I almost cried yesterday after the Chicago Marathon

Yesterday, I had a good day running the Chicago Marathon. The experience was not as draining or emotional as last year, but an accomplishment regardless. I plan on posting the Race Report later.

I was talking with my coach from nJoy Racing, Kimberly Shah, taking a chance to debrief about the race and the season. That whole conversation is going to be fodder for 3 blog entries, but I’m going to start with this one here.

Kimberly took the time to point out that I did improve massively over the past year, and it brought me into perspective. I didn’t realize it because I was looking at the minutiae and sweating the details. But that wasn’t the most profound moment.

Kimberly ended up calling me out on the carpet on something that I didn’t really expect. But at the same time, it was the same type of call that started this whole journey into endurance sports. The same one that got me into Triathlon this year. That insight, combined with the experience I had in the marathon this year, shook me to the core. But, I knew that she was right. I knew also, this could mean something special and extraordinary. When someone knows you very well, they also can see the truth that you tend to hide from yourself. They know what you are capable of, even if you don’t believe it yourself. But belief can only get you so far.

However, having this insight does me no good right now. For today, I have to keep this insight close to my vest.

If this comes true, I will re-post what she said to me in that moment. For today, this is just a time capsule. A reminder to my future self what is possible. And how blessed I am to know this ahead of time.

Race Report – Rev3Tri Cedar Point

If you guys were looking for a happy ending to this crazy year, I’m sorry I can’t deliver on it.

As I sit here at home, sore and kind of hurting, I’m just trying to come to grips with all that happened.

As a famous person once said: “Just start from the beginning”

I rolled into Ohio on Friday. Mind you I’ve never been to Cedar Point before, after hearing multiple reports of about the park and trips I’ve missed with friends. It was a bit underwhelming when I got there, and very contrasting to the old Sandusky, Ohio waterfront. It almost felt like Cedar Point wasn’t in town or at the very least the most popular thing going.

Regardless, checked in and made the trek up the beach to the expo. (Author’s note: I picked a hotel on the Cedar Point campus, but even that was a 20 minute walk. Next year, different hotel). The expo was all outdoors, much to my surprise and chagrin. Then the second shoe dropped. My rush to get in town Friday was that I under the assumption that we had to be in town for a meeting since I was doing a relay sprint leg on Saturday. It turns out that I didn’t, although it would have made it easier to check-in. Regardless, when I got in line for my half-ironman race, I found out I had the race number 666.

Now, I’m not superstitious by any means, but I would have thought SOMEONE would have at least skipped the number. And worse after all this drama over registering and everything I went though this summer, I was a bit miffed that I had this number. And everything as personalized as well, so number-switching wasn’t really an option. But it was the start of a very ominous day. First was the rain right after getting my packet. Then having to walk in the rain back to the hotel.

Then Saturday rolls around and a major storm was passing through. I woke up to find out that the Sprint Race was cancelled (or at least reduced to a 5k run for most participants). So I promptly went back to sleep. Not bad right? But the weather reports all pointed to something similar around the start time tomorrow. Also, the life guarded practice swim was also cancelled as well, denying me a chance to get into the water.

Transition was different this time around, because you had to check in your bike the day before (Saturday). I was more concerned about the rain messing up my bike so I tried to wait as late as possible to check in the bike. I also got a chance to do ART and such as well, enjoying a very painful experience but hopefully better in movement.

I had dinner at Breakers and tried to decompress as much as I could, but it wasn’t working. I couldn’t fall asleep and I found out waking up in the middle of the night that I had a sinus infection. It was blocking my passages and not letting me breathe. I thought at that moment in time that maybe I should drop completely out of this, because too many coincidences occurred. This didn’t feel right at all. But, I tried to get back on the horse and go to the race.

