Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Limits of Performance

How well can we do something? First two stories:

Usain Bolt breaks three world records (100, 200, 4x100) at the 2008 olympics and then proceeds to break two more (100, 200) at the 2009 world championships. If he is not the best sprinter ever who is? Will there ever be anyone who breaks his records besides him? I suggest that there probably will be. Training and nutrition will improve. Some hungry kid will look at his marks and eventually take them both, or just one of them, down.

My current finite element simulation involves incorporating a stress field into a complex 3D structure then heat treating the part. The hope is that the stress fields will relax and distort the part in a way similar to what we see when we measure the part in real life. The difficulty is that we don't know if anyone has tried this before. Sure it should be possible but it is very complex to assign unique tensors to 52,000 elements. There is no instruction manual to tell me how to do this or even if it is possible.

Sure everyone has limits but who is to say that you can't run .01 seconds faster or get one more question right on the test or simplify the finite element model enough to apply a complex stress field?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


The finite element stress simulations I create using Abaqus often have very interesting stress fields. The interesting thing about stress is that it is not just a number. It is several vectors, in fact it is actually a tensor. So this is way cooler than temperature because you can't just specify that those nodes are at a certain stress level. So that you can see here is the stress at element 1 in one of my simulations (all numbers are in MegaPascals):

Element: 1 Von Mises: 2.91804 Maximum In-plane: -153.946E-03 Minimum In-Plane: -2.99197 Out of Plane: 0. Maximum Principle: 0. Mid-Principle: -153.946E-03 Minimum Principle: -2.99197 Tresca: 2.99197 Pressure: 1.04864 Third Invariant: -2.90889 S11: -205.309E-03 S22: -2.94061 S33: 0. S12: -378.328E-03

Monday, September 28, 2009

Moments of Insight into Personal Potential

In my few years there have been moments where I have done something that I was not sure I would be able to do. The moments when you realize you are in over your head, but actually you come through pretty well. After these times you feel on top of the world and you dream big dreams. This is when you do something better, or even way better than you expected to do. This is when you achieve more halfway through the project than you thought you would achieve during the whole project. This is when you know you have the potential to be amazing.

In a sense these are moments of foreshadowing. Snippets of high performance. A glimpse into who you could be if you keep working at it. Let me give an example from my own life.

When I was 16 years old I had about 30 nights of backpacking under my belt up to elevations of 11,700. I had hiked a few hundred miles already at that point in my life. My family had a sort of mini-reunion out in Arizona at my grandparents timeshare. My family was planning to drive back to Kansas through Utah and Colorado. The internet was just beginning to be used regularly and I had discovered several websites that talked about these 14,000 foot tall mountains in Colorado. I decided that I would like to climb one. Not long after that I decided that if I was going to spend a whole day at it I should try to climb two. It just so happens that the two highest mountains in Colorado are "right next" to each other. Sure there was a valley in the middle but the mileage looked low.

Fast forward two months to July when my dad dropped me off at 3:30 AM on the middle of a dirt road between the two behemoths. I lost the trail in the predawn hours and ended up on "South Massive" elevation 14,132 at 7 AM. This false summit is 300 feet below and half a mile south of the true summit. I had intended to get there at 6 AM so I decided to skip going for the real summit and head over to Mt. Elbert. Bushwacking up the second mountain was harder. There was hail and lightning. When I arrived at treeline the situation was not positive. Fortunately the hail and lightning stopped. On a flat section around 13,500 I managed to hike only half a mile in one hour without even stopping. On the final summit cone I managed to sleep for exactly 20 minutes just sitting on a rock. When I summitted at 3:00 PM there was a couple nice enough to give me a Cliff bar as I had run out of food hours ago. My original estimate of getting back to the car was 12-4 PM and I still had nine miles to hike. I ran down part of the way every time it was steep enough that I just had to lift my legs. I got to the parking lot at 5 PM and then went right past it because my family was out searching for me. At six while I was hiking back to Twin Lakes to our motel across private property my dad drove past and saw me and finally 14.5 hours after starting I was done.

Who would guess that six years later I would be doing hanging belays on the Diamond or that seven years later I would spend seven weeks in Pakistan trying to climb an 8000 meter mountain and running at 13,000 feet? The more I think about it, and believe me I think about that day often, the more I think how crazy it was.

The same fundamental occurrence happens in all aspects of life wether that is getting the highest score on a test or fixing a broken door. You do not have to be the best in the world at anything because you are already the best you in the world. The point is that everyone has something they can do well. The more you practice and work on that ability the better you become. Wasting your gifts and talents is not helping anyone.

Friday, September 25, 2009

We are living on borrowed time

Who has asthma!?! :)

I watched part of 11th Hour on Planet Green the other night. The message that came across first: We had been living on energy solely from the sun for thousands of years until we discovered oil. Then we figured out how to take this nonrenewable energy and make it fuel our lives. Plastics, in case you did not know, come from oil. When I say plastics I am referring to just about everything synthetic. This stuff will not last forever. It's almost like a race between us running out of oil and global warming killing millions.

