April 7, 2014
Spring Break is a wrap! We ventured to California once again to the land of Disney. While we have been to both Disneyland and Disney World, we have gravitated to Disneyland the last few times for various reasons. Better weather. Cheaper flights. Shorter lines. Out of park options for dining and entertainment. And we don't even need a car!
I opted not to drag a fancy camera this year and I didn't try and photograph too much. When the kids were smaller, it was always about capturing every moment. Now its more about enjoying them. So here are a few of my favorite pictures from the week.
Years ago I got the kid's into trying to perform for the cameras on rides. Now, its like second nature to them. However, on Kayla's first Space Mountain ever, she was kind of dazed when this shot went off. Overwhelmed?
We had optimal layout on this one as you can see everybody's faces and each of us doing something. Sydney actually bought this picture because she was so proud of us.
Cool Iron Man display with all the suits. You can see the progression. Felt like being in Tony Stark's house. But some weird chick photobombed me from down below.
I hope she never turns 16. She was a scary driver. Crashing into everyone. On purpose. With an evil laugh.
Oh god. She had to get her own chai like Mom.
She hugged him like he saved her life.
Happiest place on Earth? Bullshit. Reagan can always find a reason to be pissy. She promptly threw this cotton candy in the trash behind my back when it didn't taste right.
Not from Disney, but nearby at a gas station. Most lucrative claw game ever?
Monsters dig me.
Trying to check my messages on the ride?
Metal! Still probably one of the best rides in the entire Disney system.
Nothing like water rides at 11 PM. Don't get too wet or its a long cold walk to the hotel.
One of the lakes where they do a fountain show at night. The water was lowered for some type of work that morning. So many nozzles. Insane.
The real princess. Nice crown.
I have always enjoyed taking the kids to Disney. If you haven't taken your kids, you should go there. Soon. I often hear a discussion on waiting until they are the right age. Frankly. Its in the 3-5 range. Kayla enjoyed the characters a lot on prior visits and there were plenty of rides for her. This time she spent more time on the bigger rides as they have a 40" requirement and she was 41". So she was more interested in Space Mountain than Snow White. My older kids still have a great time too but its not a park optimized for the teens. Its for younger kids. And kids at heart.
March 23, 2014
The dogs and I are hitting a groove lately on these weekend runs. Averaging between 4 and 5 hours each time. Ozzy built up to it since we got him but Lizzy had a steeper ramp. They seem to survive just fine. Probably better than I am. Although, I have felt pretty chipper after recently. I remember many a time coming back to my truck after an outing of that length and everything on my body hurt. Now its just a normal affair.
The mud is starting to suck. Its nice leaving the spikes at home but returning with destroyed shoes isn't. Been a good solider and marching right down the centerline, even on Mesa where all the people are off in the weeds trying to make their way down the trail. Once you are dirty, it just doesn't matter. The dogs carry so much dirt home its crazy. It takes about 30 minutes in the shower to get them cleaned off. But they love it. So we do it.
March 17, 2014
Today was the next phase of testing in the ongoing lung saga. I was sort of excited about doing this test because I had done it prior in 2010 a month before Boston so I had some data to compare against. I hoped that some exciting discovery would come out of this test. Nothing has happened in tests at rest so what about while in action?
So that's my new shirt! Not. It was a strip of gauze stuff that he cut arms in to hold all my EKG leads in place and all the wires which were on my back. But it was pure sexy so I might start manufacturing them soon.
The test was basically a warm up then the treadmill up to about an 8 minute pace. With the mask on, it takes a bit of patience and calming to keep running steady. My mouth was cotton dry quickly and I was kind of bouncing around in between a moderate to hard effort. Every couple minutes they would increase the grade on the treadmill to give more load. I kept ramping up nicely I was told. You can't talk back to them with this headgear on.
They basically will keep going until you die. And I died. My legs were burning with lactic acid. I was feeling lightheaded. I stepped off. There is definitely a skill to taking that test and maximizing your score. You have to be able to suffer hard for a burst of time. Its not my thing.
