Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Running - Make it an Event

When it comes to running, I have to admit I'm a fair-weather fan. Give me a 60-degree, low-humidity day and I'll gladly agree to trot 10-plus miles with you. However, once the temperatures start to dip drastically and the snow starts to fly, it's easy for me to seek shelter in the warm hibernation spot of my bed.

Some people don't notice much of a drop off when winter time rolls around because they just switch gears and attack their treadmill with a vengeance. I, on the other hand, have trouble feeling comfortable on the treadmill due in large part to the fact that I'm 6-foot-6 and either hit my knees on the front or fall off the back. So, the treadmill is not really the answer to my winter running needs.

I have found that as long as the temperatures stay above zero including the windchill that proper layering makes running outside still bearable. The only thing that has been a concern for me is adequate footing, so I base my daily runs now on whether or not I can find a somewhat clear path to trod.

Two other things that really help me follow through on continuing my runs during the winter have been getting together with friends to do them and making them into events whenever possible. The accountability that you find when telling someone that you'll meet them at 6 a.m. for a 5K is a strong motivator when the warm covers on my bed try to pull me back into them when the alarm goes off. And, the bond that you form with fellow runners who are working hard and braving the frigid elements with you is one that develops into strong friendships.

As for making runs into events, sometimes you have to be creative or, as my wife likes to say, a little loony. Take this morning for example. A lunar eclipse was slated to take place on the same day as the winter solstice for the first time in 300-plus years. The fact that it happened between 2:30-4:00 a.m. didn't stop me from trying to organize a middle-of-the-night 5K. I met my friend, Chad Sims, at his house at 3:00 a.m. and we started our run. At the midway point, we stopped to see our friends, Crystal and Eric Browning, who had offered to make us hot chocolate and fresh cookies. Even though the early morning sky was pretty overcast, we did manage to see the moon a couple of times while enjoying the warm treats. After a little bit, Chad and I said good-bye to the Brownings and finished off our 5K before I headed for home for a few more hours of sleep. (You can see a picture of the limited edition shirt I designed to commemorate the event above - 'cause we all know that any race worth running has a race shirt.)

While Chad and I didn't set any personal bests and Crystal and Eric sacrificed some sleep, I think we would all four agree that it was fun and something we would do again if given the choice. I also think from the interest I've seen on my Facebook page after posting about the 2010 Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse 5K that next time we plan a fun event that more people will take part in it. Special thanks to WBNS 10TV for the shout out about the run this morning and also to COSI for checking in with us. You never know who is watching and following your progress!

(Note: I would love to hear your ideas for running in Central Ohio's winter wonderland.)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lowe's and Behold...Christmas and Social Media

Like most people out there, I love a good giveaway or contest. Thanks to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, there are lots of opportunities these days for fans and followers of companies or organizations to grab some great swag.

The latest social media marketing frenzy began on Friday at 10 a.m. ET when Lowe's began their three-day Gift-A-Thon through their Facebook fan page with roughly 380,000 followers at the time. I 'liked' their page and RSVP'd for the event in order to be eligible if I happened to be one of the lucky ones to be fast enough each time they gave away coupons for 90 percent off some great items.

There was an initial glitch when the first item posted as the response was so great with so many people logging into the site that it shut down the contest server. After a little while, Lowe's got things back up and running and despite a hiccup here and there things have been pretty much smooth sailing ever since. I've managed to get through on a couple of the items, but haven't been fast enough to get one of the coveted 90 percent off coupons. However, the only thing I really need is 90 percent off a new stove since our oven went kaput on Friday night. Oh well, it's probably keeping me from gaining weight since it's kept my wife from making Christmas cookies.

As someone who is intrigued by the dynamics of social media, I've been interested to watch several different aspects. First, there are two types of followers on Lowe's page. There are the complainers who don't win, the ones who think the contest is bogus and that the winners don't really exist, and the ones who get mad at Lowe's when there are technical difficulties. I feel sorry for them. It's not like we are entitled to anything from Lowe's. They are being generous by giving us the opportunity to get some amazing deals. Sure, it's a marketing strategy, but that doesn't mean we deserve anything other than a chance to try. We are the ones who have chosen to spend our time trying to win.

