Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Wedding in Omaha...

Here goes the ridiculousness…
First of all, and most importantly the weekend was about the bride, my friend E, and her husband, my new friend M, so don’t let my self-interested egotistical view on the weekend get in the way of that.
I arrived in Omaha and changed into my suit in the Creighton parking lot, in my van, 45 minutes before the ceremony. I nervously paced at the back of the church for awhile until the bride moved from one hiding spot to the next and we happened to greet each other and hug. I will tell you what, she looked AMAZING!
The ceremony was nice, and I got emotional a couple of times, I’m not quite sure why. I mean I have not been that close to E in years. I had a strange moment when the priest was talking about commitment I had images of places I have been and people I have been with that involved commitment. In a church there are a hundred people watching every move but “out there” where it matters there are no spectators, no experienced authority figures, no counselors, and no lying to yourself and each other. I suppose that is a strange response to the wedding service, but I spent a few hundred miles on the bicycle this summer with a divorced friend of mine and I am sure that at the wedding he was totally confident that his marriage would last a lifetime. So many people get divorced that I can’t help but think about it. Just so that I am clear, E and M’s marriage will last a long long time based on what I know about E and her family and the what I know about M and his family.
After the ceremony I wandered around town buying a gift (I know… typical… I am idiot for waiting that long to get a gift and for telling all of you). Then I went to the reception and made the rounds talking to people from my high school experience. It is great to catch up with people. News from around town: one of my class is now a doctor, one of my class has a child with autism, one of my class is married and a nurse, one man I used to ride bicycles with has ALS (Louis Gerig’s disease), the first best-runner-I-know hasn’t ran competitively in years and I think is unemployed, one kid went to Wall Street for a few years until the crash then he wound up in Kansas City, another kid now manages money north of Omaha and has a baby, valedictorians seem to wind up on the five year college plan, everyone else must be in as much debt as I am, and while many things about people do change, many don’t.
One of my former prom dates was the head bridesmaid and she didn’t realize I was even there until I was standing in the buffet line four feet away right in front of her. Hahaha, it was pretty funny! Anyway, she lives in Chicago so I’m planning on visiting this fall. Perhaps Chicago marathon weekend (a new world record please?).
What else happened? Twins… Anything else I say will only dig a hole for me. So I’ll summarize it like this: Hahaha… Yep… haha… Really? …more or less… hahaha
As the party wore down and we left for the hotel I had a conversation with M2 who I vaguely remember from hanging out at KU when I was in high school. It was a great conversation, the kind that uses words like sustainability, protest, and vegan. As I work for a logging company and also spend thousands of hours outdoors my views on sustainability are probably a little different that most people. Having the ability to have a genuine informed conversation about capitalist pigs (those were my words but I got her to laugh because she was thinking it) destroying the environment was a nice change with M2. I'm working on a miniseries about the logging industry right now and trust me you will be informed.
For breakfast I socialized some more and handed out a few business cards. Then I played connector. M2 needed to get to Kansas City for a plane flight in five hours and J and L were driving there and were going to get there in about four hours and since they did not know each other and I was talking to both I found M2 a ride and J and L gas money.

It was a great weekend! I am so happy for my friend who is now married! Seeing all of my friends brought back memories as we created new ones. Life is good.

Monday, September 26, 2011

I Live in Iowa: Week 23

Yet another week living the life. What to discuss… I worked 41 hours this week. Part of that was spent on the “Proving Grounds” (that’s the formal term, we typically call it “the hill”) learning the safety and regulations required to drive big expensive pieces of equipment around.

