It’s been a rather long time since a non-gadget mailbag post – in fact, almost a year! For those new around here, I used to do both a combined weekly mailbag each week (roughly where my Week in Review post is now) in which I published a small fraction of your questions that I typically answered via e-mail.
Over time the gadget side of that ended up on the front page of Slowtwitch (though, admittedly, I haven’t posted there in a while, need to do that…), and then the other part less-tech focused became ‘elusive’.
Hence, where we are today…the Elusive Non-Gadget Mailbag. The funny part is that I have no idea how it became nearly a year since the last one, as I ferret away stuff all the time. So it was on Friday on my Sydney to Hong Kong flight that I answered over 50 e-mails from DCR readers, that I figured it’d be a good time to gather some of those and share the answers – along with a few questions I found within the survey results.
With that, onwards!
Avoiding Bugs While Travelling:
“Question for you – given all the travel you endure, how do you avoid picking up bugs – whether viruses from your fellow travelers, or food/water borne in more exotic locales? I’m impressed that you rarely seem to have down time due to colds/flu etc. Any tips to share?” –Ken
I wish I had a good answer for avoiding bugs. Sometimes I luck out…sometimes not so much. Perhaps since I’ve travelled so much, my body has slowly built up immunity to a fair bit.
But I still get nailed, sometimes pretty badly. A couple years ago, I spent two months pretty sick…while still travelling every week across the pond no less. Picked up something while in Saipan (I believe actually on a diving regulator), and then spent the next two months coughing like I was going to die. :( Neither local doctors in DC nor ones overseas while travelling around were able to solve it, finally, it just went away.
In most cases though – trying to get the most sleep possible is really my key to avoiding most issues. As your body fatigues, it becomes harder for your immune systems to fight off bugs. Thus the more you can try and recover from travel, the better.
(Note, I didn’t say I was particularly good at getting said sleep however…but I try.)
Working out with jet lag:
“Seriously, how do you run with jetlag? Are you one of those non-sleeper types or just very disciplined or both or something else (Cyborg? Time lord?)?” – Lorry
It’s funny, I have some of my best runs with jetlag. Cycling, not as much. Same goes for swimming. It depends though, my coach structures my workouts around my travel schedule. Or at least, as much of my travel schedule as I’m able to keep him up to date on. As you might have noticed, it changes constantly. One moment I’m scheduled to go to Australia in three days, the next it’s cancelled and I’m going to Poland. Or vice versa.
Over time he has a pretty good grasp on how my body might react to various flight distances and departure/arrival times. And then from there schedules workouts based on it. For example, usually shorter runs after redeye flights. Trainer rides usually after coming back home off a trip. And swims mixed in here and there, though he realizes that I generally prefer a trainer ride over a swim most days.
Where I’m headed next:
“Any plans to come to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil?”
Not at the moment. However, many folks ask for a look at my travel schedule. Quite honestly, if you find it – I’d love to have a copy myself. While I do have the occasional trip (perhaps once per month) where things are locked in stone well in advance, most trips I don’t know about until a few days before hand. Right now for next week the contenders have me in: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Amsterdam, Brussels, or London. But, something else could sweep in before tomorrow morning and preempt one of those.
Usually, I’ll drop hints within posts a couple days beforehand, and lately many of you have been getting good at picking up on those hints. Hence how running meet-ups happen in places like New Zealand with a reader taking me for a Wellington Runaround.
In general my focus area is EMEA (Europe/Middle East/Africa), so South America won’t come up too often. Asia/Pacific happens on occasion (like the last two weeks), as does semi-frequent trips back to the states (one coming up in April). I’m on a small worldwide team, so whomever calls with the loudest voice usually wins – wherever they may be.
Fitting it all in:
“How do you fit everything in? Your FAQ mentions the 10 hour blog sessions the 13 hour work days etc.., where do you find the energy from (incidentally you don’t mention the hours of sleep you get every night)? Obviously you love what you do, but I really can’t see that being an adequate explanation. Granted hubby and I are some years older than you and The Girl, but around 60km of running, some swimming and golf, a bit of gardening and the odd 10 hour workday see us pretty much finished for the week.
The latest blog on travelling back from Hong Kong then going for a ride in miserable weather and ending the day with 1KM sprints had me whimpering in a corner. What is the secret? Have you cloned yourself, are you actually a set of identical, twins, triplets, sextuplets? Is it Columbian marching powder? Whatever it is, please keep it up, but maybe one or two of your secrets for us mere mortals to help us along would be appreciated. Many thanks.” – Madelei
It’s funny, I sit here in Dublin, and yesterday at an offsite meeting where my team did this ‘self-understanding and development’ activity yesterday. The computerized system identified the following traits about me:
“He likes a fast pace and is adept at using functional devices and procedures. Once a desired objective is fixed in his mind, he moves into action without procrastinating. ‘Do it now’ is his motto.”
That’s then countered with:
“Takes on too much responsibility, should learn to delegate more.”
Which, is a roundabout assessment probably saying that I don’t quite sleep or do as much outside of work or blog as I probably should.
As I’ve noted in the past, flights are critical to me getting posts (or other work) done. In fact, while I started this very section early this morning in my hotel room at 6:45AM, I now finish it on a plane home somewhere over the English Channel at about 9:30PM. Though, not all flights are good for this. For example, an 8-9 hour flight down to Africa isn’t ideal, as most are redeyes and that’s usually time I need to sleep to be able to start presenting at 9AM – 2 hours after landing. But for the flights that do work, I get tremendous amounts of stuff done on them (my personal favorite are 5-6 hour flights leaving around 5PM and getting in around 8-10PM). Likely because most of the time they’re without internet connectivity, so I just focus on what I need to get done (be it writing for the blog, or putting together other documents/presentations for work).