Sunday rolls around and starts off okay. Since I packed everything for transition (Read: new strategy, separate Ziploc bags with materials in them. Great stuff.) the night before, I knew I just had to drop everything off and get down to swim start. It was very cold that morning and I prematurely put on my wetsuit because I was shivering without it. (Author’s note: Better prep for cold weather, I think this contributed to things as well.) I saw the Iron distance mass start and went back into the hotel to try and relax before going in.

I did get a chance to warm up a bit in the water. A few notes, that most of the water was shallow, which shortens the swim a bit. I felt good warming up after not being in the open water since the Chicago Triathlon. So I got in line for the start of the swim.

However, there was another problem. As I got started, I realized that there wasn’t as many boats out on the water, and very young lifeguards just standing on the coast. So sure enough I started swimming for 100 meters and as I realized the safety net was going away, I didn’t see anyone close enough to help me if I had a problem. Then right after that I mentally went into a black hole, and resulting hyperventilation symptoms came back again. Not wanting to risk a heart attack in the water, I immediately turned around (Author’s note: I think I swam faster back than I had going forward.)

Yep, I decked out on the swim again. On top of this, I was severely cold and sick. Neither was helping me in my condition. The water was warmer than the air, which also I think contributed to the freakout cause I felt my body being shocked from the temperature change. I also noticed that I had to pretty much walk to transition and no one really noticed I had turned around or I potentially needed help. It was even more disconcerting to me.

I got back to transition to get checked out. I knew that I was okay physically but being cold and mentally going haywire I just wanted to sit down for a second. The person I asked for help took my timing chip and I thought that was it. Another friend of mines suggested that I go finish the other two legs, I mean who cares, right? I agreed with him and I paused for a second, thinking that if I was having this bad of a day I should just stop right there. But he was right, I came here to do this, so I should at least finish this out.

So I went into transition and suited up for the bike (Author’s note: again being cold, should have left my tri-top in transition.) I got rolling on the bike out on the causeway out of Cedar Point. All reports that I saw on the bike leg mentioned that it was either flat or rolling hills. And a few ‘steep’ climbs. So the first 10 miles or so went okay, I stopped because I thought my seat post was too high, and then I got back on the bike to the first aid station.

Mind you, I’ve also never done a bike aid station before and I was told a number of things. The first and craziest lie I found out is that nicer water bottles would be out on the course. So I planned on trading in a few water bottles I had. So, much to my chagrin the stations did not have said nice water bottles, just sports bottles with Gatorade and water. I was able to get the first water bottle no problem. I passed on the Gatorade bottle. I got one gel from a lady. And after feeling confident, I went for the second gel. .

And then I crashed on my bike. I felt worse that in actually was, but it turns out as I was getting the gel there was a bump in the road. The fall mostly happened on my right side, with road rash scars on my arm. My tailbone and right leg were sore from the bike landing on me. Regardless, I was down and my chain was off the rail. Again, trying to mentally recover from falling and what just happened, I didn’t know offhand how to fix my chain or if it was even possible. I then proceeded to try and help someone with a flat tire, as he didn’t have a spare, and I had one, and figured it would pass the time while I was waiting for a bike mechanic to show up. Over time I figured out get my chain back on, and thankfully I was also able to switch gears as well. The bike mechanic finally showed up to fix the other guys tire (in 5 mins or so no less). And I was off again to finish the race.

As I was going I started noticing that I couldn’t mentally focus on anything. I was by myself for most of the ride, and while I knew this wouldn’t count, I just couldn’t think of anything that would keep me going or help me enjoy this. This culminated in me going downhill at breakneck speed having to make a sharp turn but I had a car behind me that wouldn’t give me enough room to come to the outside. I was more upset about the car being behind me than I was about figuring out the turn. So I knew that I was done. I didn’t want anything else to happen to me that day, and I just couldn’t figure anything out. I had to remove myself from the situation. I waited at the second aid station to be picked up and dropped back off in transition. The volunteers allowed me to get my stuff and I promptly left Cedar Point for home.

