Bike to Work – Lessons Learned

Weekly Update – #16 – June 2nd, 2019

This is a weekly blog where I share updates and document my journey. I focus on four areas: fitness, reading, writing and thinking. In the past, for the fitness category, I have written mostly about running. I am beginning to focus on cycling this week. After a month-and-half of talking about it, I rode my bike to work, finally!

It’s my bike! with a little New Belgium Brewing plaque.

Fitness

This week I had a great conversation with a coworker about preparing for a half marathon. I’m no expert, but I wanted to share some of the ideas with you.

Q: How long did it take you to prepare for the half marathon?

A: It took me 4 months to ramp up to half marathon distance. In training before the race I ran a maximum of 11 miles. This was a mistake, because mile 12 and 13 were the most challenging 2 miles of the whole race. Lesson learned: train the full distance.

Q: Do you have any other advice for someone considering training for a half marathon or a marathon?

A: Talk to your family early. Carving out a few hours per week for training means taking time from somewhere else. You family is your support team and they may need to do extra work to support you. Be up front about the time commitment, and look for ways to get everyone involved. They will meet you at the finish line!

Back on the Bike!

It’s been over a year since I last sat in the saddle. I talked about biking to work for over a month, and other stuff kept getting in the way. This week I finally hopped on my bike! There were some hiccups (as expected) which turned the 90-minute ride into a learning experiences.

When I ran to work I travelled very light. I was able to do this leaving my laptop and my gym bag under my desk. It just required some extra planning ahead. On a bicycle you have the luxury of storage! So you pack everything up and jump on the bike in the spur of the moment.

Getting Ready

I have 2 Nashbar saddle bags that clip on to the back of my bike. I filled one with clothes, towel, and other essentials. In the other bag I shoved in my whole laptop bag. I did this because I was worried about damaging the laptop, and wanted extra protection. This added a lot of extra weight. I think a better strategy is to wear a backpack or leave the laptop at the office the night before.

The Ride

I rode my usual running route. For the first 5 miles I was fighting traffic lights and rush-hour traffic. I think for next time I will seek out a more bike-friendly road (with a bike lane). Some drivers just get too close for comfort.

The last 12-ish miles were sublime. I was right on the beach from Manhattan Beach to Marina Del Rey. And from the marina to the office it’s along a dedicated bike path.

What Went Wrong and What I Learned

Several learning opportunities arose from this trip. I’ll go into more detail below. First, here’s a short list of what went wrong:

  1. Rush hour traffic and no bike lane
  2. Saddle bag fell off
  3. Unintentional braking
  4. Forgot to turn on fitness tracker
  5. Forgot to pack shower shoes

The first five miles of my route were packed with traffic lights and heavy traffic. I can experiment a bit here to look for an alternative road that has bike lanes. Wide pickup trucks were too close for comfort. Lesson learned: seek dedicated bike lanes.

I packed too heavy. Around mile 13-14, I accidentally kicked my starboard bag and it fell off completely. Luckily this was the bag with clothes. I could experiment with this to find a better way to attach it, or switch to front-wheel bags. Lesson learned: pack light.

Unintentional braking is tricky to explain. I took a break during the ride, and when I parked my bike I inserted a wedge into the front brake handle to freeze the front wheel. Then, I put two earbuds in my ears to make a phone call. I kept the earbuds in when I resumed my ride, listening to a podcast.

About a mile down the road I thought: why am I struggling so much? Then I heard the brake noise. And then the thought: What the heck is wrong with my front brake? … Stupid me had forgotten to remove the wedge I had stuck in the front brake handle. Laughable! Lesson learned: double check your brakes for an enjoyable ride.

After I crested the final hill in front of the office, I coasted in towards the front door. I slowly stepped off my bike and question popped in my head: how far did I go and how long did it take? Only then I realized I had forgotten to enable Strava to track the activity. I also have a bike computer hiding somewhere which could measure speed and distance. Time to dig that out. Lesson learned: double check you started your fitness tracker.

When I went to shower off I found that I had everything I needed, except for shower shoes. Oops! This is not ideal for many reasons which I won’t get into. I have done something similar once where I forgot my towel. I think the no-towel situation is worse, maybe. Lesson learned: double check you packed shower shoes and a towel.

I realized that I really enjoy trying new things, and then looking for ways to make it more fun and convenient, through experimentation and iteration. I’ve had a lot of fun writing about this experience. Lesson learned: try new things and constantly experiment.