Anyway, after watching the movie and reading this article about riding bikes and taking a look at this graph on energy subsidies I came up with some ideas.
  1. Make consumers pay for the carbon offset for whatever they are buying. Some companies, like airlines, offer this service already if you want to pay extra. I say make it mandatory. But it is up to the companies not the government (they are too slow). Kind of like 1% for the Planet but instead trying to reverse the entire impact of the purchase.
  2. More bikes and free bikes for bike sharing like they already do in many major cities. I don't know who would pay for them or how exactly they would be stored but people would probably be more willing to bike if there were little bike parking lots everywhere and you just needed to take a bike and go. It doesn't have to be free either it could be like $20 a year for a special key or something to unlock one of the bikes.
  3. Bigger buildings. Somewhere between those 100,000 person capacity buildings on SimCity, and a college in one building. I'm talking about massive city block sized buildings that are super energy efficient and are little communities. Millions of people work behind a desk, or in a cubicle, or at a sewing machine all taking up very little space. Why not consolidate communities so people do not have to commute to work? I know the social aspects could be weird, strange, new, and explosive but I have some ideas for that as well: indoor gardens, rooftop gardens, large indoor areas like a hotel with fountains and stuff, long continuous wide hallways maybe with a three lane track in the middle, multiple eating options like Google or college cafeterias, spread out and varied apartments so they don't look identical (most importantly from the hallway), and some sort of cars or transportation easily available when needed like zipcar on steroids. This concept could catch on easier near the poles where much of the year is spent inside. Also, they would ideally be off the grid.
By the way, I rode my bike to work 4/5 days this week! It's only a 1.5 mile 8-9 minute ride so it's too far to walk, to awkward to run, and uneconomical to drive. Also, Saturday I'm going rock climbing at Crow hill in the afternoon, and I'm going to ride my bicycle there.

Economic Predictions, New Graduates, and my eBook

Ugh. It does not look good. This is currently the start of my sixth year of higher education. I have been around to see many of my friends graduate and immediately start a new job. They make tons of money, buy new cars, get mortgages, have nice new clothes, pay off student loans, take vacations, and seem to go on summer break indefinitely. That was until this past year.

I have tried to find the following statistic in print but I have not. This is heard from word of mouth from a man who's daughter I believe went to Duke business school, which I heard from another person is #1 in the country. In the past the highest unemployment for a graduating class was 8%, 2009 (it could have been 2008) had 58%. The smart economists interviewed by Fortune are not enthusiastic either. Well, I should rephrase that. They are not enthusiastic about the world economy until like 2012 or so when we figure out more stuff and make better rules concerning debt.

When do we climb out of this? Six years, maybe just until 2012 according to a guy that won a Nobel Prize. My parents told me the other night that Wisconsin was not expected to climb out of recession for another six years and that might be a little exaggerated but the hotel industry in wisconsin is at least not planning to get back to 2007 levels for the next six years.

The total rate in the US for people unemployed and underemployed is 16.8%. The article by Peter Ferrara that let me in on that also said that we need incentives (think government incentives like lower taxes) for job-creating investments. How does this apply to recent graduates? Well, when I first read new jobs or job creating I thought of companies expanding but that is a traditional shallow view of the word "new". What about jobs that never existed before? Apple was one of the first companies to embrace Facebook and send my messages about student discounts and specials offers and new products. I do not know but I would guess that Apple employs several people who deal in social media marketing. People that get paid to promote and keep Apple enthusiasts interested by tweeting, blogging, or sending out Facebook messages to the fan club.

The fact is that new graduates are uniquely suited for these new jobs. For example, in engineering (my area of most experience) more people than ever are learning how to use finite element software. While any mathematical prediction has to be taken with a grain of salt due to the many assumptions the benefits are significant. Several different simulations can be completed in one day by one person whereas physical testing most likely requires several people and several days.

So my hope, and other new graduates, is that the skills we have learned that our predecessors did not will enable us to have a comfortable future. We are in a hard transition. Baby boomers planned on retiring and are having trouble adapting to the reality that many can not afford to retire. They are also having trouble adapting to the new version of Microsoft Office released every two years. Us in Generation Y are having a hard time getting a job because someone in India or China can do the same work as us for half the price or less. Generation X has had a good life, but it looks like things might not always be so easy. It turns out that plasma screens don't pay for themselves when companies give out blanket 20% pay cuts.

The future is scary because things will change. The world is going to be very different. We (people) don't like change. We want things to be comfortable and easy. I read all sorts of blogs occasionally. Notable marketing blogs are: Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, and Duct Tape Marketing. What strikes me about reading some of these blogs is that these people make probably hundreds of thousands of dollars and a lot of what they say I already know. Most people my age already know. They talk about the internet and how to connect to friends. The part where they take a new step is how to use that relationship to sell something. Since no one my age is really selling anything we just use the internet to find what we want. Business people are trying to grapple with this new thing called the internet because no one really understands us yet.

So I'm writing an eBook. My sister is coauthoring it with me because we are sufficiently different to make it complete. The book is going to be about Generation Y, from the perspective of Generation Y. It's about what we want and how we think. It will be free too don't worry. I want to try and explain us better to previous generations. Most of it is pretty obvious I think but it has not really been said in print enough to get the point across. Expect it to be available sometime in October.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pakistan Video Sample: 7 of 10

This is a sample of what a typical supper was like. Complete with jokes, mystery food, and discussing how to spell daal (or is it dahl or daahl?). Also, I have to say that there is a quote on there where my friend said, "Greatest Video of All Time", albeit sarcastically. Enjoy!


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How to lose weight and eat what you want

There are two changes that you need to make to your lifestyle to start living healthier. One is to start exercising, the second is eat better. Ok I will go into a little more detail but that is really the basis.

