The Robservatory

Robservations on everything…

 

Sports

Off topic entries on sports, probably most often golf-related.

A much-improved run-tracking Excel workbook

About a year ago, I created a basic-but-functional run tracking workbook (created in Excel). It worked well, and helped me through my 2,016 mile year in 2016. I didn’t run nearly as much in 2017 (on purpose), but 2018 is upon us, and I’m going to up my mileage this year—probably not to 2,018, though!

In preparing this year’s version of the workbook, I addressed a few things that bugged me about the first one: It was ugly, changing years was difficult, and it was ugly. It was also really ugly. Did I mention it was ugly? Anyway, here’s what I’ve changed with the new version:

  • Years are now easily handled; just input the year you wish to track, and the workbook does the rest, including leap years.
  • All run data can be deleted with one button click—and yes, there’s a confirmation first. (Requires macro version of workbook.)
  • The pace calculator is no longer a separate worksheet; it’s integrated into the Overall worksheet.
  • It’s not nearly as ugly as it was before—layout is improved, gridlines are gone, tables are cleaned up, etc.

As noted, there are two versions of the workbook—one contains a macro that can erase the run data from each monthly worksheet, the other does not contain that macro. This is something you’ll only do once a year, but it’s much easier with the macro version.

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A spreadsheet to track full-year running miles

To help with my 2,016 miles in 2016 running project, I created an Excel workbook to track my progress. A couple people have asked for the workbook, so here it is…with some caveats and instructions.

First off, this was written for Excel 365, though it should work fine in recent versions of Excel. There is no Numbers version, there is no Google Sheets version…this is it. Start by downloading the worksheet and opening it in Excel.

The first thing you’ll notice is that this is a really ugly workbook. The only thing I spent any time “prettifying” at all was the actual vs. goal chart, as that’s the thing I tended to look at most often. The second thing you’ll notice, depending on when you open the workbook, is that it appears nothing is working. The formulas will not work properly until January 1st, 2017.

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A year on the run…literally

As I discussed in my first—and last—marathon completed post, I set a fairly outrageous goal way back in January: I decided I’d walk or run 2,016 miles in 2016. If you do the math on that, it means averaging 5.5 miles a day—for all 366 days in the year. I set this goal despite running probably no more than five miles in all of 2015. In my old “real world” job, my boss would call that a BHAG.

But as of yesterday, I have—amazingly to me—reached my goal, a full two weeks before year end. 2,016.74 miles in 352 days, or an average of 5.73 miles per day. (That’d be if I ran every day, which I didn’t. More on that later.) After looking at this graph all year, it was incredibly satisfying to see it cross the goal line, even if by just a smidge—though there are two weeks left in the year.

I honestly can’t believe I did it; it seems like a ridiculous amount of running to do in one year, unless you’re a world-class marathoner, which I am definitely not.

If you’d like to see all sorts of geeky stats about a year’s worth of running, as well as some of my thoughts on the experience, keep reading…

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I have completed my first—and last—marathon

Last weekend, I ran (along with about 7,000 other entrants) the Portland Marathon. This was my first ever marathon, and also my last-ever marathon. I finished, in 4:12:53 (1,365th place, of 4,295 finishers), which is about how long I thought it’d take me. What follows is a brief look back at how I got to the point where I willingly chose to run 26.2 miles; you may find the information useful if you’re contemplating running a marathon yourself someday.

About the race

The Portland Marathon is a great race, now in its 45th year. It’s actually two races in one, as there’s a half-marathon with the same start and finish points. As seen on the course map (caution: 2.8MB PDF), the two races share the same course until the 11 mile mark. At that point, the half marathon returns downtown for the finish, while the marathon heads into Northwest Portland, then loops up and over the St. John’s Bridge, which would typically provide some amazing views. Of course, it was pouring rain and cloudy all day, so the views weren’t quite so good for us.

The course then follows along a bluff (again, typically scenic) overlooking Portland before descending down into the east side industrial area (running right along the rail yard), then returning to downtown (over the much less scenic Broadway Bridge) and on to the finish.

Why did I decide to run a marathon?

When this year started, I had no thought of running a marathon. I have thought about it in years past, when I was running regularly—and my dad had run them when I was younger, so they intrigued me. (My dad was quite fast; his best was a 2:40, which is an insane 6:08 a mile for 26.2 miles!) But as of the start of the year, it’d been roughly four years since I was running on a regular basis, so running even one mile seemed ludicrous.

To force myself to get in shape this year, I set a pretty ridiculous goal: I decided I’d walk or run 2,016 miles in 2016. This meant averaging 5.5 miles a day, every day, for the entire year. From someone who had probably ran a total of five miles in 2015. Yea, it’s a pretty insane goal.

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The 15th club in my golf bag…

For those who don’t know, the rules of golf only allow you to carry 14 clubs. But in my case, I do carry a 15th “club” in my bag: a ball retriever. If you don’t, this little story might convince you that you should, too.

I don’t know anyone who likes paying for golf balls. But most people do enjoy playing with nice, clean, new-looking balls. By carrying a 15th club that is a golf ball retriever, you can play with others people’s nice new golf balls!

I carry JB’s nine foot model, and its telescoping poles and simple head design have worked well for me. Expect to spend $15 to $50 for a retriever, depending on the length you desire, the design of the head unit, and the construction quality. Whatever you spend up front, with a dozen golf balls costing $20 to $60, your retriever will quickly pay for itself.

As an extreme example, I recently played at a course that features a creek that meanders between the last two holes. As I was playing alone, and way out in front of everyone, I took about 20 minutes to wander along this creek as I played the last two holes (see note below) I didn’t walk the creek’s entire length, nor did I retrieve every ball I saw. And my retriever is only nine feet long, so there were balls I could see but couldn’t reach.

