One big blur

That was my last week. I am not even sure why; if I had half a brain I would actually rest during my upcoming trip to the States. We’ll see how that goes for me. Most of the management team was out this week, which also meant that I was doing things I don’t ordinarily do (like handling petty cash), and just generally keeping an eye on things.

I had one informational interview this week, and then interviewed three people for a key position. Unfortunately, the woman for whom we don’t have an ideal role at the moment seems highly capable, and none of the other three I interviewed were suitable for the position we have open. So, back to the drawing board on that one. But better to take more time and find the right person than to bring the wrong person into your organization!

Tuesday brought a great meeting with a design firm: I think the more into this project I get, both the more excited I get and also the harder I realize it’s going to be for our joint team to pick just one group to work with! There is so much talent in this town it’s unreal. That night I had sashimi at Beluga (I will admit I had a bit of food envy when my co-workers were eating their sushi…), followed by Pecha Kucha at the Upper Eastside Hotel. Pecha Kucha is 20×20 – 20 slides, 20 seconds each and you must change subject each slide. Some presenters were way better at this than others. One presentation was so bad it was literally laughable; two or three were incredibly engaging, and most were pretty pedestrian in terms of adherence to the concept. If I had more time I’d be curious to talk at one of these things, but I think to do it well you really need to plan how you are going to craft your message and split it into these 20 second intervals.

I am really enjoying working with our recent crop of interns. We have one who is South African and has been helping with marketing, and this girl is a rock star! Her knowledge and instinct about branding is spot-on, and she came in very quickly and picked up a lot of context super fast. Sadly, this was her last week as she is moving to Durban. Another one is from Germany and has been here for a few weeks now, and she is also just a pleasure to work with: smart, responsible, conscientious, and has a lot of great ideas about what needs to be done which is always a good sign. Finally, we have an intern from Denmark who is here for six more weeks working on a FoodTents engagement. She is smart, but what really impresses me about her is her insight into people, especially given that she has been here all of two weeks. Takes me a bit longer but then again, I can be a bit slow on the uptake sometimes. On a related note, I am also pleased that another friend has been roped into the vortex that is heart – this time into the Hub. We’re slowly taking over the world!

The main strategic thrust of the week was planning for our trip to Joburg to meet with the corporate sponsoring one of our big projects. Last Friday they completely changed the focus of the meeting on us, causing us to scramble around a bit and I won’t say throw budgets together but we did need to focus hard on what we wanted, how we wanted to propose the budget, what we could realistically do, etc., etc. All in all this was actually quite enjoyable both because the person I was working with is great to work with: sold, reliable, smart… but also because sitting down for extended periods of time and really thinking things through is the only way to solve complex problems. Of course this is also a combination of strategy (which I love) and operational planning (which I am really good at), so it’s not surprising that I would enjoy the process.

Then, of course, reality got in the way and I had to skip Hub movie night Thursday to go home and work on Powerpoint presentations for the next day, exacerbated by the fact that we were on the 6:45am departure from CPT, so I had to be up at 4:45! The flight to Joburg was actually on time, and there was also some excitement because this was my co-worker’s first time on the Gautrain.

Turns out the planning was worth it: both meetings went really well. The first one was interesting as much for paying attention to the personal power dynamics in the room as for the content of the meeting itself, which went about as I expected, which is to say that we didn’t get everything we asked for but they gave us exactly what I would have given had I been in their place (and I am very happy with this result for a number of reasons). Our second meeting, with a company I was hoping to get us to donate some equipment and anything else would be a bonus, turned into one of those great alignments that happens to you a few times in your career: every hope I possibly had for this was far, FAR, exceeded. The more I talked about who we are and what we do, this woman resembled a small child on Christmas morning more and more: she was practically jumping up and down in her chair by the end.

My co-worker and I were somewhat euphoric, and had a celebratory beer or two in the airport, especially after getting ourselves onto the 6:30 flight from our original 7:30 departure. Turned out to be a big mistake. The 6:30 was delayed, and then we were bumped off it, and by the time they told us this they had closed the 7:30 flight so we got stuck on the 9pm flight! So we headed back to the bar for two more beers, because, well, what else are you going to do under the circumstances?

That evening there was a housewarming/Guy Fawkes Day party in Bakoven I had intended to go to but I was so exhausted that I really didn’t feel like it. I figured I would go and say hello, at least, but probably not stay long. The best laid plans of mice and men … suffice to say I had a great time and met a lot of very cool new people! For better or worse (probably better as far as my body is concerned!) the after party never materialized and I went to bed around 4am. 5 hours later my friend from Stellenbosch called me to ask if I could come out there earlier than planned, and I couldn’t get back to sleep.

So I cleaned a little bit and headed over to the Biscuit Mill to meet a friend and now-colleague. Of course I couldn’t find him for the longest time but found someone else I had been meaning to schedule some more time with. Funny how these things go. We also spent a good amount of time talking to the guy who does the grass-fed meat. He used to do Olympic lifting and he was so funny: “How much do you deadlift? Come on you must at least be able to deadlift your bodyweight!” (um, yeah, I could do 1.5x bodyweight like 2 months ago so I am sure I could do more now!)

