Ride Report & Thank You: Obliteride 2017

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Obliteride #5 has come and gone. These 500 words are my way of saying Thank You to all my friends & family who donated to help fight cancer; to honor those who are fighting it themselves; and to remember too many who have lost the fight, but whose memories live on.

I struggle to sum up this event (it’s more than just a 2-day, 153.5 mile bike ride) in just a single theme. But there is one word that comes to mind: Grit. Not the gritty road dirt that builds up on your chain and in your pores, nor the gritty BC fire smoke that miraculously cleared the day before we set out. The grit I’m thinking of is the grit of determination to train, fundraise, and show up day after day, week after week; then push yourself for 18 hours up 10,000 feet of hills, through a crash, and all the way through to the finish line.

Why? Because by working this hard, we show just how hard we’re willing to work to make cancer go away.

Here are some favorite moments of the weekend:

  • Josh, who trained a total of 100 miles (that’s being generous), pushing the Siri button on his phone and saying, “Crispr, make me faster.”
  • Meeting a primatologist, turned real estate developer, who turned out to be an Issaquah neighbor.
  • Riding Mark’s comfy bike (Josh rode my Madone).
  • Giving Ellen, my favorite volunteer, a big hug in Gig Harbor.
  • Arriving in Burien, after the amazing ride through Normandy Park, and stopping for espresso with some other “Random Nerds.”
  • Sending pics and pleas from the ride to my last few donors to push my fundraising over the top.
  • Ben, my teammate from Fred Hutch, taking a break from ice cream and blackberries, to explain how gene therapy works, as we pushed to be the last team to cross the Day 1 finish line in Tacoma.
  • Feeling like a Rock Star: Free food, SWAG galore, massages, dudes who pump your tires and lube your chain (and watch your bike), and live music. Plus, not one, but two police escorts, to help us navigate Seattle and Tacoma.
  • Fingerling potatoes (Winner, Best Snack, Alki). Still dreaming of them!
  • Crossing the finish line with Gail, Eli, Jed and Sophia high-fiving me thru the chute (Josh, having finished 30 minutes before me, was also there :-0)

About the fundraising… This year was my best yet. Thanks to two amazing sponsors, Alex Kochis of FiveBy Solutions, and Larry Engel, who provided very generous matching donations, plus 30+ fantastic donors, I was able to clear $8,500, vs. Goal 1 of $1,000, Goal 2 of $3,000, and Goal 3 of $5,000. What a Team!

I know it’s meaningful, because Fred Hutch keeps thanking me, and sending me free stuff. Now I’m not just a “Pacesetter,” but also a member of the “High Five” club!

So thank you to everyone who helped, and sent their good wishes. Josh had just a minor, low-speed crash on some wet train tracks, and probably hurt the people he fell on more than he hurt himself!

Thank you, 2017 Random Nerds FC: Josh, Ben, and Justin (Honorary).

I hope next year we can keep up the momentum, and G-d willing, we can Cure Cancer Faster. Next year will be all about growing the team, so make a plan to join the Nerds for Obliteride #6.

In Loving Memory of: Dad, Marty, Julie.


Offseason Training: Not Just for Old Guys

[Ed. Note: I wrote this post for a Eli’s soccer club, the ISC Gunners FC]

Our kids work like crazy to build their soccer skills, drag us from Seattle to Spokane and back, and compete against the best players in their age brackets. Bumps and bruises are a daily occurrence, and trips to the chiropractor or urgent care, a regular fixture.

I recently expressed my frustration to Eddie Henderson, from our ISC Gunners coaching staff. Eddie, a former pro soccer player and All-American from UW, responded with an action-packed discussion about how to use off-season and off-field time to build strength and conditioning, and reduce the chances of injury. I was so inspired by Eddie’s ideas and enthusiasm that I wanted to share some of these ideas with you.

I’m an athlete myself, and as I’ve aged, I’ve learned the increasing value of off-season training – not doing the same thing all year round, but actively switching the routine, in order to target new muscle groups, strengthen problem areas, and keep myself fresh. The same ideas apply to kids’ soccer.

