Tuesday, March 31, 2009

SportTracks Plugin for BuckeyeOutdoors.com

Hot off the Press!
The BuckeyeOutdoors.com Plugin for SportTracks is now available for download!

This was a project that Ben (the BuckeyeOutdoors.com admin) and I started almost a year ago. It started off as a cool concept that Ben's online users wanted. Ben posted a message on his forums asking for help, I then found his post requesting a .NET geek and responded... the rest is history. We quickly realized we both went to the same school, we graduated a year apart. We've been developing this plugin at various bars and coffee shops all over Columbus ever since. :) What a small world!

Here is a quick video that I put together to show you how it works:

[Full Screen]

Who Should Download this Plugin?
Here are some bullet points that may help you decide if you are a good candidate for this plugin:
  • Do you have a GPS watch (ie. Timex, Garmin, Suunto, etc..)?
  • Do you like to share your workouts and/or routes with your friends?
  • Do you hate entering the same information twice?
  • Are you tired of dealing with the canned applications that ship with your GPS watch?
If you answered yes to ANY of the above, then you should check it out. If you use SportTracks for your training application, or if you use BuckeyeOutdoors.com as your online training log, then you should absolutely checkout this plugin.

What is SportTracks?
SportTracks is the one stop shop for everything about training (whether you're a cyclist, swimmer, runner, etc..). If you don't use SportTracks then I highly recommend that you check it out. I found out about this application from my blogging buddy, Jamie (the MaineRunner). Since he turned me on to it, I've never looked back. One of the key features of this application that I discovered very quickly was that it offered the ability to install plugins for it. The app was written in .NET and the creator of this application was brilliant enough to open up the API to allow geeks (like myself) to interface with every aspect of the data. The result is literally a framework for interacting with anything and everything about your workouts and outdoor activities.

What is BuckeyeOutdoors.com?
BuckeyeOutdoors.com is an online social networking site and a FREE training log site that is creatively designed to help you:
  • Be flexible by supporting all types of Endurance sports and methods of training.
  • Track your progress with precise reports and graphs.
  • Track your diet and hydration with our database of foods.
  • Design your own INTERACTIVE Training Plan or import others.
  • Form your own Community TEAM and stay in touch with fellow trainees no mater where they are
  • Create and share your own favorite training routes or easily confirm your distances.
  • Meet online within our Forum or use the Find a Friend Feature to see who is training at your level.
  • Post your training and race data on your favorite Blog site with Sidebars.
There are no catches or strings attached! BuckeyeOutdoors.com is just a site that was built to give back to the online community!

Please check the BuckeyeOutdoors.com Plugin that we've created. If you do download it and use it, please provide feedback (good or bad)!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Programming Productivity Killer

So much productivity get's lost when I try to get help from Visual Studio .NET. It's amazing that I can go out to the interweb and search through trillions of sources and get answers to my question in the blink of an eye, but when trying to search for the same answers on my local machine, it takes up to 10 minutes.

Every .NET geek knows this dialog and how useless and painful it is once it's displayed:

I can't close it, I can't cancel it. It stays on my screen and hog my resources for minutes on end, and also locks me out of my IDE, thus preventing me from working, while it updates. What a pain in my butt! I guess it's nice that they give me this dialog when I try to go back into my IDE though:

Unfortunately, the two buttons that I have to choose from do the SAME EXACT THING!!... Which is: force me to wait. I can either switch to the spinning dialog (first image), or sit and stare at my locked up VS.NET IDE.

It would be nice if, instead, Microsoft would index my help files in the background as needed. This way I could search through what has been indexed. A great example of this in action can be found in the Google Desktop utility (if you don't have it, you should get it). It indexes my computer in the background until it's done. It doesn't penalize me when I try to use it before it's done indexing. It never locks up my computer and forces me to wait while it refreshes it's index. Instead it shows me what it does have and then informs me that it's not done indexing. Beautiful.

After all these years as a developer, you'd think I'd learn my lesson by now...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'm posting a blog entry...

This is a hilarious short film about why we are all secretly hooked on Twitter.

It's painfully true. I'm at my computer so much these days that I feel as though it's the only way I can communicate with my "friends". Listening to peoples tweets vocally let me appreciate how ridiculous tweets really are...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mohican Training Run

I had another great run at Mohican yesterday. Nick and I were supposed to meet up and run the Red and Green loop. However, there were a few last minute changes (ask Nick for details) :) and we decided to do "Plan B" and run with the Forget the PR 50k runners. Rob had scheduled a familiarization training run for the runners of the upcoming race. Everything, worked out great, and I was happy we resorted to the Orange loop! I'll probably end up doing Red / Green blindly at the 50 miler this summer. (?)

