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Tracking My Runs

This year, I’m really starting to do some longer races.  I’ve already run Broad Street (10 miles), and have 2 more half-marathons and then a full marathon in November.  Since I’ve started running back in 2010, I’ve been using Runkeeper on my phone to track my runs to give myself an idea how far and how fast I’m running.  It’s a pretty nice little app and service using your phone’s GPS to track how you’re doing and overlaying your path over Google Maps.  But as I’ve been running more and participating in some longer races, I’ve noticed that its accuracy was starting to become questionable.

When I ran the Philadelphia Half-Marathon in 2013, I used Runkeeper and found that it had me running around 14.5 miles.  Given that a half-marathon is 13.1, I couldn’t imagine the officials at the Philly Marathon measured the course so far off from the official distance.  Looking at the map, I found that the GPS had me sort of all over the course of the run.  Rather than being in a relatively straight line across the course, it had me zigging and zagging across the course.  Over the course of a 13.1 mile race, that zigging and zagging added up.  I ended up having to go in and edit the map and the GPS points to make it closer to what I actually ran.  I was disappointed in it, but it gave me a mostly-decent idea how I’ve been doing, and since it’s a free app and service (with a paid premium option), I can’t really complain.  Plus I didn’t know how much of it was the app and how much was the phone’s GPS antenna.

Fast forward to the Broad Street Run and I used my phone and Runkeeper again to track my run.  After finishing the race, I happened to look at the map on Runkeeper and it was pretty far off from the actual run.  At one point it had me 2-3 blocks away from where I actually was.  For anyone who is not familiar with Philadelphia, Broad Street is a major north-south road in Philadelphia.  It is around 13 miles and it is pretty much completely straight.  The fact that Runkeeper put me 2-3 blocks away, even in areas outside of Center City where there are no skyscrapers to interfere with GPS satellite reception was disappointing.  Again though, I can’t say that the problem is Runkeeper or the GPS antenna in my phone.

After Broad Street and with several big races coming up, I decided I wanted to find something that was a little better at tracking my runs.  My friend Brian recommended a Garmin GPS watch and I ended up getting the Garmin Forerunner 110 with a Heart Rate monitor.  I’ve used it for 4 runs so far and am actually pretty happy with the results.  None of the runs have been incredibly far, but looking at the maps, it seems that the watch is pretty accurate GPS-wise.  The only thing I miss is the automatic uploading to the cloud.  Runkeeper automatically uploads your activities to the cloud for you to review and see how you did, the model I have requires me to plug the watch into my computer to upload the activities to Garmin Connect to review.  All in all it’s minor and doesn’t bother me as it really only takes 5 minutes to complete, but it’s still something I miss.

Garmin Connect actually does a pretty good job at displaying the information to you as well. It gives you a map showing your run as well as graphs showing the elevation, pace, and if you wore your heart rate monitor, your heart rate as well. You can click below for an example of what a run looks like through the Garmin interface.

Garmin Connect Run View

You can see that it gives you a pretty good idea of how I did based on elevation, how I was able to maintain or lose my pace as well as where my heart rate was.  I’m looking forward to using this as I ramp up my runs over the next 2 weeks as I prepare for the ODDyssey Half-Marathon June 8th.

Back with WordPress

At the end of January I decided to make the switch to the Ghost blogging platform.  I had heard good things about it and decided to move over to it.  Well, this past week I decided I wanted to expand a bit more with how I blog and realized that Ghost really wasn’t going to work for what I needed.  Given that and my limited knowledge of node.js, I decided that I’d be better served moving back to WordPress as my platform since I am familiar with PHP and its inner workings.

It wasn’t an easy decision and I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t second guessing myself, but for the moment, I’m happy with where I’m at.  I backed up my Ghost install, database and all so if down the line I feel like Ghost would be better suited for what I’m looking for, I should be able to move back with limited problems.

At the end of the day, this blog still gives me the space I need to express myself and that is what’s most important.

Run Forest, Run!

Well, it’s official, this November I will be running my first full marathon. On November 23, 2014 I will be running the Philadelphia Marathon.

Last year I ran the Philadelphia Half-Marathon which was a huge accomplishment for me and I’m looking forward to pushing myself to the next level. 4 years ago I could barely run a mile and last year I was able to hit 13.1 miles. Now I get to see if I can run 26.2 miles.

The marathon will actually be the end of a big running year for me. I’m going to be running the Broad Street Run in Philly (10 miles) and two half-marathons. I’m looking forward to running all of these races and am really hoping to get in better shape.

Now to start training.

Me running the Phillies 5k in March 2014

Full Steam Ahead

A week or so ago I decided that I needed a new programming project to work on. I haven’t really had something like this since I closed the book on OpenVoter.

Originally I was planning on building a project tracking tool in .NET but I decided that I wanted to do something a little less “corporate”, at least right now. Instead, I’ve come up with going back to an older project idea that I abandoned but am now thinking I’ll go back to.

I’m not going to go too much into it right now, but I will say it’s something that I’m actually excited to build and feel like it’s a product that I would use on an everyday basis.

I’ve already designed the logo and have been working on the wireframes. I’m hoping to get into actual layout over the next week or so.

I’m planning on building it in Ruby on Rails and have mobile apps planned for development as well.

I haven’t been this excited about a project for a while and am looking forward to seeing this move forward and becoming a reality.

My Thoughts on Ghost so Far

Two weeks ago, I decided to make the switch from WordPress to Ghost as my blogging platform. For me it was a figuratively big jump as I have been using WordPress for years and hadn’t really thought of switching to any other platform.

For me, it was also a challenge to figure out enough about Node.js to be able to set up and configure my blog with Ghost. I ended up getting it up and running on my development server, played around with it, worked on porting my theme over, and finally decided I liked it enough to switch over.

