sit on ideas like those .... they gnaw away at your conscience ... and I knew that putting this idea aside would fly in the face of my own determined effort to "Live STRONG". So I applied to the Summit, knowing it could be an opportunity to share my story and maybe let me establish some good contacts who could help me get my project off the ground while finding some inspiration. I got all of that and so much more.

I arrived in Austin, TX on Friday afternoon after a "sprint" down the Dallas/Ft Worth "C" terminal (30 gates) since my flight from DC was 20 minutes delayed. It was like living the scene in a movie. I ran down the terminal with my boarding pass waving in the air and as I got on the plane, they literally shut the door behind me. The only negative was that my left calf gave me a little "twinge of protest" by way of a cramp that left me limping once we got to Austin.

Once at the Airport, I met up with Cindi H. and we sat and talked and waited for more CCC folks to get into town. Around 2PM, with "the other Steve B", we got on the "last bus" that would get us to registration before opening ceremonies. We met "Mitch" (aka Dave Mitchell) on the bus and Dave and Steve convinced the bus to wait a few more minutes and Keli Ann and a few more Live STRONG delegates were able to make it on the bus!

Opening Ceremonies were outstanding! First up was Dr. Antonia Novella, the first female and first Hispanic U.S. Surgeon General, who spoke on "The Power of Cancer Survivors as Advocates. Following her inspiring words, Jim Collins, author of the best-seller "Good to Great," ended the afternoon session. Both speakers were really passionate and provided a lot of thought provoking ideas.

After the opening ceremonies, our CCC gang scrambled to get enough tickets for the CNN event, I picked up my luggage and we all walked toward the hotels together. Cindi and I checked into our room at the Hilton, changed and headed back to the Convention Center. My plan was to meet a my friend Melanie and her boyfriend Dave for dinner since I was in Texas but we didn't plan to meet until later in the evening after 8PM or so.

After bidding the group "Have Fun!", I headed down to the Congress Bridge with the hopes of catching the nightly "Flight of the Bats." I spent about 30 minutes chatting on the phone with my boyfriend Jim, who searched the internet to give me an approximate time for sunset while I sat in the park enjoying the Austin vibe.

There ended up being quite a crowd at the "Bat Bridge" and it was well worth the wait to see all those bats head out for the night on their search for food. Watching the bats look for food made my stomach grumble so I wandered up toward 6th Street to check out the available options. I stopped into a corner deli and grabbed a half sandwich and a drink since my last meal had been breakfast at 8AM.

Around 9PM, Melanie and Dave called to say they were nearly to the Hilton and we met up and headed out to dinner. We ate at the Magnolia Café, a cool diner, and the Vegi Tacos were outstanding!

Melanie and Holly ~ 20 years of frienship!

Around 10:45, Mel and Dave dropped me off at the Hilton and I checked my voicemail to see where the CCC gang was. I had a message from Mitch saying to stop by ThreadGill's for a drink. I called to make sure they were still there and Cindi told me that they were already paying the tab, while in the background I heard some CCC voices yelling "Is that Holly from Hooters?"

I walked towards ThreadGill's and met Cindy and Mitch on the Congress "Bat" Bridge and we walked back to the hotel together. Whereupon Cindi and I settled in for the night. I took responsibility for setting the alarm for the morning...

SATURDAY, October 28th:

So at 6:15 the next morning, my watch alarm went off. Of course, I had forgotten that I did not set my watch back an hour to Central Time .. So it was actually 5:15AM. Good thing Cindi is a morning person!

I want to say something about Cindi H. She is the most energetic person I have EVER MET! She was bouncing on my bed, singing "Good Morning" and then when she came out of the shower, she sang me a song that she made up in the shower, to the tune of "I want Candy" called "I had Cancer". Needless to say, that song was in my head the rest of the day.

Cindi and I headed to breakfast with a quick stop by the Cyber Café where we discovered that Cindi had already made the "Summit Blog" in her CCC hat.
We share breakfast with 3 other survivors, a Beast Cancer survivor/Triathlete originally from New Zealand, A Chemo Nurse/Breast Cancer Survivor from Florida and a Leukemia Survivor from the midwest.

For the duration of the Summit, I sat at Table 34 with a great bunch of folks. Carol, Kevin, Beth, Valerie, Joan and Jaun. We had a good mix. 3 of us were survivors and 4 of group were caregivers so we has perspectives from both sides of the cancer experience.

The speakers on Saturday were excellent and I think really helped me focus on being open and willing to think outside of the box. We spent the morning answering two questions:

1. What, from diagnosis to today, stands out as the biggest issue in terms of *your* cancer experience?

2. If you could change anything that would make your experience better what would it be?

Everybody at the table was honest, forthcoming and I felt we all listened well. We tried to keep to the topics at hand and asked good questions. The results that came back from the room, as a whole, were very telling and seemed to directly reflect the actual conversations at our table.

We took a lunch break and after lunch, the LAF database gurus has compiled the results into 10 "Unmet" Issues. The afternoon session was spent discussing two of the "Unmet" issues and brainstorming solutions the answers. There were some incredible ideas that came out of these sessions and to see even one or two of them really come to fruition on a national scale would be outstanding. I came away from those session really believing that, on the whole, the summit did some fantastic work.

