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: