Saturday, January 30, 2016

Scared of Turning 30: Part 3

Should I leave Dubuque?

Every few months one of my friends leave, and about once a year it is one of my closer friends. The conversation recently among a few of my friends has been that it may be time to leave. We've been here some time, and while life is good, that's why we are still here, there is more to the world. In fact we all all agree that us being here is a big part of why each one of us have stayed this long.

When I came here in the spring of 2011, I thought that my life would go one way, car, house, wife, stability, etc. I didn't voice it, or even articulate that in my head, and had you asked me I would have said that Everest was a higher priority in the short term than those things, but the way I acted that first year in town was certainly one of looking to settle down. Then those relationships didn't really work out, and I grew caught up in coaching, running, mountain climbing, work and now here I am nearly five years later, living in the same apartment, with nearly the same hobbies, making some more money but not tremendously more, and I've never had an actual promotion. What happened to the time?

It's not that Dubuque is bad, on the contrary, it's pretty awesome. For a runner like myself the Mines of Spain and Heritage trail are great facilities! Part of my wanderlust is that I have been here almost five years, and the longest I have ever lived some place is six years. What is home? I will never spend another night in any of the houses I grew up in. Sometimes I feel like life is a one way street, you get to live it once, no u-turns. Perhaps life is more like a jet plane, no reverse, but you can cover a lot of ground going forward. People put a lot of value into sunk costs, those things they have already put time and effort into, while undervaluing the opportunity cost of not taking new opportunities. Making the decision, by not making a decision to pursue new options, sinks more cost into the current situation, and gives up what opportunity may exist in the new endeavor. It's why I keep climbing mountains, what might happen is well worth the time, money and effort I put into it.

At the moment I am being recruited by a different division in my company for a promotion to move to another state. It is an honor to be recognized as a strong candidate for this position. I've been recruited for promotions in the past, but unfortunately they were not in areas that excited me much. While I am on the topic of career, I have realized that responsibility, and authority, do not directly correlate with pay grade. In general they do, but a grade to two grades often means little in terms of actual authority.

I heard once that if you stay five years you are more likely to stay for a very long time. Strangely I feel like I am making that a reality. Am I committing to Dubuque indefinitely? It feels like if there is a time to move, it might as well be now. I don't know.

I don't know. Those sunk costs are really emotional! And opportunity costs are so intangible, we don't know the future.

Friday, January 29, 2016


Stop All Production

SAP is a business software that accountants seem to like because it allows tracking of everything. Engineers don't really like it because it seems like we have a whole bunch of clicks to define something we would otherwise prefer to use words to describe. I get that learning is a life long process, it's the title of my blog! Yet I spent most of my day messing around in SAP, and let me just say, it was not a very productive day.

Being a product engineer these last couple years has given me a new appreciation for design and change control. How do you track what is physically necessary for the machine? How does something go from a drawing on a computer to a physical part in a final product? It's a billion dollar question, and SAP has taken a big chunk of that. It just seems so complicated. A part should have two states for the design engineer, in work, and published. You could extend that to the other 15 people in the chain, manufacturing engineer, supply management, accounting, parts catalog, either they are working on it, or it's locked down (or rejected back to the start if there is a problem).

I should start a software company.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I Live in Iowa: Week 239

Well, I was hardly in Iowa this week, but I wasn't in one constant place all week, a total of four different hotels, so I'm claiming Iowa. Plus, it's hard to be a resident of a country when you speak so little of the language.

Monday morning, instead of a national holiday, I traveled to Chicago in the -21C or -4F weather for a flight to Germany. These flights are the hardest. You take off in the afternoon, and arrive in the early morning, having barely slept at all are thrust into another day, except this day in my group we are expected to work. Thank God for coffee!

Tuesday afternoon was full of a technical meeting, and dinner with our hosts. It was actually one of the more productive and attentive first days I have had in my three trips to Germany. Maybe I'm getting used to it.

Wednesday we had more meetings, and then traveled north to Erlagen, for meetings on Thursday and Friday. The itinerary for this trip was complicated. People from three countries attended in person and there was a different group of people at the discussion every day. It was pretty great actually. I was afraid that this was going to be the beginning of the end, but the more we talked and toured, the more confidence I have in our partner's capabilities. Sure, there are still challenges, but we are more on the same page than not on the same page.

Friday afternoon, as we made our way back to München I drove and both of my supervisors took some rest, and I managed to get up to 142 mph, they were awake at that point. The thing about the Autobahn is while you can theoretically go really fast, and people do go over 200 mph on occasion, most of the time there is so much traffic that doing 100 or 110 mph is about all you are going to do. Once you get to 120 mph, around 200 kph, you will inevitably end up stuck behind someone going 90, and at that speed you have to hit the brakes when there is still 200 meters between you and the other guy.

