Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I Live in Iowa: Week 6

A busy busy week. I worked 9-10 hours the first four days of the week before taking Friday "off". Working from 7 am until after 5 pm is not easy. In college when I hit a productivity wall I went running, worked out, ate, switched locations, spent half an hour on the Internet, or some other diversion. At work, with the exception of lunch, no one really changes it up like that.

I ran Wednesday, about four miles but the fifth metatarsal in my right foot hurt the last half mile so that was it for the week in running. I did get out and ride my bike a few hours.

Memorial Day is a bike weekend for flowers. My relatives greenhouse delivers urns to gravestone and it is a big project. From Thursday to Saturday 450 urns were delivered. Each urn weighs 40-45 pounds depending on how recently it was watered. Each urn is carried several times and it is very tiring. I couldn't let them have all the fun without me so I drove up Thursday night and worked three days delivering urns and doing manual labor in the greenhouse. It's perfect cross training for me at this point and more importantly, I spent time with my family. Everybody only gets one family, with several parts usually but just one.

It was a good week, it was busy, and if I didn't have running I can see how I might turn into a workaholic.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cooking Eggplant

Eggplant is a friend to vegetarians because is almost as versatile as tofu. However, cooking it takes more skill than tofu, steak, or seafood. I dabble with it every so often and Wednesday night I did me best attempt yet. Here is what I did:

1. Slice the eggplant into circles about 1 cm (3/8 in.) thick.
2. Fry over medium-hot heat in a fry pan until the outside is a burnt umber shade. (That's a color of oil paint, basically your typical medium to red brown.) while frying add olive oil so that both side of the eggplant turn a little darker from the oil. Be careful not too add too much oil, I did and my pasta was too slippery for me. I think that perhaps a teaspoon per 3-4 inch slice would do it, but I rarely measure in the kitchen.
3. I added some salt, just a sprinkle, directly to the slices while I was frying them. I have tried the salt pre-soak and it did not work well for me. I think the salt added something good to the mix because the only complaint I had with the final fried slices is that they were too oily.

I think I'll try eggplant parmesan soon. It's famous, tasty and I've never done it. If you have any suggestions comment below or email me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Incomplete Thoughts

One of the things I like about blogging is that it is okay when a blog post is not fully fleshed out. Unlike most forms of media it is semicontinuous. Articles can stand on their own, but they don't have to. Also, sometimes I don't have the time to really tackle a topic, but I can at least get the conversation started. "The Conversation" sounds like a good article...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Training" Kids

In the last week or so I learned that I might have the opportunity to work with a middle school runner who is excited to run cross country and track in high school. Just thinking about working with a middle school runner got me excited. So I spent some time reading my books about teenagers and remembering my own start to organized running.

I have been in a number of fortunate situations in my running career as well as being told by a coach that running barefoot is bad for me. I have spent thousands of dollars on shoes I should have never bought. I didn't understand training for running until 2006 after running for years. If I could do it over again would I do anything differently? Absolutely! But the past is the past and every mistake I made in my running has taught me things which I am sure I can pass on to the next generation.

As I often say:
1. Stay motivated
2. Stay healthy
3. Train hard

As I was researching kids running I read from the Lore of Running by Dr. Noakes and Better Training for Distance Runners by Dr. Martin and Peter Coe (Seb's dad). Basically you can not take full advantage of training until you are a teenager and have hormones to develop the cellular changes desired to run faster longer. In other words, you can screw up a runner while they are young by working them too hard and taking the fun out of it. (#1. Stay motivated)

Secondly, good habits are easy to build the first time instead of breaking old habits then building good ones. Knowing what I know now about injury and setbacks would have contributed months of running to my body instead of spending time on the elliptical and stationary bike. To prevent most injuries spend a little time running barefoot and most of the time running in shoes with a low heel, like racing flats. To prevent even more injuries spend time strengthening your weaker smaller muscles. You can do drills (my favorite because they are the quickest), go swimming, play basketball, play tag, go rock climbing, or work in a green house. There are other exercises and activities to help you stay healthy, but that would take many pages and pictures. In short, when it comes to kids, keep them healthy. As they grow older they will get faster because of their physical development, as long as they are not perpetually injured.

