Greetings fellow citizens – it is Friday, Friday the 13th actually –a welcome relief from the week for sure.
It has been 3.5 months since IRONMAN Canada. One hundred-something days which has given me time to come to peace with the terms of what transpired… In a nutshell – I got smoked, pummeled, and eaten alive! It wasn’t a great race; really, I don’t know if it could be even considered a mediocre race. The best part was literally the first 56.9 minutes. I absolutely demolished my previous 2.4 mile swim record by almost 45 seconds. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but in the swimming world, that’s significant. And thus ended my good, PR setting day. It was all uphill from there… Wayyyyy up hill!
- Plans are only as good as the trash can they end up in
- Control the controllables – the uncontrollable will always go different than you expect
- Quitting for the right reasons is OK – but only for the right reasons (read: medical)
- You learn more from your failures more than from your successes
- Porta-potties are your friend and your enemy… I got more than enough face time with several
- At the end of the day, I had lost sight that finishing was actual my goal – the rest was just a nice to have
I was disappointed, slightly devastated, and swore to never ride my bike again, evidenced that it’s still in the freaking travel case and hasn’t been unpacked since. I settled into a diffident state of mind that made it incredibly difficult to do anything fun. That, and 2014 had left a quasi-permanent, repugnant taste in my mouth with the cancellation of IRONMAN Lake Tahoe. Obviously, the feelings (at the time) were legitimate but given enough recovery time, wouldn’t really hold water or describe how I truly felt about the sport. Everyone has bad days, and more often than not, our days may even just be OK, not stellar or wonderful. But in and of itself, that is what makes those phenomenal days spectacular – they’re a wonderful change of pace!
What is often forgotten is that when things don’t go according to our plan, it doesn’t mean that our experiences are a failure. My overarching goal for the year was to get married – SUCCESS! All of the rest will just have to fall where it may. In hindsight, my long day at Canada was more about the trip. Great time with friends and family, memories of gorgeous mountains peeking out of the sea, all-you-can-eat-buffets, and stormy skies that scream out the wondrous power and majesty of nature. Sure, that Sunday was miserable for myself and my loyal cheerleaders, who actually had a worse day than I did, but we all made it and have a shared experience to boot… that, and we got epic, mind-blowingly awesome cookie cake dessert! SO WELL EARNED!
My greatest lesson learned from that day is to persevere. Not everything will be easy, go as planned, or even be enjoyable, but keeping those close that are dear to you is worth far more than success at some race, your career, or other hobbies . If people matter enough, they will lift you up during the downers, and help you to soar even higher during the ups. The good news is that 2016 awaits as a clean and empty canvas, waiting to be painted and filled in with new hopes and dreams, and the cost of that artistic fulfillment is minimal. Make the plans and follow through, but also let things just take their course… wherever that may lead. I learned my lesson in trying to control what I could not, and life is too short to waste on such a pursuit. Here’s to a fresh 365 days as well as the end of 2015. A new IRONMAN awaits and so do 12 months packed with adventures, fun photographs, and memories to be cherished for a lifetime. That, and I have to continue to work at having a successful marriage ;-)
My goal is to unpack my wheels before Thanksgiving and get a few rides in. It’s a happy, healthy relationship that I miss and that I’m ready to reinvest in. So I’m going to make that happen… I still have many adjustments to work on – shockingly, both triathlon and marriage require 100% dedication and commitment to continue forward on a healthy path :-) Sure, I have new responsibilities that absorb my time, but I’ve also got my favorite person on the planet cheering me on. That is hard to compete with!
Happy Friday AND HOORAY FOR THE WEEKEND!
A very happy Wednesday to you all. Don’t forget that it is Veterans Day.
I woke up in Reno and it was 25 degrees outside… warm to say the least. We’ve had two snowfalls so far but I’m hoping it continues to pick up. We need it more than ever! One of the amazing and hilarious things about being a dog owner is the interactions that you get to enjoy. Lucy makes the most hilarious face when I ask her if she understands. She perks up her ears and does “the head tilt.” She doesn’t truly understand, just like I don’t understand why she has so much fun in the snow, but she provides a wonderful and charming illusion that she gets me.
