Hannah Halvorsen’s Return to Ski

Hannah Halvorsen has been a member of the U.S. Cross Country Ski team since 2016. After growing up in Truckee, California, she moved to Anchorage, Alaska in 2017 to become a full-time college student and member of the elite team at Alaska Pacific University. She was a sprint finalist at the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, and a member of the first relay team to win a medal at Junior World Championships in Park City, Utah. In November of 2019, Hannah was hit by a car while crossing the street. After missing the 2019/20 race season, she is making her way her way back to the world stage with a long year of recovery and learning invaluable lessons about patience and gratitude.

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I am a 22-year-old professional cross country ski racer who has been on skis since I could walk. I was born and raised in Truckee, California, which has sunshine and mountains and a large community of active people who take advantage of it. My family was part of this culture, and my five younger siblings and I grew up playing all kinds of outdoor sports. The one I connected most with was cross country skiing. Throughout middle and high school my goals in skiing grew with me because I loved the way it challenged me. To compliment my ski racing and change up my training I ran cross country in the fall and did triathlons in the summer. This gave me another way to be a part of the endurance community and enjoy the trails, lakes, and mountains.

After graduating high school in 2016 from Sugar Bowl Academy, I wanted to continue pursuing my Olympic dreams, so I moved to Anchorage, Alaska to join Alaska Pacific University, which has one of the best elite teams in the country. At the same time, I have had the opportunity to pursue a double major in Psychology and Business. Since moving to Anchorage, I stopped competing in triathlons and running races in order to focus on training for skiing full time. In the summer and fall we dryland train with a mix of roller skiing, running, and strength. In the winter we race throughout America and Europe. It has given me a sense of purpose to apply myself to the challenge of becoming the best ski racer I can, and I have made steady progress with my results each year. In my most recent ski season (2018/19) I raced my first world cups, which is the highest level of the sport.

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At the start of November 2019, everything was heading in the right direction. I was in the best shape of my life and I was excited for the chance to put another year of hard work to the test. I was three weeks away from getting on a plane for the 2019/20 race season when my whole life went on pause. I was crossing a street when a car that didn’t see me turned left and hit me head on. After being knocked unconscious, I was rushed to the ER, where they found I had suffered a skull fracture, bleeding and bruising in my brain, a tibial fracture, and my left MCL and PCL were torn completely detached from the bone. Needless to say, I wasn’t going to be racing in the 2019/20 ski season.

For the first ten days after the accident, I slept 18-22hrs a day due to the concussion. I then flew to Vail, CO to have my knee looked at by the specialists at the Steadman Clinic. When the knee surgeon, Dr. Hackett, examined my knee he knew immediately I needed surgery, and I was scheduled for later that week. However, the night before I was supposed to have surgery, a brain trauma specialist called and told me he had delayed my operation after looking at my brain scans. He said there was still severe bleeding in my brain, and he didn’t think it was safe for me to be put under anesthesia. I ended up having to wait five weeks for the significant bleeding spots to drain so that I could more safely have my knee reconstructed. Today, this doesn’t seem like a significant amount of time to wait for such a life-threatening reason but at that time it made the challenges I was up against feel bigger. I am used to progress, even when things are hard, and although my brain was healing, my knee was on hold until I had the ligaments fixed. This made me feel like I was spending my days in pain without the consolation that my knee was getting better.

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However, once I had the surgery, it felt like things were moving in the right direction, and I clicked into the rehab protocol the same way I would a training plan. Similar to training for ski racing, it progressed one step on top of the other. This motivated me to work hard at each step, because accomplishing that would allow me to go to the next one. In May, which felt like an eternity of waiting, I was able to start running. To start running again after a knee surgery on two completely torn ligaments did not mean I was able to put my shoes on and go train how I normally do. It meant I was allowed to jog for thirty seconds, and then stop and walk for a minute, and then repeat that nine more times. So that’s a grand total of five minutes of jogging. Each week, I was able to run five more minutes. It’s in my nature as a competitive athlete to push the limits, so this cautious and slow progression challenged me to be more patient. Even though I wanted to jump out the door and run as far and as fast as I could, I was diligent with the progression because I wanted to be able to run for the rest of my life. It is an amazing way to be outside, exercise, and see beautiful places that you can’t get to almost any other way. And by not being able to run for half a year, I realized how important it is to me. One thing this healing process has taught me is that when something is taken, and you have to work months to get it back, you see how special it really is.