Exercising: You must exercise a lot. For me exercising less than five hours a week I begin to get out of shape. At ten hours a week I get into better shape. Between five and ten hours a week I more or less maintain the same shape. My fitness in one area may increase because I am doing the same thing over and over but in another area I will most likely be getting out of shape. Realistically, less than 1% of the world is going to exercise more than 15 hours a week so don't worry about overdoing it just on a time basis. If you happen to have a physically demanding job that is great but you lose weight by burning fat not short anaerobic bursts. What I mean is that you need to get your heart pumping (usually over 100 beats per minute) and keep it that way for an hour or more. Doing something really hard where your heart rate spikes for ten seconds and then is down to nearly normal in five minutes is not efficient at burning fat. You don't have to go fast or work very hard but you have to spend a lot of time doing it. My preferred source of exercise is running. So in summary, I recommend running ten hours a week.

Eating: On this diet you get to eat what you want but you should try to eat healthy. Start by reading labels. High fructose corn syrup is not good for you. Fructose is only dissolved in your liver whereas glucose is dissolved everywhere. Sugar is half glucose and half fructose. Why is this minor difference so important? I mean our brain is fed from the fructose in our liver. Remember that our brain is actually fat. We also have lots of other fats in out body and the fructose that is dissolved in our liver feeds those fats as well. If you must eat some sort of fructose to keep your brain functioning try pasta or an apple. When you shop for food start in the produce section and base your meals around the vegetables and fresh foods available. Add the processed, preserved, and packaged stuff to fill in the meal. Every time you have a craving for something try to figure out why. You did some really physical lifting with your arms and now you are crazing a steak, it is because your muscles need rebuilding. You just exercised for an hour and a half and you want some sugar, it is because the glycogen in your body has been used up and you need more glucose. So if you eat mostly healthy foods then an occasional huge ice cream or something will not make too much of a difference. Besides if you run ten hours a week (burning 5000-9000 calories a week) a 600 calorie indulgence twice a week is not too bad. Finally, do not beat yourself up for eating something high in fat and sugars. The key is to try to eat healthy for the rest of your life not just until you lose 20 pounds or whatever.

Disclaimer: I am in no way certified to give health or medical advice. You should go see a doctor and other qualified medical professionals. Everything I just said could be completely wrong and you could get hurt or die. Also, this is a bit of a satire because I can not even convince my friends that run competitively to run ten hours a week.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Reach the Beach 2009

I completed my first multistage relay race this past weekend. Reach the Beach is a race that this year was 207 miles long consisting of 36 legs averaging 5.8 miles each and teams from 4-12 people would work to cover the distance. This is the 11th year that RTB has been run. Our team, The Ninjas, had ten people and we came in 10th in a field of 399 teams. Last year, with a slower pace The Ninjas came in 5th. It seems other people trained harder this year.

The race goes from Cannon Mountain Ski Resort to Hampton Beach. Each team is given a number (we were 359) and each runner a number (I was 7). At every exchange or transition area the person that was running hands one of those slap on wrist bracelets to the next runner. At the transition areas the staff keep track of the runner numbers to make sure that the teams maintain the same order. We were fortunate to not have anyone drop out this year so everybody ran their assigned legs. That's a good thing because I was the first alternate and I was pretty tired another four miles would not make me feel better right now.

We had a pretty strong team with maybe half of the team still actually training 50+ miles a week. In total it took us 22:35:17 for an average pace of 6:32. We had several people with legs that were at sub 6 pace and a few people averaged 6:0x pace. Personally I ran 23.1 miles in three legs of 7.2, 7.4 and 8.5 miles and averaged 6:11 pace over all. That is only 5 seconds per mile slower than my half marathon PR. That is also about 2:42 marathon pace, a pace I could clearly not run for a marathon right now. That pace was fantastic for me because I put down 6:30 as my approximate goal pace and I was not sure if I could do that or not. To get that far under 6:30 with only a few weeks of training raises my goals for the rest of 2009. I would like to find a half marathon or something in November where I can knock a few minutes off of my PR.

What carnage did I come away with? I went for a run with the girls yesterday at 8:35 pace and I feel better. However, yesterday and today I am having trouble going down stairs, standing up, and doing anything involving my quads. I'm taking today, Monday, off after 25 days of running and not even bike riding for my first complete day off in like five weeks. It hurts... in a good way. I feel great! I am not injured! I feel more fit then I did four days ago. It is desirable to start a new training cycle from roughly the same place you ended the last one and I feel this preseason indicator was a very strong indication that I will run fast this spring.

Will I do it again? Most likely. I'm reading a lot of Lydiard training and I like the idea of a yearly cycle instead of a four or six month training cycle so I think that spring and summer will most likely be my highly competitive months and fall will be the build up phase where I can take the time to waste myself over 22 hours of torture. In fact, if people are willing to train a little harder, it would be really cool to try and win this thing.

Some rough quotes:
"It's all about the Grape Nuts. They have lots of fiber. I'm probably going to eat a whole box. Do you want some?" - Mark

"There was a female moose in the road and I didn't know what to do. Fortunately, it ran back into the woods before I got to it" - Nick

"Have you even run nine miles this year?" - me
"No, I don't think so." - Matt
After the 9.2 mile leg
"I passed 12 people...(three seconds later) and got passed by 16 people." - Matt I have to give Matt credit because he had a very long leg and he didn't walk at all despite the obvious pain he was in. It helped our team save some time.

"Hey, there's a corner up there slow down." - Paul to me who was driving the van at 5 am.

