Tuesday, December 31, 2013

How Light Can You Mountaineer?

Well, yesterday I tried to climb Dragon's Tail Couloir on Flattop Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park. It's an easy 40-45 degree snow and 3rd-4th class chute that I was hoping to cruse in the morning and get down for a late lunch. Well, it was not the day for me. I started off wearing two pairs of leg tights, my R1 Hoody, a thin spandex Nike stocking hat and my new Black Diamond Scree gloves. I quickly put on my Mountain Hardware Alchemy jacket and my Marmot hard shell because the wind was just whipping through the R1 Hoody even down below tree-line.

I was hoping, based mainly on the temperatures (15F-25F) and the fact is is a rather narrow valley that the wind would not be a huge factor. Well, my fingers quickly got very cold once I got into the steeper snow using two ice axes. I had to stop and shake them out and I got the "screaming barfies" which is the sensation when your fingers warm up after being cold that turns your stomach over a little and really hurts! On the other hand, it's a fact of cold weather climbing. So I continued upward.

Finally around 10,800 feet soon after the first constriction in the couloir the snow was scaring me for avalanche conditions. I am certainly no avalanche expert, but the basis of slab avalanches are a heavy wet dense layer on top of a light dry fluffy layer and given the right poking it can all slide. I was kicking in my feet and only the points of my crampons were going in about 2-3 cm (I was flat footing) but when I plunged in my ice axe it went in the full 60 cm. The point being, there was a crust on top of the snow but once below that it was rather soft. It would probably have been okay to continue, but between that and the consistent 20-25 mph winds gusting to 40+ mph and my thin clothing I decided it best to back down.

Every time I turn around in a situation like that I wonder, 'maybe I should have kept going'. I was cold but not unbearably so. Despite the hard/soft snow layers they were probably dense enough throughout that I could have gone the whole way. However, I have learned over time that the summit fever to get to the top of the climb can end poorly as I have learned through a few late afternoon hail storms. If it was that windy down in a valley and couloir how windy must it have been on top of the ridge?

My family first hiked to Emerald Lake in 1997. I could call it my first hike. Now I've climbed Hallett's north face in 2008 and this winter I was trying to do a moderately steep snow climb as an experiment. It's interesting how our view of a place changes with time and experience.

The point is, My legs were too cold today and the wind was just taking the heat out of me and my body reacted by taking the heat out of my fingers and toes. So tomorrow when I attempt to do the Loft on Mt. Meeker (roughly the same difficulty) I will be wearing full winter clothing (hard shell on my legs and thick gloves and maybe even mittens and bring my down parka to climb in just in case). This trip out here is training after all for Everest.

Enjoy the video I took just after I started heading down! (It looks and sounds worse than it actually was. I've climbed on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire in worse.)

Monday, December 30, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 138

To be fair I only spent about 16 hours actually in Iowa last week. I started off the week at my parents home in Wisconsin. (Is it not strange the various meanings of "home". Did I go "home" for Christmas?) The week was pretty low key. I spent a fair amount of time watching a few movies and television shows. I slept a good amount, 11 hours one night! I also spent time going to church for Christmas services.

Finally, I should mention that I spent a huge amount of time talking with my family. In the moment, it does not feel like we are "doing" anything but there is a lot of communication and idea exchange going on.

I was on vacation, I didn't work. I didn't even check my emails, although I want too. I want to see what the guys in India are working on and anything that the contractors might have worked on last week. However, checking in while on vacation is not a precedent I am ready to set for myself. Perhaps one day. I mean, I am thinking about checking my email, I am sure there is something I could reply to with an answer to accelerate the various processes we are working through. However, the more clear the vacation, the more vigor I expect to bring back to work when I return. There is a long term value in vacation. My job is awesome!

I ran a bunch, 68 miles. I was tired from the 76 last week and in the process of building mileage, it just takes time to build to a nice (80+ mpw) level. I even did a 4xmile workout with only about 200 meters jogging between intervals. My times were 5:34, 5:26, 5:24, and 5:20, and I was satisfied. It is certainly no big workout, but it is the first intervals I have done since Chicago and they were not easy or totally aerobic, it was a really nice workout at the Petit. Seriously, I always have good workouts at the Petit.

Also, with the help of my dad I changed the oil in my 306,000 mile van. Why is this significant? I've only changed the oil a few times on vehicles. I can do it, I just get frustrated at work as an engineer that I do not do more hands on mechanical work. So I changed my oil.