I recently sat through a second week of Green Belt training in the Lean/Six Sigma realm, an exhausting and rigorous course that gives you tools and techniques for eliminating waste and variation (Lean and Six Sigma respectively), something that everyone should be educated in. Waste is useless, unproductive, and obviously a poor use of everyone’s time. Variation is straying from the established process or plan, for example, creating blue fire hydrants that aren’t specced out correctly, in addition to being the incorrect color.
All throughout my career, I’ve heard emphasis placed on “the process.” Understand the process. Do the process. Improve the process. Rework the process. What’s crazy to me is that I am only just now grasping the criticality of processes. Processes aren’t some stuffy pieces of paper jammed into a binder to gather dust; they’re the proverbial bread and butter of getting things done. Small tangent: a personal pet peeve of mine is the ambiguity surrounding and encompassing the terms “getting things done” and “work.”
According to the dictionary, work is defined as “exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something; labor; toil” –or– “productive or operative activity.” Basically, it means putting forth time, effort, creativity, thought, and understanding. It drives me up a wall when someone says well, that will take a lot of work. Uh, hello, that is our job! Our single purpose is to focus on and drive work – being productive, etc. – There’s nothing wrong with providing a Level of Effort or taking a step back to think about what is involved, but if our primary task as employees is to work, and we are all at work working, then it’s expected that our tasks will take work. Ding, ding ding! Everyone is busy and yet the primary expectations placed on us are to work and to get things done. Period.
Now back to my main train of thought…
A process, good or bad, results in outcomes that are equally just as bad or sometimes exponentially better. If you have a widget creation process that results in 10% of the widgets being defective, then you may have a problem. Not only are you destroying the profitability of your business but the process is probably sloppy. There may be a rhyme and reason for the defects in the products, but it is something that needs to be studied if not resolved even. If 10/100 planes crashed every single time one went up in the air, there probably wouldn’t be very many passengers…
The fascinating part of a process is that 1) few people truly understand why they do the process and 2) if they do understand their own process, they rarely understand where their inputs come from and how their outputs are used. Often, they may not even understand the bigger process picture. If you were to find out that your work processes were the most critical piece in life-saving medical technology, how would you work differently? What if you knew slacking off in your process and producing work with only 2% (a seemingly low defect rate) defects cost someone down the line an extra 50% of their time in labor, and that a majority of their duties were cleaning up your mess? Would you change something? I hope so… start asking why is that happening in the first place!
True understanding is not an easy concept. It’s easy to say sure, I get it, I understand, but do you really? My job is to be a professional understander and problem solver, and it is hard! The same business term can mean 13 different things to 13 different people, there may not be a baseline for common goals, processes, or “how we do things,” and worse yet, there may not even be communication between the critical parties needed to come up with those agreed upon business artifacts. “The product isn’t correct” doesn’t really provide me with a lot of information… is it the wrong color? Build? Size? Material? Bad packaging? Does it function incorrectly? What did you really want when you said it should be indestructible?
In conclusion, understanding is not something done simply, easily, or quickly. There is no magic formula. It is the involved process of inquiring, cultivating, iterating, and questioning information. Building a hypothesis, testing, retesting, reevaluating, and baselining. And then we do it again and again and again…
Happy Wednesday and think about your processes and question what you think you understand… you may surprise yourself!
I must admit, I was more than relieved to learn that my website is still standing. We haven’t really been friends lately. More semi friends – acquaintances, if you will. August 19th was a long time ago, and much has happened since then. Well, really, much has just happened in 2015…
We’ll start with the small stuff: Moved after five years. Raced 70 miles uphill in Auburn. Saw my family. Trained for IRONMAN Canada. Froze to death at IRONMAN Canada. Planned a wedding. Didn’t swim for two months because the pool was closed. Took training courses in Lean and Six Sigma. Ran my first trail half marathon with my wife (see big stuff item #1). Went to my ten year high school reunion. Yea…
And the big stuff:
- Showed up to the wedding
- Got married
- Went to Greece
…. Back to reality!
