Monday, September 30, 2013

Practical Vegan Athlete Meals: Edition 1: Salsa and Chips

People don't understand what I eat as a vegan. Everyone thinks I eat salads. I eat maybe one or two salads a week, otherwise it's pasta, sandwiches, cereal, rice and beans, burriots, and chips and salsa. This is the first in a miniseries about practical vegan meals that most people can make, that contain all sorts of nutrients, including protein. As a side note, quit telling me to make sure I get enough protein. I ran 20 miles at 5:52 per mile pace Saturday mostly alone without any water bottle support after 50 full vegan days. I think I'm getting the nutrients I need.

That brings us to the first meal, chips and salsa, a hot weather two-hours-of-exercise staple. After an hour and a half or two hours of running in hot weather sweating profusely, we need salt. While too much salt is not a good thing, for the small percentage of athletes who sweat like I do in the summer, salt is good. That being said to justify the chips, you could put this salsa in a tortilla or a even on bread. Also for the record, this is about the most vegetable heavy meal I make for myself.

Raw Ingredients: Scallions, Avocado, Onion, Tofu, Sunflower Seeds, and Black Bean and Corn Salsa (from a Jar)
First, slice up the scallions (little onion like things) into small bite size pieces.
Slice the Scallions
Next, dice up the onion. I cut a slice out of a onion, in this case I had about a quarter onion left, more than I usually use, but okay. Next I dice it into small pieces that will easily fit on a chip.
Dice the Onion
Next, dice the avocado. I dice it in the same way as the onion. The pieces end up being like 2 mm x 3 mm x 12 mm. You can cut them smaller if you would like. I use a half avocado for one person. I find myself craving avocado frequently during high mileage, probably because of the relatively high fat content.
Dice the Avocado
Next add the sunflower seeds and tofu. Use as many nuts as you prefer, about 1-2 table spoons per person works well. I prefer crumbling, smushing, the tofu into little pieces, like feta cheese so that it spread around. I use a thick slice of extra firm tofu (extra firm is key, the soft stuff is gooey), maybe 2-3 ounces.
Add the Sunflower Seeds and Tofu
Penultimately, add the salsa. I use Hy-Vee Black Bean and Corn Salsa, because it is slightly spicy, has a little protein and not much sugar. I use about 1/4 cup, about 3-4 ounces, per person.
Add the Salsa
Finally, I add some hot sauce, just a few shakes, maybe 1-2 tea spoons. Franks Red Hot just happens to be the only hot sauce I have at the moment.
Add Hot Sauce, If You Dare
Then I mix the concoction with the knife I used to cut everything with so the only dishes are the knife, the plate I cut everything on and the bowl I eat out of. 
The Result... Delicious!
Finally, here is a video of the whole process. Maybe 10-15 minutes of total preparation.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 125

This was a rather fulfilling week. Busy, not a whole lot of time to sit around, but that's probably a good thing.

Work was a little busier than usual. Not exactly for my forestry machines, but one of the other product groups is a little behind schedule so overtime was approved for people to work on their projects. I took the opportunity to make more money, which means staying a little later at work and coming in on the weekend. Working 50-60 hours a week is a lot harder now than it was in college for several reasons, not having a laptop I have to commute 15 minutes to and from work and thus can't really put in less than two hours of work at a time, on the weekends there is hardly anyone in the office, which makes it a little harder to stay there for a long time, finally, without the everyday atmosphere of homework it is far harder to do "homework". Without a laptop I couldn't do much "homework" anyway, but the point is, in college I  often broke up my work day into a number of smaller blocks. Four hours in the morning, lunch, three hours in the afternoon, running and supper, two to four hours in the evening. That was often broken up with classes as well. Part of what made that possible was living so close to my "work". A 15 minute drive is very short by average commute standards, I know, but a 10 minute walk is a world of difference closer.

I bring all this up because I think about productivity and how a small group of people can accomplish something easier (and cheaper) than a larger group. The academic/university/start-up model seems to be the best choice.

Running went well, the highlight was running a 26:30 8k, which is an open 8k PR. My GPS even measured the course as a little long, although part of that is due to me running the outsides of curves in order to pass people. My goal was to go out and run 3:15 kilometers, and according to my GPS I did. However, that meant that I spent 90% of the race passing people who had started faster than myself. The last 3/4 mile the lactic acid built up and the last 400 meters I was wallowing in the heavy feeling of anaerobic torture. Considering I have not really done any anaerobic work, and why would you for a marathon, that is exactly how I had hoped the race would play out.