The first words I heard when I woke up from sleeping alone in a field Saturday at 8 am after an hour of sleep: "I almost ran over that person sleeping over there in the field."

"Oh a real runner." - Some guy I passed in the morning.

On a separate note: Why do I put all of this effort into running and climbing mountains instead of working hard and finishing my thesis? I do work hard at my thesis, but I am in a place where everyone works hard so it is not too unique. Also, people treat you different if they think you are smart regardless of wether you are or not. So many of the hard working students I know are somewhat ashamed or secretive of their talents and accomplishments. Additionally, who really wants to read about the nodes that I'm constraining or how excited I get when the deformation in my simulations is on the same scale as the measured values?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Making Assumptions (in Abaqus)

At the conference I attended last week I was able to talked to the creators and owners of DANTE. It is a material database with kinetic phase transformation information that interfaces with Abaqus. What that means is that when Austenite transforms to Martensite and there is a volume change you can simulate that. (It is a really big thing in the heat treating world because only two companies have created software to do that.)

I talked to them about my specific problems and learned that they make many simplifications such as only using one or two heat transfer coefficients in each step on complex parts and simulating the interactions between parts by simplifying the geometry of the parts. I know those are two vague descriptions but I really should not delve into the details. The point is that they just made my job a lot easier. It is amazing how much a 10 minute conversation in person can be so much more informative than an email conversation or trying to read technical papers looking for the answer.

The moral of the story is: perhaps you can find the solution to your problem by simplifying the problem. Of course sometime it can not be simplified...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pakistan Video Sample: 6 of 10

Ok this video was taken at 6600 meters about halfway between camp two and three. We had been heading from C2 to C3 on this acclimatization trip but it was not the best weather so we headed down soon after this was taken. I laughed about it at the time because I felt very safe then but watching it now makes me nervous. Once again this is a very authentic three minutes. There is a little swearing at the end beware.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Sixth leg now

Alex just got handed off to and we are six minutes ahead of schedule.
I am up in about 20 minutes.

Reach the beach has started!

Eugene just started our first leg at 3:30 pm est. We just got in our
van and left Cannon Mountain Ski Resort. In van two with me is Matt
(Peaches), Paul, Eric, and Alex. 205ish miles to go...

Running Mileage from a Yearly Perspective

I started keeping track of the mileage that I ran and walked in the middle of September 2001 my Sophomore year of high school. Check out my monthly mileage. It wasn't until April 2006 my Sophomore year in college that I started keeping track of the times and writing notes about all of my runs. Check out my running log. Anyway here is a general run down of my yearly mileage and subsequent improvements:

2000: no recorded miles. In track they had the 3200 for the first time and I ran that just about every meet. I got beat by a few girls because they ran us together sometimes. During the fall I didn't even know about cross country but I rode my new mountain bike about 16 miles 3-5 times per week.

2001: 185 recorded miles. The first day of track practice in high school was the first time I had ever run five miles. After the run the three distance freshmen sat in the locker room with exhausted blotchy faces, sore legs, and blisters. Who would guess that two of us would go on to run in college and do moderately well. I think I ran like 12:36 for the 3200? It was my first cross country season and I ran 5th on the team with I think an 18:54 PR I think. I do remember running 11:54 at the two mile in that race and thinking that I just PR'd in the two mile in a 5k.

2002: 972 miles. I trained in January for a half marathon and ran and hiked some over the summer I don't remember my track times but in cross country I turned in an 18:33 5k at regionals.

2003: 776 miles. I had a great track season despite running very few miles I PR'd in the 1600 at 5:03 and 3200 at 11:06. In cross country I managed to run 18:26 at the state cross country meet. Unfortunately I trained too hard in xc and was burnt out leading into 2004.

2004: 545 miles. I didn't run hardly at all that winter because xc had destroyed me. Track turned out to be a loss as I only ran 5:06 and 11:18. I was too tired. I quit running for six months July 4th after a local 5k didn't run more than three steps until January 4th 2005.

2005: 1410 miles. After running alone for two months I was itching to get back running with a team so I joined the track team at WPI and lost two 5000s and two 1500s running 19:07ish and 4:50s. Check the archives if you don't believe me. That summer I didn't run very much but I did a lot of hiking at 8000 feet in New Mexico and came into xc season and ran in the 30s most races with a 30:12 PR at UMD. I also ran a 20 mile run over october break because I was in decent shape and I wanted to see if I could. This was also the start of the first indoor track season I have ever had which started with me running a 4:59.85 mile at the first meet of indoor. I finally had enough consistency to break 5! That was probably the single biggest moment in my running because now looked farther ahead to faster times and I was beginning to understand how to train better.

2006: 2011 miles. This was the year of my 15 consecutive PRs. despite some minor injuries I managed to put up my first 70 mile week with a friend of mine over spring break and run some times I considered fast during outdoor track including breaking 17 in the 5k which was another huge development: 4:22 1500, 16:37 5000, 34:57 10,000. The first time I broke 17 I PR'd in the 3000 and 3200 along the way. I again spent the summer at 8000 feet in New Mexico and ran a few more miles and hiked a lot more than previous years. In cross country I ran 28:58 in Institute Park at the Worcester City Meet and was legitimately on varsity.

