Sunday, March 31, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 101

Happy Easter! Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!

Really, compared to that, nothing else matters. Seriously, compared to my faith in God everything else is so minor. Easter is a great day to be reminded of that.

However, I have this little website so that we can learn from examples and our mistakes and experiences so that we do things better the next time around.

Work was good. Work is almost always good. I have been knocking down projects left and right lately.  I have at least seven projects waiting on someone else to critique them at the moment. It's always nice to get to the stage where my portion of the work is done.

Coaching went really really well. Our meet planned for Saturday at Oshkosh was canceled due to snow, seriously there is still half a foot in many places up here! However, just about everyone ran over break! So they came back and we had a nice 12x400 workout Tuesday in 15:02 time for the total and a 2x mile, 2x1000 which also went really well. We are going to have a very successful outdoor track campaign. Both in terms of cool weather which is good for racing and in terms of a group of people that have been working hard all year.

My own running went quite well, including 91 miles for the week with the two workouts mentioned above and a 5:03 mile and 3:09 1k added on to the longer workout. Longest run was only 15 miles, but I hit some mid 6s miles very comfortably. I'm fit, no doubt about that. The question is setting a personal record by two seconds or twenty seconds fit?

I am about to head off to my relatives house for a late Easter dinner, so I have to keep it short. My van will pass 295,000 miles this afternoon. I am debating spending days of my off weekends driving 800 miles trying to get it over 300,000. It has trouble starting but runs just fine after about 15 minutes to get warmed up.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Mental Hurdles

This morning I had several discussions, while on my two runs before 10:30 AM, about mental road blocks and hurdles that we give ourselves. We all do it. We all limit ourselves. We all think, 'I have done X, I can do Y, but Z, that's crazy!' This attitude is holding us back.

So how do we break through these mental hurdles? Good question. Practice, for one, gives us the opportunity to reach new heights. If I want to run a 2:17 marathon that involves 26 consecutive miles at 5:15 pace, thus I need to practice 5:15 pace for hundreds of miles and it has to feel slow. Also, I have to practice running 5:05 miles quite a bit and 4:55 miles. I have to practice running faster than five minutes per mile. I cannot be phased by 4:XY on my watch. I will probably run a sub 5 mile in a marathon at some point. Experience, secondly, gives us the knowledge of the components of the achievement. When Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon, every switch had been flipped in space and every maneuver had been done before, they just did the operations in that particular order for the first time to land on the Moon. Third, confidence, sometimes seen as arrogance, ignorance, and even faith, which it might be depending on the circumstance, encourages people to accomplish what has not been done. How does one gain confidence if not through practice or experience? Often words or guidance from others give us confidence in the ability to accomplish a task. Sometimes success in unrelated endeavors creates a feeling of confidence in all aspects of life. Of course ignorance usually plays a factor too whether willful or unimaginative.

Identify the hurdle, the challenge, practice taking it down, get the experience of taking down smaller related hurdles, and with the confidence and support of the right group, know you can take down that hurdle. So take it down already!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Customer Loyalty

This morning I received a "free" white coffee dream latte from Java Dreams. They keep track of how many drinks I buy and every so often I get a free one. Plus, I don't have to carry a card around that I would probably lose. They make good drinks. Most of the best lattes I have ever had. In fact, they sell the only white espresso drinks in Dubuque as far as I know.

On top of all that, they care about each person that comes up to the window. I mean we've had discussions about a number of things from job satisfaction to baseball to the weather to kidnapped and missing kids. They recognize the regulars and are always cordial. I mean, at McDonalds, coffee is on an assembly line, at Java Dreams it's a little piece of art.

They did not make any money from me this morning, but they sure earned a little more customer loyalty.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Less Condescending


  1.     Acting in a way that betrays a feeling of patronizing superiority.
  2.     (of an action) Demonstrating such an attitude.

patronizing - gracious

I am not always nice when I respond to questions and comments. I hope to improve upon that.

People often tell me things I already know. I feel like I know so little that rehashing the same information, after I have already thought about it seems like a poor use of time. That is probably inappropriate on my part. Well, I know for a fact that at least on one occasion my condescending response to another recently was uncaring and inappropriate.

The reaction that I get from people after I patronize them, however minor, is unpleasant. I need to change. I need to communicate better. People will probably tell me things I already know for the rest of my life. Perhaps since they are telling me something, it is a clue that a bigger discussion needs to be had. Instead of an undeserved authoritative tone or mild sneer (it felt that way twice in one afternoon recently) perhaps I can just say, "yes, I did hear that. What do you think about that?" That way I get the other person to open up and be more descriptive about the situation we are discussing. Plus, I don't impose my own previous thoughts and conclusions on the other person. 