Reading

I’ve been enjoying a book I did not expect to get into. It is called Street Smarts by Jim Rogers. The dude has a lot of interesting stories from living in Manhattan, working on Wall Street, and moving his family to Singapore.

I’m also reading a little Mouse Book called The Blue Hotel by Stephen Crane. Crane is a a Civil War era writer who died from tuberculosis at the age of 28. Despite his short life he produced well known literary works including his well-known novel The Red Badge of Courage. He was an innovative writer in his time.


Writing

It’s been a very busy week. I did a little bit of writing. I did not publish anything since last weekend’s Weekly Update #15.


Thinking

I stopped thinking and started doing. There were plenty of reasons to not take the bike-commute plunge. I had already put it off for a month (I first mentioned the idea in Weekly Update – #13 – April 14th, 2019). I was congested with a head cold all week. The week was unusually over-scheduled. The weather was not great. The bike needed air in its tires and chain maintenance.

BUT, all that aside, it is done! And I want to make it a weekly routine.

What have you been thinking about doing for a while? When are you going to take the leap?


As always, thanks for reading, and

Have a great week!

Weekly Update – #8 – February 24th, 2019

This week I have some quick updates on running, reading, and writing. At the end I’ll talk a little about innovation.

Running

This week I ran farther than ever. 16.5 miles I ran from home to work. My route runs along the California coastline from Manhattan Beach to Marina Del Rey, providing beautiful views of the ocean and mountains. Because it has been cold and rainy in LA, the mountains are snow-capped. I wish I took photos!

Stats from Strava.

Making some good progress towards marathon distance. 10 more miles! 4 weeks left until the LA Marathon. Let’s do it!

Reading

I’m reading Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss. Tim is known largely for his breakout book “The Four Hour Work Week” and his podcast “The Tim Ferriss Show“. Holy cow, Tribe of Mentors is packed with so much wisdom. Tim asked 13 hard hitting questions to dozens of high performing people. Their backgrounds span a wide range of fields. Athletes to chefs to business executives, to film directors, … you name it. This book is not quick if you want to read cover to cover, it’s really dense.

Writing

This week I don’t have too much to report here. I published the 15th edition of Torrey’s Weekly Report, which covers some new technology being shipped by the team and some new projects spinning up.

I wanted to start publishing a public version of Torrey’s Weekly Report in January, but I’ve missed the target. This week, for the 16th edition I am breaking from the usual format to produce something I’m comfortable publishing on Medium.com.

Innovation

How do I accomplish more today than myself one year ago, five years ago?

I recently heard a story about a teenage girl working at McDonald’s. This employee stumbled upon “would you like some fries with that?”. It turned out some crazy number of customers answered ‘yes’ to that question. The store became an anomaly, selling unusually large volumes of french fries.

Word traveled up the chain to the corporate office, and eventually all McDonald’s cashiers were trained to endlessly repeat the phrase “would you like some fries with that?”. This is innovation. And anyone can innovate just like that teenage girl.

Innovation is just simply something useful that you didn’t do yesterday that you’re gonna do today.

Manoj Bhargava, Founder of 5-Hour Energy. Video.

The general strategy is to constantly experiment. What works is useful, keep that stuff and iterate. Develop systems that produce the results you want.

And when you take on a new job or hobby, start a new system. What worked elsewhere may not work here. You need a new set of behaviors and habits.

Experiment! Innovate! You can improve everything from your commute, morning routine, gym routine, evening routine. One thousand little changes compound into huge results.

Thanks for reading, and

Have a great week!

Weekly Update – #6 – February 9th, 2019

Health & Fitness

I ran my commute (11.9 miles) for the 5th time. Because it’s unusually cold 🥶 this week, it’s tempting to stay home. But! Running gloves and beanies help.

21,500 steps!

 Actifit is the mobile dapp that incentivizes healthy lifestyle and rewards your everyday activity. You’re probably wondering what the heck that means. I’ll explain later.

Family

One of our twins fell and head butted me leaving me with a black eye. Boom!

This week we are celebrating Lunar New Year aka Chinese New Year. Happy year of the pig! 🐷

Reading

I got a new book! Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. It discusses being more deliberate using smartphones and social media. Principle #1: Clutter is Costly.

I’m also reading a great book called ChiRunning by Danny Dryer. It’s about tweaking your running form as to run with less effort and injury-free.

Writing

Torrey’s Weekly Report (my work-focused blog) now serves 85 subscribers.

And Torrey’s Blog (the one you’re reading now) serves 108 subscribers. Holy cow!

We hit the 💯milestone, team!

Thanks for reading and as always,

Have a great week!