Michelle, Nick, Sorry?, Paul, Cheryl,
Me, Mark, Rob,
Traci (I think), and Don

I knew this was going to be a fun run for me because we were doing the Orange loop backwards. I've ran the Orange loop 3 or 4 times now and I've always run it the other way coming from the Covered Bridge, up and around to Campground A. This time we met at the Campground A area and headed up into the forest to the Covered Bridge. Looking at the map below, we started at the 'Start / Finish', ran to Aid Station #1 (which I missed), then to Aid Station #2, then back to the 'Start / Finish'.

I woke up at 4:30, piddle-farted around in and out of consciousness til about 5:30, when I officially woke up. Of course, I made my coffee. Then I scarfed down a quick bagel and headed up to Mohican. We all met up and started off for the trail at 8:10. Immediately I was right in the middle of the front runners and the "back of the pack" runners. It was kind of nice to be running by myself actually. I mean, I do it all the time, only this time I was at the beautiful and trecherous Mohican running by myself. This run actually built my confidence up and I truly feel I could come up here and run it by myself anytime now; at least the Orange loop. :)

There were a few times where I crossed paths with Nick and I saw Rob once or twice as he was going between the two groups. However, I was not relying on them to tell me where to turn. Typically, I rely on one of them or Kim to keep me on course so I don't get lost. This time, I knew to just follow the signs for "MTB100"; they are posted at most places where the trail splits.

Somehow, I completely missed the Hickory Ridge aid station. I thought I had been running for a too long at one point and knew I had passed it. All the sudden I run up on Nick, and asked him about it. He said it was about 2 miles back. Apparently I turned left when I should have turned right or something. The good news is that I got a little extra distance in. We synced our watches and I had 7.4 miles and he had something like 7.2. Whatever, I didn't need a refill or a break by that point anyway. It felt good to just be out on the trail running.

More time goes by and more trails are consumed. Then, by about about mile 11, I'm starting to bonk. I went reaching for my other gel pack, only to realize I had only brought one gel pack! Unfortunately, I had consumed it at mile 4. I was sure I packed 2, but apparently not. This meant that I had to go 4 more miles with no fuel and I was on empty. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

As I rolled up on the Covered Bridge I saw Nick for the last time and he pointed me to the (obvious) water jugs. :) I filled up my two water bottles and headed down the Hemlock Gorge Trail. This is a beautiful trail that follows the Mohican River for about 2 miles. Absolutely gorgeous... and pretty technical at parts. This meets up with the North Rim Trail which goes along the Camground A site. I think I might have screwed this route up because I remember there being a really steep climb on the end of this section. However, I didn't see that at all on this run. I think I know where I screwed though, so next time I'll be sure to keep going strait instead of turning right. Besides, I was spent on this one anyway and McDonalds was calling my name. :)

After my run, I stood around to talk with Mark Carroll for a while. He and I talked about various races and our goals for 2009. Mark was there on my very first Mohican run (along with Nick, Kim, and Rob). I'll never forget it! I showed up for a 15 mile run with a bunch of people that I'd never met. I had never heard of organized trail runs before that run. The only way I found out about that particular run was because I had subscribed to Trails and Tribulations podcast, and one of the hosts of that show was Kim! Somehow, I found her blog and she posted something about a training run up at Mohican. I thought... what the hell, and the rest is history. It was great to see Mark again. Apparently, we've crossed paths at a few races (Pinckney Trail Marathon & Indian Run 60k) and we didn't know it until afterwards. :) Great seeing you again, Mark!

Before heading home, I stopped at McDonalds and devoured a BigMac value meal in record time. When I got home, Jen and I took the girls up to Blackhand Gorge and we walked 2 miles while the girls rode their bikes. What a perfectly perfect day!

Culligan Testimonial

Update: Tuesday March 24th (the next day)
Let the record show that my blog entry was discovered by a manager at Culligan this morning, named John. He called and spoke with Jennifer for quite a while about the two incidents. He was very professional and handled our problem rather well. John offered a lot of advice for Jennifer on what to look for when considering the used Water Softener (ie. Was it left out in the cold for an extended period of time? Things like that..). He did say that the water softener that we have now is out dated and he understood why the other "Culligan Man" that came to fix it couldn't fix it. Thank you, John!

