My Half Marathon FAQ’s

Peeps have been hitting me up about this half marathon I ran, so I figured I’d write a little Frequently Asked Questions about the whole thing.

Did you finish?

Sure did! In 2:28, which means I ran about 11 minute miles the whole way.

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Did you have a goal time?

Eh, not really. Instead of a time, because this was my first half, I decided that my primary goal would be A. to finish and B. do so without walking. I achieved both of these things.

Were you sore?

Oh heavens, YES! And honestly, that was the most shocking part of the whole experience. I had run two 11 mile runs leading up to the event and was fine the next day after both. I figured with just 2.1 miles more I’d be fine! Boy was I wrong. I almost fell down my stairs in the AM because my quads were so tight. Even sitting was painful. There was no reprieve. I think it’s partly that I didn’t really stretch after–too much finish line excitement and just that…well…13.1 miles is a long run!

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Did you listen to music?

Sure did! Before heading into the race, I asked my friends on Facebook to share some tracks I should put on my playlist. Bunches of people, and like *super* random people from random parts of my life alongside my friends an family chimed in. The result was an eclectic list that made me smile because it was like those friends were cheering me on along the way. Check it out for yourself:

Did you get bored?

Nuuuuuupe!

Do you think I could do one even if I’ve never run one before?

Absolutely. That’s what training is for! I’ve never been much of a runner and I certainly don’t have whatever this elusive “runner’s body” is I keep hearing about. But I got myself on a training program, worked at it and made it happen. I’m confident you can do the same!!! It might take a bit longer to train for, but who cares?! Do you and make it happen.

Would you do it again?

Funny you should ask….YES. In fact, I’m already signed up and just took my first training run tonight for the San Francisco Nike Women’s Half. My co-worker mentioned back in July that I might as well enter the lottery for this race and whaddya know–I ended up getting in! This race is October 18th, so less than two months to go! This time around, I am indeed setting some time goals—now that I know I can do it, I want to do it harder, better, faster, stronger! Woot!

Sunday Bunday {Adventures in Marley Hair}

Armed with a bag of marley hair, per my last post, I headed off to New York last week for work.

I spent the week in various stretched styles, ranging from a bouffant to a french twist to just a good, ol’ scarf style. The ultimate goal was to create a towering and regal bun using the marley hair for Afropunk.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I’m a horrible hair stylist when it comes to anything other than a wash’n go, but I was delighted to discover that this wonderful bun style took a matter of minutes.

In fact it was so easy that I couldn’t even properly take step by step photos because it was like PRESTO CHANGO: BONJOUR, BUN!

Basically:

1. Put your hair in a high puff
2. Take a length of Marley Hair and secure one end with a hair elastic. Here’s a peek at what it looks like when it’s hanging down.

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3. Attach the secure end to the base of the puff and just start a-wrapping the hair around the puff, making sure that your little curly coils are all covered. Honestly, it’s not that tough because the marley hair is super thick and offers great coverage.
4. Secure with lots of pins annnnd VOILA! YOU BE BUNNIN’

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It’s that easy!

ps. These dope after photos are from our #BevelClassics photo booth at Afropunk this past weekend and it’s 100% worth it to check out all the snaps! Shout out to Brandon King and Aundre for making me look my very best :)

How Teyonah Slayed The Bun Game (and my efforts to copy cat)

After a hearty day of fun in the yesterday, I woke up this morning feeling way less than stellar. So I did what any normal girl would do: crawl the NewsFeed.

A gorgeous round up on BGLH of Teyonah Parris’ natural hair styles stopped me in my tracks, but one of the styles truly spoke to me:

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To me this bun is everything. It is at the same time regal and effortless. Intricate yet simple. I thought to myself “only like 19 more years until my hair is long enough to do this” and then I remembered the ol’ African American Adage:

If You Can’t Achieve It, Weave It

Luckily, Teyonah’s hair stylist, Miss Felicia Leatherwood, is a dear friend of mine, so I shot her a quick text to see if even I, a sub-par stylist at best, could recreate the look on my own.

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Easy as that. Now if that doesn’t sound achievable, I just don’t know what is….

In the past two hours I have acquired myself the recommended bag of Marley hair and am planning on giving this style a whirl this weekend for Afropunk in Brooklyn. Stay tuned to see how it turns out!

Now the only question that remains: where can I find that awesome laurel leaf headband…..

