We Have Lift Off! – Ramblen Launch and Route 66 Marathon Weekend, Part 1

As I said in my introductory post for my new company, things don’t always go quite as you plan when you start a new business. Our launch was certainly no exception. Initially, Natalie and I had high hopes of launching Ramblen at the end of September in Denver, Colorado, which would have coincided with our attendance at the FitSocial conference that same weekend. Our naïve little minds didn’t comprehend all the hiccups that could occur along the way, and before long, we found ourselves looking at a late-November launch. As it turns out, I had been planning to come back to Tulsa to run the Route 66 Marathon again and speak at the expo as one of the featured bloggers in the Bloggers Forum, so this worked out pretty well. We got ourselves all set up with an expo booth and figured we would be good to go.

I arrived in Tulsa on Wednesday night and planned with work with Natalie all day on Thursday to get everything ready for our launch and the expo. Because she lives in Tulsa, all of our supplies for the expo were shipped to her house, and she was in charge of getting everything we needed printed up. When we started talking about all the print outs, including our banner, foam boards, and flyers, I quickly realized that she had only had our banner printed. “Don’t worry,” she said. “We do this type of thing last minute all the time at [other company].” Uh oh.

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This was me on Thursday.

I, on the other hand, have had so many horror stories from trying to get things printed at the last minute at my old job that I started to slightly panic. As it turns out, I was right. We went to Kinko’s on Thursday morning and asked for the help of one of the staff members in finalizing our flyer and getting it printed up. This girl honestly looked like it was her job to roll a boulder up a hill, then roll it back down and start over. I have never seen such a depressed and hateful individual in my entire life.  To say that she was no help would be the understatement of the year, and I’m actually not entirely sure she even knew how to use the Kinko’s software. To top it all off, we found out that the cost of getting everything printed would be more than double what we planned to spend. We decided to go to another printing store in town and see if they would be a better option. Sure enough, the guy at QuickPrints was super helpful, but he said we needed to have our artwork finalized by 3 pm to get our prints the next day in time for the expo. Natalie called in a quick favor to a graphic designer she knows, since she and I are entirely design illiterate, and we sent our artwork to QuickPrints at precisely 2:58 pm. Crisis averted!

When we got back to her house, I started writing my blog post for the launch, and before I knew it, it was time to post. With the exception of the first post in my eating disorder series, I’ve never been nervous before posting a blog entry, but this time, my stomach felt like it was in my throat. All our hard work over the last 4.5 months was coming down to this moment, and I was terrified. But, wonderfully, you all came through in the most amazing way. We got a better response than we could ever have anticipated and we watched with excitement as our social media accounts for Ramblen added new followers each minute. The comments that came in were even better! We were so overwhelmed by all of the support that I couldn’t take it anymore because I was sure we were going to get a scathing review, so I decided it was time to go out and get beer. After all, drinking has never failed to solve any of my problems.

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It was hard to go to bed on Thursday night because it was so much fun to watch all of the responses, but Friday morning was coming quickly, and I obviously needed time to get myself all worked up about the expo being a complete failure. We got everything all set up at the expo and waited. The traffic on Friday was extremely slow due to the fact that it’s a two day expo and the weather was cold and sleeting that day, so there wasn’t much excitement. I was also nervous because I knew many readers of this blog had told me they were going to stop by, but I was worried that no one would. When Colleen showed up early Friday morning, I was so excited that I could have kissed her, but she was sick, so I’m glad I didn’t.  Natalie left me alone at the expo for a few hours because she had obligations with her kids, but it all went smoothly and I was able to meet several other readers and pitch our site a bit until I left around 6:30 pm.

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Yup. I’m wearing a ram hat and posing next to a sign telling people to come meet me. It was a weird day.

All was going well until I got a tweet from a reader with a picture of her in my empty booth making a sad face. She had stopped by the booth right before the expo closed and was hoping to meet me, and I felt awful that I had missed her! Fortunately, I was at a local bar with Patty, her husband, and a bunch of other Marathon Maniacs, so I invited her to come on out and was thrilled when she did! I got to meet Sarah of Run Ginger Run, and she and her husband were completely adorable and endearing in person. Somehow, I had made it through Expo Day 1 unscathed!

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Sarah got to meet both me and the Prez so I’d like to think it was basically the best day of her life. Or at least a close second.

Jenn’s flight was supposed to arrive at 11 pm, and I was exhausted but had to rally. As it turns out, Patty and I ended up rallying until her flight arrived an hour and 45 minutes late, meaning we got to bed around 1:30 am. After a long day at the expo, I was hoping for more than 6 hours of sleep, but no such luck – 7:30 dawned bright and early and we had to take off to get to the Mascot Dash!  It was absolutely freezing cold – I think 25 degrees when we got there. Last year, I sweated through my T-Rex costume so badly and was miserable – even though the air was comfortably in the 60s. That costume is hot! No such problem this year. I ended up only wearing a tank top and running tights underneath so that my clothes wouldn’t show through the costume, and I was absolutely freezing.  The Mascot Dash is so much fun, though. Before the race, we get to high five and greet all the kids as they finish their 1 mile fun run, and they love getting to see all the mascots. Even though I couldn’t feel my hands while I was high fiving them, I’m sure they really enjoyed it.