I ran a total of 92 miles, about 85 of them slower than 6:30 pace trying to recover from my 20 miler last week. I am in the fortunate position of being healthy and having 14 days until the Chicago Marathon and no workouts planned for this coming week. I left it open because the hardest part of the quality needs to be done by now and in case I had to push anything back a week or two. So I think I will try to get in one more medium long specific pace workout early this week while I still have time to recover from it. This whole cycle has been a blessing from God! I don't know what will happen in Chicago, maybe I'll blow the opportunity and not PR, but I guarantee when I cross the finish line, there will not be anything more I could have done to do my best.

Coaching was a mixed bag. This past week was one of our fastest courses, and only a few people set personal records. The hope is that from one year to the next every runner improves. When a runner improves by three seconds over a 29 minute race during an entire year, something is not right.

That is my life. I spent over nine hours three times this week. This is the time when I have to really take care to rest up for the marathon.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Number 83

Last night the Bank of American Chicago Marathon sent me my packet of information and registration confirmation for the October 13th race. The high light is that I am bib #83. If you want to track me on race day knowing my name or having my bib number will be required.

Chicago allows 45,000 people to register and run the race. Given that I qualified for the American Development program with my 2:30:20 from two years ago in Sacramento, I have the opportunity to start just behind the professional runners, among the top 400 runners in the race. It is an honor to be one of the people given a double digit race bib number. It is recognition for what I have done in running, which is recognition for the amount of work I have put in.

It is also an expectation. My guess is that #83 has to do with my qualifying time. The expectation is a top 100 finish. (Personally, I am hoping for top 50.) This gift, the amenities that I shall enjoy on race day because of a past performance, I do not take for granted. Enjoy every day, you don't know how long you have. I am in great marathon shape, I'm not sure how the race will go, but when I cross the finish line I expect to know, 100%, that on October 13th, 2013 I could not have tried any harder or run any better than I did.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Raw! Paleo!! Vegan!!!

If anyone is in the mood to spend a lot more time preparing food and more time eating, the raw paleo vegan diet is for you. For those that don't have as much time, eating more vegetables, including some raw ones, is probably nearly as good.

The only reason I point out that raw paleo vegan is a possible diet is to expand your thinking. We, in the United States, often have an unhealthy relationship with food. We think of it emotionally, not logically. As a master of science, while I still have emotions about the food I eat (chocolate! coffee! cheese!) the logical part of my brain continually asks the question, 'what is possible?' In this particular context the question is, 'what food, or diet structure, makes it most possible for me to achieve my athletic goals?' Truth be told about all I really know is eating four or more servings of vegetables a day is a great way to strengthen your immune system and digestive system, runners need carbohydrates for races two hours and under, and getting a fair amount of protein (1g/kg per day) helps your body recover.

I'm not recommending anyone become a raw paleo vegan, but it can be done, and chances are cutting out the refined sugar and fat from a standard western omnivore diet will probably make you a little more lean.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What Prohibits You From Trying to be Vegan?

Most people I talk to say they could never try being vegan. Yet after learning what I eat, or seeing what I eat, most say they could eat that. Already two people who I would not expected have mentioned trying a vegan diet. I was blown away in both cases. I'm not doing this to promote a healthy lifestyle, low inflammation, less bloating, or animal cruelty, I'm doing this to run faster.

Given the relative success I have had as a vegan I think I might continue this experiement after Chicago. I'm considering making it 100 days. That will free me up for turkey on Thanksgiving and other meals for Christmas yet allow me to see how I recover from a marathon.

That being said, when this does end I think I will continue indefinitely on a plant based diet. Not a catchy name, and very inclusive of all food, but really putting the focus on vegetables and whole grains. I think most of the health benefits of a vegan diet are from the higher consumption of vegetables and fruits rather than the elimination of meat and dairy.

As a side note, cravings do fade away. I have not salivated over steak in some time. It is even easier to walk past the cheese aisle now.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Two things:

  1. If you don't drink coffee, don't start, it can be expensive.
  2. Coffee is so good, and most people feel so good after they drink it, it shouldn't be as accessible as it is. You should have some, because it is just so good.
I talk about luxuries, well coffee is certainly a luxury I enjoy. Thank you coffee growers, roasters and baristas!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Experience of My Third Marathon Cycle

Saturday I had the best long run of my life. I ran 20.04 miles in 1:57:29 which comes to a 5:52 pace average. That is great! However, there is a certain relaxation, or subdued pleasure in the training this time around versus the last two marathon cycles I had.

The first marathon cycle went well. I was pretty inexperienced so I tailored my training around the goal of making sure that I could finish it. I had a 30 mile run. I also did not really understand the concept of pace variation workouts or of marathon specific pace. I ran a 16 mile simulator, like the Hansons do, and a few other longer 10-14 mile tempos, but otherwise I ran a bunch of 4-6 mile tempos. In other words, I was running longer tempos at 5:58 pace and shorter tempos at 5:29 pace. While that is great, and did help me get in shape, what does a five mile tempo at that pace have to do with the marathon? Along those lines nearly all of my long runs were slower than 7 minute pace. I did not have the 20+ mile run experience then I do now, still what does 7 minute pace have to do with racing at 5:4X pace? Very little that is what.

