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.

LWCoat

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.

LWPose

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.

Humans of HOKA: Hannah Kim

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PC: @sarahchingphotography

Hi, I’m Hannah! I’m a mom of three and currently working on self-development through parkour (@parkour_mama).

I grew up in the pool constantly smelling like chlorine, and it wasn’t until a dejecting senior year in college swim that I discovered the joy of running. At first I joined treadmill runs with my girlfriends just to watch cute boys throw around weights, but I soon became enthralled with my solo afternoon jogs on their own merit. I could go left through the houses, right along the fields, take any twists or turns I felt in the moment. I wasn’t confined in a lane in a box of a pool. I’d pass by trees, happy smiles, and lonely faces – all things I’d miss speeding by on my bike. I loved it.

I left my college town of Davis and became a personal trainer at Equinox in San Francisco (I had a mild stalker there who is now my husband, but that’s another story). Working with a variety of clients and seeing them achieve their goals was like a drug. I worked with Ironman Triathletes, CEOs, a consultant who couldn’t swim a lap in the pool but had signed up for the Alcatraz Tri 2 months out, and a tech guy who had never been in a gym before. I was surrounded by like-minded trainers and got to utilize their specialties to constantly learn and push myself. Once, when I hopped off the treadmill after my lifetime longest run (7 miles), a trainer buddy invited me to his 14 mile run. Though I don’t advise jumping into a 21 miler, I enjoyed the long run and kept up with it.

My now-husband and I started running 7-20 miles every Saturday in the Marin Headlands and all around the city, followed by a trip to the farmers market and lazy afternoons of reading and TV. City running was tall cement buildings, restaurant fronts, the pretty waterfront – and still happy smiles and lonely faces. Those long jogs and lazy afternoons eventually turned into a 3 mile loop around the hilly reservoir in the suburbs. I’d push our twins girls in the double stroller and my husband would push our son in his stroller, and our once-lazy afternoons became chaotic with laughter and fighting between the kids. Today, my 7-year old girls are able to run the loop with me.

After those family reservoir runs, we’d go to Whole Foods and the cashier, Kamran, would always tell me about parkour. I ended up trying it and fell in love with the goal-setting and accomplishment that I hadn’t felt in years. My younger self would have shied away from a new sport, but being a mom, I didn’t care about being surrounded by experienced 20-somethings or being the clueless newbie. Once you’ve been on all fours butt-naked pushing your kids out in front of complete strangers, it’s hard to be self-conscious again.

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PC: @sarahchingphotography

Parkour was an escape from parenting that I got for a couple of hours each month (three kids 2 and under and you’ll want an escape – or wine, too, I promise), but now that my kids are older and I have more time, I’m cranking the gears to see where I can go. Through mental and physical work, calluses and injuries, I’m learning to allow my body to do what it’s capable of – and to fully trust it. When I can let it all go…it’s time to fly!

I still love running – the feeling of escaping it all while simultaneously breathing in more of it all. Because I have so many impact days, I want my long jogs to be less impact as much as possible. I love that the Hoka shoe gives me a feeling of lightness, cushion, and springiness. Something where I can go for miles and listen to a book or chill music and not worry about my joints and legs. So now I run, out of my lane, whichever way I want to go. Now it’s rolling hills and kids on their bikes.

And still, it’s the same. Happy smiles and lonely faces. But you know what? With COVID, there’s a better sense of community and connection when going for a run. A lot more eye contact, a lot more friendliness — and I see a lot more lonely faces turning into happy ones. I’m going to keep on running…and let myself fly.

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PC: @sarahchingphotography

Humans of HOKA: Carissa Yao

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PC: @bryanwalkerting

My name is Carissa. I’m a graduate student at UC Berkeley and a UI/UX Designer. I have been running for just under 10 years. Running is my love language to myself and the communities I’ve been a part of.

