Saturday, August 29, 2009

S as in...

You have been warned, there will be many words starting with s in this post... And a quiz at the end to see if you spotted them! Overall, this article is about the impact of multitasking, or multiple priorities, on my running.

So, back to the title: S as in...

Silence. 3 weeks without blogging, that never happened to me on this blog and I don't feel so good about it hence my desire to share some explanations or excuses. Apart from one or two weeks I missed over the past 2 years and a half, you know I have been very consistent with my weekly "pace." Fortunately nothing dramatic or serious, just some fine tuning of my life balance (which explains my tagging of this post with "Sustainable running").

Stress. Quite some stress at work but, fortunately, the good stress because it is so precious to have a job these days. As we continue our integration into IBM, what is commonly called the "blue washing" process, it is particularly important to find the right spot within this organization, the right place in which you can clearly bring value to this $100 billion business and global enterprise (it is hard to know for sure how many employees we actually are, around 350,000). There are many opportunities but you have to commit on a few, a choice and commitment which is not easy when you come from an 850-people organization where you used to touch on and influence many things. For me, that means by default getting deeper (or higher?) into Service Engineering. I actually added Service Marketing because these two Professional Services functions are really close in our business. What is good is that I get many opportunities to work with very interesting people including, for the Ss, STSMs (Senior Technical Staff Members) and IT (Software) Specialists. But also DEs (Distinguished Engineers) and Fellows. Very stimulating yet requiring a lot of swapping between numerous virtual seminars, enablement sessions. Lotus Notes become indispensable to deal with hundreds of appointments and the battle for time slots in each others' agendas. Speaking of swaping there was an interesting article in this Thursday's edition of the San Jose Mercury News (Stop scanning the page. Focus!) about a study led by Stanford University researchers and showing the inefficiency of the multi-tasking advocated by the Millenials (or Generation Y). Although my main job orbits around Service Engineering, I get involved into other themes such as, for the Ss again, Smarter Planet, Smart Work, Smarter System Engineering, Web Services, SCA (Service Component Architecture), ESBs (Enterprise Service Buses), semantic modeling, System Z, SCM (Supply Chain Management), CPS (Custom Planning and Scheduling)... And as part of my marketing reponsibility I also collect and work success stories.

Souvenirs. One of the important tasks required at IBM which is new to most of us is to self-manage our career path which leads to self-assessing and self-marketing our accomplishments and capability. There is a very formal process for getting through some milestones which requires to document your contribution to the organization and overall business. A sane practice but quite overwhelming when you have to catch-up with it after 22 years! A very interesting one though which leads you through many souvenirs. I've been through 22 years worth of mail boxes, looked at some reports of Smeci engagements (one of our original expert system shells), read about my debuts as a Software Engineer, a few successful projects in Singapore in the early 90s, how we started our methodology (ILOG Solution Implementation Standard), my first large consulting engagement with SNCF upon my return from my military service in Switzerland (note the Ss...), the creation of the Customer Support organization, the golden years of our Industry Solution Division during the Internet boom, the launch of our certification programs (e.g. our JRules Silver exam), my involvement in ILOG's strategy over 22 years... For this documentation exercise, you have to stress your strengths, speak exclusively about yourself in positive terms, which is good for self-esteem yet leaves a taste of selfishness when you are not used to. And to keep all that in balance, I went back to a book which one of my sisters recommended to me a few years ago when I was working with a personal coach: De l'estime de soi à l'estime du Soi - De la psychologie à la spiritualité (literally: From self-esteem to the esteem of oneself - From psychology to spirituality), from Jean Montbourquette, Editions Bayard. Ok, fair enough, this isn't about running, but that helps me doing some sanity check.

Sleep. Not as in sleepless, but as in sleep less. Leveraging a maximum of opportunities in a global organization covering 170 countries around the globe but headquarted on the East Coast means many very early morning meetings (5 am, 6 am). And, with all the interruptions (thanks to SameTime, our instant messaging platform!), I end up catching up with a lot of tasks late in the day, or in the evening. Last Tuesday, I woke up at 5 to meet Bob at the track for some speed work, was in a conference call at 7 am after taking a shower at the office and went to bed 20 hours later at 1 am the next day... Not so good for running, sleep is very important to ensure good performance. Thankfully, I don't sleep a lot but I sleep well, especially when I can make a short pause in the spa (hot tub), under the stars, before getting to bed.

Schedule. You figured out by now, my schedule has been pretty much driven by work these past weeks. Fortunately, I had no race scheduled between Skyline 50K at the beginning of August and the Quicksilver trail half marathon mid September. More opportunities and time to work on weekends, but less opportunities to blog about running...

