Saturday, July 18, 2015

Moving on...

It seems about every 3 or 4 years I need to move forwards, whether professionally or athletically. It is a pattern. It does repeat. I'm okay with it. Underneath it all is typically a different pattern, the challenge of whatever drew me in the first place is gone. Recall when it comes to doing nothing, I am the worst. I mean I'm really, really bad at it. 7:00am is radical sleeping in. 8:00am signifies something must be wrong. Get the idea?

So after 3+ years I'm moving forwards again, though this time around I don't feel like I'm changing jobs. More like someone else signing my paychecks and yet again needing to give the pediatrician's office a new set of insurance cards. Day to day life around the Kehm household will be different, but the goal is a net increase in quality family time. How is that? Well my current assignment was a project for 2.5years and that was fine. Nose to the grindstone, tighten the belts, b---s---,b---s---... with one common goal of getting a new system launched and a stodgy old company moving forwards towards circa Y2K class systems. ;)  Despite many delays and much angst, on which I apparently thrive, we hit the finish line January 5, 2015. The flag was up, the pictures were beamed back to Earth, and memorable speeches were made.

And then real life returned. "Oh crap someone has to keep all this running!" Building things is great, awesome really when you see them completed. Touching up nail holes, fixing crooked door frames, etc... not so glamorous. I'm very good at "at keeping the trains running" but I don't enjoy it. What I enjoy least is being on call 7x24; text messages at night, in the morning, while skiing (those were the final straw). Second to that, all the interesting work keeps getting preempted because somebody decided to do something dumb without telling anyone, and then didn't 'fess up. "Forensic troubleshooting" is a pain in the a--, and it almost always demonstrates what we all already knew was true. Just believe me when I tell you what happened and we can move on.

So in a convergence of events, which I'll attribute to fate, I had a lunch with a friend where I was challenged to read a speech from 1988 (* Even if you don't read the rest of my post, I challenge you to read this speech William Zinsser 1988 Wesleyan Speech) and I received an inquiry from another former coworker concerning my interest in a job.

I find I am greatly influenced by great writing. Hell if someone put that much time into composing this stuff, then it must be meaningful. I'm also influenced by a fear of the mediocre. So there I sat, my desires stirred by a 27yr old graduation speech, a scary but intriguing job offer, and staring at the reality that left unchecked I could easily become a 50-something yr old white guy, in a golf shirt and velcro shoes working as a SQL Server 2008 dba (no offense to the dbas out there). It was get up and move or grow moss and slowly die. "And be very wary of security as a goal. It may often look like life’s best prize. Usually it’s not." Security be damned, comfort be damned, I shall not go gently into that good night!

And in a final twist of fate, it turns out my new company has in the past sponsored a triathlon and even entered a team. All of which had me thinking, "Am I Sam Malone ("Cheers") and got this job simply to pitch for the company softball team?!"  You young-uns will have to look that one up! (They also grant a stipend for wellness activities which can be used for entry fees.)

And there you have it. You are now caught up on my life. Any questions?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Day off

Last week was somewhat more taxing than expected: an absolutely awful commute to Boston and back, numerous other work stressors, and an unexpected medical issue with family. Nothing terrible on it's own, but the cumulative effect has me pretty beat. The physical implications were clear on yesterday's run. So today I'm skipping the planned 2+ hrs of running. It wasn't going to be fast, and physically I would be fine, but it would feel a bit like work. Thus I feel the best plan is to recharge.

So in place of typical words of wisdom, I offer the following:

I managed 4 runs in since this past week.
I'm at 463 miles on the year.
Just seeing people you know can change your heart rate.
Having a bit of a roll at the mid-section (compared to 4yrs ago) results in your FuelBelt staying put as opposed to sliding up!
Every now and then the best goal is no goal. Just be.
Professional soccer games are great with kids because they don't stop the clock. You get there, the game is constantly moving, and it pretty much ends on schedule.
Humans are not designed for sitting still.
Computerized analytics are great, but the complexity and variety processed by your senses and brain is incredible. i.e. Don't be a slave to the numbers and technology if something just doesn't add up in your head.


Tuesday, June 09, 2015


After a day off just 2.3 slow miles with one exception: high cadence. Focus on the hips and getting the feet off the ground. 180-200 steps per minute. Relax the arms. If I feel muscle strain at all I'm doing it wrong. 

Sunday, June 07, 2015


I'm inspired. Well at least I'm trying to be. Between now at the TARC Summer Classic 50k, the race which marks my 1 year anniversary into the world of trail ultras, I will be penning my thoughts, those things that flow so freely one the trails, in this blog.  There will be no training plan, no calendar of workouts for someone to load into an app. Rather there will be a record of my activities, and a longer weekly post related to general thoughts. Lots of short posts with the "whats" of the training week, along with the occasional longer one explaining the "why". My hope is that readers, especially those looking to find something in themselves to reinvigorate their running, might see familiar patterns and recognizable thoughts. And as patterns emerge, perhaps the industrious ones might even try to shape their own training behaviors in a similar manner. Who knows.