I spend most of my time behind the computer making pretty pictures (finite element strain patterns) and I’m getting much better at it. I came up with a good idea for a part with a thermometer shape cut out of it that would focus strain away from a nearby weld. I still have work to do, and I am sure you have no idea what I mean by “thermometer shape” but the point is I’m getting better at coming up with creative ideas how to change designs so that they have a longer fatigue life.
Our jobs as structural analysis engineers is to find the weaknesses in designs, and make them stronger. I think of it as building a better bubble. If you have seen many carbon fiber bicycles you will have an idea of what I mean. Instead of thin steel tubes the shapes involve complex curves and continuously varying tube diameters. It seems ridiculous to compare a carbon fiber bicycle frame to a boom for the forestry industry made out of welded steel plates half an inch thick, but they are nearly the same thing. The only difference is the anisotropic material properties of multilayer ceramic-polymer or ceramic-ceramic composites versus an isotropic metal (and that is really an assumption based on the processing of the metal…).
I ran 100 miles including a very nice long run, a sprint fartlek, and a moderate tempo. I tried something new on the long run. One of the things that is suggested for slow runners with predominately slow twitch muscle fibers is to do workouts that involve running several different paces, because that is something slow runners do not like to do. So I did 12 miles at a slow aerobic pace (6:55s), then I did the last 10 miles at the following effort levels (all percentages refer to as percent of marathon pace): 90%, 95%, 90%, 80%, 90%, 95%, 90%, 80%, 90%, and 95%. In total I did the last 10 miles in 59:50 which is not especially fast but the way I ran it and considering there was 12 miles immediately before it, that counts as a good long run. The moderate tempo was a 27:40 8k on the track.
In the world of coaching I missed a few practices because I had to work. We also had a race Friday evening. It was the first time most of the men raced 8k. The great thing about races is that you get to watch everyone run what you are training them for. It is a test of the work that has been done. Basically, I saw exactly what I needed to see to understand how they are all responding to training. A race is the perfect place to watch the runners “fall apart” and when in the race they do and how much they slow and how fast they started are all great things to view and then base future training off of that. Additionally, every race leading up to the goal race is really only preparation for that race so the outcome at the finish is not terribly important.
I finished my week off in Omaha, Nebraska at a wedding of a good high school friend I have not see in years. I should probably blog a few more times this week about the events of this weekend because they were simply too numerous to append onto my weekly summary of living in Iowa. I’m going to leave you hagging for today…

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Everywhere on Earth is Still the Earth

Yesterday I went to a wedding of a high school friend at Creighton in Omaha, Nebraska. It was the strangest thing, I have not seen most of these people in years or been to Creighton in years and at one point in the day I was struck by the similarity of Earth. I thought about sitting at 23,000 feet in Pakistan, a 60 mile bicycle ride with a divorced friend, and running at the Mines of Spain. Why does any of that matter? It matters because life is not confined to the walls of a building. It matters because for me those other places I was talking about have a seriousness and loneliness that does not happen in a building. Relationships are built on so much, so much that is not covered in pictures and videos.

I guess that the allure of those places I mentioned and others is in part due to the challenge of getting there, but once I am there I still breathe the same air and I am the same person. Seeing the wedding yesterday, and getting a little emotional, reminded me that it is one step in the process. It does not occur without significant thought and involves significant work after the fact. Two factors which do not have nearly the spectators of the wedding yet probably make or break the relationship more than a day in front of the public.

In short, it was a fantastic trip for me and I am extremely excited for my friends, the newly weds. Seeing this I realized how complex any one person's history is. I knew the bride before the groom did. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water and stand on the same dirt. To those about to rock the rest of their lives together: congratulations, work hard and have fun!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Throw Away the Hate

I came up with that slogan in high school and I am reminded occasionally of how pertinent it is. Within the last week I think two people were executed for hate crimes, a white man who killed a black man and a black man who killed a white man.

This applies to other things as well. I have struggled with jealousy of others successes. As I get older there is more joy in others accomplishments. How did I change my attitude from negative to positive? First of all I certainly didn't do it alone. I had help from friends and frienemies and authority figures whose actions I observed. Whatching others who seem not to hate others makes it easier not to hate on other people. Second, I focused on myself. By defining my goals in life everyone elses accomplishments or challenges to me become a complement to my journey. Perhaps that is a very egotistical way to look at it, but from my mental perspective others can only contribute and not bring me down. In other words, everyone who I might have harbored anger against in the past, even because they were simply successful, challenged me to define myself, wether any of them or I knew it or not.

Changing subjects slightly motivation has to be intrinsic. It has to come from within based on hopes and beliefs. You cannot give someone motivation, you can try to foster an environment that encourages a desired response. Often that environment is one of competition, intrinsic or extrinsic, with a reward or rewards. Returning to the original subject, what is the reward in throwing away the hate? Certainly less legal trouble, probably less mental anguish, less self berating thoughts, more and likely deeper friendships, and despite a possibly more egotistical attitude likely a more supportive and encouraging disposition.

When people make you mad, throw away the hate.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How to Train for a Marathon

This post is entirely for my own benefit. I'll just save the info in a public forum. That way perhaps you can benefit.

