Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Long Term Development

Good things take time. So it is the same with just about anything worth waiting for. I feel, we as Americans, and increasingly the entire world, are quickly concerned with the worries of this hour, with the pressures of the the day. We forget, or neglect, to put the time, even just a little time into the long term big picture activities. That being said, shoutout to poverty, it really makes you think different. (Scroll down to the block titled "Worsened Mental Health".) However, for the vast majority of people able to read this blog, with Internet access and a device with an expensive screen, we have what it takes to increase our long term development.

The GM ignition switch events have been a great lesson for me. You see, I routinely pull new part numbers for similar looking parts, or create a new revision of a part, and keep the number the same. Pulling a new part number sets off a chain of supply activities, because the possibility exists that part will be a service part for decades to come. Similarly, a part I create may be made by several different suppliers over the decades, having acurate GD&T, so that the part always works is key.

Similarly, response to my first ultramarathon has been incredible. I had 70 likes on the Facebook post, 700 views on my blog article, a slew of comments and new friend requests. I think people perceive me as coming out of nowhere, but I've known for half a decade I would enjoy ultras once I got there. I'm only 28. I like to think of myself an Seth Godin says, the overnight success that took a decade.

Monday, September 29, 2014

I Live in Iowa: Week 171

Rock Climbing (Probably a 5.10) at Devils Lake, Wisconsin Saturday
Honestly, aside from the race Sunday which I blogged about yesterday, it was an uneventful week. I called in sick on Monday, the first time I have ever done that. Definitely not something I wanted to do, or enjoyed, but there was no safe way I was driving home Sunday afternoon. I should have had someone video tape me walking around on Monday. I seriously looked like a 95 year old person. My grandparents in their 80s move much better than I was for a day. Fortunately I have been recovering super quick.

Work was work. We are nearing the point in the project where any small, minor change has a lot of bureaucracy, or paper work, to go through before it happens. I find it very interesting. A year ago I could go and willy nilly change things. Now, any change requires more people's approval than launching a nuclear missile. To be honest, it's not even frustrating really, it's more interesting. I mean the product is good, we're just trying to work out the bugs and raise the quality to a level that makes us feel comfortable. It's an educational experience for sure.

I went for an hour bicycle ride, a mere 13 miles, a three mile run, and then some rock climbing. It sounds interesting and active to be sure, but that's about three hours total exercise in a week, I usually get 10 or more.
Belaying on Turks Head Ridge (next pitch a 5.2) at Devils Lake, Wisconsin
Recovery continues to go well. I have been sleeping 9+ hours a night. I have a few sore spots, but no injuries. I hope you had a good week too!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

2014 North Coast 24: My Ultramarathon Racing Debut

Hahaha, I'm laughing as I lie here on the couch. Most people probably didn't see this coming or expect this. Sorry guys, I didn't mean to keep it from everyone. I've just had so many "disappointments" that I would rather try something alone quietly and fail at a goal no one knew about than publicly fail. A recent example of course would be not climbing a step above base camp on Mt. Everest this spring. A more distant example would have been unemployment. Failure hurts.

I've mentioned before but by the time I announce something, I'm usually feeling 80% of the way there. It takes a lot of nerve for me to announce a goal when I am any farther away. So I didn't tell anyone, besides my dad, what my goal was. Well, the secret is out, the goal was 160 miles. I didn't quite make it. I'm laughing again, having run over 154 miles, winning a USATF national championship, and probably headed to Italy for the 2015 IAU 24 hour world championship, it is a pretty good ultramarathon debut. Hopefully it puts my 2010 Wonderland Trail and and July Sawatch (Nolan's 14) runs in context. Here is the thing, I have known for years I would be really good at the truly longer distances. Maybe it was the backpacking in high school, maybe it was the fact that I have always, always been better at long runs than anyone else on my track or cross country teams. Unfortunately, the ability to run 16 miles the day after racing an 8k cross country run, doesn't translate directly into running a 25 minute 8k. So I moved up after college ran some marathons and basically the opportunity finally came up to race an ultra, while still really aiming for a late fall 2014 marathon, so I registered. I picked it because the 24 hour run is one of the few ways to qualify for a team USA spot at a world championship, and that's one of my three old running goals. The other two are the olympic marathon trials and a sub 30 10k. Plus, ultra running I think will make marathons easier the same way I've set PRs from the 800 to the 10k after running a couple marathons. What is the pain the last two laps in a 10k compared to the pain the last two miles of a marathon?

Well, let's get into the backstory, starting from Friday. If you want my training logs the last eight years they are on RunningAhead, the last two years are on Strava (my GPS and Strava seem to not be talking right now), and last 13 years are on Million Mile Ultra run. I will say, the day before the first backpacking trip I led, as a 17 year old in 2003, in a hotel in Leadville, I caught half of a documentary about the Leadville 100 and realized that there were races farther than 26.2 miles. I was stunned. Yes, I plan to run the Leadville 100 some day (and I would of course like to win). Anyway, Friday afternoon I left Dubuque and headed west, I had Thai food at Cambodian something in South Bend, Indiana then from looking at the map Lakewood, OH looked like the perfect place with dense residential streets to sleep in my van. Low density residential means the neighbors know each other and might call out a strange van, cities and parking lots are too noisy, but a dense residential street, or trailhead, are the perfect places to sleep in your vehicle. I had a great, solid 6 hours of sleep! Which was much better than I expected.

I had breakfast of three blueberry pancakes and two scrambled eggs with orange juice at the Gray Dog Diner. I mention that for two reasons, the waitress was wearing running shorts, odd at 7 AM on a Saturday in a diner if you ask me. Second, more than one person at the race asked what I had for breakfast that inspired me to run so many miles. Then I drove over to Edgewater park just a few miles away. I arrived just after 8 AM. I walked over to registration, there was no line, so I picked up my two bibs and timing chip just like any other race. Then I walked the path to find a spot for my cooler and spare shoes and found a tree between two tents and with enough grass space for my stuff. Carrying my very full cooler over was a hassle. I was thinking, 'great, I'm wasting all my energy carrying this heavy cooler full of stuff 200 meters across a field.' After I had my cooler, my dry food, some spare socks, tights, shorts, and shirts, and about eight pairs of shoes wrapped up in a blanket, I changed into my warrior uniform.

With maybe 10 minutes until the start of the race I walked over to the start. I did some leg swings, like always, they are such a great stretch. It was strange to not do any warmup. I easily do two miles before a marathon, but I knew this was different. We were herded over maybe 100 meters behind the start line, for purposes of the timing mat I think. Then the race director said, "40 seconds until start time!" At which point everyone was still pretty disbursed and unaware that we were starting so soon. I ended up in about the second row, trying hard not to be in the front, because I didn't want to go out really hard and fall apart. Someone blew a horn, or shot a gun, I don't remember, and we were off!

Talk about anticlimactic. There were a couple people that were out at sub 8 minute mile pace, but I wore my GPS and was determined that I was not going to run faster than 8 minute pace, because that's 180 mile pace, and while I think I am fit enough to do that, I knew I didn't have the experience to run something like 180 miles. I think I was in ninth after a lap or two. Such a contrast to something like the Chicago Marathon last year when I started in the third row about, and 30 seconds into the race I was in 200th place despite being on 6 minute pace.

