You may remember that back in May I asked for your advice: Should I hire a coach to help me prepare for a 50K mountain running race? Y’all said yes, so I did.
Race day was September 26, and I’ve had several people emailing excitedly asking for an update. Did the coaching work? Did I win the race?
Let me answer the second question first. No, I did not win the race. It turns out that being 41 years old, with a BMI in the “overweight” category, and with no history of athletic excellence is NOT a recipe for winning tough ultramarathons. The winner is 29 years old and has won 19 out of the 34 races he has entered. He finished a full 20 minutes ahead of the runner in second place… and 4 hours and 30 minutes ahead of me.
So winning was never going to happen. But was the coaching helpful? And can I find a way to somehow connect this article to telecoms? Read on…
You won’t be surprised to know that being coached by an expert runner did in fact help my running – and some of the lessons I learnt during the training process can even be applied to our work as telecoms engineers.
Consistency is key
By the end of my training schedule I was running 5-6 days each week, but most of those runs weren’t “hard” runs – neither particularly fast nor particularly long. A lot of a runner’s success comes simply from consistently running fairly short, fairly easy runs – and the same is true for technical skills.
If you’re part of a team of NOC techs or voice engineers, the best way to build your skills is to consistently practice. In your team that means you will become very confident handling those tasks you perform every day or every week – and if you roll out a new product, it will be hard at first, but over time you’ll become comfortable with it.
For my team, that means we get consistent practice in troubleshooting tough problems, or updating translations, or launching new products, or migration projects – because those are the tasks that our clients consistently outsource to us.
You need a plan
Fifty kilometers is a very long way. Thankfully the race organizers had shared the course in advance, and knew what to expect in terms of hills and (crucially) where I could get more food and drink along the way. My coach had run these trails many times, so was able to talk me through the terrain, and help me mentally and physically prepare for each phase of the race. I knew that the first 9.2 miles were all uphill, and was (more or less) ready for that.
The same is true for any big project. You’re much more likely to succeed if you know the steps and the milestones – and better yet if you can be guided by someone who has done this before.
Sometimes it’s hard to get across the line
I don’t know exactly why, but the distance measured on my GPS watch and the published distances from the race organizers didn’t line up. So that 9.2M climb to start, was more like 9.9M, and the overall race distance ended up being 32M rather than the advertised 31M. That may not seem like much, but when you’ve been running a long time, that extra mile is tough to swallow.
I actually felt like my race was going pretty well until the 22 mile mark – but from then on I was struggling. Telling myself I “only had 10 miles to go” wasn’t much encouragement, but somehow I continued moving – a mix of running (shuffling) and walking as I tried to convince my tired muscles to keep moving forwards.
But then, 3 miles from the end, something miraculous happened. I saw a figure on the trail ahead, running towards me – and as I got closer I realized it was my lovely wife, Erica. She knew I was getting close, and so she’d run out from the finish line (backwards along the course) for 3 miles until she found me, and then she turned and jogged with me all the way to the finish. It made an immense difference to have her friendly encouragement at the end. Those last 3 miles of the race were my fastest since mile 20.
In the same way, we’ve seen a lot of telcos over the years who are part-way through a migration project but are struggling to get it finished. Often vendors are very keen to bring their new equipment into service, but you’re on your own when it comes to completing the migration and powering off your old gear – at a time when you could really use a little help. Sometimes some outside help and a fresh perspective can make all the difference.
Let’s bring this home
I feel like this article is almost as long as the race, so let’s wrap this up quickly with some bullets.
- I ran 32M with 3480 feet of elevation in 8 hours and 16 minutes. Check it out on Strava. This was my longest run ever and I was very happy to finish with no injuries.
- Coaching is a very good thing. I may not be a very good runner, but my coach helped me run further than I’ve ever run before. And in a business context, our team of technical experts provide great mentorship and coaching to our clients. Having a technical expert as part of your team makes a big difference.
- Big, ambitious projects are very hard to complete, but it’s easier if you have help from someone who’s been there before, who can provide the wisdom and encouragement to get across the line.
Thanks to everyone who encouraged me to get a coach. Thanks to Ashley Nordell for coaching me, and to Erica for supporting me in this crazy adventure.
And if you need a coach to level up your network operations team, or to act as an escalation point when your local team needs help, be sure to contact us about our support retainer service.