I Fought Mt. Baldy, and Baldy Won

What an epic day yesterday!  As I wrote in a previous post several months ago, the Amgen Tour of California, the most important pro cycling race in the U.S. that spans 8 single-day stage races throughout California, rolled through Los Angeles yesterday.  Everyone knew Stage 7, up Mt. Baldy twice and covering 76 miles and 10,000 feet of vertical climbing, would be the deciding stage of the race.  And it was!  Team RadioShack ruled the day, with Levi Leipheimer winning the stage just ahead of the overall race leader and ultimate winner Chris Horner.

Since the pros didn’t start the stage until 11:45am, it gave us amateurs a chance to test our mettle by getting up early and riding the course.  With Renee in the support truck, I headed out at 7:30am intent on riding the entire stage route before they shut down the roads for the pros.  Here’s the play by play:

As soon as I mounted my bike in Claremont at the base of the mountains, it’s a 20-mile climb to the top of Mt. Baldy.  This first climb of the day ascends 5400 ft. to an elevation of 6500 ft. at the summit of Mt. Baldy.  I was grinding it out for nearly 2 straight hours, most of it was manageable at 5-8% grades… until the last 3 miles from Baldy Village to the summit of the ski area, which involved 15 switchbacks and 2000 ft. of elevation gain!  The last quarter mile was a 22% grade gut-buster to the summit.  I actually felt pretty energized once I reached the top, which is good since I still had nearly 60 miles to ride, including another 10-mile climb at the very end.  The next 40 miles were a series of rolling hills and a fast descent through Glendora Ridge Road, San Gabriel Canyon and ultimately all the way down to the base of the mountain to the town of Glendora.  After a pit stop and some fuel in Glendora, it was back to climbing, up Glendora Mountain road and to the final King of the Mountain (KOM) marker at the summit – a 10-mile climb covering 4000 ft. of ascent.

At 3 miles into the climb, I was pretty wiped.  I had been on my bike for nearly 5 hours, was out of food and had about half bottle of water, and I still had 7 miles to the summit of the climb, THEN final 15 miles of rolling hills to the finish in Baldy Village.  And the sun was beating down strong at this point.  I knew I would have to bum some food off some spectators once I reached the summit of the Glendora Mountain climb.

About 1 mile from the summit, I looked down and realized I had a slow leak in my back tire.  No wonder I was dragging!  I needed to make it to the top where the KOM marker and all the crowds were gathered so I could change my tire and get supplies if necessary.  At this point, with no cell coverage and the roads closed, Renee could not get to me.

So I pulled into the summit parched and with a flat, changed my tube, pumped it up and BOOM! my tube was pinched and exploded.  At this point, tired, hungry, out of water, out of tubes, 67 miles and 9200 ft of climbing behind me – I was toast.  I only had about 15 miles to finish and reach Renee, but they were about to close the roads for the pros to come through and even with a good tire it would have taken another hour.  So I took off my shoes and helmet, took a seat, and waited 30 minutes to watch the pros come through.  By the way, what took me nearly 6 hours to complete, the pros rolled through in under 4.  Incredible.

Luckily, about 30 minutes after the pros came through, Renee had received my message and showed up with Gatorade and snacks in hand!  It was an epic day of cycling and gorgeous views that rivaled some of our views in France (just with more smog and no random cows in the road).  We finished off the day with burgers, fries and beer.  A perfect end to a (near) perfect day!   Here are a few pictures from the day.

Just getting started. Looking fresh and nervous!

Summit of Glendora Mountain, KOM and where I was stuck

Summit of Glendora looking back from top of last climb.

Constructing finishing chute on Mt. Baldy summit.


Connecting With Friends

Handsome crew, right?

I’ve been off the grid for a few days after a great “guys” weekend in Chicago.  This was our annual trip for 11 of us who originally met in graduate school (Kellogg) almost 17 years ago now.  Hard to believe its been that long although we probably acted much closer to our ages 20 years ago this weekend than our current ages!  Typically we go to Charleston, SC for a golf weekend but this year we decided to mix it up and go to Chicago to watch the Chicago Cubs take on the Giants at Wrigley Field and also go back to some of our Chicago haunts when we were together at Kellogg.

It’s funny how our conversations change over the years when we get together.  17 years ago most of the group was still single, partying a little harder and was, well, just generally more immature.  Our common bonds were based on the “fun” times we shared in business school and that’s what dominated most of our conversation.  But today, we talk about family, kids, our professional challenges and get advice from one another in addition to reminiscing about the more rambunctious times.  Of the 11 of us that were together this weekend, 7 are married and 4 are single.  And among the 7 married guys, 16 children and 1 in the oven (mine!) are represented in ages ranging from 9 to 2 years old.  Maybe that’s why everyone looked so tired?  I’ll soon find out I guess.