What started just as a hobby, running around the neighborhoods and school tracks of Shanghai, I didn’t get into racing until Freshman year in college, which is relatively late compared to many varsity runners who started cross country and track in high school or even middle school. I’ll always be very grateful for the DIII liberal arts college in southeast Pennsylvania I went to, and my coaches Jason and Matt at the time. They were so open to having new runners joining the team, regardless of background or years of training, as long as you had the dedication to train and race on top of school work, and the willingness to challenge yourself. My time on the team was without a doubt challenging: pushing myself in workouts, learning about shin splints, or even buying spikes for the first time. Nonetheless, the seed for running was planted in me.

After landing a job in the Bay Area post-college, running became an important part of my social life. Although I didn’t know anybody in the area, I found it relatively easy and comfortable to connect with other people over mutual interests like running, and before long, I started racing again through local clubs. There was a certain level of purpose and meaning I was able to find through chasing a PR, a half marathon goal time or simply completing a good workout. It provided me with something so pure and attainable that I wasn’t able to find in my first job after college.

However, the true meaning of running didn’t register with me until I got a serious injury. In May 2018, I had to put aside my running shoes because of a devastating stress fracture on my right tibia. All of a sudden it felt like I was sidelined in my own playing field: I wasn’t able to see the friends I’d made in the running communities every week, I got fired from my first job out of college, and I started to feel that I no longer belonged.

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PC: @bryanwalkerting

It was during my recovery period that I realized there were a lot of misconceptions about how my communities and sense of belonging was “earned” through fast times and frequent showing up. Without fast times and glamorous racing photos, I realized that fundamentally, running is a relationship with myself, and I was too attached to the preconceived notion about what a “good runner” means and who is “someone that belongs.” Instead, running is a way we show up to ourselves in its most authentic form: no judgement, no better or worse, just being there.

When I recovered from my injury 4 months later and went on the first few baby runs, I told myself to be patient and kind, because I live in this body that allows me to explore and challenge. It didn’t have to go out and “earn” anything for me to love myself unconditionally. Society has put a lot of pressure on finding a sense of belonging in other people, and while supportive communities make one feel like home, belonging was never about fitting in: it was always about coming home to yourself. Your true journey is in knowing yourself so deeply that you feel comfortable in your own skin. You love and accept who you are. You make decisions which feel right in your gut and body versus right according to someone else.

This pandemic has again shed a new light on running. I was mentally down during the first few weeks of quarantine, questioning everything that was going on in my life and the world. The lack of control and uncertainty challenged my mind, which constantly searched for comfort in patterns and plans. At the time, I was pretty inconsistent with running because of stress and unpredictable schedules in grad school. Chronic depression and anxiety make it difficult to just put on shoes to go for a quick run. There seemed to be excuses all the time: the weather was bad, I needed to finish this report first, I might as well not run if I only have time to do 3 miles, I’m not in good enough shape to feel good running… The self-critic in me always finds a way to talk me into not running and going back to dwelling in my anxiety.

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PC: @bryanwalkerting

Fortunately, I was able to fall back into running with all the extra time I had during quarantine. The daily routine of lacing up shoes and “checking in” with my neighborhood in Berkeley once again brought me peace. Other than the endorphin rush and mood boost, running has allowed me to find appreciation for my body and who I am as a person. I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for where I live and awareness of the privileges I live with. I realized that without properly taking care of myself, I was not able to fully show up to my friends, families, or greater communities. It made me so happy to know when friends on the East Coast texted me that they recently started running again or when one of my colleagues asked me about which trail running shoes to choose from.

With the running landscape being extremely uncertain at the moment, I hope to continue my training and eventually get out there to race in cross country and my first marathon (I had to DNF the Chicago Marathon last year) when it’s safe to do so. Meanwhile, I hope my voice can inspire more people to go for a run to enjoy the outdoors safely and to take care of themselves with no judgement in distance or pace in mind. Running is never meant to be an exclusive sport for “fast people” with a certain body type only. There’s no barrier to enter and it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself and your communities.

All you need to do is start. What you seek is seeking you.

My home now, California, is hurting. More than 500 wildfires are ravaging the state and taking people’s homes away. Here are some resources where you can help:

American Red Cross: Donations will go to the Red Cross’ disaster relief efforts.

