Thursday, October 31, 2013

Yes It Hurts!

I see myself as weak. I think of the pain I experience and wonder, why can't I push through it better?

However, when I do not think I am showing any pain, more than once in this recovery people have commented that it looks painful. Well, my leg is painful.

Despite the fact that sometimes, maybe all the time, we don't want to show pain, we don't want to show our weaknesses, we need to be honest without ourselves and admit, it hurts. Only after admitting our weakness can we do the therapy necessary to heal and eliminate the problem. This honestly holds true for math skills in school and mental issues just as well as a bum leg. If there is a weakness, if there is a problem, do something about it!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Long Day

The day's first activity might as well have been last night. The rest of the day started well before sunrise. The morning was a blitz of meetings, including a presentation. The afternoon calmed down, but the to do list still grew. Now I have some baby sitting for a friend and grocery shopping still to do tonight. 

I like being busy, but seriously, it's tiring.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Long Term Development, Progress and Goals

How does one set out a multiyear, decade or longer plan, and then follow through? The key is small steps, intermediate goals that can be somewhat rapidly checked off.

For example, take my running.

  • In 2007 I set out to go after an Olympic Trials marathon standard. 
  • In 2008 I ran 1500, 5k, and 10k PRs and my first ever 100 mile week.
  • In 2009 I ran a mile and half marathon PR.
  • 2010 was not a great year, but I did run something like 3300 miles, including a lot of miles at altitude.
  • 2011 saw PRs at the marathon and half marathon along with some massive mileage.
  • 2012 was a good year on the track as I set PRs at the 5k and 10k.
  • Finally, 2013 overall has been a success as I set PRs at the 800, mile and 8k and learned what it means to go out too fast in a marathon.
  • 2014 will hopefully be PRs in the marathon, 5k and mile along with some more massive mileage.
While I could say the major goal is the marathon, it is noticeable how so much of the development thus far has focused on shorter distances. Another great example would be my climbing and mountaineering.

  • 2002 climb South Massive and Mt. Elbert in one long 15 hour solo day. 
  • 2003 use ice axe for the first time.
  • 2004 first time using crampons on a failed North Face of Longs Peak attempt.
  • In 2005 I led my first traditional rock climbs.
  • In 2006 I tried to summit a mountain every month and experienced winter mountaineering.
  • 2007 saw me climbing longer harder traditional rock climbs.
  • In 2008 I did some big climbs in RMNP (the Diamond) and invented an ice axe.
  • 2009 was the year I spent seven weeks in Pakistan and reached 7000 meters on Broad Peak in addition to ice soloing and aid climbing.
  • In 2010 I pushed my rock climbing ability to 5.12 and did some free soloing and went to Yosemite.
  • 2011 was really more focused on running but I did get out and rope solo climb a little in addition to financial training.
  • 2012 was a decent year for climbing including Devils Tower and more financial training.
  • 2013 had some silo ice climbing and a little rock climbing and more financial training.
  • 2014 will be interesting.
Here again multiple aspects of climbing are addressed so that I have the experience to attempt larger objectives. 

How do you track progress? If what you are running faster, climbing harder or higher in most years, that is progress, even if it doesn't live up to your goals. It can be harder in the working world to see regular career progress but the concepts are the same. If one is developing slightly lighter structures, greater ranges of motion, less expensive to produce, or otherwise more functional devices, progress is happening, even if we don't have hover boards like Back to the Future III.

Monday, October 28, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 129

Pretty exciting week. I mean I transitioned to design engineer a little more. I spent most of the week training. I still haven't designed anything yet. Although I did get a phone call asking me a whole bunch of questions and kind of reporting the progress on a project to me. It was strange because I didn't really know it was something I had to do, and all of by sudden I'm responsible for it. The joys of a new position I suppose.

First impressions of design versus analysis:

  • Far more social. We spend more time talking with each other and go to more meetings. 
  • Far less technical. Many of the things we do and decisions we make are ambiguous and more towards the get-it-done mentality than the best-technical-solution. That being said, time is money. 
  • Quite ambiguous. In finite element engineering there are projects to be done and reports to be written. In design there is an entire product to be produced, and it is not as simply broken down into projects and reports. There is also often no right answer. How much should an engine frame weight?
I ran! A whole quarter mile in 3:19, and it wasn't even painful the first 100 meters! 

On the coaching side we didn't have a meet, but I was at practice six days in a row watching, and sometimes bicycling along side. The team has been thinned down by attrition the last month or so, we are not what we were at the start of the season, just like every other team and every other season. The durability to get through a season, let alone several seasons in a row is not to be underestimated. Recovery is hard. 

Ambiguously, I made significant strides this week toward a long term (decade) goal. Probably exciting news to come in the next two months!

I hope you had a good week too.