Hopefully I can open up a dialogue about whatever the discussion is about, so that even if it takes a painful few minutes to discuss something I am already familiar, we will strengthen our relationship. Both of us will likely end up more educated. It is a win-win, as long as I don't get in the way of us discussing it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Week Without Coffee

Tonight finishes up a week without coffee for me. Every several months I find myself wanting some coffee in the afternoon, and I don't like that feeling of dependency. The solution is to take a short hiatus from coffee.

Friday and Saturday I had decent headaches from caffeine withdraw. They were not too bad because I have been through this before and knew how to mitigate the damage. I drank tea and ate some chocolate which amounted to maybe a half or a third of the caffeine that I received from coffee. Enough to keep away the worst headaches but not enough to feel the caffeine rush from coffee or espresso.

I will go back to drinking coffee in the next few days. As long as it is only a cup, maybe two, per day I enjoy it. Once it devolves into a 16 ounce latte in the morning and a 17 ounce Starbucks Frappuccino in the afternoon, then my body settles into a caffeine high to low crash rhythm. The high feels good but craving caffeine at 1:30 PM or 7 PM because I feel lethargic is not fun.

Coffee is a blessing. However, with great power comes great responsibility.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Okay, Spring... Where Are You?

I am ready for temperatures in the 40s and 50s, dare I even say 60s. It snowed another inch or two around here yesterday. I'm getting a little cabin fever. I want to run outside wearing shorts. I want to wear a t-shirt outside. It's been 14 weeks since the first snow. I enjoy the winter, and I hope that climate change doesn't make it disappear, but at the moment it is almost April, I am ready for warmer weather. Plus, I don't think I am alone on this one.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 100

100 weeks in Dubuque, Iowa! Wow! I'm practically a local. In one sense it seems like I just moved here not long ago. In another sense it seems like I have been here for a long long time. Of course it is always a mixture of the two. This is a good week to focus on how I have developed over the last 100 week.

At work I finished a couple of projects. In the world of finite element analysis, I have come so far compared to where I was when I arrived here. Part of that is due to the finite element team we have that I have been able to learn from. Part of it has come from simply starting projects that others worked on in the past. Seeing what others did in those situations is a great way to learn. A significant part of my FEA development has come from 4000 hours of staring at a computer screen working on finite element analysis. I would hope that after 4000 hours of something I would learn how to do it more accurately and faster.

Aside from the technical engineering, I have learned how big companies do business, how decisions get made, how designs are agreed upon, and in part how to be persuasive when I want to be. I guess you could say I have learned about business. Let me tell you business is in large part just talking. Oh, it is talking with a purpose and rights and wrongs, but talking none the less.

Coaching was very limited, the university was on spring break. That being said, the next seven weeks are the finish to what I hope is a great year. I just hope the athletes ran over spring break!

My running went rather well. The first two days of the week I was exhausted and only ran a total of seven miles, but then things picked up and I did a hilly 5 mile tempo in the low 29 minute range on Wednesday. After a couple more moderate to easy days I stepped up the intensity and ran the best 3x2 miles workout of my life. When I say best of my life I mean 10:01 (downhill in 5:01, 5:00), 10:34 (uphill in 5:04, 5:30), and 10:26 (downhill in 5:18, 5:08). That's six miles at 5:10 pace on the roads. That is the kind of workout that I need. Total of 81 miles for the week and seventh consecutive week above 80 miles.

Something new to announce: I have a new job! I am the newest employee out at Park Farm Winery! I knew the manager, one of the first people I met in town in fact, and well, this leads to that and the next thing you know I am working at a winery. I will talk about this new relationship more in the future, but it is a good opportunity for me to work on sales, customer service, people skills, and most especially meet new people.

There you have it, after two years here, I am better professionally, coaching is going well I am cranking out better workouts than I ever have, and I am starting new endeavors. I am so blessed!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

I am Planning to Run Every Day in 2013

I meant to announce this earlier, but I didn't I didn't want to announce it in January when I decided to try, so today is the day. I have run 82 consecutive days, January 1st to today March 23rd.

Why run every day? To see if I can.

What will be the greatest challenge? I plan to run a marathon in October and I know from experience that training for and especially recovering from a marathon is extremely difficult. If I am too tired or incapacitated to do at least one mile, then I won't run. I am not doing this to tear myself apart.

What kind of previous experience do I have trying this? In the fall of 2010 and winter and spring of 2011 I ran 174 consecutive days. The end of the streak was after my debut marathon at Green Bay. I was in serious pain for like two weeks! Other than that my last three years have consisted of taking about one day off per month during training when I am in shape (maybe 6-8 months a year).

What happens if I get to 2014 without taking a day off? Well, inevitably I will end up in the middle of a mountain range at 17,000 feet of elevation on a glacier and frankly, running is not practical or advised in that situation. I may be crazy but I do have some limits.

