Archi's jottings

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Archi's jottings

Archi's infrequent blog:

It's been a busy period, first chance I have had to put pen to paper for some weeks. So what's going on at the moment?

Today has been a technology day, I have been tinkering with the website to add in a welcome mat (the form that drops down encouraging you to sign up, when you visit the site). I changed my email marketing software (EMS) from MailChimp to ConvertKit, in the process of doing so, I managed to SPAM my entire group of mailing lists, DOH! You will likely know this already .... hopefully, you enjoyed my Infographic on the probability of your existence! If not sorry to have disturbed you.

Changing email marketing software, I managed to SPAM everyone in my marketing lists - DOH 

Changing email marketing software, I managed to SPAM everyone in my marketing lists - DOH 

Last week was extremely rewarding, two clients reported excellent results, and were kind enough to credit Crawford Strategic with a large contribution to the outcomes, both are outperforming their respective markets, growing product margins as well as revenues and have done so for several months. One client looks set to have grown revenues from £135M to £190M for the year, June reinforced the consistency of performance and added to their over target position. The second client recorded Order Intake above £1M for the month, i'm not sure if this is for the first time, it's certainly well above Target and is a positive reinforcement for the hard-work put in by the Group and Divisional Sales Managers to adopt new ways of working.

What I read:

"Extreme Ownership" - Jocko Willinck & Leif Babin

A compilation of hard-hitting Navy Seal combat missions retold to illustrate leadership and and how battlefield concepts can be applied in business.

It's a really engaging read if you have seen American Sniper, you may remember Chris Kyle, whose story it documents, was part of Seal Task Unit Bruiser; the authors served together with Chris Kyle in Seal Task Unit Bruiser, the book retells some of the missions they undertook to take back Ramadi from insurgents. Each battle story is told, the leadership element explored and then applied to business.

The authors built on their battlefield experience as military trainers authoring and teaching leadership to Navy Seals; it was an interesting diagnosis by the military chief's that the battlefield leadership experience gained in the world wars, and then Vietnam had been lost during the relative quiet of the years between Vietnam and the Iraq war. They further concluded that it wasn't sufficient for leadership to be passed from leader to protege they needed a formal leadership programme. How many SME businesses still rely on leadership passing from leader to protege?

A summary of the points Jocko and Lief make, is:

  • The leader is always responsible. This is what they frame as "extreme ownership", leaders must always own the mistakes and shortcomings of their teams.
  • Everyone on the team must believe in the mission.
  • Work with other teams to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.
  • Keep plans simple, clear, and concise.
  • Check your ego.
  • Figure out your priorities, and then act on them one at a time.
  • Clarify your mission (i.e., your plan).
  • Engage with your higher-ups; keep them in the loop - especially when they frustrate you.
  • Act decisively, even when things are chaotic.
Ownership is a necessity on the battlefield, sadly it can be scarce in business; scarcer still in politics and football you might conclude after the past few weeks.

I should perhaps suggest the Football Association contact Jocko, he might be useful to the selection process [new manager] and likely could help with some of the leadership issues on the field also. Would be an interesting meeting between the battle-hardened veteran and the over-privileged players. Some conversation to observe, "We gave it our all MR Willinck ......" 

Extreme Ownership Co-author Jocko Willinck

Extreme Ownership Co-author Jocko Willinck

What I learned:

If you own your results, you can improve them. This learning came from three different directions, of course, Jocko and Lief through their book. My clients who owned their results tried new stuff and delivered. From my daughter who missed out by two-hundreths of a second on a place at next weeks English Schools competition, and instead of crying off from this weekend's track meet went, to in her own words: "Get the times, for me, so that I know I am good enough", which she duly did in both 100M and 200M. Set against the sporting and political backdrops where ownership was all but non-existent, it was a rather uplifting end to the week.

Running:

I am a long way from the excellent example set by Sophia, no national standard times set by me, however, good steady progress. The injury incurred whilst attempting the 192 miles Wainwright Coast to Coast, has worked its way out. Mileage is increasing and I'm hopeful that i'll get two further ultramarathons in this year the Hardmoors 60 in September and the Sandstone Way in October. In tried and trusted fashion when in need of motivation, buy a gadget, enter stage a STRYD running power meter, power meters transformed cycling, some scientists are claiming the same will happen to running, let's see what it can do for me, hmmm what lesson did I say I had learned?

