Friday, May 31, 2013

Sacrifice, You Don't Know Sacrifice

I don't know sacrifice either, so don't take it personally. In fact, due to the generalizations of the Internet, someone who reads this will know sacrifice, although most of you don't. This comes up for a reason. In the last two weeks no less than four people have asked when I will get a new vehicle. For some reason my 1993 Toyota Previa van with 297,600 miles on it does not seem like it will last forever.

Here is the deal, I am saving money for a trip to Asia, an expensive trip. I want to make sure I can afford it without touching my retirement savings or taking out loans. Cars are expensive, even used. Secondly, 2010 was an enlightening year for me. I was shown that hard work and results is not enough. Some things, many things, like my employment, are not under my control.

The point is, when visibility is low, it is cold and windy, and I am tired I will keep going instead of sitting down to die. I could buy a car, and get fewer strange looks from people, but in a way that is taking the easy way out when the going gets tough. No, no, I don't deserve the easy way out or the convenient solution. If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything, as they say. Well, exposing myself to small sacrifices will hopefully allow me the grace to accept larger sacrifices later in life and even more important, to recognize the sacrifice of the minuscule minority for the majority.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Nationals is My Favorite Track Meet

Once again I spent the weekend at NCAA Division 3 Track and Field Nationals, this time up in La Crosse, WI. Two athletes that I know from the team I work with were competing, a high jumper and a 100 meter sprinter. Not exactly my specialty. However, WPI, my alma mater, managed to have two women tie for second in the high jump, which is the best ever finish for women at WPI. Plus, they both broke the previous school record by one centimeter. Needless to say I spent several hours with my college coaches and several more hours enjoying the fact that UD had two first time athletes at nationals. While all of that socializing is great, it is more like a reunion or a vacation instead of a track meet.

Why do I like nationals so much? Everybody is there. All the best athletes and coaches are milling around and most like to answer questions. In an effort to make the most of the trip I tried to ask every group I talked to for more than 30 seconds a question. Here is a sampling of what I learned:

NYU head coach, takes the team to New Jersey often on the weekends to run so that they can get out of the city for some unbridled intersection-free running.

North Central College former national champions and All-American distance runners, when asked why they do so well in the 10,000 (they had four men in it this year), said that it is partly due to experience and coaches but ultimately they want to be the toughest team out there. In my opinion, mission accomplished North Central.

UW Platteville distance coach, when asked what he does with kids who are getting burnt out or injured, which happened more than usual for him this year, he gives they a week off with no running. Yes, that includes the inevitable track meet on the weekend too.

Springfield College (Massachusetts) head coach, when asked whatever happened to a former distance runner who won everything for a year responded that the kid ran himself into the ground. He ran 150 mile weeks and never backed off. He ended up being injured and returning to Japan to run for a corporate team, although there had been no news from him since then.

Former UW Oshkosh head coach rubber banded the yellow flag (foul flag) on his white and yellow turn flags because this is a race, not a time trial.

In summary, nationals is a nice place to meet people. The caliber is just higher. The conference champions are struggling against their peers. The coaches, often as myself, are there to spectate even if they aren't there to coach this time around. Next up, USATF Nationals in Des Moines in June. I might go because let's face it, I've never seen a track meet that good live.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

2. Stay Healthy

I always say, 1. Stay Motivated, 2. Stay Healthy, 3. Train Hard. Well, the last week I have been running every chance I get, and not taking it easy. In an effort to build my running mileage quickly I have been pushing myself. Not to mention I traveled this weekend which involved staying up late a couple times. As a result I have been struggling to tap out impactful blog posts. That will likely continue for some time. I find building mileage the most difficult part of a training program. So I expect to continue being tired for the next couple weeks.

Today turned into a breaking point. I woke before 5 AM to get ready for a track workout where I proceeded to run a handful of 400s. One was even at 66, hoping that my heart rate broke 200 on that negatively split interval. Work went well and I enjoyed my coffee. Once I came home I spent 30 minutes readying the news and instead of doubling as I planned with another run or going for a group bicycle ride as I also planned, I climbed into bed, wearing my work clothes. Two hours later I woke up instantly realizing what happened. I have been neglecting the rest aspect of training the last week. This afternoon I rested hard. So hard is my rest I am not even sure I will be able to make it to the grocery store tonight. My muscles are sore and my mind could go to sleep again. In fact, that sounds like a good idea, good night.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 109

Tired again. Hopefully I can pop this out quick so I can get to bed, before 8:15.

Sunday started in Minnesota visiting my extended family. After a nice relaxing morning I headed out of town and drove back to little old Dubuque.

The week at work started out again before five in the morning getting ready to go down to Davenport to support production. Always exciting to get to see another side of the business. It's so physical and imperfect. Our computers so perfect math yet the weld is always a little wavy and the metal always has vacancies.

The rest of the week was spent doing finite element analysis, like I do just about every week. That is my job after all.

