Saturday, April 7, 2012

Time to Turn the Page...

Winter is over. Sort of...

It's been another busy year of work, travel, life.  Every year I tell myself that things will cool off a bit, that work will become less hectic, that my travel will slow down... It hasn't, and that's OK.

Truth is, I love what I do.  The work, the busy schedules, all the travel...It's all part of an amazing adventure in itself and I wouldn't change a thing - at least not anytime soon.  Sure there are times where I wouldn't mind being home a bit more - but we adapt. You learn to spend more quality time with close friends/family, and plants learn to live without little to no water for 10-day stints.

Greek coastline - Athens awaits.

So with the nordic season behind me, I turn the page and look forward to hitting the trails!  That means it's time to hit the road again... or in this case, the air.

For the past 5 seasons, I've had the opportunity to take part in Salomon's Advanced Week, where Brand Ambassadors, athletes and product development staff come together to test the latest footwear, apparel and gear.  It's a no-holds-barred week where we literally 'run' the product into the ground, and provide valuable feedback to the development team.  Of course, not everything makes the cut, but if it does, it becomes worthy of the 'S-LAB' tag - Salomon Laboratory.  So if you've bought on of these products in the past, you know it's been approved by some of the world's best trail runners!

Kardamili - Advanced Week testing grounds

This year's testing grounds - Kardamili, Greece...  Two words: 'WOW'.  As far as testing grounds go, I don't think you could ask for a better location.  The quality of the trails here is simply impressive - you want it, you got it - except for flat sections... haven't found too many of those yet!  Oh, and the scenery...not bad at all!

I know what you're thinking...but believe when I tell you that this is the furthest thing for a 'vacation'.  With countless products to review, the R&D crew wastes no time!  Days are jammed-packed with 2 per day testing sessions, covering 20-30km of technical trail, which translates to a minimum of 3hrs of difficult running - and that's only if you don't get lost!  Fresh off the trail, your trail running gear is immediately replaced with pens and paper, filling out feedback forms, and documenting every feelings, tweeks, comments - the good, the bad, the ugly... they want to hear it!

Felix and Michel on the final push to the top of the trail
Testing aside, one of the highlights for me is the interaction and networking that takes place between both athletes and Brand Ambassadors.  Being able to share or bounce ideas and marketing strategies from a global perspective, and adapt them to our Canadian market is key.  Whether in an organized focus group, or dinner time chatter, exchanges take place throughout the day - So by the time your head finally touches the pillow around midnight, sleep is instant.

On the trail...Coming and Going
Like it or not, another Advanced Week has come and gone...My brain is full of new ideas, confidence and I'm ready to attack the trail running season!  Our new Greek friends have been fantastic hosts, and the camaraderie of my Salomon 'family' continues to grow...I'll miss this place - but I'm happy to come home. 

Sardine head collection - Greek specialty!
Looking back at this busy year, one of the things I've learned about my work is that it's not about skiing, or running or whatever it is I do...(trust me, sometimes I don't even know how to describe what I do!).  The root of my work, is about building relationships.  Not so sure why it's taken me this long to figure this out, but I realize now that whether for business or friendship - relationships are the key. 

[Taking a moment to reflect on this...]

Yup, I can turn the page now.

So much to talk about...Better leave some for next time.  Besides, it's time to go for a run!  
A rare moment - Taking a bit of PV time...

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