Thursday, December 29, 2011

Stumbled Up and Blown Down

I once again attacked my favorite mountain, Long Peak. This time I attacked it in the winter. Since all of my native Colorado climbing partners were busy I was fortunate enough to be joined by G my mountaineering partner from WPI. The plan was to ascend the north face. We brought ropes, a little gear, crampons and two ice axes/ice tools each.

We ate steak the night before in Loveland and drove up to the Long Peak Trailhead for a few hours of terrible sleep. It was great to catch up because G and I spent quite a few mountaineering Saturdays in New Hampshire going up and down the classic 5000 foot peaks. He also did a huge amount of work to get the ice axes manufactured. I would work with him again professionally any day and I would rope up with him any day as well.

before we went to sleep we agreed on a 1AM wake up time. At 1AM we agreed on a 2AM wake up time. At 2AM we started moving around, eating drinking, dressing, and by 3AM we were walking up the trail. We signed in at the register and started uphill. Within ten steps I was huffing and puffing. Going from 1000 feet to 9200 feet in 45 hours is a little quick. We slowed down and settled into a seemingly slow pace. However, we kept moving and soon enough were above treeline, well before the sun was up.

The wind was rather strong. Gusts were initially in the 30-40 mph range, which is not very challenging, but it gets your attention. Plus viewing the world with the light of a headlamp gives you a rather one dimensional view of the world. We kept moving and were continually losing the trail. I have hiked up and down that trail more than a dozen times, but in the snow and wind I felt like a total novice.

I tried to angle up toward the trail junction with Chasm Lake. However we never hit the trail junction on the way up. Under the assumption and feeling that we were moving like snails, and with at least one gust to about 60mph (the forecast said gusts to 80mph) we called it a day and started heading down.

As it happens we were nearly a mile farther up the trail that I thought. We were on the side of Mt. Lady Washington well above the trail junction. On the way down we ran into the trail that curves around to the gap and followed that down to the junction. We took a few minutes of a break there and this about describes the situation:

The Situation!
Okay, I can't torture you like that and leave you hanging so much. It wasn't as bad as Febuary 2006 on Mt. Adams with I. Windchill of -50F is so cold...

The Situation! With Less Drama. (By the way notice the nice boots!)
I took some video as well, which I will post when I have a little more time. I still have to go for a run and drive to Denver today. Anyway, the moral of the story is I have some amazing friends and going from 1000 feet to 12,200 feet or so in 48 hours is definitely possible with enough hydration and conditioning, but it is not recommended. Oh yes, I already knew that you can't walk in wind more than 50mph, but I'll repeat it for the benefit of others. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Cheese Basket

For over a decade I have wanted a cheese basket. It seems to me the epitome of something you give to someone who has everything. It means you made it. This Christmas my sister gave me one. In my haste to start the voyage to Colorado I left without it, disappointing my sister. So I'm driving across the country sulking about disappointing yet another of the people that matter most to me.

I do plan to drive back to Sheboygan to get it in a week or two. I'm not about to abandon that much good cheese.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Intersection of Life and Business

Where does business and life intersect? What components of business are personal? How do you define something personal versus something that is public and and economic performance based? Why does business depend almost entirely on economic performance?

I ask these questions because I had to run an errand to the post office this past week during my typical work hours. Since I get paid by the hour, or at least because I am scared of screwing up my employment, It was probably the second time that I have left work in the middle of the day to do something. I felt like I was being a slacker or cheating the company. Time not spent working is time not spent getting paid. One of the things I have been frustrated with since being employed is running errands. Going to places like the DMV, insurance agency, doctor, dentist, post office, mechanic, and other business hours businesses is frustrating because between work and coaching I am busy 7AM to 6PM most days. Fortunately, the Hy-Vee grocery stores in town are open late, even 24 hours I believe. It is frustrating because the industries that I feel are service industries do not really seem to service at the hours that are convenient for me. I know that is being selfish but if they want my business hours that are convenient for me will get my business. The grocery stores and restaurants have figured it out, and they get lots of my money.

Changing subjects somewhat, business can be harsh. Life can be harsh as well, but business seems to value profitability in a monetary sense in a way that life does not value economic profitability. For example, life (in my world) is about relationships. For me to develop and grow a relationship sometimes I have to put in time and money that will not be reciprocated. However, the value of that relationship to me is worth the one way effort that I put in. In business, if you are not profitable, you lose. In life if you never get out what you put in you typically still have a huge value. Those emotionally draining relationships that we have still have value in a way that an unprofitable business does not.

A doctor that fixes a burst appendix and does not get paid would be an example of a draining relationship, but one that has significant value. Realistically the doctor could ask for 5% of that person's earning for the rest of his or her life and it would still be worth it to the patient because he or she did not die. That would be maximizing the economic profitability.

I also see in my older colleagues the intersection of family, specifically dependents, and work. That is a whole other can of worms. Fortunately, my life happens slow enough that I have time to adjust to life changes and come up with philosophical explanations for how I spend my time. Right now, spending time doing what I am doing seems the best use of my time, but I foresee that changing in the future. While I plan to run until I am 90, it will certainly not always be the same as I do now. I did not have more than one day of vacation at a time this year, but again I see that changing dramatically as I age. While I don't plan to retire in the formally accepted manner how will I juggle my time with my family and friends and business as I age? When the conscious decision not to retire in the traditional sense is made it changes the entire picture of life, work, and money. Instead of valuing the free time when I am in my 60s, 70s and 80s more than the free time I have now it liberates me from the burden of saving for a currently intangible delayed life plan and allows me to pursue life now. It also places a huge burden of possible unexpected long term unemployment upon me, so I end up saving a lot of money anyway.

I don't have many answers, but at least by asking the questions we can refine our priorities.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Review of Training to Run CIM in 2:30

Buildup to CIM
Well, the immediate pain of running a marathon has subsided, I've started running again so it is time to review the work I put in. Let us discuss what went well, went went poorly, and what to improve upon next time.

First, an overview: I tried to follow a Renato Canova schedule by doing as much running from + to - 10% of marathon pace as I could handle. I also tried to get in a lot of mileage, much of it ended up being slower than 8 minute pace. I also did some short hill sprints, strides and some faster pace stuff to keep my legs fresh. I place a huge importance on recovery eating and nutrition as well.

Second, long runs: My 20+ mile runs came in at 23.5, 22, 22, 22, 21, 20, and 20 miles. That's eight runs 20 miles or longer. One twenty miler in 1:59, the 23.5 miler in 2:24 with the last 11 in 1:03 and pace variation, and a 21 miler in 2:10. Those are my three best long runs ever. I tried a Bill Squires technique, which is focus on the long run and involve some pace variation particularly during the end of the run. Bill would give the team moderate workouts during the week then put everything they did during the week into the long run. It's a genius technique, and I ran several 5:2Xs and a bunch of 5:3Xs more than 15 miles into my long runs. I'll be doing that again. Also, after a 5:2X or 5:3X mile I would often back off and run 5:4X or 5:5X, which is still rather fast, but feels slow after a faster mile. In short, my long runs went extremely well.

Third, long tempos: My 9+ mile tempos were: 14, 14, 12 and a half marathon race. The two 14 mile tempos were on the same day during my special block. Aside from that workout I totally failed to do an adequate volume of tempos this cycle. I did incorporate tempo training into my long runs, which I think is very effective, but there was still a lack of 9-18 mile tempos at or slower than marathon pace in my training. I would ideally like to get in a 12-18 mile tempo every week at about 90% of marathon pace. Failing to do these workouts contributed to hitting the wall my last five miles because I was not burning enough fat during the entire race.

Fourth, short tempos: I had a 20:12 for 6k, 27:40 for 8k, 38:47 for 11.2k, 21:27 for 6.4k, and 37:40 for 10.8k. There were several other tempos of similar distances with paces 5:40+. Those tempos were quite good for me because I had never run 5:24 pace for four miles in a workout before. In the area of 4mmol lactate threshold or anaerobic threshold I did the best I have ever done, which is lacking. A good 6k-8k tempo at that pace every ten days is what it takes, about two every three weeks. A 20 minute tempo is the best workout there is in my opinion, and I didn't do enough of them. I would like to do about twice as many during my next marathon cycle.

Fifth, mileage: I had nine weeks at 100 or more miles with the two highest at 140 and 116. I also had eight weeks between 60 and 99 miles. The 140 mile week destroyed me. I only ran 64 miles and took a day off the next week. While I was running it I was fine, but I crashed after it was over. Overall I am satisfied with my mileage, but I would have liked to do more in October and November (which is another topic). I did have quite a few good medium long runs (14-18 miles), but none at a tempo pace. I greatly enjoy my slow miles and the extra efficiency they give me. It is hard to say what I will change in the future. Perhaps alternating 120 and 100 mile weeks instead of trying for 140. Given that I will be stronger next time it is hard to say now. This is one area I really listen to my body. I feel that I rested better this cycle than I ever have before by taking easy days when I needed them and running miles slow when I was tired. Overall, a step in the right direction.

