Friday, November 29, 2013

I am Still Thankful

I am spending the weekend at my parents house and black Friday has passed us, I didn't go shopping, just to the coffee shop, and I am still thankful. It is funny how our minds kind of turn off or slow down on breaks. I feel like I push hard all the time and when I slow down, I really slow down. After all, I'm writing today's blog post at 5 pm.

There are so many things to be thankful for. I ran 10 miles today and it was somewhat "warm" and there was no wind. My parents have a wonderful house. My van just keeps running. It really does not have to. A 20 year old vehicle with 304,000 miles is welcome to break and quit working. The fact that I get a paid day off! How cool is that! Plus, I get paid so much. Sure I want more, but I certainly don't need more. Nobody with my salary or higher needs this kind of money. My life is great.

I look at my life and there are so many advantages that I have, and have had, that billions of people do not have. For one I was born in the USA, probably the greatest country out there, despite it's flaws. I am white. While skin color obviously has no real implications on ability, from my many friends and a slew of articles I understand that being white is easier than most other skin colors, it's sad. It turns out I went to a high school in the top 5% of high schools in Kansas. I did not know that until years after I graduated. I went to a prestigious private university. I am on salary at a top 100 (top 80) brand company.  Every step of the way I have been blessed with opportunities. Sure I've had a couple missteps, like 2010, but on the whole, and especially right now I have so much to be thankful for!

Thanks again for reading! Also, for my friends, because I know most of you know me personally thank you. We might not always talk as much as I would like, but for the time we have talked, I would not trade that honesty and sincerity for billions of dollars. Seriously, I think money brings it's own set of problems, among them the honesty of those close to you. I am thankful what I do have, it is honest.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! One of the more recent holidays, only 150 official years old. Lincoln promoted it back in 1863. I am very thankful. It is important to remember our thankfulness, hopefully always, but if not than at least for a day.

Instead of making a list of 100 things that I am thankful for, like I have in the past. I thought what one thing am I most thankful for? God. Well, that was too easy. Quite seriously, everything is second to God. I am thankful for all of the blessings that I have, the family and relationships, the wealth, the jobs, the physical ability, but it all comes in second.

On a separate note, the holiday of Thanksgiving and the day after, are not rights. We may treat them as rights but we should be thankful for the days of privilege, that many of us are paid for not even showing up.

I encourage you to pay it forward. Take gratitude and thankfulness into work next week. Thank your boss for hiring you. Thank you coworker for getting all that stuff done you didn't really want to do. Thank your neighbor for plowing the extra five feet of your sidewalk.

Thank you for reading! I really appreciate the visits and page views. It's not the most personal, but for all of the in person conversations it has started, even the ones with others that I am not present for, I am thankful. Thank you!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How Much MORE STUFF Do You Need?

A major holiday is coming up, Black Friday. As good consumers everyone is expected to worship at the altar of the "SALE". 

Frankly, yes, spending your money helps keep the economy going. Without the flow of money between people and companies there would be no modern economy. And I for one like living in the 21st century. So yes, spending money helps the person receiving the money and employs people. 

That being said, how much is enough? Is anyone who will be shopping at the sales Friday really lacking anything they need? Maybe, I am sure there are examples, but what about the people in the Philippines? While they are devastated, their damage actually still pales in comparison the the Indonesian tsunami of nearly a decade ago. Personally, I struggle to enjoy stuff, but I rarely regret the experiences, even the expensive ones. Do you really want to change someone's life? Send her to Africa, to a village without clean or running water. A new handbag does not really compare. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What is Courage?

It is a good question. Courage must be doing something difficult, but what is difficult? Courage seems to be doing the uncomfortable, so more of a mental and emotional state rather than a physical state. In other words we typically don't call football players courageous. 

I am leaving this question open today. I don't have the answer. I have a few ideas, apologizing, doing something that may result in death, doing something not normal that is uncomfortable and the right thing. Is courage a facade? Is one person's courageous act another person's weakness? What is not courageous?

Monday, November 25, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 133

What happened this week? While at work we saved the company over $20 million in three days of brainstorming and simple critiquing. Not bad for a group of 40 mostly young people like myself. Of course, we still have a few months, and in a couple cases years, of work to put the ideas into practice, but we generated over 1000 ideas on possible ways to reduce costs. Of course you have to take cost cutting ideas with a grain of salt, we don't want to reduce the quality of our product. It was an interesting, and long, three days.

