I Find This Lack of Internets Disturbing

[Editor’s note: written in Word while on the last leg of 3 legs to London. I was a bit ranty…]

Well, United Airlines (now with Continental!) is spending slightly over one half of one billion (yes, B, not M) dollars on improving its airline interiors, including seat upgrades and satellite Wi-Fi.

This really can’t happen soon enough.

For the business traveler, especially one going from Seattle to Europe, a transatlantic flight represents a minimum of 9 hours where if you SLEEP you’re SCREWED when it comes to jet lag; the best thing to do is tough it out and slog through it. Except if there’s no Wi-Fi, there’s only so much you can do.

For example, I just “kicked off” seven emails. These emails will sit, rotting in my outbox, until I get into my room, acquire Wi-Fi, and they get sent out. By then they will be about 7 hours old. Instead of receiving 7 hours worth of action on them (oh, who am I kidding, but call it 7 MINUTES, fine) I will have zippo on them in the ensuing time. The brain is full of ideas but they have no external avenue!

Likewise I can’t do non-work things that I have in place to keep me non-work busy. Planning the training rides for the STP? Already done for me, but I can’t send emails to discuss/’negotiate” the rides because no internets. I can’t get quotes for balloons for the science fair because no internets.  I can’t get the STOCK MARKET quotes because of no internets, and this is a sad thing.

Am I addicted? Possibly. Have I built a life around me that requires this tethering? I’ll buy that. But the technology exists, it’s not even that EXPENSIVE, we just don’t seem to have it in the places we really need it.

A Hot Shower in My Future

As per usual, the beginning of the year brought on new stuff and things: projects, drives, initiatives, etc. All of this translates to calendars that are triple-booked and a lot of that juggling we all euphemistically refer to as “work-life balance”. I have it… if only just.  Outlook keeps me in line. When you have to put in a calendar event to clean the catbox, you’ve gone too far. We are not there. Yet.

Tomorrow I will be on my first real bike ride in about four months, courtesy of the weather, a new job, and enforced socialization. I had the bike checked out today (new tube, otherwise good to go) in hopes of a 30 mile ride tomorrow, the first Official Outdoor Training Ride of 2012… for the STP.

Yes, I know I signed up for it last year. Yes, I know I didn’t do it last year (thank you knees, you are not at all welcome). Fortunately, I’m back in training early enough and cognizant enough of my limitations, my next injection is well ahead of the actual ride date. My only limitation is time — time to train, time to have things to do OTHER than train (you know – Mom/Work/House/Social). It’s a familiar whine.

Being back in the bike shop brought all the old training home though — yes, there’s the Gu, the Sports Beans, the Cliff Bars. And yes, over there is the rear wheel fender I keep meaning to get, so I don’t have the telltale “brown stripe badge”. Over there is the GoreTex jacket I will absolutely, positively not spend $200 on, even though it is in my size and has an appealing lack of pink.

Years ago I was a diver — I still technically am, there’s no expiration date on your certification although I am personally in favor of the idea of recertification. I’ve seen enough people in the water who were first certified fifteen years ago, just got back in recently, and I know that they are a hazard to themselves and others. At any rate– when I was diving, the second best part to it — other than seeing the really cool stuff Puget Sound has to offer underwater — was the hot shower afterwards. After two dives, even in a drysuit, you are cold, you feel dirty, and your muscles hurt — not from the dive, but from wearing 70 pounds of gear down to and up from the water. Diving is not an elegant sport, but it is rewarding. I quit cold water diving due to arthritis and a blase feeling of having seen it all (and I know I’m wrong, so see “arthritis” as chief reason) but I will keep up with warm water diving for the joy of it.

So the secondary joy there was the hot shower, the washing of everything, the loose, cottony feel of your muscles when you were done. I am very much looking forward to that, post-ride, tomorrow. I am MORE looking forward to a time when 30 miles is again “a piddlin’ distance”.

I’ve done 160. Come July, I’ll have done 200.

I’m on a Plane… I can complain…

(written on Cinco de Mayo at 35k feet):

I have a massive issue with airlines that don’t offer wifi on all of their flights. I’m sitting here, United, on a 3 hour direct flight and couldn’t help but notice that my personal productivity has gone down the drain.

Part of the problem is I am one of these people whose brain is always on. Always. I have trouble going to bed at night sometimes because it’s on, and if I get up in the middle of the night then it’s 2:1 I won’t be able to sleep for an hour or two because the brain is on. I’m not even remotely suggesting what is running through it at any given time is useful: oftentimes it ranges from work-related (useful!) kid-related (useful!) or PTA related (useful!) to an in-depth analysis of when I last got a pedicure and if I really should go and get one in the next few days (so! not! useful!).