Saturday I drove to Colorado! I am actually sitting in a hotel in Estes Park right now. I am visiting friends and trying to do some climbing. The plan is Monday to climb Dragon's Tail Couloir on Flattop Mountain. It should be pretty quick and I might even be done by lunch. But in the event there are no tweets or Facebook updates by 6 PM Mountain time someone please call Rocky Mountain National Park and tell them some newbie is lost in the mountains.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Westward Ho!

It is not that I like last minute planning, but I am not good at sitting still. So I am taking off from Wisconsin later today for Dubuque and then Colorado! The plan is to be out there most of next week and get at least one full day of skiing and two days of steep snow and ice climbing. I have contacted a number of my friends out there but in case anyone else will be in the area and wants to go skiing or climbing, let me know.

I am thinking of doing an easy couloir on Flattop in Rocky Mountain National Park and then perhaps Dreamweaver on Meeker for the ice climbing side of things. It will depend on conditions when I get up there. It is not surprise that I am looking for Alpine Ice 2, Class 4, Grade II-III climbing which will be exactly what I expect to encounter on Everest. As for skiing, I've skied Copper Mountain, Winter Park, Berthod Pass, Loveland Pass, and St. Mary's Glacier. While I am open to skiing those places again, I would be more interested in something else, and preferably backcountry although I can pay for a lift ticket if others prefer.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Worthy Goal?

In the world of goals, what is worth the time, effort and money? Hard to say, what is worth it for me is not worth it for others.

I have been reading a lot about Mt. Everest lately. I've read most of it in general, but new articles are always cropping up. They run the gamut of opinions from high respect to no respect of the people involved. Spending nine week in the mountains of Asia, after years of training, and enough money to buy an amazing car or a good chuck of a house, is it worth all of that? Obviously I say yes, because I am doing it.

We, or maybe just I, see the ticket price for a "guided" expedition to the highest mountain in the world and think of all the other things that money could be used for. After visiting Rwanda this past summer, I know that money could feed 100 people every day for an entire year. I also know that the money I am spending is contributing toward several people having "office" jobs and maybe ten more people having seasonal jobs, and many of those dozen people have families who I am supporting through economics as well.

In other words, buying a used Porsche benefits basically one person directly, although it does support the continued high prices for used Porsches across the economy. Going on an expedition directly benefits a dozen plus people, with families.

Aside from the financial aspect, there are so many other things that could be worked on instead of climbing a mountain. A third college degree, more direct charity work, more involvement in coaching, painting, building my relationships in the United States are all just a few opportunity costs I will be giving up to go visit a chuck of rock and ice in Asia. Furthermore, I am not attempting to do anything that has not been done before. I am not pushing human limits, just my own personal limits. To be honest, that is part of the allure for me.

Summitting Everest and then dying is not a success. In other words, Everest is not the limit of my imagination. There are things to do afterward that no one else has ever done. While there are many ways to push human limits, I feel one of the best is to tackle challenges that are difficult for an individual personally. In other words, if you want to set the marathon world record, you had better be able to run a really fast 10k. Similarly, if you want to create the next new web start-up social network, you had better know how to program and have a different idea about how people like to connect. This idea of pushing oneself to learn things like overcoming obstacles translates across disciplines. Climbing an 8000 meter peak is like project management, you plan for months, work hard, and try to be ready to go for the ultimate goal despite all of the setbacks like diarrhea, broken gear, dehydration, supplier constraints, and part tolerance errors that require updating the blue prints as you go to production.

In the world of Everest there are many haters. People who think the whole pursuit is worthless. That there is nothing to be gained by retracing steps of what has clearly been done a number of times before. That money could be invested one said, donated to charity another said, that energy could instead be focused on new pursuits like skydiving from outer space. The way I see it, pushing limits happens in steps. A little bit more risk is taken and a little bit more achieved. Eventually, a new endeavor is started with no comparison to know the risks.

The vast majority of people go up in the mountains to live. The view of the surroundings falling away is not rewarding simply because you can see far, it is rewarding because of how difficult it is to get up there. It is rewarding because no matter how permanent it may seem your presence is certainly limited by time. There is an aesthetic beauty to hard work. A mountain summit is perhaps simply a shallow representation of the result of a good effort. Yet it is also a clear symbol that the end of the road has been reached and the goal has been accomplished.

