My 2009 By The Numbers

Last year I did an obsessive experiment.  Every morning, as one of the tabs in my browser (then Firefox, now Chrome) during my daily information routine, I opened up a clever application called Daytum.  In it, I tracked four things: the number of miles I ran, the number of books I read, the number of segments I flew on which airline, and where I slept.  Following is the summary and some commentary.

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I had a disappointing running year.  I usually cover over 1,000 miles / year.  I lost about four months this year to either injuries (silly ones) or a cold (I had a multi-month bacterial infection that took a while to figure out and nail.)  Also, I didn’t run any marathons which, while a bummer, was something I expected would happen sometime on my question for 50 marathons by the time I’m 50 years old.  So – 2009 will be known henceforth as “the lost year for Feld Running.”  My goal in 2010 is six marathons and 1500 miles.  And I’ll be tracking it obsessively with other software.

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I typically read one or two books a week so 78 seems about the amount for a typical year.  I always find the categories interesting – I read less SciFi this year than normal (I’d expect it to be on par with Mental Floss).  The business books read are higher because I’m getting so many in the mail as “pre-release” or “review” copies so I’m trying to at least read some of them.  No different goals for 2010 – just “read what’s in front of me that looks interesting from my infinite pile of books.”

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Airplane travel in 2009 was totally fubared.  I eventually decided to try to stop flying United and shift as much travel as I could to Southwest.  I expect the ratios to be very different in 2010.  I also took way too many short trips in 2009 and have decided to completely change my travel rhythm in 2010.  Specifically, I’m only going to travel every other week – my goal in 2010 is to spend every other week in Boulder.  Now, I know there will be exceptions, but I’ve already scheduled out my weeks in Boulder for the year so all I have to do now is be disciplined about scheduling.

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I was fascinated to see the distribution of “where I slept in 2009.”  I expected Eldorado Springs (my main house) to be at the top, but I also expected Keystone (my mountain house) to be ahead of Boulder (my city condo).  The business travel is as expected – San Francisco, Boston, New York, Seattle, and LA.  Vacations and weeks off the grid were San Diego (tennis), Mexico and Nassau (beach), and Santa Fe.  The balance are short trips for specific things.  The one think that I will not do in 2010 is “30,000 Feet” – I’m completely done with redeyes.  And – no Alaska in 2009 – I expect I’ll spend 31 days there in 2010.

In 2010, I’m going to track an entirely different set of data – namely, all of my health and fitness data as part of my exploration around the idea of “human instrumentation.”  I’m currently using a Zeo, Withings Scale, BodyMedia BodyBug, a Fitbit, and a Garmin 305.  Look for more on this soon.  And – if you make a device that tracks anything about the human being, drop me a line – I’m interested in talking to you.

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    Daytum is a little goofy to get used to, but once you get it set up it’s great.  The trick is to (a) figure out what you really want to track and then (b) make sure Daytum tracks it the right way.  There were a few things I wanted to track that were too hard to figure out how to get into it.

    Then, to track the data, I simply open the page each morning and update the data from the previous day.  Whenever I run I upload my data (and update it on Daytum) right after the run.  Same with books (which also go into my library at Shelfari – http://www.shelfari.com/feld)
    />
    There’s a way to get data into Daytum via Twitter although I haven’t used it yet.

  • Ed Holloway

    Hey Brad –
    "And I’ll be tracking it obsessively with other software."

    What sofware will you use to track your running this year? I had promised myself I'd have something better in place for 2010, and I set off for my first treadmill run this morning, I'm still in Excel. Web with an iPhone client is my goal.

    -Ed

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    I use DailyBurn and TrainingPeaks.  I’ll probably start using the Garmin MotionBased software again.  I’m looking for others, but I’m struggling to find ones that are as comprehensive as I want.

    • De Vries

      try Philips DirectLife, very intuitive according to Pogue and O'Reilly.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

        I’ve looked at it but didn’t buy it.  It looks like a very expensive pedometer to me.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bruce2096 Bruce

    I've been using Runkeeper on my iphone as a tracking tool. It's pretty straightforward, and I like the online integration and results. The only drawback is that it's great when I'm walking outside, not so much for the treadmill at the gym. ;)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    Runkeeper is a great app (and my friend @willherman is an angel investor).  But I don’t find it accurate enough for me data-obsessions.  Plus, I like to run naked (without my iphone).

    • http://twitter.com/runkeeper @runkeeper

      Brad, I hear ya, iPhone GPS can vary depending on coverage area. The good news is it gets better with each OS release, and in the meantime, we're beefing up our editing capabilities if needed. It is also only a matter of time before we integrate with other devices as well, including more than one on the list that you already use.

      Bruce, if you are using our 2.0 build (Free or Pro), you can manually input your treadmill runs. Change the input type from GPS to manual entry on the main screen.

