My First Marathon

One week ago, I was lined up with more than 7,000 runners waiting for the Twin Cities Medtronic Marathon to begin. Some were listening to music, bouncing around, or starting to shed the sweats they layered for the start line. I was doing yoga, per usual, in  the little space I carved out for myself, and couldn’t help be intimidated by the people around me.

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Should I have worn a garbage bag over my torso? (A question I never thought I’d ask) I wondered what they ate for breakfast, or if I should have gotten to the corral sooner.

I was distracted from these thoughts when the emcee asked who was running a marathon for the first time. I threw up my hands and cheered, and tears came to my eyes.

When is the last time you did something for the first time? Whatever doubts I had about the next 26.2 miles were nothing compared to the intrigue of the unknown. I told myself, this is the last time you will run a marathon for the first time. You will compare any future race to this one, so you need to make this experience exactly what you want it to be.

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Whether you’re interested in running a marathon, or want to be the best cheerleader for someone else taking this challenge on, here are my takeaways and some of the best advice I received-

1. My fanny pack of love notes: On one of my long runs, I thought about a gratitude practice I could have during the race. I landed on asking friends and family to write notes with words of encouragement or anything they’d like me to read during the race. It took a bit of vulnerability to request this from others, but I’m so glad I did.

I had just over 26, and was able to open a note each mile. I would ABSOLUTELY recommend it, and can’t imagine this race without that ritual. Each mile marker, instead of thinking about how many more miles I had, I was excited it was time to open another note. I can’t thank my note writers enough!

2. “Just have fun and don’t be nervous, it’s not like you’re going to win!” This was 100 percent accurate, in fact, here’s who won, by literally running twice as fast as me. Truly, my number one goal was to have fun. At some points in my training, this seemed like a very unrealistic goal. But just like how my idea of fun being getting up at 6 am for yoga, or planning a great carpool, I had a blast running this marathon.

I was smiling ear to ear for 90% of it (here’s a hot take- what if the race was only 20 miles??) and because winning was off the table, I paid attention to my pace but not my time. That meant stopping to talk with and take selfies with the amazing cheerleaders that navigated closed roads and big crowds to watch me. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

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Friends, Ingrid and Cyrus, mile 7
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Family friends- Taylor Ann, Owen (who ran out to hug me), and not pictured, Josh! Mile 10
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The soon-to-be Mr. and Mrs. Finlay!! The kisses from Lola were a game changer. Mile 13 and Mile 21
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My boyfriend and his wonderful family who visited for the weekend! Mile 17.5
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This put some pep in my step- Meeting our Senator at mile 24!!

3. Be flexible with your training: Enter the race with curiosity rather than a rigid plan. There will be surprises along the way, and this mindset will help you be present to embrace the happy ones— the INCREDIBLY enthusiastic dad that ran alongside his daughter, yelling, “ARE YOU SEEING THIS? LOOK AT HER GO!!!!”— and it will help you patiently assess the uncomfortable ones— like a stomach ache for the first 3 miles from a bigger breakfast.

Rather than reacting to this, I noticed it, and thought logically about where it could be coming from. Throughout training, I didn’t each much before my runs, which was more of a bad habit than best practice. I told myself the ache had to go away as I burned calories with each mile, and it did! Rather than going into a downward spiral about how I shouldn’t have tried something new, I postponed eating any gels until mile 7 because my body had enough fuel. You are always in control.

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Not the end of the race, or even a mile marker, just a really spirited street 🙂

4. “When something starts to hurt or get tired, think about how amazing your elbows feel. Notice the wind blowing in your hair.” This made me laugh when I first received it, and when I opened it mid-race. I can tell you one thing about a marathon, your elbows will not fail you.

I often tell my yoga students to notice everything they are doing, the space and strength they are creating, because it’s so easy to notice what we can’t do. That’s what I love about this- there is beauty in every moment.

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I loved this view crossing the bridge from Minneapolis to St. Paul

5. Lastly, carry a mantra with you. This was great advice from another yoga teacher, and I have another friend to thank for the mantra I chose. Inspired by Irene Fernando’s TedTalk, I borrowed the phrase “why not me?” If 7,000 runners are going to finish this race, why not me? If someone is going to make it up this hill, why not me? If there’s going to be someone that has fun for 26.2 miles, why can’t that person be me?