We did a whole bunch of other breathing tests there before and after. They even sent me out the backdoor and told me to do four 2 minute intervals up Sanitas and then come back inside. I did all that and then ran in, sat in a chair, and they measured me again.
All in all, the tests today did not produce the effects that I see at home every day. Like taking your car to a mechanic and it won't do the "thing" you brought it in for. However, they were aware this could happen given a lab is different that say a dusty country road.
So how did I fare? VO2Max was at 55.2. We saw 57.2 in 2010. Still 143% of my age predicted value. So a few differences in that number for me. Sure, its lower but there are "buts". In 2010, I was a month out from Boston. That was marathon-shape. Quicker than today by far. I am doing a long slow progression to summer runs right now. So fitness is not the same. I also reported myself to be plus 10 pounds heavier today. However, there was another number that showed my volume of air that I intake. 2010 was 3.8 liters. Today was 4.0 liters. So I am sucking up more air. Likely caused by the 4 years of training in between tests. So based on these tests you could say I am relatively about the same - if you base fitness off of lungs.
Here are the rest of the results that I can't pretend to comprehend. A few numbers here or there that I am starting to understand.
My doctor's partner came in throughout the test and then did the final consult of the day. He pretty much said he didn't see anything shocking in the tests. A low to mild drop in functioning showing a bit of exercised induced asthma. But definitely nothing that would be cause for alarm.
We chatted a bit about exercise-induced versus allergy-induced. I pulled out Leadville 2013 as a big point of concern. "Everybody has a bad day now and then", he said. So my major data point might be an anomaly in his words. Kind of defeating news. We went back over my medications to ensure proper usage and what situations to apply which. And I was on my way.
I am supposed to follow-up with my doctor in a week or so.
Where does this leave me? I don't know. The good news that I need to be happy about is that I don't seem to have anything fundamentally wrong with my lungs.
Frankly, this allergy-induced route is making some sense. I have been taking Claritin-D on alternating frequencies after my last appointment. It does amazing things to cut down on drainage in my head during a run. I still have coughing spells but they are much drier than before. But is it enough? Will summer accelerate or decelerate the situation? I don't know. Only one way to find out I guess. Give it my best with a few new tools on hand.
Thanks again for your continued support, ideas, and general shit-giving as I try and sort this out.
March 16, 2014
Our dogs have a lot of energy. And when the weekend roles around, its time to drain it. My wife does it during the week mostly. She takes them to the dog park almost every morning so they can get their butt sniffing on. Its a lot of running and chasing and stuff. They come back and are always tired. But on the weekend, we opt for trail runs together.
For years, I would run solo and always fret about what was going on back at home. But now, Kim seems to encourage me to get out there because she knows her babies like it.
Today, we finally were in town for one of those warm winter/spring transition days. We didn't get started until about 10 AM but it was already over 50 degrees at that point. In Colorado sun degrees, that is plenty hot for running shirtless. I ended up carrying my spikes but never broke them out a single time. Still lots of snow and ice to contend with up high but it was all easily crossed over.
We hit Green and then proceeded over to Bear. That part of the trail pretty much sucks with the dogs. You have to leash them through that section and they don't like it. Nor do I. But we comply. The summit of Bear was busy so we cruised over to South Boulder Peak and nearly took a nap there. It had to be over 60 degrees by this point. Ozzy was rolling around in all the snow on the peak like he couldn't get cool enough. I worry about him this summer.
Then we descended via Shadow Canyon. Its still kind of a mess from the flood. Easily traversed but its like somebody shook it all up and its just not as smooth to go down as it once was. Crossed paths with Mackey there. When we hit the Mesa Trail, the dogs were starting to show signs of wear. But they hung tough as we ran the whole way back to Chautauqua. It was hella muddy the whole way. Tons of people walking outbound towards us so I felt the pressure to stay right on the centerline of the trail and just plow through the nasty mud.
