32 Before I Turn 32

Posted: July 4, 2020 in Uncategorized


  1. Less Than 500 ‘Strikes’ (Strike is any Item of Junk Food)
  2. 2000 Servings Vegetables
  3. 1000 Servings Fruit
  4. 8 Week Mindfulness


  1. Swim-Run Event
  2. Qualify For Ironman World Championships (70.3 or 140.6)
  3. Qualify For Boston Marathon
  4. 1,000 Hours of Exercise
  5. Touch Toes
  6. Get Jacked (100 Day Build Muscle Routine)

Lethal Engineering / Lethal Tri

  1. Total of 12 Lethal Engineering and Lethal Tri Videos
  2. Finish Building R2D2


  1. $1M Revenue
  2. 10 Hours Productive Time for 200 Days
  3. 250 Days No News/Social Media/YouTube/Netflix


  1. Learn Python
  2. Learn Machine Vision (OpenCV)
  3. PCB Design & Surface Mount Soldering
  4. 3D Modeling w/ Fusion 360
  5. Read Feynman Lectures on Physics and Summarize
  6. Read ‘Harvard Business Revew 10 Must Reads’ and Summarize
  7. Learn HTML/CSS & Build Website


  1. See Sandhill Cranes
  2. Win 100,000 Ticket Prize at Dave and Buster’s
  3. Cross Country Ski 25 Miles
  4. Make An Ice Sculpture
  5. Beer Mile
  6. Make a Deepfake


  1. Donate 10% of Income (post tax)
  2. Solve World’s Largest Rubik’s Cube
  3. Get Another Tattoo
  4. Volunteer 100 Hours

31 Before 31 – Results

Posted: June 26, 2020 in Uncategorized

This was my 7th year making one of these goal lists. Who’d have thought in 2013 that I’d still be doing this? On to the results!


#2 1,500 Servings of Vegetables
1,501/1,500. I’ve consumed approximately 70 servings of vegetables per week for the last 10 weeks to meet this goal. Procrastination is a bitch, amirite? This has to be the most vegetables I’ve consumed of any year of my life. Last weekend, I ate two pounds of kale in a day.

#3 1000 Servings of Fruit
1,003/1,000. I’ve heard alcoholics use coffee to fill the void filled by not drinking, and that’s how I’ve used fruit when trying to quit junk food. I’ve tried to replace the crack cocaine that is refined sugar with a nutrient dense and fiber rich fruit smoothie.

#5 Two Ultra Endurance Events
I completed the Barkley Fall Classic and David Goggins Challenge, but I also DNF’ed three times at the Washington Island Ultra, Frozen Otter 64, and 100 mile run. I’m really proud of the effort that went into this goal, attempting these events even when ill-prepared.

top of rat jaw

#16 Setup SIMPLE IRA
It’s like a 401k for small businesses. Who else gets excited about Vanguard Retirement Plans?!

#18 100 Days No News/Social Media/YouTube/Netflix
190/100. This is a cornerstone habit that makes all the other goals possible. The decrease in distractions seems to result in a much greater increase in productivity. There’s this discomfort that sets in when doing difficult tasks, and rather than scrolling Instagram when that feeling arises, I just sit there and wait it out. It always passes.

#20 Develop A Plan For Each Goal
The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. I didn’t follow the plan at all, but I did create one!

#24 See Falcon Heavy Launch
Accomplished minutes after turning 30. This was an incredible experience. I’d highly recommend it for your bucket list


#28 Donate 10% of Income (post tax)
Rather than donating a small amount of money each month, I figuratively ripped the band-aid off with one large donation last week.

#29 Walk Zucc 1 Mile For 200 Days
Zucc has returned to Milwaukee since I wrote the results post for this goal. He’s been accompanying me on my runs and has developed an insatiable endurance capacity. I can no longer put on socks or shoes in front of him without him whining incessantly. He’s a perfect running companion, even attempting to bring home some venison when we spot deer in the woods.

#31 10 Escape Rooms
10 for 10. This is my favorite activity to do with friends. We had an 80% success rate.

Partial Completion

#4 200 Days of Meditation
120/200 Days. No closer to achieving nirvana.

#8 Qualify For Boston Marathon
I set a personal best at the Cascade Express Marathon with a time of 3:36, but still a long way from the Boston Qualifying time of 3:00. I ran over 400 miles more this year than any of the previous five years.

#9 1,000 Hours of Exercise
361/1,000. This seems like a good place to put exercise distance that I track every year:

Bike: 1,058 Miles (30Before30: 948, 29B29: 5,000, 28B28: 1,941 27B27: 1,935 Miles, 26B26: 2,042 Miles)
Run: 1,200 Miles (30B30: 595, 29B29: 437 Miles 28B28: 732 Miles, 27B27: 589 Miles, 26B26: 654 Miles)
Swim: 55,612 Yards (30B30: 210,930, 29B29: 209,663, 28B28: 162,913, 27B27: 69,311, 26B26: 154,868)

#11: Join Artisan’s Asylum and Go 10 Times
I joined Boston Makers which was very close to our Boston apartment, but only went twice.