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I decided I wanted to get shoes that would best support this goal as well, so I chose HOKA’s Clifton Edge and EVO Jawz. I have been impressed with how well they balance responsiveness, stability, and support, which are all things I take into extra consideration as I make my way back to full time training. I feel stable and balanced in my HOKAs while at the same time minimize the pounding on my healing knee. At this point, I can run for two hours, and have even done track intervals!

Now when I run, I am more present and aware of the joy it brings to my life. Good health is something I took for granted until I didn’t have it for many long painful months. While sitting out for a race season, I have had time to recognize how fortunate I have been in my ski career. I haven’t experienced much injury, sickness, or setback, and it took a big one for me to realize how fortunate that is. I have also realized how much support I have. The community of endurance sports that welcomed me in and believed in me when I first started ski racing didn’t hesitate to extend the same support to me when I needed it most.

If there’s one lesson that will forever be in my heart, it’s that I have not overcome this obstacle alone. I now make more cognizant choices to take care of my health that I have worked so hard to regain. Every day I have this realization that I am still alive and that I have no permanent injuries. I didn’t race this season, but it still feels like I accomplished some huge goals. I can run and ski again, and that means more to me than a lot of my best race results. I am a few months away from heading into the 2020/21 ski season and I have a new motivation and fight for the sport. I am grateful for the opportunity to be outside, challenge myself, and share my life with others. I head back into ski racing with big goals. The next winter Olympics is less than a year and a half away, and I believe I can make it there.

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The Journey to a Low Waste Lifestyle with Cindy Villaseñor

Hello Everyone! I’m Cindy Villaseñor! A garden educator, environmentalist, and lover of the outdoors. Now I wasn’t always like this, I actually didn’t grow up camping, going hiking, or tending to a garden. It all started when I took an environmental science class at my community college in 2013.

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My environmental science professor was really honest with us and didn’t sugar coat anything. She took me and a small group from our class on a camping field trip, which was actually my first time going camping. I even attempted cowboy camping with my classmates in Death Valley National Park, which didn’t play out too well when a dust storm and a sprinkle of rain rolled in. Most of us ran into the van and slept pretty uncomfortably! Haha.

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While the camping trip was an educational one; learning about Owens Valley, the environmental damage caused by diverting water away from the land and drought, she took us hiking to some very beautiful places that I had never seen. I was in awe and grateful for the opportunity.  After that class was over, I became more interested in environmental related issues and going camping. That following summer after the spring course, I became vegan for environmental reasons and the following year, I planned my very own camping trip to Yosemite!

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As the years passed by, I continued to learn more while pursuing a major in geography and a minor in sustainability at CSUN. I decided on that field of study after taking that environmental science class. I planned several camping trips, learned about compost, learned about growing organic food, and eventually became a garden teacher. Along those years I also started to live a low waste lifestyle. While that wasn’t the focus in the beginning of this journey, it has now become the lifestyle my husband and I try to live as best as we can. That lifestyle became such a big part of what I share online, that I started to inspire others, and that eventually led to the name change on Instagram to Cero Waste Cindy after one of my friends kept calling me that in person.

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Camping and visiting places like Yosemite and Zion became a big part of our lives too, so making them low waste has been very important. One of the main reasons why I strive for low waste camping trips is the fact that we are visiting these beautiful places and all, so how can one possibly make so much trash while visiting them? We may be responsible by packing out all of our trash and putting it in the trash can. But where does this trash end up? It ends up somewhere else in the environment, someone’s backyard (usually in a Community of Color), somewhere in the desert or in the ocean.

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Here are some tips I would like to share with you all. They can be used for daily life and not just camping. Food seems to be the real focus here because the packaging it comes in seems to be the biggest piece of the puzzle when it comes to trash all over the world, not just camping.

