Friday, May 29, 2015

"Good Shape"

I am not in good shape right now, or am I? I was getting complemented on a recent Strava performance, and I was surprised how good it was, because I don't feel like I am in any sort of good shape. It is interesting how different perspectives of in shape and out of shape can be. I suppose my out of shape is faster than many people on the bike or on my feet, but I know, I can feel how slow I am compared to other times. However, feelings are not fact. It is quite possible that exercising continually the last decade has raised my bar so high that out of shape in my mind is more fit then years before. I don't have any races planned any time soon so it may be awhile before I find out. 

The point being, good shape is relative, even from one person to himself, because ultimately a large part of it is how one feels which can easily vary more than actual fitness. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Needed Change

In the next few days I have a little something to tell about a change I have made, specifically to my running. It's not official yet, so I'll wait a few more days, but the point is, I'm making a change.

It's not that things weren't working. On the contrary, I've been quite successful doing what I have been doing the way I have been doing it. Yet sometimes we need to change things in our lives. It's like moving. I suppose most people hate moving, but I've done it so much in my life that after a few years I start to feel stale. I have realized I can move just about anywhere and be a regular at three establishments in two months. I can find a few people who do the kind of stuff I do and make some friends. Sure, the longer spent in a place typically the deeper the connections made, but not necessarily.

Change is uncomfortable because we are giving up some aspect of "control" in our lives. Change scares us because we don't know what to expect. Change scares us because we've had bad experiences. Yet, change makes us grow because it forces a new stimulus on us. Our brains are forced to develop new connections to navigate the new experiences, and that is why there is often a bump, an improvement just after a change. Perhaps college is a time of such great growth because every semester is something new?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Instantly Waiting

I know at least three people followed the GPS tracks on Friday and Saturday as we trekked up and down Mt. Rainier. In many ways the entire story played out there in a new coordinate every ten minutes. Headed up or down? On the summit or not?

In this filtered world of everyone becoming his and her own media company the simplicity of the answers to the two questions above almost seem like enough to occupy the entire story. Did we summit? No. Done, story over, you can click the link below and go read about the Kardashians.

You didn't really click on that did you?

We live in an instant world. I am trying to upload the amazing GoPro video from the 15 minutes around when we turned around on summit day on Mt. Rainier, and it looks to take a good 2-3 hours at coffee shop bandwidth rates. I have both an expedition blog post to write up and a post about my little run up and down to camp Muir, and both are going to take an hour plus of my time.

I feel the need to be perfect, instantly, all the time, and I am not. I am not any of those things. Simply waiting to tell you what an amazing trip I had to Washington is hard even for me. Good things take time. In my opinion often we appreciate things we had to work harder for than things that came easy to us. You will have to wait to hear about our adventures on Mt. Rainier and wait to watch the video. Sure, you can see the result already, we didn't summit, everyone lived, not even any frostbite. Yet if we only restricted ourselves to the instantly available, what would be the point? What would be the point of working hard, of suffering, of enduring the intolerable?

In this twenty-first century things are going to be different. Fewer people are going to understand why they have to wait for something. Once the speed picks up, they will forget the previous times. What if I had to hand write this story and mail it to my family and friends? It could takes weeks to tell people. I would certainly regale a small handful with the details, but most would turn away, uninterested, in two minutes. What a strange world we live in.

Monday, May 25, 2015

I Live in Iowa: Week 205

Another week living the dream! But seriously, my life is pretty awesome, and I've lived longer than many of my peers. Weekends like this simply remind me of that. 

Work was good. I skipped a work trip to Germany, so I was the only drivetrain guy in the office. When we had a little drivetrain incident Monday my being in the office helped resolve the incident by Wednesday afternoon and "saving face" so to say. 

Having just finished a production launch every little issue that comes up has to be jumped on because if we don't figure it out quickly it could affect 100 machines instantly. That's always the challenge, we don't know what we don't know. I don't wonder how vechicles seem to have unique flaws any more. We test, we retest, and sometimes test a third time at full machine level, and then we go to production and truth is, there are certainly failures out there we don't know about yet.

One visit to the physical therapist and one to the orthopedic doctor, who wrote an MRI for me. Ugh, I don't even want to think about it now. I honestly think it was a tendon thing and between rest and physical therapy it's healed, or nearly. 

