Monday, August 31, 2009

Ritz sets the American 5000 meter record

This was a record set in the 90s that several people have been looking at for some time but then this guy who no one expected to break the record takes two seconds off it. Dathan has been a marathoner the last few years but recently he switched coaches and went back to the track. I guess with all those base miles he was able to push harder in the 5k. So the new record is 12:56. For him it was a personal record by 20 seconds. His slowest lap was 63.9. Most were 61 or 62 and the last 800 was in 2:00.6. There are a handful of people I expected to break 13 in the near future but he was not on that list. Who is going to take America under 27 in the 10,000 next year?

Watch the interview for more information.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Daily Adventures

On Friday I did something unusual: I ran until I was tired. That turned out to be only 12.5 miles (3.5 were at 6:00 or faster pace). Then I went to bed at 9 and slept for 12 hours. Not much of a party animal this weekend.

It rained a lot yesterday. So what did I do? Go shopping at a mall like a good American. I bought a pair of jean. I also managed to talk my way to borrowing a bed from one of my friend's parents. On the way to Rhode Island I got a flat tire. It was the first time that I was the oldest male around, thus it was my responsibility to do the work. It is something that I had been fearing for several years. When it actually happened I just changed it. There was no fear, just some uncertainty that I put the jack in the right place (it was). Totally anticlimactic and uneventful. Then I had a terrible sleep because I wasn't on the floor and the bed was so nice and soft instead. This is the beginning of a chapter in my life that will be very entertaining in the biography...

Today, after church, I went on a long run. A run that ended up being around 17.7 miles. A little longer than I anticipated. The up side is that I'm not that tired. I think that for awhile, maybe permanently, my runs and days in the mountains are going to be less mentally taxing and subsequently feel less physically draining. Oh they'll still be wicked hard and I'll sleep a lot and be tired and want to cry now and then from the pain but compared to a double marathon or people dying at 26,000 feet a 17.7 mile run is pathetically easy to comprehend.

Friday, August 28, 2009

What is hard work?

I have no idea. I was lifting weights yesterday after I ran ten miles and my Indian friend asked where I got all the energy. I don't know. I said it was because I know there are people out there working three times as hard as I am so I should at least be able to do what I do. Then I have been staring at the computer screen all day that I'm having some trouble telling the difference between a gear tooth root, flank, and top land. But I haven't really accomplished anything besides a few boundary flux conditions and some refined elements. It's somewhat stressful so it feels like it's hard work but I'm just sitting here. It makes me maybe 1% closer (probably less) to my thesis. Add to that that different people are good at different things so what's hard for me is no problem for someone else.

I guess it's in the eye of the worker. The person that benefits may have no idea how hard it was to do. Does it really matter though? Results are what matter not effort. It's harsh but what boss is going to say "well you didn't do anything productive this year, but good effort"? Maybe it's a spectrum of results and efforts and a really complicated thing. I have no idea.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I am (blank).

Something I find helpful to do sometimes is make a bunch of I statements. People often feel that they are trying to find out who they are. Well, just say it or write it down. I am an engineer. I am scared of the future. I am tall. You get the idea. Just keep going and you may say something that surprises you, but something that you know is true.

"Hello Seattle, I am a mountaineer
In the hills and highlands.
I fall asleep in hospital parking lots"
- Hello Seattle, by Owl City

I prefer hotel parking lots and residential side streets myself. It's funny, the adrenaline rush of sleeping in my van is almost as fun as the route sometimes. The past two weeks and actually my whole summer has been full of hanging out with an older generally more mature crowd. Despite that, I realized that I will probably keep sleeping in my van on trips for awhile. I am willing to sleep in my van and not shower every day if it means that I get to climb, hike, run, and live in some really cool places.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Book Review: Kiss or Kill by Mark Twight

I just finished reading Kiss or Kill by Mark Twight late last night. For those that don't know Twight was the most "extreme" alpine climber in the 1990s, at least from America. The book is a collection of articles he wrote from 1985 to 2000 and then he rewrote for the book as well as add an authors note to each one describing his feelings years later when he put the book together.

