Monday, November 30, 2009

Remembering to Rest

I just finished the longest consecutive number of days I have run in my life: 42. 657 miles in 42 days for an average of 15.6 miles per day. I hope to maintain that sort of average for the next few months before dropping down to like 80-90 per week for the track season. In that time I had five long runs over 22 miles and a blistering 20 mile run at 6:20 pace as well as a half marathon PR by nearly three minutes on a very hilly course.

It can be hard to take a rest because things have been going well. The key is to take the rest before your body breaks down so far it takes you out of the game for a long time. The old adage "an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure" is completely right. I've struggled with several injuries and I have learned that it takes so little effort to prevent something but getting healthy is very hard.

I read somewhere recently that some coach only coached people that he had to hold back. I think that concept can be applied to many situations. Everybody does something a little more than is healthy. Wether that is playing a video game eight hours a day or studying 15 hours a day it is often good to take a rest or at least hold yourself back.

I often tell people to stay motivated. Burnout, overtraining, stress, and not taking a rest every now and then contribute to loss of motivation. Once your motivation is gone it can be hard to get back. I think this is one of the advantages of extracurriculars (like running) in school. It's not that it actually makes you smarter it's that it makes you focus on something else so you aren't thinking about school. From September until May almost every Saturday is taken up with our cross country or track teams traveling somewhere to race. The event usually takes up most of the day and most people don't even touch their homework on Saturday. I think this short little weekly break is often enough to reenergize people to hit the books during the week. Another little diversion is the daily practice and for two or three hours each day people more or less accomplish nothing as far as academics are concerned. This convenient break keeps people motivated to spend four or five hours every night working on homework and projects instead of a strait 14 hour grind.

At Philmont (a camp I worked at for two summers) the Conservation department (which I was part of both years) had the moto "work hard, play hard". So simple and so true. When you do something, do it. When you rest, rest hard.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Successful Innovative Companies: Volume 8

The Successful Innovative Company of the week is: Patagonia.
What they do right: They care about more than just profits. The founder Yvon Chiounard, the same guy that founded Black Diamond, had this environmental idea that he would try to make performance clothing with the least damage to the environment. That means he uses recycled materials, nontoxic dyes, organic cotton, safe labor environments in third world countries, and actively recycles old Patagonia products among other eco-friendly initiatives.

Patagonia promotes The Cleanest Line of products as a world leading brand in putting the environment before profits. They also helped to start the 1% For the Planet charity. Patagonia is surely one of the leaders in environmental production and does well informin their customers about their initiatives.

They also make some great clothing! I bought a R1 Hoody last year for $95 marked down from $135. At the time I thought I was crazy. It fit well and had nice features like thumb loops, a hood, an offset zipper and chin mask, a chest pocket and it was warm. I thought it would be a nice addition to my stuff to take to Pakistan. I wore it for two days while ice climbing and hiking in February. Oh my it was good! It breathed so well that if I wore it alone I could run or hike hard when the temperature was well below zero and the sweat would quickly vent off of me. It really provides no protection from the wind but that is no problem for most situations. As soon as I would stop hiking and stand there, as long as there was no wind, it would quickly heat up so there was no need to throw on another layer. To adjust the ventilation I could take my hands out of the thumb holes and slide the sleeves up my arms or I could take the hood off and zip the zipper down until my bare chest, head and neck were venting to 15 degree New Hampshire. I wore the R1 Hoody every time I went above camp one on Broad Peak this summer. I wore it on Longs Peak in August. I wore it running the Presidential traverse in September. If there is one shirt I will use when the temperature will be below 40 it is the R1 Hoody. I even bought a second one for $85 in March when I saw it on sale. I was so paranoid that they would quit selling them that I have it still with the tag on in my room just waiting for me to break the one I currently use.

But Patagonia, also known as Patagucci, does not only sell amazing hooded shirts. They cover the entire mountaineering range of clothing as well as city dweller clothing of sweaters and pants made of cotton and cashmiere.

Finally they have created a website called The Tin Shed. It is a collection of stories told with videos, pictures and words of the Patagonia environmental effort as well as their sponsored athletes.

What they could improve: Personally I think they send too many emails. I seem to get two or three emails a week sometimes twice a day announcing new sales or new items or the new surfing catalog. While it is nice that they are so proactive about telling people what they are doing they are trying to hard and I have archived several of their emails just from reading the subject.