Then this weekend I attempted to climb Mt. Rainier with three of my friends and coworkers from Iowa. That is clearly too much of a story to include in my weekly summary. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

We can Talk About This Some More...

Decision making, it's the definition of white collar. We aren't necessarily the people who do the work, sometimes we are, but we are the people that make decisions. In the context of work those decisions are balancing, quality, price and service. I typically work on the quality vs price side of things, although service does come into the equation often enough. 

I read this on a blog maybe two years ago and ever since it has inspired me to make more decisions when I can. Frequently analysis paralysis happens when people don't want to make a decision with the information available, but look for more information. This can delay decision making for days, weeks, and on occasion months. Eventually things typically get escallated to the point where someone makes a decision. The funny thing being, the higher the problem goes, the fewer details the person often gets. I realized this in a recent meeting where someone threw up multiple road blocks, subtly suggesting a decision we had made was premature. After every question, we presented what had already been done, and near the end of the meeting he did not object to the decision we had made. 

Communication. Wowzers, I didn't realize how little time I would actually spend doing math, science and designing as an engineer. I feel like I go to meetings, talk to people, and more or less shepard parts through their testing and manufacturing cycles. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The World is Still Here

Sometimes I do something, something that feels like the world should change, or possibly end, because I did it. Yet that hasn't happened.The truth is it won't happen for anything that I do. The point being, it's okay to take risks. We live in such a risk adverse culture that simply climbing a mountain seems like a death wish to many people. In the United States you can take a risk and figuratively fall flat on your face, I know I have multiple times, and not worry about things like where my next meal will come from.

Risk seems to have more to do with embarrassment than actual bodily harm most of the time. The nice thing about taking risks is regardless of the outcome, you took the risk, and future risks won't look the same because you have lived through past risks. The world is still here, and we still want you in it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

I Live in Iowa: Week 204

Sorry I didn't get this posted yesterday like usual. I've just had work stuff to do or been riding my bicycle or too tired to put down a few words. People seem to think you can start a blog and start making thousands of dollars and have tens of thousands of readers, but for the vast majority of us, it's just not going to happen. I mean we have interesting lives and people are pushing the limits all around us, but the media tends to follow the outrageous, and what the rest of the media is following. How much a celebrity swears at a concert makes more news than a person running her first 5k or a student graduating college after four and a half long tearful years. 

Work has been up and down. At times there have been slow hours as I wait on others to finish work. Other times, just in the past week, three things needed my attention and response before lunch. I had my first experience with our cold room doing -40F/C cold starts trying to optimize some things. It is very interesting how fluids function at those temperatures. They are really more like a gel than what we think of as fluids, to a layman. That being said, the new system worked, which is always a good thing. 

I went to physical therapy for my leg and he suggested I had tendonitis, and did graston technique on my leg. It seemed to work and I ran five miles Saturday. The first four were great, but then the last one hurt. I've been on the bike more too, maybe 70 miles last week. I am convinced that rest and the therapy are  contributing to my body healing. I will be healthy in no time. 

Otherwise pretty quiet week. Although sitting here separating work from everything else helps everything else be relaxing. It's easy to think about work at home, and not the most productive for long term stress because there will always be issues to solve and problems we haven't figured out how to fix. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Follow Through

For whatever reason, I try to follow through on things that I start. That's not to say quitting is bad, on the contrary, quitting all the superfluous stuff enables one to follow through on the larger things. Yet sometimes doing what you said you would do is so simple. Just this week I told some of the mechanics I would bring them food if we passed the test, a few days later we passed the test and I brought in bagels. It was a little awkward as I stood there telling them the reason I brought bagels, so I left before they had a chance to start eating. As I walked out of the shop I had the feeling that I followed through on something, no matter how small it may seem to me, I did it. Maybe this would seem insignificant compared to things like Mt. Everest and running records and such, but it's all part of the story, and it's the human connections that are often the most difficult.

Moral of the story, follow through, when you can.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Local Deficiency

Yesterday I wrote about deficiency in more of a global, whole body, dramatic inadequacy, but today I'm getting into the little things. I saw a physical therapist today and he diagnosed my leg pain as tendonitis along the front of my fibula instead of a stress fracture. Then he went to graston (massage it with a dull knife) on it and oh was uncomfortable! It had me thinking, 'was there some sort of local blood distribution problem that allowed the casing around the tendons to tighten?' Oh sure I thought about other issues like muscle knots, biomechanical asymmetrical features of my body, of which I refuse to have any in my legs.

