Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Winter US Lower 48 Climbing Is Great Preparation for 8000 Meter Mountains

Zero for six. Six times I have tried to hike/climb a 14,000 foot mountain in Colorado during the winter, and not a single time have I gotten above 14,000 feet. Those are the worst odds I have on any climbing or running endeavor. For marathons I am zero for three when it comes to breaking 2:30. For Yosemite big walls I am also zero for three, but two of those were solo. For 8000 meter peaks I am zero for two. I'm used to failure, it makes days like the one where I climbed the Casual Route on the Diamond or the time I ran 154 miles in my first 24 hour run worth so much more.

Monday on Quandary
It's just so hard! Four times the weather has been bad, that is very cold and windy. Every time there has been snow, the kind of light snow that requires post-holing among rocks, or skiing, on skis I don't have.  It's the three hours of walking uphill through six inches of snow that really wear on me. Five times I have been alone, and four of those times I didn't see a single other person after the trailhead. Plus, on top of all that, in Colorado, exists the altitude. When my heart is beating 144 simply hiking, you know it's hard work. On top of all that, most of the trailheads are down dirt roads in the summer, that aren't plowed in the winter, and I don't have all wheel drive, or a snowmobile, and sometimes you need both

My Van Was Unable to Even Drive to the Trailhead Tuesday
Wednesday, today as you read, I'm going to try doing Quandary Peak, for the fourth time. The forecast is good, I'm taking the normal route, the East Ridge, unlike the first two winter attempts when I tried the West Ridge. I'll bring my skis too and hopefully get down a little faster. So we'll see.

About a Mile Past the Summer (And 3.5 Past the Winter) Trailhead on Mount Democrat Tuesday
In my limited experience in Pakistan and Nepal, most of the mountaineering takes place on ice. When it snows people usually wait a day or two or three for it to melt. However, the routes typically involve walking on glaciers and permanent ice fields, where the white stuff, is actually low density ice. Sure, there is snow, I even broke trail on Broad Peak one day for about 100 meters after a light snowstorm. To me at least, when it is just rock and ice, that makes the going easier than snow. That being said, I've seen plenty of pictures of deep snow above the shoulder on K2, so certainly not a hard and fast rule. The other side is, the vast majority of people climb 8000 meter mountains via the normal routes in the normal seasons. There were 800 people trying to climb the south side of Everest this year! Even on an unpopular 8000er like Annapurna or Nanga Parbat you can still expect 10-20 people on the route in the normal season. That means on good weather days there are other people to help break trail, a big advantage over these little excursions I have had in Colorado.

Certainly the altitude is not as big of a factor at 4000 meters as it is at 8000, although unacclimated it is still a hurdle. The point being, 8000 meter peaks involve long hard days, and you can get those in Colorado, New Hampshire, and other US lower 48 states in the winter.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

I Bought a Car on eBay: Week 1

Well, my high enthusiasm is a little tempered this week after having spent more time in the little car driving about 600 miles. Oh, it's still awesome, but it's not prefect.

No cruise control is not fun. I knew that none of these cars came with cruise control, however, it has been years, 2006 to be exact, since I did any sort of mileage in a car without cruise control. However the software is configured there does not seem to be immediate response when I step on the pedals. Since this is a CVT, continuously variable transmission, there are basically two levers to pull when it comes to vehicle performance, the gear ratio on the CVT and the RPMs on the engine. Plus, there is the third level of the electric assist motor, and you definitely feel those 10 kW when they turn on. With most transmissions you have the option of RPMS on the engine and four to seven gears in a transmission, although with an automatic you really don't get the choice of which gear. One method is to keep the engine RPMs constant and simply vary the CVT. This typically results in the best fuel mileage, and I think that Honda's software goes this route, at least most of the time when I am not in sport mode. The challenge is when accelerating on the highway to pass a vehicle or after a slowdown for traffic, there is no increase in engine RPMs, and I have to keep pressing the pedal to get some response of increase in speed. In short, this is one area that either I have to learn how to drive better, or perhaps there is a software update to make the whole system more responsive in real time.

Speaking of software. There is a nifty feature called autostop. Other manufactures like BMW and Ford have a similar start-stop feature. It's just under the tachometer, and blinks when the engine is not running. Unfortunately, this only happens when the brake pedal is mostly depressed and I am going under four miles per hour or less. Comparing this to my parents 2014 Prius C whose engine doesn't even turn on until a certain speed when you start, and routinely turns off at higher speeds while slowing down, it feels like I am in the stone age. However, I suppose that because this is older technology, and it has a smaller battery
The Gasoline - Electric Spectrum
The chart describes the various categories. It's not the 100 year ago battle of electric vs. gas. Gas clearly won, but electric is slowly taking market share with a diversity of options.

As for the rest of the car, there are actually little tears on the seats. The car is not the most clean in the world, although my own van would rate even more dirty on the inside. There may be an issue with the valves or timing on the engine. Probably not, it's probably just not having much cabin insulation and having a little three cylinder engine that goes up to 5000 RPMs sometimes, that leads to some unexpected noises.

The gas mileage is not 60+ mpg in normal driving. At least not in the winter. On the 208 mile drive from my apartment to my parents I averaged 52.1 mpg on the drive there, and 46.9 mpg on the drive back, going into a 10-20 mph wind. The car has averaged 50.7 mpg over it's lifetime, and I do hear that mileage is better in the summer than the winter due to heating and not using the auto-stop feature very often in cold weather. I think because the mileage is there for you to view we simply notice the effects of driving with the wind or into the wind more than without a computer on the car tracking our mileage. The funny side is, the 10 gallon tank on the Insight can go about 500 miles, but the 17 gallon tank on my Previa can only get about 400 miles.

It's interesting, we shall continue to see how it progresses. As a side note, I did get collision insurance, and I just realized that for the last four years I have been driving my van with only liability, had an accident happened, the van would be totaled.