They are also a very expensive company. None of their clothing comes cheap. This is the price of their hard work making The Cleanest Line yet for a poor 23 year old like myself it is prohibitive. That is not a bad marketing strategy, in fact they are doing quite well, but unless you can afford it it is too expensive.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Making it your own

I have been spending a lot of time recently writing things that have predefined templates. My thesis, which isn't so bad after all, my business plan, which is so bare it is kind of funny, a website, and of course my ebook. People often suggest that you need to make something representative of yourself. However, they don't tell you what that means. I'm going to try to answer that, at least for my life.

First off take my business plan. I am an engineer. It's what I do and I'm not half bad at it. Unfortunately, it's called a business plan and I am more than half bad at business. I want to describe the company and how it will survive but many of the things I want to say are from my personal experience. There are no formulas, I am aware of, that say why it is a good idea to go to ice climbing festivals to sell more ice axes.

The solution: write what I think needs to be in my business plan. Write it so that someone who doesn't know me can understand it. Which is to say that in the business plan I am saying that I am the one and only employee with experience engineering, mountaineering, and running and not so much with business, law, marketing and stuff. If someone wants to invest they should know my strengths and weaknesses.

Second take my thesis. Describe what I can stand behind. Everything else is left out. It turns out my summary is less than a page, as of now. A year and a half of long days in front of my computer screen analyzing finite element results in bright orange, yellow, green, and blue. Scrolling through thousands and thousands of lines of code to find that one misspelled word or comma or wrong number and I have less than a page to say.

The solution: besides an awesome literature review and background that describes most of what I learned in the last year and a half I can say a few things my simulations demonstrated. That is the key, being able to say something. I have been to a number of masters and doctorate thesis' presentations and I have learned when it comes to basic sciences advances happen slowly. A person can work on a project for years and at the end have a 25 minute presentation describing the difference between two sample groups. It is not that a doctorate degree or masters degree means any less now that I know what it takes to get one. In fact I respect the degrees that much more. Many of the most powerful discoveries in science can be described in ten minutes once you understand all of the background.

Finally, take my fun, like running, climbing, going to Pakistan... I am Isaiah Janzen not someone else. I can not live my life trying to achieve physical feats that other people accomplished.

The solution: I have my own unique set of goals. Some of them are probably the same as other people but the combination of all of them, I would assume, is unique. Top athletes try to innovate their sports by taking it to a new level. I just want to say 'this is what I did, it was fun, and my life is better because of it'.

So go out and make it your own. It doesn't have to be different, but it will be.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The purpose of slow runs after hard runs

Totally a running post today. So you go out and do a hard workout or a 23.4 mile long run and your legs are trashed. Instead of taking the next day off you decided to double (run twice) the next day. Why would this help at all? It seems this would ruin your body not make it better. Well, here's my take:
  1. By doing a workout and running the next day you teach your body to be hungry and store up all the glycogen it can. This is repeated every day but it is most noticeable on the day after a long workout. If you plan to race longer races like the marathon you can't afford to fake it. It is important for your body to store up as much energy as possible. So your body anticipates being depleted of glycogen and uses more fat to offset that. In other words your metabolism becomes more efficient and your gas tank is bigger.
  2. Unless you are sprinting full out you are not using 100 percent of your muscle fibers. So when you do a hard workout and use the same 40 percent of your muscles they get tired. When you run later that day or the next day your brain tries to reduce the stress on your muscles and recruits some of the other 60 percent to do some of the work. If you can distribute the work amongst even a few dozen more muscles fibers that will help you go faster. Benji Durden suggested doing a long run of over three hours and then running another half hour later that day to get used to spending time on your feet. Same concept but honestly, that's sounds pretty pretty tough, I can 't wait to try it!
  3. Although it seems there is not much proof of this, if at all, a slower run after a hard workout works to flush the legs of waste. Not sure if I believe this one but I do know that for some reason I usually feet better after a shorter and slower run. If not immediately then the next day.
(This is all part of my secret plan to get my friends that are competitive runners to run more miles. I mean that's really the basis of it. To get better at running you have to run. But don't tell them because they might get offended that they aren't working hard enough.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Knowing a Failure

As my time as a masters graduate student winds to a close I have to reflect on everything I have done. That means writing the summary to my thesis. While trying to do that the last few weeks I hit a huge mental road block. All I could think about or write about were the many things I had done wrong. The several hundreds of simulations that inevitably ended with nothing worth writing about. As I sat there trying to figure out the purpose of it all I realized that I did learn some things worth mentioning. No I didn't solve the problem. I did find several contributing factors, none of which add up to the whole, but corrected would definitely make a difference.

