Welcome to my site. Here you will find some info about me, the things I do and a listing of upcoming (and past) presentations and lectures. While I initially expected most of my posts to be about Open Source/Free Software (hence the name), these days it's mostly rants and ramblings about running.

A year in running, looking back and ahead

At the beginning of this year, I listed out a set of running goals for 2013.
My goals were pretty straight forward:

  1. complete at least 2 half marathons
  2. run some smaller non-NYRR races
  3. hit 60% age grade percentage in a race longer than 3 miles
  4. finish top 10% for my age group in at least 1 race (and if possible place in my age group)
  5. finish the New York City Marathon in under 5.5 hours
  6. log 1000 miles (training runs and races combined)

Here's a quick tour of how I managed to hit them all.

complete at least 2 half marathons
This one was fun and easy. The Manhattan Half in January was the coldest race I've ever run. By the time we were done, the cups of water at the aid stations had turned into solid ice. Luckily Gatorade has so much sugar that it does not freeze as fast -- energy drink slushies, yum!

The Brooklyn Half was a little more moderate in temp but still really cold at the finish -- and NYRR after pushing hard to get people to not check bags, decided to save themselves the effort of giving out heat sheets at the end. I'm amazed people did not end up in the hospital. Grimaldi's pizza on Coney Island is a wonderful post-race meal.

I also ran a silly little "virtual half marathon" in honor of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Who. It was a fundraiser for some charity. The finisher medal they sent out to everyone that participated is my favorite.

run some smaller non-NYRR races
I love the races that the NYRR puts on, but as an organization they leave so much be desired. They have the worst communications staff and so little respect for the membership, I wanted to spend some time this year running non-nyrr races in order to keep from giving NYRR too much of my money and implied support.

While I consider this goal achieved, I wish I had run a few more small races. They are so much more fun than the giant NYRR stampedes. I ran an 8k in New Jersey put on by CGI racing, my new favorite race organizer (good post-race food and free race photos) and returned to my old home town for a 5k to benefit the Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corp. When running as a kid, I saw the inside of more than one of their ambulances as I traveled from a race to the hospital after yet another stupid running injury so it felt good to return and give them some support all these years later.

hit 60% age grade percentage in a race longer than 3 miles
In 2012 I managed to hit 64.6% in the 5th Ave Mile, but for longer races I had been stuck in the mid to high 50s. 60% is the line that defines what they call "local class" which is supposed to mean that you are good enough to place (be one of the first 3 finishers) in your age group at local races (but my local races are full of local, regional, national and world class runners).

This year, I broke past 60% in two 5k races and an 8k. I came really close in a 10k as well (59.31%). Mission accomplished.

finish top 10% for my age group in at least 1 race (and if possible place in my age group)
This goal sorta went in hand with the 60% age grade goal and the plan to run smaller races. Races in the City are so full of world class runners that I don't stand a chance of seeing the front of the pack.

It was an amazing thrill to be in the front of the pack at the Unite 8k in New Brunswick. I finished 29th out of 681 runners -- 2nd of 21 in my age group! I managed to also finish 2nd in my age group in the Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corp 5k but that one was less dramatic/smaller crowd. The Commack race was also the last time I ran fast this year. The rest of the year was completely consumed with a focus on long slow runs leading up to the NYC Marathon.

finish the New York City Marathon in under 5.5 hours.
I really wanted to finish in under 4 hours, I really thought I could finish in about 4:20. The reality of race-day was a different story. It was so cold and so very very windy that everyone was off their goal pace, even the elite runners. We ran into a strong gusty headwind for the first 20 miles!

It was brutal, painful, exhilarating and completely amazing. My 4:49:44 finish is nothing spectacular but I could not be more happy. I actually did it.

log 1000 miles (training runs and races combined)
With training for the marathon on my schedule, I was pretty sure this one would be simple. I had no idea just how hard it would be. When I finished the marathon, I was at 930 miles. Almost 2 months to put in the final 70 miles seemed like it should be a breeze. Wrong! After the marathon, running was nearly impossible. It took me weeks to be able to run more than a mile; 6 weeks before I could get back to double digit distances. But, it's done.

What a year!

I've never actually managed to do this before -- set goals at the beginning of a year and stick to it and complete them all. I feel great, but I certainly neglected other important things in my life in order to get this done. So, this year my goals are going to be very different.

I'm scheduled to run a marathon next weekend. Once that's done, I'm finished with these long distance races for a while. I might run some half marathons for fun, but nothing longer and none with hard to meet goal times in mind. It is not going to be a year of long distance PR's for me.