My second marathon cycle went much better. October 2011 might be my best month of training. That being said my race was December 4th, and I only had maybe two good workouts in all of November. I was past my peak. In that particular cycle I was training frequently with M, a 2:26 marathoner and 14:29 5k guy, so my long runs really stepped up a notch. I had a much better grasp of pace variation and marathon specific pace workouts. We were doing workouts twice during the week and a hard long run on the weekend, in addition to our recovery days being at 6:30s and 6:40s paces. It was really good training, it was just too much and in November my body rebelled.

Now in my third and current marathon cycle, I'm nailing it. Okay, I'm probably not doing the exact specific paces in workouts that I would like, but let me give a specific example. Instead of doing a 16 mile tempo at 5:48 pace, a 19.5 mile run at 7:36 pace and a 10k tempo at 5:43 pace like my first cycle, I'm doing a 20 mile run at 5:52 pace with pace variation (4x1 mile in 5:35, 1 mile in 5:50). In other words, I'm rolling several workouts into one that is more specific, longer, and involves changing pace (which is difficult when one is tired). I am aided that I have not trained for a marathon in 22 months due to going back to the track and setting personal records at 800 m, 1 mile, 5000 m, and 10,000 m so I have more experience running faster races. Additionally, I have quite a few (20-30) 20+ mile runs from 2012 and 2013 at under 7 minutes per mile pace to give me the experience of longer runs.

The downside of this great training is that it seems to be just what I expected. In other words, when I ran 1:59 for 20 miles in October 2011 I was on cloud nine. I did not know if I could go under 2:00 for 20 miles. When I ran 1:57 for 20 miles yesterday, with pace variation, it was less exciting because I was pretty sure that I would do it. It is less exciting despite the fact that I closed the last five miles of my run yesterday in 28:19 compared to 29:04 two years ago. That's a big difference.

I'm not being blunt enough, this cycle isn't as fun or exciting as it used to be, at least not in the same way it used to be fun and exciting. It's different, more professional, more serious. Part of that is getting older. The first time I broke five minutes for one mile I was elated, now I do that on crushed limestone in the middle of a relaxed 14 miler and it is no big deal. Part of that is experience, I can no longer go set overall personal records in practice like I used to. I'm not going to run a 1:52 20 miler alone on a dirt trail. So the expectation is greater because I know what I have done before and getting closer to a race like performance in practice is the goal.

The positive side is I am not taking any of this for granted. In the last month I have won a half marathon by nearly 10 minutes and proceeded to run a 10k tempo in the afternoon for my best special block, run my best workout and my best long run. The goal of course is to be a little better every cycle than the one before, but when continued improvement still happens at age 27, you appreciate it more than at age 19. I am so richly blessed! I don't have any plans to stop this athletic experiment, but as I get older I realize that eventually, my best long run and workout will be that for the rest of my life.

We have 21 days until the Chicago Marathon. My biggest workouts are done, and all have gone wonderfully! Now it is time to stay healthy, rest up and continue to thank God for this wonderful training experience. I am so blessed.

I Live in Iowa: Week 124

I just spent 45 minutes writing my last blog post, so I'm tired of writing again. Sorry if this is short with bad transitions.

Work went well. Honestly a bit of a light week, largely because we did so well initially with the current project we do not have to go back and redo much of it. The iterative process keeps our quality high, but we were so successful virtually that the physical part of it just is not taking as much work as past projects. Of course that is the goal, but when it turns into reality it is still a little unexpected.

Running went well. That 1:57 20 miler was of course the highlight, but I also ran a strong 3x1000 m hill workout and 81 miles total. I'm in shape to run long distances at moderately fast paces. I'm getting excited for Chicago because of the people that will be there standing a few feet in front of me. The half marathon world record holder, the second fastest marathoner in the world, the former American 5k record holder, the American 2 mile record holder, any of the four of these in addition to the others in the race will be the fastest people I have ever directly raced.

Coaching went well. Running and lifting was the name of the game. No races this past week, just a lot of solid training to get stronger and hopefully faster.

That was about it. I had over nine hours of sleep on three different nights this week, a success in my book. All of the hard work, both mental and physical, means nothing if there is no rest and time to absorb it.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Another Work Week Done

It was a longer week this week and I am tired. One of me usual Friday night joys is running. I usually run really well on Friday nights. I learned that in high school. The week was done and all there was left to do was run. 

