Friday, October 31, 2014

How do you lead?

Seth wrote an interesting article a few weeks ago I haven't been able to get out of my head. For those that don't know, he's the author of the most popular blog in the world, and it focuses on business. The article in question is about how going around the room to see what everyone has to say is a waste of time. I'm not sure that I agree with him totally, but I have been trying to come up with an argument to dispute the idea, and the one time from my experience when it really makes sense was in grad school when our lab group had our weekly group update. We were all working on similar projects, so when someone had a breakthrough or needed help, he or she could share that and likely enlist help of others, or help others through the same breakthrough. I liked it because we didn't all sit by each other so we didn't talk about our research every hour, which is to say physical proximity is a huge benefit for collaboration. Plus, rather than unexpectedly going around the room people often had a slide presentation to show to prepare for a conference, and you knew that every week you would have to give an update on your progress.

What really intrigued me was the thought that leaders fail when saying, "let's go around the room". In other words, meetings are usually not the best use of everyone's time, everyone knows that, but the idea that a leader can fail... I just don't think in those explicit terms. I mean, for the leader of a meeting the meeting is most helpful and not a waste of your time, afterall you called it, you want everyone in the room at the same time. Yet this reminds me of my favorite Lao Tzu quote,

"Of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
They will say, “We did this ourselves.” 

In other words, calling a meeting, and having people actually show up, means you are something of a leader. If you were not a leader in some manner, they would not show up. (Shoutout to W.L. Gore organization studdies, and Gary Hamel, for making this explicit for me!) Yet at the same time a good leader is not necessairly the one getting the credit. Much of today's organization in many organizations is based on military efficiency, platoon leaders report to the company leader, who reports to the battalian leader, who reports to the regiment leader. In that way, status reports go up the chain and orders go down the chain. This structure ultimately rewards much of the credit to the generals at the top. This structure works, it has been around a long time, but just because you are a leader, and you get the positive credit for your team's work, does not mean you are a very successful leader. If we say that people work a 40 hour week, one hour is 2.5% of that time. Two hours is 5% of that time. The point is, getting the best out of the team usually means letting people do the things they are skilled at and not slowing them down with bearaucracy. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Don't bug me.

I have a dream, that one day people will fix the problems they find instead of leaving them up to others. I have learned that people will take as much from you as you let them take, and then ask for a little more. It is the conundrum of productivity growth, how to get more done per person hour, to infinitity. Productivity growth in the US is not what it has been in the past. Although compared to wages, it's still pretty good.

Something that frustrates me is the volume of talking for the dearth of doing. Here is yet another example of a group, part of the running community, degrading and harrassing a member for being herself. I read a different article a few days ago about a young female 2:28 marathoner that was getting blasted on, which is ridiculous because a 2:28 is not easy.

I can't solve your problem. Okay, maybe I can, I can solve a lot of problems. Although, you can probably solve your problem better than I can and the reason is you know exactly what you want and even if you communicate it really well, I will probably use my imagination to make it different than you envisoned. What does this have to do with "don't bug me"? It's a plea for you to solve the problems you are good at.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

We Failed on Most Early Space Missions

I have been rewatching a great Discovery Channel miniseries: "When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions". 
We failed so many times. Gemini 8 Neil Armstrong almost died due to a thruster misfiring. While Ed White's first spacewalk went really well, the next three attempts were failures until Buzz Aldrin decided to train in a pool. Then there were the computer errors from Mercury to Apollo, even minutes before the first landing on the moon, "1202!... 1201!"

I have watched the series several times, it's really good. Yet I seriously did not realize until tonight how often we failed in the early years. Sensors failed. Control systems gave the wrong angles. It's amazing that it took until 1986 for a rocket with Americans to blow up at launch, I mean Orbital Sciences just had one blow up this week. SpaceX I think had their first three rockets blow up and Elon Musk gave a speech to the team at the time saying there was only money for one more shot, and they succeeded! 

In my short engineering career I have learned that development is like that. We try something, hopefully it works, but inevitably it fails. You might be stunned to know that billions of dollars a year are spent on products and prototypes that are inevitably scrapped or left to rust or simply destroyed as examples of insufficient designs. There are no perfect designs, although some are clearly better than others. 

The moral of the story is it is okay to fail. Preferably fail fast and fail early although anytime you try to do something new, it will be hard.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ladies, I'm So Sorry!

I recently listened to only the fourth person in my life tell me she had been sexually assaulted. That brings the count to three women and one man. It's terrible.

