The running tourist returns to New Orleans

“An American has not seen the United States until they have seen Mardi Gras in New Orleans”.

(Mark Twain)

Returned to New Orleans for the 2020 Rock N Roll Half Marathon in early February.  This was my third year running the race and I enjoyed the adventures of being a running tourist again this year.  The weather was warmer than normal for February but not too bad where runners couldn’t finish.

Decided to take full advantage of the running tourism available in a city with so much culture and things to see.  Of course, food is a major attraction in New Orleans, and I made sure I got to sample from different locations while visiting.

Rock N Roll EXPO

The EXPO was a little bigger this year with new vendors and products to try or take with you for use later.  Always exciting to see the other runners at the EXPO.  People from all over the world converging with the same mindset to run and enjoy their time in New Orleans.  The live DJ was a new twist at the EXPO but fit with the New Orleans experience.

Got to take a few pictures prior to picking up my race bib, t-shirt and goodies.  This is a highlight while visiting the EXPO—you’ve got to get your picture taken with the multiple props the Rock N Roll folks provide.  The giant Brooks running sneaker was a new feature to the EXPO this year—created a long line to get next to that sneaker.

Made my way through registration and the Rock N Roll merchandise shopping area—didn’t purchase any new gear this year.  Sampled some B12 drinks provided by vendors and stocked up on Energy Jellybeans for use before the race.  I’ve tried these before so no fear of a bad stomach reaction; I never try new things before a race so I don’t experience stomach issues–lesson learned. 😊

My favorite vendor at the EXPO provided massage chairs for use.  Of course, they wanted to sell some of the chairs, but I was able to get a FREE 15-minute chair massage and enjoyed every minute of it.  This was an added benefit of attending the EXPO.

“It’s rude to count people as you pass them.  Out loud”.

(Adidas ad)

Rock N Roll Half

My hotel was only two blocks away from the start line this year so got a little extra sleep on race day.  Race time temperatures normally start in the mid-40s this time of year, but racers were greeted with high-50s and humidity prior to the start.  This meant we were in for a race finish much warmer than most of us wanted.

I was pleasantly surprised my race corral was #2 this year.  I remember my first Rock N Roll race had me in corral #24 so looks like I’m moving up in the world. 😊  The New Orleans course is flat and mostly shady which helps when the sun comes out.

Decided to enjoy the course and scenery during the first half of the race—didn’t push my pace to let the other runners thin out a bit around me.  The first mile is always the toughest for me because you’re surrounded by so many people.  Had to display a new level of patience knowing I could make up time later in the race due to training progress and enhanced fitness levels.

A good portion of the half marathon takes place on St. Charles Avenue which is lined with homes, shops and restaurants.  It’s a rich environment for spectators to cheer runners and provide additional encouragement.  This area feels like New Orleans to me and I enjoyed the scenery while making my way through the city.

It’s always great when we get to see the ELITE runners on the opposite side of St. Charles Ave. after they make the turn to head back towards the Warehouse District–this is the only time we get to see the ELITES until the finish line.  They are impressive to watch run!

We made our way through the Warehouse District then into the French Market before ending at Roosevelt Mall in City Park.  The French Market is always full of people eating breakfast who come out to cheer for the runners.  This provides a little more inspiration to finish—please note, there’s no shade here and it started to get hot quickly so people cheering was appreciated!

Was able to lock in mentally at this point and trust my training to get me to the finish line.  Took my last energy gel at Mile 11 and decided to enjoy my experience, the scenery and the other runners and pushed forward.  Even high fived a few spectators who lined the streets to cheer for us—this was a fun day!

Completed the half in 2:07:34 which was 3 minutes faster than I ran in 2019.  Not bad for the first race of the year and the temperature. Full disclosure, this was my second fastest half marathon so I’m extremely happy to start running season with a bang.  Got two full months to prepare for Nashville in April.  Another highlight of the Rock N Roll weekend is a new event added to the 2020 calendar—Clearwater, Florida in October.  Excited to have a home state race on the calendar!  Got my early bird registration in for Clearwater to take advantage of the low price.  Should be fun!

Chicken and Waffles again!

Raved about the chicken and waffles at the Creole House last year and had to try the dish again this year.  They did not disappoint!  This is still one of my favorite stops in New Orleans. The food, service and atmosphere are first rate and highly recommend the Creole House if you plan to visit New Orleans.

