Classic Video Games

My first home computer was a TI-99/4A. I enjoyed playing Adventure, Tunnels of Doom, Munchman, Car Wars, Alpiner and many other games for many years on this little machine. As a youth, it was these games that inspired me to embark upon the quest of developing my own game. I’m not sure how many kids asked for the TI extended basic cartridge for Christmas, but I did. That allowed me to make the ultra cool speech synthesizer say whatever I wanted it to.

From there, I was off to the races. In an effort to make an Olympics style sports game, I wrote letters to several different embassies requesting sheet music for their national anthems. Most of them complied. Unfortunately, Epyx beat me to the punch with it’s successful series of Summer Games, Summer Games II, Winter Games, World Games and California Games.

That experience, however, helped me learn algebra at a very early age and gave me the logic and problem solving skills that are now a huge part of who I am.

What did I miss out on?

Well, while I was busy trying to make my own game, many of my friends were playing some pretty cool games on the Atari 2600 and later the classic Nintendo Entertainment System. I was so jealous of them and they were probably so bored of me always wanting to play Castlevania or Excitebike every time I was over at their houses.

Fortunately, I have rectified that situation 30 years later. I built a retropie with my raspberry pi 3. It was so easy to build that just about anyone can do it. I wrote a step by step tutorial to help those who aren’t software engineers out. The result is a system that plugs right into my TV and lets me play hundreds of classic video games from the Atari 2600 to the classic Nintendo Entertainment system and even other consoles like the Sega Genesis, Super NES, Nintendo 64 and Playstation 1 – all for less than $100.

I’ll admit that my standards for video games are a little higher now, but it’s pretty awesome to revisit these old classics.

Posted in Geeky Stuff | Leave a comment

Treasure Chests Finish at the 50 5K

The company for which I now work offers an incentive program for charity events. By participating, I get points that I can use for paid time off. Dan and I were looking for a way to get back into racing, so we signed up. One of my co-workers had an extra bib, so Raffi came along to walk with her. In retrospect, we were all pretty nonchalant leading up to the race. We didn’t give ourselves a lot of time to get to the course and the road leading to the parking lot was closed by the time we arrived. This led to some creative navigation to get parked and we arrived at the starting line just minutes before the gun went off.

Queue present tense race report voice (it’s been so long)…

Dan and I walk along the crowded starting corral. There are metal barriers and no obvious way to enter. The horn blows and the first wave accelerates across the timing mat. We find a gap in the barrier, but realize that it’s behind another barrier, so we back out and move forward to where the first wave has vacated the starting corral. The race director announces that everyone with a pink bib should have already started. We look down, note that our bibs are pink and find another gap in the metal barrier just as they lower the rope to let the next wave through. We slide into the front of that wave and we’re off!

I realize that Dan is running right next to me and briefly consider just sticking with him for the whole race. I decide to test my fitness surge ahead. The initial portion of the course runs alongside Raymond James Stadium (home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers). The course is crowded, but the pathway is very wide, so it’s not too difficult to move around the other runners without a whole lot of weaving. Without too much urgency, I methodically make my way through the pack, getting used to the pace of a race again.

Exiting the stadium grounds we make a right turn on to a major road, then another right. We approach the one mile mark surrounded by Buccaneers cheerleaders dressed in pink. The clock is approaching 9 minutes as I pass. It’s decent. Without a watch, I don’t really know the difference between the clock time and my chip time, but I’m estimating about 45 seconds.

I’m feeling good, so I go to work picking off runners in front of me. I accelerate, catch a runner or group of runners, hang with them for a while, then accelerate forward to the next group. The breeze feels nice and I’m breathing pretty well. We make another right turn, then a right onto a sidewalk and into a grass parking lot. As I pass the 2 mile mark, the clock is just under 17 minutes so I’ve run the second mile in under 8 minutes. With a goal of 25 minutes, I know I’m pretty close to the mark.

My breathing is still fairly steady, but my legs are starting to feel the pace. I haven’t even done a speed workout in over a year. Eventually, the loose sand of the parking lot yields to an asphalt path and this helps my legs. The pathway just makes a big loop through the parking lot, encompassing most of the third mile. As I round the loop, I see Dan entering the loop. He’s just a couple of minutes behind me.

“Go Brian,” he says.

“I’m tired,” I reply.

