YouTube API Share Videos

YouTubeYou can do a lot of things with the YouTube API, but when it comes to private videos, some of the built-in functionality is lacking. I needed to automate sharing of a private video with a list of users once it had been uploaded via the API, but unfortunately, YouTube does not provide a call to do this. This sharing functionality is present in the YouTube admin interface, however, so with a little cURL magic we can automate this as well. Check out the code below for how to do this. I used some code from this phpfreaks forum post as a starting point to log in to YouTube. Note that you will have to set the username, password, cookie_jar_path, video id, and user list at the beginning of this script.

Disorganized Life

Life has become too out of focus these days. There are so many things that I want to do but am intimidated to either start in on them or continue with them because they grow to be too daunting. Rather than cull them down and focus on one thing at a time, I go back to my safe routines in life. So, it’s time to get organized, write down my goals and pick which ones worthy of a little more or a little less time.

To begin with, here is my current routine.

  • Morning – get up at 6:30, stretch (about 3 mornings/week), read a little in the Bible, eat breakfast and read a lot online (news feeds, email, twitter, facebook).
  • Day – Work and catch up on more online reading at lunch.
  • Evening – Run, dinner, watch shows / more online reading, and sometimes go out for Whole Foods wine/beer or Scotties coffee, bed

OK, so a few things about this. One is that I need to spend less time on my online reading. Probably 70% of it is a waste of time. This is a pain point as I want to keep up on things, but not spend nearly as much time on it. It needs to become a more focused task and less of a distraction. Two – we have way too many shows that we watch (and are currently way behind on). It’s time to get rid of a bunch of them. I think the keepers are Modern Family, Outsourced and Mad Men. Any other suggestions? Three shows is probably enough for now. A third thing is that if all this stuff is cut out, that leaves a little more time in the day. Which leads me to things I would like to do or do more of…

  • Spend more time reading the Bible and praying. I think you can never do enough of this and I’ve really been enjoying II Cor. lately. I think I’ll spend a little more time there.
  • Write more – I need a way to do this that is not so intimidating. Even seems too intimidating to me as it nags you every day and you have to write a whole page per day!
  • Find ways to go outside of the normal routine. Preferably more interaction with people.
  • Get the motorcycle running and sell it.
  • Build a web application or online business. This is one I have been wanting to do for a long time. I’ve had a ton of ideas, but they have all been either impractical or they don’t seem like that great of an idea (and I have a hard time developing them beyond an initial image/thought).
  • Do more photography, videography and design work.

So, while I feel like I can’t keep up on anything these days, I realize a lot of that has to do with the fact that I’m not spending the time working on focusing on one thing at a time. It’s time to disorganize my routine, minimalize my “want to do” list and better organize my time.

Burning River 100

The 3:30am wake-up call came way too early that morning, but within minutes, the adrenaline kicked in as I remembered what the day was going to hold. I was going to run 100 miles! Again. Six weeks after my first 100-miler ever. Leigh and I had stayed with Darris and Star who graciously shared their finish-line hotel room with us the night before the race.

Leigh snapped some photos of the starting line as I signed myself in for this new adventure and checked out the haunting Squire’s castle. Fortunately, I was able to meet up with Darris, Star and the Dr.’s Bright (as they became known) who I would spend a good portion of the day running beside. Star had emailed me the week before to ask if I wanted to join their group as they were going for a 24-hour finish. The weather was perfect for this type of a finish and I quickly said yes as a chance to run with some of the most experienced pacers in this part of the country is not one you pass up. I was also happy to run into the familiar faces of Mark Carroll, Michael Patton, Michelle Bischel, Rob Powell and Suzanne Pokorny. We all wished each other luck, sang happy birthday to Joe (the race director), listened to the national anthem and started into our run to the blast of a vuvuzela. This sound brought my thoughts immediately back to Mohican. This was good. It was where I needed to be mentally. The 100 mile distance is such a head game and I had really not been in it up to this point.

I already had the physical training in the bank from my Mohican training in the spring. I had also experienced some of the other problems that come with a 100 (tired feet, nausea, sleepiness), so I was perhaps a little more prepared for what was to come. Although, in the back of my mind, I thought that maybe, just maybe I had some of these problems figured out.

Our 24-hour group, led by Star, made its way through the first 9.5 miles of road amidst a few hundred other runners  –  all with that same energy that exists early on in a race. These miles flew right by as we chatted, stopped to pee and chatted some more. When we reached the polo field, we were instructed by Star to be in and out as quickly as possible – and we were!