Found a worthy competitor for the Creole House at Daisy Mae’s.  Daisy Mae’s is on a side street most tourist may not venture down.  Got lucky because it was one street over from my hotel and I noticed the locals going in and out.  Decided it was worth a visit and I was not disappointed with my choice.  I’m not a food critic but would recommend EVERYONE stop by Daisy Mae’s for the chicken and waffles.  I’m not a huge spicy food eater but the spice on the fried chicken was amazing—spicy but not over the top.  I love the Creole House, but Daisey Mae’s has made it on my must visit list too.  Please be patient, they cook chicken as it’s ordered so the wait can be 15 – 20 minutes but well worth it!

Won’t bore you with French Quarter recaps—I drank, listened to great music and took in the Bourbon Street scene multiple times.  Always an eye-opening experience!

Looking to expand my running tourism reach in 2020—got some new cities lined up to visit and enjoy while running.  Who’s with me?

 

Where are you running in 2020?  Where have you always wanted to go but have not been yet?  What’s holding you back?  Get out there and Walk into the Future!

“I run so my goals in life get bigger instead of my belly”.

(Bill Kirby)

 

Master the art of public speaking

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“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking.  Number two is death. Death is number two.  Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy”.

(Jerry Seinfeld)

Public speaking is difficult, public speaking is scary, public speaking is not my strong skill.

I hear these and similar things daily when talking with people about public speaking. I’m sure I had similar thoughts when I started my journey standing in front of people to speak.  The good thing about the fear of public speaking is all your fears can be overcome.  Trust me, if I can get over the fear of standing in front of people and talking, everyone can.

My first exposure to public speaking came as part of my instructor role when I was in the Air Force.  My actual job knowledge (data analyst) was needed to train the next generation of Air Force data analyst.  I was forced to come out of my natural introvert shell and learn how to engage a room full of students who depended on me to help them grow professionally.  No pressure, huh?

“Best way to conquer stage fright is to know what you’re talking about”.

(Michael H. Mescon)

I learned the more I practice the less nervous I am when I stand in front of groups.  Decided to always err on the side of overpreparation as oppose to being underprepared for speaking engagements.  I constantly review notes, transitions and potential questions I may receive during every speaking engagement.

I view anticipating questions, lulls and technical difficulties as war games.  I find it easier to overcome these things by acknowledging they can pop up at any point.  This additional groundwork helps me get comfortable before and during my speaking engagement.  I still get nervous but know I can handle the task because of my preparation.

Researching the organization and people you’re speaking to helps you learn more about the audience so a tailored approach can be taken.  This helps when incorporating examples and stories into a speech.  Knowledge of the organization and audience helps generate talking points that fit so you can connect with them.  I also target specific audience members based on my research.  A quick LinkedIn search can provide an inside nugget I can use to connect with an audience member and seems to put others at ease because I took the time to learn more about them.  This simple rapport building technique can be leveraged to help alleviate anxiety as well.

The ability to read the room is another critical component for public speakers.  There will be times when you will need to adjust to match the emotions, reactions and body language of your audience.  I go into every speaking engagement with a plan of action but because of practice, anticipation and knowledge of the group, I’m able to adjust on the fly (if needed).

I don’t put a lot of written content on slides to avoid limiting myself without a way to pivot if needed.  I started incorporating key words and pictures into my presentations to focus attention back to me—the presenter.  This always provides me with a pivot channel since I’m not tied to slide verbiage.  The key words and/or pictures are used to guide me through the presentation.  Practice provides the foundation to make this process work when standing in front of an audience.

Nonverbal communication can make or break your presentation.  I make a point not to carry anything in my hands (pen/paper/etc.) except the audiovisual clicker.  I try to put the clicker down until I need it to transition to the next slide.  Carrying objects can distract your audience and I’ve seen these things distract the presenter as well.

Eye contact with audience members helps convey confidence and credibility as a subject matter expert.  Speaking rate, pitch and effective use of pauses can help keep the audience members engaged and wanting to hear more from the speaker.  I learned the benefits of audience engagement during my speaking roles in the Air Force and continue to add more tools to my speaking toolkit daily.  Don’t be afraid to move around when speaking—this really conveys confidence but should be done with purpose.  Too much moving looks like you’re trying to get away from them. 😊

These are a few things I’ve used to help eliminate speaking anxiety.  Please note, I still get nervous, but I use my nerves to help fuel my public speaking.  The one thing I ensure happens when speaking is to have fun.  Might as well enjoy myself while I’m standing in front of a group—having fun seems to counteract anxiety and I’m able to press forward.  Try it the next time you must speak in public!

    • FYI: Don’t forget the impact Walk up Music can have on public speaking:

https://walkintothefuture.blog/2018/11/22/walk-up-music

What techniques do you use to overcome speaking anxiety?  How do you prepare for big speaking roles in your work environment?

