Human DevOps - Sunday 31st March - Building Strength and Resilience


A couple of weeks ago, I ran the Amstelveen Marathon in support of Suicide Prevention NL. It's the first marathon I've attempted in over 12 years and my fifth overall. My fastest time ever was 3 hours 46 minutes. This time, I hoped to complete it in under 4 hours 30 minutes. I figured that with decent training, including some strength training, I'd be able to manage this okay.

However, I really learned an important lesson on the day. I eventually completed it in an undistinguished time of 4 hours 40 minutes - this was outside my goal and about 30 minutes slower than I secretly hoped for. So what had gone wrong?

I certainly had some extra time to think about this as I completed each painful kilometre. Two things were immediately obvious.

Firstly I had not trained for that extra time on the road. I assumed I'd be able to go at a faster race pace on the day and trained for time rather than distance. So my longest training run was 3 hours 30 minutes, but the distance covered in that time was only 27km. If I'd actually just stuck to my previous training plans and made sure I'd run 33 or 35kms during training I would have discovered my true race pace plus got used to the extra time out on the road.

Secondly, I'd not done enough strength training for the rest of my body. All that extra pounding - another 12% of extra time when the body was already tired - really was very hard on my frame. The week after the marathon, I struggled with back pain, which I'm only just getting over.

I think I made a couple of wrong assumptions in my training. I guessed that I could train pretty much as in years previously and get the same results with only a bit more effort. While I credited my increased age, I only really paid that lip service. Secondly I assumed that my experience would be enough to see me through. And while it was, it was a painful experience.

How do make our lives less painful when it comes to attempting the hardest things? Do we trust our experience or treat it like something new the next time? I believe you need to do a bit of both: ensure that you respect the challenge even if you have done it before, but also lean on your experience to improve the areas you know you can improve.

Therefore, it's not enough to be mentally strong; we must be physically strong and competent. We need to work hard at our technical abilities as a team and put in the hours as experts. We can prove this to ourselves every day by showing up for the work we do and for each other.

Sometimes, it's not enough to be kind; we must also be fiercely competent.

I wish you a pleasant and restful Easter weekend if you're celebrating it, and if not, I hope you enjoy this long weekend.

If you'd like to learn more about improving resilience and productivity in DevOps teams, reply to this email to register your interest. I'm putting together some resources specifically for training teams in resilience, mutual respect and productivity.

-- Richard


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Human DevOps

DevOps at is the heart of modern software systems. In my regular newsletter, I dive into the human factors that make successful engineering organizations where teams and platforms thrive at the heart of your socio-technical systems. From leadership to team setup, maximizing performance, tools and techniques.

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