Sixth, intervals: a 5mi. fartlek with 2min on 1min off the on around 5:15 pace, 4x1600m in 5:07-5:09 with 400m rest in 1:45, a 4:49 1600m with 2x800 in about 2:28 each, and a huge like eight mile fartlek at 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 3, 2, 1 with rest equal to the previous hard running. Again I pushed what I have done in the past by setting a mile practice PR (1600m 4:49) and an amazing 4x1600m workout that was very consistent. Again I would like to do more workouts on the track of this quality like the short tempos, but I was training for a marathon so this is a lower priority.

Seventh, muscular power: I did three short hill sprints and eight stride sessions and not much in the weight room at all, I would like to more like eight and twelve. There is no reason for me to skip these any week. I should be doing a set of short hills and strides every week, or at least three times each every four weeks. Still it was better than not doing them. Overall, not enough, but what I did went well.

Eighth, nutrition: I did the best job of recovery eating this cycle that I have ever had. I ate soon after almost every workout. I ate quality vegetables and pasta and protein. I probably ate better the last six months than I ever have before. In a way that is unfortunate because while I am skinny for an American I am fat for a marathoner. Due to a friend's eating disorder I long ago set a 120 pound minimum weight limit on myself but I have not been under 126 since then. In other words, I did well but there is room for improvement.

Ninth, racing: I set personal records at just about every race distance I ran. It is hard to complain about that. I think my half marathon came at a good time although a few weeks later or earlier or both might have been better. In the future I would like to do more long races in a build up like 2-3 15k+ distance races.

Tenth, cross training: I rode my bicycles a little under 2000 miles this summer. That is over 100 hours on the bike with most of that in June and July. I think bicycling was a great addition to my training. It helped me develop my aerobic capability and fat metabolism. The routine I had this summer of an hour run followed by an hour bike ride was great and I intend to do it again. However, the amount of time spent on the bike to get the same work out of it as a run makes it impractical during peak running mileage.

Those are the main point of my training. In summary, it was my best cycle of training ever, but there are inconsistencies that I desire to correct the next time I train for a marathon. It was great, it was good, I am blessed, but I want to do better next time.

Monday, December 19, 2011

I'm Hungry.

I was listening to the impact of poverty on children on Talk of the Nation on NPR and had some thoughts. I was on free lunches while I lived in St Louis and reduced price lunches throughout elementary and into middle school. I suppose that means I lived in poverty. I never felt like I lived in poverty because I had plenty of toys and we always had food and the heat always worked at home and we had a home!

As 2011 draws to a close I am realizing that this year when I file taxes it will be the first year that I get paid more than minimum wage for the entire year. I suppose I have been poor my whole life. Even as I write that I cannot actually believe it. Wealth is about so much more than income.

For example, my family always had a place to live but my parents did not own a home from the time I was five until I was 20. We lived in apartments and houses lent to us by my dad's employer. I consider having a house, apartment, or place to live wealth. The same goes for vehicles. My parents have bought only one new car in my 25.5 years, but numerous cars over ten years old. Having one or more vehicles counts as wealth to me. Even though I currently drive an 18 year old van with 277,000 miles, I consider that a luxury item.

I am continually thinking about motivation. How does one get it? Where does it come from? What events lead to increased motivation? What things will decrease motivation? Why do I pound out ten or more hours of running per week? What am I trying to prove? Why do I care about getting the best answer to an engineering problem at work and not just an acceptable answer? Why do I model things with solid (3D) elements when others use only shell (2D) elements? Why did I go to college at WPI in Massachusetts? Why did I get a master's degree?

I finished Steve Job's biography by Walter Isaacson on Saturday. What was Steve's motivation? It seems making the best possible user experience, but that is not 100% clear. I will write a review of the book in the coming weeks.

Motivation is something that is cultivated and grown, but exists within. Can one person give another person the seed of motivation? That is one tough question. If the answer is yes then I give credit to my parents for the roots of my motivation. My family vacationed to Colorado when I was young and we camped, had fires and cooked, and my dad told stories of hiking mountains like Longs Peak. I think that those little trips were the seeds of my mountaineering motivation. It was developed along the way by four summers at Philmont, and numerous hikes and climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park and the 14ers around Leadville. Yet it started with a hike to Emerald Lake and a drive to the continental divide ranger station in RMNP. My other motivations have roots with my parents. When I was six or seven I out sprinted my dad in our back yard. He might have let me win but I decided that I should not be able beat him and I did not want others to beat me unless they were actually faster. However, had he beat me would I have gotten discouraged and chose not to pursue running? Probably... My parents are geniuses. I hope I can do half as well with my kids as they did with my sister and I.

I feel that my motivation wanes when I have more luxury in life. Nice things, which I really like, give me the feeling of being complacent. (I'm struggling to come up with an example. I've been sitting here for at least 10 minutes without writing a sentence.)

I quit acting when I went to college. I did five musicals, four plays, and a slew of speech and drama routines at competitions in high school. The highlight was my senior year when my duet with Dana May Salah was amazing. We cleaned up at just about every meet. We were getting first and second at almost every meet we went to. That was after three years of struggling to make it to finals at local speech and drama competitions. At state that year we expected to cruise through semifinals and compete for the win, but judges rated us terribly. Our second round was the best performance of the year. It was the best acting I ever did. When we calmly walked out of the room we were seriously jumping up and down because we just had the most amazing performance of the year! The judge gave us a ranking of five, with one being the best and ten the worst. Unbelievable. We didn't even make it to semifinals. I did do improvised duet acting also at that state meet and my partner and I got 8th at state with a really really tough draw in the semifinal round. The point being, my motivation for acting left after that state meet. People in my home town thought I was going to go into acting, and were surprised that I cared so much more about engineering. Some were even disappointed.

I had no success in competition acting for two and a half years then I had success at the end of my junior year and lots of success my senior year. I was loaded with motivation at the state meet my senior year. After the rejection I feel I felt acting was a search for acceptance and popularity. I felt that hard work did not necessarily pay off. Success or failure was determined by the whim of another person. In engineering and running and mountaineering and relationships the return on investment seems far more direct. If I train hard in running, I run faster races. If I study more material in engineering, I will have a better grasp of the phenomena. If I climb more I will be able to climb more. If I spend more time with a person we will have a stronger relationship (if we can work past the fact that I am a self centered egomaniac). In the words of my high school running coach, "You get what you get."

Another aspect of my attitude is that I compare myself to the best in the world. Watching the movie Inside Job one person commented that investment banking became a contest. 50 Billion dollar deals were not enough it had to be 100 billion. Unfortunately, I feel that way sometimes. So and so runs a 2:14 marathon, so I want to see if I can do it. So and so climbed Everest without oxygen, and I'm a way better runner than he is so I must be able to do it. So and so started a company that revolutionized the industry, and I'm a far better engineer than he is and more personable too. These thoughts filter down to the way that I live. Why don't I get rid of my van and buy a Mini Cooper like I have wanted for a decade? Because I would rather drive a Prosche 911 Turbo. Why don't I buy a nice bed and some more furniture and a huge TV? Because I would rather buy land and have a house. Why did I go to Pakistan and try an 8000 meter peak instead of trying Denali or Aconcagua first? Because it's bigger and bigger equals better right?

I am clearly delusional. I am obviously crazy. I have accepted those opinions as facts. I fear that these ideas in my head hamper my ability to have a committed romantic relationship. Or any relationship really. On the other hand my focus is very long term. I've been thinking about Mt. Everest for eight years, now it's just the funding. I do know that these expectations and desires set me up for disappointment. March 2010 was a really rough month. Fortunately, I am enough of a normal person to take joy in how far I have come. When I defended my masters thesis I was incredibly happy! After so much time and work, I had something to show. It was the most fulfilling formal educational experience I have had. There were so many times I thought about quitting. When I ran a 4:38 mile at Smith college my senior year of college I was ecstatic! While I planned and still do plan to be able to run under 4:20 in the mile some day, actually getting under 4:40 was amazing because part of me never thought it would happen. It is the same with my engineering. I solve problems and make products last longer, and in 2010, I was not sure I would ever have that chance. I'm a useful addition. I'm part of something. I am economically productive. It is very rewarding.

I still have a lot to do in life. I have a number of "delusions" to chase. However, if this afternoon I end up unable to walk, talk, see, and work for the next 50 years of my life I have enjoyed more success than any one person ever deserves. It is the dichotomy of performance.  The new best performance is not enough, yet it is infinitely more than is deserved. I am so blessed!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I Live in Iowa: Week 35

Another week living the life. Every time I say that I have some fear that I am actually at the top of my game and it is all downhill from here. My article tomorrow is all about goals, expectations, and satisfaction. Come back again tomorrow please!