How did I decide on a 160 mile goal? Well, Yiannis Kouros, the world record holder for most everything really long, has the 24 hour record at about 188.5 miles and he ran a 2:24 marathon. That's roughly a mile before I finished my 2:30 PR marathon. So I extrapolated one mile behind for about 7.5 marathons, means I'm probably fit enough to do a 181 mile 24 hour run. Also, back in 2010 Scott Jurek ran a former American record of 165.7 miles. I have his book Eat and Run, it inspired me to be vegan for 73.5 days last year until my Chicago Marathon debacle, and I realized, Scott is slower than me. At the marathon and shorter I've got better PRs. So the fact that he ran a 165 means that I am clearly capable of a 165 mile run. Third, there are 1440 minutes in a day, I never knew that or cared until maybe two months ago when I had the idea to try this. Well, it's pretty basic, but 160 miles is exactly 9 minute mile pace. I figured even with walking and eating, that's very reasonable. Plus it's slower than Yiannis and Scott would each have me believe I can run by comparing marathon times. However, I figure that experience in ultras counts for a lot, so I planned to be conservative in my first ultra outing.

The first few hours were uneventful. Quickly HL lapped me twice and only an hour and a half in I was 1.8 miles behind. I don't even remember him lapping me the first time. It was strange, I was drinking a little gatorade here and there, but the first two hours I maybe had a total of 10 ounces of fluids and 50 calories. I routinely go on two hour runs without eating or drinking. However the day started to heat up and I managed to drink more gatorade. I would run maybe an hour or ten miles drinking some water occasionally then pick up one of my 20 ounce bottles and it would take two to three laps to drink. Then I would have gatorade sloshing around inside of me. Another runner in the race mentioned that it sloshed in his belly as well, and I think there is an opportunity for a better drink.  I drank some POM pomegranate juice too and that stuff seemed to evaporate into the sides of my mouth, although it is very sweet. I managed to eat some tortilla chips too, the small rounds ones, surprisingly I could eat them while I ran because they would stick to the insides of my mouth. In between all of these sweet things I would stop at the aid station and take a half cup of water. Since drinking out of a cup while running is very difficult I would walk for 20 seconds or whatever it took to drink it, throw the cup away and then keep running. With a bottle I could keep running. Another food combination that I quickly found to work well was about a one inch long slice of banana with half a cup of water, I probably did that 15 to 20 times. When things were going well I would skip any aid on a lap, when I was hurting a little more I would take some calories and fluids and walk every lap.
Early in the Race
I saw this as really an experiment in eating and drinking and running, while continuously monitoring my body. I never felt competitive with anyone else, I was just running against the clock, monitoring my body, fueling the machine.

Muscles, at least for me, can often feel three different states of not good, there is lacking electrolytes (salts), lacking glycogen (sugar and carbs), and finally damage, which is lack of protein. Maybe I am being arrogant or naive that I can feel the difference between those three different situations, but numerous times through the run I would crave salt (thankfully they had a giant jar of Morton's Salt), or Ecaps (still not sure what those things were, I've never had them otherwise) or protein. I was prepared for all of those situations, and my tortilla chips, pickles, mango protein shake, and of course lots of fruits and juices for the sugars helped. I'm rambling, the nutrition side is just really interesting.

I passed 26.1 miles, in 3:37 or something. It was funny, I realized at the time what to me was "a little fast" for 24 hour pace was more than most people can do for a marathon. I started catching back up to the leaders. In the 40s I was struggling a little. 40 miles is a long day. We were a long long way from the end and I hadn't fueled as well as I should over the first 5 hours. However, HL ran with me a bit and helped motivate me and I just kept going because I did feel okay, just not fueled well. I crossed six hours at I think 43.6 miles. At 50 miles, crossed in about seven hours exactly, I took a long walking break, maybe five minutes, to celebrate a new 50 mile PR and I downed a Thai 500 mL coconut water (way cheaper than US coconut water). It was like a rocket to my legs! I never saw the leader board, so I really had no idea who was in what place, expect that HL seemed to be the likely leader. Well, he struggled in the heat of the day before I did and by 55 miles we crossed the timing mat together step for step. So I assumed we were tired for the lead and when he faltered I assumed I was in the lead, but didn't really know.

I crossed 100k in 8:4X I think and took another celebratory break to drink and eat. Unfortunately, the temperature went up to about 80F for in the afternoon and I was not taking in enough liquid so I was dehydrating slowly over the course of the day. Not terribly bad, but I was not in a good state of hydration.

Fortunately the sun went down and it cooled off. I was able to start rebuilding my hydration. It was a little windy much of the day and the wind backed off at night too. Funny thing is, when I am racing a half or full marathon flying along at 11 miles an hour, a 10 mph wind gust to the face feels terrible, but jogging along at 7 miles an hour there is hardly any effect. I mean 8:30 pace per mile is not fast, and I might as well run into a 20 mph wind.

People have asked about going to the bathroom, well there were port-a-potties and every couple hours I would have to go, so I went. I actually looked forward to it because I could stop for 20 seconds, lean up against the wall, and have more feedback on my hydration status. Fortunately I never had to sit down to go, I was not looking forward to that, and fortunately it just never happened.

At 12 hours I think I was at 83 miles and change. Still head of pace. Around this time I told M, I think his name started with M, that my goal was 160 miles. At the start of the race, and for hours into it, no one knew my name, but as the day and night wore on, people began to recognize me, talk to me and cheer me on. I've never been in a race where it takes so long to develop that there is a whole character development aspect just to the race.

Somehow or other I never really grew bored. There was always something to think about, food, what type of food, fruits, PB&J, pizza, grapes, Larabar (I didn't have any energy bars the whole time despite bringing a dozen), gel, gatorade, or my hydration status, did I need more water, did I need some caffeine because I was tired, how did my legs feel, did I need to change shoe, what about changing shorts because of chaffing… I brought an iPod Shuffle to listen to music, but never grew bored enough to pull it out and listen to music.

I crossed 100 miles around 14:44 feeling pretty good. I had a little pizza (maybe 3 in.^2) and walked for a bit to finish off my mango protein shake (one of those off the shelf bottled things from Hy-Vee). I still felt like I had a long way to go and strangely I didn't feel that tired despite nearly 15 hours of running, and almost three hours past when I go to bed. I did put my headlamp on when darkness fell because I know from experience that I run slower in the dark, and more light means I am more likely to perceive how fast I am running, and thus run faster. I was surprised more people didn't wear headlamps. You didn't need it, there was enough light, but I felt not enough ambient light to run my best. I had a Five Hour Energy and two Starbucks double shot espressos, the latter were just fantastic! I was a little afraid how the milk and cream would affect my stomach running, I had never tried it before on a run, but they are only about six ounces and worked like a charm. Plus at 140 calories one of the more calorie packed things I consumed. Those caffeine doses kept me going through the night. Again, surprisingly I never really felt tired, or at least as tired as I expected.