2007: 2827 miles. In indoor track I brought my PRs down to 4:44 mile, 9:25 3000, and 16:25 5000. I was in Costa Rica for outdoor track so I trained for a half marathon and despite only two months of moderate training I ran a 1:19:50 which is just over 6 flat pace. This was the first summer that I trained running and I got up to over 80 mile weeks. In xc I ran a PR 27:34 at the New England meet.

2008: 2523 miles. The year started great with my first 90 mile week then indoor times of 4:38 mile, 9:02 3000, and 16:03 5000. Outdoor was also good with a 4:15 1500 and a 32:58 10,000. Breaking 33 in the 10,000 had been my main goal all year. To accomplish that was very nice. I followed it up with a summer of high mileage at 9000 feet in Colorado including my first 100 mile week. Unfortunately, in the second workout of xc we were doing hills and I tore my plantar and had plantar fasciitis that ultimately derailed all aspirations for my last year of eligibility.

2009: The jury is still out read my running log for more information. Estimated mileage is around 2000 because of planter fasciitis and taking the summer off to go to Pakistan.

The moral of the story is that my major PRs come in years after a year where I increase my mileage. Of course this has a limit but I am not there yet. For example I PR'd in 2007 in part because I ran more miles in 2006 than in 2005. Also, I'm only going to have about 2000 miles in 2009. I realize that this is taking a very long term look at races that are only several seconds different than each other but it is interesting how I have only PR'd the year after I cut mileage in the fall of 2005.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My experience in Indianapolis at the NCAA and USATF

In case you didn't know the headquarters of the NCAA and USA Track and Field (USATF) are about a mile apart on washington street in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. My hotel was more or less in the middle of the two. While I was running Sunday and Monday I found the NCAA because it is in a rather obvious place. We had Tuesday afternoon off at the conference so I put on normal clothes and walked over to the NCAA Hall of Champions and NCAA headquarters. I looked around the museum which was fairly interesting and quite modern. They had interactive stations for each sport with mostly recent pictures and videos but I managed to find a video of Shalane Flanagan when she was still in college. The displays had storries on them about athletes that had over come stuff and one was about a boy from Sudan I think that had fled war and made it to the US and Wheaton College (MA) where he had received a scholarship for running. Division three doesn't give athletic scholarships and you would think they know that at the NCAA Hall of Champions but I guess not.

I walked next door to the main offices and the security guy asked if I needed any help. I said I was just looking around and he said with a big smile, "You can look around in the lobby all you want but you can't go any farther." I explained who I was and everything with the hope that maybe he would provide me an opening to ask to talk to some D3 or track and field person about getting a 3000 at indoor nationals like D1 has. It was a no go I was not getting past his desk. So much for the NCAA being an open book.

Then I walked over the USATF offices. They are not at all marked from the street level so I walked into the number building they were supposed to do and chatted it up with the security guy and I explained that I was in town for a conference and I was wondering about the next olympic marathon trials and he had been a runner as well. So he rode the elevator up with me to their offices. Their tiny offices are on the same floor as some swimming organization and something else I think. I walked in and talked to the receptionist who was pushing 70 years old. I asked if USATF had picked a location or a date for the next olympic marathon trials. I was hoping that she would say 'oh I don't know but so and so is in charge of that would you like to ask him?' Then some guy would have been like 'first weekend in march 2012 and either place one or place two.' Instead I'm pretty sure she just looked it up on the website. Then she asked if I had access to the internet. I haven't been asked that in awhile. She recommended that I just check the internet every so often and eventually it will be updated.

Moral of the story: I am at the bottom of the totem pole. The NCAA is not overly concerned with D3 and the USATF is concerned with getting people to world championships and olympics. When we fill out paperwork to determine our eligibility we are not allowed to win more money in a race than we spend on the race. The problem is that none of my friends get athletic scholarships unlike other divisions and most have of tens of thousands of dollars of debt. What is $100 going to hurt? I go through a pair of $85 shoes every five or six weeks. Do D1 runners pay for their own shoes?

I am not saying it is unfair because this is the route I chose and had I tired a different route chances are I would not be interested in competitive running like I am now. What I am saying is let us keep what little we win because it doesn't compare to a full athletic scholarship and give us a chance to run the same races that D1 runners run like the 3000 at indoor nationals and the 10k in cross country. Please don't discriminate against us because we don't get scholarships or don't run as fast. The reality is that we don't care what you do to us. We love to run and race and we are in this for the long haul. College is the beginning of our running careers. In a way getting paid to do this would spoil the innocence, freedom, and relaxation that we get from running.

If there is pressure on me, let it be my own.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My history of running related injuries

Here is the complete list of injuries I have inflicted on myself running.

1. 2000? My legs hurt just below the knee. I went to the doctor and found out that I had osgood-slaughters disease just like a bunch of other teenagers with growing pains. They hurt and lasted a few years longer than they were supposed to.

2. 2002 cross country I had trouble breathing and went to the doctor and was diagnosed with exercised induced asthma. After using my inhaler before every run for a week I decided that it wasn't helping and I quit asthma.

3. 2003 cross country we were running five morning and five afternoon practices a week and I got some minor shin splints.

4. 2006 indoor track I wore cushioning shoes and they made my knees go kaput. It was the only time I have started out on a run and a mile in I slumped over and cried because it hurt so much. This turned out to be a very educational injury. My coach at the time Mike showed me how to lift weights and I did a lot of cross training. Despite running only three days a week for six weeks I PR'd in every race that season including taking 11 seconds off my mile time and 19 seconds off my 2 mile/3k time. Offically it was patella-femoral tendonitis also know as runner's knee.