The next several miles were a blur as we made our way to Ottawa point at mile 40. Leigh was there and Dave had made it up from Columbus as well. I also caught a brief glimpse of Michael as he was heading out of the aid station. Along the way to Ottawa, I had gotten the chance to chat a bit with everyone in the group and get to know them all just a little better. Darris was fighting a hamstring injury which was made even worse along the way by a nasty bee sting and a dive in the mud. Adam asked if I knew any good jokes. I told him the only one I know – my chicken coop joke. He then told me a few jokes that were in his repertoire and before I knew it, we were climbing the piano keys on our way to Boston Store, where I saw Leigh and Dave again at mile 49. Our little group was all struggling a bit at this point, so we took an extra minute or two to grab some food before moving on to the Boston Store loop. Darris dropped back at this point and decided that it was just not worth fighting his hamstring for the next 50 miles. So, we were down to four.

We moved on through one of the hotter sections of the course to see the really cool Brandywine Falls. We also met a new friend, Bo along the way who was running BR for the second time. By the time we got back to Boston Store, I had been peeing every 15 minutes and figured something was not right. Sure enough, as Dave informed me, I was low on salt. I decided to go ahead and change socks, take a few extra minutes to cool down and get some food and Endurolyte tablets in me. I probably ended up running too quickly out of Boston Store to try to catch up with the group on the way to Pine Lane. The food I ate on the way never seemed to settle quite right, but such is the case with these 100 mile runs. As Star put it, it’s a chess game to get all the pieces to line up just right to get you to that finish line. Time is often the enemy in this game. Not only are you fighting the clock to get to the finish within the allotted time, but the time spent exerting yourself starts to add up and your body begins to rebel against the strain you are putting it through.

We made it to Pine Lane where I informed Star not to wait up for me as I was taking a quick pit stop. As I was exiting Pine Lane, I passed by Michael Patton and his crew, muttering a quick hello as the nausea that had set in was not quelled by stop at Pine Lane. Minutes later, I hear footsteps behind me and see a pair of bright green shorts come flying through my peripheral vision. Michael had caught a second wind a few miles back and he was beginning to get ahead of his game. I was so happy for him as he had gone into a number of races this year with all the proper training, only to have something go wrong during the race that prevented him from running as hard as he would have liked. I wished only the best for him and thought that if he was feeling this good on his second wind, he had a great finish time in store for him.

At some point, we came out onto a road section and Michael offered me a bit of ginger to settle my stomach. I gladly took him up on his offer and then immediately ran to the side of the road to toss my cookies (and whatever else I had just finished eating). Mike Barga (Michael Patton’s pacer) hung back with me (heeding Michael’s request) to encourage me onward and forward. For the time being, my nausea was quieted and I picked up the pace. The relief was only temporary however, and my stomach was once again not too happy as I entered Happy Days. Dave and Leigh (with camera in hand of course) were both waiting for me there. Dave took one look at me and announced that he was joining me here instead of Pine Hollow. I was quite relieved to hear that he was willing to extend his pacing duties by 6.8 miles and we started off into what I think was one of the more beautiful sections of the trail.

Dave entertained me with all kinds of stories as I attempted to run the runable sections of the course and very, very slowly walked the uphills. The nausea was bad and although I tried to focus my thoughts on our conversation, I couldn’t help myself as I puked a couple more times and began to retreat to that dark place within myself.

I read an article recently that talked about pacing a 100-mile race. It mentioned that there must be an understanding between the runner and the pacer that anything that is said or not said during the race is excused, forgiven and forgotten as if it never happened. Dave understood this concept well and continued to encourage, entertain, feed me and ignore my complaining.

Just when I thought I could go no further, a giant hill loomed above us. “Oh man!”, I yelled in frustration. “I think this is Sound of Music Hill!”, Dave said (ignoring my negativity). “And look at all those people waiting at the top – you have to decide – either give the camera a huge smile or a bad-ass grimace.” I tried to smile, but yeah – it turned into a grimace.

Once we got to the top of the hill and sat down for a quick rest, a very helpful volunteer at the aid station kept trying to ask me if I needed anything. My brain was not working well at this point and I couldn’t respond – I just hoped he would leave me alone eventually. There are many moments during a 100 that, looking back, I am not too proud of. Moments where I retreat inside myself and don’t really respond to others who try to help me.

I got a little bit of food down and Dave took a little bit for the road and we headed out for the Pine Hollow loop. But, not without puking again on the way out of the aid station. It began to get dark on this loop and I was glad I had grabbed a long sleeve shirt and a light. As the darkness shrouded our footsteps, we began to go slower and slower as any running had turned to a walk in an attempt to settle my stomach. I was weaving all over the path due to, what I learned from Dave to be a lack of sugar. If there is ever a time that junk food is actually good for you, it is during a 100-mile race.

