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.