Happy Friday! Ah, what a great occasion it is and the weather will be cool and Fall-like all weekend. Thank goodness!
The week has just zipped along, mostly because I have been busy, and hopefully this weekend will be a time to unwind and just exist. I’ve had some refreshingly available time to get back into reading, enjoying life, and pretty much doing everything that I wanted to do all year except swim, bike, and run.
It was amidst this new-found free time that I rediscovered my love for the plastic, yellow toys that bring creativity, inspiration, and a truly unlimited combination of fun, action, and adventure. Unfortunately, my childhood home is no longer intact, which brought me about to the rediscovery of my childhood memories. Physically, it still stands, but for my purposes, it is no longer in the family. With that comes a fair deal of melancholy and bittersweet memories, but the plus is that I received my giant box of Legos, accumulated over the past 28 years of my life, and that has brought about a fun, new twist on the ever-darkening world as we plow on towards the ominous time change. Oh, how I hate when the sun sets at 4:30 :(
I’d forgotten how simple and yet satisfying it is digging through 4000 plastic blocks, each with interlocking properties that unlock new pieces of the imagination. Who says space pirates can’t have pet dragons? And remind me again why it’s not OK that knights in shining armor ride hover craft into battle? The simple fact of the matter is that Legos are the single most amazing invention ever. Do some research into their technology sometime. Incredible! A small human I was hanging out with was fascinated that my pieces, which date back to the 1990s, interlocked with his (circa 2014). Oh, the wonders of genius creativity! How the heck does someone manufacture the perfectly sized Lego pips for decades of construction opportunities!? Amazing.
Good luck picking out the pieces!http://shop.lego.com/en-US/Pick-A-Brick-ByTheme
Legos are the perfect stress reliever. They help get the creative juices flowing and there is always a finished product to be proud of, no matter how strange or unorthodox. It’s hard to argue with an interlocking building set that both 7 year olds and 70 year olds can both play with and come up with totally opposite creations that impress the other. There have been many instances when one builder enthusiastically snatches a construction piece or three out of the hands of another unsuspecting builder just because they really need to add their lightsaber to the underwater submarine captain’s hands. Sharing is caring – sharing Legos is optional. Always optional.
I’ve got high hopes for the next two days off of work, and plan to cash in both on reading and creative building time. This new-found obsession might also land me in Toys R Us this weekend too… O;-) I also love that it supports my photography. Annnnnd, Thunderstruck just popped up on Pandora. EPIC Friday.
A bright and crisp Tuesday morning to you all! TACOS. The weather has cooled off dramatically at night here in Reno, with some warm afternoons to boot. Fall is truly my favorite – you get to wear shorts during the day (I hate pants) – and have no qualms with snuggling into a blanket and flannel sheets at night, with a hot chocolate, naturally.
It has been well over 30 days since my last post. I apologize for not coming up with some fun and readable content since then. I have been reading a lot of books and have plenty to share, but my heart was just not in it. Not at all.
Some of you may have heard that IRONMAN Lake Tahoe was cancelled. Not only was it cancelled but it was axed in an uncouth and horrible manner – myself and at least 50 other athletes were already in the water warming up. Honestly, I was ready for a PR. I could feel it in my bones, and sense it in the fiery, sizzling sensation of the adrenaline paired against the chill of the Tahoe cold. I was going to break 11 hours. I had done my homework and was ready for a crushing. Realistically, 10.5 hours didn’t even seem that out of reach and I was gunning for a place to Kona. Too bad the starting line was yanked out from everyone’s feet with a bang.
There is never a “good time” to cancel a race that lasts more than 10 hours. A 6:29 AM cancellation for a 6:40 race is just bad, bad timing. Horrendous, in fact. It just would have been nice that instead of getting up at 3 AM and jamming all kinds of carbohydrates into my body that the race would have been cancelled even the day before. Ironically, the conditions were absolutely faultless that Saturday. Bright blue sky, a hint of a breeze, and highs of mid 70’s. It would have been perfect… would have been…
The best laid plans… hmm.
