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The Parable of the Punctual, Eager, Swift, Timely, Considerate Bird

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Good morning, and a very happy Friday. WHOOHOO!

So everyone has heard that the early bird gets the worm… well, today’s story isn’t about the “early” bird. Frankly, it isn’t about the bird who squeaks in under the buzzer, or even about the bird that might have thought about being early but really just showed up accidentally on time. It’s about the bird that intentionally does what they say they will do. GASP. You mean that there are people in the world who don’t do what they say?! Great Scott…

Yes, friends, it’s true. The world is full of unreliable, flakey, undependable, selfish people who place their own interests above everyone else, which isn’t in and of itself a horrible thing, but when you’re in business, you better get your priorities straight. There is no room for selfishness when your customers depend on you and how you interact with them. Customer service and dependability is truly the straw that broke the camel’s back.

If you say you’re going to call (after an appointment was made) at 2 PM and my phone rings at 3:59 with no prior notice, no apology, and not even the decency of letting me know a conflict came up, my business is going elsewhere. If I make an appointment to look at tuxes at 1 PM and you don’t acknowledge our presence until 1:10 – I’m out. Common courtesy is sorely missing in our culture. Truly, it’s not that hard to say “We are slammed at the moment but will be with you in a minute” or better yet “I know we have an appointment scheduled but let me finish this customer” or the greatest, “I’m so sorry to have made you wait, how can I help solve XX problem?” AMAZING! If people just did that, I’m convinced that the average blood pressure in America would be lower by 30%. OK, maybe that’s a bit far, but you get the idea.

Let me be very clear – I am dealing with several huge events this year, none of which I’ve experienced before. I don’t have time to tolerate your crappy customer service because I barely have time for the things I need to accomplish! All I need is one micro, itty bitty, seemingly unimportant reason to not work with you, and that’s exactly what will happen.

On the flip side, there have been three shining examples of birds (read: businesses) that do exactly what they said they will, exactly when they said they would do it, and don’t stop assisting me until it’s exactly what I was expecting the outcome to be! HOW REFRESHING!

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Shining Customer Service Examples

  • USAA @usaa – This insurance company primarily serves military families, and those fortunate to be grandfathered in. There’s a reason that 12/10 (see what I did there) customers are 95% likely to stay with them for life. They do what they say! Granted, I do pay a slight premium, but for absolutely stellar customer service, it’s worth every penny. I have auto and renter’s insurance through them, perform all my banking, and am soon going to have a home mortgage as well. They absolutely kick ass! Each phone representative is thoughtful, considerate, and genuinely interested in helping me out. Bravo!
  • Zappos @zappos – This Las Vegas based “shoe store” (which has now grown into a huge clothing/accessory conglomerate) is known for zany, funky customer service. Clearly, their employees have fun! Seriously, call them sometime. Awesome. It’s easy to purchase products, they have shopping assistants who are more than willing to offer up opinions, and again, top notch customer service. They even sent me a refund for shoes that I accidentally mailed back to them. Catch was, I hadn’t purchased those shoes from them either. Yes, I was that dumb.
  • Home Depot @thehomedepot – Everyone knows this bright and vivacious orange company, and for good reason. They’re the best at home improvement products, services, and assistance. They hire bright and cheerful associates who, frankly, can be somewhat intimidating based on their breadth of knowledge, they’re great at walking you to the product aisle that you need, and make sure that you get exactly what you need (not always the same as what you’re looking for). Even something as simple as exchanging products that I don’t need even when I can’t find my receipt is refreshing. LET’S DO THIS!

Setting yourself apart in the world isn’t terribly difficult. You need to be punctual, work with integrity, show enthusiasm, don’t lie, and be considerate of other’s time more than your own. Do that and you will stand as a shining star. Don’t do that, and your name is sure to be tainted faster than you can say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

[P.S. that word is officially in spell checker! AWESOME.]

 

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Finding Solace in the Pain

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Happy Thursday to everyone. Who’s ready for spring tomorrow!??! Oh my gosh – dust off the athletic clothing – it’s time to crush it outdoors! YESSSSSS!

I just cleaned house on a brutal treadmill workout – and let’s be clear – I HATE running on the treadmill… but in my gasping, after workout state I realized how freaking great I feel! I don’t know that I put as much stock in a “runner’s high” as some people, just because I much prefer a swim or cycle dash, but man I felt great. It’s so nice letting the stress flow out of your pores along with the sweat, body heat, and other chemical ooze. Granted, the sweat was pooling in my eyes and my legs were covered in a slimy layer but I felt energized as well as exhausted. Perfect excuse to chow down on a huge lunch. And I love lunch!

