Sunday, December 8, 2013

Holiday Bake Sale: December 2013

My first month of fundraising was a successful one! Kristen and I took the day off work this past Wednesday in order to fulfill our Thanksgiving orders of mini-pies and cheesecakes. These packages turned out great, and we even sampled them during our own Thanksgiving dinner with Kristen's family :)

As of today, I've raised over $1300 towards my goal of $10,000.  Still a long way to go, but hey, I haven't even started training for the race yet, so there's still a lot of time.

I have barely had enough time to send out all of my thank-you's and here we are, a week into December! So for anyone who is looking for a holiday package, you'll find details at the bottom of this post. But before we start thinking about dessert again, I want to remind you of why your contributions to my campaign are so important.

Last year, I wrote a few blog posts in which I made mention of someone I knew who had received a cancer diagnosis: my grandfather (prostate), father (prostate and melanoma), myself (basil cell), and a few friends of mine from high school (including Michael Robertson, who shared his story of surviving stage IV colorectal cancer on the White House Blog earlier this week). I decided I'm long overdue to write about my mom.

Eight years ago, my mother was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer, a few weeks before my brother Eric's wedding. That summer she had a lumpectomy, followed by 8 rounds of chemotherapy. After that, it was radiation, 5 days a week, 33 trips in total. Today, she still has two more years of hormone therapy planned.

The chemo made my mom really sick, and she lost her hair. Her eyebrows, eyelashes, and fingernails will never be the same as they were before the therapy, and she will live the remainder of her life with a weakened heart. I won't bother to enumerate all of the other side effects, and couldn't even begin to describe the emotional impacts. Battling breast cancer sucks.

Two years after my mom's diagnosis, her sister received one. Their mother, Grandpa Dave's wife Velma, is also a survivor. I'm extremely thankful that my mother, my aunt, and my grandmother are all still alive today. But this is not due to a stroke of luck-- their survival was largely due to effective drug therapies which have kept their cancers in remission.

Estrogen is an essential hormone involved in normal breast cell development, and it's believed that a lifelong exposure to estrogen can increase breast cancer risk. As such, many breast cancer patients are prescribed drugs like Tamoxofin (which my aunt took) and Anastrozole (which my mom still takes) that inhibit the enzyme responsible for synthesizing estrogen. These drugs have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of recurrence and thereby have contributed to improved survival rates over the past few decades.

However, the level of effectiveness of these drugs depends on how resistant the patient may be (or become) to them, and the mechanical reasons for their successes and failures has not been wholly understood. In 2002-2003, Dr. Miles Brown of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute was a key author in several papers (such as this one) describing how individual genes which encode our estrogen receptors may be correlated to drug resistance. With a better understanding of the pathways involved in estrogen synthesis and the genetic markers behind them, it's expected that this research will lead to new drugs and treatments which will continue to improve survival rates. Dr. Brown's work was made possible, in part, by funding from the Barr Program.

There is not yet a cure for cancer, but with recurrence risk approaching zero, a diagnosis may feel more like a scary and painful inconvenience, rather than a death sentence. Eventually, someone you know will receive a cancer diagnosis, and the chances of his or her survival will only improve with further research, which requires funding.

And hey, if you want something in return for your contribution, how 'bout some holiday desserts? Any of the packages below would make a great gift for family and friends, all proceeds benefitting the Barr Program.

Suggested donation for each item below: $50.

Candy BoxA sampler including:

  • Toffee
  • Pumpkin Caramels
  • Peanut Brittle
  • Marshmallows
Cookie BoxA sampler including:

  • Snickerdoodles
  • Chocolate Chip
  • Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread
  • Festive Decorated Sugar Cookies(cardinals, holly, and snowflakes)
Cookie Mix JarsThree quart-sized jars filled with all of the dry ingredients needed to make the following cookies (instructions included):

  • Chocolate Oatmeal Pecan
  • Butterscotch Chip
  • White Chocolate Macadamia
Breakfast BasketThe Home for the Holidays breakfast basket returns!  This year's basket includes:
  • Almond-apricot granola
  • Coffee
  • Vanilla-bean chocolate chip scones
  • Cranberry walnut bread
    Fig, honey and pecan bread

Pick-up dates: Monday, December 23rd or Tuesday, December 24th

Order deadline: Wednesday, December 18th
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. Alternatively, you can submit your donation online:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ready, again

Last Sunday was perfect.  Okay, maybe it was a bit cold on Staten Island at 6:00 in the morning, but I certainly wasn't going to complain.  A few hours later, I was running across the Verrazano Bridge with Geoffrey Mutai, Priscah Jeptoo, Meb Keflezighi, and the rest of the first wave of runners in the largest marathon in history.  I executed my race plan flawlessly, finishing in 03:28:17, a personal record at this distance by more than five minutes.

