Monday, April 30, 2007

The ubiquity of information

It's Saturday afternoon. Jessica and I are in a motel room in New Jersey, getting ready for the wedding we have to attend in a few hours. I'm flipping channels on the TV. I come across a program focused on animal life in Death Valley. It catches our interest, and we see the tail end of a segment which is obviously about some kind of road race that is run there, which sounded pretty awful.

I pulled out my Blackberry, which I had brought to be able to retrieve maps online on the go. I did a quick search on the terms "death valley ultramarathon" and within seconds I was reading the wikipedia article on the Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile race where runners have to face a 13,000 feet elevation gain (running from below sea level to near the summit of Mt. Whitney). I had a great chuckle when they said that nobody had died on the race "yet."

Putting the Internet into our hands at every moment isn't just about being able to buy movie tickets or get directions to the closest pizza joint, no matter what the marketing suits tell you. Sometimes it's just about being able to satisfy your curiosity the moment it arises.

Don't get me wrong. I did use the Blackberry for more traditional things as well. We needed to find a specific clothing store on the way down to NJ, and we found one at a mall right by the highway we were traveling. And I even earned some points among the extended family by not just finding the closest Denny's for them, but giving them directions as well. And while I didn't need the Internet to tell me how crazy it would be at Denny's as part of a party of 11 with 3 children under 5, I could have blogged about it while it was happening, had I thought of it :).

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Stop wondering and start doing

Another "day in the life" of a man who regularly realizes he's smarter than he realizes if he just did the things he always talks about doing.

Yesterday, I had a bit of a headache towards the end of the day. My muscles were still sore from my last run and my weekend of playing with my nephews (playing catch and baseball with a couple pre-teens takes more out of you than you'd think). I went to bed a bit early, thinking, "I probably won't run tomorrow, my body might need the rest."

This morning, I felt fine. Not sore, not overly tired, etc. But I immediately started over-analyzing. Maybe I need to rest, maybe my body needs an extra day to recuperate, maybe I should wake up a bit more and make sure I'm not sore.

No, dumbass, you should just get your running clothes on and get on the treadmill (yes, it's beautiful out there, I'm holding off on running outside until I complete this training program).

I finally did the run, and it was one of the best runs I've had in a few weeks.

Stop thinking about it, and just keep doing it. Don't be so afraid of failing that you don't try, because trying and failing is a better end than not trying at all, and more often than not you won't fail anyway.

How many times do I have to re-learn this lesson (in matters small and large)?

(Fifteen pounds down ... four runs left in my training program ... so far, so good.)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Spring hits Podunk

One week ago, it was gloom and doom. This weekend, the weather was amazing.

Saturday, we set up our hammock in the back yard, and spent about an hour just laying in the sun. Stress falls away pretty quick in that environment -- and in the peace and quiet of the warm spring breeze I once again had a bit of a "reset button" moment. I need these, periodically, to remind myself what I work for. My own yard, on a quiet street, surrounded by trees -- this is why I endure all the stress I face at work.

The whole area is more alive right now -- you can see the early beginnings of buds on trees, things are sprouting in gardens, the spring birds are back, and people are out and about. The parking area near the pond was completely full this weekend, and the entire surface of the pond was dotted with boats.

And, of course, the bugs are starting to come back. We saw several hornets buzzing about the house. Some things never change.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Positive Thinking

On my commute home yesterday, I drove past the pond and saw two large blue herons flying over it. They were the first ones I've seen this year, and seeing them always brings a smile to my face. Spring is coming. The birds know it, but maybe someone should tell the skies.

This morning I went and killed that run that killed me Wednesday. It was still hard, but I ran it a little slower and was able to pound it out. Mission accomplished, though I'm still nervous about the rest of my runs being this difficult. Jess is enjoying the fact that she's having an easier time of running than I am, so I guess there's some benefit to my struggle.

I'm going to head over to PR Running on Monday and get my shoe choice double checked. I'm also going to incorporate increased stretching into my routine. I read some great advice -- do stretches on your off days to make sure you give them the attention they deserve. A full set of stretches can run you 20 minutes, and I know I don't have the patience to do that before/after a run. I'm lucky if I spend 2 minutes stretching. But if it's my off day, I can stretch in place of a run and still get some benefit.

