Sunday, February 12, 2017

Independence: Weeks 12 through 35

I would like to restart my weekly series. Blogging weekly helps me progress toward goals by holding me accountable to myself for accomplishing things, or analyzing my setbacks. There are a number of reasons I haven't been blogging lately, and you might as well know. The reasons break down into either self consciousness of the ridiculous, which is always hard to share, and the logistical, which is frankly a little depressing.

  • After climbing Everest, and wanting to climb it for 12 years what is next? Other mountains aren't the highest, plus I used oxygen, so I don't really know how I can handle altitudes above 8000 meters. If I mention further goals, like K2 and G4... it's so arrogant even to mention wanting to climb G4, I'm not sure I have the skills to do it. Well, I know I have the skills, but I'm not sure about the technical ability at that altitude, even with training. Something like seven expeditions have failed on the southwest ridge?
  • I ran on Team USA, for the 2015 24 hour world championship. It was a dream come true. Being on Team USA had been the goal for so long, that achieving it left a bit of a hole in my motivation. In other words, there is motivation to be on your first national team, but the motivation is not the same the second time around. Here again, mentioning I want to be on a different Team USA, like the 100k, and that I think I could medal at the 24 hour world championships, possibly even win is so arrogant I feel ashamed just to think it. Haven't I already enjoyed enough success in life? How can I ask for more?
  • Logistically it's a lot harder to go out to a coffee shop and use my lap top in Independence than it is in Dubuque. I miss Monks and Jitterz. The one coffee shop in town closes at 5 pm, and 2 pm Saturdays, and is not even open Sunday. McDonald's doesn't even always have Internet. I'm not ready to pay for Internet, but I am the closest I have been in the last six years. 
  • The Blogger app on my phone has been super buggy, shutting down after 10 seconds when I try to type a blog post. When I'm only a little motivated to write on a work night getting shut down a couple times is enough for me to forget it.
After the North Coast 2016 where I only did 100 miles I took close to six weeks off. Everest took more out of me than I care to admit, the summer was hot, and that adds up to subpar training leading to the race. I don't like to admit it, but I still seem to get a fair amount of my self esteem from how my running is going at the moment. If you hadn't guessed, it's going well, I won a half marathon today. 

2017 has gotten off to a really good start for me. I've climbed two 14ers in Colorado in the winter, and have plans for a far more aggressive climb in March. My running is coming around to the quantity and quality that I would like, and that is necessary to achieve those goals above. Plus, I basically landed a Cessna 172 yesterday, and I'm only a 9.7 hour student pilot. While there are certainly challenges, and change is hard, I am adjusting to a new situation, and learning how to adjust. I think this summer I will do far more bicycling than running in the afternoons in July and August, not unlike June and July of 2011 the year I bought my bicycle. I just did not want to accept last year that I couldn't have an effective run in 90 degree heat. 

I will ask, if you actually like reading this, please encourage me, specifically though text message to my phone. While I blog mostly for my own understanding of the events in my life, I could journal and accomplish the same reflection, which I have been doing a bit of lately, but that doesn't share any of it with you. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Problems in Three Countries

I haven't been blogging for a variety of reasons lately. I need to really blog about why I'm not blogging, but that's a story for another day.

Today was a unique day, I worked on challenges in three countries today, not including the USA, where I sit. That included three continents too. I like to imagine that I'm a global citizen, an international businessman, and on some spectrum I am. Yet, it's not easy!

Business, like life, is full of decisions, and there are many possible directions. Deciding which way to go is challenging. I knew an entrepreneur who regularly said, "people are desperate for leadership" and it struck me as a strange thing to say. Big companies seem full of managers and senior level people.

In all three situations I was involved because people thought I would contribute, if not lead, to the best direction for us to take. The truth is, I don't know. It's one of my favorite sayings. The decisions seems to be 70% chance we get what we want, 90% chance we get what we want, and 99% chance we get what we want, of course we went with the conservative 30% on the first decision. I've come to understand statistics and probabilities much better over the past several years. Decision making is never 100%, if it was there would be no decision to make.

Getting back to the title, every culture (both country wide and the micro culture of a town or factory) is different. We don't all communicate the same, have the same priorities and pressures, and I struggle to know, especially when calling three other countries in one day, how well we are all really communicating, and accomplishing the bigger mission of distinctive quality, while also remaining as profitable as possible.