A few days later, I received a letter in the mail indicating that the $9,177 I raised with the 2013 Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team contributed to a grand team total of $4,753,873.68, benefitting the Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research.

I feel really good about these accomplishments, and at the moment, am very excited to announce that I'll once again have the opportunity to run with DFMC in the 2014 Boston Marathon.

This has, however, been an extremely difficult post to write.  The truth is that I have had mixed feelings about participating in next year's race, and a difficult time articulating why.  I've avoided thinking too much about the events of April 15th, 2013 and the days that followed, and I think in some ways I've worried that next year's race will be too focused on the horrible things that happened, even if discussed in an optimistic context.

While I may have more to say on the matter later, in the meantime I'll say this: acts of violence toward others, disease, and natural disasters are a part of the world we live in. But so are cheering crowds of people, smiling boys and girls looking for high-fives along the side of the road, and hugs from loved ones for those most in need.  There are good things in this world, and at a marathon you don't have to look too far to find them.  I feel humbled and honored to be given the opportunity to experience it, and want to be an inspiring reminder to people that it exists.

And so I'll be donning my DFMC singlet again with pride in April.  Between now and then, I'll be doing my best to influence change in one way I'm able: by raising money for cancer research and treatment.  Thanks to the extreme generosity I've witnessed from all of you, I've set this year's goal at $10,000.  Please help me hit it by making a donation!

As with last year, one way in which I hope to raise money is by selling baked goods.  Kristen and I are happy to donate time, flour, butter and sugar if it will bring in some donations, so please consider one of the following for this Thanksgiving season:

ItemDescriptionSuggested Donation
Mini Cheesecake SamplerThis sampler box contains 4 three-inch cheesecakes, one of each of the following flavors (2-3 servings per pastry).

Black and White: New York-style vanilla cheesecake with chocolate ganache and chocolate cookie crust

Berries and Cream: New York-style vanilla cheesecake with strawberry swirl and graham cracker crust

Pecan Praline: Vanilla and praline cheesecake with gingersnap-pecan crust

Pumpkin Spice: Pumpkin spice cheesecake with gingersnap crust
Mini Pie SamplerThis sampler box contains 4 three-inch pies/tarts, one of each of the following flavors (2-3 servings per pastry):

Classic Apple Pie:
 Tender, flaky crust loaded with spiced apples

Bourbon Maple Pumpkin Pie: A twist on the Thanksgiving classic

Pecan Pie Tart:
Scrumptious and buttery tart shell loaded with sticky-sweet pecans

Chocolate Tart: A rich and elegant delight for the chocolate lovers at your table
Breakfast BasketBack by popular demand!
  • Maple Granola with coconut, walnuts, and dried cranberries
  • 1/2 lb Coffee
  • Chocolate chip pancake mix
  • Cinnamon coffee cake bread or cranberry walnut bread

Pick-up dates: Wednesday, November 27th or Thursday morning, November 28th

Order deadline: Saturday, November 23rd
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.

Thank you in advance for all of your support and generosity.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Boston Proud

Today, I went for a run.

I left my office around lunchtime and ran to Vassar Street. As I passed, I weaved between a few people to touch the benches marking the memorial for slain MIT police officer Sean Collier, and a few minutes later I was standing in front of the MIT police station and shared a moment of silence with a number of officers and other people from the MIT community.