Final Notes:

Before the race, my coach had joked that she fired her coach on the first half-iron that she did. I was trying to keep the pre-race jitters down but without any experience in this distance, or seeing the course, I couldn’t wrap my head around it at all. I felt worse than I did before the marathon, or before the Chicago Triathlon even. I don’t know what I could have changed or did differently but I do know the mental game kicked my ass hard this weekend. I was on the way home and honestly wanted to sell my bike and quit triathlon. That probably won’t happen, but I feel severely disappointed and I’m not sure how exactly to go forward. The hope is that I can find a way. I know it’s best not to make rash decisions in the heat of the moment

Weekly Update: The Story So Far

  • I finally purchased a bike.  2 weeks and $2,000+ later, I purchased a Scott CR-1 Team from Get A Grip Cycles.  I took the bike out for a few rides and had to get used to the clip pedals.  It takes pride to fall flat on my ass on Chicago Avenue in the middle of a busy street.   While it scared me initially and I stayed off the streets for awhile, I’ve learned to not fall, even though my courage to ride Chicago’s city streets on a bike isn’t up there yet.  Maybe I’ll get a steel frame bike for that.
  • I ran 57:08 at the Shamrock Shuffle 8k.  It was an unusually warm day compared to normal Chicago weather around March.  I had met up with my Chiropractor and received KTape on my left knee.  Also Pre-Race I got super stretched out by David Hardin and ran the race with no problems.  For a cold start and no training runs since last years Marathon, I felt fantastic and started looking forward to this years training season.
  • I nailed down the majority of my race schedule, which eliminated a few races and added others.  I have a full training plan up till my Rev3Tri Half-Ironman in September.  This is all thanks to Kimberly Shah at njoy Racing, whom I look forward to getting to know better as time goes on
  • I ran for redemption at the Race for Wrigley 5k.  Pulled out my best official 5k time to date at 31:26.   Even better? I capped my Heart Rate to 180 bpm and was able to sprint towards the finish.  Although my official time was about an hour because I started late, my runkeeper that day had me at about 41 minutes, which sounds about right.  I think I would have beat 27 minutes if I didn’t have to walk part of the race.   The race also seemed less staffed and very minimal camaraderie, but I digress.
  • Pulled an unofficial 35:10 the next week at the Sherryl Gaptka 5k in Lisle.  This was a new race and I wasn’t going for time, but I was able to yet again sprint at the end.  I had adjusted my run walk strategy to correspond with my heart rate.
  • My Triathlon Training Started (with nJoy) about three weeks ago, and while I’m trying to learn the ropes, I signed up with Chicago Endurance Sports half-ironman training.  This was so I have access to a coached swim, and I have options for workouts in case meetups with nJoy don’t work all that well.  That and Chicago Triathlon Club also has outings (I think mostly biking) as well.   The Triathlon Training has me working out 6 days a week.  Which is tougher than I thought.
  • Strength Training with David Hardin is the best decision I had ever made.  Not only does my body look fantastic after years of feeling ashamed, but it has improved all three sports as well.  I’m closer to the endurance-building phase with David, as the workouts are closer to not leaving me begging for mercy.  I puked for the first and hopefully only time in the Gym.  I’ve heard of this happening before, but experiencing it is quite different.
  • My first bike ride was fantastic. It was at Train Chicago Studios, found out that my Time Trial output is at 112 watts.  I was able to bike the entire time, only spinning for about a minute during the entire exercise, which shocked me.  I was also at 160 bpm as well after a stern warning from my coach.
  • My first swim however, was not so well.  I think that I have lost all memory of how to swim, because I distinctly remember being a fish, and finding excuses to be in the pool during the summers of my youth.  Heck, I remember diving to the bottom of the deep end of the pool to pick up weights, no problem.  However, all that has gone away and I can’t even move forward with a freestyle stroke.  So, this is the challenge before any of the other triathlons post Bigfoot.  At the Bigfoot Triathlon I can walk along the bottom so it’s not so bad, but I know that 70.3 will probably be in deeper water.