#13 10 Lethal Tri Videos
3 for 10. I really enjoyed making all these videos

#14 25 Blog Posts
14 for 25. My favorite posts were The Pamela Anderson Slideshow and A Murder in Psychology Class


#15 One Million Dollars Revenue
$640k/$1M. Despite not completing the goal, this result is the one I’m most proud of. Six years ago, I quit my job to start this business and slowly but surely it’s continued to grow. We’ve got fantastic employees and work with great people.

GSS Logo

#17 10 Hours Productive Time for 200 Days
94/200. I tracked my time everyday this year. There was about a three-fold gain in my ratio of productive time to wasted time.

#19 48 Weeks Commitment Contract
47 out of 48. At the beginning of every week, I sent my life coach (AKA my mother-in-law) a list of goals with monetary penalties for non-completion. I just added it up, and over the course of the year I sent her $1,572. Ouch. However, the threat of having to pay her each week was a big reason for the consistency over the year.

#25 Go To Two of Four Boston Sports (Red Sox, Bruins, Patriots, Celtics)
I went to a Boston Celtics game where a beer was thrown on the court after Kemba Walker got ejected. This was about as stereotypical of a Boston experience as I could have hoped for. See @ 2:40 in the video below

Zero Completion

#6 Qualify for Ironman World Championships
COVID-19 had other ideas (and I was never in good enough shape)

#7 Wabash Trace Fastest Know Time
Pro ultra-runner Kaci Lickteig lowered this FKT to a break neck time of 8 hours 44 minutes, which comes out to a pace of 8:27 min/mile for 62 miles. I was initially bummed out, but then got excited about that I would have to get into elite shape if I want to capture the FKT.

#10 Sub 6 Minute Beer Mile
Didn’t even attempt

#12 10 Lethal Engineering Videos
Not a single one, but my channel continues to grow!

#22 Mountain Bike 100 Miles

#21 Complete Raspberry Pi (using Python) Book

#23 Complete SCUBA Diving Course
Zero Progress

#26 See an F1 Race
I watched one on TV? Another goal derailed by COVID

#27 Bike To Walden Pond
Nope. We spent a surprisingly little amount of time in Boston in the last year.

#30 Hold Breath For Two Minutes
What should have been the easiest goal on the list was never attempted.

What About Alexis?

She traveled all over the world, visiting Haiti, Brazil, South Africa, and Peru while attending conferences and working on research. She also completed the first year of her Master’s in Public Health through Harvard University. On top of that, she took call a couple days each month at the Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee.

Wrap It Up!

I’m very pleased with this year’s results. 10 fully completed goals and 5.5 partial, for a total of 15.5. I mentioned in last year’s results post that I didn’t feel like I had a lot of growth, but that changed this year.

The major improvement was increased consistency. Small actions day in and day out lead to the completion of much larger goals. That’s my main takeaway for this year.

32 Before 32 List coming next week. Leave some comments if you have any ideas!

This was an impulsive decision. As of 30 minutes ago, I had barely made a dent in my goal of donating 10% of our post tax income to charity. But then I read an article my wife wrote about the lack of diagnostic healthcare in the developing world.

Giving away a chunk of money and completing one of my goals seemed like the most obvious thing to do, so I donated some of our investments to Give Well, an organization that studies the most effective charities and distributes money accordingly.

I really hate donating money to charity almost entirely because there is no positive reinforcement. A couple of mouse clicks and poof, my investment account is down several thousand dollars. There’s no warm fuzzy feeling usually associated with charitable giving, just some auto-generated thank you email. I get some brownie points for heaven though, right?

God: John, I know you haven’t believed in me your whole life, but I’ve decided to look past your lack of faith and liberal use of my name in vain since you donated all that money to charity.

That’s how I imagine it happening at least.

I don’t like completing this goal, but that’s exactly why I need it. The loss to me is so evident and I may never see the direct benefit, but I know that the minor anxiety I feel now doesn’t hold a candle to the benefit gained by those in need.

A Murder In Psychology Class

Posted: April 18, 2020 in Uncategorized

Names and specific unimportant details in the story have been changed. This really happened, though. At least, I remember it happening.

I took AP Psychology not because I was interested in the ideas of Skinner or Freud, but to boost my GPA. It was senior year of high school, and I was locked in a losing battle to have the #1 class rank. I took all the advanced classes I could, hoping the two girls with perfect GPAs would slip up. I specifically hated AP Psychology as the teacher, Mr. Jones, insisted we outline every chapter of the book and create and abundant supply of psychology flashcards. He didn’t seem to mind that my outline consisted of copying the first sentence of every paragraph, just that it got done.

That said, Mr. Jones had an amazing track record of students doing well on the AP test, with all five students who took the test the previous year getting the highest score possible. Who was I to question the method?