  • http://twitter.com/jgwaller @jgwaller

    Nice to see there are others out there as obsessed w/ this stuff as I am. I just use a Google spreadsheet. I guess I feel like if you can’t measure it, you can’t understand it, so I try & measure it. Even if I don’t like what I see…
    •Miles Run – a disappointing 453 (I’d like to run 750)
    •Pushups – 6,240
    •Cups of coffee – a disgusting 2,555 (1/2 regular, ½ decaf)
    •Beer – More than I’m willing to disclose…
    •Hours worked – 3,354

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      Awesome stats – cups of coffee is a good one.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    Super – happy to hear more, especially via TechStars!

  • http://twitter.com/reecepacheco @reecepacheco

    Awesome stats.

    Considering you were only in NYC 10 nights in '09, I feel even luckier that we got to meet.

    Looking forward to another run so I can help you tack on some miles…

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      Thanks – I had a great time with you.  I’m definitely up for an early morning run together the next time I’m in NY.

  • DaveJ

    "Assembly of Japanese bicycle require great peace of mind." Can you track your moods / peace of mind / stress / etc?

    • Dave Millman

      Dave is making a wry comment here…I think.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    Someone else (privately) asked me about whether or not I can add subjective measures, like moods and peace of mind.  After thinking about it a little, I replied that I’m not that interested in measuring those attributes for two reasons.  The first is that I strive to be “in a good place” as often as I can, but recognize that I’ll occasionally be in a bad place.  Rather than track it objectively, I use the times that I’m in a bad place to try to learn from, so that I can spend more time in a good place.  The second is that I’m concerned about ending up having the Heisenberg uncertainty principle apply once I start measuring subjective stuff.  I think it’s important that I “be in the moment”, even if it’s a bad moment, so I don’t want to risk changing the moment by measuring it while it’s happening. 

    Now, I suppose I could review the day and come up with estimates of these, but I think Heisenberg will have his way with me – just by knowing that I’m going to measure this will change my behavior.  And I don’t want that.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fred_wilson917 fred wilson

    this is totally impressive. i love the obsession with data about yourself. i want to do something like this

    i tried to use datum last year but couldn't figure out the UI. either i am lame (at times for sure) or its hard to figure out how to use it

    • http://twitter.com/tallyzoo @tallyzoo

      We wanted to use Daytum and were impressed with its functionality, but found the UI difficult to use.

      Two days ago we launched TallyZoo.com. We believe it is the easiest way to track, visualize, and share personal data. Data capture is especially easy and quick with our iphone app.

      Ari Oberman
      Founder
      Tallyzoo.com

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

        Neat – I’ll try it out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thebrianhayes Brian Hayes

    Great post Brad, impressive data. I've recently started running and cycling again after about a two year hiatus and I find that one of the biggest missing pieces is a way to simply and easily input all my info. I'd consider getting a fitbit but it doesn't look like it would work well for cycling.

    I have a couple of ideas about what I would like and I'll probably just end up building something myself. Daytum does look interesting.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      Yeah – I don’t think Fitbit will cut it for cycling.  My friend @willherman (http://www.2-speed.com/) tracks a lot of his cycling data – wander over to his blog for a look.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/2speed 2speed

      Brian, as Brad mentioned, I'm a fellow data junkie and avid cyclist. IMO, there are no really good solutions to cycling data capture, viewing and analysis. If you're into training with power, TrainingPeaks WKO+ is the best way to go. If seeing your routes is what you like, then MapMyRide (sorta) and Garmin Connect are better solutions. SportTracks is also a reasonable product, but is not web based and while it looks pretty, I find it difficult to use. None are complete, however. FitnessKeeper, the RunKeeper folks, have a terrific back end that will eventually be mapped for use with cycling, but it's not there yet.

      The bottom line is that if you're a total data junkie who likes to do a lot of analysis on all aspects of cycling – power, cadence, speed, training, routes, climbing, etc. – there's nothing out there. Like you, I've been thinking of writing one myself in the mean time.

      That said, I think the best overall solution right now is a WKO+. Garmin Connect is the best alternative if you're not tracking power.

      In any case, you'll need a device to collect the information. I use a Garmin 705 and I love it. I also have a PowerTap to communicate power info to the head unit. Sincve everything is integrated, all the cycling info I need is on one device which is *almost* a de facto standard – it's file formats can be read by most programs and web site.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

    I am quite certain that is true.

  • http://twitter.com/frederickcook @frederickcook

    Hey Brad, I'm interested in how much planning goes into your running. Do you periodize your season? Do you plan out runs of different intensities? Do you work with a coach?

