Saturday, February 27, 2010

One Year of Blogging in Review

One year ago today, February 27th, I posted my first blog entry. I did not know where this blog would take me. I started Learning to DO with one idea in mind: replicate the sort of blog that CiloGear has so that I could update the world on the trials of starting a company. Well, over the weeks starting a company kind of went up and down and who knows where it's at today. I have an email address and contractors refer to me being from Janzen Gear, but what does that mean?

This blog has evolved into something of a melting pot of information both personal and business. Everything from stories and videos from Pakistan to personal relationships and more info about running than you probably want. I have learned that I really like writing. If my job for the next ten years was to pop out several pages every day I could live with that.

By the numbers I would say I'm off to a good start. This is my 234th blog post in 366 days. Over 7,000 visits and 11,000 page views with absolutely zero money spent advertising, hosting, or on development. While that does not compare to the millions per month that other sites get, it is a decently large number. Recently I started averaging over 45 visits per day. If there is one key to getting more visitors every day it is consistency. The more content you have available on the internet the more people will find you. I even get fan email! I also get angry emails sometimes too...

As far as monetizing my blog goes, well, it has paid off. I am currently coaching one person and have made several hundred dollars as a result of that. We knew each other from working together the summer of 2006 and through Facebook stayed mildly connected until he started reading my blog and we started talking more. The next thing I knew I was getting paid to coach him. So I am not directly making money from blogging but indirectly I am.

I have become one of the world's experts in bottom-up meshing in Abaqus and I get about 10% of my hits on that post alone. I'm happy that post is helpful to people because I probably spent two or three hours writing it.

I think that I have been one of the driving factors to influence six of my friends to actually start blogging. For those of you who I helped inspired, yes I do read your blogs from time to time. This is significant for me. Everyone brings something different to their blog. Often times people are pretty revealing and tell things in writing that I would otherwise not hear about at all. This extends to instant messaging and texting as well. The difference with a blog is that the entire world can read it. I encourage more people to get into it. It is kind of like publishing your autobiography in small pieces. One piece of advice, if you do start blogging do it on your own terms. Do not let someone pressure you to reveal something you do not feel comfortable with.

Outside of the blog I spent seven weeks in Pakistan and made it to 23,050 feet and back in great condition. I have averaged more miles run in each of the last five months than any month before. I have run some nice races. I wrote my MS thesis and graduated with my masters. It was a good year.

With my sister I wrote an ebook and we produced it into an actual paperback. Although, I am the only person that has bought copies of it and the ebook has had only 52 downloads. In my mind it is worth it because I learned a lot about writing, publishing and advertising. When I release my next written work I am sure it will do at least five times better maybe ten times better. At this point in my life I am really just focused on getting the information out there and not making my first million. Like the title says "Learning to Do" that's exactly where I am in my life. By the way I am working on several written projects at the moment.

Life is good. Yeah it could be better (I could be paying more than the minimum on my bills), but I don't want to get demanding. Keep reading. I don't where were Learning to DO is headed except forward.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Successful Innovative Companies: Volume 18

The Successful Innovative Company of the week is: The Weather Channel.
What they do right: give weather information all day every day. You will be hard pressed to ever catch me watching The Weather Channel but I recognize something innovative and different when I see it.

Can you imagine what it must have been like when they were proposing this? Some younger guys standing in a room with some older guys and the question coming from the older guys, "So, you're just going to give weather forecasts... all the time." However, weather is kind of a big thing. Outdoor activities and travel all depend on the weather. Weather can destroy buildings and strand communities.

As far as the details, local on the 8s is pretty cool. Every ten minutes they give two minutes of the local weather forecast at :08, :18, :28...

I also like storm stories. They show short programs about historical weather events like hurricanes and blizzards. They also have an iPhone app which is better for weather than the weather app that came with my iPhone. It has nice semi-detailed weather forecasts and all of the weather information I ever need.

What they could improve: Their website is not my favorite for weather information. I prefer Weather Underground because it has more information when you type in a zip code or city. I like the fact that so much information is on the page. You can just scroll down instead of clicking on this link and that link. I like information that is available in one place without having to go down the rabbit hole to find everything. Perhaps some people like to click on links to find information but I click on enough links as it is.

However, when it comes to television The Weather Channel is number one. I can not think of a single thing that I would do to their station to make it better.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

10,000 Meters

When it comes to races on the track my favorite by far is the 10,000. 25 laps around a 400 meter track. It is so perfect. Just look at it. There are four zeros! It is also an incredibly telling race. As a rough indicator of running ability competitive runners are either 20 something or 30 something runners. I can think of no more fitting barrier between good runners and really good runners. Sure the sub four minute mile is one of those barriers, but I believe that as the running event gets longer there is more training that you can do to excel. That is to say genetics are more important in the 100 meter dash than the marathon.

At WPI on the track team I have become known for endlessly recruiting young runners for the 10,000. I like to imagine it has paid off. When I first ran it my sophomore year I was the best 10,000 runner on the team at just under 35 minutes. Last year we had three runners qualify for D3 New Englands with sub 34s. WPI has specialized 10,000 training and it is now one of our strongest events for distance runners. If my protoges carry on the tradition I am sure WPI will send someone to nationals in the near future.

If you still don't understand the beauty I'll try to explain. It's hard to fake a good race. You can run a decent race on minimal training but not a good race. If you want to be good at it you have to train for it. The 10,000 is a long event. You can only run a few in a season before you are flat and burnt out. When you stand on the starting line you know than it is going to hurt in half an hour. There is a certain confidence and fearlessness about running a 10,000 that the 5,000 or the mile just do not have. You will not feel good the next day.