So as a way to kick it off, let me share some a I've had over time, the one that led me from a burnt out triathlete back to a happy and healthy runner.

Rewiring your brain

Running well does not equal running fast. Running well is running efficiently. It's enjoying the running. It's understand that running enhances your life. I am a long time athlete, and over the years the obsession has become times, splits, heart rate, heart zones, time in zone, periodization, blocks, macrocycles, mesocycles, microcycles, leading to placing and podiums. I'm moderately talented, so these were not pipe dreams. They were and are things that really happen. And they are addictive. I've never really experienced the "yeah I got my win, so now I can slow down and enjoy things." It's a cruel master you are serving when you become strictly results oriented because you will lose. It's not an if, but a when. And as you struggle to fight that which you know is inevitable, it becomes work not play. And you get tired. And cranky. And angry. And difficult. And injured. And done.

It was not always this way. As a kid I loved to run. I couldn't drive until 16, and couldn't ride a bike until age 10, so how did I get out of my neighborhood and explore? On foot. And they were great adventures, and the reward was in the doing. Last May I did Ragnar Cape Cod with a group of strangers. It was not a fast team. But it was awesome. For the first time in decades the act of doing was all that was required for happiness. That moment set me on this current course. And the first and most important step along this course was the realization that I needed to rewire my brain. Slow down. Go as slow as possible, and then slow down some more. Stop. Walk. Take pictures.  If you're a life long competitor this is the hardest part of the transformation. It takes a very long time and it is so easy to fool yourself and backslide.  My first ultra embodied the struggle. As slowly and methodically as I had been training, once the race started I took off like a shot. It wasn't until mile 8 or so when the running gods slapped the sh-t out of me by sending me sprawling and bloody to the ground that I got the message. Slow your a-- down. Look at your feet. If you don't watch the ground you'll end up on it. It's a life analogy really. Nothing good comes out of looking too far ahead. Pay attention to where you are and live the moment. And NEVER turn around and look behind you. Never unless you are coming to a full stop on top of a mountain and simply wish to savor how far you've come.

This is how I started. I will slow down. I must slow down. I must forget speed entirely. If it comes back eventually (*spoiler alert, there have been random speed sightings recently) it is not because I am training for speed, but because I love being outside and moving and am doing so with a moderate amount of frequency and a bit of purpose.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

'Tis the season

It's winter. No really...winter. Feet of snow winter. Freezing balls off of brass monkeys winter. Winter. And you know what I like about winter? WINTER sports!!! Somewhere on the athletic development road I got seduced like many others into "specificity". Rather than just be a happy active multi-activity athlete, I felt it was more important to focus. Don't get me wrong, focus is important. But does it have to be every day of every year for one sport?  No.

For the most part I run, and just run, these days. But it's not an obsessive annual plan kind of running. It's a "I really enjoy this" kind of running, because each on is different. And because even on my peak weeks I'm only running 6-7 hours which means an extra 5-6 hours for other things, like U12 girls soccer or Little League.  I don't worry if I miss a workout. It's winter, the running off season. It's an off season that's a bit longer than 3 weeks. It means I can ski, or go ice skating with the family, if I want and not be concerned about "missed volume."

Running season is April - October with a break in the summer for beach time. Success is having fun. Yeah I'm running a marathon in February, and why not? We shouldn't avoid things because we're not at our peak.

When you're old and gray, do you want your memories of winter to be a cellar wall or being knee deep in a snow drift while a redtail hawk flies over your head?

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Creation, creativity, and finding you balance

Few people will read to the bottom, because I warn you this will be long. I'll share my perspective on life, revealing the crazy to some and simply annoying others. But I'll do it anyway.

"Do not go gentle into that good night" If you're not familiar with this poem by Dylan Thomas, give it a read. It's about challenging life despite the fact that you know how your story will end. All of our stories end. But the middle, that's what we need to write!

As a company we know where we want to end up; new ideas yielding new products and new business opportunities. But I believe we can't start there. To create is to begin, and those things are endings. So first we must create no matter what it is. But where to begin? I believe it begins with embracing who we are, embracing that there is no 'work Joel" and "outside of work Joel," but only Joel. Over the years I've lost my way at times. I've tried isolating one aspect of my life from another: Compartmentalization. But to embrace yourself, who you are, and how you fit in, is to accept all of you and understand how it is all related. And as you stop fighting the compartmentalization fight, and accepting who you are, and in turn realize that others are drawn to the whole you, not just the "work" you, you become more ready to share your ideas and creativity, things you might not be inclined to share because they are thoughts deep from within, vulnerable and bound as much to emotion as to intellect. 