For the opportunity to even contemplate abstract ideas like this and not worry about where my next meal will come from I am thankful to God. This is an opportunity, and where exactly it leads I do not know. I will say, I intend to make the most of this trip that I can.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

There is a lot to say about Christmas. However, I am busy spending time with my family and away from computers in general, so I am only going to say one thing. Christmas is about Jesus, God on Earth as a human, being born. Pretty crazy when you think about it. Yet, in a way I, or any other human, do not totally understand, it is perfect.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Emptiness of Fulfillment

Have you ever finished something and felt afterward a sense of loss because you no longer had that purpose in life? It could be a goal you worked toward for a long time and accomplished and after did not have any higher goal to go after. It could be a relationship you worked at for a long time only to have the other person leave after some predetermined length of time, like going graduating college or high school.

We all have this feeling, the inevitable let down that accompanies loss. It is not so much the action, relationship or achievement that we enjoy as much as the sense of purpose from that action, relationship or achievement. For years I wanted to run a marathon, now I have run several. The mystique that the distance once had it no longer has for me. It is still certainly a challenge, but more scientific than mysterious.

I bring this up because 2014 is going to be an interesting year. I certainly do not understand all of the events I will go through. In some ways 2013 has already been that for me. Being vegan for ten weeks and then not having a good race at Chicago left me with an emptiness about all of the effort I put into the sport. The little thought in the back of my head, 'I have done so much already, I've proved a point, I can stop whenever I want.' Yet I keep going.

I do not know of a solution to the feeling of loss of purpose after realizing a dream. Perhaps diversify life activities enough to always have something worth work toward? Definitely being a Christian there is always something more than can be done to further my faith. Perhaps the temporary nature of the earthly things we pursue is the reason fulfillment in our experiences seems just as fleeting as the experience itself.

The world will continue spinning, despite your life feeling like the world should stop. I suppose the only advice I have is to have a deeper purpose. A purpose which transcends all our actions.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 137

This was a really satisfying week, in several regards. Work went well. I touched on the drama last week  about promoting a particular part through the stages to production and getting that straightened out Monday was a big relief for me. Huge, it came up two or three times a day the rest of the week to completely positive feedback from others.

My job as a design engineer is in large part about project management. I have responsibly for something like 20 projects, yet so many of the details of those are done by other people that I am more of a motivator and persuader of priority than actually making design changes. Something I learned from my old position was that the person who inquired the most about their project, got their project done first. It's pretty simple really, you can just drop off a project and expect it to come back in a month or you can drop it off and ask every day or every other day how it is progressing, and I guarantee it will get done faster.

I took this concept to a new level of directness recently by asking every day, but only once per day, how someone was progressing on finishing a project. It worked out well, the project finished this week, from his end at least. These requests are always difficult because in one sense, one group is waiting on another group to finish their work. On the other hand, we don't want to come across as jerks because there is a reason projects are usually not finished: more important projects are being worked on. Business and prioritization of business activities is a huge deal, it is different for most everyone and matters a significant amount when it comes to finishing projects on time.

Ran a whopping 76 miles including a 14 mile run and a 4 mile tempo which was just over 10 hours of running. Much of that was on slick snow and ice covered roads, so effort wise, it was probably a mid 80s mileage week. It's a nice boost from the 40s and 50s of the last few weeks. I am returning! This recovery is seeming to happen slower than previous buildups. I think Chicago really took it out of me, physically, mentally and emotionally. So much goes into a marathon that to come out the other side knowing I made mistakes is humbling and disheartening. Never the less I want to chase a 5k PR and I know I need to be in great shape for Everest.

Friday I drove home to my parents in Wisconsin. It has been pretty quiet ever since. I am just into 16 consecutive days of vacation and still unwinding a bit from work. Not 100% sure where this little vacation will take me, but there will be some adrenaline pumping moments to be sure!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Useful Product Life (Product Quality)

My van has 305,000 miles. In a couple weeks it turns 21 years old. The engine, transmission, axles, sheet metal, and all the major components are original. The dash isn't even cracked! I did not realize until the last year or two how much this van has driven my view of quality and durability and expected useful product life.

