Do you want my bread?



I’m really bad at this. Just been really busy. When I’m sleeping like 6 hours a night, writing about what I’m doing isn’t high on the list. But just now it’s Sunday evening and while I’m preparing my food for the week I have some free time.

I guess the last non-work or soccer-related thing I talked about was the Stellenbosch Wine Festival. That was three weeks ago. Wonderful. OK so what else have I been up to? Work, obviously. The standout event of the last few weeks has been preparing for and then participating in a big meeting that just happened this past Thursday. We were pitching to a very large company to fund an entrepreneurship training academy. Well, this was after a marathon 4-hour meeting between four of us on a Friday morning when we finally decided on the form that we wanted our proposal to take. That was a pretty fantastic meeting all by itself as we really debated both what we really wanted to propose, and why we were doing it at all. I love my one co-worker because he is the most blunt person I have ever met in my entire life, he doesn’t hesitate to tell you when he thinks you are crazy and off-base. There were a couple back-and-forths between him and our CEO that were a bit like watching a tennis match, with my other co-worker and I just interrupting from the peanut gallery.

So to prepare for this monster meeting, I had a bunch of slides that I had to work on. But I wasn’t able to work on them during the day on Tuesday because I was busy with meetings around the other business plans. As a result, I wound up at our CEO’s house working on Powerpoint until after 11pm. There were three of us total, and again it was actually really nice to collaborate like this and run things past them just when I had a question, and vice versa. You come up with such a stronger work product that way. I also finally heard china used in actual speech (there is a lot of slang around here that I hear rumours of but don’t actually wind up hearing until all of a sudden BAM right in your face for 5 ½ hours!). I remember thinking at one point that as absurd as this all was, I wouldn’t have it any other way and I really was living the dream. We were born for this (one of the refrains of heart).

The next night I was up until 12:30am doing the final round of edits on the 91-page document outlining the training academy. Needless to say, I didn’t prep my slides like I had intended that night, so I had to skip the gym to do so in the morning before work. I think I bemused my boss a bit by asking for the slides so I could prepare in the evening; he seemed surprised that I would do such a thing. If there is one thing I learned at Babson it was how to prepare for presentations, and I was surprised that he thought I would go into such an important meeting and just “wing it” but he was pleased that I wanted to prepare. Hey, if the rock star is happy with me I’m happy. But I was happy to say that after a stumbling start (the first slide I had to present I was expecting someone else to present) I got back in the zone. It’s interesting, this one executive who flew down from Joburg to meet with us really looked a lot like Skip Battle (from my Ask Jeeves/ask.com days).

So the meeting went really well from a number of perspectives … when there is news I will post it. I was so pumped that afternoon/evening; I think this was one of the most important meetings of my career and we just nailed it but I am trying to contain my optimism but at the very least I can say that we couldn’t have done any better than we did, and that is definitely something to be pleased about. Even our blunt friend said the next morning that “We knocked their socks off. And now they need new socks.” LOL. But yeah that evening I watched my friend’s kid so that she could train, and actually I really needed that because it was pure downtime.

Anyhow I had a talking to with the Purple Heart girls that I do business coaching for. Their sales numbers are just terrible, and they clearly don’t want to be doing this and the model has some perverse incentives in it that, well anyway suffice to say their sales numbers are terrible. So after one week where we talked about the importance of setting goals (which is a funny thing because I don’t actually like to set goals – they are always arbitrary and by the time I’m close to one I’m already past it in my mind; I prefer to aim more for concepts but that’s another story), I just asked them flat out what they would prefer to be doing. One of them wants to be a receptionist and has computer skills, the other one wants to expand a business selling hair products that she has had for a while, but has put on hiatus to work at Purple Heart. I said all right, they clearly understood all the concepts we had been going over in the business coaching so next week I was going to make them fill out the equivalent information (total sales, total COGS, profits, and inventory theoretical vs. actual reconciliation) by hand on paper. Then I would sit and look over the records of this girl’s business. To say she was excited was an understatement. Then we wrapped up and I went to go talk to someone for a minute or two and when I came back she told me that she had a business plan and would I please look at that too? I was blown away, and really excited. See, THIS is what it’s all about and it’s hard when working so much higher up the food chain not to forget it, per se, but to forget that this sort of thing is really happening as a result of your actions and work.

