20 minute read

On a lonely weekend in the latter end of March 2024, with nothing better to do, I sat down and watched the Super Smash Bros movie on a streaming service — it must have been Netflix.

I liked that one action scene where the song “Holding Out for a Hero” plays. The music is very fitting to the scene being displayed, and furthermore I love that song. The scene depicts Mario attempting a practice run — an elaborate puzzle of sorts, which involves footwork, ingenuity, and a mushroom power-up — numerous times, and failing each one. It’s actually rather miserable, and more disheartening than amusing to witness Mario’s failures.

If curious, here is the YouTube video of the scene, and the same one which I was able to record on my large TV below:

Basically, everything that can go wrong and which Mario can do wrong while attempting the puzzle, goes wrong (and he does wrong). If you could add up all of Mario’s failed attempts at the puzzle, you could probably build a mountain out of his sordid failures, and sweat and tears, alone. He gets fish-slapped. Head-bricked. Smacked around and taken down by kinetic, rotating objects. Falls ungracefully after being deceived by moving platforms. Has transient, short-lived platforms give way underneath his feet. Gets chomped on by those Venus fly-trap creatures that like to hide in the green pipes. Gets fish-slapped (did I already say that?). Gets pinned to the top of a moving bomb-missile, effectively at its mercy. Gets his head eaten by the same fish that slapped him numerous times earlier.

And finally, he chomps down multiple mushrooms each time to power him up. Eyes closed and watering each time, as it’s no secret Mario hates and despises mushrooms with a passion, but down the hatch it goes. Probably he consumes a billion and one mushrooms in total, correlating to his billion and one failed attempts.

At the end, he becomes increasingly desperate. Ultimately, you can see his desperate, haunted eyes. He’s so close to giving up hope. To throwing in the towel. His eyes are wide open and innocent-looking — just like a puppy dog — and you can see his pain and frustration reflected in them. You can see the full sum of all his failed attempts, and the toll they’ve taken on him. It’s painful for me to watch that. Just the hopelessness mirrored in those eyes, as at that precise moment I was feeling the exact same emotion, albeit for somewhat different reasons.

Anyway, Mario snaps. He eats the shroom and he powers up, but something in him changes. His eyes slowly transform and taken on a steely resolve, revealing a glint of mischievousness and intense dedication. In that final attempt, he realizes that all his life has been leading up to this. At the one chance at glory. In order to not blow it, he has to seize the bull by the horns, and utilize the full sum of learnings from all his innumerable failures, in order to “make it big in Hollywood”. Or well, something like that.

And so, he does. Or rather, he tries very hard. Gives it [the puzzle] his all. He takes shortcuts where he needs to do, like smashing that brick floor and landing on the platform underneath, in order to avoid that pesky rotating thing that he’s never figured out how to stop getting hit by. Smashes through brick walls with naught but his fists and the cold, unnerving steel of his resolve. Takes a leap of faith, and jumps into the air while the sun shines bright and the sunlight illuminates his figure, exactly and right as he punches his fist through the wooden caricature of Bowser, smashing it to pieces and sending wood chips flying everywhere. He uses those bomb-missiles as stepping stones, hopping over them, and suddenly he’s flying through the air, like a weightless bird with the wind beneath its wings. Effortless flight — Mario has figured out how to fly! He even catches Princess Peach’s eye, and he flashes his best, devilishly handsome smile. And then suddenly, he gets his head eaten off by one of those Venus fly-traps. Well, that was a let-down. It’s like even though you expected the climax of the action to be building up to something, in reality it amounted to nothing really.

Anyway… why I bring this up is that I’ve seen some great movies (and shows) like that in the month of March, which is last month, and also because I liked that song that plays, “Holding Out for a Hero”. Now, I don’t imagine that I can listen to that song without summoning that image of Mario, and him trying his hand at and failing that puzzle (so many times!). And particularly envisioning that bold-faced transformation. From coward to hero, all in a heartbeat’s notice. They say the eyes are a window to the soul, and so seeing that transformation there, from red-ringed hopelessness to cold-steely resolve, that’s rather satisfying. Now I can correlate “Holding Out for a Hero” to Mario playing the hero’s role, in a last-ditch effort to save his brother and ultimately get in the good graces of the Ruler (The Princess) of the Mushroom Kingdom .

So anyway, long story short, I’d like to spend some time in this blog spot to talk about my personal victories (I suppose you could call them NSV’s) in the month of March.

12-Minute RFD

On March 7th, I had the 12-minute Tread for Distance (or RFD, Run for Distance) at my local gym.

