Saturday, May 26, 2012

The first human-powered circumnavigation of the Earth

This post is going to be very emotional.  I am completely blown away and struck in awe. No, I did not complete the journey around the earth myself (although I am typing it as I am sitting on the plane from Delhi to Frankfurt and total distance I traveled over the past seven days by plane is enough to circle the Earth as I have taken total of 9 flights and spent about 38 hours in air plus about 15 hours in airports waiting for connections). Being on the modern airplane in a comfort of a seat, eating warm food, relaxed, answering emails on a laptop and dozing off when desired is easy. The reason I am blown away is the “Beyond the Horizon” book I just finished reading few minutes ago. The book is written by Colin Angus ( – the Canadian adventurer who completed the journey around Earth in less than two years using his muscle power alone. No motors, no sails – only the power of his arms and legs. He traveled total distance of 43,000 km from Vancouver by bike to Alaska, rowed thru the Bering Sea, biked and trekked all across Siberia via Moscow to Portugal, rowed across Atlantic to Costa Rica and biked back to Vancouver. This was done on a tiny budget with very little sponsorship and support from outside. The book is an amazing documentary of his travel and is utterly captivating. I could not put it down until I finished it (this redeye flight from Delhi to Frankfurt is 10 hours). He also has produced a documentary movie (can’t wait to watch it when I get home!) The experiences in the book are hard to believe – but even if only tenth of it is true, it is still amazing (although I do not doubt any of his writing – it is just hard to imagine these things are even possible). 
 The book is very well written and is a truly one of the best documentaries I have ever read. It reads like a thriller J. For those of you who know me, in the past 10 years or so I almost stopped reading fiction writings. I feel like wasting my time reading fiction (with few exceptions). Fiction can be entertaining, but it is still a fiction. On the other hand scientific books or documentaries fascinate me. They are “real”. Documentaries are especially special as they show what humans are capable of doing when focused and persistent. This book is very inspirational. Here is a short video from this trip around the world - a snippet form the full documentary film.

Next time I am doing something hard, I will remember the struggles Colin had. It has been my dream for the past few years to go on bike from Pittsburgh to Washington DC. Now I am certain that I will do it (hopefully with my kids).  I think it is only about 300 miles, so should take less than a week to complete.
I am typing the end of this post now sitting in Frankfurt airport and looking at the new Airbus A380 – the Dreamliner. Too bad it is not what I will fly back to US. But Boeing 747 is not too bad. Better than rowing across the ocean for 5 months… or not?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sprint triathlon race today in Boardman, Ohio

This morning I raced in Davis sprint distance triathlon in Boardman Ohio. Complete race results with splits are posted on this site. This was my second triathlon race ever and I loved it! The race was very well organized. While riding and running we did share the road with cars, however I did not have to stop at any intersection as police and volunteers were blocking the traffic when needed. The weather was just perfect - about 65 degrees, almost no wind, overcast, nice water temperature. Most of all - new place to ride and run is always fun.

The distance was very short - 500 yards swim, 14.5 miles bike and 5K run. I finished in 1h 11 min 51 sec and took second place in my age group (35-39 years - there were 10 participants). There is still a lot of space for improvement - especially on the swim part, but also on the bike and run as I did not push to the limit today. Plus, I did not do any short distance specific training in preparation for this race (other people probably did not do it either).

My swim was quite slow - 1 m 55 sec per 100 yards. I should have pushed harder as I can maintain this pace for about an hour and here I swam for only 9 min 30 sec total. In my age group I was 4th in the swim, but out of 98 total participants in all age groups, I was #41 with my swim time (10m 26s including the running part to transition area). The fastest swimmer was 6m 47s - again, including the running part. I was 54% slower (assuming that the run from the pool to transition was the same, the difference is even bigger). Need to work on my swim pacing and speed.

The bike leg felt very good and enjoyable - I averaged 21.9 miles per hour (35.2 km/h - this is 4.6 km/h slower than the average speed of the last year Tour De France winner who had to ride a LOT longer and had a LOT more climbing :-). In my age group I was second on the bike, but out of 98 participants, I posted 8th bike time (overall) and was about 14% slower than the first biker.

My run felt hard at the beginning, but second half got much better and my average pace was 6 min 41 sec per mile. The run course was almost flat with minor rolling hills. I probably wont be able to maintain this pace for 10K, but we will see on June 3rd :-). In my age group I was second on the run, but out of all participants (all age groups) I was #13 on the run - that is 28% slower than the fastest runner.

As far as transitions - this is my best discipline :-). I was 4th fastest on the T1 with 22 seconds and 18th on T2 with 32 seconds - the reason being is that my foot was stuck in a shoe as I ran with no socks. Will probably use socks next time as I got two blisters.

My oldest son Misha went with me to the race today and provided spiritual support. We woke up at 5 am, drove for about 1 hour and were among the first ones to setup the transition area at 6:15 am. Here is what transition looked like at that early hour. It got totally packed one hour later. Because I showed up early, I was able to get a good spot. Usually at larger races they pre-assign spots by the race number.