One final benefit of the 10k is that it translates to other sports. There is a 10k open water swim, 10k long track speed skating, and 10k cross country skiing in the olympics. There are 10k bicycles time trials. It is a very round distance and popular in many sports. It is short enough and long enough to be a strong test of speed and endurance. Go out and do a 10k!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Unemployment Chronicles: Week 9

In the income searching world: I branched out this week and applied for professional blogging and freelance jobs. I already heard back from one organization asking for a more detailed proposal. I think in total I applied for seven jobs mostly writing jobs.

In terms of my own starting a company or licensing something I put in a request for quote with for ice axes. I also invented a harness and built an athletic tape prototype. The plan is to sew one, not weight bearing but looking weight bearing. Create a provisional patent and one page selling sheet. Then approach all the major climbing companies simontaneously. If there are no takers I'm not sure what I'll do next.

Another thing that kind of makes me laugh is when people tell me "If you can't find a job what are the rest of us supposed to do?" I am getting this exact line more than once a week. Well we are all different and knowing my friends I would expect most of them to get a job before I do. Honestly, I think I intimidate people. I think between my running and mountaineering and patents companies don't know what to do with me.

In the social and "I wish I got paid for this" realm: I finally got my weekly mileage back to 100 after four weeks around 90. There were even some decent workouts in there. In fact running in flat Gunnison and almost sea level Sedona is so easy compared to hilly Evergreen.

On Thursday I left for two days in Gunnison then a few days in Sedonna. So I am typing on my iPhone with my thumbs on an extended network right now so excuse the brevity. What I lack in words the last few days and next few days I am more than making up for in inspiration. I'm going to do a relationship post! It will have to wait until I have better internet access but it will be interesting.

While in gunnison I did a bunch of fun stuff. I stayed at my friends house and met their two roomates who both climb harder than I do and I may take a spring break climbing trip with them. They were amazed by Pakistan. They also took me ice and mixed climbing. Wow, am I weak and out of practice now... Then we had a humdinger. Like I said, much inspiration for future articles.

Saturday was filled with a harrowing drive over lizzard head pass in a snowstorm then down to Sedona, Arizona. One great thing about old people is that they can tell you things that younger people just have no idea about. Again, more inspiration for future articles.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pictures of Colorado Life

A friend recently asked for pictures of what I was up to. So without further ado here is a sampling of what I have been up to in pictures.

My desk and procrastination/fox/deer/inspiration window:
So technically, I have a corner office with windows (one of my life dreams = done):
The neighbors are always walking through our yard:
I have to cross the highway on most runs (that's Bergen Peak 9,708ft and a 12 mile run):
View on the way back of the trails I hit up once or twice a day (usually less snow):
My friends walking around frozen Echo lake:
Mt. Evans and Bierstadt from Echo lake at 10,800 feet:
Sometimes it's a little cold on my morning runs and ice freezes on my face:
A backcountry ski trip up to Lake Mary with two of my roomates and my roomate's dog that decided to kill and eat a live Camelbak:
I'm taking it to 300,000 miles:
Obviously there is more. However, I try not to be too revealing about my friends on my blog so I haven't posted their faces. Also, when I'm doing most of the fun stuff I don't stop to take pictures. If you want to see more you should move out or at least come for a visit. Colorado! (Someone should pay me to advertise for this state...)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Colder than the Girls

A few days ago I had a totally unique experience. A first time experience. I was driving my van with an athletic girl riding shotgun. About 15 minutes in my fingers and toes were still cold and she asked if I could turn the heat off. I did immediately and smiled to myself that I had won... against myself.

You see women generally get colder faster than men. I think they have more nerve endings close to the surface of their skin. In the past few weeks I've been riding in cars with some boys and they turn the heat off way too early and I start shivering. No joke. So having a woman the same age as me, one that is in shape too, tell me to turn the heat off was a victory in the war on fat.

When you show up at road races that offer decent money you will probably see the Kenyans wearing track suits and stocking hats and maybe even gloves even if it is in the 60s or 70s. They have so little fat they get cold very quick.

Since 2006 I have gradually gotten more and more in shape and lost fat little by little. the last five months I have gotten into the best shape of my life. A few days ago I was coughing because I was sick and I happened to look in the mirror with my shirt off at the same time. I saw a muscle that I had never noticed before. It was diagonal and on the side of my stomach. I didn't even know it was there.

I don't mean to be vain and brag but this was pretty exciting. I've never considered myself one to have a six pack or even someone with muscles that you can see. This kind of changes things. I think it is in part because I have been drinking skin milk the last month instead of 1% and those two gallons per week have contributed to losing that next quarter of a percent fat. Also I feel that just living at altitude your heart and lungs are working harder so you burn more calories in the average day than at sea level. I guess the consistent 90+ mile weeks for four months help too.

One of the side effects of this is that it has motivated me to do more core workouts because I'll probably see the results quickly. In fact, on a per minute basis, I think that core workouts and lifting weights does more for my running than running. Just an hour of hard cross training per week goes a long way.

It's just so exciting! It's like when I go to the gym and I can tell when girls check me out. That has not happened my whole life and I like it. On a side note, this whole exercising thing that I do, that's not going away anytime soon. I do plan to cut back a lot when I get older and have more fulfilling commitments like a wife and kids but then again 50 miles a week would be cutting back a lot.

Men in general reach their athletic peak at age 27 and marathon runners often peak later with Haile G setting the current world record at age 35 and Meb winning the most recent NYC marathon at age 34. The reason they peak later is the accumulated aerobic conditioning over those years which translates to half a minute or a minute for elite runners. The point is that if I'm getting in better shape so quick at age 23, how much better will I get?