California Fire Foundation: This foundation provides emotional and financial assistance to families of fallen firefighters, firefighters and the communities they protect.

CDP California Wildfires Recovery Fund: Help the Center for Disaster Philanthropy support those affected by the wildfires.

Community Foundation Santa Cruz County: This foundation is seeking help to support those affected by the lightning complex fires.

GoFundMe has started its own wildfire relief fund.

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PC: @bryanwalkerting

Helping the Navajo Nation with Brandon Dugi

Brandon Dugi is an outdoor adventure photographer and endurance athlete based out of LeChee, Arizona, a small community on the Navajo Nation bordering Page, Arizona.

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I want to educate the world about the Navajo Nation and how it has been affected by COVID-19.

Growing up on the reservation as a child, I recognized the hardship my grandparents endured with the lack of running water and electricity. It was a difficult way of life, but I saw how tough they were and how it made them stronger as people. Seeing them struggle day by day I couldn’t imagine that it could get worse.

Then COVID-19 took place, and the Navajo Nation was hit hard. Covering three states including Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, it now has the highest infection rate in the country. Here is why it is so bad:

First off, 1 of 5 Native Americans has diabetes and there is a high prevalence of obesity underlying the conditions making COVID-19 dangerous.

Second, 30 percent of the homes on the reservation are still living with no running water and electricity. This makes it hard to meet centers of disease control health guidelines as it is not possible to wash your hands frequently.

Lastly, we are not getting the funds needed from the Federal Government and are having to wait weeks on end to receive any support that is addressing this crisis. These lack of funds and large delays, are big factors that are exacerbating the situation.

Fighting a disease that has a big impact on the elderly is hard for our Nation to endure. To the native people, our elders are our teachers, our protectors, our providers, our language and our way of life. We want to protect them as much as we can. If we don’t have them then who are we as a people?! Our history as Native Americans may be shattering but our hearts are strong, and we are coming together as one to help each other as much as we can.

Here are ways to help the Navajo Nation during these difficult times and help support our efforts:
Navajo Nation COVID-19 Relief Fund
Families helping Families (COVID Relief)
Navajo Hopi Health Foundation

Why I Run – David Melly

David Melly is a middle- and long-distance runner from Boston, MA. He is a graduate of Cornell University, currently competes for Tracksmith’s Hare AC, and has personal bests of 4:06 (1 mile), 14:15 (5000), 8:51 (steeplechase), 65:14 (HM), and 2:21:59 (marathon). David is also the host of the Run Your Mouth podcast and a staff writer for Citius Mag. We asked David to tell us, in his own words, the importance of running in his life.

PC: Justin Britton
PC: Justin Britton

Why do we run?

It’s the age-old question. And if you don’t have a good answer, you won’t last long in the sport. We all have goals: Whether it’s breaking 4 minutes in the mile or breaking 4 hours in the marathon, cutting your time in half or just completing your first race. But goals, while important, are transient and arbitrary by nature: they don’t drive us the way purpose does. Some of us have something specific to prove, some of us are trying to test the limits of the human body, and some of us are looking for a sense of belonging, of community. The reasons we run are bigger and deeper than just the goals we set for ourselves.

Running is different now. I’m not just talking about needing to wear a mask when you leave the house or rescheduling your marathon buildup to 2021. Running has taken on a different significance to all of us in our challenging new reality: when we’re cooped up at home, anxious about the future, or overwhelmed with the sheer volume of information we’re receiving, the best thing we can do is just get out the door and move.

These past few months, I’ve surprised myself by how much comfort I’ve found in the routine of a training week. I’ve always been a goal- and race-oriented person and I never thought I enjoyed training for the sake of training, but it turns out the value of just running in its simplest, purest form has been more than enough for me lately. Sure, I’d like a little more clarity about what the future looks like and I have a lot of unfinished business at almost every race distance, but for the moment, the chance to choose running over not running has been more than motivating enough.

The reality of the world these past few months have also caused all of us to think carefully about what is most important to us. The limits created by the pandemic have, in one way or another, led to a forced evaluation of who and what we value most and how we express our values.

