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Ironman Louisville 2009 Race Report

Fueling for an Ironman takes a lot of calories; you can expect to burn through nearly 10,000 during the race.  That equates to almost 5 days worth of energy for the average healthy diet.  While there is no hope of actually storing up that energy in the form of food or supplements (your body can only absorb about 300 cal/hr), you can try to top off the tanks but you have to get started early.  I woke up at 3:30AM for a 650 calorie pre-breakfast of Fig Newtons, a whole-wheat English muffin, and a bottle of Infinit sports drink.  I snoozed for about an hour and then got up and immediately ate again adding a 800 more calories over the next 2.5 hours with a PowerBar, an everything bagel and 2 more bottles of Infinit which I sipped on up until race time.  As I stuffed in all the fuel I could stomach, I ran through my over analyzed pre-race checklists one last time before feeling content that I was well prepared and all I needed to do was show up and race.  I left the house a few minutes before 5AM and made the short drive to transition half asleep.  I dropped some last minute nutritional items off and obsessed over every inch of the bike one last time before making the mile walk to the swim start.

Upon my arrival at the boat docks, I was greeted by cheerful body markers sporting hip Team In Training hats in their signature purple and white.  I weaved through the first few eager volunteers, coaxing me toward them with the unmistakable fragrance of indelible ink.  I spotted my good friend and lucky volunteer from last year to mark athlete #726.  Said goodbye to several other familiar faces and walked to the end of a very, very long line to start the race.  I kept my hazy, half-asleep mind as clear as I could while I waited, confident in my preparation and not allowing myself to be worried about last minute details.  After an hour of watching the dawn turn to daylight, we heard the cannon explode with a clap of thunder signifying the start of the race.

It would still be nearly 30 minutes until I would make it to the start line, but now was the time to transform into race mode.  Tension escalated and nervous chatter filled the air as we neared the snaking descent down the ramp toward the boat docks.  The meandering pace of the line quickly turned into a sprint as race officials struggled to get the athletes in the water as quickly as possible.  Like last year, I was greeted by my old Team in Training coach at the waters edge (a TNT mentor too) and handed out hi-fives before performing the ritual cannonball into the Ohio River.  The cool morning made the entry into the 80F water feel that much more inviting, and every little bit of comfort helps when swimming a river downtown in a major metropolitan area.

Swim start

Swim start

My strategy for the swim this year was to focus on efficiency.  While my volume was down from last year, I have spent a considerable amount of time working on a more economic stroke.  The staggered start made for a very spacious river and I quickly settled into a comfortable rhythm.  I navigated easily through the pack as we headed up river in a protected channel, trees blocking the traces of sunlight.  As we began to make the left hand turn out into the middle of the river, there was a total log jam as people were standing up on some sort of sandbar.  I dared not put my feet down and had to claw my way through some bodies to avoid touching down in the muck.

The sun revealed itself with a blinding light making it somewhat pointless to try sighting the final turn buoy, so I kept my head down and followed the people around me, trusting the herd was heading in the right direction.  The big red triangle was spotted and I swung out wide as I passed to get out in the middle of the channel and take advantage of as much current as I could.  Last year I swam very close to the bank on the way back, noticing the majority of the swimmers out in the middle.  Not sure why, I later found out the current was much stronger there and helped their swim times out considerably.  Determined I would take advantage of this strategy in 2009, I proceeded out to the middle but quickly found myself alone.  I normally am very good at staying on course so I wondered where the rest of the increasingly crowded field was?  Oh, there they are, way over there … swimming right up against the bank where I was last year!  It made no sense to me, maybe the currents were different this year, but it was too late so I decided to stay put and do my own race, angled slightly toward the shore, slowly closing the distance.  The rest of the swim I enjoyed some peace and quiet while I setup my strategy for the rest of the day.  With about 10 minutes left, I ramped up the pace to ensure a strong finish.  As the sight of transition came into view, the noise of the PA system was audible, crowds were forming on the boardwalk and the warmup to the day came to a close.  Time to go to work.