I should point out one final thing. Losing weight is only good to a point. There are very dangerous and life threatening consequences to becoming too light. Due to some experiences in my past I will never get too skinny. I have seen how eating disorders destroy lives and thus I error on the side of having an extra pound. I like eating too.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mitch Giroux: 2009 Inspiration of the Year

Mitch had a year in 2009 that he will never forget. This story begins in the woods of New England...

One nice summer day around July 22nd Mitch was out in the woods and managed to get a tick bite. However, he did not realize that it was a problem and continued with life as though nothing had happened. Unfortunately he started to get sick and then very sick. He did not have the traditional bulls eye mark that comes with Lyme disease. He went to the hospital in Taunton, Mass. on August 4th where they diagnosed him with Lyme disease. To make things worse it had progressed pretty far and they had to take him into Boston to Tufts New England Medical Center for specialized care.

Had the drama stopped there it would still be a big deal. That was just the beginning.

That night in the hospital in Boston he died. For 40 seconds Mitch Giroux was dead.

Fortunately, a hospital is a good place to die and they revived him. Then they put a pacemaker in his chest and eventually released him. He is a runner but had to sit out the cross country season because of the chance of a recurrence. It was interesting to watch him show up at practice or drive over water for some of the workouts. There was an obvious seriousness to his demeanor that had not been there before. At one point I asked him "Since you died this summer do you feel like every day, every second is a gift that you can't waste?" His answer was "yes" of course.

I was talking with one of our mutual friends and he said that Mitch wasn't as fun as he used to be. I had to argue that Mitch was probably enjoying life more now than ever before. He had matured and would never be who he was before, he would be better.

I have read that people with near death (or revived from death) experiences make permanent changes to their lives. Having known Mitch for several years that is absolutely true. He always worked hard but since this summer it is like he gives it everything and no holding back.

If you want to learn more about him read his blog. It is serious, honest, deep and a little scary at times. So my hat is off to my friend Mitch. I hope that I have learned something from his experience so that I do not have to die to appreciate life. I think that I can sympathize with him although I can not really understand.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Unemployment Chronicles: Week 8

This week was kind of anticlimactic... and antiproductive. Don't let the somewhat negative tone of this post affect you. Sometimes moving forward is not easy or full of roses.

In the world of job searching: I applied for eight jobs between online forms and emailing people directly. The stories from the companies who are hiring is pretty much the same everywhere, "We didn't expect so many people to apply online. We had over 150 people apply for this position..." Ok hr, take a hint, the internet is kind of a big thing and it is really easy to apply to most places. Second, have you heard that unemployment is about 10%? Underemployment is over 17% as well. Thats more than one in four people in the US that aren't working as much as they would like. With those numbers in mind I am searching out other sources of income.

I opened up my coaching services to the world. My direct coaching experience is somewhat small but I've read more about running than a lot of coaches. I've also run more miles consistently than a number of coaches. While mileage is in itself not an indicator of ability to run fast, it does show how to set up a sustainable schedule for long term development.

I pulled the plug on the licensing deal with the Italian company. I'm going into production myself by outsourcing through I want to get it certified by the UIAA, and sell them. As far as incorporation and business law I've decided that if it looks like I am about to make enough to get out of the poverty line ($10,830) then I'll worry about legal stuff. I mean I guess they could throw me in jail but what would that accomplish? I'm so low you can't take any money away from me. Having so little money right now I think is a really good thing. I am not very vulnerable to losing my Ferrari or retirement savings. I've cut back on eating out, coffee, and the "entertainment" I pay for so I'm spending less money. Also, and this is a continuation of many things that I have said the past half year, I'm really really incredibly lovingly thankful for who and what I have. Every second is a blessing and I am not wasting my life. My friends are so valuable, more valuable than all the money I can imagine.

I discovered that for eight days I had an extra preposition in my resume. So I don't intend on getting called from any position I applied for in the last eight days because of that. Great isn't it?

I finally put my resume on my website. I have been considering it for a long time it just seemed like a waste of time and potential for stolen identity. However, I am who I am and I am 100% convinced that there is no one in the world that can be Isaiah Janzen. My hope is that someone will read one of my Abaqus posts and look for some consulting services or something and see my resume and contact me. Perhaps a head hunter might also come looking while he surfs the internet at work. I doubt it but it's up there in gory detail for the world to see.

Something my dad always suggested in our family was having nothing to hide. No locks on inside doors, no secrets, etc. I didn't always agree but as I get older it's like why not? I will not share the secrets of my friends and family because many things are not appropriate for conversation. Other things will not help anybody by being spoken about so I don't share everything. You see information is power. The more I have the more power I have. CEOs know their companies better than anyone else and thus make the big bucks. So in a way by providing more information I have more power. Who knows maybe someone will write a biography about me before I write an autobiography, if I live that long and do anything interesting...

I am working on building or rebuilding three websites and that is going slowly because I know what I want, and I haven't been able to make it happen yet. All three are designed to be able to provide me some sort of income. We'll see how many I actually take live. We'll also see if any of them actually make enough money to cover the cost of hosting.

In other news after weeks of delaying and procrastinating I am working on my Broad Peak documentary again. My goal is to finish it this week before I go to Arizona. Well, maybe I'll finish it in Arizona. Then after I send free copies to everyone that's in it, I'm going to start selling them on this website. I think this little experiment will do better than my paperback. Maybe even well enough to cover my cell phone bill.

Except for being able to pay all of my bills, I'm in no huge rush to join the 9-to-5 working for work's sake. I've been thinking about it. If my running steps it up two notches or I decide to go try some crazy climbing I could totally be a professional athlete. Watch for a post later this week titled "Colder than the Girls."

