Dear Friends,

In just a week, I’ll be running my first half marathon. I’m doing this to raise both awareness of pancreatic cancer, and hopefully motivate people to action. I’m running with PANCAN’s team hope (PANCAN is the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network). PANCAN’s slogan is simple: KNOW IT. FIGHT IT. END IT.

My focus with this letter is on the first of these: KNOW IT. So if you could spare me a minute or two of your attention, I would very much appreciate it! If at the end of this, you are so inclined, donate a bit of money. I’d rather see 100 people donate $5 and understand why they should care about this disease (or send me a note letting me know you support the cause even if you can’t donate) then see 5 people donate $100. But even better: have 200 people read this.

Here are some important facts about pancreatic cancer:

  1. 90% of those who develop pancreatic cancer are random — there appears to be no genetic component to it. 10% is familial pancreatic cancer. Depending on the set of genes inherited, this group has 30-70% chance of developing pancreatic cancer in their lifetime. Familial pancreatic cancer is defined as two or more first degree relatives. Most specialists would put me, as well as other of my family members, in this category as I’ve lost both my dad and my grandma to this disease. I do not know if I have any (or which) of the genes implicated so far. Nor do my family members. Frankly there isn’t much point in knowing given the statistics below.
  2. Currently the prognosis for those diagnosed is that 70% will die within one year of diagnosis and only 6% will survive past 5 years.
  3. The reason for the abysmal statistic in #2 is that there are no early detection methods, so pancreatic cancer is often detected too late for surgery to be an option. It has so far largely eluded researchers ability to beat it via chemo (or reduce it enough so that surgery is an option). A recent “successful” clinical trial on a new chemo drug combination for pancreatic cancer showed that it added 8 weeks to a patient’s life. 8 weeks. Not months. Not years.
  4. In just 15 years (by 2030) pancreatic cancer will be the 2nd leading cause of cancer-related death. The first (which is true now) is lung cancer, which is largely preventable in a way that pancreatic cancer is not.

So why should you care about these statistic? Because even if you don’t have a family history, that doesn’t mean you can’t get this disease. And in 15 years, when you may be over 50 like me, your risk increases appreciably.

And without sustained research into this disease NOW, the picture in 15 years will remain bleak. Part of why pancreatic cancer will kill more people than breast and colon cancer (which are currently higher than pancreatic cancer) is because in the last 20 years we have developed very effective early screening methods and much more powerful treatment options for breast and colon cancer. These cancers can now be caught and treated early and people survive as result.

Sustained research into pancreatic cancer will lead to improved outcomes, but it has to be done now to really stem the tide. Maybe you don’t have a family member now that has the disease, but given the current set of statistics, the odds that you will are increasing as the rates of the disease are increasing. It’s a scary picture, but not an unhopeful one. My hope is that if I get it, I’m well into my 80s or it’s far enough down the road that the prognosis has significantly improved due to early detection and better treatment.

You may feel like $5 doesn’t make a difference. In fact you could argue that the $2000 that I pledged to raise won’t make a difference. But I disagree. $2000 is about 2 weeks of a “fully loaded” graduate student’s time (i.e. includes the cost of their tuition, research stipend, healthcare benefits and the administrative overhead on those). And that “I wonder if…” moment, the one that leads to the breakthroughs, is just a moment. And there are a lot of moments in 2 weeks. $5 covers  one of those moments. And a few of those will be all it takes to really start turning the tide on this disease.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, you’ve already supported me and PANCAN by doing so (KNOW IT). But if you feel like taking the next step (FIGHT IT), please donate here: And together we can END IT.


Twin Cities Purple Ride 2013

Twin Cities Purple Ride 2013



Flow and friendship

I was out in DC a couple of weeks ago for work, but as usual, mixed in a lot of time with friends. My trips out there are always energizing, even if it takes me a few days to recover from them when I get home.

After a year and a half in Minneapolis, I’m still finding my circles and go to friends–the ones who invite you over for dinner on random week day nights (and vice versa). So it’s nice to be back in my circles in DC, where I can sit at friends’ kitchen table and talk about whatever is going on and whatever shared passions (or friends) that brought us together in the first place.

I stayed with Ken and Jean while I was there, and the first night Jean and I talked about cooking–recipes we’ve tried and ones we want to try, various cooking and baking techniques (what works and what doesn’t). Most people talk about flow in the context of work or sports, but I think the same state of being exists in our personal relationships. Where you are just immersed in conversation and laughter and time falls away. Jean and were there and I found that same place in several conversations during my trip. It’s why DC is always energizing, if also always hectic.

The recipe below is one Jean and I talked about at her kitchen table. We were comparing different techniques and toppings for apple crisp. This recipe was originally for pear crisp, but works equally well for apples.

