Inked Up

While I am slowly (and painfully) getting back into shape, I thought I would put up some pictures that I haven't gotten around to earlier. These days, 8:30 min/mile feel hard and 8 min mile is about all I can do for speed work. I use the term speed, loosely. Anyway, since mediocre running times aren't really worth writing about, now is a good time to show off what I was up to this winter.

First off, I like tattoos. They're not for everyone and I don't like every tattoo, but I have several small ones in easy-to-conceal locations. Good tattoos are art, or badges of honor, or memories put into ink. At least that's my perspective. If you think tattoos are the hallmark of a subversive personality or criminal in the making, you probably don't want to waste your time on this post.

This winter, I had a very nice and fairly large piece done. I absolutely love it. It took several hours over a few sittings. The ribs are a very tender place to be jabbed with a needle repeatedly. So here's the pictures, as the tattoo progressed.

Day one, before Jessie got started.

She's amazing and now her waiting list is about a year long. I might as well make an appointment for my next one at this rate. Exile Tattoo is awesome - no walk-ins, no piercings, so it's as classy as a body shop can be. Very queit and private. I would highly recommend Exile to anyone.

This was about an hour into day one. Kelly was there the first sitting and took several pictures.

End of day one. The most "interesting" part was the bandage. Since I am allergic to medical adhesive, Jessie couldn't just tape a bandage over it. So she wrapped my midsection in plastic wrap. Good thing it was December or it would have been even less pleasant.

After that, I went alone so I only have pictures at the end of each sitting. This is the end of the second sitting in January. Pardon my undergarments.

Sitting #3 and by far the most uncomfortable. Those were some tender riblets when she was done. You can see how inflamed the whole area was.

Last sitting in early March, a little bloody and inflamed, but impressive. I actually left an engineering conference early to make it back to my appt. With Jessie's waiting list, you don't cancel.

Finished! It's hard to get the whole thing in one picture since it wraps around my torso. (No, that's not a sunburn, just weird lighting from the camera. I know to use sunscreen on something like this!)

Here's a close up of the angel's face and wings.

The angel is an adaptation of Salvador Dali's illustration of Dante's Inferno. The canto I chose was Canto 16 from Paradise, the title roughly translates into "Angel of the Ancestor." Like any good tattoo, there are layers of meaning behind the piece I choose and this post has gotten long enough. So if you really want to know the meaning, or just to see the tattoo, you'll have to buy me a beer sometime. :)


Me? A Hugger??

I'm not a hugger by nature. But as I get older, I feel like Life is trying to turn me into a hugger. This Monday at Boston is a great example - I was so happy for Kelly, and proud of her, and relieved for her that it went so well. We hugged a lot after the race, and all for good reason.

But my need to hug isn't just for happy reasons. While travelling on Friday, I received a call that a friend from undergrad was killed in an accident on Thursday. I didn't tell Kelly (sorry Kelly), I didn't want her to worry about anything. If you've been reading my blog for a while, then this is all going to sound like de ja vu. It was less than a year ago I lost my friend Andy in an accident. He left behind a wife and 1 year old.

John and I met Matt on the Concrete Canoe team in undergrad. John was the team captain his senior year, I was captain my senior year, and Matt was captain the year after that. We spent a lot of time together then and John and I even went down to Oklahoma to watch the Concrete Canoe National competition Matt's senior year. We did our best to try to talk him into going to grad school. He would have been great, but he declined. He took a job with a firm in WI and became a bridge inspector. He was a certified diver and his company sent him all over the midwest and southeast doing bridge inspections. Last week, he was on an inspection when the man-lift he was in came into contact with power lines. Matt just turned 27 a few weeks ago and he left his wife and 11 week old son behind.

We hadn't talked much in the last few years; Facebook and emails here and there, mostly exchanging job site photos. But he was an old friend who died too young and died during a bridge inspection, something that I do on a regular basis. Andy and I were much closer, but Matt's death has still hit too close to home.

Life is starting to feel like a cruel joke. Kelly has cancer. Matt is the third friend in less than 5 years who died in an accident and left behind a wife and child. Besides Andy, another college friend, Jim, died over 4 years ago and left behind a pregnant wife.

So I'm going to try out this whole "hugging" thing. Life is horribly unfair and chaotic and unpredictable. I can either be angry at life, or I can choose to embrace those around me I care about. Life is too short to be angry. Hugging it is.



Hey Cancer, You picked the Wrong Bitch!

I just got back from Boston today, Kelly is taking another easy day in Boston. To make a long race short, Kelly rocked it! She was worried about finishing, but I think she was just sandbagging. She finished in 3:43:50, while 3/4 of the way into chemotherapy. If that isn't the definition of a show-off, I don't know what is.

I can't tell you how happy I am that Kelly had a great race. She's absolutely amazing!