As far as train hard, well you have to be motivated and healthy first. I feel that below age 20 most competitive runners do not have what it takes to do all of the work necessary to be really good. For many runners they do not reach their optimal training level until late in their 20s. Since, the late 20s and early 30s are when most runners peak it is important to keep the training at a manageable level until the individual athlete wants to up the training load. I feel that holds true for every level of running. In other words moving a 35 miles per week sophomore to 40 miles per week should happen when the runner is ready. To gives examples from my own life, I have failed to finish workouts when my older classmates have finished the workouts. I have also done workouts, then added on more to the workout on days that I did not feel like I had had enough. Forcing me to do more than I am able is a sure way to exhaust a runner.

In summary, when "training" kids keep the motivation there and teach good habits. The training will come. My freshman year of high school track we ran five miles the first day. I had never run fives miles before. Neither had my two friends. We sat in the locker room after in a daze with blistered feet. My goal for the season was just to run six miles. Now I go on 20 mile runs almost weekly at a much faster pace than that day. Running development is a long process.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I live in Iowa: Week 5

I feel this was an exciting week but of course you needn't agree. It all started at 4:00 AM Sunday. I drove up to Green Bay, ran a marathon, and drove back the marathon was a source of drama all week. First I thought I ran 2:35, then I found out the fourth mile was 800 feet long and everyones times were officially adjusted. So I ran a 2:34. The big problem is that I thought I was at 29:22 at fives miles and picked it up a bit to hit half at 1:14:42, but my adjusted half time was 1:13:50, which I can tell you was a tad fast. While I didn't hit the wall I did slow down the last ten miles.

I could barely walk Monday, which is okay because I have a desk job. Tuesday was just about my best day at work yet. In the morning I spent time driving the skidded and wheeled feller buncher. In the afternoon I went to Davenport with a coworker to study production. I was hobbling around the factory as the two engineers I was with walked away from me. It was funny. Eventually they would stop and I would catch up, breathing hard.

I worked a little over 43 hours this week. I also started a new project working on one aspect of tier 4 emissions for nonroad diesel engines.

My feet and ankles have been bothering me. Besides the four hours of bike riding I did this week (at least 5 miles every day) all I did was sit around. I am worried about my left ankle because it is still swollen and after about an hour on the bike it typically hurts more. I know, I know, I am addicted to exercising and I need to rest, but it is so hard for me to sit still and lay on the couch. I like moving around and aerobic exercise.

On the social life front, I hung out with people at least part of the night four nights this week. Bicycling with friends from work and then my cousin was in town. I took my single speed cyclocross bike out mountain biking and it is perfect! It is geared a little high for steep ascents and on sharp corners the front tire can hit my feet. However, it is so light and agile that it handles easy mountain biking single track really well. Moderate mountain biking it handles, and hard mountain biking equals walking because it has no suspension.

It was a good week. I mean I will probably only do 15-20 competitive marathons so everyone is unique. Plus, I have a job! It is amazing how after only four employed months I glaze over the fact that I have a job that I find interesting and that pays very well. Interesting note about my life and money, my net worth passed -40,000 this week! Soon enough I will be positive, hard to imagine now.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Next Step

I have not run a mile since Sunday. I was toying with the idea of a 180 or 365 or 500 day running streak, but alas I can still barely walk. I have been doing some thinking over the past few months and weeks about what comes after this marathon. I was so focused for so long that I feel different now that it is done. Obviously I know what the process will entail in my running so that I can set more personal records this year and improve, but in some way I feel as though it is no longer new. I feel like there is no huge aspect of running that I have not at least tasted. It is a little sad. It is very relaxing. It gives me even more confidence and fuel for my ego.

It is strange, before the marathon I felt that my running life was leading up to that race and in a way I was restricted to running a marathon. Now I feel free to tackle other pursuits. I am planning on running and cycling a duathlon in July. There is also rumor of a trail marathon in July that I might contest. I am also due for a personal record in the 800 meters and 5000 meters.

I am also thinking about getting a coach and my major race schedule for the rest of the year. It is all pretty much up in the air. I am planning on a fall marathon, but I am not sure when or where.

My feet and ankles are healing quick enough. My left ankle hurts after an hour or more of biking and my right one has hurt less and less each day so it is probably not broken. I am so happy I finally did a marathon! After years of awe of my marathoner friends I can now say "I am a marathoner, and yes it hurt."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Marathon Dissapointment and Satisfaction

Without a doubt I am disappointed that I ran a 2:35. However, it was so windy and I placed relatively high that I am not disappointed with my performance. In any race the goal is to leave everything on the course, and I did. I mean they took me into the medical tent and I have barely been able to walk this week so I would say that a 2:35 on the day and course was everything I had.