Friday, October 25, 2013

If I Never Run Again

I am recovering, slowly, from my marathon leg injury. It seems to be two knots, one in my lateral compartment and another in my gastrocnemius (hopefully not a third behind that one in the soleus). They are responding to all of the usual knot treatment, except that these knots are at least as bad as the gluteus knot I had back in February 2011. Plus, it's pretty tough to get me to actually rest. This week I was in the weight room trying to bench press 125 pounds, doing medicine ball circuits, pull ups, push ups, abductor and adductor exercises... So I do plan on recovering from this injury and going on to set more personal records, at just about every distance.

That being said, the end of a season, good, bad or ugly, plus an injury, makes for a good opportunity to imagine if I never set another personal record. This day will come. Hopefully I can still set bicycling and ultra running PRs into my 40s, but regardless of the details, I will slow down. I may even be sidelined by an injury permanently. So what if this injury, this marathon, was my last?

Well, I didn't get as far as I wanted, not even very close. But I did accomplish far more than I ever expected. I learned so much about perseverance, consistency, hard work, and gifts. My running is a gift. Yes I work incredibly hard at it, but it is a gift that many, probably most, others don't have, similar to my math and science passion. In high school my three best 5ks in cross country were 18:26 (senior year), 18:33 (junior year, and 18:34 (senior year). Two weeks ago in Chicago my first six consecutive 5ks were 17:08, 17:06, 17:19, 17:29, 17:50 and 18:13. In high school I struggled to run a 5:03 1600 meter race. In March I ran a 4:31 mile, roughly 34 seconds better than my 5:03 1600 in high school. I look at that kind of development, and I'm okay with it. That is real, concrete improvement. To know that the process works, that development happens over years and more than a decade of practicing the craft is rewarding. I can tell you about development, but you won't understand it if you don't go through it personally. There have been so many injuries and setbacks. So many challenges and seemingly lofty goals that many internal questions are asked. I have learned what I can do, and what I can't do, often painfully.

If I never run again I will think, 'I did what I could with what I had. There are things I would change, but I didn't know them at the time.' Looking forward, I will be healed. When I return to training and racing I will go after my specific goals. I have done some bouncing around and ancillary goals now and then, but it's time to be specific.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Other Motivations

I do not understand others motivations nearly as well as my own. Perhaps that is an obvious, true-for-us-all fact. I often say that "money and control" are what most people want, and while that is a great way to simplify motivations, it's not the real motivation. No, what I'm talking about today is my goal-orientated, accomplishment nature versus less tangible motivations, like steady relationships, or even fear driven motivations.

For example, a runner on the cross country team I work with told me recently that he was afraid to push the pace hard in a race because he didn't want to fall apart at the end. I don't understand that very well. I go out too hard in many of my races, perhaps even most. Even in a $175 marathon I run too fast at the beginning when it most assuredly means I'm going to suffer the last four miles.

Another example, people are often afraid to bring up issues at work that they really want to. Call it lizard brain fear or whatever, but the point is there are things we are not even honest about with ourselves. Do we really prefer the dysfunctional and outwardly cordial relationship to the honest relationship?

What are your motivations that people don't understand?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Learning to Listen Better

I spend too much time telling my stories. My listening skills are not what they could be. I'm working on it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How NOT to Run a Marathon

For me, the Chicago marathon was mostly a failure. I went out too hard. Here are my mile by mile splits.
Chicago Marathon 2013 Splits

See what I mean?

Miles four, five and six are what ultimately killed me. 5:28, 5:21, 5:27. The crowds were huge, I was just 15-20 seconds behind the lead women, which made the situation worse because I was mentally basing my pace off of their pace and the men around me. I remember hitting 5 miles in 27:25, and hitting 6 miles in just under 33, both times thinking, "sub 5:30 pace... I should slow down" Now, for the record my watch was beeping a little before the mile markers, partly because I shortened the first mile by pressing the split button on my watch as I cross the mile line. Partly also because of not taking the exact tangents. In other words, I passed 20 miles at about 1:53:11 not, 1:52:33. So roughly 2s per mile difference between GPS and the pavement.

Interesting to see how my pace dropped over the miles. I mean around 18 miles running became harder, and I began running just over 6 minute pace. Then around 22 it got a lot harder, and I was doomed to run 6:50+ pace. Then at 23 I realized that I would not break 2:30, because I was not going to run 3.2 miles in under 18 minutes, and I was doomed to run 7:25+ pace. The last two miles were just ugly. I mean 8:20s pace. That's running on pure fat and protein. Who like carbohydrates? I like carbohydrates!

Simply put, you can't run a marathon on excitement. I was not in shape to have any business running 5:2X miles in a marathon, the oxygen and glycogen requirements were far too high for me to maintain that pace in a marathon, and I ran five sub 5:30 miles.

Monday, October 21, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 128

I had a smile on my face all week, baring about 45 minutes on Sunday finishing a marathon and immediately afterward. I have so much! I am so blessed! Even though I am still limping around, I can walk! I have run some great races in my time, faster than most people will ever run. I have a wonderful job, I am paid a lot of money. I am rich. For a brief moment, this past week and week to come, I will spend more time dwelling on the success of my life than the failures. I spend more time looking back than looking forward. Soon enough the concentration will return and probably another dabble with the vegan diet will continue. Soon the focus on career projects and athletic endeavors will once again consume my time.