After the initial shock wore off, I kind of wandered back into transition, not really looking for anyone or anything in particular, although I somehow made my way back towards my gear at some point, but only after running into a friend from the university who has ready for her first IRONMAN :( The looks on the faces of athletes said it all –grief, frustration, sadness, anger at the moron who started the forest fire, total loss of words, utter bewilderment, and many piles of sobbing and tearful athletic frames, primed and ready for the day of their lives, and yet looking more like deflated balloons rather than muscular chunks of athletic flesh. There were comforting embraces from friends and family who had traveled far and wide to see their champions, their heroes, compete in the 140.6 blockbuster, and there was sadness on the athlete’s part for those who burned vacation days, spent hundreds getting to the race to watch, and mourned all of the free time that had been used to train instead of spending it with their loved ones. It was a grievous, tragic morning… and the clock hadn’t yet struck 7 AM.
I really wanted to see someone chuck their carboned speed machine into the street, tear holes in their wetsuit, cause a scene by lighting their running shoes on fire, or something, because that is how I felt the situation would best be remedied. I really just wanted to hurl my bottle in the direction of some unsuspecting tree. The entire drive back (note: the race began at Kings Beach but most of our gear had to be picked up at Squaw Valley 20 miles away), we passed many cyclists pressing through the smoke, and yet one cyclist stood out amongst the rest. The poor bloke had a flat on the side of the road… whilst carrying all of his race gear out of transition on his back. That, in a nutshell, truly summed up how each and every athlete felt. I’ve got an emotionally flat tire, how do you want me to deal with the world today!?
There are few things in life that take a year or more to prepare for. Weddings can be knocked out in six months, babies “only” take nine (even though the ramifications last for the rest of your life), and college graduation has breaks in between semesters. No, I spent 365 straight days waking up every morning to the beat of the triathlon drum, staying mentally focused, getting physically prepared, grinding, sharpening, poking, prodding, polishing until my insides hurt as much as my outsides, and every ounce of free time was drained off and anyway into the pool, my bike saddle, or my running shoes. In that moment when Tahoe was scrapped, it all seemed so pointless. So very, very pointless. I skipped tons of social events, went to bed early instead of seeing my friends, and gave up an overwhelming portion of my summer with nothing in return. And yet I still felt worse for those athletes who have never competed in an IRONMAN before. It wasn’t a pity party – my heart truly went out to them. An ROI of -2476% is brutal. BRUTAL! I didn’t even know what to say to the athlete standing next to me who flew in from Australia… FLEW IN FROM AUSTRALIA FOR A CANCELLED RACE! “I’m sorry” is just a cruel joke at that point.
Just so we are clear, I absolutely 100% agree with the decision to cancel, as painful and inconvenient and gross and bad and nasty as it was. You could see all of 30 feet in Squaw Valley – trying running a marathon.
The true (bitter) icing on the cake was how IRONMAN (the corporation) decided to “make it up” to the athletes. I must say, I do appreciate the email sent out by the IRONMAN CEO just a few days after the race, granted, it fixed literally nothing, but it was a step in the right direction. And that is where my warm, fuzzy feelings died in this entire ordeal. We were presented with three options:
- “Attempt” to register for one of seven remaining IRONMAN events this year (mostly international).
- Register for Tahoe 2015 for $100.
- Get 50% off a race next year.
Option 1: These were the race options available for $100. I applaude their efforts for trying to squeeze people in in 2014, since with a multi-week taper we were ready for the gun on September 21stand considering most of these races were at capacity by the end of 2013, but that didn’t help me out. I do know one athlete who is heading to Florida though so I’m glad someone was able to take advantage. Obviously an international race just wasn’t practical, and flying across the country wasn’t either, since airfare and lodging would not be covered. Strike one.
· IRONMAN Chattanooga (9/28/14)
· IRONMAN Barcelona (10/5/14)
· IRONMAN Florida (11/1/14)
· IRONMAN Fortaleza (11/9/14)
· IRONMAN Arizona (11/16/14)
· IRONMAN Cozumel (11/30/14)
· IRONMAN Western Australia (12/7/14)
Option 2: Seriously? They actually thought that after freezing temperatures in 2013 and the race being cancelled in 2014 that people would want to come back and race? PAH!!! Even for $100 (which I would argue is still wrong that they didn’t give us free entry) it was a poor option with weak knees and a broken back. For the sake of the race, because it is a great venue, I hope it survives. I, however, will not be participating for many years. Strike two.