Doing things the right way – Part 1

*my spine, circa 2008.

What’s interesting to me is there is some semblance of a debate on health and nutrition when it comes to this sport.   In retrospect on my training, I really wish I had focused on this, because it would have saved my legs from the Chicago Marathon.  My thing is, there is a reason why science and medical advances exist.  There are experts out there who have done this before, so why not consult them?

There is also the notion of insurance, which is always tricky.  I’d prefer to have everything on record so that I don’t die prematurely.  But I digress, some have recommended to me to find a way to find out everything without involving an insurance company.  On top of this, I’m sure that most doctors far and wide will lean away from anyone participating in long distance sports, but I digress.

One of the main reasons why I keep up with my health is because I have a plethora of ailments to which I have to pay attention to.   Mind you however, the worst of all these symptoms (asthma, insomnia in particular) actually got better the more I trained.  I never felt better than I did in my life almost two weeks before the Chicago Marathon.

As part of my training this year, I recruited various members of the health and wellness community.    Their expressed purpose is for peak performance during my training and racing this year.  Thankfully, most of these people are my friends that I’ve developed relationships over the years, and I finally get to use their services.

To start, I met with Dr. Michael Rosen, who practices out of West Loop Chiropractic here in Chicago.   I attended the clinic before for a back issue, but I never got a chance to see him for any of my training.   I chalk it up to being extremely busy during the summer, but I should have made time.    After a short re-acquaintance, I mentioned that I did the marathon last year, and what ‘injuries’ I had sustained during so.

Thankfully, I made the right call.   For starters, I run with orthotics in my shoes, which I received last year from Dr. Rosen.  I attribute having them to keeping my gait neutral and my heels from not hurting like hell.   It always surprises me during informal gait analysis clinics how many runners have shoes to compensate for an imbalance someplace.    What I didn’t realize however was that while my gait is neutral, the rest of my body was compensating for an imbalance someplace else.

It was somewhat awkward discussing my eventual knee X-rays, but the bottom line is that I need to get an MRI.  Dr. Rosen stopped short of telling me that my endurance career is over before it started, but he did make some good remarks.  Along with one of my trainers, David Hardin, also mentioned the same hopeful good news.   I definitely have an ‘instability’ issue, and I have to focus on rehabbing (or pre-habbing in this case) my knees for the next 3 weeks or so.   I know that I’ve had tight hip flexors and quads, and regulary have IT band issues in the past.   From both Dr. Rosen and Dave, once I get in the swing of things, this will help all of that.

In the meantime, I have to put the brakes on my upcoming plans for the ING Miami Marathon and the Austin Half-Marathon.     Which sucks, but I’d prefer to come back stronger and ready to go.  In the meantime, I signed up for the Shamrock Shuffle, which I may later regret. . but I need to do something to jumpstart the sping.

My New Years Resolution

So as I sit here, I have a major problem.   Well, it’s not a problem per se, but it’s definitely something I didn’t expect.

So, my life post Chicago Marathon has been a gradual slope down a very steep hill.  I didn’t realize how much I benefited from Training over the summer for the Marathon, until I sat down a few months ago.  I furiously tried to plan my Race Calendar next year, sticking with safe bets and smaller distances.

However, as I sit here, I haven’t been in a gym or trained since running the Marathon.  It’s one of those things ‘Yeah, I’ve been meaning to’ or at the very least, I could enjoy the diet I had been consuming (which is crap food for the most part) for a few months and get back on the horse.   After all, I should be at a fitness level to bust out half-marathons without thinking, right?

But as it stands right now, I’ve lost all of my energy, I’ve regained some of my insomnia symptoms, and the kicker? I can’t deal with stress as easily as I used to do.    It’s very weird, but my fitness regimen has to stick somehow, because the benefits outweigh almost everything.