To Blog Or Not To Blog…

In the span of 30 minutes yesterday, I got a phone call from my mom wondering if I thought I took too many selfies and several comments on my long-dormant YouTube channel asking if I was ready to come back to blogging/vlogging.

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On the one hand you have one person thinking my face is out there in over abundance and others wondering where in the world it’s been.

I’ll admit it, my blogging, vlogging and posting has been sporadic at best over the past couple years. I blame it on the fact that just about 2 years ago to the date I shaved my hair down to about a 1/2″. This was a big mistake for a person whose primary foundation of content is in fact their hair. I was thrilled with the cut, it was fabulous and freeing, but a shorn head doth not good content make.

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But two years have passed and every time I peek my head into my social channels, someone asks me “WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN AND WHEN ARE YOU COMING BACK?”

So I figured I’d answer!

What I’ve Been Up To

During the day, I head up editorial over at Bevel Code, the editorial site of Bevel, a men’s shaving grooming company owned by Walker & Company Brands. I’ve been there over a year and to be honest, it’s been a lot of fun. Everything I’ve done in terms of here and other hair-centric sites, I now get to apply when it comes to men and their shaving. Go ahead and take a peek at what I’ve written, including but not limited to interviews with Obama’s barber, Kanye’s barber, Nas’ barber and Charles King, one of the most influential men of color in Hollywood. I actually just got back yesterday from interviewing comedian/social media juggernaut King Bach down in LA.

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The TL;DR: I’ve found out I really like helping PEOPLE, not just women, but also men, finding the tools and products they need to be confident in their own skin. Hair, shaving, clothing, fitness—>I’m here for it all.

So. You Bloggin Or Nah?

I mean, SURE. Let’s do this. I’m down to get back in the game a bit. Especially these days, I’ve been FEELING my hair. Lola is back. Like SO back. Check it out.

WHET!!?!??!?!?! That stuff is so long—AND I’M LOVING IT!!!!!!

I’m having to deal with detangling and deep conditioning, sleep pillows, shedding and scrunchies. I’m resurrecting old products–only to find that SOME OF THEM DON’T WORK ANY MORE. Others that I didn’t like, now are my most favorite products on the planet. It’s like going natural all over again. I’m back at square one, except that now I have 6 years beneath my belt.

Point is, I’m now back to a point where Lola is back in her element enough where sharing my adventures in curl is likely worth sharing on a more regular basis. Plus it would give some reason for all those selfies my mom is oh-so-concerned about.

How I’m Training For A Half Marathon

I was always the kid who walked The Mile in gym class, bid my friends adieu while they took off on their daily jogs and generally avoided running like the ol bubonic p. In 2012 I wrote a post called “The Story of a Reluctant Runner” detailing how I got over my distaste for the activity and got myself moving, but the long and short of it is: two years later, I’m a runner.

Now I’m in the throes of doing something I never ever, ever thought I would do: train for the San Francisco Half Marathon. While I once thought I would never go as far as 13.1 miles, part of me remembers that I have biked 570 miles and completed a triathlon. Both of those two feats took training and I figured, I might as well see what this whole half marathon thing was about.

Lots of people have been asking me about how I’m training, so here’s the scoop on how I’m making it happen.

There’s An App For That!

I mean, of course there is, right? Before I even paid for my registration fees, I was hunting down the best apps to develop a half marathon training plan, basically to make sure this was even possible. I settled on MyAsics because it allowed me to customize how many runs I want to do a week (3) and what day I wanted to do my long run on (Saturday) as well as make it super easy to understand the program break down. The distances have been good, my only critique is that there are no voice cues to tell you your splits and pace while you’re running. So now I use MapMyRun while I run for the voice cues and plug all my data into MyAsics to keep me on my plan.

Here's what the app/my plan looks like.

Here’s what the app/my plan looks like.

Having Zero Expectations

I have one goal with this half marathon: TO FINISH. Aside from that, I went into this with no ideal time, pace, weight loss goal or anything. As a result, I’ve put very little pressure on myself and I’m having fun with the whole process! I’d ideally like to not walk, but hey–if that happens, cool. The bottom line is I *get* to do this.

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“Okay, but are you mixed?”

Here in the states I’ve never once been asked that question. I believe this is because the answer upon taking a casual glance at me is rather, well, black and white.

I’ve got brown skin and natural hair. I mean, hell, even my last name starts with Black. I have never not checked the African American box when filling out demographic data.

