Sunday, September 30, 2018

My Heart Breaks for Women

I realize that articulating this article will probably set my dating life back another two years because I’m not being manly enough. Yet I want to say it. Because I look around and none, none, of the males in my life are saying this. I’ve never sexually assaulted a woman. I’ve never even sexually harassed a woman verbally or emotionally as far as I know. It’s not right to sexually harass women. It’s not acceptable. I chased after my little sister with a sharp object once in middle school, and the look of fear on her face is something that sticks with me. I never want to see that reaction in another person the rest of my life. Maybe because of my small size and quiet shy nature I empathize with women a little more than most men. I understand what it feels like to be physically afraid of a 250 pound man. 

Christine Blasey Ford testified before the senate judiciary committee on Thursday about an event that happened around 30 years ago. Sometimes I think about running for political office, and what demons could come up in my past. There is the drinking and driving incident. I didn’t get pulled over, but to this day, on the day I had the most alcohol to drink in my life, during the 2008-2009 school year, and I drove my friends and I home. It was unequivocally wrong, and had I been pulled over by the police I would have 100% deserved a DUI citation. Google could release all of my search history, which frankly I don’t want to relive, especially in front of others. My sister could testify. I’ve been so blunt with her over the years about my thoughts I’m happy she still talks to me! I am definitely a sinner.

Thursday, I went on a date. It lasted an hour, we each had a glass of wine at a little wine bar in Denver. I was thrilled to be spending time in a wine bar, in Denver, and on a date with an attractive woman. I mean… I was in a wine bar! An attractive woman was there to talk to me! It was only 45 minutes from my apartment! For me, there was a lot of upside and very little down side. If it didn’t work out I was out $25, but I would gladly spend way more than that on a date. The thing is, there is a lot of potential downside for women. She could be raped. She could be verbally assaulted. She could be emotionally manipulated. (I certainly could be too, but I don’t think women think that way early in a relationship, only later when her needs aren’t being met and other methods of communication aren't working, which in large part still faults the man.) When men are rejected we often resort to verbal or other abuse. A woman can’t just say, “No I’m not interested in you.” without the possibility of a strong emotional and possibly violent reaction. The risks for a woman to meet a man, a stranger, are much higher for a woman than a man to meet a strange woman. I’ve never been sexually assaulted. No woman has verbally assaulted me because I didn’t want to have sex with her, yet many women have been yelled at for refusing male advances.

I’m not sure… okay honestly, I don’t think we’ll ever get to 100% equality between men and women in every realm of life. The reason being, men and woman are different. Women can have a baby, men can’t. As has been established, separate but equal does not exist, and so I think, here in September 2018, that different but equal can not exist either. That being said, the differences only seem to apply in a small area of life, relationships and procreation. It is entirely possible that 50% of engineers are women. Although, I think it’s more likely that America follows in Germany’s footsteps by fewer women being engineers and more being lawyers (and politicians). As an engineer, with a sister who is an engineer, I would love to see more women in engineering, but I’m not holding my breath that it will be 50/50 in 2019, or 2029.

To make a long story shorter, my heart breaks for women. They have to deal with men in a way that I just don’t have to, and it can be threatening at times. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Colorado Startup Life: Weeks 0 and 1

I'm sitting outside at a Starbucks... that doesn't close until 10 PM... a 15 minute walk from my apartment... in Longmont, Colorado. It's emotional. I mean, I feel like I have arrived. I feel like, the me that I envisioned back in college has happened. To my back the sunlight fades over Longs Peak and the rest of the mountains. To my front is a Pho something restaurant.

September 14th I moved into my apartment in Longmont. September 15th my friend J and I climbed Long Peak. Unfortunately my lung issue is alive and well and it took me 11 hours car to car. That's pretty slow for me. Back in 2006, just walking, I did it in 8.5 hours. Sunday the 15th I took him to the airport and laid on the couch the rest of the day.