In all those failures and what I consider semi-failures I see now that even in something that I used to think was so simple (metallurgy) is actually very complex and we still don't have all the answers. It can be very humbling to do research. You start out with grandiose plans and at the end it can be a little depressing what is actually accomplished. On the other hand, even accomplishing something small from scratch is a huge victory. Scientists, you have my respect.

I have learned, even in those failures where you feel it is a loss and a waste, there is learning to be had. That is very important. No one in the world will have all of the same failures that you do. That means your learning curve is different than everyone else in the world. I think that means that some day you will be able to solve a problem that no one else in the world has solved. Maybe you have already solved unique problems like that. Maybe I'm totally wrong.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Successful Innovative Companies: Volume 7

The Successful Innovative Company of the week is: Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI).
What they do right: they facilitate people to get out more. In middle school I started to take the outdoors more seriously and started thinking about camping more than 30 feet away from someone over 40 or a car. I do not remember if it was my dad who introduced me to REI or if I stumbled upon them on the internet. I do remember vividly the first time I went into one of the stores. I was 14 and our family was on vacation in California and we showed up ten minutes before it opened so we waited in the car. This was in middle to southern California. I remember pulling on the wooden handled ice axe door handles and thinking that this was really hardcore. I felt like a mountaineer just opening the door! As we looked around inside I remember seeing the huge assortment of climbing gear and marveling at how many different things there were. That was the first time I had ever seen a cam in real life. Now I own 15. They had tents and sleeping bags even warm down to -40F(C)!

When we walked out of there my life was changed. While it would be years before I would start buying rock climbing and ice climbing equipment, the seed had been planted. Maybe it's an engineering thing. I find it so interesting how to put a piece of metal into a slot in the rock so that if you fall it will hold you. Similarly I'm interested in the heat transfer involved in hiking up a mountain when the windchill is far below freezing.

REI succeeds where others fail because they span the entire range of outdoor committed enthusiasts. Walk into an REI and you can easily buy a $400-600 rain jacket, one of the most expensive on the market. You can also buy a $39 polyurethane rain jacket. It is the same with tents. You can spend $800 on a tent that could probably be used on Mars or $100 on a tent that is still way better than the one I slept in at 12,700 feet in Colorado on one trip. It is important to have a range of items because as consumers grow and their interests changes there is a real possibility that at some point years later the same person that bought a $39 rain jacket will be back for a $400 one.

My advisor old me that people are most disposed to pick medium if given three or five options. I think it is the same with prices. They don't want the cheapest but don't need the most expensive. Sounds like good marketing to me.

Also, several times a year REI stores have the garage sale. They sell the returned items that other people didn't want. Much of the merchandise is broken or in need of serious repair but there are very good deals if you are willing to look. My best finds were two pairs of rock climbing shoes for a total of $25 which is far better than the $220 they would have originally cost.

They also have this great program called the member dividend. It works by paying $20 when you sign up and as long as you buy $10 or more each year you get a percentage of all that you bought back to spend again. The reason it is so easy to keep buying year after year is that if you spend $100 and get the 10% back the next year you just have to buy something to use those $10. They also have a credit card where you earn even bigger dividends on REI purchases and small dividends on all purchases. I can not suggest getting a credit card as it encourages you to spend more money than you have but if you must have one this is a good one to have.

What they could improve: this is just my opinion and I am a special case but not many people at REI can help me any more. I know more about the gear and clothing they sell than they do. It can be frustrating to ask a question and get a totally bogus response.

Another things I think would be great is having sponsored athletes. I know they are a retailer as well as a manufacturer but they make a lot of good stuff and giving free gear and travel money to a few talented outdoors athletes would help promote their name among the dedicated outdoors professionals. What I mean is that I do not remember seeing the REI logo in Pakistan this summer but The North Face, Scarpa, and Mountain Hardware logos were everywhere, especially on their sponsored athletes.

Also, and again this is just my opinion, I would like to see REI delve into the niche aspects of outdoor recreation. Which is to say selling or producing cold weather gear, ultralight gear, and more running apparel. I think they have done very well with their product line as it is but they could expand into other segments of the market.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Dark Horse

I'm talking about the guy nobody knows. The guy pounding away and straining to be the best. The guy who sweats passion. The guy who doesn't sleep because he found something and can't sleep until he absorbs it all. I'm talking about the guy that people think is a little unrealistic. The guy with nothing to lose so he doesn't quit.