Painful things in life are what gives us our juice, our will to live, our drive. Go plow a 50 mile bike ride, a 10 mile run or a 90 minute swim session and let me know if you don’t feel like you could just take the world head on. I’ve been to the brink of my sanity and my endurance. It’s not so much that it feels like “the end” but rather it’s just a very puzzling experience where your body says no and your mind says yes because it knows how disappointed you will be in yourself. I still remember the last 13 miles of IM Coeur d’Alene… pff, even the last 4 miles. It’s all a big fuzz really – scorched legs that don’t feel like walking, let alone running. I don’t remember the battle being physical, except for the dull pains shooting through legs that were drained of life hours before. Instead, it was a constant conversation with myself. I value alone time but that was wayyyyy too much time listening to my thoughts! The conversation/emotional aspect was far more exhausting in my opinion than stumbling along mile after mile. Only until I reached mile 25 did everything come into a laser focus and I realized where I was and that I only had 8 minutes left in a very long day.

I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life. Tons, really. They can’t be counted. I have, however, learned from each of them. Perhaps the most personal racing mistake was blowing out on the run at Coeur d’Alene. Feeling “great” after 112 mile bike ride meant I ran a 1:45 half marathon only to blow a gasket at mile 14 and not recover until mile 20. Sure, I was new at ultra-long distance racing and it was my first time, but still… don’t be an idiot! *head smack*

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We’ve all experienced unpleasant events: painful ones, uncomfortable ones, brutally awfully ones. The ones that make your insides creak and groan, and that cause you to beg for it to be nighttime so you can flee the days’ torments. Some pains leave scar tissues, broken hearts, or tear stained faces; others leave you crushed, callused, and broken. However, all pains provide us with growth. Like the sun shining on freshly planted crops, pain is the catalyst for us springing forward into new and wonderful things, sometimes we just need to pass through the briar patch to get there. The truly disastrous can turn into the amazingly wonderful – we just need to embrace our situation for what it is, and find our own coping mechanisms for surviving. It can’t always be Friday and we can’t always have a phenomenal day. But that doesn’t mean we just sit idly by waiting. Moments and opportunities are meant to be seized, just like REI’s 75% off garage sale! You never know what you’ll find :D

For me, there is too much going on causing negative stress, and I don’t have a choice but to seek coping mechanisms outside myself. For me, I will keep embracing the painful treadmill workouts, the 5 hour bike rides, and the swim sessions that leave my lungs and capillaries screaming for more oxygen. For me, I’m looking forward to my next workout and the great meal to follow. For me, I find quiet, comfort, and strength in the pain.

O, [IRONMAN] Canada… how I long to meet you on the field of battle!  A warrior poet cut from the granite of my own failures with no one to share the blame – but none share the successes either. For me… that is my coping.

In Triathlon and Life – It’s All About the Pacing

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Well, I’ve gone from a regular biweekly, blogger to something only heard of in lore and myth… :(

Life is incredibly busy. Well, it usually is for us all anyways, but this spring has been insane. INSANE!! Work is crazy, the personal life is crazy, and IRONMAN training is crazy. CRAZY CRAZY CRAZY. Everyone is going crazy!

Ahhh… deep breath. Woooosaaaaa…

As the air warms up and the sun stays out longer and longer each day, it brings a renewed hope and energy to the world. I trade in my flannel sheets for open windows at night, and my mugs of hot chocolate are switched out for cycling spandex and running shoes. The dog, however, stays firmly planted at the foot of my bed.

It’s a time of a clashing between personal, professional, and triathlon interests that are resulting in the Perfect Storm. It is perfectly chaotic, stressful, crushing, exciting, and adrenaline packed time to be me. I remember thinking I was stressed back in 2013 when I was wrapping up my MBA and getting ready for IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene. Oh, how times seem so much easier then. There isn’t really anything easy about my day-to-day routines. Limited sleep, multiple workouts, a minimum of five work meetings spread throughout the day, lunch at my desk just because I spent my lunch at the gym, and then off and away to take care of this, that, and the other thing, before landing in bed with a thump around 9:30, 10, or 11 at night. Talk about inconsistent.

“You would know pacing better than anyone.”