* Note: This is not something you could do during a normal round. During a normal round, I just walk near ponds and creeks, and if I see a ball, I’ll quickly scoop it up while my partners are busy prepping for their shots. Using this technique, I can still collect up to 20 balls a round. If you’re delaying the game due to ball collecting, you’re doing it wrong.

So how many balls do you think I collected in that time, given those restrictions? Two holes, 20 minutes. 10? 20? 30? 50?

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Trip Report: Chambers Bay for spectators

When I first heard—way back in 2011—that the US Open was coming to Chambers Bay golf course, located less than three hours from my home in Beaverton, Oregon, I knew I wanted to go. Having played the course (just once), I thought it’d be great fun to watch the pros play at the same place (though with a very different setup…and a very different skill set!)

After much planning and a year of waiting, we finally made the trek last Thursday. We arrived at the course at 7:00am, and didn’t leave until after 8:00pm. Overall, it was an amazing experience—heck, I even got to hold the actual trophy during a backstage tour of the TV production facilities. (That was an amazing experience, and well worth the $10/year cost to belong to the USGA, even ignoring all the good stuff they do for the game.)

But having been there for Thursday, I was quite content to return home for the final rounds this weekend, watching on the big screen in high def. Why? Because as amazing as Chambers Bay is to both visit and play (if you’re a golfer, it’s well worth its outrageous cost), it’s a terrible place to watch pro golfers play the game.

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A unique way to watch a basketball game

Last night, my wife and I attended the annual OMSI Gala, the main fundraiser for OMSI, which is our amazing local science museum. Through a bad quirk of scheduling, however, the event nearly directly overlapped game six in the PortlandHouston NBA playoff series, which was being played all of three miles up the road.

Game six was a biggie for Trailblazer fans, because Portland had a chance to win the series. For those who don’t follow basketball, Portland’s recent playoff history is not good—they hadn’t won a first-round playoff game in 14 years, in fact. And if we lost game six, we’d have to win game seven in Houston to continue…not a very likely outcome. So while it was definitely do-or-die for Houston, it felt the same to Trailblazer fans; a loss probably meant the end of the series for us, too, though it’d take one more game to finalize it.

Knowing the importance of the Trailblazers to Portlanders (we have but three top-tier professional teams here; the MSL’s Timbers and NWSL’s Thorns being the other two), the OMSI event organizers did something very cool: they opened the Empirical Theater, home to a four-story-tall massively-wide screen, at the end of the event. That way, those interested could see the end of the game before driving home.

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Who will win the Masters this year?

If you’re a golf fan, these are the greatest four days of the year; it’s time for the 2014 Masters. With Tiger Woods out this year, who will win? I honestly have no idea, but here’s some interesting history.

Tiger Woods has missed only four majors in his professional career (pretty amazing, given his injuries and personal issues, I’d guessed way more than that). Here’s the full list, along with those events’ winners:

  • 2008 British Open: Padraig Harrington
  • 2008 PGA Championship: Padraig Harrington
  • 2011 US Open: Rory McIlroy
  • 2011 British Open: Darren Clarke

See a trend there? Padraig Harrington is from Ireland; Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy are both from Northern Ireland. So if you’re the betting type, put your money this week on Rory, Darren, or Graeme McDowell, the only three golfers from those countries in this year’s event.

If you want to extend things a bit, you could add David Lynn, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Garrick Porteous, Luke Donald, Justin Rose, or Lee Westwood (all from England). Or maybe Stephen Gallacher (Scotland) or Jamie Donaldson (Wales).

If you’re into the long shots, but want to stay with the odds when Tiger’s out, go with Ian Woosnam (Wales) or Sandy Lyle (Scotland).

Regardless of who wins, I’m certain we’re going to see four days of the best players on the greatest course in the world. Related: You can keep the leaderboard onscreen if you’d like to keep one eye on the action (and you have the excess screen real estate).

How to use Safari to track The Masters leaderboard

In general, I don’t use Safari—mainly because I’m addicted to the add-ons I get with Chrome and Firefox. (Yes, I know Safari has extensions…but they’re underpowered and feature limited compared to what you can get in the other browsers.) However, during Masters week, Safari has a key role in my following the tournament, thanks to one key feature: web clip, i.e. Open in Dashboard.

While The Masters has an excellent iPad app, I don’t like having the iPad locked into one app for hours at a time. So, to follow the leaderboard, I turn to Safari’s Open in Dashboard feature, along with a favorite old Mac OS X Hints hint that allows me to drag widgets out of the Dashboard. Using these two things together, I can view the full Masters leaderboard, floating in a window all its own.

Best of all, the interactivity of the leaderboard is preserved, so I can re-sort the list, expand a player’s scores, and do all the other things I can do on the actual leaderboard page.

Note that you’ll need some spare monitor space for this trick: the dragged Widget floats over every other window, so it will get in the way if you’re using, for instance, an 11″ MacBook Air.

If you’d like to do the same, here’s how…
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There’s a bit of duffer in all of us

Thank you, Michael Letzig, for demonstrating just how difficult golf can be. Yesterday, during the Buick Open PGA tour event, Michael hit a shot that I’ve replicated many times (too many times!) myself–a good old-fashioned full-on hook shank. This shaky YouTube video shows just how bad the shot was.

That clip, however, is quite dark and it’s hard to spot the ball. So I snipped a bit of it out, and processed it with ScreenFlow and QuickTime Pro. The end result is this version, which makes it much easier to track the ball and see exactly where it wound up. Urgh.

The bad news for Michael is that, despite that shot (he saved par on the hole), he played well enough to…get paired with Tiger Woods in the final pairing for today’s final round. Urgh.

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