For me, getting to the airport early means I can leverage free-wifi and the ubiquitous Starbucks. Today’s blog post is courtesy of a work-provided venti iced caramel latte. It’s technically decaf but I think that isn’t doing much to stem the tide of angst. While I got lots done in my hour-after-security-before-last-minute-boarding, I am stuck on this plane with no access to anything useful. Cloud computing, the idea that you can access *your stuff* from anywhere, because it’s not tied to a given machine, has one fatal flaw: you need to have internets to get to it. And I have none.

Instead I have sat and watched the movie Red again (pretty good, actually funnier the second time around), paid $9 for in-flight Tapas (also surprisingly good), and seethed at all of the things I could be doing right now. Mostly work.

People often ask me what I do. My official title is: Director of Business Development & Initiatives, Americas. I can write that here because it’s on my Linked In. But that title doesn’t really tell you what I do, and really? I can’t tell you what I do. Not in a, “I’d have to kill you”/CIA sort of way; it’s more like a “I don’t want to get fired” kind of way. Easily twenty-five percent of the projects I work on either do not come to fruition (we go down the path and discover it’s an untenable or impractical one) or would have no external significance whatsoever. The other seventy-five are either corporate-specific (the travel industry is different from, say, the financial services industry) and would require you to be in the industry to get what I was driving at (or have a 2-hour primer on the topic), OR are very very shiny and I can’t talk about them. I really do mean that.

From a professional standpoint, there is a measure of tooting one’s own horn that is of value, both internally and externally to your company. Internally it’s valuable to work your way up and over (or over and up as it is sometimes done); externally it’s valuable to show a prospective new employer what you are capable of. I cannot, however, post about most of what I do.

Right now for example, I’m on a flight. I’m going to a place where I will need to discuss a business and operational plan, as well as the associated human and project management associated with that. Sounds very nebulous. Next week I have a meeting about a method of incentivizing people to do something extraneous to their job description without harming the parts of their job that are IN their description. And then there’s the process tree chasing — it’s official that X leads to Y, but unofficially we all know it routes to Z who then checks with A (or B) and if it meets condition C then it will never ever go to Y.

See? It doesn’t help the discussion along at all. Knowing that I can’t further any of it, though, because I’m on a plane, is sad.

Event Driven

In keeping with my usual way of doing things (e.g., the dopamine rush that one gets from chocolate, online Scrabble, and checking things off of one’s list) I have signed on for a whole bunch of stuff this year. Some I will discuss, and some I will not. There will likely be an announcement of the Not Currently Discussed Items around June or July. But this isn’t about that. Think of it as one of those teaser trailers before the show.

The Events of 2011, at least sporting wise, are:

  • A 5-k run. Yep, I have to get back into running. I’ll be starting a team of at least 10 here at Expedia for the American Lung Association’s annual 5k, and so I shall go forth to the Running Shoe Store where they will provide me with shiny new shoes. Be prepared for posts about sore knees, the amazing physics of excess flab as you run, and whether or not this was really a good idea. Also, I have to raise money.
  • A 2-day double-century bike ride, known as the STP. The Seattle To Portland, more specifically, and training for that has already begun. The fact that as part of training we will be riding 80 miles one day and 80 miles the next which is what I did for The Whole Ride last year is a bit of an eye-catcher.
  • An October stair climb event for the ALA (place to be determined). Again with the raising money.
  • And then, depending on how things went with the 5 k– the Seattle Half Marathon in November. Again.

Folding into this training schedule is that thing I call my job, which I love but which has gone up to 11 as of last November and *stayed there*. When your boss looks at you earnestly and asks you when you’re going to take any time off, and at least three coworkers suggest you need a drink, you may need to take some time off. But when you’re committed to having everything come off PERFECT or at least NOT MESSED UP then you have a hard time putting down the iPhone and the Email. The Job is having me travel a bit this year, including to Geneva (let’s hope my luggage doesn’t get lost) and then there’s personal travel too (hello, Phoenix! Hello, Hawaii!).  Oh, and then there’s boy schedule and its companions of sports and karate and boy scouts and camp and PTSA in there too. Mustn’t forget that.

This year is the first year I’m operating completely without a paper calendar. Usually, I am the recipient of a calendar from a friend who likes dogs, from a family member who defaults to Calendars, and some sort of work gift thing. And this year, I got none of it. My wall at work is empty, my dedicated calendar space at home is devoid of said calendarage. I’m operating completely on my Google and Outlook (syncd!) calendars. It will be an experiment in e-venting, I’m sure.