Pacing is an interesting subject, and one which I’ve written very little about. When you think of pacing you may think of a pace car in NASCAR events or the time it takes you to run a mile. Really, pacing is the combination of your ability to move forward while dealing with obstacles, hurdles, unexpected detours, and adapting to what is thrown into your path. Sometimes you may clumber along slowly, with scraped shins from your mountain bike pedals, and others you may zoom through life at a blistering pace aboard a jet airplane. However, you are always moving at “a pace.”

A pace is more than just a time, a goal, or something you set and just leave. It’s the overall balance of one’s life. Maybe you’re buried at work and now you have 3 hours of errands to run after so you take off 30 minutes early. Or perhaps you have 17 social events on the calendar for the week so you scrap them in favor of staying home with your dog watching Netflix. Maybe even it’s a matter of staying calm in a meeting because if you lose your cool, you’ll not only ruin the project but then you’ll just feel lousy the rest of the day. Other times you’re waist deep in an IRONMAN and you know that to survive a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a marathon that you can’t just go all-out. You need pacing, in both physical exertion and calorie intake. Let’s be clear, there is nothing “cool” about mile 127 and beyond in a 140.6 mile race…

Triathlon has taught me far more about my life than one may imagine. I look back to 2011 when a 70 mile race was far and it’s almost laughable. However, for that phase in my life, my “pace” was set to get me through the 70 mile race. Things evolve and change and now I’m at the point where I have to pace through a 10.5 + hour monstrosity. Perhaps one day I will do two IRONMAN events in one year… why not?

Some people have a pace that is crippling. They don’t sleep, they don’t take care of themselves, and the burn the midnight oil day after day. That is called being “American.” In all my years of reading, studying, and traveling in other cultures, Americans always come out as the ones who take care of themselves the least and don’t enjoy life for what it’s worth – living! The American pace is not a good one.

My pacing for 2015 is … intriguing. IRONMAN Canada beckons with a mocking call, one of the largest project priorities at work hammering with its expectations and energy needed, and oh yeah I’m helping my fiancé with a wedding. Whew. Good luck.

It’s Friday and I’m relieved and yet stressed. The weekends mean that I’m not at my desk for 40 hours but it also means that all that free time will be gobbled up with training, social things, chores (OMG MY PILE OF LAUNDRY), more training, and a sad attempt at catching up on sleep. What a great time to practice pacing!

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Balance Is Like Breakfast… It’s Required

Welcome to month two of 2015 – you’re 1/12th (8.3%) of the way done with the year! Time for the NYE party favors? Let’s hope not…

February, although bleak and often wrought with snow and lousy weather, is joyous because it officially makes the beginning of (my) triathlon season. Every year for me, February 1st is practically a holiday! I no longer am allowed to make excuses; I force myself to dust off my running shoes, part ways with my holiday blubber, and establish my six-day-a-week grind to my big A race for the year. For 2015, it’s going to be a very brief season. It’s all over by July 27th … that won’t be such a bad thing. Last year, the February through September stint was a bit much, although I had some great races along the way.

This year shall keep me very busy outside of the racing realm, and as any good training book will tell you, you need to alter a string of tough weeks with an easy week, a string of tough months with an easy month, and a string of tough years with an easy(ish) year. That time has come! While I will certainly missing racing 8 or 9 different times this year, my work project will keep me honest as it is already giving me a run for my money.

Balance, like breakfast, is the key to everything. It sets your tone, establishes your foundation, energizes you for the trials ahead, and just makes you feel great. That being said, balance is a hard thing to come by… ask anyone who has any kind of commitment to anything – you’re always sacrificing one thing so that you can excel in the next. Constantly changing priorities, commitments, and varying the always-packed-to-the-brim calendar. Sleep? What’s that?!

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A few new tricks I’m going to try this year to maintain my balance:

1.       Do the absolute minimum possible that still allows me to excel – No, this doesn’t mean I’m lazy, it means I need to do just enough to still kick butt in whatever it is, but that it still leaves me room for everything else. I plan on doing just enough so that I am at the top of my game in my triathlons, continue to crank out quality work projects, and maintain the other loose ends so that I have a fulfilling social life to boot.

2.       Take an hour every day to enjoy my accomplishments – Yea, I pretty much never do this, so it seems like a worthy exercise to enjoy the big (and little) things that I got done during the day.

3.       Not worry so much – This will, without a doubt, be the most difficult thing for me to do. I practically live my life worrying about everything. What to eat, when to go to bed, what to do with the dog, how to keep the dog happy, when am I training, when am I sleeping, when am I seeing my friends, when am I getting groceries, on and on… it will be a wonderful exercise in discipline to execute a battle plan of NOT WORRYING.

