TT with sebelius










Team Transplant is a comprehensive training/exercise program that started at the University of Washington Medical Center in 2001 to promote fitness as well as organ donation awareness. Led by 3-time Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, Alysun Deckert, a registered dietitian at UWMC, the team’s goal is to train for and complete the Seattle Half Marathon. The group consists of UWMC staff, transplant recipients and their friends and family members. The first year, the team had 35 members. Five were transplant recipients. Since its inaugural year, Team Transplant has grown to over 180 participants, including 30 transplant recipients.Participants start training in mid-August, gradually building up their mileage over a 4-month period, to prepare for the 13.1 mile event. During this time, they are also encouraged to participate in informational clinics on stretching, strengthening, sports nutrition, walking technique, and hill running technique. In addition, they receive weekly motivational e-mails with team updates and training tips and are encouraged to attend group practices, held at various locations in the Seattle area on Saturday mornings.

Recent Press Releases:

Nancy McNeil shares her story in a video created by Shannon Perry:

The Seattle Times’ Education Lab Storytellers Event featured our own Ameen Tabatabai:


“Here’s the link about last night’s event as well as a full video of me telling my story.  Enjoy!”

Transplant Living Story of Hope Contest Winner…Oh yeah!  It’s Team Transplant’s Willie Richardson!


Ameen Tabatabai in The UW Daily:

Willie Richardson and Jack Frank in this month’s NW Runner (Check out the cover….to read the article, you’ll need to look for the print version):

Jennifer Herlihy’s webcast on Patient Power, with Alysun Deckert and Dr. Carithers :  http://www.patientpower.info/program/progress-in-liver-transplant-the-teams-perspective

Lenard Yen in  today’s Seattle Times: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2013545358_marathon29m.html

Seattle Marathon, Seattle, 2014 – Wrap-up


Now that the dust has settled…or…well…at least the icicles have melted
and the puddles have dried up…it’s nice to look back at our race day
nearly 3 weeks ago.

Once again you all proved to be fearless…showing up on a perilously cold
morning to brave whatever elements presented themselves to tackle the
challenging Seattle Half Marathon course…As I stood out on
Galer…enjoying the sun and drinking way too much coffee to keep myself
warm, I met a woman who…as it turned out…had a sister-in-law who
recently received a kidney transplant at UWMC.  It was so much fun to tell
her about our team and to share your experiences as you came by us to go up
the hill…

And that’s the really cool thing about our team…everyone has a story.  Of
course…we got to see Nancy McNeil‘s story on video…and how awesome to
see that it made it onto the UW Medicine Facebook page.  We also got to see
a picture of Jack Frank there with a short summary of his story…but each
and every one of you brought something with  you to the start
line…obstacles you’ve had to conquer this season…goals that you wanted
to reach….and even if you didn’t quite manage to reach your goal…you
walked away a stronger, more enlightened person…You gained fitness over
the course of the 16 week-season; you learned things about yourself and
about training ; and you made an investment…both in yourself and in the
team members who support you.

So here’s to all our stories…

*    Jennifer Herlihy-Amazing what a little coffee break can do for
you…Jennifer was our top finisher crossing the line in 2:08:48.  She’s a
wonderful example of consistency…having now completed 20+ half marathons
since her transplant!
*    Shirley Schultz-Fresh  off her successful half marathon run in
Disney World…and squeezing in training in between practices this year’s
Christmas Revels concern down in Tacoma…Shirley managed another successful
*    Mari Jo Fraser-just  another day of cross-training to get ready for
baseball season-all the while balancing playing mom at hockey and football
*    Lenard Yen-the  consummate walker, artist, and philosopher…so
incredible how all worlds are intertwined!  Check out his most recent
exhibit of paintings at Duet on Vashon Island


*    Jon Baird-Boeing engineer, master baker, and one of our most
dedicated team members who shows up nearly every Saturday morning (unless
he’s been called away to France on business)
*    Micah Gwinn-One of our most faithful participants who manages his
training while working as an x-ray technician at the VA and living on a
*    Greg Eisen-Greg is another super dedicated team member who enjoys
the social aspect of the team.  I don’t think I ever see him walking alone.
Looking forward to what he and his son, Lenard, and the rest of the
committee come up with to refresh our website!
*    John Martinez-One of our most enthusiastic members…he rebounded
from some knee issues that held him back last season-a wonderful example of
not giving up!
*    Julie Nord-Second Team Transplant half marathon…working in her
training between being a mom, kick boxing, and her new duties with TRIOS!
*    Nancy McNeil + husband, Bruce-Team Transplant rookies who have
already made a mark on the team.  They showed up for nearly every practice,
and in fact…I’ve already got Nancy lined up to help with apparel

*    Ken Sutha-Pediatric Resident at Children’s Hospital…balancing
medical training, being on call, and training and finishing a half marathon!
*    Ameen Tabatabai-Mary  Gates Scholar, Bishop Sankey t-shirt creator,
Champion for bringing the NBA back to Seattle, soon-to-be UW alum, and 6
time half marathon finisher!
*    Jack Frank-Soon to be high school grad, baseball player, performer
(stay tuned for details on the Blanchet spring musical), and 3 time half
marathon finisher!