Rather than stemming from competition, this mantra reminded me that all of the strength, endurance, focus, positivity, and passion I needed to complete this goal was already within me. P.s. this question drives Irene to take on amazing challenges and make an impact in her community- you can learn more here.

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If you said encouraging words once, if you tracked my number on the race app, or followed me around the Cities on race day, thank you for being a part of this journey. While I can’t run a marathon for the first time again, I’d be very surprised if it was my last.

Marathon Training- Scrappy Style

I have always been driven by curiosity. And FOMO.

That’s why when the opportunity to join Team Comcast for the Twin Cities Medtronic Marathon arose, I knew I needed to be in on it. With five half marathons under my belt, I always had interest in doing a full marathon, but was too intimidated to pull the trigger. Thank god for FOMO.

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Hal Higdon Training Schedule, I mainly pay attention to the distances per week

When I trained for half marathons, I would do a long run each week, adding on a few miles each time. I wouldn’t bring water, mid-run fuel, or listen to music because it was distracting and it had never felt necessary. I figured I would do all the same things for the full distance, but with the guidance of a real training schedule (above) to tell me how to add that mileage on.

I later realized how many times I was telling myself, “this is the way it’s always been done” in reference to something I’ve never done.

If there’s one thing you could gather from this blog or from knowing me, it’s that I’m not great at following directions. They bore me. I’m more attracted to intuition, whether in cooking, marketing, design, or training. However, intuition cannot always replace reason, and that revelation hit hard when I was doing my first run past the half marathon distance.

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This 15 mile run compared to nothing else I had ever done. I needed to stop and stretch every couple of miles and was really only motivated by sticking to my training schedule and the fact that I wasn’t near home.

My legs felt like cinder blocks I was dragging along, but I kept going like this until 15.5 miles and walked the rest of the way home. Feeling lightheaded and pale, I thought about how the cars passing must be thinking about how sad I look. They must be thinking, “Aaaand that’s why I’m not a runner,” rather than “I bet that’s someone who just ran the longest distance in their life!” Based on how painful achieving that goal was, it didn’t feel like much of an accomplishment at all.

After consulting a few marathon-running friends, I realized my body didn’t fail me, I had failed my body.

Turns out, I had completely depleted my electrolytes by running that distance on little-to-no food prior, and only stopping for water once. The lead of my first aid/CPR class said I may have even been in shock.

Thinking about the 11+ miles I still needed to achieve after that run made me wonder if I could actually do this. This glass-half-empty mindset is a slippery slope. That’s the one thing I don’t like about sharing my marathon training with others, they’re always doing math for you. They ask about the longest distance you’ve run, and then calculate how much longer you still have to go. It’s really quite uplifting.

Before giving up on that, I needed to fully embrace that I’m not the expert, and that scrappy plans can only get you so far. Clearly doing it my way wasn’t working, so it was time to pivot instead of quit. What’s the point of being curious anyway if there aren’t any surprises?

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New and improved training best practices for long runs:

  • Hydrating the day before my run
  • Eating breakfast before run (I was leaving so early some mornings I didn’t realize I missed this)
  • Running with water bottle though I may order a belt with additional bottles
  • GU Gels for mid-run refuel: rough schedule so far is taking half of one before run, a full at mile 7, and then each 5 miles
  • Marine Collagen for joint recovery- bovine collagen peptides are more popular, but those aren’t pescetarian.
  • Cold shower afterwards (maybe one day I’ll be brave enough for an ice bath)

Maintaining original plans of:

  • Running Tuesday mornings with my early bird bestie
  • Long runs on weekend mornings, directly after I teach (if I go home I get distracted)
  • Cross training with yoga and sculpt throughout the week at my second home, Corepower Yoga
  • Going to Flyfeet Running around once a week so that someone holds me accountable to do sprints!
  • Not listening to music…we’ll see if I can keep holding out of this as my runs get longer. It’s partially for safety reasons (scary people, cars, bikes) but it also doubles as a moving meditation when I can actually hear myself think

17I can say with great pride that as of this week, this revised plan allowed me to accomplish 17.1 miles without pain or doubt. Of course, it was a challenge, but that’s what I signed up for.

I still took breaks, but they were intentional and purposeful rather than out of desperation. Most importantly, it allowed me to prove to myself that I can keep moving forward regardless of any bumps along the way.

