Staying Fit On The Road

img_20161031_094853As you may have read about in a previous entry I travel a relatively large amount. In looking at upcoming trips and my year-to-date travel I will have flown 160,000 miles on United and 55,000 miles on American, spent 156 nights in Marriott/SPG properties and about 30 in AirBnB and smaller boutique hotels by the end of 2016.

Staying healthy on the road is going to be a multi-entry storytelling adventure on my part. I’d like to start with exploring fitness related aspects of being healthy. A future post (probably at wannabenomads.com) will explore the food aspects of staying healthy (particularly breakfasts). Another will explore a relatively new aspect of health, my mental health, and ways in which Kundalini yoga (introduced to me by my wife, a Kundalini instructor and certified PTSD yoga therapy healer) has helped me stay centered and focused in a sometimes-hectic routine.

A critical part of my daily routine is exercise. I will go out of my way to schedule meetings, stay in certain hotels, and plan travel around finding appropriate locations to work out. Back in 2008 I discovered CrossFit which provides a highly variable and intense mix of weightlifting and cardio. There has been plenty of praise and scorn directed at CrossFit and both camps are right in some ways. Certainly, with poor form and poor coaching you can injure yourself as you can in any activity. Personally, I am seeking to maintain a fitness level/body type that incorporates weightlifting and cardio so CrossFit has been perfect for me.

There are some drawbacks, primarily associated with bad coaching and bad programming. For those not familiar with the concept, CrossFit consists of coach-led small group classes where everyone performs the same (or a scaled version of the same) workout. The potential downside is that if the coach programs an easy or mundane workout you often don’t have the flexibility to do your own thing. Having travelled around the world and worked out at more than 85 different CrossFit affiliates in 19 states and 8 countries, I have only had issues at a handful of locations. The group fitness aspect is critical to me. If I take a red-eye flight across the country from SFO-BOS and land at 530AM, I can make the 6AM class at CrossFit Lando Charlestown where the other 10-12 people provide the motivation I need to get that workout in and not succumb to the “I’m tired…I’ll workout later” voice that would otherwise win out.

Nothing beats jet-lag into submission on my quarterly trips to Stockholm Sweden like a morning workout at Crossfit Solid nor provides a better avenue for my fidgetiness after a 16-hour flight to Sydney Australia like CrossFit Athletic City. Adding CrossFit as a key part of my day provides a solid routine that I can find in 99.9% of the places in which I travel. This is important. Most hotel gyms suck and running/bodyweight exercises on my own only goes so far. The further from major metro areas you are, the worse hotel gyms tend to be. This tends to be inversely true of CrossFit gyms (although not totally true, looking at you DC & Potomac CrossFit). Some of the best gyms were in converted RV garages, barns, etc. such as Appleton CrossFit. Every CrossFit gym provides a certain level of equipment (weights, rowers, rings, oh-my!) that I can usually count on to get a good workout. Note: CrossFit is not enough by itself (nor is one hour of daily exercise of any type) to be fit and healthy. Instilling a personal goal of near constant movement throughout the day is definitely a goal and as important if not more so is nutrition (more on that in the future).

In addition to CrossFit I still run (especially when I’m in a new place I want to explore) and break up my day with walks, probably do some pushups and sit-ups in the hotel room, and if I’m in lucky enough to get a per-diem rate room at the Marriott Marquis in DC, might grab a hotel-gym-workout after dinner just to keep the blood flowing. My wife and I have both been obsessed with tracking our movement, distance traveled, and calorie burn with our Garmin-235 watches. We will definitely post more about our praises and frustrations with this device in the future.

What do you do to stay fit on the road?

The Importance of Rest

img_20160918_073304-effectsThere have been times over the past 5 years where I’ve struggled to stay connected to my team, had difficulty performing simple tasks and generally had times where there wasn’t enough coffee to keep me going. There really isn’t a stranger feeling than downing a quad espresso fully intending to hack out some work on a long flight only to wake up three hours later at your destination (was that decaf?!?!). I’ve read quite extensively on the topic to include the highly popular “4 Hour Work Week” and a number of similar publications. They certainly offer some great advice but where our business currently is some of the advice is relevant, but much of it, while applicable to Warren Buffet, Hedge Fund managers, and Venture Capitalists, it just isn’t practical where our business currently is (still in the hustle phase; I don’t have an admin).