I’m in the home stretch, though. The pathway is heading back toward the stadium. I briefly consider going full bore, but decide to hold back a little. I’m not looking to break any personal records today. I just want to get the race feeling back. I surge past a few more runners and head into the tunnel entrance. I’ve always daydreamed about running through a tunnel into a crowd filled stadium, but today I’m just glad to be finishing. As I exit the tunnel, it is kind of cool to run out onto the field, make a right underneath the goal post and head straight to the finish line at the 50 yard line. The clock is under 26 minutes as I finish, so I know I’m pretty close to my goal time of 25 minutes.

After finishing, I grabbed some water and headed back to watch other runners exiting the tunnel. I expected to see Dan, but 10 minutes after my finish, I still hadn’t spotted him. I started to get worried. He was no more than 5 minutes behind me when we passed during the third mile. 20 minutes later, I knew he could have crawled the rest of the way on his belly and still made it in. After 30 minutes, I started to listen into other runners’ conversations, wondering if anyone was talking about some guy who collapsed on the course.

Dan trotted in about 10 minutes later. He thought we were running the 10K. Kudos for the extra distance and welcome to the blog. It’s an inauspicious debut, but better than the Restroom Relay, I suppose.

While Dan was letting the race directors know he ran a different race than he signed up for, I checkout my chip results. 24:50. Goal achieved. What’s next? I don’t know, but it felt nice to be out racing again. Dan and I have talked about a half marathon in the spring. If we can get our butts in gear, we’ve got time to make that happen.

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The Recap

Back in ancient times, when television shows were consumed one episode at a time, it was not uncommon to gather in front of the TV to enjoy one’s favorite television show only to find the characters sitting on the couch, in a bar or the coffee shop (I’m looking at you Friends) reminiscing about things. These episodes rarely advanced the plot and seemingly served no purpose other than satisfying some requirement for a “new” episode while allowing the producers to save money by reusing old footage.

If you’re a long time reader of this blog, this is just like one of those episodes. The only difference is that I’m not saving any money. I still have to write this post. Also, I’m pretty sure I don’t have any long term readers left so I guess it serves as a good “catch up” for anyone who just happens to stumble by.

Yesterday, I pulled up this blog for the first time in a very long time and for some reason clicked on the first post. I started reading. It drew me in. I clicked on the next post and kept going. I’m not sure if I’m embarrassed or proud to say that I proceeded to read each and every post.

It was a trip down memory lane to be sure. It was emotional. I actually started to cry a little bit when I read my post about the 2008 Walt Disney World marathon. I was so incredibly proud of the contrast between that post and my redemption at the 2009 Walt Disney World Half-Marathon. I remember being in good shape by the time I peaked at the 2010 Walt Disney World Half-Marathon, but now I know why. Looking back at all of those workouts, I wonder where I found the energy.

There are some great stories and great friends in there. I’ll never forget the restroom relay with Richie and Justin, or the day I got lost in Rainbow Village and missed my daughter Alice tripping over a hurdle in one of her first track meets. Speaking of my 12 year old daughter Alice, she ran most of the way through high school, but developed an injury senior year. She’s 20 now. My 11 year old daughter Wendy is now my 19 year old son, Elliott. Many things have changed. I now work for an insurance company and I haven’t run a race in nearly 3 years. You could say the one constant in my life has been Raffi, who I’ve been married to for almost 21 years.

There are some surprising things that never get mentioned too. Around the time I stopped posting regularly, I started running with Dan. I’ve run with him most Saturdays for the last 5 years and he’s become one of the best friends I’ve ever had. He gets no mention in the blog, though. There’s also Katie, who ran with us for at least 2 of those years before moving out of town. She also gets no mention in the blog. If someday this blog were all that was left of my memories, it would be sad that they were left out. The long runs, conversations and fun trivia nights with them have been important parts of my life.

Some things from my early running days made me laugh. I referred to my watch as a “chronograph” and always did a 1 mile warm-up before all my training runs. This was especially counter productive when it was near 100 degrees outside. I took an ice bath after a 6 mile run. I often did long run and race reports in present tense, and then made fun of myself for doing it. I kept doing it and probably still will. My readers seemed to enjoy the race reports (and to be honest, I guess I did too).

There were some lofty goals never met. At one point, I had a goal of 1:15 in the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, but I was pretty ecstatic to peak at 1:29. I even said I was running the Goofy Challenge and then never mentioned it again.

I wrote a post pondering the identity of M.H. Alderson, who was quoted as saying “If at first you don’t succeed, you’re running about average”. Three years later, his family members started commenting on it, letting me know what and awesome guy he was. I’m still amazed about that.

