Veteran’s Day: Catching Up

Well, it’s been a while, huh?

Man, a lot has happened since my last post in March. It’s been seven months, to the day. I look back at that post, and it’s hard to imagine trying to even summarize everything that has gone down since then. I won’t try and do it all in one post – I owe those of you who actually take the time to read my posts some actual details. But I’ll hit the major points tonight, and try to go from there over the coming weeks.

For those of you who weren’t aware, we lost my grandmother, Tokuno, in the tsunami. Even as I type these words, it doesn’t seem real. It’s hard to think about, really. She died when the tsunami hit the rest home in Kesennuma at which she spent portions of her weeks. Some were evacuated to the roof of the building, but unfortunately she was not one of them. We don’t have a lot of detail on it, and it’s difficult to even try to imagine, so I try not to think about it too terribly much. It was an absolutely agonizing several days as we waited for word from our family, glued to televisions, Skyping with relatives who were not in the affected area, and watching news reports on the internet. For some time, there was simply nothing. For all we knew, we lost everyone. My dad carried an especially heavy burden for those days, as he received only a 30s phone call from his brother in the wake of the tsunami before the call terminated. For days, we knew nothing other than that. There was simply no information. Then, as we slowly started establishing accountability, we finally received word on the death of my grandmother. My youngest sister was the first to learn, and it was she who had to notify my dad. Finally, at least we knew.

In the wake of that, I pushed hard within my chain of command for release to deploy to Japan for what was beginning to be known as Operation TOMODACHI, which is Japanese for “friend.” Through the hard work of a dedicated network of peers, supervisors, and what I can only see as divine intervention, I was able to navigate the complex military bureaucracy and soon found myself deployed to Yokota Air Base, Japan. What followed over the next month, I consider the most honorable thing I have done yet in my career. My role was small, miniscule even, in comparison to the dedication the US military poured into that mission. But I count myself a lucky man to have been able to participate for even a brief period of time. Hopefully, I can capture in writing some of my experiences there and share them with you all.

Because life is life, while all this was going on, Jen and I were undergoing a major transition. We decided to leave active duty and pursue an opportunity with the Alaska National Guard, so as all this was going on, I was assembling application paperwork, conducting interviews, and praying for the best. Shortly after returning, I received word I was selected, and thus began major preparations for a huge life transition. Also no small potato! The summer passed quickly, between work, prepping to leave, and everything else, not a day was wasted. We sold cars, bought a new one, filed paperwork, and generally tried to figure out how we were going to live in a radically different location.

Oh, and there was also a lot of running. While in Japan, I didn’t have a lot of time to train, so I just tried to stay as fit as possible. Coming home and getting back in the groove was no picnic, but with the help of my friend and mentor Matthew Whitis, I got back on track. There were successes: at the age of 34, I posted a 4:47 mile / 10:44 2 mile in a local track series in the dead heat of the SC summer. And there were frustrations: my 5k race times were nowhere near where I wanted them to be. But through it all, I trained hard. Looking back, I consider some of those workouts achievements in and of themselves. The last track session I hit in SC was 20 x 400 with 200m jogs, alternating sets of four between 78 and 83s per quarter. I haven’t done a workout like that since college.

The move was incredible. Everything just seemed to keep working out and falling into place, to include finding a buyer for our second car literally days before we drove out of town. We spent time along the way with family (I built an earth oven with my pops in MN, which was super fun), and caught the fall colors on our way up the Alaska Highway in Canada. We saw wildlife, and scenery that would literally blow your mind. And then…we were here, in Alaska. Not for long for my better half, though. After ten days here, Jen got on a plane and spent four incredible weeks in Ethiopia. While there, she supported a new clean water/well rehab project and taught health and hygiene courses to the types of folks who still think disease is caused by evil spirits. You can learn more about her work at, and I simply can’t express how proud I am of my wife.

Which pretty much leads us to the here and now. To be honest, I’m not sure where Run For Something is going in the future. Recently, I re-connected with some old friends, who have established a new NPO called Team Run For Veterans (, and the focus will be on supporting athletic opportunities for disabled vets. Supporting vets has been on my mind for a while, and my new job up here in the AK opens some unique doors. I’ll continue to support Mocha Club’s clean water work in Sudan, but I’m considering making this year more about R4V. Today is Veteran’s Day, and to be honest, I’ve had vets on my mind for some time now, wondering how I can better support my own brothers and sisters.

Oh yeah…running…well, by now you should know me well enough to realize I’m 100%. 100% stop, or 100% go. I’m happy to report it’s still 100% go these days. My first act as an Alaskan was to participate in the Bonny Sosa Tuesday Night Run racing series here in Anchorage, and I didn’t suck. In fact, I manage to place top three in five consecutive trail races. The running scene here is vibrant and a rock-solid aspect of the community – the Bonny Sosa runs are essentially cross-country format trail runs, all hand-timed, and require only a 5$ entry fee. Volunteer-supported, and city-led. The courses are held secret until the time of the race, and each race, which occurs weekly in the fall, is held at a different location. One night, we saw over 1000 Anchorites ranging from newborns to octogenarians out there for the race. It’s one-of-a-kind and a definite kick in the ass.