Finally we made it back to Pine Hollow where I informed Dave that I wanted to sit for a few minutes away from everyone. I got some more food down and listened to some words of wisdom from Darris who was out through the night graciously helping and encouraging others who were struggling through. The food came back up and we decided that it was better to just keep moving. We gave it a couple of tries to right the stomach and sitting just wasn’t doing it. Leigh informed us that she would see us at covered bridge in just 6.6 miles.

OK, I thought, it’s the second longest distance between aid stations, but we can do this. So, we made our way through cornfields (literally), across a bridge with 2x4s nailed to the top (traction for muddy horse feet and great for tripping runners) and on and on we hiked. Dave pointed out that being out in the cornfields at night reminded him of a scene from a horror movie and asked what I would do if he disappeared suddenly into the corn. I was trying to find some humor in all of this, but I was not able to bring myself to laugh. As we walked through a field and down a small service road, I saw a taco truck. What on earth is a taco truck doing out here, I thought? And then I realized that I must be imagining it. I rubbed my eyes, but that taco truck was still there! As we got closer and closer, the taco truck turned into a tree and I was left wondering how on earth I saw anything but a tree to begin with.

Soon, we heard a generator and realized we were getting close to the covered bridge. Leigh ran out to welcome us and ask what we needed. I responded by vomiting yet again into the bushes just outside the covered bridge. Once I had all of that taken care of, we got a chance to sit down inside the bridge. It was really a cool atmosphere on the bridge and everyone was so friendly and helpful. It was great to see the familiar faces of Mark and Terri Lemke as they filled my water bottles and brought me food while I changed my shoes in preparation for the muddiest section of the course – Perkins loop. Leigh said some encouraging words to me and we got to say a quick hello to Star as she was coming back from Perkins loop. Something about the covered bridge aid station had revived me both physically and mentally. It was as if we were all at a party and everyone there was family.

As we started out onto Perkins loop, I felt the need to run. We ran for a few short bursts until I started feeling queasy again. I told Dave I was going to have to slow down on the uphills and he said that was OK – he was just happy I had a boost of energy – even if it was only temporary. So, onward we trekked. I felt like we were repeating sections and asked Dave if we had made a wrong turn somewhere. He assured me that we were still going the right way. It was just a lot of zig-zagging through the woods. We were passed by a number of runners on this section – Roy Heger being one of them. Dave pointed out to me later that Roy has passed him on both of his 100-mile runs and both 100-milers that he has paced other people. I think Roy has got a good strategy figured out.

We made it back to the covered bridge where I ate some more fruit, puked again and headed out to do the last 15 miles. Leigh told us she would see us again in 8 and we were off. We walked some road, some more trail and took a brief stop at O’Neil woods where they had watermelon and glow bracelets. I had been really craving watermelon for a while and they were one of the only aid stations that had it at night. I had not been craving a glow bracelet, but I took one anyway.

Out of O’Neil, we hit a lot of towpaths. These were flat and we started to make pretty good time with a fast hike. It wasn’t long before we hit a manure plant around mile 92. We laughed at how the manure was dripping over the side of the wall and Dave tried to identify the different types of fertilizer they were making with it by the smell. We made it into town and something on the side of the road caught my eye. “Is that a real turtle?” I wondered aloud. “Keep moving”, Dave replied. “I’m going to go back and check it out”. Sure enough, it was a real turtle (and a huge one at that!) playing with a fish that someone had left out in a Home Depot bucket. At least I knew I wasn’t imagining it this time.

We had made good time on the towpath and Leigh was there to see us at mile 93. Now, we started thinking about timing. There was no way to make 24 hours, but 27 hours seemed to be in the cards. So, we trudged on…picking up speed as we walked. Before we knew it, we were at the next aid station with less than 5 miles to go to the finish! Dave told me to just keep moving. He would pick up any needed items at the aid station.

