Monday, April 25, 2011

Decisions, decisions

Here we go again. I started out the year with a very ambitious plan for my racing schedule this year. But work has picked up and I developed a nasty case of Plantar Faciatsis in my left foot. Both of which have significantly impacted my training, particularly my running. So now I'm a few week away from my first triathlon of the year, Revolution 3 Knoxville on May 15, 2011. One of my goals for the year is to qualify for the USAT HalfMax National Championships which would require a HIM PR. Ideally, I would like to knock that goal out right out the gate in Knoxville which would allow me to engage in some measured insanity (Rev 3 Quazzy Olympic, HIM, and Eagleman 7 days later) in order to put my Recovery Pump to the ultimate test. But if I don't fulfill goal #1, my best and really only legit shot would be Eagleman. But right now I am having some doubts due to my limited running the last month and a half. So I have a decision go for the Oly at Rev 3 Knoxville and Rev 3 Quazzy to be ready for a max effort at Eagleman or stick with the original plan, going with the HIM at Rev 3 Knoxville and putting faith in the extra bike training I have gotten in since my heel issues and go for it. It's a tough decision and will affect my entire season.

Any advice? Thanks in advance!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Current Events

“ The mission of the NRC is to license and regulate the Nation’s civilian use of byproduct, source, and special nuclear materials to ensure adequate protection of public health and safety, promote the common defense and security, and protect the environment.”

This is what I do for a living. This is what puts food on my table, what keeps a roof over my family's head, keeps the lights on, and even allows me to engage in one of the world's greatest hobbies-triathlon. Specifically, I am a Senior Project Engineer for the Division of Reactor Projects in USNRC Region I. As a regulator, it is my job to ensure that the plants that I inspect are operated safely and in compliance with their operating license and the associated Federal Regulations. It truly is one of the greatest jobs in the world (my humble opinion). Each day brings new challenges and new opportunities. It is hard work, it requires incredible patience, it requires independent thought, and cohesive teamwork. It requires me to be a cop, a teacher, a spokesman, and a judge sometimes all in the same day. But when your job description contains the words "protect public health and safety" it is something to be proud of. I love my job because in my job I truly can make a difference.

It takes a rather unique skill set to be successful in my line of work. You have to have a strong technical background and be able to understand how a nuclear power plant functions and how each of the plant systems function and interact. You need to understand the design, maintenance, testing, and operations of each systems in order to be able to identify that something is not right. You also need to understand the law. A regulator can only enforce the laws and regulations which the licensee is committed to. You have to understand how an issue fits or doesn't fit within the regulatory framework. Then you have to be able to determine the level of significance for an issue. So you need to understand Probabilistic Risk Assessment, legal precedence, and a mountain of enforcement guidance so you can make the right call.

You also must be able to communicate issues to the subjects of your inspection, to their bosses, to licensee management, to your bosses, to NRC management, to the NRC General Counsel, to elected officials Local, State, and Federal) to the press, and eventually to the public. Each level of communication has a different audience, a different perspective, and a different level of knowledge and the message must be tailored accordingly of it is to be effective.

But the real skill is learning how to inspect. Learning how to review an issue, observe an event, review a cubic ton of paperwork, interview people, and find an issue, determine if it is within their ability to foresee and prevent, determine if it violates a regulatory requirement, and determine how significant it is and then figure out the contributing causes. Often it is like a puzzle. How do I look at something and find something the plant staff miss? That is the art of my job. It is a matter of perspective. And somehow it turns out it is something I have become rather good at.

The past few months, have been very challenging. After listening to a bunch of politicians tell the world how federal workers such as myself were the problem to all t=our federal budget problems and we need to cut (BTW the NRC recovers 90% of our operating budget from licensing fees from our licensees), and having the specter of a government shutdown and furlough (Unpaid leave of absence) over our heads, the events in Japan happened. The NRC immediately manned our Headquarters Operations Center and have manned it 24/7 ever since. We also sent technical experts to Japan immediately to assist the US Embassy and the Japanese Government. One of my coworkers was one of the first two people sent over and another soon followed. Here is the US we had to evaluate what was happening in Japan and determine if US Nuclear Plants were vulnerable to similar threats. We had to answer "Could it happen here?" "Are these plants still safe in light of the events in Japan?" The NRC took prompt actions conducting an immediate safety review at each of the 104 US nuclear facilities, and being forced to look at things from a different perspective. The Chairman and EDO testified for Congress. I was intimately involved in the planning and execution of the region's first Public Plant Annual Assessment Meetings following the Japan events. Reassuring the public that the plant in there backyard was still safe is a challenge when they see the images on TV. But as an Agency (and personally), the NRC concluded that US Plants are safe to continue operations. However, we fully intend to learn everything we can from these tragic events and evaluate it new or revised regulations are necessary. The events in Japan will challenge many of the assumptions the plants were designed upon, and certainly will change our perspective. Hopefully, we can learn from these events and make our plants even safer.