The point being muscle knots are recognized areas of muscle that have clumps of protein adhesions which prevent smooth muscle operation when they grow to a certain point. Yet you can rarely see them. Most of the time you can't even feel them unless you press on them directly. It's another great metaphor for our lives. Sometimes a crippling issues is as simple as the casing around our tendons being too tight. Disclaimer, I'm not ruling out the stress fracture, I actually believe that I probably had both issues on top of each other. 

The intricacies of a local deficiency, or any local issue, are such that you must be on your guard. Even cancer starts as one cell. So a little tendon, whose name I don't even know, has basically kept me from 20 miles a week for the last ten long weeks. 

Sometimes I think about quitting competitive running so I don't have to deal with this any more, but the truth is, I have gotten the best out of myself and I don't know exactly what I would do otherwise. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Concept of Deficiency

A magnesium deficiency? A month ago I started taking the magnesium supplement pills and I recovered so quick. Then two weeks ago I grew lazy and quit taking them. My recovery slowed. So a couple days ago I started taking them, and I had a very nice day today including a bicycle ride, something I won't even do when my leg hurts. You see, magnesium is involved in bone building, of course not as much as calcium. 

The concept of a deficiency is humiliating, defeating, and humbling. It is humbling to know that whatever I was doing, wasn't working. It is emasculating because it feels like I am exposed for not living the perfect monkish lifestyle I pretend to live, but instead am missing a vital element. I realize there is probably a placebo effect of finding the latest "secret" but if it works, it works. 

It's funny, I feel fat, out of shape, and my leg still generally hurts a fair number of days, but I cried tonight because I have so much more physical capability in my poor state than millions if not billions of people. 29 years and the worst injuries I have to complain about are a fibula stress fracture and plantar fasciitis? HA!

The nice thing about a physical deficiency, like my alleged magnesium deficiency, is that it is visible and easily treatable. We all have problems. I'm crazy. I don't love others as I love myself. Yet you can't see those deficiencies. The nice thing about this incident is that it reminds me how we are all deficient in some way. Once again this is an opportunity to put our trust in God, that our weaknesses and deficiencies may help us see our own frailty, our own mortality. Weakness is beauty in a way, it is human, it relates to our own struggles, it may be an opportunity to help another. If there was a human who had no deficiencies that person would have no daily use for the rest of us, and frankly I simply can't comprehend that. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Every Apollo Mission Had a Problem

Every Apollo space mission had some sort of problem. Apollo 8 Frank Borman got sick, Apollo 9 Rusty got sick, Apollo 11 1201 and 1202 alarms, Apollo 12 the camera didn't work, Apollo 13 we all know, Apollo 14 short circuit in the abort pannel (probably an inaccurate description). The point being, on this program that we look back in history and see a huge success, there were many failures. Apollo 1 of course and Apollo 13 stand out, but other missions had issues which at the moment people did not know if they were abort situations or not.

How much is that like our lives? We all have setbacks, even in the midst of what we will eventually view as a resounding success. Yet at the time of any given setback we don't know if that will be the end of the path. The lesson here is to keep going. Yes, there may be occasion to throw in the towel, and quitting things so that we can focus on what we are best at is a good idea in my mind. Yet Apollo is really a macrocosm for each one of us summed up in a quote by Gene Kranz, "The power of space was to raise our aspirations to those things that are possible if we will commit."

Monday, May 11, 2015

I Live in Iowa: Week 203

It's good. It's bad. It just is. Solidly average. I read a story this week that had an impact on me about a person who struggled with depression. Yes, it's about a young successful competitive runner at a prestigious academic university, but more generally it's about the constant stream of media and social media we consume that is filtered to show us lives that are impossibly perfect. It resonates with me because I try hard to convey the bad times. When I started blogging in 2009 one of the basic premises for me was to give it to people strait, not sugar coated, but in the depressing, raw, painful, joyous, sometimes bipolar way that life really happens.

I'll strait up tell you, I can't believe my left fibula still hurts! I'm frustrated! It's been like ten weeks now since it was identified and I really cut back. I only ran 2 miles last week. It's been a month since the 24 hour world championships, how long will this take to heal! That being said, I prayed for it not have to be a pain during the world championships, and it wasn't, not for 90 long miles. It feels like a miracle. So the fact that it relapsed is interesting to say the least and also less stressful than  it was before the race, because the truth is, I do have time to recover. I can take three months off if that's what it takes.