Abel Kirui; July and August training leading up to winning September 4th, 2011 World Championship Marathon.

Nate Jenkins lead up to his first two marathons (2:15 and 2:14; scroll down into the comments for the workouts).

Gerlindo Bordin before winning Seoul Olympic Marathon in 1988, again trained by Canova.

Random Renato Canova training threads.

Bill Rodgers training 1973-1975 including his first Boston win which was a 10 minute PR 2:19 to 2:09.

Thats about it for the night.

The point is, the training that the best runners out there did or do, is available. Neglecting to read I train for a fast marathon is ignorant. There are many paths to fast times, but there are many similarities. Lots of race pace training (or racing short distances are close to marathon pace), a decent number of miles (I've not heard of a top marathoner doing less than 80 per week), and consistency. You don't decide to run a fast marathon next month and do it, it takes years of aerobic base and workouts improving your lactate threshold and V02Max. Read up!

Monday, September 19, 2011

I Live in Iowa: Week 22

Worked 41.5 hours. I'll tell you what, using India as an engineering resource saves me a bundle of time probably 60 hours thus far in September.

I ran 106 miles including a day off, a great 4xmile session, a 5k race, and short hill sprints. A really good week of training.

Coaching is going well. The kids are progressing so fast it is amazing. We did a 10-12 mike long run with most of them Saturday and they hardly were scared of it versus three weeks ago.

I'm busy! I suppose I have time for what I make time for, but it's almost nine, I haven't paid my bills, I haven't checked my email, and I haven't reserved a hotel room for the wedding I am going to this weekend.

A thought for the week: what do you deserve from your government? If we can answer that we might have a better time dealing with government debt.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I have a Great Life

I think I have the best life in the world. Hopefully you think the same about your day but listen to my Wednesday:

Wake up at 4:50 to run nine miles with M former D3 3rd place at NCAA XC who is training for NYC marathon and trials standard.

Oatmeal and coffee from my French press on my way to work at an amazing job! I have such a great job and I am excited daily to go to work. I worked with a design guy R and manufacturing guy T today and we are working into some great ideas for the new skidder. Work is awesome!

Go to UD XC practice and hang out with the kids. I might not be an asset every day, but I have much to share with them. After their practice I ran the best mile repeats of my life 5:08, 5:08, 5:09, 5:07 all with 400 jog rest in 1:45-50. My friend G who is also one of the coaches paced me through the first 800 of the first two and 1000 of the third. Could not have done it all solo in the wind today. Lifted in the weight room then C made me a burrito before the first track and field meeting of the year.

That's my life. No girlfriend, which I am not really sure I have the time and energy for now anyway, but everything else is going really well. Such a huge change from 2010.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I Do Not Always Adjust Well to Others

I am really good at routine. I enjoy the stability and relaxation of not worrying about what comes next. The problem is in any new relationship there is an adjusting between parties so that all involved benefit the most. I have trouble adjusting to new routines and methodologies of life.

What brings this up? Women my age talking about being a stay at home mom on the second date. That concept is so many steps beyond me at this moment in my life. I can see how it is valid topic to discuss because it is pertinent to the future, however, I feel that topic could be addressed further down the road closer to the time a decision is necessary.

When it comes to social situations, I move very slow. Basically, I do everything slow. I run the marathon because it is one of the slowest races out there. I used to think I learned fast, then I went to WPI and specifically grad school. Moral of the story, I adjust, slowly and if I can be convinced it is worth it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

I Live in Iowa: Week 21

The week that was...

I only worked 32 hours this week, 40 counting the holiday Monday. I seemingly had one thing or another to do right after work this week so I ended up leaving every day pretty early. I felt like a slacker leaving so early every day. It is still strange to get used to the idea that I only have to work set hours every week. I feel like I am not really compensated based on what I get done as much as that I am for simply working a set amount of hours. I'm in a great place professionally that I don't intend to change in the near or medium term, but I really enjoyed the thrill of grad school and a thesis project.

I ran 116 miles including two races and two workouts. In fact, Monday was the probably the best day of training I have ever had. I woke up and ran a 5k race, and won in 16:16. Three hours later I did a 12x1 minute hard, 1 minute easy fartlek that lasted 4 miles. Not a fast average for a tempo, but considering half of that time was spent running at 7 minute mile pace or slower that's a good average. Then I followed up the day with a 30 mile bicycle ride and a five mile run. That's three legitimate running sessions, two nice workouts (well one was a race), and nearly a two hour bicycle ride. My workout Wednesday morning went similarly well. It was 2x2 miles. The first 2 miles was downhill Grandview in 10:15 and the second two was 10:38 uphill and I fell apart on the fourth mile running only a 5:24. Best two mile repeats I have ever done.