I've never even touched a woman, I can't even remember hitting my sister, although I did chase her around the house sometimes. I suppose I've had many hugs, but you get the idea, I'm not the one physically assaulting these girls. (Don't take that to mean I'm innocent, taking lust to be a sin as I do, I've certainly sinned. Not to mention the emotional or mental difficulties I have put up for other people.) The point being, it's a tragedy. 

One of the many reasons I'm not more, uh, forward, with women is that I know the statistics on how many women have been assaulted or abused and I am terrified that I would in some way leave her emotionally, or some other way, hurt. For those of you that know me, you probably think this is ridiculous, that I, all 5'5" and 128 pounds, fear hurting a woman. Yet the fact remains, 20% of women are sexually assaulted in college, and somewhere over a third, maybe even half, over the course of their lifetimes. It's just staggering. There is so much pain in the world, I just don't want to be part of it. 

Ladies, I'm so sorry. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

I Live in Iowa: Week 175

Another week living the dream! It doesn't always feel that way, but simply saying it makes it more likely that I am in a good place.

The week started off well, I went to church and Sunday school, then went for a 22 mile run at 6:45 pace which was faster than I intended. It's always nice to run faster than the plan and feel good doing it. After that I pretty much just laid around until my parents showed up for supper. I should mention my parents bought a new car, a Prius C. In this country it's almost as small as cars go, but after riding a few miles in the back seat of it, I thought it was plenty big. Another interesting fact about cars, interest rates in this country are so low that 0% loans are relatively common for cars today. It's like free money. Third, this is the first car my parents have bought new since like 1989, or maybe 1990. Otherwise, it's always been used cars for our entire family, we could never really afford a new car, any of the four of us, the last quarter century. Wow, sounds strange to say it like that. Yet in that same quarter century the four of us have always had at least two cars, and as many as five. I write this from the perspective of people I know in the US getting new, and not inexpensive, cars every few years, while other people I know in India and Africa don't even own a car.

The week at work was quiet actually. I have a funny story from work. We were in a meeting, on a conference call, all with people I know rather well and see in person most weeks. Anyway, a couple people were asking to be included on everything that changes at this point in the program, and I must have gotten visibly flustered, because the leader of the meeting said something like, "Isaiah's turning red over here. Okay, let it out, what do you have to say?" So I said a couple sentences about how I felt we already were communicating everything, how much more detail did people want? That was all I had to say. So a coworker chimed in and talked about three times as long about a couple issues. It boiled down to, we don't want to change anything in the next few months. Sometimes it just feels good to blow off a little steam and let people know where I stand.

Running just went great this week! Three doubles, a total of 112 miles, that's 97 miles in singles, a 22 mile run, a 20 mile run and a nice 3 x mile workout. I have been running with a couple UW Platteville alumni and they are great to have around! They are all faster than me, at least at shorter distances, like 10k and down. So Thursday, on a beautiful 52°F afternoon we did this crazy workout I would never write for myself, 3 x mile with a mile rest between, three mile warm up and four mile cool down. Ridiculous. If I'm doing only three miles of quality, we're keeping the rest under two minutes. And what's up with a four mile cool down? However, all of those details that I would never plan myself, just go to show that we can easily get bogged down in the details and fail to keep our eyes on the big picture. I ran three miles at about 5:17 pace. Plus, I ended up with 18 miles total for the day. It was a fantastic workout, the best mile repeats I have had since maybe February. To cap it off I did my first long run with pace variation Saturday. 13 mile warmup in 1:25, then 5:55, 5:40, 5:55, 5:40, 5:55 and a two mile cool down in 12:50. I felt like I was struggling, the whole way, even from the outset on the "warmup" yet I managed to hit pace quite well, I even got out at 5:30 pace for the first half mile of the last 5:40 mile. In the coming month I will do a couple more of these, with longer and more challenging pace variation. It was really nice that this one, and really this whole week, went so well.

Not much else to report, I "went out" on Friday night for seriously a half hour, just to drop off a rock climbing guide book at a bar where some friends were, I didn't even have anything to eat or drink. I feel bad when I spend time in a place and don't patronize them, but I suppose I don't feel bad enough to stop doing it.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Get Outside!

The weather in the Midwest US is great right now, and will be all weekend, get outside and enjoy it! Taking my own advice, I'm about to go run on some trails. Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Where Coaches Go Wrong

I was discussing college track and cross country with another former NCAA competitor, and I realized I need to blog about this. Many, easily the majority, of competitive college distance runners, let alone every other sport, quit when they graduate, at least temporarily. For many, the joy of the sport that children have has been lost in a dreary 1984 like daily grind. It does not have to be this way. 

