Monday, September 21, 2015

Central Sole Connection - Weekly Long Run on Saturday

This past week our church, Central Presbyterian Church of Athens, started its own running club in association with Connect Run Club. Central Sole Connection is for everyone - for individuals who walk, who job, who regularly run 5k or 10ks, and even those who are actively training for a half or full marathon. More information on the club is available on the club's Web site.

Gabriel Mundi and I will co-lead a weekly long run on Saturday mornings, leaving from Bishop Park in Athens. While both Gabriel and I are both actively engaged in marathon training (my training plan calls for a total of 18 miles this Saturday) we have prepared different routes that will allow us to provide a solid training experience for everyone - whether they want to go three miles, five miles, nine miles, or a longer distance depending on their individual training needs. We've got several routes available and will mix and match them to fit the needs of whatever runners participate each week.

Here's a three mile course that we could start out with for beginners.

Bishop Park - Prince 3 Mile Loop
From there, we could head back down Prince Avenue to tag on a couple more miles for a total of just over five.

Bishop Park - Athens Regional 2 Mile Loop

For those that want to go longer, I've also got a couple more routes starting from Bishop Park that would take the total distance up to a little over 9 miles (adding on 4 miles) or all the way up to 14 or 18 (adding on an additional 9 miles).

Bishop Park - Hendershots 4 Mile Loop
Bishop Park - UGA 9 Mile Loop
For the next few months we're going to start each Saturday with a fresh slate and we'll map out the morning's run based on the needs and goals of the entire group, mixing and matching the above courses so we can drop runners off back at their car when their training is done. Later this year, we'll survey the group and put together some specific training regimes to prepare participants for a half or full marathon.

The long run is the foundational training experience for all runners. It builds endurance, strengthens the entire body, teaches the body to burn fat as fuel, increases confidence, and reduces mental stress. The pace will be slow, averaging about 12 minutes/mile for the entire course. We'll also be following Jeff Galloway's run - walk - run method, running for four minutes and then walking for one minute. This method helps to speed recovery and avoid injuries (I can attest to that as I have run 1200+ miles so far this year without experiencing a single injury). For more information on this approach to the long run see Jeff's Web site.

Of course, runners are free to head out at whatever pace and using whatever training regime best fits their needs. The entire aim of Central Sole Connection is to connect individuals together throughout Athens and the larger community by sharing an appreciation of walking, jogging, or running. These weekly long run sessions will provide an opportunity to do just that.

We want to start running right at 7:30am, so runners are encouraged to arrive around 7:20 so we can plan the day's route before heading out. If anyone requires any information on the weekly long run please email me at accidentalcio@icloud.com.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Mondays are for Hills (and the Rest of the Training Program)

There are 23 weeks to go to this year's Savannah Rock 'n' Roll marathon and my training is well underway. Last week was the second full week of training and I logged 31 miles over five sessions, including a seven mile long run on Saturday morning. My training week starts with hill workouts on Mondays. With Monday being a holiday this week it was nice for once to be able to head out after sunrise.

Hill workouts are essential for getting stronger, faster, and staying injury-free during training. I'm fortunate enough to live in a neighborhood that has ample hills and this six-mile course features 891 feet of climb over nine different hills. My goal is to keep my heart rate in/above Zone 3 (143 - 157 bpm) throughout the session. Once I get to the top of any hill, I begin walking until my heart rate drops below Zone 3. Then, it's off to the next hill. This hill workout kicks off every week of training.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are for moderately paced runs, also in Zone 3. Sometimes, I'll simply do laps around the Spec Towns Track at the University of Georgia. Other days, I'll do one-mile laps around the larger Vince Dooley Athletic Complex. I am a big believer in Jeff Galloway's Run Walk Run method as I have found that it speeds recovery and improves overall running times. So, during each of these sessions I run for three minutes and then walk for one minute. The past two weeks I've run six miles during each session, but for the next four weeks I'm increasing the total distance by a mile a week until these sessions cover eight miles each. Once I'm at that distance, I'll gradually increase my Run Walk Run interval from 3/1 to 4/1 over four weeks. This longer interval will match what I plan to use for the Savannah marathon.