From there, I cut over to Memorial Drive, not far from the Shell station where the Tsarnaev brothers let the owner of the carjacked Mercedes go free. I crossed the Mass Ave bridge and turned left on Commonwealth. Instead of making the right on Hereford I continued down Comm and thought about the 5000+ runners who were forced to walk down that long street, cold, tired and scared. I turned right on Berkeley and stood right next to where I was last Monday afternoon when I heard explosions, and rested my hands on the barricade set up around the memorial for Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell and Lingzi Lu. Like so many people who have visited the site over the past week, I stared at the ghostly Boylston Street crime scene which is still devoid of cars or people. I have no pictures to share because I'd much rather remember the street full of people cheering.

After taking it all in, I turned in the other direction and continued running down Boylston in the middle of the road (attracting lots of attention wearing a yellow 2013 Boston Marathon shirt), through the Public Garden, up Charles Street, and across the Longfellow Bridge back into Cambridge. At 2:50pm this afternoon, I shared another moment of silence with the entire city.

The idea that the events of the past week were "close to home" for me is an understatement. I was three blocks away from the explosions. A few days later, I found out that Sydney Corcoran, the girl who was pictured in an iconic photo on the front pages of the Boston Globe and the New York Times on Tuesday, is the niece of a fellow DFMC runner. Sydney was at the finish line with her mother, Celeste, who lost both legs. Please support their recovery fund.

Sean Collier lived in Somerville. Tamerlan Tsarnaev's apartment is a 10-minute walk from my home. On Friday, my town wasn't on the list of those bordering Watertown for which Governor Patrick issued a "shelter in place" request, but the City of Somerville did call its residents to request that we, too, adhere to the lockdown order. My eyes were glued to the news from 6am until 9pm, waiting anxiously for news that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had been apprehended.

The past week has been filled with extreme sadness and anxiety, but also pride and amazement. In my last post, I spoke of what makes Patriots Day in Boston so great, and somehow felt the same sense of collective perseverance, celebration and love since that day. Everyone rallied around victims, their families, first responders, city officials, law enforcement, as well as the running community. Nobody summed it up better than David Ortiz when he exclaimed "This is our f*cking city, and nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong." Not even the FCC could deny Big Papi's emotional response.

I fear that if I try to further elaborate on these feelings, it would sound clich├ęd and perhaps melodramatic to some, so I'll just say: I love Boston.

Sure, there were idiots out there like Arkansas State Rep Nate Bell taking the opportunity to tweet pro-NRA rhetoric, but for the most part I felt like the nation was behind Boston. Nothing breaks down party lines quite like a natural disaster or terrorist attack-- and hey, the Yankees played Sweet Caroline and the Chicago Tribune's sports page paid tribute to Boston. It's just a shame that the conclusion of this chapter will eventually serve to add fuel to the fire on topics like gun control, capitol punishment, and immigration-- but not for, say, civil rights and education, despite the ignorant attacks on Muslims and suggestions that we should nuke the Czech Republic (failed geography, did we?).

It will take me, and the rest of Boston, some time to recover from the Marathon. I'm still sad. I feel pity for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, but am happy he is being removed from society. I don't want to hear about his trial, and I refuse to read any commentary on how the City of Boston could have better handled the situation. I do care about what happens to the victims and their families, and look forward to hearing about the stories of their triumphs. I am motivated to harness feelings of compassion for other people, in the hopes that my actions can make a difference for someone else. Holding my medal has brought smiles to the people I've shown it to, and their sense of awe in my accomplishment has started to make me feel good about running in the 2013 Boston Marathon. I'm also excited about my next race (Massachusetts Reach-the-Beach Relay, next month), and am planning to enter the lottery for the 2013 New York City Marathon.

In finishing up what will be my last planned post on this blog, I'm left thinking about my Grandpa Dave. I can certainly imagine him making some insightful comments about the events of the past week. But I also know that he wouldn't let his feelings about terrorism cloud his love of the world around him. If he had been here this past week, he would have been amazed to hear how much the 2013 DFMC team raised (>$4M). I can hear him talking about the amazing spectacle of the Boston Marathon, how everyone in this beautiful city has come together for 117 years to celebrate it. And after I finished the race, he would have grabbed my shoulder and said, "Way to go, guy!"