The Gunners, like other soccer clubs around the country, face a problem: Kids love soccer. They love soccer so much that they tend to overdo it. They become highly conditioned in some areas, running & shooting for example, and less so in others. The injuries that we’re seeing, ACL as an extreme example, are often the result of too much strength in the front of the leg, and not enough to compensate in the hamstrings in back. Eddie has noticed injuries tend to crop up early each season, when kids have been relatively idle during off-season breaks.

A movement is afoot nationally to provide off-season conditioning designed for growing bodies, to stabilize, strengthen and balance their musculature. Other sports have also discovered the huge benefit of this type of training. During college, while competing at UW, Eddie realized he’d never be the biggest player, but used cross-training to gain speed and agility. He went on to play 11 years of professional soccer. That’s how Eddie became a believer in this approach – and our Club’s official conditioning and training expert.

Some recommendations which might help:

  1. Ask your kid’s doctor, PT, or trainer for some basic exercises to target any problem areas during the holidays. We just got a recommendation for jumping rope as a great calf-strengthener.
  2. Talk to your kids about over-training, and about spending some downtime on another sport. My son likes skiing, racquetball, and rock-climbing, for example.
  3. Check out this site: http://www.force10performance.com. They have programs aimed at soccer clubs like ours, and Eddie is working on arranging some pilot programs for Gunners.

It would be great to get more parents involved in this conversation. Cross-training, even if it involves one more practice per week, can make sports much more enjoyable, and maybe even cut down on trips to the chiropractor!

Write back and let me know some of your favorite off-season change-ups.

My Obliteride Speech

Here is a copy of the speech I gave at the Obliteride starting line on Sunday, August 14th, in Tacoma.

Thank you, Steve. My name is David Lazar. I’m captain of Team RNFC, which stands for Random Nerds F*ck Cancer. This summer I’ve had the privilege to do some pretty amazing events: RAMROD, Obliteride, and if I survive today, I’ll be swimming 2.5 miles across Lake Washington on Wednesday morning.

The most important event of the summer, however, took place two Mondays ago, when, after having been diagnosed with glioblastoma 11 months prior, my Father, Brett Lazar, passed away.

The condolences came pouring in, and among them was a note from Amy, Obliteride’s Executive Director, asking if I was still planning to ride, whether it would be too soon. I told Amy I was ALL IN. I felt, and still feel, that Obliteride would be a chance to honor my Father, and that while it would be emotional, there would be nothing like being immersed in the caring community that Obliteride represents.

Amy agreed, and asked me to speak here today.

Photo Aug 13, 8 55 42 PMAs I rode our beautiful Kitsap Peninsula yesterday, I spent some time thinking about why I love to ride my bike, and why I’m here riding in my fourth Obliteride this weekend.

Maybe it’s these stylish outfits? Or not! Maybe it’s the fact that when we finish, we get to eat whatever the hell we damn well please!?!

More likely, it’s that feeling of invincibility we got when we crossed the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, or rode through the finisher’s chute, that there’s nothing that can hurt us.

Or the amazing feeling of riding with a guy like Ben, a Fred Hutch scientist, and having him explain over beers last night how Immunotherapy works. How cool is that?

But the strongest reasons I can think of are really these two. First, it’s the transformative power that we now have to go out and inspire people with the stories that we’ve heard, and the memories that we’ve made together, this weekend.

And finally, I think we ride because with each turn of the crank — and I calculated we will ALL turn the cranks on our bikes 40,000 times this weekend alone — with each turn, we get one step closer to PUTTING CANCER BEHIND US.

Now I’d like to finish with a short prayer, and while I read it, please think about the names of the people you are riding for today.

“In my left hand, I hold my grief; in my right, gratitude. How much sorrow can I hold? That’s how much gratitude I can give.”

Thank you, and have a great Obliteride!

This Year’s Very Difficult Fundraising Appeal



Today I’m kicking off my fundraising for Obliteride, my fourth annual ride to benefit Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center (FHCRC), and my annual request to friends to help support my favorite charity.

All the scientific reasons I listed last year for supporting Fred Hutch still apply. (Read that letter here.)