Wednesdays are for speed work, and I've joined the Athens Road Runners for their weekly sprints at Spec Towns Track. During these workouts, we typically complete multiple 800m or 1m intervals at a 5k pace. Including warmup and recovery runs, I typically log between five and six miles during these sessions. I really enjoy these workouts and I have found that I tend to push myself harder when training with friends.

Fridays and Sundays are days off and it's nice to be able to sleep late (until 6am or so). On training days the alarm goes off at 3:30am. In order to get enough sleep I usually head to bed around 8:30 the previous night.

Saturdays are for long, endurance paced runs. My wife Gail and I do these together and we are following a training regime that comes from The Big Book of Marathon and Half Marathon Training. We started with 5 miles on Saturday, May 17th and then ran 7 miles this past weekend. Coming up we'll increase our mileage to 9 and then we'll follow this weekly progression: 7, 10, 12, 15, 12, 16, 12, 16, 18, 20, 14, 20, 14, 8, 20, 14, 16, 18, 18, 12, 18, 18, 20, 14, 20, 14, 20, 13.1 (Athens Half Marathon), 10. Our goal for long runs is to keep our heart rate in Zone 2 (130 - 143 bpm) while we increase our stamina both physically and mentally.

One observation I'll make as I close, this training regime is much more intense on Tuesdays and Thursdays compared to my last program. In preparing for the Chick-fil-a Half Marathon, I only ran 4 miles on Tuesdays and Thursdays. And, the Thursday run was in Zone 2 and not Zone 3. I have purposefully increased both the distance and tempo for these runs, as I never, ever want to run out of gas like I did for that last race.

I've been training for marathons for just eight months and the Savannah race will be my fifth event, but my first full marathon. The regime I've laid out above should help develop the physical and mental stamina necessary to complete a full marathon while also further developing my cardiovascular system. It's based on a lot of reading, so I encourage those interested to check out the links to training material's I've embedded in the narrative above.

Friday, May 1, 2015

2015 - 2016 Annual Planning Memorandum for VPIT Units @ UGA

To My Dedicated Colleagues in VPIT Units at the University of Georgia,

Every year around the first of May, I write a planning memorandum for all employees that report to my office. These memorandums allow me to present our successes over the past year, discuss progress toward our strategic goals, share our initiatives and priorities for the next year, and comment on the challenges and opportunities we can expect along the way. This is my fourth planning memorandum since I joined the University of Georgia in September 2011. This year’s memorandum is linked below.

2015 - 2016 Annual Planning Memorandum for VPIT Units

This past year has been a very successful one. An all-staff townhall will be held on Thursday, May 21, at 2 p.m. to discuss these ideas and goals and to provide you with the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback. Until then, know that I remain deeply grateful for each of you as you continue to ensure that the University of Georgia is a very special place for all of us.

Best,

Timothy M. Chester
Vice President for Information Technology
University of Georgia

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Things I Learned from Last Week's Half Marathon

Finally, on Thursday I began to get over my disappointment from an awful finish in the previous Saturday's half marathon.

Gail finished in 2:18:01, which is a new PR for her. I finished at 2:03:04, which is about five minutes off of my PR. I ran out of energy at around mile 11 and spent the last 2.1 miles watching dozens of runners pass me on their way to the finish. This was very tough emotionally and it weighed on me for several days. But, I've moved past the disappointment and realized that there is a lot that I learned from this half marathon.

First, I learned that race management is just as important as training. Gail and I had driven the course and were prepared for the hills. But, we didn't think about using knowledge about the course to develop a strategy for running the race. This was an incredibly deceptive course, dropping almost 200 feet in altitude over the first three miles. That means that everyone came out fast, incredibly fast for us. The bulk of the field started out at a 7:30 pace and both Gail and I finished the first 5k at an 8:36 pace. I was feeling great at that point, which had me thinking that a finish below 1:55:00 was possible. So I maintained that 8:30 pace even as we regained that altitude (plus 300 more feet) over the next five miles. That climb plus the rolling hills starting at mile 7 sapped all of my energy just when there were two miles left to go.