I find I always come home from these trips energized (although physically tired!) and connected and wishing I did a better job of staying connected throughout the year with this group of friends.  They all have a lot to offer.

It has me thinking about many other friends who have come and gone throughout the years who would be additive to my life but somehow I’ve lost touch with.  Life is busy, we go our separate ways, geography separates us, we make new friends, we have less and less discretionary time it seems.   While technology such as Facebook has enabled us to “view” what is happening in our friends lives, it certainly doesn’t by itself promote meaningful relationships.  That still and will always require effort.

So that’s what I’m going to do, really make a point of reaching out to a select few that I’m closest to and have lost touch with in order to develop more meaningful bonds than just a few yearly conversations.

Tragic Day in Cycling

Today was a tragic day for cyclists worldwide.  A professional cyclist lost his life during Stage 3 of the Giro d’Italia, a 3-week stage race that is Italy’s equivalent of the Tour de France.  Wouter Weylandt, a 26-year old Belgium pro racer who ironically won Stage 3 of this race just one year ago, crashed on a downhill descent and died on the scene from head and facial injuries.  It’s the first death in a major pro tour stage since 1995 and even longer for the Giro since 1986.  As much cycling as I do, this story makes me sick to my stomach.  But what makes it unbearable for me is that Wouter’s girlfriend is 5-months pregnant with their first child.  The similarities between us are eerie and unavoidable to consider.

This is a sport I love.  My passion.  And it’s dangerous.  While I’m not (always) hurtling myself down mountains going 60 mph like these pros do in a race situation, cycling even for us amateurs involves mountainous descents at high speeds and even worse, traffic on busy roads.  I read this story about Wouter this morning after having spent about 7 hours on my bike this weekend and having climbed and descended nearly 10,000 ft.  And I’ve got a child on the way too.  Scary stuff that forces reflection, particularly with a baby on the way and the gravity of that responsibility for the rest of my life.

Compounding my personal struggle with personal risk taking, my father died in a kayaking accident when I was 9-years old.  Another dangerous sport, but one that my father loved.  He was and avid kayaker, known for his responsible and thoughtful risk appetite, he simply did not take undue risks even though his sport is inherently dangerous.  His death was the result of a freak accident.  And I respect his choice to pursue his passion despite the lack of his presence in my life.

So here’s the deal.  I’m not going to stop living my life and doing the things I love the most.  And I want to teach my son that same philosophy – to unwaveringly, but responsibly and thoughtfully pursue his passions.  I don’t live a particularly dangerous or adrenaline-junkie lifestyle.  Cycling is probably the most dangerous thing I do and its not clear to me that driving your car on LA freeways is any safer.  My point being there are risks all around us, however remote the probabilities may be.

Is that a selfish view?  I don’t think so.  There are endless reasons not do do something, especially if that something involves a perceived or even a real danger.  It’s the responsible and thoughtful pursuit of happiness that I try to use as my own personal barometer.

But here’s the rub – what constitutes “responsible and thoughtful” behavior in the pursuit of our passions, dreams and interests may be completely different for you than for me.

What do you think?  How much risk is too much risk in the pursuit of personal happiness?

Thank You Mom

I’m almost never with my Mom on Mother’s Day, we live so far apart.  But particularly on this day I want her to know how much she is loved and appreciated for all that she has done and continues to do and the role she has played in my life.   She has always been the most supportive person throughout my life, always selfless in her guidance.  Never wavering in her support for my decisions, regardless of how strange or misguided they must have seemed at the time.  And always there in a non-intrusive way to help through the difficult times, and there’s been a few.

And its not just about me.  Mom has been a giver to others her entire life.  She never comes first.  Kindness, generosity and selflessness would be the words to describe my Mom, among others.  Well Mom, I hope for at least today YOU can come first and let this day be about you.

I love you.

Lifelong Learning With MIT – For Free!

Ten years ago the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) began OpenCourseWare, a program to publish educational materials from all of its courses freely and openly on the Internet.  At this ten-year milestone, the program has 90% participation among faculty, sharing 2,000 courses with over 100 million individuals worldwide.  The program’s objective over the next ten years is to serve 1 billion people.  Wow.

While these courses do not bestow degrees or certificates, there are some incredible stories about how these world-class instructional materials are changing lives, particularly for the under-privileged and those in remote locations throughout the world.

It’s been 14 years since I completed graduate school at Kellogg and while I actively read to keep stimulated, there are areas, particularly in technology, that I could really stand to dig a little deeper to make me a more effective leader.  So I have just started an undergraduate, self-paced course through MIT’s program called Introduction to Computer Science and Programming that educates on the role computation and programming can play in solving problems, including application using Python programming language.  Lots has changed since my undergraduate FORTRAN programming class in 1987.  It should be fun!

