The WILIA Marathon

WILIA stands for “Where I’ve Lived in Austin.” I ran to every address at which I’ve lived since I moved to Austin in 1994. I thought it was going to be a few meters more than a marathon. It turned into 27 miles.

I lived in Teresa Hall for a year when I first moved to Austin to attend St. Edward’s University.

After moving off campus, my college roommate and I rented a townhouse off Tinnin Ford for a couple years. It was cheap and in a really shady part of town. Now that part of Austin is expensive, gentrified and coveted.

My girlfriend, a couple of other roommates, and I rented a house off West William Cannon for a while. I did this without my parents’ knowledge or approval. They found out and were vehemently opposed to me “shaking up” with my girlfriend, so I moved out.

I decided I wanted to live by myself, so I rented a 1-bedroom at Bristol Square (affectionately known as the Bristol Method) off of east Oltorf. I met some of my best friends while living there. We shared a breezeway together and raised all kinds of hell. This was also the complex where Elise serendipitously moved into the apartment directly below me. I asked her out on our first date in the parking lot of the Method. The rest is history.

After Elise and I became serious, we rented a 2-bedroom apartment together at the Method. We’d both graduated from college and got engaged.

After we got married, we decided we’d move further out, so we rented a nice 2-bedroom apartment at Monterey Oaks. We lived here for a year while we saved up money to put a down payment on a house.

We bought our current house in January of 2004 and have been here since.

On 5k training

I have nothing but respect for athletes who train and run at the 5k and 10k distances. And middle distance track athletes. The same goes for triathletes. And those who eat hot dogs competitively.

This was my last workout before trying for a PR in the 5k on Sunday. Less than a week after Boston I jumped into a 5k training plan. I have a tendency to ask myself, “what’s next?”

Training for a 5k is hard. Running fast is really hard. It takes a ton of hard work and focus.

When the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, I was running a 50-mile trail race in Arizona. That was after coming off a marathon in January and another in February. When we got home and things were different, I asked myself, “what’s next?” So I ran every single street in my neighborhood.

“What’s next?” So I decided I’d try to break 5 minutes in the mile. The training to break 5 was brutal. It was so hard that I got really discouraged and I started to dread running. I valiantly tried to forge through but after a few weeks, I realized I was stripping myself of the fun I’d always had running. So I quit. Running a 4:50-something mile wasn’t that important to me.

Running 200 meters in 32 and 34 seconds is hard. It takes focus and dedication. And I don’t even know what the hell I’m doing. It probably takes more focus and dedication than I’ve given it. I have to focus on keeping my feet underneath me and what my arms are doing. There’s no time to let your thoughts wander or hear the leaves.

Training for a 5k isn’t as bad as training for the mile, but it’s not sustainable for me. Maybe I’ll do it once a year or so, just to change it up, get out of my comfort zone, and give the ol’ fast-twitch muscles a little zap.

Or I might just see how many hot dogs I can eat in one sitting.

The Hunter 5k

Friends from my neighborhood run club and I decided to join in for the Hunter 5k, which is actually held annually in our neighborhood on the weekend closest to Halloween. Only makes sense that we should participate in the event to celebrate the life of a young boy and contribute to a great cause.

After Boston a few weeks ago, I immediately jumped into a 5k training plan for a race in mid-November. My training plan called for “6 fast” this past Saturday. “6 fast” means “run 6 miles fast.” And “fast” means whatever it needs to be on that day. So instead of running 6 fast, I decided to try to run a fast 5k race.

Like Boston, I didn’t go into the race with much of a plan. I’d had 11 days of 5k training leading up to this past Saturday. And I knew this wasn’t so much of a race as it was a neighborhood Halloween fun run. There were all kinds of kids and adults participating who were all dressed up. Although some showed up to run hard and fast. I mean, we all registered, had chips on our bibs and there was a timing mat at the start/finish.

Scott and I met at Frank’s at 7:30 on Saturday morning. We chatted in Frank’s front yard for 20 minutes before humping it the 2-miles to the race in AvaƱa. We hung around for another 30 minutes before the race started at 9 a.m.

I sort of lined up at the front but, again, this was more of a fun run. Kids. Costumes. Fun times. The horn went off and everyone started squeezing through the shute. I zig-zagged through some kids as I watched the fast and able-bodied grown-ass adults who’d lined up at the very front barrel ahead of the pack. So that just confirmed that there were some who were there to race. And now I had rabbits.