*    Mark Rosinbum-one of our original team members-master contractor;
World traveler who has completed several legs of Spain’s Camino de Santiago
pilgrimage trail…hasn’t missed a Seattle Half Marathon in 14 years!
*    Mark Scott + family-So  cool how Mark has integrated exercise into
his life by walking each day to work and by drawing his son, his nephew, his
nephew’s kids, his wife, his sister, his friends, and his dog into doing it
with him…
*    Starla Sage + husband, Doug-Our lone lung representative this season
who made good on her declaration to the group on practice day 1 that she
would be training for and participating in this race despite several lengthy
trips to sunny places…

*    Julie Sprinkle-Team Transplanter since 2001…She continues to train
for races and volunteer-She tailors each and every practice route to make it
the safest, most enjoyable, most efficient course possible!
*    Janette Morantes-Team Transplanter since 2001… continues to train
and volunteer!  She is one of our most dedicated and enthusiastic
*    Susan Bussell-Another Team Transplanter since the beginning…still
trains and now has her family joining her as her daughter Rachel ran the
race this year also.  She keeps our practices well-supplied with Fig
Newtons, Gatorade, and water!
*    Heather Adkins-So wonderful that Ron Adkins has got his family
*    Debbie Tamura-And same with Linda Benefiel...I love it when the team
and exercise become a family affair
*    Marcella San Martini-Volunteer at UWMC, former pharmacist, world
traveler, and amazingly speedy walker who often places in her age group (the
Seattle Marathon just doesn’t break down the half marathon into age groups)
*    Andy Deckert-Another Team Transplanter since 2001…hasn’t missed a
Seattle Half Marathon in 14 years…each year travelling all the way from
Kansas to do it!
*    Shannon Perry-Film student extraordinaire who ran the New York City
Marathon earlier in November and came back to walk the Seattle Half with
Nancy and Bruce McNeil
*    Joyce Jackson-Director of the Northwest Kidney Center who showed up
to practically every Saturday morning practice…It was so fun to be a part
of her first ever half marathon experience!

And thanks to everybody who helped out on the sidelines and behind the
scenes…Truly…it takes a village!

*    Ron Adkins who showed up at the start to check you all in and then
manned the Victory Recovery Area to make sure you all finished okay.
*    Leslie Olson who watched for you at the finish line…
*    Brian Lee who was out at Roanoke Park to cheer you on at the 9-mile
*    Susan Isoshima and Mike Gave who joined me out on Galer to provide
cheering support and take pictures
*    Luann Majeed who did an incredible job coordinating our race water
station on a chilly, icy morning…
*    To all the incredible folks who showed up to help her out:
Nancy Smith and family; Marty Chakoian; Turner Prewitt;
Shelby Slagle and her husband; Linda Benefiel; Mike Bailey and his parents,
Pat and David; Kimberly Scheer; Alvin Valencia; Robert and Claudia Moore;
and Anne Richardson
*    Janette Morantes, Starla Sage, and Jon Baird who all helped plan the
post-race party…and everyone who stayed afterwards to help clean up!
*    Carmella and Sam Patterson who made a special effort to join us for
our post-race celebration—it was wonderful to see you and have a chance to
catch up!
*    And…thanks to everyone who helped out at the Expo…Carla and Dave
Trulson; Julie Nord; Doug and Starla Sage;  Shirley Schultz…and gasp!  I’m
not sure who else…but I’m sure there were others!

Recap of Seattle Marathon, Seattle, 2013

In case you missed it, we had an absolutely fantastic time 2 Sundays ago!   Amazingly…it did not rain.  I repeat…it did not rain.  Every weather forecast you saw predicted 90% chance of precipitation…but…I’ll say it one more time… it absolutely…positively…100%… did not rain!   And from the number of participants out on the course, it seemed that there were a lot of people who chose to stay home rather than risk a cold, wet, early morning 13.1 mile slog over Seattle hills…but …incredibly…that didn’t happen in our group (despite a Facebook post from one of our team members who lives South of Seattle, stating that she was not going to show up if the weather turned out to be as…and I quote…. ” #$%*^@”  as predicted…. but even she showed up.)

And…not only that…you were all on time!  I’ve never had everyone show up on time before…maybe all the people who opted out due to the weather made traffic and parking less of a hassle?  Whatever it was…it was awesome!  We got a couple of team pictures…you all had some slack time to talk, discuss strategy, recap your holiday events…hit the port-a-potties…

Our finishline support showed up early…Thanks to our heart guys…Ron Adkins, Dick Fitzgerald, and Dennis Cole!  Susan Bussell was at Channel 9 at 6:45am to pick up the banner for her cheering station at Mile #9…and we had nearly 30 people helping Luann Majeed with our water station at mile #2 and they were all on post at 5:45am….

Thanks to all of these folks for the fantastic raceday support….
Finish:   Ron Adkins, Dick Fitzgerald, Dennis Cole; U Prep volunters; Niamh Kieran, Leslie Olsen

Water station:  Luann Majeed; Shelby Shagle; Nancy Smith and family; Dixie Service; Starla Sage; Maggie Kim;  Seth Hennesey and his son, Alistair; Linda Benefiel; Bridget O’Connor; Molly Simms; Kimberly Scheer; Turner Prewitt; Karen and Stephen Kringle;  Heather Adkins; Kyle Mignalia

Mile 9 Support: Susan Bussell, Kalpa Ramanathadan, Michelle Mazzei, Chris Lee, Meleesa Wyatt

Expo:  Tami Sadusky and Mike Anthony, Marty Chakoian, Mary Meister, Cindy Weber, Ameen Tabatabai, Dixie Service, Alicia Boyd, Chesca Ward, Colin Rines, Vanessa Whitacre, Karen Kringle

Post-race Party:  Vanessa Withacre, Luann Majeed, Glenda Roberts, Ken Sutha, and Janette Morantes
And congratulations to all of our racers…Overall, we had 44 participate in the half marathon–24 were transplant recipients, living donors, and pre-transplant!
Jennifer Herlihy (Liver Transplant)
I think this might’ve been #20 for Jennifer…Hard to keep track!   Great job, Jen…and thanks for being such a wonderful example of good post-transplant living!
She’s also now featured on the UW Medicine Homepage:  Hit the 4th button:  http://www.uwmedicine.org/Pages/default.aspx

Alvin Valencia (Kidney transplant)
This was number 11 out of a goal of 12 for the year.  He’s counting it as his November race and has something else planned in December to make it one a month for 2013!