Work was rough, then it was great. I'm dealing with a technical quality issue. We specified something, and we didn't get exactly that, and determining if it is acceptable is really difficult. This is deep into the gray area of engineering that I get paid to make sense of. In other words, not the kind of issue that is fun to work on because there are daily meetings to discuss the progress and there is quite a bit at stake. However, the last two work days I went to Richmond, Virginia to do a sale show for some customers and I had the pleasant opportunity of showing people how to operate the machine. When a person climbs off with a little smile on his face, you know it's good. I need to see that. The normal channels between customers and the engineers like myself have so many people in between us that I rarely have direct contact with customers. It's nice to see something that we worked hard on being enjoyed by customers. It's nice to talk through some of the decisions we made about design details and see that they don't disagree.

Finally Saturday was my birthday, I'm old. Some friends and I grilled out at our friend's back yard then went out, to the bars. I will tell you what, going out is not for the old! It's funny, I am awfully reluctant to go out after like 9 PM, yet I feel like Saturday night after 9 PM I affected some people in a positive way I would never have had the opportunity had I not gone out. Don't think anyone can use that excuse to get me to go out more! Point being, I had no idea how my night would go, but I think I managed to share some love, for lack of a better word, with some people who needed it. Something you don't hear too often: there is a lot of pain at the bars. Everyone has baggage, pain, angst, and it seems like some people seek out relationships or escaping from the pain or more directly love, at the bars. I know that when I feel alone it is great to know someone cares about me, and Saturday night I was able to share with a number of people that they are cared for.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Birthdays: Happy and Sad

Well, I'm 29. AARP just sent me an early sign up form, I've got a stress fracture, and I'm single. Okay, I'm just kidding... About the AARP stuff. 

But seriously, I am amazed every year that I made it so far. In many ways I didn't 100% expect to make it this far. Before going off on an expedition there is a very real mental process of recognizing the fact that life is short and we can't control our own fate. Certainly, mountaineering purely adds risk, but really, we can't control our fate. We can influence it, such as by avoiding places avalanches might strike, but ultimately people grow cancer and are hit by drunk drivers.

My family will read this and I guarantee without me directly saying it a few will be thinking, 'there he goes again, being hard on himself for not being more successful!' I suppose I have actually had a good last year.! I am so greedy! I'm thinking about all the stuff I did not do in the last year. Haha! Well any doubt that I have lost some motivation was just proven ridiculous, to myself, who is of course my harshest critic. 


It's been a great year. Last year I was in Nepal stressed out over the avalanche that killed 16 Sherpas and ended (postponed?) my decade long quest to walk up the tallest mountain in the world. I won't lie, it was mentally pretty traumatizing. So I turned to self medicate through running, and won a national championship, and went to the world championship. Unfortunate a series of injuries made it not exactly what I hoped for, but I am learning from the experience. In between there, in my year end performance review at work I could not have been rated any higher. Yet my greed wants a promotion rather than high scores... There is just no pleasing me is there?!

No less than five people in the last week were surprised I was turning 29, everyone thought I was a few years younger, thank you! Yet I see myself growing older and changing. It's strange to watch yourself change, I mean more so mentally than physically, but that too. It happens slowly, but it certainly happens. 

I have this vision in my head of myself in 40 years, and the the feelings associated with those situations are peace and accomplishment. It's like I expect to finish it, the world. I am sure when I get there I will have something else to complain about. 

The recovery from the world championships has been interesting. I like to imagine I am patient, but I have been even more patient waiting for my leg to heal than usual. I don't know. Well I just spent too much time on a Saturday afternoon writing this. I don't have the time to sit around, I've got to get busy living! You too!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Continually Ascending

One of the great joys of running and racing is the feeling, and occasional proof through personal records, that I am continually improving, that I am better now than I was. Fortunately for me, my faith in God delivers similar comfort that I am continually understanding Him better. Similarly engineering also builds on itself as we solve increasingly complex problems and push the products to be more capable while minimizing their impact. Yet long distance running with it's clear numbers delivers proof that words have trouble quantifying. 