On to my favourite topic – the week in CrossFit! So on Monday we did push jerks and I really don’t like push jerks because I have a problem getting under the bar – I am much better at doing that with split jerks. So instead of 5RM push jerks I probably did 5RM push press. Then Wednesday we did 5RM bench press. I repeated my number from last time we did this (52kgs), and was going for 54 but my hamstring cramped on the third rep and that was it for me for the day. Amazing how much you use your entire body when bench pressing with proper form!

So this was exciting … one of our coaches (who, for the record, gave me the best advice of the month Monday morning in telling me not to make other people’s problems my own) had told me a while back about a workout where you bench press just the empty bar as many times as you can; resting only at the top (with arms fully extended). The empty bar is 15kgs for women, 20 for men. So I kept talking about coming in early on a Saturday and doing this but never got around to it, and on this day they added it to our schedule. I was so excited! I had heard that another guy in the gym had done 50, so I was thinking if that was all he could do it must be harder than it sounded and I should go for 51 at a minimum. Then our other coach said that when he first did this workout he was aiming for 200 since he knew someone in his gym had gotten 200, and warned that it got very hard after about 80 reps. At this point I had no idea what to expect so I decided just to go.

When I got to 117 the girl who was spotting me moved off to take her turn at it, and our coach moved in to count for me. He said that when he did this the second highest score in his gym was 150, and then started encouraging me to get “just 10 more” and get to 130. At this point I had enough in me to say “Are you kidding? I’m going for 150!” I must say by the time it got to 140 it was getting pretty hard … I got to 170 and was in pretty extreme pain so I decided to go for 180 and my strength literally gave out on the 180th rep so my final was 179. Not too bad if you ask me. I was also pleased the next day when I saw that three of the guys who trained in the afternoon had beat my score: one of them got 180 so I know for a fact he was gunning for my number. I still maintain that in relation to bodyweight and max weight you can press, 15kgs for women is somewhat harder than 20kgs for men, but no matter what, well done to those guys!

But after this the 1 minute handstand hold was, ahem, a bit difficult. I also got properly sore the next day! Oh but on to the other excitement of the week: a track workout! So after the market on Saturday I went out to Stellenbosch to have lunch and a loooooong talk with a friend who I hadn’t seen in far too long (my own fault; I never called, I never wrote … bad friend that I am!). Then we drove around looking for jacaranda trees, but the street with all of them had already gone by. C’est la vie I guess. Anyway I dropped him off and headed over to Coetzenberg to the Stellenbosch track.

My original plan was to run 8x400m. Needless to say, this did not go according to plan. I ran my first 400 in 1:16, which is actually not terrible for the first time I had run this distance in a VERY long time. I now remember just how painful this distance is. So my second 400 was nearly 1:30, so I decided that since a) I had been an idiot and hadn’t gotten enough sleep, and b) was dehydrated from traveling the day before and then drinking and had forgotten my water bottle (!), and c) I was trying to push my lactic acid threshold and I was running laps that were taking so long I wouldn’t be able to accomplish this, I decided that discretion might be the better part of valor so I switched to running 300s. That was much better. I did 4 of them and each one was either just as fast or faster (57.7, 57.7, 57.4, and 56.7). Actually what I should do from here on out is just warm up and run as far as I can in 60 seconds until I get to 400m. I ended with two 200s, and on the last one I felt my ankle start to give a bit so I stopped at that point and just did a slow 800 as a buy-out.

About halfway through my workout I was joined by one of the Maties rugby team, but he was too much of a wuss to join me on my long intervals. I told him he should really work on his weaknesses, but he was not interested in encountering too much pain apparently. Love rugby but I think the players must be a little like hockey players (to make a very broad generalization); nice to look at but not very smart!

Speaking of rugby, the night before I had invited myself back over to Bakoven to watch the Springboks play Ireland. A good number of people had talked about watching but in reality it wound up being just four of us. The game was good: the SA team won, and played well but mainly Ireland played pretty poorly. SA was comfortably ahead for most of the game, which did feature missed kicks from both sides, until Ireland scored a try with about 5 minutes left and then somehow managed to miss the conversion (this is like missing the extra point in American football). Bounced off the crossbar.

While I’m on the subject, I am very much looking forward to watching some football in a very short week!

Following the game, three of us went to the Seapoint Spur for dinner. That was quite enjoyable despite the fact that I was pretty well exhausted at that point. Bed had rarely looked so good!

Which brings me to today, in which I went to a birthday brunch for one of the women who trains at my gym. I just love this crew! I also love that we somehow managed to have a paleo cake with no flour, and no sugar. I think I may have been the only one who legitimately enjoyed the thing. Call me crazy but I really liked it!

I went home, did some work, then met up with a friend to go walk Camps Bay beach and catch up. Oh, and I introduced her to Sinful Ice Cream. Then, back to roast a chicken and do my planning for the week. This week scares me in a serious way: last week before vacation, tons of incubation meetings, and monthly status reports. I foresee getting a lot of sleep on the plane this Friday!


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