Still I am disappointed I ran so slow over the last ten miles. When I was telling my parents Sunday afternoon I realized that to most people running a 2:35 is a huge accomplishment and if I was hit by a car and unable to walk the rest of my life today, I would be satisfied, but I am not. I have not reached my potential. Sure 2:35 is not a terrible time to start with, but I want more.

In many ways I have a certain satisfaction about finally having raced a marathon. After all, it was a personal record down from 2:57 during a long run. I guarantee that 22 minute jump is the biggest I will ever have in the marathon. I mean 16:20 more and I could "retire" of course those next 16 minutes could take years.

I feel relaxed and confident now that I have been through a marathon race. I have heard about them, but you never really know until you experience it just how it feels. Well, I feel like my foot is broken now and I've been coming home after work and taking naps instead of running. In other words, I'm in pain and tired, anything less would be disappointing.

You know, it's good and bad. I did what I could, and it was a step in the right direction, but it was still just a step and not the end goal. I suppose any goal worth achieving takes a lot of work. More work than I have put in thus far. Perhaps the best way to describe it that it is not what I wanted but it was what I needed so that I would not rest on my laurels or get lazy this summer. It has been three days since I have run a full mile and I am excited to get back at it once I can walk without a limp. My oh my how I have changed! Three days off and I'm ready to run again despite the fact I can barely walk, because of running.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lessons from my First Marathon

Well I knew I would learn from this experience and I did. What did I learn?

1. Taking gels while running 5:40 pace after a nice half marathon might not be tolerated by my body. Solution: no more gels during marathons. I've been using gels for years. I like how they taste, the consistentency, and the whole concept of them, but running 5:40 pace when I tried to take one after 13 miles my body said no. The Africans, Asians, and even Europeans never whine about gels and I am as efficient as anyone, so I'm not going to take them at least until I bonk in a marathon.

2. Run a race with spectators. Running through a tunnel of people gets me excited and I was lonely out there the last half with so few spectators.

3. Run a race with more people around. I was alone the last 10 miles of the race. It was just me against myself knowing there were a few people ahead of me and more behind, but no one close.

4. More pasta less steak. I had two small fillet mignon and a huge sweet potato the night before. While I don't feel like I bonked, I think one steak, sweet potato and some pasta would be more appropriate.

5. Run a race with less wind. Now I understand that's hard to orchestrate, but winds of 27 mph at the start and 23 mph at the finish sure slowed me down.

6. Don't drink for the sake of drinking. Gatorade knotted up my stomach the first time I took it and my body was not terribly reciptive to water during the whole race. Now the temperature was a perfect 48 degrees so I did not need to drink as much as if the temperature was in the 60s.

7. I wore my new Saucony A4s which are light and have a very thin sole. I had some ankle/shin pain in my right foot around 23 but it did not hurt on impact and did not slow me down. On the other hand my right outside metatarsal has been in a huge amount of pain the last few days. I might have broken something. Also on my left foot the inside of my ankle has been in pain and is actually a little red and swollen. I have had the metatarsal pain before but the ankle is totally new. I am convinced it is because both my form detoriated over the last few miles and thin shoes mean my body was absorbing more force once my form detoriated. In other words, I can barely walk because of the shoes I wore, but they helped me run faster and did not hurt me during the race, so I picked a good pair of shoes to wear.

8. I jogged about two miles before the race and swung my legs like I do for every workout, and I felt it was a good warm up. I did not even attempt a cool down.

9. I slept about 4.5 hours the night before and 9.5 hours two nights before. While not ideal I felt it worked just fine.

10. Smile and relax. Those are my two basic techniques to put more energy into the ground and less into fighting myself. A marathon is a long way and it is tiring. Saving energy matters.

I feel a number of my weaknesses can be improved through training, but I will save that for another article.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I live in Iowa: Week 4

I worked 42 hours. I ran 42 miles. I rented two movies from RedBox including the newest Harry Potter. Technically, my marathon was on Sunday, which I count as the next week.