For now, we celebrate!

I started a new job at work designing structures! How fortunate am I? After close to four years of finite element experience at three different companies I now am on the front end of design. Instead of judging others designs I will now present my own designs to be judged. Instead of only working with design and physical test, I will work with hydraulics, power train, electronics, marketing, manufacturing, assembly, sales, customer support, and at least in one case, materials science. It may be a less technical role, but it's more applicable to the business side of things, and more creative. I am very fortunate. Why do I have all this success?

Running has not happened since the marathon. I tried on Monday, but after one step my right leg was not going to survive. What is the deal with my right leg? I am hopeful it is one or more nasty knots, trigger points, that tightened up in the last three miles of the marathon, exacerbated by hitting the wall and having slightly less protein than normal. It may also be a second degree muscle pull. Serious and painful, but soon to heal. It may also be compartment syndrome in the anterior and/or lateral compartments. I have not been to the doctor but I have been to an athletic training and a massage therapist, and it's still a bit early to really know. I will visit a doctor this week if it doesn't get any better. I can say it is a muscular injury, not ligament, tendon, or bone, so it should heal relatively quickly once it is properly understood. Yes, I did register for another marathon because the registration deadline was Tuesday night. So if I am healthy in a couple months I will give this thing another try.

Coaching is good. It's never as good as I imagine, because the athletes don't have the same motivations I have. That's on me to recognize and deal with. My goal is not to change their priorities, but to support them in their journey.

Other than that, a fair amount of sleeping, lots of sitting around, and enjoying the meats and cheeses that my enormous wealth allows me. I still have not bought any cow's milk or cheese for that matter.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Failure, Recovery, Success

The cycle of failure, recovery, and success is repeated across the board in many disciplines. In 2010 I started a company, failed, and I'm still in recovery from that. Six days ago I ran a marathon, in my mind failed, and I am in recovery from that. However, experience teaches that after the dip, which is the failure and recovery, there is success at the end of the tunnel. How do I know this? I am fortunate to have found such a simple activity, running, which teaches life lessons in an accelerated manner.

About 3/4 of my races in my mind count as average, or below average, which in my mind usually counts as some measure of failure to measure up to where I really am. However, those few races, where I feel good the whole way, run well, and set a PR are worth so much more because of it. I go out too fast in far too many races. However, it takes a few failures to remind me how terrible it feels to finish slow, so that I will run a logical race the next time around.

I talk about running a lot, but I really want to focus on career success today. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has to learn new skills. In our careers we will likely fail in college many times, recover from those experiences, and finally succeed by getting a degree. It is the same in our careers, we will ship poor products, we will approve inadequate designs, we will send inappropriate emails, and many times we will say the wrong thing. I'm not condoning these actions at all. I'm not saying you should try to make mistakes. I am saying, you could probably do better next time. It's a treadmill, how good is good enough? When the treadmill breaks you have won I suppose.

Perhaps this view is a problem on my part that I am not able to take the data and change the plan or quit the endeavor. I simply stick to doing something long after failure is assured. That being said, if anyone had said that I would run multiple marathons faster than I ever ran a 5k in high school, I would not have believed it at the time. Between there and here was significant failure. Plenty of recovery and learning, and finally some successes. It is exactly the same in my career. Do you know what it is like to go to a top 60 university in the United States, top 10 when it comes to earnings potential and return on investment, receive two degrees and then spend 57 week out of engineering, a supposedly in demand major? There was a time (September 2010) when I considered nearly tossing the whole thing to make snow all winter and teach rock climbing all summer.

What I am trying to say is, persistence matters. We can learn from failure. We can learn more from most failures than most successes. We must not be afraid to fail. Obviously we should not desire to fail, but fear of failure is also fear of success.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Before and After the Marathon Wall

Here goes my theory, when the body is running low on glycogen (simple carbohydrates, easy to use for energy and movement, sugar) perhaps 200-300 calories of glycogen left, your body goes into conservation mode, and most people slow down. I ended my two previous marathons while still in this phase. I think that at this phase the body starts looking for easily available fuel, like more fats and proteins to use. It is still burning mostly glycogen, but instead of 75% at ideal marathon pace, maybe 60%. Now, myself going out at 5:31 pace the first 10 miles I was probably burning 80-85+% glycogen. The goal would be to enter into the low glycogen phase in the last mile or few miles of the marathon. This is the phase I would say you can gut it out, and hold a respectable pace. I imagine that Matt Tegenkamp and Moses Mosop were in this phase Sunday. The person is running slower, maybe 15-30 seconds slower than goal or average pace per mile.