We also learned that we would be getting a bonus this year because the company did so well. I try not to talk about my enormous wealth often because it makes Americans uncomfortable, and they are still 75% of my audience. However, there are a couple points I would like to share:

  1. I never expected to get a bonus in life. I always thought engineers were paid for their work and time, but no bonus if the company did well. It's a nice perk to have.
  2. I will get twice as much before taxes in my bonus in 2013 than I made in all of 2010. That's not saying much, but it is something I am incredibly thankful for and don't take for granted.
Running went great! I basically tripled my mileage to 27 miles for the week! I even doubled on Saturday. I am still maybe only 90% but my right calf pain has nearly disappeared and in no time I will be doing workouts. 

Coaching was very limited, but as always, it's like an addiction. The hope that my presence will help a couple youngsters be a little better, not just on the track but off too, keeps me motivated to keep showing up, even when I seriously question my coaching value.

What else? I logged on Facebook for an hour. That's rare enough it's newsworthy.

Thanks for reading! I haven't said that recently. I hope that sharing as much as I do helps provide real concrete advice and encouragement to do the right things in your life. The fact that people do read this keeps me posting.

Friday, November 22, 2013

My Weakness

Yesterday as I had a massage my therapist laughed when I said that I see myself as weak. She laughed because she said that the amount of pressure she was putting on me was enormous. Most people don't pay for that kind of pain. 

I run marathons and train thousands of miles in all weather. It seems I am not weak. Yet I look at myself, the things I have endured, and I see weakness. I have never starved. I have never been lethally chased, barring an incident in 2004 with a boulder. My life is and always has been easy compared to billions of others. I can't imagine any self inflicted pain equivalent to the difficultly the poor, starving, chronically sick go through every day. 

In short, no matter what pain and suffering I endure it will never be enough for me to consider myself strong. I mean, I am strong, but in the pursuit of more strength there is always weakness. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Future Does Not Involve Operators

Not only is the Google autonomous car changing things, semis and heavy equipment are ripe for automation. In fact back in 1997 John Deere started working on an autonomous tractor. Steadily they have been introducing features to tractors that allow a more automated tractor, and less chance for operator error. One of the most expensive parts of a tractor is the cab. Without it the whole machine would be less expensive. Cab-less vehicles also open up the possibility of true 24 hour operation. With infrared cameras to spot people and animals a cab-less tractor might not even need lights to run at night. 
Certainly, we aren't there yet. Do you want to be the guy trying to hitch an implement to an autonomous tractor backing up? What if it doesn't stop? Also, what if your kid runs out in the field in front of the tractor? Finally, how do you transport the tractor and the implement two miles to your next field?

Overall, the method of a tractor with a person driving pulling an implement has not changed in decades, it is an industry ripe for disruption. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

They Downgraded Our Gas

If you live in Iowa, chances are for the last few years you have filled up with 89 octane and 10% ethanol gasoline. Well, in the last few weeks the gas stations and producers have quit offering the 89 octane fuel in favor of 87 octane with 10% ethanol added. This resulted in a 10-20 cents per gallon price decrease. While it is nice to pay less for gas, we are actually getting less gas now. While I like paying $2.829 per gallon it will not go as far as 89 octane would take us. You can even see the new sticker in the picture I took this weekend below.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

There Is No Going Back in Time

The last couple weeks I have reminisced a few times about the times that were in college and high school. Part of it was watching the cross country team, part of it was talking to an old friend, and talking to my grandparents. I will never be younger than I am today. There is no going back. This, time, our life, is a one way street.

I guess it scares me. I remember the simplicity and predictability of my younger days. As I get older everything gets more serious. Running has the connotation, 'are you going to lay it all out there and be your very best?' Dating has the connotation, 'are we going to get married?' Work has the connotation, 'will you put in more time to end up getting the promotion?' Life says, 'did you pay all of your bills this month?'

I think these things, and honestly I still have almost no responsibility. I have no dependents. I have more money than I have debts. I am just scared that life, the tiger of adventure, the world of possibility, might be getting away from me. I know, that's ridiculous! I went to Rwanda this summer and was in the top 0.5% of the Chicago Marathon last month. That doesn't sound like letting life get away from me. Yet...

