220 days: Don’t call it a comeback

I have a plan to raise $10,000 for some awesome organizations by Sept. 22, 2013 – the day I run in Ironman Lake Tahoe. Almost 5 months in and so far we are about on schedule. Raised so far: $3,515!

In the immortal words of famed artiste LL Cool J, “Don’t call it comeback…”

Yes, it has been FAR too long since my last post in this blog and since my last sustained effort toward accomplishing our Tri-ing for a Challenge goals. 33 days to be exact. One month and two days. 792 hours.

And not one hour has passed where I didn’t think about this challenge. The $10,000 we will raise for some great causes. The races that will happen. Trying to push ourselves to be better, more giving, more excellent in all that we do.

So… (crickets)… umm…. where have I been? What have I been doing?

One thing I haven’t talked about on this blog is my career. The job that pays the bills so I can do all of the other fun things I enjoy. It keeps me with a well stocked stable of carbon fiber bikes and an arsenal of flashy running shoes.

These are my assortment of bikes in my garage. My two racing bikes with their fancy schmancy carbon wheels are in front - the rest are for "fun"

This is my assortment of bikes hanging from hoists in my garage. My two racing bikes with their fancy schmancy carbon wheels are in front – the rest are for “fun”

The Shoe Arsenal - yeah, I'm a big fan of the 'minimalist movement' in running shoes. All but one pair are from Saucony - lots of 4mm drop Kinvaras, a zero drop type A5 racing flat and Hattori, and some New Balance trail runners. They get me there: FAST!

The Shoe Arsenal – yeah, I’m a big fan of the ‘minimalist movement’ in running shoes. All but one pair are from Saucony – lots of 4mm drop Kinvaras, a zero drop type A5 racing flat, and the zero drop Hattori foot glove (for lack of a better term). Plus some New Balance trail runners. They get me there: FAST!

So, aside from affording me the ability to keep well wheeled and shod, what else does my job involve and why is it an important topic of conversation right now? And what does this have to do with my quiet spell? Well, for the past month and half of 2013, and for that matter the last two months of 2012, I’ve been preparing my project for what is known as a “Cost Review”. What is that? And why do I do that?

Let me give you the quick background… Almost 9 years ago I got a call from some guy I’d never met who saw my resume on Monster. Would I be willing to talk to him about working on a science project? More specifically, there was a group of folks that wanted to build a big telescope and they needed somebody with my set of skills: cost estimating, parametric cost analysis, quantitative analysis and statistical modeling, financial and operations modeling, and database development. There weren’t a lot of hits in the Monster database.

My first meeting with the project manager was in an old house on the campus of a very prestigious university – his office was upstairs in what we surmise must have been the master bedroom before the university bought the residence for its own use. At the time the project had only two employees: the project manager and his assistant. The meeting went well – I showed off some fancy Monte Carlo simulations I was toying with and some other financial and statistical studies I was working on… and about a month later I joined the project.

By this time more people were coming on board. At one point there were a good couple dozen of us crammed into that house. Four of us had desks in what must have been the dining room. The conference room was in the living room. Everybody else was scattered into bedrooms and a converted patio space. Boy, those were the fun days; we were ambitious, bright eyed, and cozy. About a year later we moved into an office space that was converted from a convent in a wing of a shut down Catholic hospital (the university had purchased it with hopes that it would become a satellite research campus… that never really panned out). And now for the past 2+ years we’ve called home a very nice office building with a wicked awesome design (yeah, I got to design the floorplan – one of my more fun “other duties as required” tasks that I’ve done here).

So, yes, I am VERY invested personally in the success of this project. The name of the project isn’t important today – I’ll share that in a future post when there is really good news to share (hopefully that will be soon).

About once every year or two we have an external panel of experts from across the world perform a detailed review of our project and give us advice. Sometimes these reviews are focused on the technical design. Other times these reviews are related to funding concerns. Other times, as in the review we will be having next week, the focus is in on the project cost and schedule. As the “Project Controls Manager” – I am responsible for the development of the project cost, schedule, and earned value management – this is my big show.

So, since about October I started putting in the long days and weeks. I’ve pretty much been working 7 days a week since then – starting with the occasional few hours on the weekends and building up to what has pretty much been 18 hour days, 7 days a week since 2013 began.