I'm talking about Adam Young who created Owl City at 2 AM in his parents basement. I'm talking about Yanni when he played crazy stuff at after parties in Minnesota. I'm talking about Gary Erikson creating Cliff Bar from his parents house. I'm talking about Billy Mills PRing by 50 seconds in the finals of the 10k at the 64 olympics to take gold in a crazy sprint finish. I'm talking about Steve Wozniak building computers with high school kids in a garage.

Dark horses, you rock!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

FREE eBook: What Gen Y Wants You to Know

It finally happened. I wrote and published a book! It took about nine weeks from the time I came up with the idea until it was all put together. This is very exciting for me! About the book...

I have been reading all sorts of blogs about marketing and social networking and the transition the internet is making into mainstream life. I was reading all of this stuff and they are talking about Facebook and what Generation Y is into and how we use the internet. I couldn't help but think that we are old enough they should be asking us what we want. Or maybe some of us should be telling them... So I did a quick search and our generation does not really have a spokes person. Sure we have famous people, but I think that they are a bad representation of our culture. Personally I can't relate to having millions of dollars, having cameras in my face all the time, or reading about my life in magazines. So I decided to write an eBook and give it away for free. I just want people to hear from us a little bit. I want to help older people understand younger people because the more we understand each other the more we are going to get done.

The problem with this sort of topic is that I want to be general and talk about the perspective from our generation not just my own personal views. So I enlisted the help of my little sister. We are somewhat different so I think we covered most of the bases.

Download the ebook (pdf): What Gen Y Wants You to Know

Along the way I learned more things. I plan to publish a book in 2010 and this whole process was great because I learned all about the publishing process. Specifically, the self publishing process which is a little like the wild west. It's amazing what you can do for free on the internet with very little computer skills! While researching all of these separate tangents I decided to make the book into a paperback as well. You can buy the paperback copy of What Gen Y Wants You to Know on

So read, enjoy, and perhaps now you might understand the teenagers and 20 somethings in your life a little better. If you are in Generation Y I hope that we got the gist of what you want.

Monday, November 16, 2009

And Arthur Lydiard said "Run"

Arthur Lydiard is responsible for two huge breakthroughs in athletics. As with many of my posts this begins with some history. Go back to 1940s or early 1950s New Zealand. An out of shape factory worker goes on a five mile run with a coworker. He is wheezing and having a tough time of it. After this experience this man decides that he is not in shape and he wants to get in better shape. He takes up running because it is very accessible, cheap and effective. He begins to run more and experiments with how to get better. Everything from running fast but very few miles to running over 200 miles a week. Finally he comes up with the basics of his first theory. A theory built on a huge aerobic base. He says to run a lot of miles at just below your aerobic threshold and then as many miles as you can at an easy pace and do this for 3-8+ months. Alternate the number of miles of your aerobic run every day running longer and a little slower three days a week and shorter and faster four days a week. For elite runners this is about 100 miles a week at close to aerobic threshold pace and 50+ miles at an easy pace. You can also do strides and hill work to maintain some fast turnover but the key is lots of miles.

What exactly is your aerobic threshold? Definitively answer that question and you can publish a book, make money, and coach the rest of your life. I would say that aerobic threshold is usually slower than marathon pace. Perhaps it would be better to say that it is like four hour race pace. That may be your marathon pace but for competitive runners it is slower than marathon pace. It is supposed to be a little faster than easy. So that you breathe slightly harder but could continue at that pace a long time.

His second breakthrough was experimenting on out of shape old golfers. He had them run 15 minutes three times a week and all of their health improved. He called it jogging. In the past either you were a runner or you weren't. Now you didn't have to be a runner or a couch potato, you could be a jogger complete with 5k race t-shirts and sore muscles just like a real runner without the pressure to run every day and do well in races. As far as inventing sports go this had to be the greatest invention yet.

I have two of his books: Running With Lydiard and Running to the Top. The first is more of a general overview of how to run with the goal of racing faster. The second is more specific to being a really good runner not just running faster and it was 12 more pages and is three dollars less. I can't really recommend one over the other because honestly they are probably 85% exactly the same. Reading any of Lydiard's books is a perfect introduction to running and a read that no runner should skip. Many of his theories are still in use today by many of the top coaches. In fact the performance booms in Japan, Finland, Kenya, and other places can be traced back to Lydiard teaching coaches in those countries his basic principles.