After three weeks of less than 25 miles per weeks and a heart rate under 136 I upped my mileage to 55. A jump from 21 to 55 is not easy and I have been and am quite tired. I even did an 8x200 workout running them all in 32-33 seconds. Not bad for feeling out of shape again. My heart rate did get up to 197. I would like to break 200 sometime soon.

Friday afternoon and Saturday I went to NCAA D3 track and field nationals in La Crosse, WI. There were a number of highlights. I talked to a huge assortment of coaches, which I need to summarize in a separate article. WPI my alma mater had four ladies at nationals and our two high jumpers tied for second in the nation behind an extremely good jumper! WPI a high jumping powerhouse?! I had several hours to spend with my college coaches and reminisce. I've said it before and I will say it again WPI was a great experience for me and it was exactly where I needed to go.

That was my week. Hours of traveling, a couple scores of hours working, an hour a day running, and a little less sleep than I desired.

Monday, May 27, 2013

What a Long Weekend

I'm tired. I have not typed words to be published since Thursday night. I was out running before seven in the morning every day this weekend. I slept on the floor of two hotel rooms in two different states, neither begins Iowa. I spent 13 hours driving or riding around the Midwest. I went to a wedding and NCAA D3 track and field nationals. I'm done. I just want to lay around reading Ender's Game and get ready for a lung busting track workout tomorrow morning at 5:30.

It never stops, you know, life.

Friday, May 24, 2013

80/20 and the Final 1%

Pareto's principal is that 80 percent of the result is due to 20 percent of the work. Obviously every situation is different. The point is some activities are more productive than others, much more productive. The reverse of this is the problem. The more results you want the exponentially higher effort it will require. Running under 17 in the 5k took me about five years of serious running. Doing that eight and a half times in a row still has not happened after another seven years.

The moral of the story is if you have high hopes for something you better get started right away because it is most difficult near the end.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Life Deferred

I went to a retirement party recently and the retiree is moving to the Black Hills in South Dakota. It sounded like he always enjoyed the black hills and enjoyed this little corner of the Mississippi River Valley because in many ways with the hills and trees it reminded him of the Black Hills. As he mentioned a couple times moving back there and building a house and barn I was a bit surprised. He spent most of his life living here, building relationships, throwing parties, and now he is going to uproot to go a place it sounds like he wanted to go for a couple decades. I interpret that message very clearly. I see myself in that story. I like it here and it is a really nice place, a place I could spend years of my life, but my entire career? Am I deferring life right now?

There are other aspects to it, it’s summer camp time of year and I am missing camp and my friends and the daily rhythm of camp. The groggy mornings, where in general there is actually less of a rush to get to work than I have daily to get to my work. Camp also has a sort of relaxed but serious atmosphere. In other words, we nap hard and lay around a fair amount, but everyone knows CPR and gets work done. 

Another strange thing happened this past week. A friend in town asked me how long until I applied for a transfer somewhere else. I was totally caught off guard. I will get back to that, another example in the last week it was evening and I wanted to just watch something for a half hour or hour and zone out, but I realized I have seen all of my dvds and I just renewed my lease for a third year. Three years in one little apartment! Have I developed enough?

Where does this this part of my life fit into my life. At every experience along the way I meet people who have arrived. In high school some people peaked. In college others peaked. Now that I am out in the work force some people have a well paying job, a house, a car, a boat, whatever, and it seems that they have arrived where they want to be. I struggle with this, and I might always. At what point is it enough? I'm not talking about money or possessions, I'm talking about experience. I'm talking about having learned and being done!

I hate myself. I've mentioned that before, and it's really not that direct or sincere. I mean it's like 8% hate, 85% love, 7% ignorance. What I am saying is that the thought of settling, for just about anything, is a hard pill to swallow. The thought of doing what I am doing now at work for the next 35 years is not exciting. The thought of never setting another running personal record is terrifying. Yet especially for running, that day will happen when I no longer set a personal record. There will be a last personal record, probably in my late 30s or early 40s depending on the distance. A run, I won't know at the time, but my last fastest race. A running career is like a life or professional nonathletic career compressed. It begins in the teens and ends in the 30s or 40s. It's a short short time to achieve something surprising. 

Similarly every year spent working for a large corporation is a year not spent at a start up. Every year following the process is a year not creating the process. On a tangent, I intend to file a patent this summer or fall. I have an idea, and no one has ever tried to do it. I'm going to do it. 

What I am saying is that life is short. Our days are finite. My three deceased grandparents lived for 14,630, 25,508, and 31,618 days respectively. I understand that life is not all roses, bills have to be paid, people supported, etc. However, we live in the United States, the richest, or at least one of the richest countries in the world. Yes, it is honorable to spend your life toiling so that the next generation can have a better life, but we are that generation. Let us go out and have a better life. It's not about the money or the possessions. 