This year, my ride, and my ask, is a very personal one for me. In September, my Father, Brett, was diagnosed with Glioblastoma, the same brain cancer that may have killed Beau Biden. My Dad is not as famous as Biden, but is a man who has shared many gifts with me, my family, our community, and the world. Dad was a dedicated Public Health doctor and spent his career educating people and building programs & institutions to promote good health. The fact that Dad contracted a deadly cancer after tirelessly advocating for health and well-being underscores how random and unfair cancer can be.

Fred Hutch is pioneering treatment methods and research into this rare, but deadly form of cancer, and while time seems very short for my Dad, new ideas and treatment possibilities are coming up literally every day.

Obliteride is August 13th & 14th this year. In addition to making my own donation, I’ll be riding 150 miles with my Random Nerds FC team, and 1500+ like-minded people, and I hope you’ll support my fundraising goal of $1500, with a small donation of your own. Here’s the link to make an online donation for me. Do it today and help me support Fred Hutch and help honor my Dad, Brett Lazar.


Book Review: Standing on the Edge, by Jerome Stewart

Disclosure: Jerome is an friend and biking buddy, so I may be biased, though I’d like to think I’m not!

Jerome’s voice and manner in Standing on the Edge: Dealing with the Aftermath of Suicide, is buttery soft. He is a gentle soul, providing soulful reflection on some weighty matters of life and death.

On the surface, this is a book about suicide and its survivors. Jerome is somewhat unique in having known 4 suicide victims and their families, and shares his journey of exploration into what one might take away from the victims’ stories and survivors’ experiences.

However, I found something deeper as I was transported by Jerome’s distant memories of New Mexico, Washington State, and Maine. As Jerome traced the footsteps of his family members and friends, it felt to me like I’d departed present reality, and now was treading on sacred ground, as we went back in time to experience pivotal moments and distant memories of the departed. Do you know the feeling you get when you’re walking in a graveyard? You don’t want to speak too loudly or even step too firmly to avoid disturbing the spirits. This was the feeling I had.

Some key insights I took away were how important it is to respect the very personal nature of this type of tragedy, especially with the survivors, which I felt Jerome did with aplomb. Also, how rehearsing your own passing and that of your loved ones, far from being morbid or scary, is actually a key to showing your love, preparing for the inevitable and learning how to appreciate the moments we can share together in the here and now.

My favorite parts of the book were how Jerome weaved these special places and his quiet moments of introspection. This writing technique — taking the reader to sacred ground, and then imparting deep insights — is well worn territory, but works absolutely perfectly for this subject matter.

If I could fix two things about this book, I would make it longer, and I would want to see Jerome develop more confidence as a writer, and take us even further on the journey with him, which I expect he will do.

In the end, I had a very strong feeling that Jerome was influenced by the Tao Te Ching; it was recommended by a mutual friend of ours. I think anyone who has read that will see “Standing at the Edge” as kind of a Tao Te Ching for surviving and accepting tragedy, and living your life with deep intention and peace.

Shattered: Holy Crap, the Scarlet Letter and Josh’s H-Bomb

This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write. So why write it, you ask? Well, how can I call myself a real writer if I won’t tackle a hard topic?

This is a story about how your whole self-image and world-view can be shaken to its core. I haven’t even fully processed it yet. Maybe writing this will help. (Editor’s note: It did not.)

It all started with an envelope, as many stories do. It was from the power company, so I felt compelled to give it some consideration. These envelopes usually contain bills, but on rare occasions, there’s a refund! So I opened it.

The envelope contained neither a bill nor a refund. This one contained a report of how my family is doing with our energy usage. The news was not good. Very bad, in fact. According to Puget Sound Energy, our household – led by me – ranks 99th out of 100 in energy efficiency. Adding insult to injury, they indicate very clearly, “1 is most efficient, 100 is least efficient.”

If you know me, even a little, or if you’ve spent any time reading my blog, you’ll know what a blow this is. What eco-cause am I not a fan of? I use a tiny laptop. I bike instead of drive. I recycle like crazy. I live in a densely populated neighborhood, in a house that’s too small for our needs. Why? Because I have been around the world. I know the luxuries that we as Americans enjoy. I want to be mindful of my use of resources (and yours too!), and try to keep it in check so as not to become another ugly, gas-guzzling American.