The second thing that I learned is that my taper before the race had me in great shape for the start. In the two months leading up to the race both Gail and I were logging 30 - 32 miles a week pretty consistently. My training includes substantial hill work on Mondays and speed work on Wednesdays. Three weeks out from the race I began dropping the weekly mileage to 25 miles, then to 20, and then to 10 the week of the race. The first week I dropped the hill work and I dropped the speed work with 10 days to go. The week of the race I ran 3 miles over a flat course on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Because of the rest I continued to feel pretty good through mile 7. This contributed to the false sense of security that led me to maintaining too fast of a pace during for the first two thirds of the race.

Third, I learned that I have to hydrate at every available station during the race. Up until now, I would pass on the available water and sport drinks out of fear of having to stop and use the bathroom. Fighting that urge is an awful, awful feeling when you are chasing after a new PR. Part of my problem starting at mile 11 was that I was dehydrated and for the last two miles I was dying for something to drink. Taking advantage of every available drink station is something that I'll do from now on.

Finally, I learned that my nutrition needs just as much attention as training and race strategy. During this training cycle, I allowed my appetite to get the best of me too many times in the past three months which resulted in predictable cycles of over / under eating. After two months of this, I was finally getting it under control in the three weeks before the race. Then, during my training taper I put on 6 pounds, which I related to over eating. Thus, in the final 10 days before the race I was way too calorie conscious, which ultimately led to storing far less energy than I needed for the race. Moving forward, I'm being much more careful to match my days calorie intake to my calorie expenditure as measured by my Garmin Fenix3 watch. Then, during the taper before my next race I will be in a better position to ensure that my energy stores are filled to capacity. Given that my next two races are a half marathon in late October and a full marathon two weeks later (my first), getting the nutrition aspect right will be vital.

Thanks to my friends, family, and most importantly my wife Gail - for being so supportive with what is becoming one of the most important parts of my life - my running.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

This Morning's Playlist

In just a few hours Gail and I will be heading out to compete in the annual Chick-Fil-A Half Marathon that is running in our hometown of Athens, Georgia. The course circles the University of Georgia campus, a path we've run many times before. It's pouring down rain right now, though Yahoo promises that it will be clear by the time the gun sounds.

Here's my playlist for this morning's run.
  1. Any Way You Want It - Journey
  2. Electric Avenue - Eddy Grant
  3. Every Little Kiss - Bruce Hornsby
  4. Everybody Have Fun Tonight - Wang Chung
  5. Eye of the Tiger - Survivor
  6. Forever Man - Eric Clapton
  7. Get It On - The Power Station
  8. Glory Days - Bruce Springsteen
  9. Happy - Pharrell Williams
  10. Hip to Be Square - Huey Lewis & The News
  11. Invisible Touch - Genesis
  12. Is There Something I Should Know - Duran Duran
  13. Jump - Van Halen
  14. Like a Prayer - Madonna
  15. Missing - Everything But the Girl
  16. Not This Time - The 2 Bears
  17. Owner of a Lonely Heart - Yes
  18. Panama - Van Halen
  19. Send Her My Love - Journey
  20. Separate Ways - Journey
  21. Synchronicity 2 - The Police
  22. Time of Our Lives - Pitbull & Ne-Yo
  23. Venus - Bananarama
  24. A View To A Kill - Duran Duran
  25. Walking on Broken Glass - Annie Lennox
  26. We Got the Beat - The Go-Go's
  27. Whip It - Devo
  28. Would I Lie to  You? - Eurythmics
  29. You Keep Me Hangin' On - Kim Wilde

Saturday, March 14, 2015

This Year's Running Calendar

This morning I am sitting in my hotel room in Washington, D.C. waiting until 9am so I can begin my weekly long run. By coincidence, today just happens to be the annual running of the Rock 'n' Roll half and full marathon in Washington and I completely missed it. I didn't find out about the event until Monday and by then it was too late to register online. There's 26,000 runners currently massing down on the national mall for a 7:30am start. A good portion my long run this week takes me around the mall and down to Arlington National Cemetery. I'll have to wait them out for a few hours, which is fine because it just happens to be pouring down rain. It's also cold and I forgot to bring my gloves on this trip.