In the social and entertainment part of my life: I ran 91 miles this week. I had two good workouts and a nice medium long run. It snowed Monday and Tuesday then I was sick the rest of the week. All of that conspired to keep me from doing a long run (18+ miles) and getting the mileage that I wanted (95+). Whatever, it happened now I'm moving on. In the world of running you have to just put in the work, even when most of the workouts are not awesome and satisfying.

I have been helping out with this robotics high school group and I went down twice this week and had fun. One of the interesting things about this group is that they cut aluminum on wood work working machines. They just change the blade before they cut metal. I screwed up twice in one night by supervising the kids cutting metal with wood tools and once using a machine they weren't even supposed to use.

I watched Norwand with four of my friends. Basically there is a push in 1936 to get the first ascent of the North Face of the Eiger. Two teams of two, one German team and one Austrian team, go up and end up in one big team. They all die. But seriously? Have you watched any movie with mountaineering where someone didn't die? I haven't released my movie yet but there is a death. We all know the risk and that is part of the experience. Anyway, the movie was in German with subtitles. It was pretty good.

Here is an oil painting I made this week titled: HACE and Frostbite

The story is that these two were the first two to come down from the summit push on Broad Peak when I was at camp three. The one on the right had really bad HACE and had a high altitude porter help her down and the one on the left had frostbitten toes and was helicoptered out two days later. To the best of my knowledge there are no photos of this because at the time there were only about five people at camp three. It's kind of an impressionist style but it was also snowing when this incident took place.

What does the future hold: I'm taking off to Arizona near the end of this week! My grandparents have a condo in Sedona Arizona and I've wanted to see it in the winter for some time. There is also one person out there I plan to search out and have a meeting.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Successful Innovative Companies: Volume 17

The Successful Innovative Company of the week is: The New York Times.
What they do right: I can narrow this down to one thing that in my mind sets them apart from all the other print news. They adapted to the internet very well. They have advertising but not very much and it is restricted to the margins not placed in the middle of the articles. Their articles are in nice big print that is easy to read. They cover stories that are really interesting. This is not restricted to The New York Times but they just seem to cover stuff every now and then that is original and interesting.

For example, one of their reporters was held captive by the Taliban for over seven months and when he returned he wrote this very thorough story about it. Another story, much less dramatic, is a book review of Born to Run where the author takes a run around New York barefoot with Chris McDougall.

They are the most accessed online print newspaper. Their Alexa ranking for news is #6 which is the highest of any print newspaper in the world. It's easy to access too. You don't have to log in or pay money and you get to read from the most popular newspaper in the world, based on Alexa ranking. According to Wikipedia The Wall Street Journal and USA Today both have about double as many subscribers which is still significant. However, I am rarely sent newspaper clipping like I am forwarded online newspaper stories. So, in the battle of information I think it's better to be the biggest on the internet. I mean what research librarian has the power of the entirety of Google?

What they could do better: sometimes they do ask me to log in when I am two pages through a three page story. Since I read so few articles from any one newspaper (I usually use Google News) I draw the line at creating another login where I'll inevitably get sent more emails I won't read.

I also think that The New York Times has probably not fully realized their prominence in the world of journalism. I read one article that said they were planning to create some sort of system to charge people to read it online. I don't think they have done it yet but my point is: they are the leader in what one company can do for daily news publishing. There are news companies out there like CNN or BBC that are ranked higher but consider the way they give news. Their news is often in short blurbs by information hungry reporters. The NY Times on the other hand is journalists who write complete articles. Like Twitter versus a blog. They are both important for information and appeal to different types of people or when people are in different moods. So I'm not saying that one is better than the other. I'm saying that The NY Times is the leader of it's category.

In the book I've been reading (which I will eventually review) one of the themes is prioritizing your life. It's a book about how to make a living and have time to pursue your money consuming passions. The author says, pretty much strait forward, that you are better off trying not to make millions of dollars but instead spending your time with your friends and family and doing things that you want to do. So as The NY Times considers charging people for their paper I ask what is more important: money or readers? A business person would say money and an artist would say readers. As something of an entrepreneur and writer I can say that being a household name is worth more than any given number of dollars. Millions of dollars sit there and maybe you can make it a little bigger every year. A household name can create something and make even more money, you just might have to wait a little bit until the pay day. Besides, Google has done so well simply on advertising instead of subscriptions that I think other companies should keep that in mind before turning to a subscription model.

Friday, February 12, 2010

My Friend was Dumped Yesterday

Why does this happen? Why is there so much pain when a bad situation ends? How many times must trust be destroyed?

Emotions are contagious. What affects my friends affects me. It is a sad day...

On the upside, sad days make the happy days that much better.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Untapped Niches

It all comes down to the market. Everything I read by successful entrepreneurs goes along the lines of "find a niche and and provide them something they don't have."

And that, might be something that can't be taught. You can teach what to do with something. You can teach how to develop something. You can teach how to find a niche. But show me what a niche is missing. If you can do that in a quantifiable systematic process you will make money. Lots of money.

In the past, three to 15 years ago, it was websites. A new way to connect people from different geographic or social locations that might never interact could now share information. 100 years ago it was the car. A way for people to get from A to B without horses or rivers or railroad tracks. In the world of mountaineering gear it was first the ice axe, then pitons, then crampons, then harnesses, then chocks, and finally cams and ice screws. In the world of music it was records, then tapes, then cds, then iTunes and the iPod. In the world of farming it was the steel plow, the tractor, and then evolving land conservation techniques.

The problem is knowing what comes next. There are millions of patents that have been granted. However, very few actually include a breakthrough improvement that makes people open their wallets.

So I do not have any advice on profit, otherwise I would be profiting off of a niche. Right now I am just trying to define the problem and ask the right question. Only then can I have the right answer.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"Where do you find these people?"