Thanks for walking with me!

“Speech is power:  speech is to persuade, to convert, to compel”.

(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

TCC presentation

Walk into the Future deep dive

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“I blog because I’m not a good rapper”.

(Anonymous)

Why I blog

Being a lifelong learner is a badge of honor I wear proudly!

I’m always looking for ways to improve myself (mentally and physically) and have a passion for reading.  I realize podcasts present a popular medium for people to receive information and learn.  I listen to a few, mostly sports related but still gravitate to blogs to expand my world view and learn from others.

I started the Walk into the Future blog on May 21, 2018 as a creative outlet for myself and to share my views, adventures and expertise with anyone willing to read my words.

The Walk into the Future title is my way to embrace the future and showcase the courage to move forward in life.  Didn’t know who or how many people would be interested in me chronicling my adventures or sharing my views but I’m pleasantly surprised to keep growing a small following via the Word Press platform.  I smile every time I receive a comment or like on my posts—lets me know people are reading my work and I’m connecting with them.

I focus blog posts on things I see, do, have interest/knowledge and topics from tree branches.

Started requesting input from tree branches because I’m walking with them daily and want to capture topics of interests to help them as well.  This process keeps me energized as I research topics and learn in order to write a blog article.  Please keep sending me ideas and I will work to incorporate your inputs into the blog rotation—thanks!

Note:  if you haven’t seen your topic published it’s because I’m still working/researching for content—it’s coming!

When I blog

My research on blogs identified the most successful bloggers maintain a consistent posting schedule.  Some bloggers post multiple times a day, once a day, once or twice a week, monthly, etc.  Everyone agrees the key is consistency so readers know when articles will be posted.  Adjustments can be made (holidays, vacation, etc.) but it helps to set a schedule and stick to it.

I decided to post once per week on Thursdays.  Believe I’ve only missed two Thursdays since I started—was having fun in Jamaica and Christmas week 2019! 😊  Thursdays give me additional editing time during the week so I can fine tune articles prior to publishing.  I’ve contemplated posting multiple times per week but decided against it—hope my followers look forward to a weekly article without bombarding their inbox multiple times each week.  Also, this gives me more time to research and write content without feeling pressure from a self-imposed deadline.

“Don’t let the fear of striking out hold you back”.

(Babe Ruth)

How I blog

My goal is to always have two months’ worth of articles in my Walk into the Future vault.  Most of these articles are not fully developed but provide a shell I can go back to and edit over time.

I normally post the articles in the order of creation but allow myself flexibility to move things around especially after I travel—I don’t like posting about an actual event (vacation, half marathon, etc.) months later so I move those articles up in the rotation.  Soapbox moments or topics can get moved up in the rotation depending on how hot it is to me.

I write about things that pique my interest, travel locations, leadership topics and ask tree branches for things they would like to read about.  I maintain a growing list of potential topics alongside the two months’ worth of written articles in my vault.  I currently have 37 potential topics I still must research, vet and then develop into a published Walk into the Future article.

Thanks to everyone that provided me with topics you’re interested in.

Blog articles start with a potential topic.  I then look for quotes and images to help generate inspiration for what I want to write about.  The next step is to research the topic to make sure I can bring a personal approach to the article.  The last step is for me to sit down and write the article.  When inspired I normally write an article (draft) in one sitting and then go back to check content and edit.  (FYI, this article was started on 11/5/19.) I adjust the title and make final edits the week the article gets published.  Don’t know how others produce and publish content but this process works for me. 😊

Updated blog stats:

Here’s a snapshot of what has been happening behind the scene for the Walk into the Future blog:

Walk into the future blog stats

Excited to enter my second full year as a blogger!  Look forward to continuing to develop content others want to read and engage with me.  This platform helps me on my journey to Walk into the Future.

Thanks for walking with me!

What is your favorite Walk into the Future blog topic so far?  How has the Walk into the Future blog impacted your daily interactions?  Curious!

Looking to incorporate guest bloggers in 2020!  More information to follow—thinking about Guest Blogger Fridays.

“The currency of blogging is authenticity and trust”.

(Jason Calacanis)

happy-new-year-2020

2019 Orlando Utility Commission (OUC) Half Marathon recap — the Benjamin Button effect

OUC prerace

“You know you’re a runner when, your running shoes ARE the most expensive pair of shoes you possess”.

(Anonymous runner)

My 2019 racing schedule ended on 12/7/19 at the OUC half marathon in Orlando.