Think of it this way, you, and everyone really, has skills. Some skills you are good at and other are too. Some skills you rock the house and you love to do. Other skills you are probably pretty good at, but not particularly fond of. The challenge is to find the what you were born to do. Now, it probably changes over the course of your life, but it might not. The reason it is important is that you will be more productive in your best position. We all know those people, the ones with the magic touch. The person that solves problems by the score. For example, in Davenport there is a guy who fixed things. He welds, grinds, torches, paints, and does what it takes to fix things. He is often the most valuable person as five engineers stand around waiting for him to finish stuff. I don't know much about him but in the moment, watching him work, he was meant to do this.

This if your life, you just spent two minutes reading this. Thank you for reading! Now go out there, do what you do, and do it as the best version of yourself! Life will never be perfect yet that is not an excuse to defer using your gifts to make the world a better place. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Success to Failure Ratio

How many failures does each success require?

Think about it, if it was possible to do it best the first time around, we would do everything once and retire. No, from the top to the bottom of achievements there are failures on the road to success. It may be relatively "easy" to climb Mt. Everest today using oxygen and Sherpas, but even today, almost every year a Sherpa dies in the ice fall. A failure for others success. Tumblr was just bought for over a billion dollars, how many other blogging platforms will never be anywhere near that size? For every runner on the starting line of the Olympic Trials there are two or three others that trained hard and put in far more effort than most people understand and yet aren't even at the Trials.

Because I am analytical here are some actual numbers, the Everest total success ratio is 29.44%. Roughly 10-15% of people that run under 2:30 in the United States (550-700 performance every year) end up running at the Olympic Trials. The first rocket the US wanted to send astronauts up on, I don't believe it was Redstone but that program did have 5 successes and 1 failure, had only an 80% success ratio, not good enough for human spaceflight.

The point of all this is that sometimes you will fail. In business I am zero for four attempts (RIC, I-Beam Ice Axe, my unemployment book, and the hangboard). Yet in every failure there are lessons to be learned (advertising, patience and market research, persistence, and advertising respectively). In other words, don't be afraid to fail, because you will fail along the way anyway. Since 2010 my summit to attempt ratio for climbs and mountains is around 20%, because I picked the hard way. Not every climber as weak as me tries to solo the Nose on El Capitan.

Epilogue: Why am I writing this now? Because I am beginning to prepare for an October marathon, and I really want to run 2:17. The problem is that is somewhat better than any other race I have ever run. Going after that goal is almost certainly the way to fail. However, I don't want to run a 2:28 or 2:26. I don't have to actually decided on my goal pace until September, so it's base building time. I have a lot of work to do.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What is My Risk Tolerance?

This is a short post soon to be followed by a longer post with an answer. Once again I did not skydive this weekend. That's like four opportunities I have tried but it was too windy (more than 14 mph). I survived Broad Peak with a death to summit ratio of 9%, although I did not summit. I ride a motorcycle, at least a little bit. Plus I have spent enough time alone in the wilderness to encounter bears in the dark. However, I have never drank so much alcohol that I blacked out or made bad decisions I will forever regret.

The question stands, what is my risk tolerance? How does one measure a risk tolerance anyway? Is there a clear risk and reward relationship? We will think about this before I write a follow up article. Feel free to express your thoughts below.

Monday, May 20, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 108

Another busy week in the books! It started with Mother's Day and visiting my family in Madison, WI. Yet another too windy day to go skydiving. For the second time in the last two months my family has gone to an art museum when we were together on the weekend. It's a rather nice thing to do, plus we are getting more comfortable critiquing the art.

Monday once again came early with a trip to Davenport to spend time in the factory. The factory is such a learning experience for me. For example, interchangeable parts is only mildly correct. Due to manufacturing tolerances things don't always fit how they are supposed to. Of course that means change the tolerances. It is a learning experience.

The rest of the week consisted of the normal FEA with a little strain gaging of physical parts. Once again, no job is perfect or will ever be, but I am awfully fortunate to be in the position I am.

Coaching was light for me. I think I was seriously at only two practices. A few of the athletes competed at a last chance track meet and now only two of the athletes are going to nationals and neither do I work with often.

Related to coaching, one of our coaches left this week. S, our throws coach, is going back to South Dakota then to Washington. I will miss him. However, that is how life goes, people move. I have certainly done it enough. Honestly, him and his girlfriend will be close together and that will hopefully be a good thing for them.

Running was great! As it usually is. I ran 21 miles and all of it pretty slow, certainly slower than 9 minute pace. Well, that ends three total recovery weeks. It is time to ramp up again! It is strange, in part I did this to retain some fitness, and I have, although I don't feel the same over rested I usually do after a break. We will see if this is a sustainable feeling to go into a training cycle with. Part of me thinks I will burn out in two months. Another part of me thinks that I will be in the best shape of my life going into this fall. We shall see.

Finally I ended the week up in Minnesota visiting my grandparents and aunt and uncle. I was only there for less than one total day, but it was very quality time. I heard stories I had not heard before, such as the 19 year old draftee who was the platoon leader during a long train ride to Seattle including a two day snowstorm in the Dakotas.

In short, a good week. I hope you had a good week too.

Friday, May 17, 2013

How to Construct a 200 Mile Week?