You would probably be surprised how often I get asked this. From mentioning that my roommate is in Antarctica and going to Pakistan to knowing former cocaine addicts and former 600 pound people I have some interesting acquaintances.

What is my answer? I'm not sure, but I think if I type for 20 minutes I'll figure something out, like I usually do.

Part of knowing all of these people is a lack of fear or inhibitions. I have been in a room more than once and asked a person a question that in all honestly I do not expect them to answer because it is personal and there are three other people standing around. However, four times out of five they answer. I've seen the statistics for other types of abuse and assault and I think we all know more interesting people that we realize.

And let me be clear, I have lots of fears and inhibitions, but I think they are different than most people. What am I afraid of? Killing myself, by accident of course. Climbing mountains via the hard way or climbing the hard mountains is not a great way to live long. I am also afraid of being alone. Perhaps that is strange for someone that spends as much time alone as I do. I think most people have this fear though. Why else would we try to work through relationship problems? Is it just me or are relationships the most emotionally devastating things?

On the other hand I do things that most people can't conceptualize of. I like wearing short running shorts. I like standing on a one square foot ledge 400 feet off of the ground. How does that relate to my interactions with people? It's a huge confidence booster. Compared to falling 40 feet on the side of a cliff and only three feet away from a ledge that would surely have broken multiple bones, asking someone about their addiction and rehab is small potatoes.

I also position myself in unique situations. Want to have an hour long conversation with someone who climbed Everest? Find the most hardcore (expensive, oldest, well known) local mountain climbing shop, walk in and proceed to look at the biggest down parka or heaviest pair of boots they have. Someone will ask if you need help and tell them that you are planning on doing Denali or Everest and you would like to talk to the most experienced employee they have. Chances are it's some guy that has climbed some really high mountains.

I guess another realization I've had in the last 18 months is that niche famous people are so incredibly normal. They don't have personal assistants blocking their phone calls. They stand in line at the coffee shop too. My advisor from graduate school is one of the very top people in the world for heat treating steel. He knows everyone in the industry. Yet his email and phone number are easy to find on the internet.

A lot of people have very interesting backgrounds. So usually I try to get them to open up a little. Which is funny because I'm not terribly fond of talking about myself. I think that people will label me crazy, which may not be totally untrue, but I do not want people to avoid me because of that. I feel that when people talk about themselves it is a huge opportunity to experience something I have absolutely no experience with. This whole post was prompted by a conversation with a nurse. Her stories were totally mind blowing. She is totally out there helping people and dealing with sickness and death. It just makes everything I do seem unimportant and bland. (That is exactly the type of person I try to surround myself with. People that are so much better at something than myself. It forces me to try harder so that my accomplishments don't pale in comparison to theirs.)

The last, and probably most important, aspect of my strange encounters is due to my impossibly high goals. I had the opportunity to stare at a very steep mountain wall this summer and tell one of the 20 best mountaineers in the world that it looked doable because there was snow clinging to it so it wasn't entirely vertical. Besides it had been done twice already. He laughed at me and said it was inexperience talking. Looking at one of the hardest big walls in the world and trying to draw out lines and imagine possibilities is the start. (Second comes talking about it, out loud. Then eventually you commit to it.)

Wanting to do what has never been done, and knowing that it is possible, makes my day to day life easy. When I first met people that had climbed Mt. Everest I was in awe. As I learned more about them I realized that I had done things in the mountains some of them had not. I also looked at all of these 8000 meter veterans and I realized I could run faster than almost all of them. In the same way I have been in meetings with multiple PhDs and something has come up and I offered a suggestion or theory they had not thought of. Little things that scare people away like titles and accomplishments are just that in their minds, little things. I feel that people are more scared of being alone than they are of talking to strangers. When it comes to niche famous people I think this is especially the case. They have achieved something difficult they set out to do and after they are done realize that they still have to open doors for themselves and go grocery shopping. The task was not as big as they imagined.

The human mind is a fantastic thing. You see walking at 23,000 feet in Pakistan is the same motion as walking at 4,000 feet in New Hampshire which is the same as walking up a hill in June in Kansas. Oh there is more clothing and heavier boots and crampons, and it is on the other side of the world, but it is not magic. It's just the piece of land you are standing on versus the piece that I am standing on. We are created equal, just inhabiting different pieces of land. That is where I find these people.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Coaching for Runners and Mountaineers

I am in the process of expanding my coaching program. I will be accepting athletes of all levels to help them accomplish their goals. Who can I help? Runners and mountaineers (or backpackers).

Running background:
I have been running competitively for 11 years. I remember the first time I ran five miles. That night I wondered if I would ever be able to run six miles. Since 2006 I have set a personal record in at least two of the mile, 5k, 10k, or half marathon every year. In the same time I have gone from barely being able to run 40 miles per week to consistently running over 100 miles per week and my fitness has greatly increased. I have only run one marathon and ultramarathon and both were unofficial, although I would have qualified for Boston. If those are your goals we can discuss in detail how I might be able to help.

In the last 11 years I have had five separate coaches and read many of the book and articles by some of the world's greatest coaches. Not only have I studied running coaches looking for answers, but I have also looked into other sports such as swimming, adventure racing, and sport rock climbing. My bigger influences are Arthur Lydiard and Dr. Renato Canova and my lesser influences are Dr. Jack Daniels and Jeff Galloway.

Mountaineering and backpacking background:
I led my first multiday backpacking expedition at the age of 17. I climbed my first two fourteeners (mountains over 14,000 feet tall), including 8600 vertical feet of elevation gain and loss, the same day when I was 16. Since that time I have led six backpacking or climbing multiday expeditions. I have lead technical rock climbing pitches thousands of feet above treeline and reached over 23,000 feet of elevation on a mountain in Pakistan. My greatest training influences for mountaineering and backpacking are Hermann Buhl and Simone Moro.