This relates to yesterday's post about happiness and the endocrine system. The endocrine system needs time to recover. Anyone who pushes physically very hard three times a week and moderately hard three or four more days per week for 25 weeks is going to need some rest so the adrenaline glands can take a break and let your body resensitize to the effects of the adrenaline. I have never heard a college coach say, "take a month off at the end of the season." Usually they recommend one to two weeks, maybe three. Don't take this to mean coaches are hard driving uncaring authority figures. Instead, I feel it is more related to the nature of training. In other words, we study for hours how workouts improve this function or that function and take a few minutes to mention eating well and getting your rest. We know from experience that two months of training is better than one month and three months is better than two months. So we think of training as an infinite incline. Do a little more or faster evey week, then you become the national champion. That however is not the truth. I don't understand all of the science behind it but when you train your body supercompensates to recover and build you stronger than before. These minicycles, after every single workout are great, but they aren't infinite. If you pump 10 microliters of a hormone like adrenaline or cortisol into your body every day, and 30 microliters (I'm making these numbers up) two or three times a week, eventually your body does not react the same way to the hormone, or externally to the stress you put it under. It's the same with coffee, eventually that one cup in the morning becomes two because one cup doesn't give the kick it used to.

The perfect example is the transition from cross country to indoor track. The better the runner the more difficult the transition. Most track programs start in early November. At this point it is the sprinters, jumpers and throwers practicing. Cross country ends for all but the varsity seven to ten people in late October. So by mid November many of them are running again. For the top people who run regionals and even nationals by the time their season finishes and they have taken a week off, everyone else on the team, maybe 50 even 100 people, are training again. The pressure to jump in workouts and start building the mileage is on. Every runner feels the need to be part of the team and to build on the successes, or make up for the failures, of the recent cross country season. The catch is, the runners who are at regionals and nationals have been putting in eight or ten or more hours of pure running, not to mention gym time and cross training, since at least June and quite possibly May. A week off doesn't cut it. 

So take a month off. That being said, "off" does not have to mean no activity. I will often be running in a week or two of a season ending big race, but often slow, short runs that keep my heart rate down. I also take more days off during the recovery. The point being, take it easy. Work hard, rest hard.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Stress, Happiness, Hormones, and the Thyroid

Everyone I know that has had a thyroid problem, has been struggling with stress of some sort at the same time. It's anecdotal, this is not the result of a scientific study. Yet, everyone I know who has had thyroid issues has had stress. In short, they were not happy people.

Our bodies are amazing, and no one understands them. For example, our hormones react to stress by rebuilding our body, influencing a myriad of functions. Hormones are excreted by our endocrine system. When someone runs hard, your adrenal glands excretes adrenaline into your body, and then people end up calling you an "adrenaline junkie". However, you can only excrete so much adrenaline before you have to let your body rest, by not excreting adrenaline. Where exactly the thyroid fits in, I can't say for sure. But, when someone has problems with the thyroid, he or she runs slow.

The logic is, when a person has stress, because of work, life, family, you ran too much and didn't take the time for your endocrine system to recover, or whatever, you are far more likely to have thyroid problems, and if you have thyroid problems, you will probably run a lot slower. Additionally, iron and B12 play a role in a healthy throid, although how they do, I do not know. All I can say is, take some vitamins to make sure you get enough of both, and more importantly eat a diversity of foods.

What is the cure? Be happy! Seriously, that's it.

Okay, since it's not that easy to "be happy" what concrete steps might one take to increase happiness and endocrine system recovery so that it is possible to perform as well as possible when the day or hour comes? For starters, get your sleep. The hardest (best) rest I know of it sleep. Second, cut out the things, if possible, that create the most stress for you. This is hard for me to give an example because I am pretty content. I suppose, coaching was something that was causing me stress because it was such a large time commitment, and I felt it was actually taking away from my own running and sleeping, and thus happiness, so I quit. Another person I know had thyroid problems, while she was unemployed. Another person I know had thyroid problems while he was counseling way too many people on a weekly basis. Not sure how reversible thyroid problems are. Many biological processes are reversible, when they go poor, a little recovery can lead to them healing, like the average paper cut, or the glycogen depletion after a long run, but more complicated things like a finger, they don't grow back.

It's an old coaching saying, "a happy runner is a fast runner" and it's true. Obviously, this is a huge simplification of endocrinology, but sometimes we make things more complicated than they have to be.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tremendous North Coast 24 Recovery

Recovery and rest matter. They matter more than the training. Seriously. The difference between full time runners, and those of us working 40-50 hours a week is that we just don't have the time to sleep as much or lay around in a state of mental half engagement. For me to run twice a day it means waking up at 5, or at least 5:30, putting in some miles, going to work for 8-9+ hours, then putting in more miles after work, eating a big dinner, and going to sleep at 9, or even earlier sometimes. There is not much rest during the day, aside from sitting in my expensive chair at my desk at work. In short, I think that working a full time job makes it harder for me to recover than not working a full time job.