For Better or Worse, It's Over

Well, the test is over. Before you ask, the results won't be sent out for 8-12 weeks, possibly 14. So I'm doing my best to try to forget about it. How did it go? How can a 16-hour structural engineering test go? I don't really know to be honest. I'm optimistic about day 1, not about day 2. One thing for sure, my back, neck and back side hurt like crazy from 16 hours in a metal folding chair. But I'm am so lucky to have the support that I have had. It's a little tough, since there are that many people to tell if I fail. Oh well, that isn't what's important. It really meant a lot to me to have that many people wishing me well, sending texts, calling, FB messages, etc. Here's a card that Kelly gave me before the test. Awesome. Shelley, AKA Granola Goddess, gave me a pound of You're Bacon me Crazy and Blueberry/Sesame granola to take with. Another friend dropped of a package of passing potion for after the test. He was adamant that the first thing I do when I walked through the door was take a drink. He swore that everyone he knew that passed the PE (professional engineer) exam drank the potion. Everyone who did not pass, did not drink the potion. Who am I to argue? In fact, since I took two tests, I took two drinks.
John was travelling, so he was not there when I got home. But he left all of my favorite things - a card, chocolates from Stam, flowers, Fruity Pebbles, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Bombay Sapphire gin and 1800 tequila. I did not open the 1800, but gin and tonic was my drink of the night.

And the next day, I slept in, walked to the grocery store, and cooked myself breakfast. All things that I have not done since I've been studying. Yes, that is biscuits and gravy. I deserve it, damn it all.

Since Sunday, I'm now officially whipping my body back into shape. John and I rode 10 miles on Monday after I spent the majority of the day working on the landscaping. Tonight, I did 17. It feels so good to be without pressure. Sunshine, free time, and fresh spring air has me in a better mood than I have been in months.


Waiting to Exhale

Well, my test is finally here. Am I ready? Good question. Some days I feel prepared, somedays I feel woefully inadequate. Do I want to study anymore? Hell no. At least I can finally see past this test and I have a few things this summer to look forward to. Still no race on my horizon, but part of that is the thought that if I don't pass both tests, I will be spending late summer studying again. That makes it hard to commit to any long-distance race. But I'm out of shape and my pants are tight, so I can definitely commit to working out regularly again. I leave tomorrow for Lincoln. I'm going to take my running shoes and hopefully at least put a few miles on the treadmill between tests. Any positive thoughts you can send my way on Friday and Saturday would be much appreciated.


Required Gear List

If you're familiar with Adventure Racing, you know of the Required Gear List, a list of mandatory and suggested items that vary depending on the time of year, length of race, and types of activities in the race. There is usually a list of prohibited items as well, typically anything related to GPS devices. Here is the list from the 8-hour Adventure Race I did in St. Louis.

  • Synthetic cap/beanie

  • Synthetic long sleeve top

  • Synthetic underwear bottom

  • Water proof pants and jacket

  • Fleece jacket

  • Gloves

  • Pack with hydration system

  • Headlamp

  • Whistle

  • Lighter

  • Emergency blanket

  • Mountain bike

  • Bike helmet

  • Flashing red tail light

  • Spare Tube

  • Waterproof map case

  • UTM scale

  • Compass

  • Iodine tablets

  • Cell phone in waterproof container

  • First aid kit

  • Bike multi-purpose tool

  • Tube patch kit

  • Tire pump


  • No cotton clothing

  • No GPS unit or GPS phone

Now keep in mind, this list is to keep you safe in case you get lost while out in the middle of the woods in November and need to survive until 1) they notice you haven't returned and 2) they find you.

Similarly, there is a list of required and suggested items for the test I'm taking next week. The test is 16 hours total, indoors, and even has assigned seating. It is open-book (with restrictions). This list is more about preventing cheating and keeping the playing field level versus a life safety issue. Here is the list of mandatory and suggested items. (I'll even ignore the "Vehicle Preparedness" list)

Mandatory List:

  • Letter of admittance

  • Photo ID

  • Required codes (See previous post)

  • Personal references

Suggested List:

  • regular dictionary

  • engineering dictionary

  • plastic milk crates

  • primary calculator

  • spare calculator

  • instruction book for your calculators

  • extra calculator batteries

  • triangles

  • scales

  • protractor

  • compass (different kind than above)

  • straight edge and rulers

  • scissors

  • stapler

  • tape

  • magnifying glass

  • jewelers screwdriver

  • snacks or candies

  • two bottles of water

  • travel pack of tissues

  • headache remedy

  • personal medication

  • $3.00 in miscellaneous change (WTH?)

  • comfortable sweater

  • loose shoes or slippers

  • chair cushion

  • earplugs

  • wrist watch

  • several large trash bags

  • wire coat hanger

  • extra set of car keys on a string around you neck

  • copy of application

  • proof of delivery

  • light lunch

  • beverage in thermos or can

  • sunglasses

  • extra pair of glasses or contacts

  • raincoat, boots, gloves, hat

  • street map of exam area

  • parking permit

  • battery-powered desk lamp

  • cell phone

  • piece of rope (to hang yourself with??)

Restricted items:

  • cell phone

  • radio/tape player (I don't think they update this list much)

  • battery charger

  • extension cords

  • scratch paper

  • note pads

  • pencils

  • erasers

  • hooded sweatshirts

  • hats with a brim

  • desk clock

  • Post It notes

  • loose paper of any kind

If I truly believed this list, I would have a lot I need to buy. Some of this stuff I can see, but some I can't even begin to explain. It also sounds like a freaking arts and crafts fair. I don't know what you are taping, cutting or stapling, but they are pretty restrictive on what you have to hand in and what they will not accept. And you cannot take any piece of loose paper out of the exam roof with you. I hope someone else sees the entertainment value in this. Otherwise I really have been studying too much.

I better leave my Walkman at home, too.