5. 2007 last meet of indoor track at MIT I broke a sesamoid bone on my right foot and took a month off leading into costa rica. In June I reinjured it doing barefoot strides in institute park. I got both of my feet x-rayed and it turns out I have one broken sesamoid bone on each foot. This can be pain free with stronger feet, tape, or pads in my shoes. I sometimes wear L-shaped pads in my shoes to take the pressure off the sesamoid bones.

6. 2007 November shin splints. I learned exercises for my shins and took two weeks off. If I don't do those exercises at least once a week I might get shin splints again.

7. 2008 plantar fasciitis. Worst injury ever. Best experience for cross training, strengthing, and patience in exercising. Cause: jumping around in mileage too quick, working out before I was ready, and not stretching my calves. Remedy: better stretches, more effective cross training, a more educated view of how to approach season workouts (careful with hard steep hills). I rode my bike up to 60 miles and four hours on Sundays instead of a long run, I lifted weights or did a core routine five days a week in the mornings, I did 60-90 minutes of aqua jogging every Tuesday and Thursday, and I did lots of cycling and elliptical on the week days. It was not the same as running but I came back and threw down an easy 33:55 10k and ok 16:13 5k before failing from lack of base.

That's about it for major injuries. I have had dozens of minor aches and pains but these stick out as the worst and the most educational that I have had.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Meeting the Rockstars

The rockstars of heat treating that is.

Yesterday I arrived in Indianapolis for the ASM International Heat Treating Society biennial meeting. There are ten of my advisor's graduate students and post docs here because he is the president of the society. So far I've met the people that own DANTE and after talking with them I have learn about many simplifications to my model that I was not sure I could make. It was the kind of ten minute conversation that just cannot be had over the phone. When I get back to a place with free Internet and 110 volt outlets everywhere I will have lots of new things to try.

In the hours that we have had off I have managed to run 22 miles so far (including a really easy day today). In exploring Indianapolis I have run on the Carroll track and past the NCAA headquarters and hall of fame. Tomorrow afternoon we have off so I am planning to go to the hall of fame and perhaps go try and talk to some division three person about the state of track and request a 3000 and 1000 meter race at indoor nationals. I might also stop by the USATF office which is maybe three blocks from my hotel.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Pakistan Video Sample: 5 of 10

This is part of a radio communication between some of the climbers that were descending from camp three on Broad Peak to us at basecamp. When I actually put the movie together it will have subtitles at certain parts so you know what people are saying.


Additionally, for those that missed it yesterday I posted a nine minute trailer for my upcoming movie. I was going to show it at a meeting last night but we couldn't get the sound to work. I deleted it this morning because several parts I do not feel comfortable leaving posted for the whole world to see.

Also, today is the eighth anniversary of 9/11. Out of curiosity I wondered where the hijackers were from. It turns out that according to Wikipedia none of them were from Afghanistan or Pakistan. Just some food for thought.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Abaqus: How to Reduce the Size of your .stt file

Often .stt files can be larger than the .odb files. When you have a limited storage space it becomes important to try and reduce the size of your files. The way to do this is simple: increase the output frequency. This means that instead of writing the resulting data in every single time step to the .stt file only 1/5 or 1/20 or 1/1000 of the step data is written to the .stt file. I think this also makes the simulation run faster but I can not be sure. To reduce the frequency either specify when creating the output requests in Abaqus CAE or edit the input (.inp) file. Here is an example of how to reduce your output requests by editing the input file:

*Restart, write, frequency=25
** FIELD OUTPUT: F-Output-1
*Output, field, frequency=25
*Node Output
*Element Output, directions=YES
*Output, history, frequency=25

The frequency could be reduced more or less until you are able to see the information you desire and have a reasonably sized .stt file. A higher frequency means fewer steps are output and your .stt file will be smaller. Also it is important to note that when viewing the time history results of a simulation that the beginning and end of every step will be show. That means that for a step that is ten seconds long you will be able to view the results of the simulation at 0.0 seconds and 10.0. That holds even if the output frequency is 1000.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Go, Go, Go!

In the world of backpacking the more you carry the more you have to carry. For example: you want to take camera equipment, a heavy tent, an iron skillet, and a book. Well since you are carrying so much extra weight you need more food. Now that you will be hiking slower maybe you should add another day onto the trip to cover the same distance. You are going to need more food for that day. You see the trend.

I am finding that it is the same with "going". I mean covering ground on my feet. The more I do the more I want to do. I'm in the middle of running 100 miles this week and I realized that 100 miles is not that far. So in a few weeks, after I recover from Reach the Beach, I'm going to do 120s. When I can go on a 20 mile run/hike on saturday, a 19 mile long run on Sunday and the a 17 mile double Monday and still feel pretty good Tuesday and Wednesday I want to work closer to my potential. I'm base building. I'm not supposed to pop out a 5:29 mile on the grass with the boys cross country team after a full workout with the girls team.

If you want to see a play by play of my runs the last few years read my running log. If you read my workouts they have the highs and low all documented. From tearing my plantar and the crying during my first 18 mile run to setting the WPI 10,000 record. It's all there.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Thank you Nike!