After 100 miles I was in no man's land. Here I just PR'd at 50 miles, 100k, 12 hours, and 100 miles. The next significant man made milestone was 135 miles to provisionally qualify for team USA in Italy in April next year. Yet that was a good six hours away. I definitely slowed down in the night because of the dark and that sort of loss of short term motivation. I was still moving plenty fine, but I was certainly being conservative and trying to stay on top of my nutrition and hydration rather than attack the miles. When I finally crossed 135 miles, I had over three hours to go, I knew I would get 150, but my original goal of 160 was out of reach, and that was a disappointment. That kind of further reduces the motivation. Fortunately the sun came up and it was nice to see everything again. By this time I felt half famous, people knew who I was, and every lap people would turn after I crossed the timing mat to see this "freak". It was always funny, given this was an open park, when people would wander through and wonder what was going on, and to hear their reactions! More than one we were called "freak" and I'm thought of myself as crazy for some time, but I had never really thought of myself as a physical anomaly, like Michael Phelps. Yet maybe we are unique. I don't know, it's amusing regardless.

Armpit Chaffing
Shortly before the sun came up it started to run, and for maybe 15-20 minute down poured. After well over 100 miles of running I was chaffing in my armpits and between my legs. The dried on sweat ran into the raw skin, and wow it hurt! Pain in my muscles and joints was insignificant compared to the feeling of 20 hours of sweat running into my chaffed armpits. Ironically, that's really motivational to me, the fact that after 130 miles of running, some skin irritation felt worse than my muscles or joints.

In the 140s I was struggling some. My quads were a little tired just above the knees, and I was ready for it to be over. Fortunately, CY ran with me for a few laps in the penultimate hour as I was struggling and she talked as I just tried to follow along. Definitely a big help. I ran with quite a few people over the course of the day, HL (2014 Badwater 135 winner), J, M, CY, JP and A. Thank you everyone for running with me it was a huge help!

Harvey was unlapping me and when we got to an hour to go I think it was Howard Nippet, the USATF guy, that said, "Isaiah, you're going to need every mile to qualify!" It was like a rocket to my motivation! As Harvey came past I joined up with him and we flew, I'm serious like 8:15 pace, I put down at least one 7:30 lap, after getting into 9 minute and change laps for hours on end. I felt great! I was thinking, 'I seriously cannot believe how well I feel 150 miles into this thing!' Yet it was happening. I don't even really feel like my form fell apart much.

With 15 minutes to go I realized that I would only run one more full lap. Maybe it was mental, or maybe I had not taken in enough calories the last two hours, but I hit the wall soon after hitting the timing mat. I did my last full lap slowly, similarly to the last few miles at Chicago last year, yet far more relaxed, because I had 153 miles, that's not a bad total. They gave me a block with my number on and it and I trudged around on my final fraction of a lap. I didn't know if we had one minute left or six, so I kept looking over, ready for the horn to blow and the pain to stop. Just before I reached the road crossing the horn blew, I set the block down, walked about five steps and fell over in the grass.

I wore the same shoes and socks the whole race.
The police officer and I talked a bit, and I'm not sure how long I laid there, maybe five minutes, maybe 20. I was done! I finished in 24 hours! Finally, no one from medical or anything came to get me, and since I didn't have a support crew, I was pretty much stranded on the ground. I could feel my legs starting to burn with inflammation. The police officer was great! He helped me up, put me in the back of the car, gave me some of his personal granola, while saying how amazing it was I did 154 miles, and then drove me right up to the medical tent. Two people helped me limp my way to a folding chair where I ate an egg. Then after a few minutes of sitting there they wanted to get me up on one of the medical tables, so I acquiesced. Once they had me up on the table, I felt like my legs exploded with inflammation. L, the doctor/student/physical therapist/athletic trainer or whoever she was was was great! She twisted and pulled and pushed to try and help me loosen up. The whole medical staff was nice getting me to sit up and drink a couple protein shakes, packing me in mylar and fleece blankets. They handed out awards, but I was in the medical tent for the whole thing, it felt strange to hear people clap for me as I laid on a table behind a tarp hidden from view. At one point I was so comfortable, I just wanted to cry, so I said, "I just want to cry." The two attractive young women helping me were very nice and for about ten long seconds there was silence as I lowered my emotional barrier a notch. However, soon enough I couldn't cry, and I realized that two attractive young women standing over me were going to make it about impossible for any tears to come out. I told them I wasn't going to cry because they were looking at me, but the moment was over, I was smiling about it. I felt safe, and I had a smile on my face!
Inflammed feet
As they packed up, my original plan of sleep a few hours in my van then drive home, was not going to work. I couldn't walk. So they offered to take me to a hotel. Dan, the race director and his family were nice enough to call ahead to Holiday Inn, then drive my van there, and drop me off! I had to pay for the hotel room of course, but there was no way I was driving home Sunday. I slept for about three hours, then managed to walk to the bathtub and take a bath to wash off the grime. I ordered a pizza (buffalo chicken and blue cheese) and after eating a good portion of it, while drinking water and gatorade, and watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (loosely based on my life). I slept for another ten hours.
Awards Addition: A 100+ Mile Belt Buckle and USA National Champion
The next morning I woke up and had breakfast, and got on the road for the nine hour drive home. The first few hours I drove with my left foot because my right foot hurt so bad. However, I must be a genetic monster at inflammation and recovery because throughout the day I continued to recover and walk better and finally drive with my right foot. (Side note, my family has a history of heart disease and inflammation has been linked to heart disease, so being "good" at acute inflammation response to a traumatic event, my in fact be a genetic thing.) Oh to see me walk! Every day was better, and now, a week later I'm almost fine. I even ran a 5k on Friday, went for a 13 mile bicycling ride on Thursday and  rock climbing on Saturday. I am recovering so well!

What does the future hold? Hopefully the April IAU World 24 hour championships. If not I'm registered for the Boston Marathon. What do I think I could do in ultras? Well, I'd like to take a crack at the 100km and a spot on team USA. I think that based on my marathon times, and Yiannis and Scott's marathon and 24 hour times, I am at a fitness level now of 172-181 miles for a 24 hour race. I feel I have a lot more left in the tank. Also, I would like to race the usual suspect trail races, Leadville 100, Western States, Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, Badwater 135, and Vermont 100. Plus go after from trail FKTs. That being said, I'm thinking a marathon in a few months, time to become a 2:2X guy.

Friday, September 26, 2014

If you don't try...

...you will never know. So go out there and try, because you will learn, in the words of Yoda a Star Wars character, "do or do not, there is no try." Which can mean, in trying, you will do it.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How to Recover (from a Big Physical Event)

How do you recover from some big physical event like a marathon, or running six marathons in one day? In short:

- Eat! It almost doesn't matter what you eat, anything helps with recovery. But since you ask, get some simple carbs in the first 15 minutes (100-300 calories). In the first hour get hydrated again, get more carbs (200-800+ calories), and get some protein (10-40+ grams). After the first hour, life as normal goes on, eat as necessary or as your cravings desire. 
- Sleep! Pretty simple, you recover best sleeping. Muscles rebuild better, glycogen stores rebuild, bones rebuild, and no one really understands what happens to your brain, but we know it's good.
- Finally, move around. Preferably on the day of the event, before you sleep. Regardless of your ability to take a walk or jog after something difficult on the day, in the day and days after get out and move around. 

That's about the basics of recovery. It doesn't really apply just to marathons and running, but even grieving over the death of a loved one or after a hard week at work or semester of school.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What is Possible?


To really believe that is hard. I could tell you that anything is possible with the help of God, but I fear as soon as I bring God into the picture many people will start to doubt that anything is possible.

An electric car that goes 1000 miles on a 10 hour level 2 charge? It's possible, but at this point you're not getting air conditioning, and maybe not even windows that go down.