2015, like any fresh year, will bring its own challenges, but I’m ready for them! Ready or not, balance, here I come!

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Getting My Act Together

I have finally resurrected my running legs – after a very long and arduous three months – and boy, am I paying the price today! Everything hurts, even though I’ve kept up with biking, and I can feel my swollen, aching tendons yelling at me for treating them cruelly.

I’m only about 7 weeks overdue for a blog, 2015 is well underway, and I’m finally dusting off the cobwebs for what is about to be a very busy year. I’m looking forward to triathlon training motivation, a few trips here and there, plus a major or event in two (TBD) before December.

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Work has flown by at a blistering pace. It is, after all, January 19th, and let’s be honest, it’s only a few measly months until the Fourth of July! TIME TO PLAN! I’ve been blessed with a wonderful start to the year, and look forward to many great things. My ultimate goal is to figure out time management. If I’m exercising, eating well, and seeing friends that means I’m not doing the dishes, cleaning, or walking my dog ;( It’s a very hard balance to strike, and the chaos has hardly started yet!

A few goals for the year:

·         Reclaim my IRONMAN – Lake Tahoe being cancelled really rained on my parade. I spent over 500 hours getting ready for that thing and I am back with a vengeance. Granted, not being able to secure your “season high” on an A really takes the wind out of your sails. I’ve been putzing around the gym lifting and doing the occasional yoga exercises, but it’s time to rediscover my routine.

·         Treat my dog to something great – I really need to find a way to reward my dog for being so patient with me. She’s spent a great many days being locked in the kennel for far too long, mostly because I’ve been working and then running around with my head cut off, but she still has an unlimited amount of love. I want to get her new toys (that she won’t eat), and get back into the routing of taking her for walks. Especially with my new camera lens, there are plenty of adventures that await.

·         Work hard, but not too hard – I have a lot this year that I want to get done, and I need to find a way to carve out the time and just make it happen. I get excited when the momentum at work turns into finalized products. It’s reward (to everyone) to see the fruits of our labors.

I hope 2015 is a joyous and wonderful year full of trials, good memories, laughing, and delicious food. For me, I would also like to start cranking out one blog a week (again). Happy Monday.

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Turbo Charged!

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HAPPY FRIDAYYYYY! Circumstances outside of my control have led me to purchasing a new phone. The good news is that I love new technology gadgets. The bad news is that I lost all my contacts, due to user error of incorrectly configuring Google backup, and have since resumed piecing my life together. The worse news is that it all happened around Black Friday, so I was thrown into the lion’s den on a day that I didn’t want to be out, because let’s be honest, who can go four days without having a cellphone? That’s even worse than losing Internet for a day.

I got the Droid Turbo, a gadget reminiscent of my Droid X, which was my first foray into smartphones and the first love of my life. The Turbo has done everything it needed to improve over my HTC One, which was by no means shabby. The screen is bright, brilliant, colorful, and silky smooth. Apps run at a blistering pace. The 21mp camera makes short work of indoor and outdoor photos, and it’s easy to wipe away smudges and fingerprints.

This isn’t a phone review, more so it’s a review of this phone’s turbo charging battery. The battery itself is a beast, with promises of up to 48 hours of ass-kicking battery life. I haven’t gotten to 48 yet, but in the week that I have had the phone it has easily gotten me in the 38-42 hour range – a noble feat considering I charged my HTC at least once every 20 hours.

Droid promised a fast-charging battery that could get you 8 hours of use in 15 minutes of time. I can’t confirm that that is truly the case, but below is an example of how quickly it has charged for me (in the real world).

  • 7:36 am –battery at 3%
  • 7:46 – battery at 12%
  • 7:56 – battery at 22%
  • 8:15 – battery at 36%
  • 8:47 – battery at 69%
  • 9:19 – battery fully charged

That’s pretty freaking impressive! My HTC could easily take upwards of 3.5 hours to fully charge from 0-100%, but my Droid Turbo made quick work of it. The downside is that the turbo charging only works with the charger included with the phone. A standard micro-USB will only charge at the menial rate. In the seven days that I have had the phone, I have charged it from 0-100% twice, and charged it from 40-100% once more. Pretty good stats! I’m looking forward to see what else this monster is capable of.

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There are plenty of reviews of the Droid Turbo available, with the major caveat that you have to be on Verizon. I’ve been a Verizon customer for nearly 10 years, and it’s been nothing but wonderful, even if there is a slight premium attached.  The major downfall to this phone is that it’s just effing huge, and it was the smaller of the phones available. The screen clocks in at 5.2” and although it isn’t heavy or cumbersome, it still takes up precious pocket real estate.