Monday, December 29, 2014

I Live in Iowa: Week 184

I did spend most of the week in Wisconsin, but I started it in Iowa, so I'll count it. There were only two work days this past week, which were both a rush to get things done. I should write a blog post about the word rush sometime. Anytime I feel myself rushing I take a step back, because that's how accidents happen. Regardless, it was a pretty productive two days.

I drove the Honda Insight to my parents house and back, which I'll set up a blog post about tomorrow.

Spending four days with my family was quite nice. Everyone is doing well. I mean I knew that of course, we talk, text, and email plenty. We watched a couple movies, played some cards, went to church twice for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I think I speak for all of us when I say we slept more too. At least my sister and I slept more than normal. While I could go into what presents I received and those I gave, it seems very materialistic to write about it, as if I would be judging the gifts. It was good, I received more nice things than I need and I gave a couple things that will certainly be enjoyed.

Somehow I managed to run 20 miles over five days. Early in the week I felt like I tweaked my left peroneal tendon which had hurt before so I took an unplanned day off and kept the runs under five miles. However I have been doing a number of foot and ankle exercises, and some ankle massage, and I think that it's all coming together. Soon enough I expect to be healthy. I'm in the fragile part of an injury recovery. That is to say, I think it's healthy, I don't feel any pain, and I'm ramping up my normal training again, but I do feel a weakness in the area. Whether the weakness is the fact I don't normally work the muscle, or perhaps the actual super compensation muscle building, or even the surrounding area, I don't know.

It was a good week, a restful week.

Friday, December 26, 2014

How Much Stuff Is Enough?

Another Christmas is past. Which in part means the presentation and reception of gifts. This is a very joyous time, I am now filled with cheeses, new pants, and a bookcase! I probably have two hundred books and I would like to be able to access them without rooting through several piles. However, all this gift giving and receiving results in the accumulation of stuff.
Side A of my New Tapestry
Side B of my New Tapestry
Here is a perfect example. I won't go into the backstory on this, except to say it's not a gift, and it was from a deceased relative. It is high quality, has different patterns on either side, but what am I going to do with it? The suggestion was to use on a table as a centerpiece… except I don't even own a normal table, just a coffee table.

Don't get me wrong, I accumulate more than I need and have some trouble getting rid of stuff sometimes. Although the older I get the easier it is to throw stuff away. So lest anyone think I am pointing a finger at another person, I am writing this to help me organize my own things better. So where does it end? How much is enough? I don't know, and it is different for every person. If we don't ask the question, then I feel we commit ourselves to a cycle of accumulation, and that is not the point of life, nor is it entirely healthy to form the relationships we do with inanimate objects.

I feel life is about relationships, in large part, relationships with other humans, and it is important to me to not let material things cloud that ideal, only contribute to it.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! As a reminder, Christmas is the Christian celebration of the human birth of Jesus Christ, who lived the perfect life that none of us ever could. We celebrate His coming into the world as the gift that trumps all other gifts. All of the blessings we have, and wealth that we have, and gifts that we receive can serve to remind us of the most important gift.

For more information read the book of Luke in the Bible.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

I Might Not Be Healed

At least on this latest injury of the peroneal tendon. I might be, but the last two days I've had pain about a 1/10, which is hard to really say if that is pain or soreness or just my imagination. 

Ahh, it is frustrating and interesting to recover from a setback. It is both educational and a motivation booster. Motivation can be built by overcoming obstacles. Injuries and other setbacks all serve to show us how we are blessed and what we have come through and what is possible. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I Bought a Car on eBay: Day 1

Well, I did it, I bought a car on eBay. A used car with 144,400 miles on it from 2002.
New 2002 Honda Insight at Swiss Valley near Dubuque
It's crazy right? Buying a car sight unseen, no test drive, totally depending on the seller to give an accurate description and not sell a lemon. Well, first of all, eBay has buyer purchase protection, which is a simple thing that basically says, while it may not be what you thought it was, it's not going to be a disaster. 

Well, first of all some background. When it comes to cars, or really anything, I go all the way, or I usually don't bother. I run… I run so much and well enough that I will probably be going to the world championships in April in Italy. It's a blessing, a gift, that I have, yet I also work at it hours per day in serious training. I climb mountains… 8000 meter peaks, at least I try. I engineer… and I'm pretty good at it. Similarly, cars to me are these engineered things, one of the most engineered things out there with lots of moving parts, lots of functionality, a curiosity. The more unusual and specialized the better. Now that I work on heavy off-road vehicles I have even more appreciation for vehicles of all sorts. Why? I realized that any vehicle, any, is so complicated that any one person cannot possibly understand everything that goes into it. There are companies that specialize in transmissions, with tens of thousands of people, I'm thinking of ZF. That complexity is part of the interest. It is all within human understanding, just not all one person. In other words, I have a basic interest in cars.

Next, I consider myself a tree hugger. Technically, I am a conservationist leaning toward the preservation side with enough knowledge to know that toilet paper comes from trees and cell phones come from big mines. Energy and efficiency are big interests for me. For several reasons, energy costs money, and using less energy costs less money on a recurring basis. My parents, grandparents, my travels to Asia and Africa, and then my unemployment all reinforced the idea that just about everything is finite, some may be finite beyond our comprehension, like the Internet or water in the oceans, but other things like income and expenses and food are all very finite, and we are very fortunate in the USA to have them, and so much more, in spades. In other words, I really try hard not to be a wasteful person. 

In other words, the most fuel efficient mass production car ever made is the 1st generation Honda Insight made from 1999-2006. The covered rear wheels and tapered design scream, "No compromises! This thing is out to get the best mileage we possibly can (without using carbon fiber)!" Every time I have seen one of the old Honda Insights out on the road I think, that's a cool car. It's something that has lingered in the back of my mind for some time that I would like to have one. 

