New Las Vegas Marathon 2006

Yesterday was the New Las Vegas Marathon. A group of us flew to Vegas on Saturday afternoon, staying at the sponsor hotel, Mandalay Bay.

There were supposed to be four runners in the group, 2 full and 2 half marathoners. The week before the race, myself and the other half marathoner had decided to drop out due to injury.

We checked into our room and headed off to the Expo. I registered/paid for the race this past August so I figured I'd pick up my race packet and grab a shirt. I was checking out a few of the vendors when one of the marathoners in my group suggested I should buy a pair of shorts and a shirt and run. We talked about it for a while and I decided I'd do a modified run/walk half. I had already paid my entry fee... Luckily, I had worn my running shoes to Vegas.

Sunday morning came early. The race started at 6am, so we were all up at 4:30. After a small breakfast and a ton of stretching, we made our way to the start. With 15,000 runners, the corrals were packed at 5:30. The forecast of early AM rain didn't come true, but the wind did. The temperature was around 45 degrees (F) with a SSE wind of 20 mph. Pretty chilly! The race started right at 6:10 with the half and full marathon sharing the course for the first 10k, along the Strip. My plan was to run 2 miles with one of the marathoners in my group and then walk a mile, run a mile, etc. I wasn't interested in risking injury so I figured I'd walk about half the run. Running down the Strip was great- with no traffic, it was easy to take in all the sights. Before I knew it, we were somehow at mile 6 (I had forgotten to walk) where the course splits. I walked a bit and then continued running. Overall, I walked 3 miles and ran 10 - finishing at 2:20. Not my best race, but considering the fact that I wasn't going to even run, I was pumped.

Overall, here's how I'd rate the run:

Organization -The race was well staffed, but the markers were a train wreck. There was actually a mile marker at Mile 9.5! Additionally,the entertainment along the run was not as billed; very sparse. Grade: D

Course - First 10k was great - water show at the Bellagio, volcanoes exploding etc. 10k to finish was u-g-l-y. Grade: C-

Aid-stations -Aid stations were great. They were numerous with good water and Gatorade.Grade: A

Swag: Short-sleeve cotton t-shirt and a Finishers medal (I'd give the medal an 'A'). Grade: B


The Vegas Race Director sent an email the other day, apologizing for some aspects of the race:


While the response to this year’s New Las Vegas Marathon and Half Marathon has been overwhelmingly positive, we have also heard from a number of participants with concerns about the placement and visibility of mile markers, as well as a shortage of food in the post race food and fluid area. I want you to know that we hear you.

As I noted in my race notes, the mile markers were a mess. I didn't mention that food situation, but it was pretty bad. At the race finish (for the Marathoners no less) the food consisted of: bananas, water and frozen smoothies (the temperature was in the low 40's). In all the half and full marathons I have participated in, I have not seen such a weak spread of food


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rel="payment" + PayPal MassPayRequest API = Automated Payment Mechanism?

Last year, Jay Deadman had a good idea about creating a rel="payment" microformat. This was written up and submitted as a new microformat.

I haven't heard much about this microformat since I posted about it last year, and couldn't find it being used in the wild. I recently went looking for an update and found something in the spec I hadn't noticed before - specifically, the spec states

One of the goals with this microformat is to give content aggregators such as RSS readers a way to extract these support links and give them special attention (such as displaying a standard button along with the content).

A bit further in the spec:

rel="payment" is not intended to initiate an automated transaction.

In other words, rel=payment only provides for a manual mechanism for payment (i.e. a tip jar, etc).

This is still a good idea, but it would be even stronger with support for automated payment (even micropayments). Just imagine if the video in my RSS feed was picked up by Google Video and I was paid on the number of times it was viewed, etc. As the content creator, I wouldn't have to work out a payment mechanism with the various video sites (YouTube, etc).

As currently spec'd the rel="payment" tag needs two additional parameters:

  1. Payment Provider - PayPal, etc
  2. Payment Provider ID - Unique ID for the Provider

The spec would go from

<a href="[url]" rel="payment" title="Donate Money Via PayPal">

to something like

<a href="[url]" rel="payment" title="Donate Money Via PayPal" provider="PayPal" providerUserID="someUserName">

In the case of PayPal, their MassPayRequest API (requires PayPal Developer Network login) requires either an email address or PayPal User ID. Other payment providers would need to have a similar API.

Would providing this information in a feed open up a person to potential security concerns? The User ID is somewhat exposed already when sellers use it on eBay and other auction sites. PayPal provides a way to encrypt the link for a button, but it requires knowledge of OpenSSL, etc. They also offer a "button factory" to simply creation of the link, which could then be used programmatically in an HTTP POST. If the button factory concept would work, the spec could remain close to the original (url becomes encryptedUrl):

<a href="[encryptedUrl]" rel="payment" title="Donate Money Via PayPal">

This would be a much more secure mechanism and achieve the aim of providing an automated payment mechanism.




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Social News and Spam Farms?

Niall Kennedy has a great post today about spammers gaming Digg. He traces the origins of a Digg post that became a top 5 post in the tech section (the post was about weight loss tips)

Of particular interest is this section

I believe social media accounts are currently available for rent or for sale, rewarding active users with paid placements or account resells in much the same way as a World of Warcraft character might be resold on eBay. Social media sites and search engines need to stay on top of this new form of content creation, continually analyzing data and scrubbing out the dirt. Sites overrun with web spam quickly lose their utility and might be banned from search engines.