I had a very nice week at work. I worked 47 hours, my second most hours engineering. Industry involves far fewer hours than college. At WPI I had very few weeks with less than 50 hours. On Friday I had a breakthrough. I was writing a report trying to correct a number of failed strain gages from a stress test and there were a few failed gages we didn't even try to solve, and I despise giving up so easily. As I was staring at this area with bent plates and welds I suddenly realized that the bends in the plates and the welds were in the wrong locations. The bends were in the areas that did not have much strain and the welds were in area with a large amount of strain. It was backwards! That is easily one of the best ideas I have had at work. It is not patentable or anything, but it is possibly an industry changing design. So we shall see if anything comes of it in the next few years (big businesses don't move too fast).

There was no coaching this week because UD was out for Christmas.

I ran nine miles. I started running again Friday and I was in a great mood all day. It was funny, at my weekly one-on-one with my supervisor he said, "Today is one of those days I don't want to be here, and you know why? I haven't been exercising." I was totally the opposite, my first time running in 11 days and I was in a great mood. Exercising makes a difference.

I finished reading Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Steve was crazy. I'll elaborate on that in the coming weeks.

Friday night my department went bowling and I convinced a few of my coworkers and friends to try the Voodoo Pizza with me. It has the ghost pepper, the hottest in the world. You can't tell me something is the "...est" in the world and not expect me to go for it. I only ate four bites. My friend on the right of the picture ate his whole piece before I even got to my second bite. Many tears were shed...
The Voodoo Pizza Challenge

Friday, December 16, 2011

How Do I Find a Gift?

I have always struggled with gifts, and most of family has as well. I have often bought someone something that I wanted. Example: I bought YakTrax for my parents last year because they are getting old and slip and fall on the ice. My sister bought them for me. I think I used them more before January last year than my parents did all winter. However, I must mention one of my parents slipped and fell on the ice while shoveling the driveway without wearing YakTrax. I was there later to say, "I told you so."

The problem is we do not know each other well enough to really know what the other person wants. We just use the easy way out and ask. Additionally, I know what some people do want, or would greatly appreciate but it is beyond my budget this year. So coming up with a creative useful wanted gift within my budget without asking is as tough a problem as I know. I also struggle because nothing physical that I have does anyone else I know want. Seriously. Except for my new bicycle, but they would all probably rather have the money than the actual bicycle. Who wants a seven and a half year old computer? Who wants a 25 inch tube TV? Who wants a sagging couch? Since I live this way I find it hard to justify spending money buying something that will not enrich anyone's life. A bigger flatter TV, another screen to stare at, anything for cooking or cleaning, anything ornamental, these seem like gifts of excess or gifts that imply something. I want to give gifts that say thank you.

Leave some suggestions below please. Thank you for reading!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I'm the Expert?

As it happens in life, if you stick around for any length of time other people start giving you responsibility. It happened in Boy Scouts, it happened in high school clubs, it happened in college clubs, now it is happening in engineering. Suddenly I have more experience looking at stress contours and fracture mechanics for the assembly in question than anyone else. Suddenly, decisions I make have the ability to save money, risk failures, add weight, and reduce manufacturability. They may only be small things, but they are profitable professional things.

I really like being the one in the room that has the answer, but I know from experience that if I make enough decisions, I will eventually decide wrong. This time there is more at stake. They could fire me. Lest anyone get the idea I am guessing the answer is not typically only A or B. Do we need a bigger weld? Do we need thicker plates? Do we need a doubler? What shape doubler? Do we need to change the contour? Do we need to use a different material? Do we need to change the way several plates weld together? Typically the answer is a combination of those factors.

I suppose life is the process of learning and then doing, which I am. The curious part is the progression is nonlinear, yet my brain plans things very linearly. I also understand linear things better than nonlinear things. I am still coming to grips with the reasons that I spent 57 weeks after my masters degree unemployed or working for minimum wage. Of the over 400 jobs that I applied for and eight or so interviews I had John Deere and RFA spent the least time interviewing me yet offered me the best opportunity.

While I do feel useful at work and as though I have something unique to contribute, being unemployed helped me realize that I am replaceable. You can not replace the whole package that is me, but there are plenty of other engineers who can do work just as well or better. The fear keeps me hungry.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I Was Hacked

Most companies get hacked. There was an NPR program that highlighted it recently. The guest said that there are two types of companies, 'those that know they have been hacked and know it and those that have been hacked and don't know it'. Well, it happened to my website.

I had a poll last week about how many hours per week salaried people work and by the time it closed I had over 10,000 votes for "less than 35 hours per week". That was the first choice in the poll. What I suspect happened was a robot or other automated program found my website and started clicking on the first option on my poll and kept clicking on it for a long time. Unless someone physically clicked on that 10,000 times, which considering people were only allowed to vote once, is unlikely that someone would go to the trouble of removing the Google cookie to revote that many times. Plus, I only had about 700 visits and 1200 page views while the poll was open which indicates that some sort of automated "hidden" program found my website.

Thus is life. Welcome to the 21st century. You can either be paranoid and upset, accept the loss of security, or a combination of the two. Frankly, I don't really care in this case. If my financials get hacked and I lose money, then I would be upset. On the other hand, if someone would like to take away my debt they can have it. Other than that, I know that my movements around the Internet are tracked and the order that I click buttons is recorded. There is actually a huge boom for people skilled at deriving meaning from "big data". One kid at Brown who is 19 has been tracked by a recruiter since he was 16.  That does not have much to do with being hacked, except that people that you don't know and will never meet know things about you that your friends and family probably don't know. Of course, they don't know that the things they know about you are about you in particular.

For example, people read financial stuff in the morning and evening on their phones and tablets more than a computer, which they use during the day, that hits my habit of checking the financial news directly. But who knew and more directly, how can that be channeled to make a company more money from advertising?

So my friends, you are being tracked and likely hacked, often.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I Live in Iowa: Week 34

Another fulfilling week of life. The weekly summary will be a little short this week, but I have other posts lined up for the next few days So it will probably even out.

I ran the California International Marathon on Sunday to a delightful 2:30 finish. It was a nice way to start the week. I ended up running one nine minute mile Monday at practice with my college kids. It sounds terrible and it was even worse to watch, but the day after Green Bay I limped through about .2 miles before I gave up. This was a five times improvement, and I didn't quit because I was in pain I quit because I only wanted to run one mile.

The week at work was also rather satisfying. One of the projects I was working on we wanted to get some testing done and as we started to ask, we found out that another group was actually doing the exact test we desired. I couldn't plan things to work out that smoothly! Then there is all sorts of other excitement such as a new steel and another round of physical build and testing. Plus, while I don't always like criticism, I took a little this week, and the criticism giver was totally and completely right and I was all wrong. Ahh yes, the learning experience.

I spent some time coaching and while we have a tiny cohort of distance runners I am sure that they will all have breakthrough seasons this year.

Finally, I have run since the day after my marathon and I am recovering twice as fast as from Green Bay. My downtime has been filled with pizza, movies and a few glasses of wine. (I even stayed awake until 11PM twice this weekend!)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Right and Wrong

Belief is a scary thing to people who see it in someone else. Example: terrorists. They have a belief about the way things work that allows them to do things that many people consider unthinkable.

I like to think that I have a strong belief. One of the by products of my belief is an understanding of the world in terms of right and wrong. There is gray area in life. Examples are: which college is the right one? What structure modification will make a product I work on last the longest and cost the least? What length and pace of tempo run today will make the greatest improvement? What is the difference between an 8k tempo at one pace and a 10k tempo a few seconds per mile slower, and which one is more effective for the runner today?

Not all answers are clearly right or wrong, there can be varying degrees of better or worse. However, by viewing things in terms of right and wrong many answers become clear. When deliberating over the length and pace of the temp, the question about what type of workout is the right one to do today has already been answered, a tempo run, not a recovery run or intervals or hills or a long run. I use running examples so often because it is so simple. If you do A, B and C, you are probably going to get D.

Getting back to the point, I had someone recently attempt to place gray area in a topic that I saw as right and wrong. I briefly argued my point in front of the present group, and after a very unsatisfactory response I just kept quite the rest of the session. I am reading Steve Jobs biography and he often lashed out verbally and aggressively at people that he thought were incompetent. That is not my style, but I felt like it would have been an effective way to respond. After all, because of Steve's harsh criticism, he ended up building a team at Apple of high performers. He got rid of the people that did not perform well.

The problem is, I feel I have no authority. I am the youngest, the newest, the least experienced, and I feel the least respected. How do I tell someone who has more influence over the situation, "you are wrong," when I know that saying that will almost surely draw me negative criticism and probably the response that I am wrong? As much as I may pretend to not care what other people think about me, I do care.