Yeah… that’s cut into my training time. And my blogging time. And all manner of personal time and maintaining interpersonal relationships (if you didn’t receive a Christmas card or present from me this year, for example, don’t fret… I kind of punted on the holiday this year. It wasn’t personal, I was a jerk and neglected everybody with equal measure). Lauren knows me as the strange guy who is always sitting in front of an array of computer screens downstairs and barely finds time to eat dinner. The pets crave my attention… yet fear the cloud of stress that hangs over my head.

I can clearly state that my personal relationships have suffered. It will take a bit to repair the damage that this has caused with Lauren (don’t worry… we’re fine… she is a very understanding, patient, and outstanding woman). But, sadly, fundraising and training have suffered the most.

Anyway, I tried to set up the path toward this project review in such a way that these sacrifices wouldn’t need to be made… and it was extremely frustrating to witness that plan disintegrate and devolve into the all-consuming event it has become. I won’t get into details, but a couple of colleagues didn’t deliver on their promises, which in turn stretched out a period of time that consumed a lot of my energy in late 2012 while at the same time pushing a very difficult set of activities into a compressed, stressful month and a half known as 2013. The deadline for me didn’t change… the work I needed to get done didn’t change… the amount of time I had to do it in shrunk by well over half.

And now I finally have time to breathe. The job is done. The data are compiled. Analyzed. Presentations prepared. It’s all done but the presenting… and the crying. Oh, yes, the crying.

Of course, those who keep tabs on Facebook also know that during this hellish stretch over the past month and a half I committed myself to what can only be considered a suicide mission. While working those 18 hours per day, 7 days a week, we ran across the most perfect-of-all-perfect deals on the mattress we’ve been coveting. Our very fancy old mattress was reaching the 11-year mark and in need of replacement… so we bought a new one. But once that thing was installed, it would not be moved until it was time for us to move – it is a California King sized Sleep Number bed… memory foam… with mechanical position adjustment. Yeah… once it’s in place, it can be deemed less a piece of furniture and more of a permanent fixture.

Normally, this would be no big deal… but we’ve been getting rid of all of the nasty, gray carpet in our house and replacing it with tile downstairs and bamboo flooring upstairs. The downstairs is completely tiled… I had installed bamboo in the gym and Lauren’s office already… the master bedroom and guest room were all that remained to be bambooed. I needed to get that floor installed before the new bed arrived! So, while working 12 to 18 hours per day on the day job, I was also installing about 500 square feet of bamboo flooring. This project lasted about a week and a half (I still have some tiling to door for the hearth and fireplace, and a big walk-in closet to rebuild and refloor), but it was completed in time for the new bed installation. Added bonus: we are extremely happy with the intermediate results! Even though the stress level for that week and a half was turned up to 11, I survived and turned out what I think is a pretty nice looking piece of craftsmanship.

The finished flooring project as seen from the entryway... before the mattress arrived.

The finished flooring project as seen from the entryway… before the mattress arrived.

Another view looking back toward the entryway door right before we moved that giant bed back in... note that the fireplace tiles and the bedroom home theater aren't yet fully installed.

Another view looking back toward the entryway door right before we moved that giant bed back in… note that the fireplace tiles and the bedroom home theater aren’t yet fully installed.

Theo taking a break mid-job from his supervising duties.

Theo taking a break mid-job from his supervising duties.

More photos of this task (with more to be posted as I finish off remodeling the closet and installing the fireplace tiles) are posted to Facebook at this link.

So. There you have it. Work has been crushing me. I took on the most poorly timed kamikaze household project anybody could ever imagine. My training has suffered. My personal life will take some effort to repair. But at least this guy still loves me:

Theo is sure one happy guy… though when I get too stressed out he gets a bit bummed out… he has been bummed out lately. Oh, and this is what that gray carpet we’re almost done getting rid of looks like. Blech!

So… that brings us to today.

I’m finally caught up at work. I am getting back into the training groove and ready to run a half marathon this weekend – this doesn’t worry me, as I know I can knock this out… maybe not as fast as I might have done had my training gone according to plan. In two weeks I have a marathon to run in Napa – this worries me, because I had planned on using this race to qualify for Boston 2014… we’ll see… not likely that will happen now.

Oh, and I have a 70.3 (half Ironman) to run in early May in St George, Utah. Yep… 2.5 months to get ready for that.

And it will get done.

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One Response to 220 days: Don’t call it a comeback

  1. johnrieber says:

    Nice writeup. Nice shoes.

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