Things were starting to get exciting. We were passing people now and hiking faster than I had ever hiked in my life. Dave told me we could make it to the finish in 26:30. I told him I really didn’t care – I was only going for a faster time because he wanted me to get there faster. I said that I would care tomorrow, but right now, all I cared about was finishing. We hiked some stairs. Then some more stairs and passed a few more people. I told Dave that I couldn’t keep up this pace. But, we did keep up the pace. We made it to the road with less than a mile to go. “Let’s run it in” Dave said. We started running and then I stopped. “No, it hurts too much” I complained. “That’s OK, we can walk it. But, do you realize how close we are to breaking 26 hours?” “OK, fine, let’s run.” And we ran towards the finish line. Leigh was waiting with her camera. Dave said, “I’m going to let you run it in from here.” 26:00:39. I’ll call that 26 hours. Joe handed me a belt buckle and said his congratulations. Jay came over and asked if I needed anything. “No. Well, a hot shower and a good night’s sleep.” I responded. Dave came running up with Leigh and we high-fived. I was nearly in tears. We high-fived again to pose for the camera. Jay suggested that this occasion called for a hug. Neither of us are really the hugging type, but I was overwhelmed with thankfulness for a friend who was willing to go through this with me, a wife who has crewed me for two of these adventures and showed much more support for my running beyond the races, and many other friends who have run with me, supported me, encouraged me and paced me through this year.

My First Mohican 100 Mile

Doubled over in the middle of the woods somewhere between Mohican Adventures and Covered bridge, I stared at the no longer edible Raman noodles and other bits of food now all over the trail and yelled back to Ashley, “This isn’t what you expected when you signed up to pace me, was it?” “No”, she replied, “but I had no idea what to expect.” This exact phrase had been running around in my thoughts for the last 6 weeks since I decided to switch from the 50 to the 100-mile Mohican trail run.

I didn’t think I would ever have the desire to run an ultra-marathon. My first exposure to the ultra-community was doing a short pacing stint for my good friend Dave Huss at the Mohican 100-miler in 2009. He had talked about how great it was to be on the trails, but I just didn’t see it after the 4 hour, 15-mile night hike.

2009 was a frustrating running year for me in general, as I dealt with an IT injury first in my left knee and then my right, causing me to question whether I wanted to just give up on running altogether. As winter approached however, I realized that I needed something to keep me from getting too depressed during the short days and the cold nights. Right around that time, Dave mentioned the Lean Horse 100 to me as a race to possibly consider. Being a relatively flat course, it might be a good way to experience my first 100 miles. Somehow, hearing about this race that was nearly 9 months away intrigued me more than my first exposure to an ultra earlier that year.

As the winter months flew by, I got to know a number of other runners through a group Michael Patton started up this year called Central Ohio Trail Runners. I began to realize just how much everybody within this community supports and encourages each other. Soon, I signed up for some races for the year: the Cleveland Marathon, a couple of 50K’s, and the Mohican 50-miler. Miles and more miles kept adding up in my running log, and after an inspiring night run with Michael, Jay, Terri, Dave, Star, Ashley, Tom and Suzanne, I declared that I was going switch my entry from the 50 to the 100 at Mohican. I figured it was time for an adventure whether I was ready or not.

The Start

As I stood on the starting line among many familiar faces, I felt a mixture of excitement, exhaustion and anticipation for what the day would bring. This was it. All the training was finally going to pay off. The blast of a vuvuzela jolted me out of my thoughts as 241 headlamps began to pour down the road and into the woods. Michael and I chatted a bit as we made our way along the river to Covered Bridge. A slight drizzle cooled us off and we made it to the first aide station a little ahead of a 23-hour pace. As we started into the next 4 mile loop, I began to realize the beauty that surrounded us in this slice of Ohio. After a quick climb up the falls, Mark Lemke (and a horse and buggy) greeted us at the road. Dave Huss caught up with Michael and me sometime along the road section and the three of us ran along at a good clip back to Covered Bridge. Spirits were high at this point as the endorphins had kicked in and the tiredness from the short night of sleep the night before had worn off.

The next 10 miles to Rock Point went by quickly. Amidst refreshingly cool stream crossings and more vuvuzelas, there were great stories being told and encouraging words being passed around. Reaching the quaint church that signals the nearing of Rock Point, Dave mentioned that this was the fastest he ever remembered this section going by. Of course, this was only the first time running this section and, well, the day was still young.

Michael started to feel a little queasy soon after Rock Point, so Dave and I ran together for much of the road section. Despite the heat, the miles were going by like clockwork. I think part of this has to do with the fact that I feel more comfortable on the roads than the trails, as the majority of my training is along the Olentangy bike path in Columbus. When you run a familiar road or trail time and again, your mind begins to form memories that are triggered by being in that location. I tend to remember things such as what I was listening to (I usually listen to podcasts when I run by myself) or how I felt along that stretch of trail. For instance, I will always think of the time that Mark Carroll encouraged me to run the hills with him on the section from Rock Point to Fire Tower. A couple of miles out from Fire Tower, I completely bonked – mostly from my lack of experience and not realizing the amount of effort it takes to run every hill. Although it felt bad in the moment, I think fondly of that memory every time I run that portion of the trail – I learned a good lesson about running hills and I was in good company which makes it all worth it.