However, eventually you run out of those remaining sugar calories, and the body has to use whatever remains, mostly fats and proteins. We have plenty of fat, I ran and walked 93 very hilly miles under 32 hours way back in 2010, using a lot of fat. The problem is, at marathon pace (5:30-6:30 pace at the time) the body is using a lot more energy per minute than trail running and walking (12-15 minute pace). That means instead of using fat, and metabolizing more sugars from eating, the body zeros in on protein. While being vegan for 73 days I did get enough protein, I certainly was not getting much extra. That’s fine, probably even healthy to get 75 g of protein instead of 250 g of protein daily, unless you plan on needing protein to run the last four miles in a marathon. While I was running the last four miles I felt like a lead balloon. My mind was not functioning as well as normal, I had hardly any energy. At the end of most races I feel like a lead gorilla, strong but my muscles are tired, this time I felt weak. I tried to pick up the pace, but after a step or two there was nothing there. My right leg is enormously sore, even painful, more than four days later. It started hurting the last three miles, but nothing terrible at the time. However, as my legs metabolized protein, and I did not get a whole lot of protein in the hours after the race (probably only 30 -35 g in the seven hours after the race, fortunately all in the first 90 minutes), my recovery will probably be enormously difficult and take a long time. 

I cried in the last three miles and at the finish. However after getting a few tears out I am all smiles. Now I know. I have been to the other side. Hopefully I never go there again.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Still Limping

My right calf has a nasty knot, hopefully, that is causing me to limp. It could be a muscle tear or perhaps compartment syndrome. It is getting better everyday. I had a quick 30 minutes of massage on it tonight and it felt the best it has yet. Still, it is certainly not pain free. 

There are positives to this, it forces me to rest. Rest is something I am quite resistant to do. It is easy to train hard. Just work until I can't. Resting is hard because what I am doing is ambiguous, feels unproductive, and does not tire me out. 

So I'm resting. 

Was this my last hurrah? No, I registered for a marathon Tuesday night.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I Have a New Job!

I have a new job! I am now a structures and sheet metal design engineer! I will be working on the same wheeled full tree forestry machines that I worked on before but instead of doing the finite element analysis (testing) I will be doing the design. 

Why the change? Several reasons, after a big project this summer, doing something no one else has ever done in FEA, specifically fatigue on a specific ambiguously loaded assembly, I felt like I had reached a decision point, go farther down the FEA technical path (get a PhD) or do something else. My learning had reached a plateau. Secondly, there are about eight different design engineer positions at my company I would have been interested in and one was vacated. So I applied, interviewed, and next thing you know my computer is moved to the new group. Third, I will continue with the product group I have been working with the past two and a half years which will enable me to see more aspects of the product development process. 

It is not a promotion, technically it's called a lateral, but I will have more responsibility. I will also be exposed to more people and aspects of product development than my old position. There is a lot to be said for developing relationships and I look forward to the very human, listening aspect of this position. 

Today was my first day. I have much to learn and it is humbling to walk away from something I am skilled at to something I don't really understand. Here goes learning to do.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Chicago Marathon 2013 Recap

This is rough because I wrote it late at night Sunday, I wasn't ready to sleep yet.

First of all, THANK YOU!!!!! I had so much support from so many people in so many forms of communication! Sometimes I, and probably most of us, fear we are alone and no one cares about the things we put our time and effort into achieving results. I was blown away by everyone’s support. In fact I still haven’t gotten around to thanking everyone personally yet.

All good stories start earlier than most people intend, this one is the same. Due to construction and packing my lunch and blogging a quick post on where to get updates about the marathon it was close to 9:30 by the time I left Dubuque and 1 PM by the time I reached Arlington Heights, where I was staying for the night. My parents and I quickly jumped in their Toyota van and headed into the city. Driving in Chicago is stressful. After something like 90 minutes we were at the convention center with the runner expo to pick up my packet and shirt. At the moment we were in there, there had to be 5000 other people. It was crowded! We picked up my bib, then had to walk through all the vendors to pick up the shirt, while probably by design, it was totally a hassle. I don’t want to be side tracked by some new supplement or shoe, I want to check in, get my stuff and get out. 

After that we drove part of the second half of the course and headed back out to the suburbs. During this time I was getting rather thirsty until we stopped at a gas station. Not ideal to not have any water for four hours the day before a marathon. Former neighbors of my parents live in retirement apartments in the most upscale retirement center I have ever seen. We had supper with them and I was pleasantly surprised to have a vegan (pasta) mean with basically no hassle. After eating I did some reading and watching a movie then tried to go to sleep. I was sweating a fair amount, which might have contributed to issues the next day. 

At 3 AM my alarm went off and I had my cliff bar and some juice, exactly like I had done twice in training. Later just before 5 AM my parents started rustling around and we got to it. I made coffee and after each quickly packing our one bag we were off. At around 6 AM I arrived at gate 1 and headed in and quickly found the American Development tent and fenced off area. It was a really good situation, warm air, a tent, a place to run .1 mile laps around, a slew of port-a-potties. I walked around the start then did a slow 1.5 mile jog at about 6:50 before they took us to the start just after 7. I tried to walk and jog as much as I could, but it was a little cramped, and my sweats were off, yes, like 25 minutes before the race on a 48F day. At ten minutes before the race I ate my larabar and drank about 8 oz of gatorade. With five minutes to go I lined up and at four minutes they released the A corral, had 30 seconds of silence for the Boston victims. It was fun to be so close to the front to see Ritz with Alberto and another Chicago guy there to help him with everything. 