Now I lie on my couch, not going out tonight because of the workout tomorrow. No real productive plans, like writing or designing, for the night. Just the calm tick of the clock and slow whirl of the ceiling fan to remind me, another week in the books. It is not that every week is a challenge, but there is some satisfaction every time I make it to Friday in the good condition I am in. My life is very blessed. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Learning to Recover

As I get older I have learned training for a marathon, is about one big day. Thus workouts tend to be one big workout per week. The other runs and workouts all act in a supporting capacity to that large workout. Taking three or four recovery days after a workout seems like I am missing out on doing another workout, yet I know that it's not the number of workouts, it's the quality of those few workouts that makes the difference.

This, like much of running, is a metaphor for other things in life. Those moment of engineering brilliance I have are preceded and followed by drudgery that is quite unremarkeble. The same could be said for relationships, they flare up an excite every neuron in our brain only to be followed by feeling of monotony and boredom. Yet in all these scenarios the ability to "recover" or be patient during the less exciting times allows us more enjoyment, thrill, and awareness of opportunity when the next workout, trauma or drama occurs. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cuban Drones to Monitor Florida

Surprising headline isn't it? While it may sound ridiculous, most large unmanned aerial vehicles are based loosely on the U2 spy plane designed over 60 years ago, and carry cameras not much better than the best off the shelf cameras. In other words, compared to a nuclear device, or large quantities of chemical weapons, it would really only take a dozen half decent engineers to build and fly a large unmanned aerial vehicle.

Obviously the title of this is false. There are no foreign drones monitoring the United States. A NPR Intellegence Squared US debate on drones that I only mildly listened to got me thinking. One part in particular was to the effect of, "what happens when North Korea sends drones over South Korea?" Or what happens when anyone sends drones over the US? The short answer is, we will shoot it down. The longer answer is those people in Asia who have been or have family that has been on the wrong end of a missile fired from nowhere would probably gladly leave their home and go to a safer place, if they could afford to. They didn't choose to be born into poverty. They didn't choose to be born in a country that is politically and militarily unstable.

I think the concept of unmanned combat capable machines, like terminator oddly, is only comforting when you are the only side that has that capability. Given that I am an aerospace engineer, it scares me too because conditions do not have to be perfect to develop this technology unlike nuclear, chemical or biological technologies.

The wrap up is, I think it is great people can be tracked and observed. Jay Leno had a joke a few years ago that his whole life was filmed by NBC for insurance purposes, which is a pretty good way to prove one isn't committing crimes. However, the ability to push a button from a desk at a desert base in Nevada or California and send a missile into a house in Afghanistan without the situational awareness that comes from anyone being there physically is something we really need to use with restraint. This technology is not going away and in the future more parties will have it, now is when the standards and rules are being defined. What kind of future do we want?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Do I Like Being Vegan?

Good question. I was asked this on Saturday after yet another out to eat experience where they put cheese or butter on nearly everything. After 45 vegan days I ask myself this same question. I responded by saying, "I like that I am having the best workouts of my life." Being a vegan is not all fun and games. How about a list?

Things I like about being vegan:

  • My running is going the best it ever has, perhaps due to dropping a couple percent of my fat body composition
  • I feel little to no inflammation, specifically after meals I no longer feel bloated and my ankles and knees do not feel the expansion that they normally do
  • Once again I am bringing awareness and diversity to those people I know, helping them to reconsider their own choices and offer an opportunity to help reach their goals
  • Quinoa, tempeh, tofu, almond milk, wild rice, Larabars, Clif Bars, and vegan breads of all types
  • We humans often like to be part of a group, vegan athletes like the Williams sisters, show that this diet can bring one to significant athletic success as part of a total training program
Things I don't like about being vegan:
  • Cheese, fish, steak, blue cheese dressing, and boneless chicken wings
  • Going out to eat, it hasn't been totally satisfying nutritionally or in terms of server understanding
  • The time and effort it takes to read labels, prepare food, and honestly I spend more time simply eating
People want a yes or no answer, it's not that easy. I am getting what I want out of the diet, running fast, but I would still like these other foods. I have considered being a 20 meals a week vegan. In other words, that once a week when I go out to eat or want something different I could eat the steak, sushi or chicken fettucini alfredo that I desire. I enjoy fine cheeses and a good steak and fresh fish. I have learned that being a vegan is certainly within the grasp of just about anyone for a meal or for a day or week. 

Do I like being a vegan? Yes and no. Ultimately, I'm doing this to run fast while I can and it seems to be working. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 123

Another good week. I just mentally hit the wall after writing the marathon specific intensive workout, so this will be short.