What is something I can say about work... I spent most of the week learning nCode GlyphWorks and DesignLife because currently we are waiting on a number of geometries to be updated by the designers.

The week was rather uneventful. I spent my time at home resting and reading. I'm working on Lance Armstrong's book "It's not about the Bike" which they should totally make into a movie. Lance could even star since he is still somewhat young!

Sorry this is short and later than Monday. I've been out doing and I have a lot of talking about running to do.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I'm a 2:35 Marathoner

Well, I ran the Green Bay Marathon this morning. I placed sixth with a chip time of 2:35:15. I had a good race, and I am happy to be an official marathoner now, but it was not as I imagined it.

We started off running around town, mostly sheltered from the 27 mph winds. The mile markers consisted of rather small painted numbers on the ground and these flags on tiny stands that were about 70% blown over. So I missed mile one, had a 11:04 split at mile two, slowed down and ran a 5:33, amazed that I was running so fast I relaxed and just went with the flow. My next mile was 6:57. There was no way that I relaxed that much so I basically quit looking at splits and just ran on feel. My five miles was 29:22 which seemed on and I felt good so I just kept rolling. The eventual fourth place runner passed me around there and both of our goals was sub 2:30 so we ran together for a little bit but he pulled away. Around this time I took some Gatorade at a water stop, but it didn't agree with my stomach and made me feel knotted up. A rookie mistake to not train at this pace with Gatorade, admittedly.

 At ten miles I was 57:23 which was exciting because it meant that my second five was faster than my first five. At about 11.5 the half marathoners split away and a group of about four that I was close to disappeared. With the half runners also went most of the spectators. We turned and for the next few miles ran rolling hills with the wind I hit half at 1:14:42 as happy as can be. I then took a gel out of my pocket and proceeded to eat it. I have not had problems with gels in the past, but today after probably 20 calories got in my mouth my stomach said no. I forced most of the rest down, but after that I wanted to throw up, I even had a heave although nothing came out. At this point I could still see the guy in fourth, although I had no idea what place we were in.

After a little coughing and spitting and slower running I was back in one piece still going with the wind. I hit 15 at 1:25, extremely excited. About half a mile later the eventual fifth place runner caught me on the bridge crossing the river. We were turning into the wind and he basically just ran away from me. At 16 I was at 1:31 and I knew then that whatever the wind or wall I would hit I would break 2:40. From 16 to 22 was along a bike path, into the 20+ wind. At ground level it probably wasn't 25 mph winds, but imagine it was 15 mph, while I am trying to run 10 mph into that. Plus, there were no spectators. So I just ran, hard, for six miles, alone. There were gusts when I was really putzing along. Just before the bridge around mile 22 I came around a corner and the wind was especially horrific that I was hardly moving faster than a walk.

After crossing the bridge back toward the stadium, there were hardly any spectators and I didn't have the course memorized so I'm running hard into the corners in the middle of the road until I was like 50 meters away and knew which way to turn. The last few miles were really uneventful. No timing mats, I missed a few of the mile markers, few spectators and I couldn't see the guy ahead of me. I just ran hard. The last mile or so joined the half marathoners and when we ran around Lambeau Field the slower half marathoners were supposed to be on the left, but it's always that 1%... One woman didn't want to run on the left so I ended up running into her and like two other people as I reached my way around them. Then I ran into the finish.

I was pretty exhausted, I still am five hours later. I was wobbly on my legs so they took me into the medical tent and I asked for Gatorade then water. They took my blood pressure, 116/80, while asking about my medical history.

"Do you have any medical problems?" - Doctor
"No I'm as healthy as can be I just ran my first marathon." - Me
"Are you light headed or nauseous?" - Doctor
"No, I'm just exhausted. I just ran a marathon." - Me

After that I talked to fifth place Kevin, who was also debuting in the marathon. Consensus: it was windy, and lonely out there. I got my shirt and went to my unlocked car and drank a liter of water and my muscle milk and just sat there. I walked around some and asked them to mail my award to me then I drove back home.

I will of course write more about my first experience in the coming week. I am exhausted right now, kind of like I just ran two half marathons back to back.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Less than 12 Hours to the Marathon Start

Well, I've had my carbo-loading supper of steak and sweet potatoes. I've done my final 30 minute jog leading up to the race. My race clothing and shoes are laid out on my bedroom floor. My gas tank is filled. My food for the morning is ready to go. I have a gel in the race shorts pocket.