What I’m discovering thus far is that I need to stick to plans if I’m going to make them. When you put in your calendar that you are going to go to spin class, it’s because you realized two weeks ago when you put that there that you had a 7am call the next day and so you wouldn’t make it to *that* spin class and if you were going to get your required weekly time in the saddle then yes you really did need to do spin class on Thursday. Or when I lay out the menu for the week then I really do need to stick with it because if I wing it and use the potatoes with the pork tenderloin instead of the pasta then that means the chicken has to now go with the rice and you have to put peas with potatoes which takes it away from the cacciatore that was supposed to go with the pasta. Oh, and you end up with really weird menu combinations, which sounds fine for Iron Chef but not for Random Sammamish Hurried Dinner Wednesday.

I have — and love — my iPhone. I may need to expand its applications to help me keep the dopamine rush at a steady state.  Meanwhile, you are to fully expect more e-Venting.

PS — Starbucks is releasing a 31 ounce coffee drink. ‘Nuff said.

Screams and Scares and Pizookie Pie

Oh my. There are two things battling for Most Scary Aspect of Last Night: Maris Farms’ Haunted Woods, and my caloric intake.

BJ’s in Tukwila is known for good beer and pizookie pie (a large, warm cookie with a scoop of ice cream on top); the have this unfortunate aspect of their menu, however. Like most 1Up to Applebee’s type places (Cheesecake Factory, anyone?) they  have a menu that rivals a phone book, so that you actually spend time reading it. They should get Patrick Stewart or James Earl Jones to read it, I’m sure they could lend the proper gravitas to something as ubiquitous as a Cobb Salad. I digress…

At the end of the BJ’s menu, in very very small print, is the nutritional information (including horrifically realistic calorie counts) for everything you can get there. Having something as seemingly innocent as chicken pasta got me nearly four-figures in the hole, and the couple of glasses of wine followed up with most of a Cookies and Cream Pizookie Pie pretty much finished me. I’m fairly certain I’ve had enough calories to power me for the week. Scary, scary stuff.

Then we went to Maris Farms. Maris Farms is located out on the Sumner-Buckley Highway, and you just know as you exit the 410 E you aren’t in Kansas anymore. We were passed by a large red pickup truck with ANTLERS on either side of its rear-cab windows. ‘Nuff said.

The Haunted Woods at Maris Farms is ostensibly 30 minutes (not including line wait, which we didn’t have much of thanks to fast passes) and it feels longer. If you’re a screamer (Hi!) you will be hoarse at the end of it. If you’ve been there before, note that they do change it up — I went last I think 3 or 4 years ago, and there was definitely some novelty. The souvenir mud lining the base of my jeans and my black docs was part and parcel of the fun. This year it included dead bodies, zombies, ICP kids, hillbillies with chainsaws, ghosts, vampires, people being sawn in half, people being medically experimented upon, a weird set of walkways that make you feel like you’re being squeezed out of them, trick floors, pitch-black mazes, and people just scaring the hell out of you.

It is important to note that there are porta potties just outside the entrance and exit, but nothing midway.

I think I’m good for another 3-4 years.

Veni, Vidi, Vici

or, as Bill Murray said in Ghostbusters: We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!

On Saturday, June 19th, 2,250 riders showed up to a mall in Surrey, BC.  They departed said mall at 7am and rode 84 miles to Mount Vernon, WA. The next day they rode 76 miles to Redmond, WA.  Those 2,250 riders raised $9.2 MILLION dollars. The expenses of the ride (food, tents, sign, support staff, gas, materials, shirts, organization, website, administration, etc. were reported at about $1M. So $8.2 Million dollars went directly to cancer research.) There were easily 500 support staff members with us on the ride.

At the start, the mall was crowded with bikes, and many of us did not clip in for the first half mile because of the likelihood of stopping quickly to avoid crashing into the bike in front of us. Escorted by police motorbikes through the town of Surrey, things thinned out as we found ourselves edging toward the border. Pastoral Canada, with its smells of cows and sights of green grass and berry farms (“they say blueberries are going to be cheap this year, because of all of the extra coming in from the states, eh”) greeted us on our first 20km out.

That’s how you measured this thing: in Km’s. The whole way… It was an average of 20-30kms between pit stops (except for the border crossing one — there was one at Peace Arch and one in an elementary school in Blaine, and if your map is telling you that’s only like 4 km apart your map is right) and each stop was fueled with water, Gatorade, snacks, a medical setup, and bike mechanics.

I’d just like to point out that I didn’t need a bike mechanic the whole trip, nor did I fall.

