Monthly Archives: December 2014

Summary of (my) 2014

Brief recap of my 2014. (1)

In the last year recap I mentioned that in 2014 I wanted to give it a try to the processes’ approach at the time of setting goals. Trying to introduce new habits, settle others, etc. I started very focused: waking up earlier, studying Dutch first thing in the morning, arriving at the office earlier, training at lunch time, getting back home earlier, playing with Andrea, spend some family time, read and study at late evening/night. Some of the habits have stayed, some others not, and I have taken new ones along the year… let’s review the year.

The main events of this year:

  • AndreaFFVFRLuca passed the exams to become a lawyer in France, found a job in a law firm and finally sworn before the court as a lawyer.
  • Andrea… many events in her front. From the first flight with me at the controls in February, to her first steps in the summer, to travelling first time to Africa and America…
  • We moved houses, though still living in Toulouse (from the flat in Saint-Cyprien to a house in Sept Deniers).

Avgeek. The stage we had in Paris for Luca’s exams allowed me to visit the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace (Le Bourget) and to get to know the airfield of Issy-Les-Moulineaux. Our escapades to the Pyrenees made us discover Musée de l’Aéronautique of Luchon. The more recent trip to the USA allowed us to visit the Dayton, where the Wright Brothers originated and the National Museum of the US Air Force, for which I still have to write about, but you can see my brother’s post on the museum. We also had the chance to visit the Francazal air show.

VitrineThe moving to the new house gave me the opportunity to find a well deserved location for the model collection.

Flying. Apart of the mentioned first flight with Andrea on board, in this 2014 I managed to complete some 17 flights totalling almost 15 flight hours, 30 take-offs and landings and including 5 solo flights (one of them a navigation flight).

????????????????????????????????Not only Andrea had her baptism regarding flying with me at the controls in 2014, but Juan, Maicol, my mother, my sister Beatriz and brother Jaime had theirs too! Despite some exercise-related incidents (including a runway excursion, through during a solo flight), I am sure they enjoyed it and the experience made it to their 2014 memories.

Since the progress was good, just before the summer my instructor mentioned the taking of the exam! But first I had to pass the theoretical part, which I had postponed so far. I did a first attempt in November in which I cleared half of it, next attempt in a couple of months. Then, some more flight lessons (not having flown since September), flight hours and start thinking on the practical exam!

FinMarLearning. The balance between family, hobbies and work is always tricky. This year I started strong studying Dutch which I dropped after 3 months, and in the second half of the year I had to put hours to the study of the PPL theoretical part (in French), with partial success.

In between, I completed some other online courses (MOOCs): The Age of Sustainable Development (Columbia), An Introduction to Operations Management (Wharton) and Financial Markets (Yale). In parallel, I completed some other very interesting in-company trainings on Airline Engineering and Maintenance, Management of Conflicts and Time Management.

Reading. This year again I didn’t set any objectives in terms of number of books, but I only prepared a shelf with a selection of about 20 books that I wanted to prioritize. In the end I read the following 10 books (about half of them from the selected shelf):  Hot, Flat, and CrowdedThe Roaring NinetiesEl amor en los tiempos del cóleraThe Early History of the AirplaneSeeking Wisdom: From Darwin to MungerWhat management is, Sycamore Row, The Racketeer, Micro, Crime and Punishment (in Spanish). You can find here a brief review of each of them and references to longer reviews I made about them in the blog.

Family 2.0. Despite of the family life and different changes, I managed to write just a bit over 80 posts. Plus the blog received over 80,000 visits in 2014 (a 60% increase in relation to 2013) and is very close to surpassing the 200,000 since I started it in 2010.

On top of that, Luca went forward with her own blog, check it here, Jaime launched his new blog (with especially interesting post on aerospace topics!) and my mother launched a website to promote her therapy business (Terapias ArcoIris). I wonder whether Andrea will start a blog before speaking or writing! (2)

DSC_0161 - CopyTravelling. This year we visited Paris for a week (first time in Versailles and in the château de Chambord for me), made 3 escapades the Pyrenees (with Luca and Andrea alone, with my family and with friends), visited again the United States (NY and some new places for us: Boston, Gettysburg, Dayton, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia – with over 2,100 miles driven and 8 different hotels in less than 2 weeks!) in a very entertaining trip with lots of learning opportunities and experiences, the Dordogne, spent a half resting half discovery week in Mauritius, flew to the Netherlands (3 times, a week each time), five days in Sicily (Siracusa, Milazzo, Taormina; incredibly beautiful places) and these last days of the year in Madrid.

????????????????????????????????Again, those were the leisure trips; on top of that, the job made me go to Madrid another 20-25 times (?), that made it tiresome and difficult to combine with other things but gave my plenty of opportunities to see my family, friends and to run in the Retiro park…

Sports – Running. This year, due to the young age of Andrea, we did not manage to go skiing. We neither played some golf as we wished we had to, nor gave it a try with soccer. What I did was basically, guess… running.