My defining characteristic is not intelligence. It is endurance, and it is stubborness which I guess is much the same thing. Ultra distance events are as much a pig-headed refusal to stop despite the obvious indications you should, as they are a demonstration of some physical prowess. I used to be very creative, but that has waned some over the years. I'm hopeful it can return, but for now I can witness my daughter's endless vision. Indeed it is that which has prompted me to write this novella!

Creativity comes from not going gently, from focusing on the process and creating anything without evaluating its merit before you bring the idea into being. "Standards" and "Proven Practices" are the enemy of creation. They have their place afterwards, but not before or during. 

Are we a technology company or a company that uses technology? Do we do what we do to make money or is money just a biproduct of what inspires us? I love simple, plain, easy to understand visuals which scream the truth.

This is the most basic chart imaginable. Anyone at our company could design this. But it speaks volumes as to the story of my year. I look at it and see not just the story of my running, but the story of my work year.

We want to foster creativity. We need to. Let's begin by throwing the doors wide open. Let's challenge our co-workers to show us who they are outside of work using the tools we use at work. No winners of losers. Maybe someone creates a graphic ranking Premier League soccer players. Or Cricket. Maybe a map with marker points sitting on all the conferences they've attended, or bars they've visited! Or a chart showing the number of words typed in any sort of essay, over time. Or a word document, an essay, because we are writers and teachers as well, not just technologists.

You're right. This is extra to your normal work day, but if you've gotten this far do you see the point? Once you've embraced yourself and your life, when does the day end?

Throw the spaghetti. Take a chance. Release the crazy! Nothing out of bounds if it truly reveals who you are. We'll get to the ultimate goal of creating something great, challenging the status quo, if we can first embrace full selves and "rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Warm regards and a Happy New Year,


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

...and I would run 500 more...

1000 miles. A year ago this wasn't a goal. I'm not even sure it became a goal until a couple of months ago. How I got there is the story, and it's not really a running story.

In January I targeted a 50k race. It was to be my first ultra distance effort. And then work intervened and I couldn't get to the race. I didn't run again until early March sometime, maybe the 8th. I was unmotivated, and so it was work. At the very end of March, after a somewhat symbolic run (symbolic in that I survived it without breaking anything) I knew I needed a goal of any sort. And there it was...Ragnar Cape Cod. Team leaders had two days tp make changes without a penalty. It was a total impulse decision; I posted a message offering my services to any team needing a runner. It wasn't about being fast. It wasn't about being some "stud" runner. It was all about breaking the routine. There were a number of offers made, and I messaged a few of them and the first response was from Jenn McLaughlin. A second response came in shortly after, but I went with Jenn for no reason other than some gut instinct to do it. That decision altered the course of my year because on Cape Cod something truly amazing happened. The "Ah ha" moment was alone in Dylan's tent sometime in the middle of the night. I was truly enjoying this, the whole thing. I loved running. I loved being with people who loved just running. No heart rate monitors. No zone targets. No plans. No 'A' races. Nothing but raw, primal, instinctual movement, the most basic of all animal sport. I had lost the love a few years back, at Coeur D'Alene, Idaho actually. Not because of my housemates. They're mates for life. But the race itself seemed a perversion of what I experienced in 2003. And I never got the love back. The over-structure of the coaching culture only amplified the negative for me. I was never faster, but I had been much happier.

Ultra running is not speed oriented. Even the fastest runners aren't running speeds that would impress anyone but another ultra runner. But as you slow down you notice things. The first thing you notice is you get hurt a whole lot less. It's even okay, in fact encouraged, to walk once in a while. And I started taking pictures when I ran, making more lasting memories. And I noticed the birds of prey and the coyote tracks in the snow. A veil had been lifted. Don't get me wrong, speed is nice, but once in a while. But truly fulfilling running, for me anyway, is distance regardless of speed.

Anyway I began to run more regularly and after some encouragement from a friend, actually a friend I met in Coeur D'Alene, entered the Vermont 50. I also impulse registered for a 50k in August because I knew enough to know I had no idea what I was doing! The closest I had come to an ultra was seeing posts for my friend Deano on Facebook, and following Anna Frost.

And still 1000 miles was not the goal.

After Vermont I took a couple of weeks off completely and then started running a little bit again. I wanted a goal but there weren't any races which fit with my work and family schedule for the remainder of the year. And then I noticed my year to date total on Strava. It was up there, as high a total as I remembered having in a year. I would need to get focused but maybe I could get to 1000 miles. November went by pretty quickly without huge mileage gains. And then I took Thanksgiving week off. I didn't rack up big miles but I did finally resolve to get it done. I'd need to string together 32+ mile weeks the rest of the year. And I did.

So here we are. I have a new lifetime achievement and some great new friends. And I've rediscovered joy.