Wether you run 15 minutes three times a week or 15 hours a week over 13 runs and play golf or run marathons you can stand to learn something from this coach of coaches.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Successful Innovative Companies: Volume 6

The Successful Innovative Company of the week is: Google.
What they do right: They made the internet what it is. They made a source of information. The internet was cool before but this took it to another level. You could search the world and actually find what you wanted to find. They took a moderately competitive market and fixed the errors. Ads were smaller and all in text. There was a focus on text and not images. Their managed to connect everything and make it searchable. If you don't remember, it was hard to find things ten years ago. Not every website seemed to be on the same internet. Now it really only matters if you are indexed by Google. That's what it means to be on the internet: searchable by Google. Had they stopped there and just sold ads and indexed websites they would still be great. However, they saw other possibilities.

Then came Gmail. At first it was a staggering 1 GB of available space for your emails for free, now it's over 7. The mailbox has easy inbox and archive features and the star feature for important emails. Again, had they just done that it would be the best out there, but they linked it with a new chat feature Google Chat. Instant messaging and texting are slow compared to the speed of Google Chat. It also saves conversations in your archived emails so you have records. They also linked a calender to the email so you could see upcoming events. Then they released a new program Documents. It is possibly the most simple word processing device that has been created in the last 10 years but for simple writing and editing text it is great. For collaborations between multiple authors a single document can be edited at the same time and is updated about every minute. It tracks the changes and can show you what different authors changed. As far as producing group papers this is such a useful tool.

Their stable of products, and mostly free products is really staggering. They have Blogger the world's most popular blogging program. They recently came out with a fairly popular phone. They rule internet marketing by developing industries like search engine optimization and Adwords.

Aside from all of these technical innovations they have managed to create a new corporate system. I have a friend who had an internship at Google. They have a free cafeteria and games and all sorts of on site employee benefits. My friend said that he stayed there up to 14 hours a day. Obviously not working the whole time but the culture was such that everyone just hung out there. Wether that attitude in the business world is catching on is hard to say. With the current recession I would guess that most companies aren't giving out free lunches every day.

What they could improve: This is hard because I am afraid of Google becoming too powerful. They are so good and so connected to almost everybody that if they chose to wield their power it could be a bad situation. In the world these days it is hard to know where the balance of efficiency and fair are. If there was only one search engine people used it would be fine as long as you were on it but if you were not on the search engine then you would be invisible. It is the age old monopoly problem. On the other hand, the web of the internet has grown so much that a company could be spread by Facebook, email, and other networking systems so that very little of the traffic to that site would come directly from Google. Also, with the advent of smart phones and netbooks the internet is beginning to change. I think in the future it will change even more to perhaps pieces of thin flexible plastic that are just connected to the internet. We shall see how Google responds to this new era in the digital age.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Mornings

In my effort to run more I've started running most mornings as well as in the evenings. In an effort to also spend more time at school I used the time change and now I wake up a half an hour earlier than before. This is great and I get to run more miles, blah, blah, blah. The problem is these mornings are rarely examples of awake and well rested Isaiah. If I don't trip or stumble on something in the gym in the morning getting changed it's a good morning. Often times I am stiff and I run so slow that when I finish I wonder if it was even worth it. Other times, like today, I sleep in and just skip the run because I have to listen to my body tell me that I am tired and need nine hours of sleep. I am a big fan of trying to push your limits but not a big fan of breaking them.

One other thing about the mornings is that it is the best time to take your pulse. If you want to know what your resting heart rate is take it before you do anything in the morning. It is the lowest it will be all day. (Today mine was 44 which ties for my personal all time low.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Juggling my future

I am at a pivitol point in my life. Soon I will be in the real world. The place without new student loans. In fact the last five years of life I will now have to pay for. Going back in time... I scrimped and saved my whole life and it only payed for about a semester of college. I worked in the summers and all that payed for was a few months of rent and food. The thing is, I have less debt than many of my friends and I feel I live in more luxury than most.

To avoid the inevitable unemployment that approaches I have begun work on several sources of passive income. That is work that I do once and make money off for a long time. This blog is among those but it has not paid out any money at all, yet. I also published my first book Monday. More details on that will be coming shortly after I proof it to make sure it is releasable to the public. If everything goes well I will release it next week along with the free identical ebook. I also designed my first website about two weeks ago. It is really rough but it will grow with time and eventually I will sell a book there as well. I am also working on two patents right now. Then I am also running races for prize money. So far I am one for two on that front but it does pay out a little. While the running is not passive income it is an alternative source.