Saturday I took advantage of my first ever free weekend in Europe to go skiing in the Alps. Specifically I skied at Skiwelt Wilder Kaiser starting from Söll, Austria.
Somewhere in Austria
An Actual Igloo Behind Me
My coworker gave me a ride to the ski resort, about a 2 hour drive in a snow storm. Then I took a bus, a train, and two subway trains, plus some walking, to get back to the hotel in a four hour phone free extravaganza. We depend on our phones so much for navigation these days, I enjoyed doing things the old fashion way without international service on my phone turned on.

Overall a poor week of running. Two days off and only 24 miles total, but I did bike on one off day and skied until I was exhausted (5 hours) on Saturday. Still a good week, I don't seem to be injured, my hip is not healed 100% yet, but it's coming along.

It was a good week. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

I am back in the USA

It's always a different home coming. I mean, after a night a few hours drive away, getting into town feels like home. After going a few time zones away, getting into my destination state feels like being home. After a cross ocean flight landing back in the U.S. feels like home. I can only imagine that when astronauts return to earth it doesn't really matter where they touch down, to feel like home. 

So I am back. We can't drive very fast here compared to Germany. Even 80-90 mph is very very common over there. The food is once again something I am used to. I had enough schnitzel on this trip to keep me happy for some time. Anyone have plans for this weekend?

Monday, January 25, 2016

Time to Leave Germany

In a few hours I will get on a airplane to Frankfurt, and then another to Chicago. It's been fun here in Germany and Austria, but it's not home. The food is different, we're changing hotels every night, living out of a suitcase, with the constant fear that we just went the wrong direction, because it's hard to navigate in another language. Fun while it lasted, and I'm not opposed to moving here, but when you go in with a temporary mindset, a part of me says it's time to return to normal.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Loop is Confidence

I've run in strange places quite a bit. The key to running in a strange place, and especially when you are pressed for time, is to run out, and then back along the same route. Going on a loop can have tragic consequences, it can be very tiring.

Strava has been helpful to me as I have traveled so much in the past year so search out places to run. It has helped me find parks, estimate how far I can go. Often I end up running until the trail, or sidewalk or occasionally the road, ends, and I'm not done running. With an out and back run it is much easier to run to the end of something, but it is generally less interesting than exploring, for example running a loop for the first time.

As you can see by my first two runs below this week in Germany, I was pressed for time, I didn't know where I was going too well, so I ran out, and back. Then today, a bit more time, and a lot more exploring.
Top is Friday, Middle is Thursday, Bottom is Wednesday

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Owning the Agenda

I wrote the agenda for this trip to Germany. I am also taking the notes, and writing the action items. Not long ago I detested being the secretary, the one who spent all the time writing it down. I just wanted to talk through the issues and not have to document it all myself. However, I have learned as I have gotten older, if I don't write it down, and no one else writes it down, it might as well have never happened.

In a way, the one who documents it drives the conversation, and owns the results. That's the selfish way of looking at it. The altruistic way of looking at it is that most people don't want to do the writing, and volunteering to write is saying that I care about the results, and I will do the extra hours of work to make that happen. I suppose both can be true.

A big issue in the corporate world is to develop ownership in employees, because ownership typically equals alignment. When a person buys into the philosophy, he or she works to achieve the end goal.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Value of Face to Face

Why am I flying to Germany for the second strait month? Why am I interrupting my running schedule, my routine, losing all this sleep, to talk to a bunch of people I email every three days?

Well, it is far more effective. Seriously, I could fly here, go to half a day of meetings, and fly home, and it would be a better value of my engineering time than two and a half days of work.

Sure, there is significant value to emails, phone calls, text messages and the like, but seeing the person face to face, we can take as long as we want to discuss face to face. We can go into the details of the issue, draw pictures, take a 10 minute break, drink more coffee, and figure out a solution better, by seeing the person sit across the table from us than we can over the phone. There is definitely value to phone calls and emails and text messages, but sometimes nothing substitutes for the real person. The message is the same, but how you say it in person seems to vary less than how you say it over writing or the phone.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Ryan Hall Has Retired

When I read the news on Friday I was somewhat surprised, and proceeded to read five articles about his retirement over the course of the rest of the day. You see, Ryan Hall was, and is, not only an athlete I look up to, but a person as well, you can’t say that about all athletes, or all people.

In the spring of 2007 I studied abroad in Costa Rica. There were three of us from my college, and for the majority of our time there, it was just those two to speak English with. Subsequently, I turned to the Internet in the evenings, and as I was fresh off of a spectacular 2006 track and cross country season of 15 consecutive personal records, I began to read the running media. Plus, I was planning to run the Green Bay Half Marathon in May, and I was taking a crack at longer distance training for the first time since high school in 2003. Several months before my sojourning experiment Ryan Hall ran 59:43 for the half marathon, setting the American record, and showing the world that a young guy from California could run with the best in the world. Needless to say Internet searchers for "half marathon" in the spring of 2007 returned results about this guy.

