Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson


I don't often (read: never) blog about work now that work isn't riding related, but work this week involved an entertaining variation from my daily normal that I feel is fair to share :)  On Wed and Thurs I participated in #create4community -- an RBC event to support UnitedWay.   When I signed up for this, I honestly had no idea what I was getting into.  My manager forwarded an ask for participants and there wasn't much more info than that.

The challenge:  Create an innovative idea that will engage 1 million individuals across the GTA to join United Way's Uprising of Care to fight local poverty in one of the following ways:
  • Build pathways out of poverty: support a smart network of agencies across our region meeting diversity of needs.
  • Close the gap between our neighbourhoods: build social and economic inclusion in every part of our region.
  • Create opportunities for youth: ensure every young person has access to education and skills they need for economic success.
Sure.  Why not ;)

So my team of five, which included two people I knew in a "hallway conversation" manner and two people who were new to me, met a couple times before the event to discuss basic ideas, but the reality is that we, or at least I, had no idea what we were in for.

Our team: Saabia, Maija, Priya, Me, and Merna
The first hint came with the meeting invite -- which spanned from 8am Wed to 6pm Thurs.  Ummmm - I teach Wed night?   Is going home still a thing?   Lol but I gamely cleared at least my 9-5 calendar (well all except 1 meeting that was non negotiable at this point -- fortunately the hotel where this was being held was only a couple blocks from my office).

So shortly before 8 I arrived to be treated to a super yummy (and large!) breakfast.  Promising start.  The introduction was interesting and it became clear this used to be a strictly IT event.  Referred to as a hackathon, our team had a distinct lack of programmers on it.  Meh - minor detail ;).  We were encouraged to pick one or more of the above bullets and go.

We decided to focus on bullet one and worked to design an ap that would enable volunteers to connect easily to volunteer opportunities that suited their skills, interests, and location.  It was millennial-centric with swiping, badging, and sharing :).  We spent the first day designing this.  What problem were we trying to solve?  How would it work?  How does it look?  What are the key features?  What would keep users engaged?

What was amazing was how quickly our team -- who had never worked together before -- was able to come together as a team.  We worked collaboratively where it made sense: to design the general concept and create a template for multiple screens, and divided and conquered where that was logical -- such as mocking up screens.   We quickly recognized Saabia had all the design strength in our team, so while all could work on wireframes based on the template, she was the one who made them look good :)

There were also lots of volunteers from both RBC and United Way wandering around to assist.   Amongst those was a tech volunteer who suggested to us an ap that would enable us to mock-up our ap using screenshots with hot spots.  Win!  We could prototype our ap on an actual phone and click through to show how it would work.  Unbelievably cool -- it's amazing how real that makes it seem.

So we had the vast majority of our ap designed by the end of day one (fueled by an incredible amount of food might I add), and day two was dedicated to putting together our presentation.  The deck was a challenge -- we all are very used to writing business cases and executive presentations.   We don't have quite as much experience at sales pitches.   We managed it though -- coming up with a sales presentation (read: almost no text!) and relegated all the other actual information slides to an appendix deck.  Then did some work on the presentation -- we'd have 7 minutes to sell it.   We actually ran through this a couple times, given the timeline and all we wanted to share.

After lunch (and I have to admit I was amused when our exec sponsor came by offering cookies and fruit to those of us at the back of the line while we were waiting) was the judging.   Each team would present to three panels of judges.  There were 8 rounds -- so every team got breaks in-between presentations. After the 7 minutes (and yes - there was a large timer on the screen) the judges had 5 minutes for Q&A.   The judges were all very positive, asked good questions, and gave encouraging feedback.   By this point we were all fairly emotionally invested in this -- I haven't prepped that much for a presentation since my thesis.   And even that didn't have a time limit ;)

This was followed by a break while the judges did their thing.  They picked one team from each category to proceed to the final round of judging; sadly our submission was not chosen :(.  I was more disappointed by that than I would've thought -- going in I don't think I truly believed we'd create something to be proud of.  But we did, so it would've been nice to win :)

Overall though it was an excellent experience.  A true feeling of belonging to a team, getting to use skills that don't play into daily life, and the instant gratification of seeing a project appear in front of your eyes -- all made for a really positive event.  Not to mention helping a worthwhile cause :)

21 Days?

With the weather being as blah as it has, I haven't been getting in as much cycling as I'd like; four weeks from now I'll be riding over 200kms to raise money for the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.  And I'm not even slightly ready.  Ugh.   Was supposed to ride my first 100km in a MEC ride this weekend, but it got cancelled due to flooding.  An inauspicious beginning :(

So I've decided to up my general fitness so at least I have a chance.  So I went back to Beachbody, which is where I got P90X3 (that story began here) and Core de Force and figured I'd see what else was there.  I know from my Core de Force adventure that I really need something that sticks to 30 mins to be successful.   So I filtered on this, which is when I got my first hint as to how atrocious their website really is.  *sigh*.  Filter was useless, so I did some searching and found a few possibilities.   One I liked the idea of was the 21 Day Fix.  Simply because I had enough time to complete the program, add one extra week, and have a few recovery days before the ride.  Perfect.

Now there are two options -- 21 Day Fix, and 21 Day Fix Extreme.   They have almost identical descriptions, but the difficulty rating is significantly higher for the Extreme version.  To put in perspective, it's ranked harder than both of the other two programs I've done.  So of course, feeling particularly unfit, I went for that one ;).

I also decided to subscribe to their online membership rather than ordering videos.  Since I seem to be doing these a lot, it seemed the most cost effective method.  And while the videos all work (although there was a delay before I could use them) I have to say the website itself and the member's dashboard are sorely disappointing.   They have the potential to be amazing and yet fail time after time *sigh*. However, I really just wanted the exercise, and that I have.

This video series has a fairly defined diet associated with it; I'm not playing that game ;-P.  The videos themselves are all half hour, and follow a weekly schedule.  So it will get boring fast, but it's only meant to be done for 3 weeks, so fair enough.

As to the exercise program, I'm conflicted.  I really dislike the trainer.  Her "motivation" makes me angry, and the constant reference to "booty" would alone cause me to lose any respect I may have had for her.  Also, her background exercisers are all bikini competitors (I didn't even know this was a thing?), which means they have amazingly sculpted bodies.  I understand this is supposed to advertise for the program, but to me it's demotivating -- they're so much more fit than I, that just because they can do something, doesn't mean I have a hope at it.   As opposed to P90X3, which had all very fit people but both A - people who at times struggled with the exercises, and B - people who do not exercise for a living and who got fit through doing that particular program.   And Core de Force has some awesomely fit people but a couple more normal body types who are managing it as well.   Again inspiring the competitive "if they can do it, so can I".

I also (so far -- I've only done 4 videos) do not like the exercises.   I haven't done one video where I'd look forward to doing it again.   The only plus is that most of them use weights, which I quite enjoy :).  And they use the fitness bands in ways I haven't seen before which is interesting, although kinda requires shoes which I'm not thrilled about.

I'm not alone!
So with all the negatives, what's the conflict?   Well they work.   Except for pushups which have always been the bane of my existence, I can do all the exercises.   By half way through most of the videos, whichever area is being worked is fatigued enough to be shaking.   And I am so very sore.   I think I'm still recovering from the very first day (when I did two videos because the website listed both and missed the critical "or" that is specified in the program materials).   The videos are also in an appropriate order so different systems are worked each day (in as much as isolation is possible).   And they do stick to half an hour, which means I can fit it in and still have time to ride my bike.

Weather's supposed to be better this week.  Fingers crossed!