Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 31 - John Kelly - FAILURE IS FEEDBACK - Part 3 of 3

So, I'm always curious when I talk to people like you, it’s kind of a reflection of myself in some ways. And I wonder, obviously, there's joy involved and that's a common link with pretty much anybody I talked to as far as why go out and do these things.
Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 31 - John Kelly - FAILURE IS FEEDBACK - Part 3 of 3

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JOHN: Yeah. JESSE: So, I'm always curious when I talk to people like you, it’s kind of a reflection of myself in some ways. And I wonder, obviously, there's joy involved and that's a common link with pretty much anybody I talked to as far as why go out and do these things. But I think you talked about this on your blog posts to being type two fun not type one fun, which is another conversation but just that it's not a regular kind of fun. And I know I've spoken with one of my friends who do triathlon about how - should remember the pro, this pros blog we talked about. It's not about fun, he's not trying to have fun, has no intention of having fun going through these things, it's about the struggle and in the endeavor. So, is there anything besides joy that possesses you to find these personal challenges? JOHN: Oh, for sure. And that's in large part the sense of achievement that comes from it the benefits and the rewards that come from it, again on the intangible level of lessons learned and strengthening the mind and that sort of thing. I tried to make it very clear that there are points out there where it sucks like during the race it hurts and it's miserable. And you question your sanity and why you're out there. And so I don't smile every time I run by a camera, a photographer or whatever, and it's-- So, yeah, I mean, I want people to know that when they do you feel that, that that's normal. I don't want people to go try the sport and do their first 100 miler and hit that low spot that everyone hits in a race like that and think that they're just not well suited for it, it's not for them and kinda hang things up there because everyone has those points. And it's the sense of achievement of overcoming them that it's part of what makes it so great. Barkley is often referred to as a masochist race. And that's something that I object to quite strongly because that kind of implies that there's pleasure in the pain. And that's not what it is at all, but the pleasure is in overcoming the obstacles that caused the pain, and a sense of satisfaction comes from that. JESSE: Yeah. And that reminds me, I go back to this thoughts on this episode a lot. You probably know Chris Douglas who raced for EMJ. I had him on episode six and we talked about his kind of time at Music City Triathlon, and where he basically almost, he says almost, I think he says almost died from like overheating. And we talked about pain and he mentioned about you know, it's not-- you don't enjoy the pain. Nobody finds, like all these people that do it-- I asked about the EMJ team in particular because there's a lot of very high performing individuals on the team. It's like nobody he'd spoken to, especially on the team found enjoyment in pain, it's something else. It's the joy, the accomplishment or the challenge or all these other intangibles besides paint itself. It's almost as this kind of like, you get that idea of masochism from people kind of outside looking in that don't understand why the hell is John out running 100 miles on the weekend? Well, he must like hurting himself because going for a run to the end of the sidewalk hurts me. So, it must hurt him a lot. So, I think it's almost a misunderstanding of that culture from people who never really pushed themselves to those limits before. I do want to kind of move a little bit into well, I guess before we do that, before move into the good stuff, I want to ask you, you mentioned before we got going, so with your sub nine hour Ironman, you have the slowest record time for such a finish and that was your only race as a professional. How’d you get yourself into that situation? JOHN: Well, so it was actually my third. I had three Ironman within a couple of months that year and remarkable consistency. I think all three finishes were within a minute of each other. I've often wondered if maybe that means I wasn't really pushing hard enough, and I wasn't going just fast enough to get sub nine. But I know at least on one of those, that wasn't the case, because I was shooting for place rather than time. But it was you know, I knew for a long time that after last year, I was going to shift my focus more to ultra running that's kind of where my passion is. It's what I'm better at where I find more enjoyment and it doesn't involve swimming is the key thing. So, before I did that, I went ahead and went - pro, which I qualified for a number of times through Ironman finishes last year. And did one race as a pro, Ironman Arizona. And just the swim was worse than, even for me than it normally is. I'd normally come out of the water about 1:03, I came out in 1:17. Just everything that can possibly go wrong in a swim from goggles to losing sight of course to cramping, just everything. And the pro athlete coordinator, when I came out to went into transition to get my bike she was visibly shocked that there was another pro - coming out of the water. So, I went out and just, I enjoyed the bike, set a good consistent pace on it. And about four or five miles into the run, I started to do the math, and I realized if I run about a 250 marathon, I can still do this. I could still go sub nine, that would be pretty cool after swimming 1:17. And so I kind of debated with myself whether it was worth it to go for it over the next few miles. Eventually I just decided I'm probably never going to have an opportunity to do something, some sort of dubious achievement like this again. So, let's go for it and see what happens. And I actually ended up running one of the strongest Ironman marathons I've run in terms of consistent pace. I was still moving well at the end and came in just around I think it was 2:52 maybe, came in just a minute or two south of nine hours. So, that was pretty cool. That was a way to end on a high note with that run. JESSE: Yeah, it's kind of the nice thing about that distance is that although the swim is very still important, sometimes things can go very wrong and then the rest of the day isn't completely spoil just because the bike and then to run such a large portion of the overall day. So, tell me a little bit about what is your job? So, originally kind of going into like ?? 