Monday, March 22, 2010

The Finish Line

When you train for your first marathon, veterans always say "don't worry about the time.  Your one and only goal should be to finish."

Which, of course, it should be.  But if you've been running for a long time, and you're super competitive (like me), you can't help but have a target time in mind.  And even worse, we all entertain visions of the Boston Marathon in our heads, even if we've never completed the full 26.2.

My initial marathon goal was fairly conversative.  Five hours seemed fair, since that's what most of my friends of similar fitness did their first time out.  But the more I ran, the faster and stronger I got, and the lower and lower my target goal became.  5:00 became 4:30 which morphed into 4:15, maybe even 4:10 and an outside chance of sub 4:00.

The mind is a dangerous thing.  Because the truth is, as much as you train--for the miles, the fuel, the pace, the course, the conditions--nothing prepares you for the actual feeling of the marathon.

I wasn't feeling very anxious going into the race, though I didn't get a chance to do my normal routine of light yoga and deep breathing.  I felt amazing at the start, which probably led me to commit the cardinal sin of marathoning--going out too fast.  No, 9:30 pace isn't THAT fast, but for me, the queen of 10:00+ first miles and negative splits, it was probably a little too fast (but of course, I had in the back of my mind that 9:30 splits=4:10 marathon.  Again, the mental part of this game is the hardest!).  I didn't feel anything until around mile nine or ten, when I noticed my breathing was more shallow than normal.  And where was my rescue inhaler?  Um, back in the gear bag.  Not my brightest move.

I made it to the half marathon point around 2:05, and my legs were still feeling great, but my breathing was becoming increasingly more difficult.  My friend Katie caught up to me around mile 14, which calmed me down, but I still could not get my breathing under control.  I tried stopping, deep breathing, yoga, walking, slow jogging, but nothing worked.  I couldn't find a medic, either.  So I kept going, but was becoming increasingly more anxious and started to panic.  Around Emory (mile 15, I believe), I saw a Team in Training coach.  She could tell I wasn't okay, and I said I needed an inhaler.  We jogged a bit, hoping to find a medic, but ended up in front of the CVS on North Decatur Road.  She suggested we buy an inhaler there, and luckily, I had a prescription.  The pharmacist was amazing.  She found a cheaper version of my prescription (Jessica, the coach, only had $20 in cash--lesson number 573, carry cash on the course!) and had us on our way in a few minutes.  I thought that would be the end of my struggles.

I was wrong.  About half a mile later, as I entered infamous Druid Hills, I started to get extremely nauseous.  And then I puked.  In the bushes of some two million dollar home on Lullwater Road.  I was hoping that was it and kept running.  And then I had to stop.  Every time I ran, I felt nauseous.  I couldn't eat any GU, and I could barely keep down water.  So, from mile 16 until 22, I repeated the torturous cycle of running for a few minutes, stopping to retch what little was left in my stomach, walking for a few minutes, trying to run again, repeat.  And the irony--my legs felt great!  They weren't even sore!

When I finally saw my husband at mile 22, I nearly cried.  He walked with me the last four miles, and I was so grateful to see many of my amazing friends--Angela, Erin, Sara, Lindsay, Mallory, among others--along the way. Right before the finish, I saw our head coach, Tommy Owens.  He gave me a hug, and I ran the rest of the way in.  I don't know how I managed to smile in the photo my friend Sarah took of me at the finish, because immediately upon stopping, I puked again and was escorted to the medical tent, where I spent the next hour hooked up to an IV for fluids and trying to figure out what--in the five hours, eight minutes and eighteen seconds I'd been on the course--caused everything to go so horribly wrong.

Because the truth is, I thought I was prepared for anything that could go wrong.  Blisters from the rain, my right hip seizing up like it had my last few runs, running out of fuel.  I'd done everything I could to prepare.  I'd run on the course four weekends in a row.  I knew every hill and every turn.  And I didn't alter my routine.  I had the same food the night before and that morning; the same hydration and fuel during the race; the same shoes, the same clothes.

But there's a reason less than one percent of the population completes a marathon.  It's gruelling, not just physically, but mentally.