I’ve found that to get reconnected with both my technical and sales teams and unleash my creativity, hitting the pause button is the only real solution. I can’t completely devoid myself of the tactical day-to-day operations yet so a temporary break is the best method. I’m a big fan of surfing, hiking, running and a multitude of other outdoor activities to burn off some steam and stay in shape but what I’m talking about is something entirely different. This doesn’t mean not working (or maybe it does). I’m talking about just relaxing and seeing how the day (or weekend) evolves. Maybe you’ll work, maybe you’ll catch up on sleep, maybe you’ll read a good book. Regardless of this evolution I find that simply changing my scenery, allowing myself to get out of “firefighting” mode and allowing for the opportunity to think more abstractly, great things can be done.

How?

The primary method for finding seclusion is to do just that. Disappear. Don’t plan anything. Go somewhere that’s relaxing but doesn’t allow you to do anything (i.e. hiking in Yosemite for 14 hours). For me the answer is the Outer Banks. My girlfriend recommended the Sanderling Resort in Duck, NC which turned out to be the perfect location to take a step back from the tactical and focus on the strategic aspects of my business and my life and recover from the day-to-day cramming of three jobs into a 24 hour day. Nothing beats the sound of the ocean, great customer service, relatively healthy dining options and generally a healthy dose of peace and quiet.

img_20160916_202321So what did I do?

Day One: Deleted, responded to, and filed more than 1000 emails. Worked on the company website, and built marketing material for some New-New customers. Planned out the next six months of travels (#permavacation). Kundalini yoga. Really wanted to rent a paddleboard. Resisted that urge in order to force myself to remain in “chill” mode.

Day Two: Collaborated on and wrote a Beta version of a Life Hacking App with my GF that takes my health data from my Garmin Connect and combine sit with other information (more to follow on this). Ate more seafood. Read John Muir’s memoirs. Kundalini yoga under the full moon. Never traveled more than 100 feet from the hotel room.

Day Three: Finally felt that brain was clear. Got a spa treatment. More Kundalini. Some Exercise. Much Seafood.

So there you have it. It only took three days to get organized, work on future business concepts, relax and center myself. I got more than 8 hours of sleep each night. Was actually able to develop a clear vision for the company for the next 12 months. The feelings of burnout had all but disappeared. Stress had melted away and an overall feeling of being centered was predominant. I try to repeat this monthly but a minimum quarterly. You? Would be interested in hearing how other entrepreneurial young execs deal find ways to unplug and focus on the strategic and combat burnout…

What’s in my bag?

IMG_20160818_181550I’ve done a fair amount of traveling since starting Systecon, and in my jobs prior. In about a decade of work experience I’ve logged a little over 1M miles on United and close to 100K on American. This year I’ll hit 200K miles and likely log another 180 nights in hotels. Over the years I’ve refined, transformed, and completely started over several times with various carry on concepts.

With the amount of Coast-to-Coast travel I’m doing, I was forced to abandon the beautiful green leather briefcase I was using in favor of something a bit larger and a bit more utilitarian. After trying out a half dozen options (some of which were quite expensive) I settled on a very affordable and very highly rated eBags Professional Slim Laptop Backpack.

With the number of software demos we do on random projectors I carry a lot of adapters, chargers and cables. There’s a pocket or mesh compartment for everything keeping it all nicely organized.

Keeping connected on the road is a Lenovo Yoga 900. I have a love/hate relationship with this laptop. It’s damn light, runs our software, and looks professional. But I’m on my third motherboard in two years and I despise the charger. The two prong plug folds out directly from the converter brick which means it covers both outlets on a traditional wall socket and won’t plug into most conference room table outlets. So I have a 1 foot extension cord that also comes along in my bag. All in all the charger/extension cord weighs about as much as the laptop.