I engineered stronger and lighter structures at work. Basically that is what I do every week, still it saves the company money and keeps me employed and frankly, can be pretty interesting. There is no clear cut answer often, usually we work in the gray area between acceptable and not acceptable. That being said, 10% and 20% savings are there to be had without too much difficulty.

Running went really well. Sunday started with a 27 mile run that did not go as planned, but doing 27.2 miles at 6:38 pace is still okay. The rest of the week was pretty low key and uneventful until the marathon specific intensive workout Saturday. What a great workout! The best workout I have ever had. I ran a 1:16 half marathon in training before running a 2:34, a 1:15:30 pace variation downhill and flat fading at the end before my 2:30, and now a 1:14:54 pace variation on hilly ground finishing really strong. My mileage was a total of 106 for the week, my highest calendar week for this cycle although last monday to this Sunday was 116 miles.

Coaching went well, we had our first cross country meet, and it was a success! Every woman on our team set a personal record! On the men's side it was not quite so positive, but we still had about a third of the team set personal records and many start only 10-15 seconds behind their PR from last year. It is a good start to the year.

What else happened? Not much, I slept a lot. I have been tired from the running lately. Still a vegan. You know what? Life is good, I am so blessed!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Marathon Specific Intensive Workout

For years, perhaps even six years, I have wanted to do the marathon specific intensive workout, all the way to at least 21k, and Saturday, September 14th, 2013, I did. For some background, Renato Canova is a really good distance running coach, specifically for the marathon. I know this because back in 2007, until about 2010, Nate Jenkins, a 2:14 marathon runner and blogger in Massachusetts weekly blogged his training and training theory which was almost entirely based on the Italian school of marathoning, best communicated and advertised through the coach Renato Canova, although others like Gigliotti are or were just as good, Canova took to the serious runner message boards to explain and wrote a book. Now he is the go to guy even though others have the same skill.

The marathon specific intensive idea is to alternate kilometers, you could do miles or half miles or two kilometers, but kilometers for me always resonated best. Alternate a fast one, with one just slightly slower. I've done this workout a number of times, when preparing for a 10k or a half marathon or marathon. The gold standard for me has always been to hit the goal pace and run a full half marathon. Saturday I ran a half marathon over hilly terrain in 1:14:54 alternating fast and slow kilometers, an average kilometer pace of 3:33. Plus I finished strong! This is the last workout that Abel Kirui ran before winning the world championships in 2011 and Moses Mosop ran before running the fastest debut marathon at 2:03:06 in Boston in 2011.

Canova writes this workout either at hard at 103% of marathon pace and moderate at 97% of marathon pace sometimes, but in Kirui and Mosop's training it was basically 104%/90%, so I targeted mine at current PR paces of 104%/98% or ideal goal paces of 100%/94%, either way the goal is to get really comfortable recovering at a relatively fast pace. The first time I did over 10k was in 2013 this spring. This workout was nearly double I had ever done before, although paces were slower to be specific to the marathon.

At the faster paces you work your aerobic capacity and to a small extent the lactic threshold. The slower paces teach your body to really recover. When the easiest part of the workout is 5:55 pace the body learns to rest and take in oxygen and use more fat because it fears the 5:30 pace about to be placed on it.

I like these workouts because they increase lactic threshold and increase aerobic endurance. To run this workout for any length of distance, say more than 7k, maybe even more than 5k, one must run the slow portions aerobically. The faster one can aerobically run and recover from a harder aerobic pace or anaerobic pace the faster one can run a marathon. My moderate kilometers were around 3:40 pace, the best guys in the world run 3:18-3:20 at altitude on dirt, including hills, after fast kilometers in 2:50.

In short, for people training for sub 2:40 type marathons, simply running 20 miles once a week and doing 6 x mile intervals or 10 mile tempos eventually becomes not enough to reach one's potential. One of the workouts that gets a person to the next level in the marathon is the marathon specific intensive workout. Another one, for another day is the marathon specific extensive workout, such as 4x6k or 6x5k or 8x3k, all with 1k recovery, honestly, I still haven't done one of these yet. Of course there are the 15 miles at 98%, 20 miles at 95% or 25 miles at 92% to round out the marathon specific tempos. Basically those three styles of pure tempos, specific intensive, and specific extensive are the five workouts that take your marathon performance to the next level. Plus a special block, which is about 2/3rds of one of the above five workouts twice in one day. It's not Yasso 800s, or cruise intervals, or a 20 minute tempo or a conversational long run that take one's marathon performance to the next level, it is the long hard close-to-marathon-pace workout that leaves you in tears wanting a nice warm bed that ups the game.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Where Does More End?

In a culture of more, more, more, where does the infinite end? First of all, infinite is beyond our comprehension. A human cannot comprehend truly no limits. Our wildest dreams are finite. Chances are someone enjoys what we now perceive as our wildest dreams. Running a 2:1X marathon seems amazing to me, yet many run faster. 