Option 3: Ok, this sounds at least decent in theory but there are a few problems. We dropped a crap load of money ($700+) to race Tahoe so let’s summarize: A) they cancel the race and “only” make us pay 50% for a race next year. Again, why don’t we get free entry to a race? Even if we have to pay, $100 seems reasonable, so why are we paying $350 for an additional race? B) Why the heck can’t we choosewhich race fits our schedule best? They gave us a predetermined list, granted with the race that I wanted to do next year, but then C) they promptly removed that race as an option without telling anyone. Good game – strike three.
· IRONMAN Texas
· IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene
· IRONMAN Canada
· IRONMAN Boulder
· IRONMAN Mont-Tremblant
· IRONMAN Wisconsin – this was my first choice and was promptly removed from the registration list without any communication as to why
· IRONMAN Maryland
· IRONMAN Louisville
Overall assessment on handling the cancellation of Lake Tahoe? D+
I don’t blame IRONMAN for needing to be run like a business; however, they burned a lot of bridges pretending to take care of the athlete’s needs. $100 isn’t a perfect solution, but a blanket $100 entry would have made a lot more people happy. I do appreciate that they need money to run the race infrastructure, rent lights, porta potties, provide food, order the clothes, etc. but they don’t have to pay out the professional purse because there was no race. Where did that money go? That, and historically anytime a business takes care of their customers instead of worrying about their bottom line, the results tend to speak for themselves. They maintain customer loyalty, they do the right thing, and everyone wins eventually. In a sport growing as quickly as triathlon, everyone knows that IRONMAN will be around as a business for a long time. They survived since 1978, why stop now? Why the lackluster response to a cancelled race? I may never know. I did write a letter to the CEO of IRONMAN – I shall report if I ever hear back.
That being said, Michelle from Colorado (IRONMAN employee) has been a hero in helping me get registered for next year’s race. Hurdle after hurdle has been presented, and one day before the deadline I am officially signed up. Whew… kudos to her.
As for me, IRONMAN Canada awaits in 2015. See you there (481 hours of training later).
In my recent quest to dominate business knowledge, I wrapped up reading Winds of Turbulence, an overview by Howard Putnam of what it is like to be CEO of an airline that is both successful and fruitful and one that is struggling and on the decline. It takes courage to lead a company to greatness, and it takes even more guts to lead one through a declining and turbulent time of potential failure. The book was a wonderful read – very concise, not full of unrelated tangents, and was just entertaining and full of great and practical business examples of dos and don’ts, as well as some painful lessons learned.
Few industries have the ebb and flow that the airlines experience, regulation, deregulation, fuel costs, purchasing of planes, influx in prices, war, raw materials cost. It all has a very real impact on an airline’s bottom line, which in turn affects ticket prices, customer satisfaction, etc. It makes it non the easier to be successful, and guaranteed success is a “fleeting” (airplane pun) thing indeed :D Anyone heard of Northeast Airlines, Braniff, or Pan Am? Exactly.
Listed below are some of my favorite anecdotes and high level themes from this book. I take no credit for creating these and took them from the book itself. Credit where credit is due.
Budgets and Finances
· Budget mentality creates waste – The behavior and attitude of a “budget mentality” almost never reflect a company’s true needs. Ask anyone who has ever worked for a state or government agency. The mad rush to seize all the funds they can get creates wasteful spending, poor allocation of resources, and fosters a hostile and competitive environment instead of departments working together.
· Emphasize service and quality over profitability– This is one of my favorites, especially in the post 2008 world where greed and the mad pursuit of money and exorbitant wealth was a far cry from serving customers with a quality product while maintain a healthy, reasonable profit. Reality check: you can’t increase profits 5, 10, 30% on a yearly basis for forever! There isn’t enough economy to drive it.As stated in the book, “the bottom line will almost always take care of itself” p. 101
· Productivity goals – Budgets are bad and unrealistic for projections, instead companies should focus on what they are producing and the costs associated with that production. Maintain reasonable guesses to meet those needs, and only spend what you absolutely must.