1.     First and foremost, taking all reusables instead of single-use items! Water bottles, plates, cups, eating utensils, napkins, cleaning/drying towels, and anything else used during camping.

2.     Ice for coolers: a whole lot of ice typically comes in plastic bags, so we prepare some ahead of time. We fill up big bowls with water, freeze and we end up with big blocks of ice that take longer to melt. In the past, we have also asked at coffee shops or gas stations if we can get a fill of ice from their machines in a reusable bag or container.

3.     Look for package free fruits and veggies at your local market or visit a farmer’s market, and prepare meals around what’s available to you package free.

4.     Prepare some meals, snacks and energy bites ahead of time, put in reusable containers, heat at camp!

5.     Take extra containers for any leftovers, or food scraps to compost at home.

6.     Fill up reusable growlers at your local brewery for beer, and kombucha instead of individual bottles.

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Hope all these tips help! A quick little reminder, that it’s ok if you can’t do all of the things I mentioned. Try your best! Many people don’t have access to certain things where they live but there is always a way to practice cero waste!

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Cindy is featured wearing the Kaha GORE-TEX

Humans of HOKA: Benjamin Li

Benjamin Li is an oncology doctor who is always on his feet whether it’s in the office or on the road. Read more about his experience with running and how it helps him take care of himself.

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“You have to be able to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.” This is a mantra that has stuck with me throughout my medical training. How can you, as a doctor, provide the best service to your patients if you are not investing the effort to be the best version of yourself? The analogy is similar to the low-oxygen warnings we always saw on airplanes (back when travel was a thing): put an oxygen mask on yourself and then put masks on those in need around you. To me, running is my source of oxygen, of balance, and strength.

My decision to become a doctor was intertwined with my ability and passion for running. I began running in high school and fell in love with the vast world it opened up to me. Nature, places that no car or bike could take you. Hard work and reward, more satisfying than any amount of natural ability could offer. And camaraderie, the undefeatable bond of shared suffering and sweet victory. Running added dimensions to life that I hadn’t realized existed, and somehow filled me with ambition, purpose, and the conviction to follow my dreams.

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However, there are two sides to the coin, and with great joy also comes great sadness at time. As any runner can tell you, one of the hardest things to face is… not being able to run. It is much, much worse than the state of life before running existed, because having tasted the glory, now each day has an opportunity cost when a run is lost.

When someone is down, there is a special opportunity to help them back on their feet. In high school, I was lifted up by selfless and passionate physical therapists (one clinic offering free service for high schoolers before official open hours). Through my experiences, I learned how to treat and manage my over-use injuries, and to help others with similar ailments. Fast forward a few years, and I realized that, whether or not related to running, everyone experiences their own “injuries” in life.

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Medicine and running gives you an interesting perspective. You get a glimpse of some of the most personal emotions and raw truths in settings of adversity. Day after day, as a radiation oncology resident, I witness stories of cancer from different aspect of societies. Ranging from the happiness and gratitude of being alive and present for their grand-children to the despair of realizing that life will forever be different and that what once was a self-defining trait (e.g. always being available to help others) is now reversed (e.g. always needing help from others). To those moments where you come to peace with the uncertainties that lie ahead and revel in the certainties of love that exist around you. Everyone has their injuries, and it is incredibly rewarding to help people get back on their feet and able to feel good about the path forward.

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HOKA ONE ONE. Not only are their shoes awesome, but they really help me to be my best version of myself each day. Being able to run light, to run freely, and to run protected from the wear-and-tear of San Francisco down-hill roads, my Hoka support maintains running as a refuge. Whether I pop on my RINCONs for a fast workout to push my limits and humble myself, or wear my BONDI 7s into work for a chance to recover while standing all day on my feet, my shoe companions really do double duty. These times are easy to lose motivation, to lose connection, and to lose hope. But anchoring on what I know makes me happy, makes me the best version of myself, and lets me most fully share joy and positivity in my work… running is helping me take care of me so I can take care of others.