The afternoon speakers were all Summit participants who had already started programs of their own. We had five speakers who share their programs, Genne' McDonald, Tamika Felder, Richard Nares and Susan Shinagawa. They shared their programs, the obstacles they face and the progress and achievement they had made.

In particular, I was able to get a lot of good information from Genne McDonald's Team Survivor program that would help me with my own personal action plan and I made a contact with Tamika Felder from here in DC. I offered my Graphic Design services to Tamika as she works with her non-profit foundation this year on putting on a 4K walk in the area. I'm looking forward to being able to help her out.

We wrapped up the day's work with a great Drum Café experience. LAF had brought in a Drumming Group who preformed and coached up into a big Summit Drum Jam Session. It was a physical, tangible example of "Unity is Strength" and a whole heck of a lot of fun!

Dinner that evening was at the Austin Music Center. The CCC folks were spread out amongst 3 tables. The main table being front and center for the evening entertainment. They sang to the Mariachi Band and cheered the various dancers on. It was a great way to enjoy some good TexMex and a drink.

After dinner with Keli Ann (L) and Cindi (R)

After dinner the group split between two Piano Bars. I spend the night with Keli Ann, Cindi, Tom, Brenan, Steve and Greg (or was it Gary? I hate that I can't remember!). First we headed to Six, a bar part-owned by Lance, where we all had a drink and Tom and Keli Ann bought "Six" cycling jerseys. Then Cindi headed back to the room to sleep before her very early wake up, Steve left for a solo stroll along 6th Street and the five of us went to the Ivory Cat Piano Bar to listen to some music and watch the Halloween Nightlife stroll by. We enjoyed a few songs, Keli Ann and I had a shot (a "Nuts & Berrys" for her and a "Dirty GirlScout" for me) and eventually we all left the bar to "people watch" on 6th Street. We had a very fun time pointing people out and "oogling" the costumes. Too soon though, I headed back to the Hilton to get some sleep since I planned an early morning run with Mitch.

By far, the best costume on 6th Street in Austin that weekend ...

SUNDAY, October 29th:

Sunday morning, 630AM, Mitch and I met for our 1 hour run along Austin's Town Lake Trail. It was great to spend time with Mitch, we really got a chance to talk about my personal action plan, which he offered to help with before we had even gotten to Austin and we got a chance to share some stories about each others families and how we connected with CCC.

The only downside of the run was my calf. It seems that I pulled it a little more than I realized running between gates on Friday and just about 2 miles into the run, my calf decided to let me know that it was "NOT" running today. I felt a little "pop" along with quite a sharp pain and Mitch and I slowed the run down to a walk back to the hotel. Mitch gave me some great running tips, which I plan to implement as soon as my calf has healed. It was wonderful being able to spend an hour getting to know each other and enjoying the beautiful early morning weather.

Since Cindi had left at 430AM, I was on my own for breakfast after I checked out of the Hilton. I grabbed a muffin and some fruit, checked my email and headed back to Table 34 for the final session.

The speakers on Sunday were outstanding. Steve Case, John Kerry and Elizabeth Edwards all spoke from the heart and I really enjoyed their candor, honesty and drew a lot of inspiration from their talks.

Then it was time to work out our own personal action plans and I started to flesh out the plans for my program "Chemo to 5K" which Mitch and I are going to try to get started both in Pittsburg, PA and Washington, DC this spring. I'll tell you more about that in a later email.

Soon enough the morning session and the Summit was coming to a close. Angela and Jerry Kelly were awarded the Live STRONG Award and even though I have not had a chance to meet them in person, I had to tell you that I was so proud to know that they were part of the CCC community.

They ended the Summit with Wide Awake performing the song "LiveSTRONG" live. Up until then, I had done a pretty good job of keeping the tears in check. I teared up once or twice throughout the weekend but when that song started, forget about it... I was a mess of tears. It felt good so I just went with it!

Then the event was over and Keli Ann and I rode the bus to the airport together where I played "Run Around and be Unfocused" while I tried to get the new ticket for the later flight that American Airlines put me on because my connecting flight to Dallas had been cancelled. Keli Ann was a total doll, she stayed with me until I got it all figured out and help a few other confused summit people as well and then she and I grabbed some TexMex and I walked her to her gate where we stood and chatted with other summit folks until she boarded her flight. Then I walked to my gate, talked at length with Sara from Chicago (who also attended the summit) until we boarded the plane for the long ride home.

5 hours later (one layover of an hour in Chicago) I was back in my house, kitten's in my lap, purring and chattering and happy to see me.

On the whole, the event was fantastic and I feel really energized and empowered to work on my personal action plan. I also came away with a lot less "fear" about really stepping up and doing something more involved than some personal fundraising and I see that as an unexpected plus on a personal level! On a National level, I am really excited to see what LAF can do with some of the UNMET NEEDS that we identified, with our help, of course.

Holly reminding you that "Attitude is Everything!"