Because this road section (miles 19-43) was all new to me, I had the privilege of forming new memories as well. A guy running in sandals asked if he was still on course for the 50-miler. I replied that yes, I was pretty sure he was still on course, and wondered to myself why he was running in sandals. Dave pointed out to me that this was Micah True, of Born to Run fame – I guess that explained the sandals. I realized every time I come to an ultra event what an honor it is to be able to meet and run with so many rock-star runners who constantly exhibit humility and freely give advice and support to much less experienced runners like myself. Other memories along this section include a surprise visit from my beautiful wife, Leigh (who was an amazing and selfless support to me for the entire weekend) and Dave’s wife, Katie at Mohican Wilderness. I didn’t think they were planning to see us until later on in the race, so it was a huge encouragement to get a kiss from Leigh and a “Go get ‘em” to send Dave and myself back out onto the road. I will also remember Dave pointing out all kinds of landmarks that he recognized from last year (he seemed to remember one guard rail in particular that we couldn’t seem to find this year) and the absolutely beautiful farm scenery we witnessed along those stretches of road.

Around Buckhaven, Dave decided he was going to hang back a bit to try to get his stomach righted. I ran with Greg for a while back to Rock Point and was entertained by his jokes, stories and laughter. The miles flew as we yo-yoed back and forth to Rock Point, South Park and then Fire Tower. As I stopped to pee somewhere along this stretch, I thought of Mark’s blog post about inspecting the color of your urine (you’ll have to read it to understand) and realized I was getting dehydrated. I was not too concerned as I still felt pretty good and figured I would be able to catch up if I started drinking just a little more.

My Dad and Mom (who had a bruised and swollen ankle from a mishap just days earlier) had driven up from Columbus just to see me for a few short minutes at Fire Tower. As I was crossing 97, they were driving by (following Leigh and Katie) as they were trying to find the Fire Tower – just one of the cool ways that God works in every little detail. As I approached Fire Tower, I was greeted by my Dad in the woods as he snapped a photo and welcomed me in. There were many smiling and familiar faces at Fire Tower including Leigh, Katie, both of my parents and Lindsey (who we had worked with us at Covered Bridge during the “Forget the PR” 50k earlier this year). I got a chance to visit with everyone for a bit and then was sent off to continue the adventure.

Uh Oh

In the next several miles, I started to realize that something was up. Now, for those that know me, I do not deal very well with discomfort…especially nausea. So, why do I run at all when discomfort is inevitable? For me, the high felt from running is so much stronger than the lows (and lasts much longer) that it is well worth a little discomfort. And, I’ve felt some discomfort on my training runs, but I was not prepared for nausea that hit me on the way to Hickory Ridge. As I passed by others looking at least as bad as I felt, my only thoughts were on getting to mile 65 where I would see Leigh again and be able to take a little break to hopefully right myself. Ashley would be there as well to pace me if I felt like continuing on with this madness. Unfortunately, things were only getting worse and I didn’t feel like drinking or eating much of anything. In fact, I hadn’t been able to stomach any food in the last three hours. As I ran in to the Mohican Adventures campground, Leigh came running out to meet me. She knew instantly that something was wrong. I had already slowed down considerably from my earlier pace and I must have looked pretty rough. I told her I was ready to drop the race. At this point, I lay down on the ground as Leigh tried to feed me something. Almost immediately, I jumped back up to my feet as I began dry heaving on the side of the campground road.

As I was making a feeble attempt at composing myself, Jay Smithberger (who had already won the 50 and was hanging around to offer his support) came over and asked, “Steve, what IS the problem??”. I explained my situation and was assured by everyone there that I was not the only one feeling this way. They kept telling me that I would get through it. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to run – I just couldn’t bear the thought of jostling my stomach around any longer.  Dave came through Mohican Adventures at that point, tried to reason with everyone there to let him drop due to a painful knee injury, but they wouldn’t hear of it. They told both him and me that they would see us in about 7 miles. I had already sat for 45 minutes at this point, so I asked Ashley if she was up for giving this a go, and we both headed back off into the woods.