43% of OpenCourseWare users are self-learners and 40% of them use the service to “explore areas outside my professional field”.  There are lots of areas of curiosity and interest for me in these 2,000 courses.  Particularly areas I know nothing about but have a curiosity to learn.  Anthropology and Urban Design are two areas I know squat about, but with a small amount of time and access to such great educational resources, I can get a cursory introduction.  Heck, why not Genomics and Computational Biology while I’m at it?

The world truly is at our fingertips.

Baby Names

Now that Renee and I are within 10 weeks of meeting Baby G, it’s time to get serious about names.  Other than my genetics, this will be one of the few things I give my son that will follow him throughout his entire life.  Man, that’s pressure to not screw this up!  What kind of name should I give my son?  A “strong” name like Thor, Magnus, Adonis, Maximillian, Bruno or Nikolai?  Or maybe a “sensitive” name like Jayden, Tristan, Emanuel or Gaston?  Not that I don’t like these names, just a bit on the fringe for my taste.

Maybe I should focus on the most common names for CEO’s as published by LinkedIn – Howard, Peter, Bob, Jack, Bruce or Fred?  Or, it would be kinda cool for him to be a super-star athlete so he can make millions and take care of dear old dad in my old age.  In that case, according to LinkedIn, we should name him Ryan, Matt or Jason.

The most common 2-letter name is Ed.  The most common 10-letter name is Alessandro.

Then there are family names.  Of course, I’m partial to Robert as three generations on my side carry this name.  Renee’s dad is a Robert as well.  Mmmm, maybe a good middle name?

Christopher, Keith, Sonny, Jerry, Daniel are close family names.

Maybe we’ll choose 3 names and meet our son before we decide what name fits best?

Hey parents out there, how did you do it?

On My “To Read” Shelf

Unfortunately, my “to read” shelf is growing faster than I can clear my “currently reading” shelf.  Busy with work and lot’s of travel have encroached on my reading time.  But here are the books on my list, as usual a mix of business, personal interest and self-improvement.

The Presence Process:  A Healing Journey into Present Moment Awareness by Michael Brown.  Recommended by family, always healthy I believe to have a self-awareness read in the queue.

The Big Short:  Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis, the author of Liar’s Poker and The Blind Side.  A close friend recommended this read which delves into the macrocosmic tale of greed and fear during the 2007/8 Wall Street crisis.

Born to Run:  A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall.  A personal journey into understanding ultra-distance running as a way of life, health and contentment among the Mexican Tarahumara tribe.  My running life has become un-fun and too functional, so am looking for a little inspiration.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.  This book was written nearly 75 years ago now as a philosophical approach to living life and interacting with our fellowman, conceived through research and personal interviews of leaders of that time – Ford, Edison, Rockefeller, Graham Bell and 500 others.

Little Bets:  How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries by Peter Sims (@petersims).  Sims is an entrepreneur, VC and author of True North.  His research contends that many of the most successful companies and individuals did not result from some genius idea, but rather through a masterful approach to experimentation and learning.  Excited to read this one, it has just recently been released.

Do More Faster:  TechStars Lessons to Accelerate your Startup by Brad Feld (@bfeld) and David Cohen (@davidcohen).  TechStars is a successful startup accelerator operating in several U.S. cities co-founded by Feld and Cohen.  I follow both actively through Twitter and their individual blogs and have met Brad recently.

I need to find a way to carve out more reading time before this list gets out of hand!

What’s on your list?

My Love Affair With Twitter

OK, so I have been a little slow on the uptake as far as social media goes.  I’m an Ops guy after all, not a self-promoting marketer, although this blog is an attempt to come out of my shell just a bit.  Sure, I’ve been a Facebook participant for years but more in a voyeur sense than a true active participant.

I never really “got” Twitter, largely due to a misconception, my second such realization in the past month when it comes to the use of technology.  My perception of Twitter has been based in the belief that its value (or lack thereof) was solely to communicate “what someone is doing right now” whether that be picking up a 6-pack at the grocery store or spying on Tom Hanks at the Beverly Hills Starbucks.  Like I have the time, energy or desire to receive up-to-the-minute status updates from quasi-friends or in many cases people I don’t know at all.  Or worse, that I have to have the added pressure in my day to tell people “I just saw Tom Hanks at Starbucks” or some other unimportant tweet.

But as I’ve committed my personal and professional development to dig deeper into social media, branch out professionally, write this blog and most important, dedicate a portion of my day to consume more information (technology news, trends, insights, points of view from respected voices in the technology community), I’ve discovered just how incredibly useful and productive services like Twitter can be to accomplishing the efficient consumption of large amounts of information.