Many things in the book I could totally agree with. He talks about hard mountain climbing like it is a war instead of a romantic Hemingway book. However, he also talks about a lot of stuff that made me think he's crazy. He did a lot of hard free soloing when he was younger, and that's a sure way to get yourself killed. He talks about some of his friends and climbing partners that died in the mountains, around 40 total. He also seemed to harbor a lot of anger toward people that did less committing sports like sport climbing and people that were content to climb established routes instead of make their own. Personally I'm happy just to see people out there enjoying the outdoors and doing something physical.

His attitudes of going hard and working for some abstract goal most people don't understand probably resonate with most climbers. However, his attitudes of hate and disgust with people who don't do his kind of climbing was elitist and harsh. Throughout the book his negative feelings did fade somewhat, which was nice.

It's a book by a climber for climbers. If my parents read Kiss or Kill they would probably be even more terrified for my life. On the other hand I think it is a very honest portrayal of hard alpine climbing and should be read by aspiring alpinists before they decide to go do hard free soloing or any hard committing routes. Up there you have to be 100%. 99% leads to very bad things happening.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pakistan Video Sample: 3 of 10

Here is the third video in the series. This is in the tent the morning after I spent the night at camp one (5650 meters or 18,500 feet). Some of the other members of our expedition were headed from base camp to camp two and were taking a break at camp one with us. (A note on resolution: I'm going to use 240x320 and 15 fps for all of the clips on my blog but the actual video I have is 480x640 and 30 fps so it's at least four times as good.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pakistan Changed me

Simply put, people died. People with more experience. People with husbands and wives and children.

How did that change me? Well, I am not going to sit around and wait for life to happen to me I'm chasing after it. Life is short. This weekend I did two unusual things for me. I asked a girl out and I yelled at one of my friends. I only ever ask a hand full of girls out but that's actually the second one in a week. Then it is very rare that I yell at someone. I think it's honestly been several years. It wasn't a screamfest but he's been complaining about the same issue for over two years and it's ridiculous.

78 people have died on K2. The next time you walk into a room that has 78 people imagine them all dying. Yes it has taken 55 years but there are some bad double digit accidents in that mountain's history. I have climbed on a number of mountains and routes where people have died.

I haven't figured out what "it" (pakistan, mountaineering, life, death, fear) all means yet. I'll let you know if I do.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Abaqus: How to Know if your Simulation is Running

As soon as you start a simulation you spend time waiting for it to finish. However, it is not obvious from Terminal (the program I use on my Mac) if the simulation is running or has stopped or ended. All you need to do is check the files in the folder or directory where you started your simulation. I use a simple program called Cyberduck. It is a file management system that allows me to navigate the servers I use (which are two buildings away) as well as download and delete files.

Now when a simulation is running in Abaqus 6.7 the files that will appear have the extensions: .stt, .msg, .odb, .sta, .res, .dat, .mdl, .log, .lck, .023, .prt, .cid, .com, .inp, and sometimes .fil depending on the simulation. The file name will be the same for all the extensions. When the simulation is over the .lck, .cid, and .023 files will disappear. That's all there is to it. Either you have those three files or you don't.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Where to live and start my company?

My Abaqus simulations have been running for 17 hours and should finish soon. That gives me free time to discuss places I want to live and start my company. Yes, I have decided to start a company even though I have no investors now. I'm just going to do it. What am I going to sell? Well, I'll start with ice axes and carabiners, then add climbing harnesses, gloves, pants, and running shorts. After that I'll make whatever I need. Those are all products where I've looked at what's available and thought I could make a product that would appeal to people more. Anyway the towns:

I like to run, a lot. I want to take a serious shot at making the olympic marathon trials for 2012 and 2016 and realistically there are two towns that have the coaches, athletes and support to make that a possibility for me sooner rather than later: Eugene, OR and Boulder, CO.

I like to rock climb, ice climb, ski, and just get out in the mountains. There are several towns around the country where you can get your fill of mountains and socialize (learn from) some of the best climbers in the world: North Conway, NH, Jackson Hole, WY, Boulder, CO, Seattle, WA, Salt Lake City, UT, and maybe Berkley, CA (I don't know enough about California to know which town would be best for mountaineers).