I'm tired of running 2 miles at 9:15 pace. My legs are tight, because I don't have the chance to stretch them in the stride of a half decent pace. The thought of trying to run a 200 mile week is taking hold in my head. Lindgren did it, and was amazing after. Others have popped that kind of mileage successfully. I'm not proposing a long term 200-mile-weeks-until-I-break endeavor. No, I'm simply suggesting a one time, seven day runfest.

Why? Because I want to know what is possible. I've run 140 miles in one week, and the 21 mile long run to finish that week was my third best long run ever, and the 23 mile run I started that week with was one of my best two long runs ever. It can be done. I did fall apart after that week running only 64 miles, but including a day off and a taper for my half marathon PR. Also, honestly, I feel that a marathoner needs times running significant mileage, such as the mid to low triple digits per week while running some of the hardest workouts. I feel a supercompensation week would teach me how to recover even better and prepare my body for weeks of 130 to 150 miles in August or September. Finally, after first running 100 miles in a week, all of the sudden other long distance objectives appear: Running 200 miles in one week, running 100 miles in one day, six day races, Badwater, not to mention the incredible pace of recovery and general running fitness felt during those high mileage weeks.

So, how does one construct a 200 mile week? First of all, my week starts on Sunday and ends on Saturday. The weekends are my best chance to get in a lot of miles and recovery from the immediate damage. I have had three 30-32.5 mile days of serious training, averaging under 7 minute pace per mile for all the miles. I figure to just bump that up a little, say 35 and do it twice in one week, easy. That leaves 130 miles in five days during the week. Just 26 miles per day. I have done over 20 miles on weekdays a number of times, so 26 shouldn't be too hard. My aim will be just to double on the weekdays although I may triple on the weekends. I regularly run 8-9 miles in the morning, so I will probably aim for 10-11 miles in the morning, which I have done a couple times. That leaves 15-16 miles every afternoon. I have done that a number of times too, so again alone it doesn't sound too hard. The difficulty is running 35 miles on Sunday, waking up on Monday to do 10 miles, doing 16 miles that afternoon, then waking up again the next day for another 10 miles. I will definitely drink coffee that week. I'm thinking maybe the week of June 9th to 15th, we will see. I would like to get in one hundred mile week before then.

In short how might a 200 mile week look by mileage and time of day:
Sunday: 5 AM, 22 AM, 8 PM
Monday: 11 AM, 16 PM
Tuesday: 10 AM, 16 PM
Wednesday: 8 AM, 15 PM
Thursday: 11 AM, 16 PM
Friday: 10 AM, 16 PM
Saturday: 8 AM, 20 AM, 8 PM

Thursday, May 16, 2013

It's Bicycle to Work Week!

I bicycled into work today! Six miles and 25 minutes of fun, which was too fast because I was sweating a fair amount when I finished. The point is, save yourself some gas this year and ride your bicycle to work a couple times. Personally, I save about $2.50 every time I bicycle in. Plus, I feel environmentally friendly too because I make less emissions.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

95th Percentile Unusual

I have been labeled as a hipster lately. Personally I've been calling myself alternatively a yuppie or a dirtbag depending on the circumstances the last seven years. I realized that people like to be part of a group, and basically normal, but with a few unusual skills or stories.

We were sitting around in a group and people were telling stories about an extreme event they had gone through. I wanted to bring up one of my Asian experiences but I didn't because it was so far beyond the unusual experiences everyone was discussing that it was a conversation killer. You know what I am talking about, the story that no one has a response to or a more dramatic story to follow up. I realized that the stories being told were 95th percentile unusual versus the story I had which might have been 99th percentile unusual.

It is strange to see people interact with extreme circumstances. On the one hand they are more rewarding the more difficult and exclusive they are. However, one step towards the extreme is a step away from the normal, the accepted, and conversation about the weather. In other words, do that crazy thing you want to do! Just know that after you do it your relationships will change because others do not understand your experience. I guarantee that if you move from the 95th percentile unusual to the 99th percentile unusual the reward of the experience will be worth it. You will know yourself far better and understand things that others do not understand.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


...on coffee, on running, on a paycheck, on whatever the vice or insecurity is. It is almost two weeks (to the hour) since I last had coffee. I struggled this morning. I slept over eight hours last night, yet I was exhausted this morning. The kick of my oolong tea is not the same as a cup of coffee. It's funny, I don't even just miss the caffeine, I miss the taste. While I enjoy lattes and other mixed drinks, really good coffee is best with little to nothing added. Really good coffee is hard to find though. Here I am missing the kick, the taste, and the ritual of using my French press when I wake up. I think I will probably drink coffee my whole life, except of course on hiatuses like now.

I realized while I was unemployed in 2010 how far more dependent on my family and friends I was than I knew before unemployment. We are all more dependent than we care to admit.

Monday, May 13, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 107

Another busy week in the books! At work the days were long and the learning significant. Spending time in the factory on the assembly line is an experience that is very rewarding. It contrasts so much to the cushy desk I normally drive. Parts do not go together perfectly like they do in our computer models. That is not new, I've been dealing with that since the ice axe in 2008, but it continues to be a reminder and learning experience of the importance of tolerances in design.