Well, my van, which I fully intend to keep driving, is having trouble starting, has a number of problems, and the rust is accelerating. I just don't feel it is as reliable now as it was the last seven years I have been driving it. For example, it has an electrical problem on the engine, exposed to the road underneath the front seats, so that if I drive through more than two inches of water, it usually dies, and has to dry out for 10-15 minutes on the side of the road before it will run again. That could be a problem with snow this coming the winter. As I thought of how it might finally fail I considered that it would probably be an expensive repair, maybe something with the alternator or transmission, not to mention my exhaust needs work, and I would likely be faced with $1000+ in repair bills, maybe the value of the vehicle. At which point the financial part of me would determine I need to just send it to the junk yard, or sell as is and buy something more reliable that is newer, and during that time I would probably rent a car for a week or two or three. Not a terrible expense, if I have to rent a car for a month once every eight years when my old one falls apart that's not a huge problem. However, being at the mercy of the seller when I don't have a functioning car is not a bargaining position I desire to have. The proactive approach is to buy a car ahead of the old one falling apart.

So as I'm on eBay and Cargurus looking at various cars for sale across the country, I stumbled upon a 2002 Honda Insight about two hours west of Dubuque for sale at a price that I thought was very fair. The big catch was that the seller warned of the IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) battery needing some care. I thought that meant it would have to be replaced, and likely today. So I figured I would have to spend $2000 on a new 76 pound 1.1-4 kWhr battery to be able to use the thing regularly. So I bid, and asked the seller if it would make it back to Dubuque. He said no problem. Now I start to get a little excited, this car might be in better shape then I thought. 

I bid on the first auction, pretty low to see how badly he wanted to sell, he came back with a higher counter offer, and I made a second offer close to his counter offer. Unfortunately the auction ended without him selecting my bid, or any other bid. So he reposted it 20 minutes later between his counter offer and my second offer, and I bought it. In that time I looked at other Insights and decided that to me, the price he had offered was fair and I wanted it. Who knows when I might have another chance like this? Only about 17,000 of these things ever existed, and they have not been made since 2006, so they are getting rarer by the month, and this one is only two hours away. If I want one, that I can pick up in person, this was my chance, this was my unicorn.

Saturday my dad was gracious enough to drive all the way down from Sheboygan, pick me up in my parents new Prius C and then drive two hours to a small town in central Iowa. It was nice to spend a couple hours talking. The older I get the more I appreciate my parents. We pull into town and call the seller, R. He was getting rid of this car because he had just bought a Nissan Leaf. Talk about out of place, small towns in Iowa don't have Nissan Leafs sitting on main street, they have every variety of US made pickup. In other words, he's a tech guy, as an engineer, that's a good sign. It means to me he probably understands the system better than most. We did a quick walk around then took a short test drive. At the first stop after driving 200 feet the brakes squeaked, and I thought, 'great… I have to replace the brakes, he didn't mention anything about that.' So I'm starting to get a little nervous. However, as we drive around the country block (one mile by one mile) I notice that the IMA light is not on, signaling the battery is not in terrible shape, and it charges and discharges, that's a really good sign. He didn't have any pictures of the seats on eBay, so when I see no major stains and no rips or tears, I'm pretty excited, this thing is in better condition than I thought. Then he shows me the home made stereo system he put in with a subwoofer, and I realize, while I am not a big sound system guy, that he's put some money into this thing, in a good way. He goes through the list of everything he's replaced from brakes a year and a half ago (which sound fine now that I've had a few more stops), to headlights, tires, and a number of other things. During the short ten minute test drive I'm starting to get more excited, R undersold. 

You see, in Iowa, and the midwest in general, and small towns especially, honesty is a big deal. We trade on our reputation. You won't make it far in a small town by cheating people and dealing dishonest, people talk. I realized that everything he discussed in a modest way about the car, that scared other buyers away, were not as bad as we feared. He was simply being honest, and comparing his 12 year old car with 144,000 miles to his new Nissan Leaf. A difficult comparison to be sure, clearly the new car is better, but also worth 10 times as much. 

I count this as a huge eBay buying success! Having driven about 175 miles on it so far it is in great condition, compared to my 1993 Toyota Previa of course. I plan to write another post after one week, one month, one season, and one year, and maybe after unusual incidents like the first repair or letting someone else drive it. Two things about this, yes it only has two seats, and it does not have cruise control. I will probably have cruise control installed so that it is easier to take on longer drives. I plan to take better care of this car than I took of my Previa, like wash it, have some maintenance done at the dealer, garage park it as much as I can. I see this as an iconic historic car. I want it to last a long time. Even longer than my Toyota Previa. Also, yes, I want YOU to drive it! So when the weather is half decent, I'll be offering free test drives. If I don't offer, just ask. This is inspired by Doug DeMuro who let all his friends drive his Ferrari, because let's face it, it you have something cool, it's way better to share that with your friends than hoard it to yourself. I blog because I want to share my life with my family and friends, and even strangers. I'm far too blessed and wealthy to be more selfish than I already am. Thanks for reading this super long article! Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2014

I Live in Iowa: Week 183

This week was a bit of a blur. Work wise, I'm not working 40 hours a week. Ha. Monday and Wednesday were both days I left my apartment around 6 AM and returned around 6 PM, granted a lot of that was just time in a car driving, but it's still a long time. I have no idea how some people commute those kind of hours every day. I mean, I could still run, and relax for a couple hours, it's just not ideal. It's strange because in college, I feel like I studied or went to class all day. Yes I went to two hours of cross country or track practice every day, and all day Saturday, and I was involved in a few clubs that required several hours per week, but there were many days when I woke up at 7 and got strait into homework, and aside from two hours of practice and an hour of club activities and an hour "wasted" learning on the Internet, I didn't stop doing homework until 11 PM. That was really more the routine. Regardless, I'm really just trying to talk myself up, I'm lazy.