· Spend $.85 to make $1? – Absolutely! Morality and ethical issues aside, a company should always be willing to spend some amount of money to gain an ROI if it is in line with their business plan, goals, and objectives.
· A company cash shortage $27,000 party – This story just makes me sick, in the midst of a cash crisis at one of his companies, a bill was paid for a $27,000 cocktail party. People are losing jobs, the operation ability of the company is up in the air, and someone threw a huge bash for no other reason then “they always do it.” Can you imagine? I would be irate! Needless to say, they lost their job… lesson learned: don’t be STUPID.
Keys to Success
These points truly speak for themselves and can apply to any aspect of life:
· “A plan is nothing more than a guide for action within an arena that is constantly changing. The demands of the environment must drive actions… the purpose of the plan is to reflect those demands…”
· “Report simple, timely, and honestly,” even when it doesn’t show you in the best of life. People appreciate straightforward news and high integrity far more than anything else. Anybody remember when Bear Sterns ate it in 2008? Literally the day before, their CEO insisted that “everything was fine.” Ha!
· Ability to laugh at ourselves – People, please. Don’t take yourselves so seriously! Work is serious enough as it is, and yet it is important to remain lighthearted.
These are the absolute musts for any company to follow religiously. It should be engrained in your culture and encouraged and supported at every level. No exceptions!
Needs of society
Benevolence to the environment
What are some other keys to success? Enjoy your weekend!
Oh man, it’s time. The twelve month wait is over and Tahoe is knock, knock, knockin’ (I feel that I may be dying on Heaven’s doorstep at the end of thatjourney). I know that I did my homework: 75 training hours in August. That’s a lot! Still unsecured in my preparation, I also feel unprepared from a mental standpoint. It’s always an unpleasant reminder of how much brutality is exacted upon one’s body and emotional capacity during an event that long, and to drag yourself away encumbered by wobbly limbs and a strangely mirth-some spirit does nothing to help. I have assembled my favorite race snacks, drinks, and socks, and have bled, sweat, and hauled ass all over Nevada and Northern California many, many times. The starting line waits for no man; nor I for it. Just let it pass in a blaze of excitement, fun, and minimal pain.
In 2013 I broke through IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene in thrilling fashion (a.k.a. I finished in one piece without dying, drowning, or breaking my legs). This year, I have a better pulse on what is in store, plus I invested far more into training time – which I never thought would be possible. This training season (February-August) I averaged 49 hours of swimming, biking, running, lifting, and yoga-ing monthly. Last year was a measly 38…pff! Big, big difference and I’m hoping that makes up for it. I’ve got goals and dreams and aspirations, like any athlete would, but having the race in my backyard will *hopefully* get me the advantage I’m looking for. If nothing else, I will know what to expect more than most…Oh Brockway Summit, the bloodied battlefield on which many will be slain not once, but twice. Lactic acid meltdown awaits for your quads and hammies!! >;[
Training for these races (if one could even call them that) is a very strange phenomenon. My dog understands the impact because, well, she suffers the most from it. All those hours in a kennel while I’m out gallivanting on my bike or trekking through the woods, running shoes in tow. The time commitments really require sacrifice and take their toll very quickly and very abruptly. Last year was so busy and frantic – an MBA program plus IRONMAN stacked within six weeks of each other. It didn’t seem possible, and it certainly wasn’t the sane thing to do. I’ve written about the passing of time in many, many articles, but this go round feels a little different. It’s freaking September people! GAH! This August had been much cooler than any in recent memory, and it is so refreshing and yet I am a bit disgruntled that I didn’t have much of my summer to relax and do summery things. Instead of trekking across the Sierra Nevadas, I spent most of my three months busting my butt (literally) on my bike, which I have a very close and real emotional bond with now, running over pavement and through forested areas, getting my yardage in the pool, and trying to construct an overall life balance that is more a desperate pursuit of a sanity check and less true balance. You know you’re desperate for recovery when you have discussions with inanimate objects that you spend hours with such as your bike and/or water bottles.
I am super stressed – like, ouch. My coping mechanisms rarely fail me but getting sub-par quality sleep, crushing an incongruous training regime, working, and still being happy and social just takes it out of me. Ironically, I cannot wait until September 22nd. I will be done with all of the madness and yet college football season will have just begun! A year’s worth of accomplishments will finally be laid to rest, and I can resume being a normal human being again. Ahhh, the soothing sigh of relief.