In 2014 I ran well over 1,900 kilometres, which was a goal I set to myself at half way through the year (when I had completed just over 800). As I wanted to reduce the weekends’ agenda, I competed less and just took part in 9 races (3) (versus 16 in 2013) including: 2 marathons (Rotterdam and New York, both under my previous personal best time!), 2 half marathons (Blagnac and Toulouse, no personal best here though), 3 10k‘s (all of them under 45’, with two consecutive personal bests!) and a couple of trails: Cassoulet and Foies Gras. As you read, in 2014 I achieved personal bests in marathon and 10k thanks to the different training plans I combined (more variety), which was great. I did not so in half marathon, I think in 2015 I’ll try to improve the 3 marks.

IMG_0219Following the sentence “the running shoes, always in the suitcase”, the year 2014 caught me running in: Wijchen (9 times), The Hague, Rijswijk, Sevilla, Rotterdam, Paris (x6), New York (x2), Milazzo (x3), Montauban, Mauritius (x5), Madrid (x16), Dayton, Colomiers, Benasque, Barakaldo, Allentown, Verfeil, Mauvezin… plus the tens of times I trained in Toulouse and Blagnac.

This year, apart from the races, I managed to train plenty of long runs: 11 over 20km, including 6 over 25km and 2 over 30km; and did plenty of series’ sessions (too many to mention). That contributed a lot to the improvement of my times.

Other reasons for joy in 2014 have been:

  • My family: My sister moved to Odense (Denmark) to study a master in International Security & Law  (you can follow her in her blog), and once the classes were completed moved to Vilnius (Lithuania) to make a stage at the NATO Energy Security Centre of Excellence. We had the pleasure to have my mother over for a month in July-August. We enjoyed 2 weeks of holidays with Jaime in the States, apart enjoying several runs with him. My father is ever more engaged with NGOs teaching classes to disfavoured people in Madrid.
  • Some more friends got married: Alessandro, Erik, Simone.
  • And we welcome some newborns from family and friends: Guillermo, Cas, Nils, Amelie…

Now it’s time to rest, celebrate and soon to plan how we want the 2015 to turn out. It will again be a year full of personal and professional changes, with plenty of learning opportunities, kilometres to run, marathons to enjoy, airplanes to fly and flights to catch, museums to see, books to read, trips to make and parties to enjoy.

For now, I will close 2014 celebrating my sister’s birthday, running the San Silvestre Vallecana in Madrid with several friends and enjoying a last dinner with the family.

I wish you the best for 2015, enjoy it!

(1) You can see my 20102011, 2012 and 2013 recaps.

(2) I have to confess that at some point I considered the idea of opening a blog for her to register each of her flights… I dropped the idea, because I was incapable of registering all the desired data of so many flights! [over 20 flights in 2014 alone for her]

(3) That figure excludes the San Silvestre Vallecana that I will run the afternoon after this post is published.

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My 2014 reading list

In this post I wanted to share the list of books I read along the year with a small comment for each one, the link to a post about the book in the blog (when applicable), links to Amazon (in case you want to get them) and to the authors. I have also included a small rating from one to three “+” depending on how much do I recommend its reading:

  1. Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger(by Peter Bevelin) (++): this book is an interesting guide into how to improve our thinking process. It starts with reviewing what influences our thinking, then analyses misjudgments and provides some guidelines for better thinking. It draws heavily on quotations and passages from other authors such as Confucius, Charlie Munger, Charles Darwin, Warren Buffett, Cialdini, Kahneman… therefore if one has read one or several of their books (Thinking Fast and Slow, Influence, letters to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, On the Origin of Species, Poor Charlie’s Almanack…) this book may seem redundant. One thing I liked about the book was the offering of key concepts after each chapter and its appendix on checklists.
  2. What management is (by Joan Magretta) (++): a brief book covering the different aspects of management (from value creation to managing people, business models, strategy, execution) in a very concise way though full of very vivid examples from different companies. While reading the book I marked dozens of passages, and I included one post in the blog about one of the anecdotes related to the Ford Pinto.
  3. The Early History of the Airplane (by Orville and Wilbur Wright) (++): it is a short book or rather a compilation of 3 articles by the brothers (30 pages in the e-reader version I used). The 3 articles are: The Wright Brothers’ Aeroplane (by Orville and Wilbur Wright), How We Made the First Flight (by Orville Wright) and Some Aeronautical Experiments (by Wilbur Wright). In these articles they provide some insight into how they became attracted to the problem of heavier-than-air self-powered controlled flight, what were the difficulties they faced, what schools of thought there were at the moment, who influenced them, what results and experiments from others they relied upon, the experiments they performed, the results at which they arrived… and, yes, they describe their first and subsequent flights. I wrote a post review the book, find it here.
  4. The Racketeer (by John Grisham) (++): in this novel the author has Malcolm Bannister, an attorney half way through his 10-year prison term for racketeering, maneuvering his way out of prison by negotiating with the FBI and helping to solve a crime investigation gone nowhere.
  5. Micro (by Michael Crichton and completed by Richard Preston) (+): the novel is about a group of graduate students seduced by Nanigen, scientific research company, to join them in Hawaii. The story develops in to a hunt of the students in the jungle as they had been miniaturized by the latest technology developed by the company. To my taste, a bit too much on the fantasy side.
  6. Hot, Flat, and Crowded(by Thomas Friedman ) (+++):  In this book, Friedman claims that as we are entering the “Energy-Climate Era” the world is getting hot (global warming), flat and crowded (soaring population growth), and clear action needs to be taken to address these issues. Government need to establish a clear regulatory framework, clear price signals to establish a market in which companies can innovate to solve the problems at hand. The author included in the book dozens of references, quotes from conversations, excerpts of speeches from leading figures, and several examples. I wrote a post review the book, find it here.
  7. The Roaring Nineties(by Joseph E. Stiglitz ) (+++): Stiglitz wrote The Roaring Nineties in 2003 to offer an insider’s view of economic policy making and the economic boom and bust of the nineties. Stiglitz is frank in admitting that all the focus that the Clinton administration had at the beginning of the term in passing laws to improve the living of the disfavored ones was suddenly put aside due to the mantra of deficit reduction. He openly regrets it several times throughout the book and offers some criticism on the administration he took part in and others before and after. Especially Reagan’s and Bush II’s. I wrote a post review the book, find it here.
  8. El amor en los tiempos del cólera (by Gabriel García Márquez) (+++): the author was inspired to write this book by the story of his parents and other old couple who had to keep their relationship in secret all their lives. The novel describes the relationships along all their lives between mainly three characters: Fermina Daza, her husband, Juvenal Urbino, and her ever love from childhood and ever a candidate, Florentino Ariza. I have to say that I liked more this book than “One Hundred Years of Solitude”. I wrote a post review the book, find it here (in Spanish).
  9. Crime and Punishment (by Fyodor Dostoyevsky) (++): the book narrates the story of Rodion Raskolnikov, an poor student in Saint Petersburg who kills an unscrupulous pawnbroker for her cash. Raskolnikov had written an article in which he discussed how some crimes could be seen as acceptable in the name of a greater good by leading individuals. He convinces himself to be one of them. The story gets ever more complicated as his family comes to town for the marriage of his sister, the investigations by the police, the interrogatories, his errors due the constant illness he suffers from malnutrition, etc.
  10. Sycamore Row”  (by John Grisham) (+++): in this book the author writes a kind of sequel to his all time best seller “A Time To Kill” with the appearance of the main characters of the former book: Jake Brigance, Judge Atlee, Harry Rex Vonner, Lucien Wilbanks… this time the case is about a will that is contested. A will from a white businessman leaving all his estate to his black maid, cutting his family out; a tough decision for Ford County, Mississippi.

Note: You can find here my 2012 reading list, and here, embedded in my summary of 2013, the list of that year.

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New York marathon 2014

My brother and I in Staten Island, Verrazano bridge in the back.

My brother and I in Staten Island, Verrazano bridge in the back.

… and November 2nd came and we got to run the New York City marathon.

In a previous post I explained what makes this specific marathon so special, an overview of the course and how I came to it regarding my training. In this post I will focus on my experience (1), a hell of a experience!

This marathon is a huge event. We were over 50,000 runners. This means a very serious logistics operation. So everything that you experience can be put into perspective in relation to that. The marathon expo at the convention center, the queues, the volunteers, the supplies, the transportation, the distances to cover, the goodies provided pre and post race, the medical staff, the mobile toilets, the music bands… everything.

The day of the race started with waking up in Manhattan at 4am. I had booked a place into a bus departing from the public Library to bring me to Staten Island, but in the end Jaime got me into one of the buses of the International Travel Partner he got his trip organized with, so that we did not have to look for each other at the island. The bus dropped us at the island at around 6am, and from then on we had some 4 hours until the departing time of our wave.

To me this was the worst part of the event. There are things that could be improved: from providing more covered space to not explicitly forbidding runners to bring blankets, to providing blankets, simply allowing to drop off clothes later or even just honestly communicating the real times at which the starting corrals would be opened.

IMG_3980One could argue that the size of the event makes that part difficult to organize. Fair enough. On the other hand, Berlin marathon also hosts about 40,000 runners and has none of the nonsense of New York marathon. Its start area, finish area and timetables are neatly organized.