That spring Ryan, Peter Gilmore, and Deena Kastor had blogs for Runner’s World about their build up to the Boston and London Marathons. In 2007, not everyone had blogs. In 2007, Runner’s World newswire didn’t update daily (or hourly like it does now). Media, and long form social media (blogs, videos, etc.) didn’t have the coverage it does in 2016. It was exciting to gobble up everything that existed, and Hall talked about his Christian faith as well, which was also encouraging. So I read their blogs. Deena had stomach problems and ran 2:35. Peter ran a nice race, 2:16, and he was top American at Boston in 8th. Ryan… Ran 2:08, setting the American debut record, and running with the Kenyan leaders well into the race, even pushing his pacer to pick up the pace. Americans don’t run like that. 

I ran my race, set a personal record in the half marathon (1:19:50) and proceeded to spend the summer on campus doing my first ever full summer of training. 2007 was also the year that Flotrack really started. Flotrack is a video website, or at least it was in the beginning, and it enabled people to watch videos of races that otherwise were unobtainable, like Ryan’s 59:43 ten minute highlight video. If it was just a few people running in 2007, it would have been no big deal, but it was everyone that summer. 

In May, Galen Rupp, born the day before me just up the west coast, ran a 27:35 10k, also pretty ground breaking stuff at the time. That whole video was posted to Flotrack, I think I’ve watched it  seven times. In June and July on the European track circuit the Americans were great. In particular, at a small meet in Belgium, Alan Webb ran a 3:46 mile to set the American record, and the whole thing was on Flotrack. Then in August at the world championships in Osaka, Japan, Kara Goucher won the bronze medal in the 10,000 meter run. Matt Tegenkamp sprinted his way to 4th pace in the 5000, just a half step away from third and getting the bronze medal. It was a great year for American distance running. 

That fall, I had my best college cross country season, and the week after it was over, with a teammate and some of his high school friends we drove down to the men’s Olympic marathon trials in New York City. Wow! What a race! For starters, Michael Wardian, a serial racer took off at a normal pace, and led for seven miles, the kind of moment guys like me hope to have one day. It was pretty calm with a big lead pack, until four guys took off, a bunch of really good runners, Ryan included. Then at 17 miles, Ryan threw in a surge, and ran the rest of the race alone, floating through 4:3X and 4:4X pace miles like it was nothing as his lead continued to grow. He won by over two minutes on a somewhat hilly course, setting the Olympic trials record in the process. 

The day wasn’t all roses. Ryan Shay died, and I saw them doing CPR on him as we walked past. I just thought he passed out, it wasn’t until after the race I realized those people bending over him were doing CPR. 

In the spring of 2008 I woke up at 4:30 AM on a Sunday to live stream the London marathon and watch Hall run his third marathon, a 2:06! At the time it was the fastest deepest field in history, he ran 2:06, and came in sixth. A week later, I went into Boston for the women’s Olympic marathon trials. As my friends and I were jogging around the course in front of MIT (looking at our competitors) we saw Hall with a couple other people about 50 feet away. After a moment of hesitation, I jogged over, asked if it was him, he said yes, then I told him I liked how he expressed his faith, and encouraged him to keep it up. He was a real person, his face had the look of strain that day, like I suppose you have to look a week after running 2:06. Then not wanting to take up his time I jogged back to my friends and we cheered out the rest of the race. 

A couple weeks later I ran 32:58.50 for the 10,000 at the NEWMAC championships, getting third place, over a two minute personal record, and former school record. I secured a spot at the ECAC championships by running under 33:00, which means my parents and grandma were able to see me race. Those two races were, and are, very important to me.

The rest of his career can be read other places. He had his good days, and his bad days. But for a season, at a pivotal time in my own running career he served as a model for how to run and what it means to run fast. Run like it might be your last race, lay it on the line and take that risk. Running fast doesn’t change the person, but it is a way to show the beauty of being human, a gift that God gave us. Sometimes I think of running as dancing with God.

Point being, I see two things that can be done with the gifts that any one person has, either use the gifts, or not use the gifts. To me the logical path of using a gift, is to use it just as much as possible. I think Ryan Hall trained himself into the ground. I know, that the Africans actually feared him. I know he ran a 2:04 marathon. I know the things he did stood out.