The day before, I ran at a pace of about 11.1 for at least ten minutes. Looks like that was on an evening Tread 50 class. Tread 50, in case others are not aware of it, is a speciality, freeform treadmill workout which is intended to be 50 minutes long. Hence the “Tread 50”. It runs alongside the Strength 50, so half the class would be doing weights and dumbbell exercises, while the other half are pumping their arms and legs on the treadmill, and busy getting the wind knocked from their chest.

In reality, it’s actually a 45 minute run on the treadmill, as the last 5 minutes of the class are for post-workout arm, leg, and body stretches. Anyway, in that freeform run on the tread, where no coach is telling you what to do (at least you don’t have to pay attention to it if you don’t want to), it’s basically up to you to set the rhythm and tempo as well as the goal of the workout.

I’d avoided the Tread 50 classes for months by now, ever since I’d taken it and run at a really fast pace (close to 12 MPH) for the one mile prep, and my legs had been injured and taken out of commission for a day or two. So understandably, I was afraid of Tread 50. But fear is something you need to train out of yourself, especially when it dawns on you that it’s rather irrational — after all, the overwhelming majority of OTF members don’t have an issue with Tread 50 at all. So, armed with this fresh knowledge that Tread 50 doesn’t necessarily involve “run the entire 45-minute block non-stop”, as well as having completed some choice leg-strengthening exercises that my PT had recommended me, I decided to jump back to Tread 50.

Anyway, the key reason for the Tread 50 — so late in the day and literally right before the 12-minute TFD benchmark — was that I wanted to build up my endurance for the run. The last time I did this challenge, a couple months ago, I got a 2.22 — and that was from maintaining roughly a 11.1 pace the whole duration of the timed run.

So I ran 11.1 for about 12 minutes in the Tread 50 class. It was rough, almost took my entire breath away, but I got it done. So mission “build endurance the day before the benchmark” was a success.

The next day at gym, my actual pace was ever so slightly — a 0.2 increase — more than my proven and tested pace for that time. I successfully ran and maintained a pace of 11.3 MPH for 12 minutes. At 11:59 — a second before, technically — I hit the stop button, and read the distance on the screen as 2.25 miles. Felt really good about that. After all, what’s not to feel good about it? It’s a nice, clean, and big round number. 2.25 — that’s like 2 and a quarter miles. Rolls off the tongue. Felt good about achieving a PR and beating my previous distance, of course. At the same time, feels good to say that I got 2.25 miles complete in 12 minutes, to someone. Like I said, a nice, clean round number. This was an important win for me, and well deserved. I ended up with my goal distance after all — just a slight increase, but a nice round number. I posted a photo of it on my Instagram as well, for those curious.

AWS Cert Exam

Anyway, that whole night after I got back from the gym after running for 12 minutes on benchmark day, I sat down and I did some last-minute cramming for the AWS re-certification exam (Solutions Architect Associate). Yes, it was just a re-certification, since the cert expires every 3 years, and minute had been expired for a little over a month. So I needed to re-take the exam and pass it, in order to renew my certification.

Unfortunately, cramming last minute took a lot out of me. I had green tea to focus my mind and keep me concentrated, but it was still not easy. This was easily an 8 hour cram session. I solely studied the online course instructional videos on acloudguru.com , and did not use any other instructional or test material to prepare. Might have been a mistake on my part, but it’s what worked for me last time too. In this case, all I really did was re-watch as many videos as I possibly could, that too frantically, and also I watched — in 2x speed — all the review videos which summarized each section.

It was a lot to go through, as Amazon (AWS) is certainly prolific to say the least, and they come up with a billion services every year, which ups the complexity by a lot for those studying for certification exams (ok, maybe a slight exaggeration there, likely not a billion services a year!) Anyway, the kicker this time around (2024) is that AWS added a lot of AI and machine learning services to their cloud-based offering. Like Rekognition, Polly, and SageMaker. So I had to go over that, which was painful. As well, I had to refresh my memory of network-related topics such as VPCs and security groups and subnets, which is always a tricky thing for me. Not really fun but just information that you gotta cram in your head, to say that you know how to architect a solution with bastion hosts for example, if it came down to it.

I also spent quite a bit of time taking the quizzes for each section, as well as the practice exams (about 60 questions each, if I recall). The practice exams took me anywhere from a half hour to an hour to complete. It felt both physically and mentally exhausting. I stayed up until 5 am by sipping tea, re-watching the review videos at 2x speed, re-taking the section quizzes, and lastly clearing those practice exams (there were like 6-8 total sets, which was an impressive feat to clear them with a good grade by itself). It catapulted me back to my undergraduate days, where I was sipping on a can of Monster or else Red Bull or 5 Hour Energy (much unhealthier than tea, take my word) and basically doing the same thing, more or less. That is, writing down notes, learning, and committing things to short-term memory. Because that’s really what exams are meant to test you on, most of the time – your short-term memory. It was pretty brutal, staying up almost a whole day and night studying, up until to 5am in the morning, but I finally got it done. Once I took the last practice exam with a score above 80%, I crashed and fell asleep for about 3-3.5 hours.