This is a source of conflict for me. Do I have the courage to stand up for what I think is right? Apparently not. I think about this and am appalled at my weakness! If can't stand for this one thing, can I stand for anything?

Before I stated my disagreement at the event in question my heart was thumping as loud as it has in a long time. Louder than it does before I ask a women out. I thought it was going to beat out of my chest. I didn't know if I would even be able to speak. Of course, after I got a few words out it calmed down and interestingly enough another member of the group put in a few words to back up my train of thought. Still, not continuing to argue what I know is right, is wrong. In other words, even though I poked a hole in the bubble, I didn't squash it to pieces.

I see myself excelling at upper management some day. The ability to direct a group of people to the best solution thrills me. Part of management involves saying "no" and telling people they are wrong. I can do that now, but as a lawyer friend told me, the law is not about right and wrong it is a discussion, compromise or argument that gets drawn out and changed all the time. At my stance on the totem pole, I feel I would lose every battle.

Following a tangent, I see politicians, Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, Europe, and others saying things and I think, "you guys are idiots! but you have a good point..." Of course we need to raise taxes on the wealthy, but not so that we can continue to retire at age 65 or even age 60. Of course we need some sort of heath care overhaul, but not so that we can give everyone diabetes and heart disease medication, but so that we can get people eating healthy and exercising so that we have preventative health care. Of course we need a better education system so that we are not paying $32,000 a year per inmate in California, but not so that we give out degrees willy nilly based on what teenagers want to do but what they can do to be employed productively after graduation. Of course we need to curb government spending, but not at the expense of the least fortunate and most challenged citizens in this country. On a super direct tangent, that I am extremely passionate about, and have not voiced publicly on the Internet before, because I care what people think about me, but I will now in the interest of being direct and honest and open, (this is really big for me, drumroll please,) abortion is wrong, but we need to address planning parenthood because we need to do something better than we do now! Seriously! I think that all babies are a gift, but I think that many of them are burdens at some point as well. It seems incredibly ignorant to me to be against contraception without providing copious education. Actions have consequences! I see your Occupy movement Wall Street executives and Congress politicians and raise you the Bolshevik Revolution.
Well, that's how my thoughts mutate. I don't like to argue unless I know I will win. Case in point, I had an argument with a biology major in college and it boiled down to the grass not being alive according to his statement.
So that's how it goes, another blog post that probably only gets me closer to being fired and having fewer friends.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Anytime someone uses this word, be wary. They use this word to describe the financial sector often and take it from me, you don't want to invest in anything sophisticated. When someone describes something as sophisticated it is code for "I don't entirely understand it." Since a good talker can convince you of the way it is without actually telling you how it works you are at risk of buying into an inflated facade. Be wary my friends.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Second Marathon: California International Marathon 2011

Describing the marathon is not an easy task. There is so much suffering and work that goes into it and it feels insufficient to use only words to describe it. In shorter races you can try again in a few days or weeks. In a marathon you get one, albeit very long, shot. However I will try because the experience is so great that not attempting to explain it is a failure.

Over the next few weeks I will write the article dealing with my training highs and lows and another one about my next running goals. For now you get the race day excitement.

My day started at 4:45 AM and I was awake before the alarm went off. Despite only five hours of sleep I was raring to go. Well, as raring to go as I could when it was dark out and an uncertain future loomed. I happily ate half a bagel then I forced the second half down. I drank some coffee on the ride to the start line and tried to eat some chocolate croissant, but there came a point when I just could not stomach any more food because of the nervousness.

We parked near the McDonalds and started to walk up the hill a mile to the start but some shuttle school busses picked us up and dropped us off at the start. My host G and I walked around to calm my nerves. The 200 port-a-potties were emptry at 6:15 AM which is nice because no one likes to wait in line.

I just kept walking around to stay warm in the 37F chill. Finally 21 minutes before the start I went for a 11:37 jog out and back along the start, probably 1.4 miles. After some leg swings and active isolated calf stretches I lined up way in the back (the tenth row or so). I was even behind some 50s and 60s age women. In other words, I had to weave around a few people the first half mile. There comes a point when moving to the front of the pack gets negative looks from the people you are pushing aside. It is a hazard of the sport. A slow person can line up shoulder to shoulder with one of the best in the world if you don't mind some pushing and shoving. Try standing on the line beside Tim Tebow during his first play of the game.

The gun went off and I started my watch just before I crossed the line. I took it out at a pace that felt easy and manageable. The first mile is significantly downhill so it was very fast. I clocked myself at 5:18.85. By that time I was in front of the third pack. The leaders were off quick. The second pack was a mere 5 seconds ahead of us. Clint Verran and another Hansons runner were up in that pack and I had this strange feeling of living a daydream. I have many times on runs imagined running down famous runners in a marathon so to be there a few seconds behind a guy that has performed multiple times and consistently was realizing that I have arrived. I thought I would slow down on the flatter miles so I felt really comfortable with my place.

My next three miles were 5:22, 5:25, and 5:21. I ran with the third pack and I would pull ahead five or ten feet on the downhills and get caught into the second row of the pack on the uphills by maintaining a consistent effort. I knew I would slow down but it was so fun see these splits! I felt so good! I have felt terrible the last three and a half weeks and I have not totally figured out why I felt amazing Sunday.

Going up one of the hills I let the pack run away from me. I have to run my own race and not get lulled into going out over my head. My next miles were 5:33 (27:00 at five miles), 5:31, 5:33, 5:38, 5:43, 5:35 for a 54:59 at ten miles. Every mile was exciting to look at my watch and see that I was putting the feet to the pavement. 5:20s, 5:30s those are not terribly fast mile times but to be able to do them over and over after barely training at those paces was rewarding for all of the training that I did.

With every passing mile I was getting more excited. I figured I would probably slow down, but I also figured there would come a point when all I had to do was run six minute miles to finish and get under 2:30. As I gradually drifted back through the other runners I hit 11 in 5:31, 12 in 5:43, 13 in 5:40 and the half in about 1:12:27, which is a mere 39 seconds slower than my PR. It is also my second fastest half. I felt so good! Well, I felt really good considering that two months ago that would have been a PR for me. In other words, to run a great marathon I think you need to feel totally fresh at halfway and I did not feel fresh. I felt strong and consistent but a 1:12 half is not a walk in the park for me as it needs to be for me to even split at that pace.

I came through 14 in 5:37 for a 1:17:32 total and my first PR of the day. Likewise 15 in 5:49.8 (I list the decimal on that one because I can't usually see the decimal when I am running and there is a mental difference between seeing 5:4X and 5:5X even though in this case it was about 1/5th of a second actual difference) for a 1:23:21 split, 16 in 5:47 for a 1:29:08 split, and 17 in 5:43. At that point I was really excited mentally. That's about 2/3rds of the way through the race and I was averaging something fast. Physically though, things were going downhill. My vison was a little blurry entering the flages for 17 miles. That is typically not a good sign.

My eighteenth mile was 5:51. Not terribly slow, but 5:50s counts as slow in my book. I didn't put negative thought into it because at that point I was working pretty hard and I knew I would run whatever times I would run and as long as I didn't "give up" I would run as fast as I could on the day.

My nineteenth mile was 5:50, 20 was 5:53, and 21 was 5:55. Those miles went... well enough.  Passing 20 I made sure to check the little numbers on my watch that gave my overall time: 1:52:27. That was super exciting. I managed to calculate that 37:30 is what six minute pace would be the last 10k. So when I knew that all I had to do was run sub six pace to the finish I was thrilled to know that I would break 2:30.

Alas, no one is done until he or she is done. My 22nd mile was a plodding 6:01. I figured I had something like two or three seconds a mile slower than six minute pace to get to the finish before 2:30 so I was still happy. I hit 23 in 6:05. No problem, I can easily throw down a sub 18 5k. Unfortunately, my legs, specifically my quads and calves, were in pain. Additionally, the sports drink that they gave us (Ultima I believe) was a terrible choice for a marathon as it had no carbs or sugars. I was living through "the wall".

The 24th came and went in 6:08 and I was feeling worse and worse. The 25th passed in a painful 6:09. At that point I knew I was close and I thought, 'less than 2k, less than five laps around the track and if it is good I am under 2:30.' Any energy reserves that I had left I threw into the boiler of final-marathon-mile-torment. I felt that everything before was leading up to this part of the race and I was giving it everything I had. My legs were so heavy as I tried to deal with the pain and accelerate to faster than six minute mile pace. You could have tripped me with a chopstick.

However, as races go, we run them to see what happens. My 26th mile was 6:17 and yes I did look at my watch because I hoped that I had hit sub 6. At that point I really did not have a great idea of how fast I was going. I think some people passed me in the last few miles, but I was pretty much at war in my head with my body.