Again, why run every day? Part of it has to do with motivating others as well. I am exposed to quite a few people that for better or worse admire the physical achievements that I do. Some of them want to be more physically active or run races faster. However, I often hear, "blah, blah, blah, I didn't run because [some excuse]." Okay, I know there are reasons not to run, and my physical fitness is a huge gift! Some people actually cannot run. Other times people need to take a break from the drudgery of intense training. I am not taking this gift for granted, but running every day is hard for me too. Sunday and Monday together I only ran a total of seven miles. My hope is that if people know that when it is 40 degrees and raining, I will go running that day. When it is 90 degrees and sunny, I will go running that day. When I am tired the next few days because I just had the best 3x2 miles workout of my life this morning, I will still go running. Then maybe they will be motivated to go out and run, or bicycle, or take a walk after supper even when the weather is not perfect.

Life is hard. Fortunately, there is a lot of satisfaction in throwing some toughness back at life. Plus, a little proactive healthcare might just help you achieve some goal wether that is setting a new personal record on the track or lowering your cholesterol.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Utopian or Dystopian?

I listened to a segment about how we interact with robots, and it was not comforting. I encourage you to listen to the TED talks linked above, you will better understand the background. Secondly, unemployment has not been under 7.5% in more than four years. It strikes me that automation is taking over people's jobs. Next will be truck drivers. Seriously, by 2020 I expect driving to be very automated. At least by 2030 it will be mainstream. There is another 3-4 million people out of work.

The people creating these innovations have the dream of a utopian future. One where we can pursue recreation, relationships, athletics, travel, and not 60+ hour work weeks. While that is good in theory, and I would like to see it, I feel that we are getting there through dystopian progress. I mean, with the pace of innovation and automation humans are being replaced faster than new industries are created for employment. In other words, every major innovation in history has left formerly skilled people unemployed. We no longer have a horse doctor or black smith to fix our horses, we have mechanics to fix our cars. We don't have humans pick cotton by hand, we have big machines that harvest it. We don't harvest ice in the winter and store it all summer, we have freezers and refrigerators.

I see this as scary, because even with a master's degree I realize that someday what I do now will be automated. It will be 10-15 years after cars drive us everywhere, but my job is a series of choices and assumptions, which could realistically be automated. This isn't simply about truck drivers being replaced, it's about kids learning better from tablets than teachers, engineering done more consistently and with more optimized products when done by a machine, and banking done entirely by software.

My concern is how people who become unemployed because of their job being automated are to get paid? Turbotax put thousands of tax accountants out of work, and made one man a millionaire. The people at Google (or someplace else) will put millions of truck drivers out of work, while hiring a fraction of that number of people to provide continuous support to automated driving. My solution is either private industries pay large numbers of people salaries just to be on call in case of an emergency (with some sort of stipulation that they do a certain amount of continuing education), or the government provides some sort of basic minimum income to everyone. Of course we aren't really close to either happening. It will be a couple decades before engineering is automated the way I envision it. Unemployment would probably have to creep up to 20% or something before companies and governments realize that humans are being replaced like never before in the last 160 years of mechanization.

We don't really know what will happen. Hopefully I'm viewing the future and automation pessimistically. We will just have to get there one day and one hour at a time.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I Have a New Sponsor!

Myself! Okay, don't laugh too hard. Why did I leave Athletic Republic, after all it seems that the sponsored never leave the sponsors. I always hear about runners getting dropped by their sponsor. I turned the status quo on it's head, sort of.

Athletic Republic was the first company, besides a school, to stand behind me. In the fall of 2011 they gave me some clothing, and I thought it would be the start of an exciting journey. Specifically I was hoping to train at an Athletic Republic facility. Unfortunately, that just never happened due to scheduling issues and holidays. Plus, they never gave me anything new in 2012 or to date in 2013, yet I still had a link on my website and people still talked to me about the company at races. I am very thankful for the time that I wore the jersey, but after setting personal records in the 800, mile, 5000, 10,000, half marathon and marathon over the last year and a half I wanted more.

I decided that instead of giving all of that attention away free, and getting impersonal cheers during road races, I would go it alone. So I ordered a running singlet from Running Banana for about $36 including shipping and now I'm officially sponsored by myself. Plus designing my own singlet I moved the name and logo up high so that race bib numbers will never get in the way. Unfortunately, I moved it up too high so shoulder sticker numbers in track will probably get in the way. Also, the cut along the bottom is terrible, the thing is three inches too short, especially on the sides. Fortunately, the colors came out just how I wanted them to, matching my blog. So I'll have to order another one to get the fit and design I like just right. The top three reasons to sponsor myself:

  1. People who don't know me will cheer for me by name at races.
  2. I have a lot of white space on the jersey to sell to other sponsors.
  3. It's a personal branding statement about doing my own thing and not giving the impression of being dependent on a company I barely know. 
My New Race Singlet

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Taxing Savings Deposits in Cyprus

The latest news out of the Eurozone since Saturday is that all deposits in Cyprus are going to be taxed at 6.75% for under €100k and 9.9% for over €100k. This has happened before, but at rates around one percent or less. This is big news and trouble... for everyone.

