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Friday, March 30, 2012

By demand: Printable Prezi from TMI

The same presentation that I posted earlier today is now available in a printable pdf version. A warning: it is 125 pages (yes, that is how many "slides" we went through last night).

2012 TMI Health Economics Presentation


A night away from sabbatical to give a lecture on health economics and PPACA

Last night I gave a lecture on health economics and PPACA's employer mandate for the 2012 Management Institute at Roanoke College.

The Management Institute, directed by Dr. Ali Nazemi, has the following mission:
The mission of The Management InstituteSM is to provide the Roanoke Valley Business Community with a viable management education program that is timely, competitive, informative, and thereby assists in the continued educational development of middle and upper level managers. The Management Institute was developed by Roanoke College to meet the management training needs specific to the Roanoke Valley as identified by local business leaders. The Institute believes that continuous learning in today's changing environment is a critical necessity.

I had a group of about 20 students last night, all coming from a long day of work for a 6:30-9:00 pm lecture (on economics no less). They were full of smiles, chatting with each other over coffee before we started. Clearly they have developed great camaraderie over the 12 week course. Despite having close to a 12-hour day when all was said and done, they were fantastic. All were alert, asking great questions and picking up on the concept of marginal product faster than any class I have had.  RC undergraduates: watch out!

Once again, I used Prezi for this presentation. This time, since I knew that the brand new, fancy-pants Lucas Hall had reliable internet, I did not download it prior. I used the live version, although I did have my iPad with the Prezi app ready in case something went wrong. If you want a crash course in health economics and the employer mandate, check out the Prezi:

The lecture focused on modeling health via a production function, and discussing the inputs into good health, such as technology, medical care, environment, etc. We reviewed the common measures for health in this set  up (mortality rates, life expectancy and morbidity) and how to interpret the results from these production functions. For example, we could estimate the impact of stress on the incidence of heart attacks among middle-age business owners.

The second part of the lecture covered the environment surrounding PPACA ("The Health Care Bill") and the economic impact of one specific component, the employer mandate. It was a different experience to present scenarios, such as "What do you do if you have 48 full-time workers, but demand for your product is expected to grow over the coming years?" Unlike undergraduates, these students will actually have to answer these questions. Without hesitation, they answered "only hire part-time workers", "contract out work", "hire temps". All correct.

The TMI lecture was also a learning experience for me. Just like touring a hospital in Ireland and meeting with the head of a department and patients was a valuable experience for teaching about nationalized health care, talking with business owners, managers and the like was an educational experience for me for understanding the labor market in the Roanoke Valley and the potential impact of the employer mandate. The personalities, humor, smiles and intelligence of the group was an added bonus.

Thank you and good luck TMI Class of 2012,

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A running & research long weekend - Part 3

Day 4 - Packet pick-up & carb loading
A nice day to relax and get my mind ready for the marathon tomorrow. Before meeting my mother and sister for lunch at Two Guys, I went by Mayfaire to get my race packet.  My number is 250...sounds good! Without Limits runners and coaches were everywhere. You could feel the anxious energy in the tent as people picked up their numbers, checked out the race course map, and purchased final supplies. Conversations abounded of the humidity that was going to greet us tomorrow, debates of the trade off between wind and humidity, etc.  Weather is one of the few things that a marathoner has no control over and it can be extremely frustrating.  Tomorrow calls for near 100% humidity with temps starting around 60 at 6:30 AM.  For a marathoner...that can be trouble.  Optimal temperatures are 40-50 and over 55 brings negative returns.

Although I cannot change the weather, I can take precautions and plan.  The days leading up to a marathon require increased carbohydrate intake (not too much or you will be in the port-a-john by mile 10...although they are pink on the Quintiles cute:)) and fluids. Hammer Nutrition offers a great hydrating tool: Endurolyte Fizz. The Fizz comes in tablets that dissolve in water, producing a tasty, fizzy drink that not only hydrates, but also keeps your electrolytes up to delay cramping in the race. In my first attempt at the marathon in 2000, fearing dehydration I drank an unbelievable amount of water the day before and completely flushed the electrolytes out of my body. Result: Epic fail in my first marathon attempt. In fact I was pulled from the course as I was weaving around. My body temp had dropped to 95 and I had to get two IVs before I was returned to the finish line where my buddy Ashley Dorroh was worriedly waiting for me. Too much water can lead to the condition hyponatremia, in which there is not enough sodium in the body fluids outside of the cells. This can be a deadly condition. I have not made that mistake again.