Reading through all the posts, I was a able to put a lot of those memories into my life’s context. Running really helped me through the last few months of finishing my Ph.D. A meme from another runner made me ponder how I would live as an independently wealthy runner. Then, I actually pulled it off even though I wasn’t independently wealthy. I started a website, brought a bunch of people together to run relays, met a whole lot of great people (and some crazy ones). I am so grateful for that time because I was able to travel, meet new people and see a lot of the country at a time when I otherwise would not have been able to afford it. I miss it sometimes, but when I walked away from it, it was the right time.

I’m not the runner I once was and this blog is no longer all about running, but “A Runner’s Blog” is still appropriate. Over the last 10 years, running has been a lot of things for me: a fitness activity, a competition, a social outlet, therapy, a job and more. I hope it continues to be in the future. Over the last three years, I’ve embarked on a more traditional career path. There’s a lot I like about it, but some things I don’t. I’m striving to get back to the “independently wealthy runner” lifestyle within the context of my new career. Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work more from home and though the circumstances that led to that opportunity were not entirely positive, I’m happy to be in a more flexible environment. Spending less time commuting (especially during my most productive morning hours) has made a huge difference in my mental state. I’m grateful to have an employer that is willing to be so flexible.

So, I’ve started running more. I hope to start blogging more. Even if no one reads, I think I’ve discovered that this journal helps me to look back and put my memories in context. Often when I remember good times, I forget the obstacles I overcame to reach them. During the challenging times, this blog is a reminder that I’ve been there before and come out on top!

Posted in It's all about me | 1 Comment

Locale Market and Local Farmtable Kitchen

This past week was the 1st anniversary of the opening of Locale Market at Sundial St. Petersburg. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that last Tuesday was only the second time I set foot in the place. I had, of course, heard much of Locale market. Whenever I hosted a potluck in the last year, at least one of my friends was likely to bring something delicious from Locale.

At first, I thought it was just a fancy specialty grocery store, but a few weeks ago a friend hosted his daughter’s birthday party upstairs at the Farmtable kitchen. The atmosphere was friendly and communal. We broke bread together and enjoyed each other’s company with tasty small plates and bottles of wine.

dryaged

Beef heaven, aka the dry aging room at Locale Market

Last week, I was finally able to tour the Locale Market and now I feel like I understand the big picture. Locale is the perfect neighborhood market. It’s convenient to just about everything downtown and it seamlessly provides delicious meals for a host of different people.

Are you in the mood to get creative and prepare something in your own kitchen with fantastic fresh ingredients? Locale has you covered. From rare dry goods to cheeses and produce so fresh that it’s still growing right there in the store, you’ll have no problem trying new and delicious things. For me, the most impressive part of Locale Market is the meat and seafood. The beef is dry aged right there in the market. I haven’t seen so much dry aged beef since I had dinner at a steakhouse on my last trip to Las Vegas. It doesn’t stop there, though. There’s pork and poultry and fresh creative sausages made on site. 90% of the seafood comes from coastal Florida waters!

seafood

Everything but the salmon comes from Florida coastal waters.

Let’s say you’ve just had a long day at work and you want to get home and eat. Walk on over to the other side of the counter and you’ll find much of this awesome fresh food prepared for you. Worried that your meat or seafood has been sitting under a heat lamp all day? Don’t. You’ll actually pick your cut and one of the chefs will prepare it right in front of you. Pair that with one of the many prepared sides and you’re good to go.

grill

The grill is a great place to get fresh, local burgers and sandwiches on the run.

On the other hand, you may be rushing in for lunch. Locale has you covered there too. Head on over to the grill. It’s a counter service restaurant. Just place your order, the chefs will cook it up for you and you can take it to go or dine outside. The grill features the “St. Petersburger”, which is a phenomenally tasty treat constucted of dry aged beef, double smoked bacon, grilled mushrooms, caramelized onions, and gouda cheese.

drinks

The drinks are pretty good too. I recommend the sangria.

If you’re looking for something a little more relaxed, head upstairs to the Farmtable Kitchen. Here, you can have a seat at the bar or the farmtable and sip on some wine or craft beer while the fabulous waitstaff takes care of you. You’ll enjoy several different fresh pizzas, and a few delectable entrees. I highly recommend getting a group of friends together and passing around several of the small plates. These include steamed clams sourced from Two Docks shellfish, right across the Skyway in Bradenton, some fantastic chicken wings, and crispy pork cracklins with an unexpected kick, among many other options.