The purpose off all of these is to have things that inform people about something and can also provide some money for me. In this, the 21st century, things are going to be different. I see a decentralizing of almost everything. Instead of huge corporations and giant facories there will be dozens of nearly identical smaller factories. This is because the cost of shipping will go up and the standard of living around the world will even out so that it is not cheaper to produce things halfway around the world. I think that the power grid will turn to alternative energy spread out before we discover how to contain fusion in which case one powerplant per continent might be enough.

What does that have to do with my passive income? Well, I am an innovator, an entrepreneur, and an inventor. The problem is that these things depend on me producing something that people buy. At this point in my life I am living by the seat of my pants. I have no contract for future income past December 15th. I want to run a company, even if that is a company of just one. So I am learning html and css coding for websites, I am learning blogging and website development, I am learning the publishing industry, I am learning the intellectual property industry, I am writing a business plan and I am writing the coolest thesis ever! Well okay, my thesis is less than perfect right now... The point is that if I want to help build a company from the ground up I have to know how to do a lot of different things. Of course in the future, when I can hire people to do that kind of stuff for me, I will be able to work on the things that I like doing more such as research and development.

There are also other advantages to this these passive incomes. Once you write a book you make money every time someone buys a copy. Since I am going with low budget print on demand publishing for my first book it never goes out of print unless I decide to take it out of print (or the company goes out of business). The advantage even if you only sell one book per month is that in ten years you can still sell one book per month. I would guess that you could also work this out with a traditional publishing house after they sell your 5,000 books and decide it is not worth a second printing and continued publicity. While it is nearly impossible to think of myself as a writer it would be nice to know that I could write a few books and use that money to travel around the world climbing mountains and sightseeing.

A few other thoughts about why I have been doing all of this and not working 12 hour days every day on my thesis: Publicity for me. You can call it my personal brand if you want. I get to influence the world. Now I can write a stellar thesis and maybe seven people will read it this year. Maybe two next year and then 14 people in the next 20 years. Unless it is phenomenal new science it will not make me famous. I average about 30 people per day on my blog now. Not too many by internet standards but more people read my blog in one week then may ever read my thesis. I have even helped some people with Abaqus problems and motivated a few people to run more or maybe work a little harder. Finally, I have fun! I like telling people about different things. Sometimes I feel like I have all this pent up information

Want a preview of what will be coming in the near future to Learning to DO: how to create a website from scratch, several running related book reviews, a retraction/clarification of the metabolism article, a few more Abaqus examples based on hits I get from Google, and my sister and I's free ebook and not so free identical paperback.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Past is History

I am specifically referring to my summer in Pakistan. The sharp memories are beginning to fade and the reality of living so close to danger is not keeping me awake at night. It is interesting how something that is the most memorable crazy thing I have ever done begins to be less of a novelty as time passes.

Over there I was more or less in constant fear. On the glacier it was falling in a hidden crevasse and getting hurt or killed. On the mountain it was avalanches, rock fall, fixed lines failing, blizzards, falling, not enough oxygen, not enough water, and cold temperature. On the jeep rides it was falling off the road. In the cities it was terrorism.

When I returned I went to Colorado for a few days and went running and climbing a lot. I was numb somewhat. I wasn't feeling pain or fear like I had always before. Some of that has lasted but it is not the same. I will be forever changed by my trip this summer but it will not always be the sharp knife in my emotions that is once was.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Successful Innovative Companies: Volume 5

The Successful Innovative Company of the week: Krispy Kreme.
Disclaimer: I do not want to be the leader for the obese America movement but I like doughnuts and Krispy Kreme is king. I also exercise about 14 hours a week.

What they do right: The make the best tasting mass produced doughnuts. The first time I had Krispy Kreme was in the summer of 2002 in Sedona, Arizona at my grandparents timeshare. My uncle went out and bought two dozen for everyone and I had one. The taste was light and fluffy, not heavy or too sugary, with just a hint of strawberry. It was so good I followed it up with two or three more that morning and the next time he went to go buy some doughnuts I went along with a few others in my family. We had all liked the doughnuts and apparently it was an up and coming company so we all wanted to see it first hand. The store there did not have the conveyer belt, but it still emitted that high class, oil paintings for sale on the walls, free wi-fi, yes life is amazing vibe.

When I went to a Krispy Kreme with the machine that makes doughnuts I was astounded. Then they gave me a free hot glazed doughnut just for standing there! Watching the machine pop out perfect circles and then so evenly cook them and frost them I was just amazed. It was so simple but yet so different. Most bakeries have some sort of magic that goes on in the back and you have no idea how it all works or if they just use a microwave or something but here you could see everything. Krispy Kreme still keeps the exact dough recipe secret but they show so much more of the cooking process so I'll let them keep the recipe.