But let us count the ways in which I over-consume: Four cars, three refrigerators, four flat screen TV’s, washer/dryer, air conditioning; whole-house anti-allergy air filter, heck, I even have an electric boot dryer so my cycling shoes never have to be damp or mildewy. It blows hot and cold air to the inside and outside of two pairs of shoes at one time! (And apparently uses a lot of juice….)

Maybe the report was an error? Maybe the power company was playing a rude trick on their customers by telling everyone how badly we’re doing! Yes, we all rank 99th out of 100! Or maybe my neighbor or neighbors have figured out how to pirate my juice?

First things first. I called a family meeting. Gail agreed we have a lot of stuff and suggested we put a governor on the XBOX. I have to admit that was handy. Josh (20 YO) recognized my anguish, and then poured gas on the flames by dropping an H-bomb.

H-bomb? Yes, the dreaded H-bomb: “Hypocrite”! As if paying the bill (which is honestly 30% less than we paid in our McMansion in Bellevue) isn’t enough? Now I have to deal with this scarlet letter. Is this all just an elaborate trick I play on myself to avoid the obvious? Maybe I should just get a pick-up truck like my friend, John?

I’m grateful for our first-world benefits, but honestly, it’s kind of embarrassing how much we have, and how easy it is to take it all for granted. But now I may have to come to terms with a new reality. Am I just another conspicuous consumer? Am I like the cruise ship passenger happily sipping champagne while a trail of trash fouls the ocean behind me?

There are no easy answers here. But believe me, I will think about it and get back to you. Please tell me what you think: Can an eco-friendly guy be an energy hog? Is it all just a pretense? So much liberal finger-wagging? Should I double-down and sell some of this holy crap? What to do, what to do….

2015 Fundraising Appeal – Obliteride

Today I’m kicking off my fundraising for Obliteride, my third annual ride to benefit Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center (FHCRC), and my annual request to friends to help support my favorite charity.

I’ve written before about my work towards helping to repair the world – I feel an obligation to share what I can, and I hope you’ll join me. Many friends ask me to help with their fundraising; this is an invitation for us to be part of a “circle of giving.” If you’re interested, post back to let me know what you’re doing, and how I can help.

I’m particularly excited about Obliteride and Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center, for the following reasons:

  • Bone marrow transplant was invented at Fred Hutch.
  • Immunotherapy and Genomics – today’s research focus at FHCRC – have a very strong potential of curing most human cancers within 10 years. These therapies involve sequencing an individual’s cancer genes, and then using that individual’s own immune system to attack and eliminate the cancer.
  • FHCRC vision to treat cancer: Blood test, small surgery, vaccine. Amazing stuff, and way better than chemo!
  • FHCRC is also one of the top researchers in the world for HIV. Their research focus is “DNA editing enzymes” which has broad potential for treating HIV and other viruses, which also frequently complicate cancer patients’ recovery.
  • Obliteride money raised last year actually helped FHCRC develop new blood-testing technology. It used to cost $500 per person to get a blood test in Africa or S. America. Now, a Fred Hutch-developed paper-based carrier can be used with a splatter of blood, and mailed to a testing center for just $0.50, dramatically reducing the cost – and increasing the reach – of blood testing.

One more reason – as if that wasn’t enough to inspire you, is a very personal one for me. It was exactly ten years ago that my good friend and mentor, Marty Levin, died from Multiple Myeloma, a deadly blood cancer. Marty enriched my life, and the lives of so many people, in so many ways, that I’ve dedicated my fundraising efforts this year to try to eradicate cancer – in his memory and gratitude for our friendship.

Obliteride is August 9th. In addition to donating $250 of my own, I’ll be riding 100 or so miles with 1000+ like-minded people, and I hope you’ll support my fundraising goal of $1500, with a small donation of your own. Here’s the link to make an online donation. Do it today and help me support Fred Hutch and remember my good friend, Marty!