The alarm I had set woke me up. My exam was at 9:30 AM. I had blocked off my calendar and taken off the day from work long in advance. So I woke up, did some last minute studying and review, and headed off to the in-person test center.

Man o man, was the exam brutal. The first few questions in, I honestly did not know what I was doing. I did not know even if I had chosen the right exam to take. Maybe I got a different exam or something. The questions were mad hard to figure out, to eke out their meaning and what they were asking. Wall upon wall of text from each question presented itself to me. The answers seemed to blur together. Then I remembered that Amazon (AWS) likes to do these sorts of things sometimes. Pose questions that aren’t really going to be graded at all, but the questions are there just to get information on how hard of a question it is, and whether most people struggled with it. Kind of like a hidden survey question in an easter egg form, if you will. At least, I assumed those brutal, challenging questions that I couldn’t make heads or tails of, were just practice questions that weren’t going to be graded at all. As a whole, that exam was just non-stop brutal, and the roughly 2 hours of my exam time was filled with despair, hopelessness, and excruciating boredom and suffering and mental anguish.

Finally, I was done with the exam after a little over 2 hours, and by that time my brain was fried, and I was eager to jump at the opportunity to switch it off.

Anyway, the real crummy thing about AWS and certifications, is that they don’t release you the verdict of whether you passed or not, immediately after you take the exam. Maybe it’s a liability, or legal, or ethical thing. So that someone doesn’t punch the computer screen after reading that they failed the exam, for example.

I’m sure they have their reasons. But they did not show to me, on the computer screen after I had taken the exam, whether I had cleared it or not. Which again, pumped up the anxiety and trepidation and stress factor, over me taking the exam and not knowing whether I passed or not.

I was dead sure I had failed the exam. Because I had no clue what I was doing when I was answering the questions, for more than half of the time. That means my success rate was less than 50% on average. That means I would clearly fail, right? Because the pass rate is somewhere over 70%. So there was truly no hope for me.

Anyway, walking back to the car and I kept checking my email inbox. Nope, nothing. Went back to work. Attended meetings. Team asked if I cleared the exam. I said no word still.

Then finally, around 2:30pm or so, after another meeting, I just saw the words emblazoned on a subject in an email I just got. It was bolded, because it was unread. It said those magic words I couldn’t believe I was reading:

Congratulations on passing your AWS Certification exam!

Literally, I didn’t need to click on the email, because I felt my heart skip a beat from reading the subject line itself, but I did anyway.

So yeah, looks like I passed the exam. Which is all I wanted to do. Either you pass or fail, there is no special prize for getting above a 90% score on the exam even. So I’m glad that I did. Now I am re-certified as a Solutions Architect Associate, and it feels good to have that under my belt.

In short, I took an AWS technical re-certification exam that day, on March 8th which was a Friday, and ultimately passed it. Solutions Architect - Associate. My old one expired. One of most brutal exams I took in a while, was dead worried I wouldn’t pass it. Now, victory is that much sweeter!

Here is the certificate for others to view, just in case.

I also posted about it on my Instagram. Let me see if I can find that link, and then I’ll throw it in here! 🙌 🎉


So, gonna try to be short here. It’s after 1AM now and I don’t want to wax eloquent here or anything.

Everest is a signature OTF workout — OTF is the gym I go to. Everest was on a Friday, that I remember. Don’t remember which day, it was in the middle of March.

Everest is brutal, even more so than the 12 minute RFD. It’s a pure incline workout designed to wreck your legs and your kneecaps. At least in my humble opinion, it is. How it works is, every minute your incline on the treadmill goes up. 2% all the way to 15% incline. Then you hold for a minute, and then drop it by 2% incline — to simulate running down a long hill that you’ve just ascended and climbed. I enjoy the concept, the concept looks great on paper, but in practice.. how can I put it.. it will literally humble you as a runner, and has the potential to destroy your legs and your hope if you’re not careful.

Anyways, I didn’t really prepare for this workout. The day I came into class on Friday for the Everest challenge, I saw the leaderboard for up until that day, and I exclaimed, “Holy shit!”

And the coach was like, “Yeah… I know.”

Because someone else — it’s this dude I know, Teddy — had gotten 3.04 miles. Which, shocked me to my system, because it was a whole .02 miles better than my previous PR.

