Saturday, October 29, 2011


Ever since I completed my first half marathon a year and a half ago, people have been asking me when I'm going to do a marathon. My first answer was "When I can do a 90 minute half marathon." When that goal looked actually feasible, I changed my answer to either "When I have a good reason to" or "I'll run a marathon if she's really cute," depending on the seriousness of the situation.

On Monday, September 26th of this year a young marine named Scott Davidson died in a motorcycle accident. I knew him through his brother, Sean Davidson. We had talked motorcycles and gone water skiing/wake boarding a few times together. Scott was signed up to run the Marine Corp Marathon in Washington DC as a fundraiser for the wounded warriors project on October 30th, 5 weeks later. To honor him, Sean decided to take his brother's race number and run the marathon for him, with five weeks to train and having never run a marathon.

I had been planning on attending the race to encourage Sean, and then, a week and a half ago, he asked me to run it with him. I had been thinking about what it would mean to run a marathon because of talking to him about his training, but it still took a while for the possibility to sink in. In the end there's no way I could give up on such an opportunity.

I could go out tomorrow and run a half marathon with a pretty decent time, maybe even get close to my PR, but there's a big difference between a half and a whole... simply put I am not trained for this. But neither is Sean. So tomorrow my goal is to make sure that he crosses the finish line. My knee hurts, I might be catching a cold, and the temperature at 8am tomorrow morning will hopefully be above 32 degrees.

"When are you going to run a marathon, Peter?"
"When I have a good reason to."

I found one.

Say a prayer for Sean today.



Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why do I run?

I've been running this spring. A lot. After running 4 races in 5 weeks, I feel like talking about why I run... if you don't want to listen, well, you've been warned...

I often tell people that I like running 95% of the time, and the other 5% is when I'm actually running. I like being a runner more than running itself. There is some truth to that. There's a lot of pain, a lot of soreness, a lot of time invested into running. And the payback is being in good shape for sports, being really hungry at meals, and getting cool racing t-shirts.

But I also enjoy the feeling of simply making my body move. And there's something about pushing one's limits that is almost addictive. My heart counts out how hard my body is working, my legs and lungs complain when they're getting pushed, but my head decides what I'm going to do. There's a certain point in almost every race when I'm nearing the end that is always clearest in my memory.

In the same moment that I want my legs to move faster than ever and my lungs to supply oxygen, my body is screaming out to lie down in some soft grass and never move again, I want to finish the race, I want to cry, I want to laugh out loud, I want to scream, I want to stop, I want to fly, I want to run for the rest of my life and I'd be fine with my life ending then and there....

And it's in that moment that I feel alive. When I am pushing my body to its limit, when I can feel every part of my body working and every muscle straining, when I want to go faster but know that I can't, when it's all that I can do to keep moving: (inhale) step step step step (exhale) step step step step... then crossing the finish line knowing that I ran to my utmost and found my limit for that day. That is why I run.

In the past several weeks I've set new personal records for:

6 mile run
8 mile run - set and then broken twice
most miles run in 24 hours
most miles run in a week

In an oft-quoted scene from the move Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell expresses his intention to become a missionary to China while still taking time to compete in the Olympics: "I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure." After participating in the 1924 Olympics and winning a gold medal, Eric Leddell went to China and served as a missionary until his death in 1945.

I don't expect to win any gold medals or to be a missionary in China, but I know that God made me for a purpose, and he made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Food for thought

"Every man has forgotten who he is. One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God; but thou shalt not know thyself. We are all under the same mental calamity; we have all forgotten our names. We have all forgotten what we really are. All that we call common sense and rationality and practicality and positivism only means that for certain dead levels of our life we forget that we have forgotten. All that we call spirit and art and ecstasy only means that for one awful instant we remember that we forget." - GKC\ Chesterton

Agree or disagree?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Life has changed

Well I just discovered that a friend of mine lists my blog as one that she subscribes to, which was enough to make me feel guilty for having abandoned it. Therefore, here is an update of life since May 23rd, 2009. Since the name of my blog implies traveling and I've done a lot of that recently, I'm going to focus on that.

July: 5 day road trip/canoe trip in the boundary waters of Canada. Highlights include being awesome (hard work + rewarding trip = bonding) and listening to the Mountie song.

July/August: 2nd trip to Brazil. This one was 2 weeks long and I and another grad student were the only stateside folks who went. It was pretty cool. After much labor we got everything working. And it continued working for 2 days or so. Which brings me to...

September: 3rd trip to Brazil. This time it was me and a professor from Clempson University. We had several things to do, including fix the instrument that quit right after I'd left the last time. We got everything done.... except for fixing that last instrument (did I mention that I needed this to be working so that I could have data for my thesis?). On a side note, just a few days ago I dreamed that the problems we were having were caused by the computer's graphics card overheating. I doubt that's true though.

December: Brief trip to Maryland for a job interview at Hopkins applied physics lab. Met up with an old friend, good times. Christmas in Green Bay, was awesome. Got to hang out with my family, where the generational shift is complete now that I have a nephew and we all got together at my parents house, instead of at my grandparents house. I now have the role of uncle, instead of... young one. Sadly I left for school just a couple days before Eden, my niece, was born.