Apple Crisp (with plain yogurt)

Apple (or Pear) Crisp

Adapted from Eating Well


  • 1 1/2 c rolled oats (don’t use the quick cooking ones, I prefer the thick cut oats)
  • 1/2 c chopped pecans (or walnuts, some pistachios added to the mix are nice too)
  • 1/2 c packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 c whole-wheat or all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 5 Tbsp melted butter


  • 3 1/2 pounds ripe but firm pears (anjou) or crisp apples, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 c pure maple syrup (agave nectar also works)
  • 1/2 c raisins
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1-2 Tbsp minced crystallized ginger
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. To prepare topping: Combine oats, walnuts, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Drizzle with melted butter and stir until evenly moist.
  3. To prepare filling: Combine apples or pears, maple syrup, raisins, flour, lemon juice and ginger in a large bowl and mix well. Transfer the mixture to a 9×13 baking dish. Sprinkle the topping over the pears.
  4. Bake the crumble until the apples/pears are tender and the topping is golden, 45 to 50 minutes. Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving to thicken up a bit.
  5. Serve with plain greek yogurt (my favorite) or vanilla ice cream or all by itself.


I’m already falling behind and it’s only the third week. I’ve got a proposal deadline and when I spend most of day writing and/or editing other people’s stuff, I’m not inclined to spend anymore time writing (or anymore time at a computer). But the goal was just to write. Not to write great, earth shattering stuff–just to write SOMETHING.

This year I thought about sending out a picture post card to wish friends and family Happy New Year (I did not have my shit together to get it done in time for Christmas…and clearly didn’t get it together after Christmas either). I love getting those postcards from friends and family! [Seriously if I’m not on your picture post card list, I should be! They all go on my fridge and then I talk about you with my other friends :)] And with so many friends living far away now, I’m always looking for ways to keep in touch. But single people don’t send those kinds of cards out. I’m not sure why.

In any case, had got my shit together in time and had I not had this lingering worry that friends and family would think I was an arrogant douchebag, I would have sent something with the following pictures.

I think they pretty well capture the highlights of the year. What’s funny to me is that while the pictures above capture some great moments, these moments don’t really define 2013 for me. Because I spent most of this past year preparing to head down a pretty specific road, only to notice some side path that intrigued me enough to draw me down that instead. So for me, 2013 will be mostly remembered as a year of preparation, of fretting and second guessing. Perhaps this side path will just be a diversion, or maybe it will go somewhere really interesting and beautiful. In any case, the very fact that I started down it has widened my aperture again and for that I’m grateful. 2014 seems filled with possibilities in a way that 2013 did not, despite it being, by any measure, a good year.


I want to point out that 3 of the top 7 women in the 35-39 age category at the CX national championships are from Minnesota (and Corey, who took 4th this year, won last year). So yes our fields are tiny, but they’re just as fast. I also learned this year that inconsistent, unstructured riding, while being great fun, does not translate into results. While I was pretty sure this would be the case, I felt compelled to conduct an experiment to verify it. I don’t regret this. Also, racing cross with a back injury sucks.

In other really exciting news of the adult sort….my student loans are paid off! Not the kind of adult news you were hoping for?? Mind you, I now have a mortgage. And I have to buy more furniture.

Last month, I bought a sweet Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie frame rather than buy a couch for my living room. Priorities: I have them, they just constantly change.

Week 2 (a week late, but whatever, it’s an arbitrary deadline) – check



You better have just yelled that out loud. The last one should sort of be like “Stella!” in Streetcar Named Desire. I don’t care if you’re at work. Let’s try that again.


One more time, but this time, roll the Rs.


Now you are in the right mood to eat this:

Rhubarb sauce in a pretty bowl

I’m not sure which I like better, the rhubarb sauce or the pretty bowls. Or maybe that there is still two more pounds of rhubarb in the fridge, enough (I hope) for rhubarb bread and rhubarb-ginger crumble. One of my co-workers used rhubarb to make a simple syrup to use in whiskey sours, how smart is that? (There is an side benefit of yelling RHUBARB! at work–someone might have some to give you and they might have a recipe to share.)


I did the Almanzo 100! Will have to write up a proper “race” report soon (really I just rode it). Still digging out from the trip to Peru in April (another blog post…and lots of photo editing) and very busy May at work. Finally got my first few wins at work, and with DARPA no less.

I was out in VA for training camp in March. While I had a great time catching up with teammates and riding in the Blue Ridge mountains, it also reminded me of why I moved–I was ready for a change. Still love Virginia though.