But I made it to the finish line.  Why?  Not just sheer stubbornness, but because of the color I was wearing, because of the logo on my shirt, because of a cause I represent much larger than myself.  I'd never been prouder to be a part of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training program than I was yesterday.  Because five hours of a little physical pain is NOTHING compared to what cancer patients and their families go through day in and day out, without the medals or ceremony or fanfare.  You don't get a t-shirt for dealing with chemo.  Or a medal for being a survivor.  For them, the finish line is a moving target, uncertain and fleeting.

And until that finish line is certain and guaranteed, you can find me out on the streets.  Running.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Go Big or Go Home

Yesterday, I was really inspired by Allison Nazarian's amazing blog post, "You're Either Following or Blazing.  End of Story."

Why?  Because being an entrepreneur is all about taking risks.  About blazing new trails.  Living on the edge.  Daring to be different.

If you're committed to success--real success, not just the this-is-kind-of-a-nice-hobby-and-better-than-a-corporate-job-but-doesn't-really-pay-the-bills mentality we've all been guilty of--at some point, you either need to go big or go home.

Back in December, I made the decision that this was a make or break year for me.  I was tired of mediocrity.  Of doing the same projects over and over again.  Of not getting the clients I wanted.  Of barely making enough money to get by.  Of not being 100% invested. 

It's scary to be bold.  To take risks.  To be different.  To blaze a new trail.

I threw out almost everything.  Clients, revenue models, processes, services.  And then I did some even crazier things.  I took on ANOTHER business.  I hired a staff person before I could really afford it.  I thought beyond news releases and monthly retainers and the same old tired, boring tactics.  I stopped hiding behind others' voices and opinions.  I dared to be ME.

It's a scary, uncertain path, though I'm lucky enough to have an amazing support system.  And at the end of the day, I feel much better knowing I went all in.  That I tried.  That I took risks.  And I'll take that over a known path any day.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Old News

Last night, I watched the live stream of #journchat from SXSWi.  The brainchild of PR wunderkid Sarah Evans, #journchat is "an ongoing, open dialogue between journalists, bloggers and public relations professionals" that takes place on Twitter.   I generally enjoy these chats--it's a great way to share with peers and build relationships in the virtual space.

Last night's session was a little bit different than the usual Monday night chat--no engagement or participation from the masses, just a pretty basic Q&A with some of CNN's social media heavy hitters.  And the more I listened the more I thought...

When will we STOP reporting social media as "news?"  Yes, one of the CNN panelists joked that someone joining Twitter isn't newsworthy, but I have news for you:  Neither is the fact that you can build relationships via Twitter.  Or pitch a story in 140 characters.  Or that you should vet your sources carefully.  Or be there before the pitch.  That stuff is PR 101, just translated to a different medium.

Yes, we get it.  You're on Twitter.  We're all on Twitter.  And foursquare and YouTube and Facebook and dozens of others.  So what and now what?

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Truth About "Networking" Events

As the majority of my virtual community has descended upon Austin for the annual pilgrimage known as South by Southwest Interactive, I can't help but have pangs of jealousy.  As a total music fanatic that represents a few budding singer-songwriters, I've been interested in the music festival for years.  And now as a total social media junkie, I'm head-over-heels with the idea of meeting some of my favorite virtual "friends" in person.

But wait--what IS the purpose of SXSW and similar conferences, Tweet-ups and events, large and small?  Is it to indulge in self-congratulatory, insider chit-chat?  To become even more insular and more exclusive?  To party 24/7 with several thousand of your closest friends?  Or is to network, to build new relationships and maybe, just maybe, learn something new?

I know that when I attend events like this in Atlanta, I have to be honest with myself about why I'm going.  Because nine times out of ten, I'm dealing with the usual suspects.  All wonderful, amazing, intelligent people, but people I know.  People I already have relationships with.  The insiders.  And there's nothing wrong with having an adult beverage, kicking back and enjoying some great conversation.  But I don't delude myself into thinking I'm networking, giving back, making new friends or building my business.  It is what it is--socializing with friends.

But if we're true ambassadors of social media, of openness and transparency, of building quality relationships or inclusion, shouldn't we be indulging in fewer SXSWs and Tweet-ups and doing more hanging out in local coffee shops, more reaching out to people we don't know, more sharing what we DO know?