And then, there is something else.  I talked myself out of a Triathlon last year.   While it was a good decision at the time, I’ve been sitting here literally DREAMING of doing one.  I didn’t expect this, but again, it comes from a lifetime of putting my dreams on hold and accepting perceived limits.

So, as a New Year’s Resolution, I don’t want to commit to something that’s going to fizzle and fade out by February.  I have to commit myself to something very large, plan it out and follow through.

Therefore, I’ve got this goal in mind for a Resolution.  My promise to myself, and my friends.


Right now, I’ve got my eyes set on Ironman Racine, which is in July.  However, I might not be ready by then and there are not many smaller Triathlon’s before the Racine Race happens.  Ironman Austin is in October, but if I do that race, then peaking for the Chicago Marathon is out of the picture.

This is going to require changing a lot of things up.  This is going to require a major investment in a Bike, and more time outdoors than I’m used to.  Some of my social obligations may have to take a backseat.

But I’m sure that I can do it.   I’ve got the support.

Getting Back to Work

So, this actually worked out better than I expected.

I finally got a chance to sit down with David Hardin, of www.dhfit.com.   Until my race report gets posted about the Chicago Marathon, you’ll have to do with this short story.

I met Dave as part of Imerman Active last year, and at the time, we only discussed business, and not what he actually did.  And in usual fashion, I did not follow up with him.

However, sometime after the Chicago Half Marathon, and the Newton 20-Miler, I had messed up my hamstring behind my left knee.   I had to walk the last 4 to 5 miles or so with only an icepack and some pain killers.   From all accounts, both online and through a last minute physical therapist that I had seen, I had just a minor sprain, and was given a book and some exercises to do.

However, on the day before the Marathon, at the expo, I was still feeling some residual pain from that area, and was kind of bummed that I would be running pretty much injured.  I was also severely tight in my hip flexors, which I didn’t even know that I was tight in.  However, I got a very quick stretch from Dave, on the expo floor no less, and I felt FANTASTIC afterwards.  He also made some observations and last minute tips which also helped, and I felt fantastic during the first half of my Marathon.

So, I kept him in the back of my mind, and finally got a chance to meet with him for an assessment.  During of which, I tested for a few things

  • Flexibility – Turns out that I’m fine in this regard.   My legs went 90 degrees, I can touch my hands behind my back, and I can reach my toes sitting down, no problem.   Mind you, I’ve experienced other people that can reach farther than I can, so I always thought I was a newbie in that regard.
  • Balance – Same, which is again surprising.  I thought I would be off-balance due to the curvature in my spine that’s going to take forever in a day to fix.  I’ve also had orthotics in my shoes for the past year or so, might be a testament to that effect.
  • Push-up Test – Only got to 16 before I had to give in.   I think I did 10 for a test last year, and CrossFit KILLED me on workouts that had that part in.  Dave wants me to get to 100 pushups (what??)
  • Squat Test – I don’t know how many squats I did, but from what I retained from explanations, I just have to work on my form, which shouldn’t be much of an issue.  I got a bit of correction in my Crossfit training.  Dave wants me to get to 200 squats (what?? I could only get to so many without weight!)

So afterwards, I did some additional ‘warm-up’ exercises, one of which exposed my main issue, which seems to be hips and glutes.  This makes sense, considering that I sit at my computer most of the day.  Most of the other topics we discussed were music to my ears, because I had read about them in The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferris, and wanted to implement.

On top of this, I found out that he’s a sprint coach, and more than likely will be taking over for speed training with my other coach, Kimberly Shah, who I’m consulting for Distance.  I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

In the meantime, gotta whip myself into shape, somewhat fast.  I’ve got less than two months for the ING Miami Marathon, and somehow I got to get a 20 mile run in before the event starts.  Although, I’m thinking of just switching to the Half Marathon, and just focusing on PR’ing that race.