However, I realize that my personality is such that I will never be a full time runner or mountaineer or athlete of any kind. Mentally, the challenge is just not enough. I need some sort of mental stimulation, and a few puzzles does not cut it, we're talking a couple dozen hours a week of a long term project, minimum. The mental challenge gives me a balance to the physical challenge. So it's a balance. I'm not sure where the perfect balance is. At 40 hours a week of work, life is great! At 50 hours a week, I start to slide in my motivation and engagement. I've never really done less than 40 hours a week so I can't say what 30 hours a week or 20 hours a week would do for me. That's kind of getting off topic, the point is, how much I work has an impact on my running.

This post is about celebrating how amazing my recovery from my first ultra marathon has gone! Simply stunning!

North Coast 24 Recovery Mileage
Look at those numbers the last month! A 20 mile run! A 28:08 8k with 350 feet of up and down?! A set of 4x mile intervals at 5:40 pace less than two weeks post race?! I took four days completely off, a three mile run and then another day off, then I was basically back into it with a 49 mile week and an 82 mile week.

I read tests about VO2Max, running efficiency, fat/carbohydrate mix, foot strikes, and all sorts of running related studies, and I have only twice been studied, both were for an undergraduate class way back in 2009. I look at this graph, and I have to wonder, how much of an anomaly am I? I mean, this is crazy! I have recovered so fast. If anyone wants to test me, please let me know. Speaking of which, between setting my 5k and 10k PRs back in 2012, I had a hematocrit of 42, which basically means, I probably stand to have a huge improvement living at altitude if I ever had that opportunity. Kind of a minor detail, but I was not drug tested after the NC24 and honestly I was hoping for a blood test because it would really cool if I was considered good enough to get a biological passport. I think I have a lot to gain my monitoring my blood, such as understanding when I need to take more iron or eat more protein. That's the scientific part of my speaking, the vast majority of what I do is based on feel. Pushing hard, but not too hard. 

In summary, Thank You God for giving me these gifts that I don't fully understand! I am not sure if I am really an anomaly, or I am an average guy with a crazy brain, whatever the case, I am blessed, and I don't want to take any recovery for granted, because I just don't know if this may be the last one I ever have.

Monday, October 20, 2014

I Live in Iowa: Week 174

My life is awesome! I hope yours is too! I have struggled. For so long I put so much energy into Everest, and when it didn't go as planned, well, I came back and my plan was just to run as much as I could and go back to work. I knew that therapy like that would help. Of course, there was a lot of talking with friends, not even about Everest, or running, or work, and those conversations certainly helped too. Somehow or other, I ended up where I am. I just had supper with my parents who drove their new Prius C down to look at the leaves, and drop off the last of the garden food. As we were talking, and I mentioned an upcoming blog article, I couldn't help but convey how happy I am.

Work is going quite well. Oh, there are issues, but working through them has been, fun, really. It's funny, updating blue prints, also known as drawings, is generally considered tedious work that is often sent to lower paid employees. Well, I've been doing a fair amount of it lately, and I like it. It makes me more familiar with the part or assembly. I get to make decisions about tolerances and such that could have an impact on parts always fitting together or being acceptable for a decade or two to come.

Running is going well, 65 miles for the week with a day off and only one double. Only one night sweat, but that's because of running a hilly 7 minute pace 12 miler in 58F rain two days after a decently hard 20 miler. So, I'll take that to mean I'm better. I think my hormones and micronutrients were messed up after the 24 hour race. I'll blog about that shortly. Wednesday I did a little fartlek with one minute hard and one minute easy, and for the 10 minutes of hard running I averaged 4:54 pace! Friday I ran a cross country college race and ran a very nice 28:08 8k on a course with 350 feet of up and down over nine hills. I came in 27th out of 81. I like racing with the college kids, because I may be the 2014 24 hour USATF national champion, but I was solidly beat by a third of the 18-22 year olds in a corner of Iowa at a small cross country meet. It keeps me honest. My goal for the race was only sub 28:30, so to come in that much faster, was very satisfying.

I went out Friday and Saturday nights to socialize. At least going out in my mind means one glass of wine Friday, and left by 9:15 PM, and going out Saturday meant board games at a friends' house and left by 9:30 PM. A little socializing is a good thing. Plus, getting in bed before 10 PM both nights, having one glass of wine, that's my kind of socializing.

