“I am in a marathon, not a sprint…”

I recently returned from Automattic’s annual Grand Meet up (GM). This was my 4th GM.

Part of our creed says “I am in a marathon, not a sprint…”so I decided to reactivate my mapmyrun app, hit the warm pavement, and I cut through the morning humidity of Florida’s September, on my quest to run a marathon during the GM.  Now that doesn’t seem too difficult, right? It is 6 days, so essentially 7km/day. But with late nights, early breakfast meetings, and getting out before the mercury hits 90+ isn’t that easy. Compounded by the fact that the most running I do these days is 15km/week…max. In addition, I also decided I was going to weight train during the GM, at least once per major body part.


So, here is what I did it:

Wednesday, Sept 11th:

  • Feeling tired from the previous day of travel and opening party (I stayed up a little longer than I planned and only went to bed at 12:30 am).
  • Alarm sounds at 6:15 am. I open the run-GM2019 Slack channel only to see the group leaves at 6:15 am, which means I was on my own. I mapped out a quick 5 km, threw on my gear, scrubbed my fangs, and made my way outside.  Of course, on day 1, I did manage to forget my earphones in my room, so I had to go back and get them.
  • I opened the door from our comfortable cryotherapy chamber and bam!!! I get smacked in the face with a wall of humidity. At that moment I second guessed the 42.195 km for the week.
  • I laboured through but still managed to kick off the first 5 km in a time of 26:15.
  • I ended my run at the typically-tiny, hotel gym, jammed with sweating colleagues, eager and excited to have their GM start off right.
  • I grab my weights, found a corner and pounded out a chest and back workout.
  • Feeling pretty good after day 1!

Thursday, Sept 12th

  • Woke up with sore legs so I knew I needed some motivation. Before hitting the sheets at midnight, I remembered to set my alarm earlier at 5:45 am to give me time to join the running group. I made it.
  • Outside, as my body acclimated to the humidity, I hooked up with a colleague who I ran with at previous GMs. We had a slightly slower but steady pace and through all of our chatting I hardly noticed banging off another 8 km in a time of 43:54.
  • No weights.

Friday, Sept 13th

  • The truncated sleep since Monday (I had to be at the airport at 5:00 am for my departing flight from Halifax) was starting to catch up but I knew I couldn’t skip a day.
  • I hit snooze one too many times and again missed the group by about 5 mins. Regardless I pushed passed the mental barrier and fought through a solo 7 km at 38:25.
  • After going back to my room, the guilt of not doing weights set in so I made my way to the gym and slugged out a decent leg workout. My legs were already sore, so I figured `what the hell`.

Saturday, Sept 14th

  • It was the morning after our outing at Marvel Island. Despite getting back to the hotel around 10:45 pm, I didn’t get to sleep until after 1:00 am. I was bagged!
  • I woke up with stiff legs, but I knew I just needed to get them moving and I would be alright. I was wrong. It took me about 3 km before the pounding of the pavement didn’t feel like I was getting slammed in the legs by a raging bull. I aimed to do 5 km but choked out and extra 3 km, 8 km total in a time of 44:36. Over halfway done my GM marathon, I was relieved and motivated anticipating my last 2 runs.
  • Back in my room I did 150 push-ups and 200 sit ups.

Sunday, Sept 15th

  • Saturday night was more leisurely with a silent disco scheduled. I had planned to check it out since it was the talk of last year’s GM, but my body was shutting down. Despite this I still only managed to get to sleep by 11:30 pm so I knew the morning run would not be easy.
  • I decided to once again do this one solo for fear of slowing down the group. The body is a strange and wonderful instrument and I was surprised at how much energy I had. I glided through 7 km in 37:42 and was pleased with the slightly reduced mental battle of the run.
  • Last day in the gym. It was quiet there. Only a few other colleagues sweating it out. That is what happens at conferences. Every day the gym has less visitors despite all the good intentions.
  • I worked through a solid 30 minute of arms and shoulders.

Monday, Sept 14th

  • Sunday evening was the live Townhall (Q&A), something I look forward to at every GM because people are more engaged and the questions for Matt are surprisingly tougher in person, though he always handles them all with an unprecedented level of professionalism and grace. The Townhall finished at 11:00 pm and I was in my room by 11:02 pm, looking forward to a good night sleep. Not so fast. The Townhall had free booze which many colleagues took advantage of.  This led to uncharacteristically loud hallway chatter several times before I managed to block it out at around 2:00 am. But before I did, I set my alarm to 6:45 am to maximize my sleep.
  • I woke up dragging butt! But I knew I had to do the last 7.195 km.  My heart said, `let’s do this` but my mind and body were in la-la land.  I needed some help. Enter cold shower! Yup, I took a freezing cold shower to wake up.  I didn’t plan this act of torture, but it worked, remarkably well.
  • I was on my way by 7:05 am and determined to gut it out. I used my phone to precisely tell me when I was halfway.  I felt good at this point but on my way back fatigue caught up to me. My legs felt heavier and heavier with every stride. I knew I couldn’t stop and had to somehow trick my brain and body into completing my run to reach my goal. I remembered a keynote speaker form a previous GM who talked about achieving goals by breaking larger goals into smaller ones. I broke the last 3.7 km up into light poles. I focused on one light pole, then the next, then the next, and so on until before I knew it I was on my last turn and about 250 meters from the hotel.  My heart quickened and I sprinted.  I felt like Usain Bolt going lightning speed but I was more like the tired middle-aged-outta-shape dude looking like he is about to pass out. Regardless, I finished the 7.2 km strong in a time of 40:09.

Mission accomplished!  I ran a marathon distance during the GM and worked out every major body part at least once. I also did not have a sip of alcohol and to be completely honest that was the only reason I was able to complete these GM fitness goals. If I was boozing it up, like I tend to do from time to time (clears throat), then there is no way I would have made my morning runs and workouts!

Bonus, I lost almost 2 lbs during the week, despite the amazing food and plentiful snacks available to us.

Unrelated, I met over 40 new Automatticians. In less than 4 years of working remotely, I know 250 of 951 at this ever growing company.


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