I drove up to Lambeau Field in Green Bay to pick up my race bib. It seems like time is compressed. It was an hour and 15 minute drive yet it felt like it was only half that long. After preparing for this for so long everything seems to be happening fast. I walked in and picked up my packet, checked to make sure my chip was working, and attempted to partake in the exhibition. Compared to when I was there in 2007 the exhibition is about three times as big. I suppose that's what happens to a growing race.

After about a minute of looking at shoes my nerves got the best of me and I left. I felt and feel very agitated. There I was in the midst of people just like me, in a place catering to people like me, and I was freaking out in my head. My heart was probably beating like 80 beats per minute. Race exhibitions are the perfect place to hear about new stuff, yet being around all of that I felt that I already knew what I needed to know. I wish the race exhibition was after the race.

Part of my problem is that I haven't raced much recently, and have never raced a marathon. It is hard for me to relax when I have built up so much pressure on myself to perform well. I am sure that whatever happens the outcome will be good, yet I am not 100% sure. Plus, I am pretty sure that it will hurt quite a bit.

For the record, my plan is to run 5:43s for the whole race. Since I can't read the decimal seconds on my watch while I am bouncing up and down that means I want to be seeing 5:42 and 5:43 on my watch. Most of the hills are in the first 11 miles, which we run with the half marathoners. I plan to relax as much as I can while hitting that pace and then around mile 23 or so I am sure pacing will go out the window and I will simply be working as hard as I can to get to the finish. But the reality is, this is a race. Due to wind and the people I am running around that will probably fluctuate quite a bit. I am sure I will see 5:3Xs on my watch as well as 5:5Xs. The goal is just to relax and go with the flow and not hammer until at least after mile 20.

For the question about fueling, I will take a gel within 15 minutes of start time. I will drink water and gatorade along the route depending on what I feel like at that moment, but I plan to get gatorade at least twice. I am taking one Cliff Shot (Double Espresso flavor with the new formula) in my shorts pocket and I plan to eat it after halfway and before mile 16. There will be gels along the route, but not all flavors are agreeable with me, plus I like the caffeine. I will talk about fueling in the future, because after using gels for something like five years and doing ultrarunning and mountaineering I have a different view on fueling during racing than many runners.

If you want to get updates you can get text messages or an email of my progress on the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon website. I am bib number 551.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Goals for My Debut Marathon

I am all about the goals. With my first ever marathon race coming up, I of course have some goals. Here they are in order:

  1. Enjoy the race and enjoy the day. I have known for almost four years that the marathon was in my competitive future not just my recreational future. I have had a number of setbacks over the last three years that have prevented me from having the kind of performance at shorter distances that I would have liked before my debut. That being said, I am happy to be where I am going into this marathon.
  2. Don't screw it up. If I go out in 1:11 or something I am pretty sure that I will hit the wall. I can easily see myself getting convinced into running with a pack at low 5:30s pace, which is too fast for me now. I have to take it easy and relax for as long as I can, even though that means I'll probably be running alone most of the race. I would like to even split or negative split.
  3. Finish sub 2:30. That's what I'm training for, that's what I think I'm capable of.
  4. Finish sub 2:27. There is a marathon, the Fukouka Marathon, in Japan, with an A and a B standard. The B standard is 2:45 and the A standard is 2:27. It is the most prestigious marathon to qualify for in the world with the exception of national and international championships. Anyway, I would like to get the A standard so that I have the option of entering in December. Every serious road racer has the desire to run in Japan at some point. The Japanese are huge distance running fans and the atmosphere is supposed to be legendary. 
  5. There is prize money for the top 5. Based on past results I am looking to finish around 10th place, but you just don't know. The reason that we run races is because you can not tell by training and past results what the results will be. If you could we would not run races. 
Those are my goals, in order. Whatever happens I plan to enjoy being fit and mostly uninjured on race day, which is an accomplishment in itself. Life is good.  I feel refusal to realize my gifts  is ignorant. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I'm 25 Now

Well, it happened, I turned 25 Monday May 9th. That's kind of a big birthday isn't it? I mean the quarter century, halfway to 50, certainly not a kid anymore even though I feel like I'm still a 14 year old sometimes.