I was easily distracted in that class, mostly by the two rats Mr. Jones kept as class pets. They were named Mike and Ike, each with it’s own cage. The purpose of the rats wasn’t clear to me, as we never used them in Psychology class, and they certainly weren’t being used in the World History class he also taught. It was difficult to differentiate between the two rats, other than the fact that Ike had a golf ball sized tumor protruding from his belly. He seemed unaffected by it, though, fighting off the cancer by mercilessly burrowing through the wood pulp bedding that made up the floor of his glass cage.

Rat Cage

I walked into psychology class one day near the end of the fall semester to find copy paper haphazardly taped around Ike’s cage, as if to block us from seeing what was going on inside. One of my classmates asked Mr. Jones about the strange arrangement, to which Mr. Jones replied, “As you know, Ike has cancer and is in a lot of pain, I’ve decided to end his misery.” A look of shock spread through the class. He continued, “I crushed up some pain killers and mixed them in with his morning pellets”.

Raised eyebrows and dilated pupils were plastered on my classmates’ faces. I’d learned in this very class that was a sign of the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, the classic ‘fight or flight’ response. Although a logical solution to Ike’s fatal condition, during the middle of the school day didn’t seem like the appropriate time to euthanize the class pet.

We could hear Ike furiously scratching at the side of the cage, attempting to escape before the poison halted all his gross motor functions.

The sound of claws on glass grew to a crescendo, and Mr Jones’ responded by speaking louder, as if to mask the cries for help.

Ten minutes later, the scratching slowed down, until it ceased completely. Ike had met his maker, in the middle of 2nd period Psychology.

There was another session of Psychology the following hour. They confirmed there was no further scratching coming from the cage and that Ike was kaput. You can’t kill an animal in class, can you?

I told my Mom about this incident later that night. She didn’t seem too concerned. Mr Jones was an interesting fella, and no students were harmed, right?

I walked in the next day anxious for whatever lunacy could top yesterday’s class, only to find Ike alive scurrying around his cage, right as rain. A major plot twist to yesterday’s horror show.

The bell rang marking the start of class, and Mr. Jones jumped into his lecture, apparently trying to cover up the attempted murder that happened a mere 24 hours prior. I raised my hand, “What happened to Ike?”

“What are you talking about?”, Mr Jones replied.

“Yesterday, when you crushed up the painkillers and put it in his food, remember?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about…let’s continue on with operant conditioning, we’ve got a lot to learn today…”

And that was that. The topic of Ike’s near overdose on pain killers was never brought up again, until this blog post.

I’m not quite sure what happened that fateful day in Mr. Jones’ AP Psychology class. My best guess is that we must have been the subjects in Mr. Jones’ demented Milgram-esque experiment. I dropped the class for the spring semester and took late start.

This was supposed to be the last goal accomplished on my 30 Before 30 list. SpaceX had scheduled the third flight of it’s Falcon Heavy rocket to take place on June 24th at 11:30 PM, exactly 30 minutes before my 30th birthday. It almost seemed like fate, as if the universe was aligning so I could complete one last goal. I was hesitant to book a flight, though, as we were packing up our things and moving to Boston in less than a week.

Falcon Heavy

Why did I want to see this rocket launch?

In February 2018, I watched the inaugural flight of the Falcon Heavy online.  It was a successful launch, sending Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster into orbit around the sun. The two side boosters then returned to Earth and simultaneously landed vertically. It was absurd to watch on the live stream. Fifty years ago we landed a man on the moon, and this seemed like the most significant progress in space flight since. I was disappointed I didn’t see it in person.



So I bit. I bought a ticket the day before the launch and flew to Orlando the next day. I got to viewing site early only to find that the launch was delayed three hours. Bummer. I guess it won’t make it on my 30 Before 30 list. I went to my motel and took a nap.

At 1:30 AM, I returned to the viewing site. I’d purchased a ticket for Exploration Tower which is ideally situated 14 miles from Launch Pad 39A and seven miles from Landing Zones 1 & 2. Exploration Tower is seven stories tall with two outdoor launch viewing decks.




I wasn’t the only nerd who thought this was a good idea. It felt like going to a midnight premiere of Star Wars. Lots of enthusiasm waiting for the launch to commence. Through my binoculars, I could barely make out the rocket on the launch pad in the distance.


The official live stream was playing on a TV inside. It was great to get the color commentary narrating the entire event. We listened to the countdown, “3…2…1…liftoff!”

Light travels much faster than sound, a phenomenon most evident at rocket launches. You see the rocket take off, but it’s several seconds before you hear it.


It started off as a rumble and then turned into a crackle, the sound conveying the savageness of the energy being released to accelerate a 1,500 ton rocket to 16,000 mph. It’s a visceral feeling that can only be truly appreciated in person.

Launch 2

The rocket slowly ascended, gaining speed quickly as it turned into a comet streaking across the night sky.


