Monday, June 14, 2010

Friday Five

The Week

As I mentioned during my last Friday Five, I was going to be late - and as promised I am late. Very late as it turned out. But I have a great reason.

IMG_0496 Two weeks ago was an absolute blur. It started off on Sunday with the LSU Alumni Crawfish Boil. If you’ve never been there, basically what happens is there’s many tables of 8, and each table gets 50 pounds of crawfish. You spend the entire day pinching tails and sucking heads, and washing the crawfish down with beer. It’s a great way to spend a day.

However, that paled in comparison to what followed – the IT Grand Prix. The IT Grand Prix was an Amazing Race-style event sponsored by Microsoft Learning (MSL). 4 teams of two competed in both online challenges to raise MSL exposure and ground challenges where we worked with different nonprofits to assist them in their IT needs. I was invited to participate by my good friend Susan and was thrilled that I accepted the invitation.

DSCN4133 The first day found us in DC, where we worked with two great organizations – Byte Back and Back on My Feet. Byte Back is a community training center, offering computer training to underprivileged people in the Washington, DC area. Back on My Feet is an nonprofit that works with homeless in DC, offering job skills training – the training comes at a cost, however. In order to qualify for the training, the members must maintain 90% attendance over the last 90 days at the thrice weekly morning runs. The reason Back on My Feet does this is to have the participants show commitment to the program and to their own lives, as well as help rebuild their self-esteem. Our task while there was to teach a group from Back on My Feet (at the Byte Back location) basic search engine skills.

Day two sent us to Brooklyn[1], where we were introduced to the fine people at NPower. NPower’s main goal is to work with nonprofits to hook them up with technical volunteers to assist in their IT needs. This particular location also performs another great service by offering training to underprivileged young adults in the New York city area. Our task while there was to act as mentors to invited alumni of past classes. It started with an “experts panel”[2] followed by small group breakdowns where we were able to share our own areas of expertise with about 8 students at a time.

Our third day of the competition sent us to Houston to work with the Audubon Society. We were sent there to help them with their IT needs, as their IT staff consisted of two part time volunteers who were rather overwhelmed. While not as rewarding as our first two days, it was still great to be able to help an organization in need of assistance.

IMG_3706 Our last day was spent in New Orleans. This day was spent recording a video for one of the nonprofits we’d worked with earlier in the competition (Susan and I chose NPower). Then it became a real amazing race style challenge that sent us all through New Orleans finding different landmarks.

IMG_3710 Eddie Izzard may say that San Francisco is a “no taxi city”, but I’m here to tell you that New Orleans (at least during the day) is a “no taxi city”. This meant a lot of running with backpacks and in the middle of the day for me and Susan. While the shot on the right does justice to how tired we were[3], it doesn’t do justice to how soaked in sweat I was. With a little help from another team, we were able to polish off the first few clues very easily, but were unable to figure out the last one in a timely fashion so we finished in third.

In all, the “ground challenges” that I listed above were rewarding for us and helpful for the nonprofits, but we just got beat up the entire week, finishing no higher than third save for one second place finish. But there were online challenges as well that Susan and I spent quite a bit of time focusing in on. The online team that we built and the efforts we put into rallying our great troops won us first place! Yes, that’s right – we won the first ever IT Grand Prix. Our reward[4] was the opportunity to award $10,000 to our chosen charity, which as I mentioned before was International Development Enterprises (IDE).

IMG_7943 My crazy two week period didn’t stop there, however. Because of this race I missed the 15th anniversary of Karin making me the luckiest man on the face of the earth. Considering the fact that her birthday was that Saturday I knew I needed to make it back for that. I flew out Saturday morning from New Orleans for her birthday festivities. We celebrated in grand fashion at Baja Betty’s. A great PG-13 rated time was had by all.[5]

IMG_8016Now, if you thought my crazy two weeks over was done at this point, well, you’d be wrong. What better way to spend the morning after Karin’s birthday party than running the San Diego Rock n Roll Half Marathon. Yes – the old, fat, out of shape man from 6 months ago ran 13.1 miles without being chased the entire way.[6] I was figuring a time of 2:45. I was hoping for a time of 2:30. I was secretly wishing for a time of 2:15. My time? 2:10:49!

IMG_8038Please indulge me for a couple of seconds here while I thank Karin, Jumbo and Susan. In their own unique[7] ways they both helped me in ways I can’t even begin to explain. I can honestly say if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have finished. Karin was the solid rock that I needed the entire time. Jumbo was the pain in the ass that kept me motivated. Susan was my virtual running partner during my training. Thank you to all of you – I love you all more than I can express.

IMG_0547 While a mere mortal would call it good at this point and sleep for the next week, there’s no rest for the wicked. After finishing the half marathon[8] I boarded a plane back to New Orleans for TechEd. Upon my midnight arrival in New Orleans I was greeted by friends who led me to the party to celebrate both the IT Grand Prix and my half marathon – a party that included gold medal winning bobsledder Steven Holcomb.

IMG_0535I’ve mentioned many times that while I don’t believe in past lives, I’d be convinced I’m originally from New Orleans if I did. My body isn’t necessarily built for the heat, but I’m certainly  built for the culture and the cuisine. Dinner at Commander’s Palace. Bananas Foster. Gumbo. Great cocktails at Cure. Oh, and somewhere in there I delivered three presentations at TechEd.

Yes, it’s been a crazy two weeks. Regular reader[s] know that at this point I’ll highlight a travel note, a restaurant, and list off 5 odd items about myself. This week I’m going to take pity on you and my fingers and call it good at this point. If you made it to the end of this I am both impressed and appreciative.

[1] Don’t worry, there were no references to a Beastie Boys song during the trip.
[2] I don’t know how they put me on the panel either.
[3] I forgot to mention the fact we also ran 3 miles in the morning.
[4] That’s not to mention the bragging rights
[5] Big props to Richard for taking most of the shots during the party, including the one pictured here.
[6] Best sign held up by a fan during the race – “Run like Tiger’s wife was chasing you.”
[7] Dysfunctional?
[8] Did I mention I finished in 2:10:49?


Brian said...

Wow - that half marathon time is impressive, congrats!

So you'd be able to knock out a full one in just under 4:20?

Susan said...

2:10 for a half is an awesome time... now you've put the pressure on me for my first half!

jersey said...

Thanks! And let's not go that far... 13.1 was plenty for the moment. 26.2 comes late next year.

Thank you again. And yes, yes I have. We should up our bet at some point to a time bet for the half. You're faster than me at the moment and I'm sure you can best my time, but I'm willing to take the challenge.