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Benjamin is featured wearing the Bondi 7

Breaking Barriers to Live Abundantly

Claude and Dr. Kim Walker know what it feels like to look for new ways to stick to an active lifestyle. The two began a healthier lifestyle in 2017 and lost a combined 140 lbs, but as health professionals they knew they needed an active lifestyle that was sustainable, and that’s where the outdoors came in. Outdoor recreation offered fun, variety, and an important connection to our world, but the community was lacking for people of color. So the two created Abundant Life Adventure Club, which offers a safe and inclusive community for people of color looking to live an active lifestyle while embracing all that outdoors has to offer. We sat down with Claude and Dr. Kim to learn more about the Abundant Life Adventure Club, the benefits of the outdoors, and more.

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Getting active outdoors and adding adventure to our lifestyle does good things for our health and wellness. We all deserve access to that. However, many Black people find it challenging to try outdoor activities. We know these challenges first-hand, so we created Abundant Life Adventure Club to help Black people live an active lifestyle through positive exposure to outdoor recreation with ease. We are on a mission to move wellness to outdoor spaces in authentic ways that provide exposure, access and support.

We provide our members with curated adventures led by certified guides for a variety of weekly outdoor experiences. We hike, bike, kayak, and more, primarily in Tennessee. Our members say that we’re a dope crew to be adventurous with that would make anyone’s active lifestyle better.

We haven’t always been “outdoor people.” Our exposure to outdoor recreation was once limited to only traditional sports in urban parks. That changed in 2017 when we were looking for new ways to stick with an active lifestyle. As health professionals, we knew in order to make our active lifestyles sustainable we needed to get active outside of the gym, find our tribe, and add some fun variety. Outdoor recreation was our solution and it transformed our lives. As a result of our lifestyle changes, we lost a combined 140 lbs.

We decided that we were not going to let inexperience stop us from trying new things any longer. Our first hike was a guided group hike offered by nearby state parks. We were quickly hooked. We hiked to connect deeper with each other and our teenage son. We hiked to cope with stressful times, demanding jobs, and personal losses. And of, course to help strengthen our bodies.

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After spending some time at various parks, we noticed a lack of diversity amongst park visitors. We saw the need to create a diverse community that connected people of color to the outdoors in meaningful ways. In 2018, we started inviting friends out for hikes and different outdoor adventures. Because we knew the challenges of trying new outdoor activities, we understood how to introduce other Black people to the outdoors in a way that would make them feel comfortable.

We had no idea that this would grow into a company that has led over 350 Black people on outdoor experiences in Tennessee and inspired thousands of others. We’re excited about our growing community and all the places we will go. We want outdoor adventure to be a new normal for our culture. We are now working for a cause that is so much bigger than ourselves.

Our mission is to help Black people live healthy and active lifestyles through participating in positive outdoor experiences. We love teaching others the therapeutic benefits of nature and helping members gain new perspectives. It makes our hearts smile when we help our members accomplish activities, they never thought would be possible.

Our members tell us that these experiences change their lives. It helps them disconnect from life’s demands in order to recharge. We’ve been able to help people find a community that they instantly connect with. We can unplug, have fun, and just be our authentic selves. We create a safe space to talk about our challenges, experiences, and unique perspectives that allow us to connect on a deeper level. We get to celebrate, inspire, and support one another. It’s refreshing to really feel seen, heard, and understood.

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We also incorporate mindfulness and meditation in many of our adventures to create a complete mind, body, and spirit experience. We stop for meditation in the most scenic part of the adventure we call “inspiration point.” We use mindfulness to allow ourselves to unplug and feel fully present while immersed in nature’s beauty. We want to let go of any stresses that might have been on our mind before the experience started. We want to leave each experience transformed, challenged, and restored.

One of our most memorable moments was last year we took our club on a waterfall hike to Burgess Falls. One of our members in her mid-40’s that was born and raised in Nashville had such an amazing and transformative experience. She said she lived in Nashville her whole life and didn’t know there were any waterfalls in Tennessee. We encouraged her to take in every
moment of this first-time experience. This was a Time to Fly moment.