Finally, the race was off! It was packed, and I was behind dozens of women, but in the frenzy of the start I told myself to relax and take it easy. After about a quarter mile to see how easy I was taking it and my watch said 6:14 pace, so I picked it up a little. We went down through a tunnel and back up having basically no concept of pace until hitting the one mile mark in I think 5:21 or 5:25, too fast, so I slowed down. Seconds later I was caught by all the lead women. I looked to my right and right there, four feet away running stride for stride with me was Rita Jeptoo. Immediately I thought, ‘she won last year in 2:22 and has had a good year (winning Boston) since then. So, I’m slowing down.’ I did slow, and then fell in with a group of men and one woman (Aliakandra, Duliba) who I had never heard of. 

We seemed to be relaxed and hit the second mile at 11:00, which I thought meant a 5:35, which is what I was aiming for. However, to run with the group they picked things up a tad, just a little, down to 5:30 pace for us to cross 5k in 17:08. I thought nothing of it, the first mile was fast but now were were settling. However, right after crossing the 5k I guess that wasn’t good enough because Duliba and a couple of the men accelerated, and unforunately I was caught up in the first part of it too as we were closing on Jeptoo and the other lead women. When I realized that I slowed down again. The marathon was great, a clock at every mile marker, on both sides of the road and a timing mat at every 5k, with a clock at a couple of them. 

This is part of why this was a great experience, in the 4th mile I was closing on a woman, never mind the men, who went on to run 2:19. Obviously, that was a mistake, but again a big part of running races is mental, feeling like you belong up in the front. 

So after the 4th mile I ran in a sort of no mans land drifting backwards with some guys for a bit then behind them, hitting the 10k in 34:14, thinking, ‘hum that’s still too fast.’ So I continued to try and relax and take it easy and run slower, I was basically by myself for a number of miles. 

At the front of marathons people typically run in packs, while later on it is a steady stream, so after falling off the back of a pack it could mean some time before you are within arms reach of someone. 

Seven miles in 38:11 or so, and again I thought, ‘wow, that’s fast, slow down!’ The next few miles I disassociated some by mildly interacting with the crowd enjoying the scenery, hoping that might help me relax and slow down. When I came through 9 miles under 50 I thought, ‘huh, that’s pretty fast.’ 

At ten miles in 55:14 I was just shocked. That was the point I was like, ‘ok you idiot, slow down now! You’re not trying to run 5:31 pace for this thing!’ Which worked, somewhat. 

11 miles in 1:01, 12 miles in 1:06:3X, 13 miles in a scary 1:12:05. When I saw the clock I initially thought it was the half and that I was going to run within 20 second of my PR in the first half of a marathon, nope, only 62 seconds...

I managed to slow down more to a comfortable pace then, I wasn’t really checking splits, but 14 in like 1:18 at which point the women leaders were finally out of sight more than maybe 60-90 seconds ahead of me, and 15 in 1:23 and 16 in a satisfying 1:29. At that point I thought, ‘great! I have 10.2 miles to do in a little over 60 minutes, just barely under 6s will get me under 2:30, but this just might be the day for a bigger breakthrough!’

At mile 17 in 1:35 I knew that this was now the tough 1/3 of the race left. Knowing that doesn’t make it easier.

At mile 18 I was getting tired. Not terribly so, but enough that I made a mental note that I didn’t feel as good as I did coming through mile five in 27:05. I have positive split all my marathons and I thought that was what was going to happen here. Besides, hitting the halfway point in 1:12:50 was faster than I wanted so a nice 1:14:00 second half would have been just fine by me. 

This is also where it starts to get hazy. It seems like I am breathing hard and working hard yet my legs aren’t moving as fast as they used to. 19 miles in 1:48 I think and then 20 in 1:53:11, which is a little slower than CIM in 2011 but I thought, ‘HA! I opened in 34:14 and I have to do is a little under 37 to get under 2:30.’ Which at this point 2:30 was now the goal. Mile 21 in 1:58 high and 22 in about 2:05 flat. I’m still thinking, ‘4.2 miles in 25 minutes, well now it’s going to be close to breaking 2:30.’

Unfortunately the 23rd mile happened. 

From this point on I didn’t look at, or at least remember any splits or paces. I know I didn’t check my watch after 22.3 miles. I could feel myself going backwards. I had hit the wall. My glycogen was run out. People like the lead American women were now passing me. I know I saw the clock at 23 miles, maybe it was 2:12, I can’t remember. I know I saw it. At that point, between how I felt, how I was starting to get passed, and whatever that split was, I realized I wasn’t going to break 2:30, kind of a mental blow, but I hoped that I could run 2:30 again or even a 2:31. 