Krispy Kreme has also expanded to have doughnuts available in grocery stores and for fund raisers. Selling plain glazed doughnuts as a fund raiser. Aside from selling eggs (another good story) that is the most basic thing I have ever heard of. Yet it works. Thousands of doughnuts are sold every year though fundraising. In total they sell 11,000 doughnuts every hour of every day on average.

What they could improve: More locations so that people like me who live more than a half an hour away from the nearest location can have them more often. Also, I think that industries in the business of less than ideal food (fast food, doughnuts, candy, soda, you get the idea) would be doing their customers a service by making an effort to both educate their customers and provide more nutritious options. People aren't getting any skinnier in the world. In the future I see food shortages due to population explosions and running out of arable land if we continue to pursue the life of excess that we live in now. The blame is spread on all of us but it would just be nice to see a company like Krispy Kreme take more initiative in the battle for sustainability and health.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

City People!

Dear City People,

You make me laugh. When I told you that I own several guns the expression on your face was priceless! In case you still don't understand: most guns are not used to shoot people. When I tried to explain fields and plains to you and you just didn't get that there are places without buildings and trees, I was very surprised. When you complained about driving three miles across town to go out to eat I thought of the numerous times I have driven an hour one way for good food. By the way the suburbs is not the countryside. I don't know if you remember the night up in New Hampshire cruising around the actual countryside and you were worried about someone crazy jumping out and some sort of horror movie situation happening. If that ever does happen to you let me know. When you told me you didn't know how to drive I'm sorry but I really thought you were joking. Same for riding a bike. When we had that bonfire and you just kept playing with it until you burned yourself I felt like I was watching a 26 year old person pretend to be nine. You should try and get out more because despite living here for several years you really don't know your way around. Do you remember the time that you went to Florida even though you've never been to New York City? When you came back I would have thought that you had spent two years traveling the world. Just to let you in on a little secret: there is in fact stuff to do and things to see west of Albany. But I am sure you will never get bored or unhappy here so there is no need to try something new.

Also, you are insane. Case in point: you passed me yesterday going 45 in a 30 but had to stop at the stoplight less than a quarter of a mile away and I pulled up right beside you. When we walked over to Dunkin Donuts yesterday you sprint walked to get in line ahead of me even though we both had to wait for five minutes. Then your order took longer to make than mine so I still left before you. I apologize for accidently eavesdropping on your conversation yesterday about the divorce you are in the middle of with the woman that you first met in a night club. I won't tell. But I will suggest that perhaps night clubs are not the best place to meet people for long term relationships. That's great that your family is from the area and has been here for seven generations and you plan to spend your entire life here, even though the winters are too cold for you and you never have actually lived anywhere else. I am sure that wherever you live now is the best place to live. I mean change is a pretty scary thing. I've heard it even scares people to death.

Your Friend,

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Our bodies are not typical engines

We (in the running community) sometimes liken our bodies to a car talking about fuel efficiency and maximum power or speed. Well that's not entirely correct. Our body has several different metabolic processes that can occur simultaneously. Specifically aerobic and anaerobic respiration. Additionally, and I'm hazy on this because I haven't taken any biochem in awhile, our bodies convert fat to glucose or something like that so that when we are working aerobically we are burning both strait up glucose and glucose from fat. Take that a step farther so that we need a little bit of anaerobic respiration to do whatever we are doing. So now we are burning everything we have fat, glucose, and more glucose. Now the body's supply of glucose (from glycogen) is limited. This is why in marathoning the "wall" is so famous. The distance of a marathon is short enough that people can try to run hard the whole way and it is long enough that you can't run hard the whole way. So many runners get into the 20+ mile range and hit the wall because they ran out of sugar and now their body is forced to burn the glucose from fat which takes a little longer to metabolize. The problem is that while you can "run" on fat as long as you can stay awake it does not provide as much energy "quickly" as sugar (glucose). This applies to just about every exercise not just running. Although, lower intensities (walking), activities with frequent rests (sports involving whistles), or eating all contribute to making it possible to do those for long periods of time. Our bodies are more like a tribrid that will change metabolism depending on the exertion.

A few other comments on metabolisms:
  • Before breakfast you have less sugar in your system so you burn up to 3x as much fat than later in the day after you start eating.
  • I have about 11 pounds of fat and thus 38,500 calories of fat fuel in me, in theory enough to run well over 300 miles continuously, now, if I wanted.
  • I have hit the wall in the 400, 800, 5000, 10,000, and a number of 15+ mile long runs, notably an 18 miler in Colorado on Gold Hill. So our bodies are complicated.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Harry Potter

In an effort to keep it interesting for those people who don't run or use Abaqus I'm going to try to expand what I write about. There will still be plenty of running and Abaqus but other stuff too.