Shirley Schultz (Liver)
Great to have Shirley back and looking so strong…she’s finally made it to the sub-3 hour club.  And if anyone had a chance to take in the Puget Sound Christmas Progam, it’s obvious the conditioning prepared her well for her performance…look for pictures soon on Facebook!

Mari Jo Fraser (Liver)
Somehow Mar Jo has continued to squeeze training into her busy life and was able to finish another half marathon….though it sounds like she’s “enjoying”  a little downtown now that the race is over…

Jon McLees (Liver)
Jon surprised me by showing up for our last Leschi practice (He also did this to me about 11 years ago…he was right out of transplant and wanted to do the race but didn’t show up until our last Leschi Practice…amazingly …he finished the race that year!).  It’s wonderful that he continues to be committed to the team despite living outside of Seattle, going back to school, having car problems, and starting a new job.   Great to have him out there with us!

Mark Scott (Liver)
Once again, Mark made the Seattle Half a family event.  So fun to see him including his son, Patrick!

Mark Rosinbum (Liver)
Mark is one of our original team members…He is the only one who’s participated in every Team Transplant Seattle Half Marathon…Congrats on lucky #13, Mark!

Lenard Yen (Liver)
What can I say about Lenard?…the guy runs UP Galer!   He continues to blaze trails over on Vashon…can’t wait to bring Team Transplant to the island:-)

Terry Way (Liver)
Terry is another original team member who also makes training a family event by training and racing with his wife, Katy….though I’m not sure she’s been the best influenced based on an alleged text photo of him enjoying a Starbucks latte during the race.

Katy Folk- Way (Living Kidney Donor)
Katy had a brilliant performance…I think she may have even PR’ed…all this despite an unauthorized stop at a Starbucks along the way.

Ronnie Hoglen (Liver)
Another huge improvement…Ronnie took nearly 45 minutes off his time from last year…just think what these guys could have done if they hadn’t stopped at Starbucks!   Next time you’re all turning your cards over to me before the race!

Micah Gwinn (Kidney)
Micah is always tough…his training partners now head to Arizona in November so Micah’s left to do the half marathon on his own in November…  It doesn’t matter though…he shows up no matter what the circumstances and walks his heart (er..kidney??!) out!;-)
Suzanna Moran Litwin (Kidney)
It’s so fun to have Suzanna back after a 3-year break…her finish time of just over 3 hours definitely says that she’s back and stronger than ever!

Ameen Tabatabai (Liver)
This was number 4 for Ameen, and though he’d hoped to run, a knee issue slowed him down a bit this time.  He made up for it later, however…when he announced that he had been awarded one of the Mary Gates scholarships at UW!

Glenda Roberts (Kidney)
Despite some back issues that limited her training, Glenda made it through the 13.1 miles and in a time comparable to what she’s done before!   Once she gets her back ironed out, watch out…those times are going to fall!

Anu Ramanathadan (Kidney)
Anu succumbed to a blister at mile 10…and while I know she was disappointed,  it was a phenomenal performance up to that point!  Next time, Anu…we’ll get you through the final 3.1!

John Martinez (Liver)
John is another one who just continues to improve…his time this year was over 20 minutes faster than he’d previously done on this course!

Jonathon Baird (Liver)
Jonathon is one of our most consistent finishers…I think his training was slowed a bit this season with work commitments but he still managed to finish just over the 3 hour mark!

Greg Eisen (Kidney)
Greg is another very consistent performer with all of his Seattle Half Marathon times falling within 10 minutes of each other.  Look for a big breakthrough soon!

David McCarthy (Living Kidney Donor)
David is one of our living kidney donors…he finished in 1 hour and 45 minutes!   I guess living donors can do okay too:-)

Brian Lee (Liver)
I love having this guy on the team…he just continues to improve…he joined the sub 3 hour club with his performance here. Not only that…he was 11th overall among the male walkers!

Dave Lawson (Kidney)
…and speaking of loving to have someone on our team…this Dave was just transplanted this summer and had the audacity to show up and finish SECOND overall among the male walkers!  This is good stuff, everyone!
Dan Lee (Liver)
Dan travelled all the way from Alaska to join us…he scheduled his medical follow up for the week after the race just so that he could be a apart of the race!  He turned in another amazing performance by a rookie…made only more amazing by the fact that he was just transplanted this year!

Evan Klima (pre-kidney transplant)  
Evan trained for the FULL marathon while also requiring dialysis…He not only finished 26.2 miles in just under 4-1/2 hours…he was called in the next day for a kidney transplant!   https://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=549107741849635&set=a.341663252594086.80662.328724140554664&type=1&theater

…and to everyone else who raced…my apologies if I missed someone (and I’m pretty sure I did)…THANK YOU SO MUCH for training with us and representing us!