The dullness is beginning to seep into my bones, and I feel tired, worn, and just ready to get it over with. Doesn’t mean I don’t love swimming, biking, and running, and it certainly doesn’t mean I regret how I spent my six months of prep, but it is just go time. I’ve had a busy year and a very busy race season, and the time has come to get back to a somewhat calm reality. I have board games to play, wines to try, adventures to go on, and friends to chill with. Sleep needs catching up on, I would like to try some new food recipes, and my running shoes need a break (or I from them).
I nearly had a heart attack when I woke up today and there were only 18 days left. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! I better find a new way to regain my razor’s edge. Listening to AC/DC will be a great start but I need to find the mental and physical freshness to tackle my upcoming mountain. Hopefully, I’m starting with proper sleep to lay a good foundation and figuring out the rest as I go. I expect nothing less than a blur from here through 6 pm on the 21st, but I am making a very conscious effort to enjoy it… all of it! Plus, I have a mother and a very dear friend from middle school coming from out of town to join the local cohort in supporting the racers. Can’t disappoint them!
How do you maintain a cutting edge prior to a big event, such as a trip overseas or a big project at work? What are your keys to success?
Listen up folks, because I am not one to aptly admit this, but I’m an idiot! I have one of the greatest stories in my recent memories of just stellar, out of this world customer service. Frankly, I’m embarrassed to be writing this, because it is pretty bad, but it’s Friday and I feel like having a good laugh at myself.
As many of you know, I am quite involved in the rigors of triathlon, so naturally it makes sense that running shoes are something very near and dear to my heart. On average, I go through two pairs a year (just for run training) and an additional pair or so for random day-to-day activities, exploration, and conquests of assorted galactic empires. That’s a lot of shoes, and the mileage that the soles of my running shoes endure is plenty, roughly 15 miles a week year round, which isn’t a lot but put that into perspective of also swimming and biking 21 and 340 respectively each month, that’s quite a bit. Regardless, I make my shoe choice carefully; or rather the choice is almost made for me. As I’m sure someone out there can relate to, it is a pain in the ass to find cool running shoes if you have wide feet! Ugh! Besides being almost impossible, my favorite brand (Mizuno) drastically changed my go to pair last year, forcing me to switch over. And so the stage is set for a tale of great buffoonish behavior…
Zappos, a killer online retailer that started with shoes (read: similar to Amazon starting with books), is quickly taking over the world. Known for their top-notch customer service, (seriously, look it up) and with HQ in Las Vegas, Nevada, this company gives its customers plenty of reason to love them. Free shipping and returns is just some super sexy icing on that cake!
So toiling down the path of shoe selection, I ended up ordering five different pairs of shoes from Zappos. In case you weren’t aware, it isn’t easy to fit even three sets of shoes into a cardboard shipping box, so naturally I receive a behemoth of box containing, unfortunately, not a single pair that worked with my Hobbit-like feet. Frustrating for me, and I’m sure frustrating for some poor Zappos employee who has to process a monstrous container of returned, sparkling running shoes. Round two was a bit more reasonable with “only” two pairs of shoes, neither which I found to my liking. So naturally I go about the process of carefully returning the now seven pairs of shoes, but in the hubbub I accidentally included a pair of shoes that I purchased at a local store, not from Zappos, and only realized my blunder a day after I had dropped the box at UPS. Needless to say, I thought the shoes were a goner…
So I submit a plea for help to Zappos service desk, and they kindly tell me that this happens all of the time. Honestly, I think they told me that to make me feel better :D but they provided great customer service as always, and said they would send in a request to the warehouse supervisor to see if they could track down the shoes. Truly, that was about 1000% more than I was expecting – I would’ve accepted the fact that I made a stupid mistake and that would be that. A few weeks past, and my shoes were unable to be found. Much to my surprise, their customer service department apologized to me (the moron who shipped the wrong shoes in the first place) and more than made up for it by giving me a chunk off of my next purchase. Needless to say, I will continue to be their customer for a very, very long time. Quality products, killer customer service, and reasonable prices – pfff, I would be dumb not to keep shopping with them J
Normally, I write about customer service horror stories, but today I am pleased that the scenario was reversed. I’ve never heard of anything like it. Way to go, Zappos! Happy Friday indeed. What is your greatest customer service story you have to share?