My Monday is going to be very busy, for a day off. Dentist appointment, running shoe shopping, grocery shopping with my mother, and possibly lunch with Jess. The Marathon could well be over by the time I get home and pop on the TV to see how it's going.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A many-stepped journey

I know I'd be a happier person if I took my own advice more often. For example: don't sweat the small stuff.

Today I had a particularly stressful phone conversation with my manager, for reasons I won't go into here (nothing bad, just the usual). I immediately went down to the treadmill for my Week 6 Day 3 run of my C25K plan. Things went okay until about 15 minutes into the running portion. With ten minutes remaining, I wasn't sure I had it in me to finish.

Five minutes went by, and what had started as a slight nagging in my legs had turned into a burning pain in each calf. I was counting the seconds, and had 300 to go. I tried to push it out but after another 30 seconds I realized how stupid I was being. Pain like that, that gets worse as you continue the exercise, is usually not something you want. I dropped back to walk pace immediately, walked for 5 minutes, and then stretched for a few minutes.

The pain is gone, but it's still tight. And I'm pissed that I couldn't complete my workout. But this is just one step on a long journey -- one training run that didn't complete as expected is hardly reason to get upset.

But such is the paranoia of the man who isn't fully confident he can do what he's attempting (even though he's done it before). Every tiny setback is examined from all possible angles.

Dave, don't sweat the small stuff. You still got a great workout in.

The question: was it just random chance? Unstretched legs? New running shoes? Too fast?

What do I change next time?

My plan: stick with the new shoes, drop my pace a bit, and try again in a couple days. If the pain returns, go to the running store on Monday and see if there's a different shoe I should be using.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Birth Control

So yesterday we hosted the family Easter dinner, a surprisingly non-religious affair given how religious most of the attendees (but not the hosts) were. In any case, after an easter egg hunt, an easter basket hiding game, a huge meal, and several hours of 3 sugar-crazed kids, my house looked like some kind of tornado went through it.

I walked into the kitchen and jokingly said, "What happened to my house?"
My sister-in-law replied, "Birth control showed up."

In unrelated news, I got some new running shoes yesterday which I am looking forward to trying out. I've been running in 2 to 3 year-old shoes with a lot of rough miles on them. These are fresh and new, and I got a great deal on them online.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Two digit losses

No, I'm not talking about investments or work revenues. I'm talking about my recent fitness initiative!

As of this morning, I'm down ten pounds from when I made the decision that it was time to start this up again. I've completed five weeks of my running program, I'm down ten pounds, and I can feel the difference in my clothes.

A good start!

Monday, April 02, 2007

On pushing your limits

I don't talk about work much in this blog, for a few reasons. The biggest is the most obvious: I don't want this showing up on some corporate legal radar. The last thing I need is the guys in suits actually thinking I'm a liability (or more of a liability than they know I am!).

So. I'm finally taking one of the classes that lots of managers here take -- it tries to cram in all aspects of being a manager into 3 days. Leadership, business acumen, personal growth, all of it. And the pre-requisite (not required, but strongly recommended) is a "skills assessment."

The assessment takes the form of a 5-hour simulation of being a manager. You sit at your desk and handle email, calendar, and telephone. You have dissatisfied employees, demands from peer managers, all kinds of problems. It seems that the goal is to put you under enough simulated pressure to expose your weak areas, so you know what to focus on.

This does not sound, in the least bit, fun.

And yet my manager sings its praises, nearly constantly. He says the simulation was more important for his development than the follow-up course.

This is coming up in a couple weeks. I'm fairly nervous about it, for a lot of reasons. But it boils down to, "what if they tell me I suck at this?".

What's odd is that I would have no such fears about a technical challenge of this nature. If I took a 5-hour assessment of my technical skills and learned that I am good at half of it and suck at the other, I'd be glad to know that, so I could start working on the other half. But that's because I've known I'm good at the technical side of things, for a long time. Maybe if such a test had been handed out in my freshman year of college I would be just as nervous. Or maybe it's because management is made up of "soft" skills, and I have it in my head that if I'm bad at them, there's no improving it.

It doesn't make much sense, but there it is.