I've mentioned before that I feel like I am tormented. Tormented by my own mind which demands that when I do something I do it all the way, the best I can. And I suppose... I am afraid that I have not given my all in the past. As I write this I am trying to think of a situation when I could have or would have given more and I can't come up with one. Maybe it's an insecurity, that no matter what I do, it will never be enough. There is some truth to that statement, that everything is meaningless and no one can do enough to change the outcome of life, which is death. Not only the insecurity of 'maybe I can't do it' but the fact that I could die trying is a really hard idea to grow into comfortably.

While my incompetences and failures frustrate me, my own mortality gives an urgency to everything I do. There is no going back. I have one less day ahead of me than I did yesterday. One less night of sleep in the countdown to my death. I can not delay doing the things I have to do. Yes, that means you will have to hear me whine about more failures as I continue to push my limits. It also means there are higher goals that will be accomplished.

My torment, which is my incompetence and failure in the limited time we call life, is my motivation.

Monday, November 18, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 132

Work was a week of some ups and downs. While another member of the team was in Lousiana checking up on a machine, I was describing over the phone the problem we had to go to Canada for, and wouldn't you know it, even though he is a software and electrical guy, he found the issue. I almost jumped out of my seat at work when he said, "Oh! That's a big crack! I can't believe I didn't see it." Great. So we have a repeatable problem to fix. Fortunately, we are not expecting to travel for this incident, we can just send the repair information. Still it's unfortunate because it means the Canadian incident wasn't a fluke, it's the norm.

We made progress in other areas. It can be hard, from the ground level engineering where I am to see the day to day and weekly developments, despite the fact I am the one sending out the reports and new information.

Running is getting much better! I put in a 9.7 mile week! That's not even counting the 2.5 miles I jogged during the men's and women's races up at St. Olaf either. I'm coming back. There is still a chronic muscle tear deep in my right calf and it's not healed yet.  It takes time.

Coaching, was not quite as great as I hoped it might be. We had a number of personal records this week, and best race of the season for others, but due to injuries the last month we just are not the team we were six weeks ago. I don't really want to dwell on it right now. In short we ended the season with NCAA D3 regionals at St. Olaf in Northfield, MN.

Finally, I went to see my grandparents who live in Minnesota. Seeing as how my grandma is 87, it's best I cherish all the time I can. What did I learn on this particular trip? My grandma has had a slew of dental work, so I feel better about my first filling and cavities. Also, a large ethanol plant closed in their town and that means 40 people are out of a job. Small town economics are sad. I mean either you have the young people or you don't. What defines young people is hard to say, it might just mean a steady supply of 65 year old retirees, but it means new people. A town with no one new will die off.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Forgetting Africa

It is so easy in the wealth of our daily lives, with all of the "small" luxuries we enjoy, to forget just how hard life is for the poorest five billion people in the world.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

My First Dental Filling

It finally happened, 27.5 years of no dental work, aside from cleanings and check-ups, ended with a couple fillings on my lower back teeth. For some reason my lower teeth have worn faster than my upper teeth, no one has had a good idea why yet. The best I can come up with is I drank too many sugary drinks for so long.

It's depressing, first having anything done to my teeth. Second, now it feels like I have a lump of cement on top of my teeth, however I can't "feel" it like I do my normal all real teeth. Third, enamel and dentin are two rather simple structures when it comes to the human body, we can't develop a paste or veneer sort of matrix that promotes regrowth? (They are actually working on such things around the world.) As the saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure" and it could refer to both more bushing and eating less sugar instead of a filling, or getting a filling instead of a root canal or whole new tooth. Either way, I could do better. Less sugar, more brushing and flossing, more vegetables, and more calcium, it's a simple list, but aw with any endeavor, easier said than done.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Forestry Management: Logging and Environmental Sustainability

I work for the largest manufacturer of mechanized forestry equipment in the world.  I am also a conservationist, so much a conservationist that I call myself a tree hugger and environmentalist depending on the context. How does one reconcile the image of destructive clear cutting with that of the pristine wilderness? Well, there are a number of ways, I support the creation and protection of national parks as places where the ecosystem is relatively undisturbed, preservation land management. I also support land actively managed for productivity and sustainability. I also recognize that there are parts of my life that are currently only found through localized exploitation practices, in other words, I know where my smart phone comes from. (Read yesterday's article for more information.)