Ashley and I chatted for a bit and she offered some encouraging words to get me going. After a brief encounter with a snake (this is now the second snake I’ve seen at Mohican) and a couple of miles of trails I had run earlier in the day, I stopped suddenly (giving Ashley no warning) to leave all of the food I had just eaten earlier (the plate of food Leigh brought me, the Raman noodles that Jay had made me) on the trail. That was the moment I decided I was done with this stupid race. If I couldn’t get the nutrients my body needed, I just couldn’t keep running. Ashley did an amazing job during this section to hold it together herself after seeing my techni-color display and later bonking her head on a fallen tree. I told her as we were nearing Covered Bridge that I was all done. As we ran across the bridge, we saw Dave sitting in a chair echoing the same sentiments. “We’ve just got to get to Bridle Staging” he said, “but then I’m done”. I was so done at this point and tried to convince him that we should just radio up there to get Leigh and Katie to come pick us up, but he convinced me that we should at least try to make the 2.7 mile hike up there. Withdrawing into the misery I was feeling, I gave it a go, but just couldn’t do the up-hills without the heat exhaustion bringing on more nausea. I told Dave and Ashley that I couldn’t make it and Dave was just going to have to send someone down for me. Ashley and I made our way back down to covered bridge where I let them know I was DNF-ing. I saw Michael sometime around here and he encouraged me to just sit and wait it out as he had done the year before, but I wanted to hear none of that. I was ready to be done!

Sitting for the next 1.5 hours at covered bridge was the lowest point of the race for me. Not the nausea or the puking, but the sitting, the frustration, the disappointment. Sitting and shaking from the cold and thinking that I didn’t want to run now, but that tomorrow I was going to be disappointed with myself for not finishing. Oh well. Whatever. At least I would get some sleep tonight.

I didn’t say much to Ashley at that point and she didn’t say too much either. She had put up with my whining and complaining, and had just accidentally sat in a puke covered chair herself. It was a miserable time for both of us.

While we were sitting, waiting for a ride, Mark Carroll came rolling through with his crew. He sat down next to me and invited us to run with him and his group as they were all feeling chatty at that point and it might help take my mind off my discomfort. He told me that I could run and get through my stomach problems if I just kept sipping water and pushed through it. While I declined his offer, just hearing that it was possible to work through the issues while running got me thinking again…I began to doubt my decision to drop.

Leigh and Katie finally showed up! The first words I blurted out of my mouth when I saw them were “What took you so long?” They took one look at me, brushed my question aside, and Leigh said, “Why are you quitting? Is it because you can’t run, or because you don’t want to?” I told her that at this point I didn’t want to, but I realized that my stomach was starting to feel better. They told me that Dave kept going after Bridle Staging. Just as misery loves company, so does a little friendly competition help to motivate you to get back out on the trail. Ashley said she was up for getting me through to at least Bridle Staging where Leigh promised that she would have a pacer for me. As Leigh and Katie flew over to Rock Point to see if Ted Niemann could come to pick me up at Bridle Staging, Ashley and I had a nice hike up the trail as my spirits started to improve. Ted, a friend of Michael, had agreed to pace me from Rock Point to the end when I was looking for a pacer at the last minute before the race. We made it to Bridle and Leigh let me know that when Ted heard I had dropped the race, he had gone on to pace someone else to the finish, but that she would run with me to Rock Point instead. This was such a selfless act on her part as she had been up all day crewing already and had never run this far on trails before, but she was willing to do whatever it would take to get me through to the end. I told her that this was a tough section to run (and long at almost 8 miles) and Ashley agreed at that point to run with me through to Rock Point although it was much later than she had anticipated being out there.

At some point along this section, I started feeling miserable again, but decided that if I had made it this far, I might as well make it to the end. The mental was righted again even if the physical was not. I complained a lot, but just kept putting one foot in front of the other. The trail seemed to go on forever, but we finally made it to THE ROCK where we were met by Leigh and Katie’s smiling faces once again. I have to say, the crew at Rock Point also knew how to take care of us. It was great to see Julie, Jen, Tom and others there that had put in a long couple of days helping many runners get through. At this point, I started hearing whispers of cutoff times. My clouded mind hadn’t even thought about that until now. It was getting to be very close, but we had been moving well so far. So, after some deliberation, Ashley decided she would hang in there and get me through to South Park. I honestly don’t know what happened along this section as I began to run in my sleep. I had a dream that I had replaced my stomach with another one and I didn’t know why I hadn’t thought of doing this earlier. The one thing I do remember about this section was hearing myself say that I just wish I could get better from this nausea as Ashley replied, “You know, it may not get better until the end, but just try to take your mind off of it.” Somehow, just hearing this was comforting to me. I was focusing so hard on trying to fix my problem that I didn’t realize how much it was making me focus on the problem itself. Maybe the solution was just to try not to think about it.

