The last few weeks haven’t been particularly good for me, and have certainly been busy. After I last posted I got a bit flattened by illness: I thought it was a cold but when on Day 4 I woke up unable to speak and coughing green (ok never mind), I headed to a doctor. Now in theory my U.S. health insurance will reimburse this expense but as I do not have local insurance I wound up paying something like $50 worth to see the doctor (same day) and to pay for the antibiotics and anti-inflammatories he prescribed. Now in the U.S. the doctor’s visit alone would be like $170 or something (most of which insurance would cover). But really… just another example of how some things are way cheaper here. Sunscreen, on the other hand: not one of those things!
So that week despite illness I managed to deal with a whole bunch of things including a new employee starting, and meeting with some design firms for the new space we may be building out. That was interesting because it’s, well, really pretty cool to be creative or to be with creative people who are designing a new space. There was a bunch of other stuff that happened but I can’t actually remember much of it at this point. I blame my fever-addled brain.
Oh, wait, I remember: I’ve been spending insane amounts of time on recruitment these weeks. Oh my goodness I don’t like recruiting – it’s probably the single most important thing I can be doing but I hate it! Although this does give occasion to comment on another big difference between South Africa and America. In America we are prohibited by law from asking candidates about things like ethnicity … I forget the other ones now, haha! My old rule of thumb was unless it was work-related, don’t go there. But here CVs (resumes) contain such information as: ethnicity (ok I kinda get this, as it’s important for Black Economic Empowerment, or BEE which is the SA form of affirmative action that I am not going to comment on just now), age, and marital status. Also people put their reason for leaving each job. Not a bad innovation, that, actually!
Also that week my friend Cathleen left (bye Cathleen! It was fun having you!) and Rob arrived. Unfortunately I was more out of it than I realized at the time, but I did enjoy our dinner at Carne on Cathleen’s last night!
Friday night involved far too much wine and some stress eating. Blech. Saturday I took Rob out to Stellenbosch and we actually hit a number of good wine farms: Meerlust, Dornier, Lanzerac, Delaire, and Lovane, before dinner under an oak tree at Jan Cats (still home to the best malva pudding in my opinion …. Still stress eating, and also in preparation for the nutrition challenge starting soon!). Sunday we had drinks and lunch (in pretty much that order!) with another friend in Gordon’s Bay, followed by a road trip to Hermanus to check some whales. But the weather was insanely cold on that side, so we didn’t stay long and drove back along the scenic route by Kleinmond. We stopped in Betty’s Bay to see the penguins and let me tell you there are waaaaay more penguins than at Boulders, AND it only costs R10 to get in.
The enforced rest of the previous week paid off on Monday when I had a pretty decent 5 rep max (5RM) on the back squat (80kgs, which I was happy with since my 1RM from a few weeks back was 83kgs!), and then Tuesday we were doing 5RM on press which we hadn’t done in a while (this is where you press the weight overhead, without using your legs or hips at all). My previous 1RM was 35kgs, and this time around I managed to do 5 reps at that weight! I nearly missed the last rep but thanks to the remembered wisdom of one of our coaches who taught me to keep pressing past the initial point when you think you can’t do it. This was a good thing because I would have been mad to miss the fifth rep! Then, just for fun, I tried 1 rep at 38kgs because I had failed at this weight for the last three (!) times we had done one rep max on press, probably over something like 2-3 months. Well, wouldn’t you know it – I got it, but same thing, it wasn’t pretty and I had to push past where back in the day I would just have given up.
But that was about it for wonderful athletic feats because Ethiopian food on Monday night gave me incredible food poisoning. By about noon or 1pm it was all I could do to stay in my chair during the monthly status meetings for our enterprises. It was almost funny … I would feel fine, then I would move slightly and would no longer feel so fine. Then the next day I was at least no longer feverish but was extremely weak and with no appetite. I took Rob to the hash because he wanted to go and so I sat around and typed away on my laptop. Running (or drinking!) was just not in the cards. I did eat some of the chicken though because I was hungry but then I felt ill because it was factory-farmed and you can taste it.
Thursday involved pretty much all-day meetings at work. It’s funny, we have just been through a really tough time but we are actually right into another tough time, although for different reasons. Nothing I really want to talk about publicly but we have our work cut out for ourselves. Happily, this is not rocket science or brain surgery and yeah we may be trailblazers and doing something that hasn’t been done before but at least we’re not sitting here knowing that we’re trying to do the impossible. It’s all very possible: but now we just have to do it.