Coordinated and met JV on his way up as we were finishing. Great day out on the trails with the dogs. Perfect temp. Summer ends up getting kind of hot and dusty.
A few shots from today...
Bear Peak was popular. See the little people on top?
Ozzy was in love with the snow on SoBo. Rolled around the entire time. Looked refreshing!
And another shot of Longs. This time from SoBo. Same freaking light issues. I want to carry my polarizing filter up there sometime and see if it fixes the shot. I warmed it up just for Chris this time.
Off to my VO2Max test tomorrow...
March 15, 2014
For a long time, I have always had this edge to my personality. These types of things are hard for one to understand about themselves. It takes a lot of self introspection and noticing reactions of others. Who has time for that kind of crap?
Once in an annual review at work, I got labeled with something that suited this edge I speak of. One word to describe me. "Brandon is very direct". What the hell does that mean? Do I actually agree with this label? The more I thought about it, the more I agreed with the evaluator's opinion. I wasn't sure I loved it but I surely didn't hate it.
It starts with simple things like not sprinkling please and thank yous in my email communications with people. For example, I might say "Take out the trash". I found the recipients often going "What's up your ass today?". Nothing. I just told you directly what I wanted done. You should appreciate the efficiency of my communication.
But it wasn't working as intended. So I experimented, the next time it was "Hey buddy, how's things? Say can you take out the trash? That would be great. Thanks much. Peace out". Or something to that effect. And the actual result seemed to go better. I just had to surround it by a dozen words of padding AKA bullshit. OK, then.
I literally have to finish an email or whatever and then go back and insert this type of nonsense into the message because it doesn't flow naturally out of me. Maybe its because there is no body language that goes along with an email message. So you have to add "filler" to make it more palatable.
Now, oddly, about a decade ago I found myself taking this a completely different direction with some of my closest friends and family. I got tired of being direct with them. I am so clear that you should just know what the fuck I am thinking and just do it. I played this mind game on my wife repeatedly. Without her knowledge.
This often ended up with me setting up some arbitrary task that needed to be completed to win back my affection. "I am not talking to her until that floor is mopped". I would not mop the floor. That was her job. But I would be shitty about everything in life until she figured out that this was the goal and fulfilled it. It never really worked. Imagine that.
It actually drove us apart more than anything.
Some number of years ago, I sort of figured out I was doing this consciously because she was doing it back to me and I didn't appreciate that. I am a direct person. I can take it. Just tell me what the hell you want me to do to make you happy. I will just do it. But don't make me play guessing games.
Wait? Wasn't that the same thing I was doing to her? Yep. What dysfunction.
We had a talk at some point and I felt like I had figured out the secret to relationships. I told her that we needed to make a pact. We would both agree then and there that we could not read each other's mind. Neither of us held that special skill. If I want her to do something, its kind of easier just to tell her. I suppose there is a place there where you think to yourself "I shouldn't have to tell you that, you should just know". But I guess it was a waste of time to try and figure that angle out. Just easier to say it and move on.
Not too often but once in a while, I get an opportunity to share relationship advice. Maybe to a younger couple or something. Being my direct self, I simply say, "Your partner cannot read your mind." They look at me like "duh?" but I feel like there are years of wisdom behind that simple little piece of advice.
So I struggle with this direct thing daily.
When do I have to say more? Adding those pleasantries to soften the message. I have surely burnt relationships of the past by not addressing or understanding this early enough. The other person likely misinterpreted me. Sorry about that.
When do I have to say something instead of nothing? Being sure that I communicate instead of just thinking the other person is dumb for not automatically knowing what I wanted.
This is possibly why I do the things I do. I write software. Its very direct. I run. I don't have to talk to anyone while out there. And I write on this blog from time to time. Its been different levels of raw over the years. But you don't have to read my mind. I just tell you what's on it. And nobody has to listen.