Coaching is nearly over for the school year. A handful are competing again this weekend, but many are done. We had our conference championship track meet. For the athletes I work with we set two school records and a number of personal records. I would like to say that everyone ran their best race of the year, as we planned for them to do at outdoor conference, but it was not to be. For a variety of reasons, like fatigue and race pacing, not everyone had the best race of the year. I suppose that is to be expected, but I struggle because it is easy to focus on the failures more than the successes. Overall our team had an amazing year! We set personal records at every distance. Plus, we did a lot of basic aerobic quality work, next year will be even better.

I only ran 16 miles for the week at a 9:04 pace average. Keeping my heart rate under 136 is a bit of a challenge, especially running uphill. This is good for me, I need the rest and recovery. I think I gained a pound or two, I'm feeling fat and out of shape despite the fact I am neither.

It was a good week, development is happening nicely even if it doesn't happen two steps forward at a time.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Stages of Recovery from a Competitive Running Season

I am in the heart of semi-annual recovery right now. I am experiencing thoughts and physical feelings that are worth quantifying. End of season recovery is not talked about enough. The standard advice is take 1-3 weeks off twice a year or 2-5 weeks once a year with no, or very little running, and low activity in general. So when I decided to run every day, there was scant information available, the best I could find was about Ron Hill. I would buy his biography, but at $140 for just half of it, even though I collect a few antique books, that is a little too much. As I trotted around my 16.3 miles for the week at a 9:04 minutes per mile average I spent some time thinking about season recovery and the stages that one goes through. Here are the stages of recovery from a competitive running season:

  1. First, there is the physical damage from the race. This is divided into A: Total Body Damage and B: Deep Effort Damage. A: This is the few days after shorter races and perhaps a week or two after marathons and longer where all sorts of things are out of wack. The legs feel heavy and sore, maybe the back hurts, the runner is physically tired, and the energy to do other races and workouts is low. In this early early stage the person is tired when not running. B: This is when you feel recovered. Even jogging feels easy, maybe a few strides feel good too. However, any attempt to do a harder workout will end poorly. Muscle damage has occurred to the fibers only used during hard efforts which are not felt walking around or sitting. This kind of recovery could be only a week for a 5k or shorter and up to a month or two months or more for marathon or longer races. This is also the time to try and recovery from any nagging injuries that might have happened during the season, such as shin splints.
  2. Second is the perspective of the season that takes some time to set in. After a long season of training and racing there will certainly be highs and lows. Regardless of how the season ends, most runners, in the vast majority of seasons, can take away both positive memories and unfortunate lessons learned to apply to the next season. In the context of any one weekend this is nearly impossible to appreciate. The joy or disappointment of having just finished a race well or poorly masks the larger picture of what you are trying to accomplish. In development, not all steps are big steps forward, but they are all steps.
  3. Next is the loss of fitness. The resting heart rate goes up, a couple pounds are likely gained, and activities not normally enjoyed during serious training occur. Spontaneous activities, which normal people might do every weekend like stay up late, are enjoyed. Regardless of what one does in the off season, fitness will be lost. If a person could maintain world record fitness 52 weeks a year, he or she would so that more competitions could be run and more money made. Obviously, that is not the case. Even David Rudisha, the 800 meter world record holder who has broken the record three times, has only ever broken the record in the month of August. Even in the 100, three of the last five world records were run in August.
  4. Fourth is the replenishment of nutrients. I don't know how much zinc, calcium, iron, potassium, and everything else I need every day as a function of mileage, pace, temperature, and absorption rates, but I guarantee I get it wrong a lot of days. Even though I take a multivitamin a few times a week, it is not advisable to just take a slew of pills and hope that everything is what one needs. One could overdose on iron or eat 5000 calories a day every day, neither of which is advisable. Thus, taking a break from hard training allows the body to store up the nutrients, at least iron, so that it can be withdrawn during the next season as needed. This is also the necessary time to rest the endocrine system, which is responsible for adrenaline and other hormones. Not requiring a volume of hormones during the rest period allows the body to recover and have more hormone output during hard training, when every drop of adrenaline is desired. For runners who have suffered nutrient issues in the past, like anemia, this recovery stage is especially important.
  5. Finally the hunger to do better returns. In high school and college there is always another conference, state or national championship. After college there are marathons to run or times to qualify for races, or personal records to set. After sufficient reflection, most come to the realization that there is another goal out there worth training for. Once the motivation is in place, training can ramp up. This is a critical phase. I tell my college athletes that they need to rest until they are motivated to train again. If that takes six weeks without running a step, so be it. Hopefully they don't take all summer off, and lose all of their fitness gains, but that is another subject. Some people do not have the motivation to train months before the goal race despite natural talent that would allow them significant success. For these people, this article means nothing because so much time is spent not training. For those wanting to do better next season, and willing to train in the summer or over Christmas break, this article is for you. The point being, without motivation built up in the off season the hard workouts in the middle of the season will not be run well. As I always say: Stay Motivated, Stay Healthy, Train Hard.
Right now I'm in stage three and four. I had inklings of stage five Thursday which encouraged me to create this little stages process. It takes time, and it is important not to rush recovery. If that means I don't have a 20 mile week in May, so be it.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Ascension, Millennials, and History

Last night was Ascension, the celebration of Jesus ascending into Heaven 40 days after Easter. This being a relatively significant event to Christians because, let's face it, people don't ascend into the sky very often. Attendance at church was sparse. Especially among Millennials, Generation Y, myself being the only one past high school in attendance.