I went to CrossFit on Thursday mainly because I wanted to see how 60kgs felt to deadlift. In the event, I was pretty mentally “on” and wound up deadlifting for 5 reps only 2 kgs less than my 3RM from about 2 weeks back. But then I stopped because my form had deteriorated and so there was no reason to continue that day. Then I did some ridiculous WOD that involved 100 overhead squats and 100m of resistance sprints. I really need to practice those overhead squats more – my form starts to suck with anything other than a very light weight OR anything more than just a couple of reps.
After gym I went to collect Rob and we had a nice dinner @Aubergine before taking him to the airport (nice, but next time definitely Terroir or La Colombe). Well, as sad as it is to have everyone gone, it is nice to have my place to myself again, go back to my normal routine, and to go back to my normal diet. Next time around I’ll be more militant because all of this accommodating guests left me ill and then with food poisoning (my body literally cannot handle lentils and legumes any more – if I ever doubted that these things were not handled well by digestive system, I no longer do). Also when I return to the U.S. next month for a visit (I still need to schedule this around one or two other things going on) I will be in the middle of the CCF nutrition challenge.
Friday, Friday … we had a very interesting meeting that morning where most people had to answer questions around the social enterprise space and then we opened up each question to a wider discussion. This is interesting not only as a discussion but also in order to see who is thinking what: some people had exactly the insights I expected them to, and some people surprised me. The one big thing that the discussion triggered for me was a reminder that as money starts to flow into our organisation, which is going to happen, and possibly a lot of money very quickly, is that we need to be very careful how we spend it. Just like what happens with “normal” startups when they are stupid and ask for too much VC money and then wind up diluting their equity and wasting money. There are a lot of advantages to bootstrapping! So, being very aware of this danger is the first step.
After this, a team of us met to review the incubation framework in some detail. It’s amazing how these meetings will often wind up degenerating into hilarity: “Why is this this way?” “Because x, y, z. Don’t you remember: you are the one who developed this!” In any event by 4pm my brain had about melted so a couple of us went off for drinks by the lagoon at the One & Only hotel. Enjoying my red wine by the water while it lasts!
Starting tomorrow I am only going to drink 8 times in 8 weeks. Why, you ask? Well we are doing a nutrition challenge at CCF and the diet part is easy for me: I have been sloppy recently and have not been feeling so hot, as a result. So that will be fine … but at first I was saying I was not capable of giving up alcohol until my fellow CrossFitter suggested that I could just drink once a week instead of not at all. That seemed achievable … but then I realized that sometimes I might need to drink more than once in a week. But I could do that if I didn’t drink at all other weeks. So, 8 drinking events in 8 weeks. If I am anything, it is stubborn, so here I go!
Saturday I ran errands then drove to Fish Hoek for surf ski lessons. I can see how that would be a lot of fun once I learn what the heck I’m doing and quit falling over all the time! So many water sports to master, so little time… this was followed by an amusing conversation that I provoked by my choice of attire: “Are you from Boston?” “Yes.” “Do you work for the FBI?” “No.” (and if I did I probably wouldn’t go around advertising it … especially in South Africa!).
I had a lovely lunch of chicken livers (love those!) and salad, then went to Camps Bay beach for a bit to decompress and read The Economist. Then I finally got around to planting seeds (heirloom tomato and hot pepper), and repotting herbs so that I had pots in which to plant the seeds. Looking forward to some real tomatoes in about 80 days!
And this morning was the Gun Run half marathon! Now I hadn’t done a single training run for this sucker – the last time I ran was the finale of the Winter Trail Series in Kleinmond about 2 months ago. More problematic was that I didn’t hydrate myself properly yesterday, so my calves and quads started cramping, badly, at about the 15km mark. That was not a good thing, at all. But I hit a PR for the 10km on the way (by virtue of the fact that I’d never run a 10k before this was pretty much a done deal, but it was a decent time, 60:30, including a bunch of walking at the beginning before the crowd thinned out and a bathroom break of at least 2 minutes at the Waterfront, so I could probably run a proper road race 10k in under 50 minutes I would guess).
Anyhow I wound up finishing in 2:14:46, which is just barely under my target time (my dream time was under 2:00 but I thought that would be quite hard and was really hoping for 2:10-2:15). Well, more water in advance the next time; that would have made at least a 5 minute difference.
Now I am just smoked … and my feet really hurt! They hurt like they do after I do a bunch of box jumps except the pain isn’t going away! Luckily, tomorrow’s CrossFit challenge is Diane: which involves deadlifts and handstand pushups. Actually part of the reason I didn’t push myself somewhat harder with the cramping was that I didn’t want to completely destroy myself for tomorrow: doing 45 handstand pushups with full range of motion is going to be hard enough without having run a half marathon the day before. Well as I keep saying, this is one way to be in contention for most improved… what was I thinking?
OK time to go start on dinner: I have a friend coming over and I must decide between cooking red roman or cob. What a tough life….