My long run today will take me on a 12.1 mile path around our nation's capital. I'll be starting a couple blocks north of Dupont Circle at my hotel, and then down to the north side of the White House. Then, I'll continue down 15th street to the Washington monument and then east on the mall to the United States Congress. There's some nice hills around Congress, so I'll go up the north side and then run south in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to the other side of the Capital building and then turn west over the hills and head back down the mall. From there, it's all the way down the mall to the Lincoln Memorial and then across the Arlington Memorial Bridge to the entrance of Arlington National Cemetery. From there, I'll turn around and head back to the Lincoln Memorial and then back to the Washington Monument. Then, I'll head north up 17th street back to the White House and then up to DuPont Circle to my starting point. Todays plan is to run this in zone 2 at a pace of about 11 minutes/mile. Once I'm finished I'll post a link to the run below.

So far Gail and I have three races on our calendar for the year. We're currently training for the annual Chick-fil-a Half Marathon that will run in Athens, Georgia on April 18th. After that, we'll do the Athens Half Marathon that will run on October 25th. Then our finale for the year will be the Rock 'n' Roll Half and Full Marathon in Savannah, Georgia on November 7th. While Gail will stick to the half marathon in Savannah, I'll be attempting my first full marathon on what will be just a couple of days shy of my 47th birthday.

My training regime each week includes four miles of hill work on Mondays, an easy four mile run on a track on Tuesdays, speed work on a track (either a zone 4 tempo run or intervals in zone 5) on Wednesdays, an endurance run (zone 2) on Thursdays, and a long run (zone 2) on Saturdays. Friday and Sunday are my days off. Distance for the long run follows a formula that comes from Rodale's The Runner's World Big Book of Marathon and Half Marathon Training. I'm currently training based on heart rate zone and not pace (that's a subject for a later blog). As I think about these three events this year, I would like to finish both half marathons under 2 hours (PR is currently 1:58:26) and the full marathon under 4:30. My training plans are designed with those goals in mind.

For the next few weeks, leading up to the Chick-fil-a Half Marathon, Gail and I will run 8 miles (March 21st), 10 miles (March 28th), 8 miles (April 4th), and 6 miles (April 11th). Post-race, we'll take it easy for three weeks and then start a 16 week plan that will focus on building the necessary endurance to finish a full marathon (more on that training plan will also come in a later blog).

It's amazing, but what they say is true. That once you start long-distance running it becomes highly addictive and you can't turn off the desire to hit the road and log some miles. In fact, you begin planning your entire life around your training schedule, especially when traveling. On the road, I'm having to pack an extra bag in order to carry all my gear with me.

Here's the bag of running gear that I now travel with
So, what's the goal of all of this? Simply put, it's just to get better. To move the needle. To make progress. To set stretch goals and meet them. But doing so in a way that recognizes that real, lasting, sustained progress happens in regular increments not in quick bursts. Moving forward and maintaining momentum takes work because you can't ever, ever rest. The second you pause, atrophy sets in and momentum shifts the wrong way. Cycles are hard to break out of, both good ones and bad ones. That's why I go to bed early every night and get up hours before daybreak to go running.

This blog has always served as the forum for writing about things that I currently have as passion for. Right now, that's running. In the past it's been topics like technology, IT leadership, changes in higher education, and so on. Those topics will still pop-up from time to time, but for now you will see more about the activities I tend to plan my life around these days - and that's running. Life is a marathon, it's not a sprint.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Question of the Day

Here's the question of the day. Which one of these two runners enjoyed their race more?