So often in the United States we view many things as disposable. Cars, televisions, furniture, appliances, clothing, and I suppose I could even say relationships, but that is beyond the scope of this post and I don't even really agree with that opinion. That is really all I have to say about product quality, that I have a van that is nearly 21 years old with 305,000 miles on it and when I think of quality, that's what I think about. A high price does not necessarily mean high quality and an inexpensive product with a good value does not necessarily mean high quality either. Quality is something that lasts a long time, through thick and thin, in good times and bad. In my case, hopefully one more winter of salted roads.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Consistency Matters

That's why I run on days I don't feel like running and blog on days I have nothing interesting to say. Habits, especially positive ones, take a long time to build but can end in a fraction of the time they took to get going. 

Keep your good habits.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How Plush Are Your Luxuries?

Wow! It has chocolate and coffee and some milk. Not only does it taste really good the caffeine gives me a kick to get going! It's awesome, and it only costs $4!

Those are the rough thoughts in my head before I order a mocha or any other latte. For me, still, five years after first starting to drink coffee of any sort, I still get excited at the prospect of drinking a cup of coffee. It is a huge luxury for me. At least in my head it is clearly a luxury. I certainly was just fine before I drank coffee and lattes, my life is only marginally different now. I spend more time at coffee shops than I did before. That is another luxury, a coffee shop. The thought that there is a place you can go and sit down and leech wireless Internet for three hours for a $2 cup of coffee while in the company of others, astounding.

I can't place my finger on exactly what event or events led me to think of a coffee shop and $4 mocha as huge luxuries. Maybe it was seeing the poverty in Costa Rica, Pakistan, Indonesia, or Rwanda. Maybe it was growing up relatively poor when going out to eat meant the luxury of McDonald's. I still view a nice piece of clothing as a well fitting new piece of clothing, even if it cost $8 at Gap. My view on plush luxuries versus normal versus the cheap alternative must not be normal. Honestly, I still feel I live the life of a college grad student.

There is no advice today. No witty conclusion about viewing the world better. No, the uncomfortable question you get to leave with is, "how plush are your luxuries?"

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My Quiet Time

I think I default to introvert. Some would say I definitely am, others would say I am plenty outgoing and more extroverted than many. I won't argue either way. I know I get lonely and crave the company of friends. I also know that other times I dread the constant presence of others and the expectations, perhaps only imagined in my mind, those people have for me.

Sometimes there is a silence. As we stand in a group I have said my peace, yet I feel people want me to say more. There is no more. Or maybe there is more and I don't feel like telling it, either because I have told it 30 times before or because the pain of telling it is not something I want to relive. I am boring. Just like the world is boring, so I am. I read books of people who are far more interesting, yet at the same time, just as normal as you and I.

I fear that because I have moved around so much growing up that there is a long term ability to make relationships work, like on the 7+ year scale, that aside from my family, I have not really had. What do you talk about with someone after you have talked about "everything"?

Everyone gets mentally recharged somehow. I often get energy from doing things alone. In many ways running is a daily way that I recharge my batteries. I return with a zest for life that I likely did not have pre-run. I know I need my quiet time. Yet like Shangri-La, quiet time in best in moderation. What is the balance of people time and alone time? I have no idea. It varies so much for me.

Monday, December 16, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 136

I'll be honest, this was a long week, somewhat stressful too. If I haven't returned your text, call, email, tweet, Facebook message, or just about anything it's because I basically shut off my phone a few nights this past week. Let me tell you about it.

It's work I tell you! Work is not just money in exchange for my time and talents, it's my emotions too. It's my heart and passion that I put into my work, and last week, I really struggled to get that passion renewing satisfaction out of work. It is easy to say this now, today the issue was solved! However, I'm getting ahead of myself. Since moving into my new role two months ago, one particular project was on the top of my list. We have stages that parts and assemblies must go through before they are implemented into production. At every step the design engineer (me) initiates the step, and then a cascade of other people are responsible for doing various things. For example, assembly has to verify they can actually assemble it. Product support has to make sure it has the right part codes so that the dealerships can get a replacement when one fails. These are called tasks. Each task has five steps and depending on the step each step has three to five different people (groups) that need to sign off on the design as acceptable. In short, people have been asking me, about every third meeting, when I will get to the rather important third step. Last week we had the soft deadline of Tuesday to get to step three. Well we missed that. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we missed it too.