Three minutes in, their fuel spent, the side boosters broke away from the rocket. They then twirled around in the sky and repositioned for the descent back to Earth, like some atmospheric ballet.  It was magical to watch and difficult to comprehend the sheer magnitude. Each side booster is over 10 stories tall, and the rocket combined over 20 stories.

Booster separation

The side boosters looked like two asteroids hurtling towards Earth.

side boosters

As the side boosters approached the landing pad, there was a flash of light and then…KA-BOOM….KA-BOOM. I shrieked, assuming the boosters had just exploded on the landing pad. Foolish me, It was just the delayed sound of the supersonic boosters returning to Earth.


Overall, it was a successful launch. The side boosters landed on their respective pads and the 24 satellite cargo made it to orbit.

This blog post does a poor job describing just how cool this whole experience was. It was an out of this world, double-rainbow kind of moment. I imagine this is what it felt like to watch the Wright brothers as they perfected their first airplanes in the fields of Ohio. It felt like watching the future. In a couple decades, this sight will be commonplace.

Watching this launch further increased my admiration for Elon Musk. He embodies the American dream – immigrating to the United States, creating a billion dollar company in PayPal, and then risking his entire fortune attempting to create a rocket company and an electric car company, both of which he thought had little chance of succeeding, but considered worth pursuing anyways.

I was unable to complete this goal in time for my 30 Before 30 List, but don’t fret…I just added it to the 31 Before 31 List, and immediately crossed it off.

This story takes place 11 years ago when I was a sophomore at the University of Nebraska at Omaha studying Electronics Engineering.

I don’t remember exactly how I got this idea, but I must have recently watched Fight Club. There’s a scene where Tyler Durden talks about his job as a movie theater projectionist and how he splices single frames of pornography into family films (30 seconds into the clip below).

I figured I could do something similar, but much tamer, inserting risque photos into a teacher’s PowerPoint presentation. I had the perfect target in mind: Professor Detloff’s Electronic Circuits I class.

Professor Detloff was universally disliked for his difficult classes and sardonic personality. He always seemed to have a chip on his shoulder, probably because he taught the most classes, but was lowest paid of all the faculty. He was difficult to deal with, but was a teacher you grew to love after four years of schooling.


It was March 31st, so I’d have to work quickly to have my scheme ready for April Fool’s day. That night, I combed the internet for pictures. I didn’t want full nudity, but definitely scantily clad. Not enough to get expelled, but enough to get a talking to. Bikini photos of Pamela Anderson fit the bill. After that, I downloaded Prof. Detloff’s presentation for class the next day from the class website. I then layered the voluptuous photos of Miss February 1990 on top of the slides and set up the timing so the pictures would only briefly flash on screen. I was a PowerPoint master by the end of the night.

The morning of April 1st, I got to class 20 minutes early. Prof. Detloff was a creature of habit. He’d load his PowerPoint on the projector 15 minutes before class started and then head out behind the building to smoke a cigarette. He commented on how odd it was to see me in class so early.  This class started at 8:00 AM, way too early for my collegiate circadian rhythm. I was usually the one sneaking in late if I showed up at all.

I waited a minute after he left, ensuring he was truly gone, and then sprang into action. Detloff always added problem set slides to the presentations that he posted online, so I loaded my flash drive and quickly copied the new ones over to my rigged presentation. I had plenty of time before he would return, but feared one of my classmates would rat me out if they saw what I was doing. These were the straight A, get stuffed in a locker, take school seriously types, and snitching was a real possibility.

I was done and back in my seat as my groggy eyed classmates filed in. Detloff returned exactly at 8:00 AM and class began


Today’s lecture was on operational amplifiers. It was a complicated topic, way too complicated for me to explain to the average layman, because, well, I never actually learned it.


He clicked from the 2nd to 3rd slide when the first image flashed on screen. It was only noticeable if you knew it was coming, and barely so then. I glanced around the classroom to see if anyone reacted. Nothing.


Two slides later, another photo briefly displayed. I notice a couple guys had quizzical looks. They knew they saw something, but weren’t sure what they saw.


I had set up the timing so that as the presentation went on, the photos would be displayed for longer and longer amounts of time, from barely perceptible to a full second.

When the next picture flashed on screen, my buddy Matt leaned over and said, “Dude, did you just see a naked lady?!” I told him he was going crazy.


When the fourth photo came around, the entire class burst out laughing. Pamela’s surgically enhanced figure was practically life-size projected onto the pull-down screen.


The whole class was in on it now, but Detloff was still oblivious. Somehow I’d timed things perfectly. Detloff would click to a new slide, start reading off of it, and as he turned to address the class, the image would appear and then quickly disappear before he turned around.


Each rigged slide elicited laughter, but Detloff just thought his jokes were hitting especially well that day.

There was one image that he noticed out of the corner of his eye. He stopped briefly, but must have assumed that old age was playing tricks on him


He sensed something was up near the end of class. He went back and forth several times between two slides and mentioned that a slide was missing, but continued on with class anyways. When the lecture ended, I scurried out before a full investigation could be launched.