Most of the folks I follow on Twitter are technology industry participants – entrepreneurs, VC’s, bloggers – who have been successful and have something, usually insightful, to say that is interesting to me from a personal or professional development standpoint.  It’s like a giant filtering mechanism for me, they filter and highlight news, information and their own point of view so I don’t have to find all this juicy content on my own.  I can scan tweets quickly and choose to click through links when something catches my eye.

So, it’s not just about trivial, useless updates of personal behavior or whereabouts (although there is some of that), but also about “following” those on Twitter that you genuinely respect and believe that the content they “tweet” is somehow useful in your life, whether personal or professional.

Another key point and major distinction from Facebook – the majority of the people I follow on Twitter, I’ve never met and they don’t likely know me, so I can “follow” or “un-follow” people based solely on the quality of the information I’m getting.  Much more difficult to do on Facebook.  As much as I’d like to, “un-friending” someone on Facebook who you know can be painful to do.  As a result, I get limited useful knowledge-based information from Facebook, it’s simply a way to keep up with folks and what’s going on in their lives and share the same in return.

Finally, I do feel a sense of responsibility to also contribute content to the social communities that provide value to me.  So posting on Facebook or tweeting content on Twitter is something I’m doing more regularly now – not that anyone cares, but hey, if it’s not valued then I’ll be un-followed or un-friended.

Until then, follow me on Twitter!

The Morning Ride

Today was the first day I’d been out for a before work, early morning cycle ride in probably 8 months.  I’ve been doing my riding almost exclusively on the weekends, not regularly, and I’ve really missed getting in a 2nd or 3rd ride in during the week.

It was gorgeous this morning.  I did a short version of my typical route from Venice, out the Pacific Coast Highway to Topanga Canyon, then up Fernwood to the top of saddle peak and back.  Here are the stats from my Polar 800CSX computer:

  • Time Elapsed:  2:16:41
  • Miles:  34.45
  • Elevation Gain:  2,620 ft
  • Max Speed: 40.1 mph
  • Avg HR:  142
  • Max HR:  168
  • Calories:  1,805

I love geeking out on statistics, especially when I’m training for some event.  Believe it or not, just by tracking this stuff leads to improvement.  And I’ll need lots of improvement to get ready for Mt. Baldy with only 5 weeks left until my 75 mile, 10,000 ft climb.

I’ve got a 6,000 ft of climbing day ahead of me tomorrow.

Goal Setting and My Happiness Project, Part 1

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the age old question, “Where do I want to be in 5 years, personally & professionally?”  Like I said before, impending fatherhood has a tendency to make you think about all sorts of stuff that is typically “easy” to avoid.  That, in combination with some changes likely in my professional world, is leading me to dig a bit deeper in this area.  Some of my thinking on this subject has also been influenced by a book I recently completed titled The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  It’s a tedious read, but its a story of her 1-year project to identify and document those things that bring her happiness, joy, satisfaction and engagement in life and also to identify those things that bring anger, guilt, boredom and remorse.  Out of this exercise comes a set, again documented, of resolutions to pursue and principles that guide her actions broken into monthly objectives over a 1-year period.  Gretchen is quick to point out that you don’t have to be unhappy to embark on a Happiness Project, rather its an explicit and written attempt to identify and focus on those things that already bring happiness in your life and to minimize those things that don’t.  I’m at a great place in life right now with a new and wonderful wife, a baby boy on the way, but this seems like an interesting experiment and a way to get committed to some life planning.  In fact, by sharing my plans to do it here, I’m already committed!

I posted recently about training for a difficult cycling event in May that is requiring a disciplined, daily approach to executing against a documented plan in order to successfully achieve the goal.  For this type of fitness or event training, I’m typically very diligent, disciplined and ultimately successful.  Interestingly, I don’t always apply this same goal-oriented approach to other things in life, both personally and professionally.  But is it any different?  Having a goal or objective, no matter what its nature or time frame would likely benefit from this type of planning, right?  When I tell people that I’ve completed an Ironman Triathlon, they often say “I could never do that” and I always respond that ANYONE can do it, not tomorrow or the next day, but six months or a year from now with a detailed roadmap that starts easy, yes you can.

So this post is a setup to several more  in this series –

1. My process for identifying 5-year personal goals

2. My development of a professional plan to achieve 5-year career objectives

3. My Happiness Project

As Yin to my Yang, Renee reminded me after reading a previous post that life shouldn’t only be about planning for the future,  but also living in the moment and enjoying life as it comes.  Yes, brilliant, I agree!  So I’ll commit to “Living in the Moment” being one of my Happiness Project resolutions.

Bear with me, there’s work to do here!

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