We were both elated to reach South Park (mile 84). Ashley had just achieved a distance PR and Leigh was there (after battling her fears of coyotes and running away from strange people in the woods) excited and ready to run with me to the end. The sun was coming up and life was starting to seem livable again. Leigh propped me up when I started to fall asleep and kept me going, going, going. She was conscious of the time and made sure that I had what I needed emotionally and physically to get me to Fire Tower before the cutoff.

A quick stop at Fire Tower and Katie graciously offered to run with me to Covered Bridge to give Leigh a chance to rest up a bit before the last 11 miles in to the finish. She entertained me with all kinds of stories, and kept me fed and on pace. Then, out of nowhere, with less than a mile to get to Covered Bridge, Ted ran up to us. After being up all night running 22 miles with another runner, he had run back (I’m not sure if he ran all the way back from the start?) to pace me in the rest of the way. Everyone was excited to see Ted because they knew I would need someone to kick my butt to the finish line if I was going to make it in time.

On to the finish line

Another miracle happened on the way out from Covered Bridge – my nausea began to subside. I still wasn’t moving extremely fast at this point, but Ted was nice enough to let me ease my way back into running. As we approached Hickory Ridge, he told me we would need to pick up the pace just a bit. With a quick stop for some Mountain Dew (I was falling asleep again) and a few words from Leo letting me know that I would make it, we got back out on trails. I was getting scared at this point that we wouldn’t make the cutoff, so I just started running every section that was not a steep uphill. “That was a 12-minute mile back there.” I heard Ted say behind me. “You only need to do 18’s to make it”. OK, I just had to pace myself so I didn’t burn out in the last 5 miles. We chatted a bit and pushed the pace anywhere we could. Suddenly I heard a voice yelling at us from up ahead, “Steve!” It was Star…and Dave! It couldn’t have been better timing to be able to run in the last mile and a half with Dave and two amazing pacers beside us. As we entered the finish line, I couldn’t stop smiling as I thought of how ridiculous the last 29 hours and 44 minutes had been.  A flood of thankfulness poured over me as I realized just how many people it took to get me across this finish line.

Designs Over the Years

As a new website design launches, I thought I would put together a little gallery of my website designs over the years. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a screenshot of every version and the wayback machine didn’t load all of the images from each, but this is what I could retrieve. I’ve just included the logo from some of the designs. Notice that the new design of the website is a departure from the typical green/grey/black color scheme that I have used in every other version of the site.

Old Website Designs

Privacy, Handles and Social

Remember back about 15 years ago when everybody’s online identity was private? Having a handle was the cool thing to do. The first handle I remember having was spam444. This was before spam was widely used as a term for junk email. I just thought it was a cool word because of its use in Monty Python and its utility as the perfect camping food. I used this handle mostly for AIM and IRC chat. A couple of years later, I moved to using the handle cron57, which is still in use today as one of my email addresses.

One of my favorite lines from the movie Hackers is when Joey says, “I need a handle, man. I don’t have an identity until I have a handle.” I think in the hacker and cracker communities (as well as online forums), individual’s identities are still wrapped up in their handle. However, over the last decade there has been a movement in the general population (especially among creative and self-employed professionals) nurture an online identity that reflects an individual’s true identity (or a portion thereof).

For instance, I own the domain, my Twitter username is @stevezeidner and my Facebook page can be found at

I remember a lot of talk in the past about how important personal privacy is. However, reality has shown us that there are benefits to giving up some privacy. The large benefit that people have noticed recently is social on the web. It’s so easy now to stay in touch with acquaintances, collaborate on a project and keep a central address book. The problem now is that social media has turned into a bunch of disparate systems. Every popular social platform is a closed system with separate “namespacing” and logins. The login issue is one I think we will always have to deal with. The namespacing problem however is a much larger issue – it is already tough to namespace based on your given name if it is fairly common. We need some sort of “domain” separation (like email or jabber). Maybe it is time for another bearhug?

Anyway, what are your thoughts on the topic? Do you think giving up some privacy is worth the benefits gained? What do you think should be done about the namespacing issue?


Lately, I’ve been on a kick of wanting to experience a broader set of languages, frameworks and programming techniques. I listened to an (epic?) episode of FLOSS Weekly with Kent Beck on Extreme Programming and have been thinking about going back to some of my textbook learning in college and applying it to real projects.

First off, I’m going through a Python book as I figure it is not too huge of a leap syntax-wise from PHP. Aside from a little bit of syntax difference, there are a few nuances conceptually (everything is an object, different data structures like tuples, etc…), but for the most part, it seems to be pretty straightforward so far coming from a PHP background.