That last three miles are on a long strait-away, it’s beautiful really. Grass and trees on the left and my image of a brownstone house on the right. I was in bad shape. After that 23rd mile split I thought about calling it quits and DNFing. The thought of not breaking 2:30 was heartbreaking. I quickly thought that I would enlist at the next marathon and take a better paced shot at it. However, the thought of quitting, and all the many people who have supported me in the past, or on that day, and letting them down, meant I was going to live through it. It also meant I was not going to walk.

I felt like a lead ballon, hollow on the inside, but as heavy as can be. My right calf was hurting fairly bad at that point, and still is 12 hours later. You should see me limp. The wall hurts. I naively thought based on my two previous experiences, and conversation with other skilled runners that for some of us, fairly well trained, we just didn’t hit the wall like other people. Our wall means running 6:15 pace. I know that I thought that myself, I just never articulated it, because I know my friends have hit the wall, and the science behind it is very real. I just never thought it would happen to me. 

Running totally out of glycogen is so strange. Running low on it, like I was miles 18-22, and many times in training, was inconvenient, but running out of it: painful. My legs just had no gas. Yet my upper body and mind were still functional. I managed to drink copious amounts of gatorade at the last two aid stations. 

The finish was interminable, 40k... 25 miles... 1 mile to go... 41k.... 800 m to go... Fortunately, the runners who were coherent and passing me were very encouraging, telling me to hang in there. I was surprised how few people were in the 2:30s range.  Even at the finish the last guy to pass me said something to the effect of, “c’mon break 2:40!” The finish by the way is brutal, at mile 26 there is an uphill, one of the biggest on the course, not big, but when you’re running 8:00 pace flat out, it certainly ain’t small. 

So I finished in 2:39:21 and I was determined to stay standing, but it wasn’t pretty. Less than a minute after finishing two medical people came over to me and helped me to the medical tent. Some girl by the way told me that one of the athletes I work with in Dubuque says, “good job!” She was gone before I could process it. In the medical tent they massaged my legs a little and found me some water and gatorade and asked me questions about who I was and where I was. They took my pulse too, I don’t think they took my blood pressure. At one point I had my head leaned back eyes closed and mouth gaping open and they shouted at me, “open your eyes!” It kind of shocked me back, as I continued to slur my words. After only 10 minutes I said I was fine and was discharged as I could walk out on my own. I stumbled over to the American Development corral were the country was represented, BAA, Boulder Running Company, Oiselle, Virginia, a number of old college jerseys. 

I called my parents who were wandering around the city, after having cheered me on multiple times! My mom and I went to Panera before walking another .7 miles back to the van to meet up with my dad, who rode his bicycle 23 miles over the course of the morning! You thought spectating a cross country course involved movement? Try spectating a marathon. 

I managed to drive back to Dubuque without getting an accident despite the fact my right leg is in enormous pain. Overall, I laugh and smile. This is not at all how I wanted this race to go. However there are so many positives from the experience. I ran stride for stride beside Rita Jeptoo, and even was closing on her, although at the wrong point in the race. Chicago is a totally flat course, you could run a 2:03 there on a nice day if you had that kind of speed and training. I have a feeling I will run Chicago again, and it was nice to see how everything works, from the expo the day before to the pre-race morning procedures to the course. I am happy I hit the wall. Strange to say, but in all my training, thinking I hit the wall, I never actually hit the wall. There is running low on glycogen (sugars) and there is running out of it. The two are not the same. I am happy my parents were there to see it, at least the first 2/3 of it. Plus, I did have good training leading into this race. In the last 30 days I’ve had two of my best workouts ever. I guess this means I’m going to have to run another marathon.

Monday, October 14, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 127

THANK YOU!!!! I was so strongly supported yesterday at the Chicago Marathon. I'll be honest, I hung in there and toughed it out because you were all rooting for me. However, I consider that part of this coming week, so you're going to have to wait until tomorrow for the four page summary I wrote.

The week was fairly standard. I was in heavy marathon taper mode, so 49 miles total including a light 3.2 mile tempo, that was honestly harder than it needed to be.

Work was good. I have an announcement coming this week about work, an interesting development, but you have to wait a few days.

Okay, I know people want to hear about the marathon, and I stayed up past 11 pm last night writing four pages about the experience, so it's coming. Also, last night, after 73.5 days of being vegan, no butter, cheese, honey, milk, eggs, whey, casein, and of course meat I went out for chicken fettuccine alfredo with buttered garlic bread and salad with cheese on top, it was amazing!

Again, in terms of day to day, this was a pretty ordinary week. My mind is focused on other things, which I will talk about in the days to come. Be patient, what I have to say will be worth a few more days of waiting.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Chicago Marathon Information

Here is just about all you need to know about viewing and tracking runners in Chicago on race day tomorrow.

If you want to actually watch the race, Flotrack is covering it! Follow this link.

If you want to track runners via text message, Twitter, or Facebook follow this link.

If you happen to be there in person there is also a webpage addressing the best spectator options.