As I made the turn to the finish there were crowds directing me to the men's finish, and when I made the final left turn I saw the clock had already flipped to 2:30 and I was to remain a 2:30s guy for another cycle. I ran through the finish and the finish staff caught me before I fell over. It was over 2:30:20 (gun time was 2:30:24) after it started and six and a half months after I started my build up.

I will of course write more about this in the next few weeks but I am not disappointed with my race or huge positive split. Yes, had I gone out in 1:14 I would probably have run sub 2:30. I felt so good. The thing about the whole experience that does disappoint me is that the sports drink did not have any calories. I learned the hard way that I do not tolerate gels well at 5:40 pace, but sugar water I can drink at that pace. Had I even been able to get in a cup or two of sugar water the race might have turned out better for me the last four miles.

I headed strait for the chocolate milk and then the massage tent when I had my calves and hamstrings stretched. I talked to Kenny of Boulder Running Company who ran 2:19 a 3.5 minute PR, and while he missed out on the Trials, he was really happy with such a big PR. Someone else ran 2:30:04 and was really disappointed about missing the 2:20s but a few seconds. Soon enough I walked the four blocks to my host G's car. We stashed a quart of chocolate milk, orange juice, chocolate croissant, and water there which I proceeded to down on the way to the airport.

Already less than an hour after the race ended I knew I wasn't done. The way that race went down I feel like I have so much more running ability left in me. My training was mediocre at best. Even on my best weeks I only managed two strong workouts. My mileage, while good, could have been better. There was a conspicuous lack of 12-18 mile medium pace tempos (5:55-6:10 pace) that would have been better included weekly. Plus, I went through 10k about 25 seconds away from my PR, and less than 40 seconds off my half marathon PR. That is ridiculous. Had I been totally crazy and ran with the pack that I started with I would have PR'd in the 10k and likely half marathon if I managed to stay with them. I would of course faded harder than I did, but it is not reasonable to set personal records in the 10k and half marathon during a marathon. In other words, I need to get faster at the shorter distances.

How do I feel about not making the Olympic Marathon Trials for 2012? Not terribly bad. I've only had two marathons a 2:34 and 2:30, both with big positive splits, and less than optimal training. I am running marathons 10 seconds per mile faster than I raced the 5k in high school. The progress has been rewarding.

Overall, I had a great weekend in California! I ran a great race (probably the fastest in the US).  I spent time with amazing hosts. And I know I can do better in the future. Since I can't help my self I will tell, I am going back to the track for 400-3000m training during indoor season and then outdoor probably 5k/10k and after a trip to Alaska around June, there is a little 100 mile race in Leadville in August that I have been thinking about for eight years...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I Live in Iowa: Week 33

In the interest of tantalizing you for a few more hours you will have to wait another day to read about my recent marathon.

In working news I worked almost 35 hours in four days. I spent much of that time with a bracket for the exhaust on one of our upcoming final tier four machines. For those not in the engine industry there are new emissions requirements coming out in a few years that further reduce the allowable emissions of petrol engines. Basically, greatly over simplified, this means that the muffler is far more extensive and there will be a Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) tank that will need to be filled regularly. In other words, the new emissions requirements contribute to the stimulus of my bank account.

One thing that frustrates me that happened for the first time in high school is when people tell me that I would so strong professionally if I put as much effort into my career as I did into running. That is totally not true. Ten hours a week of engineering would not lead to dramatic progression. I think what they mean is if I spent all of the time I spend running on my career as well as the time I already spend on my career I would enjoy greater success. Okay, miscommunication rant of the day done.

I don't know how much I ran but it was like 45 miles and one terrible 5k tempo. I had one lower leg pain after another. Finally on Friday in California I had a good 40 minutes that was as good as I have felt in more than three weeks. Saturday was just as good. Perhaps there is something in the air in California...

While in California I stayed with family friends from early in my parents marriage and early in my life. Interestingly enough they have a dozen different fruit trees in their backyard and he works at the California EPA. Dare I say, it was stereotypical. The weather out there was great in the 50s and 60s. They were just getting around to raking leaves and some were still mowing lawns.

In the coaching world the distance runners further dwindled. The two of us distance coaches had only three runners one day. Coaching at the college level seems to involve recruitment... Great teams don't just happen they are recruited and developed.

It was a good week.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Applying Education

I realized something yesterday, I have had more short term (daily and weekly) consistency for longer in my life since moving to Iowa than I perhaps have ever had. My reasoning is that in school there were semester breaks and class changes and long summers. Considering that, I have been doing somewhat the same thing for eight months.

It is strange because I still feel like it is new and I have not yet arrived at the end of the semester yet there is no clearly defined next semester although some may argue retirement. This is now the application of what I learned through years of school. Lest my discussion be misunderstood as complaining, I suppose I never really explored the concept of acquiring a position of optional complacency.

People often talk about the corporate "ladder" but I feel a pyramid is really more descriptive of the advancement process. The ladder illustration implies that everyone climbs equally in single file which is clearly not the case. Instead many people remain well below the top of the pyramid. Our education system is in fact designed to accommodate this. There is no bachelors of Chairman of the board. I am not saying that anyone's aspirations are misguided. I am suggesting that the dynamic nature of our education system does not adequately prepare entry level employees for the consistent nature of big businesses. The only suggestion I can think of is a multi-semester class such as "Math and Physics for Engineers" which would last for two or three years, at the same time of the day and week with the same instructor for the entire class. (Sure, they can still have four month summer breaks, but that is a different topic.) I think injecting some long term consistency into the lives of young people, who might be missing that consistency at home would help develop better professional manners, long term relationships, and perhaps even some accountability.

In other words, I do not expect to be in the same position in 30 years because I have never had that kind of consistency. However, that is a possibility that would still be considered a huge success in my view. Many people do not use their degree within their career and in that respect I am more fortunate than most. This journey is continually interesting!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Coming Together or Falling Apart?

My last good workout was November 7th. Since then I have not had a single workout at the level I feel I should be running. October was unquestionably the best month of running I have ever had. However, I had a series of small injuries in my lower legs the last few weeks (plantar fasciitis in my left foot and some lower left leg pain that could be anything from a stress reaction to a calf knot), my grandma died, the time changed so that I am now running mostly in the dark, and my two training partners have been injured or busy when I am trying to do a workout. The combination of all that stuff has hampered my training. However, it might be a benefit.

Emil Zatopek was a and these days Zatopek Syndrome is what we say when a well training person, dare I say training too hard, has to take it easy for an extended period of time and has an amazing performance. He was hospitalized before one of his European Championships for two weeks I think, not running a step until the day before the race, and eventually racing against doctors orders (I could be wrong) he won, or at least did really really well.

I am not sure if my low mileage the last few weeks is making me perfectly ready for a marathon or if I overextended myself a few weeks ago and I am going to race slow. I am leaning toward the former. I have to. I have had a number of just amazing workouts this cycle which are so far beyond anything I have done in the past. One simple example, before this cycle my best 20+ mile run was 20 miles in 2:06. This cycle I have done 21 in 2:10, 23.5 in 2:24 (with the last 11 in 1:03), and 20 in 1:59. That's a night and day difference between where I used to train and where I am now. The question is, did I get derailed these last few weeks?

I have been in this situation in regards to running once before in the spring of 2008. I had an injury in March that setback my training. Then in April my first few races were poor 5k performances. Finally, a week before the last meet of my undergraduate years I ran a strong 1500m PR. The next week I ran a 10,000m that was everything I had been hoping for the entire year.

Regardless of the outcome of my race I have decided that my trip to California will be good. Additionally, I'm still hungry to compete. There are moments in training when I am tired, sore, bored, and frustrated that I am seemingly not progressing. I wonder why I don't just throw in the towel and quit. However, I know why I don't quit, I have made the choice to see how far I can go. I mean "far" in the philosophical way. It's about working hard and committing to something and putting in the work to improve. In other words, at the moment running is like my girlfriend. The cool thing about athletics, unlike just about everything else, is that you have a finite amount of time to progress before you are in your 40s and start regressing. If one can learn the techniques and processes to progress to a high level in a short amount of time those techniques and processes experience can be reapplied in other endeavors. What are the similarities between a successful marathoner and Fortune 500 CEO? A marathoner must educate oneself on the history and technology of training typically through copious reading, mentors (coaches), and self experimentation.  A Fortune 500 CEO I would assume would be the person who knows the most about the company, their market, their strategy (all considered copious reading and mentors (colleagues and managers)), and has experience both in management and as an entry level worker (education through both the role of mentors (other managers) and self experimentation). I am sure that double parenthesis are not allowed in English, but they are in math!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I Live in Iowa: Week 32

I am so fortunate! On the whole 2011 has been a phenomenal year for me. I have expanded my capabilities and accomplishments in just about every area that I work on, with the exception being climbing. I'm doing it, life that is. I'm engineering and saving the company money by making things lighter and I am making things stronger by identifying weak areas. On Tuesday this week I realized at the end of the day that I ran about six different FEA iterations trying to improve this one area. I realized that in the past running six different concepts would be impossible. The resources to build a machine, gage it, test it, and evaluate the data takes at least weeks and often months. Additionally it costs a lot of money. I was able to do six iterations in one day. That's not even impressive, it's just that I happened to count instead of trying a dozen or more iterations as I have in the past.