The vibe at the Farmtable kitchen is very much one of community. It’s the perfect place to break bread with friends (old and new) and simply enjoy a freshly prepared meal together. I’m proud that chefs Michael Mina and Don Pintabona decided to bring Locale Market and Farmtable Kitchen to St. Petersburg. It’s a welcome addition to our unique, vibrant and growing downtown community.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Ulele

Many of my regular readers will recognize my running fueled love for Mac & Cheese along with a tasty beer. So, on my recent trip to Ulele (Tampa’s hottest new restaurant), my post workday mood was immediately improved by the appetizer.

Yes, Ulele. You had me at “Mac and cheese and beer”.

While I sipped a very tasty Honeymoon beer, brewed with fresh local strawberries, I curiously eyed that Mac and Cheese. Were there really bacon bits? Was the sauce made with beer brewed onsite? Yes and yes! The four cheese light beer sauce poured over seashell pasta and topped with a Parmesan Romano crust was absolutely delicious on its own. Add Ulele’s signature duck bacon and you’ve got yourself some of the best Mac and Cheese in the south!

oysters

Delicious char broiled oysters

Many times in the past, I have made a solid meal out of Mac and Cheese and beer. So, it was difficult to remain disciplined for the feast to come. I ordered a glass of Rusty’s Red lager and settled in as the oysters arrived. I’m not a big fan of oysters so I passed on the beautifully presented raw oysters. I must admit that they were a big hit with the others at the table. The smell of the charbroiled oysters was too hard to resist, though. I’m glad  I tried them. Covered with garlic butter, grated Parmesan and Romano, they were simply delightful.

hushpuppies

The alligator hush puppies. I’m a horrible food photographer. Okay, I’m a horrible photographer in general. All photos are courtesy of my wife, Running Betty

Alligator Hush Puppies? Well that’s interesting. And delicious. Made with alligator, country ham and duck bacon (a theme is developing), these little spheres are full of flavor. I was in the midst of food heaven when our knowledgeable and attentive waiter removed the empty plate.

Then, he brought the filet.

filet

Order this. It’s really, really ,really good.

I enjoy Filet Mignon. I have it maybe 3 times per year. It’s always for a special occasion. Only two months prior, I had the best filet ever at the Envy Steakhouse in the Renaissance Las Vegas while celebrating the finish of the Las Vegas Ragnar Relay. It was tender and juicy with a perfect crust full of flavor. When I went to Ulele for native inspired cuisine, I did not expect to be served Filet Mignon. When I was served this lovely 10 Oz filet, I did not expect it to be as good as the one I had at Envy. It was – maybe even better. It was so tender that I almost didn’t need the knife. The texture was perfect and the flavor was heavenly. Ulele features a lot of unique dishes – all of them delicious, but it would be difficult not to order this filet on a return trip. That’s how good it is.

The Filet Mignon was served with White Chedder popcorn mashed potatoes. Yes. Popcorn. I thought the waiter misspoke at first. You probably expect white cheddar to complement mashed potatoes very well and it does, but the popcorn actually gives the potatoes a unique texture. It sounds crazy and perhaps it is, but it works very well.

How does one follow delicious Filet Mignon? With a relaxing cocktail and dessert of course! I checked out Ulele’s menu of signature cocktails and settled on the Pyrat Old-Fashioned. This Florida twist on the classic old fashioned is made with Pyrat XO Reserve Rum, sugar in the raw and Angostura bitters. It was the perfect compliment to the food coma I was slipping into.

burger

This is one fantastic burger. If you order it for lunch, make sure you schedule time for a nap.

Dessert, however, was a long way off. Instead, how about something from the lunch menu? The Ulele burger arrived smelling irresistible despite my full belly. I sliced off a quarter of the burger and consumed it happily. Made from a blend of ground short rib, brisket and chuck, the term “burger” hardly does this glorious sandwich justice. I was loosening my belt and getting ready to dig in for more when the Florida Pompano arrived.

If you’re looking for something a little lighter than beef, this seafood entree will not disappoint. Served with a sun dried tomato shallot cream and topped with crispy fried carrot ribbons, it’s fun and flavorful.

pompano

The Florida Pompano is a delicious treat.

When our waiter brought the 2.2 lb. Kilo Porterhouse, I threw in the towel. This episode of Man vs Food was over (sort of). Billed as “the best of both worlds”, this filet mignon and New York strip loin is aged 24 days and chef carved off the bone. All of Ulele’s beef is locally sourced from Strickland ranch just 50 miles away. In turn, the cattle at Strickland ranch are fed on the spent grain from Ulele’s onsite brewery. That’s recycling (and just plain cool!) Although the Kilo looked and smelled delicious, I simply could not fit any more in my very happy stomach – or so I thought.

icecream

Best ice cream ever. Save room for this (or don’t save room and eat it anyway).