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My 2013 Boston Marathon

Like so many other people, I feel a need to sit down and write out my thoughts on the events of the past 48 hours here in Boston. Many have taken to writing with resolve, pointing out that those bastards that did this are messing with the wrong city. Others have attempted to convey the meaning behind the Marathon for people outside of Boston, with expressions of anger and frustration at the fact that the Marathon will never be the same again (which my friend Meghan does at the end of a great description of why Patriots Day is so special).

I'm not ready to talk about how the good guys always win no matter what the bad guys do, nor can I say that I won't let these horrible acts ruin the feelings about my great accomplishments of these past few months. In fact, I'm convinced that I'll always look back on this past weekend as one of the best, and worst, of my life. I did, however, promise to maintain this blog throughout my 2013 Boston Marathon journey in order to share my experience with friends and family who have done such an amazing job of supporting me. So, let's back up a few days...

From the moment I stopped working on Friday, my excitement levels started to go through the roof. My parents arrived that evening, and they were excited as well. After a leisurely breakfast on Saturday morning, we headed down to Back Bay to pick up my number and check out the Fitness Expo. The weather was a bit cool, which was fine by me given the extreme heat of last year's race. As my parents later recounted, it's hard to convey the energy in this city during this weekend without being here to experience it. Over the years I've lived here, I've come to realize that Patriots Day, also known as Marathon Monday, is one of the best days of the year to be in Boston, and the days leading up to it are equally as enjoyable.

The main event on Sunday was the DFMC Pasta Party, which was a truly touching event. There were 1400 people in attendance, including Kristen and I, our respective parents, and a number of others I've had the privilege of meeting over the past few months. I felt very proud to be recognized as a "Pacesetter," one of a small percentage of the 550 runners who raised over $8000. One of the speakers made a comment about how, despite the tragic nature of the cause we were all there to support, everyone in the room was happy. A cancer diagnosis leaves people feeling hopeless and powerless, and despite the fact that most everyone in the room has felt that way at some point, Sunday night we were coming together as a group of people who had been empowered and given an opportunity to provide hope. And because of that connection, he was willing to bet that everyone in the room would look back on that night as one of the best in his or her lifetime.

Monday morning, I was up at 4:40am and Kristen dropped me off in Back Bay to catch the bus out to Hopkinton. The bus ride felt very long, especially in consideration of the fact that we'd all be running back. After several hours hanging out at the Dana-Farber refuge, we headed to our corrals in town and waited for the Wave 3 gun. It was very crowded and full of excitement, as was the first few miles. I felt pretty good all the way to Wellesley at which point I saw Kristen's mom on the sidelines. The "Scream Tunnel" was one of my favorite parts of the whole race. It's amazing how many people are along the road cheering everyone on for 26.2 miles, but I have to say, hearing the line of Wellesley girls screaming at the top of their lungs was truly exhilarating and really lifted me up as I started the second half of the race. Thanks, ladies!

I saw my parents and Kristen at mile 17, and my legs started to cramp up a bit shortly after that-- just in time for the dreaded Newton Hills, which were every bit as awful as people described. I'd run them before, even at the end of my 22-mile training run, but my pace still slowed considerably for the remainder of the race. I saw a number of other friends throughout Newton, Brookline and Boston, magically appearing on the sideline screaming my name, along with hundreds of anonymous people cheering "Go Dana-Farber" upon seeing my singlet. My friend Andrew ran with me for a bit at about mile 23, which was much appreciated, not only because I was in a lot of pain at that point, but also for the humor experienced with people screaming "Go Jeans Guy!" at him, given his choice of running attire. Some of my co-workers were at mile 24 with a big sign which I very much appreciated.

The last two miles were a bit slow-going, but the emotions of the day started to hit home
coming into Kenmore Square. I saw my friend Christian yelling at me just as I went under the Mass Ave overpass, and then made the turn on Hereford.  I spotted Kristen at the top of the street with my parents and waved to them as I made the turn onto Boylston-- this moment was every bit as incredible as I'd always knew it would be. I crossed the finish line in quite a bit of pain, stopped and talked to Jan Ross and Jack Fultz from Dana-Farber for a few minutes, and then proceeded toward the array of the mylar blanket-enshrouded runners ahead of me. Having the medal placed around my neck was without a doubt one of the best moments of my life. I finally, slowly proceeded towards Berkeley Street, where I'd pick up my bag from the school bus I had last seen in Hopkinton.