All the computer and electronics engineers had another class later that day where I was able to take credit for the prank. I was temporarily king of the nerds.

Happy April Fools Day!


We got our dog Zucc four years ago when we moved to Wisconsin. The deal was that if Alexis matched for residency in a city where we could have a house, then she could get a dog (I didn’t want to have a dog in an apartment).



Over the past four years, we haven’t been great dog parents. With Alexis working 80 hours/week and me just being lazy, Zucc was getting nowhere close to the recommended one hour of daily exercise for his energetic breed.

That’s what sparked this goal. Walk the dog one mile a day for 200 days. It was especially important since we moved to a 700 sq ft Boston apartment in July.


We quickly realized that keeping Zucc in Boston wasn’t going to work out. Both of us were frequently traveling and we had no plan for who would take care of Zucc if we were both gone. After two months living in Boston, I drove Zucc to Omaha to live with my parents.

He’s never been happier.

My parents live on two acres of land, fully fenced in. Zucc’s own personal dog park. He loves my Mom and has completely forgotten about Alexis and me.



Everyday since I dropped him off in August, Zucc has gotten his one mile of running. Is it cheating to count this if I didn’t do the work to exercise the dog? Maybe, but I like crossing goals off my list. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to my parents for watching him!

I’ll leave you with a bunch of my favorite photos of Zucc:
















2020 Frozen Otter 64 Race Report

Posted: February 22, 2020 in Uncategorized

112 people started this race, but only 5 finished. I was not one of them. 24 hours to run 64 miles is a generous amount of time, but fresh snow combined with frigid temperatures made for a historically tough running of this event.

The Frozen Otter takes place in the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, approximately 45 minutes north of Milwaukee. The race is run on a section of the Ice Age trail, a path that winds across Wisconsin from Minnesota to Lake Michigan. The race starts at Mauthe Lake, with racers first running the northern section, a 46 mile out-and-back to Highway P, returning to Mauthe Lake, only to head out on the southern section, an 18 mile out-and-back to Highway H.

I discovered the Frozen Otter while researching the Tuscobia Winter Ultra, a 160 mile race in the dead of winter that requires pulling a sled of gear the entire time. To register for that event, you have to complete a ‘shorter’ winter ultra, not only to prove your mettle, but to prove that you won’t die attempting it. The Frozen Otter is one of those qualifying events.


I convinced two friends to do this race with me: Zach, an avid ultra-runner, who completed his first 100-miler a couple months ago; and Adam, a multi-time Ironman finisher, who has competed at the World Championships twice. Each would lead this race at certain points.

All Of Us

Mauthe Lake to Butler Lake (Mile 8)

I was unprepared for this race. A majority of my gear was put through it’s first test run the night before, and I was fastening my gaiters seconds before the race started.

I completed the first mile in 12 minutes. It would be my fastest mile of the day. The 6-8″ of snow that had fallen in the previous 24 hours made running much more difficult.

I quickly adopted a strategy of stepping in the footprints of those ahead of me, which helped, but was still slow moving.


My effort for the first 8 miles was too high. I was sweating in the first hour despite below freezing temperatures. I knew I was going too fast, but my ego got in the way of slowing down.

I was surprised to see Zach when I came into the first aid station. He was out of sight within the first mile and I had imagined he had pulled even further ahead since.
However, being in the lead and breaking the trail slowed him considerably.

Butler Lake to Greenbush (Mile 16)

Zach waited for me and we headed out. We walked a couple of minutes while I downed a cup full of ramen noodles, and then quickly caught the lead pack ahead of us.

For the first 20 miles of this race, the leader never broke away. Creating the first set of foot prints required a lot of energy, so most runners hung at the back of the lead pack.

Section 1

I was already tired at the 13 mile mark. I knew I was in for a long day and got dropped by the lead group. I came into the Greenbush aid station as the lead pack was leaving.

The aid stations were fantastic. The runners manual made them out to be barebones outposts with just hot water and ramen noodles, but there was much more. Hot chocolate, oatmeal, Oreos, pretzel bites….perfect fuel to cancel out all the calories we were burning. And the wonderful volunteers! The kindness was like visiting Grandma’s house as a child. It was a welcome nutritional and emotional boost every couple of hours.

Greenbush to Hwy P (Mile 23)

At this point, I was reduced to walking large chunks of time. I didn’t complete a single mile of this section faster than 20 minutes, and got passed by numerous runner. The pity party was on in full.

The course, however, was a winter wonderland. It was calm and serene, in stark contrast to the raucous commotion in my mind. I felt like I was being taunted. Why do you feel so miserable when it’s so pretty outside? Can’t you get a hold of your mind and enjoy the beauty?

Section 2

Hwy P was the turnaround point. I saw Zach coming the other direction, in first place! That’s cool, he could win this thing! Adam was 10 minutes behind.