It turns out there was some room left for the Candied Duck Bacon Maple Fried Ice Cream. I don’t care how much you eat when you go to Ulele. You need to have this ice cream. It’s really, really good. Ulele also featured several other flavors of house made ice cream. Others at the table enjoyed them. I did not try them. I have a hard time believing they could possibly be better than the Candied Duck Bacon Maple Fried Ice Cream. Not only is it one of the best desserts I’ve ever had, it’s just fun to say!

I will certainly be back to Ulele and I’ve been highly recommending this wonderful dining experience to all of my friends. The food is delicious. From the brew master to the head chef to the management and wait staff, everyone is experienced, friendly and knowledgeable. This team takes great pride in delivering an excellent experience to their guests and they succeed on all levels.

Posted in Food | 2 Comments

Still a Scientist

Most of my readers know that in addition to being a runner, I’m trained as an oceanographer and have been working in that field since 1998. Since I don’t blog very often anymore, most of my readers probably don’t know that I left the field in October and started working as a software engineer at Accusoft. I’ve had a lot of fun working with the SaaS team developing PrizmShare, a fast and easy way to share documents of all types in the cloud. In my short tenure at Accusoft, I’ve played a large part in developing the site search feature of PrizmShare. This involves extracting the text from documents of all types and indexing it so that it can later be searched.

Some of the documents shared on PrizmShare can be quite large and contain 100MB or more of text. For so many reasons, I believe all of this text should be easily searchable (unless the owner wishes to keep it private). In the near future, we’ll likely expose all of that text to our internal search engine. While thinking through that project, I asked myself (and the team) how much we should expose to external search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing.

In an ideal world, the answer would be, “all of it” but exposing hundreds of megabytes of plain text on every visit to a document’s page would not provide an ideal experience to a user or a search engine bot. It could also get very costly for the company.

We can easily deal with the user experience by dynamically loading more text as the user scrolls down on the page. This is how things already work within our document viewer. The plain text is for those who use text to speech software or other technology that requires plain text rather than an image of the document.

The plain text is also what gets processed by search engine spiders, but these automated programs aren’t so good at acting like humans. They don’t trigger events (clicks, scrolling, etc) on a page like humans do. So, they can only be relied upon to read whatever text is originally delivered with the page. Where is the tipping point between providing maximum text to the search engine spiders and losing the optimal user experience?

Search engines have their own performance issues. They are keen to keep their own user experience optimal, so it makes sense that their automated spiders would probably have a limit to the amount of data they retrieve for a given page. What is this limit? That’s a little more difficult to find out. With the exception of an experiment from 2006 and some speculation, I’ve been unable to find anything about the topic. So, I decided to conduct my own experiment.

I chose three domains that I own, but I’m not currently using. Each domain received an index file that points to 5 other files. Each of these files contains the entire text of Alice in Wonderland, followed by a series of random words. The files are 250KB, 500KB, 1000KB, 2000KB and 5000KB, respectively in size. Within the series of random words, a unique set of 10 “gibberish” characters was placed every 10KB. The gibberish sequences appear no more than once in a given document and no gibberish sequence appears in more than one document.

Once the files are indexed by the major search engines, I should be able to ascertain how much of each file was indexed by performing a domain search for each gibberish sequence. I’ll post the results when I’ve got them. In the meantime, you can check out the experiment at the following three domains:

Domain 1 containing 5 files: two fifty, five hundred, one thousand, two thousand, five thousand

Domain 2

Domain 3 containing 5 files: two hundred fifty, five hundred, one thousand, two thousand, five thousand

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Evolution of a super medal

Having already launched the Interstate Challenge, Grand Slam Challenge and Hat Trick Challenge, DigitalRunning.com already had challenges that encouraged people to race different distances in different places. The next logical step was to challenge people to race more often.

I’ll freely admit that I struggled with this idea and considered scrapping the challenge. Excluding Ragnar Relays, I raced only 3 times in 2013 and I often encourage people to race less. Racing once per month for a whole year is difficult to do. In addition to crazy schedules, there’s injury potential and uncooperative climates to deal with. Here in Florida, it’s tough to find races in the summer. In Canada, they’re hard to come by in the winter. Racing the whole year calls for a special award.