My running goals for 2014 are simple:
1: keep running. After how hard it has been to recover from the marathon, my primary goal is to make sure I keep running. Give myself time to heal and recover and get back out there. Just run.
2: finish the Lets Go Haiti Marathon on January 5th. No goal time, just finish.
3: finish the 5th Avenue Mile race (or another similar 1 mile road race, not on a track -- I hate running in circles) in under 6 minutes. I might not be able to pull this one off. It's going to be more difficult than all of last year's goals combined. But, this year is going to be my year of short distances. 2013 was all about endurance and distance, of giving up months of my life to training for the marathon; 2014 is going to have a much different focus.

Why run in Haiti? Why raise money for KOFAVIV?

hey there friends,

I'm getting ready for my 2nd marathon. It should be an interesting experience. After running this year's NYC Marathon -- the world's largest marathon ever with over 50,000 finishers, I'm headed to Haiti to run what might be the world's smallest.

It's the second annual event put on by Let's Go Haiti and possibly the first full length marathon ever in Haiti. There have been hundreds of races run to raise money for causes in Haiti -- this is among the first of those to also be run in Haiti.

As part of this journey, my comrades and I are raising money for one of the groups we will be visiting with while we are there.

KOFAVIV (Komisyon Fanm Viktim pou Viktim or in English, The Commission of Women Victims for Victims) is an amazingly powerful grassroots effort for and by the survivors of rape and gender based violence.

KOFAVIV provides a 24/7 call center, does outreach and education in every neighborhood and displacement camp in Port-au-Prince and also sends members to escort recent survivors to medical, legal and other services. When necessary they also provide safe houses and other services to women and their families.

Their call center hotline program recently expanded to cover all of Haiti.

They have also done an amazing job in doing outreach to men, creating committees that not only provide security in the displacement camps but also do outreach to and education of men -- attempting to end gender based violence at its source.

It has been my honor to be involved with providing technology services to KOFAVIV over the past 2.5 years. Their courage and spirit is inspiring. The challenge they face is daunting.

We hope to raise at least $3,000 -- what is costs KOFAVIV to run one of their safe houses for a month. It's a small drop in a huge and nearly empty bucket compared to what they really need, but every little bit helps.

Donate at:
https://fundly.com/haiti-marathon-fundraiser-for-kofaviv

More information about KOFAVIV can be found at the following URLs:

http://www.frontlinesms.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/KOFAVIV1.jpg

http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/26/world/americas/cnnheroes-villard-appolon-h...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eStfNFnTtkw

http://worldpulse.com/newsletters/20061108/feature.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ingrid-arnesen/despite-rape-and-abject-p_1...

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2011-04/1/using-tech-to-document-hai...

https://survivorsforsurvivors.squarespace.com/about-kofaviv/

and lest you start to think that everyone is happy about the progress that KOFAVIV has made, read this
http://www.madre.org/index/resources-12/madre-statements-57/news/madre-c...

Bronx 10 mile race report

I had a hard time on Sunday.

I knew it was going to be a bad race. I'm at the end of the highest mileage two weeks in my marathon training plan. I still have my longest run ahead of me, but the overall weekly mileage starts to go down as of today.

The 18 miles I did two weeks ago was shockingly easy (NYRR's 18 Mile Tune-Up run in Central Park). I ran the entire time other than the stops to get fluids (and one stop to leave some behind at the portajohn). Some day I'll figure out how to drink and run but for now I've decided that walking while drinking is better than nearly drowning in gatorade (I just can not drink and run).

Two days before the Bronx 10 mile, I had another 18 scheduled. That one did not go so well. Had to walk for a half mile in the middle and I started to feel pain in parts that have not complained before. Part of that I attribute to the difference between running on my own and in a large crowd with fluid stations and people cheering. Still, it was a bit discouraging.

I was pretty surprised I was in any condition to run at all on Sunday. I might have just slept through the race, but it was the 4th of the 5 boro series races and finishing would leave me the option of a guaranteed entry to next year's NYC Half Marathon -- and compared to this full marathon training, I find training for halfs to be fun and without the dread that has accompanied my marathon training.

Anyway, back to the race day report.

Unfortunately, I did not realize that my friend Todd was running the race. I was expecting another friend to race but she did not show (I think because she's busy and recently married and had not trained enough). Turned out that Todd and I were in the same starting corral, probably about 5 or so feet from each other and never noticed. He started a bit ahead of me and finished many minutes ahead so we never had a chance to see each other on the course.

The first 3 miles were great and I was on target for a PR. I felt good, even as if I was holding back a bit -- then my knee started to hurt and I had to slow down until after the one serious hill at mile 6-7. After that my knee started to feel a bit better so I was able to pick up my pace a bit.

I finished in 1:31:47 according to my watch (about 7 or 8 minutes slower than last year's Bronx 10 mile).

I love that course, it passes close to the apartment my mom grew up in and a block or two away from the store my grandfather had. Totally felt like I was running with friendly ghosts at my side. Looking at the data from my watch, my best moments in the race were both proximate to the location of my grandfather's store, so maybe that was the case.

evolution from sloth to runner

I've read a lot of articles, blog posts and stories about how people know they have crossed over that line between what they were and being a runner.