Birthdays are really not great for much except marking the passage of time. It is a celebration that we made it this far, but it is also recognition of time that will not have to do over again. Honestly, I am extremely excited to make it to 25. I mean, I could easily have had a problem and not be healthy in mind and body like I am now. How many people don't make it to 25, or at least don't make it in one piece?

Despite the fact that I spend most of my time bragging on this blog, I'm going over the top today. It is hard not to make lists of what I have done and what I haven't done on such a momentous event such as my 25th birthday.

What I have not done:
- Summitted Mt. Everest or any 8000 meter peak
- Gotten a book published that is in most book stores
- Run sub 30 in the 10k
- Run a marathon (although I'll probably have that one done Sunday)
- Been to a strip club (although I have no intentions of ever going)
- Gone BASE jumping, or skydiving for that matter
- Had a kid, or gotten married for that matter
- Driven a car over 120 mph
- Lived in one state for seven years
- Had a positive net worth since high school
- Run more than 130 miles or 200 miles in one week
- Paid off someone else's loan or loans
- Flown an airplane

There are other things, but then again I don't feel like telling the world all of my personal details. Physically the best 10-15 years of my life are coming up. Mentally I think that I'm on the up and up as well. At least financially I know I'm on the up and up. I make more in a month now than I made in all of 2010. Of course, I hardly made any money in 2010.

Since I am all about the plans, what is the plan for next year? Get my unemployment book published. Hold down a full time job for more than four months, which I have never done before. I have had a part time job for years but not a full time one. Run a whole bunch. Pay off my loans and save money. I'll probably go skydiving at some point this summer.

It's been fun, my life. If it continues to be this awesome (and I think it will be even better) I hope that I don't take it for granted. I hope that I am able to share my success with others.

In the words of Nikki Minaj, "No I'm not lucky, I'm blessed...yes!"

Monday, May 9, 2011

I Live in Iowa: Chapter 3

In the working world I spent 42 chargeable hours at work. I finished my project Tuesday and spent most of the week learning how to use nCode. It's pretty awesome to get paid to learn yet another skill. We use nCode to do fatigue analysis so that we can estimate the lives and failure rates of future products. Basically we can tell after one test of less than a minute in length approximately how many hours a part will last. There is a lot more to it, but from my end that is almost what it boils down to.

I ran 62 miles in my taper to the Green Bay marathon. I ran a 10k and an 8k tempo this week. This is the last little bit of quality that I am doing. I am going to do one more little workout this week but more or less all my preparation and workouts are done. I'm going to talk a lot about my marathon this week, and probably next that I will spare you the details, for today.

In other news I bicycled about 60 miles total. I totally wore myself out with a 37 mile bike ride with two more regular cyclists. May 16-20 is national bike to work week and I plan to take part. Dubuque is a perfect size city for bicycling everywhere. It is small enough to run errands and commute. I also bought a new (used) bicycle. It is supposed to arrive by the end of the day today so I'll write more and put up pictures once it gets here.

So, living alone without any sort of cable, satellite or Internet (besides my phone) I have started to put more effort into cooking. My best meal of the week was filet mignon with sweet potatoes and angle hair pasta with vodka sauce. For an appetizer I had pickles and organic milk. Pretty much the best post workout meal ever. My experience cooking steak is limited because I only cooked a few in high school and steak on the east coast is terrible so I cooked about three in college. Steak in Iowa is awesome! Corn fed beef! The seafood seems to be lacking though... Anyway I cooked steak way better than I expected. I thought for sure I would burn it or not cook it enough.

In other news, or rather in general, life is good. The trees are budding leaves. I am employed. I have a 54,000 word nonfiction book that I am pedaling. I am less than a week from running my debut marathon. I am in a nice apartment. Lest my life be perfect, my van needs a $1000 dollar axle repair and I still don't know many people in Dubuque. Overall though, I feel positive about the direction I am headed in. I hope you are experiencing even more fulfillment in your life than I am. Why do I say that? Because I always preferred being the 7th man on the team in cross country. I know how well I can run and if I have a team of guys ahead of me, I know we will do really well.

By the way, I turn 25 today.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Limburger Lesson

I went grocery shopping Wednesday night and in the cheese section was a hard to find variety of considerable notoriety, Limburger. Apparently it was the most popular cheese in the United States in the 1920s or sometime around there. Well as a connoisseur of cheeses I had to try it. Most well stocked cheese sections do not have it yet HyVee in Dubuque does.