Along with several other Dana-Farber runners, we moved up Berkeley Street to find the DFMC volunteers who were there to usher us back to the Marriott Copley. I heard a loud explosion, which was a bit jarring but not all that unlike the celebratory cannons fired near the Charles River during 4th of July celebrations. A few seconds later, a second explosion. At this point the other runners and I began to realize that something was not right, as policemen began running back towards Boylston. Shortly thereafter we were forced to move aside to let police and ambulances through, moving with a sense of urgency. My poor Dana-Farber escort, a high school girl who was trying to calmly talk to me about how the race went, helped me carry my stuff while I got out my cell phone and tried to reach Kristen and my parents. A pair of fellow Dana-Farber runners near me were hugging, one sobbing while talking into his cell phone, while I couldn't dial out on mine.

I heard people saying "bomb" and "people hurt" and "near Hereford and Boylston" -- which, if accurate, probably meant that my family was okay since they would have moved away from that location. My escort and I had to turn around and move in the opposite direction as police closed off Clarendon, and ultimately looped around to enter Copley mall, all the while I was unable to reach my family in any way. I made my way back to the DFMC Recovery Zone at the hotel, and as I passed the hotel bar, I saw the TV showing the finish line cheering stands abandoned in a smokey haze, so of course I started to worry that my family had decided to take a detour to get a closer look at the finish line before coming to meet me.

My fear was mounting but I was too tired to feel very much emotion at that point. I was changing my clothes and finally started getting text messages and voicemails-- friends of mine wondering if I was okay, but nothing from my parents or Kristen. Finally I was able to send a text, to which Kristen responded, indicating that they, too, were in the hotel and were safe. Our reunion was a tearful one, but the origins of those tears were a mix of good and bad emotions that I still haven't gotten over.

About an hour later, police frantically came through the entrances of the hotel and began screaming at people to move. Stuck in an elevator bay with many other confused people we were told to "go back up to our rooms," which, of course, we didn't have. We were asked to leave the building, which we did, and walked through the South End to the nearest Orange Line station, which allowed us to get out of the city and were picked up in Charlestown by my upstairs neighbor Dave (thanks Dave).

Like most people in Boston and across the country, the past 48 hours have been difficult. Fortunately, nobody I know was in the blast zone but sadly, family members of at least one DFMC runner were seriously injured in the attack. My emotions have been all over the map and difficult to process. It's different from past accounts of terrorism for me... over the years my heart has dropped upon hearing the news of the Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, the London Underground bombing, the Beltway sniper attacks, not to mention Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook, and countless other attacks. As with those incidents, nobody I know was killed or injured, but yesterday and today, I am stuck in a deep feeling of loss and mourning.

Of course, the "what-ifs" are scary... my parents, Kristen and I talked about that a lot. My heart also goes out to the people who have lost life and limb. But my grief is primarily for the Boston Marathon itself, the runners, the spectators, the City of Boston, and for me. You see, I love those things -- and differently than what most people mean when they say "I love my car" or "I love chocolate."  These things are a special part of my life and a huge part of me. Every step from Hopkinton to Back Bay was made memorable by the people around me and along the sidelines. I've dreamed for years what that turn onto Boylston would feel like, and those feelings were shot down by these heinous acts. Worse, that dream was ruined for the thousands of people who perhaps got within site of Boylston or who were even on the street itself, and may never get another chance to experience it.

Over the past two days, I've clung to my official B.A.A. Boston Marathon jacket but have felt self-conscious wearing it outside. Strangers have called out to me things like "I'm glad you're safe" which is a nice sentiment but not what I'd been hoping to hear in the days following this race. Exclamations of "congratulations" and "I'm proud of you" from friends and family have undertones of the same message I've heard from strangers. I feel a part of my has been ripped apart.