Race List 2012

So I’ve been ruminating on my ‘plans’ next year, knowing around June I’ll have to train hardcore for the Chicago Marathon.  This is also quite nerve-wracking for me, because I have to plan ahead so far, and I normally don’t.  So, I’ve put together a list (and a wishlist) of events I plan on participating (and covering) for 2012.

Race to Wrigley 5kApril
The first race I ever did, would like to return and PR my original time (which is at 1:00, but I crossed the line very late)

Ravenswood 5kApril
I like Ravenswood, this was a fun race, plan on doing it again.

Soldier Field 10 MileMay
I did this race last year, and while I’m not a Bears fan, finishing on the 50 yard line is a very good incentive to run over Memorial Day

North Shore Half MarathonJune
At the suggestion of my coach, I’m swapping this for 13.1 Chicago (which is the next day) in 2011.

Bigfoot Triathlon  – June
This will also be a first time for me.  I’m going to train for a Sprint Triathlon and based on my experience / performance, might go for longer distances.

L.A.T.E. RideJuly
This was AWESOME last year.  Riding on Chicago streets at night, watching the sunrise in the morning, and drafting bikers at 25+ mph?  Hell yeah!

Chicago Half MarathonSeptember
Was awesome running on 9/11 last year, willing to do it again this year.

Newton 20 MilerSeptember
Of course the last training run before the Chicago Marathon, will definitely be on next year.

AIDS 5k Walk / 10k RunOctober
Did the 5k walk last year, but I plan on running the 10k and walking with my friends for the 5k portion.

Chicago MarathonOctober
Fall Classic.  World Major.  ‘nuff said.  Going for a PR, which shouldn’t be too hard.

Malibu Half MarathonNovember
This will be my second traveling trip, at the suggestion of my coach.

Rock and Roll Las VegasDecember
Missed this for 2011, definitely on deck for 2012, especially if they are on the strip at night.


So far, 11 Races with 1 Marathon and 1 Triathlon in the mix.

Below are a list of races that are on my ‘wishlist’.  At the behest of over-commitment and physical exhaustion, I’m keeping these races off my schedule, for now.

Shamrock Shuffle – Been advised against this race because EVERYONE  does it.
Lakefront 10 Miler – Conflict with another event. . might do it anyway
Indy Mini-Marathon – Conflict with another event. . might do it anyway.  Would have to travel.
13.1 Chicago – A day after North Shore, and Windy City Challenge? Very tempting.
Half – Ironman Racine – Yeah, I know, insane, right? But I have friends doing said race, might be tempted to try just to crash and burn.
Rock and Roll Chicago – Didn’t care much for it last year.  If I have some compelling reason to go, yes, if not, will pass on it.
Hot Chocolate – Been advised against this race too for various reasons.
Disneyland 2013 – Mixed reviews on said race.

I’m interested in other stuff next year as well.   There are Century Rides, the ‘mud’ races (Spartan Race, Mudatlon, etc.), larger Triathlons, and other stuff that I will have my eyes out on.  I would also like to try races outside of the Chicago area.

You, Me, and Spam: 5 ways of Combating Spammers Online

I’ve been through a number of trends regarding Social Media.  However, the trend that annoys me the most is that someone out there is making a fortune telling people to essentially ‘cold-call’ prospects on Social Media, relying on consumer ignorance and apathy to get their message across.  AKA, it’s Spam, at it’s most boldest level, because it sounds sincere, but it really isn’t.  With enough complaints you can risk your profiles being blocked / deleted from SPAM complaints.

I’d like to run through some of the attempts that have been made that almost got through the filter.


NOTE:  LinkedIn is notorious for ‘if you don’t know this person, don’t try to connect with them, because the consequences of such behavior can get your account suspended’.  So I don’t understand as of recent the increased number of invites with the Default invite line and really shady crap on their profile.

Without further ado. . .