However, while visiting Lagos people frequently asked about the coily texture of my hair. When I explained to them that this is simply it’s natural texture, not a coiling technique or starting of locs their response would be, wide eyed with an air of suspicion:

“Your hair just grows like that!!?? Okay, but are you mixed?”

My response was at first always a solid “no.” I mean, I’ve got two black parents, black grandparents, black great-grandparents; I am definitely 100% black. Always have been, no question about it how I’ve identified.

Me and the great-grandparents (top)  & the grandparents on the bottom.

Me and the great-grandparents (top) & the grandparents (bottom)

However, after being asked by several people, I started to wonder where this was all coming from, if there was something to that question. This was truly a first for me and I took some time to reflect.

I would never say that I’m mixed, but the truth is that in my family we’re not quite sure where exactly we come from. There’s rumblings of Irish ancestry somewhere back in the day. Rumors of Native American heritage somewhere in there. We see a looser curl pattern here and a touch of light skinnededededness there. But in general, when it comes to skin color, the main link between we the Blackwells is that we loooooooove to be tan. The deeper, the browner the darker the better. With all those winters in Minnesota that suck the color right out of us, once summer hits, we are out there setting our tan lines to show our hard work. My mom calls it “searing” and even my grandfather finishes the summer looking like Golden Teddy Graham. But again, the last name – Blackwell – there has never been any question of who we are and how we identify.

Back to Lagos.
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Naija: I am HERE for your food

Before heading to Lagos, I squared away my necessary travel logistics:

1. Window seat: check.
2. Nigerian visa: check.
3. List of delicious things and places to eat: check.

It’s no secret that culinary tourism is one of my favorite parts of travel. It’s why I gain 15 lbs of foie gras in France and why I spent more time hunting down Oahu’s best poke and Korean butterfish than on the beach.

I landed in Lagos with a list of the most necessary Nigerian dishes to check out, curated by some of the awesome peeps in the Nomadness Travel Tribe. I didn’t know what any of the names meant–moi moi, elegusi, suya, dodo, pounded yam–but I knew I had to have it all.

Over seven days I diligently knocked down the names on the list, discovering the flavors of tradition Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa cuisine. I also enjoyed some fantastic pizza pizza, Nutella, piƱa coladas and a healthy dose of wine.

A few highlights:

1. This stuff is HOT

Sure it’s 102 degrees outside, but that doesn’t stop this food from lighting up the inside of your mouth like a flame thrower at Kanye concert. I loved every. single. bite. In every meal, my eyes watered, I sucked in air (which we all know does nothing to aid the plight) and gulped down water. Nothing helped, but I kept going back for more. Lemme say this, I don’t think I tasted anything Nigerian that wasn’t spicy.

Jollof rice taking center stage

Jollof rice taking center stage

Elegusi - stew made with ground melon seeds and meat

Elegusi – stew made with ground melon seeds and meat

Moi Moi

Moi Moi

Hot Pepper Soup! So incredibly spicy. So delicious.

Hot Pepper Soup! So incredibly spicy. So delicious.

Ugba - a traditional salad made with shredded nuts and stock fish

Ugba – a traditional salad made with shredded nuts and stock fish

Efo Riro - a vegetable stew with cow leg (tendon I think) flanked by pounded yam

Efo Riro – a vegetable stew with cow leg (tendon I think) flanked by pounded yam

2. The sun never sets….

….on the British Empire. Thanks to the Imperial conquests of the Brits back in the day, there’s a lot of mixing between their former colonies. In Lagos, as a result you have a lot of Indians and Indian food. I enjoyed one of the best Samosas of my life at a rather posh restaurant called Spice Route. Also Perfect Mutton stew and fantastic tandoori.

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The Hair Culture of Lagos

Years ago, I always imagined Africa as the home of all things natural hair, the place where I could go find those magical juices, berries and maybe some sort of indigenous nut oil that would allow my hair to thrive. When we think about Africa as the place to “go back to our roots”, it would only make logical sense that the root of the natural hair movement is also found on the continent. It wasn’t until I saw this photo oh-so-long-ago that made me start to think I had it all wrong:

Young women performing in Umhlanga (The Reed Dance), an eight-day event in which thousands of unmarried and childless Swazi women travel from all over the country to perform for the royal family. (Photo by Elton Anderson)

Young women performing in Umhlanga (The Reed Dance), an eight-day event in which thousands of unmarried and childless Swazi women travel from all over the country to perform for the royal family. (Photo by Elton Anderson)

As these women perform their native tribe dance, there is nary a natural curl in sight. Not a single one.