Some say it's all about participating in races; for others it comes down to a desire to push yourself -- if you train to move faster or longer, no matter where you finish you are a runner; and in a recent article in Runners' World one author boiled it all down to the growth of the pile of stinky running clothes in need of a good washing.

I find all of those good indicators. For me, it also involved an evolving relationship with synthetic fibers.

Since college I've avoided non-natural fibers in my clothing. Partly this was out of being a pseudo hippie and in retrospect it also created a very convenient way of turning down clothing gifts from my mom without insulting her or letting her know that I just hated what she used to buy for me.

We did not have fancy tech clothing when I had last been a competitive runner. Now everyone was telling me that I just had to give up cotton.

Slowly I began to heed this advice. First I shed my cotton socks for fancy running socks with separate toes to prevent blisters. This is about function I told myself. Then I got some fancy shirts as race swag and realized just how much better they were for long runs.

Shorts came next. Right before my first half marathon I got my first pair of real running shorts.

The final move in this metamorphosis is about to happen. UPS is on the way with my new fancy fast drying supposedly non chafe underwear.

I look in the mirror and wonder just who this freak is that is looking back at me.

[note: between the time I wrote this and posted it, my magic underwear arrived and it is wonderful]

Thoughts on Marathon Fundraising and Request for Pledges

As many of you know, I'm running this year's NYC Marathon.

At first, I was thinking of running as part of the Alzheimer's Association's Team Run to Remember.

Last year, when my mom passed away, I decide that I was going to complete the marathon as a way of honoring her and her struggle.

Over the final year or two of her life, conversation became more and more difficult. Having taken up running again gave me not only a way to vent the stress of watching her whither but also gave me something to talk to her about when she was unable to really hold a conversation.

Since I ran competitively when I was young, and older memories hold on for longer, I think she was able to understand as I babbled at her about my most recent race -- and once I started running again, there were a lot of races.

My first thought when she passed was to run last year's marathon with the Alzheimer's Association, but when I discussed this with the team coordinator I began to feel uncomfortable about it.

Since I had not qualified for a spot on my own and did not get one via the lottery, I could get one of the handful of spots that they had, but to do so I'd have to make a commitment to raise over $3,000 -- and if I could not raise that much I would be personally responsible for the difference between what I raised and the minimum requirement.

It felt like I was asking friends and family to pay my way into the race and I was pretty certain that I was not up to the task of raising that amount of money, so I decided to finish qualifying for this year's race via the New York Road Runner's 9+1 program. You run 9 races and volunteer to help at 1 and you get a guaranteed spot in the next year's marathon.

Having made my way into this year on my own felt great. Again, I thought about running as part of Team Run to Remember. Having my own spot meant that I would only have to commit to raise $1,500 to participate.

As I started to learn more about how NYRR handles charity spots in the marathon, I became less and less interested in participating in that particular scam.

In 2010, NYRR claims that via the charity spots in the marathon that they helped raise over $35 million for charity. If NYRR gave those charities the spots it would be one thing, but the charities are forced to pay top dollar for those spots. NYRR's propaganda talks a big game about supporting charities, but the reality is that charity runners are a giant source of profit for them. Given the fee that the charities pay per runner, plus the fee the runner pays for entry, plus the probable kickback from crowdrise (the for-profit donation system that NYRR forces charity runners to use for fundraising), my guess is that 5-7 million of that 35 was profit for NYRR, another 5-10% was profit for crowdrise. Hardly an act of charity in my opinion.

I decided to train on my own. However, I still want to make this partly about Pearl and raising some money for Alzheimer's research. I think about her often when I run; sometimes those thoughts are the only thing that gets me across the finish line.

I have also been thinking about the difference between how we used to do events like walkathons when I was young and how they are done now. We used to get pledges -- people would commit to pay a certain amount per mile and you'd collect the funds after the event and their donation was tied to how far you actually went. Now, people pay a set fee and give that, in full, before you even start. They donate no matter what amount of effort or dedication you put in. That model really bothers me.

So, this brings me to what I'm writing this to ask. I would like you to pledge any amount by filling out this form. Tell me how much you are willing to donate to the Alzheimer's Association if, and only if, I finish the marathon.

I'll keep a running tally on my blog, and will be starting to post weekly updates about my training progress and what the Alzheimer's Association is doing to try to end this terrible disease.

After the marathon, I'll send you a reminder and ask you to send your payment directly to the Alzheimer's Association. Please send them a check, do not donate online. I want every penny of your donation to go towards their work and not into the pocket of paypal, Visa or any other intermediary.

Thanks in advance for your support. It means more to me than I can possibly tell you.