The McDonald Forest 50k Trail Run

On May 9th, 2015, Athletes and onlookers alike amassed upon majestic McDonald Forest in Corvallis, Oregon to perform in and bear witness to the legendary Mac Forest 50k trail run. Covering over 30 miles of forest trails and roughly 7,000′ of elevation gain, the run is a grueling yet beautiful jaunt through some of the Willamette Valley’s most magical terrain.

This terrain served as Alex’s backyard growing up, and when Alex became interested in long-distance running, he took part in the 2013 Mac 50k…and took second place out of 239 people!

This year, a dedicated and masochistic group of Alex’s Friends and Family trained for months to take part in the event, and as as they ran the trails, they carried Alex’s spirit. Running was one of Alex’s passions and indeed, it is the wind that continues to fill other’s sails.  The sun, shone all weekend…80 degree weather, blue sky, abundant wild iris, camas, buttercups, the forest budding with that fresh, bright, spring green.  The race was dedicated to Alex, and then Buzz and McHale said a few words. Patrick lead his now-famous-for-Alex BANZAI yell as the racers were off.  Our runners wore Powered by Alex signs (thank you Cheryl) and hats featuring a photo of Alex running in the Tetons (thank you Robyn), prompting other runners to ask about him…and so Alex stories were told throughout the race as the runners made their way through the forest, our backyard, Alex’s playground growing up.

At the 10-mile mark, the Miller Family who first met Alex during his cycling days set up a “bandit” watermelon aid station at Alex’s bench in the forest…runners stopped to sip watermelon juice, enjoy a slice and many paused to offer hugs, toasts to Alex, and tears…from some he knew, from many who never knew Alex but felt his spirit.  Rebecca’s watermelon picnic cloth adorned the table in the forest, the Millers made beautiful signs, a collage of Alex photos that people stopped to take in…the outpouring of love and compassion and gratitude was overwhelming.  There was such a buzz about the station that the race director wants it to be a permanent part of the run, along with the BANZAI yell.

Having Alex’s Ashland family here was a gift…each of them has Alex stories we treasure…each of them has that empty heart spot that Alex fills and fuels with his spirit and energy. Each is a connection to our sweet sun. We all gathered at our house Friday night for dinner, talking around a fire outside, eating Deanna’s rendition of Alex’s “No Frownie Brownies”, then generous neighbors offered beds, some pitched their tents on the lawn. Ten ran the race – McHale, Beth, Robyn, Amy, Jessica, Matt, Chad, Gabe, Pete, and Michael  – they trained, they supported each other, they found, as Alex encouraged, the little birds under their feet, lifting them when the going got rough.  It was Alex’s spirit that brought them all across the finish line.  Saturday night we enjoyed American Dream pizza, race stories and time around the fire…a day that Alex would have savored…and, he was so with us.

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Events! Photos

A Bench in the Woods

On December 29th, 2014, Alex’s family and friends installed a bench in McDonald Forest, located in Corvallis, Oregon. Alex spent his youth growing up in these woods, and the bench rests in a special place on Lower Dan’s Trail, right off the path next to our “Family Trees”. We spread some of his ashes underneath the gravel that was laid down beneath the bench, which was made from a tree that had fallen in the forest earlier that year. We invite you to find the bench, take a moment to relax, breathe deeply, and find gratitude in your life. Below, a note from Alex’s father:

It was an uplifting day

But with heavy hearts

A beautiful resting spot for the body and spirit

The essence of our beloved Alex is in the soil beneath his bench in our sacredspot in the forest