Gail's Time
Tim's Time


Monday, February 2, 2015

Why TechQual+

Later this week I’ll be delivering a three-hour online workshop on how to use the Higher Education TechQual+ Project survey and Web site tools. The survey and tools are available free of charge for assessing the quality of IT services on college or university campuses. The first question we’ll cover is “Why TechQual+?” Or, why should IT leaders use a standardized survey for gauging IT service quality? To answer that question, let me share an experience that I once had as an external reviewer assessing IT services at another university.

Over the course of two days, the review team had conducted a number of focus groups where we discussed perceptions of IT service quality. Overall, the feedback received was positive. There were many things the IT organization was doing that were well received. There were also a few areas where most agreed there were some opportunities for improvement. But, that was before we came to the last focus group on the last day. The tone and nature of the feedback from this one group of individuals was in stark contrast to what we had heard during our previous discussions.

In this last focus group, there was one individual who had very negative perceptions about the capabilities of the IT organization and its leadership. He didn’t just have negative opinions; he was also quite articulate and forceful in rallying the other focus group members to share in his beliefs. In short order this individual had successfully shifted the focus group to an open complaint session about the central IT organization and its leadership. Having performed countless focus groups in the past, the review team was able to put these negative perceptions within the broader context established by the other focus groups. However, this experience raised an interesting dilemma that goes to the heart of one of the fundamental challenges faced by IT leaders – the relationship between perceived service quality and IT leadership credibility.

Let’s suppose that the CIO’s president is walking around campus and they just happen to run into some of the same individuals who participated in our focus groups. What would they tell the president if the subject turned to concerns about IT service quality? What would the president’s perception of IT service quality be if they only talked to the one individual who possessed such strong negative opinions? The question for IT leaders is do you want to leave the reputation of your organization’s performance and leadership to such chance encounters?

Successful IT leaders rely on tools like TechQual+ to regularly collect data regarding the quality of IT services and to solicit feedback on opportunities for improvement. Such data helps to create a context for the anecdotal feedback that comes through casual conversations. The strength of TechQual+ is that it provides a common way to collect data on IT service quality, allowing for comparisons against normative data collected from other institutions also administering the survey. There is now a large community of participating institutions using TechQual+ to drive IT continuous improvement programs on their campuses.

There is a direct relationship between perceptions of IT service quality and the credibility and effectiveness of IT leaders. Those with strong reputations for service quality find it easier to build alliances and gain support for their work. Ultimately, on every college or university campus there is a prevailing narrative about IT services and the capabilities and performance of the IT organization. Tools like TechQual+ can help IT leaders drive this narrative, by using data to inform conversations about more effective delivery and use of IT services. To get started with TechQual+ or to learn more please visit the project’s Web site at http://www.techqual.org.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The TechQual+ Survey for 2015

The Higher Education TechQual+ Project aims to produce a standard, generalizable survey that assesses the quality of IT services in higher education from the perspective of students, faculty, and staff. Each year the TechQual+ core survey is updated based on feedback from respondents and the community of participating institutions. This year's update was finalized over this past weekend is now available for schools to administer through the Higher Education TechQual+ Web site.

The survey is organized in three sections, focusing on Internet access, online services, and user support. The format and approach of the survey is based on SERVQUAL which has strong support in the academic literature for assessing customer satisfaction. The 2015 version of the survey can be found on the TechQual+ Web site following this link. This YouTube video discusses the approach and development of the TechQual+ core survey over the past several years.

Changes to the survey this year were focused on the need to clarify the language for some items, the need to assess emerging services such as learning technologies and data for decision-support, and aligning the customer service questions more closely with the original SERVQUAL items. With these changes we will begin publishing findings from the project later this year once the new survey has been administered at multiple institutions. 

Over the past decade over 250,000 students, faculty, and staff have completed the TechQual+ core survey at 100+ institutions. The use of the core survey and the Web tools for administering surveys is available free of charge. There are numerous opportunities for learning more about the project, including monthly conference calls and an online training session scheduled for February 6, 2015. For more information please visit the TechQual+ project Web site or contact the project's principal investigator at accidentalcio@icloud.com by e-mail.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Few Thoughts in Response to Garmin's Recent Product Announcements

I have a few thoughts in response to yesterday's CES announcement from Garmin regarding its new lineup of activity trackers, smart watches, and GPS enabled devices - that before releasing a bunch of new products, Garmin needs to fix the multitude of lingering problems with their current products that have yet to live up to the hype.