The second group of followers is the one that I've enjoyed. The people who are grateful to participate and the people who have used this as their own personal stand-up comedy audition. I have to admit that I've been one of the latter. When the first item went up and the problems happened, I took that opportunity to try my hand at humor. I was pleasantly surprised to see the 'likes' from total strangers start pouring in. I then went back and started reading other comments and was cracking up. I ended up sending a tweet to Conan O'Brien - well, we do have a history - and telling him to check out the site for some good laughs.

I didn't really think any more about it because I know that Conan probably gets thousands of tweets mentioning him each day. What was funny was that all of a sudden I ended up in a conversation with the Lowe's Twitter account. They retweeted my Conan tweet and then followed up with several other tweets. It sparked one of my friends, Nate Okuley, to tweet about this and Lowe's quickly responded. The was the start of about five or six messages back and forth with Lowe's despite the fact that the manager of that account was probably in the midst of one of the busiest days of his or her job. Since then, we've exchanged a couple of other tweets and I'm hoping that the mystery person shoots me a message from their personal account once the promotion is all over. I'm amazed at the way they have handled what could have been a stressful situation with just as much humor as Conan and his team of writers. (Yep, I just threw down the gauntlet, Conan.)

On a serious note, one of the reasons that I like social media and especially Twitter is the ability to connect with a brand on a more personal level. As people who follow me on Twitter or Facebook can attest, I am always quick to incorporate brands into my tweets and I believe in acknowledging the ones that I like. What is important to me, though, is feeling some kind of interaction with those brands and it is amazing how much a simple tweet back from one of them can have on customer loyalty. Along those regards, I have to give Subway and Staples a shoutout, too, as I've heard back from both of them this week as well.

As for measuring Lowe's success for this weekend's promotion, it doesn't take a genius to realize that their marketing department was on to something by initiating this. Their Facebook fan page has been bombarded with visitors and over 100,000 people have 'liked' it since I did on Friday morning. A quick glance at the comments, likes, and links posted on the page shows that there have been well over 1,000,000 interactions on the site this weekend. Even though all of it hasn't been positive thanks to the first group I mentioned above, it HAS been a success. And, I take my hat off to the person (or persons) managing the social media accounts and all of those messages. Wow, talk about getting some overtime! However, as you can see from this recent tweet to me from Lowe's about the promotion, they love what's happening.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rock of Ages

Hi, my name is Dave and I'm an 80's hair band music addict. Yes, that's right, buried beneath the exterior of this guy who typically spends his days doing stats, press releases, and website updates for the successful sports teams of a small private college is a love affair with all the big hair, loud drums, and steely metal sounds associated with 80's rock.

I also really enjoy taking in the different Broadway Across America shows that come to Columbus each year. My wife and I have seen such shows as Mama Mia, Wicked, and Legally Blonde, the Musical and really had a good time enjoying the talented casts, great songs, and vivid sets that go with them.

So with that stage set, you can just guess my anticipation level for Rock of Ages, the acclaimed musical, to come to Columbus. I had tried several times to plan a trip for my wife and I to go to New York to see the show on Broadway. Then, I found out that the show would be coming to Columbus. I've had the dates circled on my calendar for at least six months and the time finally arrived this week.

Late last week, I saw a post on the Columbus Association of Performing Arts (CAPA) Facebook page offering a free ticket in exchange for blogging or tweeting about the show on opening night. I thought...why not? Sure, enough, they sent me an e-mail and said my ticket would be waiting at will call. They gave me another one for a friend and my buddy, George Hartz, went with me.

When we arrived at the Palace Theater, we had a little time to kill and enjoyed listening to all the 80's songs that were being played before the show started. It really helped set the mood for what we were about to watch. There were plenty of members of the crowd who were singing along and, yes, I was among them. George and I were highly entertained by the group of people in the row behind us who only had one volume for their conversation - loud. However, while it could have been annoying it was pretty hilarious and actually made the night more fun. As we were approaching the time for the show to start, one member of that group got a text that the final couple who was supposed to join them wasn't going to make it because they supposedly had a flat tire. Well, that set the group off and they kept talking about how that couple really didn't want to come to the show. More on this later.