So I thought about it, why do so few young people regularly attend church? The problem is that question is too big and broad to really answer well. I can come up with reasons, the church seems fully of hipocracy, the church seems outdated, there was the sex abuse scandals and the issue of gays. Regardless, there are bigger more statistically significant questions to ask. Have young people always shied away from church? I don't know the answer, but it seems likely. Obviously, the number of Christians has risen and fallen throughout history, perhaps this is just a low point?

When people look at organizations, the ones that have been around longer have usually endured the lowest lows. For an organization of two billion people that has been around 2000 years, there really is not many other things to compare to it.

It is not that low church attendance on a Thursday night is the end of the world, but so many of the things that Christianity advocates are hard to see as anything but beneficial statistically. Low church attendance seems to be a sign that the values of the church are no longer relevant to large numbers of people. Is it better to have one parent or two? Most people would probably agree that two is better. Yet, single parent households are on the rise, and few would argue more single parent households has helped this country develop economically. And that is just one tiny example.

As often happens I'm not proposing any solution or recommendation. We first have to ask the questions before we can go about finding the answers.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Birthdays Remind Me of What I Have Not Done

I turn 27 today. Woopee.

First, let me say that I am right where I am supposed to be, my life is awesome, the best life in the world, and God continues to bless me more everyday than I deserve. Now, let me get into all of my other thoughts.

My birthdays seem to be reminders of all of the goals I have not accomplished, reminders of the progression of others, and evidence of my sloth. Mark Zuckerberg was a billionaire at age 27. The Steves were Apple millionaires at 27. Most famous physicists had one of their breakthroughs by age 27. Rock stars seem to overdose on cocaine at age 27, okay, I don't have to live up to every legend.

I look at myself and think, 'how unremarkable.' I have not run a 2:17 marathon, I have not climbed Mt. Everest without oxygen, I am not a senior engineer or founder of a successful company, I am still single, and I have not paid off my student loans. Okay, I know that some of those are pretty serious goals, and no one wants to listen to my diatribe. However, I feel that we are not helping ourselves by lowering the bar. Lower standards, like qualifying for the Boston Marathon, are just not that difficult for thousands of people in the world. We must raise the bar! We must have higher, dare I say the highest, standards!

Look, the majority of people reading this live in the United States. We have been given life on a silver platter, compared to most other countries in the world. The poorest in this country eat better and have better access to healthcare than the middle class across much of Africa and Asia. I feel it is our duty to be all we can be. We do not have all of this wealth so that we can sip lemonade while watching the grass grow. We have this wealth so that we can push what is possible. We have this wealth so that we can innovate and our achievements might reap benefits for those less fortunate than us. For example, climbing Mt. Everest contributes to significant employment and income in a somewhat undeveloped part of the world. A less expensive and more fuel efficient car makes it possible for a family to travel safely in bad weather when they might currently only have a motorcycle.

Listen, assuming I live to be 91, I'm 1/3 of the way through my life. I've still got a lot to do. I want to change the world. I can't do it alone. You can't do it alone either, but together we have a chance. Let's stop wasting time and get busy shipping development. Let me know if I can help you.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Killed The Car Driving Through a Puddle

The scare I had on Friday when I killed my van was because it rained all day and leaving the parking lot at work I drove through a puddle. Maybe three inches deep. Apparently it is common to electrically short a vehicle driving through a puddle, if the vehicle electrical system is not watertight, another common issue on older vehicles.

The lesson, watch out for puddles, and don't roar through them at 25 miles per hour in a rainstorm like I did on Friday.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ship, Ship, SHIP!!

Our goal is to get product out the door. Time is not only sensitive, it is critical.

I see an attitude of fear of shipping all too often in my life. I see it in engineering and manufacturing, running races, writing blog posts, and especially following dreams. As an investor, revenue matters. Having a larger cash flow is typically a beneficial thing for a business. Revenue is the result of shipping products and services.

Not all of my blog posts are good, some are downright boring and others are a waste of your time. A point of the blog today is that I ship every weekday. Get the imperfect product and service out there, so that you can test, evaluate and modify in the future. At some point on an oil painting the artist needs to stop tweaking. While there are certainly things that could change, perfection is unobtainable. Name one physical thing or human idea in history that is perfect? I can't think of any, yet many of the best things are the result of lessons learned shipping much lesser things.

Whatever your lot in life, ship today, it's well worth it.

