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Hi, I'm Matt. I blog about my insane running habits, marketing, technology and other random stuff that you may or may not want to read about. Enjoy!

2011. An Epic Year of Running.

January 9th, 2012

As 2012 comes to a close (heh), I present to you my 2011 Running Year-in-Review. Confession: I’ve never done one of these year in review posts. Usually the New Year comes and goes and I don’t take the time to reflect on what I’ve accomplished and the people who helped me get there.

But 2011 was different. I trained my ass off. And not just during the good weather seasons. I logged some serious mileage with seriously amazing friends and made plenty of new ones. I reacquainted myself with trail running and remembered how much I LOVE it. I finally learned how to rehab through injuries and continue running at a high level. I ran a whopping 18 races including not one, but TWO marathons, on my way to an all-time best 1,625 miles ran during the year.

Let me recap some of my favorite moments:

Chicago Marathon

One of the most amazing running experiences I’ve ever had. I made it through my training months unscathed for the first time and was in peak shape going into the race. I had some great memories with my best friends in an atmosphere that is difficult to describe in words.

Ragnar Relay

A 200-mile relay from Madison to Chicago with 12 buddies. “12 Sweaty Nuts” – the best team name ever. Two days in a van on zero sleep. Running in the middle of the night with a head lamp. What’s not to love?

Pettit Indoor Marathon Relay

If you’re ever passed by a runner and they yell “DESTROY”, (1) I invented that during this race, and (2) You owe me royalties. See how blurry I am in the photo? That’s speed, my friends. ;-)

Dances with Dirt

My first trail race in 7 years! I put in quite of bit of time in 2011 training on some tough trails at Kettle Moraine South and Lapham Peak, which was made much easier by bringing along like-minded friends. In July, we went out to Devil’s Lake State Park, camped like BAMFs and then rolled out of the tent and ran a trail half marathon.

South Shore Half Marathon

The PR in 2011 that I’m most proud of! A perfect mix of good weather, training and tapering led to a 1:25:06 time, an 8-minute PR. And I’m still having a tough time understanding how I did it.

Run into the New Year

A fitting end to an epic year! I ran a non-college PR in the 10K with a time of 38:33. That was followed by one of the best NYE weekends I’ve ever experienced.

2012!

So how can 2012 possibly top last year? Well, I have some ideas. How about my first ultra marathon? More relays and more trail running? A goal of 2,000 miles? Maybe a destination fall marathon? Yes, ALL OF THAT. Let’s do this.

The Runner’s Rule Book

April 2nd, 2010

Runner's Rule BookI don’t know what it is, but there’s something about reading books and magazines about running that makes me want to sprint out the door and immediately apply what I’ve learned. One book I just finished, by Mark Remy of Runner’s World, is called “The Runner’s Rule Book”.

It’s a quick read and perfect for runners of any skill level. Pick a copy up for yourself or as a cheap gift for one of your runner friends. They will love you for it.

A handful of my favorite rules from the book:

  • Run Against Traffic / Don’t Tempt Fate: In other words, try not to get killed out there.
  • Love Your Tan Lines: Wear them as a badge of honor for all the hard work you’ve put in!
  • Run the Mile You’re In: Don’t focus so much on the entire race and how much you have left to run. Instead, concentrate on getting through the mile you’re currently running.
  • Signing Up For a Race Equals Instant Motivation: Perfect timing, since I wrote a post about this last week.
  • …and lastly, my personal favorite!

  • Do Whatever it Takes to Finish Ahead of a Costumed Runner: “Because being outkicked by Elmo is too much to bear.”

Motivation

Most runners struggle with motivation to varying degrees. We want the results – personal best times, weight loss, a great looking body – but wish the training could be as satisfying as the races. It’s not that running isn’t fun, but runners constantly need something to strive for.