Life is good.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Better Late Than Never

I aim to blog every weekday. Sometimes that means Friday night, minutes before I go to bed. The message is simple, consistency, showing up, attendance, matters. No, no one will ever be 100% all the time, and it is doing the work when it is inconvenient that differentiates and adds value. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Better 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained. As with anything, better to work less hours, than work a ton, burn out, get divorced, and have a heart attack in your 50s. 

Life is a long term thing. It's not about a given three month period. It is not about some metric you can push higher today with a demanding extra hour of work. For me, life is about relationships. That includes the relationship I have with myself. I know, I can push myself over the healthy limit. In a way it is satisfying. Yet, ultimately it can be harmful if used inappropriately. So I rest.

Rest is not given the respect it deserves. Sometimes I sleep ten hours on a work night. We can't burn the candle at both ends, we might run out. This lesson of resting more, or as I like to think of it, 'resting hard', is something that I have learned in the last few years and I am very happy I have. I go to sleep around 9 PM most nights. That is about the earliest of anyone I know. Often I sleep until 6 AM. Our bodies and our minds, regardless of the job or hobby, work best when we have had rest. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Curiosity of My Body

What is possible? Isn't that a great question? At dinner Monday night after a 12 mile run with a group of people that are all faster than me (at least at 10k and shorter) we discussed the recent marathon world record, the three minute downhill mile, and then the theoretical limit to marathon performance, about 78 minutes. I mean, if people, a fair number of people can run a 45 second or faster 400, well, that's a three minute mile, or a 78-79 minute marathon. Runner's World has a nice new website about the two hour marathon.

That's ridiculous of course, no one is going to go out and run a 1:18 marathon in the next 100 years. Yet a two hour marathon? The five of us sat around the table discussing how it could get done, in the next few years. For starters 10 pacers, to block the wind all the way to 20 or even 23 miles. Then you need three guys, more or less could work, with 58 and 59 minute half marathon PRs to grind out the last 5k or 10k against each other. You need 400 meter splits, so that there aren't any too quick miles. You need perfect weather 38-45 degrees Fahrenheit, and no wind.

The point being, our bodies are amazing! While I will not be running any sub 2 hour marathon, ever, why can't I set a world record in a running event? We flip the switches on our body to train this way, eat this way, rest this way, and what is the result? I don't know! Isn't it interesting? These night sweats I've been having the last three weeks off and on, probably because of hormone changes due to a raised metabolism post 24 hour run. I would not say it's a problem, as thyroid issues can be problems for people, because I'm having some great workouts. In short, I'm certainly not in a great place, I would prefer to be more recovered, endocrine system wise, than I am. Fortunately, this issue is minor, still it is a curiosity.

The point being, our bodies are capable of far more than we typically, if ever, allow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Joe Vigil's Marathon Training Program Explained

For several years one graph has confounded me. It made utterly no sense to me. I read Joe Vigil's book, and it still made no sense to me… until this summer.

From this article on Deena Kastor winning the bronze marathon medal at the Athens 2004 Olympics, is the following graph. It's in Joe Vigil's book too, which I lent to a friend, and he never returned...

Deena Kastor's Approximate Mileage Before Athens 2004
It makes no sense. Nowhere else in running have I seen such variation in mileage. Most authors and coaches prescribe two or three weeks of higher mileage and then a down week, and only maybe 80% or 85% of the high mileage weeks. These, 40 mile jumps, going up 40% or down 30% in one week? It makes no sense. I can hear every running "expert" saying this is a sure recipe to get injured. Although, I don't have a coach because of the half dozen coaches in the world I respect enough to work with, none have returned my emails, or I haven't emailed them. It's arrogant, I know, but there is no "Joe Vigil Marathon Training Program Explained" article on the Internet I can find. I mean who advocates for such huge and regular mileage variation? I guarantee thousands have seen that same graph of mileage, and like me, not understood it, and probably not tried it.
Weekly Mileage Post-Chicago Marathon 2013 to Now
This is my weekly mileage over the last year. Check out my July and August 2014. I get it! (Ignore the 148 mile week, that includes the first 101.5 miles of my 24 hour run. Plus, I don't want to discuss my poor recovery from Chicago last year and build up to Everest this year.)

Here's the thing, 140 miles per week is 20 miles per day. Running 100 miles, in six days means running 16.7 miles per day. 20 miles per day, versus 16.7 miles per day on average is almost insignificant, and can be the difference between doing one 30 mile day versus one just 10 mile day. Plus, that doesn't take into account any workouts, which may make that 10 mile day harder than the 30 mile day. Workouts and actual daily running is beyond the scope of this article.