As you can see Boulder shows up on both lists. I've been there a dozen or so times and I love it. They have committed runners (I said hi to Jenny Barringer on a long run once) and they have hardcore climbers (just go into Neptune Mountaineering). Additionally, Boulder is close to Denver and all of the amenities that go with big cities yet it is not very big. Some mountain towns are a little isolated. I also do some road biking and a number of professional cyclists live there.

No town is perfect. Boulder is not a cheap place to live. Apparently it can get competitive there because everyone is a competitive athlete and wants to stand out. Constant competition is not always a good thing. However, I found in the short time that I have spent there that most people are pretty positive toward others in their chosen sport.

Changing subjects, this is my 100th blog post. Where will I be at 200? What about 1000?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pakistan Video Sample: 2 of 10

Here is an 18 second video from the last piece of dirt before the Baltoro Glacier. (By the way, the glacier has been there for thousands of years and nothing could live in that stream.) The video quality is better this time too.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Asking the Right People the Wrong Questions

I've been struggling with an Abaqus problem recently and I asked one of the true experts of the field a question directed to what I thought the problem might be. He then answered my question with the answer to the question that I should be asking. I was totally looking in the wrong place.

I've said many times that I surround myself with great people and just draw off of them. This is another example where someone was able to answer my question, even though I wasn't really asking it. For someone that really knows their stuff it doesn't take much for him or her to understand your problem.

Find the right people in your life.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mountaineering Deaths Summer of 2009

This was a pretty devastating summer for mountaineers and I'm not talking about people dying on Mt. Hood wearing jeans. First Pakistan: A very experienced skier died on K2 while skiing down from camp 2. Anyone with the experience to attempt skiing K2 or even climbing it has to be experienced. Next on Nanga Parbat a very experienced woman died with I think 11 8000 meter summits while she was descending. I believe a HAP also died on the same day. The fouth victim of the summer was on Broad Peak and she had four or five 8000 meter summits. Then most recently a Spanish mountaineer died on Latok II, which is not a walk up mountain. I believe him and his partner were trying to put up a first ascent. Elsewhere in Asia the season killed a number of other experienced people. Three American mountaineers died in an avalanche in China. I think they were trying to put up a first ascent. A very experienced Polish mountaineer died falling into a crevasse in Nepal. In the US a very experienced American rock climber died while free soloing in California and another very experienced climber died in Washington state just recently. In Europe Ricardo Cassin, a famous mountaineer, died at the age of 100 which doesn't sting as much as the people in their 20s and 30s that died this summer but none the less it's one less person that understands us.

I didn't know any of these people personally but I had heard of several of them. These were not weekend warriors these were people who climbed during the week and pushed the sport. There are things to learn from every accident but the major trend as I see it is that one mistake is enough. Just one mistake.

When I started climbing I was told of the risk and severity box. There are two perpendicular lines one with the label risk from high to low that something will go wrong and the other the severity of a accident from bearable to deadly. Everyone has to decide where they fit within the box. In high altitude mountaineering the chance that you will have some sort of accident is maybe only a few percent but for the most part if something goes wrong it goes really wrong. Free soloing is an extreme example. Once you're above 30 feet off the ground a fall = death. While you're hiking the Appalachian Trail the chance that you're going to hurt yourself is low and the consequences are a sprained ankle. Everyone has to decide their acceptable level of risk and you should not let anyone make the decision for you. This sport is definitely not for everyone.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pakistan Video Sample 1 of 10

I'm going to show a new video clip here every week for the next ten weeks. Hopefully near the end of that time I will finish my edited movie and I will find a way for people to watch it. Here is a video clip that I will most likely not put in my movie but it is fairly interesting. The view is out the window of our bus as we drive into Skardu at the beginning of the expedition. I have eight hours of video and I'm aiming to make an hour film. Since I only have limited space on the Google server this video will only be available a limited time. I know the video quality is not that great, that's why you need to see my movie when it's finished.

Longs Peak is my Favorite Mountain

For anyone that has ever tried to climb Longs or even just looked at it they realize it is an impressive mountain. (Although when I saw it last week after staring at K2 for a month I laughed at how small it looked from Estes Park.) There is no easy route. The class 3 Keyhole route is so slick that your hands just slip off and your shoes don't stick. I don't like the Keyhole now that I've gone down it three times. It's too much of a risk. The east face of Longs is where all the fun is at. The Diamond is this 1500 foot face that is nearly vertical, and overhanging in places. While this is a shorter big wall there is no route on it easier than 5.10a. There are however routes to the south of the Diamond that are low fifth class, with lots of exposure so they are great training climbs as well as culminations of training as well. That is one thing that is so great about climbing is that each route teaches something and each route is an accomplishment.