Can someone run a sub 2 hour marathon? I don't see why not. It's going to happen sooner or later, and unlike the amateur days of the first four minute mile, who ever does it first will probably get $10+ million dollars in prizes and sponsorships over the few years after the record.

Frankly, when Google talks about moonshot projects, I'm a little dissapointed. We went to the moon already in 1969. What about marsshot projects or jupitershot projects?

(This is partly a lead into my upcoming article about running 154 miles at the 2014 North Coast 24.  Not many people would consider that a standard debut ultramarathon race performance, but it is certainly possible.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

You Have to Wait.

Its a good story, I'm excited to tell it, but I have other obligations and recovery to do first. I started writing it last night and I'm about 500 words into a 2000 to 3000 word post, which I would prefer to keep as one. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

I Live in Iowa: Week 170

I had a really good week. Very satisfying in a number of respects. Work is going quite well. Sometimes it's more stressful than other times, and now, for me, it's actually not that stressful. Maybe part of that is that I am nearing a year in my "new" position and some of the things that I used to worry about I don't anymore. For example, sometime in meetings I feel like I am the only one concerned about some issue, but lately, I have been able to step back as others present the concerns that I had. Maybe a better way to phrase it is to say that we are a more aligned team now than we were a year ago.

Another fun part of my job was actually getting to spend about two full days in the shop. I won't go into much detail, but I got dirty with grease, steel and sparks, and in the words of the first Shoichiro Toyoda, "Any engineer that doesn't need to wash his hands at least three times a day is a failure." Well, frankly, I don't dirty very often, and it's to the detriment of my designs. 

Friday I left Dubuque to travel to Cleveland, Ohio, for the USATF 24 hour national championship. Well, you are going to have to wait a day or two for me to write up my summary of how it went. But! since my week ends on Saturday, I will say in the 15 hours of the race on Satuday I ran just over 101 miles...

Friday, September 19, 2014

Food Preperation for a 24 Hour Run

How do you prepare food to run for 24 hours? Good question but here most of what I plan on bringing.
16 Gatorades, Oranges, Bananas, Blueberries, Coconut Waters, Pomegranate Juice, Protein Shakes, Pickles, Half a Pound of Pastrami, and Enough Starbucks for a Typical Week
Salt and Carbs, with a little Protein
The most important things I'm looking for are sodium and potassium, salts basically. After that, I know I will need lots of carbs. Finally, I have some protein, ranging from strait sliced pastrami to energy bars. The coolest thing about a 24 hour run on a 0.9 mile loop is that on every lap I can have my own personal aid station. I don't know what whims and cravings I will have after 16 hours of running, so I figured, bring everything. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Meetings Have Two Purposes

Share information and/or make decisions.

A meeting can have both purposes, but if it has neither, and especially if is has neither and is recurring, cancel it.

More meetings do not more productivity (or more respect) make.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

There are no Women in Dubuque, I have evidence

The City of Dubuque publishes deomgraphic information. It's not good for a single 20something male. For the record, the title is a lie in the strictest sense, an exageration of the competition of 525 men for 300 women.

Say 60% of women 25-29 and 50% of 25-29 men are married, another 25% of each are in a relationship, that leaves about 525 single men and 300 women. I made the percentages up of married and dating up, but they seem realistic considering age at first marriage for women and men. However, those are 2010 numbers. What has changed since then? Oh, my employer went on a engineering hiring spree and hired maybe 200 new engineers fresh out of college, maybe 85% male. So in the last four years I don't think the ratio changed to be more even.

Now I'm not saying there are no single women in Dubuque. In fact, I know a few nice single ladies. Plus, I work with quite a few people that date people from other cities and states, so it's not like anyone is locked into people from only Dubuque. Frankly, I don't find this upsetting actually, I find it more amusing. Where are all the men that the educated women can't find? Dubuque, Iowa.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

September 11th, 2001 for Me

On Patriot Day, September 11th, My sister, who was traumatized by the twin towers falling asked me if I ever wrote about September 11th? I said no, because my experience was just like everyone else's, and so many people had a far more interesting story to tell. But seeing as how sometimes I search for something to write about and as I thought about how the experiences I had leading up to and after 9-11-2001 I realized, it might as well be told.

I first heard of the towers incident during break, about 9:15 AM on Tuesday, roughly the fourth week of school my sophomore year of high school. I didn't believe a plane crashed into the towers, it was unbelievable, especially because I had gone up in one that summer. Later in the morning it was announced over the school speaker system, this really happened. Finally my last class of the day, fourth period, about 1:40-3:00 central time, was world history or current events with Mr. L. The two social studies teachers had adjoining rooms and it was the first time I remember them removing the collapseable wall to have both classes sit together. They both spoke for a few minutes, then we watched CNN for an hour. There was nothing to say, except this wasn't an accident, and we would all remember this day.

This was close to home for me because in May and June I believe that summer my family had taken a 17 day road trip from Kansas to the east coast, hitting up everything from Antietam and Gettysburg to The New York Stock Exchange and fresh lopster in Maine. In New York City we did it all, in about two days. We had pizza a block away from times square at a tiny little authentic New York Italian pizzeria. We watched the traders on the floor of the NYSE. We went to Battery Park, we waited three hours to get to the top of the Statue of Liberty, only to be yelled at 10 seconds later for taking too long by the person who was one minute behind us in line. Then we went to Ellis Island. We even rode the subway into NYC, and had a nice man talk to us for ten minutes while waiting for the train and suggest things to do, because we stuck out as tourists. We had Chinese food in Chinatown, and had a young waiter hover over us the whole meal! We rode a New Jersey cab back to our hotel in Newark, just to hear the accent. And of course, I think at my insisting, we went into the World Trade Center towers because they were taller than the Empire State Building and we only had time for one tall building.

I remember it was expensive to take the elevator up, and my parents discussed if it was worth it. The lower first three floors of the building were all one floor with high ceilings and the design of the buildings was just fantastic, lots of natural light was coming in at the bottom of this 110 story builging. Finally we boarded the elevator for the three minute ride up to the top, complete with a tour guide. It was cloudy, misty and windy by the time we got up there in the afternoon, so we were not able to go up to the top and walk around outside, which was a pretty big dissapointment to me. We walked around the top floor of the tourist floor one time, I think I bought a pressed penny as that was what I collected when I was younger. I still have them all somewhere. The shops were all quiet, like an airport in the off hours, nice small expensive shops, the kind my family (or at least I) didn't really feel comfortable in because we couldn't afford anything in them. I like to push myself and I remember walking right up to the glass and looking down, having to force myself to do it of course because it was so high! We could also see the statue of liberty from then when the clouds parted a little. When we walked to the corner where the two towers came together the wind was whipping them closer to each other and farther away, a noticible difference of a few feet. That was a little scary!

Quite certainly, someone that was on that floor in June while we were there was certainly there on September 11th. Although, we were there in the afternoon and retail shops sometimes don't open until much later in the day, and it was school season, so I imagine that there were fewer people there from a tourist industry point of view.