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Wainwright Coast to Coast - 192 Miles (20th to 23rd May 2016)

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Wainwright Coast to Coast - 192 Miles (20th to 23rd May 2016)

We all have that friend, you know the one, always getting you into scrapes, the type that says things like "you trust me, right?"  ... In my circle of pals, a group that errs towards the dramatic; run through the Amazon, sure!; across the Sahara, it'll be hot and sandy, what the heck, why not!; the arctic circle, great place for a run; our agitator is Steven Brown, a former (they are never ex, apparently) Royal Marine turned capitalist geek boy (head of data at some London finance centre). 

Steve on the left, atop Win Hill, in the Peak District

The last time he uttered those words: "You trust me, right?", we ended up, much to the disgust of a party of climbers with ice axes, crampons and ropes, ascending Hellvelyn in the January snow and ice in our running gear, amidst 60 MPH winds. NOT advised. We all survived to tell the tale of the Mountain Leader, heading up the climbing group, who spotting one of our group in his shorts, atop an icy mountain shouted at us: "Waayay man 'use lot must be Geordies", however, it was an ill-advised adventure albeit we are all fit and familiar with the ascent.

When the invite to spend the Bank Holiday with Steve arrived, I looked for the kick in the tail, it didn't take long to find: "How about a bit of a bimble along the Wainright Coast to Coast route?".

Grand, thinks me, that will be great, a quick consultation of MR Google and I discover this is a 192 mile walking route that starts at ST Bees on the West Coast and finishes in Robin Hoods Bay on the East coast, traversing the Lakes, the Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorks Moors. Considered opinion is that at a brisk pace, a fit walker, with good mountain skills will complete the walk in 12 days or so.

The Wainwright Coast to Cost route a 12 day or more walk we will try and run in just 4.

"You trust me, right?", "Four days will be plenty ........"

The days will be on or around 50 miles each, with the daily ascent averaging a little over 7000ft (that's 149 double decker busses tall! Or similar to ascending and descending Snowdon twice!)

Usually, I am something of a stickler for planning and preparation, while injury has impeded my last couple of years of running, before a big run, I have managed to pull a decent sequence of training weeks together to at least have the confidence I will finish the adventure, however slowly.  Not this time, I am going into this mountainous, back-to-back marathon for four days suffer fest at my heaviest weight and lowest fitness level. 

"Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional" - Haruki Marakumi

It's fair to say I have opted for a good deal of suffering.

Well, I do trust Steve, right! And if he says we can do it, we will. I rather like the butterflies in belly, anxiousness associated with setting out on an adventure that, will stretch me to my limits and beyond, one I might be incapable of completing either at all or in the time frame.

It's very much these adventures and my experiences of taking them on that helps me with clients amidst a big strategic push or at times of significant change; when the desired outcomes can feel a long way off, I know that no fancy PowerPoint deck or strategic model can or will be more important than the simplicity of staying true to course and keeping on going.

So it's time to drink my own 'Koolade' and head for them there hills and monster challenge. 

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Liverpool to Manchester (Ultramarathon)

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Liverpool to Manchester (Ultramarathon)

GB Ultras Debut Race

Marathon des Sables , tent mate and gentleman, the best word to describe him, Wayne Drinkwater, surprised me a year or so after our sandy adventure together when he announced he had formed GB Ultras to put on a series of ultra-marathons. 

Wayne 'Kenny' Drinkwater at the 2014 Marathon des Sables

The first in the series and his debut as race director was the L2M or Liverpool to Manchester race, and I was delighted to sign up, it would be good to catch up with Wayne, and the event was sure to attract more veterans of Tent 126 (our Marathon des Sables tent number). 

Training has taken a back seat to work and has been derailed by several injuries over the last two years. Happily I got to the start-line of the L2M injury free, under the direction of the brilliant Kris King of Beyond the Ultimate Coaching. This would be the lowest training mileage I had logged prior to an event longer than 20 miles; as an average for the 13-week build-up, I'd estimate no more than 30 miles a week, likely closer to 25. I managed just two long runs, two 18 mile outings, and one 20 mile bimble in preparation. 

Logistics

L2M is a point to point race, as the name suggests. Logistics though are relatively straight forward with train stations within a couple of miles of the start and finish (Start: Fazakerley, Finish: East Didsbury). 

I agreed with Tent 126 veteran Stephen Braithwaite and Garry Vernon who have met at several Hardmoors races to park at the finish train station and hop on the train to the start to register the evening before the race start. We walked a couple of miles up the road to our digs at the Premier Inn. A few beers, lots of laughter, and a pretty good feed later, I hit the pillow.

Stephen 'Brother' Braithwaite and tent 126, Stephen is modelling the 'dayglo' sand gaiters

Race Day

The race has an early start at 06:00HRS, we therefore met in reception at 05:00HRS and took a taxi to the start. 