I know it warms his soul as well as ours

But we surely miss him


Buzzy and all of the family and chosen family

photo 1 benchspot unnamedphoto 3

Events! Photos

Another note from friend Jim Fischer

Adam and McHale,

If I’d known I was going to be famous, I would have taken more care to write my stories a bit more cohesively. 😉  YES, please share them as you see fit.  Alex is one of the few people in my life who is with me always.  Most days, I usually think about him during my commute to and from work on my bike.  Oh, and I also think about him every time I eat oatmeal (which we referred to as ‘gruel’ when Alex would strip it of anything tasty and turn it into a super meal for training).  I eat oatmeal everyday for breakfast and so does our 2 year old son.  Noodle on that for a second.  I ride at least 5 days a week, twice a day, and eat oatmeal once a day.  So, I haven’t seen Alex in years, but it is like he’s still there with me everyday telling me that brown sugar in my oatmeal is still sugar, and that I should use something with a lower glycemic index like that nasty blackstrap molasses.  Or, I would try to match his cadence on our rides…and suddenly I notice on my commute to work dragging my 2 year old in the trailer that my cadence has picked up and I’m passing others on the bike path.
On hot days, Alex would always unzip his jersey all the way so it flapped.  Drove me nuts.  So, what do I think on when it’s hot and I’m riding?  You guessed it.  Alex’s flappy jersey just begging for a bee to fly down the front of his bibs.
Back in the summer of 2005, my father died suddenly of a heart attack.  We were in the middle of racing season and had just returned from the Mt Hood Stage Race.  Alex finished in the top 5, I think.  Not bad for his first stage race as a cat 3 (and second stage race ever), and on very hard terrain.  We had the Elkhorn Stage Race (this pic was from the TT warm up for that race, but I believe it was in 2006) about three weeks later.  There was a point in the race on the last climb up Dooley mountain at the end of a 100 mile stage.  I was hurting and starting to drop back through the lead group.  Alex was right there next to me.  He told me my dad was watching, smiling down on me from above telling to find my dark place and go there.  We were in the middle of a hard event that Alex stood a good chance of winning, and yet he drifted back with me to provide words of encouragement.  I was not surprised, because that was simply the kind of person he was…always there for his friends when they needed him most.
As I said before, few people stick with us on a daily basis.  Parents, siblings, best friends.  I can safely say Alex will always be with me.  He was truly an amazing person.
Warmest wishes,
Jim Fischer
Notes to Alex Photos


  1. Banzai” is a Japanese cheer that can be translates as “Long life!” or “Hurrah!” It is usually repeated three times to express enthusiasm, celebrate a victory, applause and favor on happy occasion while raising both arms. It is commonly done together with the large group of people.
Notes to Alex Photos

A note from Alex to Mom and Dad, 11/29/09

Mom and Dad,

Thank you for the weekend.  The love, time, moments, space, giving, it was and is still keeping something going in my heart that is in need of that right now.  I made a fire tonight for the first time, walnut shells as kindling works very well.

Your selfless spirits, loving souls, and ability to unconditionally love are amazing, and I feel so lucky to be able to be your son, on the receiving end of it all.

Much more in my mind and heart, though time to go to sleep now.

Love you.

-Alexalexdad1 macforest macforest2

A Note from Ryan and Jessica Lamanna to Mom and Dad

Buzz and Pat,

My husband Ryan and I have only known Alex for a year or so, but it was not enough. We can’t even begin to imagine what you are going through as his parents.  We were initially neighbors when we both lived on B street, however our lives didn’t cross for a year until Alex took a shared interest in Ryan’s wheatgrass. Alex was very special to us and we miss him dearly. As Ryan put it, “he is a friend that we will never be able to replace. We will never meet someone like him again.”  He was such an incredible person and I know you two were an integral part in him becoming the man he was.
Yesterday at the park, many people shared stories about Alex. It really brought together all the different parts of Alex’s life and the people he had an impact on. We enjoyed hearing the stories that his colleagues and students shared. I thought that I would share a few memories and experiences that we had with Alex.

The first memory I have of Alex is before I met him, when I knew him as the neighbor that I would always see walking down the neighboring streets, oh so slowly. He truly took EVERYTHING in, never in a rush. The first time I ran into him on the trails I remember thinking, “oh wow, he runs!” and fast.

I will miss the dinners we would share. Alex would have us over, or he would come over to our place with a bag full of food and just cook. He was an amazing cook, truly appreciating the flavors and ingredients of what he put together. He loved to share this with people and it was fun to watch him work in the kitchen.

Many weekends, Ryan and Alex would go on adventures on the Ashland trails. For hours hiking and biking and talking.  I always looked forward to hearing fun Alex-isms when they returned, which leads to…

Alex’s humor, oh we will miss this. Subtle at times, but always good for a laugh. He used to joke that he thought we should chop off one of Willow’s legs (our dog) so that she would be on par with everyone else. As a puppy she has much too much energy, which I knew could wear thin on Alex, but secretly I think he loved her. He would say, “If I’m not back by such and such time, send Willow for me.”

Alex loved to teach and share his knowledge, and we loved to just listen and learn from him. The most valuable thing that he shared with us was his time.

Alex perfected bars. Ryan perfected joooose (juice). They talked of opening a “Joose and Bars” business.

I never truly enjoyed a yoga class until I took one of Alex’s. His silent yoga class was so powerful; even without talking Alex could teach and he had such a presence and impact. Sometimes, in between poses, he would come out with a one liners and have the whole room cracking up. No one will forget the glittery short shorts on holidays either.