Jennifer hadn't read this post yet and was astounded that I even posted the problem on my blog at all. I guess this shows that there is power in blogging. My plan worked... perfectly in this case. Had I not posted this entry, we would still be upset about yesterday's experience. However, as it stands now, John is going to get to the bottom of it in hopes that it doesn't happen to someone else in the future. Kudo's to John for finding my entry and handling it so fast... I guess I've done my duty as a consumer / blogger. :)

Anyway, I've updated the text below to remove some (not all) of my emotion about the two incidents. The facts are still there, but the anger has been "piped down" a bit.

Outcome: Culligan is OK by my book. :)

Original Post (minus the anger)
I'm not one to speak negatively of those (persons or companies) that don't deserve it. However, I think it's fair to post a review (good or bad) of our experiences with the Culligan company. We've had 2 incidents with them and both times they have ended with us being dissatisfied or (just recently) insulted.

Our first experience involved a Culligan man coming to our house to service our water softener. We waited for days for him to come out and fix it (no problem), but when he got here, he looked at it and told me he did not know how to work it... it was too old or something. I know it's old, that's why I called you. It's a Culligan water softener for crying out loud! Instead, he spent about an hour trying to sell us a new one. The reason I called him in the first place was to "fix" our water softener, not to sell us a new one. When he left, Jennifer and I were dumbfounded and didn't know what just happened. Nothing was accomplished at all and we were still left with a broken water softener. What the Culligan man didn't know is that I called him because I didn't want to bother my Uncle (who knows how to work on it). I called my Uncle after all and had him come and fix it.

Today, Jennifer calls to get information about a softener that she found in an advertisement. She wanted to know if it was going to be adequate for our needs and so forth. I listened to the conversation from Jennifer's' end, and Jennifer was extremely polite (one of the reasons I love her so much). However, the lady on the other end (the Culligan Rep) was very rude to her and treated Jennifer like she was an annoying nuisance. Jennifer had enough and finally said "Thank you. Good bye" and hung up. She was pretty fired up after she hung up the phone, and rightfully so. She told me how the lady was talking to her and how she was responding to Jennifer's questions. Unreal!

Here is a note for all people in the 'service' field:
Be Nice! Be Professional!
Here's what should have happened:

Incident #1: When the Culligan man came to our house to fix our water softener, he should stopped and realized that he was "the guy" to fix it. If he didn't know how to fix it, he should have called back to the Culligan headquarters (or whatever) and asked for assistance from someone that knew how my particular model worked. If nobody there could have fixed it, he should have found a way to fix it or referred me to someone that could fix it. The absolute last resort would have been to say "I don't know, good luck" and then walked away from it. Instead he turned to a "salesman" role...

Incident #2: When my wife calls you for information about your products, be nice to her and try to help her. Don't insult her and be mean to her. Who knows, her husband may be a blogger and he could post a negative testimonial about her experience with your company. It could even get indexed on a search engine and found one day. (?) *

* Updated:
It worked! After only 1 hr, my post was the #1 search result on Google for "Culligan Testimonial"...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Training Progress and New Shoes

My training is moving forward. This week is proving to be very good, but man... last week was a horrible week of training. I think I accumulated a total of about 20 sloppy miles all together. :(

While I could rattle off a bunch of excuses to myself about why I didn't get them in, the reality was that I simply didn't make time to get out and run, and avoided getting my miles in when I had the free time. I procrastinated until the last possible hour every day and by the middle of the week, I felt overwhelmed. I tried to cram in my miles and this led to a slight pain in my right heal come late Sunday night when I was trying to do my long run. I put my long run off all day on Sunday until it was about 8 pm and the sun was going away for the night. I got my water bottles filled and even went so far as to create a playlist of various podcasts. After I had procrastinated long enough, I headed up to my hill on the back of my property to run in circles for a few hours. About 4.5 miles into my 20 miler, my right heal started hurting really bad, so I listened to my body and hobbled back down to the house. I was pissed at myself because I knew why it hurt; my training was sucking.

So, whatever... I put last week behind me and this week is a new week. On Monday I felt good, so I decided that this week, I'm gonna keep to simple flat surface running to prevent the foot from really getting injured. It's worked as far as I can tell. All this week I avoided the gnarly terrain and focused on just putting one foot in front of the other. I'm back baby. :) One thing I did notice from doing all this pavement pounding is that I'm in need of new shoes again. I know because my knees and hips are yelling at me.