Who I can ideally help:
Beginners or people trying something new for the first time. Perhaps you want to finish a half marathon or climb Mt. Rainier. Perhaps you just want to keep up with your son on a 10 day backpacking trip. If all you want to do is get in better shape I can help with that too. Perhaps your goals are harder such as setting a new personal record or climbing a mountain that will take more than a month. Maybe you are looking for a change of pace in your training or more information than a free training log off of the internet provides.

What I can provide:
  • A personalized survey of your related athletic history and available time for training so that I understand your background.
  • A weekly training program sent to you before the start of every week.
  • My contact information so that you can ask me training questions as they occur.
  • Weekly review of your training log (online or through email) so that I can adjust the week's workouts to suit you.
  • Recommendations for everything from nutrition to equipment as well as recommendations for experts that know about particular subjects I am not qualified to give advice.
  • I will provide a training program based on the programs of the people I mentioned above. My goal is not to reinvent the wheel but to make sure that the wheel is the right size for you.
I understand you may have questions. Not every coach and athlete are made for each other. Contact me at info at

Length of Coaching

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Unemployment Chronicles: Week 7

This was a life changing week. Pay attention.

In the job hunting world: the interview I had went well. Of course one of the lines I was fed was "Well, the job market isn't great for people like you with very little experience. It's also not good for old people with big salaries. It is good for people with 5-10 years of experience that are willing to work for moderate salaries."

I applied for maybe another five jobs online. I was forwarded an opportunity that begins in March in Missouri. Based on the person that I got it from this is the kind of opportunity that I might be able to turn into a job. However, it is in Missouri. Secondly, I said this was a life changing week and that directly relates to the standard 9-5 work week. More on that later.

I was provisionally conditionally offered a temporary job at the high school I have been volunteering at to do some contract work for 1-2 weeks in March. This is so new that it might not happen. However, I have a strange feeling like it will work out and I'll get some money out of it.

I had a phone call that changed my life. The one runner I am coaching now I let choose how much he wanted to pay me. Well, that number is higher than I expected. Like more than four times as much as I originally thought he would pay me. So I called him and we talked for awhile. The results of that phone call: we are going to write a book, he is going to vacation out here at some point, and I am going to start coaching online. This is very significant. Do you know that with five athletes I will have enough money to pay my basic expenses? With 30 athletes I can make more money than some of my friends. Also, not only can I coach runners I am uniquely qualified to coach another market segment. It will be announced later this week.

The advantage of online coaching is that I set my hourly schedule. In other words I can continue my near perfect time of day running schedule, spend time with my friends, and get all the work done I need to pay the bills.

I started reading a book my friend bicycling through South America recommended. I'm not even 100 pages in and it has changed my life. More on that in future weeks when I figure out things more.

Finally, I'm redesigning this website. Sorry if you liked the old layout but I want something a little more professional.

In the leisure time of my life: I had a great week! I saw a friend that I had not seen in years. I won't get into details but in short: AMAZING!! I had a new friend confess that she had been in rehab 11 times and spent 45 days in prison. Heavy stuff. I would have never guessed because I don't look at her and see any issues. But to me, it is reaffirming that I'm supposed to be out here in Colorado with these phenomenal people. In unrelated news, I had a local engineer at an aerospace company tell me in relation to a design issue, "I like the way you think." Yeah, I do like the way I think.

I ran 92 miles. 100% of that above 7000 feet. I had two workouts, one short and easy and the other was so hard hard (no it's not a typo) that I didn't finish it. Then Friday afternoon and Saturday and I had two fantastic runs. Decent paces, I felt strong, etc. In fact, after my run Saturday I was overflowing with optimism that I could not sit down.

Saturday I went to the REI garage sale at the flagship store in Denver. I wanted to buy a MSR Reactor stove. They didn't have one so I dropped $200 that I don't really have on a new pair of mountaineering boots, a backpack, headlamp, and women's gloves. I wanted another pair of gloves and as I was fishing around the bins I tried these nice insulated leather palm gloves on and they fit so well. Then I noticed the floral design on the back of the hand. Yep, women's gloves.

After the garage sale we went to the Denver Art Museum because it's free on Saturday. I finally got to see a Piet Mondrian. I think he is/was such a cool artist. I know it's just squares and lines to most but have you ever tried to paint lines and squares? It was in pretty terrible condition, which was nice because you could see the brush strokes. He must have had one of the steadiest hands ever.

Last thought of the post: I'm considering moving to Argentina for a few months.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Successful Innovative Companies: Volume 16

The Successful Innoative Company of the week is: McMillan Running Company and McMillan Elite.

What they do right: make people run faster.

This is an organization I had not even considered until this week but as soon as I thought about it I knew they were a successful innovative company. This company is kind of centered around one man, Greg McMillan. It has expanded in recent years but he is the guy that got the ball rolling. Greg was a runner, and still is. A very good runner but not one of the best in the country. I personally know several people that are faster than he was. However, athletic ability and coaching ability do not always go directly hand in hand.

He started coaching athletes and turned out to do it pretty well. So three years ago he started McMillan Elite. The goal was to take decent college runners, not great runners, and give them housing and support to really train hard. Things have gone well. Many of the runners, who were not good enough to get sponsorship when they graduated from college are now some of the best in the country. They have gone to world championships and all sorts of international competitions representing USA. Most recently one of the original athletes had his debut marathon and ran a 2:10. In general running sub 2:11 gets you a 100k per year contract for two years. The economy may have changed but running a 2:10 is serious. Accomplishing that is no small feat.