In the coaching world, we're getting better, and fast. Before anyone jumps to conclusions about the race results this weekend as some of our runners did not do the greatest, most of the people on the team had the longest run of their life this Tuesday. Some even ran 12 miles. Overall we have been doing a lot of hard training and for many the hardest strength training of their life, so everyone is a little tired. The point is, it is okay to be tired at races early in the season as long as you are raring to go at the end. That being said, I warmed up with heavy legs Monday and ran a 16:16. Still I am excited because I feel we are making good progress with the team.

I really did not do much else at all this week. I bought seasons six and seven of Entourage and spent some time each evening laying on my couch watching the drama. My routine in the evenings after practice with the team and my own running is eat supper and typically spend an hour or so watching something on dvd or reading. I'm getting used to thinking about bed time as 9PM so that I can wake up at 5AM to run. It might not sound fun and enticing, but I'm really getting to like 5AM.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years of... Terror?

Today is ten years since the September 11th plane hijackings and suicide flying. It is strange to think it has been that long. My sister wrote an article about what it means to her. So I thought I would write down my take. Basically I remember what she does, especially the golden sphere and my parents debating doing the World Trade Center or going over to the Empire State Building because it was like $20 per person for an 80 second elevator ride. I remember getting a pressed penny on the top floor because I collected those on our family vacations. I remember that overall the floor was pretty empty with few tourists compared to the Statue of Liberty earlier in the day. I also remember vividly standing at the corner of the building closest to the other WTC and it was a windy foggy day, well foggy above 900 feet. We watched the building visibly move towards and away from each other with an amplitude of perhaps 8-10 feet out of the maybe 50 feet away from each other they were. Needless to say it took a little effort just to walk to the windows and look down. We generally walked around the perimeter staying away from the windows.

Since then 1766 Americans have died in Afghanistan and 4474 Americans have died in Iraq in addition to the 2819 people killed on the day of the attack. Osama Bin Laden has been stopped. Saddam Hussein has been stopped. Interesting to note, none of the Hijackers came from Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iran for that matter since those countries seem to get some bad publicity. We've had anthrax problems and scares. Shoe bombers, underwear bombers, and others creating terror.

Personally I think terrorists is a bad name for them. As soon as we call someone or group a terrorist, they are. They have created terror in us. Wouldn't it be more appropriate to call them insurgents or militants or rebels or misguided people raised in a life of poverty and under-education?

We are where we are.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Non-linear is a good description for many things. This topic is a can of worms so I apologize if this does not flow linearly. (ha!) Okay, first the running stuff. Renato Canova posted the July and August training of some runners who ran at the world championships including Abel Kirui who won the marathon.

The point is I have been on a linear (nearly identical weeks) running schedule most of my life, but it is not the best for development. In fact, many of my best workouts leading into the marathon were out of my ordinary routine (30 miles on Good Friday). Furthermore, many of the best marathoners of the 70s thrived off of one major workout/long run per week and smaller workouts during the week. In other words, a week between hard workouts. Say it takes five days for a body to recover over the course of seven weeks implies ten workouts versus the 70s era seven workouts. I won't even address the 90s era three workouts a week because it complicates thing. But since you are curious, the idea was more workouts would be better, but without enough days to over compensate and respond to the workouts the workouts will not be as effective. In other words, after hard workout X in three days you can run 12 miles at marathon pace but if you wait five days you can run 16 miles at marathon pace, even though you feel the same on the warmup or five miles into the workout.

Changing subjects, life seems to happen in leaps and bounds and plateaus instead of a little progression every minute. After 400 job applications why did I get hired here in Dubuque after only a one hour interview?

In the material deformation world non-linear is where it gets interesting. I had the chance a few months ago to do a finite element simulation using viscoelastic material properties and it was exciting. Plastic deforms permanently even at very small strain levels where as a piece of metal or ceramic will elastically rebound to it's former shape after small strains. When there is any plastic deformation all sorts of crazy things happen. Vacancies dislocate, interstitial atoms resist vacancy dislocations, crystals deform and work harden, and there is some heat released typically. Hundreds of Ph.D.s are granted based on non-linear material properties. All metal forming (machining, casting, and extruding) and joining (welding) involves non-linear material properties.