That's life.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Comeback

Tuesday night, yesterday, I ran a 6k tempo on the track, and it took me 22:12, which is 5:57 pace per mile. It's pretty exciting to be doing a workout at sub 6 minute pace, but it's also a long way from the 20:12 6k tempos that I ran back in 2011 and 2012.

I don't know what is next for me. In many respects I've accomplished what I set out to, I was on Team USA, and I climbed Mt. Everest. The motivation changes as I age. Yes, part of me knows that what I have done is not enough, not as much as is possible for me, and racing faster and climbing more challenging routes still call, and are very possible for me, but then again the couch also calls after work some days when I just don't feel like exercising.

Perhaps this is my seven year sabbatical from difficult physical sports? In 2010, being unemployed, I played a fair amount of video games, ran in the middle of the day, and read quite a lot. While I didn't like it at the time, applying for every available job I could find, in hind sight it was nice to have that break, at least for the first two months.

In the moment, it's hard to really know the extent that something has an effect on you. It's also terribly hard to identify having peaked. Meb Keflezighi ran his fastest race and won the Boston Marathon at age 38 in 2014. When I saw him at the 2007 Olympic Marathon Trials in New York struggle to the finish in 8th, I thought at age 32 his career might be over. A win in New York and Boston, and fourth place at the London Olympics later... I was obviously wrong.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

All Time Low

A song came out a few months ago called “All Time Low” by Jon Bellion and while I am certainly not going through my all time low, I am going through a bit of a low. Again, nowhere near the kind of lows I've had in the past. It's like the movie "Inside Out" where sadness can be a key part of our core memories that shape who we are. In other words, it's important to have low times as well as high times, you can't be emotionless.

My family had a fight while we were in Arizona. Turns out five days together with only one rental car is too much of us in a small space. We can’t even agree on when to eat breakfast. I like to imagine that I have an amazing family, you can call us perfect if you want, we certainly aren’t, but I can see how we might try to sell that image to the world, and put on a semi-successful acting performance. The point is, if even we have fights with each other, everyone must have fights with each other! As I mentioned this to several people over the past week many empathized with me because family gatherings and the holidays can be a stress as much as it can be a celebration in many families. 

To add to it, while I did climb a 14er in Colorado solo on January 2nd, which is a big deal, and I mean I didn’t see anyone else for 9.8 miles, I feel very much in an athletic slump. I’ve got to be one of the only people in the world who climbed Everest and is disappointed I used supplemental oxygen, it feels like a failure. Isn’t that bizarre? Of course it was a success! How could I feel it was anything but a success? Running just has not gone my way the last two years. There have been a couple good races, but nothing that really stands out the way previous races did. It’s been over five years since I PR’d in the marathon. I’ve gained weight. Am I done? Will I ever set another PR again?

Financially I had the best year I have ever had. My 401(k) made a lot of money in 2016, I passed new earnings and net worth miles stones, becoming more financially secure than I ever have been. But money feel very empty. It’s just a number, and it is so easy to simply want more. I reach a financial mile stone and I feel the same as I did before reaching it. Sometime in the 2030s I will probably become a millionaire, and nothing will change, partly because of inflation, being a millionaire in the 2030s won’t mean much. I write this because it feels like the feelings about my finances should change as they improve, but they don’t.

Blogging regularly for eight years has been a nice way to express things, to sort them out in my head and then share them with the world, but as I become more established, I wonder, what is the point? People don’t want to read about my privileged life. And they especially don’t want to hear that I feel like a failure far more often than I feel any signs of success. Maybe it's time to call blogging quits?


This is a key part of my personal motivation, the feeling of inadequacy, of never being good enough. Of course, as a Christian sinner, I will never be good enough to deserve Heaven, or even the wealth, in all of it’s many forms, that I enjoy here on Earth. So I feel even worse, which encourages me to be the best I can, but perfection is an unobtainable goal. I don't know. Do you want to hear these things?