I can say with confidence, but not certainty, that I can finish a marathon. But I don’t need to run a marathon today, or anytime soon, that’s for us to find out on October 7. Don’t worry, I’ll save you the math- that’s two long months away.

The First Headline About Festive Fleet

When deciding to leave a then-11-person organization for a Fortune 50 Company, I was most excited to see what an organization of that caliber could accomplish. What impact they could have on the communities they’re in.

I’ve been lucky to dive into that first hand, in my first quarter with Comcast, by being the Twin Cities Region lead for Festive Fleet. While I’m a woman of words, I’d rather show you just what Festive Fleet is:

Festive Fleet has given me the opportunity to empower a team of technicians and support staff to embrace the impact they’re capable of. We leverage the relationships they are building in homes every day, and asked them to nominate deserving customers for a special gift.

These are customers who are financially struggling, suffering from a loss in the family, encountering a difficult time, creating a pleasant experience for technicians in their home, or unfortunately having an unpleasant experience with Comcast.

Customers aren’t asking for these gifts, or reaching out to us with these stories. These stories are discovered by the Technician’s time in the home, and their ability to be there as a person, for a person, rather than completing a job for a customer and leaving.

I could talk for hours about the stories I read while choosing the 35 customers from the Twin Cities area to receive gifts. 

The only issue is, no one knows we do this.

While I was interviewing for Comcast, I didn’t think of Festive Fleet. I thought of many of the headlines that are probably racing through your mind now.

I decided to set up Google Alerts for Comcast so I could learn the company, but also keep tabs on the outside impression. I still read it everyday; it’s not always the most uplifting email, especially recently.

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But when I was about a week into my new role at Comcast, it was a different headline that made me pause. One from the Region VP down the hall, who I now often talk to while making coffee.

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Also new to his role in the Twin Cities Region, I was excited to see we were the first to admit where we have gone wrong, and also the first to bet on this team.

I have no desire to have my point of view outweigh these other headlines, rather I hope to capture the side of Comcast that no one hears about- the family that always puts the customer first.

Like peeling layers of an onion, I keep discovering new programs available to employees and customers, and new coworkers to connect with.

I was inspired by Internet Essentials, which offers low-cost Internet service, discounted computer equipment, and free digital literacy training to families with children in the National School Lunch Program. This was then expanded to eligible seniors and community college students in limited markets.

It’s solutions like these that motivate me to find creative solutions, because this fast-paced industry doesn’t allow time to say the words, “This is the way it’s always been done.”

Still, Comcast isn’t perfect. It’s a work in progress, an organization embracing new practices and priorities, and ensuring that cascades down to every single individual. And outside of an 11-person organization, there will be customer experiences and decisions that are out of my control. That’s difficult for a scrappy mind to accept.

So instead of being on the sidelines, I’ve used my scrappiness to make the Twin Cities Region close-knit and I’ve seen how this 159,000 person organization can still build partnerships across departments and regions. I’ve learned from collaborative leaders who are focused on a bigger picture that’s rooted in customer experience.

I’ve shared my experiences with others, and no longer hesitate when saying, “I’m a Marketing Specialist at Comcast” as I did my first week. Whatever reaction that brings, it’s just another opportunity to share why I am so proud to say #IAmComcast.  

 

 

Wanderlust 2017- Twin Cities

If there’s one thing all my friends can agree on, it’s that my coordination on the yoga mat does not translate to the dancefloor. Regardless, I’m glued to any and all wedding dance floors, and have yet to see a shimmy that can rival my own.

So it was somewhat out of character when in Zimbabwe this January, I passed up the opportunity to join in on a large dance circle at our Boma, a traditional african dinner. It was a large circle that would alternate bringing one person into the middle, and some of these people were just amazing dancers. I worried about getting pulled to the middle and not knowing what to do, so I found a place to perch and watch with my sister.

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Place settings at the Boma

The spunky mother-daughter duo on our trip jumped in right away, and when the free-spirited daughter Wendy came back, I remember telling her with a bit of envy, “That looked so fun, it was really cool to watch.”

She replied, “Oh, yeah I wasn’t watching it- I was IN it!”

The words stung a bit, and stuck with me to become my one regret of my trip.

We could credit this to my rampant FOMO, or any cliche “I Hope You Dance” lyric, but it was something more. It was a clear moment where fear stopped me from having an experience I’ll rarely get again. Where I worried more about what strangers from the other side of the world would think more than my own desires.