Also, for those of you who are very technically inclined, Android 5.0 is expected to drop on the Droid Turbo, as well as a few other phones, in the coming weeks/month. Just another great reason to get a killer phone during the smoking end-of-the-year deals. The weekend is upon us!

Adventures in Peru

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Well, let’s see, I haven’t blogged in basically forever, Christmas is around the corner, and we are still awaiting snow in Reno. Happy December to everyone, by the way. I’m trying to get my life back together, cut me some slack :P

I recently fled the States for Thanksgiving to a much warmer destination – Peru to be more specific. It was warm, sunny, exotic, and full of delicious food and great hiking. And then I returned home only to find that reality awaited with teeth bared, and an iron jaw like a vice. But that’s a tragedy for another time…

Travel is one of the things I’m most passionate about. Well, passion that lies behind triathlon, eating, movies, my dog and photography. But yes, travel is one of my favorite past-times. I love going off on my own, seeking new and wondrous adventures, strange lands, tasty food, spontaneity and an unplanned life that I normally do not lead at home.

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So in a nutshell, South America is great! I only have two continents left to get to, and frankly Antarctica may not be happening for a while, so I was very excited to jet down to Peru. For those who are geographically challenged, the west coast of Peru (in the Pacific ocean) is below Florida, so it is much further east than one might think.

I flew into Lima and wandered around for a day, but the core of my trip involved exploring the glories of Machu Picchu and the surrounding area. I don’t really know how else to emphasize this, but seriously, go see Machu Picchu! It’s easily one of the greatest and most impressive things I’ve ever seen, second only to the Coliseum in Rome (in my humble, world-traveling opinion).  The Coliseum only gets the one-up because it starts the carnal rampages associated with gladiators, animal performances, outdoor combatants, the Roman empire, weaponry, and other masculine things. But I digress… I spent seven hours hiking, exploring, poking, prodding, and wandering around Machu Picchu and only barely had my fill. I went in the off-season of touristy things, and still by lunchtime it was swamped with annoying amounts of human beings crowding the walkways and heavenly spaces so high up in the foggy mountains.

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“They” estimate that Machu Picchu would cost a cool $1B in modern USD. That’s no amount to sneeze at. It’s truly inspiring to see a city, literally carved out of stone, 10,500 feet up in the air, surrounded by the grand, sweeping mountains that could inspire a thousand novels with their beauty and majesty. It was one of my favorite experiences of the year and I’m so glad I went! My pictures don’t do it justice, but they do stir up very fond memories.

The other highlight from my South American adventure was Islas de Ballestas, otherwise known as the poor man’s Galapagos. I leaped out of bed at 3:00 am to catch a four hour bus to the town of Paracas, which was the launching point for the day’s adventures. A two hour boat ride took us past pelicans, exotic birds, sea lions bathing in sunlight, and a whole host of marine life such as bright crabs, radiant starfish, and a monstrous glyph engraved in the mountainside. It was Sea World but in the wild, and a truly wondrous experience. What a joy to see so many cool creatures in their normal habitat!

IMG_0142_1Peruvians are wonderfully happy people. They seem to appreciate life for what it is – a grand adventure, not something to be wasted restricted to a desk only seeing the world in 40 hour a week chunks. They have a true appreciation for good food, family and friends, natural wonders found nowhere else in the world, and they grasp those opportunities as often as possible. Also, their planes are in tip-top shape, and their buses are a luxury that makes Greyhound look like a transportation company operating in the 3rd world. Their cars, however, are in poor, decrepit condition, although that is irrelevant because traffic rules simply don’t apply. Ever. I have never seen police authority ignored so blatantly. No one seems to care that their blinkers or sirens are on, and it’s hilarious :-) Also, the rules are out the window after 1 AM. They’re just irrelevant. What isn’t hilarious, is the many moments of terror that are experiences as a pedestrian. At best, you can count on everyone running red lights. At the worst, there may be cars coming up and over the curb in your general direction. It was an experience, however terrifying, but it was all part of the fun of experiencing foreign culture.

It’s true, I missed being home for Thanksgiving. I didn’t get turkey or stuffing or delicious pumpkin pie, but my adventure gave me a fun sense of exploration, and needed alone time. Much to my disappointment, my dog wasn’t all that excited to see me … can’t say I blame her. She was living like a queen as I was off gallivanting on my own. That’s all for now!

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