Given the difficulty, I decided to split the challenge into seasonal increments. I thought it would be really unique to have four medals that connected together and such a “super medal” would be an appropriate reward for those who raced all year round. Unfortunately, I had no idea if it could even be done. I did a lot of research and couldn’t find anything like it. It was frightening and uplifting at the same time. I had the opportunity to be an innovator, but I had no idea where to begin. I had worked with two different medal companies for the first Interstate Challenge and the Hat Trick and Grand Slam Challenges. Neither of them seemed very interested in working with me on this project.

Through the Ragnar Relay Series, some employees of SymbolArts ended up on my email list. One of them reached out to me after receiving an email about the Grand Slam Challenge. One thing led to another and I was introduced to Dennis Molyneaux, their Florida sales executive. I shared my idea with Dennis and I was a little surprised to hear that he had thought about the idea before. Even better, he seemed really excited about it too.

Dennis presented 2 concepts. One was 4 long medals side by side with a tongue and groove design. The medals slid into one another, but there was nothing to hold them in place. It had been designed for a race series but never actually produced. From a design perspective, the medals fit together but they would have required tape or some other kind of adhesive to actually hold them together.

dennis-sketch

“The tiniest spark of an idea is no small thing. Even if born upon the tattered edge of a paper napkin, it may very well grow up to be the size of something special” – Walt Disney

The other concept was a very loose idea with the London 2012 Olympic logo as an example. Dennis cut the paper logo out and split it into 4 pieces with a centerpiece to connect the 4 pieces together. He didn’t know that I spent an entire week at a conference in 2007 listening to graphic designers rip apart that very logo shortly after it was revealed. I laughed when I saw it, but the connecting centerpiece was just what I was looking for.

I was certainly intrigued and my mind was racing, but it was September 2013 and I had other priorities on my mind. I had recently sold my house and I was packing like a madman. We had just chosen our first crew of ambassadors and I was about to expend a nice chunk of cash outfitting them with gear. I also needed enough cash on hand to fund the Tennessee Ragnar Relay team in late October. So, I switched gears and gave Dennis a test run with the 2014 Interstate Challenge medal.

I was at Walt Disney World for the marathon weekend in January with a suitcase full of Grand Slam and Hat Trick medals when I received a text from Raffi telling me the Interstate Challenge medals had arrived. She sent a picture, but it just looked a lot like the proof. She joined me the next day and delivered 3 Interstate Challenge medals. They were easily the nicest medals we had ever put our names to and they were very well received by the surprised ladies who actually earned them that weekend.

crops shot-contemporary

The first Interstate medals are awarded to some happy (and tired) ladies at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

Confident in SymbolArts, I began wracking my brain for some kind of theme. I couldn’t get off the “4 seasons challenge” idea, but creative ideas for the individual challenges were not coming. I came up with names like “The Autumn Quest” and “Old Man Winter’s Ultimatum”. Nothing was really coming together. So, I presented the concept to the DigitalRunning.com ambassadors and asked them for ideas.

My original concept art. I was at the graphic design conference in 2007, but I'm no graphic designer.

My original concept art. I was at the graphic design conference in 2007, but I’m no graphic designer.

Gigi came up with the “Time of the Season” concept and suggested a clock or an hourglass. I thought it had potential and I mulled it over for a while. I liked the idea of the clock and comparing the different seasons to different times of the day. It reminded me of my favorite book trilogies when I was younger: The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weiss & Tracey Hickman. The three books were called Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Dragons of Winter Night and Dragons of Spring Dawning. I came up with a very rough concept and named the challenges the Spring Dawn, Summer Day, Autumn Twilight and Winter’s Night in homage to the trilogy.

One of our early proof revisions from Symbol Arts - the Summer Day medal originally featured a sand castle.

One of our early proof revisions from Symbol Arts – the Summer Day medal originally featured a sand castle.

The ambassadors really liked the idea so Raffi (who is a graphic designer) mocked up a much better concept that included a cut out rim with the names of the months on the top of each medal and the DigitalRunning.com logo as the centerpiece. We sent that off to SymbolArts. Their artist worked on it for a few days. What came back can only be described as overwhelming. There were five proofs with weird colors representing different depths. There was so much to see. I was excited and confused all at the same time.

I presented the proofs to the ambassadors. We all agreed that the centerpiece looked great from the first proof, but we ultimately went through about 5 or 6 revisions of the medals themselves. The Summer Day medal took the longest. When the other three medals were settled, I still wasn’t willing to sign off on the Summer Day. I just wasn’t in love with the sand castles.