Weekly Update – #5 – February 2nd, 2019

This week was the last week of January. Hello February! This week I’ll give some quick updates around Health & Fitness, Reading, and Writing.

Health & Fitness

I gave the gift of life this week, I donated blood. It’s super convenient because my company partners with Red Cross and every 8 weeks they set up a donation station inside our office. Donating blood is a good way to lower blood pressure. In total, I’ve donated a half gallon!

Running

This week I ran to work (11.5 miles) for the 4th time. I almost skipped the run because I needed to join a conference call at the same time. I decided to do both. My coworkers had a laugh at my outdoor running video feed during the meeting. It’s a good thing I didn’t skip because it’s been raining hard the day before and after. Read about my preparation methods for commute running in How to Ditch the Car and Run to Work.

Strava stats for my 4th commute run.

I need to step up my marathon training. The LA Marathon on March 23rd is looming. Rain, rain go away!

Writing

I’m excited about the growth of both of my blogs this week. This blog, Torrey’s Blog, now serves 87 subscribers. My work blog, Torrey’s Weekly Report, now serves 80 subscribers. Awesome! Both have been growing fast in 2019.

Torrey’s Blog

Since Weekly Update #4, I didn’t publish any I’ve spent more time reading and interacting with other blogs. I realized there are a lot of bloggers just starting out writing online. And they don’t receive much feedback. Crickets. Having been there, I know what it feels like. So I take the time to read what they write and leave a positive comment to cheer them on.

As they say, whatever you want in life, give it away. And be the change you want to see.

Torrey’s Weekly Report

This week I published the 12th edition of the report. It’s now reaching 80 colleagues who’ve chose to subscribe. Woot! The report typically spreads through word of mouth, but this week I promoted it to a new group of peers. It’s opt-in only, and 10 of them opted-in.

Reading

Can’t Hurt Me

While on my long run I listened to a few chapters of ultra-athlete David Goggins’s book Can’t Hurt Me. One quote jumped out at me because it aligns with my own COMPETE AGAINST YOURSELF philosophy.

Life is one big mind game, and usually you’re playing against yourself. — David Goggins

Measure What Matters

I’m reading another book called Measure What Matters by John Doerr. It’s about defining Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) in organizations. The goals of every member of the team, including executive leaders, are made visible. The net result is better organizational alignment and efficiencies. OKRs are similar to what I call SMART goals, except it’s okay to set semi-unachievable OKRs and only achieve 70% of the goal.

SMART

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

My favorite quote from Measure What Matters is:

In God we trust; all others must bring data. —W. Edwards Deming

Thanks for reading! And

Have a great week!

Weekly Update – #4 – January 26th, 2019

From our garden: incoming plumeria blooms

It’s the 4th week of 2019, and there’s a lot to talk about.

Running & Health

This week I ran my first half marathon. I finished in 2 hours 22 minutes. Woot!

Last Sunday I finished my first half marathon race, the Pasadena Half Marathon. This is the second race I’ve done this season, and my third, a full marathon, is coming up in March. No time for taking a week off!

The night before the race I could barely sleep. Everything I needed was laid out. We were to head out at 5am to arrive before street closures and get registered.

The weather was perfect, a bit cloudy but not a drop of rain. Los Angeles received a bunch of rain the week before. So the grass was shining and the air was clear for my run.

Going into the race, I set a goal to finish within 2 hours 45 minutes. But, the morning of I decided to push myself harder and go for 2:30. I finished in 2:22. Woot!

There were hundreds of runners on the course and I felt lost in a sea of people running through the streets of downtown Pasadena and around the Rose Bowl’s golf course. I did appreciate the designated pacers (from LA Road Runners club) who held up signs to indicate their target finish time. I found my 2:30 group and stuck with them.

Hundreds of runners queued up at the starting line

In training the longest distance I ran was 11.5 miles. This was dumb on my part. The last 2 miles of the 13.1 were a struggle. Cramps, blisters, oh my!

What was really cool, and I didn’t realize this before, was the finish line. The race ended inside the Rose Bowl football stadium, home of the UCLA Bruins, on the 50 yard line. After I cooled down a bit, I snapped this awesome picture with Joe and Josie Bruin, the UCLA mascots. Go Bruins!

Such a great experience…I will remember this one for a long time.

Miscellaneous other health stuff

I ran to work for the third time on Friday, following the same route as two weeks ago. I was much slower than usual.

A few weeks ago I made a change to my coffee/caffeine habit. While I’m at the office, I only drink decaf. I’ve noticed on Thursdays and Fridays I feel less burned out. Cutting back caffeine seems to improve sleep quality (go figure!).