A similar observation began even before I hit the ground in Nigeria. On my plane, I observed ZERO other natural women, only relaxers, weaves and braids. Sure, beneath those weaves and braids the hair might be natural, but the inherent impression is that of a preference for straight, long hair. If the hair is worn short, it’s done so in a way that’s much more Halle Berry-pixie than Solange-TWA.

For days, this parade of weaves and relaxers continued through our adventures in Lagos. One would think that with such a cultural prominence, the hair would at least be healthy looking and well-styled. Unfortunately the opposite: I’ve never seen so many edges ripped out, broken ends and damage. Even young girls had patches missing from over applied relaxer.

We in the west set the global trends of black culture; it’s particularly hard to stomach that this is our beauty contribution to Africa. Just like we in the States had to conform to this a Eurocentric-standard of beauty, I wonder if the pressure to straighten was even stronger living under the influence of a colonial power.

Nevertheless, we were there to provide natural hair education and to empower women to wear their own hair. As a tribe of natural hair wearers rolling through Lagos, we certainly caused a stir because it was a rare sight to see.

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Nigerian Natural Hair Show: Recap + Gallery

After months and months of preparation, last Saturday the Nigerian Natural Hair Show went DOWN and it was so much fun!!! The Kinky Apothecary team knocked it out of the park, putting together a fabulous 8 hours of educational programming and an fantastic expo. The event took place at The Federal Palace Hotel here in Lagos, Nigeria and over 200 naturalistas came from Lagos, greater Nigeria and even other African countries to learn, shop and snap selfies–lots of selfies– in their fantastic natural styles.

The day started off with a panel discussion facilitated by Nibi Lawson, Founder + CEO of Kinky Apothecary. I was honored to sit on-stage alongside an inspirational (not to mention GLOBAL!) group of women including Felicia Leatherwood (Celebrity Stylist), Obia Ewah (Obia’s Naturals), Ijeoma Eboh (KlassyKinkys), Ngozi Opara (Heat Free Hair) and Wunmi Akinlagun (Woman in the Jungle).

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I hopped on stage to present my workshop “The Top 10 Natural Hair Mistakes I’ve Made (and how to avoid them yourself)”. See, as a blogger, you’re often only posting the finished, polished and sometimes even photoshopped final photos of the natural hair journey. The truth is that going natural is HARD and even we bloggers still make mistakes, especially when starting off. I wanted to open up and give an authentic perspective on the struggle that is so real, but stand up as an example that with a bit of patience and perseverance—in the end it all turns out a-okay.

Towards the end of my talk, I also explained that one of my main goals with my blog is to meet and get the stories of naturals around the world, so I encouraged everyone to come find me and we could snap a shot with my selfie-stick. And BOY did these Nigerian Naturals sure love taking those selfies! I think I’ll write some sort of new African proverb that starts “If you give a woman a selfie stick, she’ll look as fire as the African sun.” Something like that… I’ll work out the copy soon, but for realz, people love the ‘Stick. It brought out a lot of smiles and laughs.

The rest of the day, all the other speakers hit the stage and I chatted with the local naturals, asking questions, helping them shop for products, and doing a little shopping myself (hey-o!)–I can’t leave these Ankara fabrics alone while I’m here….

Huge shout out to Nibi and team for pulling off such a fantastic event. Education is the MOST important part of the natural hair movement and she is such an inspirational example of drive and passion for providing that education to the women of Africa.

Now, without further ado, my full gallery of images:

1st Day Hair: Not My Thing (even in Nigeria)

Tomorrow! Yes, FINALLY tomorrow is the big day—the Nigerian Natural Hair Show is finally here. As a featured presenter, I started prepping my hair for said big day, well….last week.

I’ve come to realize, that I really, truly, honestly dislike my first day hair. As a Wash’n’Go advocate, I find that my freshly washed style is just never my favorite. Sure, my ringlets are fully popped, I’ve got tons of shine, my hair hangs long, but I don’t know…I just feel that I look like some sort of wet cat.

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See the displeasure in that face? Yea, that’s me.

Okay, maybe I’m not THAT upset, but I feel like my hair never hits its stride until day three or four. A few reasons:

1. It’s a little TOO perfect. I find that the beauty of natural hair is in its “imperfections”. I like a little frizz, a little gesture–it shows personality.
2. It’s too flat. It shows off all the angles of the cut, there’s no smooth, rounded out flow. I want my hair reaching for the sky.
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