Marty Chakoian, Janette Morantes, Susan Isoshima, Julie Sprinkle, Niamh Kieran, Andy Deckert, Mark Scott’s family,  Mike Bailey, Shirley Schultz’s friend, Cal Sturdivant, Joe and Imelda Florenda, Laura Elliott, Sara Curtis…and Marcella Sanmartini…who is one of our UWMC volunteers and a very committed Team Transplant member for the past 10 years…and who WON the women’s 70-74 age group!
Again…thank you so much for a spectacular season and another amazing year of Saturday mornings filled with fitness and that great Team Transplant camaraderie…I so  appreciate all of you and your commitments to the team and to living a healthy lifestyle!

Be sure to mark your Saturday mornings starting in March 2014.  We’ll start up training again…this time for the Seattle Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon in June…I’ll be sending out some very exciting updates soon!


Recap of Seattle Marathon, Seattle, 2012

Looking back over the past 4 months, it really has been a pretty amazing season…Every year I expect something to change…maybe expect isn’t the right word…maybe it’s worry…I worry that our race day weekends won’t seem special; that everything will seem routine…just another half marathon with a bunch of transplant patients (okay…that sounds pretty ridiculous right there!)…but incredibly, each year I approach the weekend with the same combination of excitement, hope, anxiety, exhaustion, and wonder.  I guess the only difference this year was that there was also some sadness mixed in…

Many of you may be thinking…but Alysun, you’re not racing…wouldn’t it be more exciting to be out there running?   Believe it or not…no.  Maybe at one point in my life, but not now.   Now…for me…it’s so much more exciting to realize that we had 50+ people entered in the half and even more exciting to know that 20 were either transplant recipients or donors…and it’s also exciting to see all of the people who helped out on the sidelines…While Jason Stahl, our Olympian, decided to do a Turkey Trot closer to home (which is in Olympia), he still showed up on Saturday to help with our table at the expo… And even though Gilda Popa, Jon White, and Maggie Kim opted out of racing this year, they were up early to help Luann Majeed at water station #2 ….Dick Fitzgerald, Ron Adkins, and Pete Schille all sidelined for some reason this season,  showed up to help Mikki Dailey at our table in the Victory Recovery Area and to take post-race photos for us….Janette Morantes, Susan Bussell, Susan Isoshima, and Michael Gave, decided to participate on a more administrative level, and were out sharing good cheer at Roanoke Park…Glenda Roberts and Vanessa Whitacre, who also missed racing, teamed up with Tami Sadusky, Luann Majeed and Janette Morantes to pull off one of our best post-race celebrations yet!   To me…it’s incredibly exciting to see how everyone has come together…whether it’s on the sidelines or out on the race course…to make our team work!

My hope is that everyone has a good experience…that everyone finishes the race successfully…stays healthy…has fun…and wants to come back and join us in the spring!   Incredibly, we still have 2 of our original team members, Mark Rosinbum and Tami Sadusky, who competed in that first Seattle Half Marathon in 2001 and who are still training and competing with us…In fact…Mark has done every single Seattle Half since that 2001 race!   In addition,  we were blessed with the return of Jon McLees, who hasn’t been able to train the past several years, but started his journey on the comeback trail with us this season…

Yes…my hope is to have people come back every year…but for our team members to know that they have something to come back to…well…I think that means that we’re also providing hope to them which is pretty cool, too!
Another hope of mine is that we’ll have opportunities to share our message…that organ transplants and living donors are able to lead active, vital lives after transplant and that exercise is an important part of life after transplant….and we did get some good PR this season…Check out these stories!
•    Jennifer Herlihyhttp://www.patientpower.info/program/organ-transplant-giving-life-to-others?r=byExpert&oid=8de92970-edac-11df-84cf003048d404c1
•    Jack Frankhttp://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?llr=j9rndegab&v=001Mk_gIOuRuDZXz8Hf1oYh1U4OEfiVZDBXiF0iU4_KgM9DA2eRDzJH_3lmei_SCAEAk6zNvdpH7tyFRvsKIpFhrjqrryXV1AjRf0WE6JcGKGsF-RzyMDGk6d3ztyHk3ExLEDAjwRVIIww%3D
•    Ameen Tabatabai:  Interviewed by The Daily, the UW school paper, last week.   They plan to publish the story at the beginning of the year.  I’ll be sure to send the link…
•    NY Timeshttp://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/06/transplant-centers-struggle-with-donors-obesity/?ref=health

The anxiety comes from having so much going on during race day weekend…there’s the build up which includes getting our entries in on time, hoping that the apparel arrives before the race and figuring out how to distribute it, recruiting volunteers for the UW Medicine table, the water station, the finish area, and a cheering spot along the route…….and then of course…we have Thanksgiving with all of its festivities…followed several days later by the lecture series at the expo…making sure that the Team Transplant phone is all charged up and ready to go and then keeping track of it during the race…making sure that we have our banners and sign-in sheets at the start…trying to find all of you among the masses of people climbing up Galer…especially when the race shirts turn out to be the same color as our’s….holding off on making any trips to a bathroom until I’ve seen everyone go by, fearful that if I leave, I’ll miss somebody…trying to negotiate traffic and finding a place to park back at the finish area…and then…there’s the weather…something over which I have absolutely no control but is probably the one thing that creates the most anxiety for me!   We were so incredibly lucky this year…the race fell on one of 2 days sandwiched between 2 weather patterns…It was a perfect day for racing…just perfect!   And for those of you who are skeptical about this race… despite everything you may have heard,…we’ve only had 2 really, truly awful weather days out of the 12 years that we’ve participated (and yes…one was in 2011!)…Perhaps if I too could believe it, I wouldn’t feel so stressed out in the days leading up to the race!