Everyone loves a good bit of office drama, especially because there’s so much to go around! You spend 40+ hours of your life each week with your colleagues and of course shenanigans will occur. Multiply that by 50 weeks and you’ve got yourself 2000 jam-packed and emotionally fulfilling hours of joyous, employee mirth. That, and you get some of the craziest happenstances ever to be recorded by mankind…. Did you hear about Betty Sue?! Oh man…
You are stapling documents at a nice, competitive clip (come on bonus for being the Speediest Stapler in the Southwest!) when you come upon a 20+ page document. Naturally, you clutch the black shiny object preparing to infuse your silvery, pointed items of destruction into the defenseless, fibrous material holding printed words, only to wind up with a document that is unstapled, a staple that did not fully puncture the paper, and a frustrated employee. You quickly whip out the staple puller and repeat the process a minimum of three more times before finally conceding defeat and moving on. It would’ve been so much simpler to use the monster staple machine equivalent to a small pile driver.
That moment when your favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwich gets lodged in your esophagus because you ate too fast…ow. And now you’re feeling foolish and not enjoying your favorite treat.
The instantaneous stopping of your heart because you missed a meeting, blew an important assignment, or said something stupid out loud. And yes, that rushing feeling in your veins is the adrenaline trying to prevent further stupidity and moronic behavior. You then run into an inanimate object and further humility triumphs the day.
When you smash the CEO of your company with a big, heavy, wooden door. Yes, this happened to me years ago – in front of a girl I was trying to impress… neither scenario worked in my favor.
It’s Friday and everyone is excited. Hope the weekend treats you well! Be wary of those office shenanigans…now, if I could just find my red Swingline stapler…
Perhaps one of the greatest paradoxical and utterly bewildering ideas is that of “common sense.” It’s common – everyone should have it, right? HA! Ask anyone, truly, and “they” will all laugh at you and tell you that common sense isn’t common at all. Not even close. Frankly, I have found that in the workplace that common sense is absolutely the exception not the rule. Not that I have experienced being struck with lightning, but that is the jolt I get to the senses when the blinders are torn back from my eyes and I see the rampant stranglehold that mediocrity, and dullness clamp down on the average citizen like a crushing vice. Fortunately for me, the department in which I work is packed with people all loaded with common sense, but that doesn’t mean my prior work experience at other companies was so great…
Common sense would dictate that being polite and well-mannered, using your ears more than your mouth (which is likely oozing diarrhea), applying logic, critical thinking, and active listening to conversations, and actually being engaged with the world would all be viable things demanded of every citizen, no different than filing taxes, going to work, or paying your bills on time. I said ON TIME! I’m always baffled when people complain they got dinged for not paying something on time… well, it was due two weeks ago and you didn’t pay it – it’s your problem, not mine!
I like to think that anyone going through the education system would acquire these “common sense” skills. Seriously, why is it such a struggle to be above the mediocre line of acceptability set for us? Why don’t people aspire to greatness? Why don’t they crave more? Who would want to be below average when you could be better than average? The answers to these questions obviously lie in far more meaningful and reaching conversations, and some prickly ones at that, but even in the realm of higher education I crossed paths with students who were bland – vanilla, lukewarm, tepid. They could be as easily forgotten as the hundreds of people you pass in the grocery store without giving it a second thought. Granted, there were also students who were clearly destined for greatness, but again not the rule and almost always the exception.
In a world lacking delayed gratification, the ability to structure your finances soundly, and one in which more is “better”, it should come as no surprise that common sense is ridiculously underrated and rare. I just picked up a copy of America Mania: When More Is Not Enough and I feel that pretty much sums us up quite well. We lack common sense and we are packed feel of the desire for more, more, more… I have yet to finish it but will post a review when I do!
As you all head out to your weekend adventures, keep in mind that common sense is quickly becoming something to be treasured. Take the time to have enlightening conversations, read a good book on a topic you know nothing about, and make the time to improve yourself, even just a little bit. Happy Friday!