Going into it, I was thinking I’d take it easy, no reason to push myself too hard, because after all I had the mile run in 3 days after that. Go easy on the legs. Take it easy. Get a 2.5 miles complete at best, just go for a casual run. At least, that was my intention going into it. Before I saw the leaderboard. Before I saw the 3.04 miles on there glaring at me. And I said, “Holy shit!” after all, likely more than once. So me saying that more than once, meant that I gotta try to best it (or match it) after all, don’t I? Because you honor a great distance achieved by attempting to best it. That’s how you approach it. You don’t ignore it, you try to match or beat it. At least, that’s the way my mind works. So I knew I had to one-up it.

In practice, Everest was more brutal this time around than I remembered it. Maybe it was just that I wasn’t used to incline workouts in a while. I made a mistake where I started out too fast, thinking I could maintain my base pace even at 8% incline and upwards. Bad idea. Ultimately I was defeated by my lungs and body, and had to walk it out at 3 MPH at the top (15%) incline.

Going down, as the inclines dropped, I picked up second wind somehow, and started running at 10.5-11 without realizing it. My AO was like a 13.5 or so. I completed the whole block with a 3.04 miles, and just stopped it there, as that was the leading distance anyway.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em — as they’re fond of saying. Anyway, that’s what I did here, more or less. I PR’d slightly, and the top distances for that cruel, cruel Everest challenge were the 2 leading 3.04 miles completed.


Mile Run

My last NSV (Non-scale victory) for the month of March was the 1 mile benchmark.

The Everest Challenge was on Friday, and after I ran it, it took my legs out the day after. Saturday I couldn’t go to the gym or go workout. Yes, it was that bad. The inclines had defeated me.

Even with me doing everything I can possible to aid in recovery, such as consuming enough protein and carbs, and drinking tart cherry juice before and after the Everest run, it was clearly not enough by itself.

On Sunday, I was healed enough so I went for a normal 2G class, and decided to run a 12.1 MPH for as long as I can. I believe I ran a little over 4:30, but I couldn’t anymore. Out of breath. But still, this was crucial preparation for me. Literally, it was the whole prep I had for it, that whole week.

The day before, I ate sweet potations and fish (salmon).

The day of the 1 mile challenge, I ate two dates in the morning, then a hearty breakfast of oatmeals with berries and chia and hemp seeds. Then two eggs and an avocado at around noon. I didn’t eat anything solid after that. I ate a banana and apple shortly after, as a snack. Drank plenty of fluids, but not too much. Half a cup of tart cherry juice before workout.

Then I went to class, chose 12.3 as my speed, and just ran on treadmill. Gave it my all. Around minute 3, I bumped it up to a 12.5, then 12.7 briefly, and then thirty seconds before completion, I finished with an all-out at 13.

Ended up with a 4:48 mile time.

Did not PR, as my previous PR was a 4:47. Bummer.

Apparently, I did the math later and learned that if you average them out, (3 * 12.3 + 12.5 + 13) / 5, where I’m basing my calculation off 3 minutes of a speed at 12.3 MPH, followed by a minute of 12.5 and again at 13. This averages out (roughly) to a 12.5 MPH.

So, I ran at a 12.5 for close to 5 minutes. Holy hell.

That’s nuts.

How you can confirm that this is accurate, is if you do some really quick and dirty math. There’s a formula for calculating the amount of distance you can cover in a set amount of time, given an average running pace in MPH:

< MPH > / 60 minutes * < time in minutes >

So how that works is, the first part, <MPH> / 60 minutes basically converts a time from MPH to MPM (miles per minute).

Then you multiply that MPM value by your run time in minutes, in order to get the distance achieved in that set time.

As an example, 4:48 — 4 minutes and 48 seconds — is 4.8 in fractional form.

Now if we substitute the time I got, 4.8, as well as the average pace I was running at, 12.5 MPH, in the above equation, we end up with:

12.5 / 60 * 4.8

And yes, if you do the calculation, the answer comes out to be exactly:


Therefore, 1 mile exactly, on the dot. Again, this is just a rough estimate, not accounting for inclines or anything else on the treadmill, but just assuming a float-road incline, it would appear that an average pace of 12.5 for the mile run for me, was indeed unnervingly accurate. Holy hell. I still cannot believe I was running at 12.5 for that long. That’s crazy.

Final Thoughts

Anyway, gotta cut the blog post short here. March has been a real interesting month, a month of victories no doubt, and I’m so glad that I achieved as many personal, fitness, and professional goals as I did this month.

Here’s to the month of March! The month for NSV’s. And now, let’s March on into the month of April, and beyond!