Thursday I was so exhausted mentally, and perhaps emotionally, that I came home, didn't even run, turned my phone off, watched a couple of Band of Brothers and went to bed at like 8:30. No one else was emotionally torn up about me not getting the part promoted to step three but I place pretty high expectations on myself. This is actually a really good example of failing (to meet a soft deadline) and succeeding at eventually reaching the deadline today. (Within hours of completing this stage of the task, no less than three people congratulated me.)

On top of all this I have been running more mileage. I have not totaled up the week yet, but I did a 6k tempo Tuesday and a 13.5 mile run Friday night in the dark on the snowy roads. My first workout post-Chicago and my longest run post-Chicago. Probably 40something miles, in only six days of running.

Plus, announcing Everest Thursday was a draining blog post to write Wednesday night. So much has gone into getting to this point, the point of making it official that I am going to the big E, that after paying a deposit and getting permission to take a leave of absence and announcing it, I already feel like I am most of the way to the top. In a mere 30 weeks the whole expedition will be over.

I did get out and go skiing Saturday at Chestnut, south of Galena, Illinois, which was really nice! Best skiing session I have had in years! I caught air a couple times on the sides of jumps and once strait off a jump, but I did fall on that one. I also was feeling like going fast and managed to go downhill averaging over 20 mph a couple times. I figure you have to hit 30 mph to average 20. It's felt really good. Sometimes going off jumps and going fast can be intimidating, and the last few years I have not felt that confidence to stick myself out there. I totally felt it Saturday.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Emotional Development Through Life

It is very interesting how my emotions change over time. In a strange way I don't feel like my mental capacity has changed much over time, I simply know a lot more through learning now than when I was seven, even though my ability to solve problems has only changed because of the tools I have learned to use. In other words, my IQ might even be lower than it once was because that test is nearly tool independent, but the problems I solve are much more complex because I've spent 20 years learning how to solve problems. My emotional development seems much more profound on the other hand.

When I was much younger I would watch war movies and get excited by the guys running around (me, excited by running...), shooting guns, and laughing. Now I watch the same movies and seem to only see the parts where a person is having a mental breakdown or a man younger than myself becomes permanently disfigured. Forrest Gump was a prime example, I used to think it was a comedy, but when I watched it once in college I broke down crying because it was so heartbreaking.

I can't point to one moment when I changed to acknowledge the emotional side of life. In fact, it's really more of a spectrum of emotions, I knew enough as a 17 year old so that I did not willfully enlist in the armed forces. Yet, in six months I may be standing on top of Mt. Everest, having not used bottled oxygen and thus risking a 7.6% chance of death on the descent. (Mountaineering statistics are skewed by people who do not turn around and descend when they should. My record of turning around on many major climbs such as Broad Peak, El Capitan, several times on Longs Peak, February 2006 on Mt. Adams, etc... should speak for itself.)

I do not know where my emotional development will lead. Maybe it has already peaked for my life. Maybe it will increase to such a high degree that my emotions now seem elementary. What I can say is that emotions are interesting. Food is emotional. Politics are emotional. Love is clearly emotional. How we mix the illogical emotional aspect of an experience with the logical aspect of an experience is difficult to understand and varies for nearly every experience. Being a vegan showed me how truly emotionally most people view food. Ultimately food is about getting the nutrients we need (science) with the taste we like best (the emotional aspect of food, but scientifically definable).

Emotions are clearly interesting.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I am Going to Mt. Everest and You are Invited

In the summer of 2004 after a family and friends backpacking trip near Aspen, Colorado, I spent a few days wearing crampons and carrying an ice axe tromping around Rocky Mountain National Park. At that point I had close to six weeks of backpacking experience with a couple 14,000 foot mountain summits and half dozen 13,000 foot mountain summits under my feet. At the age of 18 I decided I really liked the sport of mountaineering, at least all the mountaineering I had experienced, and I wanted to see how far mountaineering went. The question that is often asked when teenage Boy Scouts go backpacking is: "would you try to climb Mt. Everest?" With Boy Scouts behind me, as far as I knew, and the paint just chipped off my new crampons, I decided, yes, I want to try Mt. Everest. 