There you have it, non-linear, it's not a line.

Monday, September 5, 2011

I Live in Iowa: Week 20

20 weeks and they haven't fired me! Kind of a joke, if you have ever worked with me, I get stuff done, but still it feels strange to get paid so well for something I enjoy. I worked 42 hours including a trip up the hill to mark gauges for one of our projects. In short, work is good.

I ran 102 miles including a nice 22 mile long run and a solid 12 mile medium tempo at 5:58 pace with a former D3 superstar who is also training for the trials. He might just be the missing link in my training. I also ran 13 times this week.

I am having a whole lot of fun coaching. It just comes so easily after a decade of competitive running.

In other news, I'm tired. Goodnight.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

I Miss My Friends

The calendar ticked over to September this week. September signals the best time for trail running and the end of the moderate to high altitude climbing season in mainland USA. I didn't spend any time in the mountains this summer. Not even one hike. I have spent at least a few days in the mountains every summer since I think 1998. Even 2007 when I spent the summer in central Massachusetts researching I spent days in New Hampshire climbing and hiking. What does this have to do with my friends?

I have many friends. Many of my friends I have met because of similar interests in the outdoors, such as climbing, running, hiking, backpacking, and camping. My summers in the mountains have served me as a place of relaxation and inner competition and celebration of life, that I just do not get in the flatlands the same way. I have friendships that have developed in the mountains at camps and on trips that are totally appreciative of the world in a way that most city dwellers just do not have. Hundreds of times I have been standing outside in the mountains in the summer watching the sun go down drinking hot chocolate with my friends so grateful for my life.

Don't think that my other relationships are built on something less, some of my best friends have never spent even a drive through the mountains with me. It is that the mountains have a simplicity and honesty and seriousness that gets lost in town. Out on a climb four miles from the nearest road and 400 feet off the ground with a climbing partner life is so simple. The worries of bills and obligations fade away. You can not hide your true self from anyone else or yourself. You can call it self discovery but I feel it is more like self acknowledgement.

I feel that one of the big things I am searching for is authenticity. The whole story including the bad not just the good. The number of revelations that my friends have told me in the mountains, for whatever reason, is astounding. I've had conversations about rape, criminal histories, drug abuse, pain, fear (which is often a can of worms), goals, and God. Perhaps part of it is because I have moved around so much the last two years that I have not made those connections outside of the mountains.

I don't know. I'm just rambling. I am having a wonderful time in Dubuque, but I miss my friends.   I miss building a fire in Docs and talking about life for hours in the evening. I miss staring at K2 during sunset joking with my friends as we admire it. I miss thunderclouds at the Millsite. I miss getting a table at Mezcal after a long week. I miss doing extended lost boys during the week with my friends. I miss topping a tree off using a cross cut saw with my friend who is now paralyzed. I miss hiking out in the dark tired and scared after a wonderful day. I miss yelling for joy at the top of a mountain with a friend or friends who came along. I miss Saturdays at the rail trails with 30 teammates. I miss my friends.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

It's a Small Group of People...

The professional and semipro runners in this world are more connected than athletes of most if not all other sports. For example, Jenny Simpson won the 1500m at the world championships this week. That is a huge accomplishment. No one from the US has done that since 1983. We have had a number of medals in other events, but this one is gold. She has raced to the highest level from the American system of training. When one of us succeeds, we all succeed. Why does this mean something to me specifically? In 2008 between her winning NCAAs and USATFs I did a long run around the Boulder reservoir at the same time she did a 16-17 mile long run. One of the best in the world running out there alone at 7 am on a Sunday on the same dirt roads that I was running.

That is just one more aspect of running that is awesome to me. We build people up in our minds to be superhuman, yet they are all just humans, like you and I. It has taken me several interactions with "superhumans" to really understand they are no better than I. To be running the same distance and pace and course for a long run as Jenny Simpson or Nate Jenkins gives me a huge amount of confidence that I will be able to do the workouts they do and run the times they do.

On a separate note, grad school fulfilled this for my academic mental aspect. Stumping one of the leaders in the field is extremely satisfying. I talk about potential and possibilities and when one of the top ten in the world does not know the answer, I know we have so much left to learn about even something as strait forward as heat treating steel. Perhaps I will be the one to push the boundary?