This was more traumatic for a lot of people than for me. For that, we need some background. In the summer of 1995 my family moved to Oklahoma. It's barely a footnote now, but the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was a big deal! It was on the news all the time. On top of that, sometime in the school year of 1995-1996 on a Cub Scout trip, or maybe even a school trip, we went down to Oklahoma City to spend the night in the Science Center, and on the way back we stopped at the bombing site. The building was gone by then, but all the surrounding buildings were still vacated (although it was a weekend) and missing windows. I distinctly remember we parked on a lot across the street from the Murrah Building site, a dirt patch, not a paved parking lot. The building was missing windows and you could look in and see the desks and papers scattered around everywhere. There were some black computer keys which were just outside the building and I picked up a couple. They are likely still at my parents house if they haven't been thrown out yet. The kind of memento that will get thrown away some day because a couple dirty black computer keys have no meaning to anyone but me. I remember all the people that died and were injured and visiting the site when it was quiet and deserted, and seeing how I, as a nine year old could walk up to the building across the street that was heavily damaged and pick up something damaged in the blast. It was strange to me how something so famous, on the national news so often, was just a place, that I could visit and take away a piece of.

I remember at the one year anniversary my classmate Shawn (I have no idea where he is now, so I'll use his full name) had an aunt or some relative that was wounded or maybe even killed, I don't remember what exactly, in the blast. Our whole elementary school went out to the flagpole and stood in a circle and held hands, I don't remember if we prayed, probably, but we had a moment of silence and I was beside Shawn as he cried during the moment of silence. I don't remember saying anything or trying to comfort him, but I remember thinking how much more serious the event was for him and his family than for me. It puts the whole event close to home. I have mementos from the bombing site, I have a friend's family member directly affected by the blast, it was my first experience of tragedy.

Similarly during that time there was the OJ Simpson murder trial and the Bosnian conflict, the world seemed like a place where murders happen and wars are fought.

Later, when I was in seventh grade the Columbine high school shooting happened. I distinctly remember that I went to track practice, went home to eat, heard about the shooting on the evening news for the first time, then went back to school to present our country project, mine was Russia, and the shooting was all everyone could talk about when we got back to school at 6 or 7 PM to display our projects since we had all only heard about it after we left school or track practice. That hit home for me in a couple ways. The teenage mind is not a pleasant one. I can understand how people get made fun of for such a long time, get rejected and lose hope. Even I, how many times in the past did I think, 'I'll show them, one day.' What did that mean? I don't know, I have a couple engineering degrees, I run fast, I go on 8000 meter expeditions. I think in my own way I have "shown them" although it is really about showing me what is possible more than being anything to anyone else. Side note, one of my friends here in Dubuque left his old job four years ago and a couple months ago, his old job had a shooting where a guy he knew went in and shot another guy he knew.

Later, working a summer camp job in Colorado my roommate for the summer was a year older than I and went to Columbine high school the year after the shooting. They did a lot of work to clean up the school and had lots of mental health councilors on hand, otherwise, it seems for him, the world moved on. Certainly that memory doesn't just go away, but life goes on, and you still have to write essays in English class.

I think for me, Columbine started to really make me aware that how I treated people, all people, not just the ones I wanted to impress, but the outcasts, loners, and uncool kids could make a difference in their lives. Oh certainly, I'm no saint, or even decent friend. But perhaps I listened, or didn't say anything demeaning. As I write this my conscious is saying to me, 'you liar! You did nothing, NOTHING! to help the less fortunate. How dare you exalt yourself?' So the truth is, I'm no better than the bullies. Yet Columbine did help me see the danger in bullying, and it's all part of the process of maturing and trying to be better today than I was yesterday.

So by the time 2001 rolled around, it was hard to believe, but I had seen enough tragedy, that very quickly I knew, yes this is the world we live in. The aftermath was particularly interesting for me. I was 15 when it happened. I was running my first season of cross country, oddly enough I started tracking my monthly mileage latter that month, and have been for 13 years now. The life of a high schooler is focused on activities, sports, musicals, girls (at least for most boys), driving, school, and the intensity of the here and now.

The events of the World Trade Center Towers also had a profound effect on my political outlook at the time. Former President Bush is lambasted now for his comments about people returning to shopping, but at the time it was very relevant because the .com bubble was burst and we were into a recession, that I understand now had nothing to do with September 11th. I do remember the NYSE being closed for several days after 9-11 and when it did open finally, it dropped a fair amount. The chart of his approval ratings are incredibly interesting, over 90% at one point! In the fall of 2001 and early 2002, this country was more unified than any other time I can remember. In 2004, I voted for Bush for President because I thought, 'we need to finish what we started in Asia.' It wasn't for me about economics at the time, or social issues, or global warming as my vote may be directed today, it was about people that attacked our country, and had not been caught yet, and I thought the incumbent would be the best guy to keep up the job.

The connections to 9-11 continue to this day. In college I stayed at a friend's house in Dracut, Massachusetts in 2005 and he lived just down the street, it seemed half a mile, from one of the pilot's houses. The pilot, John Ogonowski, had a small farm with a red barn, and standard two foot tall stone wall, it appeared maybe 5-10 acres, but with New England trees, I really have no idea. When we drove past on the way to the Boston airport it was quiet, I didn't see any cars or people moving around early that Saturday morning. Seeing the pilot's house down the street from my friend's house again brings it all home, this is real, this is the world we live in, this quiet upscale neighborhood outside of Lowell, has the chance for someone to be killed in a major international event, at his day job.

Even today, in little old Dubuque, Iowa, I know a man in town, one of the ones that hugged me after I returned from Everest this year, who's sister died on Flight 93 I believe, one of the flights at any rate. Here we are away from it all, and this man's sister died on 9-11. He has three sons, and the one oldest one would have been too young to remember her because he would have been maybe two or three at the time. I almost got him into running a couple years ago because he had (and I think still has) some interest in doing the New York City Marathon as a way to remember her.

There you go, a moderately in depth look at what September 11th, 2001 has meant to me through the years. This will sound crazy, but I would like to visit Afghanistan some day for a mountaineering expedition. It's not very climbed out, lots of new route potential, 7000 meter peaks. The problem is it's not quite as safe as a place like Pakistan, so I haven't planned a trip yet, although my presence could I hope develop better relations between the west and the locals if I did go. That is how I feel we must act, proactively and positively despite lacking 100% confidence in our safety, because there is no 100% chance for our safety. In the words of FDR, "So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

Monday, September 15, 2014

I Live in Iowa: Week 169

Another good, and fairly average, week. It's funny, so we have processes at work, and when you get each little project to a certain stage it is usually a celebration. Well this past week I managed to get a lot of projects to that stage, but it became less of a celebration and more of a simple relief. I didn't even send out a celebratory email on Friday for any of the things I passed onto the next stage of development.

The insight from that is as it often happens, we, or at least I, build up what "must" be done and work at it and struggle on it and wrestle with it, until finally, it's done. It's like a company going public and having an IPO. Many of the original people that started and built the company into what it was leave because in many respects, they did it, they built the product they set out to build. A coworker made the joke as I walked out Friday, "take the next month off." So I responded with, "I'll see you in October." We both had a little laugh about that. Yet the way things work, I am actually looking at doing some "odd" jobs at work over the next two months because I will not have the normal volume of my normal responsibilities. Oh don't worry, you'll hear about it.

