Tuesday, February 25, 2014

2013 Year in Review

It’s taken me 15% of 2014 to write this down, but better late than never right? Wow 2013 was a long year! I did so much in hindsight. Where to start? First a link to 2012, which has links to my 2011 year in review and previous years. 

How about work, that’s a good starting point as that one activity seems to occupy most of my waking hours throughout the entire year. It’s strange when put in that context. I mean I spent roughly 2300 hours at work in 2013 out of 5800 waking hours. I took two business trips one to North Carolina and another to British Columbia, Idaho, and Washington. I concluded my tenure in FEA and moved onto product design. That’s kind of  profound thing as far as my career is concerned. On the one had I imagined doing FEA indefinitely, on the other hand, I never intended to do it nearly as long as I did it. Now that I am in design, I feel that most engineering education is geared toward design and development. It is going really well. 

There are so many details! I always gloss over the details when in public like this, trying to focus on the big picture, yet there are so many details. In FEA I could recommend changes and often they would happen, other times people would just tell me “no”. Now that I am in design, I am ultimately the one who can change things, yet I have quite a few more people waiting to tell me “no”. That might give a negative view of it, but the truth is, design starts out with an idea of how something should work. Every idea has issues and it takes a team of people to refine the idea to the point where it is actually works. 

A coworker who made a similar move to me said it similar to this, “some people are really good at making decisions. Every decision they make seems to have good results come from that little decision. On the other hand, make the wrong decision and the issues will just multiply.” I am beginning to see that in the design world. Little decisions are made, like putting a vent flap on the back of the speed skaters uniform, and the consequence of the extra drag is a lack of medals. That concept can be extrapolated to a multitude of designs. Japanese cars for a long time were made to stricter tolerances than American cars and thus lasted longer because the quality that went into them was higher. I am getting to see that now. 

Changing jobs was a difficult thing to do. I was comfortable. I was good at FEA. In fact, I was so good that I did something in the summer no one else had ever done. I proposed it was worthy of some additional intellectual property protection, but it was denied. Still, I was the only one to ever do it, in the world. I can look at competitors machines and know that I did things that are unique. It’s hard to walk away from that kind of skill. Yet, on the other hand, compared to weeks like that, the rest becomes boring. 

While I find my work and engineering intensely interesting, I realize that in the vague and alternatively detailed way I talk about it, most people probably get bored. So let’s talk about running. I had a very strong year of running. I ran 3406 miles. That is my 3rd most miles in a year. Despite having a very week May and November. I've only had three weeks over 3000 miles. For personal records I set an 800 meter PR of 2:08.97 in February on a double. I ran a nice mile PR of 4:31.20! That was such a good race for me. I mean I came through the 1000 in 2:46 which is a PR too. Later in the year I ran an 8k cross country PR of 26:30. I’ve run 8k faster than 26 twice on the track in 10ks, but I generally have struggled with xc. In september as a vegan I won a half marathon in 1:14:56 winning by 9:53 on a relatively hard course. Not a great time, and the course is maybe only 60 seconds slow, but it was nice to have a race that I had fun with being out in front just pushing it. 

In other races I ran my first real trail race and came in second to a guy that once ran for the USA at the world mountain running championships by 90 seconds in the half marathon. I’ll take it. I also won the Run4Troops marathon on the Heritage trail in course record time. Slightly out of shape I ran a 2:47

The Chicago Marathon continues to haunt me. That’s not the kind of race I want to have. Honestly, back in 2009 and 2010 and 2011, I never thought I would run a marathon slower than 2:30. Yet three years later I have yet to run faster than 2:30. I know I can go faster, I just have not yet. This is a not a running post, so I won’t focus on the details. However, I did have a great experience at Chicago as my parents were there and I heard them a few times. At one mile I looked over and there three feet away was Rita Jeptoo, who went on to run 2:19. In fact, the women were maybe only a minute ahead of me even at the half marathon. It is very exciting to be that far up in such a big race!

Rock climbing was not a big year. I did some climbing, a little trad, but only three days I think. I did get out to Colorado in December, which was nice to work on my snow and mixed skills. I suppose that back in January and February I did get over to Cedar Falls for some silo ice climbing. I also climbed at a few gyms in Cedar Falls and Madison. Despite the fact I did not do a whole lot of climbing, I enjoyed the few days I did get out. 

Coaching was rewarding. I won’t lie, it can be stressful fitting it in the rest of my life. Plus it can be stressful when it seems like year after year people are not improving. However, 2013 had a number of people run strong races on the team. It’s a slow process. Training a team is hard. Not everyone wants to put in the work that I want to put in as a runner. Not everyone can put in that kind of work. It is so exciting to see young adults develop and mature and break barriers they did not think they would conquer. 

I visited Rwanda on my first full week of vacation (outside of Christmas and New Year’s which our whole factory has off) since I started working as an engineering full time in 2011. Was it a life changing experience? Yes. I knew what to expect, and it was about as I imagined. Kids without shoes. Dirt floor huts. Poverty so serious a dollar can feed a person for a week. I was so affected by it that now I know, my charitable mission in life is to help the poorest in the world, South Sudan. There is so much more to say, suffice to say, I have so much more wealth than they have. It motivates me to really be the best I absolutely can be. To those much is given much will be asked. 

Coming back from Rwanda I stopped in Belgium for most of a day, and had a great experience! I still haven’t posted those videos yet

The vegan experience for 73 days was quite the experience. I ran my cross country 8k PR. I weighed 123 at one point, the lowest I have been since my junior year in high school. It broadened my horizons about what is possible. I mean, so many people wrote vegan off as impossible, I did a mere three weeks before I became one. However, I lost weight, I had two of the best workouts I have ever had in my life, and I feel that under different circumstances (someone more knowledgeable preparing my food) it could work longer term. As a short term “cleanse” I might do it again, for perhaps a month here and there. As a consequence, my latest cholesterol reading was so high in good cholesterol that it didn’t even read the good or the bad cholesterol. Yes, a plant based diet is probably the most healthy diet in the world. 


What is next? 2014, you are going to be a big one. Everest is coming up. Another fall marathon. Work was planned to be busy, but it is looking like 2015 will be the big event. 

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