Tracktown, USA

Prep for the Eugene Half-Marathon

“Initially you’re overwhelmed. But gradually you realize it’s like a wave. Resist, and you’ll be knocked over. Dive into it, and you’ll swim out the other side.”

—The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

If these words were spoken by the Dame Judy Dench, they must be taken seriously.

I don’t like to run. I live in Tracktown, USA, birthplace of Nike and host of this year’s Olympic trials. Still don’t like to run.

I wish I could learn how to like running. I know how to run. I don’t know how to enjoy it. Deanna enjoys it.

Taking the words of Judy Dench to heart, I signed myself up for the Eugene half marathon on my birthday weekend and bought some cold weather running clothes. I figured at the very least I love wearing those compression leggings, but I think I’ve taken the plunge even further.

If you’ve seen the list of adventures Deanna and I have planned for our first 1000 days of being married, you’ll see that we’ve accomplished twelve. Hooray! You’ll also see that one of the items on that list is to fund the rescue of a North Korean refugee through Liberty in North Korea. Here it goes.

I interned with LiNK over three years ago, just shortly after Deanna and I begun dating. AlthoughI’m pretty sure most of my friends have heard from me at some point what they’re up to, if you haven’t, you’ve got to check out their website atlibertyinnorthkorea.org to see how supporting refugees can help further empower the people of North Korea to change their country from within.

This is something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time, and it makes for a neat quest since we’ve gotten married. It takes about $3000 to rescue a refugee. I’ve had the opportunity to meet more than a few from North Korea, and their stories are the most amazing. They’re the best reminders on how to celebrate life.

Well phase one of fundraising begins now! Visit stayclassy.org/lazarorescue to help us meet that goal, starting with half that amount within a year’s time.

I recorded a podcast episode with Steven a short while ago… Today that episode is live! Go listen. I share a little bit about my first trip to South Africa, brainstorm about my second (this was just before I left) and talk more broadly about life.

In addition to good conversation, The Steven Scott Foster Podcast is a place for a couple of my friend’s more underrated skills: interviewing- recording each of my three episodes with him has been a blast and honestly he just prompts good chats with really good conversation, and picking out random lines from our talks that make incredible episode titles.

You might as well hit the subscribe button too. His next episode is with Deanna!

Getting back into the swing of things, which includes race training. Got a good amount of sun this morning so I tried to redeem oversleeping by getting in a good run.

According to MapMyRun, it was a REALLY good run. 4 miles at a 9:09 minute pace. I’m skeptical, but nothing like running with this app in an area with no phone reception to boost your confidence.

Also, today is the day my nephew turns six. Hope you like Settlers of Catan Junior, Simoncello!

Today was the day I was supposed to tie the longest distance I’ve ever ran– five miles. And I did it… sort of. The trail by the Bonneville power lines I found unexpectedly led me up a mountain during mile two, which I thought would level out, but it never really did. Getting back down went even slower, since there were a number of tree fells in my way. The plan was to run without stopping, but that was hard to do when I needed to climb trees at some points. Mile two took over seventeen minutes and tired me out for the rest of the run more than I would’ve hoped, but I did make it to five at the end.

Thankfully, I’ve discovered a lot of new podcasts lately to go through while running.

NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour – This is the podcast that’s led to me developing an interest some of my favorite pop culture interests in the past few months. After all, they’ve had wonderful things to say about Jane the Virgin and the Hamilton Musical.

The Splendid Table – Along with Gastropod, this has become my new favorite food related podcast. They do a little Q&A and some interviews with a few of my favorite chefs and food writers, recently including Yotam Ottolenghi and J. Lopez Kenji-Alt.

Sounds Good with Branden Harvey – This is a new one. Apparently Branden is a social media star, but he’s also really good at finding pretty interesting people to interview.

Ducks vs. Gauchos Baseball Game

Had a blast yesterday pulling for my alma mater in Oregon territory… and going to our first ballgame of the year, hopefully the first of many.

I’ve been wanting to see my undergrad and graduate schools go head to head. Unfortunately one doesn’t have a football team and the other doesn’t have a futbol team… And their basketball teams always seem to go at it on Christmas Eve.