Another part of my plan was to continually take fluid during the race.  For runs and races over two hours I love to use Perpetuem. Not only does it keep fluids coming in, but it has a significant number of calories, including some from protein. In runs and races over two hours, taking in some protein can help slow down muscle deterioration and keep you going stronger longer. I try out all supplements for race day in long-run workouts prior the race to avoid unexpected and unwanted race day surprises. Again, something I had to learn the hard way (Philadelphia 2008 was one such unpleasant day, which again was a DNF). Perpetuem has enough calories that it can be used in replacement of gels. My race day plan was to have 14 oz. bottles of perpetuem waiting for me at mile 5, 12 and 22.

After a great lunch with family, I relaxed for the rest of the day, sipping on fluids and snacking on carbs. That night my mother made a fantastic turkey crumble pasta sauce with linguine. This is the same thing she made last year before this race, expect this time she made the base for the sauce the weekend before and we added spices and browned turkey to it. It was super-yum. I try to avoid fats the night before and over-eating. Eating heaps of pasta the night before the race is not a good idea. You will wake up feeling full and likely needing to take unwanted stops during the race the next day (if you have not noticed, I try very hard to avoid those stops:))

Before bed, I read over my journal of quotes and mental toughness exercises. I have struggled the three weeks coming into this race, and getting my head straight was going to be very important. I cannot change the weather, but I can step to the line with confidence, peace, and MAlice. One of my favorites is "When you give up wanting something special something special happens."

Tomorrow...race day. No monkey mind!  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A running & research long weekend - Part 2

Day 2 - Presentation, run, dinner and basketball
My plenary session presentation went off without a hitch.  The Prezi was very popular.  Lots of "ooo" and "ahhhh". I again highly recommend using Prezi in your next presentation. I find that it is best to download the presentation (it goes into a pdf) onto a memory stick rather than rely on the presentation room having reliable internet.  That would be quite embarrassing if the internet was down for your presentation! The downloaded form works the same as what you developed online.  You cannot edit this version however.  Another useful item is that remotes for PowerPoint presentations will also work with Prezi, even in the pdf format. The presentation generated some great questions and was a good lead in for the following presentation by Ray Owens of the Richmond Federal Reserve Bank on the national and international economy.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Afterwards I met up with my students (Nathan Castellano and Marko Krkeljas) and told them the plan for the rest of the day. The main item was to be at the dinner in which a great meal was to be had, followed by an interesting William A. Sandridge Lecture given by George Mason University's  Donald J. Boudreaux entitled "Economists and Imagination."

Before dinner I squeezed in my scheduled 35 minute run with strides. This is the second to last run before my marathon as I have a scheduled day off tomorrow. The weather was amazing. It is hard to believe that it is March! My legs are still feeling a bit off, so I again iced in the 50 degree ocean after my run. I did not get as many strange stares as I did last night when I soaked. I was still the only one braving the water. 

Virginia Beach
VAE host hotel
The run itself took me along the boardwalk, which was full of runners, Ocean Front Avenue, which has some beautiful homes and landscaping, and back to the boardwalk for 4 x 100m strides. Running in this setting always makes a "not-so-hot" run much better. How can one argue with ocean views and warm weather in mid-March? Also inspiring was watching the set up underway for the Yingling Shamrock Marathon to be held on Sunday. The beer tent and finish line (or should I put that in the reverse order?) were directly in front of the conference hotel (Hilton on Atlantic Avenue)

The dinner was fantastic. It is always great to get together with the VAE gang. After the lecture we went a block over to Murphy's to watch some NCAA Basketball. This is part of our annual tradition. We watched VCU pull off a win. For the first time since I have been with the VAE we got to sit outside to watch the games as the weather was unseasonably warm.