You can never go home

I maintain that not blogging is actually more work than blogging. When you don’t write for months on end, you don’t know where to start. Dozens of post ideas have come and gone. Not one has compelled me to sit down at a keyboard and get it out. (That has in fact happened. Here and here come to mind.) In some cases, wisdom suggested that some posts shouldn’t be written (like how terrible most of the Minnesota ‘cross courses are…sharing tape lines so a rider a half lap behind you can take you out, barriers you go into straight on at Mach 1…really I’m not going to talk about this. It’s just going to get me in trouble).

I have a string of recipes to share. I have another beautiful nephew. I am racing, and by that I mean just trying to survive, the Almanzo 100 and the Westside Dirty Benjamin. I hate riding more than 60 miles; I love riding gravel; I’m not sure how this is going to go. I’m going to Peru in April! But I’m not going to write about any of these (yet).

After months away, what got me back to the keyboard finally was Arlington, VA. I’m really looking forward to my trip out for training camp in March, because there is so much I miss and this transition has been harder than I expected.

  • I miss weekday dinners at Jean and Ken’s and babysitting Charlotte.
  • I miss my older brother who isn’t my brother Jim.
  • I will miss my garden plot.
  • I miss cyclocross. At least ‘cross as I’ve known it. Having people cheer for me that actually know my name (versus, “Go lady!” Really? I’m covered in sweat and snot and mud, and you’re calling me “lady”?). Cheering for friends, with a beer in hand. I miss all the friends I’ve made through the sport (see most of the blogroll on the right).
  • I miss riding year around, comfortably.
  • I miss the Coppi CX practice–fun, hard, beautiful mornings, followed by coffee & kvetching.

Sunrise at Bluemont

  • I miss the Coppi group rides–fun, hard, somewhat scenic, followed by coffee and colorful, lewd, hysterically funny conversations.
  • I miss my teammates, in all their annoying, banal, childish, funny, insightful, derisive, supportive, dysfunctional-family-I-wouldn’t-trade-for-the-world glory.
  • I wish I could take off to Shenandoah or the Blue Ridge for a challenging bike ride or fun hike.
  • I really miss my girlfriends and our day-long, mimosa-filled brunches. This is an entire blog post itself.
  • I miss wearing heels and dresses/skirts on dates. Everything is a lot more casual here (which is sometimes nice too).
  • I miss feeling like I’m on top of my job. I never lost a pitch at DARPA; I haven’t won a single proposal since I got here.
  • While most of the time I bypassed the monuments entirely, when I did stop, I always left with renewed faith in and compassion towards my fellow humans.

Jefferson Memorial

The other thing I think about is that you can never go home. You can never see it with the same set of eyes, with the same heart and mind that you once did. Because there are things about Minnesota that I had forgotten about. Like the fact that while everyone is warm and friendly, it’s really hard to get anyone to actually be your friend (go to the movies, have over for dinner, go for a bike ride, etc.). You can have a 15 min chat at a race or party and the other person will not introduce themselves. You can show up for a local bike shop’s cross practice most of the fall and they won’t ask if you’re interested in joining their team. The saying here amongst the non-natives is, “Minnesotans will give you directions anywhere–but their own home.” It’s some weird instinct to avoid awkwardness (because let’s face it, sometimes the initial stages of becoming friends is much like the initial stages of dating) and some of it is simply that it does not occur to them to enlarge their circle of friends/family to include you–they assume you have your own. Don’t get me wrong, they are really wonderful people.

I had also forgotten about winter. I used to kind of like winter, now….I’m so over it. I just want to feel sunlight that is warm and not always have a ¼ tank of gas in the car. I’ve learned to ride in colder temps than I did back east, and riding in fresh snow is giggle-the-entire-time kind of fun. But the number of long(ish) rides I’ve got in since November is in the single digits (and rarely more than 2hrs). I have to ride a winter bike with cross tires (even on the road) so it just feels like a slog no matter what. On the positive side, I am adapting–I rode on Sunday for 2.5hrs in 30F with 16mph winds, and it felt almost balmy. I try to remind myself that riding in 100F+ is no fun either, and Minneapolis and St. Paul are prettier cities and more bike friendly than DC. But right now I’d give a kidney to ride in 40F+ down MacArthur Blvd.

Minnehaha Falls in winter

As much as I wonder if I should have stayed in Arlington, I wonder too if I could go back. Because that too was home and it wouldn’t be the same either.

Link Dump
Some new folks on the blog roll, please stop by and say hi:

  • Amy and Brian were among the first cycling folks I met here in MN. They just embarked on a 20,000mi bike ride across Euroasia and How I Learned to Stop Worrying details the genesis of their trip, their preparation, and now their journey. There are two things I love about riding a bike: seeing places you would never see otherwise and pushing your limits. I think their trip captures both.
  • April is a Minnesota cyclocross racer, and one of the friendliest. She’s also well on her way to becoming a regional fast-woman after just two seasons.
  • Grit & Glimmer. She rides, races, cooks, takes pictures, and blogs (and does so far better than I in all categories).