I gladly grabbed the hand of a volunteer at the swim exit to pull me onto dry land and made the run towards transition.  Typically my heart rate is rather high at the end of a swim and can linger there for quite sometime unless I take the time to calm back down before getting on the bike.  I was slightly slower in T1 compared to 2008 perhaps because it was so crowded in the changing tent.  I spotted dad waiting for me with some other volunteers, ran inside and dumped everything out on the ground because I couldn’t find a seat.  Had him walk me through the checklist I put in my bags to ensure I didn’t miss anything.  If you’re going to make a mistake during the day, transition to the bike is one place you definitely do not want to do it.  I rushed, but made sure I had all of the safety gear, nutrition and comfort items with me as I buckled up the chin strap on my aero helmet and ran towards the mount line.

My goal for the bike was to equal my 5:43 time from last year or perhaps even give a few minutes back so that I would be able to crush the run, so slow and easy was my mantra.  The crowd of athletes coming out of transition onto River Road made it impossible not to draft.  Running 3 and 4 wide in a single lane of traffic with an occasional car coming in the opposite direction made for a very nervous start to the race.  The first 12 miles were very flat so the pack stayed pretty close together.  This brought the average pace up easily over 22 mph but since I was content to view my heart rate data as my best guide for pacing, I felt OK to keep the speed up.  Once into the hills the pack started to thin out and I could start getting focused on my own race.

As I passed my first time check a few minutes ahead of schedule and way under my target heart rate, I thought through my race strategy again to make sure I wasn’t setting myself up for disaster by going out too fast.  I was topped off on nutrition and hydration, legs felt good, heart rate was very low so I decided to stay at a 20+ mph pace.  Since it was a deceivingly mild day, I worked hard at staying fueled up.  It was easy to be tricked into thinking that since I wasn’t sweating profusely that I wasn’t burning as many calories.  I knew though that I would never make it up if I went into the run with a deficit so I tried to stuff myself.

The rest of the ride would go by uneventfully.  It was a strong effort, but not hard.  I was very surprised by my fitness and my average heart rate in the mid 140′s.  I was becoming a believer in the critical importance to bike fitness in the overall success of an Ironman.  My training volume in this category increased nearly 20% alone, while actually declining 2 and 3% in swimming and running respectively.  Some mild lower back pain and saddle soreness, which is to be expected after 5+ hours on a bike, I came back into transition feeling great, ready to take the run course hostage.

I blazed into an empty transition after a very satisfying bike leg with a fresh set of legs and a cheerful group of supporters looking on.  Pleasantly surprised to see my dad working in T2 after passing him barely 2 hours ago out on the course more than 30 miles away.  Went through the same drill again, this time able to grab a seat as dad ran me through the checklist.  Two years in a row I put my socks and shoes on before realizing I didn’t put Body Glide on my toes even though I made a point to put it at the top of my checklist this year!  I made the corrections, ran through the sunscreen station and hit the exit.

Bike to run transition

Bike to run transition

With a record setting day in my sights, good legs and an extra surge of adrenaline after seeing friends and family in transition, I headed out for the final 26.2 miles with confidence soaring.  I would once again use heart rate data as my guide, but since the run is a much different animal than the bike, I forced myself to go slow even though it felt like I was speed walking and got passed by a lot of people (for now :).

I planned on running about :30/mile slower than last year, but running through as many aid stations as I could to avoid the time loss from all the walking I did last year.  I made a quick pit stop at the first aid station for bathroom break 2 of 3 to check hydration.  Everything came out OK, so off I went with only 25.2 miles to go!  The first lap of 13.1 miles went according to plan.  I was able to keep a steady pace of slightly under 9:00/miles and virtually no walk breaks.  I felt great, but knew I had my goal of under 11 in the bag by over 15 minutes if I just held this pace so I was in no mood to risk everything.  The hardest part the first 2 hours was to swallow my pride and watch as people continued to fly past me and keep my modest pace.

First loop of the marathon.  Still smiling

First loop of the marathon. Still smiling

Starting the second lap is such a cruel mistress.  The noise and excitement build as you near the turn around and eventually pass within 100 yards of the finish line, wistfully watching the pros head straight into the chute to be crowned an Ironman.  Turning your back on the promised land and heading out for another loop is tough because you know torture and despair are waiting to be found in the closing miles of the Ironman marathon.