8:41> do Data Science, Data Analytics, but it's a little bit more involved than that. I know you've worked in the startup scene versus corporate. So, what are you doing now and how did you kinda get there? JOHN: So, I moved to England about six months ago, we spun out a startup that most of our business was over here. So, it made the most sense to go ahead and set up shop over here for a bit. And so I came over to kind of get the technical team stood up. And what we're currently doing is quantifying cyber risk of companies in order to price cyber insurance. So, it's quite the challenging problem to predict how much companies are likely to lose due to cyber attack and determine how to best protect against that. And one of the fun things I've found kind of finding myself in this field called Data Science, which I don't think that term existed yet when I first started doing it, is that I have gotten to hop around between all these different domains and application areas. So, I started out mainly doing sort of biomedical and healthcare applications. I’ve been in defense, I’m now doing cyber risk and insurance. And so it's been fun to get all of these different problems and challenges. And one day I'll probably circle back and go to the one that I found was my favorite. But all the while, it's kind of applying the same basic principles and technology to different challenges. JESSE: Kind of makes me think about, so my undergrad degrees in math, I didn't go on from there. But before I got that degree, I went through calculus in high school and I said, okay, I'm never doing math again. And then what I hadn't realized about myself at the time was that I really enjoyed like solving problems. So, that's what I enjoyed about math classes in general. You find that's kind of the driving force and enjoying all these different challenges is that you like solving new problems or you have like a sub interest in in various fields. JOHN: Some of them more than others, I will say that kind of where I started out in biomedical and healthcare applications, that's been the one that I've found most personally rewarding so far, just in terms of the application itself and some of the outcomes that I got to see from that. So, that definitely is an aspect of it. But there's also that aspect of just being able to take on seemingly impossible difficult problems, the same way that we do some races because it's a beautiful course or because it's an a great destination or a great organization. And then there are others that we do purely because we want to see what we're capable of. And those are the ones that really teach us the most, and send us away as better people afterwards. JESSE: Correct me if I'm wrong here. So, your early work was working on problems with brain computer interfaces in specifically with prosthetics right? JOHN: Yep. JESSE: So, why move away from that? Was that like, your academic research and then it wasn't like corporate employed or why move away from that? JOHN: Yeah, so that was very much academic and in the end, at least for now I wanted to try my hand at things that had more near term application. As rewarding as that technology was, it's something that is, I think academic is maybe a good term for. And then it's likely to be a while before it sees real world applications outside of sort of a laboratory environment. So, that was kind of the main thing. But then again it's also a matter of trying your hand at other problems and other domains so that you can kind of circle back to what you did find the most rewarding. That's a paradigm that's pretty important in Data Science oftentimes is this explore versus exploit paradigm, where there's this opportunity cost as you explore these different options, you're losing the ability to keep going for the one that you enjoy. But if you keep going for the one that you enjoy, then you lose the ability to possibly find one that's even better. And so I think this is most relatable with food. Just take pizza topping, so you like pepperoni, you could just keep getting the pepperoni every time and you never risk having a bad pizza experience. Or you can try different options and possibly find one that you love even more, and then start exploiting that option. JESSE: That actually leads me perfectly as we're running low on time, the one question I'm asking everybody this year because it relates to everybody is about food. I like to know, so after a hard workout or maybe one of your ultras, in this case, if you only get to choose one food for recovery for the rest of your life, what do you choose? JOHN: Well, that depends on what type of recovery because to me there's recovery that is sort of a part of preparation for the next thing in terms of refueling your body to get to the next workout or to the race. And then there's recovery that comes after the big gold race and you're kind of just more mentally recovering for a while, and not quite as worried about refueling properly. So, if it's the former and it's during a training block, and I'm just recovering for the next workout or for the race, I'm going to do your usual kind of go healthy options, things like Recover Right that provide a good carb and protein good. If it's after my big goal race and the recovery is more of a celebration and a mental recovery than a physical one, pizza and ice cream, every time. I will never turn down pizza or ice cream. JESSE: Solid man. Well, actually I started making some craft ice cream. So, if you're ever in Kansas City I’ll have to make some ice cream for you. JOHN: Nice. JESSE: If people want to see kind of what you're up to and kind of follow you on your own adventures, where can people find you? JOHN: So, I've got a blog. Easiest thing is to head there and it's got links to my Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook page and whatnot. So, the blog is, which is a queue on words one of my colleagues came up with. Random Forest is a very popular Data Science algorithm. So, it's got that part and obviously the running through Random Force that I tend to do. JESSE: Yeah. Sounds great, John. Thanks for coming on today. JOHN: Yeah, thanks so much for having me. Enjoyed the chat. Go to Part 1 Go to Part 2

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