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Never mind the straps hanging out of my head. You get the point.

After the kids race, it was time for THE race. As you may know, my head catastrophically fell off during the Mascot Dash last year. I was terrified of it happening again, but Patty made sure to quell my fears of my head falling off by informing me that I should be far more concerned about my head falling apart. Yes, apparently the paper mache from which the head is constructed had started to crumble over the past year, and we had reason to believe it might not make it through the dash because OF COURSE IT WOULDN’T. People whose paper mache heads remain intact do not have blogs, I’m sure.

I couldn’t actually line up on the starting line because there were too many mascots this year, so I was basically at the back of the pack. The costume is pretty hard to run in as it is, especially compared to some of the very light costumes worn by my competitors, so I wasn’t really liking my chances. As the race began, my head immediately began bouncing all over the place and I could smell disaster. So, I did what was needed and reached my short little T-Rex arms up and held my head on for the entire race. I could hear my friends and the readers who had come out laughing at me. I almost lost my head at the turn around, but I was able to keep it on and come in not last. Sure, maybe I was second to last, and maybe that’s only because the guy in the hot dog costume stopped to do a break dance at the finish, but whatever. Not last is not last no matter how you slice it. Thank you to all the readers who came out! I really appreciated it. You warmed my tiny T-Rex heart.

 

After the race, regaining feeling in my hands was of paramount importance, as was getting over to the expo in time for it to start at 10 am. We were anticipating it being a busy day since the previous day had been so slow, and we were right. There were multiple points during the day where we had a line of people waiting to talk to us, which was awesome! Of course, many of them just wanted to know where we got our extremely awesome ram hats and how they could buy one, but whatever. Attention is attention. I got to meet a ton more readers on Saturday, which I absolutely loved. I cannot thank all of you enough for coming out to say hi. It meant so much to me that you cared enough to do that and even more that you let me give you my little Ramblen schpiel and pretended to be interested. You guys are awesome. And also, thank you for pretending to like me enough to take pictures with me. That was excellent.

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This is Nathan. Isn’t he so adorable? He also ROCKED his first half marathon on Sunday!

The crowd on Saturday brought some really great feedback and opportunities to talk about Ramblen. We may have attracted a new investor and a new client, which is far more than we ever hoped to accomplish. We also learned that telling people that your website is free is very helpful when trying to get them to talk to you. I tell you, though, working an expo booth is hard! Everyone thinks you’re just trying to sell them something and lots of people are in too big of a hurry to hear what you have to say.  Not to mention, you basically have to stand the entire time because no one will come talk to you if you are sitting down at your booth. It’s just a fact of life. I was completely exhausted by the end of Saturday.

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Me and John, who apparently wasn’t ready for the picture. He was probably too distracted by my supreme hat.

I also was scheduled to speak at the Bloggers Forum on Saturday at 4 pm, which had me really stressed out. Because it was so late in the day, I was worried that no one would come, but wow, y’all totally proved me wrong! The forum was in a question and answer format, and I was sitting next to Bart Yasso. Yes, the Bart Yasso, Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World Magazine, so my head basically was about to explode the entire time. We were asked questions about training, blogging, our schedules, and for me, my favorite beer that I’ve encountered while on the road. It was so encouraging to see so many readers out in the crowd and it really put me at ease. Thanks for laughing at my jokes, you guys. You’re seriously the best.

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Just hanging out with my new BFF Bart. NBD. From left to right: Bart Yasso, Me, Mama Laughlin, Kimi Hann (race director), Anders Forselius

After the Forum, Natalie and I had to quickly pack up our booth and I ran to meet Patty, Jenn, and some other Maniacs and Tulsa runners for dinner at the Olive Garden. We had a huge group of about 40 people, and the restaurant did a really good job of accommodating all of us and getting our food out quickly. My favorite part was going around the big tables and having each person stand up to introduce themselves and say how many marathons they had done and where they were from.  Our group ranged from people running their first marathon to people running their 150th marathon, and my friend J.C., who has run 49 marathons this year alone (!) was there too. I also found out that he is running the Tokyo Marathon, which made me so incredibly happy that I could have cried because that means I have someone to run with in Japan!

 

Even though the weekend was ridiculously busy leading up to the race, I was so thrilled with the launch. Natalie and I really couldn’t have asked for a better response, and we left with such a good feeling about the direction that Ramblen is moving in and more confident about our decisions. We are now carefully picking through all of your suggestions, and as we continue to scale up and add new cities, we will definitely be looking for ambassadors and assistance adding that information! Please keep letting us know if you’d be interested and we will get in touch with you!

And again, thank you SO MUCH to every single one of you who came to the expo and stopped by our booth. Your support means more to me than you could possibly understand.  Those of you that were so nervous to meet me were absolutely adorable. Remember, I’m just like you, only more awkward and probably more drunk. Nothing to be nervous about. Seriously, thank you again. You are awesome.

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Me and Amber!

I went to bed Saturday night feeling a lot more confident about Ramblen and a lot less confident about the marathon the next day. My legs were filled with fluid from standing all day, and despite my heavy duty compression socks and Jenn rolling out my legs, they were killing me. Oh, and the high temperature for the race the next day was a balmy 25 degrees. Why do I sign up for these things again?

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