In the United States the FDIC insures savings accounts up to $250k. That means even if your bank goes bankrupt, the first quarter million in your savings account (seriously, who has that kind of cash?) will still be yours. What just happened in Cyprus is that all of those insured people just found out that they were about to pay a tax on their savings. It's like being only 93% insured. If it happened there it could happen here.

In a larger context this is a wealth tax, which is not necessarily a bad thing. In other words it affects the rich more than the poor. However, as with every other event in the Euro crisis, things are changing daily, and deposits with under 26k Euros look to be exempt. In short, who knows what will actually happen?

Regardless, it is interesting. This is yet another example of financial instability in the world. In slightly related news, a dollar saved is not a dollar earned, because $1 today will not buy what $1 in five years will buy. If you would like to listen to a debate about a strong versus weak dollar NPR had a good one.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Competition is a strange thing. On one level it pushes us to do our best. On another level it creates destructive thoughts in our head, and sometimes destructive actions. The issue is how do you turn it off or on? I mean competition gives people goals, motivation, a purpose, which is great when you are struggling into a run on a 13 degrees Fahrenheit morning in March and need some motivation to get out of bed. However, we humans can be so small minded and look at other members of our team and get competitive with them.

Teams can be a fickle entity. From the locker room to the board room to the Vatican, power struggles can cause problems. How do you turn off the competition? How does one get competitive with one group, but not with another? If you want to win a race, don't you want to beat everyone in that race including friends and teammates? If you want to get a promotion, don't you want to get the promotion instead of your coworkers?

How does one balance the competitive desire to improve and excel without degrading the other interested parties? My only solution is clear cut goals. For example, I want to run under 2:18:00 in the marathon so that I can run at the Olympic Marathon Trials. If that means I get 437th place in my qualifying marathon or dead last at the trials, so be it. Similarly, in my career I know what I want to do, and honestly it is not get a promotion every 2-3 years. That would be nice for now, but certainly not the goal of my career.

When I go into races I often tell people that I hope we stay safe, and all set personal records, even if that means I get dead last. The best competition is within oneself. No one will know exactly what it took you to achieve whatever it is you are awarded. They were not there to feel the despair. The best motivation is intrinsic motivation.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Run Wearing Low Heel Shoes

I just read this article:

I feel compelled to give my thoughts on the future of running shoes: low heels. The heel was invented by Bill Bowerman in the 70s as a way for joggers to be propelled forward, or so I've heard. Given my 25,000 miles of personal experience, and now two years of coaching experience I will say again low heeled shoes are the way to go.

Not necessarily shoes with a physically low low heel, but close to a 0 mm heel to toe drop, which usually means the shoe is only 10-20 mm high anyway. Even a small drop heel to toe seems to work, but 12 mm? Or even a 22 mm heel to toe drop? You must be kidding mister shoe designer!

Secondly, arch support is a myth. Rather it is a temporary fix to the problem of weak feet and ankles. Arch support was supposed to help with pronation when people run. However, there is little to no evidence that pronation control helps people stay healthy long term. I know, I went through the gamut of motion control. Like a painkiller it works for a time, but the cure is in strong lower limbs, not complicated "technology" that is new every season.

In summary, the future of running shoes is low heel shoes that don't aggressively promote pronation control.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 99

What happened this week? I worked, I ran, I slept, and I ate. That about sums it up.

Work is going well. I am progressing on a flexible multibody analysis, which in English means a difficult project. It’s funny. I show results and on the one hand I’m thinking, ‘these results are almost insignificant.’ On the other hand I’m thinking, ‘this is good work, I am amazing at my job.’ HA! The truth is somewhere in between of course. The results aren’t worthless, but I’m not the best finite element analyzer in the world either. Although, if I keep talking and writing about it, I might get that reputation.

In other work news, I spent about six hours total learning Optistruct. I have wanted to learn it for two years, and the right mix of opportunity came along, and I basically learned in it four hours. I’m not very good at it, but I ran a successful optimization simulation. Optistruct is a Hyperworks optimization software, basically it tells you flat out where to make your product stronger and where it can be weaker by showing the density of material required in that area. Pretty cool stuff.