PC: Justin Britton
PC: Justin Britton

Who I am and why I run have always been inextricably linked. When I first started running seriously in high school, the desire to prove myself as an athlete almost certainly stemmed from my internal struggles with being gay. When I got to college, I was the first gay runner my team had ever seen. That wasn’t always easy or comfortable, but it was absolutely formative to the athlete I became and the things I accomplished. I’ve never been a shy person, and since graduating college, I’ve had the chance to talk and write more about my experience as a gay athlete, which has ultimately become an even bigger part of my “brand.”

I (and many other queer runners I’ve talked to) have always wrestled with the idea of being labeled a “gay runner.” Do I want that to be the “thing” I’m known for? Is it problematic to claim to be “more than” a gay runner? Is wanting to bring other interests, traits, accomplishments at the forefront of my story a subtle expression of self-loathing? Am I talking too much about being gay? Too little?

Yes, no, maybe. There’s no right answer to any of those questions, and one of the happy side-effects about having an identity that in some way exists outside the norm means that I’ve gotten very good at self-reflection and self-assessment. I’ve spent plenty of time thinking about what role I want to play in the running community and in the queer community, and I’m not always sure what the right answer is (or if there even is one).

Here’s what I am sure about: being a gay runner is important to me. And in this day and age, when we’ve been forced to sort through what is and is not important, often in increasingly uncomfortable and unexpected ways, I owe it to myself and to everyone and everything I care about to embrace the things I value most.

That’s where Pride Month comes in.

For me, being a gay runner is never just about showing up. It’s about competing, winning, and striving for excellence. To get the most out of my body, sure, but also to say: I’m here, I belong, I’ve earned my place. To steal a quote from Steve Martin, I want to be so good they can’t ignore me.

Ultimately, celebration of Pride is about claiming visibility and capturing space in a world that wants to erase queer people: not just our existence, but our history, our diversity, and our sense of self.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what that means for me: I’m an “out and proud” gay athlete and person, but I’m also white, male, cisgender, able-bodied, and often straight-passing. I live and run in a community where it’s not dangerous to be me. So when I think about what I personally can do to represent my little slice of the LGBTQ community in a way that makes the world a better place, a lot of it does come down to being visible and vocal.

Sometimes that means being visibly queer — holding your partner’s hand in public, racing in a pair of rainbow socks, going to a parade in a crop top. These small gestures aren’t radical, but for a lot of people they’re meaningful. Nothing brings me more joy than getting messages from young queer runners from all over who either don’t feel safe coming out or haven’t found the right opportunity yet, but who see a little of themselves in my story.

PC: Justin Britton
PC: Justin Britton

In a lot of ways, I find myself falling into the role of ally and cheerleader, and that’s important too. In many ways, I’ve been fortunate that the world accommodates me relatively easily. Trans athletes are constantly fighting battles just to compete. Bisexual folks have to constantly justify their orientation as “real.” And there are so many people whose gender, sexuality, or identity doesn’t fall into a neatly-labeled category and whose path doesn’t have any clarity at all. If I can make anything resembling a difference in this world, I want my legacy to be: if there’s space for me, there’s space for you.

When I think about why I’m still getting out the door every day with no formal races on the schedule or clear plan for the future, the answer is surprisingly simple: it’s not just who I am; it’s a big part of how I factor into the world beyond my front door. The sport of running is beautiful because we get to both share in a common pursuit far bigger than ourselves and selfishly reap the benefits of our membership.

As runners, we all participate in the grand give and take, even if for the moment we have to do it 6 feet apart. Even the most solitary among us has to admit that running the Boston Marathon is better than running a 26-mile time trial, that the joy of community is what brings us in, keeps us in the sport for years longer than most athletes, and makes the sport far bigger than race day. We owe it to ourselves and each other to make space in that community to welcome and to celebrate everyone, and that’s what Pride is about.

Running may be different now, but the reasons we run never change.

PC: Justin Britton
PC: Justin Britton