I spent a week trying to think of something else to represent the summer. I don’t know what finally brought the palm trees to the front of my brain. Maybe it was a Corona ad. Maybe it was the fact that I live in Florida and there are hundreds of them growing in my neighborhood. Everyone was anxious to wrap the design phase up.

“Change the sand castles to palm trees and I think we’re finished,” I told Dennis. I was mostly right. When I saw the final proof of the Summer Day medal, I was ecstatic. It went from my least favorite of the 4 to my favorite.

I signed off on the proofs and crossed my fingers. Because of the nature of the medal, all of the molds had to be made in the beginning to make sure they would interlock even though I only needed the Spring Dawn medals right away. Dennis seemed confident that everything would fit together well, but I kept thinking about how it had never been done before. I was selling the fact that people would get this awesome “super medal”, and there was big potential for disaster if the centerpiece concept didn’t work out well. As with any start-up such a large failure in the early stages can easily be the end.

inside-separatedSo, you can imagine my relief 6 weeks later when Dennis received the medals from the factory and emailed photos to me. The medals looked fantastic and they fit together beautifully. When they arrived on my doorstep a week later, they looked even better. I’m very proud of these medals. From initial concept to production, it’s been a team effort. SymbolArts did a great job bringing the vision to life. I’m looking forward to being able to award them to runners in a few short weeks. There’s still time to sign up!

full-outside

 

Posted in Digital Running | 2 Comments

Who cares? Just Run!

In recent months, much ado has been made about a September Wall Street Journal article called “The Slowest Generation: Younger Athletes are Racing with Less Concern about Time“. It claims that there are fewer “super competitive” runners in their 20’s and 30’s than there were when the baby boomers were in their 20’s and 30’s. The article even suggests this is the reason that the United States hasn’t won a medal in the marathon since 2004.

median-times

Median marathon times for U.S. men and women from 1980 – 2012. Source: Running USA annual marathon report (http://www.runningusa.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=news.details&ArticleId=332)

 

Last I checked the official baby boomers ranged in age from 40 to 58 years old in 2004. Those silver medals were won by 29 year old Meb Keflezighi and 31 year old Deena Kastor. Meb’s silver medal was the first medal in the marathon by an American male since Frank Shorter took silver in the 1976 Montreal games. Deena’s bronze medal was only the second medal ever for an America woman. The only other was Joan Benoit’s gold medal for the first ever women’s Olympic marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. The baby boomers have hardly been more successful at the marathon than the younger generation.

I think the article’s focus on median times overlooks an important point as well. There are a whole lot more people participating in endurance sports now than there have ever been in the past. Marathons were places where only elite runners dared toe the line. Back in the day, if you couldn’t run under 3 hours you didn’t bother showing up for the Boston marathon.

marathon-participation

United States marathon participation 1980-2012. The New York City marathon was excluded from the 2012 data since it was cancelled due to Super Storm Sandy. Source: Running USA Annual Marathon Report (http://www.runningusa.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=news.details&ArticleId=332)

 

So, yes there are slower people running races now and that has made the median times slower, but having more participants is nothing but good for the sport. More runners means more races and more equipment sold. That translates into more sponsorship dollars and bigger prizes for the elites. It also translates into a healthier general population.

I don’t buy the argument that there are less “super competitive” people in the younger generation either. The American records for all running distances keep getting lower. New American records in the marathon, half-marathon, 10,000 m and 5000 m have all been set in the last 6 years. Galen Rupp won silver in the 10,000 m in London. Shalane Flanigan got Bronze in the 10,000 m in Beijing.

At the end of the day, everyone has their own goals. There are those who run just to finish and those who run to PR. There are elite runners who run for money and to break world records. We’re all runners and we all coexist. If a race is well organized, slower runners will never get in the way of elites so why does it matter if they run slow? The race organizers have figured out how long it is profitable to close the streets for the course and they set their required paces accordingly. If there’s any difference in the younger generation it’s that they’re willing to participate in a race even if they have no chance of competing for some sort of victory. I’ll take that over people who are afraid to enter a race because they think they’re too slow. It’s better than not running at all, and that’s what was happening in the 80’s.

Different strokes for different folks, I say. None of this is really a comment on any generation. There are just more options available today and different people are enjoying different forms of recreation. Sometimes that happens to be in the same event. I can agree that if you sign up for a race that has a finisher’s medal than you need to finish the race to get the medal. That’s a rule of the game, but if you sign up for the color run you should probably run slow because the whole point there is to be covered in as much colors as possible. Who care’s if it’s not timed? It’s not a race!