March 11, 2014
My favorite picture from another day of sledding.
March 6, 2014
At my recent breathing test, the operator and I were chatting. She was being very descriptive with the answers to my questions about the test. I was discussing protocol and the numbers as they showed on the screen. She tells me that she expected this from me as she saw "engineer" as my occupation prior to the test. In their staff training for giving these tests, the instructor told them to be weary of engineers. They try and understand all aspects of the test to maximize their score she was told. Yes, please.
I never knew this was a thing I did for the longest time. I just always did it. I liked to tear stuff apart to see how it worked. And put it back together. I liked to analyze things and understand their roots, their motivation, their purpose. One time at my Dad's shop, I tore apart this thing and put it back together. I went to my Dad and one of his employees and was like "I have all these parts left over". The guy says to me, "That's the sign of a good mechanic. You can put it back together with less parts than the guy that designed it." Huh. I always liked that one.
So in my personal life with my family and kids, this sometimes becomes the curse of Dad. If you get me involved, I need to know a lot of stuff. I want to know. Take my wife for example, she is an accountant. She thinks way different than I do about a ton of stuff that would make interesting blog posts yet to come. But one thing is that depth of inquisition on things. Honey, explain to me exactly why I would debit retained earnings in that situation? She says something to the effect of "because that's how it's done". She is right. It's done that way. But that is not satisfying to me. I feel like I just cheated on a test. I need the real answer.
In this day in age, the Internet is the greatest thing ever for the engineer. The power of the information is usually out there somewhere. And especially in my field. Everything is documented online. We have open source! Back in the day, I would have to just trust my wife and feel unsettled for the rest of my life on that point. Now, I can go do some research and try and understand the why of this mysterious question. Later on, I usually go back to her and say "I figured that out and it makes sense to me now". To which, she rolls her eyes.
In contrast, if there is an issue that comes at her that isn't in the type of accounting experience she has, I find that she gets roadblocked. Telling me she doesn't know anything about that. I then turn my skills on the problem. I am not formally trained in accounting, but I know how to break down problems and deduce reasonable conclusions.
This whole thing I describe has become an issue between us over the years. It wasn't until a few years back in a big argument session that we broke this down and tried to understand how each other thinks. It's easy to think she is just stupid or lazy with her thinking. "My god, woman, why would you NOT want to know what firmware version this car stereo is updating to?" I just put it in Evernote.
While in turn, she thought I was being stubborn or an asshole or not trusting. None of that was true. Just different brains working in different ways. But I didn't get that for a long time.
I had this same battle with a friend recently. Not seeing each other for how we operate differently. It causes confusion. Creates separation. Not good.
When I can't get a core understanding of something, I fail. This happened to me many times over the years. Incidents at school always were the worst. High School Honors English. I just could not get the "formula" for how that teacher wanted me to write the papers. I don't really think she could explain it to me either in my terms. I finally gave up and dropped down to regular English and aced everything. Same me. Same writing. Same teacher, even. Weird. Again in college advanced chemistry. I worked hard as anything. I just could not grasp something. I threw in the towel. I didn't need chemistry anyway as I pointed my self towards electrical engineering instead.
When you work with engineers all day, we just do this ball breaking on a daily basis. Why is that design better? What if we did that instead? It's all part of the plan to design and validate. I love the word "iterate". It became popular with the rise of agile software development. But its how I work and live.
At prior jobs, we always had consultants come in and do the famed Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This always felt like a fun diversion but quite bullshit. I was not a person in touch with their feelings. That may have changed some over the years. Now, I find myself specifically trying to categorize people so that I know what might work better in dealing with them. It's not always that straightforward. But it's much easier if you try and work with them, then write them off as uncooperative because they march to the beat of a different drum.
At the end of the day, I usually feel some validation if I can answer yes to one of two questions. Did I learn something today? Did I build something today? Alternating between the two of those. That defines my profession. It defines me.
