Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 Recovery, 2013 Rejuvenation

Who doesn't have a love-hate relationship with the holiday season? I mostly enjoy this time of year, but I always seem to be crawling across the finish line towards the end, barely able to drag myself out of bed for the last few weeks of December, and usually feel my body falling apart just before the New Year.

2012 has been no different. Let's start with the weekend of the Dec. 15th-16th. I started off Saturday with a 10-mile run with the DFMC team, where I met a number of really nice, inspiring people and enjoyed a beautiful morning running along the on the Minuteman Bikeway in Lexington. Kristen and I spent the rest of the weekend making:
  • 152 glitter ball sandwiches (2 cookies each)
  • 190 caramel turtles
  • 114 peppermint shortbread bars
  • 304 candied and chocolate-dipped orange peels

This fulfilled our first big order, following a very generous donation from our friends Sasha & Carrie, for 38 double-decker treat packages that were delivered to Kristen's colleagues at Oracle. The baking continued all the way through the next week, intermixed with our day jobs, Christmas shopping, Boot Camp, running, and preparing for my parents' visit.

Our holiday dessert packages were a huge success. Thanks to the many purchases by friends and family, we raised over $1400 towards my fundraising goal, which brings me pretty close to the $4000 minimum amount. There's still plenty of time to donate, and I'm really excited and motivated to meet and exceed my goal. And stay tuned for information about homemade chocolates we'll be selling for Valentine's Day.

Now, the baking's over. I'm nursing a hip injury likely sustained from over-use between ramping up my mileage and attending Boot Camp twice a week-- a bit nervous about it to be honest, but hopefully I can recover quickly and get back to training. I'm also catching up on sleep and enjoying some quality time with my family, and looking forward to a really fantastic year.

Also worth noting is that I have stitches and scars on my stomach, back, and face marking the conspicuous spots recently removed by my dermatologist.  I consider skin cancer to be an inevitability for me, based on my fair skin, lifetime sun exposure, and family history, but can only hope that if I am someday diagnosed with melanoma like my father was many years ago, I, like him, will have caught it early enough.  Hence the annual checkups-- which are pointless without the treatment options made available by the great work performed by organizations like Dana-Farber...

The Barr Program's research has led to the discovery of abnormalities in cancer growth proteins leading to the development of successful drugs including a 42% increase in survival for patients with advanced lung cancer, and a 63% improvement in survival for certain metastatic melanoma patients.

The Kinome Project, with initial Barr Program funding in 1997, discovered mutations in a family of genes called “kinases” that prevent cell growth stimulators from being turned off, resulting in cancer cells that replicate uncontrollably. These discoveries by William Sellers, MD and his colleagues led directly to the development of targeted drugs used by patients worldwide for the treatment of multiple cancers including lung cancer, leukemia and melanoma. Examples include Tarceva leading to a 42% improvement in lung cancer survival, and Vemurafenib, producing a 63% improvement in survival for metastatic melanoma when the mutations are present. This work has become the model for personalized medicine in cancer treatment and is widely credited for helping transform the approach that pharmaceutical companies use for drug development.

There's still a lot of work to be done. For now, I'm going to finish out the remaining days of 2012, thinking about this year's accomplishments and celebrations. But next week begins a new year, and regardless of how my hip is feeling or the results of my biopsies, I'll be out there pushing myself in my training and focusing on my $6500 goal and the 26.2 miles I'll run in April.

You still have a few days before the tax deadline, or you can wait and file your donation in your 2013 return-- or both!  Either way, I really appreciate your support!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Holiday Bake Sale

'Tis the season for giving! And what better way to make a donation than to purchase a holiday dessert package! Kristen and I are offering some great stuff for the December holidays. Information is below, but before we get to the details, I'd like to take a moment to remind all of you readers why this is so important.