I wasn’t going to try to do anything big, but the temperature had gone from the upper 80’s down to the upper 40’s overnight, so the air was cool and crisp and my legs and lungs were feeling a bit spry. So I kicked. And I clipped off a handful of fast folks within the first half-mile.

It took me a mile before I could get a visual on the next guy ahead of me. I used the hills to my advantage and pushed hard. I was halfway through and told myself to just gut it out. It took me another half mile before I could gain on and pass him. At that point I knew I was somewhere up near the front. And then I saw Eric. I knew Eric was in 3rd place but I wasn’t going to try to catch him. He was too far ahead and I knew he’d kick if he knew it was me creeping up on him. But then I crept up on him on a hill and then as we came upon a turn. I asked him if we were supposed to go straight or make an immediate right. I think he was gassed because he said something, but I couldn’t understand it. Then I could see the 2nd place guy and knew we were supposed to go straight. So I started tailing him. My watch beeped 3 miles, but I knew we had more than a tenth of a mile to go. More like a quarter or a third.

We made a left turn back onto the main street. The last part should’ve been a straightaway back into the parking lot of the school. My rabbit made a left-hand turn too early into the wrong entrance to the school. I didn’t know the course, so I followed him. We both had to run through the vendors, food trucks, and hop through a grassy median to get back on course. That wrong turn added 100+ yards for us both so instead of getting 2nd and 3rd place, we took 4th and 5th.

It was a fun morning and it felt good to push hard, although my lungs gave me hell on the walk all the way back to Frank’s house. Running fast is hard as hell.

I PR’d my 5k time at 18:08. Now I know what I want to gun for at the race next Sunday.

Three jobs in 10 years

A little over 10 years ago I wrote about how I’d had 10 different jobs in 5 years. Surprisingly, in the subsequent 10 years, I’ve only had three different jobs. Well, I’ve had many jobs and worn many hats, but I’ve only worked at 3 different companies. Sort of. It’s complicated. There were some acquisitions and a divestiture, but I’m considering those as one of those companies.

In the spirit of that list I wrote 10 years ago, here’s how my career has evolved.

1. The Little Software Company

I was hired on to run operations for a small semi-local full-stack software development shop. We were a virtual office and 99% of our communication was on Skype. I worked with a project manager, 5 engineers, a designer, and my boss. And my boss’s boss. She was his admin. She was (still is) awesome. I know because we’re friends on the Facebook. We had a great time at that company. We had some legacy clients that I billed for hosting and website maintenance. But our big project was the multi-million dollar faith-based social network. That’s all the crew worked on for 40+ hours a week. The crew was getting pretty bored with working on a faith-based social network. My boss called me one day and told me that eventually this project is going to come to end and get delivered. We’d need to start working on sales. So he put me on sales. I’m terrible at prospecting. I will gladly admit that. I gave it a valiant effort, but I didn’t really know what I was doing and was getting discouraged. When I get discouraged, I can shut down and stop trying. I did that here. My boss and I would have weekly calls and he’d ask me how sales efforts were coming along. I’d never have good news for him, and it started making me dread those weekly calls. So one day I decided I couldn’t and didn’t want to be responsible for sales. So, since my boss was also a friend, during one of those weekly calls, I told him I didn’t want to do sales, even though that had become my primary job responsibility. I needed to move on. He understood. He’s a good guy, and agreed with my request that he fire me instead of me quitting. That way I could claim unemployment since I didn’t have another job lined up. It’s kind of funny when you can have your friend fire you and you both can genuinely laugh about it and stay friends.

I did actually have another job while we were building a faith-based social network. My engineer friends wanted a side hustle. So I pitched them the idea of a SaaS product that competed with my former employer. They loved the idea because they knew that they could build it faster better cheaper. And they did. And our project manager made the design look amazing. And I took it to market. And I landed our first customer. And then our little limited liability corporation got sued by my former employer. I also was personally sued. I freaked out and was scared. I’m not kidding. I was nervous that I was going to lose the house and everything I owned. My cohorts weren’t as scared because the company was sued and they were insulated. Anyway, we settled out of court and nothing really happened. We did agree to shut our little software company down as part of the suit. We laughed about it and my friends cheered me up by saying we’d successfully lived the life of a true startup. We bootstrapped it, built it fast, took it to market, got a sale, and got sued. That was a fun time.

2. The Identity Theft and Credit Monitoring job

I went on unemployment for a couple months before I found a job with one of those big identity theft and credit monitoring tech companies. Remember those? Like LifeLock. But we weren’t LifeLock. We were actually the company that powered LifeLock and all of those other credit monitoring services you could pay for, or that came for free whenever there was a breach and your data was stolen.

