My Journey to Becoming a Runner (and now triathlete!)

13 08 2010

Running is a sport that a large percentage of the population wishes they could do….and be good at.  I was no exception and always admired the sleek, fit runners I would see out on the trail.  I got my first shot at becoming a runner in 7th grade when I went out for the track team.  I only wanted to be a short distance sprinter but of course the coaches put you through 2 weeks of long distance conditioning before you can even try out for a specific event.  I said the hell with this long distance crap and quit within the first week.

I didn’t try running again until college and maybe got to around the 1-2 mile mark before I gave up once again.  I would try it every spring, grind my teeth through the pain and tell myself how much I hated running.  Don’t ask me why or how, but approximately one year ago, I talked myself into giving it another go and put in at least 2 runs a week for 6 weeks.  I would start out running a mile, walk for a bit, and then run for another mile.  By about week six I was up to 3 miles and discovered how much I enjoyed running 5k races.

This spring I kicked her up a notch and took a 10k training class.  It was another 6 week commitment and by Memorial Day I completed my first 10k race in under an hour.

Eyeing the finish line

My little cheerleaders

I’m extremely happy to say that one year later I am still running and absolutely love it.  I’m at the point now that my body craves it….if I don’t hit the trail at least 2-3 times a week, I get grumpy.  I stick in the ear phones, blast the music and sometimes feel like running forever without looking back.  It puts me in a zone of a simpler time, just me and the trail…no computers, no emails to return, no mortgages to think about.  My next “big” race (for me anyway) is the Mankato Marathon in October.  Although several friends have almost talked me into training for the 1/2 marathon, I just don’t feel ready yet.  Right now I’m signed up for the 10k but may be doing a 4 person relay team for the full marathon….we’ll see.

Of course completing a 10k this spring just wasn’t enough for me, so I began tossing around the idea of training for a triathlon.  I joined the Mankato Multisport Club and this group has been a phenomenal resource and support group for a newbie like me.  I talked the husband into letting me get a new road bike this spring (Women’s Specialized Dolce) and my family got me a Fat Tire (my favorite beer) bike jersey for mother’s day!

I WILL get New Belgium to sponsor me one of these days

My first triathlon was the North Mankato Tri at the end of June.  The course was a 1/4 mile swim across Hiniker Pond, a 12 mile bike ride out on Judson Bottom Road, and a 3.6 mile run around Spring Lake Park.  I finished in about 1:35 which I was really happy with as a first timer.  It no doubt was the most physical outing I’ve done, but the adrenaline rush of the race got me hooked on continuing on.

Women's 30 and over swim heat

Riding back to staging area to run transition

I think I had the best bike jersey at the race

Home stretch!

Think this was my "I just ate a bunch of orange slices" face

And of course I had to celebrate with a Fat Tire when I got home!

Looking forward to my next Tri, which is this Sunday in Red Wing.  Set-up will be different since the swimming is held in an outdoor pool and will be slightly longer than my last (1/3 mile vs. 1/4 mile).  The biking is roughly the same (12.7 miles) and the run slightly shorter (3 miles).  I’m looking to improve my individual event time and now that I’ve been through transitions before hopefully I can cut down on those too.  Don’t worry…I’ll remember to have fun…I always do!


My love for water

31 07 2010

As usual the bamboo bunch has been spending quite a bit of time outside.  In addition to the regular kayaking, hiking and camping, I have added some variety to the routine (ok, if you know me at all, my life is anything but routine).   I’ll dig into the water stuff for this post and share my other activities a little later on.

I think our first kayaking venture took place the last weekend in March.  There were about a dozen of us standing around the landing parking lot trying to decide which river to run.  We had just received quite a bit of rain so we knew (kinda) what we were getting ourselves into.  We were so anxious to get back in our boats that we wanted to challenge ourselves on a river we had never done before which was known for downed trees and some twisty turns.  I believe the temps were in the 50’s with the water temps maybe in the 40’s.  I was the first (wo)man down….got hung up in an overhanging branch, knocked me out for a bit, current ripped off my sandal and my storage cover, and down the river went my boat.  Luckily my friend saved it along with 2 other boats our crew lost that day.  My friend and my sister both got sucked in by a fallen tree….and miraculously we all survived.  Needless to say our trips since then have been pretty tame.