My school lost, but at least they lost to my second school. Olé!

About this time four years ago, I graduated from college in Santa Barbara. That means as much time has gone by since my college years as I spent actually attending it. It definitely feels weird because those four years felt like such a long time and my life looked completely different afterwards than how it was at the beginning of my UCSB days. I met Deanna, along with a good portion of the people who are now long time friends. On the flipside, it feels like graduation was a really, really recent event. According to the calendar, though, that isn’t so.

I had a really great college experience. So much so that the yellow-and-blue of anything UCSB related automatically conjures up all sorts of positive feelings and memories of everything from ridiculous late night trips to breakfast diners to random spontaneous hangouts in people’s apartments.

Some people label college the best years of your life. There’s definitely a lot I miss from college, but it’s so tough to compare the past and present. I guess that’s why you’re not supposed to do it, in theory. I went ahead and broke that rule and spend a while writing a blog post journal entry, asking whether or not college accounted for my best years so far.

There’s a lot to be said about not holding too tightly to moments of the past, no matter how fond those memories might be. But it’s also helpful to have a healthy way to process past events that continues to add to your life.

The Covered Bridges Bikeway

I do some of my best thinking on a bike seat, so I guess I should probably bike more often.

Somewhere just a bit south of Eugene is the Oregon Covered Bridges Bikeway. It’s a thirty-something mile circuit of bike paths that connect some of Western Oregon’s historic covered bridges.

Deanna and I recently spent a Sunday riding the circuit. It gave me a chance to work through some of the thoughts on my newest blog post… about upcoming transitions, how to figure out what to do next, and a shift in my way of thinking about how to help people.

I kept thinking, with the bike in motion zipping over planked bridges and tarmac, that I felt completely in my element. I was on a weekend adventure, biking a respectable amount of miles with my wife. Whenever all the pieces of a good moment seem to fit together, I think it’s worth taking note. You’re probably catching a whiff of some things that you were made for.

And that was a pretty good Sunday in the end.

I discovered how cheap it was to rent a pretty good quality bike from UO and noticed that the weather was perfect for a scenic ride.

Did 26+ miles on the Covered Bridges Bikeway into some deep rural towns and over rickety bridges. It was my first time in Dorena, where pretty much everyone had a pistol holster on.

Ça va, Monday? It’s sunny-ish, baseball’s back, and I’ve gotten a lot done by noon so I’d say that so far, it’s not too shabby.

Today my legs are feeling the effects of biking a solid 26 miles yesterday. Didn’t feel sore at all yesterday, but my run this morning was not so fun. Had to start walking around mile three. Hopefully it’s just a minor soreness I can blame on the bike. I’m really looking forward to the upcoming race.

Also, huge thanks to T-Mobile for the free MLBtv hookup. Here’s some free advertising. I’ve always wanted MLBtv but the package is freaking expensive, so if you hook me up I will be very pleased. Guess that’s what they were going for and its a win for all.

Training Ramps Up

Today’s run started off at the site of the auto accident that claimed track and field legend Steve Prefontaine’s life at an early age some 40 years ago.

Seemed like a fitting day to start my run today. Six miles. That’s the most I’ve ever ran and from now until May I get to keep saying that sentence once a week. I’m still not sure if I can say that I enjoy running but I am pleasantly amazed each time at the distance I ran. I’m surprised I still feel pretty good after six when I used to loathe running two. Craziest is feeling like I could do another when I’m done. If enjoying running means being pleasantly surprised at what you can actually do, then I guess I’m enjoying it.

I’ve been learning so much about being challenged lately. I’m glad I have something as literal and tactile as a half marathon to harvest lessons from.

My weeknight out crew… Deanna, Zhen, and a baby. All to celebrate another year in Oregon for Zhen.

I love Falling Sky for many reasons, particularly pastrami. Also their beer selection. Dr. Optic’s Standard Bitter is my pick for the month.

Even though I’ve been off for a couple months thanks to my leave of absence, it is technically my spring break. Cheers.