Hwy P to Greenbush (Mile 30)

I was ready to be done at this point, and only 23 miles in! 41 more miles to go? Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen.

The sun was far gone and temperatures dropped to single digits. I was miserable trudging along. Why do I sign up for these moronic endeavors?

The real trick in these all day events is to avoid the negative reinforcement loop. Negative thoughts lead to poor running, poor running leads to more negative thoughts. At that point, I was fully in the death spiral.

I spent over 20 minutes at the Greenbush aid station. I would have dropped right there if I had an easy way to get back to the start. I figured I might as well run instead of waiting in the cold for someone to drive me back. Completing 46 miles would at least be a respectable result.

I popped caffeine pill and an ibuprofen to make the remaining miles on my quitters road more bearable.

Greenbush to Butler Lake (Mile 38)

That’s when a miracle happened. Within two miles, I felt on top of the world. Calories + Caffeine + Ibuprofen = feeling much better. It’s not a complicated equation, but when I feel like shit I just want to give up rather than take the action to solve my problems.

A trench had been created by the procession of runners heading out to Highway P.  It was if Moses had parted the deep snow we faced earlier allowing for some actual running. I took advantage of that and moved up in the field.

Butler Lake to Mauthe Lake (Mile 46)

It was 11 p.m. by this point and pitch black. Several times I thought I heard someone screaming only to realize it was just the creaking of the trees in the wind.

The same genetics that lead to a sunburn after spending 30 minutes at the beach also seem to do well in cold climates. I had more of an issue with overheating than getting cold, despite the temperatures approaching zero.

I made it Mauthe Lake in high spirits and downed an energy drink from my drop bin. 16 miles ago I was ready to give up and now I had been reborn. That’s a super dramatic analogy, but is reflective of how I felt in the moment.

Mauthe Lake to Hwy H

I headed out on the southern section tired, but highly motivated. I figured it would take another 6 hours to go the last 18 miles. Finishing was inevitable…until it wasn’t.

Only 26 people left the Mauthe Lake aid station to attempt the southern leg of the course. Based on the footprints ahead of me, I imagine I was somewhere in the middle of that pack.

Where the previous sections had been packed down and runnable, this new sections was lightly trodden and slow moving. Finishing in 6 hours quickly turned into not sure if I I’d finish before the cutoff in 9 hours. I was demoralized.

After 3 hours, I saw a trail sign indicating I had traveled 4 miles and had another 5 miles to get to Hwy H. At that pace, I (incorrectly) calculated I wouldn’t make it to next aid station by the cutoff time.

I called it quits right there, phoning Zach’s wife Katie who graciously picked me up at one of the road crossings.

What About Adam and Zach?

Adam made it to Hwy H before dropping. Frostbite was forming on his nose and he had no way to warm it up. Thankfully he dropped, because the frostbite on his toes was much worse. Had he continued on, he very well might have lost some little piggies. This photo was taken several days later after it was basically ‘healed’

Adam Frost Bite

Zach made it to Mauthe Lake in the lead, headed out on the southern section, got lost three times due to sparse trail markings, and returned when he started to feel hypothermia setting in.

First place finished in 21:55. Out of 112 starters, five finished, along with one relay team. Based on the previous results, it looks to have been one of the most difficult years of this event.

Wrap It Up

Not finishing at an event like this is very motivating. It’s such a binary result, and I failed.

Is it possible to feel like shit and still be in a good mood? I’m sure people with real adversity and struggles do it all the time. I want to obtain a level of fitness to complete events like this and a mindset to continue on when things get difficult.

DNF’ing this race puts me at 1 for 3 for completing ultra distance races in order to accomplish my goal of completing two of them for my 31 Before 31 List. I need to find another one of these dumb events before I turn 31.

EDIT: I found another one of these dumb events


Holy Fuck. This race was something else. It exceeded expectations, as in it was more difficult than expected. Two weeks prior,I completed the Cascade Express Marathon, setting a PR at the distance, and was hopeful that I’d have similar success at this race.

The Barkley Fall Classic (BFC) is the baby brother to the Barkley Marathons, a race popularized by this documentary and also showcased in this one:

Where the Barkley Marathons is 140 miles, mostly off trail, with a 60 hour cutoff; the BFC is 32 miles, mostly on trails, with a 13 hour cutoff.  Both races take place in Frozen Head State Park near Wartburg, TN, and share some similar climbs. It was like going to space camp. You get to do some of the things an astronaut does, but you’re nowhere close to going to space.


I drove down to Tennessee the night before the race, attending the spaghetti dinner and obtaining my race packet and cloth course map. There was a short line to meet Lazarus Lake, the sadistic old man who envisioned and directs this race, and who has become a celebrity in the ultra running community.


I decided to camp for the night at the American Legion, sleeping in the back of my Subaru Outback. This seemed like a convenient, low cost option, and would have been great, if not for the adjacent church bell tower. It rang nine times at 9 o’clock, ten at 10 o’clock, eleven at 11 o’clock– all through the night. I was woken up every hour on the hour. At 4 a.m., I gave up on sleeping and got ready, wandering into the Legion for a fantastic hot breakfast.