Triathlon has taught me many things and really has helped me perform my job. Staying calm in the face of adversity, having the patience and discipline to do the work necessary to see things through, how to make rationale decisions when mentally and physically exhausted are traits I have gained and/or honed through Triathlons which help me on a daily basis in my job. But Triathlon also taught me something else. Anything is possible. I wish mother nature didn't have to teach that lesson to the people of Japan the way she did.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tax Day, Heel Pain, and other challenges

April 15th-Tax Day. Every year I tell myself I'm going to do things right and knock out the taxes early and each year I end up waiting until the last minute. Cranking out those numbers bouncing from form to form, trying to figure out what the heck they are asking for. Basically a great way to spend a day.

Now this year, I had Friday off from work so I had a fun filled day of messing with the taxes from 9:00am until 4:00pm when I sealed the last envelope and handed them to the lady at the post offfice. Now yes officially Federal and State returns weren't due until the 18th this year, but local didn't get the memo and was due the 15th as normal. Why do I put it off? I usually get some money back but I simply hate going thru the whole evolution so I stuff my head in the sand until the clock strike 11:00pm and I forced to kick it into gear. Funny that I have the willpower to get myself out the door power thru a run on a 0F day each year that it wouldn't kill me to skip but I can't get myself to do my legally required taxes which end up resulting in $ in my pocket.

Of course, one of best days of life was on Tax Day in 2007 when on a break from a stressful day of doing the taxes I checked out and saw my name on the list of Lottery Winners and immediately lost all sanity. So maybe I procrastinate to relive the moment....yeah thats it!!

On another note, I have gotten the opportunity to experience a really nasty condition call plantat faciatis (or however it's spelled). My left heel started feeling like I had a bone bruise and it just kept getting worse especially after I cooled down from a run and getting out of bed in the morning. I did my research and took about 3.5 week off with no running (still could cycle and swim). Went for a run it Vermont on one of my all time favorite rave runs and my heel was on fire the next morning. I found rolling my arch helped and started doing that and survived a run this Thursday and was ready to bounce back and do a race this weekend. The race went well but the heel was throbbing tonight which just kills me. Back on the ice and rolling and hoping I can do the Revolutionary Run at Valley Forge Sunday which I paid $30 for today before the heel flaired back up. I hate PF!

On the bright side, I actually won my Age group (40-49) in my race today which was a surprise. My race report can be found at

Friday, April 1, 2011

Product Review -First Endurance EFS Sports Drink

Sports drinks are an interesting breed. Once upon a time I used to think Gatorade was the stuff. I was sweet and came in cool flavors and well Michael Jordan drank it so it must be good. It was there on the course of a few races so I used it. But it really didn't do anything for me other than quench my thirst, stain my clothes and goo up my derailer on the bike (LBS "fixed my derailer" by cleaning the gatorage residue stuck to it.)

Since I switched to First Endurance Products I have found a truely superior product that actually does something for me in addition to quench my thirst. EFS Sports Drink-Electrolyte Fuel System is a very unique product that works great for me. First thing you notice is the electrolytes. EFS contains 1160 mg per 12 oz serving of Na+, K+, Mg+, Ca+, and Cl-. Compare that to 163 mg for Cytomax, 216 for Gu Electrolyte Brew, and 435 for Gatorade Endurance and it is head and shoulders above its peers. So what does that mean? Well it means when you are standing around before a workout it has a salty aftertaste. But only you start working up a good sweat, you don't notice that at all and your body in replenishing the electrolytes it is sweating out. EFS has been proven to prevent cramping and dehydration even on the hottest and most humid days. With EFS you also don't need to take electrolyte tabs.

But EFS it more than that. At 96 cals/ 12 oz it is a great source of calories on the bike. It can be mixed at double strentgh for more calories. Another thing that sets EFS apart is the blend of amino acids. EFS uses Ajipure amino acids which are 99-100% pure which results in better absorption. The mix of Carbs and Protein fuel the body with everything to needs during a long workout. EFS also used Malic Acid (700 mg/ 12 oz serving)which stimulates oxygen consumption by increasing mitochondrial uptake, improving mitochondrial respiration and increasing energy production (I sure sound smart reading the bottle-Eh).

What does that mean to me? It means that I can feel a boost after I take a swig of EFS on a hot day. Since I have used EFS, I have yet to have the calf cramps that would plague me on run leg of those hot humid PA-NJ-MD summer races. I don't bonk, and unlike the sweet taste of gatorade, after 10 or so hours of EFS during an Iron Distance race, I can still stand the thought of drinking it. Since I switched I have PR at the Iron Distance on a hot day at Rev3 Cedar Point and EFS paid dividends my holding the cramps at bay and allowing me to run a consistant marathon.

Bottom Line: EFS sports drink has proven its worth to me in workouts and races and I would highly reccommend it. Comes in several flavors including Grape, Fruit Punch, and Lemon-Lime (I like grape best.) Give it a try, your body will thank you for it!