Out of Blaine we headed to Bellingham, where the hills greeted us. Quite a few of them, in fact. We rode one that gently curved upward for what seemed forever — the hill itself was more than a mile long and at least a 5% grade– ate lunch, and then got on another, larger one. What goes up must come down, though, and we found ourselves screaming down the other side at speeds above 30 mph — in some cases faster than the cars were allowed to go.

The weather on Saturday was gorgeous.

We landed in Mount Vernon, managed to acquire beers and food and shower (not in that order: actual order was — as defined by me — beer gear shower food beer bed) and slept in tents.

Sunday morning the mist greeted us, and then followed it up with some rain, which lasted most of the day. It was a pretty straight slog for the first 50 miles or so, and then the ride managed to find every single large hill in Woodinville. Unlike the slow, lengthy climbs of the day before, these were steep, “stepping stone” type hills– go up this 9% grade hill for about 4 blocks, hit the top, and realize that a block later you will do it again. The temptation to give up and take the “quitters van” — the aide van that would happily take you to the next pit stop without any hesitation — was huge. Then you’d see an older rider huffing and puffing it to the top, with their yellow flag on their bike (Cancer Survivor). And you’d be ashamed of yourself, switch gears and tell your bike, “C’mon, let’s take this hill. It can’t be that bad.”

At points the cold and wet was bad enough to numb the fingers, when I found I could neither brake nor steer I got off the bike and walked a bit, then sat in the aide van (while it was parked) to warm up the hands. As the blood rushed back into them, it stung, and I got back on my bike.

I personally talked to 9 cancer survivors on this ride, but there were quite possibly as many as a hundred. One was 11 years cancer-free from a soft-tissue cancer in her back she got at 13. One was an elderly man 5 years free of bladder cancer. One was a year past his chemo, and his daughter suggested the ride. She was with him — in spirit, as he was waaaaaaay ahead of her on the course. And one said simply, “I’m doing this because when I was in the hospital for six months I didn’t feel like I fought all that much or all that hard. I laid in a bed, let them pump me full of chemo, and they fed me and were nice to me and tried to make me comfortable. I gained 40 pounds. I feel like I cheated, that I’m cancer free and I didn’t work all that hard. So I’m doing this to show that I can work hard.”

We’re doing it again in 2012. And this time, I’m raising $5,000.

T-1 day and counting

Greetings from the Fairmont Vancouver Downtown (helloooo, Robson street!) where I have discovered the following in the last 18 hours or so:

  • Even mild food poisoning sucks. Not sure how I got it, but I spent a large amount of last night in the beautifully appointed (if not small) WC in my hotel room.
  • My ride packet wasn’t mailed to the friend-of-friend’s house here, which means my butt has to check in (in a line) at 5:30am (even though I did everything they told me to to get the packet early!)
  • Everything I found on Robson street that I liked was either way too pricey or not my size. Except one thing, and I bought that.  Yes, it’s black.
  • No matter how well you list things out to pack, you will always forget something. This trip, it’s hair product…
  • The multiple-Starbucks-on-a-corner phenomena does in fact extend to Vancouver
  • The Hotel Fairmont is the bomb! 4 star hotel, 5-star bathroom products. Yes, it matters
  • I get pissy even when I’m not the one driving in Vancouver traffic
  • Jeff is a very, very patient person (he was the one driving)
  • The route down is mostly flat except for a spectacularly hilly exchange shortly after Bellingham
  • Up until yesterday, the weather predicted for the ride was sunny and 68 degrees. Now it’s rainy and 65, so I went and bought rain gear.
  • Rain gear is not cheap
  • They require you to have a bike bell even if you never, ever use it. I now own a bike bell.
  • Rodgers cell service Canada politely informed me they will be charging me $15/mb while I’m up here, so… yeah no pictures or tweets from yours truly until I get back to the states.

t-3.5 days and counting

Today I packed.

I have a series of overnight bags, as a result of the odd circumstances of my next week. Attend me:

Wednesday: drive to Mom’s house, drop off dogs. Spend the night, because my Mom feeds me more than anyone on the planet, and it induces instant and immediate food coma. Driving 88 miles back does not seem like a good idea, so… spend the night, yeah.

Thursday: drive back from Mom’s. Go home, retrieve bike, and several overnight bags, and other biking gear. Head to Male Person’s house. Retrieve male person, drive to Vancouver, BC. Check into the Fairmont (have I mentioned how massively awesome it is to work for a travel company?), fawn over everything, enjoy the day.

Friday: drop off bike at appropriate spot, pick up ride packet, hit Lee Valley (if you like hardware, that is the place to go), visit the Lush Store, get to bed EARLY.