This was my 5th half marathon and 7th race of the year.  I started 2019 with an aggressive (for me) race schedule where I wanted to race more and increase the number of half marathon finishes.  I also set a goal to run a half marathon under 2 hours—I didn’t meet this goal but did improve my Personal Record (PR) four times this year, so progress has been made.  I’m faster now than when I started running half marathons in 2013 (Benjamin Button).

How many times running this race?

I started my half marathon quest in 2013 at this very same race.  A UCF friend convinced me to run a half marathon with intent to run it with me for support.  She had several half and full marathons completed and thought it would be a good challenge for me to run a half marathon.

Fast forward a bit, I signed up and began training but her husband got a job transfer and they moved to Dallas, Texas before the race.  I thought about backing out since I didn’t have a running partner but decided to give it a try on my own.

Had no idea how to train, eat or prepare for a half marathon so simply relied on athletic ability for my first try.  This was a horrible idea!  I would have quit during my first half marathon but didn’t know how to get back to my car, so had to keep going in order to figure out where I parked.  This is not a joke, I finished because I had no other choice.

Ran this race again the following year because I had to prove to myself, I could run a half marathon and appear to be competent while doing it.  I improved my finish times incrementally over the years so the pull to come back was there.  I skipped the OUC half marathon in 2018 and ran on Amelia Island instead.

The 2019 race was my sixth time running the OUC half marathon.  I’m currently 19 minutes faster than the first time I ran the same race (Benjamin Button).

Why come back?

Wanted to test my new training knowledge and program against a course that beat me up in the past.  Figured the best way to know if I’m improving is to run the course I wanted to quit on and then move forward.

Happy to report I enjoyed the 2019 version of this race from start to finish!  Even found myself with a goofy smile on my face for some reason around mile 9.  This may have been the runner’s high people tell me about, but I never experienced before.

No worries just decided to keep on smiling and run my best.  This approach allowed me to finish with a PR (2:05:51) and a level of satisfaction with my entire 2019 running program.  Can always look for areas to improve but very happy to improve my PR four times this year.  As you can see, I’m getting faster as I get older (Benjamin Button).  I’m still looking for another gear and project to get a bit faster in 2020.

Stick with the Walk into the Future blog to follow my running progress.

Race recap

Decided not to put an official time goal on this race but wanted to run fast and safely.  My top goal was to have fun and complete the 2019 race schedule in style.

Blue is my power color so outfitted with blue from head to toe for this race.  Accented my race outfit with orange compression sleeves to represent the Florida Gators as I ran through downtown Orlando.

Miles 1 – 5

Wanted to get out fast but not expend too much energy during the first third of the race.  The OUC half marathon also has a 5k race which starts at the same time.  Wanted to avoid the extra runners at the beginning of the race so went out with a controlled pace and mindset until the 5k runners split away from the half marathoners at Mile #2.  Felt good with my mile splits and knew I had the conditioning to keep my pace going.

Miles 6 – 10

Past races I’ve struggled with this portion of the half marathon.  My training, nutrition and mindset have improved this year to where I know how to handle this segment of the race and not slow down much.  Was able to stay consistent with my mile splits with no glaring slow miles.  This may have been why my goofy smile came out—I knew I was running faster and not slowing a bit.

Miles 11 – 13.1

Realized I wouldn’t break 2 hours at this point but didn’t let that take my smile away. Kept plugging away because I knew I could set another PR by just pressing forward.

Put TI’s song, Motivation on repeat because this is my running hype song that helps me mentally when I run.

The goofy smile was with me the entire time and the miles flew by.  There were spectators out helping the runners finish strong; I’m sure they were cheering for me, but I was in my zone and focused on finding the finish line.

Crossed the finish line at 2:05:51 (two hours, 5 minutes and 51 seconds) with a smile on my face and a raised fist!  You would have thought I saved the world from annihilation from my reaction, but it was a big deal to me.  Ran a smart race with a good time and felt great physically at the end.  Trifecta!

After race party

Track Shack does a fantastic job with all aspects of race day.

The vendors, health care and music after the race are first rate.  Made my way to the beer truck to get my two beers to go along with my other snacks collected in the vendor area.  Yes, runners really drink beer at 9:30 am—we’ve earned it after getting up before the sun rises and running 13.1 miles. LOL.  Ran into a few people I knew from my time in Orlando and we celebrated another great Track Shack race.

“It’s all about the bling!”

(Spectator sign, 2019)

Benjamin Button

So, why do I reference Benjamin Button in this post?  Great question!