Running went great! I ran 83 miles, taking Monday fully off, and not doubling once. Pretty surprising to myself, 83 miles in singles, in six days, without any trouble. That's a good sign. Training is going well. Tuesday I even ran a 12 mile tempo at 6:05 pace, and added a little over a mile on to get a half marathon in 1:20:57. When I put down tempos like that, and then recover so well, I feel so blessed. I just ran faster than 97% of half marathoners, in a workout, on a Tuesday, after a full day of work. I don't take that for granted, because I know that it will probably not always be that way for me.

On the social side I went to dinner Thursday night with two of my Indian coworkers and Saturday went to a pork roast down in LeClaire, Iowa at another coworker's house. I won't say that I was particularly social in either case, but I had a few good conversations, it was well worth it for me to get out of my apartment a little and talk to people.

Friday, September 12, 2014

How do you Develop Toughness?

At 6 AM this morning I saw a high school cross country team out running on the coldest morning of the last four months. I've learned enough to know over the years morning runs (in addition to afternoon runs) are probably only beneficial for 10% of high school students physiologically. The reason they don't get much benefit is they don't run enough in the afternoon to start. However, there is a very real benefit mentally from waking up at 5 AM or 5:30 AM and going for a run before the rest of the world has gotten up. At least there is a benefit for a high school student, the benefit seems to fade once you get out of college.

I don't have the answer to this question. I think much of toughness is internal, that is to say it is very difficult to teach another person. This is just a thought to ponder, I may follow this up with more thoughts, but no guarantee.
Trail Running Make-Up from Last Night at the Mines of Spain

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Old Car Repair Costs

Well my radiator is shot, plugged and leaky. So I'm paying around $500 to have the thing replaced. Gerr... Old cars repairs are expensive!

It's Nearing Antique Status...
Drove home Tuesday night and as I was walking up the stairs heard dripping. Oh no. So I go back and sure enough, something under the hood is leaking. So I start looking under the hood and see the spray from what is probably a pin hole leak, although I can't see the hole. I put some cardboard down to soak up the mess. Then I take the plastic air intake manifold off to try and get a better view, but by that time it quit leaking. So I filled the coolant up with water, start the engine and run for a few minutes trying to see it leak, but it wasn't leaking. Regardless I spilled enough antifreeze I set up an appointment with my local mechanic for Wednesday. It didn't leak all night and I didn't overheat on the way to work. Things seemed to maybe have fixed automatically? (It's actually possible considering heat expansion and contraction or debris in the coolant.) Well no, When I drove from work to the shop in the afternoon my fan belt was slipping when I accelerated away from a stop light, and that's right where it was spraying Tuesday night. I get to the mechanic and 30 minutes later they come back with the $450 or so quote to replace the radiator and other trinkets in the area. I was distraught. I thought, 'now I have to go buy a new car!'

So I go home, driving the loaner Chevy that Meineke lent me, looking at loans, interest rates, payments, different cars, all requiring hundreds of dollars per month for years! So I happened to look at my mint.com account, for my mechanic, Meineke, which has done a number of $500 repairs for me the last few years such as brakes, catalytic converter, and exhaust system pipes. I was quickly surprised how little my repair costs actually have been. In total over the last three years only about $3,000 rounding up. Not shown in the repair costs below are new tires, new rear shocks, a few oil changes done in person or paid in cash, or of course this week's repair. While $3,000 is significant, it is far less than the price of a new car. Given that math, it is costing me roughly $85 a month in repairs and oil changes to keep my old van, and only $45 in insurance per month. I realize that is still more than many people can afford, but compared to the hundreds of dollars my friends and coworkers pay for new cars and new car insurance, I'm keeping the van!

Three Years of Repair Costs
I'm up to over 317,000 miles on my 1993 Toyota Previa, and turns out replacing a radiator is not out of the ordinary for old cars. For the forseeable future I'm going to keep the old thing. Let's just say that a car payment would be $400 for 3-5 years depending on what kind of car I get. I can tolerate a lot of repair costs for $5,000 a year. Plus, insurance on new cars is significantly higher than on old used cars. In short, the math, at least this month, and over the last seven years of driving this old van are clear. (I had fewer repairs the first four years I drove it than in the last three years.) Driving an older car is a better investment, if any car can actually be called an investment and not only an expense, than buying a much newer car.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Dubuque Gran Fondo

Well, here is a link to all of the pictures, and here is a link to the results. I came in second, so take everything I say with a grain of salt that a cyclist with no skill who only rode one bike ride in July beat a whole bunch of people who are actually good, including a category 2 cyclist... so obviously I had a good day.

We started off and there is a picture of all of the Free Flight cyclist, I'm the tall one (tall one may also be interpreted to those unfamiliar with sarcasm as "the shortest of the group") on the left side of the picture without a helmet on.

What to say…
The very rag tag team.
Friday night before the ride I went to the local bike shop and bought a new pair of 700c x 28 mm tires, because I've rode enough gravel on my 23 mm wide tires to know I would get a flat tire. The difficulty is it takes more work to keep that much mass rotating.

We started off, I was just behind Greg Lemond for a few seconds before hammering up the first hill, Mt. Carmel. People were going back and forth, but I ended up with the second fastest time. Then we rode up 3rd street, then North Grandview, before heading onto Heritage Trail. I knew this seven mile timed section was my weakness, so I aimed to draft as much as possible. We got off to a slower start, little attacks here and there, with most just trying not to go too hard. Finally at the little road crossing at mile five I made my attack, but Evan did too, and his was strong enough he got away and I couldn't catch him. I ended up getting tired for 6-8th place on that section, slower than many of the group we rode with.
Covering Evan's Early Break (He's a lot better than me)
I like the picture above because I'm down on the drop handlebars, drafting, while he is up on the bars and leading. Who's putting out less energy? He may be a lot better, but in this flat section he only beat me by eight seconds in seven miles.

Shortly after the Heritage Trail timed section we started to hit serious gravel. I don't really like riding on gravel. After going down one hill a guy from Chicago who was behind me said, "you looked like a jet ski weaving back and forth." Fortunately, I never had a flat tire and I never went in the ditch and I never fell off. Three pretty big accomplishments for like six sections and close to 20 miles of gravel roads.
That's me, out there grinding it out, alone.
 Aside from the timed sections I really just rode easy. The goal was to get to Potter Hill as rested as I possibly could, so I probably rode 40 miles of the 70 alone. I really like the above picture because it shows a lot of my training in a nutshell, me out there doing my thing, thumbs up, with nothing else around.

The stop at the Field of Dreams was nice. I always like visiting that place. The movie is good and it's cool to see the set, plus there are almost always kids out there playing, and let's face it, it's cool to see kids running around. It's too bad you don't see grown ups running around more often… When's the last time we played tag?

Then some more gravel roads and riding alone...

Going into Potter Hill, seriously 200 meters from the start of the timed section the inside of my right thigh cramped up! I rarely if ever get cramps. However after 57 miles of bicycle riding including a few hills, lots of gravel, and some really hard peddling, I think my body said, "time for a time-out". So I stood around and stretched for a few minutes before deciding I was ready to hammer for five minutes up the hill. Another man who stretched for a bit started just before me and this is me passing him in the last section where sitting down was possible.
Enroute to having the best time on Potter Hill
I'm now #2 on the Strava .7 mile Potter Hill climb, behind Wes, a professional triathlete. Only the two of us have cracked 11 mph on that hill.