Let me fill you in on 2009 in the world of American distance running. I'm not talking about Jenny Barringer's 9:12 steeple, Ryan Hall's 3rd in Boston, Dathan or Matt Tegankamp's sub 13 5000s, or former D3 runner Nick Symmonds' 1:43 800. I'm talking about Nike moving everyone to Portland. When I say everyone I mean maybe 20 of the best 50 athletes in the country. Alberto Salazar (running star of the 80s) and Jerry Schumacher (former Wisconsin coach) along with every type of specialist you can imagine at Nike are helping to make the US a great distance running nation again. Some of the people who are there or will be soon: the Gouchers, Dathan Ritzenhein, Galen Rupp, Matt Tegankamp, Chris Solinsky, Alan Webb, and I think Shalane Flannagan along with a slew of second tier runners who are a little younger and in a few years will be running sub 13s of their own.

Arthur Lydiard said in some of his books, starting in the 60s, that group training was vital to success. The reason being that there is a constant source of motivation because the slower runners see the faster ones and want to get to that level and they can see how much work it takes to get there. For the faster runners, they are forced to continue to work hard or someone will take their place and as one of the examples on the team they have a responsibility to do things right. The Hansons started a group of marathoners in 1999 with group training as one of the focuses. They have had success but they have mostly recruited the blue collar D3 and slower D1 athletes instead of the blue chip NCAA winning athletes. My friend suggested that perhaps Nike was offering many of these athletes two different contracts: stay where you are we'll keep paying or come here and work with the best and we'll make it worth your time. Wether or not that is happening the important thing is that Nike is offering on site help and a great support system to some of the best athletes in the country.

For more information. Read that every day.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

On the way home

We finished! No permanent damage but a few scrapes and some soreness
as expected. Total time was about 8:30 including about 1:30 of breaks.
Next stop: Panera!

On Jefferson

We're on Jefferson and everyone is doing great!


We just woke up, cold, and now we're going to eat a little and start
the fun. Aiming for a seven hour traverse. No rain or wind yet!

Friday, September 4, 2009

New Athletic Center at WPI

Breaking news - As I was standing in line at the Dunkin Donuts I overheard three faculty members talking. Apparently, last night or the night before there was a faculty meeting of some sort at President Berkey's house. He let it be known that he wants to go ahead with the new athletic center. Because of the recession there are certain financial incentives to start building sooner. The total cost of the project is expected to be $50 million. Right now he apparently has a surplus of $7 million that could be used to start the process.

The faculty seemed surprised by the rush to build things. They made a few comments about how their respective departments could use $7 million.

My Next Expedition

Well, the votes are in and a first ascent somewhere comes in first just ahead of down under and Denali, in Alaska. Everest and Ama Dablam round out the other expeditions that got votes.

I can't say I'm too surprised. I also think that there is reason to making a first ascent. There are going to be unexpected challenges. The route is not known. So when I go back to a known route it will seem that much easier.

So it is decided: I will make a first ascent somewhere. I would like it to be grade III or longer. Also, I will probably do some research in CO and WY to find a ridge or a face that hasn't been climbed. So this may end up being a four day expedition but it will be a first ascent and not just a route variation. If you know of any places in the mountain time zone in the US where this might be possible let me know.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My Company will be a Team

I have been teaching myself marketing recently. Apparently, you don't have to go to business school anymore. You can read in the blogoshpere everything you need to know. However, if you want one site to tell you what you need to know about marketing go to SpotlightIdeas. That particular post has 250 articles from the greats like Seth Godin, Chris Brogan, and many more.

So I am trying to learn about marketing. After reading well over 100 blog posts I realized something: people want to be part of a team. There is room on the team for almost everybody. There are leaders, there are followers, there are lone wolves, there are bench warmers, the aggressive people, the slackers, and so on. Instead of trying to just sell stuff and make money, get people to be on the team.

Okay, bear with me as I try to explain this. First there needs to be an idea, a product, a service, whatever that people want. Not need, but want. This is 2009 people aren't spending money on what they need but what they want. Case in point: I slept on the floor at my new apartment for a week and a friend's couch the week before but I still went to the Bean Counter several times each week to get a mocha or latte. Now I'm borrowing a day bed from a friend for free.

Second, now that you have someone that bought something, you want to keep them around. In the future they will most likely buy more from you, tell their friends, suggest a new product or an improvement to an existing product, write a positive review on the internet, and not create more hassle in your life. Why are they going to do all of this for you? Because you gave them something they wanted and it was everything they had hoped for or better. But how do you keep them around? I mean when you are selling durable goods that could last for ten or twenty years how do you insure that people come back?

Well, inviting people to be part of the process gives them a sense of ownership. Case in point: the benchwarmer on the basketball team. He works out with the team, puts in the time and effort yet only gets two minutes of playing time in a good game. His stats for the year will be less than one of the star players gets in one game. Yet, he is still part of the team. The team would not be the same without him. Most likely, he brings something to the table that no one else does. I know for a fact, having been on the bench and a star player, that there is a lot of value to the "worst" player. To some people a given sport comes very naturally but to others we have to work a little harder. Seeing the slowest runner show up to practice every day and put in the work is inspiring. They work so hard and no one outside of their friends in the sport ever know.

That's great but how does this apply to the corporate world, web 2.0, 2010, and making money? It's open source business. A team links the coach to the benchwarmer. Forget the fans in the stands. Every customer becomes part of the marketing department, the product testing department, and the team. That doesn't mean they need another username and password to clutter their lives. It means that you two will remember each other. The customer spends time with "you" and if it was a good experience they will be back. You then reward them in some way when they come back.