Coaching was a low week. Only a handful of practices. This is a nerve racking week for me. The week before spring break, try to get them to run a workout or two then hope that they run over spring break. The truth is some of them will and some of them won’t. I read recently that Bill Bowerman never gave much attention to those who needed to be motivated by him but to those he had to hold back. I like working with those I have to hold back (like myself) more than those that need to continually be motivated to do the work. In short, some people won’t run over spring break, come back in worse shape, not have good workouts, have mediocre races, and wonder why the other person is running so much better. YOU HAVE TO RUN (EITHER MORE OR FASTER OR BOTH) TO RUN RACES FASTER. I didn’t figure that out until I was 20, but it is so basic. 

My own running was not so pretty. Just over 80 miles, with a whopping 27 miles on Saturday. I did not run well all week until Saturday morning when I popped 22 miles at 6:38 pace on the rail trails that were 40% iced over. Quality wise it was harder than 6:38 effort, but effort wise I had to keep holding myself back because I wasn’t trying to run so fast. This gets to sleeping. Friday night I slept 10.5 hours and Thursday night I slept 10 hours, 7:30 PM to 5:30 AM. I think that I am still tired from the mile last week, more mentally than physically, but more physically than I would like to accept. Rest is good, I need to rest more. However, mileage is good too and I want to do more of that as well. 

That is about it. I wasn’t very social this week. Trying to lose weight something has happened to my evening. Instead of being 100 calories over my daily expenditure, and willing or able to expend more energy every evening staying up another hour or going to a friend’s house or going out, I’m exhausted at my 200 calories or so daily deficit. In response I go to bed as early as 7:30 some nights. That is actually a record. As I got ready for bed at 7:15 with the sun still out, I could not recall every willfully going to bed that early, barring some sort of mountaineering endeavor. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Rest and Recovery is Needed

My runs have been terrible this week. Very little quality, slow, I feel tired. The fact is, I'm tired from a huge breakthrough in the mile last week. Plus, I have been having strong workouts and moderately high mileage, my body needed a rest. So I slept 10 hours last night. 7:30 PM to 5:30 AM. Yes, I went to bed before 7:30. The sun was still up. I went on a run this morning, and felt the best I have all week. I need rest and recovery despite the fact that I don't want to take it easy on myself.

You need rest and recovery too. Mentally, physically, emotionally, or from whatever is causing you stress, it is necessary to back off sometimes.

(Of course, sometimes you have to hit it pretty hard so you have something to rest and recover from...)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

It is Easier to Criticize

It happened, someone that I gave my book to, actually started editing it. Now I know why the first two people never got back to me, apparently it is the worst grammar I have written since 5th grade. I am not surprised given that I wrote most of it late at night, often with a glass of wine in hand. Plus, I didn't edit as I go. When trying to finish writing something as big as a book, going back to correct every word or add every comma is not worth the effort compared to finishing the paragraph or idea.

You know what? I'm barely phased by it. Usually I get defensive when someone critiques me, but this time I have learned to take it in stride. It is easier to criticize another than put yourself out there to be criticized. An author I read wrote a second blog post about someone changing what he was trying to say, and it's really interesting. I usually do things for a purpose. I write can not when I want to be more clear than cannot. I will write a fragment if it elicits the emotion I was trying to convey.

I'm really happy that someone is willing to read and edit my book. I am sure there are hundreds of grammatical errors. Honestly, I don't even agree with everything I wrote two years ago. Ideologically I have changed since then. The book needs significant work, and there is significant value in that work. However, I wrote it! I created the thing. Then I gave it to people. Those are the hard parts. Criticize away, I'm putting myself out there regardless.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Yet Another Car Repair

$519.90 for a new front oxygen sensor, catalytic converter, oil change and labor. Why is this worth mentioning? Several reasons:

My van is about 5700 miles away from the 300,000 I have been aiming for the last half decade. Expensive repairs are par for the course. It is worth documenting the path to 300k.

As with the new tires last fall or medical bills, unexpected bills happen. Fortunately I have the money to afford this bill, but $500!! That's a lot of money! I know not everyone saves the kind of money I do and I am sad for those without the resources I have. The world is certainly not financially fair.

I have mentioned my interest in electric vehicles, fully electric not hybrids, before and the last two days reinforced my thinking. Electric vehicles have far fewer parts, no wet toxic gases, and fewer fluids or temperature differentials. In other words, except for the battery, the things will last decades with probably less maintenance then oil changes.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Making Pretty Pictures

I tell people that I make pretty pictures at work. That I'm an artist that works with the same eight colors. Of course there are numbers that go along with the pictures, and that's really what people like to think engineers do, work with numbers. 

Here a just a couple pictures I have looked at at work recently. They are cropped to remove the valuable information. However, in the context of what I was looking for, they all mean something to me. I look at this stuff and I think, wow, that looks really cool. I mean look at this stuff. It's beautiful. The first two are meshes, which is like setting up the math problem, and the third is a results plot, which is like the answer to a math problem. See, math is cool.