I "worked" 44 hours this week including two hours on Sunday and 16 hours on Thursday and Friday of paid holiday. I have been wanting to come in on the weekend for a while but with marathon training and cross country meets I have been otherwise occupied. I again worked on the Disk Saw Felling Head all week. It is such an interesting piece of equipment. The thing that it reminds me of the most is thrust vectoring on jets. Although, it's probably more like landing gear. Regardless, it's a complex dynamic system.

I ran a measly 53 miles including a terrible 6k tempo. The worst I have had in at least eight months. I think there is a plethora of things that have happened to cause me a running setback. I had an amazing month of training in October. It was great. Then my grandma died. Then I had a few little lower leg pains. Put them together and I think you get some terrible running. I feel this is the way that I am being told to take it easy. My life goes in cycles. Things go well, I want more, then I crash, I recover and reevaluate my life, then I repeat the process again. I think that these setbacks will help me be more rested and ready for my marathon. Regardless of the outcome of the race I know that my trip to California will be good.

The UD kids had the week off of school so I did not coach. Do kids go to school at all any more? A week off here a month off there. I'll go be a teacher just for the four months off every year.

What else? Does the world repeat 80 year economic cycles? I am just struck by the similarities between the 1930s and now. On the one hand, we can not find finite element structural analysis engineers and there are help wanted signs all over Dubuque, but unemployment is still high. I don't know what is going to happen. It is certainly interesting.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I Have No Manners, I am a Mess, and I Smell

The great thing about family is the no-holds-barred critique of each other. I just spent the last three days with my family and the title reveals some of the lessons I learned. I bring this up in part because I also discussed my dating life to a greater extent with my family than I have before. These are things which, while not mentioned by those that said them, are quite possibly partly responsible for my lack of a dating life. In a related article in the next few days I will criticize the ladies I was fortunate enough to spend time with in a dating setting, but for now, let the self-inflicted torture begin!

Strait up, I have not spent much time around members of the opposite sex over the last seven years. That is not completely accurate, I spent time with a number of women scientists and engineers who were, and as far as I know still are, incredible. However, some of them have few manners and are messes as well. None of them smell, but I attribute that to my plethora of running clothing that I detest washing after only one use. It is interesting, as I think about the women I knew through college the best, those that are in committed relationships (I can think of only seven) are without exception in a relationship with another scientist or engineer.

I am reading "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson and he talks about Steve's "reality distortion field" he would distort reality to get his way. In other words, someone would say it will take a month, and he would convince that person to do it in a week. That was his reality. Sometimes it worked, although other times it did not. For years he was a fruitarian (one who eats only fruit) and bathed only once a week and believed he did not smell... he did.

The point is, I feel I have created a reality distortion field around myself. Examples: going to Pakistan under-experienced, running at the Olympic Marathon Trials in 2012, and my career goals which are so far out there that I am not comfortable writing them down here for all to read.  I have assembled this image of how the world works and what is possible for me and what matters that I excuse myself from the responsibility or the courtesy of obtaining or even maintaining the social graces desired when in dating mode. The potential hazard is that the mess or smell of my apartment will likely make a larger impact upon an interesting lady than my passions, my ambitions, my skills (you can laugh but I do a handful of things pretty well), or my beliefs. Perhaps it is for the better. I don't want a relationship built upon how well I smell while we are dating.

This is a very interesting time in my life. Twenty-five years is right in the thick of interesting changes. There is so much I do not know and so much more that I know now than I did seven years ago when I left high school. I have dramatically changed in the last two years as well. There was Paksitan, then unemployment, now a career. Looking ahead two years I have no idea where I will be. I have a few ideas which state I will live in and what I might be doing for an income, but who knows. I guarantee I will not the person in two years that I am even today.

In summary, thank God for family! It is not always pretty, and as often as not it can be hectic, but at least for me, it is honest.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Recovery Trumps Stress

I'm talking about physical recovery versus things that cause physical stress on our bodies like running 18 miles. I took today off, even though I felt good. I was just doing other things, I got a massage, I had a good run yesterday, a workout tomorrow, and a marathon in less than two weeks. As I often say:

1. Stay motivated.
2. Stay healthy.
3. Train hard.

A run today would not boost my fitness for the next two weeks so I decided to recover from my long run yesterday more than I planned. Life is good. All too often I get caught up in the numbers and forget to enjoy my incredible blessings!

A Duct Tape Water Bottle Bicycle Cage

A few months ago I was about to embark on a 50 mile after work bicycle ride with a co-worker and friend but in my haste to get to the trailhead on time I forgot my water bottle cages on one of my other bicycles. However, given a roll of duct tape I improvised. In fact, it is still on my bicycle something like three months later.
Side View
Close up of Bolts

Top View of Duct Tape Bottle Cage
You can fix a lot with that stuff.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

I Live in Iowa: Week 31

Overall a good week. I mean, I find it very hard to complain about my overall situation when things are going so well for me.

I worked just over 43 hours for the week. Since I get paid by the hour and can build up hours working a few extra hours each week is something I like to do. Then I can take more vacation, and get a quarterly bonus (if I work enough hours). I spent the whole week working on a new Disk Saw Felling Head. I won't say which one, because it is one we do not sell yet. I have to say I enjoy working on the DSFHs because the load cases are more diverse than most things that we have. For example, an airplane wing only gets loaded in a few different manners but the DSFHs get abused every which way. So it is interesting. Plus, they are a very visible part of the machine. I can take 180 lbs. out of a boom and three people notice, but I make a DSFH last a few thousand hours longer and half a dozen managers notice. Thus there is a little bit more pressure to get it right.

My running was in the tube most of the week. The special block I had scheduled for Sunday turned into a failure with only two miles at about 92% of marathon pace instead of 2x8 miles at marathon pace. I totaled only 59 mile for the week. My lowest mileage since the second week in July. Thus far in November, the month leading into my marathon I have had one good workout (the seven mile tempo a few weeks ago). I have been having left lower leg troubles, tight/knotted calves, plantar fasciitis, shin pain, etc... However, I ran a seven mile cross country race Saturday. The Living History Farms race is a true cross country race. A dozen stream crossings with some over two feet deep, hills so steep they had knotted ropes to pull yourself up, gravel roads with tennis ball size gravel, and brutal single track trails.

Proof I was there.
My name will not show up in the results because my friend broke his ankle two weeks ago and they would not let him transfer the number to me, so I just ran under his name. The picture above has me in it, not the guy in red of course but the guy in the black singlet coming out of the stream below him. I think this was the stream crossing that was two or three feet deep. Coming out of it I tried to stretch out my legs, but after taking a five second ice bath they did not want to stretch...

It was a great race, plus I enjoyed spending seven hours with my supervisor and his wife, the conversation was great. I don't have very many engineering/entrepreneur/economy/current events discussions in my daily life. The LHF race was the most technically difficult race I have ever done. Now I just have to figure out how to do something like that in Dubuque. Over 7500 people ran the Living History Farms race because it is different than your typical road race. Dubuque has a whole bunch of land that could have a race like this, in fact we have bigger hills and streams than central Iowa so it would be even harder. Although, I think that shorter than 7 miles would be better. Perhaps a 7k or a 4.7 mile run or 1.8 leagues. Some very non-standard distance that would take most people less than an hour but almost everyone more than half an hour.

Coaching this week I spent some time with the sprinters and throwers and trying to talk our resident can't-take-time-off runner into taking time off and doing yoga. One of the perks of coaching is getting all the new team clothing. I mean we have some really good clothing and since I typically don't buy much new clothing I tend to appreciate new stuff. We have a hoodie that is especially nice.

In economic news, do not expect any big improvement (media coverage) for the next month, but expect things to increase dramatically in the first couple months of 2012. At least at my company we are anticipating a new round of hiring in the next calendar and fiscal year. The actual economy in the US has been getting better all year but the stock market and big banks continue to yo-yo so there is a lot of hesitation in companies and consumers about increasing expenses. However, both companies and people have begun saving very seriously and we are likely approaching a tipping point where all of that money will burn a hole in some people's pockets and expenditures will go up. For example, John Deere is having trouble finding people to do finite element structural analysis. If we (with all of our big company benefits) are having trouble everyone else probably is too. So if these companies want to continue to get work done and fight for qualified employees, salaries will go up. This happens when people at the top who know about the extra cash will decide that getting the work done in a timely manner is important and they will increase the salaries they offer to new employees. I am not sure if that applies to retaining current employees, but I hear Siemens is hiring finite element structural analysis engineers in Boulder to do analysis on composite wind turbine blades...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Doubting Less

I had a setback this week with my running due to a number of things culminating in pain in my shin and calf. So I had two consecutive days that I did a total of four miles. When that happens less than three weeks out from a marathon, the tendency is to panic. Fortunately, I have had so many setbacks over the years that I know setbacks are just part of the game when you approach your current limits.