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Factory is Like an Adult Playground

I am on lunch break from working in the factory today, and I'm having so much fun! It's engineering in it's most direct and hands-on fashion. We are solving problems and getting things done ...slowly. It reminds me of my trail building days due to the building aspect and the rock climbing days as far as the organization and direction aspect.

I am learning quite a bit. A few things:

  • A variety of wrench extensions will likely be useful for hard to reach places.
  • Rubber and urethane compress significantly under load.
  • Decisions involve opportunity costs and sacrifices, tough.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 106

A busy busy week! Sunday started off with a half marathon, which has already consumed too many words. The rest of the week drowned in a sea of early mornings and tired evenings.

After running the half I drove back to Dubuque, rather sleepy, and crashed on my couch the rest of the day. Although it was such a nice day that I did pump up the bicycle tires and get out for a few miles on the bicycle for the first time in 2013. I would like to do some fun stuff on the bike this summer, nothing serious, but maybe try to bicycle across Iowa in one day. It's only 350 miles and I did 200 alone in less than 12 hours.

Monday started with me at work before 6 AM. We had some time sensitive work to do and it had to happen before first shift Monday. Thus I was at work more than an hour before first shift. Wednesday led to waking up at 4 AM so that I could catch a ride to Davenport to be there before 6 AM. Plus, as part of my rest from running I decided to take a hiatus from coffee. However the adrenaline of the week woke me up well before 6 every day.

Another interesting thing happened this week. I was presenting results and I was criticized. Mostly legitimately but but of our conclusions were the same. It was strange we were almost arguing about the results, yet we were clearly on the same page about the solution. Usually discussions like that end with both parties agreeing on the next step, but neither of us had that authority. It was a meeting I got out of and thought, 'it was good to communicate, and for me to have more feedback, but no forward solution was decided.'

Concerning the time I spent in the factory this week I observed people. Engineers in the office do not always act the same in the factory. It seems that there are three distinct aspects to engineering which often manifest different personality traits. Those aspects are the office, the factory, and the customers. For example, decisive people in the office might not be decisive at all in the factory. Same for in front of customers. I strive hard to be the same person all the time. I want to present a consistent image of myself. I will probably write more on this because I think it is significant.

Running my mileage, including the half marathon was around 30. I had quite a few 1-2 mile days as I continued the quest to run every day.

My van finally broke down Friday. I was leaving work and halfway through an intersection it quit. I had it towed to a garage and the news is not good. I didn't pick up the phone when they called Saturday, but they didn't even leave a message about the problem. That can't be good. I am afraid a bearing might be out. Hopefully just a fuel pump or filter or something.

I didn't answer my phone Saturday because I was trying to go sky diving. Not this tandem baloney, just me and my parachute. My sister and I took the class but it was too windy for student jumps, so we hung around the airfield watching the experienced people jump. A bit of a let down, but I feel much more safe about the sport now.

A log week to be sure. This one may be longer.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Rest and Recovery Plan for the Next Marathon Training Cycle

First, a quick summary of my season ending race, the Drake Relays Hy-Vee Half Marathon: terrible.

Now that that's out of the way let's talk recovery. Okay, I will tell a little more, I did not rest up enough to race a good half eight days after a hard 10k, especially considering I did 14 miles moderately hard the day after the 10k and I had a 3k uphill tempo in the middle of the week. Second, I went out too hard. I have always been one who does not settle for 1% improvement when 3% improvement seems possible.

But seriously, rest and recovery and the next running and racing cycle. Here is the rest and recovery transition plan:

  • I will run every day and perhaps bike ride, but my heart rate must stay below 136 (arbitrary zone 3 on my heart rate monitor) during all endurance exercising or I will immediately slow down.
  • I will run less than 25 miles per week for three weeks before lifting a weekly maximum. 
  • My next race is the Grandview Gallop June 8th, and at the moment I am thinking of myself more as a pace setter than an actual competitor for my friend who wants to break 19 minutes for four miles. 
That is the plan, it took me about three days to solidify that plan. I was thinking about taking a complete break from running for 10-12 days, as I have done multiple times in the past. However, I have a running streak going, and I want to break my old running streak set back in 2011. Secondly, I know from experience that a break from running just means after a day or two of taking it easy I will be on my bicycle trying to set fastest known times on Strava up hills around town, hardly rest and recovery. By mandating to myself that my heart rate stays low, I am actually resting. In other words, running with my heart rate below 136 means rest while not running simply means find another sport.

This is of course an experiment. I take inspiration from Ron Hill who started running every day in 1964 and in 1970 ran a 2:09 marathon, after winning Boston in a record 2:10, the second best marathon in the world at the time. Plus, I think with my analytical qualities basing my rest on limiting my running mileage and endurance exercise heart rate I am creating recovery that I no longer think is recovery, as my pervious breaks were, I know it is recovery. 