Part Mesh
Assembly Mesh
Results Contour Plot

Monday, March 11, 2013

Definitive One Page Guide to Distance Running Success

Definitive One Page Guide to Distance Running Success

Scope: If you have only one page to guide your running training plan, this is it. 

The fundamentals of training success:
  1. Stay Motivated. This varies for each person from finishing a marathon, winning conference, lowering cholesterol, a social life, or eating ice cream. Whatever it is that motivates one to run, that is important! Positive motivations seem to be the most productive, but negative motivations, like the fear of not giving it everything you could, have a place. Without motivation all aspects of performance will suffer. Motivation is necessary for the many days when the training will be lonesome and arduous. 
  2. Stay Healthy. 
    1. First, this involves strengthening the little muscles like the muscles that stabilize the feet, ankles, shins and hips. Strength of the core and back are also important to maintain a strong posture during the later stages of a race. Key exercises: toe raises, planks, running and walking barefoot. 
    2. Second, health involves flexibility and range of motion that is at least as great as anything encountered during running. Key exercises: leg swings and strides. 
    3. Third, health also includes eating your vegetables and drinking enough water. Proteins, carbohydrates and fats are all necessary for a distance runner. Without the right nutrients floating around the body, the body will break down and underperform. Key food: vegetables followed by whole grains with fiber.
  3. Train Hard. 
    1. Aerobic endurance is the base of success in events longer than three minutes. This means the ability to process oxygen at a high rate of running speed.  This occurs in all runs from a jog slightly faster than a walk to a sprint at maximum speed. The most benefit to be gained per minute of training occurs through runs at approximately the speed one can maintain for one hour. These runs often 20-40 minutes can be broken up into intervals with short rests, but that pace that one can maintain for about one hour, known as tempo, threshold, 4 mmol lactic acid, anaerobic to aerobic threshold, or half marathon pace, is the key pace. 
    2. Specific endurance is necessary almost exclusively in the 6-12 weeks before the goal event. While it is not possible to train and gain maximum benefit from the same pace every run every week, in the weeks leading up to a goal race, the race pace must be practiced often perhaps 3-4 times per week. The best training is the most specific. To race a good 5k next week if no other training will be possible race a 5k this week. If goal pace is 5:15 per mile, practice 5:15 per mile. In the weeks and months before the goal event, training must be specific! 
    3. Patience and persistence are important. Results may take years, even a decade or more, to develop to the level desired. Likely thousands of miles will be run. Thousands of hours of training go into every Olympic medal.
This page is not a substitute for the myriad of books and articles available from more experienced professionals. It is simply a one page guide to long term running success.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 98

Another week living the dream! That is such a loaded statement. I mean, I’m an evil sinful person who constantly screws up, yet somehow or other I am constantly rewarded. I don’t take those rewards for granted. Let me tell you about a few of them. 

Work is going well! For nearly two years I have been working on a project, this past week three small parts of it were physically fabricated for the first time! That’s about all I can say at this point. The point being, it’s exciting! Going from seeing images on a computer screen to seeing them in person, life size. It’s emotional. I insisted on this aspect or that feature. The product looks like it does because I was part of the process. Needless to say the next few months will continue to be interesting!

Coaching was a slow week, I only was at practice twice. The transition from indoor to outdoor track was different for everyone so only a handful of people were running most days this week. I just hope that they keep running. If you want to get better at distance running you have to run. Sitting around eating ice cream doesn’t make a person run faster. 

My own running was great! After a healthy 20.6 mile run at 6:21 pace I took the week to recover and Friday night ran a best ever mile of 4:31! I ran a 4:31 mile! That is 34 seconds faster than I ever ran the mile in high school. Seven seconds faster than I ran in college. Hopefully this can be a little inspiration to others that improvement does not stop at age 18. Another article to come later. A total of 88 miles. Interestingly I only drove my van 94 miles this week. 

Socially my sister came to visit. We had a great time eating out, walking around, trying to take a nap. The nap just didn’t happen. I have to be pretty tired to actually fall asleep in the middle of the day, and my runs this weekend just were not tough enough. Plus, it is always nice to socialize a little. Although, I require so little socializing, just ask anyone who has tried to hang out with me past 10 PM. 

In other news, two years ago I wrote a book. I talked about it back then, but I have basically been sitting on it since then. I printed a copy off this week. I gave it to my sister to read and edit. This is now the third person I have given it to. The first two dropped off the face of the earth after I sent the book to them. I am hesitant to share it because it is so emotional. I share so much in it. Plus, it is not a kind book. Two engineering degrees and 57 weeks of unemployment makes one a little bitter. All of that being said, I am considering a Kickstarter campaign to sell advance copies of it. It is already written, I just need to go through it and update and edit it. I need a few people to help edit it as well. There again, a Kickstarter campaign is a risk, what if I don’t reach my goal? What if 100 people do not want to pay $22 for a hardcover book of what I have to say? My last book (What Gen Y Wants You to Know) was produced in a very low budget, obviously self published paperback format. This time I want something a little more classy. I worked hard on this book. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Meet a 4:31 Miler!