The boost you get from the crowds wears off much quicker this time around and the course gets quiet and lonely fast.  The fleet footsteps of over eager runners who didnt pace well turn to the ‘Ironman shuffle’ … an audible scraping of tired feet across the pavement.  Any remaining energy is internalized and directed toward moving forward at all costs.  My pace would inevitably slow, but not due to cramping, exhaustion or GI issues; my feet and hip flexors just started to hurt something awful.  Its a frustrating feeling knowing your cardiovascular system is in peak condition, but your joints are wearing down.  I plodded along for the next few miles in a zombie-like 1,000 yard stare, offering only grunts and groans as replies to any words directed at me.

I knew it was coming, I just didn’t know when.  The ‘Come to Jesus’ moment.  It struck me down last year around mile 15 and only spared me an extra 2 miles this year before appearing, but it did come.  My stomach went on strike.  I couldn’t eat even though I was starving, I couldn’t drink even though I was thirsty; everything that was in there was sloshing around making me sick, but I wanted nothing more than to shove something else in to calm it down.  I briefly considering leaning up against a tree and making myself vomit, but after passing someone who was in the process, the idea lost all merit.

I had been going back and forth, taking in as many calories as I could and then backing off for a few miles, not able to find gastrointestinal equilibrium.  I decided to make an extended pit stop, take pee number 3 of 3 and flush my system with small amounts of water for the next few stops to try and reset my stomach.  As much as sticking to your race strategy is important in this type of event, being able to think on the fly and make adjustments if something isnt working is just as important.

I battled through the next few miles as I made my way toward the 20 mile mark and the final turn at the far end of the course.  It was a dark time; I had hit bottom, the wheels were coming off. I kept digging and digging trying to find something left until mile 22.  Suddenly, I broke through … the clouds began to part, my stomach was calming down, and I spotted my brother at the far end of the route who run up along side me offering encouragement.  I was hopeful that I was close enough at this point that I could run on fumes for the rest of the day and blaze it back to the finish on some mysterious energy source.  My fatigue induced hypnosis was exchanged for intense concentration as I began to pick my pace up.  As I began to pass people one by one, I gained more and more momentum to the point where the rest of the field was almost running backwards.  I was weaving through the crowd, dodging weary competitors who were still searching to strike their own oil well of determination.

The final few miles clicked away, as the skyline of downtown Louisville grew larger on the horizon and the noise of the crowds at the finish began to make its way to my ears.  At this point, I might as well have been on a ski jump, picking up speed as the finish drew near, I belted out the fastest two miles of the entire race at the very end.  I made the final turn toward home, triumphantly holding up 2 fingers signifying my second lap and confirming my admission to the finishing chute, snapping the tape a full 42 minutes faster than my previous attempt.

Finsh

Finish

I collapsed into my parents arms who were there again to greet me at the finish.  I hesitantly accepted a seat in a wheelchair trying to figure out the best way to relieve the nausea that had set in.  Wrapped in a mylar blanket, I tried to communicate intelligently while attempting to take in some fluids.  I was wheeled over to where more friends and family were waiting where a fantastic reunion ensued which served to tie a big bow around an epic day.

Post race

Post race

Ironman Louisville 2010?  I dont think so.  I mean, how can you top this day?  Sunny skies, a record low temperature, smooth waters … that wont happen again, what is there to improve upon?  IF I do another Ironman, and I suspect that I will, it wont be in 2010 and it likely wont be in Louisville.  This is a sport of extremes, of setting goals and surpassing what you thought possible.  Why limit myself to competing in one venue?  Whether it be a classic like Ironman Lake Placid or another international affair, Ironman Switzerland has a certain appeal to it, Ironman athletes tend to set the bar high, so staying home for my third attempt seems counter intuitive.

Getting ready for Ironman Louisville 2009

Bib numbers are up for Ironman Louisville, I will be wearing #726 this year in my bid to break 11 hours.  Early weather forecasts are calling for 85F and Sunny with a few days of scattered showers the two days before the event.  This would be perfect weather considering its been well into the 90′s the past two years.

Below is a breakdown of how I plan on going sub-11, with a contingency of up to 13 hours total if the day doesnt go as planned.  The goal of any Ironman is to finish.  I am humble enough to understand that regardless of my training, ambition, desire or preparation, there are things on raceday that you cant prepare for, and in a race that takes half a rotation of the earth to complete … that list gets pretty long!  Weather, mechanical, GI, road conditions, who knows what pitfalls await for me to battle through next Sunday.  Im once again grateful that I approach the start line healthy and have been blessed to be able to compete in such an amazing event and feel lucky to have the opportunity to accomplish this goal for a second time.