Additionally, I am a huge fan of recovery eating. Now, 99% of the time I say that I mean eating directly after a run, but in this instance I mean eating the foods that I don't normally eat when I am thinking about proper endurance fuel, such as burritos, wine, chicken wings, and whatever else strikes me as being an unusual food for me. I feel all food has something to offer, at all times of the year, but in the course of a yearly training plan, I don't know that I get enough of every vitamin and mineral that might be contained in a guacamole bacon cheeseburger. The problem is that it is surrounded by so many other calories that it is not even a weekly occurrence for me. I do not think I have ever struggled with a nutrition deficiency, and I do take a multivitamin and liquid iron, but eating a variety of food not in my normal diet during a yearly rest period hopefully stores up minerals that I can use during the hard hard training to come in August and September. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Truth About Bad Races

Sunday I ran a slow half marathon. I'll get to describing it, another day, but it was my worst race in a year and a half. I've had some bad races, but this one I tried to taper and rest up for, and it did not work.

A week and a half ago, I ran a 32:27 10,000 on the track. Easily my second fastest 10k by a mere 15 seconds. Considering I ran close to four miles leading and it was a little cool out it was a really good race for me. However the depths of my feelings about that race and especially about the half marathon are not so simple.

1. On the surface I am happy to be healthy and give a good effort. 32:27 is not terrible. That is better than most humans will ever run. Same for my half marathon, 5:51 pace for over 13 miles is still netted me 33rd out of 1585 people.
2. I am disappointed I did not PR. Training has been going well and I thought I would PR despite having to lead, the slight wind, and the cool temperatures. I am in great shape but it was not to be, similar to last week. In fact 7s/5k off my personal record was the same. For the half marathon I'm disappointed I didn't even come close to a PR.
3. Considering how the race was run and my continuing tapering am in great shape! I am on the platteau that happens just before a significant PR. It is just everything (taper, fitness, weather, pacing, race morning routine, sleep the week of, etc.) falling into place. I wrote that last bit before my half marathon. It hurts a little to read those words after such a bad race. However, my racing season is done, and I am taking a rest. Despite not setting a PR from my great shape.
4. I hate myself for not running faster.

Expressed in a picture that emulates a pond with the deep dark depths of emotion:
The Truth About Bad Races
Maybe it's not healthy, but I think on some mental level to reach the highest performance levels of about anything, a person has to be deeply unhappy with the way things are. Using the example of a race, if I run a slow race, and I was not unhappy, what would prevent me from running a slow race every time I race? I realize that hate is a strong word, it is likely the wrong word, perhaps deeply dissatisfied is a better phrase. However, I kept hate in because while it is a tiny tiny part of competitive running, a feeling after maybe 5-15% of the worst races it is a factor, still in those cases, it is a factor. Additionally, on a deeper level, in almost all races there is a dissatisfaction about not doing better. Only two races leave people with the feeling that they could have done or needed to do no better: Olympic gold medals and world records. That said, even after world records the new holders often say they think it is possible to go faster or higher or farther.

The feel good epilogue is age. Eventually everyone slows down. I see older runners all the time who are certainly not setting personal records any more. The thought of getting slower every year is not encouraging. I avoid thinking about it most of the time. However, Meb and Michael Wardian and Carlos Lopes are three examples of guys who clearly ran most of their best races in their late 30s. Regardless, I'm looking at about 12 years or less. At my rate of development the last few years, that's cutting it close. I will have more bad races, you could say that to succeed more I need to fail more frequently to show that I am putting myself out there.

Fail, learn, repeat. Do that enough and find success.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Getting Picked versus Picking

Seth Godin had a couple good posts the last couple days.( Now, he talks in artsy marketing fluff speak all the time so my translation might not be his original intention, but it makes sense to me. The idea is, be the one who picks your career path. Not the one who tries to get picked. I can relate to both sides of this idea. I did what I could to get accepted to a good school, WPI, and I worked hard there to get into a good company with a well paying job, I have that now, and now I work hard to hopefully get a promotion and more money, I feel it’s likely. The point is in all of those instances I was or am the one getting picked. I don’t control getting picked. On the other hand my blog, my running, mountain climbing, those are things that I picked to do.

Now, the obvious distinction is that the market picks what people do and what people get paid for. People pick their hobbies and vacations and weekend pursuits. But honestly I think the line is blurring. I had 133 visits and 183 pageviews on Monday April 29th. Picking to do my own thing for the last four years now means that on occasion more than 100 people pick me for more than a minute on one day. I think that’s what Seth was trying to get at, if you pick your path, there is a good chance that eventually people will pick you for picking your own path. But by the time you get picked you probably won’t care too much about it anymore.

It is especially interesting because many of the things the market picks for employment are things that will one day be automated. Picking cotton, horse shoes, drafting, welding, and eventually driving. The alternative, things we pick, are often less easy to automate. A machine can't run for me.

How does this practically apply to anyone? After all, no one is going to quit a good job to run 32 minute 10ks. Well, I am not doing any finite element analysis today. I am spending the whole day in the factory watching machines get built. It is not part of my job requirements or what I am directly paid for, but it will be a valuable experience so I picked it today.