Just ran a mile tonight! I got third place, behind two of my training partners. I took the early lead through 209 meters in 34 then was passed into a comfortable third through 409 in 67, 609 in 1:40, 809 in 2:15, 1009 in a PR 2:48. Then it started to get hard and lapping people I slipped back a couple steps from the leaders M and N. Passed 1209 in 3:23, with no concept of if that is good or bad, 1409 in 3:58, just gunning for a sub 32. Alas, my legs were heavy and I'm crediting myself with 4:31.2! Wow! Overall it felt very aerobic and comfortable. I drafted well. Set an earl pace to set the tone. Good race! I am so blessed!!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Rousselout Plant Strike and Lockout

In Dubuque we have a gelatin factory downtown on Kerper, the Rousselot company ( or 2350 Kerper Blvd, Dubuque, Iowa, USA). The workers went on strike starting Monday and the company decided to lock them out. What does this mean?

The four year contract was up for renewal and it contained a number of typos, specifically incorrect and low pay rates. The union voted unanimously to reject the contract.

The union notified the management they were willing to work without a contract at present rates. The company said no to working without a contract while in negotiations so the union said they would be going on strike. The company responded they would lock out the union. That means the company brought in scab workers and would not allow the union on the property. It also means that employees on lockout will be able to collect unemployment.

I know about this because an acquaintance of mine works there. It is interesting in a day and age where one rarely hears about strikes to hear about a friend that is on strike and locked out. This has not really been covered in the mainstream media, and I thought you should know that in Dubuque, Iowa there is a strike going on now, and will be for at least another week and a half.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

When I Am Tired or Stressed

I don't answer my phone, I don't check my email, I don't open Facebook and I don't seek out others company. I still do my professional work, but I am personally somewhat less easy to get in touch with any way other than face to face. It is not ideal. Obviously I would be better off reading every email and communicating with people socially more regularly. It is a weakness of mine. Unfortunately, the best time to work on it is when I am tired or stressed. Perhaps this is my welcome to the 21st century?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Layman's Guide to the Sequester and 2013 USA Tax Increases

First of all, I only know a little of what is going on, go over to ProPublica they have a ton of infographics to try and explain what is happening. That link is so good if you don't at least take a look then you might as well not read anything else in this post.

Basically, California is going to get hit hard with the sequester because they have so many people. Virginia, Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina are going to get hit hard because of all the military cuts to the state. Florida, Texas, and California have retirees and thus cuts related to those dependent on the government. There will be cuts to education, fortunately we all know that a 35 to 1 student to teacher ratio is most effective for most students.

It is important to note that the 2% across the board spending cuts only apply to about 1/3 of the budget which means those discretionary spending programs will be cut in the 5-7% range.

There is a silver lining to the spending cuts. We will be spending less money. Okay, seriously, medicare will be cut up to 2%. Which is great! It turns out that Medicare is so big that it really has ultimate influence over the price of healthcare in this country. Everyone should be on medicare. It is really the best way to bring down the cost of healthcare for everyone. That's a tangent.

Regarding tax increases. The payroll tax went up 2%. That is a problem, for two reasons, first the shallow reason, all workers have less in their paycheck. Second, the payroll tax is a regressive tax, which is to say it affects those who make less more than it makes more. In other words, it taxes 6.2% of your income up to $110,000. So a person making $50,000 would pay $3100 in payroll tax. A person making $100,000 (that's a lot by most people's standards) would pay $6200 in payroll tax. A person making $150,000 would pay $6820, only 4.5% of his or her salary. A person making $370,000 (approximately the top 1% of earners in this country) would also pay $6820 or 1.8% of his or her income. However, they got hit with a raise in long term capital gains from 15% to 20%, which is kind of a big deal for people with a lot of investments.

In other words, we enjoyed so much for so long at the expense of debt. Well, we have to pay it back sooner or later and while I feel a few more years of stimulus would help we are starting to make the cuts now that are inevitable. We are doing it, we are fixing the budget. It is a slow process, and I hope that we make some better economic choices, like a progressive sales tax.

These cuts and increases in taxes are moving in a good direction, things are getting better, slowly, but not in the most economic sense. We are all going to suffer. Education will take funding cuts, despite the fact it is an amazing public return on investment, especially preschool. The military will be cut, which means many layoffs and perhaps fewer machines ready to fight wars. Syria, we apologize, but between Iraq and Afghanistan we are taking a break from fighting other's wars at the moment. On the positive side, Africa is developing just fine, perhaps we can immigrate there in 15 years.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Not Normal, and Probably Not a Mess

I worry about things I don't need to. I don't think I am normal, in today's definition of normal and as much of a mess as I think I am, I am probably not a mess. In fact, I probably have things figured out more than the vast majority of people. I almost wrote "people my age", but I am not even sure I need to specify it that way anymore.