The specific instance which really showed me that this company is different is that just this week they started a coaching program for ulrtarunners. I have never heard of ultrarunners having a coach. Most of them are self coached and independent. While this is a tiny segment of the running population it is a growing segment. I must applaud them for finding an accomplished ultrarunner to coach others. This is a step in the right direction. You see, one of the USA's top five ultrarunners is only maybe in the top 120 in the marathon. Not that it is a wide open and uncompetitive domain, it just does not get the attention that the marathon and shorter races do from athletes and spectators alike. I mean who, besides me, would really want to watch the entire seven hour 100k (62 miles) world championships? I see directing coaching at this segment is one small step toward making the sport more accessible to the masses.

What they could improve: more sponsorship. One of the problems with running sponsorship in the US is that athletes are only allowed two sponsors. Generally one is a shoe company and then the second is a sports nutrition company. Imagine if NASCAR, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Ed Vestiurs, the SuperBowl, or tennis players only had two sponsors! They would have so much less money. As I look at the stuff on my desk and think about sponsorship I think of all the opportunity we have. Chapstick, sunglasses, watches, car companies, food chains, formal clothing, computer companies, and coffee brands are all sponsorship possibilities. The best marathoner in the world right now is a 23 year old from Kenya who has trained in Japan for several years. He was, and I think still is, on a team sponsored by Toyota.

While having these training groups sponsored by shoe companies is great, I would really like to see Team Fidelity or Team Bank of America pop up. The bonus that just one CEO of these huge financial companies gets every year is enough to fund a fifteen person team for several years.

So my main complaint is not exactly against McMillan Elite or McMillan Running Company. I just think that by searching out alternative sponsors they could have greater financial resources. I also think that these alternative corporate sponsors would be easier for a club to get than individual athletes.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Don't Talk to Me

You are actually invited to talk to me, it's just a really appropriate title. This story begins with a death. Boa Sr was an 85 year old woman from an isolated tribe of islanders near India. She was the last member of her tribe having outlived her children. Thus another language and tribe is extinct. The group that she was from is believed to be related to the Sentinelese people. They are the group that survived the 2004 Tsunami and shot arrows at helicopters and generally resist all contact, hostilely I might add. Their estimated population seems to be around 200 plus or minus about 160.

They are one of the few tribes known to exist that remains basically uncontacted. There are also a number of tribes in South America and New Guinea. Most likely over 100 groups and probably 10,000 people total around the world that do not have enough contact with modern society to be classified contacted.

Why is this significant? Several reasons. Often times when tribes are first contacted many of them die from sickness and disease. So by isolating themselves from modern society they don't all get sick and die. Second, language diversity. Now this is a tough one. How many times have we wondered how nice it would be if the world only spoke one language? Spending several months in Costa Rica and Pakistan I wondered this many times. However, I have come to the conclusion that I do not want that to happen. There is a story of a time long ago when everyone spoke the same language and people tried to do the impossible. Perhaps we could accomplish great things with no language barrier but I think we would just dig ourselves in a deeper hole. Third, experience counts. In the world of useful knowledge there is what I would consider three levels. (I'm making this up as I go.) First there is the uninitiated. For example, I am not a qualified surgeon. I know very very little about it. Second there is education. There is the time to learn the basics of a skill. Often times another person teaches the student but inevitably there is only so far that a teacher can take a student. Third there is experience. This is the practicing of a skill without the guidance of a teacher. This is the difference between success and repeated failure. Education is kind of like the failure time for usefulness. Anyone that has done research can attest to that. These uncontacted people have experience that is rare. In the book Born to Run a scientist suggests that one in a billion people know how to persistance
hunt. In fact the author learns and tells about the six people from a tribe in South Africa that still know how to do it. What other experience are we missing?

Elaborating on the uninitiated/education/experience thing I watched Avatar a few weeks ago. Aside from any political message that was being made there was knowledge that the Navi had that humans did not have. Another example was the Oonopidae family of spiders that I studied in Costa Rica. Nobody knew exactly what these things did. They are generally 1-3 mm across so about the size of an ant. There are dozens of species and yet their role in the ecosystem is not known. We know enough about ecosystems to know that all creatures play a role. Unfortunately, we don't always know what role they play. Did you know that dirt is in large part excrement from grubs and small creatures? So by killing the "pests" we are destroying the future soil.

My point is that there is education and experience out there that we don't know about. And as humans we have a pretty bad history of judging the value of things. How many species have we hunted to extinction? How much waste have we dumped into the ground the spread in the air? Taking a tangent for a moment, what is the most valuable physical resource in the world? Answer: air, more specifically the right mixture of oxygen and other stuff to live.

I feel that in the past, thousands of years, technology has increased at a rate that made the world more profitable and able to sustain a larger population. However, I am extremely worried that recently as we build higher and higher technologies we lose some of the foundation. If you want a quick laugh and then a little fear watch the movie Idiocracy. Basically the world goes downhill because people forget the basics. In the movie people start watering plants with an electrolyte (salt) sports drink. Surprise, surprise, the plants don't grow. I am afraid that we have possibly already lost some of that basic knowledge that makes the earth sustainable.

So what is the solution I am going to offer up to get the education and experience from these cultures that is most likely beneficial to the world, without killing them all? Nothing. I have no solution. Like a politician I suggest we just table the issue, don't kill all the uncontacted people, and revisit it when we have better capabilities. Perhaps then they can educate us in the ways we have forgotten.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Profiles and Memberships

Tuesday I finally started a LinkedIn profile. All I could think about while I was filling out my information was about how many times I have done this. Facebook, Summitpost, American Alpine Club (you can't see that profile unless you're a member), my resume, my blog profile, RunningAhead, Youtube, Google (yes they have profiles too), Wikipedia, WPI Materials Science graduate student website, and Flotrack. That's 12 profiles that I have. Most are readily accessible and and the others you can get in one email.