I like to tell the freshman and underclassmen in my sport after several months when they are still showing up: "Thank you". It sounds so simple but how often do people say "thank you"? Spending several seconds to just say "thank you", and perhaps why you are saying thank you will encourage them to work harder and keep returning. Why do I say "thank you"? I care about the team. If members of the team perform better the team as a whole performs better.

This is a metaphor for rewarding customers. It doesn't necessarily have to be saying "thank you" although that is nice. It could be saving them money on future purchases, alerting them to new products or letting them know when their old products are getting worn out. Case in point: I'm from a smaller town in Wisconsin. We have a shoe store on main street with two or three employees total. It is the old fashioned kind of shoe store and looks like something out of the Andy Griffith show. All of the shoes in the back are piled in boxes 12 feet high and 95% of the shoes in the store are brown or black. The owner keeps track of when my dad buys shoes and after several months when that particular brand of shoes is starting to wear out she will call him and let him know that his shoes are wearing out. So he always goes back and buys more shoes. Less than two minutes on the phone generates a visit that makes a sure sale.

So that's it:
1. Have something people want.
2. Get them to come back.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pakistan Video Sample: 4 of 10

Here is another video that is not good enough to make the full length feature film. This is authentic camp two. That's what it's really like up there. People don't move fast. This was the first time I made it to camp two at 6200 meters or 20,300 feet. Watch, enjoy, and remember that September 10th at WPI I will be showing a 5-10 minute trailer during the WPI Outing Club meeting. So come watch and join the Outing Club!


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bring on the Muslims!

After spending the summer in an Islamic country I have decided I would like to know more about this culture. Fortunately I have a friend at WPI from Pakistan and I just found out that the new guy that sits behind me in the office is from Saudi Arabia.

Why does Islamic culture interest me? Well, unfortunately 95% of what Americans know about Muslims comes from the news. The news is great but it only reports the major events of the world. If NBC covers the Islamic world as well as it does long distance running then we are going to have an education problem. We only end up hearing about bombings and oil sheiks and terrorists. The thing is: it's not like that even in Pakistan. I never had to dodge suicide bombers or anything like that. However, I should explain that a little bit more. On the way out when I stayed in Islamabad they gave us newspapers (in English) at the hotel every morning. I learned that Pakistan has far more bombings than we ever hear about. Most are directed at military road blocks or places where westerners gather like expensive restaurants. Some bombings are even directed at mosques. So it is dangerous.

They also have a slew of political problems. From education and safe drinking water to the bureaucracy and tribal conflicts that we often hear about. In that part of the world, families and tribes often carry more clout then official governments. The nations, or at least Pakistan, is divided roughly into valleys. I spent most of my summer in Baltistan, where they speak Balti, as well as Urdu and a little English. There are other locations as well such as Waziristan, which is a very dangerous place and is a breeding ground for terrorists due to the extreme levels of poverty and education. I learned from Three Cups of Tea that some of the Muslim teachers that are pressuring boys into terrorism can not even read. Teachers that can not read!

We happened to be in Pakistan on July 25th which is a Shi'a (Shiite, spellings vary by source) holy day. We were stuck in a traffic jam for a religious self flagellation ceremony. We were with one of our Ismaeli cook staff and he said that Ismaelis never did that kind of thing. They were very peaceful, despite the fact that I learned recently that Ismaeli is a form of Shi'a so it might have been a Twelvers holy day and not a general Shi'a holy day... I asked the man from Saudi Arabia about this and he said that most 99% of the people in Saudi Arabia and most of the people in Egypt were Sunni and they never did that either. Another holy thing that caught my eye was the issue of prayer five times a day. The loud speakers could be heard whenever you were in a large enough town but I never once noticed a change in the people on the street. I saw only a handful of people pray the whole seven weeks. There was never a rush to the nearest mosque when the loud speaker came on. People didn't rush to their homes and the street never emptied around prayer time. However, Friday morning is their weekly holy day and you could easily tell that most stores were closed and there was far fewer people on the streets than normal. The point is: "Muslims" are just like "Christians" and "Jews" when it comes to practicing their faith, most don't practice too hard.

There is also the issue of the women covering themselves up. Which is not a bad thing at all. The thing is that for seven weeks in Pakistan besides the woman at the hotel desk in Islamabad and the women at customs in the airport the only females I talked to were a pair of nine year old girls in Hushe (the middle of nowhere). It seemed in general that the women worked in the fields and took care of the children and the men walked around main street. So I don't understand the whole male/female relationships thing yet.

Teaching Myself Business

I took the plunge yesterday. I asked Gina Betti (Associate Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at WPI) to help me write a business plan. When I thought I would be devoting all of my waking hours to the research for finishing my thesis I was mistaken. Honestly, it shows that I still overestimate my ability to focus on one thing and one thing alone. Which is bad because it means that it sometimes takes me longer to do things than a more focused person. It also shows that I must be doing more than one thing. I can not stick to only one thing. Which is good because it means I'll keep running and climbing mountains for a long time and it gives me a broad range of experience so I know what a mountain runner wants in a pair of pants as well as an ice climber, and I know how one pair might work for both of them.

One piece of wisdom I was imparted this summer went something like: "People want modular stuff. One ice tool that can do it all. Everything from 35 degree snow to vertical ice. That's the future." That's probably a terrible misquote but that's the message that I understood. The only way that I am going to be able to create something that does everything is by doing everything myself.

So much to learn. So much to do. So much time spent waiting. So much time with no perceived progress. Eventually, some day, far down the road... so much accomplished.