We believe Time to Fly means freedom. It means you’re free to see opportunities and take them. It means you’re able to soar over adversity and barriers so that nothing is holding you back.

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Humans of HOKA: Lasondra Wilson

Hi! My name is Lasondra Wilson and I am the owner of Yellowcake Desserts, a small bakery in Northern California! I am a former preschool teacher of 13 years and I recently resigned to pursue my business full time. In addition to educating children and baking, I love to read, hike, and garden.

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Baking and cooking have always been a part of my life. When I was younger, I would help myself to things in the kitchen, trying to make food for myself such as toast and eggs. I have fond memories of cooking enchiladas with my grandfather, Mexican wedding cookies with my uncle and cakes with my mom. I made the transition from Southern California to the Bay area 11 years ago and I didn’t know a lot of people.

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In that first year I watched Food Network incessantly. I tried my hand at everything from homemade doughnuts (which were a fail) to homemade biscuits. The more I cooked and baked, the more I fell in love with baking from scratch. At the same time, I became obsessed with local and organic food products, as well as the story of dishes we hold dear; where does upside- down cake come from anyway? I researched company product lists, which led me to some of the best ingredients there are when it comes to food. I also researched recipes and food history, reading cookbooks of acclaimed chefs, bakers, and even chocolatiers. This became the foundation for how I create flavors and my desire to expand the idea of what dessert is. Sweets get a bad rap; and yes, they should be enjoyed in moderation. However, I learned that having the best ingredients, thoughtfully sourced and produced, contribute to the overall well-being of everyone, earth included. Creating unique flavors that honor the earth is an ode to the past and sets the stage for how we connect to each other in the future. Food sustained nations. It is still used to welcome people to communities and helps foster relationships as we break bread around a table.

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I love flavors that play up natural ingredients versus processed items like candy. That’s where flavors like lemon rosemary and earl grey cupcakes come from; they are flavors we can produce naturally. It’s not the only thing we do, but it is the heart of our creativity. My favorite thing about baking is that there are rules, and the rules can be broken. It’s my favorite way to be creative; playing with the boundaries of artistry within food, while remaining true to the essence of each dish and how it nourishes our mind, body and soul. Baking allows me the opportunity to explore, create and experiment. Having my own business allows me to set boundaries around how I create, work, and essentially, how I live. I have found many peaceful moments while baking dozens of cookies. In the same vein, baking dozens of cookies can be very stressful! Having my own business is challenging. I am still growing as a business owner. I am mastering time management, while looking for ways to creatively serve my customers. Baking is a challenge because it is not always perfect. Most times it’s not perfect. I have messed up dozens of brownies, cookies, and cakes. I have dropped cupcakes right at delivery, I have mixed up orders and I’ve forgotten ingredients. In all of that, there is a lesson that allows me to reflect and grow as a business owner.

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Teaching influenced me in two keyways. First, it made me more mindful of myself and those I interact with. Children simply react to a situation. Young children cannot explain in great detail the intricacies of their emotions and how they would like to move forward. Working with young children breeds patience and understanding as you work through the highs and lows with them. Children are a constant reminder that each situation is made up of many layers, and that everyone, even adults, may not be able to adequately express themselves. Patience, kindness and grace are needed as we interact with one another. Second, teaching has taught me the importance of relationship building. Some of the parents of my students are now my customers! I appreciate that we are familiar with one another and that I have had the chance to share special moments in their lives, such as birthdays. I feel so honored to be a part of their lives in this way; to be trusted with moments that are dear to them. It is humbling to know that they made a choice to patronize my business.

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As I transition from a teaching to full time business owner, my current goal is to promote good food. I want to promote desserts that use sustainable, ethically sourced ingredients as a way to uplift our communities through our engagement with food. My secondary goal is to continue to grow as a business owner; utilizing systems and processes to scale my business and become more efficient. It will be an adjustment to not have the set schedule of a teacher, but I know I will continue to grow as a business owner by continually evolving my ideas, processes and goals.

Lasondra is featured wearing the Bondi 7.