The rest of the week I was in Dubuque, working to fix problems, document problems, read up on my new jobs. About that, my new job is as a drivetrain engineer. I haven't decided on my actual title yet. My last two jobs, I have taken some time to figure out exactly which words I want to use in my email address and business card to best describe what I do. What does a drivetrain engineer work on? Axles, transmissions, driveshafts, differentials, and the associated plumbing, valves, brackets, and electronics to make it all work durably and efficiently. Considering my master's thesis was on heat treating a single transmission gear, my new job is a pretty broad position.

I ran this week! A whole seven miles! After taking most of the week off I did three on Friday and four on Saturday. I ended up taking about 16.5 days off completely. No running at all, and just one bicycle ride, one day of skiing, and one indoor rock climbing session.

On Tuesday I bought a car on Ebay. I'll publish that post tomorrow.

Friday, getting around to the social side of life, we did something unusual. Our product development team at work went out for lunch and then stayed out to play bean bags and socialize for the afternoon. It's been a pretty high stress time around the office, and the next three months are only going to get worse, so it was nice to get out and blow off a little steam tossing bean bags back and forth and laugh watching people dunk on an 8 foot basketball rim.  Later Friday night I finally got out to Jubeck brewery. I don't drink beer, and they don't actually have anything else, but I enjoy the small independent atmosphere of breweries. It's the definition of hole in the wall, a classy upscale hole in the wall, but seriously open only 14 hours a week on Thursday and Friday nights. It's Dubuque's only microbrewery, so it was packed with 50+ people when I was in there at 7 PM Friday. They could easily expand, maybe offer some local wines, be open on Saturday.

Friday, December 19, 2014

What it's like to drive a 300,000+ mile car...

Sometime in the next week I will go over 322,000 miles on my 1993 Toyota Previa minivan. Every thousand miles is another little astonishment for me, because cars don't last to 322,000 miles! The engine should have siezed up years ago. The transmission should have broken. I should have at least rusted something apart in the last 21 winters.

If I had to categorize the experience of driving a 20+ year old vehicle in the rust belt every day with 300,000+ miles I could use two words thankful and fearful. I am thankful that it has come this far and fearful that tomorrow something is going to break and I will be stuck by the side of the road. Really neither should be surprising. This whole experience, driving this the last seven years, has shown me that people often buy new cars to really drive down that fear. We don't think of it that way, but certainly people buy new cars rather than used because the repair costs both in time and money will hopefully be less. It's true, as an engineer I know how things fail, and the newer you get it from the factory, statistically the less likely you are to have a major problem. 

The flip side of it is, we aren't as thankful for the new car in the way we are thankful for the old. When I see my van in the parking lot I smile sometimes because it just keeps on running! Oh sure, you can be thankful your new car smells new, has no problems, that you can afford it, etc. but you aren't thankful it still drives, because for the amount of money you paid for it, it had better work. 

Another highlight for me is that it gives me perspective on appearances. You can dent my van and I won't care. Also, I know that my value both intrinsic and economic has nothing to do with the car I drive. 

I have realized only recently how much this van has shaped my views on quality. Now that I have taken one vehicle over 300,000 miles I fully expect other vehicles to go the same distance with only minimal repairs. That, and I have no problem using zip ties and duct tape to keep it running. Some may view that as a low quality strategy, but they are economical and widely available. There are multiple levels of quality, but for most vehicles, getting safely from A to B at the desired speed trumps every other aspect

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I Bought a Car! ... over eBay.

Tuesday I was so stressed out after work I bought a car. Not exactly, but a little retail therapy usually helps in the moment. I'd like to get the car back to my garage before I tell the whole story. I will say, it's not a new car, and it gets better mileage than my minivan.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How Fast Language Fades

I took a Duolingo Spanish quiz to see where I stand. The results weren't exactly a confidence booster. Sure, I still managed to get quite a few things right, but there were doubts and uncertainties and errors. The truth is, I just don't flex my Spanish language muscle during my normal life. Every so often a couple times a year I have the chance, otherwise I just don't use it. 

When I was learning German in kindergarten I remember the teacher telling us that language is like a muscle and if you wanted to be strong like Arnold Schwarzenegger you had to practice (this was the early 1990s so terminator was big). Having studied Spanish for six years and spending two months in Costa Rica I feel my use of the language was pretty good, not having used it in years I am now rusty. The consolation I have is that it is easier to learn something the second time because you remember the difficult things to learn from the first time. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Only Person

If you have ever been part of a group and sooner or later find yourself doing something alone, for the benefit of the group, chance are you value to the group just went up. A couple examples:

  • The basketball player practicing free throws when no one else is around.
  • The CPA who combs through the finances and finds a discrepency after everyone else has left.
  • The engineer who redoes a calculation or measures the prototype part again and finds an error when no one else has noticed.
I don't encourage you to go off and do your own thing, but I do encourage you to do the things that other people are not doing. Whatever that fearful work is, and I don't know why people aren't doing this work, but they aren't and the group needs someone to do it.

Monday, December 15, 2014

I Live in Iowa: Week 182

Obviously a good week. I mean, a few days in Germany, that's hard to be bad. I still have more to say about Germany, for example, the autobahn, perhaps work trips in general. For now I will simply say, das ist gut.

I worked full days Thursday and Friday and actually got a lot done. This might have been one of my more productive weeks in some time. Certainly it was one of my most educational weeks in some time. While productivity and education are not the same, I do highly value learning new and practical things. Given the choice between the two, I would certainly try to pick a mix of both. 

Exercising was about nil. I did go rock climbing Saturday up in Madison at Boulders. The rating at that climbing gym are easily a grade harder than they suggest. Usually gyms are rated on the easy side, so you feel much better after climbing a 5.11, instead of failing on a 5.9, like I did. 

Saturday was the company Christmas party. I went for the first time since I have been here, and I had a really good time. It's nice to see everyone in a different light and meet their significant others. 

Yes, I will blog about Germany more later. I hope you had a good week!