The Race

There is no starting gun. Instead, the race starts with Laz lighting his cigarette, just like the Big Barkley.

The first two miles are a road leading to the iconic yellow gate and first trail. The pace was quick, as no one wanted to get caught in the inevitable conga line up the first long climb.



(I avoided this)

I fell into line matching the pace of those in front of me as we hiked up Bird Mountain, followed by running down the opposite side of Bird Mountain, and then power hiking up something else, and run down something else. People kept referring to different parts of the course, but I had no idea what they were talking about. Luckily, I would never be in the lead and could just follow those in front of me.


I eventually ended up back in the main park area, only to head right back out up Chimney Top(?).

Ranger Station

This was a never ending climb, and I paused for breathers numerous times before making it to the top.

The next section, Tub Springs(?), was less steep, but still hilly, leading to three parts of the course that I had heard of: Testicle Spectacle, Meth Lab Hill, and Rat Jaw.

I started at the top of Testicle Spectacle, worked my way half way down the hill, got my bib punched and came back up. It was steep and long, but the briars weren’t bad at all. Zero cuts. I assumed people must have been over-exaggerating how vicious the briars were. I’d learn my lesson soon.




I could’ve used a breather after cresting Testicle Spectacle, but we instead immediately descended down Meth Lab Hill. I almost lost a shoe in one muddy part. It was a steep down hill, requiring sliding on my butt for multiple sections. I encountered my first briar, which snagged my arm leaving a trail of blood.


The coolest part of the race was next. We ran along a road to the prison, climbed a ladder over the prison wall, and then ran through the drainage tunnel under the prison.





Next up was Rat Jaw. I knew I was in trouble when I climbed up the first 15 feet only to slide back down 15 feet into the people behind me.


It was steep — 1,700′ of elevation gain in 1.2 miles. Halfway up was a flat, shaded section where some EMTs had camped out. It looked like some genocide of endurance athletes had just taken place. Bodies of runners resting were strewn about, soaking in the shade and accepting a tiny reprieve from the endless vertical gain.

The real kicker with Rat Jaw is that you can’t see the whole thing from the bottom. There’s a half dozen false summits — a half dozen times my spirit was crushed. This is compounded by being the hottest part of the day, on a fully exposed hill. I tried to take breaks where the briars were really overgrown and the air slightly cooler.

Did I mention the briars? It felt like I couldn’t take a step without getting snagged. I was bleeding so much, and the hill was so long, that some cuts had dried by the time I got to the top. My pack was continually snagged in the briars and I ended up losing my spare pair of shorts:

shorts 1shorts 2


top of rat jaw

This photo ended up on the Facebook group page for this race. My favorite comment was ‘Drama Queen’.

After what felt like an eternity on Rat Jaw, I reached the top, and hiked up the Fire Tower for another punch. It was then a two mile jog to the decision point. You had two options: take the easy three mile path downhill for a marathon finish, or continue on for a couple hours for the 50k finish. I had decided the previous day that I would do the 50k no matter what excuse I could come up with in the moment. After all, I needed to redeem myself for my pitiful showing a couple months prior.

I felt good at this point, as the Ibuprofen I had taken started to kick in. I thought we only had to go up and down two hills to get back to the yellow gate. I got to the bottom of the 2nd hill only to realize that we had another one to go up and over. This was my lowest point of the race. I was devastated to realize there was another large hill (bird mountain) and that the finish was still 90 minutes away. Just keep moving, it will all be over soon.



I was trashed when I finally got to the bottom of Bird Mountain, but reaching the yellow gate shot the remaining adrenaline into my system. I ran what was my fastest two miles of the day to the finish, crossing the line in 12:37:49. I was a ‘WINNER’ rather than a ‘WEINER’



I’ve done a couple of these long endurance events, and this was the worst I ever looked. It was if I got mauled by a house cat. I was caked in dirt and dried blood.



Other Thoughts and Training Tips

-There was no navigation required. I didn’t peak at the map or use the compass once.

-The aid stations were fantastic. There were six of them, some of which you hit multiple times, stocked with food and tailwind. I only ran out of water once.

-I should have worn longer socks and longer gloves. The cuts from the briars didn’t bother me much, except along my wrists and ankles. Wear at least crew length socks and gloves that go higher on the wrist.

-Get a better pack. I lost my spare pair of shorts and headlamp that were sitting in the bungee pocket on the outside. I think they got snagged on some briars.

-Practice bear crawling with pack on. It’s the best technique on the steep ascents up Rat Jaw through the tunnels of briars

-Don’t camp at the Legion. Unless you want to be woken up every hour.

-Training: more climbing, more descending. Need stronger legs. Stair climber + technical descending.

Wrap It Up

I felt like I got retribution from quitting the 24 hour triathlon a couple months prior. This is one of the most difficult races I’ve done, which makes finishing that much more gratifying. I got into the lottery and will be competing in this event again next year.