Cobb River Crew

Anybody seen a Keen floating downstream?

My sister bought a boat this summer which has been awesome since I’ve been getting back into wakeboarding.  I was so pumped to get back on the lake that I wiggled into my brother’s wetsuit and jumped in on April 2nd.  I have never in my life willingly swam in a mid-western lake that early in the year.  It was worth it though….

We’ve done several other kayaking trips this summer including the Maple and Blue Earth rivers.  I was hoping to take a trip with the boats up north this summer but holy heck where has the summer gone already?  I also wanted to take another shot at the kayak race up on Lake Superior next weekend, but a friend of mine decided to go ahead and get married so that’s on hold until next year.

Photo pose at Red Jacket landing after running the Maple/LeSueur rivers

Family and friend paddle down the Maple

1st annual Femrite Float down the Blue Earth

Lunch break and limbo contest during the annual Blue Earth River Rock Hopper float. Pretty sure there were about 200 people on the river that day...way too much fun.

Plenty of sun....plenty of Fat Tire

Changing seasons….

22 07 2010

I know I’ve been pretty quiet lately about the business, so thought it was time to update all of our fans.  As you are well aware the economy has really taken a toll on small businesses, including Naturally Bamboo.  We are at the point that the business cannot sustain itself the way it is currently being run.  We are trying to compete with large brands with large operating budgets and without outside investment or a strategic partnership, I fear we may not survive.

If you know me at all, you know that I do not give up easily and will fight to the very end.  I have put my heart, soul (and second mortgage) into Naturally Bamboo and a piece of me would die if I had to let it go.  Although we have halted production for the summer, our hope is to bounce back this fall in a big way.

My work this summer has focused on business consultant and investor meetings and not so much product development which takes an enormous amount of time and money.  I’m happy to be spending quite a bit of time with my boys this summer and look forward to my bi-annual trip to Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City the first week in August.  I have key appointments set up at the show and am excited to explore new relationships with some awesome brands.  Can’t say too much more right now so I don’t have to worry my friends if I end up needing to move to the West Coast, Europe or Asia.

I have the passion, dedication and knowledge to really make a positive influence in this industry….just need to keep looking for that right partner who believes in the Naturally Bamboo mission as much as I do.

Many thanks goes out to my family and friends who have stood by my side during this wild & crazy ride!

Winter Re-cap

26 03 2010

Winter has typically been my least favorite season because I’m a water girl, however this year our family has taken up some new outdoor sports to make the winter more enjoyable.  We dusted off the cross country skis once again and made it out a few times to Indian Lake and the Sakatah trail.  Wish I got to do it more often but it’s a still a hard activity to do with my little guys.  Out of all the Olympic sports, I think the cross country skiers/biathletes have to be in the best shape….their strength and endurance is out of this world.  Plus skiers are totally hot to watch <drool>.

I finally got back on the horse and tried downhill skiing again after my 1992 concussion incident.  I’m in love with it and so is Kallen (6)… looks like we’ll be getting a season pass for next year and hopefully get a few ski trips in to Lutsen and Colorado as well.   Bamboo sales are gonna have to pick up quite a bit for me to afford to outfit the family in ski and snowboarding gear.  I did get out snowboarding 3 times as well and even after all the bumps and bruises, I’m eager to get back on a board next winter.  Maybe next year I won’t have to use Kallen’s Clifford pillow to protect my rear end:

I spent some time with a Venture Snowboard rep at Canoecopia in Madison a few weeks ago and he’s pretty much sold me on one of their boards.  I like their minimalist design philosophy, they’re made in Colorado, a member of 1% for the Planet, and their facility is run by wind power – excellent!  He told me that 9 out of 10 snowboard/ski instructors he meets would prefer a Venture board if they could afford it.  I’m leaning towards the Storm or the Zephyr.  I haven’t even started looking at downhill ski’s but will need something in the 160 range.  I was trying to fit in one last run at the local hill last Friday but it closed up shop for the year.  I came <this> close to flying to Denver this weekend…but sigh, it was not to be.  I really, really, wanted to test out my new Mountain Hardwear ski pants:

My boys absolutely loved watching the winter Olympics so much that they are now inspired to grow up to be snowboarders, skiers or speed skaters.  Click here to watch a video of Kallen’s first time on a snowboard.  We even had an Olympic arts & crafts day coloring and making medals:

I figured out another outdoor activity that I can do with the boys….but I haven’t come up with a name for it yet (shoejoring?).  For Christmas I got a pair of Atlas snowshoes – Elektra 12 Series.  I had never owned a pair of snowshoes before and I was told by a number of outdoor authorities that these were the best of the best (plus I had to support my Pemba peeps).  So far they are wonderful and have worked good in our couple feet of snow we’ve had this winter.  Don’t be like me though and go and scratch up these beauties trekking through cattails.

New winter workout - snowshoes, rope, carabiners and a toboggan

Mush, mommy, mush!

Now that we are transitioning seasons I am looking forward to spring geocaching and morel mushroom hunting.  If you are not familiar with these activities check out these links:

Morel Mushroom Hunting


We’ve already been out geocaching several times since the temps already reached into the 60’s last week.  Our first one of the year took us out by the Rapidan bike trail.

I’m turning into such a gear freak it’s starting to get out of hand….did I tell you I also want a new road bike and a SUP (stand up paddle board) too for this summer?  Good thing I already have a wakeboard and a kayak because I plan on getting a lot of use out of them this summer.  Now I’ll have to figure out a way to schedule work around my play time:)

Winter Outdoor Retailer Wrap-Up

16 02 2010

Twice a year I exhibit at America’s largest outdoor sporting goods and apparel trade show in Salt Lake City.  This year’s winter show was held January 20-24.  I look forward to these trips for a number of reasons.  First, the obscene amounts of beer…second, connecting with absolutely awesome outdoor peeps, musicians, athletes and industry leaders…third, finding new retail accounts and business partnerships….and fourth, the obscene amounts of beer (ok, I know I already said that).

Thousands of outdoor gear heads flocking into the Salt Palace

This was the fourth Outdoor Retailer show that Naturally Bamboo has appeared at.  I really feel like after this show about 90% of people in this industry know who I am and what my company is all about.  In fact, Channel Signal, an outdoor new media company highlights Naturally Bamboo’s social media presence at the Winter Market Outdoor Retailer Show here.

Monitors were placed all over the show displaying the Outdoor Retailer conversation. Can you spot me?

I have to give many thanks to my new friend Amy Jurries, from The Gearcaster, for taking the time to interview me during the show. I also got to meet Ryan Dionne from The Gear Junkie and he just recently posted a Q & A session that we did together regarding some drama surrounding bamboo processing.  Read the full story here. Ryan and I had a failed attempt at a Colorado/Minnesota beer exchange so I need to see him again soon so we can be re-united with Dale’s Pale Ale & Surly.

David Sweeney from Channel Signal and Ryan Dionne from Explore It/The Gear Junkie

Although getting some good publicity was awesome, the best part of the OR show was getting to meet many of my outdoor twitter friends in person.  Social media (facebook, twitter) has allowed me to make friends all over the world that probably wouldn’t have come into my life without it.  My 2 roomies (and dear girlfriends) @repgirl and @theclimbergirl and myself all came to know each other through twitter and now we will forever watch eachother’s backs.  The first night of the show we organized a tweet-up, which is an event that twitter friends meet in person.  Oh I hope I don’t forget anybody: @thegearcaster @theclimbergirl @maldaly @eliz_castro @highsteph @thegearjunkie @dvdsweeney @bradwerntz @bryankuhn @urbanwilderness @explore_it @jc_climbs @trevorclark @joytripproject @wude72 @krisversteegen.  Here’s some pics from the Salt Lake City tweet-up!