That progression over the long term and the short term is part of the draw. To be a little better now than before feels very rewarding. It's like climbing a mountain with many summits. There is always something more to strive to, yet there are many peaks that signal success. To be clear, a mountain has one summit, and it is the top. There are few activities you can compare the past to the present yet running with its clear numbers says unambiguously, "this is where you are today, and that is where you were yesterday."

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Open Carb Surgery

It sounded like such a good idea to get a 1966 motorcycle. The reality is I spend more time trying to get it to run than I spend on it. Tonight I bought a new battery, checked the spark plug and cleaned out the carburator. There was rust in the bottom of the carburator which means I need to replace the fuel filter, and ideally clean out the fuel tank from rust, again. So another two hours spent spinning screws and fiddling with old brittle pieces, and it still doesn't start.

The good news is, this is one of the most simple machines I have ever seen. There might be 300 parts on the thing. It is so easy to take parts off and put them back on, provided rust hasn't taken over and the bolt head isn't rounded off. I suppose, working on it is in an engineering sort of way, more interesting than riding it. Well at least for a bit. If you buy old cars they are often in the mechanics shop. If you buy really old vehicles, mechanics often refuse to work on them and you have to do it yourself. Keep that in mind when you offer to buy my 1966 Yamaha YA-6 125 cc monster.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Climbing Mt. Rainier in Three Weeks

I don't think I've mentioned this yet but over Memorial Day weekend I will be going out to Washington to climb Mt. Rainier with three of my friends and climbing partners from Dubuque. We'll be doing the standard route over two days with an extra day of food and fuel in case of poor weather. I'm excited to finally have tickets booked and be going. In the past I tried to organize four trips to Mt. Rainier, but they always fell through.

It will be a good trip. Sure there are concerns, none of the three have ever done actual glacier travel, although we did practice on the ski slopes this past winter. Also, one of them has never climbed a mountain, any mountain, which should make it interesting that he goes after the biggest one in the lower 48 for his first go. It will be interesting.

Monday, May 4, 2015

I Live in Iowa: Week 202

There are ups, and there are downs, and this week had both. On the down side was how the work week started, with an important meeting, that I called, and was over in a mere 25 minutes (you're welcome). Followed by something like four more meetings over the next day and a half about the same issue. The situation was (is) painful and risky. Fortunately by the end of the day Tuesday we had still maintained a high quality stance, so no bad decisions were made.

On the upside was my trip to Maine. We hit it out of the park! (Well, hopefully we didn't miss anything.) We went to learn, and we learned more than we expected. It was a successful and productive trip.

On the downside were the emails and phone calls that started circulating Friday as we traveled. Looks like some reactive traveling will be happening instead of the proactive traveling which is less stressful and far more fun. Thus is the nature of business.

I ran six miles in two runs and my left fibula is hurting again. I did 90 miles three weeks ago in 24 hours with no pain. I go and run four miles, and my leg hurts. Bizarre. Orthopedic doctor's visit scheduled for May 18th, yep, another two weeks. I do not enjoy being sedentary. I hate it.

Saturday I went up to Devil's Lake in Wisconsin to do some rock climbing. I top roped a 5.10a, Congratulations, which is apparently a classic, and I led the upper pitch of the "5.4" route the Pedestal, which is not 5.4. The grades at Devil's Lake are stout, harder than just about everywhere else. We had a campfire and hung out at the campground after we had sufficiently tired ourselves. For the record, five habaneros in one dutch oven of chili is too spicy.

Friday, May 1, 2015

I have a Medical Team

You must be your own health advocate. Except for your relatives, mainly your parents when you are young, and perhaps a friend or two, no one is going to be the advocate for your health. Thus I have a team. Sometimes I want to have a conference call with everyone so that they can all get the info and I go where I need to go to have the help I need to get healthy. It is frustrating because there is no one stop shop. Or at least I haven't met that person. 

While I titles this about myself, and my leg/fibula issue was the inspiration, I realized writing this that it is again not about me, it's about you. I see more medical professionals when I have a mysterious injury than many people in a year. That's great, hopefully you are all 100%. But when you aren't? Don't mess around, go get yourself looked at, and get a second opinion if you don't like what you hear. I for one refuse to accept "take six weeks off of running" the first time in an injury someone tells me that. Usually I ignore it the second time too. 

Point being, YOU can't fix everything yourself. I would know, I tried, but the internet is full of bad information. We call them professionals for a reason.