The point being, it's because the athlete, Deena, myself, whoever, takes a day off, and alternates pushing yourself just a little (15%) harder on a daily basis (even if it's just a longer 8 minute mile pace cool down a few times or six days of doubles instead of four days of double runs) on the hard week, and taking it just a little easier on the day off week. It's brilliant. I used to take one day off per month. That worked for many personal records, but it wasn't the best. It has been awhile since I took one day off per week. Frankly, that's a lot of days off. I'm not sure you can develop the same amount of carbohydrate storage, or fat metabolism, or tease the body into learning to recover faster. Oh I'm sure you can get close, but the leap to running seven days a week is a big one, with the benefits mentioned above.

Super-compensation is the principle that one "embarrasses" a body system, and the body rebuilds itself stronger than before. I've known about super-compensation for years, but I've always thought about it in terms of 30 mile days, or two weeks in a training cycle, like the 140 mile weeks above. However, the above graph has super mileage weeks at 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10, and compensation weeks at 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11. It's genius. Work a little hard, recover well, even take a day off, work a little harder, recover well again, repeat.

I can't believe it really took me until this summer to understand it and finally try it. It is simple. Unintentionally, I even did this high week then low week then repeat back in the fall of 2011 when I ran my PR half marathon and marathon. I just failed to put it all together until this summer. Now, instead of that weekly mileage graph confounding me, it's a comfort. That graph says to me, "work hard, take a day off, relax a little, work hard, and I mean quite hard, then relax again." Joe Vigil, I know you are retired, and you will probably never read this, and I'll probably never email you, but well done sir.

Monday, October 13, 2014

I Live in Iowa: Week 173

A good week, not the week I thought it would be, but I will take it. After all, you can't really redo a week can you anyway? Even the worst week of your life, once it is done, that is it.

So much of my week is bound up in work, my job, my career. It is this thing I put emotion into. So obviously, you hope it goes well, otherwise, life is not going to be as good, or easy, or happy as the case may be. It is really interesting, I spent about three times as long this week making a few decisions as I usually do. However, we are at the point in the project where a change, any change, let alone a significant one, has significant repercussions, and no way you slice it will the cost be less than thousands of dollars. So one had better make a good decision.

I hope that I am able to more freely talk about what I've done the last three and a half years at some point. No guarantees.

I had an idea this week. I am an engineer, I design structures, mostly out of steel. I have a lot of good designs, I have a lot of experience, but we encountered a problem and I realized, this particular problem would be a perfect opportunity to crowdsource an answer from our customers. Because the truth is, I don't understand the problem well enough to know the best solution. No, I didn't even mention anything about this to anyone at work because while we crowdsource feedback on our designs, we rarely, and maybe never formally, crowdsource designs. It's an interesting question. As the economy changes, how does something like a design develop? Does it involve people (the crowd) essentially working for free?

Running went great! Wow! I ran 82 miles!. That includes a strong 12 miler on Monday with three UW Platteville Almuni, a four mile tempo in 23:28, and then on Saturday a 20 miler in 2:14, including a 5:52 18th mile. Stunned how well this went. I have had some trouble recovering as I push the mileage and the paces. However, a 67% increase in mileage, is pretty crazy, plus five of those miles were sub 6 pace and another 30 were under 7 minute pace.

I went out to dinner a couple people this week, nothing out of the ordinary, but sometimes I feel the need to say that I have a social life, despite how small and tame that social life is.

Hopefully you had a good week! Hopefully you have a good week this week!

Friday, October 10, 2014


I am flirting with injury or a setback. I lied. When I said after two weeks I was 100% recovered from the 24 hour race, it was not true. There is superficial recovery, moderate recovery, which is where I really am, and deep recovery, which is where I thought I was.

Being stubborn can be a good thing. Being stubborn can get you hurt. It's good when you are trying to crack something difficult, when others don't think it will work, when others give up. On the other hand, one can get in a rut, make no progress, or go so hard your body or mind, or immune system, breaks. 