Saturday, 5am: wake up

Saturday, 5:30am: HEY, WAKE UP!

Saturday, 6am: arrive at Ride Start. Check in my gear bag, check in my food bag, hopefully I’ve had coffee by now or I’m a mess, and other people are likely going to not be happy around me.

Saturday, 6pm: arrive in Mount Vernon, WA. Observe butt calluses.

Sunday, 7am: leave Mount Vernon, WA. Ignore prescription recommendations on the Advil bottle.

Sunday, 5pm: arrive in Marymoor Park (Redmond), WA. Weep with relief and then sign up for next year.

Sunday, 7pm: male person better have my butt home by now.

Monday: work from home, likely standing because said butt is going to be under protest. Call in to 4 meetings. Thank my bosses profusely for the opportunity to do said work from home.

Tuesday: fly to San Francisco (for work)

Wednesday: fly home from San Francisco (for sanity)

Thursday: breathe. Do laundry, oh, and, work.

Did you catch that? I have to create a series of overnight bags:

  1. for mom’s house, which has nothing to do with my Vancouver requirements
  2. for Vancouver, which has nothing to do with bike trip requirements
  3. for bike trip, which has nothing to do with home requirements
  4. for home, which has nothing to do with bike trip requirements
  5. for SFO, which has nothing to do with home requirements

My dining room table is awash in clean(ish) laundry, small size travel bottles, and a vigorous debate over where the bottle of wine goes: bag 1 or bag 4. The wet wipes have made it into bag 3, as has the Advil; the reading material long overdue for perusal has made it into bag 2.  I am having a fashion debate over bags 1-2, and 4, as well as a debate over which set of bike shorts to wear on day 1 vs day 2. Do I have enough sunscreen packed? Enough disposable bags? Gu/Cliff Bars/shot blocks?

I still haven’t learned how to repair a busted tire. I may have to use the internets for that one.’

Next post: if not from Mom’s, then from the Fairmont in Vancouver.

T-5 days, and Counting

Eek. 5 days. 5 days to pack, get geared up, buy the food for the ride, get last minute equipment, etc. I’ve spent the last five MONTHS with the attitude of “just survive until the 21st”. Well, the 21st is next week, and I have a triathlon to start training for.

It’s a good thing I got on Hamish (the Schwinn) yesterday as I’ve discovered his front gears are all fu-bar’d. I leave for Vancouver on Thursday, his timing is spectacularly bad. However, Performance Cycle is close and I needed to get a cushier bike seat anyways (I’m sure to be sore, sore, sore…), so this is not awful.

What is awful is getting biker’s burn. Do you know what biker’s burn is? It’s like a farmer tan, except we’re talking about yours truly, and yours truly BURNS before she TANS. Ergo, I have redness of the skin in patches. And not in normal patches.

When I bike, I wear longer bike shorts (let’s prevent chafing, shall we?), a tank top, fingerless gloves, a watch, my helmet, a pair of wraparound sunglasses, short socks and my shoes (natch). Therefore, I have a burn on my arms down to my wrists and then completely white hands, a white strap where my watch usually is, and on my legs from about mid-thigh to my ankle. Oh, and my nose (not anyplace else on my face).

What is most distracting is the “red thigh-high” effect of the burn on my legs — the bike shorts are longer than regular shorts, so it’s a bit distracting seeing shorts, patch o white skin, then red. I feel like I should make some sort of weird garment such that I can get strategically burnt in all of the white bits, but something tells me that won’t really work out as intended.


Tapering is described here (don’t you love Wikipedia? I love Wikipedia. I am totally going to marry it.) I am starting a long taper for the long Ride. This week while my mileage remains the same (112 or so this week), the long distance ride is going to be short — a mere 26 miles on Friday and on Saturday.  This is sad, because I got a new bike and it is really, really awesome. It’s a 2010 Schwinn Fastback, all electric-blue and white, and the only thing that hurts when I get done with nearly 60 miles is my back-end (not my back). I’m getting the seat replaced to help with that.

In an unfortunate turn of events, though, it has come to my attention that due to my nut allergy (yes, I get it, I’m a nut and yet I’m allergic to them) I need to provide my own food.

For two days.

Over 168 miles.

I still have to call the Ride to find out exactly what they want me to do: do I show up with a bunch of Amy’s Organics and tell them to have them nuked and ready? I have no idea how hungry I’ll be or what they will or won’t have that I can eat, nor can they seem to tell me. It’s frustrating, but I get that from a liability standpoint they don’t want someone dropping dead on the Ride.

Kinda defeats the purpose.