The other business plans are moving along, well, actually they are not so much moving along as we are stepping back and getting consensus as I mentioned. A couple of these meetings were kind of mind-blowing in that I do love jumping from one business to another and talking with different smart people all day about complicated problems. My brain just seems to work so much better and I am much more creative when I am talking through things with a bunch of smart people, it’s really great. I think all the time how lucky I am to be working at heart and doing what we are doing, with the people I’m doing it with. And we are just at the beginning; I may be drinking the Kool-Aid but I am very excited for the next six months!

Oops, I did mean to be talking about what ELSE I’ve been up to, huh? OK back to that. So, the weekend after Stellenbosch Wine Festival we had a weightlifting clinic at Cape CrossFit with this guy Dutch Lowy from the States. He also has a blog that you can check out here. That was great fun, including the part where I was going into a front squat, lost my balance and fell on my ass – I was going slowly enough at that point that I burst out laughing on the way down. Well, there aren’t too many weeks that go by where I don’t manage to fall on my ass, just not quite as hard as that fall that bruised my tailbone a few weeks back! Anyway I want to practice these lifts more because I actually know a lot of things that I’m doing wrong (or that I mess up when we get to heavier weights), but the only way to get better is to practice. My favourite (least favourite?) is that when I go to do the snatch I pull the bar out rather than up, so Dutch stood like 2 inches in front of me and told me not to hit him with the bar. Yeek. Well, I didn’t hit him with the bar.

Following that we went out to lunch and this is where the punchline of the joke comes in. OK the joke is not that funny objectively but it cracks me up. So one of the guys who runs our gym apparently gets a bit possessive of his food, but he [apparently] is happy to eat off of other peoples’ plates. Upon being told this, I saw that he had an empty plate while I had half an omelette left, and two pieces of toast that I had forgotten to request be replaced with something else (we’re all on the paleo diet you see, some much more strictly than others). So I turned my plate around so that the omelette was closer to me, and asked “Do you want my bread?” Now, this is what passes for a joke in our circles and I must say the reaction I got was hilarious – the look of horror was priceless, and the other coach apparently thought this was the funniest thing he had heard all day. Cult, I’m telling you. This was the same lunch where I was described as doing three things: work, CrossFit, and falling on my bum. Guess that about sums it up. So I guess this post is going to be mostly about that other half of my life!

Speaking of, two days later we had our baseline workout for the Fight Gone Bad challenge (we will do the same workout again in 8 weeks and see how much we improve). That was the day after the World Cup Final, so I went in the evening which means I had to dread …. I mean anticipate this workout all day long. All I have to say is that this is the first time I ever went 100% in a workout. Gotta do that more often, but it’s mentally difficult, I usually hover around 90%. Room for improvement. My goodness that was one heck of a workout …

Two days after that, we had a going away dinner for Dutch. This worked out quite well as I had had a sushi craving for weeks, and the place we went has a R99 special – 26 pieces, which is actually a bit too much for me to eat at once but it was so good and sushi is really not so good as leftovers. Malan was right, the sushi is good in this country! That was a really fun dinner. Afterwards three of us took Dutch out to Long Street (which was dead!) and stayed out until 3:30 in the morning (I got home at 4 as I took one of the guys back to where he stays in Camps Bay). Needless to say, I took the next day off from training. Oops.

Then I had dinner with one of the guys from the gym (sensing a pattern here??) to talk about his business idea. It’s interesting, I have been churning it around my head for some time now; hopefully some ideas will drop out sooner or later. Of course we wound up spending most of the time talking about CrossFit and the other people we train with. So it goes… later on that evening I walked the 50m down the road to Asoka for going away drinks for the co-worker who had been heading up Purple Heart and is now returning to the States. After a little bit we wound up going to a house party to play beer pong (well, I didn’t play, I was too uncoordinated from the 3 hours of sleep I’d gotten the night before!). Americans in Cape Town hey…

On Friday of that week (this is only a week ago now, I’m catching up!) I drove out to Strand to check the San Francisco Spur (!!) with one of the guys I met when I was here last year. This is all very interesting to me because we are just now discovering that our personalities are quite similar, and it’s interesting to see just how far this rabbit hole goes. I’m a bit obsessed with this at the moment as a way to gain more insight into myself; it’s just fascinating to meet someone and be able to describe how I think he would react to a given situation and have him agree with me. Well I could go on this way all night.