When folks ask me about Minnesota politics, I tell them that despite electing a professional wrestler (Ventura), comedian (Franken), and dingbat (Bachman) to major political offices, Minnesota tends to be be a pretty rational place when it comes to solving state or city problems (minus the last Republican legislature, of which most were voted out the next cycle). Case in point: how to we have safer streets for bicyclists? Conduct a study to see what streets/intersections are dangerous and what driver/cyclist behaviors contribute to the accident. Even if you don’t live in Minneapolis, it’s worth a read. The data is pretty compelling that the more people that ride, the safer the roads are–Minneapolis’ bicycle accident rate has declined as ridership has increased over the past 10 years.

I’m a firm believer that finding a sport you love can change your life. It connects you to like-minded people. It allows you to accomplish something, to see tangible progress. I think these are basic human needs and when they aren’t met, we’re unhappy and dissatisfied. I also believe in second chances. And sometimes third and fourths. Which is why every single dollar I win at a race is matched (by me) and donated to Gearing Up, a non-profit that provides women in transition from abuse, addiction, and/or incarceration with the skills, equipment, and guidance to safely ride a bicycle for exercise, transportation, and personal growth. In their year-end appeal, their director Kirsten Gavin (an elite cyclocross racer herself) included the following story:

About one week after graduation, one of the recent graduates stopped by the Gearing Up administrative office to put air in her tires. After sorting out her tire, she looked up and said, “You know, when I walk into my house or group – people know I’m a cyclist…” She is no longer a criminal, an addict, a homeless person – or whatever her former fate was – today, she is a cyclist.

Freezer fodder

One of the frustrating things about moving right before cross season is starting with an empty freezer. I do a lot of my cooking on the weekends, and with weekend time in short supply during cross season, it’s nice to be able to reach in the freezer for good, home-cooked food. I typically have frozen veggies from the garden, jam, meat, pesto, bolognese sauce, soups, chili, muffins and quick breads rattling around mine.

Loaf-pan Lasagna

Now that I’m mostly settled, I’ve been trying to remedy that. First up on the restocking list was a big batch of chili. Next up was lasagna. And not just any old lasagna, the best lasagna you’ve ever had. I’m not exaggerating, in fact I may be understating how good this lasagna is. And while I’m not sure I could ever get sick of this lasagna, I don’t think I could finish an entire pan in one week. Luckily this recipe is sized for two loaf pans–one for right away, and another one for the freezer.

Loaf-pan Lasagna
Makes two 9”x5” loaf pans, each loaf pan serves five. Adapted from Cooks Illustrated.

Loaf-pan Lasagna

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz lean ground beef (85-90%)
8 oz ground sweet Italian sausage
¼ c heavy cream
2 cans (15 oz) diced tomatoes, drained with ½ c juice reserved
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
ground black pepper

Filling, Noodles, Cheese:
8 oz ricotta cheese (either whole-milk or part-skim)
2 oz parmesan cheese, grated (~1 c)
¼ c chopped fresh basil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
8-10 no-boil lasagna noodles
10-12 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded

For the Sauce:
1. Heat oil in large sauce pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion, a pinch of salt and cook until softened. Stir in garlic, cook until fragrant, then stir in beef and sausage and break into small pieces. Cook until no longer pink.
2. Stir in cream, bring to a simmer and cook until liquid evaporates. Add drained tomatoes, reserved juice, and tomato sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook until flavors are blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the Filling, Noodles & Cheese:
3. Combine ricotta, parmesan, basil, egg, salt and pepper.
4. Spread ½ c of sauce over the bottom of the loaf pan. Place one of the noodles on top of the sauce and spread a layer of the ricotta cheese mixture over the noodle. Sprinkle with mozzarella (~1/4 c), then spoon. ½ c sauce over the top.
5. Place another noodle on top and repeat the layering process two more times (noodle, ricotta, mozzarella, sauce). I usually can get four layers in one pan and five in the other, but get at least four in each.
6. On top of the last noodle, spread ½ c sauce then sprinkle ¼ c mozzarella (and maybe a little extra parmesan if you have it).
7. Cover one of the loaf pans tightly with foil (you may want to spray the underside with cooking spray). Bake at 400 F (don’t forget to pre-heat the oven!) until the sauce bubbles lightly around the edges, 30-35 min (it may look there is too much liquid at this point, don’t stress about it). Remove the foil and continue to bake until the cheese is browned in spots, 10-20 min. Let cool 20 min before serving.
8. Cover the other foil pan with foil as well. Secure with a rubber band. With a felt tip marker, write: 400 F, 30-35 min covered + 10-15 min uncovered. Put in the freezer. (That way you don’t have to go looking for this recipe later.) Let thaw before baking.