Monday, January 18, 2016

I Live in Iowa: Week 238

Oh what a week! I suppose nothing really that crazy or interesting, at least as far as people get surprised about for me. For example, work was relatively tame. I say that, but I still didn't get to promote a couple parts I have wanted to promote to the next stage of development for two months now. Other things came up, like meetings and organizing agendas. Planning for an international trip always requires a lot of work. As I gain more experience and responsibility the duty of writing the agenda falls more and more to me as well. It's not what I thought I would spend so much time doing as an engineer, but I enjoy it too, the opportunity to direct the discussion.

Running was on the up and up, ran six days, 49 miles, and my hip is getting worked out, slowly. I had a massage this week and I have been working on stretching and strengthening my legs, and my longest run was 12 miles, which is just great! I've learned that being on the up swing is a huge positive, I don't take it for granted. 

Rock climbing in Madison on Saturday, including going to Buffalo Wild Wings during a Packer game, when I had no idea it was going to happen. Then two other things began, and when they are more official I will let you know. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Diet Advice

Eat less sugar; eat more vegetables. Keep it simple. 

I just watched a nice Retro Report video about diets:

Point being, we know less about "the ideal diet" than we think we do. Different diets work for different people. Fat is not necessarily bad. Truly eliminating sugar sounds nearly impossible, even vegetables have some sugars in them. Our bodies make cholesterol. 

Being vegan was an eye opening experience to me how emotional food is to people. I enjoy food, but I don't think it's ever been something I throw fits and tantrums about, at least not in the last 20 years. Being vegan was a science experiment with mixed results. People that go all in on whatever diet, more power to you. I understand the mental focus that having a specific rigid diet gives you might be worth as much or even more than the actual diet. That being said, I am not sure of any popular diet that eliminates vegetables. Seriously, if you go raw paleo vegan then fruit, vegetables and nuts are about all you can eat, and I've never even heard of anyone going on a raw paleo vegan diet. So eat more vegetables.

Monday, January 11, 2016

I Live in Iowa: Week 237

A bit of traveling last week, a bit of running, and way more time than I care to admit binge watching Breaking Bad. I spent three days driving down and back to Kansas to talk about work. Pretty interesting though, we can have virtual meetings for weeks, but we solve more in 80 minutes of face to face than three previous weeks. 

Not sure on my running mileage for the week, but it was probably north of 30 miles. I'm coming back! A couple days off, and some self massage and I think my hamstring injury is on the decline.  

The temperature has turned cold for the season. However it was warm enough to rain, which means it's really slick now. Not good for cross country skiing or running, but good for indoor cycling. Also, good for indoor rock climbing at my friend's house!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Binge Watching Ruins the Suspense

Thanks to not having TV, when I do watch TV shows it is typically binge watching style taking a few weeks to go through a series watching one or two shoes a day. While it is a great way to do it, the drawback is that feeling of suspense, anxiety, in a humorous way, that creates tension for the next episode or season. Binge watching destroys that by allowing the next episode to start immediately. I suppose the concept isn't really new, but with DVDs and streaming it's far more common these days. 

While I am on the topic, binge, really?! How many negative connotations does that word have for us. Does anything positive happen when binging?

That being said, we've come this far, I don't think we are going back anytime soon. After the idea of a screen in the home started, I don't really know that not having screens in the home will ever be common again. In other words, we want to be passively entertained, it's easy. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Don't Miss the Exit!

I'll get to my year end summary soon, hopefully this weekend. But on my run this morning, my longest run of 2014, 5.3 miles, I had the feeling, 'what if this is it?' What if it is time for me to define myself by something other than running long distances? As runners we continually look for improvement, it makes the aging process a little more painful. My ankle is sore this morning, nothing that hurts, just sore, tight, not like it felt when I was 15.

I don't know. That's life isn't it? We just don't know.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Waning Motivation

Motivation doesn't always increase and go up. Sometimes it feels like it is lacking. Like, 'maybe I won't run today, because what's the point.'

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

I Live in Iowa: Week 236

I spent the week in Colorado, at least parts of five days. It was nice, although the whole trip was clouded by blowing an engine, which I still haven't finished detailing the story. I managed to run 25 miles, ski 12+ miles and then try and climb a mountain, Atlantic peak near Quandry. I followed it up with a trip to Madison to return a rental car and a few hours with a nice young lady. 

Certainly a good week, but it was all dampened by blowing the engine in the minivan. No one wants to do that. Well, that's more than a tweet, I'm exhausted, I'm going to bed at 7:45 PM again, good night.

Monday, January 4, 2016

WIFI Tomorrow...

I'm traveling for work the rest of this week, which means I will be in a hotel, and have wifi, which means I can type with more than my thumbs. So the weekly update will be tomorrow. Until then, here is a picture of me cross country skiing at the top of Beaver Creek. Peak C is second from the far left.
Yes, I know when I upload a picture from my phone it doesn't fit within the bounds of my text column. Something to work on in 2016 I suppose.