Is this ridiculous!? I mean each one of these is it's own little social network. Each one asks for more or less the same stuff. Each one is a way to be in contact with people without actually seeing them face to face. Does all of this serve any purpose? Is it worth the time?

It gets even more frustrating when you think about all the bank accounts I have online. I did the math a few days ago and I have ten loans (including credit cards with a zero balance) and four checking accounts. Then there are those sites where you have to log in but you don't have a profile, like phone bills and online stores.

All together I have or have had at least nine different passwords. I know I did this to myself but I don't feel alone on this. In 2008 (way in the past) Americans consumed 3.6 zettabytes. That is 3.6 million million gigabytes. That is 34 gigabytes per person per day not including work. Browsing through this study there are some interesting trends. TV has always been a big source of information. When it grew after the 50s it took away information from print. With the growth of the internet both print and TV are waning as sources of information. Another interesting aspect of the study was how much of the information we receive is visual. That is TV, movies, and video games give us all sorts of information. Text and spoken words contrastingly contain very little information. For example think of the two megabyte picture you took compared to the 20 kilobyte email you wrote. 100 times more information in the picture than the email. Sometimes it just seems overwhelming.

All of these groups want my email address. They all want my time. They want my attention. They want money. They want to succeed, however that is defined.

I will leave you with a quote that Groucho Marx apparently rephrased from John Galsworthy, "Please accept my resignation. I don't want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member."

I'm not quitting anything, but it's food for thought. Where does it stop? I am only one person. I have only one personality. Why should I express myself on 12 different websites?

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Unemployment Chronicles: Week 6

What a week.

In the career hunting world: I made an appointment with these people in Loveland about a heat treating job. I have an interview Tuesday. We'll see how it goes because it is a staffing agency and not the actual company but all of their hiring goes through this company. That was the high light of the job search. I also started mentoring at a high school robotics program. That is a lot of fun. I'll put a post up about working with high school kids soon. Also, one of the adult leaders works for a local (and global) aerospace company and that could possibly lead to a job. What exactly he does now or the fact that I would like to work at his company has not come up yet but in time hopefully it will.

I heard back from the Italian company I am trying to license my two pending patents. I sent them more information and now I wait to hear back. This company does not have a huge presence in the US so legally they only have to pay royalties on items sold in the US. That is to say I would get very little money from this company. Fortunately, money is not the point of this. It's the ride, the experience, the resume that would say something about successfully licensing my patents. It's about the free ice axes that I would get, and hopefully the trip to Italy. It's about when I have a third patent and I try to license that people are like "his first attempt went over well we should follow through with him".

I only applied for a few jobs this week, three I think. The problem now is that I have applied to most of the places I would traditionally think of working. So on the one hand I just keep checking their websites hoping they post new jobs. On the other hand I consider what other careers I am qualified for. I could work at a civil engineering firm because I know so much about steel and metal in general. I could work at a plastics company because I know more about plastic processing than 99% of people. So I did some brainstorming about other careers. I think I will start following up on those after my interview Tuesday.

It's just hard because I think of myself capable of working in the aerospace industry very well. So the fact that I have not gotten in quickly is confusing to me.

In the social and physical realm: I spent a day skiing at Copper Park. It was pretty awesome. The grooming was not 100% like in New England so we did some off-piste skiing in 12 inches of powder. My room-mate and I both wiped out because powder skiing is different than skiing on hard snow. Also, making turns at 12,000 feet is very tiring.

I ran 87 miles. I had one good tempo workout on a treadmill and one mediocre tempo workout on the roads. I was going to run 100 or a few more miles but I finally talked to a local 2:23 marathoner who is happy to find some person closer than Boulder to train with. He is also going to give some coaching advice, for free. One of the things that he reassured me about was how hard it is to transition to altitude. He said cut down the miles and stay away from the track for awhile. He said that he's seen lowlanders come up before and burn themselves out in the altitude, so he said take it easy. So for those of you wondering when my next race is, it might be more than a month. Anyway this is a very positive step in the right direction for my running. The opportunity to train with someone better. He is also a 1:06 half marathoner.

I tried to climb my first winter mountain in Colorado. First let me say I ran 17 miles Friday with 7.4 miles of that at six minutes per mile or faster pace. I drove to the Quandry Parking lot after supper and packing. I arrived at midnight. Usually I would go to sleep and wake up early and go. Well, there was a full moon. With all of the recent snow it was amazingly bright out. I could not resist the temptation to just go for it. So I dressed and headed out at 12:30. Anyway, I took the road less traveled and ended up post holing the better part of 3 hours getting to maybe 12,500 feet. At that point just before 4 AM I was tired and headed down. I got to my van at 5:44 AM and was asleep from 6-8:30.

Then I drove into Frisco and had a huge breakfast still wearing my Ragged Mountain bib and R1 Hoody. Then I drove to Aspen, I guess to scout out future climbs. But I was tired by that point and slept from 1-2:15 in the Forest Service parking lot just laying on my face in the back of my van. I never sleep on my face, I was that tired. Woke up, went for a six mile run up a canyon wall, had supper, watched a movie, went to bed at 10:30, woke up at 11:20 PM when my friends got back from the X-Games, hot tubbed for an hour and a half, then I went to bed again for the fourth time in 20 hours.

I also contacted a few of my friends in Colorado. I have maybe a dozen friends in Colorado and I have not spent any time with them, except my WPI friends, since moving out here. Based on the Facebook messages though I think in the near future I'll get to hang out with my friends. You see when I call someone my friend I mean it. I mean that in a whole bunch of years down the road we are still friends and I invite them to hang out with me.

That was my week. This is my life.