I'm convinced it's a lung issue, and most likely pleurisy due to some sort of infection around the lungs. That being said, for the rest of September I'm on my old insurance with my former employer, so I'm waiting until October for my new insurance to kick in to restart the doctors visits. If I start blogging more, I'll write a whole lot about this breathing issue. In short, the oxygen isn't getting to my muscles. I've had two blood tests, a tick panel, lead check, electrolyte check, two chest x-rays, mononucleosis check, EKG, stress test, and an echocardiogram. Everything came back normal or negative. The biggest surprise was that I have had mono! I turned myself into a germaphobe back in high school when a bunch of my friends came down with mono in a few months. Well, I must have had it back when I was a baby or something, because in my memory I never had it.

Monday the 17th was my first day at my new job. I had a lot of fear. Would I be able to contribute? Would the work be too different than what I have done the last eight years? They're going to discover I'm an incompetent imposter!

HAHAHAHA!!!! Day one was fairly uneventful, but by day two I was being rather productive. One of my first tasks was to knock out about a dozen drawings. I was knocking them out quickly, and on Wednesday or Thursday, I did five from scratch in one day! Plus, I sit between two people who are directly out of university this spring, and I end up getting to answer questions about CREO already! In short, the fear I had about not creating value has gone. Instead, I have the realization that people aren't just going to give me work tasks, I'm going to have to create them myself. Which isn't bad at all, I've already started mapping our current processes.

My title is Product Configuration Engineer. Technically, it's Senior Product Configuration Engineer, but I'm not sure how I feel about the senior part. I'm happy that my experience is recognized with the title, but I'm a fan of the more egalitarian title because I know I stand to learn things from my coworkers who are only four months out of university as well. What exactly is a configuration engineer you ask? Well, I was hoping you could tell me, haha. I think I'm the 27th employee at this three year old aerospace company and I know their only configuration engineer.

I know configuration engineer means a few things. I will eventually own the top level product assemblies. I'm on the design side, not the test or manufacturing side, although I need to work with them quite a bit. It falls to me to define, or at least take a leading role in defining the systems and processes needed to scale the company from what they have now (which is very basic) to something that conveys all the right information to all of the right people within the company about our products  (our parts). It's a difficult problem. Put too much process in place and it's onerous and as one of my experienced coworkers said today about having to use a specific software "I'd quit". On the other hand, don't have enough process, and mistakes will get made. In fact, a few mistakes have already been made to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars in wasted parts. In short, I feel I am perfect for this job! It's an opportunity, to define the company process and structure for part workflow, that I would not have for another ten years at a large corporation. Informally I've thought about structure and organization for years. Now, I get to do something about it.

After work every day I was pretty tired so I didn't do any running or bicycling. I basically went home, called my parents or my sister and ate dinner and went to bed.

Saturday my friend L and I went and hiked Mt. Princeton. She out hiked me, and she's a nurse who has known me for 10 years, so knew that was not normal. At the top of the mountain my pulse oxygen percentage was 65%. When I told L, she said, "And you're conscious!?!?!" My lowest on Everest in 2016 was 59%, and I say that when it gets below 70% that's not so good. Fortunately by the time we were back in the car on the way down it was up to 88%. Some of that I attribute to not being acclimated yet, but most is due to my breathing problem.

My week starts on Sunday and ends on Saturday. Not sure how long this series will last. Over the last 2.5 years I've basically gotten out of blogging, but I miss it.  If anyone is new to my blog, I don't post names unless I ask the person ahead of time, usually just an initial. I try to respect everyone's privacy,  both individuals, and my employer. Generally speaking, if I feel that telling a story will violate someone's privacy, I won't tell it unless I feel some sort of moral obligation to warn others.