I enjoy conservation because it seems like a great use of land. We get to use the resources from the land, yet do not take so much away from it that future generations can not use it. Forests are a great example of this. On my recent trip to Canada we visited a logging site and the view behind us of the government owned hillside was a great example of conservation in action.
Example of Canadian Forestry Management
See what I mean? The tops of ridges are left intact to act as wind blocks for soil erosion so that newly planted tree saplings are not uprooted. They are also left intact so that animals have places to run and forage. The rest of the forests are cut in patch style rotations so that trees of three or more ages are in one place. For example, in the immediate foreground the trees were cut in the last week, about 200 meters away the trees were in the 10-15 year old range, and on the opposing hillside I have labels for the different areas. Seed trees are also left every 30 meters or so to help reseed the forest and act as land stabilizers as the young hand planted saplings take root. The sapling trees are all planed by hand by seasonal workers in the summer. The large seed trees left are of the type that is most productive for lumber. The smaller trees left, seen in the foreground and of varying species, were trees too small for any economic use so they were left, run over several times, but otherwise undisturbed.

When I explain the exploitation, conservation, preservation continuum to people, often people think think of one extreme or the other, but between removing every single tree and not removing any of the trees is a medium that is economically productive, on land that aside from hunting is otherwise economically unproductive. The negative aspect is that in this part of British Columbia the trees are in the neighborhood of 70 years old when they are harvested. With growing cycles that long sustainability takes on a complex meaning. It is good to know that somewhere in the world people are attempting to plan environmental practices decades into the future, and not only for the sake of recreation, but for an economic benefit, every year.

Finally, it is worth noting that increases in carbon dioxide levels and rising global temperatures will increase the rate of growth of northern (and I suppose far southern) trees. In other words, the CO2 levels have gone from about 310 ppm to 390 ppm from 1960 to 2010 so a 70 year cycle in the past might only be a 50 year cycle going forward. The negative of this is that the wood will be less dense, and thus a slightly lower quality. The positive is, there will be more wood available to harvest. In a perverse way higher CO2 levels and warmer temperatures will help the logging industry reduce the time between harvest cycles.

Clearly, forestry, and wood, paper and related products, are one tiny aspect of the global resource pool yet a complicated topic whose best practices we are still learning. In short, Canadians, nice job, it seems like you are thinking about all of these things in a proactive manner!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Preservation, Conservation, Exploitation

There is a small continuum of possible ways to use land. On the one hand is preservation, do not disturb the land at all. On the other hand is exploitation, get every little bit of value out of the land as possible. In the middle is conservation. Using the land for productive capacities, but aiming not to deplete it and thus lose one's livelihood. In graph form:
Preservation, Conservation, Exploitation

That's the spectrum of how to use land, energy, and just about all material objects. The examples I give below the line are only that, examples. I realize that calling farming "sustainable" (in quotes) may rile some readers but it is worth noting that we aren't entirely sure the century long results of our environmental impact, specifically when it comes to agriculture in the midwest United States. Also, listing Superfund sites as anything other than pure exploitation may make others angry, but the fact is many superfund sites are successfully reclaimed to nontoxic levels.

Every person has an opinion on where we should stand on average in the world. The truth is the world is finite. It is very big, and has a lot of resources to offer, and gets bombarded with more sunlight, adding energy every day, yet it is finite. I tend toward the preservation side of conservation, but I know what materials my cellphone and laptop require, which come from open pit mines and future Superfund sites, and I recognize those are a fact of our world. Yet I worry that the impact we have on Earth right now may not be realized for decades or centuries to come, and for that reason I suggest we attempt to reduce our consumption of resources and enhance our use of more renewable resources. Land use and land management, not to mention energy use and management or resource use and management, are complicated topics. No one person has all the answers. I simply want to point out there is a spectrum of opinion and use of land, energy, and resources and with a continually growing global population more tough choices will be demanded in the future. For your own good, and the health of us all, think about this now in your own life before someone else makes the choices for you.

Monday, November 11, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 131

A busy week it was! It started with Sunday, and while a "standard" Sunday for me it was, it included a 51 mile bicycle ride. Bicycling is so easy, you sit down 99% of the time. I mean I can go out and ride for three and a half hours, and the next day not be very tired from it. Maybe that speaks to my fitness, but compared to running, it doesn't take nearly the effort for me.

Monday started well before daylight, picking up a coworker for the drive to Madison, WI. Then we flew to Denver, CO, another flight to Spokane, WA, drove through Idaho to Canada, and ended our journey well after dark in Cranbrook, British Columbia. The trip took around 14 hours total, and we had little downtime between segments.