As of this week, I’m up to seven miles! Miles three and four were the hardest but after that it sort of felt like cruise control. Five more weeks to the half.

Some other good things from this week:

Radiolab — the episode they aired yesterday, technically a replay of a 2013 recording might have been the first thing I could label as a tearjerker podcast.

The way home roasting coffee beans make your house smell — did a batch of medium to dark roast Brazilian beans last night and it was lovely.

Ducks basketball — Stellar game versus Duke. On to the Eight!

I resumed taking and teaching classes at UO today, after being on leave since mid-December. Beignet isn’t too thrilled about her increase in home alone time, but in some ways it’s actually pretty nice to be back.
Three and a half months off is a freaking luxury. I don’t think they could’ve been better timed. Having the time off to go to Africa, work on my thesis, take care of Deanna when she got sick, and help Beignet adjust to the house really paid off.

Here’s hoping that this quarter is a balanced one. Graduation is coming and that’s something to look forward to. In the meantime, there’s a lot of perks to the grad school life to enjoy and keep busy with for the rest of the year.

Glad my dog has a facial expression to say “suckkkk itttt!” Also, glad it’s the weekend.

I forgot to do a good things gratitude post earlier this week but it’s never really too late so here we go.

Bend – So glad this city and the surrounding area exists. Had such a good weekend there last weekend. I loved it. Deanna loved it. The dog loved it.

Tumalo Falls – likewise, this was not just a great sight to behold but we got snow on the hike for Beignet to freak out about.

Other People’s Food – This podcast series by The Sporkful has been great. It looks at the interplay between race and culture relations with gastronomy. It’s gotten me to think more deeply than ever about Sriracha’s popularity, the presentation factor of stews, and the evolution of Italian food in new ways.

I clocked in an eight mile run this week. That’s another new personal best.

Exactly one more month until the half-marathon. This has never felt more possible and even if I don’t get onore ounce of enjoyment out of it, I’ve already liked it a lot more than I expected to. Did I mention that I’ve even acquired a bit of a taste for GU? That’s happened too.

There’s a number of reasons I’m running this half but a big one is to raise some money for Liberty in North Korea. I’m still a good ways away from my goal, but there is time. Please support me at classy.org/lazarorescue

This week’s long run was a gorgeous one. Sunlight. Great scenery. Also, nine miles! This used to feel way more impossible.
I actually think I’m going to miss being on this training plan when the race is over. I mean, no big, I can always train for something else or go run just to run, but I love the weekly feel of beating my best, having an event to train for, and being surprised I can actually pull this off.

So weird to think that I actually enjoy running in a lot of ways. This contradicts with what I’ve the first quarter century of my life.

Three more weeks! And there’s still time to support Deanna and I via our fundraising page atclassy.org/lazarorescue

Two more weeks to go until race day and today was the absolute best time I’ve had running, ever.

First, I had to get up at five to run on a Saturday. I wasn’t too happy about that. But I overslept an hour and was even less happy about that.

I hit the trail and the first few miles were the way they usually are, but somewhere after the fifth I realized I wasn’t that tired, if anything I had even more energy.

So I started picking up the pace and felt like I was having more fun going faster. Ended up doing ten miles with nine of them being under ten minutes. New PR for pace and distance! My initial goal pace for the half was eleven minutes, so not only does that appear possible, but thoroughly enjoying myself seems possible too.

Oh, and one more thing. I need donations! Kinda far from my target and race day draws close. Help me support Liberty in North Korea at stayclassy.org/

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure one of them is Pre’s Trail.”

–Quote from the shirt I’m wearing on race day

This is it! I finished my last week of full training with an 11 mile long run. Early morning at Pre’s Trail made this an especially pleasant run and best of all, I finished with a pace in the 9:40s at a long distance three times in a row now, which is almost two minutes faster than the pace I thought I would have.

Mostly, I’m surprised at being able to handle these long runs. I used to hate running two miles, and common logic generally suggests that if you hate two of something, signing up for eleven won’t be very pleasant. Congrats to running for being such a mold breaker.

Eugene Half Marathon

Why live in Wack-Town, when you could live in Track Town??? Come to Eugene.