    With as much time as you spend doing the running (and the tracking for that matter), do you have a feedback loop to better plan out your training and season? Consulting with an expert coach or even using some of the free tools on TrainingPeaks might really help you run smarter and prevent some injuries. I'm sure living in Boulder you know some excellent people in this area.

    As the guys in the Lean Startup camp would say, the only good metric is an actionable metric.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      Yup – I use a running coach – Gary Ditsch who runs Endurance Basecamp – http://www.endurancebasecamp.com/.  I think Gary is a superb coach and highly recommend him.  He manages all my workouts – I use a five day a week schedule with T: easy, W: hard, R: easy, S: medium, S: long.  I try to do cross-training a few times a week but I was lame about it in 2009.

      • http://twitter.com/frederickcook @frederickcook

        Great stuff, and good luck in 2010. FYI about my interest in you and your running: I'm working on a device related to human instrumentation, and will be in touch with you in the next few weeks about it (probably via a TechStars application). Thanks for taking the time to reply and being so accessible to your audience!

  • http://www.moneyisjustanidea.com RedMaven

    Very interesting data! I can appreciate a person's love for data, I have a six sigma background so I'm all about the data. It is fascinating how you implemented it into your daily routine and made it a habit.

    Question: do you use NIKE + to record your runs?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      I use a Garmin 305 – I like the GPS accuracy, plus I don’t run with an ipod.

  • http://twitter.com/t_armstrong @t_armstrong

    Thanks for this post. I'd never heard of Daytum, but I'm definitely going to use it for 2010. Though I agree with other posters here that the UI is a bit Wonky. Took me about 20-25 mins to figure out how it worked (and would have taken much longer without seeing your page as a template of sorts).

  • http://www.facebook.com/thebrianhayes Brian Hayes

    Actually what about tracking when you're sick? Unlike moods you can typically track and quantify stress, travel, over/under training that would lead to common colds.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      Days sick is actually a good one, especially given that I didn’t feel good last year.  I think I’ll set up a new category for “how I feel” where I’d track healthy, tired, sick, very sick.

      • http://www.facebook.com/thebrianhayes Brian Hayes

        It was certainly a metric that made sense when I was a competitive athlete. I poked around Daytum for a bit and it seems like the down fall would be the amount of work required to make that data useful. Ideally you would want to see the days/weeks leading up to the time period your sick.

        It's amazing how easy it is to spot the tipping point for sickness when you know what to look for. Once you have the data you could probably program it in. TSS Score (http://velonews.competitor.com/2008/02/coaches-pa… is a good overall number if you have a means to track it.

  • http://twitter.com/suyogmody @suyogmody

    fantastic post and great conversation here – i've been looking for tools other than NIKE + (which fails ever so often). will try out many of the tools. thanks!

  • http://www.pindropsoup.com Dave Michels

    There should be a passive iPhone or Android App for where you (or the phone) slept. It could use the GPS and learn some common places and guess the others.

    As stated above too – the running app makes sense on the GPS device as well. Daytum is a great concept, but we have the tech to make it more passive.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Wakemate (http://www.wakemate.com) seems to be a start at this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thebrianhayes Brian Hayes

    Hi Will,

    I've been poking around your site and saw a couple of reviews on the different Garmins that you have been using. You're completely correct that WKO+ is the way to go. I don't think that I know anyone that doesn't use it.

    Having said that I'm now in a strange place where I just set up a new bike and need to decide between ditching perfectly new race wheels for something with a powertap or taking the plunge into srm land. Oh the life of a cyclist decisions, decisions.

  • http://www.pindropsoup.com DaveMichels

    Wakemate tracks how you sleep like Zeo, not where you sleep. IMHO Daytum should offer some mobile apps that track things like where you sleep, how many calls you get, pedometer measures, etc. Maybe a strong API is the best way.

    Impressive how much you respond to comments. Thanks.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Good point on Wakemate – seems like the geo element of this should be easy for them to add.  I’ll ask them about it when I see them this week at CES.

  • http://www.matthewcornell.org/ Matthew Cornell

    Thanks very much for the encouraging analysis – well done, fellow explorer of the inner world. Tools like Daytum are fun and useful, and we've extended the idea of personal informatics in the context of science. Our Think, Try, Learn philosophy treats everything in life as an experiment. Framing data measurement as experiments helps focus on the goal, and sets up guaranteed success, i.e., that you will learn something. Currently folks like you rely on blogs (like this post) for reports, results, and lessons learned. But we think important value is lost *during* the experiments. We created the "Edison" experimenter's workbook as a first step in supporting life-as-science. It's at http://edison.thinktrylearn.com/ if you'd like to check it out. Also, I'd love to chat sometime about this, if you're up for it. matt@matthewcornell.org

    Happy experimenting!

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/pupeno pupeno

    To keep track how many books I've read I use aNobii.com, it even tells you how many pages you've read.

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