While at home, I’m able to spend some of the time after I’ve finished work for the day, but before The Girl gets home, to get posts done. And the same goes for much later points in the night. Usually I’m up till around 2-3AM if at home.
As much as I’d like to say I don’t procrastinate – I’m actually very much a last minute person. Be it arriving at the airport, or writing posts.
And finally, the training piece. It just falls into the ‘get it done’ camp much of the time. I don’t mind doing late workouts – as I’d much rather check off the workout on my calendar than not.
Thus in summary I guess I don’t really have a secret – other than to just ‘get it done’.
Diet and losing 60 pounds:
“I read through your entry into endurance sports and saw that you lost 60 lbs when training for the Marine Corps Marathon. Do you have any posts on how you changed your diet then (and also what you do now)? I would be very interested in reading what you did to lose that much weight. Thanks!” – Todd
For me then, it wasn’t so much a change in diet, as it was more a change in activity levels. I wasn’t doing anything prior to that, so by adding in a fair bit of running (randomly deciding to run a marathon), it really changed things. I still enjoy(ed) the food portion just as much as before. In fact, living in France now – perhaps a bit too much.
But I’ve never really been one to not eat the hamburger or scale back on ice cream. I probably did slightly unconsciously, but not overtly. There definitely wasn’t a diet written down anywhere, though I also did rough calorie counting to ensure that my intake was equal to or below my workouts for that day. Nothing written, just mental calculations over the course of the day. I do likely eat healthier now than in the past, but I define healthier not as eating some trendy vegetable you’ve never heard of, but rather just eating a single-cheeseburger instead of a double-cheeseburger.
Today I just try and roughly keep things in check. I go slight ups and downs of about +/- 5-7 pounds against about 170lbs over the course of the year. Just starting to head on a ‘down’ trend right now as the weather gets nicer and my workouts (most importantly) get longer.
The Queue, and product review voting systems:
“I was wondering if you would like (or could) implement some type of voting system in “the queue” so you can prioritize somehow your reviews based on the interest of the readers.” –Survey reader
I’ve thought about it, but the challenge I have is that the reviews come out of The Queue based on so many factors that a simple poll makes it difficult. When looking at how I prioritize, the biggest factor is typically popularity of a device. The reality is that more people are interested in a Polar/Garmin/Timex device than an unknown brand doing something that’s barely interesting to the masses. That said, as you’ve seen over time – I often review items that are barely interesting or known to the masses, but interesting to me. It’s just what floats my boat.
The second aspect that impacts reviews is my training schedule. Despite how it may appear, I don’t actually do extra workouts for device reviews. If it’s not on my schedule, I’m not one to just randomly do an extra run, ride or swim. Sometimes I’ll fit in short trainer rides for items, but otherwise, I just follow my weekly schedule. This is one of the reasons why the trainer reviews took/take so long, is that with only so many trainer rides per week – and some of them fairly specific, I have to fit the reviews around those rides.
The third – and probably most important – aspect that impacts my review is really time. Take for example the Timex Run Trainer 2.0 review. Mentally I had penciled this post (mailbag) in for Tuesday, and the TRT post in for Wednesday. But then I lost a bunch of time I wasn’t expecting, due to of all things, jetlag from Australia. Falling asleep at 11PM just doesn’t really work when I mentally had budgeted writing till 2-3AM. So things shift. Many of you may have noticed over the last few months that I’ve posted about one less post per week that previously. This is my attempt at balancing things a bit more when I’m tired. Even if that means a post doesn’t go out that day.
It’s all about balance, and with a full-time job in addition to this, I’ve only got so many hours in the day to work with.
“I loved the recent Slowtwitch video you did with Herbert. Since then, I have wondered if you considered doing a weekly podcast/videocast? I thought that something like your week in review type content would lend itself very well to that format. I feel that it would allow you to share much more of your thoughts/ideas quickly in a less structured manner. I am pretty sure that it also would give you the opportunity to share a lot more “Ray” with everyone, and would be a huge hit.” – Survey
It’s funny, they (people who are self-authoritative on such matters) say that video and podcasting is the way to go. And, that’s probably true. I enjoyed doing the video with Herbert as it was quick and easy. We chatted for the length of the video and I think about 30 minutes later it was published. Crazy fast I tell you.
I enjoy going on other people’s shows from time to time. In fact, pending finalization of my travel schedule next week, I’ll be doing one of the more popular endurance sports ones. And if not next week, than the week after. It’s easier for folks to ask me questions than for me to ask others or just ramble. Despite how it may seem in writing, I’m not really a good talking rambler. Well, unless folks are asking me specific questions. Then I can ramble for ages. Maybe I could have a place where folks could enter reader questions in for such a podcast. The only trick is then it ends up becoming 500 questions of ‘Should I get the Edge 500, or the Edge 510?’, every week. So balancing that would be key.
Perhaps some day though… it’s on my list! Maybe not so much weekly, but maybe monthly might be a good avenue.
With that, they’ve just announced it’s time to land…so I’m gonna wrap things up till next time (hopefully, not a year away!).
Thanks for reading all!