MISTAKE 1 - No Breakfast

MISTAKE 2 - Left my race food in my finish bag

The start was lively with lots of runners, a tad cold but not unbearable. Wayne gave a comprehensive race brief and we were off.

I ran with Stephen and Garry for the first few miles but then started to pull away. I put in a good stint for a marathon c4:09 and kept a reasonable but slowing pace up to the 30-mile mark. I had passed through a few well-stocked CPs but had only grazed on a few sweets and a mini pork pie. I was starting to feel pretty strained and could feel the pace dropping off and reached for my standby race fuel of choice 33Shake Chia Energy Gels (see MISTAKES 1 and 2). I compounded these mistakes by missing a CP, ignoring a tonne of tape and arrows that pointed off the trail and into a field, instead picking up the arrows that directed you back onto the trail further down.

The Trans Pennine Way Trail, which the race follows, is through the Liverpool to Manchester sections, hard-packed, mostly flat and mixes a variety of urban environments. There are parts of the course that feel closer to the countryside; these pass through pleasant villages; add in some lake and riverside views, and overall I was pleasantly surprised by the course. I think the route will appeal equally to experienced ultra runners looking for a fast time and new ultra runners who want to focus on running rather than navigation and will be reassured by the proximity to towns and cities. 

With little training and no food inside me, no great surprise the last 20 miles hurt a good deal more than the first 30 and took nearly as long! 4HRS for the first 25 and 5:30HRS for the next 25 miles.

Reaching the outskirts of East Didsbury, the will had left me and so had the course - I was lost ...

The final few miles caused a problem for lots of runners, it should have been simple, follow the river, but somehow we had made is difficult, there were runners on both sides of the river all waving at each other and shrugging. 

I sat down, pulled out my phone and referred to Google Maps, sitting down was a mistake, a nice grassy riverside bank, a little sunshine before the hail hit and I was perfectly happy for a few minutes, cheerily waving runners by. 

I finally picked myself up and followed Google Maps to the finish. Crossing the line in a respectable 09:26HRS. Which earned a Silver medal (first 100), and set the challenge of going back for a Gold medal (first 20), clever touch Wayne! The medal has a heft to it, that's hard to believe, a lump of solid metal a few centimetres thick, I am proud to add it to the collection.

Stephen and Garry, who must have been making time up on me, for the last twenty or so miles, ran in just a few minutes behind, Steve clocked the most miles having taken the most 'interesting' route to the end. 

A few celebratory drinks, tea for me, and we headed back to the cars, another race completed, some great time on feet logged, a t-shirt, and medal earned. 

Kit

Ran in my tried and trusted Altra Lone Peak 2.0, the best pick from my trail shoes, many ran in road shoes though, and this was probably the best option and the one I will take when I run it again.

Road tested the new INOV8 Race Ultra Vest 10. Fantastic pack, lots of space and pockets, almost no bounce, soft flasks with bite valves and long tubes; all the convenience of a bladder but with all the upsides of bottles, genius. It sits tight but comfortably to your body, I barely noticed it was there.

New shorts, Helly Hansen twin skin, light compression and over short. Very comfortable, almost no chafe a real www.megavalue.com bargain at £10.

Summary 

Wayne should be very proud; a slick professional race; great start and finish venues; an awesome medal and brilliant volunteers; well stocked and regular check-points. 

I ran well for my fitness level but didn't apply myself as well as I might in the second half of the race, I have never before sat down and waived runners by in any race and whilst I was happy to do so at the time, the places and time dropped was needless.

It was awesome to spend time with Stephen and Garry, I'll be back for more GB Ultras races and for a Gold medal attempt another year.

 

 

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Archi's jottings

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Archi's jottings

Another fantastic week, I learned all about becoming a Business Punk thanks to an awesome book by James Watt of Brewdog.

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The Jungle Ultra - Race Blog Part 1

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The Jungle Ultra - Race Blog Part 1

A longish read aimed mainly at those who have already signed up for or are planning to sign up for a multi-day event and or The Jungle Ultra or Jungle Marathon. Combines my MdS and The Jungle Ultra experience in kit selection. Part 2 will provide an overview of my race.

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How Google Works

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How Google Works

I bought this book on a whim, hoping to learn a little about the history and evolution of Google, I got so much more, it has changed how I view the modern workplace and provided me ideas and tools to use with clients everyday

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The Jungle Ultra

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The Jungle Ultra

An overview of Archi's 2015 adventure The Jungla Ultra in Peru a multi-day self-sufficient ultra-marathon. Read Archi's pre-race blog post, see if you can spot him on the video and wait and see if he ever gets around to his post race blog ..... clearly too shy to mention he came 4th!!!

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