As I was reading a great article on Fit Milwaukee about running motivation, I realized that the single most effective way that I motivate myself is by signing up for a race. Or multiple races. Plan you entire year’s race schedule if you want. Pay the registration fee so you have a financial interest in reaching your goals. Give yourself the daily push you need to get out the door. The guilt of losing all the progress you’ve made, having to drop out of the race, and being out $20+ are all powerful factors in keeping your training plan on track.

Read the rest of this entry »

ClutterFacebook has pushed out a number of new designs and layouts over the years in an effort to evolve with its growing user base. I was never one to complain about the changes or join some “Go Back to the Old Facebook!” petition. However, there are a few things about Facebook that annoy me, including:

  • The Connect with Friends section – Seriously, it’s now my responsibility to help my friends connect with people? And why would I randomly write on someone’s wall just because Facebook told me to?
  • Suggestions section – I’m fine with the concept of suggestions. I just rarely see relevant people or pages to add. Also, if I click to ignore the suggestion once, I should have the option to never see it again.
  • Publishing friend and fan stories – Isn’t this why the Suggestions section even exists? So I can see who to become a friend or fan of? Displaying them in the feed is pointless.

Luckily, there’s a way to clean up these irritations and make some other cool Facebook customizations that result in a much better user experience. Here’s a quick tutorial on my favorite, Facebook Fixer:

1. Download Firefox if you don’t have it already.
2. Download the Greasemonkey add-on for Firefox. Restart the browser when prompted.
3. Install the Facebook Fixer user script.
4. Go to Facebook or refresh the page if it’s open already. Under the Account menu, go to Configure Facebook Fixer.
5. Navigate through the options and choose your favorite customizations. You can always refresh the page, see what the option does and then switch it back if you don’t like it. I have it set up this way:

  • Check - Keep the left column visible, even after scrolling down (Home Page tab)
  • Uncheck - Show the Pokes, Suggestions and Connect with Friends sections (Home Page)
  • Check - Hide fan/friend/group stories (Feeds)
  • Check - Popup bigger versions of photos and profile pictures on mouse over (Pictures)
  • Check - Add links to add birthdays and events to Google Calendar (Birthdays/Events)
  • Check - Keep the top menu bar on the screen, even after scrolling down (Menus/Chat)

Play around with the options on your own and you’ll eventually develop your own preferences. Keep in mind that Facebook Fixer must be separately installed on every computer you want to use it on. Give it a test drive and let me know what you think!

Image credit: flavor32

How I Use Foursquare

March 8th, 2010

If you hang out with the cool kids, or are hiding in the bushes nearby listening to their conversations, you have likely heard of or are using Foursquare, the addictive location-based social networking game. For those that aren’t familiar with the new technology, the basic premise is that people take their fancy smartphones and “check in” to places such as restaurants, bars, parks and stores using the phone’s application or text messaging. You get points for checking in, unlock badges, find out where your friends check in, and compete to become the mayor of your favorite places (the person who has checked in the most in the past 60 days).

Combining the popularity of social networking, gaming and mobile applications has been a huge success for Foursquare and it doesn’t look like that will slow down in 2010. Businesses can use the service to increase their visibility, run special promotions and get a snapshot of their most tech-savvy and loyal customers. Customers can get special discounts and perks for checking in and holding on to mayorships.

With that said, there are some privacy concerns that users should be aware of and guidelines that will help make Foursquare better. The company is continually working out the kinks of the service by listening to the large amount of feedback from the community.

Everyone has their own opinions and preferences, but here is how I personally use Foursquare to get the most out of it while still addressing privacy issues:

Read the rest of this entry »

My Favorite Running Tools

March 1st, 2010

Happy March everyone. After a long break from blogging, I’m back with a plan to give you at least one post per week. This week’s post is for all my running friends out there or people who are trying to become more active but don’t know where to start. How can you stay motivated? Where can you find people to run with? What is the best way to track workouts?

I want to start answering those questions with this list of my favorite running tools that have shaped my running habits in one way or another.