Starting in middle school my chosen method of picking books for about five years consisted of going in and looking around for ten minutes before asking the librarian what I should read. The more I think about it the more grateful I am to have had two very good, well read, librarians in middle school and high school. Although, For Whom the Bell tolls and The Divine Comedy are not easy reads for a freshman in high school.

This tale takes up back to early winter in the year 1999. We were required to read about ten books throughout the year and one particular day during seminar (a 50 minute study hour every day) I went to the library and asked if she would recommend any books. She just so happened to have a book she thought I might like: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Apparently it was an up and coming book that was rapidly gaining popularity. It was new so I might have been the first person in my school to read the book. At around 400 pages it could be a little intimidating for most 8th graders. Never the less I dived in and after maybe a hundred pages I was so enthralled by the plot line and the characters that I finished the book in only a few days.

I brought the book back and told her it was really good and asked if there was the second year (second book) and it just so happened that she had it. So I read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. About this time I was really getting into it and I remember one night were I would read a chapter, look at the clock and decide I could read another chapter. This went on from as soon as I finished supper to I think 2 AM. Most of my friends know that I'm usually asleep by 11 and rarely awake past 12 and it has been that way most of my life. The story line was just so compelling that I did not want to put it down. The next semester I read the Prisoner of Azkaban and began waiting for the fourth book.

Part of the reason I found the Harry Potter series so impelling is that the series starts with a kid who feels a little different. I know lots of people and most people feel a little different. It is about this magical world where he finds a place he belongs, and is even famous. As you read the book you get to learn, at the same time he does, everything that is new and different in this magical world. As the books progress they delve deeper in the relationships and ultimate climax of the seventh book. The story takes us on a journey with many twists, turns, laughs, and even crying. Many parts of the book mimic our lives. Suffering, confusion, fear, confidence, enlightenment and humor all pepper these books.

I watched the sixth movie on Sunday evening and it was one of the better Harry Potter movies. I realized that there is only one more movie in the series and then that's it. Seven books and seven movies. More than a decade of since I started reading the first book. I believe J.K. Rowling is now a billionaire while she was once on welfare. I have read thousands of pages by hundreds of authors and I believe that a large part of how writing affects us is based on what point in our life we read it. Harry Potter grew up about the same time I was growing up and that made the series strike close to the heart. What inspiration can I take from Harry? The same inspiration I can take from millions of other struggling humans but with eloquent writing: when your back is up against the wall you will do what it takes to get it done.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Is it a pain threshold?

Pakistan changed me. I've said it before. It is like I have a mental glaze that comes sometimes and allows me to easily do things I would have considered hard only six months ago. For example I mapped out and ran a 3:02:55 marathon yesterday with over 1900 feet of up and down and it was not hard. I just unofficially qualified for the boston marathon on a moderately hilly course by 8 minutes without really trying.

How can I better describe this feeling? It is pleasure. It is kind of like being numb, not just my legs but in my head as well. My legs were a little tight the last six miles but I could still feel that they were hurting a little. It's like my brain said to my body, "Nobody cares if you are tired. This isn't hard."

Here is my theory: In Pakistan every mountain climber that died this summer was more experienced than I am. Now because I only made it to 7000 meters and felt pretty good I feel that up at 8000 meters it must be exponentially harder because people die so frequently. Let me connect that a little better. If I felt good at 7000 meter I would guess more experienced people would feel better at 7000 meter and if they died at 8000 meters than it must just be crazy hard to get that high and come back. So I guess my definition of hard is something like a 19 hour day from 7000 to 8000 and back. A three hour run pales in comparison. Additionally, making these eight or six hour hikes between camps while you are never moving terribly fast you are continually breathing hard and somewhat tired. So again what is a three hour run in shorts and singlet compared to a six hour hike when you can hardly breathe and your fingers are freezing at 22,000 feet?

So I think it is a mental change that I have gone through. I might have physically been capable of this for the last two years but my mind is now sugar coating the pain and it doesn't feel too bad. In fact it is that kind of good honest working tired pain.

What is next for me? Probably a six hour race in RI in two weeks where I want to win and break into the top 30 in the world for this year. I also want to PR in the half marathon in practice sometime soon as well. Oh and I'm leading an ice climbing trip in December.