In a finite world, at some point we humans have enough. I don't know where our more ends, but I know where it can begin for me, enough vehicle, not more vehicle. I may upgrade or go with different styles, but the pursuit of more vehicle does not help me. I have enough. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Future of Reading and Where I Get My News

Where do Millenials, Generation Y, my generation, get our news? Or rather is reading dying the same way that print books and newspapers are fading? Not so old people! We do read, but our reading is clearly different than yours. It will happen in shorter bursts better measured in seconds and minutes rather than hours. Does that mean it is more shallow than the hours long wading through texts previous generations endured? Perhaps, in fact, unfortunately, it is quite likely that our reading and communicating skills are lower than previous generations. Lest we willfully burn books let me tell you about my daily information and news accumulation. 

In typical order during the day:
- Check Stock futures of S&P and maybe Apple
- NPR - make a playlist of 10-20 radio segments to listen to while I do simple tasks at work
- Stock market openings - see how much money I am losing today
- Runners World/Running Times Racing News at lunch - see what the professionals are doing and the scientists are saying
- MacRumors - a bit of a proxy for all tech news, specifically Apple related
- - maybe read one article about war, poverty or education
- Explorers Web - Who's pushing the limit today?
- NASA Mars Currosity - worst media site I check but interesting when they do actually update it once every three weeks
- Stock closings - how much money I lost today and read a couple articles about companies I own
- WSJ - iphone app free articles and watch videos as I eat supper
- NYTimes - typically read my three free articles and maybe watch some videos, although they are rarely news related like WSJ
- Twitter - see if anything is happening
- Internet search whatever is on my mind such as tiny houses, marathon training or general economic conditions

The point being, there are volumes of information at our fingertips. Instead of reading a 300 page book about one subject we read 600 tweets and posts and videos about 80 different topics. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Fastest People I Have Ever Raced

The professional marathoner list is posted for the Chicago Marathon. (I don't like calling them (us) elite athletes, professional describes the situation much better.) On one hand I am surprised for a 40,000 person race how few people are listed. On the other hand, I expect to get beaten by all of those men, even if I have a good day. In particular I have been using Moses Mosop's training before Boston in 2011 as a guide for what workouts to try. It is especially fitting that I will be "racing" him in Chicago. Let me be clear, he and I are not in the same race. Barring an injury he will have drank and eaten and started jogging a cool down by the time I stumble across the line, hopefully less than 20 minutes later.

This is what it takes to run a 2:03 marathon.

I will be racing multiple Olympians, both men and women. I have raced a number of fast runners before but this is another caliber. These guys daily run faster than my personal records. It is unfortunate because honestly, I like racing to win. I don't like to admit I can't win. Strait up, I can't win the 2013 Chicago Marathon. Unless all the top people go off course... two miles... one way, the opposite direction.

There is a bright spot to this. In the minutes before the race starts I will be feet from some of the very people I read about. These seemingly "invincible" people will stand as mere mortals frightened of the same 26.2 miles that I am. All of us knowing that somewhere after mile 20, the distance will hurt, really bad. I will likely see the same people again after the race, maybe in the medical tent, the massage tent, or casually sipping Gatorade sitting on the curb with a blank look on his face. The distance will destroy all of us, yet one man and one woman will walk away with the sweet satisfaction of knowing that he and she were the least destroyed.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 122

I'm tired. What else is new, right? Truth be told, not much is new. 

Work goes well. One of the hard parts about engineering, and the reason we get paid what we do, is that we have to make difficult decisions in the grey area between clearly acceptable and clearly not acceptable. It is not always stress free. We are all on the same team, design, test and customer, so saying something is not acceptable, when it is clearly very good can be difficult. This is life. What is white collar or creative collar work? We make decisions. 

Running went well, 100.1 miles, which is maybe 40% more satisfying than 99.9 miles. I also won a half marathon by nearly ten minutes, completed a special block and did a 4x1000m hill workout. A solid week of running I am thankful for. This past weekend I ran 52 miles in 30 hours over three runs. I couldn't push the pace at the end like I wanted, but after that kind of mileage, I'll take it. 

Coaching went well. I end up running with only a few people due to my marathon training. The team is improving and our first meet is this week so we shall see how well we are actually racing this year. 

Other than that, I worked at the winery a bit, which probably hampered my half marathon race Monday. My vegan eating continues to cost money and teach me what nutrition I need and what doesn't work so well. For example, peanut butter strait half an hour before a run doesn't work. Neither does three retried bean burritos make for a good running stomach. I can run on both, but I just don't feel great. 