And…exhaustion! You all may think that you’re the ones who are tired on Sunday night because you’ve just finished a half marathon….but standing out there on the sidelines in the cold can be pretty tiring too…especially when you’re not very close to food or drink…and…then…Omigoodness…having to get up at the post-race party and speak after someone like Glenda Roberts…that consumes all kinds of energy trying to follow her lead …in fact…that one might actually fall under anxiety!

The wonder…that’s the feeling I most look forward to…the feeling that what we’ve done and what we continue to do is incredibly special..the reassurance that it’ll never be routine…Each one of you has an amazing story and here are just a few from our weekend…
•    Willie Richardson, our living kidney donor, placed 37th overall in an incredible time of 1:21:28!
•    Alvin Valencia continues his amazing comeback…Remember this is the guy who missed running the half with us last year because he got a transplant 2 weeks before the race!
•    Mari Jo Fraser…who somehow manages to make it every year despite juggling school, boy scouts, junior hockey league and her own baseball playing career!
•    Lari Seever and Peter Phan…We hadn’t see either of them all season, but they made it to the race! Hope we get a chance to know them better in the spring!
•    Brian Lee … Several weeks before the race, I asked Brian for his entry form, and he replied that he wasn’t sure he was going to do the race…I’m so glad he decided to do it!   He finished right there with Ameen and Jack in a very impressive 3:13:49 debut!
•    Ronnie Hoglen...Another incredible story…less than a year out from transplant, he trained with his 6-year-old niece who got to cross the finishline with him!
•    Len Yen….How many people actually run UP Galer and into the stadium and hop over the finishline!? (seriously….check out his finish video on the website!)
•    Micah Gwinn…The one who was so skeptical about meeting every Saturday morning is the one we can count on to show up every Saturday morning and for every race!
•    John Baird…Set a personal record by over 20 minutes! Now a sub-2:40 half marathoner and even more of a force to be reckoned with!
•    Greg Eisen….I love how Greg Eisen loves being on the team and how he just smiles at me as he climbs up Galer!
•    Mark Scott… I love seeing his son, Patrick,out there with him…What a wonderful role model for healthy living!

And despite all of these incredible highlights, there was still some room for sadness….I think we all missed having Sam Patterson and Allen Vary out there with us.   They both brought their own unique personalities and perspectives to training…Sam with his competitive hockey player drive and philosophical post-race reflections; and Allen with his unemcumbered zest for life (and bacon) after transplant…

While we missed them dearly…it’s hard to believe that they weren’t actually with us ….I’m betting that each one of us has been impacted by their involvement on the team in some way and that we will carry some piece of that on with us forever.   For Sam, I know that he continues to be inspired everyday by the hope of returning to Saturday morning practices, and for Allen…well…I believe that Allen’s spirit will be an unavoidable presence at each of our workouts and events for a long long time to come.

Thanks to all of you for being such an exciting, hopeful, exhausting, wonderful group of people!   It makes managing the anxiety and sadness a burden that is so much easier to bear.

Recap of Rock n Roll Marathon, Seattle, 2012

There’s no other way to describe it…last Saturday was something special. 

Initially I had a tough time pinpointing exactly what it was…I mean getting up at 4:30 in the morning certainly didn’t make it special (at least not in a good way) …fighting traffic and worrying about parking…not special…overcast skies and the threat of rain…nope…not special either.  But after mulling it over for several days…I finally figured it out.

What made last Saturday so special was the incredible show of teamwork that went into making the day happen…Quite frankly, I think that it actually all started during the weeks leading up to the race.   While I was off on a 10-day vacation in Germany, our planning committee and Homeland Security stepped up to make sure our final, long workout went smoothly…You all coordinated with each other to make sure you had rides and parking passes and strategies to get to the start …you looked out for each other before, during, and after the race…and then pitched in to make the BBQ a huge success!

Here’s a recap of the efforts I found most remarkable and…yes..incredibly special…

From the Start…
Ida and James Boeckstiegel arrived at 4:30am to make sure that they were positioned at the Channel 9 Building on time to meet all of you and have you sign in…The fact that they got up so early to do that was pretty amazing but it’s made even more so when you realize that they had to fight traffic and find parking at the race expo the day before just so that they could purchase the parking pass that allowed them to park so close to Seattle Center. When I arrived at the oh so sluggish hour of 5:45am, they had already scouted out the lay of the finish area so that they could let everyone know where to expect to find them afterwards.  Not only that…they rememberd the sign-in book AND the Team Transplant banner so that we could use it in our group photo! (How many times have we forgotten one or the other?!)

I should also give a shout out to Mother Nature here…While it had been raining quite heavily when I left my house, it miraculously subsided as I exited the freeway….and then eventually just stopped.  It was nice to not have to worry about rain while waiting in the start corrals…but would it hold for the race?… the rest of the day??…the BBQ?!!
To the Shores of Lake Washington and out along the course…
With everything under control at the Channel 9 Ranch, I decided to head out onto the course.  I got back onto I-5, crossed over 520, exited at Montlake, made my way to Lake Washington Boulevard, and drove until the road was closed.  I parked, got of my car, and proceeded the rest of the way on foot.   As I made my way out to my cheering post, the bands were just warming up; soldiers, holding flags, lined the streets as participants approached the 7-mile mark…and pockets of crowd support were beginning to gather.  There was a definite spirit of excitement in the air as the runners leading the what-would-end-up-being-a-nearly-3-hour procession raced by…It’s truly phenomenal how long it takes for 25,000 people, stretched curb to curb, to pass through the streets of Seattle!