It’s been eight years since I’ve traveled to two countries within the same calendar year, and that was almost cheating since they’re practically neighbors (Australia and New Zealand), so that was neat getting to both Canada and Greece. Hoorah for working the passport! I’ve also never raced 140.6 miles in the rain… That was not so neat. 2015 was a year of planning and buildup. Planning race season and a wedding, and all of the imaginable crazy tension and excitement that can be associated with both. And now here we are – 30 days into a marriage (it’s totally awesome being married) – and now only 80 days until Christmas.
If all good things must come to an end, then the anticlimactic slide has begun. Don’t get me wrong – things are phenomenal! But months and months and months of planning, prepping, scheduling, and just being overloaded with anticipation and now poof – it’s all gone – and life has resumed its course. After my first IRONMAN, I spent the rest of that summer apathetically chasing athletic pursuits and really let the blues and anticlimactic feelings ooze out of me. Granted, I got to spend a gazillion hours with my new dog and camera, which helped to pass the time feeling productive and with a new hobby, and that all worked out OK…I imagine this will too.
For now, while the chaotic weekly schedules and mind numbing lack of sleep have passed, I have new adventures to look forward to, but on a much smaller basis. What kinds of new decorations can we find, what are some great new recipes to try, how do we use those super sharp knives properly so we (I) don’t cut off the ends of our fingers (oops!), how do we mesh our lives together, and perhaps most importantly, how do we establish routines around each other that encourage, allow for pursuit of hobbies independently, and create a sense of accomplish and community? It’s actually fantastic being with someone who enjoys cleaning and doing laundry. I will iron, prep food, and take out the trash until I turn blue in the face if that’s the deal I get. There will be many posts coming up about complementing each other’s strengths, a critical part to any relationship or team. I do the things I’m good at (read: enjoy) and the things that she just loathes to do and vice versa. It’s a win-win hopefully.
Heading off into the fall and last quarter of 2015, I don’t know what to expect but I know that great things await us all! Here’s to 81 days until freedom from the holidays :P
I can be a very selfish person – I have a strict workout schedule I follow, I have expectations of my friends, my dog, my fiancée, and I have expectations as to how my wedding is going to turn out. I have to eat within a certain time-frame or I turn into the Hulk, and if things don’t go according to plan, I tend to overreact, panic, jump up and down, throw things, or contemplate moving to Montana. Sure, it’s human nature to be selfish, but I’m particularly good at it. Ironically, along with being selfish, I also don’t take care of myself over others. That’s a bad combo…
I’m getting married in 19 days, 5 hours, and 16 minutes (as of this writing), and there are days when I feel that that information entitles me to be more selfish than normal. Granted, I don’t use it for things like taking care of myself, sleeping extra, or you know, relaxing. Instead, I cram my schedule full of all kinds of blood-pressure raising activities, packing every waking minute with planning, list making, and helping out every which way.
All that said, I got an unexpected email from United Blood Services. They are always after O- donors because of their applications and primary use in baby blood transfusions, so it was no surprise to me that they reached out. What was a jolt to me was that they asked me to defer my donation scheduled for this week until late next week so that someone they’ve pre-selected would be able to use my blood. That was a welcome slice of humble pie and one that allowed me to realize that my “problems” aren’t even problems – I have nothing to complain about. It gives you a true perspective when something we take for granted (read: living) is in fact a precious treasure for someone else (a tiny baby clinging to life). And here I was complaining that I already had to take an hour out of my “busy” life to go donate blood in the first place. Shame on me!
Such a simple event altered my perspective, certainly for the day, but also the coming weeks. We may never know when, how, or why we impact other people’s lives, but why not accept the gauntlet when it is given to us? It would be a gross travesty to pass on such a great opportunity to help others with grace, humility, and an offering of something that truly costs us nothing except our time. And time, well, time keeps on spinning – it’ll be here long after I am gone :-) Here’s to helping others instead of ourselves. “Find the Hero in You!” Happy Hump Day!
Greetings my fellow readers! I recently went to and came back from IRONMAN Canada, a blog for another time. Today’s thoughts are about a slick new piece of gear I acquired for the adventure – my Scicon Aerocomfort Triathlon bike bag. Historically, I have only driven to races, with the furthest being the 15 hour haul to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in 2013.
This year, Whistler was just too freaking far, meaning an airplane ticket was in my near future. My partners in crime (read: fiancée and best man) and I piled into the tiny Alaska Airlines puddle jumper for the two hour flight to Seattle, saving us two days of horrendous driving time.