It’s not going to be like SC, where I could race and train on the track and roads year-round. We’re officially in winter, and the snow ain’t going anywhere. But I feel strong. Strong-like-bull strong. Strong enough to post solid track workouts at altitude, and follow them up with a 3.5hr mountain bike ride of 24 miles and 2400′ of elevation change starting from 7500′. Strong enough to stomp treadmill workouts on the same day I post PRs for a 1000m row on the Concept2 (3:29 if you were wondering). Strong enough to get out in the backcountry on my splitboard and feel like I have miles of travel in my legs. Strong like…well, you get the idea. There’s a turkey trot in a few weeks, and if conditions aren’t heinous, I think I can get under 17. After that, Jen and I are looking at cross-country skis and running snowshoes for winter fitness, but we’re still learning the winter ropes up here.

Over the coming weeks, I want to tell you all some stories, and share some ideas and passions. If you want to hear about anything in particular, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section. I’ve already got a suggestion to talk about strength work as it relates to endurance, and I think it will be interesting to talk about how runners get through harsh winters and emerge ready for summer/fall racing. I’ll be honest…posting every day just isn’t realistic right now (or ever probably), but I think if I set the bar low enough (weekly sound good?), we can see some success. Jen, Eric, and Megs – thanks for your encouragement and re-igniting the embers of creativity. Until next time, true believers…

What I Know: On The 34th Anniversary of My Birth

Victorian enough of a title for you?

I’d like to share 10 bits of wisdom acquired in 34 years:

The Jafro, circa 2004

10. Age is a state of mind. I’m faster than I was ten years ago, and while that won’t last forever, I’m enjoying it while I can.

9. The day you refuse to learn, to evolve, to admit I’m wrong, you might as well cart yourself off to the glue farm because at that point you’ve become a burden on the world, your family, and most important, yourself.

8. You’re never as tough, high-speed, or special as you might think you are. Records are made to fall, challenges are meant to be overcome, and nothing ever gets accomplished through the actions of just one person.

7. Dogs are far and away superior to cats.

Contemplating Destiny on the shores of the Atlantic

Continue reading


This post has to do with the ten aid workers killed in Afghanistan almost three months ago.  I’ve got the link above, but if you are unfamiliar with the story, on  the 6th of August,  ten International Assistance Mission aid workers were murdered in Afghanistan. The Taliban took immediate responsibility, claiming they were killed by a Taliban patrol for violating sharia standards regarding Christian proselytizing. IAM countered the claim and stated that while IAM is an openly Christian organization, it does not proselytize, in accordance with the laws of Afghanistan and International Committee of the Red Cross guidance.

It’s been on my mind ever since it happened, although I don’t really understand why. It happened as I began thinking harder about the ideas of aid and charity we’ve been talking about a little bit over the past few months, which might explain it. Not too long ago, I asked for comments from you all regarding how you viewed the concept of “aid,” and I got responses that were both varied in perspective as well as insightful. From definitions of aid in more primitive times, to the fact that aid looks very different depending on whether you’re receiving or donating; it was interesting to hear what you all thought and I appreciate everyone who took the time to comment.

What happened to the IAM workers was a sad and disturbing event. The facts are that Mahram Ali, Cheryl Beckett, Daniela Beyer, Brian Carderelli, Abdul Masjedi, Dr Tom Grams, Glen Lapp, Dr Tom Little, Dan Terry, and Dr Karen Woo were murdered in Afghanistan while providing free medical aid to Afghan people in the most remote areas of the country. These people sacrificed comfortable Western lives, and a lot of money in some cases, and went to Afghanistan to provide for a specific need. They were true heroes who not only treated those in need; they also trained Afghans medical professionals to do it for themselves, a basic principle of sustainable aid. In the wake of what happened, NPR ran an interesting article here: . It’s a good albeit brief, read on faith-based aid and some of the issues surrounding faith-based aid in hot zones like Somalia and Afghanistan.

I guess the question on my mind, is this: If they had been preaching, would it have made their murders any less horrific? Even cursory research of the media surrounding their killings reveals that the story was less the way they died, but what exactly they were doing there. Some of the flail was no doubt due to the Taliban message that they were killed for spreading Christianity. However, the media response to the claim appears not to have been, “So what? You murdered innocents.” IAM’s response on their website seemed to be as much directed as a response to the Taliban claims as it was to the generating media interest in whether or not they were over there proselytizing.

It bothers me to think that there is a cynical tone within America that might say, “Well, they got what they deserved,” as if in response to the many crimes perpetuated by so-called “Christians” over the ages. It bothers me to think that we might tolerate injustice perpetrated by any faith. The basics of the major faiths of the modern world, Judeo-Christianity as well as Islam, include the following but are not limited to: Love. Tolerance. Charity. The pollution which results from the actions of an extremist fringe, whether on board an airliner bound for DC or in a moving truck parked in front of a federal building, should not blind us from the truths of the faith itself. None of those acts is representative of the majority of the faith, regardless of what a media pundit or radical mullah might tell you.

In closing, I ask you to think, once again, about your ideas of aid.

Is it possible that zakat, the Koran-mandated charity incumbent upon all Muslims, would allow the light of a merciful God into the life of a Christian in need?

Is it possible that the aid provided by a Westerner could re-frame the a Muslim’s perception of a Christian God?

To the uneducated, the beggar, the cripple…does it matter in his or her time of need?