Amy Jurries @thegearcaster, Sara Lingafelter @theclimbergirl, me, and @bryankuhn from @pembaserves

Elizabeth Castro @eliz_castro, Sara, Steph Davis @highsteph, David Sweeney @dvdsweeney @channelsignal, and me

What I loved best about my trip was meeting these incredible athletes, business/social media geniuses and all around good-hearted individuals.  These are the kind of people that inspire me to push myself past my comfort zone and take risks.  I know I’ll never be a free solo climber/basejumper like Steph or climb Mt. Everest like Jamie Clarke, but after listening to their adventures, it sure does make me want to do more stuff outside.

Steph doing a free solo climb

Find out more about Steph through her blog and watch this amazing video of her outdoor lifestyle.

Sara and Jamie Clarke @jc_climbs (professional adventurer & Everest summiteer)

Jamie has created an social network connecting active people…join here. You can also follow Jamie’s bid to summit Mt. Everest once again in April 2010 at Expedition Hanes Brand.

Some other fantastic new/renewed friends that weren’t at the tweet-up but I spent time with during other parts of the show:  Chris Hiller from Truman, Minnesota @camperchris (he practically lives right in my backyard!), John Peacock @jpeacock from the Gear Junkie, John  Besmer @plntprpgnda,  @brockforeman (my Team Minnesota bowling buddy), @betsycurtin (my bowling rival), @outdoorretailer (Kenji, Mr. OR show director extraordinaire), @larrypluimer, @thepiton,  @canoelover (man with a heart of gold), @ibexwool, @writerlou,and @johnhorsnell.  I know I’m forgetting people and I’m so sorry if I have!

Me, @eliz_castro and @trevorclark

@bradwerntz (Pemba Serves), @canoelover (Darren from Rutabaga) and @theclimbergirl (Sara from Waypoint Outdoor) doing a social media panel

@wude72 (Travis) talking about how people like his tweets about his 3 year old wiping boogers on the wall

Watching the Vikings NFC Championship game with Kenji (OR Show Director) and Ryan Johnson (my OR sales rep)

Showing off the new Uberlite Dry Sack from Granite Gear (it looks like it's floating it's so light!). My pal Cheri insisted the GG dog pose with us.

Happy that I got to hang with an outstanding environmental organization @1percentFTP.   My girl Sara got to choose the winner for a Jackson Hole ski vacation during the 1 percent for the Planet CD release party.   My new favorite band @barefoottruth provided the musical entertainment.

Bought my $10 CD....get yours at: (features Jack Johnson, Mason Jennings, G. Love & more!)

Sara got to draw the winner of the ski trip...she did have my card in her hand and dropped it:(

Another highlight of the show was getting to know the crew from Keen.  I got invited to a private movie premier of “Nature Propelled”, an environmental documentary that you MUST see.  The movie was sponsored by Keen, Kavu and Clif Bar, stars Seth Warren, a former professional kayaker and features music by Barefoot Truth.

Will getting a lift from The Yoga Slackers

Did you notice that Will (singer/songwriter of Barefoot Truth) is wearing a Naturally Bamboo shirt?  He traded me his CD for a shirt….I was honored.  I’m happy to say we are still in touch and are working on Barefoot Truth/Naturally Bamboo partnerships.  This is what the shirt says:

Barefoot Truth performing during PrAna happy hour

Keen's Hybrid Life Booth

Keen made happy hour happier by having the lovely Miss Sara bartend (in a bamboo dress no less!)

Me & Sara dancing at the Teva party

My itty bitty booth

All right, I can’t think of anything else to say right now, except is it time for the summer show yet?

Santa Sprint

15 12 2009

This past Saturday both Kallen (6) and Noah (3) ran the Santa Sprint sponsored by the Mankato YMCA.  I didn’t plan on Noah running since he hadn’t shown an interest before, but he was gung ho that day!  It was a great morning to get the boys outside – 20 degrees and sunny.  There were 3 different age “heats”, and the trail was only marked for 1/8 mile.  The boys were so cute because they wanted to run together in each of their age categories, so they ended up running 1/4 mile.  Since they didn’t have an adult run, Jason and I ran on our own about 3 miles after the kids were done.  Our next family race event will be The Frigid 5k and Kid’s 2 mile run in February.

