Ring the Bell for Another BIG Announcement!

Guess who’s going to be ringing the opening bell at the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) on October 10? Me and my heroes from Team in Training! Whaaat!

If you’re not familiar with CBOE, it’s the largest options exchange in the world. Our teammate Dave, who has been coordinating the planning, says it’s extremely rare that anyone gets to do this bell ringing ceremony – it is the kind of thing usually reserved for famous people, visiting dignitaries, and Stanley Cup winners. The timing will be a perfect lead-in to the Chicago Marathon on October 12, where many of my teammates will be running. These folks are my heroes and comrades, and I am so privileged and humbled to stand with them!

It’s such a huge honor for our team to be invited to do this, and speaks highly of the important work TNT and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society does to advance treatments and survival rates for blood cancers.

As a race participant and fundraiser, they’ve helped me, too. Being part of this team has changed my life for the better, and I couldn’t be more grateful for what they do.

Most of all… This is happening because YOU have thrown your support behind us (repeatedly) and shown the world that you care about ending blood cancers. Thank you!!

I’m running the Nike Women’s Half Marathon on October 19. If you haven’t donated yet, please join us here in creating a world without blood cancers. We need you!

Here’s a few fun photos of the team in action… more to come after October 10. :)

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Fundraising Update: We’re Getting Closer!

Great big thanks to everyone who has donated so far. We’re now at 70% of our goal to raise $3,000 for blood cancer research by Sept. 30! We’re getting closer than ever! There is still time to donate and get your funds matched.

Your support has huge impact. For example, between Aug. 1, 2013, and July 31, 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved six new anticancer therapeutics and new uses for five previously approved anticancer therapeutics. Three of those were for blood cancers, and two were advanced with help from LLS funding.

I cannot begin to tell you how touched I am by every donation. Whether it’s an anonymous gift or a note with words of encouragement, each one lets me know that we’re all in this together. One of my favorite moments from the past week was opening an envelope from my aunt Anne (Julie’s daughter, Marge’s sister, Johan’s mom) with this gorgeous pencil sketch.

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Marge (L) and Julie, sketched by Anne B. based on a mid-1940s photo.

This is from a photograph taken in the mid-1940s, when Marge was a toddler. It was over a decade before Anne was born, and a few more decades before any of us grandkids came along. You can see it all on their faces here: the love, the hope, the spirit of adventure that characterized these two women throughout their lives.

They are two of the reasons I’m running to raise money to fight blood cancers.

Donor Shout-Outs!

So many awesome supporters this week! Ginormous thanks to (in no particular order) the Dan H. family, the Greg K. family, Anne and John B., Jim M., Eric S., Arlene S., Linda S., Kartik G., Susan and James W., Maureen and Bill C., Kathy L., Neil H., Megan S., Bob R., and 5 more anonymous donors! (Hopefully I didn’t forget anyone!) You guys are amazing!

Also, special thanks to Alan and Jess for spreading the word!

–> Donate Here <–

Meet My Family: Johan, the songwriter

“But this day came to be / when we carried you.” – Vaskula, “Procession”

I’ve come to realize lately that the central theme of this blog is not running — it’s grief, and what we do to take the grief life has given us and transform it into something meaningful, even beautiful. I’m running a half marathon in memory of 5 relatives who lost their lives to blood cancers, including my grandma Julie and aunt Marge.

In Part 1 of this blog post series, I introduced you to my aunt Marge’s daughter Jess, who started an organic farm to honor her late mother’s legacy of caring for animals and the earth.

Today in Part 2, I’d like you to meet another one of my cousins. Johan is nine years younger than me, so I have many memories of watching him grow up, especially going to his classical violin recitals with his mom Anne and our grandma Julie. In addition to playing guitar with Chicago black metal band Vukari, he just released a critically acclaimed new wave side project last month as Vaskula. The Chicago Reader describes it as “Peter Murphy meets M83.” (How cool is that??)

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My cousin Johan, the man behind Vaskula.

When we were all together with Jess at Marge’s funeral last year, I knew he was working on an album but didn’t realize one of the resulting songs, “Procession”, was inspired by that event. Hearing it for the first time (during one of my training runs, no less) was an incredibly moving experience.