How I react has changed over the years. My first injury in college reduced me to tears one mile into a run. I cried as I walked a mile back home with excruciating knee pain. Now I greet setbacks with an appropriate overreaction. Typically that overreaction involves drinking more milk, stretching, doing the little strength exercises, eating a variety of vegetables, and sleeping more. Basically three days of that and I'm good to go again.

On the mental side of setbacks there is a lot of doubt that one can have about one's abilities. For example, I have not done a workout in a week and a half, I'm scaring myself that I am out of shape. However, the facts are I have had my best three long runs, two best 20 minute tempos, one and only special block, best pace variation tempo, best mile repeats, and two days with over 30 miles. I'm in the best shape I have ever been in.

Similarly I had doubts at work last week. My grandma died and one day that week I said probably two sentences all day at work. I felt like I was in a dead end anti-social situation wasting my life behind a computer screen. Then this week we had a number of social informal discussions at work and it revived my attitude. I have trouble being patient sometimes, but it is typically to my advantage to be patient.

All of these life experiences help me to doubt less. What will happen will happen and worrying about it will not make it any better. Feelings are not fact. When I feel insecure about something the facts are that I am likely more secure in that situation than I feel. At the same time, doubts help us question ourselves and refine our thoughts. I suppose that doubts are the process of refining our thoughts until there are no longer any doubts.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I Live in Iowa: Week 30

Thirty weeks! I'm practically a native!

Worked 34 hours due my grandmas funeral, which I talked about several times over the last week if you did not hear already. Work is work. In the words of a mentor at Kohler, "Some days it [engineering] is the most interesting thing in the world, other days it is work." To be honest I was productive and finished two projects this week, but I had other things on my mind as well which made it difficult to stare at a computer screen for eight hours a day.

My running went okay. I have my best pace variation tempo ever Monday but no other quality running the rest of the week. 77 miles total including the seven mile tempo in 38:42 or something.

Coaching we had our regional meet this Saturday. Several of the kids set personal records, but not as many as I hoped. Frankly, I was disappointed, not with the kids, but that we didn't set them up to PR at the last meet of the year. On the other hand ten out of eleven runners set personal records this year which is a good percentage for any team. Also, I would like to mention that we had the cross country runner with the most playing time at regionals this year. That is to say last place in the men's race. While some may be shocked that he ran so slow, it was nearly a 30 second PR for him and he improved with every single race this year, plus he is a 10.9 100 meter guy so 8k is not his strong suit.

What else? I suggested buying Deere stock a few weeks ago at 61-62 and it is up to 75 now. I did not buy any because I had no money, but Bill Gates bought $571 million around that time. I am not going to suggest selling it now (I would retire with it) but if you needed a quick 20% profit there you go.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Happy Veterans Day!

I meant to write an article yesterday but I was busy from 6:30AM until 11PM. In fact I was out with an Iraq war veteran and some other friends. I considered the military when I was in high school but ultimately decided against it because the risk of getting shot at was too great for me. For those of you that have served in the military, thank you! The risks that you have taken and continue to take allow me to have the best life in the world (that's just my opinion) and that is not something I take for granted. Thank you very much!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sick, Dead, and Burried

It is strange when a loved one passes away. My grandma was as tough as nails. She had colon cancer the year I was born, which back then was almost always deadly. She was in the hospital for this or that on a rather frequent basis from my point of view. When she had her stroke last summer we knew the end was near. I did not understand the devastation of a stroke until I saw her in rehab. She could not use half of her body. It was sad. That's more motivation for me to keep running. One day I could very well be in her position and I do not want to yearn to run when I get to a point that I will never run again. I want to say, "That was fun, but now I'm looking forward to..."

My grandmother typically had an attitude that we would see as pessimistic, but as I try to remember her complaining, I can't. In fact, most of my memories of her are of her lighting up when she saw us. It is strange, when she was here I thought of her as quiet, a little odd, smelling a little different, and set in her ways. Yet, for the last week all I have thought about is how happy she was when she was around us, her grandkids and family, and what she must have been like when she was my age.

My grandfather, Palmer, died in 1964 a couple of weeks after his 40th birthday thus my grandma was widowed just before her 39th birthday. Everyone left knows her as a widow, but I can't help but think about her younger years. I know that my grandpa had diabetes and there were heavy discussions about wether they should have children or not because diabetes in the 50s was a death sentence. Fortunately for my cousins, sister and I they did have kids. I keep imagining a young couple, him with a life threatening disease and those two people in love making decisions about what kind of life they wanted. It is very intense. I am curious if they ever thought about grandkids or great grandkids. But we have no memory of that because we were not there. We only know the frail woman who both never left home, and traveled to 47 states and over 50 countries. We only know part of the picture.

I know that a number of my relatives will read this, and for many of them there are things that I wonder, that I will never ask because it would make them angry with me and I suppose that those things do not really matter. Still, my grandma will not tell me of her relationship to my grandpa because neither one of them are here. My aunt and mom only have the vague memories of preteen kids. I do not think she kept a journal, but I am sure it would have been interesting.

So that is how it goes, one gets sick, then there is the death, then a funeral. I am a Christian, and my grandma was a Christian, and to the best of my knowledge my whole family are Christians. My faith defines my view on death and there is quite a lot of comfort in that. In fact, I have only cried since her death when someone has said how much her grandkids meant to her, I hear they were her greatest accomplishment. Aside from that, the sadness is over, her pain is done. To be honest, I am happy that we had the time with her that we did even while she was in the nursing home. It was not as nice as when she was able to care for herself, but it gave us plenty of time to consider the value of our lives. Life is such a blessing. For her to spend 86 years with us, while not always comforting at the time, I feel she taught us the value of family in a way that only a grandparent who lives far away can.

My entire senior year of college my one goal for running was to run under 33 minutes in the 10,000 and qualify for ECACs. The reason being that my family was going to come out for graduation and would be able to see me run. At the last meet of the year I ran 32:58.50. As it turns out only my parents and grandma came out. It was the first and only time my grandma went to a track meet or watched me race. Running in circles is at times and from many points of view a pointless endeavor, but I see each step as a celebration of the blessings that I enjoy. Wether or not she saw it that way I do not know. What better way of physically thanking God for our blessings than to run a race?

After the funeral Tuesday night my parents and I went out to Chili's. We spent time talking about my grandma in the quiet restaurant as I am sure we will many times in the coming months. We must talk about her so that we can grieve and move on. When we returned to her house I went into her bedroom and office, which I had never been into and opened some drawers and lifted some papers. Everything has to be gone through. My mom and I found my grandpa's wallet and multiple licenses for everything from his taxi license in Chicago to his milk truck license in Wisconsin. Nearly 50 year old documents preserved almost perfectly. My mom asked if there was anything I wanted (to of course be discussed among the family so that I don't run off with a pile of gold bars or something) and when I saw her cane I knew that was it. It is not even a very nice cane, but to me when she used that to get around she always projected an image of dignity and adventure. She didn't want a wheelchair, and she was not going to miss the excitement either. Like I said, tough as nails.

We buried her in the 35F rain beside my grandpa who died 22 years before I was born. When someone walks the cemetery in the future they will see a husband and wife who died 47 years apart and no mention of kids or grandkids or parents. My grandma spent thousands of hours on genealogy and I am interested to look through the files and hopefully document everything on the computer. I have relatives that were at the funeral that I had never met before. Once again there was far more to her life than I know.

What does the future hold for our family? I am not sure but as the sun shines through a window on me after a snowstorm, I know it will be good.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I Live in Iowa: Week 29

This week was almost as emotionally exciting as my life gets. The things that can top the emotions of this week are either things I am building up to and planning on or things that I hope to put off for many years. The big event of the week was my grandmother's death. Ever since she had a stroke last summer we knew this week was coming. It was nice because we had just over a year to get ready for it. There were no surprises, everything followed a rather predictable path. People always say they want to die quick and not suffer, but seeing her suffer through this experience (and perhaps she was a closet optimist) gave us time to get used to the idea so that when she finally passed away I felt as much relief as sadness. I'm going to write another article about it and post it tomorrow so please return again tomorrow.