I have invested a lot in my bike, and not just financially. I have spent more time in my saddle than my tush cares to recall, and I needed gear that would protect Black Beauty all the way into SEATAC. I’ve read tons of horror stories about shattered derailleurs, broken carbon wheels, and handlebars that have cracked, so naturally I was very paranoid. Being in a foreign city with a broken carbon bicycle is not good prep for a race. I needed everything in one piece and race ready…
Surprisingly, a suitcase for a bike isn’t a cheap investment. And even more surprisingly, the average bike case still requires a ton of disassembly of your bike just to get it on the plane. Not terribly convenient. The Scicon bag provides a unique offering in that you don’t need to disassemble a single thing – just take the wheels off and put them in their compartments. I will review the bag another time, but packing was truly a joy, and ironically, it was much more fun packing and unpacking my bike than it was racing in the pouring rain for four hours :D Check out how easy this thing is to pack here.
T-Minus 3 Days
A late night packing session the night before left me gassed, but it was time for the airport. I quickly stuffed my bike into the bag, strapped it in, and away we go. I arrived at the airport suuuuper early, again being paranoid having never flown with a bike before, and wanted to allow plenty of time for the inevitable snafus. Strangely enough, the bike case gave me zero problems. The wheels on the bottom made it a joy to whisk around the airport, and the friendly staff at Alaska Airlines reassured me they fly bikes all the time and it would be well cared for.
At the counter, I had more issues dealing with my luggage that wasn’t the massive bike case. My duffel bag zippers burst open, I had to go back through security to check something back in that shouldn’t have been in carry on, and I thought I had booked the tickets for the wrong day. Personally, I was glad the bike wasn’t a problem.
With great apprehension, I watched my bike disappear behind the mystical, view-blocking wall where all mysterious checked baggage goes. I could only hope that my precious bike would emerge two hours later in SEATAC…and it did.
My expensive race wheels (stored in a padded compartment in the bike case) were in perfect shape, none of the carbon on my bike was damaged, and I had a friendly note from TSA saying they verified that my bike was, in fact, a bike. We got a rental car, somehow crammed the bike bag inside, and it was off for the Canadian border. Success!
Both Alaska Airlines and the Scicon bike bag far exceeded my expectations – I’ll continue to use both for many years in the future :-)
For my American readers, hope you had a great Independence Day!
Bring it on IRONMAN!! This week I wrapped up my final training block (20 hours) and I’m preparing to crank out the taper heading into the race. Seven hours on my bike Saturday (121 miles) and I’m certainly ready to not be on it again anytime soon. Ah, sweet, sweet rest, I’m looking forward to you…
There’s just something great about putting in 6+months of solid effort, 15+ hours a week, and then being able to kick back and sharpen your mental game in order to drop the fatigue as you prepare for the big plunge. This time last year, I was all about Tahoe. For 2015 – I’m out for revenge at another course. There’s a lot to be excited about, and I may not have logged in the quantity of hours I did last year, but I feel the quality is there. Plus, I’ve been able to run about 10% more this year (thank you Mizuno Wave Runners!).
When push comes to shove, I like to think that racing, of any kind, has far more to do with mentality, emotional endurance, and willpower then it does leg, back, and shoulder muscles. Yes, the physiology and endurance need to be in place, but the turtle never complained about being physically unprepared. He crossed the finish just fine. Plus, he had spent many years building his endurance before the race…
- Wetsuit peeing – This needs no introductory and only the slightest explanation – it happens!
- Chafing in all the wrong places – Well, what did you expect from keeping your tush in the saddle for 6 hours prior to running? You’re going to get rubbed – always the wrong way. Stock up on Vaseline. You’ll thank yourself…
- True bonking – Hitting the wall, bonking, and blowing up are all the same thing. Crashing into a miserably humbling wall built on the bones of self-doubt, exhaustion, and a glaring deficiency of energy. In my experience, a true burnout doesn’t really occur under 3 hours of exercise time, although being improperly fueled the night before can certainly cause you to crash well before. Tack on an additional seven hours of racing, and you’ve got yourself a machine that needs feeding.