Tuesday started with breakfast and coffee at Tim Hortons and a day at the dealership fixing the problem we were sent to Canada to fix. I would show pictures because I'm pretty happy with what we did, but that is definitely not my own personal intellectual property, but my company's so I won't. We also had a chance to get out in the field and see some machines operating. My fourth time in the field but my coworker's first. It's always good to get another engineer out into the field to see how our equipment is used.

Wednesday was more time at the dealership finishing fixing the first problem and fixing a second problem. Ultimately we documented 24 "issues" with our prototype that we took back to the office. That night we drove back to Spokane, hoping to catch an early flight. We stopped for great steak at Lou's in Ponderay, which I highly recommend, if for no other reason than to see a building made largely with beetle kill wood. I also had the chance Wednesday night to see two of my friends from Dubuque that moved to Spokane. It's so nice to see friends after moving away. People grow and change, and often it's surprising, and usually for the better.

Thursday, the early flights were full so we slept in and took a quick tour of Spokane before a flight and working on our five page trip report for an hour and a half in the Denver airport.
Spokane, with a Hydroelectric Plant on the Right
Friday I was into the office for a ultimately tiring seven hours before a 21 mile bicycle ride. Four hours of sleep is not enough for me. However, we sent out our trip report to our engineering team and I felt very good about that. Not everybody who travels sends out a report, but I feel that as the company pays thousands of dollars for us to travel to these far away places it is my duty to put together a few pages so that those who do not travel can have a glimpse of our products in action.

Saturday was leisurely, beginning with 12 hours of sleep, but did include a few pitches of rock climbing, a two mile run, and a trip to Buffalo Wild Wings. It's only the third time I was out rock climbing in 2013 and my right leg is healing, slowly but it is healing. A busy week, and a good productive week. I am so blessed!

Happy Veterans Day!

Friday, November 8, 2013

We Improved the World

It's late, but it's a weekday so I will post, this week, we improved the world. Actual problems were fixed. Communication was improved. These things happened in a measurable way. 

The feeling of a concrete problem solved is so rewarding. The feeling trumps any material possession gained. You can't eat and drink your way there. 

This week we, certainly not just I, made the world a little better. Whatever happens next week, this week we had success.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Takeaways from Being Vegan

What are some take away lessons from being vegan?
  • The “protein” sources are just not as good from plants as they are from animals. Now, we are so basic in our understanding of protein vs carbs vs fats, that I will go so far as to say, no one has figured out the ideal diet, at least not the ideal diet for everyone. For example, there are at least ten (okay nine, plus one that your body makes a little of) amino acids in protein that you need to get from food, and animal meat is the best way to get it. Fats can be broken down into monounsaturdated, polyunsaturated, saturated, and transfats, and there may be more, and they all have slightly difference metabolism mechanisms in our body. Carbs run the gamut from fructose, to sweeteners, to sugar, to whole wheat pasta, and hearty Ezekiel 4:9 bread. We break a diet down into carbs,  protein, and fats, but it’s not that simple. Yet who has time to make sure you get enough phenylalanine and threonine on a daily basis? As a competitive marathoner I need to get enough of everything, on a daily, or at least nearly daily basis to recover after a hard workout and before the next. If a lack of threonine meant it took me six days between hard workouts instead of five, the diet is inadequate. While you won’t see my grilling brats four times a week, eating chilidogs, or having meatlovers pizza, maybe ever, I plan to have steak and (ocean) fish at least once a week each. Probably small portions of each, 4-6 oz, but enough to get some quality protein. I might also go for MSC fish and free range cattle since I will be eating so little and I can afford the cost up. I will also probably eat up to half a pound of sandwich meat per week spread over five lunches. I realize that eating 16-20 oz of meat per week sounds really low, only 2-3 oz per day, but in addition to vegan protein sources I think I can thrive on those levels.
  • Very related to the first point, I am know that protein helps muscles repair and recover, I also think it might make a difference in glycogen storage, i.e. the right mix of proteins and minerals, perhaps something like retinol (animal vitamin A), may just help our muscles store more glycogen. This is more so a theory, but I think carbohydrate loading, which happens on a daily basis does not happen simply because we eat carbs, and it doesn’t happen best just eating carbs after a run, it happens best eating carbs after a run with the other chemicals that help our cells store it, and what those chemicals are, be they amino acids (proteins) or what, I think that eating a sufficient amount of animal protein (again we’re talking maybe only one pound a week) probably helps with this process. Even if it increases the glycogen stores in my body (my legs) from 1700 to 1750 calories, that could make a huge difference in a well paced marathon. Keep in mind, this is only my own personal theory, and we’re talking about a complex chemical reaction responsible for perhaps 3% of the total glycogen storage process. Also, on my one 27 mile run I really struggled the last seven miles just to run 6:20s. Other than that I never reached the level of depletion in training that I did at miles probably 18-22, let alone miles 23+ in Chicago.
  • I never had that post-thanksgiving-tryptophan-super-full feeling, like I do after a large meal particularly a large amount of steak, milk, or butter. I really enjoyed not having that feeling. For that reason I will continue in the future on a plant based diet, omnivore of course, but there will be many vegan meals and probably even vegan days. It only took about three days for me to realize that heavy stomach feeling had gone away. I may just be lactose sensitive, certainly not intolerant, but I just don’t feel as good after drinking a pint of cows milk as I do after that much soy or almond milk. I had a huge 20 oz mocha with cows milk Monday morning, and I felt sick to my stomach.
  • I seriously felt less inflammation. It’s a subjective feeling, but especially in my joints, especially my ankles, I felt in the first week that they felt, narrow, less expanded, less inflamed, I liked this feeling too. Another reason to eat plant based food.
  • I stepped on the scale after a run in September, on a hot day, and I was a dehydrated 123.6 pounds, wearing all my running gear. That’s three pounds less than I ever weighed in college, and I almost always weigh myself in the afternoon after a run, so it is consistent with previous weights. Part of the goal of this was to lose a little body fat, and I did, about 2% of my body weight, so roughly 11% to 9% body fat. While that helped with some of my faster training, I think that simply not eating pizza and doughnuts at work would do the same thing. In short, yes, you will likely lose weight if you turn vegan, but no guarantee that you lose a lot of it.
  • My bowel movements were softer and more regular. I think milk and cheese contribute to constipation, even if only mildly. The take away is instead of drinking two gallons of milk per week and half to a full pound of cheese, I will probably drink a gallon or less of milk (and drink soy and almond milk in addition) and less than half a pound of cheese per week.