This comes up for a couple of reasons. First, I went to a financial planner. I had never been and I figured I could stand to learn something. So I went and we went over my goals and dreams and financial situation, and it's not normal. But again, my view is distorted because of a handful of people close to me that are misers compared to my superfluous lifestyle.

A good way to describe it is the 1%. Not necessarily only by income or wealth, but also in road racing or standardized testing or the stock market. I think most people imagine that once you get to the top 1% you would be happy and settle, not true. The drive that gets you to the top 1% is not satisfied until you are at the next step, the 0.1%, and then it will be the next step, the 0.01%. Eventually the goal develops into an Olympic medal or Forbes 400 or designing the best selling mobile phone ever.

Along with the not normal aspect or standing out in one direction, it might be that standing out in a certain way, in today's world, prevents a host of problems that the majority might suffer. Of course it could also be the other way and standing out could present a number of problems that majority does not suffer. I'm being vague. Purposely vague for a variety of reasons.

Here's the muscle, the high school drop out rate is through the roof in this country, blended families are complicated to say the least, many people have no concept of their future, persistence is used to describe something that exists longer than the entity in computer software that created it instead of persistence defining our government policy, leaders and our personal lives.

All of this troubles me. Has it always been this way? I mean, I feel like I have issues and problems, but then I hear what other people are dealing with, and I really have been served life on a silver platter. If it has always been this way I am amazed we have made it so far. If this is all new, is it sustainable?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 97

Another week in the bag. I will tell you what. I was tired a number of times this week. I had two under six mile running days. I slept ten hours Friday night. And at the moment I just finished a 20.6 mile run so I'm pretty tired again.

When a complex finite element simulation converges for the first increment after lots of convergence issues it's an exciting day. So Abaqus outputs a file with the extension .sta. For Abaqus Standard this records all of the increments that occur. Instead of the .sta file showing:

Attempt:  Time Increment:
1U          0.01
2U          0.0025
3U          0.0008125
4U          0.0002031
5U          5.076e-5

Indicating the file did not converge after five attempts to reduce the time increment, the file shows:

1           0.01

Meaning one increment converged without cutting back the time increment, it's party time! In fact, I am working on several variations of the simulation and one of them was something like:

1U          0.01
2U          0.0025
3U          0.0008125
4U          0.0002031
5             5.076e-5

Meaning that it just converged at a very small time increment. I was pretty happy about that too. In short, I had some good moments at work Thursday and Friday. Then I went in on Saturday and ate up over 750 GB of RAM and 48 new Intel Sandy Bridge cpus running my complex jobs.

I like work because I can put it in a box north of town. In school, there is always work to be done and it can be accessed from anywhere, which made it more stressful on the weekends, but I was way more productive on the nights and weekends. That being said, I miss school for the ability to go in at 8 PM and pound out an hour of work without a meeting or email to distract me.

Coaching was a nice week. It was nice because two athletes had pretty big races in the mile Saturday. One ran 4:38 and another ran 4:40, which are both PRs by maybe 5-6 seconds each. We are moving in a good direction! (Now if we can just get everyone to run for the next few weeks over spring break and as the majority of the team takes a break. College runners get a break after outdoor track in May and after cross country in November. They are only slowing themselves down if they take a break every time school takes a break.)

My own running went quite well. Two good workouts 6x1000 and 3x600, 3x200 and 86 miles for the week. The 1000s my total quality time was 19:18, which is good for me especially considering I had only 200 meters of jogging rest. The 600s were great! I did them all in 1:40! I am running a mile at a high school indoor meet this Friday and I think I can break 4:30. We will have to see, but there are two guys in the race both planning to go under 4:30 so I should just be able to hop on the train and run a PR.

Not much else. Happy Lent!

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Opportunity

Give yourself the opportunity to _______. A few months ago I read From Last to First by Charlie Spedding.  It's about a guy that by many standards would be considered quite average, but he gave himself the opportunity to excel and he had a few really great moments because of that. Do the same for yourself.

Give yourself the opportunity to get an A, the opportunity to get the job you want, the opportunity to win whatever you are contesting. People seem to shut down and lower their expectations so soon in a process. It is fine to have low expectations, but don't let those low expectations limit your opportunities.

Maybe it is just me but I feel most people have a hard time conceptualizing more than a 10-20% improvement in any given area of life. Well, there are some things that are far more than 20% better than what you have now. What are the limits? What is possible? Only that which one has the opportunity to do.