IMKY 2009 Spectator Guide

IMKY 2009 Spectator Guide

Star Wars mural in the church basement

A bizarre, yet somewhat believable part of the basement of The 930 building where Sojourn Community Church is located being that it is an old school and a haven for local artists. Check out the guided tour around the galaxy in less than 60 seconds!

What Twitter and Facebook Can Learn From Phish

Interesting article about music, fans and how technology enables their communities. About how fans use of tech promotes and even shapes the content being generated.

Music, because of its seemingly infinite ways of being interpreted, is an emotional product. Music makes us laugh, it makes us cry, it makes us feel; but most importantly, music connects people. Think of your closest friends and odds are they share similar musical tastes as you. Maybe you’ve even met some of your friends as a result of your love of the same type of music. In other words, music creates community.

Specifically in the case of Phish the author talks about how early adopters of technology have pushed the band into providing a service they didnt even know their fans wanted. The LivePhish.com service, for example, has been around since early 2000.

Phish, too, has been at the forefront of “community-based” technology and the fans are able to influence how the band uses technology. The band created LivePhish.com earlier this decade, where fans can purchase high-quality audio of that night’s concert for a low price, because the community (especially those who weren’t able to attend a specific concert) was clamoring for the band to use the Web.

Very interesting interpretation on the communities surrounding bands and how they relate to other minority communities and their affect on the mainstream.

General society can learn about culture as a whole from the bands’ followers – from how group think works, to how messages spread and how economies will arise within groups. In our society, we’ve seen time and again how the minority drives the majority until the majority embraces the minority. It comes incrementally, like women’s suffrage or civil rights for blacks or the current gay rights movement. Social networks are now straddling the line between minority and majority. There just needs to be some push, and it’s happening.

via What Twitter and Facebook Can Learn From Phish.

Muncie Endurathon 2009 Race Report

We all have an emotional pre-race routine in the weeks leading up to a big event. Some of us naturally ooze with confidence based on delicately crafted training plans and preparation, or maybe we are simply optimistic for a positive outcome. Others are filled with apprehension over missed workouts, a nagging injury that might show itself or perhaps a last minute item left off of some checklist. Attitude can go a long way towards winning or losing depending on how you measure it against your expectations.

In the days leading up to most races, I doubt. I am nervous, set my expectations low, don’t think I did nearly enough to prepare for the event. Come a day or two before the race though, I compartmentalize those fears, focus on what it will take to achieve my goals in the race and on game day, I execute. Nine times out of ten, I blow my expectations away and cant believe I was able to accomplish so much.

Muncie was a little different. I came into the race bloodthirsty … craving a savage beat down of the course. Not just wanting to PR, but to break the 5 hour barrier. Wanting to avenge the 3 hour thunderstorm from the previous year and lay down a huge bike split on dry roads. For weeks, I had the confidence that my training was going to take me across that finish line to glory.

The swim was largely uneventful for me. It ended up being wet suit legal at 77F, but I had no intentions of wearing one so I didn’t even pack it. Turns out EVERYONE else brought theirs and I was one of about 3 people in my wave that wasn’t wearing one. Being a strong swimmer, I wasn’t concerned and just wanted to do at least as good as last years time. I weaved efficiently through the pack, did a fair job sighting, passed people in the two waves ahead of me and got out of the water feeling great about my shot at a sub 5 hour race.
muncie 09 005
My heart rate was racing well above Lactate Threshold and into the 170s, but it didnt matter. The flattest, most well protected part of the course was just ahead and I wanted to crush that section so I didnt let my silly heart rate monitor slow me down averaging 23.3mph over this 5 mile section! Right about when we were to pull a u-turn and head out onto the main highway for the remainder of the race, I did some quick math and something wasnt adding up. For where I was at in the race, I somehow couldnt account for 5 minutes. I felt great in the swim, my transition was blistering but both my Garmin and my bike computer told the same story. At that point, the only conclusion was that I swam 5 minutes slower than I had planned?!