Were recreational bowling leagues of the 60’s an indication of that generation’s laziness? How about beer league softball? Every culture has its favored form of recreation – its way to unwind from the rigors of everyday life. For more and more people, that is running. It is fueling a running boom and it is a good thing at any pace.

What do you think?

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

The Year of the Challenge

In 2013, DigitalRunning.com hosted 1 challenge. 150 people signed up for the 2013 Interstate Challenge and 126 people have completed it to date. I’m not one of them.

hattrick-medal-actual

I might have 500 of these stored away, but I’m actually going to earn 1 of them!

I did run a full marathon and a half marathon in 2013, but they were both in Florida so I didn’t qualify for the challenge. In 2014, I’m going to change that. In fact, I plan on completing all of the 2014 DigitalRunning.com Challenges.

I’ll need to run a 5K or longer race every month March 2014-February 2015 (for reasons that have not yet been announced), I’ll need to run a marathon or half-marathon in two different U.S. States or Canadian Provinces to earn the Interstate Challenge medal. I’ll need to run a 5K, 10K and a half marathon to earn the Hat Trick Challenge medal and I’ll need to add a full marathon to those three to get the Grand Slam Challenge medal.

Now, a little known fact is that races can count for multiple challenges. So, the half marathon I run in Florida in January counts toward the Interstate Challenge, the Grand Slam Challenge and the Hat Trick Challenge. Here’s my current plan to complete all of the challenges as efficiently as possible:

January 11th: Walt Disney World Half Marathon – Lake Buena Vista, FL

2010-half

The last time I ran the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, it was 30 degrees and sleeting.

March 1st: Suncoast Classic 10K – St. Petersburg, FL

April 19th: Hare Racing Experience 5K – Tampa, FL

May 10th: Miles for Moffitt 5K– Tampa, FL

June 1st: Bay 5K for Kids – St. Petersburg, FL

July 3rd: Kiwanis Midnight Run 10K – Dunedin, FL

August 18th: Sea Dog Brewery 5K – Clearwater, FL

September 6th: Miles for Men 10K – Clearwater, FL

October 12th: Chicago Marathon – Chicago, IL

November: Disney’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon – Lake Buena Vista, FL

December: Ties & Tennis Shoes 5K – St. Petersburg, FL

January: Walt Disney World Half Marathon – Lake Buena Vista, FL

February: Best Damn Race 10K – Safety Harbor, FL

Of course the schedule is subject to change but assuming I complete all of the above races, I will complete the Hat Trick Challenge and Mystery Challenge #1 in May, Mystery Challenge #2 in August, The Grand Slam and Interstate Challenges in October, Mystery Challenge #3 in November, and Mystery Challenge #4 in February 2015. I’ll also receive something special for completing all of the Mystery Challenges. That’s all I’ll say for now about the mystery challenges, except that we will reveal them in January 2014!

If I don’t get into the Chicago marathon, I’ll likely replace it with the Rock ‘n’ Roll St. Louis marathon on October 19th.

What do you think of my race schedule? Who wants to join me?

 

 

 

 

Posted in Races | 7 Comments

New Gear

This has been a long time coming.

Since I first dreamed up DigitalRunning.com in 2007, I’ve been waiting for the moment when I would be able to pull on a DigitalRunning.com jersey for a race. In the grand scheme of things, it’s really kind of silly compared to everything that goes into developing a community of runners online. So, the available cash went to more important things like a more robust infrastructure for the website, fronting money for the challenge medals and travel expenses for our many events since launching the site in 2011.

Finally, our advertising budget and strategic plan came together, allowing us to recruit ambassadors to spread our message to a wider audience. Of course, those ambassadors need gear. Here’s what we came up with:

shortsleeve

longsleeve

singlet

jacket

All of the gear is fully dye sublimated, meaning that the fabric itself is dyed. That keeps everything light while maintaining the wicking and ventilating properties of the garments.

We also came up with a fun vintage style casual cotton t-shirt:

tshirt

Who gets to wear this stuff? I do! Of course, they were actually made for our ambassadors. In addition to Raffi, they are:

Megan from Running Toward the Prize.

Jennifer from My Frugal Wife

Gigi from Running on Candy

Kim from Barking Mad About Running

Tammy from Ginger Mantra

Laura from Running for Kicks & Giggles

We have extra T-shirts available for purchase for those who’d like one, but (for now at least) the tech gear is exclusive to the ambassadors. If you see one of them at your next race, stop and say “Hi”!

What do you think of the gear?

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Digital Running | 2 Comments