Here's just a brief rundown of the problems I am experiencing with the one Garmin product that I own (the Garmin 920XT).

Timezone Problems with Garmin Connect
Activities uploaded from my 920XT through the iOS 8 Garmin Connect app are timestamped five hours earlier than they actually occurred. I didn't get up this morning and work out at 12:10am, it was 5:10am when I started. Now, if the activity was uploaded via Wi-Fi or through a USB connection the timestamp would have been accurate. Lots of us have been complaining about this issue through Garmin forums since early December (and yes my time zone is set correctly).

Garmin Connect Out of Service, Again
But a bigger problem is the complete lack of reliability of Garmin Connect to begin with. Far too many of us have had problems getting our Garmin devices to successfully upload data to the Garmin Connect Web site. I'm a long standing customer, but I wonder how many new customers, thrilled to receive their first Garmin device for Christmas, became disappointed when Garmin Connect failed to work as advertised.

MyfitnessPal Integration Down for Several Months
Which brings us to the next big problem with Garmin Connect, which is the complete lack of reliability of its integration with MyFitnessPal. Most of who are actively training are meticulous about tracking our calorie intake against our daily calorie expenditure. Integration with MyFitnessPal is the Garmin Connect vehicle for this sort of tracking; but the integration has been completely unreliable for several months (I first reported problems back in July). Garmin has had more than six months to provide basic functions that its competitors seem to handle with ease. Supposedly this was fixed for good with updates that went into place shortly after Christmas, but the fix has so many bugs that the current outage is actually worse than it was before the Christmas update.

ANT+ Sensor Lack of Reliability
And finally, and this is the most trying problem I experience, is that Garmin's flagship product - the 920XT - has serious issues with its ANT+ connection reliability for heart rate monitors (HRM) and other sensors. My current 920XT is actually my third 920XT. The first experienced repeated ANT+ disconnects / reconnects out of the box and was replaced by GPSCity.com because it was faulty (the same sensors worked flawlessly with the Garmin Forerunner 15 which is a much lower end device). My second 920XT started experiencing the same problems two weeks after I received it and since I am training for an upcoming race, I went ahead and purchased a third 920XT while I am waiting for Garmin to troubleshoot my second 920XT (GPSCity has washed their hands of the problem). Confusing? Frustrating is a better word, particularly for devices in the $500+ range (I reported the issues with my second 920XT to Garmin on December 29th but have only heard from them once on January 2nd; the ticket remains open).

I write not to vent or complain, but to make the observation that these problems are emblematic of a cultural challenge for Garmin, which is the problem of overcommitment and underperformance that plagues all organizations when they allow the focus on creation and promotion of new things to overwhelm their capacity to support and take care of their existing customers. All the evidence cited above suggests to me that this is the case.

Here's three suggestions that I have for Garmin.

First, understand that your greatest competitive challenge today is not a lack of compelling products relative to competitors, but the frustration experienced by customers when they buy Garmin products and they don't work as advertised.

Second, software bugs in Garmin Connect are the largest source of problems experienced by Garmin customers. There needs to be an immediate freeze on the development of new features for Garmin Connect until the existing issues are resolved for good. What good is there in new features like Garmin Connect IQ when old features don't work as advertised?

Third, don't take your loyal customers for granted. Be more responsive to their complaints, but more importantly resolve for them the issues that they experience with your products. Successful companies delight their customers, they don't frustrate them.

One other stray piece of advice: one month out from releasing a high-end, high dollar flagship product like the 920XT don't suggest that is of cheap quality when plugging new products that are in the pipeline.

The business world is littered with companies that failed to realize their potential once they lost product focus and began delivering sub-par customer experiences. Trying to do too much, too fast is the enemy. Successful companies like Apple do just the opposite. They focus on just a few, select products and they never, ever release a product way before it is ready. That's the Garmin I hope to see in the future.