For more information about this great mountain:
Mountain Project has mostly hard technical climbs.
Summitpost has mostly the easier technical routes and the scrambles.

The Diamond from the base of Lambs Slide.

I have attempted Longs six times:
North Face (5.4) June 2004: backed off due to steep rock, inexperience, and lack of equipment
Keyhole (3) June 2006: eight hours round trip solo sumitting at 6 AM
Kiener's (5.4) July 2008: ended up doing Alexander's Chimney with the M4 finish wearing just boots and we had frozen hands from the waterfall, turned back at broadway
Casual Route (5.10a) August 2008: I planned ahead so much for this climb it went really well, except for summitting at 5:30 PM, 20:15 it remains my longest day to date in the mountains
Kiener's (5.4) August 2009: solo attempt turned around just below broadway due to wind and clouds, it started raining when I got to the trailhead
Kiener's (5.4) August 2009: success after doing two of the wrong pitches that felt like a 5.8 and a 5.6 and summitting at 4:15 PM

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Fear and Relaxing in Pakistan

Pakistan is a scary place. At least it was for me and I am pretty sure that after this experience traveling in any third world country will be less stressful.

It started in Islamabad. I was terrified that everyone was a terrorist because so many people wear shalwar chamises and having never seen someone in person wear one before it took a few days to get used to it. Finally I realized that a shalwar chamise is the only thing everyone wears and most people were very friendly. Then there was the the two day bus ride to Skardu. Twice I saw anti-American and Israeli graffiti and we saw a tank and passed close to the Swat valley. Additionally, the whole time we're above the Indus river which is utterly terrifying and we're flying around these corners without guard rails 500 feet above the river. There was no way I could sleep. My face was glued to the window the whole time my side of the bus was closest to the river. Then in Skardu I had a 15 minute walk back to the hotel once alone. It was broad daylight but still I just felt like ma car would drive up and I would get pushed into the back seat and wake up chained in the corner of a dark room. That's ridiculous because Skardu is quite safe but it was what I was thinking.

Then when you're on the glacier there is always a fear that you will fall into a crevasse or slip on the ice and just scrape yourself up. Crossing little streams jumping from one piece of ice to another is not fun. The past few days when I was in Rocky Mountain National Park crossing streams on dirt and rocks and wood was a piece of cake compared to crossing a glacier. That fear also pales to the fear on the mountain. There is always something to fear on the hill. On the fixed lines there is the fear that the four people jugging up a 200 meter section will pull the one piton holding it in out of the rock or that the braided Korean rope rubbing over another rock will just break. While soloing I couldn't help but think that a fall of any sort would result in a quick return to base camp. It was easy soloing but it was still scary because the result of a fall would be bad. At camp after having a headache I was always scared that I didn't drink enough and would get HACE in the middle of the night or something. Then there was the danger of avalanches because we headed up several slopes that had some recent snow and once between camp one and two I was sure that there was going to be an avalanche so I pulled the fixed ropes out of the snow for 200 meters by myself. Then there was always the constant threat of bad weather. Good weather consisted of 30 mph winds and clouds above 7500 meters. Our team had several windy nights on the mountain where the fear of flying off the ridge was real. We never had a tent buckle or fly away but when the tent is flapping like crazy in even 30 mph winds you just don't know what's going to happen. At base camp we sat around and listened to the avalanches every few minutes while we played cards ignoring all but the loudest cracks and booms after the first week. Even there at base camp there was a fear that something bad would happen. Base camps have been wiped out and dozens killed by avalanches. There was the fear that something would happen on the mountain and we wouldn't be able to climb any more and our gear we had left up there would all be lost.