I know that this might be where I start losing some of you. How can I grieve over lost feelings of accomplishment and lackluster celebration while people are grieving over their killed or injured loved ones? I'm guessing that most runners understand, as do people who have attended the Boston Marathon and anyone who has lived here for an extended period of time. I believe that a shared sense of pride in human struggle and perseverance are a part of what make Patriots Day, and this city in general, so special. I'm sad because those bombs were meant to inflict damage, not just to those in the immediate vicinity, but to everyone who comes together the third Monday in April to, as my friend Meghan put it, "celebrate people."  Those bombs were meant to damage the human spirit, and that's something that I can't quite wrap my mind around. Right now, I'm mourning our collective loss and attempting to convince myself that we will move past this, like humanity has moved past so many other tragedies over the course of history.

And we will. The Boston Marathon will, surely, never be the same, but no story is perfect. It, like the Olympics, will continue to be a celebrated and incredible spectacle in the nation and the world's eyes, despite terrorism. We'll stop and remember the victims and commemorate the anniversaries, and for some period of time we'll probably have to adhere to reactive, vestigial security measures that can never be 100% effective in thwarting a future attack, but this is unfortunately the world we live in. And eventually, the 2013, 117th Boston Marathon will just be a year with a dark mark on it in what is otherwise an amazing tradition.

Several people have asked me over the past few years whether or not I'll do this again.  Fundraise for Dana-Farber again?  Hopefully.  Run another marathon?  Definitely.  Run the Boston Marathon again?  You can count on it.

Finally, while I'm struggling with my feelings about how my experience has come to a conclusion, I don't want to overlook a big reason why I pursued it to begin with. So far, I've raised over $8000 for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. I couldn't have done this without the generous donations made by so many friends and family (THANK YOU!).

If you'd like to donate, you still can:

You may also make a donation to help those affected by Monday's tragic event, at One Fund Boston, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, or Boston Children's Hospital.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Do Your Best

Over the past several weeks, my father has said on several occasions, "You know, you don't need to win any medals, just finishing the race is a big accomplishment." For the most part, he's right - I'll get a finisher's medal regardless of how quickly I get from Hopkinton to Boston.

My father's advice is an obvious precursor to a saying I've heard many times over the course of my lifetime: "...just do your best (and regardless of the result, your mother and I will be very proud of you)" This mantra was certainly a guiding force in my upbringing, as was "we don't care what you do, we just want you to be happy."

I've thought a lot about these words over the past few years, as I've come to question what it actually means to do my best and what it means to be happy. In some ways, these tenets were instilled in many children of the baby-boomer generation and personally, I've found them to be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I've been given incredible opportunities to set high goals for myself, as well as tools with which I can achieve them. However, I've struggled with an understanding of how to choose worthwhile goals, and it's taken a long time to understand what "happiness" means.

That said, my parents also raised me in the same vein that their parents raised them. They both led by example, demonstrating that happiness comes from things other than money and power, and, especially given their chosen careers in education, that dedicating time and energy to helping others succeed is always worthwhile.

My grandparents were similar. In reading through my Dad's words about my grandfather again, I came across this:

"In 1994, the Clovis Unified School District honored Dave by naming the district office complex after him and the street that bisects the compound was named David E. Cook Way.  It meant a lot to Dave to be recognized, but he was not one to indulge himself with pride.  He never spoke of his accomplishments in the way many people do.  He was happy to let his record speak for itself."

So while I've struggled with the questions regarding what I want to do with my life and how I should spend my time, I've always worked very hard and, like my grandfather, appreciate recognition, but truly wish to be recognized for the work itself, not the reasons behind it.

With that in mind, a few updates since my last post:

  • On St. Patrick's Day, I decided to run in the New Bedford Half Marathon, in which I set a new PR (Personal Record) of 01:32:54 (7:07 per mile pace).
  • Last weekend, I ran 22 miles with the Dana-Farber team, the first half at an ~8:30/mile pace, the second half under 8:00/mile (including the hills in Newton). This is what's known as a "reverse split" - and definitely a first for me at such a long distance.
  • Kristen and I are finishing up the last of our fundraising dessert packages this week.
  • I've been extremely busy at the Broad Institute, though I finally feel as though I'm getting good traction on a project I've spent most of the past year on.
  • At night, I've been taking MIT's Introduction to Biology course online, taught by Eric Lander, in order to improve my understanding of genetics and biochemistry, regardless of its relevance to my current job.