Friday, December 16, 2016

Taking the Time to Listen

I know I haven't blogged much lately. Partly, I blame the Google Blogger iPhone app for not working so well. Partly, I haven't felt like I have been having the development in my life that I have had in the past. Of course, feelings are not fact, and in fact I have been developing, but not the standard ways I expect based on past experience, like my running or mountain climbing. While I can't say I am much good at it, I think I have spent more time listening the last couple months than usual. I have a tendency to do my own thing, and actively try not to pay attention to the noise.

In other words, I have spent so much time in my life hearing from haters and doubters who say you can't swim across the Mississippi River, you can't climb Mt. Everest because you will die, you can't move to Kansas because it's the middle of nowhere, or you can't run six marathons in one day... and I've done all of those things!

However, people hate and doubt for a reason, or multiple reasons. Many people, probably most Americans, physically cannot climb Mt. Everest. They could if they wanted to, but in their present condition they can't. So from the perspective of their life it is not possible to climb the mountain without dying. As I get older I guess I am becoming more aware of the realities that other people live in, and the filters we all use to communicate. I have a thought, I express it with some sort of filter, you hear it with some sort of filter, and then you have the resulting thought in your head.

Recently my dad was talking with some people about about trusting God enough to do risky things, and one of them told him something like, "we expect your family to do risky things". Point being, it's been a long long road to get to where I am, and where my family is, and it would be good for me to relate to others (people who haven't climbed Mt. Everest) better, which is only going to happen by listening. I suppose it sounds a little ridiculous, and I have no intentions to change anyone, in fact that scares me a little, but I realize that my reality is not most people's reality.

Life is full of challenges and road blocks, but they are definitely not applied equally to all people. By understanding what those road blocks are, by listening to each other, hopefully we can dismantle them.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Never Ending Lesson of Patience

I haven't blogged much recently, and that's because there isn't a whole lot to say. There are of course things to say, I had a trip to Canada, I never said much about my trip to Brazil, I'm taking pilot lessons on an airplane, I've run every day for like five weeks, and met my Garmin automatic adjusting step goal for 51 consecutive days, but it's really not about me. Writing about myself seems empty often. Plus, after climbing Mt. Everest, climbing Mt. Huron just doesn't have the luster, despite the fact it threw some curve balls at me that Everest didn't.

Point being, patience is a lesson that takes longer to learn as we get older. When I was younger patience was not running too fast the first half of a two mile race. Now that I'm older, patience is showing up at a 24 hour run in really good shape from four months of solid training. And running is an easy example. When I look at my career or mountaineering the picture is even harder to understand. The next really big mountaineering objective I have in mind might happen in the summer of 2018, and I don't yet have the skills to pull it off as easily as I want.

Especially in today's world, with it's constant barrage of media of all forms it is easy to agonize over the events of today or this week, and forget the long term. It's a challenge for me to stay focused, or worded better, remain aware of something that will happen so far in the future, provided it happens at all. Patience is a never ending lesson.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Metaphor of the Jack Russel Terrier

I'm writing this Saturday afternoon December 5th, 2015 after the most bizarre experience. I was doing my long run on heritage trail and as I passed through Durango, Iowa I almost stepped on a little Jack Russel Terrier guarding the bridge, at least I think that's what it was. I dodged it at the last second and it proceeded to run with me. Not barking at all, no collar, just running beside me. That's not unusual. I've had a golden retriever run seven miles with us once in college and two other dogs go about a mile and a half with me. However this little thing just kept going. At the ten mile turn around I proceeded to do a workout of some 6:05 per mile pace running and gapped the dog, but on the rests it would catch back up. In total it ran 11 miles with me around a 6:40 pace! Unbelievable.

As I was thinking about it I can't help but draw parallels to life. I was not expecting or even looking for company on my 20 mile run today, yet I certainly welcomed it. As I think about how some of my closest relationships have started over the years, it was certainly with little warning, no expectations, and with satisfaction to be companions on the journey of life.

Getting to November 2016, as I finish writing this, it's been an eventful year for me. What does it all mean? For a long time I have viewed life through the lens of accomplishments, getting a degree, climbing a mountain, running a race, etc. The thing is, after you do all of those "things" you are still sitting there on the other side of accomplishment, just another human. That's really the point, life is about relationships, our relationships to other people, to God, to the planet. Not all relationships are equal, but they do all have value, even if it is only for 11 miles on a rail trail one day.