That's about it. I authorized the Bank of American Chicago Marathon to read my tweets and see who I follow and who follows me, that was a tangent, my splits should update on my Twitter feed. Otherwise I am bib number 83 wearing a white top with my name on it in blue letters and my logo in black and green.

The weather forecast is perfect! Temperature of 48F at sunrise and wind around 7 mph with 0% chance of rain. It's going to be a good day.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Tiny Differences Result in Hugely Variable Outcomes

I thought about this concept while running the other day in regards to running, then I read this post which gives another example of tiny differences making hugely variable outcomes. It's a good link to a link to a video.

What is the difference between Usain Bolt and Nesta Carter? You've heard of Usain Bolt but you probably haven't heard of Nesta Carter. The difference between the two of them is .2 seconds. 9.58 in the 100 versus 9.78 in the 100 meter dash. In those .2 seconds are millions of dollars and international fame. It is the same for CEO versus a VP. What is the difference between a CEO and VP of a division?

There are two points.

  1. Be the best in the world. Whatever your world is, be it wheeled equipment structures analysis, to the victor go the spoils.
  2. Give back and pay it forward to those who have not reached, or will not reach, the status of best in the world.
I am racing the half marathon world record holder in Chicago. He will beat me. But from the point of view of speed, he runs a half marathon at 13.5 miles per hour and I run it at 10.9 miles per hour. A huge difference I know, yet most people will never go faster than 10 miles per hour, nearly as many never as fast as 8.5 miles per hour. 

My hope is that, even though I am not the best in the world about anything I talk about, I can help others develop and learn, so that they might have even more success, and we would all be better for it.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Mental Box of Possible Performance

I build a box, mentally of possible performances that I will run, I do this for any given race, but since I put so much effort into a marathon I might as well describe the mental picture.
Mental Box of Possible Performances
Basically, I'm always looking forward. I follow the professional runners at the top. I read their interviews. I model my training after their training. However, I don't do the same to the other end of the spectrum. This is actually a very good description of my mental marathon performance picture. With all due respect to the effort people put in to finish a marathon, let alone run 2:40s and 2:50s, I don't recognize those as possibilities for me.

The goal is to be realistic. Avoid making claims I can't back up. At the same time, I can't get complacent with how I have done in the past. I could think, 'wow, I've run 2:30 and 2:34! That's great, a lot of people will try hard and never have those performances.' However, that mentality is not conducive to extremely hard work. I mean the work that is just tortuous. Mile 24, one could just jog it in for the finish, but those next couple miles could make minutes of difference, which could be the difference between huge success and abysmal failure. 

Everyone does this, at my speed and faster. A bad day for Dathan Ritzenhein would be a 2:11 and a great day would be 2:05. Except for him hundreds of thousands of dollars are on the line. 

In the search for what is possible, I must recognize that today, this week, this month, this year, I have physical limits. What those limits are next year? No one knows.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Choosing Marathon Pace

Well, it's close enough to marathon day I had better have an idea of how I want to run this. So I decided on 5:35 pace, provided it feels okay during the race. How did I choose that?

My best workouts like the 21k, 1k medium, 1k hard, workout the hard parts I averaged under 5:30. Plus I've run a number of those kind of miles in workouts and races in the last four months. Considering how many 5:30 and below miles I have run, I consider that my best case scenario pace. In other words, if everything goes really well, I might run a 2:24.

A bulk of my workouts have happened around 5:45 pace, and that's the pace of my last marathon in 2011. Considering I have had a few workouts better than that go around, I am quite confident that I will PR at Chicago, however, there are always variable that make running harder. Still, even if things go poorly I see myself running 2:30

Finally, on my best long run in this cycle, I finished off with alternating 5:35 and 5:50 miles. They didn't feel easy, but they didn't feel terribly hard either. Considering it is in the range of likely paces for me to run, it is as good as anything. However, it's not slow and if I'm not feeling it in the first few miles, I have to back off. Regardless of the pace I end up averaging, I will cross that finish line exhausted.

So I'm aiming to run 5:35 per mile for a marathon, for a total time of 2:26. If things go better than expected I would like to run even faster. However, if things go poorly I still have a cushion where I can run 2:2X.

The truth is, we don't know how I will run Sunday. If I knew what I would run, I wouldn't run it, and chances are I would be disappointed I wasn't 15 seconds faster or something.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 126

It was a long week. The kind of week I arrive at home at night tired and exhausted. In fact, I don't really want to talk about it. Strange thing to blog I suppose.

Work, well there is a little stress there for two reasons. One is I turned down overtime several times lately to do everything else I do in life, and given the amount of money that is leaving on the table, I have to question that decision. The other reason I will tell you about next week.

Running, I started an abrupt taper running only 55 miles, after ten consecutive weeks between 80 and 106 miles. I had one 4.5 mile progression run in there and a medium long run. This is the hard part in the taper, resting, not working hard. Inevitably I always feel sluggish as though I am getting out of shape. It is important to remember feelings are not fact.