I invited Johan to share what inspired him to write the song, and what it would mean for all of you to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I especially like how he described Marge’s spirit. He says:

“I had this arpeggio sequence that was very powerful and I found a way to make an entire song out of it. After working with the music for sometime I decided to start from scratch lyrically and go from the heart. I tried to avoid anything too personal on the rest of the album but I think this one needed it.

I’m not huge on talking about emotions (typical guy) but Marge and Grandma were very special women. I think the few times in my life where I’ve actually felt genuine emotions were at their respective funerals. Vaskula is music for reflection. I think I achieved that and ending the album with this piece was planned early on in my head. What you said about turning grief into something productive and beautiful is exactly what I wanted to achieve.

Both writing the lyrics and tracking the vocals were a swift process that I can’t describe better than just ‘happening.’ There was only one line of words I rewrote before vocal tracking and they just seemed to flow. The actual recording of the vocals was quite swift as well. After having a difficult time demoing all vocal recording I took a little time off and helped my collaborator Elizabeth get her parts recorded on the rest of the album. After working with her it just clicked for me that I didn’t have to belt everything out like I learned in classical voice lessons. I saved the intense, belted out singing for the very last line which seemed appropriate.

I put equal effort into writing the guitar solo as I did with the words. The notes had to match the power of the song and since I used a very magical guitar (it was one of the reasons my parents met, long story) as well as improving on certain parts at the studio I achieved something both calculated and spontaneous, just like how Marge was.

Even though Marge lived far away I always felt close to her. It was always nice having her visit and she brought her joy to us when she was around. Both Marge and Julie (Hoyer, my grandmother who was also lost to blood cancer) taught me how to be a caring person and how to laugh at myself and enjoy life. Marge could always brighten a room with her laughter and I won’t forget how important aspects like that are in life. Hopefully listeners can create their own story while listening to “Procession.” Without knowing the background on the song I still feel one would be able to tell it is full of positive meaning and reflection.

I’m happy I could honor her in my own way and hope that there can be some progress made in finding ways to combat blood cancer.”

Check out the song on YouTube.

You can join me and my family in the fight against blood cancers by donating here. Thanks for your support!

Mile 8 of 12 during training on Chicago's lakefront trail.

Training Update: Last Long Run Before the Race

I did 12 miles on Chicago’s lakefront yesterday. It took 3 miles for my sleep-deprived grumpiness to subside, another mile to find a bathroom because I had chugged too much coffee, then I cruised along – until the last 3 miles.

Those last 3 miles were brutal. My IT bands were acting up. For non-runners: this feels like there are rubber bands extending from your hips to your knees that have been cranked so tightly your knees lock up. It’s painful, and not uncommon during training. Coach Mike showed me how to loosen them by massaging the lactic acid out of the muscles with a water bottle. This sounds so clinical and gentle, but let me tell you, I was making what I like to call “warrior noises” – basically howling and screaming. Amazingly, this actually WORKS. It was just enough to get me back to the lovely folks from Athletico who stretched us out at no charge.

I’m feeling better today and feel confident that I can finish all 13.1 miles of the race strong. Not bad for someone who could barely run two miles last winter! Have I mentioned lately that TNT coaches are amazing??

Donor Shoutouts!

Very special thanks to recent donors Barb, Kristin, Ann, Erica, Kathiryn and Greg. Some of you, I’ve never met but you donated because of your love for Marge and Jess, and I cannot tell you how moved I am. Thanks so much for your generous support!

There is one week left until the fundraising deadline and we still need help to meet our goal. All donations will be matched! Donate Here.

Big Fundraising News!

We’re currently at $825 or 28% of our goal to raise $3,000 for LLS by Sept. 30.

There’s still a long way to go – and now, I’m very pleased to announce that we have some help to get there. HUGE help.

An anonymous angel donor has offered to match up to $1,000 in donations made between now and Sept. 30. The catch? We actually have to raise it! That’s where I need YOUR help. If you’ve already donated (thank you!), please consider donating again, or simply share the donation page link with your personal networks. If you haven’t donated yet but have been meaning to, this is the perfect time! The more we raise, the more is matched. Every little bit helps – even a dollar. It all adds up to hope for patients facing cancer.