Goals for the next few weeks: Get my breathing issue figured out. Exceed expectations at work. Pay all of my bills on time. Work through sending my thank you notes to my previous coworkers.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

IAU 100 km 2018 World Championships Race Report

Frankly, I don’t really want to talk about the race because it didn’t go so well for myself or particularly well for the American team. Once again as a men’s team we were fourth as Germany was in 3rd by a small margin, similar to what happened in 2015 at the 24 hour world championships. I DNF’d (did not finish) at 40 km. Leading up to that I spent about four hours and 20 minutes with an average heart rate of 180 and a high of 202 basically hyperventilating and taking a lot of walking breaks because there is something wrong with me. All of the people there (competing athletes and support staff) recognized that something is wrong. A guy who 16 months ago ran 6:56 pace for seven hours with an average heart rate in the upper 160s does not in the space of a few months turn into a guy who averages 10:15 miles in a road marathon with a heart rate of 180 when the temperature is 65F. 

Way more fun to talk about would be the four days we spent in and around Sveti Martin, Croatia. Due to bad weather, especially around Chicago seven people from team USA, about a third of our group, was delayed a day getting to Croatia. So I slept in a hotel in Kansas City Monday night, flew over on Tuesday and arrived on Wednesday. I drove by myself to Sveti Martin. (The pronunciation is pretty similar to “sweaty martin” so it’s a little fun to say, and totally appropriate because it was pretty humid.)

I’m pretty sure that north eastern Croatia is the midwest of Croatia. There were tons of corn fields. Pork is one of the major products of the area, although I didn’t see or smell any obvious pig operations, then again, as the driver on 1.5 lane wide roads I was concentrating on the driving not the scenery. I was even stuck behind two different tractors after I left the highway and drove on the back roads. The highway driving was great! Not much traffic, speed limit of 130 kph (nearly 80 mph) and people were blowing by me. Pretty sure I hit 90 mph at one point in my diesel Alfa Romeo following an Audi.

Wednesday night I was exhausted when I reached the hotel. I checked in, and then laid in my room for two hours until the restaurant opened. I actually ate alone Wednesday night and then went to sleep by 8 PM. Jesse my first roommate showed up around 9 PM, and I briefly woke to say “hi”, and then back to sleep for another 11 hours. 

Thursday after breakfast we went for run and I huffed and puffed, but not as bad as it has been. We had a team meeting at 10 AM, and afterward the gurgling in my left lung was happening so I had the doctor take a listen, and he said I probably need a CT scan because it didn’t sound like my stomach or intestines, as he had suggested over email and as my chiropractor had suggested too. After that little check up one of our team was staying four miles away at a Air BNB for 1/6th the cost of staying at the hotel, yet he didn’t rent a car or make plans for how he was going to get back and forth from the house to our hotel and the race. Oh kids! So I gave him a ride back to his farm house and then Jesse and I went to Slovenia and walked around in a little town for a bit. When it was time to return and pick up our young friend for the second team meeting of the day the GPS said there are “two border crossings in this route”. After driving through a little construction we ended up at a poorly marked border crossing. To his credit Jesse was 90% sure that the flags at the border meant we were driving back into Croatia, but it was a different crossing then we entered Slovenia. We debated asking the border guards what country we were entering, but decided that’s probably not something you want to ask at a border crossing. Turns out it was Croatia. After our team meeting and dinner we sat around talking about dating and dating apps, which was pretty entertaining.

Friday was pretty standard. A few more meals, some more team meetings, a soak in the hotel hot springs pool and laying around reading about the craziness that is the news in the USA. The hotel we were at is part of a sports resort so there was a hot springs, a small water park, a driving range, frisbee golf, and a number of other activities possible within a quarter mile walking distance. The hot springs advertised a lithium salt bath, and it was definitely salty. I felt like I had a slime on me in the pools. In the evening we had the opening ceremony which was nice and short, probably less than an hour. After the ceremony and a quick dinner we were in bed by 8:15 PM. 

