Archive for September, 2011

We learn our skills in and out of the work place

Monday, September 19th, 2011

From time to time, I write a little about non-data center or energy things, just to mix it up and share with folks. Sometimes it is these blogs that generate the most interest and conversation from folks. Plus, I do believe that since we all work together, it’s nice to share some of our personal life with each other. After all, we are people working together based upon relationships, it is these things in our personal lives that drives us to work hard, and thus, they are essential parts of who we are as people and consequently, these personal things affect our daily work lives and relationships.

I also find that many of the things that I do in my personal life influence my work life. I’m sure we all find that at times, we reach an epiphany when walking the dog, talking to our spouse or friends, or some other activity that drives a decision or direction in our work the next day. I had one two weeks ago when talking with friends over dinner. But, that is not the topic of this blog.

Instead, it goes back another week but really starts when I was in college. I have always liked to push myself physically, and I get a lot out of those endorphins from a good physical challenge but also one with a mental challenge.

So I started mountain biking in college, riding longer and longer, more often and more often, until I was riding 365 days per year and training about 30+ hours per week. That on top of my 7-8 course load each semester (a consequence of earning multiple degrees simultaneously) and working part to full time year around. What can I say, I like to stay busy (also was on sports teams in addition to cycling, several clubs, an RA, etc, etc).

I then turned this “hobby” into training for races, became sponsored (it took me years to finish all those boxes of PowerBars I was provided), and finished races often in the top 10 out of hundreds or thousands of finishers. I earned enough points in my last year of racing and college to be in the top 10 nationally.

However, this, like many other hobbies, wasn’t my calling for a profession, and often hobbies and professions don’t mix very well. But I still get out to ride as often as I can and still love it. And do a race or two each year, purely for fun but also competitive. So on August 27th & 28th, I completed another 24-hour mountain bike race. I believe this is around my 6th, but I can’t remember nor have I been keeping track.

People ask how a 24 hour mountain bike race performs. Well, you ride a lap, usually about 10-15 miles long–which is usually takes about 45-90 minutes to finish–all on dirt, often much single track, climbs, descents, technical sections, fast sections, and complete as many laps as possible in 24 hours. Races can be completed as a solo team, or with up to 5 people on a team, trading off each lap in rotation, making each lap an all out sprint, then resting, downing as much water as your body can absorb, repairing your bike, recharging light batteries and trying to eat and sleep in the 45 min to 3 hour rest time before the next lap. Usually races start at about noon and end at noon the next day. Powerful bike light systems are used in the night laps, and the key is efficiency and speed while staying upright. Crashes not only hurt people–broken bones are quite common and sometimes trips in an ambulance for those racers that push their speed too fast for their ability at the time. Ability changes much after hours of riding, little sleep, little food, dehydration, and tired bodies. And especially at night when visibility is limited to a spot of light 5-20 feet in front of you as speeds exceed 30 mph in faster downhill and flat sections with still plenty of rocks, ditches and other obstacles to avoid.

The key to these races is to manage energy and speed to skill. Those that push too hard in the beginning of the race (a common mistake) or on any lap typically burn out before the race ends and either can’t finish it (often just finishing the race allows one to move up in the score board) or get hurt along the way.

So the key to 24-hour mountain bike racing is maintaining energy for 24 hours of riding with little sleep. It becomes somewhat of a mental game, especially in the late night laps. But even more so, a continual focus on the efficiency of every single pedal stroke–all 100,000 of them–and on the rest of the body, especially the lungs and heart. One must constantly “economize” while pushing their bike and self as hard (and consequently fast) as possible up every hill, down every descent, and around every lap to maintain the fastest average lap time. So any one slow lap kills the average, and hence, efficiency with the greatest speed. My lap times varied by less than 10%, even though temperatures ranged by 50 degrees F, some were in full sun, some in full dark; some with heavy traffic of other racers, some with passing  another racer only every 15 minutes; some with full energy, and last lap with maybe an hour of sleep over 24 hours, little food, and likely mild dehydration and most certainly tired legs and body, and even one with a mechanical and another with a flat tire.

In the data centers I design, efficiency doesn’t change much between hot and cold weather, day and night, packed full or empty of servers, mechanical failures or perfect operations. The key is being as efficient as possible all the time, not matter the adversity. It’s all about economizing and energy efficiency, just as my continuous focus in designing and operating data centers. I love it!

Here is a video of my most recent 24-hour race, the Coolest 24-Hours, which took place end of August in Soda Springs, CA (Donner Summit area of the Sierras). The race raised money for those dealing with cancer. In this video, I am the first rider out of the start of the 24 hour racers, wearing silver jersey, black and yellow cycling shorts with USD on the side (I still fit in my college cycling team shorts almost two decades later), red single speed 29″ Niner bike. I enjoyed being in first place for about the first mile before some of the racers pass me. You can see me do a little jump off the pavement start onto the dirt and also my buddy and fellow racer Stewart do the same in his third place position with red & white Niner Bikes jersey. I posted a photo of my aunt along the course–who died of cancer not long ago–which many photos of survivors and victims can be seen staked in the ground at the first turn. I finished the race with a smile, a dirty face, a dusty body, a respectable finish, and another lesson in efficiency. Enjoy the video and getting out to learn more! Here is the video: The Coolest 24 Hours, 2011–KC leads the pack at the start of the 24 hour race

The Olivier Sanche Tree and Room @ eBay

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

This week I had the pleasure of not only flying on 8 Southwest flights in one week–I believe this may be a new record for me of flights in one week on the same airline–but I also had the pleasure and privilege to tour ebay’s Topaz data center.

While we all know that I wouldn’t release any confidential data. Having been in the data center industry now for well over a decade, worked for Yahoo, Google, Sun, BEA, and completed large data center projects for financial institutions, banks, government entities, educational and research entities, Facebook, Equinix, and many others, I know and understand the importance and value to not only my reputation but also the importance of maintaining other’s confidential information. So, I will not share anything more about the data center—you can learn from what is already available from public sources.

However, I do want to comment on one item that I did see which does not have any confidentiality tied to it—the Olivier Sanche Memorial Tree and conference room. It touched me very much. Olivier and I were working on a project and talking just literally two days before he passed. Olivier and I were the exact same age. His job at Apple was essentially the same as mine at Yahoo. And at the time he passed, we were both running fast, traveling to many countries, several continents and states each month. We were trying to do everything we could to support our growing data center demand at the lowest cost and the highest energy efficiency as possible, and to help the industry achieve more as well by collaborating, sharing and guiding. And just as he touched my heart and those of many others in the data center industry, he managed to be the best dad possible.

While I enjoyed touring the ebay data center, it was the moment I spent reading Olivier’s memorial against the now small tree yet growing in size to eventually become a large icon in the entrance of this facility. It was that moment under this tree, and reading the memorial, that I once again remembered Olivier, and the touching reminder of how he touched many.

I applaud the fine folks for the very kind memorial to Olivier—we should all strive to support each other, work together, collaborate, and most of all, enjoy each other’s company. Not get out there and do something good today.