Last year, a friend of mine from Fresno passed away 4 months after suddenly being diagnosed with a malignant mediastinal tumor (Google it). Today, I learned another old friend is in the midst of his own battle against cancer. Throughout my adolescent life, I continued to hear about someone in my extended family being diagnosed with one scary thing or another-- and I guess I'm at the age now where my peers are faced with the same type of news. Cancer is a threat to you and everyone you know-- it's not going away, and you can't ignore it's impact.

A cancer diagnosis, however, doesn't have to be a death sentence. My father, for instance, was diagnosed with melanoma, and years later, prostate cancer. He's still alive and well today, but only thanks to the amazing care and treatment he received. I couldn't help but think about this when I saw this in my DFMC material:

[The Barr Program] is enabling the development of new vaccines for multiple types of cancer including Provenge which increased survival by 22% for prostate cancer, and Ipilimumab which improved survival by 56% for melanoma.

An important area of cancer research asks why humans don’t reject tumors in their own bodies. Funded by the Barr Program in 1998, Glenn Dranoff, MD, discovered complex regulatory pathways in the human immune system that cancers exploit in order to escape destruction. Reversal of these effects can lead to the development of vaccines against cancer, like Provenge for prostate cancer. This Barr research has also enabled the development of multiple other vaccines and immune modulators for melanoma, ovarian cancer, and prostate cancer that are now in advanced clinical trials across the world. If these trials are successful, an exciting and entirely new option for treating certain types of cancer will become available. A recent example is Ipilimumab which showed striking effects in melanoma in a trial led by Dana-Farber scientists and is now approved by the FDA.

You can help make a difference in peoples' lives. All money raised by the DFMC Team benefits the Barr Program - my goal is $6500 but the team goal is over $8000 per runner.

And all proceeds from the dessert offerings below will go towards my goal. Any of these packages would make a great holiday gift for a loved one or coworker, host/hostess gift, etc.

Pick-up dates: Dec. 23, 24 (or alternate if needed for another holiday or celebration)
Order deadline: Friday, Dec. 14
To place an order: Send an email to with details about what you'd like to purchase and when you'll need it. Payment can be made upon pick-up, with a check made out to Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge.

Home for the Holidays Breakfast Basket - $40 (6 available)
Make the most important meal of the day the tastiest too!  Our breakfast basket will help your friends, family, and/or host/hostess wake up with a smile. The basket includes:

  • Homemade Maple Granola with coconut, walnuts, and cranberries
  • 6 Muffins: Cranberry-orange or blueberry
  • Buttermilk chocolate chip pancake mix
  • A bag of amazing, specialty coffee, generously donated by Black Magic Coffee!

Cupcakes - $40/dozen
Chocolate or Red Velvet Cupcakes: 12 fudgy chocolate or festive red velvet cupcakes with chocolate ganache filling, topped with vanilla buttercream and a sprinkle of sparkling sugar

Cookie/Candy Package - $40
Enjoy one selection from each column - you'll receive a dozen cookies and a dozen candies. If you see two items in one category that you'd like - just ask! We'll do our best to accommodate.

Cookies Candies
Glitter ball sandwiches: Buttery cookies, rolled in colorful sparkling sugar, sandwiched together with creamy ginger filling Ornament cake pops: Festive red velvet cake, enrobed in white chocolate, and dressed up as holiday ornaments
Chewy chocolate gingerbread cookies: Chewy gingerbread cookies loaded with spices, fresh ginger, and lots of chocolate Peppermint crunch cake pops: Fudgy chocolate cake, enrobed in white chocolate and covered with crushed peppermint candies
Classic chocolate chip: Your search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie is over!  A slightly crisp, carmelly exterior gives way to a soft, chewy interior loaded with chocolate.  The sprinkle of sea salt on top of these cookies takes them to a whole new level! Caramel turtles: Dark chocolate, topped with pecans, homemade vanilla bean fleur de sel caramels, drizzled with more chocolate and a sprinkle of fleur de sel
Maple pecan shortbread: Melt-in-your-mouth buttery shortbread, filled with pecans and incredible maple flavor Coffee toffee: Rich, buttery, coffee toffee, topped with a layer of chocolate and toasted almonds

Present cake - $100
Impress your friends and family with a special edible gift! A 6" square present cake (serves 10-12), enrobed in fondant, and topped with a gorgeous fondant bow. Your choice of cake flavor and filling, and your choice of white fondant with a blue bow, or red fondant with a green bow. We'll be making a very limited number of these cakes - please order early!

