As most of you know, I signed up for Team In Training in 2009, shortly after my Grandmother passed of Acute Leukemia. I really enjoyed being a part of the TEAM as a participant, and I made a few friendships that have endured the test of time. In October 2011, one of those TNT acquired friends, Jim Asker told me he was going to be the Coach of the Williamson County (Wilco) Team (my county), he then asked me to be a mentor. I found out that the 2010-2011 year was not a good one for the Wilco team, and there were plans to NOT have it in 2011-2012. Jim was going to try to put it together at the last minute and he needed help. Frankly, I did not want to do it. It sounded like it would be a lot of work and I was not sure I would enjoy it. 7 months later, I can tell you that it was one of the best things I have ever done.
Let me tell you about my little team:
David – I meet David at the first recruiting meeting we had in Williamson County. David liked the idea of raising money for TNT, but he was pretty sure he could not actually do a half marathon, and he doubted he could raise his minimum commitment. I was not sure we would be able to keep David active on the TEAM at first, but I KNEW he could do it, and after the first of the year, David really got into the groove and become a huge part of the team. Not only showing up to do the work, but coming out and support the entire team at nearly ALL of the fundraising events our teammates had, whether at Chick-fil-a or the Good Cup. Yesterday David completed his first half-marathon and he was above the minimum commitment before his company adds another $200 to his account!
James – (Sorry, I was going to do the names in alphabetical order, but I had to talk about James, before I talked about Florian). James has had the experience that makes everyone nod their head and say, “Yup, that is why we keep asking people to donate to LLS”. You see, 5 years ago, James’ daughter Katie was diagnosed with Leukemia. Katie was placed on a special chemo that quickly wiped the cancer out of her body. For those of you not as familiar, the 5 year mark is huge, since if you make it 5 years without a recurrence, the Leukemia is considered CURED. James fought through plantar faciites and finished the half marathon yesterday! James also had another huge (or maybe just tall) contribution to the team: Florian
Florian – During one of our first Group Training Sessions (GTS), James had an extremely tall young man with him. Florian is an exchange student from Germany, and he is about 6’7″ (hard to miss this guy in a crowd). Florian’s first run was pretty incredible, he shot out ahead of the group, running 8 minute miles and looked like a tall gazelle. Florian made it to several GTS’ with James, then one day, he signed up with Team In Training, you see he also had a connection with cancer, but his did not have the happy outcome of James’. When Florian did his mission moment, I was so inspired, I wrote a full blog post about it. Florian was adopted by the team and looked upon as our younger and taller brother. Sadly, Florian had a mishap with a trampoline, causing him to break his ankle, preventing him from running the half-marathon, but he still came out to the start and finish lines to support the rest of the team!
Joe – When Joe first joined the team, he was not sure he could make it to any of the GTS’s, since he had a previous commitment at church. Fortunately, Joe was able to clear his schedule and start running with us on Saturdays. Joe in famous (infamous?) for almost always asking “Are we there yet?” when we have taken less than 20 strides on whatever training run we are doing. Joe kept form and asked us as we crossed the start line of the half marathon “Are we there yet?”. Despite having been very ill for the 4 days leading up to the half marathon, Joe struggled through and finished the half. I hope to be half of the runner Joe is when I am his age.
Lee – Lee really did not want to do this Team In Training thing, but his wife (Tonda) wanted too. Lee is a full time teacher with an active family life, and Lee is studying to be a lawyer (Yup, a little busy). The first time I ran with Lee for a distance was right before the end of last year, and he was tired. I kept trying to get Lee to talk (it is a good way to judge if you are running too fast), but he was silent coming up a couple of hills, yet he hung with Mike and me. Suddenly after coming up a particularly long hill, Lee started talking and joking with us, and I could tell he had turned the corner as was starting to enjoy running. Lee completed TWO half marathons this year, first by running the Tom King Half, then by completing the Country Music Half with Tonda.
Mike – Mike has been my running buddy for 11 years, he makes me run when I don’t feel like it, and I do the same for him. Mike has been a great teammate for the half marathon, and he has figured out a way to run the New York City full marathon with Jim, Sammi, and me! Mike will even be fundraising, though this time for another charity he feels close to, wounded marines. I know with Mike as my training partner, the NYC Full will be accomplished and we will run it well. My wife commented that when watching the live updates on the half marathon, Mike and I were crossing each checkpoint at the same second! Mike and I finished the half marathon at the same time and I cannot wait to do the same in New York City!
Pat – It took me awhile to get to know Pat, he seemed to be a really nice guy, but usually by the time I got done running, he was long gone! Pat is a speedster and was running 2-4 minutes faster than me on his long runs. I kept track of him, and he was doing great as a fundraiser. In the last few months I was lucky enough to spend some post run time with Pat. He is working full time and studying for his RN degree (final test is 4/30/12!!). Beyond that, he is an 8 minute per mile runner, and he crushed the half marathon, running it sub-2:00 at 1:54!
Sarah – Sarah’s first GTS sort of classified the type of person she was. She showed up, was nice to everybody, then went out there and ran smoking fast. Sarah was a little concerned about her fundraising goal, and I had to talk her into raising it to $2,000. After a mission moment that particularly hit home delivered by Glorisa (one of our mentors), Sarah emailed me and said she was super motivated after the mission moment, and she asked me to proof read a letter she had written to her family and friends. I knew when I read her letter that $2,000 was way too low of a goal. Sarah not only was #2 nationally as a fundraiser, she ran most of the season pregnant and she finished the Country Music Half at 20 weeks pregnant!
Veronica – I still am a bit amazed at Veronica. She had previously run in a Team In Training event in New York, she move here in January and joined our Team in February. That is a very short window to get her training and her fundraising in. Veronica not only hit her minimum early, she proved to be a very good runner and a great teammate. She fit in right away and was certainly and asset to the entire team.
All in all, I find them to be an amazing group and amazing individuals. My only concern about being a mentor or coach in the future is that these folks set such a high bar, I don’t know how I could ever have a better team. It was an truly incredible experience for me and I look forward to continuing the friendships I have established!
Even though I cursed him a bit early in the season, I want to thank Jim Asker for talking me into the mentoring job, it really has been a wonderful experience!