I decided to plant myself at the point where the race divided on Lake Washington Boulevard…Marathoners, to the right; Half Marathoners, to the left.   It takes quite a bit of focus to try to pick all of you out of a crowd of 25,000, and I’m always amazed at the number of you that I do actually manage to see….
While still running,  I caught a glimpse of living kidney donor, Willie Richardson, leading the hour and 45 minute pace group.   Carrying the sign steadily in hand the entire 13. 1 miles, he brought his group through to the finish in a very impressive 1 hour and 44 minutes!  I don’t think anyone in his pace group has any room to complain…What he did was nothing short of a work of art!

Once I was in position, the first person to run by was Alvin Valencia…This is a great story as Alvin missed last fall’s Seattle Half Marathon because he was called in for a kidney transplant 2 weeks before the race…the day after completing his last long training run… It’s obvious that he is back and only thriving with the help of his new-found kidney function…His time was very near his PR at just over the 2-hour mark.

Next to cruise by was Jennifer Herlihy...and yes, I mean cruise.  She looked incredibly comfortable, “Donate Life” tattoos on each cheek and wearing the Team Transplant green (instead of her signature pink!)…For Jen, this marked her 19th half marathon since her liver transplant in 2003!  She finished in 2 hours and 7 minutes…

I maintained my laser-sharp focus, scanning the crowds…We were about 1-1/2 hours into the race by now, and it seemed that the waves of people would never end….It was about that time that Mari Jo Fraser appeared on the radar…running steady as ever and taking in all of the scenery.  I believe this was also Mari-Jo’s 19th half marathon since her liver transplant…She finished in 2:22; and probably had a baseball game to go to afterwards.

Allen Vary, competing under an alias for this event, started to realize that he was a little overdressed as he approached me…The temperature was warming and the sun had even peaked out a couple of times as the rain continued to hold off. When he caught my eye, he carefully made his way through  the crowd to drop off his rather sweaty long sleeve shirt…and despite what you may have heard, I accepted it quite graciously!;-)  I’m not sure how many half marathons this has been for Allen…he’s done quite a few since making the transition from bowler to “endurance junkie”…Allen finished in a very fine 2:43:19

Next on the scene was Lenard Yen who was sporting his usual high fashion style, and from what I saw on the website, hamming it up for pretty much every photographer along the course!   Despite the potential for distractions, Len has become one of our most consistent sub-3 hour half marathoners.  He finished this race in a time of 2:56:35…I think this might have been number 15 for Mr. Len Yen!

Soon after, I caught a glimpse on Jonathan Baird’s safari hat…as usual, Jonathon was grinning form ear to ear and thoroughly enjoying himself.  It was quite clear that he was happy to be back out on the half marathon course after sitting out last fall with plantar fasciitis.   He still managed to compete in the Seattle Marathon 5k, but you could tell that he was more at home at the 13.1 mile distance.  John finished in 3:06…a definite sign that he is back!

A little disclaimer:    I’m now going by finishing times because quite honestly, I can’t remember what order everyone came by….I just know that I saw you all.  And with everyone starting in different corrals, a faster finishing time doesn’t necessarily determine the order you came by the 6-mile mark…

Lung recipient Cara Trulson-Essenberg followed closely behind.   What’s so incredible about this is that Carla’s husband convinced her that it would be fun if they were the last 2 to cross the START line….so they waited until the very end which means that they not only got to play catch up to everyone in the corrals ahead of them but were also walking with the pressure of the clock… the 4-hour time limit would start as they crossed the line!   Apparently, Carla was feeling the pressure…When she passed me, she was jogging ahead of husband, Dave, and wasn’t looking back…She had crossed the start line in last place…She would have none of that at the finish!   It turns out that there was nothing to worry about…she finished in a Rock’n Roll PR, 3:25:37!

Rookie lung recipient, Starla Sage, paired up with Team Hope’s Imelda Florendo, to successfully complete her debut half marathon. One of them pushed UP the hills;the other, pushed DOWN the hills.  With all of Starla’s excitement at the start of the race and her admission that she hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before, I was a little concerned that she might go out too fast and fade…but the two of them made a great team and kept each other moving.  Starla along with Imelda finished in a spectacular time of 3:34:37!

Close on their heels was a very strong contingent of kidneys…Tami Sadusky, one of our original team members, led newcomers,  Greg Eisen, who joined us just last fall; Pam Ayer, who joined us this spring; and living donor, Jane Rivedal, also new to the team this spring, through to finish in very similar times, around 3:35:53-55…though thanks to the corral start, I’m not sure that they all saw each other as they were actually spaced about 7 minutes apart on the course.  Micah Gwinn who has been one of our most consistent performers the past 5 years was also part of this group. His time also reflected the corral start…as he finished in 3:46:17 solidifying his standing in the sub-4 hour half marathon club!

Dennis Cole, 2-time heart recipient, along with his wife Carol Lynn, were next. They looked very comfortable and appeared to be setting a good rhythm with their near-perfect pacing…They were followed by Maggie Kim who rallied to join us at the last minute after announcing the night before that she would not be able to make the race. (I got a call from Ida at about 9:30am. “Maggie’s here.  She’s signed in. She said that she’s doing the race.”)   She joined Stacey McCandlish and first year Team Transplanter, Ameen Tabatabai, who walked the entire 13.1 miles carrying a sign that read, ”A liver transplant saved my live. Support organ donation….”     As they passed by, I had no concerns…They were having fun…enjoying the crowds and the music…I’m sure that  between Ameen’s sign and their spirited camaraderie, they influenced more than a few spectators along the way.