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Benefits of Not Running

I have not run in about 10 days. That time has gone by so fast! I realized this morning there are benefits to not running:

  • I don't need to sleep more than 7 or maybe 7.5 hours.
  • Lots of free time available.
  • Walking up stairs is not tiring, and my legs don't generally ache.
  • I don't worry after having a bad run that something is wrong with me.
  • No little aches and pains
That's about all I can come up with. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I Want to Learn German.

So, I will probably be returning to Germany in the future for work. Which means I have a business case, which means I have another reason. Plus, my family has roots in Germany, and I would like to visit the relatives at least once, and perferably in their multiple locations. Finally, I actually took a year of German in elementary school but transferred out of the school when my family moved. It is enough to say I have lost most of Muzzy the cartoon.

We'll see how serious I am over the coming months, but this seems like a better thing to do than watch tv and otherwise not grow. Besides as Duolingo has already taught me, German has verb conjugations just like Spanish, which might hopefully make the third language easier to understand than the second was.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Well, the rumors are true, it's efficient, the Autobahn is fast, manufacturing is rather automated, and the country side looks like south west Wisconsin, with small hills, some trees, some farms, and villages. It's easy to get around, but relatively little is in English. Many of the places I have been default to English because of the tourists, or simplicity for their own country which has dozens of languages. However, I suppose that there are several languages so big that they don't need all of the English signage that many of the less spoken languages also use. 
Oh, I'll get to this blurry picture another day, but yes, that's a band in traditional German outfits, I think called leaderhosen, playing on a Tuesday night.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Faucet Design

ERRR! They did it again, yet another faucet that I hit my hands against the sink while washing.
A Faucet, and I Don't Have Large Hands
I realized a couple months ago that one of the reasons I like my kitchen sink and bathroom sink, and kitchen and bathroom as a whole in my apartment, is that the sinks have faucets that extend well over the edge. Seriouly, three inches is not enough, I want at least 100 mm between that water coming out, and the back of the faucet. For some reason soaping up my hands and then rubbing them on the sink bowl just never struck me as the best way to clean my hands.

It's funny, once I started thinking about this, sink design that is, it has become more interesting. My preference is a hot and cold knob, with clearance between the spout and bowl. Simple, effective. How many times on the single knob designs do you play with it to make sure hot is still on the left and cold on the right? Half the time hot and cold sides aren't even labeled? What about those shower designs were you just rotate the knob? You don't get to choose between temperature and flow rate! Why hotels put those in is beyond me.

A hot knob and a cold knob, it's old, but it works. Sometimes we don't have to reinvent the wheel.

Monday, December 8, 2014

I Live in Iowa: Week 181

I'm writing this from my hotel somewhere in central easern Germany, although I think technically it was part of West Germany. That being said, the wall came down 25 years ago, and I'm not sure there is a differenance any more. By the way, why did all of my ancestors from Germany settle in central and southern Wisconsin and Minnesota? Because Germany seems to have exactly the same terrain and climate. I'm not joking. They even have a bunch of deere stands here too!

It was an up and down week. You heard enough about my injury, so I'll spare you reading me rehash the details. However, once I made the decision not to race CIM, my left side IT band hurt a little for a couple days and then my right foot plantar didn't feel good either. Maybe phantom pains of a body relaxing, but maybe injuries that were waiting to happen.

What?! Pandora is not available in Germany?!

Work went well, I mean, I started my new job, and only did a little reading on my new duties, but I ended up getting a trip to Germany out of it, which is awesome!

Saturday I went skiing at Chestnut over by Galena, IL. Lift tickets are only $20 until December 14th, so take it while you can still afford it! It was great, kind of funny though, I went with the two guys I rock climbing with. You would think we could convince others to rock climb and ski with us, but alas, it is actually rather difficult.

Saturday night I went to a hockey game for the Dubuque Fighting Saints. It's a junior amaetur league that oftens has players go into D1 hockey or occassionally the NHL. While maybe I should mourn the loss of the home team, the Tri-City Storm's goalie had a whopping 42 saves! That's really good. I don't know if they were poor shots, but I've never seen a goalie save so many of the goals.

I'll take it, another week in the books. While it was not fun to sit out of a race I have been working toward for a couple months, I'm just about healthy now. Had I raced a marathon yesterday, I would not be. I would like to do a lot of racing in 2015, and I'm going to need to be very recovered.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Germany, Here I Come!

Well, the work week has ended. I'm not running right now, which is unusual and I'm going to Germany in two days, which has never happened to me before now. It's funny, on the one hand I'm moping around about being injured, on another my body is recovering and I'm feeling other aches and pains I was previousl ignoring, on the third hand, I'm really excited to go to Germany. I think sometimes, maybe most of the time, what is best for us is hard to see. From every travel experience I can draw some learning experience. I really have very little idea what awaits me next week. I suppose that I shall not be lacking for learning next week. All I have to do is listen, and ask the half dozen questions I have.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Setbacks, and Successes, Increase Motivation

After a day and a half of moping around I realized that not racing the marathon this weekend is fueling my desire to race well in the future. That is a good thing. Motivation can suffer when things seem to plod along monotonously. Even in the last two months I wondered if trying to race this marathon was the best thing.

Now, the mix of successes and failures that serves to best motivate any person is hard to say. I only really have myself as evidence, and I am sure most people have a different mix. In other words, failures are a necessary part of motivation. If we did something well the first time we tried, we wouldn't appreciate it. Yet on the other hand, without successes of increasing value, one can get discouraged. As a concrete example, while a DNS for a marathon is upsetting, and a DNS on Mt. Everest is downright depressing, I won the 24 hour national championships by 18 miles this year, that's a decent value success.

A coach from the west coast a few years ago, Salazar or maybe Schumacher, said that you want to set goals that you reach about 50% of the time. That way they are not too hard, and not too easy. It is quite possible that I do well with only 1/3 success reaching my goals and 2/3s failure. Hard to say though because success is often how we define it. While I didn't climb on Mt. Everest, otherwise the trip went great for me! I set the speed record on Kalla Pattar, did some backpacking and simple mountaineering, and ran an 8:07 mile at 16,950 feet on sand. Hard to call that trip strictly a failure.