I hadn’t thought about this in a while, but was reminded over the weekend while attending the Twin Cities Wanderlust event, the world’s only mindful triathlon.  After completing a 5k (part 1) on a scenic St. Paul trail, our 90 minute yoga class (part 2) was to start soon, followed by a guided meditation (part 3).
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Rather than starting the class right away, the lively emcee cued the DJ to play some party music and she was getting the crowd revved up on stage. With everyone on their mats, she was inviting everyone to start dancing- which is not something people are used to starting a yoga class with. I was bouncing around (another one of my signature moves) on my mat, when I noticed someone was invited on stage.

I mentioned to my coworker, Belinda, how fun it would be to go on stage. She encouraged me to go to the front so that if they called anyone else on, I would get to go. I think she suggested this partially to get me to dance somewhere else, but also because she likes to bring out a more carefree and bold side of others.

Thinking of the Boma, I ran to the front stage. The emcee asked who wanted to go on stage, and I fan girled hard. I was disappointed when she picked a group of three friends to come up,  but I knew me and my bad dance moves could break her down with persistence.

Once another pair was called up, I decided there was no reason I needed to wait for an invitation. If I wanted to dance on stage in front of thousands of people like a crazy person, it would be pretty pathetic to miss out just because I wasn’t called on.

So I ran up with them like we’d know each other for years.

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The view from stage, which I knew my words couldn’t do justice

It was unbelievable. I knew there was no space for overthinking like I did in Africa, or half-assed bopping like I did on my mat. So I just danced however I wanted. I was completely in my own element with thousands of faceless yogis cheering me on.

Until I recognized two of the faces, my best friends Alyx and Megan, who I also had come with moved to the front of the stage.

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A year ago, I was working up the courage to practice yoga in my sports bra. Truly. As an active meditation, I would wear a sports bra (instead of a tank top) to class and challenge myself to maintain positive self talk regardless of what was reflected in the mirrors.

Dancing on stage, in that same feared get up, in front of thousands, and being filled with the utmost joy and energy, that to me is the epitome of freedom.

In the yoga class that followed, we were reminded, “No more playing small, this is your time to live big.”

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Plank club- find best friends who also have this as their idea of fun

Wanderlust allowed me to see whether it’s a scenic 5k, a once in a lifetime dance party, a 90 minute flow with a live DJ, or an outdoor meditation, it’s all yoga. It’s a mindset. It’s saying yes, and allowing yourself to experience things as fully as you can.

Yoga is an opportunity to celebrate being alive, and express gratitude for every part of your being.

We focus so much on being smaller, fitting a certain mold, and refining the edges that aren’t perfect. There’s no need to ask permission, show up exactly as you’re meant to today- whether that’s dancing your hardest, laughing (in my case, cackling) your loudest, and daring greatly in every way.

Give yourself permission to take up space, to be seen. I promise you, there’s nothing better.

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What survived of our body paint
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Guided meditation- Wanderlust 2017 Twin Cities

Two Wheels in the Twin Cities

A summary of biking in Minneapolis is that everyone hates everyone. Namaste.

Walkers wander into the bike lane, bikers forget to signal, and drivers are reckless. Commuting regularly via bus, bike, foot, light rail, and car, I have been the accused and the accuser in all of these scenarios.

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Once everyone safely arrives to their destination, the dialogue quickly changes to how great the Twin Cities are for offering so many different forms of transportation. In the five years that I’ve lived in Minneapolis, I have been able to explore so much more of the Cities due to all of these options.

It’s true that they aren’t flawless. MPR is required for heavy traffic, buses sometimes follow the beat of their own drum, and sometimes the bike lane disappears without my permission. But I like to think of that as part of the journey, especially with biking.

For a large part of our lives, physical activity is determined by organized sports with the purpose of being the best. For me, biking couldn’t be farther from that. I’ve gotten stranded in St. Louis Park on a pitch black summer night trying out a new route. I’ve made an unannounced U-Turn that prompted a driver to take a few of her fingers off ten and two. I’ve ridden for weeks on incredibly flat tires, all the while assuming that I really needed to work on lower body strengthening.

So, I’m not exactly an expert. But the best part is, I don’t mind.

I love having a hobby that has no pressure to get to certain level, status, or excellence. I love, love, love not paying for parking downtown. I love giving myself permission to not always opt for the most efficient way from Point A to Point B.