Since timelines get things done I gave myself the arbitrary deadline of ten years from the summer of 2004. Since then I have made significant progress. You name it, I have probably tried to climb it in the continental US. Winter days on Mt. Washington in Huntington Ravine in New Hampshire, afternoon showers on 14ers in Colorado, the vertical cliffs of Yosmite in California, hanging belays on Longs Peak, Utah Towers, the Tetons and thousands of runs at all elevations up to 16,000 feet and over all types of terrain including a former fastest known time around the 93 mile long Wonderland Trail and a 2:30 marathon

Then there was Pakistan. Broad Peak taught me a lot. Among the many lessons the expedition showed me that I can be strong, even at 7000 meters. It also solidified my resolve to experience Mt. Everest.

So I am going. Barring some unforeseen event, and to be honest there is still a likely chance that circumstances change. The total trip for me will last nine weeks from the beginning of April to the beginning of June. I expect to travel with Asian Trekking on the Eco-Everest 2014 Expedition. I chose them because they have a good reputation for food, cost effective services, an experienced Sherpa staff, and arguably most important, they will allow me to climb without bottled oxygen. 

If you would like to go you can come for the trek to basecamp with me. For about two weeks we will trek uphill until we reach basecamp at around 17,000 feet on a glacier. Then you could trek back out in a couple days and fly home. Round trip maybe 3 weeks from the United States and total cost of about $4000 including all airfare. I can send you more details if you are interested in this. I hope to only have an expedition to Mt. Everest this once. 
My Mountaineering Experience in One Photo: Broad Peak Basecamp in 2009 with K2 Behind Me
There are many aspects of this I have not said yet. More details will come in the future. Yes, I have approval to take a leave of absence from engineering. Yes, I have rescue insurance. Yes, I have already paid a deposit worth more than my bicycle and van put together. Yes, there will be a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a possible book I will write. I may have a charity that I will sponsor on this expedition. The next six months are going to be interesting!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Having a Say

Voices carry weight. People read writing. I bring this up for a couple reasons, first meetings in business and second for the unconnected. If you are not in the meeting that decides something, you will not have a say. We are in the earliest stages of planning a new project at work. The project is so early that we are not even having meetings, we are sitting around desks talking about it. A couple times I have sat in on these discussions and added my fraction of an opinion on the subject. I know that whatever the decisions ultimately are I will end up with hundreds of hours of work from the simple decisions made in these low-key meetings. It is the same even with established projects, being in the meeting, and sometimes sitting at the table instead of around the edge of the room, allows a debate to happen. You do not have to win every debate, and often between choices A, B and C the differences are minute and unnoticeable to the end users, so it can be hard to even call it a debate. Yet the point is, speaking up and having a say is the only way that your ideas will be heard. Without communication, and your ideas, why are you here?

Second, the unconnected people of this world that do not have a say. Slowly it seems more people are having a say about the reality of their worlds. This is good, that the pervasiveness of the Internet is giving ever smaller global stakeholders a chance to say "that's not fair!" That is something, giving recognition and awareness of the plight of the poorest that I am passionate about. What I mean is, I hope that I can help those less fortunate than myself to have a voice, a heard opinion, rather than continuing in their world separate from my world. Global means everyone, not just engineers and MBAs.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I am Going to Quit… Something

I do too much. At least I sign up for too many things. I get put on too many boards and go to too many meetings. So I end up willfully missing things. The time for the thing comes, and while often I am actually at something else, sometimes, I just don't want to go, so I don't. Everyone thinks her or his thing is the most important. That is not totally true, as people get older they seem to grow more comfortable with the idea of people have other priorities than his or her own.

Part of growing older is learning to prioritize and assign value to one's time. There is also an aspect of learning about oneself. I gain energy from time alone. I gain energy from one on one and small group settings too, but larger groups, or less aligned groups are draining. The last few weekends I have laid on the couch more than I care to admit. It is a result of doing so much most of the rest of the week, that I need to replenish my energy. I often sleep nine or ten hours on a weekend night.

The truth is, I glorify burning out. I look forward to hitting the wall. I envy the person who went so hard that no more can physically be done. It is really not a great attitude. Life is a 90 year long challenge, not a three year sprint, yet I treat it like I am nearing the end, this week.

No idea if I will actually quit anything. I will say I am looking forward to Christmas and New Year's for the time to hibernate. On the other hand, in the long term I cannot let myself not do everything I can in life. Our time here is so limited. What is possible with a little extra effort in life? The chance to change one more person's life.