I wanted to work at this company primarily because its office was really close to our house. And the services they provided were actually of benefit. I soared through the interview process. It was actually one of my favorite interview processes. I remember very specifically interviewing with one of the sales directors. He asked me a couple very poignant questions: “Why do you think manhole covers are round?” and “Tell me a joke.” That latter question was great. I use it in interviews to this day. I asked him why he asked me to tell a joke. He said, “I wanted to see how you think on your feet.” The best part was, I don’t think he got the joke that I told. If you want to hear the joke, ask me. I’m not going to post it here. Yes, I told a really bad joke in a job interview. But hey, I got the job!

But the job sucked. My title was pretty cool, but the culture wasn’t.

The month before I’d applied for the job above at the identity theft and credit monitoring company, I’d started running. And by the time I took the job, I identified as a “runner.” I was probably at the point where I was putting in 20 miles a week. I’d become really passionate about something, which leads me into the next job.

3. The Digital Fitness Job

I didn’t set out to become a runner. I’d set out to lose weight. I remember it like yesterday. I got out of the shower and looked at my buck naked self in the mirror. I’d gotten fat. And not the “I’ve put on a bit of weight” kind of fat. I’ve always had the bone structure of an 11-year-old girl. So excess weight on me comes in the form of love handles and man boobs. I had two young daughters, I was still young, and I knew I needed to be able to keep up with them. And, if I’m being honest, I just didn’t like my physical appearance. I didn’t want to go to the pool or waterparks because I didn’t want to take off my shirt.

So I decided to start riding my bike. I used to ride my bike 16-miles round trip to and from work and I’d lost a bit of weight in doing so. And I enjoyed those bike rides. Made sense to pump up the bike tires and start riding again.

Times and technology had evolved since I used to bike commute to work. We now had smartphones and 3rd party apps. I knew there had to be an app that would let me track my cycling mileage and speed. A quick Google search lead me to MapMyRide. So I downloaded it onto my phone and was really excited to start logging the miles on my bike.

And that’s what I did. Or at least, what I tried to do. On July 9, 2013, I fired up MapMyRide, went on a half mile bike ride around the block and in doing so, I experienced a shooting pain in my hip. So I called it a day. I thought maybe I tweaked something because I hadn’t done anything physical in a really long time.

So I gave it a whirl again the next day. Remembering that I used to ride 8 miles to work, I decided I’d ride 8 miles. But I still had that hip pain for the entire 40 minutes that it took me to ride 7.94 miles. When I got home, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to push through this pain. But I was on a mission to get exercise and lose weight.

So on the third day, July 11, 2013, I decided to walk to the track up the hill and run one mile. I brought my iPhone with me because I figured if MapMyRide could track my time and distance on a bike, surely it could do the same for a run. So I fired up the app and noticed that I could choose from different activities. One of those many activities I could select was “run.” So I selected “run” and off I went. And that was the day I became a runner.

And a fan of MapMyFitness.

While I was not happily working at the Identity Theft and Credit Monitoring Company, I was also looking for a new job. I was regularly checking the usual job websites for gigs like “account manager,” “operations manager,” and “sales engineer.”

One day, much to my surprise, I found an account manager position that had recently been posted by MapMyFitness! I didn’t believe it at first because I was keeping my job searches local to Austin. I thought surely MapMyFitness was a Silicon Valley company. I excitedly read the job ad and was over the moon when I read that they were hiring at their main headquarters here in Austin! So I jumped on that like white on rice. I wrote the best cover letter I think I’ve ever written. I told them how I was a great account manager and I had years and years of experience, and that I was smart, trustworthy, a real go-getter, and all that jazz. And then I’m sure I wrote paragraphs about my new-found passion for running and my love of the MapMyFitness app.

As if the stars had aligned just for me, they contacted me to schedule an interview. And that first interview with the hiring manager went really well. So well that they asked me to come into their office and interview with five or six other people. And those interviews all went really well. I knew, in my heart of hearts that I had this one in the bag. I was going to get to work at a cool company whose product I loved, and I was going to get out of the miserable job that I was currently working.

And then nothing. I don’t think the term “ghosting” existed in 2013, but they ghosted me. Nothing. I wrote the requisite thank you emails to everyone that I met and spoke to. I emailed the hiring manager every other day. I told them that I was the perfect candidate for the role and that I really wanted to work at MapMyFitness. I was going to help them grow and together we’d do the greatest things and everyone was going to be happy.