And if you know me, you know I love any opportunity to spend less time sitting still. I love having someone 30 years older speed past me on the Cedar Lake Trail, it’s inspiring and humbling all at the same time.

While biking from work to Corepower the other day, I was behind a biker who really looked the part. This is the best case scenario for me- having an expert biker navigate the downtown chaos while I rail closely behind. He was really killing it in his reflective vest, until someone quickly opened their passenger side to hop out for the corner restaurant. The door flew open right in front of him, as he slammed on the brakes and somehow stopped himself from flying over or into the door. 

The woman apologized continuously and explained she didn’t seem him approaching. I heard a few passengers behind me, who also gasped watching the scene, say they hope she apologized. As his self-proclaimed side kick, I let them know she did, and I made sure he was okay. He brushed it off like a champ.

In my opinion, that woman isn’t an expert passenger. But who really is? We all make mistakes, so maybe everyone should think of themselves as beginner everything. We all forget time and time again that there’s a world surrounding our Point A to Point B commute. The more we recognize that, the less we get flicked off. Simple. 

 

 

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Don’t worry, every month is #BikeMonth in the Twin Cities

 

Here’s to Happy

“I know you like to give gifts you can take part in,” my boyfriend Brandon said to me, as he attempted to guess what I had planned for his birthday. It’s very true. I believe experiences trump all. That’s why I’ve moved away from tangible gifts and given those close to me something we both value more, time.

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Split Rock Lighthouse

Even though birthdays are designed to be focused on the person of celebration, they tend to snowball into elaborate plans including a list of people you “probably should” invite. Think of the last weekend you had where nothing was on the agenda. Somehow, doing exactly what you want becomes a luxury.

It required a complete disregard of FOMO to skip UMN Homecoming and instead take a spontaneous trip to Grand Marais for Brandon’s birthday weekend. But camping without electricity, hiking for hours, and being removed from the noise and motion of the city was far from a downgrade,

We skipped a night of bar hopping, and instead spent an afternoon at Vine Park Brewing making our own craft beer. And instead of leaving it to the experts at Brasa, we opted for a birthday feast that evening was entirely homemade.

Yes, doing things differently has its perks.

When it comes to experiential gifts, there is an element of uncertainty. If I order a present online, I am guaranteed my expectations. Experiences? Rolling with the punches is required.

I was reminded of this this week when Brandon and I returned to the brewery to bottle our beer after it fermented for the last 2 weeks.
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Making the beer on his birthday had been great; we measured the hops for a recipe similar to our favorite IPA, Surly Furious, and while it brewed in stages we had down time to walk around St. Paul (read: and then quickly walk to the bar across the street, sorry Alchemy 365 Challenge).

For the bottling session, we brought Pizza Lucé and sampled our new beer in between cases. With a few beers overflowed, I was continuously demoted from my place in the assembly line, and instead focused my efforts on brainstorming our brewery label branding.

When 6 cases of delicious IPAs were ready to be brought to the car, we realized someone had taken Brandon’s jacket that was hanging on the coat hook. Not great, especially when the pockets included his sunglasses and work ID. This is the punch that comes with experiences. As with any day, it can be hard to overcome the hiccups.

I worried that this would overshadow the entire experience and that the bad taste left in our mouths would overpower that of the IPA. This isn’t the first time I’ve worried about this type of selective memory, because it’s only with intentional choice that positivity is our default. After a quiet car ride home, we made an intentional choice.

The great thing about experiences, is the memories cannot break, get misplaced or stolen. True happiness isn’t tangible, and it comes from people, not things. This choice was the calm after the storm of a stressful morning, of calling strangers to see if they had a coat*, of losing focus on thebeer present moment. And that’s what this beer, all 72 22 ounce bottles**, will be as well.

That’s how I finally landed on the branding for our imaginary brewery, The Gorge, and the new delicious IPA, Lotus. The label is also drawn in my mind, because this is a marketer’s idea of fun. Lotus flowers bloom after rooting and growing in mud; and I believe the best things, experiences, mindsets—and now beers—come from appreciating the work that goes into them.


*Brandon’s coat was found at a nearby bar and returned. HUGE shout out to Vine Park Brewing, Bennett’s Chops and Railhouse, and that Minnesota Nice.

**6 cases of beer is not an exaggeration, if you would like to try Lotus, please holler.