So it is with this DNS at CIM 2014, the race itself may be a failure, but I ran a 28 minute 8k only four weeks after the 24 hour run, and I had a number of other strong workouts showing what kind of recovery is possible.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I Live in Iowa: Week 180

Last week was Thanksgiving here in the US and I went up to Minnesota for a few days to see my grandparents, aunt and uncle, and my immediate family. It was really nice! Time spent talking, and time spent sleeping. It's amazing how by the second day (Friday) without my normal schedule I was bored. Plus, that includes sleeping 11 hours the night before. I could maybe use a dose of moderation in my life, take work a little less seriously so that I don't crash everytime I have a little break from work. Well, that's probably not going to happen. In everything I do, I seem to do it seriously. Sometimes, when I'm not at work on vacations or the weekend I feel like my brain just is turned down. I sleep longer and I'm tired after doing nothing.

Work was good. I finished quite a few things in the short week. In fact, it was pretty amazing really. I had my annual performance review and it was better than I expected! Then we do profit sharing and I thought because of the recent downturn in one of our markets that the annual bonus would be small, and it was not small at all! Finally, and it's official, I did my last week in my old job. This week started a new job. I can talk about that later.

Running did not go well. My leg is healing but not healing as well as I was hoping. I ran maybe 20 miles all week. I haven't even logged my runs. Now that I have withdrawn from CIM, I'm not motivated to do it anytime soon. I will say this, injury serves to stoke the fires of motivation for me. having something go really well, then go terribly, just before the finsh makes me hungry to have it go well in the future.

Yep, vacation was good.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

I Am Not Starting the California International Marathon Sunday

My leg has been bothering me for two weeks. First it was a little twinge on a Tuesday that kept me from doing a workout. The next day it felt terrible and I was limping as I ran. I hurt it by running nearly 16 miles the same direction around a 445 meter indoor track, and 11.6 of those at a very stout 5:43 pace at the Petit National Ice Center track in Milwaukee three Sundays ago, followed up by two 12 mile days on snow and ice, including a few pain free strides, before the fateful Tuesday occured. I felt great! I booked my ticked a couple days after the long tempo. Just to make sure I was healthy. Yet too many hard miles the same direction, then sliping around on snow and ice while not doing my foot and hip exercises the preceeding month, plus I don't actually think I am 100% recovered from my 24 hour run, put my over the edge.

So I did the usual get serious about recovery: back off the mileage, do core work, hip exercises, foot exercises, massage, foam rolling, sleep, drink tea, and of course, expect it to heal in three days.

Well a week went by and I was feeling slightly better so I tried a workout. After one kilometer maybe 5% faster than marathon pace, when I was aiming more like 10-15% faster, and my leg hurt, I called it quits.

I have nervous energy before lots of races. I often have little things that worry me leading into a big race. A little twinge in a leg the week of a marathon spells hours of Internet research and the fear that the race might not go right. I have learned this is to be expected for me during a taper. Yet this did not start during a taper, it started during what was supposed to be a high mileage week. I thought, okay, maybe this is my bump for the build up. I still had a number of strong workouts under me. Yet as the weeks have gone on. This did not get better.

I asked one of my running partners for advice, actually I asked several, but M. M. in particular said, "...Question 1: What is the biggest risk of racing and what is recovery time from worst case scenario? Question 2: What chance do you have to PR?..." It's the second question that really got me. I'm okay with a two month set back after a rough race if it means I just ran the race of my life. The truth is, I don't know that I am in 2:29 shape. 2:35 shape, no problem, but I don't want to run a marathon less than my PR. My workouts, while they went well, just did not seem to go great. Yes, I am recovering  faster as an omnivoire than I did as a vegan, but the workouts themselves matter too. Maybe I am in PR shape, but then you have question number one about the risk, guaranteed if I raced a marathon on this leg, I would be out of any good running for awhile. High chance of injury + low chance of PR = not worth the risk of a setback.

I feel like a failure. To think like a little kid for a minute, 'I don't care about my long term future, I wanted to run this marathon!! Why can't I be healthy now!' This is my third did not start (DNS) in three years, and I had my one and only DNF in that time too. This is the part of having a blog that is not fun at all. Publicly living through my failure. I enjoy flaming out brilliantly in a failed attempt at something grand, with the limp and scars to prove it. Canceling because of a high risk is not my style. Yet, it is in my best long term interests to focus on recovery and building up stronger the next time.

Getting down to brass tacks, the causes of this:

  1. Not 100% recovered from 24 hour run. I recovered very well, but not well enough, I even had a night sweat last week, running something like 3 miles a day. Not sure entirely how my endocrine and hormone system are not fully recovered, but I know, they are not. I wonder if maybe that is affecting my recovery time?
  2. Neglected to do the foot, hip, and core exercises to keep me healthy during late October and early November. it seriously only takes me 1-2 hours a week for the little exercises to stay healthy, but if I don't do them I get injured.
  3. Greedy, I had a few rough days before my stellar 5:43 pace 11.6 mile pave variation tempo, but the three days after I racked up the mileage, on snow and ice.
  4. Not really a cause but my opinion, but marathon training is so hard! I find it the hardest of any distance.
What's next? Some time off running. I'm not sure how long. I'm terrible at this time off baloney. Maybe two weeks, dare I say three? After that, I'm going to focus on ultras in 2015. I need a break from the marathon, I'm going to try a 50k.

While the whole of this post is very negative, there is a silver lining. The reason I canceled today, instead of waiting until later or even flying to California to try and race, is so that I could take a trip to Germany for business next week and we leave the US on Sunday. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

I Despise Injuries.