And yes, I'm still adding SXSW 2011 to next year's agenda.  But I hope I go into it with open eyes and open arms.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


This weekend, I did something unprecedented in the 2.5 year history of my business:  I took a weekend off.  Well, if you consider running 20 miles a weekend off.  But seriously, I didn't return a single email.  I didn't read any blogs, work on any proposals or fret about unfinished business.  In fact, I barely even cracked the laptop.

Why?  Because I needed to establish some boundaries.  When you're an entrepreneur with a home-based business, there's no separation between personal and professional.  I work at the same table where we eat our meals (if I get the chance to clean it off, which isn't as often as it should be).  I'm surrounded by dishes that need washing, floors that need vacuumming, a dog that needs walking, laundry that needs folding--the work never ends.  And my attempts at "multi-tasking"--which has basically meant half-assed efforts at relaxing, working, housekeeping and relationships, sometimes simultaneously--are leaving me exhausted, burned out and frustrated.

I used to leave work, get in a run or a Pilates class, then come home for a nice dinner and a glass of wine, watch a favorite show on television or read several chapters of a book.  Now, the lines are blurred.  Most evenings, you'll find me returning emails, reading articles online, eating my dinner, all while engaging in 20 Twitter conversations and trying to watch the latest episode Gossip Girl.  My work is suffering.  My health is suffering.  My relationships are suffering.  Why?  Because I have no boundaries.  Because I'm not fully committed to one task.  Because I mistakenly believe that I can "do it all."

No more.  Thanks to the encouragement of the very wise Sarah Robinson, I'm drawing a line in the sand.  Establishing boundaries.  Pilates and yoga classes are as sacred as marathon training.  They are appointments to be kept, not activities to squeeze in.  Meals are a time for fellowship and conversation.  They are to be savored, not shoveled down between emails and snippits of Jeopardy.  Work time is sacred.  No more emails stating "I'm free all day on Thursday," only to end up with 12 hours of meetings, calls and running around town when I should be attending to client needs.  No more free brain-picking sessions.  More reading.  More time with people I care about.  More dreaming.  More play breaks with my dog.  More time outdoors.  More of the things that I truly value and care about in life.

How do YOU set boundaries in your work and life?

Friday, March 5, 2010

What Matters...

I've been thinking a lot about priorities.  So I thought I'd make a list.

Things that matter to me:
My husband.  My family.  My friends (the ones I can call at 3am or have run with for 2+ hours).  Good music.  Snuggling and playing with my pets.  Kindred spirits.  Authenticity.  Supporting entrepreneurs.  Long runs.  A good night's sleep.  Engaging conversation.  Learning.  Laughter.  Connecting with thoughtful and interesting people.  Hugs.  Solitude.  Reading and writing.  Words.  Being grounded, spiritually and physically.  Dreaming.  Exploring new cities and cultures.  Handwritten thank you notes.  Making music.  Sunshine.  Teaching and sharing.  Making memories.  Serendipity. Being me.

The rest is just noise.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I'm busy.  Between marathon training, building two businesses and spending time with my husband, I don't have much free time.

But am I spending my time in the best way?

I can count on one hand the number of times this year I've spent one-on-one time with  close friends.  Other than rides to and from the airport, I haven't seen my sister--who lives less than five miles from my house--since late January.  When she asked if I could have lunch this Friday, I looked at my calendar.  Not only could I not have lunch this Friday, but any Friday this month.  Or dinner for the next three weeks.

Yes, I'm busy.  And I work 80 hour weeks.  I run 40+ miles a week.  But it's MY time, and mine alone to schedule.  Work should come a very distanct second to close friends and family.

We live in a society of urgency, immediacy, instant gratification and open access.  It's very easy to book up every available hour in a day to accommodate someone else's schedule and neglect your own priorities.   Just because you can respond immediately doesn't mean you should.  That's why I turn off my Blackberry at night and am no longer ruled by my inbox.  But it's time to apply that same principal to my calendar.

So, from now on, Thursday nights are sacred.  I'll be hanging with my sister, enjoying a little 30 Rock, wine and girl time.  Happily offline and out of touch.


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