I greatly appreciate the generous support I've received thus far. Thank you all for your donations and happy holidays!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Running for Family

First and foremost, thank you to everyone who purchased a Thanksgiving dessert package.  Kristen and I made a lot of baked goods this past week, raising a total of $490 for my run with the DFMC team.  These purchases, along with the many other generous donations I've already received in my first two weeks of fundraising, have resulted in $1500 towards my goal of $6500. If you have yet to sponsor me, and would like to, please make an online gift or mail me a check made out to Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge.  And be sure to stay tuned for details on our next batch of holiday dessert packages!

Thanksgiving usually makes me think about family - this is probably true for most people.  I'm geographically removed from my own family and haven't been able to spend a single Thanksgiving with them in 11 years.  But I've fortunately always had a great group of people welcoming me into their homes.  A year ago, I spent the first of what will be many with Kristen's family, for instance. This came towards the end of a long year in which I got divorced, changed jobs, lost and made some friends, started dating Kristen, and ran a lot.  And only a week before Thanksgiving, I ran the Philadelphia Marathon.

I'm not sure who put the idea in my head, but in each of the last 6 miles of that race, I focused on someone special in my life, all of whom provided me with an incredible amount of support and love when I needed it most:

Mile 21: My friend, Maia, who was at the time in the hospital dealing with a health scare (and who I recently learned may be a "3rd-to-distant cousin" of mine, based on our 23andMe genetic profiles!)
Mile 22: My brother, Eric, who was always willing to listen
Mile 23: My dad, who always knew what to say
Mile 24: My mom, who always knew how to make me feel loved
Mile 25: Kristen, who already felt like family, and who was waiting for me at the finish line with a hug and a tear in her eye
Mile 26.2: Me, because I worked hard to be there and deserved to enjoy crossing the finish line

A year later, I'm once again taking time out of my busy days to reflect on the amazing people I've had the privilege of knowing over the course of my lifetime, and hoping they are all doing well. Family, I suppose, is where you find it, and I feel incredibly lucky to have so many people falling into that category.

In 5 months I'll be running another marathon, and rest assured I'll once again be concentrating on a few people in my last few miles.  Who will it be?  I'm not 100% sure yet.  When I applied for DFMC, I noted the character and integrity that my grandfather seemed to embody-- so, while I'm out logging my miles this winter, I'll be thinking about the people in my life who inspire me in that regard.

Oh, and since people are asking - I haven't been running all that much (too busy with bootcamp, basketball, and baking), but I did just run 7 miles at a 7:33 avg pace.  I suppose I'm feeling pretty good at this point.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thanksgiving Bake Sale

Thanksgiving is only two weeks away, so what better time than now to start lining up some amazing desserts to go with your turkey?  We are offering a limited number of Thanksgiving dessert packages as described below.

All of our dessert selections are homemade from the finest and freshest ingredients.  Proceeds go directly to Dana-Farber in support of my run in the 2013 Boston Marathon.
  • Orders are processed on a first-come, first-serve basis
  • All orders must be placed by Friday, 11/16
  • You must arrange to pick up your package from our home in Somerville on either Wednesday afternoon, 11/21 or during the day on Thursday morning, 11/22 (Thanksgiving Day).  If you are unable to make these times, please speak up and we can figure it out.
  • Payment must be collected at time of pickup, in the form of a check made out to Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge
Place an order by sending an email to and include your contact information, the package you'd like to purchase, your dessert selections, and desired pickup time.

