So, it’s been over two years since I last posted an update and my life is very different than it was on June 7, 2017. I’d like to catch you up on what I’ve been doing, where I am, and what I think I’ll be doing in the next 6 months.
You may remember a survey that was posted in March of 2017 that gathered information and data about your experiences with running and hydration packs. Well, this was a survey I put together as part of an application to the University of Oregon Master’s in Sports Product Management program. I was feeling fairly stuck in life between 2015-2017, no longer feeling challenged at work, a personal life that lacked a partner, a detachment between purpose and passion, and I knew I needed to get back into the sports industry.
I worked for nearly a decade in specialty running stores around Southern California, and if it was for pesky finances, I would have gladly spent the remainder of my days analyzing gaits, lacing shoes, and slipping them on people’s feet. There was a true match of purpose and passion in that job, but I “grew” into a more “stable” career in digital marketing working for an agency in LA where that purpose and passion were no longer aligned. I was unhappy and needed to make a change.
Chasing a Dream
As the survey results came in, I was shocked at how many of my running friends, family, and acquaintances took time to fill out the survey with such detail and care. It showed me that the time I took to nurture the new runners around me, to volunteer at local races, to say hi and share a few miles with familiar faces during chance encounters – it all helped to establish and build a supportive community around me. It was touching to say the least.
As I mentioned above, the survey was used as part of my application to the University of Oregon Sports Product Management program. I used the insights gained from over 60 respondents to create a product concept for a modular fastpacking pack. (That concept presentation is posted here, if you feel curious.) By July, I had finished all of the application essays, taken the GRE, and submitted my application to the school not knowing whether I was truly ready to take the plunge, uproot my life, and move 2100 miles north to Portland, Or to return to school after 13 years (!).
After applying, the weeks passed and adventures were had. I ran the Santa Barabara Heavy Half with the Fleet Feet trail group I was coaching. I took a week long vacation to Utah with two friends, one of which ran the inaugural Tushar Mountains 100k, and spent the week exploring beauty which I have yet to match.
Returning to work after that trip, I received an email from the admissions manager requesting time for a Skype interview. I set it up for a weekday afternoon, grabbed a secluded conference room in my office, and settled in. 3pm approached, then came, then went as I began to feel concerned about my Skype set-up. While frantically checking settings and making sure I sent the correct handle, a call came in.
On the other end was Cadence Stephens, one of the main admissions managers at the time. After brief greetings and hellos, some small talk about the weather (it was unseasonably hot in Portland at the time), no mention of being 15 minutes late to call, she still did not start the interview. A bit confused by the tone and familiarity with which she was speaking, I began to relax more and asked her how she would like to start the interview. She replied, “oh, this isn’t an interview. I just wanted to let you know that you have been accepted to the program, you are an outstanding candidate for this cohort, and we would love to have you join us in September.” I was completely caught off-guard and stammered for what seemed like two minutes until I was finally able to reply, “wow, that is such a wonderful surprise! I’m extremely excited at the opportunity, but I want to give it a little more thought before deciding.”
A North Star
After long discussions with family, friends, and trusted mentors, I decided that this was the opportunity I had been searching for – a way to re-merge my purpose in life with my passion for sport into a fulfilling career in the sports product industry. The idea of having a direct influence in the products that allow athletes and outdoors-people to better enjoy their experience or improve their performance was/is enthralling.
So I sold a bunch of stuff, packed the rest into a contract movers truck, packed up my little Corolla with necessities and my best friend, and hopped on the 5 freeway heading north. We took our time driving up, stopping in Lake Shasta and Eugene to enjoy ourselves and explore new areas.
A few short weeks after arriving in Portland, classes began, and so did a journey of self-improvement, learning, friendship, and teamwork that has resulted in a better, more confident & driven version of myself. The 18 months spent with my UOSPM cohort were, I can honestly say, some of the best months of my life.
Living outside of LA for the first time, my homesickness was eased when I met a beautiful, charming, funny and smart young lady just 2 months into enjoying my new home. She has helped ease my transition into PNW living, lifted the gray from the autumn PDX skies, taught me how to enjoy my frist snow-day, and has been my biggest advocate. Nearly 2 years later, she still advocates for me and challenges me to care for myself, and I do my best to reciprocate as much as possible, so that we can continue to share amazing experiences in the #PNWonderland. Whether I end up finding a job in the sports or outdoor industry (still searching since graduation in March 2019, so help a brother out if you can…), creating or marketing innovative or sustainable products, the stress and fear of relocation, the $100k I sunk into my education, and the distance between my family & friends and myself has been 150% worth it with her by my side. I really feel at home in the Pacific Northwest.
Not all Rainiers and Rainbows
While in many ways I do feel very much at home in Portland (I actually really enjoy the gray skies and rain), it’s not perfect… just yet. There remains a pretty sizable hole in my world that has not been filled since leaving LA. That hole comes from the tight-knit running community I was able to enjoy while living in LA. From my local running store pub run on Wednesdays, or joining the Coyotes for a Thursday morning trail run, or simply getting lost in long miles with good friends and not being sure if the dried salt on my face at the end was from sweat or dried tears from laughing. I miss that. A lot.
I’ve explored a little of the running community up here, joined a few group runs, tried a trail running MeetUp group, tried to get classmates to run regularly with me, but none of it feels the same. And maybe I need to accept that it will not be the same, because, let’s face it, it won’t be. The individuals that made up my favorite running groups in LA made the experience what it was, and those people are not up here. That’s not to say there are not individuals up here that are as rad, and fun, and inspiring as the folks I knew in LA, but I’m starting from scratch and it probably requires a little bit of work on my part to integrate myself into their groups.
I remember trying to go out of my way to welcome newcomers to our pub run group because I was such a fan of the group we had and wanted everyone to discover the magic that I enjoyed every week. So, perhaps I just need to find the Portland version of me, someone that is an advocate for their group and wants to share the magic with newcomers.
So, I’ll be working a little more on putting myself out there, trying new groups (there is no shortage of options!), and finding the one that feels most familiar and comfortable. I’m hoping that once I land a job at a sports or outdoor industry company (putting it out there, universe.), then I will find people equally passionate about running and being outdoors who might become my new tribe. Time will tell.
In the meantime, I will be running with my girlfriend, who had completed a number of road 10ks and halfs before we ever met, and trying to introduce her to the wonders of trail running. In fact, we just ran her first trail half marathon last weekend at Mt. Hood, and like I mentioned in my Letter to a First Time Ultra Runner, she swore off trail running toward the end of the 5.5 mile, 1,500 ft. climb only to ask if we could soon look for the next race while enjoying a post-race beer on the beautiful patio of Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort.
So, we’ll see what the next adventure will be. I realized, once again, how important trail racing is to my overall happiness and I know I need to experience those races at least a few times per year – because being around my people makes me feel like I belong. And trail runners are my people.
Thank you for reading. I know this wasn’t super running focused, but there was a bit of hiatus in articles as I was immersed in schoolwork and wanted to post an update. There will be plenty of new content coming out soon as I explore and discover the Portland trail running community, run new trails and races, and review gear releases for upcoming seasons.
Thanks again, dear reader, for continuing to be you, for continuing to run, for continuing to Explore More.