Tonight, I went to FrontRunner and treated myself to a new pair of trail shoes. I tried on all kinds of shoes and decided to get the ASICS Gel-Trabuco® (Black/Onyx/Mustard). It was a toss up between these and the North Face Chin Scrapers. These ones fit the best and had more mesh to let my feet breath. I've never owned a pair of ASICS and I'm surprised at how light and fluffy they feel. :)

FrontRunner Testimonial
Also, I realized tonight that I will be a lifelong customer of FrontRunner. My last 4 pair of trail shoes have all come from here, and each time I go in, my experience is better than the time before. Tonight sealed the deal for me and they will be getting my business as long as I'm buying shoes and as long as they are in business.

Of course, I've tried purchasing my shoes at other running stores, but I always wind up back at FrontRunner. They always take their time with me and custom fit me into the shoe that is perfect for me. It helps that they are all avid runners in there and each of them are extremely knowledgable and outrageously friendly. Last time I went in I met a guy named Mike and he remembed me by name tonight. He said "Yeah, you're Luc the trail guy". I was totally shocked that he remembered me! This time I dealt with an older guy named Kevin and we sat and talked for almost an hour. If you've never been there, I encourage you to give them a try. They're all high class people... Tell them "Luc, the trail guy" sent you. :)

Anyway, I'm anxious to get my new shoes dirty tomorrow. I'm taking a run with an old friend who decided she want's to get into trail running. I'm gonna treat her to a slow tour through Marie Hickey trail.

Oh yeah, I'm heading to Mohican again on Sunday to run the Red/Green loops with Nick again. We're hoping we'll have more success this time, than we did last time. If you're free on Sunday, you should come join us. It's supposed to be beautiful this weekend; great time for a trail run.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pearl Jam - Ten

Store | Pearl Jam - Ten Club: "2008 TEN SUPER DELUXE EDITION"

Jennifer, I hope you're reading this because I really want it. :)

Self-taught programmer from Shoreline now cutting-edge game developer

It's nice to see a non-violent game getting high recognition from the gaming community. I'm not a gamer, have never been a gamer, and probably will never be a gamer. It surprises many of my friends that I spend so much time on the computer and don't play games. Odd, yes.

Anyway, this caught my eye because this guy was a self taught programmer who "made it". I have some friends that wish they could write code. Well, here's proof that you can. You may have to get a make over first, so that you can look like one of us, for example this (John Edwards) has that look. :)

Read on: Self-taught programmer from Shoreline now cutting-edge game developer | Seattle Times Newspaper

Monday, March 09, 2009

GE | Plug Into the Smart Grid | Smart Meters

I love my family so much, but there is a serious issue going on with our energy consumption. I literally walk around all day and turn off lights behind my girls. If someone walked into a bedroom at 8am, the light would still be on at 5pm, for no good reason. It's sad really. :(

Jennifer and I's "song" is "Every Light in the House is On" by Toby Keith. I want that song played at my funeral, because it is literally the story of my life. It goes like this:
Every light in the house is on
The back yard is looking like the crack of dawn
The front porch looks like runway lights
Kind of like noon in the dead of night.
Anyway, while I was going through my blogroll yesterday, I read about this Smart Grid technology by GE.

Here is a quick video that shows an overview of what it is:

What caught my attention was a new meter that you can hook up to your house that literally lets you see how much money is being spent at any given second of the day by a little display unit inside your house. This is totally what my family needs! Here is a link to all the information: GE | Plug Into the Smart Grid | Smart Meters

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Mohican Fun

Today was a fun day. I woke up at 4am (after a 2 hour "nap") and got ready to head up to Mohican State Park to meet up with Nick for a 21 mile trail run. We were going to run the Red/Green loops. We had planned on meeting around 6:30 so that we could drop off some water and feul at various spots around the forrest. I left the house around 5am so that I wasn't late.

Torrential Down Pour
It poured down rain the whole way up. I was wondering what the hell I got myself into as it rained harder and harder the further north I got. I arrived at Campground A around 6am, so I still had 30 minutes before Nick would be there. I tried to catch a quick cat-nap, but that didn't happen.

Placing Drop Bags
Nick showed up and I hopped in his car so we could go to the various drop off locations before we started our run. This is where things got interesting. :) We dropped off some water and brownies at Rock Point, and then headed to the Bridle Staging area to drop off a couple of bottles of water. All the sudden, Nick's car jolts and he is stuck. I mean STUCK! He put his car up on a cement culvert that was surrounded by thick juicy mud. We tried to get him out and saw that was going nowhere, so he said a few choice words and then hopped in my car so we could get started on our run. It was around 7:15 at this point and the sun would be coming up soon. Oh yeah, it was still raining pretty good.