  • Dailymile.com – this site for logging your workouts is like Facebook for runners. It’s easy to find a website to track your runs, but not one the powerful social aspects that dailymile brings to the table. You can become friends with people from all over the world and see their workouts in your feed. Narrow down the feed to see only local people or keep it open to everyone and live vicariously through a marathoner posting pictures from a race halfway across the globe. The incredible part about dailymile is the level of support that other runners provide, whether they know me personally or not. Whenever I post runs, I get motivating and inspiring comments from both friends and strangers. Runners of all levels coming together on one site really makes me believe in the strength of the running community.
  • Fit Milwaukee – every runner can use the support of a group to motivate them. Fit Milwaukee is a group that was formed with one simple goal – to get Milwaukee into shape. Using social networking on Twitter and Facebook to spread the word, the group has started a blog, planned numerous fitness activities, and launched a weight loss challenge. All for free. If you’re not in Milwaukee, seek out groups like this in your own city or form your own!
  • Garmin Forerunner – my ultra-geeky but oh-so-important GPS watch. From the moment I step out the door, it has satellites watching over my run and giving me real-time updates on my pace and distance. Nothing is more comforting on a run than 99.999999% accuracy on that 8-miler you just finished. How did I ever run without one of these?
  • Runner’s World – when I need the advice of running experts or training plans for my next big race, I turn to my trusty Runner’s World magazine or website. I can always find helpful articles on training, nutrition, injuries, motivation, gear and more.

You can’t go wrong with using one of all of these tools to jump start your running plans. I love that each one uses technology in one way or another to aid runners.

What about you? What tools do you use most often and why?

Image credit: rcsaxon

Sporting events are fun to attend, especially playoff games where there’s a lot of energy in the crowd. What’s not fun, however, is when idiots like this Angels fan decide it would be a good idea to get blackout drunk and jump in the waterfall at Angels Stadium.

[Note: Naturally, the day after I posted this, MLB took down all video clips of this guy. I guess they want this kind of behavior to continue! Here's a picture instead or see a more thorough recap.]

angels-fan-waterfall

You hear about stories like this every year and it never seems to stop. I feel sorry for the real fans that have to deal with people like this. After spending hundreds of dollars on hard-to-obtain tickets and overpriced beer, it would be nice to have the promise of a great fan experience. A colleague of mine recently blogged about the topic of sporting event drunkenness at college football games. I totally agree with putting unique measures in place, such as the rules the University of Minnesota recently implemented at football games, and keeping the drunks at home.

TV static

About a year ago, I did some comparison shopping between DISH Network and DIRECTV‘s satellite TV offerings before I ended up choosing DISH. Ever since then, I’ve been receiving direct mail pieces from DIRECTV at least once every two weeks promoting their services and trying to convince me to sign up with them. They send the same exact letter and inserts with every mailing. It goes directly from my mailbox to my trash can without a second look. Read the rest of this entry »

Twitter Web Apps

If you’re like the vast majority of Twitter users and only using the default twitter.com to manage your tweets, you’re missing out on some excellent web apps that will help you organize Twitter better and be more productive. Time for you to take it to the next level.

Twitter web apps have come a long way this year and are only getting better. Create groups of friends, set up keyword searches to find new and interesting people, manage multiple accounts and sort all of this information across columns and tabs. Here are a few great web-based apps that you can access from any computer – no download required. Read the rest of this entry »

Conan - In the Year 2000

Although they’ve only been around for about five years, social networking sites like Facebook or LinkedIn have become life changers. People that you, in the past, might’ve lost contact with forever are suddenly in your news feed everyday talking about their kids and careers, posting pictures and sending you quizzes.

Ask yourself how your life would be different now if you had Facebook 20 years ago. What if you friended every person you met along the way? Would you have made different life decisions? Would you have gone to a different college, moved to another country or even married somebody else?

Or maybe nothing would’ve changed. After all, even with Facebook you have to work on friendships and relationships to keep them alive. You can’t just send a buddy a gift in Mafia Wars and expect to be the best man at his wedding. At some point, you have to pick up the phone.

What do you think – would this be a butterfly effect that alters the course of history or am I over-analyzing things again?