In total, I have four positives from being vegan and two negatives. Some aspects of being vegan will stay with me, others will not. It was a great 73.5 day experiment.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Reasons my Chicago 2013 Marathon Fell Apart

85% of my performance was due to going out too fast. Both the mental aspect of not slowing down enough when I realized I went out too fast and the physical aspect that led me to the wall. I went out almost as fast as CIM, although Chicago is flat, not downhill, like CIM. Hands down that was the reason I hit the wall. 10 miles in 55:14? I was just not at the level to do that for a full marathon in October 2013. I have no business hitting 5:2X miles in a marathon this year. The oxygen and glycogen demands for me at that pace are just too great to sustain for more than two hours.

The other 15% I’m going to attribute to nutrition. About 5% from trying the strategy I tried of eating in the middle of the night and not having breakfast, plus a low protein meal the night before. Another 5% is due to my nutrition 24 hours+ from the marathon. Not eating in the 30 minutes after my Friday run hurt me. If I stored 50 calories less because of that mistake Friday night, that's almost another mile of hard but not post wall hard speed. The other 5% I’m going to attribute to being vegan. I realize this is a can of worms and I will likely be vilified by the vegans and vegetarians out there for blaming any negative aspects of my performance on a vegan diet, however, I’m a 2:30 marathoner and low 32 10k and a 4:31 miler, hear me out!

In the last 30 days I had the best marathon specific intensive workout (1k medium, 1k hard for 21k total) of my life, the best marathon specific extensive (20 miles in 1:57) workout of my life, and an open 8k PR of 26:30. Clearly it is possible to run really well as a vegan. However, compared to October 2011 my recovery was not as fast in September 2013 as it was then. Perhaps that is the difference between a 27 year old and 25 year old, but I don’t think those two years should make as big of a difference as it did. Plus, part of the reason I did such great workouts was that I was only trying to do a big workout once a week, Bill Squires and new Renato Canova style. However in October 2011 I did nearly as big of workouts, with a lot more quality during the week. I could do that quality during the week because I was recovering so fast. I feel that, at least for me, getting the macro and micro nutrients from meat products is the most efficient and bioavailable way to get the recovery food I need. 