The laptop primary output is USB-C. So I carry around a USB-C to HDMI and an HDMI to VGA converter that I can daisy chain together for those customers who still don’t have HDMI input. Often times there is just a TV in the conference room with no connector, so I also carry an HDMI cable that I can just plug into the TV as well.

I carry two Anker backup battery packs to ensure my phone (a quick charging and quick draining Nexus 6P) stays charged. A pair of beats and an REI sleep mask make long transcontinental red-eye flights more manageable. I also have a pair on in-ear headphones for conference calls as the beats just aren’t practical for this purpose.

I also carry a notebook, two pens (a Sharpie ultra fine point, and a Pilot Varsity fountain pen) as I still prefer jotting down notes to typing list on my phone. The GPS watch and sunglasses make a post-flight hike possible.

I’m currently reading Guru Singh’s book “Levity,” an excellent collection of short parables. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for short chapters of highly spiritual and intellectual content.

I also carry a water bottle (to fill a the airport lounge) and an insulated coffee mug (to make the home espresso go as far as possible). Lastly, I have a collection bars, teas, and Bulletproof coffee Instamix to start the day. Nothing takes the edge off a red-eye like a Bulletproof quad espresso.

 

Cathedral Peak

IMG_20160814_141756Sunday brought a hot day in Southern California. With temps in the mid 80s and a breeze that felt like a hair dryer what better weather than for a hike on one of the steepest trails in Santa Barbara? I had a red eye flight out of Santa Barbara that evening so we decided to brave the heat and stick with the afternoon hiking plans.

The Cathedral Peak trail is a relatively short 4.8 mile round trip hike that picks up 2400 feet of vertical climbing in 2 miles. It’s easy to find the trail head (think Inspiration Point trail head) with parking along Tunnel Road. Cathedral is one of my favorite trails with lots of boulder hopping, climbing and general fun.

We began heading up a bit later in the afternoon and a pair of downward hikers confirmed what we already knew: “It’s awfully hot, are you all really heading to the top?” Yup we sure were.

After a 1:45 hike to the top and two stops in the limited shade of a couple of the bigger boulders, and consuming most of the three liters of water we had brought we finally reached the top. The views are worth it. Between the limited trail traffic, fun full-body hiking requirements, and the views this trail is definitely one of my favorite local trails.

Screenshot_20160814-184113IMG_20160814_142332I’ve been playing with my new Garmin GPS watch and while the elevation and distance seem to be quite accurate I just don’t know about the calorie estimates. I burn 1600 calories an hour on a rower and I’m pretty sure I burn 275 calories just sitting in the sun for three hours so I don’t know about that.

Definitely more investigation is needed and I didn’t wear the heart rate strap so perhaps there is something to that.

After making it back to the car it was off to find a shower, a quick dinner, and catch an overnight flight. No better way to start the week than with a hard hike, a lot of sweat, and the greatest lady in the world.

 

 

Optimizing Application Performance

systecon_computersWe’ve had some interesting results lately when testing large Opus Suite models on various hardware configurations that have resulted in Systecon offering custom and semi-custom hardware solutions for clients depending on their Opus Suite use cases. We’ve encountered LORA models with more than 10K repair alternatives, SIMLOX models with more than 1000 individually tracked items over a 50 year period, and more. In designing hardware solutions capable of meeting acceptable run times we’ve tested more than 50 different configurations before deciding on our current “standard” and “advanced” offerings. Our baseline offering runs on an Intel X99 chipset motherboard with a Windows10 installed on a 500GB M.2 drive (found to be 20% faster than a SATA SSD) with 128GB of RAM. We chose high end eight-core i7 processors that are significantly overclocked allowing for multi-threading in next version of SIMLOX. Our “advanced” offering offers dual Xeon processors & 512GB of RAM running Windows Server 2012. We’ve noticed significant performance improvements (run times cut 30-40%) over standard workstation and server offerings from HP or Dell. We’re offering these solutions to existing Opus Suite users at very affordable prices. Contact me for more information or a demonstration of how much faster your predictive analytic solutions could run.