I’m still playing around with it, though not as much now that it’s stable. The only thing I’m trying to get working is the 404 page. Whenever I try to add my custom error page, the site constantly gives me a 503 error. One day, I’ll figure this out!

I really like the writing tool. I’m still getting used to the markdown syntax, but I love the simplicity of it. It’s also nice because you can mix in HTML code with it as well to get the additional features you miss with markdown. You can just start writing and not think twice about it.

I also like the overall simplicity of the platform itself. Not to knock WordPress, but there is a lot of functionality there that is not really needed for a blog. That doesn’t mean that it is a bad thing as some sites could definitely benefit from the added features, but for my needs, Ghost provides all the functionality I need.

One feature that I’m waiting for Ghost to implement is scheduled posting. I would like to be able to schedule a post for the future which I was able to do with WordPress, but not with Ghost. That said, this does seem to be in the feature list for Ghost so I’m hopeful I’ll see it in the next release.

I would also like to see archives functionality. I do miss the ability to view a specific month or year’s posts which doesn’t seem to be available currently, but it might be available in a later release.

Overall I’m quite happy with my decision to switch over to Ghost. It seems to be a solid platform that works great for me. If you’re considering it, I’d highly recommend giving it a shot.

Podcasts Galore!

Pocket Casts

Many times while I am working, I often listen to podcasts. I find that they’re a great way to keep myself up to date with what’s going on around the world, or just to learn something new.

I used to listen to NPR a lot more, and I still do, but with all the meetings I’m called into, I seldomly get to listen to a full story or full episode. Now this is part of working so I’m not compaining, it just means that podcasts make a little more sense to me since I can pause the episode and come back to it at the point where I left off.

The app I use to listen to podcasts is called PocketCasts. It has both an Android and an iOS app. I like it because it syncs across my devices. I switch back and forth between my Nexus 7 and my Galaxy S4, so it’s nice to have the episodes sync across the two. It’s also nice because it will automatically download the episodes I generally listen to.

The only downside is that sometimes the counts go up to the point where it is difficult to keep up with them, even when I filter them down to the episodes I am interested in. That being said, I find that it does keep me up to date with what is going on in various different areas such as politics, tech, news, hockey, and more.

Here’s a list of the podcasts I listen to:

Do you listen to podcasts? If so, what podcasts do you subscribe to?

Is the Bill Nye – Ken Ham Debate Worth It?

Tonight, Bill Nye (the Science Guy) is going to debate the founder of the Creation Museum, Ken Ham. The debate is going to center around the whole Evolution versus Creationism argument.

But why even really have this debate? I really doubt anyone is really going to have their minds changed by this debate. There are those who believe in evolution, and there are those who believe in creation according to the bible. I feel like those who side with Nye are going to just laugh at Ham’s arguments, and those who side with Ham, are going to pretty much ignore Nye.

As someone who believes in science and follows the evidence, I obviously believe Bill Nye to be on the correct side of the argument and it is HIGHLY unlikely my mind will be changed by Ken Ham. With that said, I feel like Bill Nye’s time and energy would be better spent pushing to improve science education in our schools (keeping creationism out of public school science classes), and just increasing science in the public eye. Maybe if we educate more people about science, scientific theory, and the scientific method, debates like this one won’t have to happen.

Now Running on Ghost

Despite my initial skepticism about switching over to Ghost as my blogging platform, I still pushed ahead and made my blog theme for Ghost. As you can tell, the look isn’t all that different from it’s previous look, but the backend is completely different.

I have to say, the way it handles editing is slightly different, but in a good way. I’ll write more once I get more into the nitty-gritty.

Making a Switch to Ghost?

Several months ago, when Ghost was first released to the public, I took a look at it and made a note to give it a look-see. Over the past week, I finally got it running on my dev server playing nicely with my Apache setup. So far I’ve been playing around with it and am contemplating whether I want to switch my blog platform over to it from WordPress, which is what I currently use.

I’ve been blogging off and on since 2007. My first blog was actually a custom blog that I first built to help myself learn PHP. Since then, I’ve generally used WordPress with various different looks. WordPress has worked well for me. I’ve gotten a decent understanding of how it works so I can build themes for it and maintain it properly. I can post from my phone and my tablet with ease through the WordPress app. Simply put, WordPress just works.

So why should I even contemplate a switch? Truth be told, I still can’t come up with a great answer for this. I see other people raving about it and its simplicity for simply writing does have a certain draw to it. One of the reasons for this blog was to get me into the habit of writing and Ghost seems to do a great job at doing just that. It doesn’t yet seem to have the same support that WordPress has for plugins and whatnot, though that’s apparently in the works. Still though, I don’t really use any plugins for my blog at all except for Disqus so it probably isn’t all that big of a deal.

I guess one of the biggest drawbacks (for me) I see for it is that it’s written in node.js. I have no problem with node.js, its just that I haven’t really played around with it much and would like a better understanding of it before I’m willing to run my site on it. That in itself wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that I’m busy enough the way it is. Now I feel like I’m just complaining about nothing or maybe I just have too much on my plate at the moment.

Either way, it’s something I am still considering, but I can’t help but to think…if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Delays, Delays…

This week, I was hoping to get back into my gym routine. I went so far as to do a double session on Monday in hockey (2.5 hours of drills) and was all ready to start on Tuesday after a few false starts over the last month.

Life unfortunately, doesn’t always go so easy. Tuesday there was a pretty big snowstorm and did not feel comfortable to drive to the gym. Wednesday I was all ready to go…but then I got sick. Stupid virus or something knocked me on my ass until today, and even today I don’t feel 100%.

Oh well, maybe tomorrow.