Category Archives: Family

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.

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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

 

Dad

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.

 

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….

Getting Outside My Comfort Zone

As my family and friends will all attest, I’m a pretty uptight guy. A control freak for sure. Schedule- and task driven. A list maker extraordinaire. I like to know where I’m going to be, when, what equipment I’ll have, and what the objectives are, at all times. (I must be a royal pain to live with!)

Last summer, I learned the value of letting go, of forgetting about paragraph one, if only for a little while, and being completely blind, surrounded by darkness, in a foreign environment. I loved it.

I was camping at Mt. St. Helens with my two younger sons and my cousin, Sander. It was our first back-country back-packing trip together, in which we’d be exploring the National Park for two days, then totally off the grid for three. Kind of scary, but the challenge of taking control of my destiny, and to a certain extent, my kids’ – the element of survival, even while being at the mercy of the elements, held a strong appeal.

We started our trip on the south side of the volcano, at place called Ape Caves. Ape Caves is a 2km cave system that was formed by underground lava flows from MSH. I’ve been in some caves before – Pismo Beach, California, for example – but never experienced anything like being underground for 2km.

As instructed by Sander, who, as a bio major and former park ranger, was our self-appointed expedition leader, we brought headlamps. Sander had mentioned that once we were safely below ground and acclimated (it’s a constant 42 degrees down there), we’d turn off the headlamps and experience what’s it’s like to be in total darkness. WHAT? TOTAL DARKNESS?

To which I responded, “No way.” My excuses were many, varied and totally rational. Why risk injury on Day 1 of our trip? Why risk the wrath of my wife if someone gets hurt? How can I hope to navigate the rocky terrain without light? And so on; for me, it was out of the question. I was dead-set against it.

But then a funny thing happened. As you would expect, Sander turned off his headlamp. My two sons happily followed him. Now I was the odd-man-out, and my headlamp was unintentionally spoiling their exploration.

I had to try it – for the kids’ sake! I shut it off, and proceeded in the dark. We were talking to each other, marching like zombies: slowly and deliberately with arms outstretched, groping in total darkness.

Then it started. The part where I liked it. I actually liked it. I felt like I could really only experience this if I also shut my eyes, because my brain was trying to imagine it was seeing things, and distracting me with ghost images.

I shut my eyes. Now I could feel really feel the cold on my face. The attention required for each step to meet the ground safely – without tripping over rocks or falling into a gap. Would I go sideways and hit the wall? Would the cave curve left and I go straight? Who knew?

Was it worth it? Absolutely. Did anyone get hurt? Just the opposite.

When we came out of the cave, I felt as if I had been reborn, and was seeing everything for the first time. Going outside my comfort zone made the journey farther and deeper than any other. We hiked back above ground and the other-worldliness didn’t fade. In fact, I laughed so hard with one of my sons that we actually fell down a few times.

As I’m writing this, my plane is passing next to Mount Rainier, and I’m dreaming of our next trip… into the unknown.

Josh and the tub

Newly Impassioned Soul

I heard Mumford & Sons “Roll Away Your Stone” on the iPod the other day. It was one of those gorgeous warm afternoons we’ve been savoring as part of Febru-ly in Seattle (follows June-uary, thank you to Gail, apologies to my fellow skiers and NY in-laws!)

The song brought me back to an epic ride from August 2011, that I thought I’d share with you. Conveniently, Josh and I made a video about it, which you can now watch here.

Courage Classic is a 3-day charity ride (i.e. non-competitive) that runs each August in the mountains east of Seattle. What made the ride so amazing for me was that it was the first time out for more than just a short day ride with my son, Josh, who had just turned 16. It was a father-son rite of passage, something that happens once in a lifetime — if you’re lucky.

The basic elements of the ride: Three days on the bike, two nights camping. All-you-can-eat meals and snacks catered by volunteer organizations competing for your votes of appreciation. Portable shower truck at each stop and the finish. Camping gear hauled for free by UPS. On-road support vehicles. Live music. Beer. Waterfalls. All you have to do is fundraise/donate, train for a couple of months, then climb and descend Snoqualmie Pass, Blewett Pass and Stevens Pass, a total of around 180 miles (of bliss!)

For the movie, we mixed a time-lapse sequence from Josh’s GoPro Hero HD, along with cellphone stills and an amazing hula dance (what some people will do for a free T-shirt!) Some fun facts that take you back: Josh is wearing a Windows Vista jersey; and at one point during the time-lapse, you get a quick glimpse of Jay Inslee, who was beginning his campaign for governor at the time, and riding with his son.

Since that ride, Josh has become quite an adventurous outdoorsman (check out his YouTube channel here.) The ride was a hard one for him – he was about to come down with mono, and almost bailed – but I’m so grateful to have been able to share something so special with my son.

By the way, if you think the whole thing sounds like fun, but want to try something a little less challenging, I have a tip for you. The guy who ran Courage Classic is now running Obliteride in Seattle, with rides from 25- to 180 miles, the second weekend in August. The hospitality isn’t exactly the same, but pretty darn close, and it’s a great cause! I have a team, and we start training in May.

Happy Holidays, Giving Thanks

Happy Holidays, Dear Reader!

The holidays are upon us and it’s a great time to reflect on the multitude of blessings we have.

I’m thankful for:

  • Another year of good health
  • My loving wife
  • Three healthy & happy boys (young men, actually)
  • Good friends
  • Relative peace in the world

We’ve made our home in the great Pacific Northwest. The photo you see at the top of this page is from my first-ever back-country backpacking trip to Mt. St. Helens, taken in July, with my cousin, Sander, Josh and Eli. How scary to see the destruction caused by the blast in 1980; but that blast opened a gateway for me and many others to appreciate this incredible natural beauty! The cycle of chaos and creation.

This holiday season, I hope you’ll join me and do something to give back to your community. I just scheduled my plasma donation at the Puget Sound Blood Center, and “invited” my son to give for the first time. Blood banks experience a blood shortage each December and January, since the demand remains constant, but people are too busy to donate.

My local blood bank is trying hard to get plasma donations at the moment. Plasma helps in the treatment of trauma patients, burn victims and others fighting serious illness and injury. In addition to providing this additional life-saving resource, you can give plasma more frequently than whole blood – so everybody wins!

I’ve written before about why I think giving blood is so important, but in this season of giving, please remember to take time to go out of your way and help people in need. It only takes a few minutes and it will make you feel great!