Here are the packages:

PackageDessert Selections# AvailablePrice
Turkey Trot1 pie/cake + 1 cookie or 1 candy      3$65
Thanksgiving Feast    1 pie/cake + 1 cookie + 1 candy3$85
Black Friday Fuel*1 cookie + 1 candy5$40

*We'd be happy to arrange shipping for anyone living outside the Boston area for Black Friday Fuel, but unfortunately will not be able to do that for the packages including a pie/cake.

Dessert selections can be made from each of the categories below.  For example, if you were to purchase a Turkey Trot, you could order a carrot cake and pumpkin cookies.  Someone else might order a Turkey Trot and order an apple crumb pie and caramel shortbread bars.

* 9" Apple crumb pie: Your traditional apple pie – elevated!  Buttery, flakey crust, topped with tender, sweet apples, finished with a crunchy crumb topping.  Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

* 9" Carrot cake: You won’t find any nuts, coconut, or raisins in this version – sweet carrots, spices, and cream cheese icing make this cake a crowd favorite without overwhelming the senses.

* 12 Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars: Salted caramel and chocolate – a perfect pairing made even more decadent by the addition of a perfectly buttery shortbread base.

* 12 Mini Pumpkin Whoopie Pies: These generously spiced whoopie pies, filled with rich brown butter icing, taste like fall!

* 12 Apple, Pistachio, Ginger Blondies: The perfect bar cookie for fall, these blondies are packed with sweet dried apples, spicy candied ginger, and crunchy pistachios.

* 12 Pumpkin cake pops: delicious vanilla cake pops, enrobed in white chocolate, dressed up to look like pumpkins.

* 4 Caramel apples: fresh, crisp apples, dipped twice – first, in chewy caramel, then in chocolate – and finished with chopped nuts, chocolate, or toffee.  You’ll receive two dipped in dark chocolate, and two dipped in milk chocolate.

If you are unable to order any desserts at this time, please note that we'll be offering additional holiday dessert packages over the coming months.  Or, if sweets just aren't your thing but you'd like to support my run, please donate!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Born Ready

On April 15th, 2013, I’ll have the honor of running the Boston Marathon with the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge (DFMC) team.

When I first applied to run for the DFMC, I was of course excited about the possible opportunity to run in perhaps the most sought-after foot race in the world-- an experience that I’m sure I’ll never forget.  I had a pretty compelling application, not unlike the one I submitted two years ago when I fundraised for Dana-Farber and ran the 2010 B.A.A. Half Marathon: my grandfather had passed away earlier in the year due to complications arising from prostate cancer, and I wanted to run in his memory.

“In his memory”... that’s just what you say in these sorts of things, right?  Sure, I’ve thought of my grandfather a lot over the past few years.  He was a huge part of my life growing up, and I’ve missed him since he’s been gone.  But it wasn’t until now that I really understood what that phrase meant.

Earlier this evening, I was talking to my wife, Kristen, about the idea of this blog, and wondering what I should name it.  After spending too much time laughing at suggestions like “milesandsmiles” and “igottheruns”, Kristen finally asked me, “well, why did you want to run this race anyway?”  It didn’t take very long for me to start drawing on memories of my grandfather, racing through the plethora of his famous quotes, and feeling mesmerized by vivid images of him still locked in my brain.  I soon forgot about the blog, my fundraising goals, and the race itself.

I suppose that my experience of training for the Boston Marathon is a reason to stop and remember my grandfather.  I have a lot of old pictures-- in photo albums in my basement.  David E. Cook (the one I care about, anyway) has no Facebook page.  And as time goes on, I’ve found it more difficult to remember specifics (so it goes, I guess).

All that being said, in the words of my grandfather, “I was born ready” to start my training and raise awareness of the amazing things being done by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to improve patient care and advance cancer research.  If you’d like to follow along, I’ll do my best to share stories about my grandfather and keep you up-to-date on my training.

If those aren’t reasons enough to pay attention, stay tuned for information about baked good packages that Kristen and I will be preparing and selling!  All proceeds to benefit the Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

In the meantime, if you’d like to make a donation to my fundraising effort, please do so here!