And most importantly, as of this weekend, I've exceeded my goal of $8000 raised for the Claudia Adams Barr Program at Dana-Farber!

I'm proud of the accomplishments I've made over the past few months, and hope to inspire others, whether it's running a 5K, breaking out of a comfort zone at work, or making a contribution to the fight against cancer or some other important cause.

In thinking about my accomplishments in the context of the lessons my parents tried so hard to teach me, I guess I'm finally beginning to sort out for myself that if all you ever do is wonder about whether or not a decision will make you happy or a goal is worth pursuing, you'll never do anything worthwhile and you'll never be happy. So get out there and do something, and look for meaning and satisfaction in the process as well as the result.

These past few months have been very busy and have required a lot of hard work, but have been very rewarding. It's amazing how quickly the time has gone by, and interesting to think that my shoes have barely dried out from running in the snow, and in two weeks from now it will all be over. Below is a set of pictures I took over the course of several runs of the Anderson Footbridge near Harvard throughout my training (chronologically ordered, starting with the geese and ending with sunlight reflecting on the Charles).

Everything's easier when you have others to help you along the way...
  • I don't think I'd be as well-prepared for this race if it hadn't been for the other inspiring members of the DFMC team as well as all the volunteers that have stood out in the cold on Saturday mornings to give us gatorade and pretzels on our training runs.
  • Work and school have been positive experiences lately because of the amazingly intelligent and hard-working people I work with and learn from.
  • Kristen - thank you, so much :)
  • I could not have reached my fundraising goal without the support of so many friends, family, and colleagues. A huge thanks to my friends Maia, Marc, my sister-in-law Kim and her husband Brian, who made very generous donations this past week in order to push me over the top! 
For all of this, I'm very appreciative.

At this point, I'm officially tapering (ramping down my mileage) and waiting patiently for race day. And Dad, just so we're clear, I'm going to break 03:30:00.  I'm sure you and Mom are worried about my well-being-- sorry, it's how you raised me.

Please support my run with the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team by making a donation.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Spring Bake Sale

Marathon Monday is a month away, which means I'm certainly starting to think about what it will feel like to make the right on Hereford, left on Boylston... If the memory of my first marathon is an indicator, I'm guessing I'll feel tired and not much else until after crossing the finish.

Preparing for this race has been quite a bit more difficult than training for Philly in 2011. These past few weeks, I've been tired, sick, super-busy at work, dealing with condo-related nonsense, stepping in and out of slushy snow-melt puddles, running up and down hills over and over again for 20 miles with the DFMC team two Saturdays ago, and squeezing out an 18-mile run this past Saturday morning after being out until 1am at a social engagement.

But, the snow has melted and will hopefully stay away (knock on wood). I went running in shorts for the first time of 2013 today-- the difference it makes is incredible. This weekend I'll be running the New Bedford Half Marathon, next weekend I'll do a 22-mile run, and after that, I'm tapering (which means I start scaling back my training and cutting out my longer long runs in order to let my muscles heal and strengthen up before the big day). Nearing the home stretch...

I'm also thrilled to have raised over $6200 for the Claudia Adams Barr Program, but my goal is $8000 so if you haven't made a donation yet but would like to contribute, you can do so here or send me a check made out to Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge.

And what better way to kick-start a spring fundraising drive than to the finish than another sale of amazing treats?!  Below is the list of offerings, some of which were actually requested by those lucky enough to try a sample... That said, if you want something else entirely, please ask and we'll see what we can do to accommodate your request.

Candy Bar Package
A collection of candy bars! We're offering a box of homemade classics:
  • Snickers
  • Peanut Butter Cup
  • Almond Joys
  • Milky Way
Spring Easter Basket
A delicious basket of treats including:
  • Almond cranberry granola
  • Buttermilk chocolate chip pancake mix
  • Loaf of brioche with french toast recipe

Pick-up dates: Anytime before the morning of Saturday, March 30th
Order deadline: Friday, March 22nd
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.