Life is good. I am very blessed

Monday, September 9, 2013

This Vegan Does Not Eat Many Salads

Quite a few people have asked what I eat as a vegan. I then proceed to tell them in excruciating detail everything I have eaten, but every time I only make it to about mid morning before they lose interest. Finally, someone asked if I eat a lot of salad and I understood more what people where looking for. No, I do not eat many salads, maybe one or two a week. Perhaps I will eat three in an unusual week. 

Think of vegan more like rice and beans or whole wheat pasta with red sauce (yes standard spaghetti). I do eat more fruit and more nuts and nut butter than I did before. I also switched from cow milk to soy and almond milk. Tofu and tempeh also supplement my protein desires. 

I eat about the same number of vegetables that I did as an omnivore. Salads, lettuce and cabbage salads in particular, tend to have very little calories, and I don't have the time to prepare and eat 1200 calories that way. Angel hair pasta cooks in minutes. For better or worse I have been eating more chips and salsa. Although, I make a mean salsa with beans, avocado, sunflower seeds, and blueberries which some might call a thick salad. 

In other words, when you hear "vegan" don't think salads. Instead think rice, bean and tortillas or spaghetti with eggplant or the fruit aisle (fruit isle?) at the grocery store. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Car Repair Costs

Implicit in the purchase of a car are the ongoing costs to maintain it. New tired after 60,000 miles, new brakes after 50,000 miles, new shocks after 100,000 miles (and of course every multiple of that). Having just spent close to $600 for new brake pads, rotors and calipers on the front end of my van, while it has 301,000 miles, I wonder, is it worth it? The last time the brakes were repaired was April 2007. Another six and a half years on these brakes is of course more than I am thinking of getting out of the entire van.

In short, keep in mind if you buy a car, new, used, or a junker, repairs happen. The cost to own is more than just the monthly loan payment or the weekly gasoline fill. While $400 for tires every few years or $600 for brakes twice a decade is not very much, and $100 for struts is downright a great deal, these are costs that have to be paid if you want to keep the vehicle.

My advice is when buying a car, ask what work has been done in the last one or two years, or three years as the case may be. For example, buying a five year old car with 60,000 miles that has never really had any repair, sounds like I'm going to get $1000 of replaceable parts to put in it in the next year or so.

Having driven my van since basically January 2007 I can say that the repairs listed above in addition to two $450 oxygen sensor/exhaust leaks repairs are just about all that I have encountered. There have been plenty of oil changes, the radiator fix from the deer hit, the bumper fix from the Chicago accident, and honestly I have parts of the car held together with bolts from Lowe's, zip ties, and green climbing tape. That is 13 repair events I can remember over 6.5 years of operation from about 250,000 to 301,000. With a total cost, excluding oil changes, of about $3100.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

What I Sacrifice

Thanks to an article in the local paper about me winning the local half marathon, which I haven't fully read yet, plus the generally expanding knowledge of my vegan diet, I have had to explain myself at least five times in the last two days. One of the pleasures was explaining myself to a D3 All-American and a D1 athlete, telling them that I reached the point in my life where achieving my goals might mean no animal products for a couple months, that it was a small sacrifice. They understood the concept of no regrets, and also of how sacrificing animal products for a few months in order to accomplish a greater performance was a well worthy sacrifice.

I realized that I had not articulated those two things well enough. First, when I am "done" with competition and slow down I want to be sure I have no regrets about having tried this theory or that one. I don't want to be 37 years old, discover a vegan diet, run my best marathon and wonder, 'what would have happened if I had tried this ten years ago?' Second, I would sacrifice, and I have sacrificed, a fair amount in my pursuit of performance. (While I am specifically referring to my running, performance is definitely engineering and performance is definitely social relationships.) Whatever time I run there will most likely be decades after that on a webpage or known amongst others that in part defines me. It's shallow sure, but the thought of going without meat, eggs, milk, cheese and all those other animal products for a few months or a few years pales in comparison to knowing that when faced with the opportunity to give my talents one degree more effort I stepped back. In other words, maybe I will run a 2:26 in Chicago this year, and I will never run faster. While that is not the goal, I plan on waking up October 14th, and every day after, and knowing that I gave it everything I could.

Finally, compared to the starving people in Rwanda and Uganda, the refugees in the Congo and Syria, and the myriad of people who have been persecuted and killed throughout history, any sacrifice of comfort food or painfully muscled workouts I can make pales in comparison. In part this whole athletic "phase" I have been in for the better part of a decade is partly an effort to empathize with the suffering of those less fortunate than myself. While it may seem that I am this totally obsessed runner, and I am to an extent, it's all part of the larger picture, of teaching myself those things that can only be learned through blood, sweat and tears.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Empathy or Sympathy

There are two primary different ways to comfort people going through a crisis.