That did not sit well with me and my hopes for revenge against this course were slipping away. I told myself that I would just have to make it up on the bike then. This of course is the point in the story where many a well intentioned triathlon goes to pot because the athlete wastes his legs and saves nothing for the run.

I essentially began to ignore my heart rate monitor all together and was just racing on feel. I felt like I could keep this pace up for another 2 hours, so I just went with it. Try as I might, the deliciously flat bike course had some nasty winds again that day, bringing with it a thunderstorm for the second year in a row. I forced myself to keep the pace up hoping that at the mile 28 turnaround, I would be treated to a tail wind.

Oddly enough, I was treated to said tail wind. My average speed of 21.8 at that point started climbing again, and climbing and climbing as the tail wind persisted. I was ecstatic and was even able to drop the heart rate into the 150s for a bit.

Thats when the rain started. For the second year in a row, the skies above Northeast Indiana decided to open up around and unload wind, rain, thunder and lightning. At this point I only 30 minutes or so remaining and I knew I was on pace for a good bike split. This just motivated me even more to return to mother earth and get off those slick roads. As I powered home, the finish line strangely appeared at mile 54.6? Looking at my race data from last year, my Garmin reports the exact same number: 54.6. I swear that course is short. I wasnt complaining as I ended up shaving 10 minutes off of last years time and more importantly rebuilding my spirits after the terrible swim that I put in. I blasted through another record setting transition and headed out to see what was left in my legs.
muncie 09 013
And there they were. The legs were right where I needed them to be. During the bike and now into the run, even though my heart rate was a little high, I was relying less and less on that data and more on how I actually felt. I felt like I could keep going at a 7:30 pace all day. I found a few people to pace off of and headed off into the downpour for the next 13.1 miles.

I went sockless with my Zoot racing flats for the first time in a race (yes I train with them) and even decided to leave my fuel belt behind and just pick up gels along the way. In hindsight that was a gamble and goes against the ‘nothing new on race day’ rule, but as was a theme for the day, I was out for blood and all about speed.

I set my goals up of being able to make the turn at 50 minutes on the out and back course and trying to put down a 1:40 minute half marathon, but my legs kept telling me to keep the pace up. Even when the hills came, my legs were there. I decided not to change up the formula and when I hit the halfway mark at 49:00 flat, I knew this was going to a great race. I found a new, faster pacer around mile 7 and followed them through to mile 10 where I took the duty of pulling him along for a few miles until he fell off. I found a new one with about 2 miles to go that was running a little bit faster than I wanted to go, but at this point, it was time to start emptying the tank. I caught her over the next mile and with 1.1 to go realized I was going to smash my goal time by almost 15 minutes. The thoughts of moonwalking across the finish line escaped me as I crested the hill which revealed the finishing chute and I blasted ahead to record a 4:45:26 dropping 17 minutes off of my 2008 time.

Sometimes you can be your own harshest critic, and other times you can be your own biggest fan. Perhaps even both at the same time: being critical enough to demand success but being smart enough to be humble in the success you are able to achieve. While I am proud of my efforts, I always know there is an unseen x-factor in any race which keeps me from injury, accident, stomach issues, cramping, equipment failure, any number of which can take my goals and replace them with reality. I am truly grateful for the success I achieved through Gods grace alone. Onward to IMKY and the sub 11 hour Ironman.

Layar Could Be the Future of “Augmented Reality” Video

I am always astonished when concepts that seemed so fantasticly outlandish 3 or 4 years ago finally start to emerge into reality.  Or in this case Augmented Reality.

I’ve long fantasized about being able to walk down city streets and get information on my phone about area demographics, histories of buildings I see and block-by-block news. A new Android app being talked about today makes that fantasy feel a little closer to reality.



Layar Could Be the Future of “Augmented Reality” Video .

Tour de France starts July 4th

The Tour de France starts on the 4th of July this year. While it is pretty far fetched to imagine Lance Armstrong winning an 8th tour after 3 years in retirement and closing in on 40 years old, it should be action packed.

And now … please enjoy Kraftwerk’s homage to Le Tour

Father’s Day at Sojourn Community Church

Sojourn was doing free family portraits on father’s day so I invited my dad and my brother to celebrate with them.  They did the same thing on mother’s day and it was such a big hit, they brought it back for the guys.

Fathers Day

Fathers Day

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Phinally!