Finally, I wanted to share some more memories of my grandfather, which is something I said I'd do when I started this blog. Dave Cook had an amazing repertoire of quotes that I remember well, so I figured I'd share a few...
  • "It's a jungle out there"
  • "You can tell 'em, but you can't tell 'em much."
  • "If you have to go, you might as well go first class"
  • "Is the Pope Catholic?"  (very apropos, given today's news of white smoke from the Vatican)
  • "Never send a boy to do a man's job"
He also used to place his hand on my head, and say "Heal!" My aunt Steph recently sent me this picture-- my grandfather holding me when I was a baby.

I loved him, I miss him.

My goal in running for DFMC is to make even the smallest difference in someone else's family by helping extend or save the life of a loved one.

Please make a donation:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ask and you shall receive

A few weeks ago, I went running along the Charles wearing a relatively new Saucony jacket, in which I placed my car key, only to find it missing from my pocket upon returning to my car. This killed me, because a few years ago I lost a different car key along a similar run. That time, I had stopped for a mid-run snack and forgot to zip up my pocket, so the key fell out. Since then, I've been very conscious of the state of my zippers at all times, so you can imagine my confusion when I saw that the pocket was in fact zipped, but the key was gone! Unfortunately, the pocket was attached to the jacket by iron-on hemming tape instead of an actual stitch, and a small bit of the tape had come undone, exposing a hole at the bottom of the pocket. $337 later, I had a new "smart key" provided by the Toyota dealership.

My new favorite company
Saturday, at the DFMC team training run, I was talking to a woman named Paula, who complimented me on my choice of jackets. It turned out that she was a rep from Saucony who had come to the meeting to demo running gear and provide support to the team. She gave me her business card and asked me to email her with the story of the lost key.  I wrote it up, and indicated that I didn't need any more gear, but they were more than welcome to aid my fundraising effort. The next morning, Saucony made a $337 donation. I was pretty excited about this - at best I had expected an apologetic response and a gift card, but this was a much more meaningful gesture.

I also had an awesome run on Saturday.  I had planned on 16 miles, and after the first 5-mile turnaround, I found myself running alongside a pack of girls who were actually running my pace. My new friend Amanda convinced me to stick out another 2 miles with her, which I did, finishing an 18-mile run with an average pace under 7:40/mile. Six weeks ago I was hardly running at all and still in PT for my hip-- so I was feeling pretty good with this run.

I'm very appreciative of my experiences this past weekend. The people at Saucony made me realize that many people are willing to give money towards this cause, so long as someone simply asks them. My run with Amanda reminded me that I'm a pretty good runner, and that all of this effort is not only relevant to the stories of my own friends and family, but to a lot of others as well.

Everyone I've met running with Dana-Farber, like Paula and Amanda, have had similar stories about the ways in which they've been impacted by cancer. Few have said "I wanted to run the Boston Marathon and DFMC was my ticket into the race." I heard from two different people on Saturday that they recently lost someone, almost suddenly, due to pancreatic cancer. I've spoken a lot about melanoma and prostate cancer, because of my high risk, but I knew nothing about cancer of the pancreas, so I figured I'd take a look at what the Claudia Adams Barr Program has been doing in this realm.

I found something pretty interesting: it's apparently been discovered that an anti-malarial drug called hydroxychloroquine is effective in shrinking or slowing the growth of pancreatic cancers:

Hydroxychloroquine is a drug that inhibits “autophagy,” a process that enables cells to break down and eliminate structures such as damaged cell membranes. Cancer cells use autophagy to outwit chemotherapy treatment: by activating this process they survive the stress of therapy. Alec Kimmelman, MD, PHD, with Barr Program support in 2009-‘10 discovered that autophagy is turned on all at all times in pancreatic cancer cells suggesting that pancreas tumors are highly dependent on autophagy and therefore good candidates for autophagy-inhibiting treatments. Testing with mice treated with the drug, the treatments were found to be very effective and Dr. Kimmelman plans to move to human trials soon.

I strongly believe in the mission and impact of the DFMC team. In my last post, I wrote about how much I enjoy running, and I am certainly excited about running the Boston Marathon-- but that's not why I'm running for DFMC. I'm part of this team because I wanted to do something to raise awareness, and money, for the fight against cancer.

With that being said, I've decided I won't be satisfied by hitting my goal of $6500, which I expect to surpass well before Marathon Monday. I've raised my fundraising goal to $8000 and with your help, I'll get there.