- Eating at 24 mph – Last Saturday I consumed five date balls, four sweet potato cakes, a banana, and a peanut butter and jelly all while blazing away through the gorgeous scenery of Tahoe. Granted I was getting rained on and feebly attempting to avoid thunderstorms, but way to keep it interesting! A 3000 calorie workout leaves a pretty serious deficient if not kept in check, and we certainly want to avoid the almighty bonk (see above).
- Scheduling life around workouts – No, it isn’t vice versa. Workout placement drives a busy athletic schedule for many months out of the year. Lunch trips to the gym are only a small piece, usually taken for granted, of what is encompassed by the commitment that needs to come with race prep. Much like other hobbies, it often drives (read: demands) 100% commitment.
- Religiously sticking to a schedule – Whether up before the sun or out running long after it’s down, race training is unforgiving. You can’t “make up” a workout just like you can’t wind the clock back. To succeed, you’ve got to stick to your guns and your commitments. Repetition, repetition, repetition.
- The WORST tan lines – Seriously, laser engraved lines slice across the legs and arms revealing a division of tan vs pasty musculature. My personal favorite is the giant gap on both of my wrists where my Garmin and my RoadID rest for hours at a time while the heat scorches the rest of me…
- Grocery shopping – 2, 3, 4, even 5 times a week trips to the great store of all things energy provisioning. If training is my life for a few months, then food is certainly the lifeblood. Rice, potatoes, fresh meats, tons of fruits and veggies, a billion dozen eggs (1,000,000,000 x 12), and a deliciously healthy amount of dark chocolate (>80% cocoa) all make their way into my cart on a regular basis. Mmmm….!
- Gear collecting – Socks, sunscreen, snacks, tubes, tires, chain grease, towels, wipes, aspirin, compression clothing, helmets, bags, bags to hold your bike, bags to hold your food (which you got at the grocery store), shoe bags, miscellaneous bags, dirty clothes bags, bags to hold your bags… it goes on and on!
10. The bonus triathlete-only experience – I have no words other than Donner Lake 2014. Haha! See below and wonder…
There’s nothing quite else like triathlon, and it only gets more exciting each year. It provides a feeling of satisfaction, accomplishment, and success all with the added benefit of vitamin D! Whoohoo! See you soon Whistler… see you soon!
6 Apps That Drive Creativity and Productivity
I am constantly fascinated by technological evolving nature. You blink for a second and a brand new technology has become obsolete! If you take several years off from being involved in the industry, you may not even recognize some of the tech (have any of you seen an iPod lately??).
I remember very clearly when smartphones burst onto the market, and as a young twenty something, I insisted I would never get one. Well, come 2010 I had purchased a Droid X and was hooked on having the internet and access to a bazillion websites, videos, and wikis from the palm of my hand. Plus, who wouldn’t enjoy an operating system named after desserts!?
My love for technology grew throughout my younger years and blossomed in college, where I pursued a degree in Information Systems, took on a part time job filming and recording classes for distance education, and finally post college where I was charged with managing the technology for the student government at the University of Nevada, and then onto grad school where I first began blogging and delving into the world of social media during my MBA courses.
Both my degree and blog quickly led me to a new position at an insurance company. It was National Pancake Day (a blog topic) the day before my interview, and one of my interviewees had done their homework on my site and asked me if I liked pancakes as much as I enjoyed writing about them – I was quite surprised to hear that they perused my site. Don’t forget that people WILL Google your name. It’s only a matter of time…
My favorite applications, while relatively mainstream, are critical to my day-to-day personal and professional pursuits. I didn’t include any of the social media apps under the assumption that people are at least aware of what is offered. Granted, there are TONS!
Favorite Fun Apps
- Dropbox – This is the pervasive, all-in-one content sharing app. I backup photos, post shared documents for friends and family, and organize a very large portion of my online presence through this wonderful app. It was recently integrated with Microsoft Office so that I can edit directly from my phone and upload straight back to the cloud. Awesome! Also, it plays well with any device and syncing is a cinch.
- Shazam – Everyone’s favorite song identification app! Not only is this helpful in figuring out what song is playing, but they’ve also got a solid revenue stream from me when I click “Buy Now.” Easy! I currently use this in conjunction with Amazon MP3 (I don’t really care for iTunes since they won’t allow me to stream from any connected device) and that just makes it easy – kaching!