Kevin Rose started Digg because he thought Slashdot "takes power away from the people" due to Slashdot's editorial control. Digg is continually working to make sure the site is not gamed by spammers (annoying some heavy users) However, if social news ends up in a situation where you can purchase a userID in the same way you can with Warcraft, Digg will have a big problem on its hands.

Is the answer to this to introduce some form of moderation on submissions? Niall writes that the Digg post in question received over 900 diggs before it was buried. It seems likely that many of the 900 diggs were manufactured, either by a "digg-bot", voting up the post, or by a human "digg farm". Definitely something to watch.

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Libsyn Acquired

Libsyn announced today that they have been acquired by Wizzard Software

From the release

The acquisition combines the worlds largest and fastest growing podcast network with Wizzard's expertise in speech technology integration, creating a powerful new service for podcasters worldwide. The combined companies will focus on providing independent content creators with comprehensive search engine indexing, transcription and blogging integration and new tools so that they may better attract advertisers and sponsors allowing them to reach highly-targeted audiences with more relevant advertising and promotional opportunities.

Wizzard must be looking to take Libsyn to the next level by adding speech recognition technology and becoming a search engine for podcasts. That would put them in league with companies like Blinkx, etc.

Congrats to the guys at Libsyn. I met some of the founders at the PME a while back. They were passionate about their product and all the ups and downs that come with being a startup.


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Stress Fracture Recovery

Last February, I ran the San Francisco Half Marathon and ended up with a femoral stress fracture in my right leg. I was able to slowly start running again in late July, working my way up to a 12 mile run in October.

I thought I would summarize rules I followed for other runners who have a similar injury:

1. Take it easy - a femoral stress fracture is a big deal. Keep pushing and you'll end up with a full fracture.

2. Don't OD on ibuprofen - initially, I took gobs of ibuprofen to reduce the pain and inflammation. After a month or so, I stopped taking it completely as I was starting to walk a bit and didn't want to mask the pain/over do it.

3. Come back s-l-o-w-l-y - The first few months, I tried to get out and walk a few times a week, working my way up to a mile. I would stretch my quads quite a bit before and after, being careful to monitor for any pain on the interior quad/groin. If it became painful, I would stop immediately.

4. Choose non-impact cardio - Once you can walk a mile pain free, try different types of low-impact cardio (the treadmill doesn't count; too much impact). I tried a bike and the elliptical (another option is swimming and/or aqua jogging) - the bike didn't work as there was too much compression. On the other hand, the elliptical turned out to be perfect as I could get a great workout, vary the type of workout (hills, flat, etc), read (I would look forward to Friday, the day the new Economist would show up) and watch sports (I saw both the Tour De France and the World Cup).

5. Boost your calcium/vitamin D intake - even though my doctor told me it wouldn't help any, I took calcium/vitamin D supplements on a regular basis.

6. Try the treadmill every once in a while - hop on the treadmill now and again and try to do a fast walk (~12 or 13 minute mile pace). If the treadmill has sidebars, use them to support some of your weight. If there is any pain, stop and try again in a few weeks. Once you can do a mile without pain, slowly increase your pace. I would do 3 or 4 miles on the elliptical and then get on the treadmill for 5 minutes. As my pace increased, I slowly increased my time on the treadmill and decreased my time on the elliptical.

7. Run on the treadmill - Once you can do a slow jog on the treadmill, increase the distance, working your way up to 3 miles. Along the way, increase your pace until it matches your normal (non-race) pace. Continue periodically running on the treadmill for about a month.

8. Run outside - Woohoo! Finally, back outside. Your first run should be on something soft (dirt preferably). Make sure your shoes aren't worn out. Run a mile at a bit slower than your normal pace (even if it feels great, don't go farther). Monitor the pain factor pre and post-run. Check it again the next day when you wake up. If you are free of pain, run again in a few days and increase your mileage. Continue like this, slowly building up your mileage. Remember to NOT increase your mileage by more than 10%/week.

9. Return to pre-injury form - Now that you can run again, slowly work your way back to where you were before. Remember to not over do it - the bone in your leg might be healed, but the rest of your muscles need to regain their strength.



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Calcanis Leaves AOL

Apparently Jason Calcanis has resigned from his position at AOL today. Jason's Weblogs, Inc was acquired by AOL approximately a year ago. Perhaps his holdbacks (clawbacks) are complete and he chose to leave. (I'm wonder if it is tied in any way to Ross Levinsohn leaving Fox Interactive today? Ross Levinsohn was onstage just last week at Web 2.0 talking about how great it is at Fox Interactive.) Overall, I'm not surprised Calcanis has chosen to leave. He alluded to some of the restrictions he was feeling at AOL on the Gillmor Gang a while back. In the big picture, it is hard for a large acquirer like AOL to keep the founder of a company they purchase. Founders tend to think in big (sometimes bold) strokes. They generally like to formulate an idea and MOVE quickly. Perhaps Jason was feeling less than agile at AOL and is now off to do his Next Thing.

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Java Goes Open Source!

After years of saying "no way!", Sun announced today that Java will be released under the GPL2 license, effectively becoming open source.

Way back in 1997, Sun successfully lobbied the International Standards Organization (ISO) to make Java a standard. Unlike most other standards though, Sun worked to make sure that they were the only entity that could contribute to the standard. I'm no ISO expert, but I don't know of any other standards approved by this body that were one-company shows.

From the link above:

Giving a single company submitter status is unusual for ISO. Normally. such status is given to trade groups or consortia.

This "single owner" of an ISO standard hurt Java in a lot of ways. I have no doubt that the language would have moved forward much quicker and become more widely used if Sun had released the source years ago instead of fighting.

As Tim Bray points out today - "it's water under the bridge, forget it!"


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