A) Douchebag 1:  After asking “Why are you connecting with me on here?”  This guys response? “Found you through one of my connections and wanted to do some networking to see how we may be of help to one another.”

NOTE: Anytime the premise is vague, or they can’t be direct on what they are selling, or otherwise, it’s SPAM.  There is no benevolent purpose here.  Sure enough I was right, the very next email was something about his business, it said “To Bears Fans!” and had some non-personalized SPAM mail.  Was very sad.

B)  Douchebag 2: Again, after asking why. .reply? “Went to Loyola with S***** G***** and very good friends with D*** C*****”

Again, premise is vague, you didn’t say ‘recommended by xyz’ and I didn’t go to the same school you did either.  SPAM, next caller.

C) Douchebag 3:  Friended me, default invitation text (I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn) and viewed her profile, didn’t show me any information.  Did a quick Google search, her name was associated with a bunch of self-aggrandizing websites.  I mean, even if ‘befriended’ this person on LinkedIn, I already knew what the next email was going to be.

SPAM, reported to LinkedIN.


NOTE:  Facebook is starting to take a Line from LinkedIn, now you can report to facebook for friendSPAM and people you don’t know.  They also guard against massive email imports and invites as well, which is awesome, and about time.

A) Someone friended me, with 0 mutual friends on Facebook, and with the message of “HI Will, I don’t know you that well, but I wanted to help you have a good year!!”

B) Someone friended me, had 42+ mutual friends, but listed Properties he was trying to sell in the invite information!  What a joke!

Both Spammed, Blocked and reported to Facebook.

3) Twitter

Is a lost cause.  I turned off Auto-Follow years ago, and there is no simple batching process for blocking / discouraging spammers.  There is currently a spammer who is doing random names, pictures of pretty girls, and some variation of ‘I help guys bang chicks’, and some yeast diet nonsense.  I don’t know how they can keep up, but if there was a way to batch report them all, I would do so.  Thankfully I don’t have to follow them back or indulge in their fuckery.

How to combat against this nonsense?  Very simple.

1) Ask the Spammers a Direct Question: Most spammers are obvious, but for the ones who pass the smell test, I always ask “How did you find me?”.   Not one person I’ve asked this to has given me a direct answer.  They don’t say ‘Oh, I’ve met you before’ etc. . it’s always vague or the reply doesn’t make sense in reality.  Instant Ban.

2) Do a little research:   Either Google searching by email, name or handle will usually reveal what the person has been up to on the web, especially if they have a picture on their profile.  For this very reason is why I’m so vigilant about my personal brand, because I don’t want someone looking me up and finding less than favorable information regarding my reputation.  The spammers are literally plastered in all corners of the web with really crappy information.

3) Tend and Hedge your networks:  I tend to batch invitations on my various networks, and I turn off notifications.  If you see spammers, or activity on your network, remove them immediately.  I have a zero tolerance for this kind of behavior.  The only exception I make is for Facebook games, because while it is SPAM in its most pure form, it provides entertainment value for those involved.

4) Can you meet them in Real Life?  If the spammer is a friend of a friend, it’s easier to find out what their story is.  Most of the ‘networkers’ I know who offer real value, I would have heard their name before somewhere.  This is also because I’m a very social person.

As a side note:  If you intend to add people on networks cold (or by ‘suggestion’), here is a suggestion.   Do a little bit of research on said person, and add context to the invitation.  For example, if you want to connect to an HR person at a specific company, mention in the invite that you were interested in a position at the company and were reaching out to them to make that happen.

Challenge: Help me help you Find a Job

Really quick post here:

Recently in the past few months, believe it or not, in this economy, I’ve had various people talk about jobs.  Either finding a job, or actual opportunities.

Believe it or not, jobs in the new media fields are very plentiful.  I’ve been asked on numerous occasions if I know people with experience who are looking.  And to answer their questions, I honestly don’t know.  I’d like to facillitate connections better.