Coaching, I wasn't around as much as I would have liked. We had a meet, a number of people ran strong races, and a few ran not so strong races.

A note on my social life, I spent about four hours this weekend socializing with family and friends. I'm not sure what that sounds like, but it's way more than average for me. Doing all the above activities I realized this past weekend that I haven't been on a date in a year and more significantly, I can't think of one person in Dubuque that I know as a friend except through a job, running and bicycling, or my church. Two and a half years and someone could be living a nearly parallel life to me and I wouldn't know it.

I also had the chance Sunday night to see the movie Gravity. It's good. I'll post a formal review eventually.

In summary, taken way out of context, 1st Corinthians 15:36a, "How foolish!" It's a good way to describe those things in my life that stress me out. In short, so many things I assign value to, have no real value.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Over-Living Again

I did it again, too much of everything. The last week hasn't been pretty. I've missed at least four meeting split between three organizations. No time, and too much tact, for specific details now. Suffice to say, it's too much. When it rains it pours. 

In two weeks this bustle will be a memory. In a month I will be as bored as ever. At the moment, I have multiple recent failures and some big things to finish. 

Part of it is the marathon, spending months preparing for one day. I know my preparation was excellent, I am ready to go. It is harder to rest than it is to train hard. In fact, hard training is the easy part: destroy myself, recover, repeat.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Don't Think About It

This is one of the reasons I never excelled at baseball. A coach told me multiple times not to think about the ball, just hit it. Don't over think it, just do it. That just doesn't make sense, of course I'm going to think about the ball!

On the other hand, I'm running a marathon in nine days. The fastest marathon I ever have run. The more I think about it the more nervous it makes me. Okay, I had some of the best workouts I have ever had, plus a cross country 8k PR going into this race, now we're not going to talk about it much. That way I can be more relaxed and less nervous, and hopefully enjoy the experience a little more. (I will blog more about the race leading up to it, but other than 15 minutes a day blogging about it, the point is I try not to think about it.)

The larger picture is, "who of you by worrying can add one single hour to your life?" There are many things you don't control, far more than you control, if you even control anything, so why spend effort focusing on those things outside of your control?

That baseball coach might not have been great at instructing me to hit the ball, but he did have a point. If thinking about variable X drives you crazy because you have no control over it, then don't think about it. If it happens, it happens.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Work Harder

You want to hear the secret to running the world record marathon? Run twice a day every day and lift weights and focus on flexibility when others are resting in the two months after a marathon.

It's just so easy to talk about running because it is so simple, but the concept applies to your career, your relationships and other activities. You don't have to be the best, or work the hardest, but if you try the results will stand for themselves.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Long Process

I have 11 days until my marathon, yet I have been training for marathons in one way or another for the last four years. I have three years work experience and a couple of engineering degrees. Kind of a dichotomy, on the one hand this physical effort I have worked hard for, while I am not nearing the end, I think we can say I'm past half way on the absolute best performance timeline. On the other hand, in engineering, three years and two degrees is hardly past halfway and I have not really come close to finishing my engineering goals.

For those of you that aren't goal orientated, I don't know what to say. For those that are goal orientated, I hope you understand the concept of building a ladder of goals that ends someplace amazing. For example, qualifying for the Olympic marathon trials would be great, but it's not going to happen for me in Chicago this year. I can't really imagine running faster than 2:23:00 this time. So this marathon kind of becomes one more rung on the ladder. Go out, work hard, run within myself, PR by several minutes.

A long process can also be though of as cooking. Maybe you start with a steak, and to make it the best you can you throw in onions and mushrooms, then some salt and pepper, a tiny bit of paprika, then a little butter just before the end. What starts out as a simple prospect requires numerous ancillary aspects or processes. If you want to run well, read about great coaching and fast athletes, in dozens of books and hundreds of articles. Each book is like a spice, each book is a little ancillary process that contributes to the overall development.

Cooking, running, engineering, relationship building, these are all similar. To have success at a long process involves many variables, a large amount of experience. Whatever you do, if it was easy everyone would do it.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The US Government is Shutdown

Okay, not a real surprise I suppose, but still disheartening. Why did this happen? About 80% of the time the government spends more than it makes in tax revenue. This means it needs credit, bonds, to keep operating, although it can just print money if it would like, but that's a different story. Time for a one trillion dollar coin! Think of this as needing another student loan to go to college another semester, a car loan or a home mortgage. The reason the government spends more than it makes, especially in this economy, is that it wants to grow the economy, and the more money people make, the more they spend. However, House of Representative Republicans are tired of the spending and feel that the Affordable Car Act, which already passed both houses of Congress, was signed by the president and upheld by the Supreme Court, might be just too much government spending. So they tried to delay the law from being implemented by not allowing the debt ceiling to be raised. Interesting to note the debt ceiling nearly tripled in the 1980s.

So today all non-essential government workers, are not working. The rest are working, without pay. Obviously the situation will change daily and even hourly, the real concern is if the US defaults on it's debt obligations, expected October 17th.