Writing

There are now 73 awesome people following this blog. About 10 of you found me in the last few weeks and hit the ‘subscribe’ button. I salute you! Get ready to learn and grow with me.

This didn’t just magically happen. I’ve made more effort to engage with other bloggers in the amazing WordPress ecosystem. Slowly bridges are connecting my little island to the rest of the blogosphere. Engagement is so crucial and so fun!

I published two blog posts on Torrey’s blog this week:

  1. Three Truths — a written version of a 10 minute talk I gave in front of ~100 teammates. Bring Joy, Compete Against Yourself, and Help Others.
  2. How to Ditch the Car and Run To Work — a walkthrough of how I prepare for running my commute. Shower required.

In my nightly journal entries I’ve started recording something unique the twins did/said that day. It’s so much fun going back through these notes.

Reading

I listen to audiobooks and podcasts while I run. I listened to a short, value-packed Audible called Power Moves by Adam Grant, which is about power dynamics in the workplace and government. The book ends with a powerful interview between Adam Grant and Kerry Kennedy (human rights activist and daughter of Robert F. Kennedy).

I’ve just started listening to Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead. This audiobook is read by the author, which is awesome because she excels at speaking. This is my first experience with Brene Brown, and after a few hours of listening I feel like buying a copy of every book she’s published.

I’m experimenting with waking up even earlier (5am) to read. It is challenging to do focused reading when anyone else in the house is awake.

I’ve just finished reading The 50th Law by 50 Cent and Robert Greene. The last chapter was my favorite and the hardest hitting. It was about 50 cent being shot 9 times (once in the jaw) and facing death. It talked about living life to the fullest, having a sense of urgency and courageously facing death. Carpe diem (sieze the day) and memento mori (remember you will die).

I’ve started ready a tiny book by Seth Godin called The Dip. It’s about pushing through The Resistance to become the best at what you do in your world. And quitting other things that have stagnant growth or diminishing returns. It reminds me a lot of what I wrote about in The Rose Bush Metaphor: How to deal with too many ideas and too little time.

Thanks for your support. Until next time,

have a great week!

What I learned about Living Life from Jesse Itlzer – author, rapper, entrepreneur

Not that Jesse Itzler has it all figured out. He just seems like he’s figured out more than the rest of us. He’s figured out how to live. The post below is a collection of nuggets I’ve picked up from multiple interviews and Jesse’s breakout book “Living with a SEAL” in which Jesse tells the story of living with high-endurance athlete and all-around badass David Goggins.

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The three most memorable nuggets are:

  1. Send hand-written letters.
  2. Take the path with the best story.
  3. Use math to decide how to spend time.

Send hand-written letters

At one point in his life, Jesse Itzler was spending 1 hour per day hand-writing letters of gratitude. Those letters shifted his mindset and led to profitable business relationships.

This is why it works. Writing letters by hand is out of fashion. And, most people don’t bother to express gratitude.

Writing the letter feels good, and receiving the letter feels good. Since almost no one takes the time to hand-write letters, by doing so you immediately stand out from the crowd. Since you took time to compose a sincere message, you express genuine care for the person you write to.

Take the path with the best story

Jesse has lived more than most of us. From launching businesses, to crazy 100 mile endurance runs, to living with monks. He seems to use a story-tellers mental model for deciding how to live.

The mental model is a guide on how to live a more exciting life.  When given an opportunity, consider the story as part of the reward.  Usually, the worst thing that can happen is nothing.  You may miserably fail, but you will have a story to tell.  If instead you choose to stay home on the couch, you won’t even have the story. So get moving!

Use math to decide how to spend time

Itzler talks about how, as he turns 50, he re-evaluates how he spends his time, using math. I’m certain a 25 year old who takes this advice to heart will live a vastly different life.  He uses math to re-frame decisions in the bigger picture.  For example, if you spend 2 hours a day watching TV, that’s 700 hours a year, or 7,000 hours over the next 10 years. What would you rather do with those 7,000 hours?

The other way Jesse uses math is to better appreciate relationships.  The average american life span is 78 years.  If your parents are already 65, they may only have 13 years of life remaining.  If you only visit them twice a year, you have only 26 visits left.  Make the most of every single visit.

Books by Jesse Itzler

Living with the Monks: What Turning Off My Phone Taught Me about Happiness, Gratitude, and Focus

Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet

I’ve read Living with a SEAL, and highly enjoyed it. It is a very entertaining and inspiring read.


This post is written in honor of the great master, Banri Hoshi.