Get to know yourself.
March 2, 2014
It was only about 10 degrees when I left the house around 10 AM to hit the hill today. I didn't think it would be fun. But upon arrival, the hills were shrouded in fog once again. Inversion? Saw TK in the parking lot and he confirmed it. Something fun about charging through the cold uphill in search of warmer temps.
The Flatties were being particularly difficult on the photos today. I really wasn't sure how they would come out. It was like shooting in fog. This was my favorite of the day. A couple people crossing from the right. Gives you a nice sense of scale.
The dogs are never cold. Always raring to go. They love the snow like this. Constantly running circles around me through the fresh powder.
That shot continues to perplex me. Its Longs Peak the distance. I snap it about every time I go and it always comes back looking crappy. I can't adjust it either. But see the white fog going across the lower 1/3 of the frame. That's the inversion layer of fog hanging out down below. Thought it was cool to see the edge.
And a selfie. Why not? See the blue sky? You had to be up there to catch a glimpse this morning. Up top it was almost balmly. No wind and totally warm. We sat for a while and hung out. Then ran back down. I was frozen when I reached the car. Thank god for seat warmers. I will be in shorts tomorrow.
February 28, 2014
Another appointment at the pulmonologist. A few different things on the docket for today.
First up, another breathing test. Same deal as last time. Breath normal and then you take a huge fast breath and then exhale painfully long.
Then you do it again after sucking on some albuterol as seen above. Well, here are the numbers for this round. They actually improved over last time, which surprised me. You see I was 112% of my age's control group. Last time, I was 106%. The other thing to notice is the difference in the pre and post scores. The albuterol was administered for the post test and the scores went down. Not by much. But pretty much shows that albuterol isn't effecting me a bit. However, the doctor was quick to point out that this test is at rest and albuterol not at rest might have an effect.
So the jury is out if the Singulair got me the extra points this week. Or it was just a better day. Or I finally knew how to breath in the test correctly. Doctor thinks there was improvement. However, the "at rest" thing is how they diagnose and treat this but its when I expose symptoms. So its time to do it in action.
The next step is a VO2 Max treadmill test like I did in 2010. The sweet part? Insurance is paying for it as part of the treatment. So we have data from that year when I was pretty fit -- ran a sub-3 Boston Marathon a month after that test. Then we will have this new data. I don't have that speed fitness today. And I didn't have symptoms then. So who knows what this will produce. But they should be able to get some good air flow numbers as we work through the test. Maybe it will show that as stress increases, airflow goes down. That's kind of my hope -- meaning it would correlate with how I feel.
I had been complaining about the coughing, mucus and flem I get on runs. Maybe some part of all of this is triggered from my head draining as the run begins. I am dry at home but after 2 miles, you would have thought I was getting over a cold with all the ejection of fluids. So he told me to get on some over-the-counter sinus and allergy stuff. See if we can dry that part out during a run and then see what the effect is.
So the treadmill test is in a few weeks. Going to keep playing with my horde of drugs and see what combinations seems to work as we hope.
The journey continues...
February 18, 2014
With a 4 day weekend and Natalee and Chad in town, the girls got some more time on the slopes. I got my first pair of new googles in like a decade so I was excited to be sporting my new iridium lens. Nobody can see my eyes now. Kayla said its creepy.
This was my ski buddy. We have a good time together. Lots of chatter on the lift as we eat Starbursts and play games. This weekend was all about making up stories on the fly kind of like Mad Libs.
The next day we went over to Copper for bigger terrain. I left Kayla at the cabin so we could get some more runs in.
Reagan and I got separated from the group so we went to a new spot to grab food. Reagan was nervous as she wasn't sure what she would be eating. Turns out they have the staple. And it was pretty good! Fun to hang out with just one of your kids at a time. Reagan found a run that she absolutely loved flying down. I couldn't catch her.
Meanwhile, Sydney was out trying to see what the half-pipe is all about on skis.