I can’t comprehend how someone finishes the Big Barkley. I was trashed at the end of this race. How does someone do it four more times? With limited aid? And extra navigational challenges?

I’m currently training for the Frozen Otter, a 64 mile trail runner in Wisconsin which takes place next weekend.

31 Before 31 Mid Year Review

Posted: January 4, 2020 in Uncategorized

Christmas marks my half-birthday and the midpoint of my yearly goal list. At the end of this post, I’ve written about the habits I plan to implement in order to accomplish these goals. Here’s the progress half-way through:

1. Less Than 500 ‘Strikes’ (Junk Food = 1, Healthy Fast Food = 1/2)
757 out of 500. I will change this goal for the New Year., giving up junk food completely. Healthy fast food will no longer count as a strike. The revised goal will be < 20 junk food items before my 31st birthday. Junk food during > 1 hour exercise is fine, assuming no healthy options are available.
2. 1500 Servings Vegetables
472.5/1500, Need 5.9 servings per day
3. 1000 Servings Fruit
396.5/1000, Need 3.5 servings per day
4. 200 Days Meditation (10 Minutes Minimum)
26/200. Can accomplish with daily meditation

5. Two Ultra-Endurance Events
Completed Barkley Fall Classic 50k, will run Frozen Otter 64 on January 18th
6. Qualify For Ironman World Championships (70.3 or 140.6)
No where close to good enough bike and swim shape. With 15 hours/week of training I could target a June 70.3. Eagleman or Wisconsin on June 14th?
7. Wabash Trace Fastest Know Time
Fitness is close. Attempt after 5/2/2020 marathon when in peak shape.
8. Qualify For Boston Marathon
Need to build up to 60 miles/week of training. Currently at 35 miles/week. Running Wisconsin Marathon in Kenosha on 5/2/2020.
9. 1,000 Hours of Exercise
147:34/1,000. Revise goal to be 500 hours of exercise. 2 hours exercise / day.
10. Sub 6 Minute Beer Mile
Revise to be Sub 7 minute beer mile. Sub 6 is to ambitious. This is a low priority goal

Lethal Engineering / Lethal Tri
11. Join Artisan’s Asylum and Go 10 Times
Joined nearby MakerSpace. Have gone twice. Construct 3D printer and bring to MakerSpace for use.
12. 10 Lethal Engineering Videos
0/10. This is a high priority goal, but you wouldn’t know it based on results.
13. 10 Lethal Tri Videos (about my goals)
0/10. Lots of footage from past trips that I should edit together.
14. 25 Blog Posts


15. $1M Revenue
$210k/$1M. Obtained direct contract. Need to increase productivity
16. Setup SIMPLE IRA For Business
Discuss with Nick, contact Vanguard
17. 10 Hours Productive Time for 200 Days
18. 100 Days No News/Social Media/YouTube/Netflix
80/100. Will give up completely for New Year.
19. 48 Weeks Commitment Contract
23/48. Missed 5 weeks already, but could still get 47/48.
20. Develop A Plan For Each Goal


21. Complete Raspberry Pi (using Python) Book
Implement one hour daily learning habit
22. Mountain Bike 100 Miles
0/100. Low priority goal
23. Complete SCUBA Diving Course
Need to register for class. Difficult with frequent traveling.


24. See Falcon Heavy Launch
Completed! Need to write blog post
25. Go To Two of Four Boston Sports (Red Sox, Bruins, Patriots, Celtics)
0/2. Alexis is interested in going to Basketball. Uncle may visit in February to go see hockey
26. See an F1 Race
Australia March 15th? Would cross off 6 of 7 continents.
27. Bike To Walden Pond
Plan for April, when warmer outside


28. Donate 10% of Income (post tax)
Currently at 2%. Need to reduce frivolous spending to increase donations
29. Walk Zucc 1 Mile For 200 Days
150/200. Zucc has been left with my parents in Omaha and gets daily exercise.
30. Hold Breath For 2 Minutes
Zero progress, this is probably the least important of my goals.
31. 10 Escape Rooms
9/10! Should have no problem finishing this one

The Plan
I need to develop consistency. I never seem to be able to do well in multiple facets of goals. To fix this, I’ll do general weekly planning with goals for exercise, work, Lethal Engineering, and Lethal Tri. At the beginning of everyday, I’ll make a time-blocked daily plan that includes when I’ll exercise, work, meditate, blog, and work on Lethal Engineering, as well as the meals I’ll eat and how I’ll get servings of fruits and vegetables. I’ll wake up before 7 a.m. everyday and be in bed by 10 p.m. When I need a distraction from work, I’ll write blog posts or edit videos rather than perusing social media. For the entirety of 2020, I’ll give up added sugar, junk food, alcohol, and News/TV/YouTube/Social media. These are significant changes, but are required if I want to accomplish a bulk of my goals.