I wasn't supposed to win my age group. Evan on the left of the picture is by far a better cyclist than I am, but I think he worked too hard in the 30 miles between timed sections two and three and I got him on the hill. I came in second overall so I didn't win the bicycle, but I won an eight pound sausage. Funny story, I made the joke, "hey we're all the same height" because we were standing on a podium, but even then those two guys were taller than me. They both have to be over six feet. (Shameless plug for Live Healthy Iowa!)
That sausage made my arms shake it was so heavy! (I'm not joking.)
I waited around to talk to Greg LeMond. The guy still has it. He's put on a few pounds but most of it is muscle, his calves are more defined than mine. It was funny, there were only three timed sections this year, and he said in his opening speech for the awards, "you could have ten or 15 timed sections!" I could hear the race organizer Dan thinking, 'Greg, be quiet, it's not in the budget.'
Meeting Greg LeMond
So what did I think of it? It doesn't have to be fun to be fun. I had a great time, but that is biased because many of my friends rode it, and I won an eight pound sausage, and almost a $2,000 bicycle. There was too much gravel roads for me, personally. Heritage Trail was no problem, but the gravel roads were torturous, each one became progressively worse. I mean, one section of three miles of gravel torture is cool because it makes a difference in the bicycle and tires you choose, but 20 miles, with none of them timed is not so fun. I would like more timed sections. There is a category 4 hill, Bankston Park Rd Climb, which would be great, then you could have a king of the mountains award, plus an overall award. Also, a sprint finish across the 3rd street bridge or on the pavement before Field of Dreams would be cool, then you could have a sprint winner. If the goal is to keep lots of gravel, then at least put a timed section on a gravel road, maybe going up to five points road. I like having a variety of competitions. Advertising could have been better too. Not a whole lot of people knew about it.

One of the reasons attendance was sparse is the sheer cost of bicycle racing. In addition to the multi-thousand dollar bicycles many of us ride, I paid $100 for a few timed sections. That's a lot more expensive than the standard running road race. In the new global economy, fewer and fewer Americans can afford the expensive hobbies like bicycle racing. I am rich and it makes me sick, so I try to win bicycle races because I have that opportunity. I think with less gravel, maybe a lower cost to do the not timed for competition (perhaps $25 instead of $75 for that option) it would be more highly attended.

Would I do it again? Probably, but that's like asking if I will run any given race or attempt any given mountain again. I don't know where I will be in a year's time or what other priorities I might have then. I had fun. It wore me out. I like the idea of a social ride where we all go after the same race segments. It was a good day.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I Registered for my First Ultra Race!

I realize that after Mt. Everest and compared to Mt. Everest, the things that seem like a big deal to me, no one else really cares about. I think this is really the process of me learning marketing. How do I make some crazy thing that happens slowly and right outside the place you live, seem as interesting as a far away exotic thing? Not sure, but I'll start by just talking about it.

My first official ultra distance race, a race longer than a marathon, will be the North Coast 24 Hour Endurance Run in Cleveland, Ohio in two weeks. I am so excited! This is going to be crazy! Here's the deal, it is a 0.9 mile loop of pavement, and the goal is to see how many times in a row a person can go around it in 24 hours. This is going to be fun!

Where to start, most people take a progressive approach to ultramarathon running, first run a 50k, then run a 50 mile, then a 100k then finally a 100 mile race, and maybe for a few crazed souls a 24 hour race (and for the really insane people there are such things as  a48 hour, 72 hour, 200 mile, and the grand daddy… the six day race). So for me a 50k is just not interesting. Why don't you just make it a marathon and double the number of people that do it? Now the 50 mile, 100k and 100 mile distances are all interesting. Plus, there are a lot of odd distance trail races out there like 135 miles of Badwater. They are all interesting, and I plan to get into ultra running more seriously when I am older and run them, the challenge is that many of those are out on trails in the wilderness. Even though it is a race, and there are staff and volunteers, you're still out there and something can go wrong. In two of my three serious marathons I've been taken into the medical tent. So on such a short loop, I can never get very far away from another runner, the start line facilities, and hopefully I don't get lost on a paved loop in a city park, but don't rule it out. In short, it becomes my own personal aid station every mile, with whatever coffee, fruit, juices, and salt that I desire. I think that will be a huge advantage for my first ultra, because when things go bad, and you know they will, I can take a drink or eat something or change my shoes or socks.

I'm going to set a ton of personal records. 40 miles, 50 miles… most miles run in six hours… you name it, I'm going to put down more leagues than I ever have!

Plus, how I look at a 24 hour race is like this:
8 miles per hour - you just broke the world record by 3 miles, nice job!
7 miles per hour - you're one of the ten best in the world
6 miles per hour - you're one of the ten best in the USA
5 miles per hour - wow, that's amazing, people are going to be stunned
4.2 miles per hour - you just ran 100 miles… in one day.

Personally I look at that, and I won't give away my goals or pacing strategy until after the race, but 100 miles in 24 hours is a fast walk. I must be able to do that. Of course, who knows!? Unlike the Wonderland Trail or running the Sawatch, this is a race and it is flat which means using exactly the same muscles for every step, but even if it goes really poorly, it only lasts 24 hours, not 34. There is comfort in knowing it can't go on forever.

It's a USA championship. Which mean the opportunity to compete against many of the best 24 hour runners out there. Plus, the possibility to make it to the next level... Competition will be high, which is good.

My biggest fear is the nutrition side of things. Physically, I know I am capable of running a lot of miles. Mentally, I know I will go to a rough place with hate and tears and fears, but it's only 24 hours on a flat paved trail in Cleveland, so I'm not really that worried about it. If I can give myself back pain from stress and fear, I can run for 24 hours. The challenge will be eating and drinking the right kinds of foods that I am burning up at 70+ calories per lap. I've already jotted down some notes on nutrition and I will have one or two more blog posts about my preperation going into this before it happens, and of course an article afterward.

I'm leaving Dubuque Friday night and if anyone wants to come with me I'll pay for all the gas. There are still entry slots left open if you want to run. I'm actually pretty concerned about my ability to drive nine hours home Sunday safely and get enough sleep to make it into work at 7 AM Monday. A copilot would be much appreciated.

Monday, September 8, 2014

I Live in Iowa: Week 168

What a week, I worked and I ran, and I had Monday off for USA's Labor Day. I don't feel like talking ambiguously about work like usual, so I won't. I go, they pay me, it works well for both of us.

Monday since I had the day off, I raced the local Dubuque Benefit Classic and lost for the first time in four years. I wasn't expecting to lose, because I had not know a guy named Justin would be there. Pretty funny, he complimented me in the Telegraph Herald, despite the fact he really didn't need to, he had the race won from a quarter mile in. However, I have a feeling him and I could get into a compliment battle paying our respects to each other. He was really cool, a local guy home from living in China for the time being.

It was nice to get another hard effort under me. I still don't consider myself in good shape, and of five races this summer I have only won one, and came in second the other four times. So it was nice to go out there and get in a few miles faster than I have all summer. I'm pretty sure I haven't run a single sub 5:40 mile outside of that race since February.

Monday afternoon I went out and worked at the winery. It's really fun, a nice group of people, the customers are almost always in a good mood, the wine is good, and it's a change from what I normally do staring at a lightbulb (also known as a computer screen). After I was done standing on my feet for five hours (after running the half marathon) I ran another 12 miles that afternoon, brining my total leagues run Monday to just over 10. That's a big day.