I bought a seven ounce brick of it and sniffed intently at the corners to try and smell some sensation. Alas, I smelled nothing, until I opened it at home. I worked my way through about a half ounce of the repugnant yet bland mold. The odor was awful. As soon as I finished eating it I threw the rest of it away. I was not about to let that smell consume my apartment. It's probably a lease violation!

The moral of the story is Limburger cheese is a rather bland cheese with a smell that is just horrific. I'll never buy it again.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Nice Shoes...

Once again I was out for a run wearing a new pair of orange shoes (Keen A86 TRs) and I ran past two elementary school girls and one said, "Nice shoes," as I ran past. This is not the first time people have commented on my shoes. The past few months in Wisconsin I raised quite the gossip by wearing seemingly different brightly colored shoes every day. It's funny. If given the choice between black, white and a bright color like orange or green I almost always go with the bright color, but it's not about the color of the shoes. I would wear a show of any color, even pink and purple polka dots, although it would have to be a good shoe.
My current stable of shoes

There is a lot of reason to why I run in so many different shoes. Some of my shoes are for different purposes. I have Vibram Five Fingers for slower recovery and regeneration runs that are barely more than a walk. I feel that barefoot is totally the way to go. Had I know that 12 years ago I would have done nearly everything barefoot, 20 years ago would have been better. Alas, my legs are weak and I can only handle up to about 45 minutes in the Vibrams. I have a number of strait up racing flats, the Saucony A2s and A4s. These are for faster paced training like workouts and long runs. I have a pair of Saucony Fastwitch 3, 4, and 5s in the picture above. They are light trainers and it has been my "go to" shoe for almost two years but they excel at workouts and long runs. I have set a personal record in the half marathon twice in Fastwitches. Although, I just got the 5s and I am afraid that they ruined the best shoe ever made for my foot. We shall see after I get some miles put in it.

I have a pair of Keen A86 TRs (the orange ones in the photo) because I got a good deal on them, but as it turns out they are becoming my "go to" shoe because the tread is made for trail running so it's really durable and there is hardly any arch support (which is good unless you like injuries). All of my Sauconys have holes in the sole so any puddle means you get wet, the  Keens can handle like 3/4 inch of puddle which is a big advantage (sure call me afraid to get dirty and wet, it's somewhat true). Then I have a pair of Newton Distance Ss which I got with a big discount at their store in Boulder. I am not a fan of shoes that separate me from the road, but these are by far the best high heel shoes for running that I have ever worn. I also like them best with my YakTrax when I am running on ice and snow. I typically rotate through shoes so that every pair has two days to air out before I wear it again otherwise you can get really smelly shoes. Also, running in a wet shoe is a recipe for blisters.

So there you have it. I have a bunch of shoes. I probably go through 6-8 pairs of shoes a year. I typically put 500-600 miles on every pair of my shoes. Usually around that time I start to get knee pain from running in them. It depends on the shoe though. Some I have only gotten 400 miles out of and I am pretty sure I hit 700 miles on at least one of my pairs. Sometimes I get 150 miles into a pair of shoes and it starts causing me problems so it's basically a loss of money. That's when I am on my sixth pair of Saucony Fastwitches and third pair of As. I am not restricting myself to Saucony it just happens that in 2009 and 2010 their shoes fit my feet really really well. Although, these Keens are pretty awesome. So there you have it, eight pairs of shoes that I am currently using. This doesn't include my track or cross country spikes or my mountain climbing boots and rock climbing shoes or dress shoes. In total I have around 20 pairs of footwear to choose from for any "adventure".

It all starts with your feet. They are a really important aspect of the biped movement system. It is to my advantage to take care of my feet and use the right tool for the job at hand wether that is running 5k around a track or 30 miles on rail trails or going from camp 2 to camp 3 at 23,000 feet.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Abbottabad, Pakistan

With the recent death of Osama Bin Laden, in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a place I have been I feel encouraged to say something. Something.