When I went down the mountain for the last time and got to base camp I finally relaxed. I no longer had to worry about falling, avalanches, rock fall, wind, snow, crevasses, ice, stream crossings, and the altitude. On the trek out I relaxed more and more as our elevation dropped and we started walking on solid ground for the first time in five weeks. On the jeep ride out I almost slept. Had it been dark I probably would have. We were still bouncing along dirt roads close to the edge of a road above a river with no guard rail but compared to everything that had happened to me in the preceding six weeks it was safe enough I could sleep. It was the same on the way out in Skardu and Islamabad I slept about 11 hours each night. If you really want to relax don't vacation on a mountain above a glacier, unless you like to relaxed after being scared sick for an extended period of time.

(The picture was taken on the hike out half way between Concordia and Ali camp. The rock is the size of a bus it was four feet off the ground on right and in the middle it was maybe 20 feet off the ground. We walked right beside it hoping the ice wouldn't melt in the 20 seconds it took to get around it.)

Back from Colorado

I had a fantastic last six days. I got to see the grandparents on both sides on the way out and back. Then I spent fours days hammering my body in Rocky Mountain National park. I spent the first day on Longs retreating from 12,500 feet due to weather, the second day I ran Chaquita (13,070) and Yipsilon (13,500) seven miles round trip in 2:43 running the flats and downhills, the third day I ran Flattop Mountain (12,400?) 8.8 miles 2,500 feet of elevation round trip in 2:02 then I went down to the glacier gorge trailhead and went up and back to Mills Lake to scout out glacier gorge. It was round about 16 miles 3,500 feet of elevation in only 4:30. Then Sunday Josh and I met up and climbed Kiener's on Longs Peak (14,200) and despite taking the harder route on two pitches and wasting an extra hour each time we did it car to car in 14:50. Next time I do that route it will definitely be under 12 hours.

Great trip four days, four summits, 48 miles, 13,000 feet of elevation gain and loss, and I got to hang out with a bunch of my friends from Colorado.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Famous people you've never heard of

There are a number of athletes I follow and scientists with multiple papers that I've read. Most of these runners, climbers and scientists my fellow runners, climbers and science students have never heard of much less the general public. Several times this summer I met climbers that are some of the rockstars of climbing. When I met Gerlinde I was so intimidated. Here is this woman that had climbed 12 8000 meter peaks without oxygen or high altitude porters and she was talking to me! Following these tiny sports is quite rewarding. In general people are very nice and positive. Everyone is trying to take the sport to another level. Fist fights do not break out in a marathon. While I am sad that mainstream media does not cover the greatest sports I am happy that these sports don't have the problems and inability to relate to normal people. Anyone can run a race or go on a hike and in a small way it's like what the professionals do. In fact, it's entirely possible to run into one of these famous people while they are practicing or even walking down the street. I doubt Derek Jeter and I will ever run into each other while out on a run.

So I'll keep my famous people even though most will never be millionaires or get the credit they deserve. Our hope is that the Internet and all of it's information will win more supporters to the little people. There are around a thousand NFL players but only a fraction as many (dozens) professional runners or climbers so it's also easier to follow the players. So go find your famous people.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My Pakistan Trip Report is Up!

It's posted on Summitpost. Read my tale here. Now there is a lot missing, and there aren't many pictures so I apologize in advance. If anyone has any questions just post a comment, preferably on my blog. 

Well, I'm off to Colorado for a few days to run up some 13 and 14,000 foot mountains then I will head back to Massachusetts and school. I imagine I'll be back in Worcester by the 14th. Maybe earlier. 

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Back in the USA

I'm back home safe and sound in my home in Wisconsin. So far I've been mildly productive working on the laundry and watching 4 hours of film so far. A lot of the video is at terrible angles or very shaky so it isn't the greatest but here and there there are sections that are  quite good. I think I have around seven hours total along with 150 pictures or so. Between all of the days in Skardu, Islamabad and then Dubai adjusting to the US hasn't been very hard at all. It's quite nice to be back. There are things that stand out. When people comment about the terrible roads here in Wisconsin, I'm in a little bit of disbelief because it is as smooth as glass compared to Pakistan. There are a few other things as well: never doubting if the food will make you sick, always having a seatbelt, have safe to drink running water, steak, and ice are a few that come to mind.

Here is a preview of things to come on this blog: (Masherbrum from Goro 2 on the trek into Broad Peak basecamp)