The good thing of that waiting time is that I spent it with my brother, talking, joking, getting into the mood of the race. Until we had to leave each one to his corral.

  • Tip one: forget about your assigned corral, if you have friends, arrange to depart from the same corral (apparently there is some grading, orange being more demanding and blue more accessible).
  • Tip two: bring 2 sets of warm clothes. One to be put into the bag that will be transported to the finish line. The other to wear it until you are in Verrazano bridge, then throw it away.

20141105_124551

Verrazano bridge is huge; over 2 miles long. At the mid-point you are at the highest point of the race, with great views of Manhattan. Even greater winds if you have the luck to run in a day like the day we ran in. Temperatures were about 6C and winds of over 40km/h. In that conditions, one could only run trying not to fall and forget about best times or anything like that (2).

I had read a post about how to plan the race. It warned about not starting too fast in the bridge (honestly, it almost cautioned not to run too fast until kilometre 42). I found myself running 30″ faster per km on the second half of the bridge. At that point I lost the 3h45′ pacer, and with her the chance of meeting my brother Jaime later on, as we had agreed to follow that pacer to ensure we would meet each other (3).

20141105_124651

Once we left the bridge, we entered in Brooklyn and with it came the crowded streets, the music bands, the contrasts, the cheering crowds (“Vamos España”, “Allez la France” (4), “You’re looking good”… looking good at km. 35, really? :-)). This makes this race apart.

There are parts of the race that are not especially beautiful. You don’t get to run through lower Manhattan, or Broadway. You do not cross Brooklyn bridge. But the streets you run in, with very few exceptions, are packed with cheering crowds, volunteers, music bands, runners… you feel surrounded by a great atmosphere along the complete 42km. Some moments which I especially cherished:

  • Running with a head band with a Spanish flag, receiving lots of dedicated support at different points (especially in one of the last turns in Columbus Circle, mile 26). Thanking that support with some gestures (thumbs up, smiles, waving hands…).
  • Giving some support words each time I overtook an identifiable fellow Spanish.
  • Running along Lafayette avenue surrounded by French runners and a crowd cheering with “Allez la France”.
  • Climbing Queensboro bridge. No spectators, just runners. 2 km long. A good climb at mile 15. Enjoying good views of Manhattan skyline just about to enter it. Time to focus on your pace, notice that there are only 17km to go, overtaking plenty of runners, owning your race.
  • Landing on First avenue. Not seeing the end of a 2.5-mile stretch. Seeing thousands of different flags though. Planning to keep a fast pace thinking these are going to be my 10km like in Rotterdam. Failing to do so.
  • A white woman thanking runners for visiting the Bronx (mile 21).
  • Sustaining a decent pace on a surprising 1.5km-long climb in the 5th Avenue, just before entering Central Park, starting from km 36.5. Tough, very tough. (“that’s a beautiful pace!”, really?)
  • Being overtaken at km 38 by the 3h45′ pacer, the same girl I lost in Verrazano bridge. Thinking for a moment: “they’re going too fast for me now” (5’20″/km pace vs. the over 6′ I did in the previous climb). Thinking in the next moment: “what the hell! I am following them!”. Doing so, and clocking the best 4 kilometres of the second half of the race, allowing me to finish in 3h44’32”, my second best time in the distance!
Pace per km.

Pace per km.

This marathon is not easy, though not that tough (Athens was harder). The trip is expensive. The chances of getting a place into it are few… but if you have the chance to do it, at least once, I would recommend it (5).

  • Tip three: train well, series and long runs, and do start softly, you will need some reserves to go to the Bronx and return and climb up to Central Park.

After the race, I felt so much pain in my back due to the cold suffered in the early morning that I needed a massage to relax my back, remove the cramps and dry my clothes. Afterwards, I met my brother and together we went back to the hotel, savouring the achievement. Our 6th marathon together. 12th marathon (including Millau ultramarathon, for which a 42km time was given), 2nd in the USA (after San Diego).

There will come a day in which I won’t be able to run marathons, then, I’ll be able to look back and relish the day I ran New York City marathon back in November 2nd, 2014. Thanks, Jaime, for suggesting and pushing for it!

(1) Find in my brother’s blog a post about his experience in the same event.

(2) Take the case of the winner, Wilson Kipsang, who in previous days had announced the intention to break the course record (around 2h5′) and he finally finished in almost 2h11′.

(3) I later learned, that he indeed followed the pacer up until km. 25… had I not run faster at the beginning and we would have experienced it together. I owe him one. There will be more marathons, possibly Madrid is the place to enjoy running 42km together.

(4) You can see in the stats of the race that up to over 3,000 French (the 2nd most represented country) were running, over 800 Spanish.

(5) Sins of omission are the ones which hurt the most at the end of the game, don’t they?

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