Now, to be totally honest, I might not have been to Abbottabad. I did take the Karakorum Highway from Islamabad to Skardu, and fromm what I gather there is generally only one road to take, but there are multiple roads in the area and I can not be 100% sure that I was there. However, I am pretty sure that I was. We left Islamabad just after 6 AM and 1-2 hours later we arrived at a large city, which I believe is Abbottabad. We were stuck in the morning traffic and I did take some video. After 20 minutes of bumper to bumper traffic someone asked how many people lived there and the response was one million. It is amazing how cities of one million people are just specks on the map that we have never heard of while towns like Boulder, Colorado of 100,000 people are incredibly famous.

That was about it for my experience there. We were stuck in traffic for what seemed like more than half an hour. But all things considered it was not riddled with checkpoints as the road near Chilas seemed to be. It seemed almost like a suburb of Islamabad. Like Worcester is to Boston or Palo Alto is to San Francisco or Boulder is to Denver.

We did not get out of our vans for the first few hours of the trip so I really have no more to say. What I can guess at is that he probably never went out in public in the city. There were so many people when we drove through that someone would be sure to recognize him and say something. When Al Queada started bombing Mosques any doubt that Pakistani Muslims had about choosing a side was put to rest.

As far as the compound that he was staying at, well, most of Pakistan in my experience was made up of “compounds”. Schools, Mosques, hotels, gas stations, the more expensive houses and shopping malls all seemed to be walled in. As far as how did he manage to get through all of the security in the outer regions of Pakistan and get so close to Islamabad? My experience when we were going through the checkpoints was the the foreigners had to sign at every checkpoint but the locals did not have to present their papers or sign anything. I remember more than once waiting at a checkpoint while a truck of locals drove through the checkpoint with merely a wave. In other words, the checkpoints seemed about as easy as sneaking into a high school football game without paying. Plus the checkpoints seemed very spread out and I never noticed any military roaming the hill sides, so you could probably just walk 10 miles around a check point in the middle of the night.

All things considered, more security on the roads in Pakistan than in the United States. Perhaps, I have no point to this post. I mean I'm not contributing to the details of the events of this weekend and I really don't know how I feel about being so close to a place where such a famous villian lived for at least a time. It's a small world I suppose.

Monday, May 2, 2011

I live in Iowa: Chapter 2

In the engineering world I worked 43 hours all in front of my computer screen this week. I am in the perfect situation to learn HyperMesh and the intracasies of finite element simulations as they relate to stress analysis. In other words, I'm getting paid once again to get even better at one of the things I do. Yeah, life is good.

About working more than 40 hours a week, the way my contract schedule works I am hired to work 40 hours a week, but I can work extra hours and take time off later so that the total comes out to about 40 per week, I can also get paid a quarterly bonus for the extra hours I have at the end of the quarter. So I'll probably be working more than 40 hours every week that there isn't a Holliday. In fact, after my marathon I'll probably bump up the weekly hours even more for a few weeks. In other words, my salary isn't limited to 40 hours per week or restricted to five days a week.

Other than that I ran 73 miles. It took me like four days to recover from my 30 miler run but I backed that up with a great 16 mile tempo and a 4 by mile workout where I even ran a 5:11 mile! I haven't been doing that kind of pace (5k personal record pace) very often lately. With two weeks until Green Bay I feel that I prepared well. Not incredible or ideal, but better than I could have.

I got on my bicycle for the first time this year. Just to ride around town but Dubuque is small enough and I live close to the center that I will probably be biking for errands quite a bit this summer.

My unemployment book is headed in the right direction. I queried two literary agents this week. Thus far sending an electronic query seems to be much easier than applying for a job. Instead I am saying, 'this is what I have do you think you can sell it for me?' This stage of the process is all about querying scores of agents until I find one that wants me while I continue to edit my 54,000 work patchwork manuscript. I feel really good about this. It's a feeling like writing a paper for school and when you hand it in you know you did well. That's how I feel about my manuscript. By the way, if anyone does know a litern agent I would love a personal introduction or recommendation. Plus, if no one else ever reads more than the first chapter (typical of a query) writing all of this down has helped me immensely.

A few people have offered to be beta readers and help edit, that's probably a good idea, but I still feel like I have my own editing to do before that. The publishing process typically takes around a year so there is little need to rush, plus unemployment is still high, which means it will be easier to sell my book to a publisher.

When I write all of this stuff down it looks like I am super busy but most nights after 8pm I am as unproductive as anyone. (Except that here it is 10pm Sunday and I'm blogging with my thumbs like most nights...)

Question of the week: Is Osama Bin Laden really dead?