This is the line! I am standing at the edge of the precipice. I might fall or I might summit. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

I Will Return to Mt. Everest, but Not in 2015

I didn't think it would take me five months to make this decision, but it did take that long. Why you might ask? I'll give you a list of reasons.
  1. Money. There is no way around it, Everest is the most expensive 8000 meter peak, and most expensive place, mountain or otherwise, to expedition, outside of either pole. I put off paying off my debt, buying a newer car, having nicer clothes, or a nicer apartment so that I could get to Everest the first time as soon as I could. Frankly, I'm tired of being in debt.
  2. An expedition in 2015 was never part of my plan. The plan was expedition in 2014, then spend two years chasing the delusion of getting to the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials, then another expedition in 2016, my dream expedition for the record. I know it sounds crazy for someone who runs as slow as I do, but I have planned around the Olympic cycles. However, not getting much above 21,000 feet in 2014 does nothing for my confidence to attempt my dream expedition, because without more high altitude experience the proposal coming from me sounds naive. I highlight that idea in bold because it would be an incredible accomplishment, and in some ways, the culmination of a mountaineering career, more satisfying than Everest.
  3. On every mountain, in every season, that I know of, you can climb in whatever style you want, and it is usually respected, although expect a few experienced people to think you are legitimally crazy if you do something difficult. They might offer advice, they might report you to authorities, they might even yell at you, but I've never heard of it getting physical. Everest, especially in the spring, is not like every other mountain. The 2013 incident scared me, especially when I saw the video last month. Mistakes were made on the side of the Europeans, I won't deny that or condone it. However, I can't condone the reaction either. I learned in Nepal this spring that many people, both westerner and Sherpa show up at Everest every year, with less than one year of climbing experience, and summit. Before I went, I respected the local "guides" immensly! However, I learned that Sherpa does not equal 8000 meter mountaineering guide, in the same way that a Kenyan does not equal a sub 2:10 marathoner. Of course, some are absolutely the best, great people, skilled individuals, yet on the other hand, I am faster than many Kenyans, and similarly have led more ice climbing pitches than many Sherpas. Many people die on Everest because there is a delusion about the skills and fitness needed to safely go up and down. Before an expedition I imagine myself at the top of the mountain, in a white out, alone, without a radio, or any of my own rope, as night falls. I must have the skills and fitness to descend all the way to basecamp, otherwise I could become a statistic. That does not seem to be a pervasive attitude on Everest. To be completely honest, I may change my mind in the future, and never return to Everest. Yet there is only one highest mountain in the world, and the people I interacted with were very nice and supportive through the whole endeavor. 
That's it. For those people that may have started reading this blog because of Mt. Everest, I want to say Everest is not the be all end all. It is simply the highest chunk of rock on Earth. There are other objectives, more interesting, more demanding, and still incomplete more than 60 years after the first ascent of Everest. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Because I Have So Much Opportunity...

Because I have so much opportunity I need to do the best I can, otherwise I am wasting the resources presented to me. I was reflecting on my experience in Rwanda last night, and it almost brought me to tears again. There is more economic opportunity within 100 miles of me in Dubuque, Iowa, than the whole of Rwanda. That might be a lie, but considering Madison, the quad cities, Iowa City, and Cedar Rapids areas, it may very well be true. 

It's not just economic opportunity, I can run, I can travel, I can climb, I can cook, I can do so many things. I feel the responsibility that because of these gifts and talents I have, I must use them as best I can. Opportunity, which is a form of authority, is a responsibility, not to be neglected or taken for granted. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Rosetta and Philae Spacecraft (The Coolest Thing in Space Right Now)

Check out this image, taken only 16 miles from a comet last week. Definitely the coolest thing happening in space right now is about to happen in November, we are landing on a comet!

We land on Mars and even moons of Jupiter, and of course our moon, however, in some respects, they are all easier than a comet. Something that is only 1.5 miles long and 2.5 miles wide has very little gravity. That means it's difficult to get to and stay on. Honestly, you might be able to jump off of it. Your legs might have that much delta V that you could launch yourself off the comet. For humans to walk on a comet would be incredibly difficult, that's part of the reason a robot can do this mission so well.

It is going to be interesting!

Monday, October 6, 2014

I Live in Iowa: Week 172

Honestly, this was not a good week. It wasn't all bad, but certainly not all positive. However, below average weeks are a given and something that I feel we (and myself included) don't appreciate. I mean bad weeks make the good weeks that much better. Bad weeks help us to realize that even when things aren't going well, the truth is, they could go a lot worse.

Work… Work is not play. So I am responsible, or at least I have committed myself, to a variety of parts,   probably in excess of 400. Several of those parts are complex pieces involving multiple process to manufacture, let alone assemble the complex assemblies with those parts. Well, over the course of the last week, one part had a design error, a modeled interference that was not supposed to be an interference. Another the supplier reported was out of spec according to their measurements. Finally, a third part broke. All three issues, are significant. At least, in my eyes these are not the kind of issues we want to be having at this point in the program. So the stress level goes up. However, that's why I am there, to fix issues, to design better parts, to work through the problems that don't have a simple solution. Plus, some work that I did in the last two weeks had to be redone because I was not very accurate, within a inch, but an inch isn't close enough, so don't trust me a tape measure.