All lined up and ready to go. Kallen is on far right with the red bamboo beanie.

Noah had the biggest smile on his face crossing the finish line.

Kallen (on left) was a fast little dude.

Noah tried hanging with the 5 & 6 year olds but pooped out at the end.

My journey with Forbes

11 12 2009

For those of you who are not aware, Naturally Bamboo ended up being a runner-up in the 2009 “Boost Your Business” competition.  Although I did not win the $100,000 prize package, it sure was one hell of a ride.

It all began back in May when a public call for entrepreneurs in America to submit a 500 word summary of their business plan.  I received word in July that I made the 1st round cut.  Forbes judges selected 20 semi-finalists out of over 1500 submissions.   For the 2nd round, Forbes required that we make a 30 second “pitch” video that would be shown on throughout the month of September.  Forbes readers, family and friends were allowed to submit online votes to determine who would make the 3rd round cut to five finalists.  I was leading the pack until the last day of voting and then Green Soul Shoes shot to the top spot overnight.  Something must have happened to disqualify that company though since they ended up not making it to the final five….hmmm…Forbes never did reveal what the deal was.

I received a registered overnight letter on November 2nd from Forbes indicating that I made it to the 3rd and final round of the competition.  Whoo…hoo I was going to New York City!  I had less than 2 weeks to finalize my 20 page business plan, financial statements and prepare a 10 minute power point presentation.  Forbes paid for my flight and 3 nights at The Carlton hotel in NYC.  Jason came along with me and we had an awesome time checking out the city.  It was my 3rd time to New York and Jason’s first so I took him to Central Park, Times Square, Grand Central Station, etc.  We were extremely lucky the weather was beautiful (60 and sunny every day) so we could walk everywhere without relying on taxi’s or the subway.  I think we clocked an average of 13 miles each day walking.

The day before the formal presentation to the judges panel, I met with a professional presentation coach who flew in from Seattle.  I pretty much finished writing my notes to go along with the power point on my flight in the night before at midnight.  Needless to say, I hadn’t practiced my speech so the coach completely ripped me apart.  It was good though because it’s what I needed and then went back to the hotel room for an afternoon of editing and verbal practice.

I was the first presenter of the five and met all six of the Forbes judges at 8am the next morning.  Here’s me and Forbes Entrepreneur’s Editor, Brett Nelson, inside the studio:

I was given 10 minutes to make my presentation and then it opened up to a 10 minute question and answer session to the judges.  I must say I wasn’t quite as nervous as I thought I would be….guess all the practicing actually helped calmed my nerves.  Here is the link to my presentation:
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Outside of headquarters on 5th Avenue

Outside of headquarters on 5th Avenue

I left New York with a really good feeling that positive things were happening for Naturally Bamboo.  I knew though that it was going to take a ton of work over the next month or so to market this competition and get all the votes I could.  I could tell by watching all of the finalist’s presentations that the judges liked Ksplice the best so I knew that the only way for me to stay in this thing was to pull out a first place ranking with the online votes.  I believe I have the best network of family, friends and business colleagues that a girl could ask for, because without all of you I would have never made it as far as I did.  I held the 1st place ranking the last 2 weeks of the competition and then overnight, my dream slipped out of my hands.  Literally overnight, Ksplice jumped from the 4th position to 1st and I knew it was all over.

People ask me what does the runner-up get out of all of this?  Definitely I gained some great brand exposure and increased sales.  I also got in an investor presentation practice run if I ever end up on the show “Shark Tank”.  Hopefully someone with the right connections will notice how cool of a story we have going on and that Naturally Bamboo will grow into something really awesome.

2009 has been quite the trying year, as it has for many small businesses, but somehow we still survived it.  I have found out who my true  supporters are and I am so deeply moved about how many of you there are out there!  I look ahead to 2010 as a year of learning, change and growth.  Life will always have it’s challenges….it’s all about how you view them….setbacks?  Or something that will make you stronger in the long run?  I’ve chosen the latter.  Cheers to a New Year!