Nothing. A week went by. Then weeks went by. I’d follow up with the hiring manager but I never heard back from him. I incessantly checked my spam folder, thinking they were trying to contact me but couldn’t.

Tail tucked between my legs I finally came to terms with the notion that I wasn’t the guy. My newfound passion in running wasn’t going to line up with the company that helped me become a runner. I was really, really disappointed and deflated. I didn’t know where I was going to turn next. I remember sitting in my chair at my miserable job and just having that indescribable heavy feeling. I wanted to get out of that job so badly at that point, and the job that I really wanted had rejected me. So that left me to roll the dice and find something in the middle. But I was very doubtful that “something in the middle” was going to be something I was passionate about.

And then one morning I saw a headline that read: “Under Armour to acquire MapMyFitness.” I had read that headline five or six times and my first thought was, “Wow! Good for them. That is really cool. I had no idea that was happening.” And I was really happy for them. Then I thought, “well, maybe that’s why I didn’t make the cut. Maybe I was a good fit for the small and scrappy MapMyFitness, but not the huge, publicly traded Under Armour.”

And then they got back to me. The hiring manager emailed me and apologized for going dark. He said they had to go on a hiring freeze because of the pending acquisition.

The conversations picked up right where they’d left off weeks ago and before I had the time to even thing about “something in the middle,” I was offered the job.

And that’s where I worked for the next seven years and three months. And I liked it. The first couple years were bumpy because I was learning and we were experiencing growing pains as a newly-acquired company. Eventually I settled in and became pretty okay at what I did. And I made a lot of friends. And I got to run. At work! I tested a lot of shoes and other gear, even though that wasn’t part of what my team did. But the company liked having people who were passionate about running help out. And I was glad to do so.

A year after I was hired, Under Armour acquired MyFitnessPal. MyFitnessPal (MFP) was huge in comparison to MapMyFitness (MMF). Once MFP was brought into the fold, my team started selling ads and sponsorships on that platform. The MFP product grew and evolved, and it really became the money maker for the media team. I wasn’t really a fan of MFP though. I understood and appreciated its value, but I just didn’t use it. I didn’t eat the dog food. I ate the MMF dog food. But MFP made the most money, so part of my job was to support it.

Under Armour is an athletic brand. MapMyFitness is a fitness app. MyFitnessPal (at the time) was a meal logging and calorie counting app. The Rock, and Under Armour celebrity eats 10,000 calories a day and throws tractor tires over houses. MapMyFitness was designed by and intended for runners and cyclists. MyFitnessPal was designed by a guy who wanted a way to lose 50 pounds before his wedding. Without sugarcoating it, I just never thought MFP was “brand right” for Under Armour. It wasn’t “tough.”

In late 2020 Under Armour agreed with my unspoken sentiment. In October of last year, UA announced that they were going to divest MyFitnessPal. In December the company learned the relevant details of the sale. Some of us were staying with UA while some of us were going with the private equity firm that was chosen to purchase MFP.

To my chagrin, my team was going with MFP and private equity. When I learned this news, I immediately contacted all of my friends in management at UA and MapMyFitness. I told them I wanted – no, that I needed – to stay with UA and MMF. While they all agreed, they said there was nothing that could be done. It was part of the contract. No soul would be spared. The media team had to go to the new privately-held MFP.

It was a tough pill to swallow, but I swallowed it. The deal was sweetened because we were offered a nice “retainer” if we stayed with MFP through the divestiture. I was paid 2-weeks pay for every year of service at Under Armour. That was 14-weeks of pay for me. We were also paid an annual bonus based on the company’s annual performance. I don’t know how it was calculated, but it was a generous additional sum of money. I had been historically bad about taking time off, so my paid-time off was maxed out. So they also paid my full PTO balance.

That lump sum payout was nice. And I still had a job making the same salary. It wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be in terms of the product that I wanted to support, but at least I still had my team.

My team officially started working for MFP in mid-December of last year. On February 4th, 2021, I found myself on a Zoom call with my boss (and long-time friend and attorney from MapMyFitness and Under Armour) and two folks from Human Resources. I was hearing that the Private Equity Firm is “pivoting and getting out of the digital media business” and that my “services are no longer needed. Effective immediately.” This was the case for the rest of my team.

That hit me like a two-ton heavy thing. I was out of a job, right then and there. Out of a job that I enjoyed. The job that I was so excited and passionate about getting.