I slept for three hours, was solidly awake for three hours, and then slept for another three hours. In the morning breakfast started at 5 AM and let me tell you, two of those European coffee machines were not really enough for 50 anxious runners, although everyone did seem to get some coffee. We leisurely used the bathroom, changed, stretched and walked down to the lobby of the hotel 30 feet from the start of the race. AT 7 AM, on the dot, we were off! I think there were about 300 people total in the race. You can read the play by play of the front action at On the men’s side there was a very clear Japan vs South Africa battle with the top four at least on each team dueling it out from 30k to at least 60k. Geoff from the US was basically the only person in that lead group not from those two countries. After I DNF’d and took a shower and changed I walked back out onto the course and cheered all of the Team USA runners to the finish and a number of the other runners that I thought would understand English (sorry mainland Europeans and Asians). In total on the men’s side three of the six team USA men DNF, and one of six woman DNF. Both the men’s and women’s team came in 4th. The women’s team by 20 minutes the men’s by 3 minutes. Scoring is the times of the top three people on your team is added together, so the team scores where like 20 hours on the men’s side.

At 4:15 PM when everyone on our team had finished most of us went into the dining hall and ate, and started drinking the adult beverages. Everyone did something different until about 7:30 when we went to the closing ceremony where Japan stole the show winning both the men’s and women’s team competition and the men’s individual competition. A Croatian woman won the women’s individual competition with a strong time on not a very easy course in warm and humid conditions, I thought her performance was the most impressive of the day, and I told her and her twin sister so at the after party.

After the medals were given out and national anthems played, and the Krampi (plural of Krampus?) performed, we had some pizza and adult drinks for maybe an hour talking to the two guys and some of the other countries team members. Everyone was pretty tired so we headed back to the hotel around 10:45, I traded national team shirts with a South African, because none of them wanted their yellow long sleeve shirt, which is really nice and I will wear in training plenty. 

Sunday I rolled out of bed at 5:45 AM and at 6 PM drove Devon, Emily and her dad to the airport for them to catch a flight, and after refueling and returning the car, checked in and boarded my on time flight. 

Not at all the racing experience I wanted. I am excited to someday figure out what is aerobically wrong with me. Yet overall it was definitely a good fun experience I am grateful to have had!

Food for thought, I’m not sure what the future holds. Part of me wants to be back on the 100k team because I know it is possible for me to be top 10 in at this championship, yet I am also confident that I could actually win the 24 hour world championship, and without a qualifier for either one at the moment, and some sort of serious aerobic problem, I have to pick and choose my goals. I can’t do everything. 

Monday, September 10, 2018


Apparently men don’t express their emotions very well. I was dating a woman last year and she asked me how in touch I thought I was with my emotions, and I told her I thought I was pretty in touch with them, and she didn’t seem impressed. Her reaction was more as if she knew I wasn’t in touch with my emotions. Personally I think you would have to ask my sister and my parents how well they think I am in touch with my emotions. Especially as a new friend, I’m not going to open up to you the same way I would for a more established friend, because I don’t want you to rip out my heart and crush it.

Saturday at the 100 km world championships less than 10 miles into the race, I was choking up as the emotion consumed me. I was actually choking up. I am 90% sure that whatever problem I am having it is not asthma. That being said, I have to breathe like a race horse just to jog 9:00 miles and when I allow myself to succumb to the emotion of crying my throat constricts and I can’t get nearly as much air in and out. So I was actually choking a bit while trying to fight off the tears as I jogged and walked. 

The tears came because I have wanted for years to be on the 100k Team USA. I know that I have what it takes to be top 10 in the world in the 100k. I was the third alternate this year (last person with a chance to be on the team), and with all of the talent in the US, I’m not sure I will ever be on this team again. It wasn’t how I imagined it. It wasn’t how I wanted my experience to be. It’s like being in the front line of the first landing craft storming Omaha beach on D-Day, you know how it’s going to go, and that's not good for you. I thought there was only about a 5% chance I finish the race, and I dropped out at 40 km.