Great write up of last night’s Phish show at the soggy Deer Creek Amphitheater in Noblesville, IN.  This show is going down as an instant classic, one in which, quite literrally, a perfect storm of psychedelic funk blew into town taking no prisoners.  Great song selection with a decidedly watery theme to coincide with the string of severe thunderstorms, flawless execution at an unprecedented level for recent years, and a surreal atmosphere with wicked lightening crawling across the sky.

Mr. Miner’s Phish Thoughts » Blog Archive » Finally!.

Get Back On The Train

For the first time in six years I have tickets for a Phish concert! While I hoped for years that the day would come again I could spend a cool summer night on the lawn at Deer Creek Amphitheater, I was also cautious as to what a Phish reunion might bring. The years surrounding the Hiatus in 2000 and their New Years return in 2003, witnessed increasingly sloppy efforts by front man Trey Anastasio. phishlightsWhile Phish has produced some of the most mind-bendingly intricate compositions in rock music over the past 15 years, perhaps rivaled only by Frank Zappa in complexity, Trey in particular was just off. He was forgetting lyrics, botching solos, blowing changes even restarting songs that quickly fell apart.

While any aging rock group can be excused for moments of being human just like anyone else, these are professional musicians who have been honing their craft together for almost two decades. Life, family, practice schedules, and side projects were surely taking a toll on all of the musicians, but Trey in particular seemed to be affected the most. At times the rest of the band looked confused, even embarrassed at what was happening in front of them. Fortunately for Phish, the band decided to call it quits before the wheels could come completely off. Unfortunately for Trey, his decline had only just begun the downward spiral.

The statement that one of the members of Phish was on drugs would likely bring one of a number of sarcastic remarks. Saying that one of the members was arrested for a driving on a suspended license, possession of hashish, and a fist full of prescription painkillers wouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone then.  It did, however, start to paint a picture for the curious fan base who had long speculated that Trey was into some deeper sort of trouble. They could see it taking shape on stage, even though he kept up a relentless performance and recording schedule with a number of side projects. What he wasn’t producing in quality he was producing in quantity.

An article in the (evil) Huffington Post quotes Trey;

“My life had become a catastrophe. I had no idea how to turn it around. My band had broken up. I had almost lost my family. My whole life had devolved into a disaster,” he says. “I believe that the police officer who stopped me at three a.m. that morning saved my life.”

Trey would end up pleading guilty to felony charges of possession to avoid jail time and spent 14 months in the Washington County, NY drug court system undergoing rehab, random drug testing and performing community service.

He spent 14 months in the drug court system, he says, scrubbing toilets and cleaning fairgrounds. “I’ve been sober for two-and-a-half years,” he says to applause. “My children are happy. In August, my wife and I will celebrate our fifteenth wedding anniversary. My band is back together with a sold-out tour. And in September I’ll play a solo concert at Carnegie Hall with the New York
Philharmonic.”

He made these comments at a celebration on capitol hill for the 20th anniversary of the drug court system which claims a much more successful rate of rehabilitation for non-violent drug offenders.

“I can tell you that behind bars there was rampant drug use,” he says. “What’s more, the people I met there spent their time blaming judges and lawyers for their circumstances. Not in drug court. In drug court, full responsibility rest with you and you alone.”

I was concerned that a Phish reunion would be another post-Hiatus amusement, a half hearted attempt to reconnect with the fan base and stoke a long dormant fire. But after I learned about what Trey has been up to personally since that arrest and the course of events and passion that the band has reunited with, my cautious optimism started to grow. The rest of the band, which kept busy during the break with their own side projects, never really wanted the break … Trey was driving it, perhaps for the wrong reasons, even if it was the right time.

The rumors have now turned into tour dates, which have turned into a new album, which have turned into lawn tickets to Deer Creek on 6-19-2009, almost 15 years since my first show in October of 1994. The reviews and recordings of their first string of shows back as a band in Hampton, VA were encouraging and debuted a new lighting rig, whose operator is affectionately known as the 5th member of the band due to the impact it has on the performance. The first few days of summer tour, which started 5-31-2009 at Fenway Park in Boston, and the unexpected release of a track from their new album on iTunes, have added pure gasoline to the fire. They have made a statement to the fans that they are back, better than ever and ready to blow our musical minds for years to come.