That's about all I did for the next four days, go to work and run. People seem to think sometimes I have this interesting life, but after working, running and eating I went to bed at 8:15 PM Thursday so that I could get nine hours of sleep before waking up to run another seven miles in the morning. I'm serious, my life is boring.

Saturday was another fun day, I slept 11 hours, woke up and went for a 20 mile run at 6:46 pace, which was somewhat slower than the 6:30 pace I had hoped for, but it is important not to force my training but to let it come at the effort that feels appropriate. In other words, you rarely need to kill yourself in training, and often it will just set you back. In the afternoon I went rock climbing with a couple friends at Pictured Rocks State Park 45 minutes south of Dubuque, I even led a pitch of traditional lead climbing (placing my own gear in the rock). Most of the time I cancel on my rock climbing friends because I am tired or running or working at the winery, so it nice on those rare occasions I can get out and use some different muscles. Finally, after returning I went for another nine mile run. That made it a little over 29 for the day.

In total that comes to the second highest mileage week I have ever run 43.8 leagues, and since I'm pretty happy to run that much I'll even save you the effort of converting that, 131.4 miles. Of course, this is the second highest I have ever run in one week, there is a reason I'm excited about it. This is not normal mileage for me. This also makes August only the 12th time in my 13 years of recording mileage to be over 400 miles for the month. That's probably a better measure of consistency than any weekly mileage.

That was my week, basically all running with some work and some wine.

Friday, September 5, 2014

I Cut the Cord in 2011.

As I read about people leery of making the jump to cut their cable cord or satellite service, I laugh. I've had only a smart phone, a DVD player and 25 inch tv, and laptop for over three years. Whatever happened to books, exercising, socializing, and getting a full night's sleep? Go ahead, cut the cord.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Abundance versus Scarcity

When I was vegan, and now when I talk about being vegan, everyone focuses on the scarcity of foods in that diet they regularly eat. For me the experience was less about the elimination of particular food items than the consumption of other new food items. I ate quinoa, beans and rice, tofu, tempeh, lots of nut butters, all sorts of seeds, yeast flakes, hummus, chocolate, almond, soy and coconut milks, lots of fruits, and more vegetables than any other time in my life. The vast majority of food in the world is made of plants. Most cows go vegan early in life. Pigs can be vegan too. For me the abundance of food in the world was the lesson of living a vegan diet. I learned to make food, like Indian or Andean dishes, that I had never tried to cook previously. 

While this applies appropriately to food, it applies to running as well. Everyone has mental limits in their head of what a human can run on a weekly or daily basis, regardless of the fact more is usually possible. 

We are so programmed to think about scarcity, maybe it is a cultural thing, or a recession thing. And it does have some value, there is only so much oxygen in the world. There is a lot of oxygen, still on Earth there is only so much. The same can be said for land, there is a lot of it, but it is finite. What I like about those two examples of scarcity, more than the example of scarcity in my checking account, is that I don't think in either case a human can truly comprehend the abundance before we get to that scarcity. So it is the same with what is possible. In my lifetime I expect to see machines and vehicles that simply astound current notions of what that machine or that vehicle can do. There are limits, I don't know we will be defying gravity anytime soon, or traveling at the speed of light, but what is possible is likely far beyond our imagination. 100 years ago armies traveled by horse, train and foot. 50 years ago we could launch a missile across a continent and destroy a city, which thankfully never happened. Now one guy at his computer can steal a million credit card numbers. 

The point being, we live in a time of relative abundance. Not abundance of everything, there are still famines in Somolia, shortages of Ebola vaccine, and food keeps getting more expensive. Yet, most of you read this blog for nearly nothing. The cost to access the Internet is quite low in terms of dollars per hour, probably a couple dimes an hour. There is abundance in this world, wether it is the variety of foods to eat, the miles one can run week after week, or the number of times parents continue to clean up after their kids.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Thank You for Cheering!

Thanks everyone for cheering me on at the Dubuque Benefit Classic Half Marathon yesterday! I appreciate the support. I will be honest, I do not know everyone's name that cheered for me, but I seem to put together more names and faces every month.

It's strange, between doing well in a number of races, and the whole Mt. Everest thing, people seem to know me. I feel like I get more support than most. So thank you, I appreciate it, and I hope I can pay your generosity forward or reciprocate as the case may be. Both being cheered, and cheering help motivate me.

Monday, September 1, 2014

I Live in Iowa: Week 167

I'm back.

I have been trying to down play my negative attitude the last four months, but in the last two weeks, it's turned around. You see, I was depressed, because of the Mt. Everest debacle. I was a day away from maybe dying. I spent a lot of money and never touched the mountain. I've given a few interviews since then, three presentations, with around 200 people total, and I've talked about it with maybe 70 people. It's like reliving a bad dream. My life, in many respects kind of stopped to make that trip happen and the outcome was not all all what I was prepared for.

For whatever reason, and I have a few, my motivation is back skyrocketing. I needed to hear that I am loved and cared for, and a couple months of going to church and reading the Bible and talking with family and friends finally got me back to the mental place where I do feel loved and cared for. I have a few 100+ mile weeks of running under my belt and that's always a motivation booster. I'm feeling very valued at work recently. After agonizing about quitting coaching, it was the right decision, I'll get back to that. A lot of things have come together and I'm on a mental motivation high.

Work is work because it is not play. Talking about work is nearly impossible most of the time. It's such a big part of my life, 40 hours a week, sometimes 50 hours a week, or more and I can't share much of it with the world. Hopefully, in 2015 I will finally have the chance in concrete terms to describe what I have been working on the last three and a half years. Regardless, I'll keep up my ambiguous descriptions.

Sometimes at work, just like in my personal life, people need to know that others care about him or her or this issue or that problem. I don't know how many people are in my extended product team, maybe 100, maybe more, with varying levels of responsibility, but to make the best product we can, we need to work together. There have been some gaps. Some communication was not good enough between different groups of people. This can lead to problems. I feel this week we upped the communication significantly and going forward are going to solve more problems because of that increased communication and trust.

Running is great! I ran 82 miles this past week, taking Monday totally off and putting in a good workout. Going forward I think a high mileage week followed by a low mileage week with a day off is a rhythm I will be trying. Then on Tuesday I cranked out a 10 mile moderate tempo at 6:10 pace. Not the best 10 miler I've done in practice at all, but really good. This is one reason training on my own instead of with the team has benefits. Not many college teams go crank out 10 mile tempos at 6:10 pace. Yet I need those kind of runs to be a good marathoner. Another example, Friday I left work at 3:30, got home around 3:50, which would have been late to make it to practice as a coach. Then I was tired so I laid around and read for an hour before getting out the door just after 5 PM for my second eight mile run of the day. Another benefit of not coaching is I don't have to rush out of work and immediately go running, I can take a break if I want. Then I slept 11 hours Friday night and when I went out to run Saturday morning on Heritage Trail I saw the runners I used to coach finishing their run as I was starting. Had I been a coach I would have had to miss an hour or two of sleep to make it to practice on time. Training on my own is going well.

What else? I'm reading Ben Graham's The Intelligent Investor which is a sure way to fall asleep at night. Reading about bond prices and inflation in the middle of the 20th century might actually be more boring than reading genealogy. I'm working on some writing, about some personal stuff… I'll publish it soon, probably. It's pretty personal so I want to make sure I say what I mean.