Rounding out our team…or so I thought…were John Martinez, Leslie Olson, and Glenda Roberts who all walked by me looking healthy and relaxed as they showed off their recent fitness gains.  John and Leslie were 17 minutes ahead of their finish times in the Seattle Half last November; and Glenda crossed the line with a time that was 19 minutes faster!!  Talk about progress!
And…that was that…another successful event…I just needed to swing by the finish area to make sure everyone was okay.  I left my location, casually backtracking along the path I had taken to my post earlier in the morning.  Impressively, the bands were still playing and the soldiers were still lining the street with their flags…and still…it had not rained.  Back at our 7-mile cheering station, I was greeted by  Mikki and Jordan Dailey, Susan Bussell, Lorena Hernandez, Jess Ross with Baby Owen in a stroller, and Jon White  (who apparently missed the memo and was stationed closer to the I-90 entrance ramp) …They had had been out on the course since 8:00am with cow bells and homemade “Go Team Transplant” signs..all efforts designed to motivate you as you continued your journey through to the second half of the race.  I was expecting to go straight back to my car when Susan Bussell alerted me to a rumor she had heard just minutes earlier...Clay Wilkinson, one of our lung transplants, was out on the course.

I must’ve  looked completely surprised..Clay had submitted all of his paperwork on time to be an official member but I didn’t realize that he was planning to do the race…He must’ve been training on his own!   We turned around to survey the crowd….and lo and behold!  Clay came strolling by.  He stopped when he recognized Susan Bussell, but obviously aware of the time limit, he didn’t want to stand around talking for too long.   He soon resumed his stride and headed up the hill to the I-90 tunnel. As the dust cleared behind him, the cheering station crew pulled up stakes, and I ran the rest of the way to my car so that I could navigate my way back to Seattle Center and the finish.  When I looked at the results later, Clay had successfully finished the race….Congratulations Clay on a most excellent effort!

And back to the Finish…
Upon my return to Seattle Center, I had no trouble finding the “T” section of the Family Reunion area despite having to negotiate myriad blocked intersections and barricades surrounding the finish. . As I approached the group. I saw that  Ida and James had been joined by Don Sage, Michael Gave, Ron Adkins, and Mike Anthony.  They had nabbed a spot right next to the International Fountain and with their canvas chairs, a wagon full of post-workout supplies, and the headliner band, Gym Class, playing in the background, had created a welcoming little campsite where our group could collect themselves, share their experiences, and receive a well-deserved congratulations after finishing the race.  Armed with bottles of water and Fig Newtons, they also made sure that everyone looked okay and stayed put until they were rehydrated and replenished and ready to drive!
Just as the final participants crossed the finishline, the weather finally broke… it started to pour!   We tracked down our team members who were still at large; made a few quick cell phone calls to people whom we were pretty sure had finished but had forgotten to sign out…and then bolted to our cars.

Sure…nice timing for the race…but what about the BBQ?
Finally…to the BBQ…
It continued to rain for several hours…but fortunately we had a very practical, level-headed crew led by Susan Marx who showed up at my house an hour and a half ahead of time to set up.  At that time, 2:00,  it was still raining..The party started at 3:30   Set up inside?  Outside?  Where should the caterers go?  The tables and chairs were wet….Could everyone fit inside??  We had 60 RSVPs!!!

Thanks to Susan and Greg Marx, Ron Adkins, Luann Majeed (who was also at my house at 8:00am to meet the table and chair delivery) Susan Isoshima, Michael Gave, Ida and James Boeckstiegel , Steve and Lenore Miller. Michael Bailey (who also helped with the yard on Thursday night as well as assisted with cheering out on the race course), Willie Richardson, Colin Rines and Vanessa Whitacre, we covered all of our bases…We dried off the chairs and set some of them up inside the house; assembled canopies and tents in the backyard; covered the tables with red gingham  and set out floral centerpieces…The dessert table moved inside… Kudos to all of the wonderful cooks we have on our team…We had an amazing, amazing selection of goods on that table! …and we started making coffee…Thanks to Lenore who thought to bring a coffee pot!

By 3:00…everything was done.  I busied myself  by setting up my Cinco de Mayo playlist on I-tunes and connecting it to a speaker system; Steve Miller did some last minute pruning in the backyard…everyone else stood in the kitchen talking about their race experiences.   At 3:30pm, it started to lighten up outside…By 3:45, it had stopped raining completely…Everyone started to arrive.  It was beautiful the rest of the day!

Soooo…here’s to keeping the faith…and believing in the unbelievable…whether it’s that a rainy, messy day can somehow turn out to be perfect or that a transplant recipient can finish a half marathon…

Whatever it may be…it’s made so much more special when it involves being surrounded by an incredible team of people who are rooting for you and supporting you every step of the way!

Congratulations to everyone on an awesome, awesome race…and a most amazing season!


Recap of Rock n Roll Marathon, Seattle, 2011

What an incredible day we had at the Seattle Rock’n Roll Half….The weather turned out to be perfect…the race was well-run and organized…and the music only helped elevate the energy level that can be generated when 25,000 highly motivated and enthusiastic people gather together in the middle of the street!  We had 14 transplant recipients, 4 donors, and one of our pre-kidney transplants combined with 30 UWMC employees, friends, and family members mixing it up out there with the masses…and many others providing support along the way!    It was a wonderful show of teamwork and team spirit!

But now…our big weekend has come and gone, and for most of us, life has moved on to vacation plans, enjoying long, sunny (?) days, and  spending time with friends and family.