Oh I don't want to talk about my leg right now, I don't have anything good to say. Before this week is out you will hear a lot more about it. Injuries are no fun. I have them because I am stubborn and push myself to the line and sometimes across the line. Marathon training is the worst too. The pace is too fast to really talk but so long it really wears your out. Shorter races don't take more than a few days to recover from. Longer races or events may take weeks, but then again you are maybe out there running for 10+ hours. The problem with specifc training is that it is hard! Yes I can run 10 miles in 59 minutes or 20 miles in 2:07 and not think anything of it because those aren't that impressive of a workout, but the sheer volume of those type of workouts necessary to run a good marathon puts at least me at greater risk of injury. I suppose if my goals were easy I would have done them already.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

North Coast 24 Hour Run Splits

It's taken awhile to get these posted, but here they finally are! A few highlights, I only had a few laps faster than 8 minute pace, and a huge number between 8 and 9 minute pace. That's great! It is good to see I was so consistent. I took some longer walking breaks after milestones like 50 miles, 100k, 70 miles, 12 hours and 100 miles and a few others that show up with a much slower lap soon after the milestone. That was on purpose. I would walk a few minutes to eat and drink more than I could running strait. Here is my race report if you haven't already read it. Also, here are a couple thousand pictures of the race, a bunch of good ones with me in them. Thanks photographers!

Lap Time
8:59:29 AM
Mile Pace
Total Miles
 9:06:55 AM
8m 14s 33ms
 9:14:25 AM
8m 19s 584ms
 9:22:00 AM
8m 24s 24ms
 9:29:36 AM
8m 25s 135ms
 9:37:10 AM
8m 22s 914ms
 9:44:43 AM
8m 22s 914ms
 9:52:38 AM
8m 47s 338ms
 10:00:11 AM
8m 21s 804ms
 10:07:35 AM
8m 11s 812ms
 10:14:58 AM
8m 11s 812ms
 10:22:12 AM
8m 0s 711ms
 10:29:46 AM
8m 24s 24ms
 10:36:57 AM
7m 58s 490ms
 10:44:12 AM
8m 2s 931ms
 10:51:39 AM
8m 15s 143ms
 10:59:03 AM
8m 11s 812ms
 11:06:32 AM
8m 17s 363ms
 11:13:52 AM
8m 7s 372ms
 11:21:22 AM
8m 19s 584ms
 11:28:42 AM
8m 7s 372ms
 11:36:02 AM
8m 7s 372ms
 11:43:17 AM
8m 2s 931ms
 11:50:47 AM
8m 18s 473ms
 11:58:52 AM
8m 58s 440ms
 12:06:11 PM
8m 7s 372ms
 12:13:25 PM
8m 0s 711ms
 12:21:08 PM
8m 32s 906ms
 12:28:28 PM
8m 8s 482ms
 12:35:36 PM
7m 54s 49ms
 12:42:44 PM
7m 55s 160ms
 12:49:41 PM
7m 41s 837ms
 12:56:39 PM
7m 44s 58ms
 1:03:59 PM
8m 8s 482ms
 1:11:24 PM
8m 12s 923ms
 1:18:40 PM
8m 2s 931ms
 1:26:34 PM
8m 46s 228ms
 1:33:52 PM
8m 5s 151ms
 1:41:02 PM
7m 57s 380ms
 1:48:36 PM
8m 24s 24ms
 1:55:58 PM
8m 9s 592ms
 2:03:24 PM
8m 14s 33ms
 2:10:42 PM
8m 6s 261ms
 2:18:04 PM
8m 9s 592ms
 2:25:59 PM
8m 47s 338ms
 2:33:29 PM
8m 19s 584ms
 2:41:39 PM
9m 2s 881ms
 2:50:03 PM
9m 19s 534ms
 2:57:42 PM
8m 29s 575ms
 3:06:14 PM
9m 27s 305ms
 3:14:19 PM
8m 58s 440ms
 3:22:49 PM
9m 25s 85ms
 3:30:51 PM
8m 55s 110ms
 3:39:18 PM
9m 22s 864ms
 3:47:05 PM
8m 37s 347ms
 3:55:39 PM
9m 30s 636ms
 4:03:18 PM
8m 28s 465ms
 4:11:14 PM
8m 48s 449ms
 4:22:17 PM
12m 16s 53ms
 4:29:40 PM
8m 11s 812ms
 4:36:57 PM
8m 4s 41ms
 4:44:50 PM
8m 44s 8ms
 4:52:30 PM
8m 30s 686ms
 5:00:17 PM
8m 37s 347ms
 5:07:57 PM
8m 30s 686ms
 5:15:34 PM
8m 26s 245ms
 5:23:20 PM
8m 36s 236ms
 5:31:08 PM
8m 39s 567ms
 5:38:52 PM
8m 34s 16ms
 5:46:32 PM
8m 30s 686ms
 5:57:47 PM
12m 29s 376ms
 6:06:47 PM
9m 59s 500ms
 6:14:51 PM
8m 57s 330ms
 6:22:56 PM
8m 57s 330ms
 6:30:20 PM
8m 12s 923ms
 6:38:54 PM
9m 30s 636ms
 6:47:31 PM
9m 32s 856ms
 6:56:26 PM
9m 53s 949ms
 7:04:05 PM
8m 28s 465ms
 7:14:40 PM
11m 44s 968ms
 7:22:48 PM
9m 1s 771ms
 7:30:37 PM
8m 39s 567ms
 7:39:12 PM
9m 31s 746ms
 7:48:32 PM
10m 21s 704ms
 7:56:43 PM
9m 5s 101ms
 8:04:46 PM
8m 56s 220ms
 8:12:54 PM
9m 0s 661ms
 8:21:18 PM
9m 18s 424ms
 8:29:44 PM
9m 21s 754ms
 8:38:10 PM
9m 20s 644ms
 8:46:42 PM
9m 28s 415ms
 8:54:29 PM
8m 37s 347ms
 9:04:55 PM
11m 34s 976ms
 9:15:02 PM
11m 12s 773ms
 9:22:47 PM
8m 36s 236ms
 9:30:56 PM
9m 1s 771ms
 9:39:08 PM
9m 6s 211ms
 9:48:28 PM
10m 20s 594ms
 9:56:47 PM
9m 13s 983ms
 10:05:16 PM
9m 25s 85ms
 10:13:01 PM
8m 35s 126ms
 10:21:41 PM
9m 37s 297ms
 10:30:21 PM
9m 36s 187ms
 10:38:01 PM
8m 30s 686ms
 10:45:46 PM
8m 35s 126ms
 10:53:49 PM
8m 56s 220ms
 11:01:40 PM
8m 41s 787ms
 11:09:30 PM
8m 41s 787ms
 11:17:59 PM
9m 23s 974ms
 11:26:09 PM
9m 3s 991ms
 11:33:34 PM
8m 12s 923ms
 11:40:51 PM
8m 5s 151ms
 11:52:50 PM
13m 17s 114ms
 12:01:12 AM
9m 16s 203ms
 12:10:09 AM
9m 55s 60ms
 12:18:42 AM
9m 29s 525ms
 12:27:29 AM
9m 43s 958ms
 12:35:57 AM
9m 23s 974ms
 12:43:40 AM
8m 34s 16ms
 12:51:56 AM
9m 10s 652ms
 1:00:16 AM
9m 13s 983ms
 1:08:06 AM
8m 40s 677ms
 1:17:00 AM
9m 51s 729ms
 1:26:48 AM
10m 52s 789ms
 1:34:47 AM
8m 50s 669ms
 1:43:17 AM
9m 26s 195ms
 1:51:26 AM
9m 2s 881ms
 2:00:23 AM
9m 55s 60ms
 2:09:25 AM
10m 0s 611ms
 2:19:15 AM
10m 55s 10ms
 2:27:41 AM
9m 20s 644ms
 2:36:26 AM
9m 42s 848ms
 2:44:48 AM
9m 16s 203ms
 2:53:56 AM
10m 8s 382ms
 3:04:03 AM
11m 12s 773ms
 3:13:08 AM
10m 5s 51ms
 3:21:59 AM
9m 48s 399ms
 3:30:07 AM
9m 1s 771ms
 3:38:55 AM
9m 45s 68ms
 3:47:51 AM
9m 53s 949ms
 3:55:57 AM
8m 58s 440ms
 4:08:08 AM
13m 31s 546ms
 4:16:53 AM
9m 41s 737ms
 4:25:40 AM
9m 45s 68ms
 4:34:46 AM
10m 6s 162ms
 4:44:06 AM
10m 20s 594ms
 4:53:27 AM
10m 22s 814ms
 5:03:01 AM
10m 36s 137ms
 5:11:50 AM
9m 47s 288ms
 5:21:24 AM
10m 37s 247ms
 5:31:16 AM
10m 56s 120ms
 5:41:37 AM
11m 28s 315ms
 5:51:13 AM
10m 39s 467ms
 6:00:34 AM
10m 21s 704ms
 6:11:36 AM
12m 13s 833ms
 6:22:48 AM
12m 26s 45ms
 6:33:15 AM
11m 36s 87ms
 6:44:06 AM
12m 1s 621ms
 6:55:31 AM
12m 40s 477ms
 7:06:36 AM
12m 17s 163ms
 7:15:52 AM
10m 16s 153ms
 7:25:06 AM
10m 13s 933ms
 7:35:41 AM
11m 44s 968ms
 7:45:51 AM
11m 17s 213ms
 7:57:03 AM
12m 24s 935ms
 8:05:42 AM
9m 36s 187ms
 8:13:21 AM
8m 28s 465ms
 8:20:52 AM
8m 19s 584ms
 8:28:49 AM
8m 48s 449ms
 8:36:23 AM
8m 22s 914ms
 8:44:15 AM
8m 44s 8ms
 8:52:59 AM
9m 41s 737ms
Sorry for the milliseconds and ten-thousandths of a mile formatting, I tried to change it but Pages was struggling with me. You can see how I really struggled the last five hours. At the time I didn't notice it too much until the last two hours and certainly from 7AM to 8 AM those are not pretty splits. That was the hour was the longest. A big part of this was mental, getting to 135 miles was a guarantee that I would at least be on the possible list to go to the world championships, and you can see that in general I slowed down after that. Plus, at that point I knew that I was going to get quite a few more miles, and over 150 and I was somewhat resigned to not getting 160. It's good to see that even in my debut I never even had one lap at an average pace of 14 minutes per mile. I would have been fine with a couple on my celebration laps, but it never happened. 