The show got under way and it was just as billed and then some. The music was awesome! The live band did a great job all night and all the vocals were outstanding. From the pure standpoint of treating it as a concert, it would have been a success as a top of the line cover band concert. However, what really took it to the next level was the hilarious story that wove all those 80's songs into the framework of Rock of Ages. Whether it was making mash-ups to have two story lines going at once, slowing things down to make it more of a love song, or totally changing the rhythm to fit the comedic element, the music made the show a tremendously funny story-telling experience.

Constantine Maroulis was outstanding in his role as Drew, a rock-n-roll wannabe from Detroit who came to the Sunset Strip to chase his dream. He came off as a low-key, shy guy in conversations, but as soon as he got the microphone in his hand to sing he belted out songs with reckless abandon and passion. It was really a great mix that made his character a down-to-earth one that everyone would root for. (George and I also got to meet him afterwards thanks to CAPA and he was exactly that way in person which was very refreshing.) After watching his performance, it was easy to see why he was nominated for a Tony Award and also had the success that he did on American Idol.

The rest of the cast all played their roles brilliantly as well. There was plenty of comedy to go around and the cast all had great timing to pull it off perfectly. There were even a few impromptu lines that added to the experience.

Thanks again to CAPA for hooking George and I up with tickets to the show and the opportunity to meet the cast afterwards. Central Ohio really is blessed to have this organization bringing amazing shows to Columbus on a regular basis and I encourage you to check out their website for the complete schedule and to order tickets for not only Rock of Ages but the other shows that will be coming soon.

As for the group of people who sat behind us last night, the one guy summed up his thoughts on the couple who didn't come because they supposedly got a flat tire but ended up missing out on a great evening of fun like this: "Game on, flat tire, game on!" Yes, those people will not live down missing this one.

Well, I can hear the strumming of guitars and the start of another song from last night starting to fill my head. If you like 80's rock, this show is definitely for you. I will be headed back to see it again on Friday night with my wife this time since that was when we had planned to go before CAPA gave me a chance to see it twice. I'm looking forward to seeing what I missed the first time. Rock on!

Getting Caught Up...

Wow, where did the fall go? I just pulled up my blog and realized that I never checked in with the results from the Columbus Half Marathon that I did and have basically taken about a two-month hiatus from posting anything. The job of a small college sports information director has a way of taking over one's life.

After months of training, the Columbus Half Marathon took place on a perfect morning for a race and I started out great. At the 10K mark, I was running at a 7:21 pace which was faster than I had planned to go. That soon caught up to me and I had to basically grind out the final four miles to the finish including what seemed like an endless hill before the turn to the finish. However, I was able to sprint (at least it felt like a sprint to me) to the finish line and finished in 1:45.36, which was an 8:04 pace. Not shabby at all for my first-ever half marathon and considering that I had issues with shin splints over the final month leading up to the race. I was really proud of my friends, too. They all posted great times and within a few days were already talking about the next race we were going to run. Oh, and I did get my Krispy Kremes at the finish line. (See photo above of me and Chad Sims)

The next race for me took place on my 39th birthday - November 13th - when I ran in the Mount Vernon Nazarene University Homecoming 5K with my wife, Carla, and my daughters, Ashley and Kylie. My mom also agreed to do the race and was responsible for walking with Kylie. This was the first race ever for my two girls and we had them run the course three times in preparation for the race so they would know what to expect.

The race was great! I turned in a 21:14 (6:50 pace) to finish 11th out of 149 people. It was my best 5K time to date and I really couldn't have done it without being constantly pushed by my buddy, Donald Cobb, who finished eighth overall in 20:26 (6:35 pace). Carla ran a really good time and Ashley ended up beating 50 runners with a time 31:39 (10:12 pace) as the second-youngest runner in the field at 9 years old. And Kylie, who at 5, was by far the youngest participant, did a great job of finishing the 5K with my mom. (Note: My mom, who is 63, has since started running so that next year she can run the race.) All in all, what a great way to spend my birthday - running in a race with my entire family.

Well, now that the cold weather has hit, it's getting tougher and tougher to stay motivated to get outside and keep running. I am within 25 miles of my goal of running 500 miles in 2010, so that should help me a little. I need a couple of nicer days so that I can get that knocked out because I am not much of a treadmill runner.