I worked 33 or 34 hours in four days, taking Friday off to visit my grandma for the last time. The emotional high and low of the week at work was getting offered to go to Georgia for a week to observe field testing, only to get told it would be too expensive. In hind sight, I would have only been there for one day then had to fly back for my grandma's funeral, so it worked out for the best, like everything does. As far as what I am doing at work, I am working with aluminum for the first time since Kohler and that is always a nice little change from steel. I find different materials so interesting...

In the running world I ran my best "workout" ever. Really it was two workouts, one in the morning and then the same again in the afternoon. In the morning I did a 2.5 mile warm up followed by a 14 mile tempo at 5:51 pace per mile average and in the afternoon I did a 2 mile warm up followed by a 14 mile tempo at 5:57 pace per mile average. This is a so called "special block" for the marathon. The rest of the week I just ran recovery pace and racked up a total of 101 miles. Running 28 miles faster than my current marathon PR pace in one day does not make recovery quick.

Coaching is going well, although this week with my grandma's events I was somewhat distracted at practice most days. Our kids are in the best shape they ever have been and I am really excited to see what they do at regionals this coming Saturday at Wartburg.

In the socializing scene, I went to Massachusetts for the weekend! One of my friends from grad school was having her birthday party and two of our other friend had the idea that I would be the surprise. It totally worked. We spent the weekend with each other, going to the best margarita restaurant that I know of, Mezcal. It was nice to seen familiar faces and familiar places. I love my friends, even (and you could say especially) those in New England that I did not see this weekend.

On a different note, New England is so crowded! I grew used to it while I lived out there but after being away for almost two years I have gotten used to open spaces, light traffic, courtesy, and short lines. I did not feel as at rest as I could tell my friends were when we were lounging around their houses. For me, and those that have worked at Tahosa, light a fire in Docs, put on some music and enjoy the stars from the porch or read a book or discuss life. That's relaxing. Add some Dubliner cheese and I'll be content for a long time. As for the hills in New England, they are not as big as I remember. I ran one of my typical 15 milers while I was there and I remember how I thought the hills were and I felt they were so much smaller now. My perception of the world has changed and it will surely change again. I am not who I was before, and I am not who I will be in the future.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

My Grandma Died Yesterday

At approximately 4:40 AM in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin my mom's mom died. How do I follow that up?

My grandma had a stroke about 16 months ago and TIMs (micro strokes) since then. She had all sorts of health problems and last week it all got worse due to pneumonia and a bowel obstruction. She had formerly declared (years ago) that she had had so many surgeries that she didn't want to have any more. So when the results of her tests came back Thursday afternoon that it was surgery or hospice, the family chose hospice. It means pain medication but not more medicine. The doctors said it would be one to four days until she died. What do you think when the timeline is one to four days?

After work and stopping by cross country practice I decided to do what I do well, go for a run. Getting out there and physically exerting myself makes thing more clear and releases my emotions. At one point going up a hill I stopped to cry. I made the decision that I would go see her Friday instead of go to work. What good would I do for her as she was partially deliearous? None, her fate was sealed. However, I don't abandon people. It is not a precedent I desire to start. Perhaps it is a trait I learned mountain climbing, or the result of having a small family. The point is I did not want to start of trend of abandoning someone.

So I woke up and ran Friday morning then headed the 140 minute drive north to Wisconsin. When I got there my mom greeted me. We knew this day was coming, it was still strange that it was actually happening. I hugged my grandma and told her I loved her and then my mom and I talked, in the general direction of my grandma who managed to recognize me and she seemed happy I was there. After a scant half hour I had to leave to catch a plane back in Dubuque. Five hours of driving for a 30 minute one sided visit may seem ridiculous, but I have done more for less.

The next day I went for a 15 mile run on my old stomping grounds. After I finished I heard the news through a text message. She died a mere 18 hours and 20 minutes after I last saw her. I felt relief. Her suffering was over. She was no longer in pain. It is strange because no one alive or that I know knew her when she was my age and I have been thinking about that a lot recently. I feel like I should read her biography to know about her what I do not know, but she does not have a biography. What knowledge and experience died with her yesterday?

I am comforted by my faith. Death is not the end. Our understanding of life and death is so temporary it is like our attention spans. After all, it is impossible for anything to go faster than the speed of light, but CERN might have managed to send a particle faster than light speed several weeks ago. Impossible is nothing.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Controlling Your Emotions

From my limited experience, you can't. Your emotions have the upper hand when it comes to you. When I had my psychosomatic incident in 2010 I had no idea that I could emotionally tear myself apart like that. During the University of Dubuque's most recent meet, when our top girl had a psychosomatic event I was reminded once again how much we love the idea of controlling something. Here is the problem: you don't control much of anything. Control is an illusion.

As a coach we want to control our athletes to get the best possible performance out of them. The reality is we only have direct influence over their lives about 90 minutes a day. An athlete can quite conceivably dawdle or hammer the given workout and thus not achieve the intended stimulus. When it comes to race day we have even less hands on input into their races because we can not be there running beside them or on a bike every step of the way. From an athlete's point of view there is less control over the entire activity so the desire to do something a specific way is not quite as present. However, the desire to perform well is always present. The difference is, as a coach we can take out our frustration through the athletes, as an athlete there is no outlet once the athletic endeavor becomes a requirement instead of entertainment. Now I do not mean take out frustration by yelling at kids (although some coaches typically outside of running do) I mean by changing the workout plan for the next week or asking why someone raced a certain way. In other words, at least from my point of view, the frustration is with myself about why one of my athletes failed to do something I thought he or she was clearly capable of. So I ask myself what can I do to get that athlete to do whatever it is we are trying to do?

By asking myself what I can correct before the next go around the emotional let down of failure takes a back seat to the excitement of trying something new when I know we are already in a good basic position, despite one race. I find that looking at the global situation often leaves me with a far better emotional understanding of the situation than looking at the details. Someone can get really angry about the results of one person in one race. For example, by announcing that I am not going to even try for sub 2:19 I have already disappointed several people. However, I still intend to try to run sub 2:24, which would be over a 10 minute personal record in only seven months. That is a huge, huge improvement. Even if I fail at that goal I know that my training this cycle just blows what I have done in the past out of the water. On Sunday I did 32.5 miles with 28 of that at an average of 5:54 per mile pace. That's amazing! That is more than a marathon, faster than I ran my last marathon. Regardless of the actual outcome I have made significant progress, and I did get a half marathon PR out of it so far. By looking at my global situation (and in this case I mean just running but looking at everything is even more critical to maintaining a positive outlook) I will be happy with the entire process.

In conclusion, you can influence your emotions by the way that you view the world and circumstances of the events in your life, but you can not control them. If they want to keep your from breathing during a race or give you back pain at all hours of the day, they will. Appreciate your emotions and try not to hide them so much. I know I try to hide them often enough. My grandma is going to die soon, and I am really sad. It is strange knowing that in all likelihood we will have her funeral before Christmas because she is still alive and even yesterday was talking coherently. It is strange to think about...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I Live in Iowa: Week 28

Another nice week living the dream, or something like it. What to say...

I spent most of the week meshing plate steel assemblies because most of India was on vacation for Diwali so I had to (or rather I chose to save John Deere the time) do my own grunt work. The designs that I am working with are getting better and better with every iteration that I run. I learned this past week that because of my optimization on on particular assembly (a boom) I am saving John Deere over $200 per machine. Plus, I am saving them 85kg in that optimized boom on the working end of the machine so they will be able to pick up a tree 200lbs heavier now.

It is exciting because there is relatively little recognition in the work that I do. Having even one person (the design engineer in this case) recognize the huge amount of weight and money that we took out of the boom goes a long way toward keeping me motivated. Now if only I would get a bonus or a pay raise because I just saved my company over $1000 per week, on just one of my shorter easier projects...

I ran 82 miles with two tempos on the track. I have been putting in a strong week followed by an easier one, and this was an easier one. I had a workout the Saturday before and the Sunday after so it was sandwiched between two hard workouts. I continue to progress really well, it just takes time, and rest, which honestly, I am going to run so well once I taper.

Coaching was a good week. Nine out of the eleven starters that we had on Saturday at the IIAC meet set personal records. That kind of success is almost unheard of. That being said, our team started with almost nothing, so compared to other teams, we have a long way to go. We also had one runner DNF. It was or is a situation very similar to Jenny Simpson (formerly Barringer) at the 2009 NCAA XC national meet.

That presented an interesting experience because it is similar to the experience I had just before I left Colorado in March 2010. When a top runner DNFs there are so many questions and trying to figure out what is wrong, having gone through a similar experience I feel I was able to do more work to get her mind on the right track in the seven minutes it took us to walk back to the team than I would have in a month or more had the 2009 and younger Isaiah been doing the talking. I feel like the de-facto UD runner sports psychologist now.

Growing up, or whatever it is called as you age, is continually interesting. It is amazing how the things that plagued me when I was even a few years younger are the same things that a bothering kids now, and the solutions I used work for them as well.