It's interesting to see that right after 100 miles I seemed to slow down by 30+ seconds per mile over the 16th hour compared to the 15th hours. It's similar to how I slowed after 135 miles. This all must be mental. I mean, nothing physically changes between being at 98 miles versus 102 miles. I think this is where experience counts. I mean, passing all of these various milestones, having never passed them before, I didn't know what to expect. Now I know for sure I can still throw down 8:20 pace running after running 150 miles in around 23 hours. 

A few notable splits: 50 miles in about 6:59, 100k in 8:47:03, 12 hours about 82.4 miles, 100 miles in 14:41:22, 200k in 18:39:26, and 150 miles in about 23:17. I think a big cause for my slowing down in the last five hours was probably due to not getting enough calories in the middle of the night, particularly from midnight to about 4 AM. Nutrition I feel is my biggest opportunity for improvement. Now, what exactly I plan to change in my nutrition plan I am not sure yet. 

Side note, why am I writing this now? Well, I've got a little lower leg injury, like peroneal tendonitis or something, and I also have a marathon next weekend. So I'm freaking out a little that I will not be healthy for it and not be able to finish it, or even start it. Thus I'm reliving the glory of past running accomplishments. It's pretty standard for runners to think more about running when we are injured and can't run as much as we would like. I usually only go back and read my running log when I'm having a setback in my training. This injury shall pass, God knows when, and hopefully I will once again learn something from it.