I was also inspired by Chris Brogan’s Job Post on Twitter and his website, calling for a #findajobfriday instead of a #follow friday on Twitter.  I thought that was ingenious.

Also, my friend Brendan Tripp runs The Job Stalker blog on ChicagoNow and has been vigilant about his job search.

So I’m starting with if anyone wants to leave a link, or send me an email regarding the following.

  • I’m looking for recruiters (i.e. people who get paid to place people on jobs) to send me information.  I’d like to have a list of you guys to just send potential prospects to if they are  looking and then follow up with the source.
  • I’m looking for websites people should be involved with.  Despite the regulars (LinkedIn, Connect Work Chicago, Mashable) is there any place people should be looking / connecting to? Let me know.
  • I’m looking for people looking to fill positions.  Send me the information and if I know someone in my network who is interested, I can forward the information to them.
  • Lastly, if you’re looking for a job, let me know.  I’m going to put a list together for that, along with an ebook on the subject.  But if I’m aware, I can help.

Lastly, as a shameless plug, please connect with me on LinkedIn.  I need to get better about tending this network anyway.

Also, check out my previous (and most popular post on my blog): 7 things everyone ought to know. . . about finding a job

3 Places to Get a Virtual Assistant

So apparently I struck a nerve not too long ago,  I responded to a friend’s message about needing an assistant.

I replied to her “Why don’t you get a virtual one?”

She responded positively to the message, so I sent her the information.  Not too long afterwards, I got several requests for Virtual Assistant information, so I figured I’d better explain what I’ve got going with it.

I was inspired to find a Virtual Assistant by one of my heroes, Tim Ferriss, author of the “4-Hour WorkWeek”.  If you can pickup that book, he outlines his resources on when and where he goes for outsourcing.  Having one is awesome, but it takes some getting used to, having someone who says ‘Yes Sir’ and is happy to take your calls.

I’m just going to summarize what I personally use here in this post and why.

1. Ask Sunday – http://www.asksunday.com/

This website is the most comprehensive as far as VA’s go.  They are based in New York.  You can sign up for a per task assignments, or get a dedicated VA.  I used to have a dedicated one, but I retain the per-task queue just in case.  These assistants can also even manage your Social Media and online presences if you want them to!  They also have a free trial on the site as well.  They can be reached  by phone and email.  15 Requests in 30 days is only $37 dollars!

2. Concierge Unlimited – http://www.conciergeunlimited.com

This company is local to Chicago, IL and it’s the reason why I don’t have a fulltime VA anymore.  The service is complimentary for my building, and if you work downtown, you may have an agreement with a similar company.  If not, check with your building manager to see if they have some kind of agreement with a similar company.

I usually have my virtual assistant there do research on events, restaurants, and hotels.   She also sets appointments for me, and do a little bit of management.  Right now she’s the only thing keeping me sane about my birthday party.

3. eLance – http://www.elance.com

If there are projects that are oddball (like for example, setting up websites, etc.) I use eLance.  Here you can post potential projects and have other people bid on them.   I went through a few VAs to find the right one.  Some people will bid your projects as low at $5/hr.

There are also some fulltime solutions, provided you have the cash.  My friend is at http://www.virtualhires.com and they can provide a full staff for $600 a month.  I also hear good thigns about http://www.mysavvyva.com/ as well, and she’s on twitter.

A few tips.

1.  Be careful with your information

Tim Ferriss mentions in his book that if you have to share passwords, make sure that you’ve changed it before you give it to them, or even better, give them a separate account to which you can block access.  Same with financials.   I like the AskSunday site because it’s based here, but once you go off the grid you have to be careful.  Using PayPal is awesome for this.

2.  Interview your VA

I made it a must that my VAs can speak and write English.  I don’t want to deal with a translator or a task master of any sort.

3. Try before you buy

Send them smaller tasks at first to see how they handle them first and how your communication goes.  It’s best not to be in crisis mode when having to reach out to someone for help.