January: However, my days weren't completely bleak, because this time in the holy name of research I was forced to travel once again. Where, you ask? I and my companion suffered through a trip to Bonaire and Trinidad, in the Caribbean. I'll have you know that I got NO sympathy from friends when I talked about the unbearable heat. I got sunburned rather badly one day because my suitcase was slow to arrive and I didn't have sunscreen (and we were WORKING in direct heat). Fun times though. KFC is very popular in Trinidad, although its a bit spicier there. Also, the first day we were there we freaked out when Chinese take-out was $25-40 an entree. Eventually we found out that the "$" sign in Trinidad means Trinidad and Tobago dollars, not USA dollars. Exchange rate: ~6:1.

Febuary-April: No travel here, except back and forth from home and campus in CU. During this time I wrote my thesis. Through this process God revealed his great mercy to me in that my thesis was completed on time and came out longer than what I expected. I now feel like I should go back and explain how God revealed himself to me during these other events, but I'll just say that he did and leave it at that.

May: House hunting trip to Maryland, during which I found my roommate and his sweet townhouse, where I am now. Also made two trips to Wisconsin, once to visit family with Jen, and once to go to Lake Ellen one last time to say goodbye. That trip could be a blog post in itself, so I'll just leave it at that. I also drove around and visited my grandma Hedlund and some friends around Wisconsin.

June: To MARYLAND! This was a roadtrip. 700 miles across country. I stayed one night in Dayton, OH with a friend from my undergrad. It was fun to be back in Dayton (it was the summer I spent there a few years ago that inspired the creation of this blog), and catch up with two guys who were in that area. The next day was about 8 hours of driving, which I thought would be long. But it was super fun to drive through the mountains and see the sights. I finally arrived here, and discovered my room nearly completely full of boxes that the movers had brought ahead of me. I took a series of pictures to chronicle my progress cleaning up the room over the next few hours... maybe sometime I'll be inspired to post them, especially if people want to see them :P



Saturday, May 23, 2009


Hey All,

Rather than giving each person who asks, "Hey, how was the trip?" the same short, generic response, I'm going to give a more detailed response here so that everyone can get the full version.

Here's some statistics first:

# of days: 9
# of miles flown: ~12,000
# of flights: 6
# of miles driven: 1,500
# of hours traveled ~30 each way
# of hours of sleep while traveling: ~4 each way
# of brazilian foods and fruits eaten:  many
# of instruments to install: 7
# of instruments successfully installed: 5
# of traffic violations while I was driving: 4
# of group members who got sick: 1 (me)

So basically the trip involved going to two different sites where we had shipped small cargo trailers filled with equipment.  At each site we had to run power cables and convert 230 V to 115 V for all our equipment.  We had to attach a clear plastic dome and a GPS antenna to the roof and get all kinds of stuff running: a MiniMe (optical instrument), a laser (for calibration), a laser shutter, pc's to record data, wireless network to transfer data.  That list sounds quite a bit simpler than it was to do.  Water leaked into one of the containers and damaged a few computers.  One we fixed, another we swapped parts around with another one to get it running.  What we weren't able to get around was that two camera controller cards went bad somewhere in transit.  This meant that we weren't able to get the imager and one of the MiniMe's running.  Sadly, this means that I'll have to go back later this summer :P.

It was quite an adventure.  Being without a home depot equivalent posed quite a challenged when supplies were needed and/or broken.  Having limited internet access posed quite a challenge when information or files were needed (2 hours to download 4 megabytes, ftl).  The sun was really hot.  Just a few minutes of exposure without sunscreen or a tan resulted in mild burns.  The temperatures were around 85-95 degrees with humidity of 50-60%.  Some days we were sweating long before we started working, others were really okay.

Hopefully next trip we'll have some time to do some sightseeing.  As it was we saw some great scenery though.  I'll post pictures when I get a hold of them.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Internetz

I have about six hours to finish a homework assignment that's due tomorrow, and so in the interest of relaxing for a few minutes after class, I've been reading one of my favorite webcomics, xkcd (By "favorite," I mean, "The only one I keep up with that isn't on my igoogle homepage.").  Today I came across this one, which led me to, where I naturally looked up engineering.  What does simple wikipedia say about engineers?  Among other things, I found this gem: "Most engineers are trained to be very clever. Much of their training involves working within a limited budget and materials."

I think I'll just leave it at that....

Thursday, February 19, 2009


It seems that most of my friends have given up on blogging for the time being. But I couldn't really complain about it since I haven't blogged in a couple months either... UNTIL NOW!

This semester I added a signature to my emails (or maybe partway through last semester). Anyway, I was just thinking that it'd be interesting to see how long I could make it if I listed everything that I can possibly think of. So here goes... Except that I don't want to post everything there is to know about me on the internet... hmmmm. Guess I'll just have to stay humble :D

This weekend I'm driving to another wedding. I hope my car gets me the whole way there this time. Recently I had the tires rotated and now there's some vibration that wasn't there before...