FYI: If you’re not comfortable entering your credit card online, we can take checks. Just drop me a note and we’ll work it out. :)

Our anonymous donor really wants to see me and Alan decked out in our finest purple race gear at the Nike Women’s Half Marathon. Let’s not let them down!

–> Donate Here <–

Donor Shoutout!

Special thanks to my dear friend Jackie and another anonymous donor, along with our anonymous matching donor, for their recent donations and pledges. Your support means everything, and provides cancer patients with the hope they need. Thank you so much!

Grand Canyon 2011

Meet My Family: Farmer Jess, the Green Duchess

I’ve come to realize lately that the central theme of this blog is not running. It’s grief, and what we do to take the grief life has given us and transform it into something meaningful, even beautiful and empowering. That’s what running with Team in Training is doing for me this year.

This is the first in a series of posts about how blood cancer has affected my family, and what each of us has done with the grief life has handed us. We have lost 5 of our own to blood cancers – people who loved us and raised us, whose absence is deeply felt. When you donate, you give us hope. You let us know we are not alone.

Today, I’d like to you to meet my cousin, Jess. She lost her mom, Marge, to a short and brutal battle with lymphoma in January 2013. We spent many a fun summer together at Grandma Julie‘s house before we lost her to multiple myeloma. Here is Jess adventuring with Marge in 2011.
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Jess has done something out of the ordinary to honor her late mother’s memory. She started Green Duchess Farm. When you’re in New Jersey, check out her naturally grown eggs, herbs, chickens and turkeys.

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Jess at her farmer’s market booth in 2014, wearing her late mom’s favorite hat. The logo was designed by our talented aunt, Anne.

Here’s what Jess has to say about Marge, and why you should donate to LLS:

“She was not only my mother, but my best friend. She set a high standard of the type of person I want to be. She instilled in me a deep love for plants, animals, and nature. She showed me how to live life with dedication, passion, and fortitude. The pain of the loss of her gets easier to bear each day but I am always reminded of her, in the things we enjoyed together and things we thought we would do in the future.

I always thought that she, who had endured so much struggle throughout her life, was invincible. I know now that is not the case for any of us. I find myself warning my loved ones that I too may fall victim and be taken too soon. I want to live a full life in order to carry on her legacy of selfless volunteer work, teaching of children, loving friendship, and joy of life. Every disease has it’s charity fund now. How does one choose which to support? Are they not all deserving? I don’t know, but it would mean the world to me if someone was moved by our story and decided to donate to LLS. Hopefully one day, researchers will find a way to prevent losses like ours.”

–> Donate Here <– 

Training Update

Yesterday was a cutback, meaning we only ran 90 minutes. The weather has turned cool here, and I actually had to wear gloves at the beginning because it was slightly over 40 degrees at 7:00 AM when I started. (GLOVES! Are you kidding me, Mother Nature?)

I’ve been having this problem lately where I get incredibly cranky and tired after my long runs, no matter how strong I felt during the actual running. To distract motivate myself, I’ve been bribing myself through long runs with Spotify playlists and trying new fuel gel flavors. They have some pretty crazy flavors. (Salted Watermelon GU gel is surprisingly good.) I tried a new fuel packet on my run yesterday that was supposed to be an all natural version of Nutella, but it squirted everywhere when I opened it and then it stuck to the roof of my mouth after I ate it.

This is why the coaches always remind us to test these things out before race day; you don’t want to find yourself running down the crowded course with brown goo all over your hand, smacking Nutella in your mouth like a dog who stole a peanut butter sandwich, losing precious speed… which is pretty much what happened to me yesterday. But I was alone in the woods, so no witnesses.

Speaking of dogs, our teammate Stacey stopped by at the end of our training run with her and Coach Mike’s 14-week-old English Setter puppy, Ezra. Little Ez gives awesome hugs. It was a wonderful treat to play with a puppy after a long run!
Donor Shout-Out!
Special thanks to my sister, Kate, for her donation and unending moral support. (You might know her as the other bald-headed baby in this post.) Where would I be without you, my dear? :)