What will I do differently in the future? 
  • Well, I going to run a lower key marathon, and as soon as I can, so that I can negative split one of these things. I negative split my 2:47 this summer our of shape, but seriously, a 2:47? I could probably do that once a week if I really wanted to. (Barring my current bum leg.) That's the major change. To run a really good marathon, you have to feel great at half way. I don't just mean feel okay, you have to feel capable of sprinting a mile at 5k pace.
  • I eat meat again. I think my diet will consist of steak once a week and fish once a week and cheese on meals. Other than that I will eat some chicken wings or hamburgers here and there but I would guess than two thirds of my meals will probably still be vegan, specifically most breakfasts and lunches. 
  • I will eat breakfast before marathons. Just a bagel and some coffee and orange juice, but a few hundred calories none the less. 
  • I will be absolutely on my nutrition leading up the race so that I carbo-load and get the protein I need in the days before the race. The difference of 100 or 200 calories is all that separates a good race, but running a couple 8:20s miles at the end of a marathon. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 130

An interesting week to say the least. Some weeks I seem to spend more time laying around, going out to write and just socializing. This past week was a blur of activity, mostly at work.

Sunday and Monday were pretty standard low keys days, but Tuesday grew interesting. I was at work early and still there later than normal, and a rumor surfaced about a trip to Canada.

Wednesday the rumor became a fact, I was going to Canada for a minor issue, but field time is always more conducive to understanding issues than sitting behind a computer trying to understand a few unfocused pictures. Preparation and details were being worked out as I grow into my new role I understand what I need to do better. New jobs always start slow, but the intensity eventually builds.

Thursday, the wheels came off, metaphorically speaking, although it's relatively accurate. FAILURE! Dubuque, we have a problem! A major structure has cracked and not only is it now my structure in my three week old job, it was a structure that I, and I alone, did finite element analysis on two years ago. I am the world expert once again on a very specific component, and I'm getting a trip to Canada to fix the problem. I would like to add, we don't fully understand the problem yet either. We are going up with a solution, but it is based on only a fraction of the story. I am quite afraid that once up there we will discover more problems. Although, I am hopeful that we will discover more details to the current problem, enough to allow us to solve it.

Why do companies make physical prototypes? Because things fail in real life that do not fail virtually.

Friday was another blur of coming up with a fix, changing flights once in the morning and a second time in the afternoon. I used my FEA software and my design software to create the two new parts, and virtually test the two new parts in less time than it would take to explain the previous FEA to someone else. In other words, I have already started cannibalizing my previous job. Realistically I eliminated one or two days of highly skilled, highly paid, work because I now have more skills than I had a month ago.

Friday night and Saturday were far more relaxed as I accompanied my cross country team to the IIAC cross country championships. There were I think four personal records on our two teams. Given the rolling hills that isn't too bad. However, a number of other teams had runners set personal records, and the leading times were not terribly slow. Both of our teams came in last, 8th of 8. After two and a half years of coaching, hours a week, probably 600 hours a year, it is not exactly the kind of conference experience we were looking for. It's too early to say more about it.

That's about it. My own running? Half a mile Tuesday and 0.8 miles Saturday was all. A 1.3 mile week. Granted that's a 400% milage increase from last week. My calf is healing due to the massages and stretching, but it takes time. My therapist is doing a great job, and I am rehabbing as I can, but this is one gnarly left calf.

Friday, November 1, 2013

My Problem and a Trip to Canada

It is my fault. I can not blame anyone else. The fact that there is a crack in the prototype structure after far too few hours of operation, when I did the FEA on it, is my fault. Now, I am the design engineer responsible to fix that structure. Not only is it my fault, now it is my responsibility. This is why people move to new jobs far from the old ones, to leave old projects behind for the next poor sap. On the other hand, commitment and a deeper experience are what I am after and having responsibility  for the failure and now the fix is exactly the kind of end to end experience I am after, even if it means I feel afraid of being a failure.

I will be in Canada next week! Tuesday it was a rumor from one person. Wednesday morning it was official and Thursday I booked tickets. Initially the trip was to investigate one moderate issue that is my responsibility, now with the revelation of a major issue that is also my responsibility, the trip will be even more valuable. I'm flying into Spokane and driving north to Cranbrook, BC area. 

Companies exist in large part to absorb the problems of any one person. In other words, failures happen but they do not have to ruin a career. Companies also exist to pool resources so that one person can not do too much damage. In this particular case we have a good team, we will solve this problem, before Thanksgiving.