I can't really think of anything else to say since my initial blog idea got shot down by privacy concerns, so I'll leave you with this profound observation that should put to rest the epic ninjas vs. pirates debate.

If a ninja got on a pirate ship at 10 am it would be a ninja ship by lunchtime and no one would know what had happened to the pirates.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gas Prices... Just as I Suspected

I was thinking that gas prices have been getting low enough that they should be making some records when you adjust for inflation.  I found this graph that I thought was interesting enough to share for two reasons.  First of all, gas is now cheaper than it was 50 years ago when you adjust for inflation.  Secondly, the graph shows how much the dollar has inflated.  The dollar is basically worth half as much as it was 25 years ago.

Figure courtesy of Wall Street Journal.  Check out
for the whole article.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Tolerance we find in America

I came across an article today about an 8th grader who ran an experiment this election season.  She noticed that her school was predominantly in support of Obama, and so she wore a shirt that supported McCain for a day and recorded the tolerant and understanding responses that she received.  

I don't mean to imply that the situation would have been different had she worn an Obama shirt in a predominantly McCain-supporting school.  I hope that this experiment is an anomoly and the majority of people are more accepting... but I kinda doubt it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Ill-Fated Road trip

A few of you have heard the story about my attempt to make it to Phil and Heather's wedding a couple weeks ago. Here is the extended version of the story:

On Friday night after gcf (graduate Christian fellowship) large group my roommate and I gave another gcf member a ride home and found out that she was going to Chicago the next day for a family get together. She was planning on getting up to take the train at 6am, but the timing worked out that I could give her a ride, drop her off a couple miles from the highway, and continue on to Phil's wedding in Milwaukee. That made me happy, since while I like road tripping I get bored, and having company helps a lot. So. The next morning we headed out, and I dropped her off right on time. Right after I left, the low coolant light came on in my car. I got out and looked under the hood to see something wet scattered over part of my car.

Now, I'm not a mechanic. However, I do posses shrewd observation skills and a solid command of basic logic.  So after carefully evaluating the evidence before me, I determined that something was wrong with my car. I got directions to the nearest service station and headed there immediately, arriving just in time to pop the hood and watch the remainder of the engine coolant make its bold escape from the confines of my engine via a hose that was as cracked as a drug-dealing cop.

The service station I had happened upon said that they'd have to order the needed part from Saab and wouldn't be able to fix it until Monday. As a good American, I wanted it fixed within the next hour, so I called my insurance company to get my ride towed to a Saab service station. Sweet! tow truck within the hour. Get it fixed. Still make it to the reception and get to catch up with everyone...

An hour and twenty minutes later I called back. "Oh, apparently the tow truck was in an accident and they didn't tell us... please hold... we can get a different truck there in an hour to an hour and a half. Can you wait that long?" "NO! I'm going to drive off, catch me if you can!"  As if I had a choice.  Finally, four hours after I pulled into the station, a tow truck arrived and got me to Saabtech precisely fifteen minutes after they closed for the day, perfect timing. So I ended up calling Betsi (the friend I gave a ride to) and spending the evening with her and her extended family.

Now, as these plans were being made, I was picturing myself being introduced to all of Betsi's relatives as "her 'friend' from college who gave her a ride" (assuming they forget about the "and had car trouble" part at the end).  Meeting her Aunt and Uncle and immediate family was fine, and I went out to dinner with them.  However, after dinner we went to Betsi's great Uncle and Aunt's house where several other family members were lying in wait to jump me, tie me up, interrogate me about my intentions with their great niece/niece/cousin, and quite possibly look strangely at me.  But I knew their plan had a fatal flaw.  When my sister got married a few years ago I had a few awkward moments when I couldn't quite remember who certain people were that I was, in fact, related to.  Therefore, as I entered the door, before anyone could say anything (or get the rope out to tie me up), I greeted them all, "Hi everybody!  Man, it's been a while.  How have you all been?!"  

My shock and awe campaign was a complete success.  In the ensuing moments chaos ruled in their minds.  I could see from the looks on their faces that they were frantically scrambling to figure out who I possibly could be, who knew all of them without them recognizing me.  With the enemy camp thrown into disarray, I was able to explain why I was there, and they were so relieved to learn that they weren't supposed to know me that my explaination was met with no objections, no strange looks, and most importantly, no ropes or bright lights.

In the end it turned out to be kind of fun, because I do like people and Betsi has a very nice family.  I guess I also got a practice run at meeting a girlfriend's family (whenever that happens :).   I was fortunate enough to be able to stay the night at Betsi's Aunt and Uncle's sweet downtown flat, and took the train back to Champaign in the morning, leaving my car for my parents to pick up the next weekend on their way to visit me.

All in all the whole experience  reminded me that I'm not as in control of my life as I'd like to think I am. It could have been a lot worse, I had a place to stay and someone to ride the train back with, but bottom line was that the day went much differently than I had planned.