Monday, December 9, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 135

Another week in the bag. I am a week older, another week that we just will not get back. Occasionally I wonder, if I could have redone any major parts of my life thus far would I? Like go to a different school, chase down a different job, run more, climb more, go out on the weekends more, and the answer is not really. I look at the path my life has taken, and is taking, and while not at all what I expected until 2011 changed my life, it is strangely working out really well.

2010 taught me that we can plan and pursue goals yet sometimes we will be sidelined and take tangents that we never expected to take. Somehow, life always works out.

Work was more productive than last week. As I spend more time in my new role as a design engineer I am getting better at understanding what I do. It is really more of project management than simply modeling CAD parts all day long. I currently have five people working on projects "for me". The projects are really for the program and everyone is part of the program, yet I am the one ultimately responsible for the structures. So it is my job to amalgamate all of the work people do on those structures and incorporate that work into a better, more refined product. It's actually better experience than the simple modeling that I hoped for as a design engineer.

I ran 48 miles. A little less than last week, in part because I ran so much last week. I spent the first part of the week tired. I am building up slowly. I had a 12 mile run on Saturday, the longest since Chicago. It is always interesting to run through the Mines of Spain during opening day of Deere season and seeing all of the guys in orange sitting with their guns staring me as I ignorantly gallop through the forest in mostly black…

Coaching is a lesson in retention. Seriously, how do you retain and motivate people?

I have big news in the next week! I'm not going to announce it until I waist deep into it, but hopefully that will be this week.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Authority and Confirmation Bias

Often people in authority only hear what they want to. It's because we get rewarded for making others happy. It's really hard to spend time around people who disagree. In fact, disagreeing with authority seems that it will only result in negative repercussions. This is a problem. Confirmation bias is we want to please people by confirming their ideas, or rather we want people to confirm our ideas. We are biased to agree that people with views like us have better, more credible, ideas than people who disagree with us. When I say that anyone who makes as much money as I do is rich, only a couple of people have actually agreed with me. Most either assume I make way more than they do or think that six figure income or $150k in annual income might be rich. It's always "the grass is greener on the other side of the fence" which means my neighbor must be rich, at least more rich than I am.

In electronics negative feedback loops typically create stability in an output and positive feedback loops amplify output. A stampede is a positive feedback loop, first five cows are running, then twenty cows running then 100 cows running, and the whole herd. A negative feedback loop is our ears, when something is too loud, we turn down the volume or move away from the speakers. In any endeavor to achieve perfection, negative feedback is necessary. Confirmation bias is positive feedback, and it is the reason why products sometimes end up flops, but senior management thinks it will be great, there was no negative feedback. I will not deny that negativity hurts, but we must seek it out to refine our weaknesses.

I do not know how to convey this forward in your life. Perhaps to say that honesty is important. The truth is more important than your honest opinion, which you likely believe to be the truth. It's a small distinction because often giving an honest opinion based on a limited number of facts is not telling the whole truth, the truth might not be totally known. However, not giving the honest, and negative, opinion only leads to confirmation bias. It is the reason people lead to ridiculous directions and conclusions.

Negativity is not fun, but we cannot be our best without it. Without recognizing the flaws we pretend to live in an imaginary world. There is no perfection. None of us are perfect, and no human made thing is perfect. That being said, I like the phrase, "it's perfect" because it sends the message that we did the best we could with the tools we had, it's really good, and for what it's purpose is, it fulfills the role exactly.

What take away advice is there from this: disagree with someone verbally or in writing the next time you disagree in your head. Maybe that person or those people have no idea of the flaw. You know things that no one else knows, that is what makes you unique. If you never share that unique information, we all lose out.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mini Fever

I am coining a new term, the mini fever. I am not a warm person. Only about one in twenty hands I shake are colder than my own. Between the normal aging and slowing of my metabolism and the running which is ever so gradually making me more lean, I get cold easily. This is not a problem, I just wear more clothing. However, sometimes, when I sleep or rest I get mini fevers. 

I had another one a few nights ago. They are somewhat common. I have probably had three in a week before, typically when I am training hard. What happens is I go to sleep in the 64-65F apartment (winter indoor temperature) under a sheet, fleece blanket and thin down comforter and I am cold when I get in bed but inevitably wake up in the middle of the night roasting. It is more common when I am not hydrated enough, in addition to the hard training, but I typically wake up in the morning feeling very rested and a comfortable temperature. 