Day 3 - Elections and student presentations
Friday morning was another eventful one. The VAE business meeting started at 8:30. I was honored to be elected President of the VAE. I will serve as President-elect to Francis Bush of VMI who was handed the President's Gavel by now Past-President Elizabeth Sizemore-Perry. Very exciting stuff.

At 9:15 I chaired one of the student sessions. This happened to be the session that Nathan and Marko were presenting their papers. The three students presenting (my students and CNU's Kathryn Fitzgerald) were fantastic. Kathryn kicked the session off with her analysis "Economic Development & Gender Inequalities in Culture".  I never knew that there were indexes to measure culture and its impact on economies.  Kathryn even developed her own index and compared her results to the existing indexes. Marko followed with his paper "Determinants of Call and Put Options". Marko exhibited his passion for options and trading and the skills he acquired in his internship last summer. Nathan wrapped up the session with his study " Student Satisfaction And Perceived Support".  This study used data gathered by Dr. Julie Lyon of Roanoke College at the University of Maryland. His analysis found that having an academic advisor that encourages teaching is crucial to developing future college professors and graduate student satisfaction. All were smooth, professional and obviously knowledgeable of their topics. Kathryn is attending graduate school in economics next year. I am sure that she will excel. All students also answered questions from the audience with skill and care. I was extremely proud of them all.

Roanoke College certainly did well at the 2012 VAE Annual Meeting. Three successful presentations and an election to President! I briefly chatted with the boys, and then encouraged them to enjoy some time at the beach before the headed back to Salem.  Hopefully they do not fulfill the local prosecutors' motto: Come on vacation, leave on probation!

Now it is on to the third stage of my weekend: Wilmington and the Quintiles Marathon at Wrightsville Beach.  More to come...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A running & research long weekend - Part 1

This long weekend is the type of weekend that I adore. A lot of economics and a lot of running.

First stop: Virginia Beach, VA for the 2012 Virginia Association for Economists Annual Meeting. It all kicks off today with our Board of Directors Meeting, followed by the plenary session. For the first time I will be presenting in this session. I will be discussing the results from my work with the IPOR on Virginia Consumer Sentiment. After a second afternoon session, there is a small break and then a dinner. Two of my students will arrive this afternoon. Marko Krkeljas and Nathan Castellano are presenting their papers from econometrics in the student research session Friday morning. I will chair their session tomorrow and am excited to see them show off their hard work.

Second stop: Wilmington, NC for the 2012 Quintiles Marathon at Wrightsville Beach on Sunday. The plan is to leave VA Beach Friday around lunch to make it to ILM for dinner with my mom. I will have all day Saturday to rest and get ready for the marathon.

This blog post is a part of a series of this filled weekend. Staying calm will be crucial to presenting well today and running well Sunday.

Day 1 - Travel
I had a great send off yesterday by Macy and Dean. It is always so hard to leave these cute little faces, but it has to be done.

I drove from home to Lexington and stopped at Washington and Lee University to get in my last workout before the marathon. I used the beautiful track there and got to see my husband at work. He was in the middle of a pole vault session with some of his athletes. A beautiful day to be at the track.

After lunch with Brandon I hit the road again and made my way to Virginia Beach.The traffic was light. The only surprise was my first experience paying over $4.00/gallon for gas at a station outside of Williamsburg. With my Kroger Card discount (thank you Shell for taking it!) I still paid $4.09/gallon! As I watched dollars flow out of my wallet and into my gas tank I thought about the drain on the economy that this will take over the summer. It will be tough for folks to make summer trips paying that price at the pump.  

I am staying at a hotel next door to the host hotel so that I could bring our little poodles Millie (named after my favorite economist Milton Friedman) and Lily. They are great company and a calming influence.