I hope that in the 2 weeks since the race, you’ve taken some time to really let the experiences of our past season sink in….let the memories simmer…and let them fill you with a sense of hope and purpose and confidence as you move forward into whatever great adventures you have planned for the summer and beyond….
It may be remembering how you persevered through a long workout in the rain and how wonderful it felt when you finished…when you’re feeling frustrated at work.

…or conjuring up a smile or giggle as you think back to some comment Lenard Yen or Mark Scott made during a warm-up routine… when you need to lighten up.

…or realizing how much progress you made over the course of 16 weeks (or for some of you the course of 10 years)….when it seems like you’re stuck in a holding pattern.

…or knowing that there is a group of truly wonderful people out there who care about you , look forward to seeing you on Saturday mornings…and eagerly await the start of our next season in August…when it feels like you’re going it alone.

As my summer swings into high gear, here are some of the memories that I will look back on for inspiration…
•    Allen Vary’s amazing recovery and return to training
•    Colin Rine’s comeback…It’s been what…?!  6 years since he’s completed a half marathon with us?
•    Tami Sadusky is on the rebound!
•    The incredible generosity of the 4 kidney donors who joined us for this year’s Rock’n Roll race:  Katie Way, Erika Boysen, Deb Oliver, and Jennifer McDowell
•    Newcomer and pre-kidney transplant, Alvin Valencia, showing us that it’s possible to be fit even while waiting for transplant (was that really a 1:57 that I saw on the official race clock??!)
•    Watching Maggie Kim and Mari Jo Fraser run together at the RNR Half, all the while looking like 2 best friends who’ve know each other forever
•    Lenard Yen’s ever increasing team spirit…Is there a limit to how much green this guy can exude??!
•    Ron Adkins, Jon White, and Dick Fitzgerald who have all for some reason or other been limited in their training this past year but continue to come out and do what they can and support us in some way anyway.
•    Jonathon Baird’s incredible smile and determination to be back in the fall!
•    Micah Gwinn’s consistency and watchful concern for his team members
•    Bob Oliver’s surprising debut!
•    The return of Don McNeil….The man is back!
•    The Rakitas reliable water station support this past spring…and how much they enjoyed checking out Mark Scott’s bakery recommendations!
•    The traveling Big Backyard yard art gargoyle trophy (see attachment)—Thank you Pete Schille!
•    Dixie Service finishing her first full marathon…and the text updates she provided along the way:-)
•    How much fun Dixie, Bridget O’Connor, and Luann Majeed have chasing Marty Chakoian at practices!
•    Running with Secretary Sebelius..I’m still flying high over that one!
•    Jennifer Herlihy branching out to try new races and focus on her speed this summer…
•    …and Sam Patterson’s bronze medal performance in the hockey arena!
•    Jason Stahl’s growing confidence in his half marathon abilities!
•    Dennis Cole’s patience and commitment to long-term progress!
•    Carla Trulson Essenberg’s competitiveness and the joy she brings to every practice!
•    Shari Jones dedication and desire to be a part of our group…driving from Bellingham to join us!
•    Allison Enstrom’s enthusiasm and appreciation of her donor!
•    Terry Way’s commitment to our team and to helping other transplant recipients
•    Tess Brown and her camera!
•    Mark Scott, & Co.…and how the company keeps growing!
•    The commitment of our Team Transplant volunteers…what would we do without Janette Morantes, Susan Bussell, Julie Sprinkle, Tamar Solomon, Mikki Dailey, Mark Rosinbum, Ida and James Boeckstiegel????! ..as well as those folks who are available on a standby basis and willing to provide additional help when needed…like Shirley Schultz, Vanessa Whitacre, Laura Lewis, Lenore Miller,  Kevin Lin,  Cathy Seifert, Harch Ooi, and Ajit Limaye...
•    …and finally…I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Seuss, Jack, Scooter, Abby, India, and Lucky….who are constant reminders of how joyful exercise can be when you make it about play!

And…as I look over the past year…I amazed at all that we’ve accomplished..

•    We celebrated our 10th Seattle Half Marathon in November!
•    We discovered a fun new way to bring team competition to our group and involve more people in an event with the First Ever UWMC Team Transplant Who Knows Their Fitness Big Backyard 5k Challenge!
•    Jason Stahl’s profile in the UW Medicine Annual report
◦    http://uwmedicine.washington.edu/Patient-Care/Locations/UWMC/Community-Relations/Patient-Stories/Pages/Jason-Stahl.aspx
•    Jennifer Herlihy’s interview on Patient Power
◦    http://www.patientpower.info/program/progress-in-liver-transplant-the-teams-perspective
•    Jennifer, Allen Vary, Maggie Kim (and me) all featured in the new UW Medicine branding campaign
◦    http://www.uwmedicinestories.org/stories.html
•    Lenard Yen featured in the Seattle Times
◦    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2013545358_marathon29m.html
•    Running with the Secretary—who could forget Kathleen Sebelius, the US Secretary of Health and Human Services, actually showing up and running a workout with us??
◦    http://uwmedicine.washington.edu/Global/News/Items/2011/Pages/Team-transplant-runs-with-HHS-secretary.aspx
•    Allison Enstrom’s big modeling debut in Tess Brown’s photo exhibit:  Life 2.0, Second Chances, opening this week at Harborview Medical Center. (see attachment)

It’s been impressive…Thanks to each and everyone of you for the amazing part that you’ve played in making it all happen….I can only imagine what’s in store for next year!

Happy recovery, everyone….I’ll be in touch soon!

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