My theory is that my body in a nine hour attempt to recover goes into white blood cell, or rebuilding, overload and churns through energy in an attempt to repair itself. If you ask me at 1 am how I feel during a mini fever, fever would be a decent description, but if you ask me at 6 am I will say I slept like a rock. 

I have no scientific basis or evidence to back this up. It is more or less unpredictable although increasing the physical stress in my training or being dehydrated seems to be the only times I wake up in the night to notice it. 

Have you ever had a mini fever?

The Hunger (and the Terror)

Motivation, drive, perseverance, pain, suffering, they all mean the same thing: watch out for the person that has a lot of it. The last two days, I have been on fire! In more ways than one, but the subject is running today. I really struggled after the Chicago Marathon this year. I felt after so many years of trying and working toward my goals I was not nearly as close as I need to be to achieve them. I like big and difficult goals, but let me tell you first hand, not achieving your goal, and knowing that you will not, is a hard pill to swallow. I have not admitted defeat yet, but simply wrestling with defeat brings your motivation into the mud.

I struggled to understand why I kept running and training. I have already run a couple good marathons. I have run good races on the track and the roads and the trails. The only person I have left to prove anything to is myself. Is all the toil worth it?

The last two days I went running, and wanted to do more when I finished, lift weights or run 200 meter sprints. Additionally I went indoor rock climbing Sunday in Madison for the first time in too long. I feel strong.

Motivation breeds motivation. Success breeds success. Who is the CEO? The guy that once was a VP, the same guy that became a project manager before her peers. Who wins the gold medal in the Olympics? The fastest guy in his training group, the guy who was fastest in high school, the kid who beat the others in middle school gym class. What kind of lawyers win billion dollar settlements? The kind who once won million dollar settlements, who convinced their high school friends he or she was right.

Motivation has two parts, what we are moving towards and what we are fleeing from. The ideal motivation involves the hunger pulling you forward and the terror pushing you on. I am once again hungry to see what can be accomplished, and terrified that I might not do everything I can to know…what is possible.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Danger of a Promotion

The danger of a promotion to a position within the same group is micromanagement. A person I know was in a position under a manager who had been promoted within the group and that manager was micromanaging. It's just not the most productive situation in the world.

About the only time I have been a supervisor has been in rock climbing and running situations. About all one can do is give the training (to the instructors or students or athletes) and then let them go. In climbing, while I was the director, I was also an instructor, and I found that being out of sight of the other instructors (on the other side of our climbing rock) allowed the other instructors to do good work. Yvon Chouinard would call that "management by absence". I think it is an effective method.

Runners on the other hand can be a little different. Students are typically young and as such can either be very competitive with each other or all not work hard enough. In other words, getting them to run the appropriate effort on any given day can be a little more difficult. Ultimately though it is up to each individual person as to what level of seriousness he or she wants to take the training, which takes the pressure off of the coaches desire to do the best we possibly can.

In short, if you manage, you have people who are getting paid to do a job, get out of the way and let them do their job. I must say, I suppose I am rather fortunate, I have never had a manager who I saw as micromanaging. I can not even think of one.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I Live in Iowa: Week 134

Kind of a quiet week. I worked three days, with a large number of people out of the office. I was not able to get everything done I wanted to. You see, as a design engineer a large part of my job involves coming up with ideas, and they "selling" the ideas to all the affected parties to find the holes in the idea and either make it better, and acceptable to all or mostly all, or discard the idea. Honestly, most ideas never see the light of a welding spark.

I ran a whopping 54 miles! I ran all seven days of the week. No track or cross country practice this week, but I did run with a high schooler that I went to Africa with. I suppose every running partner has something different to offer. Here is a really interest running website I found and started reading through this week. Just when I think I have read it all, I haven't

I spent Wednesday night though Sunday up at my parents in Wisconsin. Thursday we had all four of my immediate family and my sister's boyfriend over. The next couple days I mostly slept 9-10 hours a day, talked with my parents, ran and watched maybe four movies on Netflix including the Andromeda Strain (1971) and Europa Report. Both solid science fiction movies stronger on the science than most of their genera. The interplanetary travel and orbital mechanics aspect of the Europa Report was particularly satisfying.

In short, it was really nice to see my family for so long and have a chance to rest. I even got on Facebook a couple times! On the other hand, not terribly productive from the little side projects I wanted to work on point of view. It was a nice week. God has really blessed me.