For the several weeks leading up to Alex’s trip, we would make weekly trips up to Mt Ashland; packing Vanna White full of bikes and picnic stuff and spending the day on the trails. This weekend will be my first 50 miler, on those very trails. I will carry these and other memories with me during this race. Although jokingly at the time, I said last Saturday that I would wear tie-dye, his outfit of choice, for the race. As promised, I will be wearing tie-dye for him on Saturday. Alex’s presence and wonderful spirit is everywhere in Ashland and will live on in the places he loved and through the people that loved him.

I will attach some pictures of Alex from various adventures,

You are in our thoughts,

Jessica and Ryan Lamannaalexcrater1 alexcrater2 alexcrater3 alexcrater4 alexcrater5 alexcrater6

Notes to Alex Photos

From Robyn Janssen

Dear chosen Family,
I wanted to share one of Alex’s amazing, poetic word paintings with you all again that he wrote about us and a time in Yachat’s. Beth, Naomi and I read it yesterday as we spent the day mourning, remembering, celebrating and loving Alex. He was a true light in this world and I know we all loved him very much. I love you all and am so glad that he was part of our family.

Bareback, barefoot, and bare-assed, we rode the wild sea serpent of Yachats Town.  We, me, us, you, a chosen family, an octet of great kind:  Beth Ann, siren and captain on front to spot spouting whales and angel flights, Gabe Mark sitting second singing wild with winged seagulls holding their hover in the strong north wind, Robyn Meyer calm, communicating a story of change with the sand-soaked clams, Alex Zander illuminating the misted silohuette of Whyte Nynsha, Pete Howard satisfying the hungry calls with pans wide and saffron threads of gold, Amy Kathleen translated ancient messages of lost Atlantis’ deep, Naomi Folsom fearless flowing on the foam of incoming tides and outgoing clouds, and on the tip of the tail, Sir Chad Knight valiantly scanning the west horizon for manta rays and sunset rays.  We ran the beach like sun-fed angels and dense duff dinosaur trails as human sized raindrops tumbling down our colorful path of laughter, sweat, smiles, and pee-pee.  Bodies became sponges, hearts became sieves, our post hot tub baptisms leaving the rough waves to swallow those things we could not.  Each moment brought changes in light, tide, wind, and sky, calling us to dance with our hearts’ every beat.  The serpent’s sinuous path led us, and on occasion we led him, to the warmth of a fire and the friends who kept it glowing.  Wind, water, sun, sand, and the slow crescendo of each mid-day tide filled our hearts, creatures of the ocean filled our stomachs.  We taught the solitary serpent that each day will bring rain and sun.  If there is love, the sun and the rain will harmonize, a duet, to create a magnificent arc of color and strength.  The serpent along now we ride as a family of nine, barefoot, bare-assed, and bare-faced eyes closed into this rushing wind.  Sliding up, over, and down, like the course of each tide, each wave, we ride the rainbow over the infinite land of color and light. As space travelers and aqua-nauts we have much more to explore, so whatever the weather, together or alone, trust the sea serpent’s first words as we climbed on his back, “We don’t need feet to get where we’re going!”
Thanks to you all for a great time and a nice mini-vacation.  Reckon it’d be wise to do it again sometime in the next couple months.  
Aloha, means hello, goodbye, and I love you.
Enjoy the blustery Aloha Friday!
Alex's Writing Notes to Alex Photos

A Message from Paul Normandin

Dearest Buzz, first thank you for including us today. Your family is amazing, so articulate and caring. In my shop I have mementos and photos of things, places and people who mean a lot to me. I did not know Alex but his picture is now magnet ly attached to my heating system. I started to count how many pictures I have of you and Pat and realized I have almost as many as my own family! You guys are my heroes. Now a story about my brother who was a free spirit like Alex. He went to Australia while attending collage. ( students abroad for a term ) When he hit foreign soil he disappeared, hiked to the outback, found a small village of natives, and lived with them for 4 months. He missed all his classes and his return flight home. He got an F for the term. However he kept a daily journal and upon his return he turned it in to his teacher. He (teacher) called my mom and showed her the journal and changed his grade to an A. It just made me think, Alex might have done the same thing. Alex was connected to the earth as was my brother. I think they are both scheming about what mountain to climb, what trails to run, what is the best hiking food and how to cook it, and most important of all how to be a good person, how to respect nature and be a part of it. Thank you for being a part of my life.
PS, other pictures- cousins, uncle, brother and right-a-way in starting a sailing race.unnamed
Notes to Alex Photos