After transition was ready, we went to register, got the body markings (race number on both arms, swim lane on right leg and age on the left leg), listened to the race director who explained the rules and logistics and watched first few heats start. I started at 8:12am - that is 3 hours after I woke up. For breakfast I ate PB&J sandwich with 1 cup of orange juice, while driving drank another cup of orange juice and ate a banana. While waiting for my heat start I ate two more bananas and sipped total of about 12oz of water. Total from 5 am till wave start at 8am fluid intake was about 4 cups. Felt perfect on the course - no GI issues of any kind. I had very similar pre-race protocol for my marathon race last fall and did not have to go to the bathroom for the entire length of the race (3h 23m). So this seems to work well for me. During this sprint race I did not eat or drink anything at all. I took one sip from the bottle while on the bike - just in case, but it was unnecessary. I think I will leave bottle in transition next time to shave off weight from the bike for the sprint distance.

Since I was in the 4th heat, it was fun to pass people on the bike and on the run. But the hardest part of the entire race to me is always a first 10 minutes of the run off the bike. I did do some bricks in training, but not at the race intensity. Misha was waiting for me at the finish line.

Once the race was complete, Misha and I went to award ceremony and I was surprised with my second place finish :-). Since this was my second triathlon I have never taken "podium" before (too bad they did no have a real podium :-). There were only 10 people in my age group (small race), but still it was nice to receive a medal. My Pittsburgh Triathlon Club also won a "bragging rights" award against the SteelValleyTriClub. There were about 13 folks from the PTC - we took a team picture and that was a nice touch to the day.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

2 days in Madrid, Spain

Few weeks ago I went on business for 2 days to Madrid, Spain. IBM held an education session for a few hundred of our IT specialists from all over Europe and I presented several topics for 6 hours all in one day - boy, that's a lot of talking. I do not understand how teachers in schools can handle this much talk every day?

My hotel was located 20 min from Alcala de Henares, the birthplace of Salvatore Cervantes, so I downloaded his "Don Quixote La Mancha" into my Kindle and read it on the plane from Pittsburgh. You should have seen my dreams when I fell asleep after reading that book! It was a mumbo-jumbo of the Don Quixhote phrases mixed with the airplane related stuff - all in the usual surreal "dream" style. In short - I did not sleep too well :-).

The best part of the trip was that I met my schoolmate Saglara. She now lives in Madrid and I have not seen her for 25 years (ouch!). Although she has not changed much :-). We walked around the city center and went to some interesting places that I would have never otherwise found if I was there alone. For example, we went into the 130 years old cafe where they serve soup (not tea!) from the Russian samovar. We also visited the market where they sell "jamon" - thin slices of ham.Saglara graduated from university as a journalist and we had a very interesting discussion. She recently translated a book about transerfing from Russian to Spanish (book link).

It was interesting to talk about different esoteric teachings while walking on the ancient streets of Madrid and I took few pictures along the way:

This was my second time in Madrid. My photos from the first visit in 2007 are posted in this album.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

IBM Impact in Las Vegas, Nevada

All this week I was at the IBM Impact conference in Las Vegas. This was quite a trip. Original plan was to arrive on Saturday morning and rent a car to drive to Grand Canyon, but since my presentation was not completely ready, I canceled the car and worked on my session all Saturday. On Sunday I presented a short session to IBM Business Partner pre-conference and then on Thursday had my WebLogic and JBoss competitive session for the general public. The conference itself was excellent. There were a number of cool IBM announcements found on the Impact site.

IBM holds conferences in Vegas every year and between Impact and other conferences, this was my 12th time in Las Vegas. However I love it each time I go there - this is like going into the animated movie. The replicas of the world wonders are sometimes better than the originals. All the fountains, music, people, energy on the strip. I also love running on the strip in the morning before the conference start. This year I ran every other day and biked in the gym and swam laps in the pool on days when not running. Since I missed my long run on Sunday, I moved it to Tuesday and ran 10.5 miles on the strip that morning. Felt great afterwards! First 5 miles were a warm-up and then I ran a bit faster in the second 5 miles with 7:15 min / mile pace.

Having been so many times to Vegas, I have never visited Hoover Dam or the Grand Canyon. Saving this for a family trip some time in the future :-). Last year while on the plane to Las Vegas I took a picture of the Hoover Dam from the airplane:
The conference was in Venetian Hotel. If you have never stayed in Venetian - you should. The rooms are simply amazing. Here is a virtual tour of the room and a floor plan of the room where I stayed - this is one hell of a room for one person to stay !!!

However the highlight of the trip was not the hotel. On Sunday one of my best friends - Victor Pleikis flew in to Vegas from San Jose, CA with his wife and we met for dinner at the Brazilian restaurant and also played roulette for 10 minutes where I quickly lost my $10 and Anna (Victor's wife) won $20.

The other cool thing in Vegas was my trip to the CIRQUE DU SOLEIL show "Ka". I have never been to their shows. What an amazing show it was! It totally blew my socks off. Just imagine a high quality music (on-par with Pirates of the Caribbean), mixed with excellent lighting effects, elements of the movie projected on the semi-transparent screen that drops from the ceiling at different times, mixed with ballet, martial arts, dance, acrobatics in the air, rotating stage where you could see action a-la google-earth at different angles as it rotates (people suspended on ropes so they do not fall of that rotating stage), very cool costumes, nice looking decorations, smoke, folks shooting real arrows, humor and bunch of other things coming out at you for 90 minutes. This was by far the best show I have ever seen anywhere. You can have a look at the short review of the show on their site here.