Before I got to work on my presentation, I went out and stood in the 50 degree ocean to ice my legs. My legs have been feeling heavy and I hope that icing a few times will help. My goal running-wise over the next few days is to stop thinking about how "bad" I have been feeling over the last few weeks and start thinking about all of the work that I have put in to get me ready for Sunday.

Day 2 - Presentation Prep

This morning I finished up my presentation. I am using Prezi for the first time. It looks amazing. Move over PowerPoint! You can find a copy of the presentation here: Although I am always anxious when I use a new medium in front of an audience. Practice, practice.

The view from my room this morning was inspiring. How can a presentation not be successful when you start the day with this view!

The second installment of this blog series will detail the presentation and other events of Day 1 at the VAE. Off to practice my Prezi...

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tapering is harder than training

I am officially less than two weeks away from the Quintiles Marathon @ Wrightsville Beach and the taper started a week ago.  Every time I do my last big long run before the taper begins I am energized thinking about all of the hard work that I have put in over the past few months and how much I will savor the taper.  I always think that I will feel snappy and full of energy during that period.

It never happens.

Every taper I struggle.  Workouts that used to be relatively easy, I cannot finish.  The confidence that I used to be brimming with, disappears.  "Can I/Should I even run the marathon?" is a question that always crosses my mind.  Yesterday I had one of those workouts that was a struggle.  My running buddy Matthew met me at 7:30 on the Greenway for 4 x 2 miles at tempo with 2:00 rests.  Before Quintiles last year I made it through three of the 2 miles, and ran some of the best splits I had at that point and was very tough mentally.  This year, different story.  I labored after the first mile and lost myself mentally.  My brain was firing panic messages and in the middle of the second repeat I pulled up.  Matthew is such a positive training partner and he tried to reason with me, but I was a blubbering mess.  (I bet he did not know what he was in for that morning!)  We pushed through a bit more, but I was done mentally.

On the way home I called my coach, Tom Clifford.  I left a message telling him about the workout (which was coming off a rough one Thursday).  I even uttered the words "I don't know if I should do Quintiles."  He called me back within a few minutes on his way to meet the team for a long run in Wilmington.  Somehow Tom knows when to be hard on me (believe me he has let me have it before...but it was always when I needed a kick the the bum) and when to not be.

"So, how was the race?  Oh yeah, I forgot, it was a workout!"  is how our conversation began.  He always has to remind me that workouts are not races, and if they don't go well it does not mean that you will not race well.  From there he was everything that a coach should be.  Reminding me to stop putting pressure on myself, how I typically do not run well while tapering (I ran a 19:30 5K two weeks before a sub-three marathon in 2003 and 2011), and it is normal to doubt yourself during the taper.  When your body is used to running 90-100 miles a week and then it drops, your body starts to repair, rest, and ready itself for the big task coming up.  This often leaves the runner physically and emotionally drained.  It is so hard for me to remember this.  I did go into the workout telling myself this was a do-or-die situation.  If I nailed it, I would run well in the marathon, if I did not, the marathon was going to be a failure.  That was too much pressure, especially for the windy and cold conditions that we had that morning.  It seems so silly as I read it now.  Why would one workout trump the last 4 months of workouts?

Tom told me to eat, relax, take a nap, and then go to the track, warm up two miles, do two at tempo, and cool down two.  The purpose was two-fold: 1) Since I did not finish the workout that morning, I needed a bit more so that I would not be too rested too soon for the marathon and 2) get my head back in the game.  He told me to run with my heart and not my head.  My husband joined me at the middle-school track in town with the wind still blowing and snow starting to fall.  On he same effort, I ran 6:01, 5:55.  I was not even breathing hard.  All heart.  When I turned in to the wind on the backstretch each time, I just put my head down, focused on form, and thought about how nice the home stretch will feel, instead of how hard it is to hold pace into the wind.

Training can be so easy once you get into a schedule, but the taper can be so hard.  It is crucial to have good friends and coaches to keep you from doubting too much.

Even though I might not run great workouts over the next two weeks, the one thing that I will focus on is having MAlice going to the start line at Quintiles and not just Alice.