Empathy: Understanding what others are feeling because you have experienced it yourself or can put yourself in their shoes. (Source)

Sympathy: Acknowledging another person's emotional hardships and providing comfort and assurance. (Source)

As I run, eat vegan food, coach, visit Africa, and in general interact with others I have noticed the general lack of empathy in the world. There is also little sympathy. When 1400+ people are gassed to death with Sarin nerve gas and the British parliament votes to do nothing, there is a distinct lack of sympathy in the world and certainly no empathy in that situation. 

The same can be said for starving people in Africa which we do not give money, in any way, shape or form, to help. There is no empathy and little sympathy. In the same way people don't really understand my running because just like starving or being gassed, they have never averaged 10 miles a day for six months.

Being vegan is a bit of a cry of empathy to those food insecure. In other words eating rice and beans helps me understand, empathize, with poor Africans who can't afford to eat meat. After trips to other countries I often feel the need to make a change, to double down on what I am good at because I have the resources to be even better at it.

There are many thing I will never be able to empathize with. For example, I grew up very privileged. I was never beaten. I never had to carry water for the family. I always had shoes. We always had food even if it was processed and bleached or the meat was too chewy to recognize. My problems have certainly been first world problems. In the face of the challenges in Africa and Asia my own problems are too insignificant to mention.

I often write or say, what is possible? I think to some extent thinking outside the box, or along the edges of the box, one must sometimes take away the floor of the box as well as the ceiling. Limits aren't just up and up, but beneath us too. To illustrate, take running a fast marathon and being vegan. A fast marathon is taking away the ceiling of the box, a higher goal. On the other hand being vegan is like taking the floor out of the box. The idea of ideal nutrition has to be completely redefined for an Iowa resident. Yet working in concert, taking the floor out seems to be working towards raising the ceiling. So I am doing this vegan thing to run faster, but it also helps me relate to the poor of the world. For better or for worse, it also takes me at least one step farther away from the standard American diet. So even fewer people can empathize with my situation.

I love commitment. Commitment allows me to say, "yes, I gave it everything I was willing to give." Life is short and the sacrifices we have the opportunity to make seem enormous at the time but often are insignificant compared to accomplishing our goals. What if I run a 2:17 at Chicago? That's just crazy I'm not in that kind of shape! What if I ran a 2:21:XX at Chicago? Would it have been worth it to be vegan for ten weeks? Absolutely. I am beginning to dream of times I have not had dreams of in some time. What if I ran under 2:20?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 121

Another busy, walking on tired legs, could sleep 10 hours a night kind of week. I suppose though, it will always be that way. The "dream" I have of living in a cabin in the mountains, taking an hour to drink my coffee and read the news, going for a nice run at 8 AM, and spending the rest of the day working on little projects and socializing is either never going to happen, or is a long way away. The reason is there are so many worthwhile things I need to do now, because I'm not getting any younger and others could use my help.

Work went well. Engineering is such a great career. We get to solve problems, all day long. Although, sometimes a project can become a little less interesting on the 5th iteration, or the 50th iteration. I passed those two milestones this week on two different projects.

Coaching is finally getting going. I love the student athletes. The talking that we do on runs far exceeds the value of any individual training run. We must not forget that athletics is part of the holistic development of a person, not the purpose of solely performance development of a person.

My own running went well 85 miles including two lighter workouts. It was a bit of a down week after three workouts and 103 miles last week. This coming week has already started off with a bang, as I mentioned yesterday.

I spent some time at the winery too. In fact, I had the most draining session I have had yet. During the rush I was basically bar tending nonstop for four hours. It's exhausting, especially for someone who runs a half marathon every day. I'm not used to that much time on my feet.

Overall, a blessed week to be me.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Vegan Diet Continues

Today was test day after 32 full days of vegan food, and I passed, with flying colors. I won a half marathon this morning in 1:14:58 with some hills and wind, and 9:53, nearly 10 minutes ahead of second place. It was a good run. Not to be outdone I ran another 14 miles in the afternoon including a 10k tempo at 6 minutes per mile pace. A 30 mile day, with 19.3 of those being rather quick. That's a good day. Plus, I feel okay right now. 

After that second run I stepped on a scale for the first time in well over a month. Somewhat dehydrated wearing my running garb I weighed 123.6 lbs. That is the lowest I have been since high school. Given how well today went I cannot help but think the food, and my weight, played a big role in today's training success. 

I have a mere six weeks, 40 days, of training left to the Chicago Marathon. The last five weeks I have had some great long workouts. The hope is the next five weeks will provide even better workouts. 

The vegan experiment is over, but the lifetime experiment continues. What is possible? I have asked the question and this is the journey to find out. In short, a sub-2:30 marathon seems likely after today.