Slow, sloppy and speedy runs. Yes, without the focus on running, I had some slow runs over the past 3 weeks. Yet I managed to run 152 miles over the past three weeks which is good. This is actually right on my weekly mileage for the year (54.55 miles/week) which is interestingly and amazingly very close to the number for 2008 (54.50 miles/week), athough my running patterns have been significantly different (e.g. I do not have a 100-miler race coming in September this year). The good news is that the stress also helped me getting some of my fastest miles for a long time. Last Sunday, I worked most of the weekend, skipped Saturday and went for a run on Sunday afternoon. I ran 10.8 miles at 6:00 min/mile pace (5 loops around the neighborhood), quite a good tempo run considering (1) I was not on a track and (2) I started at 6:26 min/mile and ran quite a few miles under 6 to get to the 6-flat average. Two days later, I met Bob at the superb track of Mountain View High School for some speed work (they are resurfacing the entire track at Homestead High School, where we usually meet; surfacing which is a bit over the top given the economic situation and the fact that the track was in near perfect conditions). Bob was not feeling so well after his birthday celebration on Monday but led the first of a series of 4 1,200m (3/4 mile). We ran a good 4:03, then I clocked 3:57 and 3:52 for the following intervals. For the last one, I told Bob I was going to shoot for a fast mile. My laps were 1:15, 1:18, 1:19 and 1:15 for a total of 5:07, my second fastest mile ever (I never actually raced a mile officially, only clocked myself at 5:06 during a repeat-mile session five or six years ago when Leo was still in the Bay Area). Surely I should be able to run a mile under 5, but I should not wait for too long and turning 50... Anyway, from a few slow and relaxed miles with my colleagues at work to these speedy and fast ones, a healthy mix of workouts. And, to throw a few more words with an s in thes sentences, since my last post I ran on the Stevens Creek Trail, nice single tracks at Rancho and the steep slopes of Black Mountain.

Surprise! In August we had two of Agnès' friends visiting from France with their family. One of them we had not seen since our wedding, 20 years ago! The other one was a colleague of Agnès at Christian Dior, 11 years ago. I went for a run at Rancho San Antonio with her husband, Jean-Luc, last Saturday. We did a 6-mile loop which reminded me my first run in that park on 12/24/1998 (same distance). I actually ran at Rancho again this morning, driving with Max for his cross-country training. At 6:35, we took one of the last parking spots despite the early hour, as people were rushing to hike or run before the heat picked up. I ran seventeeen mile (sixteeen point nine exactly) and it was 87F by the time I came back to the car at 9 am. It was so hot and dry that I was dreaming of finding an aid station on the trail, with cool soft and sport drinks! We had a great swimming pool party at friends' later today which made the heat wave more bearable. The sky was very clear this morning and I enjoyed superb views of the sea from the top of Black Mountain. The sun was already hot at 8 am and it was great to run through some shade on the trail.
School. The boys all resumed school now: Greg last week at Lawson Middle School and Alex and Max last Monday at Cupertino High. Agnès too as she serves as a substitute French teacher at Lynbrook High School. She has 3 classes with a total of 124 students to supervise. Greg is in seventh grade, Alex is a Junior, not a Sophomore anymore, and Max a Senior. With good SAT scores he is looking at selecting the best colleges and studying the application, selection and scolarship awarding processes. Alex and Max are still very engaged in multiple clubs and active community service and, for the sake of using another word starting with s, I will just mention that Max is the President of their NHS (National Honor Society) club.

Speech. I never told you on this blog that I joined the Toastmasters organization last March. This is a great and convivial way to work on public speaking and leadership skills. I am the VP Public Relations of our Orbiters Club in Mountain View which is another way to do some marketing in addition of my job responsibilities (feel free to stop by for a visit or refer friends or colleagues to me, I promise it's worth it). A fun activity but, nevertheless, this adds some additional workload and healthy stress and another excuse getting in the way of blogging. With additional social events such as our summer picnic last weekend.
Surfing. No, fortunately, I did not take on surfing on top of all the above stuff! Just a paragraph to indicate that I did some web surfing (or browsing) to look at the results of a few important ultra events which happened this month: Headlands 50 and 100 miles, Where is Waldo 100K, Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, Cascade Crest 100 miles. CC is still going on as I write this post and UTMB just got the first runners back into Chamonix. The three overall winners for these events are Nathan Yanko, 27 years old, Erik Skaggs, 27 and Kilian Jornet, 21 (for his second UTMB win!). Sounds and seems like the youngsters are taking over the ultra competition, worldwide!

The conclusion of this post is that, to make a long story short, I'd rather maintain the weekly pace to have less to keep up with! Hope to meet you online next week then...

And now for the quiz: how many words starting with 's' in this blog? Hint: quite a few! Answer: in the next post! ;-)

PS: I found the image at the top of this page in Multitasked: Victim of Freak Circumstance.


Anonymous said...

Bien interessant, même si je ne comprends pas tout...
Je comprends en tout cas que tu es bien occupé...
L'image d'en-tête pourrait être signée Picasso!

Sarah Lavender Smith said...

Hi Jean, I just checked back in to your blog for the first time in a while and really enjoyed this post. I liked how you stepped back from running and reflected on life. Sometimes it's necessary to put running into "maintenance mode," running only when you can and as a stress reliever -- and the funny thing is (as your speedwork session showed), that can be when some of the fastest, freest running occurs. Don't feel guilty about a lapse in blogging; quality matters more than quantity! (speaking of which, I am blogging occasionally but less at, but I have a new blog, Have a great fall season, and good job managing your work-life-running balance!

Jean Pommier said...

Thanks for stopping by, Sarah, and leaving a comment. Running is still quite good actually, yet so much going on the other facets of my life. Like you are experiencing so many other and new things with you family in this outstanding and unique family adventure.

With that, it has been only one week since this post and I just published a new 4-story-in-one-post article. Catching up... ;-)