However, I’ve been hearing a few rumblings lately about PHP gaining a little more traction as a respected language – Facebook after all uses it. In fact, an employee at Facebook has even been rewriting PHP from the ground up for speed. It sounds like it may finally be a compiled language which could help with performance issues.

Other platforms I would like to dive into include Ruby (and RoR) as well as going a little deeper with Javascript frameworks and some of the nuances between the toolkits/frameworks. I also like the idea of accountability that is a part of Kent Beck’s “Extreme Programming” style.

For now, I’m picking Python to use for my next personal project. Once I pick a project, I need you to keep me accountable to finish it.

HTML and CSS Starter Templates

Out of laziness, when building a website, I’ve often just started with one of the Dreamweaver basic template layouts – I’ll go in and delete a bunch of stuff and rework it to the way I wanted. This included copying and pasting code from websites I have built previously and rewriting the same sections of code with each new site. I was also using Dreamweaver as a code editor just because I started there. Dreamweaver is quite bloated however and if you are not using the WYSIWYG features, it is completely unnecessary. There are much better text editors out there already. I’ve currently switched to Notepad++ on the Windows side (what I use at work) and so far it has been working out quite nicely. I have put together a base CSS (2.1 and 3 valid) and HTML (5 spec valid and backwards compatible) template file with the structure I typically use for building a site. There are a few items in the CSS (like the comment block at the top) that are geared towards WordPress users, but those can be ignored or removed as necessary. Now, let’s see the code. First the HTML

Pretty basic, right? The only thing that might throw you off is the DOCTYPE. This is the way HTML5 does it – much simpler. Also, there is some Javascript included for backwards compatibility with IE.

Now, on to the CSS

A few things of note in the CSS. One is that at the top, I’m using a modified version of Eric Meyer’s CSS reset. I changed some of the spacing and indentation to make it a little more compact. I also removed the ‘content: none;’ from the ‘blockquote’ and ‘q’ resets so the stylesheet would validate with CSS3. A final modification I made was to the font size (from 100% to 62.5%). This resets the font base to 10px for easy em calculations (i.e. 1.4em is a 14pt font). The rest of the stylesheet should be mostly self explanatory.

So, what do you use as a starting point when building websites? What do you like about my templates? What don’t you like? What would you do differently?

Finally, last but not least, here is the zip file if you want an easy download: SZ’s Barebones HTML and CSS.

Update: I made some minor changes to the font placement in the CSS file. It didn’t quite work properly before. I’m now setting the font size to 62.5% in the body rather than in the reset. Font size can be defined in em’s in individual classes or ids.

Veridian Dynamics…Predicting the Future

Veridian Dynamics

So, you know that ABC show, Better off Ted? It’s based around a company, Veridian Dynamics, that makes cool products based on research in their labs. I’ve found this strange phenomenon happening where I watch an episode of Better off Ted and then a few days later find that the product they created has actually just been created in RL (real life).

OK, so maybe this doesn’t happen with every episode, but I’ll give you two examples:

  1. Season 1 Episode 2 – Phil and Lem (Veridian’s top two scientists) grow beef in the lab. The day after I watched this (not the day after the episode was released), I saw this article titled Scientists ‘grow’ meat in laboratory. Creepy.
  2. Season 1 Episode 13 – Veridian Dynamics introduces a face-scanning Internet search program. On Dec. 7th, 2009, Google introduced Google Goggles. While this software is initially intended for identifying places, it will also, once privacy concerns are worked out, identify faces in the near future and perform and Internet search on the person.

So, how is Better off Ted predicting the future? Do they have insider information in science and tech industries? I don’t know the answer, but if I see another scenario like the two above, I will have to believe that it is more than just coincidence.

The Tenants of Google

On This Week in Google: Episode 17, Leo suggested that Google may have a set of rules that they follow when building each of their products. Matt Cutts responded with a few of the fundamental tenants of Google. I have listed these below.

  1. Don’t be evil
  2. Organize the world’s data to make it useful
  3. Don’t trap user data – Eric Schmidt, Web 2.0, 2006
    • Be an advocate for users
    • Compete on merit (don’t give yourself an advantage – no proprietary APIs, etc…)
  4. Regarding products…
    • Go for a great product first, then figure out how to monetize
    • Don’t launch a “me-too” product – add some innovation to your product

I know a lot of people are very wary about Google especially as they grow into a larger and larger corporation. While they do seem to be reaching into more technology spaces, it is interesting to see how carefully they make their approach.

What is your take on Google and their level of “evil-ness” in the marketplace? How well do you think they follow the tenants outlined above? Are there more that should be added to this list?