- PushBullet – A friend referred me to this nifty little app. It allows the “pushing” of content between PC and phone, phone and PC, etc. Have a hyperlink open in Chrome on your desktop but need to read as you go? Push it to your phone! You can also exchange files between multiple devices very, very easily, and they pop up on your screen right away so you don’t have to dig through the Download folder. However, my favorite feature is being able to send text messages! As long as my phone is powered on, I can send and receive texts from my PC, almost like I was texting from my phone. Makes it nice being able to fire off a few without even checking my device.
Favorite Productivity Apps
- Balsamiq – In the world of computer software design, mockups and prototypes are incredibly critical. This nifty and (literally) fun to use software allows for wire framing and mocking up of customer portals, websites, mobile apps – pretty much anything you can imagine. It is truly a joy to get the creative juices flowing, it’s easy to manage the wide variety of project files, and the output has driven productivity and the rate of making business decisions through the roof. It’s about as good as work can get – drawing a comic book to help drive business system functionality.
- SnagIt – The ultimate in workplace productivity software, this neat little package helps put together screenshots from your PC in ways you never imagined. You can clip, cut, rotate, add text, arrows, diagrams, etc. all with the purpose of making it clear to your audience what you’re trying to convey. I’ve used it for tech support, training manuals, troubleshooting with clients, and as always, a healthy dose of humor. Don’t be deceived that it is just a simple screen capture platform – it is far much more. If there is one piece of software I require at a company, this is it!
- WuFoo – This is perhaps one of the easiest and most intuitive form creation platforms I’ve ever used. While it lacks advanced (read: hardcore) form features, it makes creation, sharing, editing, and collecting results an absolute breeze. This software was the core functionality that I used at the University of Nevada to help create a system for data collection and analysis. Solid platform with reasonable pricing, and the flexibility and ease of use made it a fun experience to administer!
In this day and age, it’s entirely possible to be just as productive from home (or the coffee shop), as it is from a desk. Laptops, secure VPN connections into the enterprise, mobile apps, and a whole other slew of technology allow me to be constantly connected to the office, if the need arises, which makes managing work tasks and projects as easy as logging in and managing the fires when they break out. These applications promoting the pervasive nature of enterprise data only further the cause of productivity “outside of the office.” Welcome to the 21st century!
Technology and the Blogosphere
For whatever reason, people get a kick out of reading this blog. They don’t come in droves, and they don’t come by the thousands, but I have a pretty reasonable base of people who at least acknowledge that my content exists. I religiously share my personal experiences and put a fun twist on them. Technology, business experiences, my IRONMAN triathlon training – it all gets smashed into one shared story with lessons learned, mistakes I never thought I would make, and the occasional success that I feel is worth sharing.
I use my social media accounts to share out to the world that my content is alive and well. I always pick very vivid pictures, ideally, pictures that I have taken or that have my favorite superhero Iron Man in them, to sell the story that I’m telling. I share the blog link out through Facebook, Twitter, and Google +, although most views are primarily driven through Facebook, but I have picked up followers and re-tweeters from Twitter. I also share my more professionally orientated posts on LinkedIn. You’ll never know whom you’ll meet (hint: I got hired through a LinkedIn connection I went to school with).
As a final point, I have had great success leveraging my blog, in combination with Twitter, to fix customer service disasters that I’ve experienced. Have a look if you’re interested!
Good software, like what I use on a daily basis, should be friendly and easy to use. Another great piece of software I’ve recently discovered is FreshBooks Cloud Accounting. It’s easy to use, intuitive, and desires to meet the customer’s need. Billing, timesheets, invoicing, receiving payments, and business growth are all things that any business needs to focus on, and FreshBooks makes sure the emphasis is in the correct place – not filling out paperwork but in growing opportunities and productivity. That, combined with stellar customer service is truly the recipe for success with many of the companies that I’ve worked with, for, or purchased products and services from. It needs to be enjoyable, mutually beneficial, and well, fresh! :-)
That’s all for now! If there’s one takeaway I have it’s this: share content about things in life that you have fun doing! Your readers will pick up on that very quickly.
Thanks for reading. You can find me in all of these places!