After the race I walked out about 1 km into the loop to cheer on our team and others that I thought might understand some of my English. Multiple times the emotions overwhelmed me and more tears came as I sat tired and hungry in the shade watching the race progress as I sat on the sideline. Watching the more marathoner than ultra marathoner men slow down in the end and knowing I have the strength to close well after 90 km was frustrating. Watching the women on our team who were out on the course up to 90 minutes later than the men as the temperature rose to a reported 86F was emotional. How do you watch someone willfully suffer? Finally, I cried for the people, and especially women who live a life so foreign from mine.

One of the Mexican men had serious leg spasms and cramps 30 feet from me and so I walked over so he could hold onto me and attempt a stretch. He hasn’t had the same opportunities I have had. There was the first ever Indian ultra running team of four men and one woman at these championships. India has so much potential to be a distance running powerhouse with their combinations of more than billion people, poverty, rural areas, and high altitude, that it was great to see them in their first international ultra competition. Also, my heart went out to the Indian woman. Women in India, with it’s lingering caste system and more defined class hierarchy simply don’t have anywhere close to the opportunities (on the average or at the median) that I have had as a white American male. Similarly, there was a woman from Lebanon at the race, and no men from Lebanon. What she has probably had to go through to get to the point of racing this is probably far more than I have had to push for or deal with. 

Instead of a white American male born to parents who are still married after 35 years who value education and hard work I could have been born a woman in poverty in a part of the world where I would never get much education, married off as a child, and really never be valued like the human every one of us is. It breaks my heart, and four hours of running with an average heart rate of 180 leading up to a DNF at a race I have dreamt of for years will accelerate those emotions right to the surface. 

Sure, I can describe why I cried on Saturday, but words don’t fully communicate the emotions I felt. In between runners in rural Croatia on Saturday I laid down in the grass on the side of the road. The movie Inside Out well described the complexities of emotions as we age, but it failed to differentiate between the depths of emotion. Sure I was sad enough to cry about my dream of a top 10 finish at the 100k world championships being shattered due to what I think is a lung infection of some kind. But what the Indian woman who ran on Saturday represents is even more powerful. Laying there on the side of the road I felt positive and negative all at once. (I did watch Star Wars last week…) The amazingness of the day in Sveti Martin, Croatia, of my 32 years of life, my many enormous opportunities, and yet my failure on the day, which is my second world championships failure, the difficult plight of people and especially women around the world.

In summary, men do have emotions. 

Friday, September 7, 2018

Not Ready to Quit

Tomorrow morning I will run the IAU 100 km 2018 world championships. It's not going to go great. Well, okay, it could, there could be a miracle and I could have a good day. But all signs point to hyperventilating, a racing heart rate, and ultimately walking.

I've been thinking for awhile, the last few months, as this illness has affected me that maybe this is it. Maybe I'll retire from serious semiprofessional running after this race. I've accomplished so much. I haven't had the enthusiasm for training in 2018 that I have had in the past. Really, most of the fun of running is the day to day training. The thrill of a great workout when you fly and it feels easy. The confidence that comes from plugging away at a tough double the day after a hard workout. When you look at a mirror and see a muscle that you don't remember. When you laugh and cry with your friends who have suffered the trials of miles with you. When you see what is possible. Those are the things that keep me coming back and there have been precious few of those moments in 2018.

I was reading yesterday about Meb Keflezighi in 2007 and 2008 when he was 33 and didn't make the 2008 Olympics, after getting a silver medal in 2004. He thought about retirement at that point too. How can you not think about it? We race the clock for minutes, hours or days, but really there is a clock of years and months counting down until for whatever reason, it ends. I'm not ready to quit. I don't know what the future holds, it doesn't look the same as the past, that's for sure. It probably has more mountains in it and more training partners. Whatever the case, I'm not ready to quit.