Most people begin to slow down as runners as they age.  I’ve only been attempting the half marathon distance for 6 years now and continue to learn more about training, nutrition (beet juice) and mental focus.  I’m just scratching the surface on my running ability and see faster times coming in 2020.  So, I’m not getting younger but faster (Benjamin Button).  I’m sure the day will come when I can’t keep running faster times but it’s not here yet—so fast I must go! 😊

“For what it’s worth, it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be”.

(Benjamin Button)

Goodbye OUC hello San Antonio Rock N Roll (2020)

I will not run the OUC half marathon in 2020.  I’m trading this race and experience in for the 2020 San Antonio Rock N Roll half marathon.  I lived in San Antonio while in the Air Force but wasn’t a runner then.  This will be my chance to run in a great city and experience the culture and the River Walk from a different perspective.  I’m sure I’ll return to the OUC race again in the future, maybe 2021.

Project to run 7 half marathons in 2020.

Already registered for New Orleans (February), Nashville (April) and Philly (September).  Will add San Antonio and Savannah; looking at San Diego and maybe Las Vegas to complete 7 with the Rock N Roll series.  May adjust with a local half marathon but 7 is the number for 2020.

Logged just under 1,000 miles on this running journey in 2019; I’m sure that number is going up in 2020.  Who’s ready to run with me? 😊

 

How many of your 2019 goals did you accomplish?  Have you thought about your 2020 goals yet?

Thanks for walking with me!

Merry Christmas!  Will see you in 2020!  Thanks!

OUC Christmas tree

Don’t fear the unknown–life moves forward

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“On the other side of your maximum fear are all the best things in life”.

(Will Smith)

How many times have you talked yourself out of doing something based on perceived fears?  I’m talking about larger life episodes like changing careers, starting your own business, learning a new skill or traveling to an exotic locale.

Sometimes we fear the unknown simply because it is unknown.  Nothing has happened to instill the fear we live with; we just bring it along into our daily routines.  Don’t let that little voice in your head talk you out of pursuing something you want to accomplish.  Positive thoughts generate positive outcomes!  Tackle life with an Irie mindset!

Look for ways to embrace your fear and understand the root cause.  Challenges provide opportunities to grow so don’t let a little apprehension stop you from making a move.  Try to place a marker or name on what you fear.  Is it the actual change, lack of confidence, professional requirements or something else?  Understanding the root cause of fear provides a road map to help overcome the thing you fear—sounds simple, right?

Look for ways to visualize the successful outcome you seek.  Leverage a vision mapping process to walk you through the entire process.  Start with the most basic concepts and then work to put everything into a step-by-step diagram as a road map for success.  Your vision map may show holes in your thought and execution patterns you can counter to help eliminate fear and enable success.  The vision map also allows you to put time frames in-place to accomplish the task you identify.

Positive people make positive things happen!  I continue to stress having an Irie mindset.  Believe this is vital daily in life.  Expect great things to happen and back up the expectations with proactive research, conversations and efforts needed to get what you want.  Positive thoughts will help build up resiliency so when faced with obstacles you go to the next option but never stop trying to get what you want.

Be prepared to pivot as needed.  There are times a fundamental change in approach is needed to get what you want.  This is not a failure but a proactive way to work towards outcomes to enhance your current situation.  Do you need to get a specific certification prior to starting a career change?  Do you need to have a business partner to make your small business idea successful?  The willingness to pivot when needed can eliminate a level of fear associated with similar changes.

“Staying positive does not mean that things will turn out okay. Rather it is knowing that you will be okay no matter how things turn out”.

(Unknown)

Accept fear as a natural motivator in life.  Sounds counterproductive but what if you tackle a small fear daily to build up confidence for the larger things in life?  Fear public speaking? Then join Toast Masters to get in front of people to learn how to overcome this fear.  I’m a natural introvert so speaking in front of people was a fear I had.  Discovered the more I speak in front of groups the less fear I have.  The process becomes easier the more I face the fear.

Mentors can help you when facing your fears.  We should all have multiple mentors to help get through personal and professional scenarios.  Why not enlist a mentor when you must face a fear?  This trusted advisor may have experience in the area and can provide insight to help you move forward.  The mentor can also serve as a sounding board for you to present your thoughts.  This simple concept may allow you to hear what’s holding you back.  Your mentor will be able to provide feedback based on thoughts you present as well.

Fears are natural to most of us.  Visualize success, leverage positive thoughts, pivot if needed, accept fear to defeat it and engage your mentors.  Simple, huh? 😊

Remember, everything Irie!

What tools do you leverage to overcome fear?  What have you thought about doing but let fear hold you back?  (Respond in the comments section—thanks!)

 

 

“Named must your fear be before banish it you can”.

(Yoda)