Bigger picture about work, it's going exceptionally well. Seriously, the problems are not easy, and I am often frustrated by the time the afternoon rolls around, but we are fixing things and making the quality better.

Running went fantastic! Seriously, I ran 49 miles, with a day off. Plus, on Thursday I ran a workout with AW and BH and it went great! We did 4 x mile with about two minutes jogging rest and my splits were 5:48, 5:39, 5:37, 5:35, and I was only aiming for 5:45. To do this kind of workout a mere 11 days after running the North Coast 24, I am simply stunned. I mean I know that running high mileage my body recovers faster than normal, and I did just finish two 400+ mile months, but to throw down three sub 5:40 miles within two weeks of not being able to walk, or drive with my foot, is amazing.

As for injury of my first ultra, still had a lot of top right foot tendonitis above my first and second metatarsals, probably due to not adjusting my laces in 24 hours of running and my shoes being too tight. My hips near the front still had a little tightness later in the week, but it has cleared up. My muscles are all fine, and my joints are too. I had a little trouble with my left knee early in the week from the race, but wearing different shoes, hitting the trails, doing my lateral motion exercises, and seeing the chiropractor early this week cleared that up. In short, I'm back at 100% healthy two weeks later. Or at least close enough, to pretend I am 100% healthy.

Saturday I went up to Madison for lunch with my parents which was nice. We ate at Graze, a farm to table restaurant across the street from the capitol. I always enjoy picking a restaurant to eat at with my parents in Madison, I am not a local so it's always a little bit of an adventure. Saturday night I closed out the week celebrating a friend's birthday. I went out on the town and was reminded why I don't go out very often. I'm too old for that nonsense. It was fun for awhile, but seriously, I fulfilled my bar visiting and staying out past 10 PM quota for 2014. People are always inviting me to come out and I am always saying no and just staying home reading, watching DVDs, resting, not spending money, not drinking alcohol, but instead tea. I feel like my social life is so boring because I go out so rarely to the typical places 20 somethings go, but I enjoy my life. I think I have the best life in the world.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Post Exercise Night Sweats

About half of the nights over the last two weeks I have woken up in the middle of the night with sweat on me. Not a fever, or 90F degree day kind of sweat, but certainly a damp, uncomfortable situation.

The first few nights post ultra I am sure it had to do directly with my recovery. White blood cells working to rebuild me and my blood trying furiously to flush out the free radicals. One night in particular it was especially damp when I woke up. However as time goes on this is becomming less of an issue, unless I exercise moderately hard. In that case, the cool damp skin returns.

Not sure exactly why this happens. Certainly it is a biological response to exercise, but is it thyroid, blood, muscles, metabolism, or all of the above? Regardless, definitely not my favorite part of hard exercise.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fruit Juices and Other Drinks as Running Fuel

Gatorade is ubiquitous. It works, for the most part. Drink too much and your stomach can't handle it. Drink too much and your teeth will hate you. What else is one to do?

Good question. At the North Coast 24 I had a few drinks that went over really well.
I drank everything in the above picture, except I had Starbucks Double shot 6 ounce cans instead of the 11 ounce bottle shown above. The coconut juice, POM pomegranate juice, and Bolthouse Farms Mango Protien Plus smoothie, I did have. Frankly, those three juices worked wonders. I had a liter of each one and they all tasted good, digested easily, and had a variety of the salts and sugars, and even proteins, my body was looking for. I found that about four ounces was convenient to drink in any given minute, but I could down a 17 ounce coconut water in about five minutes of walking. The mango protein smoothie was quite a bit more thick.  I probably started drinking it around mile 60 or 70 and then drank the last half of it after mile 100 when I took a few minutes to walk. 

For sure one of the challenges of ultra running is how to take calories. In other words, do you take a few sips and keep running? Do you walk to get a few ounces or a cup or two of liquid but risk drinking too much in a few minutes? Do you actually stop and eat, maybe even sit down? I am actually pretty stunned how well my stomach handled this first ultra race. My trails runs have always been much more low key than any race, just walk and eat, or sit down for awhile to figure something out. I just wanted to share specifically what worked for me. I assure you the four drinks I mentioned, plus Gatorade, will make an appearance at the next ultra I run. Of course, I am open to other drinks.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My Training Philosophy Reiterated

  1. Stay Motivated.
  2. Stay Healthy.
  3. Train Hard.
It's pretty simple, but you are not going to train hard if you are not healthy. If you aren't motivated, what's the point of being healthy to even train? Of course, this applies to homework, grown-up work, and a slew of mental tasks, just replace the train verb with some other action.