Six weeks prior I’d received a generous retainer. The Private Equity Firm offered 12-weeks severance. While I was upset to have lost my job, I knew my family would be okay financially. I’d been laid off before. I’d been unemployed for long stints before. I’d be okay. We’d be okay.

Snowpocalypse

I called my manager after I’d been let go. She was spared as she wasn’t taking on a new role at Private Equity Firm. She didn’t know that the layoffs were coming. She cried for me. She said, “take a month off. Don’t do shit.” And we talked a bit more about random things. I was really okay. Probably more so than she was. But her idea about me taking a month off stuck with me. So that became my plan.

Ten days after losing my job, Texas was hit with a horrible snow and ice storm. People hoarded food and water. Streets were closed. We lost power and water for days. Then it rained and froze again. Trees and plants broke. So the next two weeks left us dealing with the aftermath of Winter Storm Uri. There went my month of not doing shit. Work had to be done around the house.

March was among us and I’d decided I better start putting my feelers out there. COVID was still rampant. The “Delta variant” was taking its toll. While I wasn’t fully aware of what was going on with the “great resignation,” I read rumblings of unemployment rates being high. I figured I needed to start looking for a new job because I didn’t want to burn up all of the retainer and severance that I’d recently received.

The Content Management System

I’ve never liked Indeed.com or other job sites. My resume always goes into a void. And I’m not going to create a resume for computers to read. That’s impersonal and so are the companies that use them. At the ripe age of 45 I knew I was going to have to rely on my network, as much as I hate “networking” (I sit very far on the introverted side of the scale). So I hopped on LinkedIn. Not to look for jobs, but to look to see what my friends and former work acquaintances were up to these days.

It didn’t take long to find and old friend and former coworker on LinkedIn. She’d left Under Armour many years ago. We had a lot of fun working together, and she’d left to go work at the parent company of the software that I use to write on this website. I’ve used this company’s software for 17+ years. And my friend had tried to recruit me a handful of times to leave UA and work with her. I always appreciated her thinking of me. And while it was enticing and exciting, I liked my job. I was settled in. I knew what I was doing. I liked the people I worked with. I liked the company. And the thought of having to start over from day one just sounded stressful.

But now I was going to need to find a new job. And just like when I found that job at MapMyFitness, I thought it made a lot of sense to work at a place where I’d “eat the dog food.

So I checked the Content Management System’s website and, lo and behold, they were hiring for the same title that I’d held for the past seven years. I wrote a 190 word cover letter and submitted it along with my resume. Six days later I received an email from the hiring manager to schedule an interview. That interview went really well, so I was invited to meet with another hiring manager from a different team. That interview went great as well. Next I was invited to a “trial,” which is where you’re paid as a 1099’d contractor for a couple weeks and are assigned some mock tasks to work on and, for yours truly, a mock client call. Albeit a little stressful, the trial process was a really smart way to let both parties kick the tires.

The entire interview and trial process probably took a month, and I was offered a job. I think I might’ve had a couple other interviews here and there around the time, but things got hot & heavy really quickly with the Content Management System and hadn’t much time or inclination to look around elsewhere. Again, I didn’t know how the job market was out there in the wild, and I already had a bite with a company that I liked and one whose product I actually used. So I accepted the job.

We had some travel lined up and a couple lacrosse tournaments, so I didn’t actually start the job until mid-June. The first two weeks consisted of a customer support rotation. Every new hire goes through this rotation. After those first two weeks, then I was introduced to my “squad.” That lasted about a week, then I was transferred to a new squad. Then I started learning the ropes.

After a few weeks on the ropes, I was realizing I didn’t like those ropes. I watched my peers on their ropes, too. Realizing that I might’ve been trusting my gut in haste, I reached out to my lead to discuss my concerns and discontent. She got it. She told me that she’d mentioned in my roundtable review that she was fearful that they might not be able to keep me interested long enough for me to stick around before I wanted to make a move to another team or another company under the parent company umbrella. And that’s exactly what I was thinking. I didn’t want to leave the company. The culture, pay, people, benefits, perks, future, everything about the company was and is great. I just wasn’t sitting in the right seat.

So we tried some things. And some other things.

I continued to give it a valiant effort, but I also decided to put myself back out there and start shopping around. And that decision was driven by the notion that I really wanted to get back into the digital fitness space. I wanted to find that flow state and feel that fire in my belly like I did at my last job.

To be continued….