Friday, August 3, 2007

Typical Pre-Race Scheduling Hassles

My "ER" job involves shift work, and the shifts are all over the place. I ask my scheduler to only schedule me for morning shifts the day or two before a race. However, as a frequent racer, with disproportionally specific date and shift requests, I don't always get what I want. Then I have to hang out with George Clooney way too late, sometimes only a few hours before a long run. (That's me on the left.)

So, a week before Skyline 50k, I look at my August calendar and notice a very suboptimal pre-race work schedule. It's not heavy, just all evenings:

  • Monday 7/30-- 1:30 pm to midnight (7.5 miles from home)

  • Tuesday 7/31-- 2:30 pm to 1 am (15 miles)

  • Wednesday 8/1-- 1:30 pm to midnight (7.5 miles)

  • Thursday 8/2-- on call, meaning I could get stuck with any shift

  • Friday 8/3-- 3 pm to midnight, not in ED, but at regional call center in Solano County (45 miles)

  • Saturday 8/4-- OFF, wife's cousin's birthday party downtown SF, starts at 5 pm for those like us with little kids

  • Sunday 8/5-- RACE starts at 7 am, short drive from my house

I'm supposed to have home-course advantage, but this schedule bites. From the point of view it would be better to have to travel two hours to the race but not have those evening shifts. I don't always leave on time, I have to shower and eat before I climb into bed, and often I'm wired from my shift and need time to chill before I can get to sleep. Although I'm not working Saturday, it's almost an hour's drive before I'm home on Friday. So I'll go to bed on Friday no earlier than 1 am and then my son will wake me up as early as 6:30. And remember, it's supposed to be the night before the day before the race when you are supposed to sleep well. And no matter how tired I'll be Saturday night, it will be hard to go to bed early.

So, the big problem is Friday night. The problem, if it not already obvious, is that none of my colleagues is a complete loser. No one will happily volunteer to work 3pm to midnight on Friday, even if they like me.

So early in the week I call and email Ralph (name changed to protect his innocence), who's working the morning 7 am to 3 pm shift at the call center. I might have a chance, since like me, he has a baby-toddler and therefore no party-life.

Dude. Anyway I could get you to switch shifts, or take my shift? Make me an offer. No pressure, though, if it's a problem.

Ralph gets back to me. He's cool with it, and he doesn't extort me by asking me to take an overnight in return, but his wife is going out with her Mom'n'Tots group Friday night, so he'll have to be home to watch his son starting 9 pm. I then am really irritated that the hours for this call center shift, which used to be 8 am to 10 pm, were increased just this month to 7 am to 12 midnight, and split into two.

We recently have been able to do half of our shifts remotely from home. The only reason we sometimes have to drive way up north across the Carquinez Bridge is there needs to be a doctor to sign off on phone prescriptions for certain common ailments via protocol screening questions by the nurses.

I call/email the scheduler, who also is the liaison with the call center.

Is there any reason one of us HAS to be up there write Diflucan for cheesy vaginal discharge at 11 at night?

The answer, fortunately, is that the clerk still goes home at 10pm, so if I can find someone to cover remotely then, I don't have to stay the last 2 hours. I offer to cover Ralph's morning shift, so I'll work 7 am to 10 pm, as well as fulfill his condition that I cover the first 3 hours of Ralph's shift starting at 10 am on Saturday, which is the urgent care clinic before the 9 hours in the ED , so he can get enough sleep after working until midnight for me. Yes, for the race, I'd rather work all day Friday and 3 hours than have to drive 45 miles home on Friday.

ALL SET, MUCH BETTER! (not ideal, but better...)
Fifteen hours straight taking calls from nurses 2 days before. (I would take an unpaid break and go jog, but it's taper time. Call center workers have one of the highest burnout and suicide rates, and indeed I usually start wanting to kill myself. Running 15 hours is FUN, but 15 hours taking calls is HELL.)

The only other controllable variable is that I have to make sure I do not drink too much Saturday evening, just because I have a designated driver with my pregnant wife and the bar and food spread, as always, will be excellent.


olga said...

Man, you really do need that drink in a picture:) But as I was taught back home since childhood, the tighter your schedule, the better you manage. You seem to be doing an awesome job!

olga said...

Mark, here is the link to Columbia River Gorge (it's on my side bar as well). It starts 20 miles East of Portland, OR and lasts for another 40 miles or so in length and whatever deep. Main known trail is PCT, but the number of trails, used and not, is just unbelievable. It gets up to 5,000 feet highest point, and there is nothing flat in there more than 2 miles a stretch:) Gotta climb and then come down!