The CrossFit games in California were going on this weekend, so I ate up a bunch of my bandwidth watching them. Geez, I really do have no life I am realising as I write this. I saw handstand pushups in rings. Now I really have seen everything. Next time someone says there’s nothing new under the sun, I have a comeback!

In honour of the games we did a team workout in the Saturday class; that was some good fun as we figured out how to use the theory of comparative advantage to our advantage, as it were. That day was the Bastille Day Festival in Franschhoek, which was very strange to see all the French flags and weird people around! Later on that evening I was collecting on my World Cup bet (my friend had to get me drunk). Problem was, I wasn’t at all in the mood but this was really the only night when I didn’t have to get up insanely early the next morning. So I dragged myself away from the CrossFit games and out to Chevelle, where I tried my hand at brainwashing this Californian medical student from my building.

On Sunday, I practiced handstands (really, I did). Then I went out to learn surfing at Muizenberg with one of the girls I met at the gym. I was actually pretty successful at it, for being a bit nauseous from the hangover. This is the problem you see – it is such a mission to get drunk and I’m no longer enjoying it. What am I becoming? Well anyway I finished right when I finally rode the board all the way in, ha! Oh I really need to collect myself and go scuba diving soon…. Well, we had a really good time and are going to go back next weekend.

OK. Last week Monday I had dinner with this fantastic woman I met through work. She is super smart, and some people you just really click with, and can talk easily and about interesting things. Well, she and I got along well in that way, talking about everything from the definition of freedom to the existence of ghosts to metaphysics (although I suppose ghosts might fall under metaphysics unless you believe that you can measure their presence but I only ever watched one episode of Ghost Hunters so I can’t credibly evaluate this). Oddly enough, we didn’t talk about work other than to engage in the inevitable comparing notes on certain key people …. Sometimes ignorance is bliss, and now that I know about Beluga I am in big trouble. Next up: Ethiopian food.

I already talked about how I spent the next two nights. Three, actually, as the next night after babysitting I went home, cooked dinner, and went right to bed. I slept 8 hours and was still exhausted the next morning; the emotional drain from the week was much tougher than the physical drain. On the Thursday evening workout I was JUST exhausted, not a good feeling.

The next night – same thing, I went to babysit again and then home to bed! I think I slept like 9 hours and woke up actually feeling like myself again. Good thing, too, because we had a really fun workout. I just really like handstand pushups. Yes, I’m weird. So this day turned into a bit of an all-CrossFit-all-the-time kind of thing as first of all a couple of us went over to Green Point to cook huevos rancheros (well some of us cooked, some just sat around and then ate about 100 eggs). I was happy because I got to make and eat guacamole, and guacamole is one of the best things EVER in my opinion, at least after Cathleen taught me how to make it properly. Sadly, the Springboks got their asses handed to them by Australia, but that couldn’t interrupt my high from cooking (which I love) and spending time with people I really like. Oh and the view didn’t suck either!

I collected my roommate and drove to Camps Bay, where I wound up drinking mojitos with a bunch of the guys from CCF (one of whom is friends with one of the guys I was working late into the night with last week, and of course he had to call him … “Ellie? You’re with Ellie? My Ellie?”). Yep, the one and only. Cape Town is a wicked small town… So we moved on to a house to braai, drink wine, check out the moon, play music, and chat (yes, about CrossFit what else??). Until the wine ran out (!) which was OK because it was at least 90 minutes after I should have left to get to bed as I had to get up early for the first race in the Winter Trail Series.

How’d that go for me you ask? Well, it was a 10.2km run, and it was punishing! I wanted to finish in under an hour and wound up just over 70 minutes, ugh. My goodness, there were some hills that just went on, and on, and on, and they were steep guys too. But this is where my strength comes in – I’m not a distance runner like some of these people so people would inevitably pass me on the downhills and straightaways, and then I would pass a bunch of people on the hills. I think I passed like 20 people on the last hill just before the end, and then I pulled another woman along with me in the sprint to the end (I told her not to let me beat her, and actually I was afraid for a minute I was too successful!).

Anyway it was fun, and I saw my co-worker and her husband, as well as one of the other girls from CCF (she is a fitness editor at Media 24). Of course neither of us thought to advertise, but I’ll need to buy a boys’ shirt for myself before next week so that I have something roomy to run in. Next week’s run is in the winelands I believe; should be good fun!

All right, about time to check on my dinner and actually there is some work that I really should be doing before tomorrow, and I am going to bed at 10pm; time to start getting my priorities in order here.

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