Rainy Start

We started from the Covered Bridge and ran up the Red loop in the dark with our flashlights. About 2 miles into the run, the sun was peaking out and the fog was rising. The trails were very soupy and sloshy. It was perfect! When we got to the Bridle Staging area, we tried a few more things to get Nicks car unstuck since we had some daylight now, but to no avail. We didn't do anything but cover ourselves in mud.

Red Loop Mud
We trekked down the course and made our way to a river crossing which was pretty damn cold, but fun. We were completely soaked by this point (head to toe). The goal was to stay moving at this point because the weather was dropping, but the rain was still steady. This means that you only stop when you have to otherwise, hypothermia would set in. Each time we stopped for even a minute, the cold would get into my bones and I would start to shake profusely. Once we got moving again, the blood would start flowing and I would warm up though.

Rock Point
We decided to cut out run short so that we could have enough time to call AAA to get Nick's car unstuck. When we got to Rock Point, we completely destroyed some yumalicious brownies that Nick brought and then decided to skip the Green loop and just run the Red loop back to the Covered Bridge. As it turned out, this was the best thing to do all around: it was cold and pouring, we were not well dressed for the weather, his car was stuck-stuck, and I wanted to get home and hang with my girls.

We trudged back to the Covered Bridge and finished our run at only 12 miles. It was a hard 12 miles though if that counts for anything. :) Anyway, I changed into some warm/dry street clothes and we called AAA. While we were waiting on the truck, we headed to McDonalds and ate like we hadn't eaten in weeks. We each got a Big Mac meal and I barely remember tasting it; I think it was strait to my stomach and bypassed my mouth. So good!

Nick and I had a great time, despite the car problems. It was fun sloshing through all the thick mud and just getting out in the elements. We'll be doing this again soon!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Training on the Trails

I'm still diligently training for the Forget the PR 50K. This week was a down week and I only did ~24 total miles. It was kind of a nice change of pace because toward the end of last week, I was feeling pretty beat down; I'm sticking to the "10% rule" but I was just getting burnt out. I was ready for the break. So this last week was 100% easy Blackhand Gorge running. I posted some cool pics that I took from my runs this week below:

Marie Hickey - Snow Covered

Marie Hickey - 30 Feet Above Licking River

Chestnut Trail - Hill From Hell

Chestnut Trail - All Alone

So anyway, as I'm moving into my last 6 week surge of miles, I'm due for some different variety. This week, I'm hoping to get down to Dillon State Park and learn some of those trails to get away from my mundaine mileage at Blackhand Gorge. I love Blackhand Gorge, but I only have 3 real options for mileage and I need more. I don't like running on pavement that much, and since most of my 2009 race schedule is all trail races, I really need to put my training in on the trails, not the road.

I'm scheduled for a 22 mile long run this coming weekend and I'm hoping get up to Mohican and run with some trail buddies on the Red / Green loop. Rumor has it that they're awful purdy. I'm also planning to get in a few long night runs this week as well, because I got some new reflective gear along with lots of new energy jelly beans, shot blox, and oodles of different flavored gel packs. I'm anxious to try some of the new stuff out; silly but true.

Something else I'm looking forward to this week is a family hike. Jen got online and bought a new Sherpani hiking backpack for us to use this summer to haul Daizi around the woods in. As soon as it's warm enough, we're gonna take a big family hike up at Mohican to see Lyon Falls, or down at Hocking to see Old Man's Cave. We're all real excited about getting out and active (and muddy) as a family. :)

I also realized this week that I need to loose about 20 - 25 pounds fast. Hopefully before my 50 miler in June. I'd like to loose about 10 pounds before April 19th (Forget the PR 50k), but we'll see... I've noticed a pattern recently that my knees really hurt after running any distance on pavement. I guess slamming 210 pounds down on each leg over and over and over for hours at a time could do that. Ideally, I'd like to be down to 185 -190 by June 20th. Again, we'll see... Not only for my race, but also for myself and my girls. I kind of commited myself to it tonight at the dinner table when I told Jennifer and the girls that "Starting tomorrow, Daddy is eating healthy." I got no reaction from anybody, but I meant it. :)

Oh yeah, on our little shopping excursion this week (when I got all that cool stuff), we all ended the night at this nice place called Hoggies Barn and Grill up @ Polaris and it was AWESOME!! We all gorged on way too much food and had a blast. Below is a pic of Lizzie and Jazzy drinking their first bottle of Rootbeer at Hoggies. Daizi had milk, of course.