Okay, so the City of Eugene Planning Dept. wasn’t so hot on my tag line for the city, but hey, it’s the birthplace of Nike, the old stomping grounds of Bill Bowerman, and home turf of running legend Steve Prefontaine’s.

All that makes me glad it’ll be the site of my first half marathon. And also, it’s home. That’s also nice.

This afternoon was the marathon expo for the race. Deanna told me I would probably really enjoy this thing and she was totally correct.

I wound up picking up my bib and microchip and tshirt, along with some other goodies- energy gum, yogurt chip trail mix, chai smoothie mix, and a custom Tracktown 16 bib to go with it. And I found a few other fun races to keep on our radar as possibilities in the near future.

Our team name for the race this year was an obvious choice as an ode to the cause we’re raising funds for, Liberty in North Korea – the funds will be used to help finance the rescue of a North Korean refugee. I can’t wait for the day I’m able to look back and know that this was something I’d helped to fund.

One buck at a time, one mile at a time. Our fundraising page is still open at stayclassy.org/lazarorescue and we’d love you to team up with us.

Twas the night before race day and we decided that rather than doing a simple carboload by ourselves we would cook up an insane amount of pastas, invite a bunch of people, and make a fundraiser out of it.

Cooked up a lasagna plus three pastas times three sauces. Had a good crowd over of runners and supporters alike. I’ve never cooked in bulk like this before but my undersized kitchen made me feel like Jon Favreau in Chef.

And the most fun stat was this- we haven’t done the full math yet but it looks like this event will have raised around $200 for LiNK. Carbs for a cause!

At least part of the team… Missing a few other faces at the starting line before getting even more separated.

Our goal was to use this half marathon to raise half the funds that it takes to help rescue a refugee from North Korea into safety and resettlement in a free country… Of course, only halfway rescuing somebody is kind of a mean thing to do, so we have eventual plans to raise the other half, but we liked the idea of running for a large portion of the cost.

Funds came in. Especially at the last minute. Somebody anonymously donated a huge amount. Our friend Caytlin gave us a kind gift. Our carboload alone raised a couple hundred.

We came in at $1,275 at the end of race day, which was just $225 short of our target but still a significant amount going to a great cause. Also, the fundraising page is still open, so there’s nothing stopping our goal from being met just because the race is over.

Thank you, to everybody who has supported us, financially or otherwise. One of these days somebody is going to be running with much higher stakes for the chance at a free life and your help will help him or her get there. For real.

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”
–Steve Prefontaine
Marathons have long been overused as a metaphor of how to respond to different challenges in life. That metaphor has given us played out cliches like “it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” In my case, though, it was neither a sprint nor a marathon. It was a half-marathon.

After actually running, though, I totally get why people use those cliches. Running long distances and life have a lot of parallels. Like how port-a-potties are the worst and should be avoided and are usually not worth it.

We did it! I’d like to thank my wife for getting me into running, Beignet Baby for being cool with us gone all morning, the podcasters who make The Splendid Table, the spectators who brought their dogs to cheer me on, the guy running in a Timbers jersey I used to pace myself without his knowledge, and my recent donors- including the overnight massive donation marked anonymous. I can’t rule out theInternet hacking collective, but thank you whoever you are.
I finished in 2:22:58 which was just a bit slower than my anticipated pace. I did finish within seconds of the winner, though. (The winner of the full, but, shhhh…) It was a really good day.

The other number worth noting is $1,225/$1,500, which is to say, we’re $275 off from our final goal. That’s one other finish line I’d love to cross this afternoon. If you’d like please come bystayclassy.org/lazarorescue – it’s the final stretch for Team Run DMZ.

The definition of adventure isn’t a fun experience. It’s the overcoming of a challenge in pursuit of a goal.
At the start of the year, my goal wasn’t to dominate a half-marathon. It wasn’t even to be good at running. I just wanted to learn how to like running.

Guess what?

I like running.

So much so, that I want to do it again! And I’m quite sure I’ll improve my time. Why am I so sure? Cause I’ll do everything in my power to avoid having to take a potty break next time. That was so not worth it.