Half marathon summary

Finally ran my first half marathon

I set out to run my first half marathon the other day. It’s something I wanted to do since around April but didn’t try until just a couple days ago. I wanted to make sure I healed up to see how the recovery process was before posting this.

A little back story. In the summer months I get a pretty decent cardio workout in by playing ultimate frisbee two days a week. I would say I probably run somewhere around 4-5 miles per frisbee session. If I don’t make it to frisbee then I generally will try to get a run in the 2 to 3.1 mile range. When ultimate frisbee is not in session I generally will continue cardio with two or three of these runs per week when I’m being diligent.

I’ve tried to keep in shape over the years but I am far from a good runner. I’ve used the Endomondo app to track my running since August of 2011. I generally like the 5k distance and in the last four years my fastest 5k has been 24:15 in November of 2015, where I averaged 7:48 per mile. Using a calculator like this one from Runbayou says that time is right about in the middle of all male runner’s of my age. I’m better than 53.5% of runners. Although I typically don’t try to run the mile, my fastest mile was in December 2013 at 6:42. That mile time puts me in the top 55.7% of mile runners. My point here is that I’m a certified average runner.

In preparation I did some reading on what is necessary to run a half marathon and tried to follow the advice. Increase the mileage over time. Rest as appropriate. Eat well, etc. In June I ran 4 miles. In July I ran 8 miles. Five days after that I ran another 5 miles. I was doing alright at increasing my times and I was playing a bunch of frisbee when I wasn’t running.

Then things got pretty quiet. I didn’t track any running times on Endomondo for about four months. Frisbee games became less frequent as the night came earlier and weather became less optimal. The last day of the frisbee season ended in late October. I still didn’t track anything on Endomondo until November 16, a day when I somehow ran my personal best for the 5k. Over the next forty days I ran only three more 5k’s. My body wasn’t in an ideal shape to run a half marathon.

As the year started to wrap up I started asking people about New Year’s resolutions. I don’t usually make any grand resolutions or plans but I tend to use the New Year as a time to reset and refocus. All of the obvious things are realigned. I had made a comment about some of the good things that happened this year and some of the bad things, and how the half marathon was one of the few failures of the year for me.

Then December 26 came along. I woke up feeling a little down. I had had a couple beers the night before. I was not overly dehydrated but I certainly wasn’t hydrated. I didn’t eat the right meal the night before. I didn’t eat the right food that morning. I messaged someone on Tinder asking what her New Year’s resolution was. She said it was to run a half marathon. She ran six to eight miles before but couldn’t run the half marathon. So here’s the universe being weird, reintroducing the theme of the half marathon to me.

I’m not sure if it was this message but I decide that I’m going to run this half marathon this day. I am not stopping until I finish the 13.1. I drink some water. I have a Kind bar. I give myself time to digest it. I look up advice for running the half marathon. It seems like water is pretty important so I make sure I’ll take a 12-ounce bottle of water with me. I start to think about how this is kind of a serious run. I grab a Chobani. I grab a banana. I drink a little more water. I look up the weather. It’s windy and cold but I could care less. I’m starting to dial in focus. The problem is I don’t know what to wear. Short sleeve? Long sleeve? Shorts? Under armor pants under the shorts? I settle on shorts and a long sleeve under armor. I get to stretching. I take a little more time than usual because the distance is a little more than usual. I blow my nose. Rinse my mouth out. Use the bathroom. I’m as ready as I could possibly be.

I head out of the house and venture off to bridge over Wesley Lake, suspended between Ocean Grove and Asbury Park. The bridge where I start and end most of my runs. I get to it. Normally I like to run on the boardwalk, but the wind is way too strong. It’s fast. It’s cold. I decide to stick to a street about three blocks off of the boardwalk and head south. I want the option to head towards the water if I need to cool down and to head towards the land if I want to warm up. I run down streets close to people’s houses that I know. I think about times that we have had. I swing out to Main Street and notice stores that I have never noticed before. The world looks very different when you are on foot.

I keep running down Main Street, through all of the shore towns. The plan is to run at least 6.5 miles south, so that I have no choice but to finish the half marathon. But I know I’m finishing this run. I keep thinking over and over 13.1, 13.1, 13.1. Do not stop until you hit 13.1. While this half marathon was supposed to be a test of my physical self, it has become a test of my mental self. Can I run this half marathon that I have not been able to run? Is Tinder girl right? Can she really not run this thing? Or have we both chosen not to run it. Have we both chosen to failure?

Further south I run. I started on the border of Asbury Park. I’ve ran across Ocean Grove. I’ve ran across Bradley Beach. Through Avon by the Sea. I ran past Bar A and past Belmar. Bar A looks different and feels different from this perspective. Past Lake Como. Into Spring Lake. Over Spring Lake. I’m checking Endomondo to see if I should turn around. It’s dark and it’s getting colder. I’m only at 5.5 miles. I refuse to turn around. Stick to the plan. 13.1, 13.1, 13.1. I have to get to at least half of it before I spin around.

I cut inward towards land thinking I’ll make a loop to put another mile or two on the run. I swing over to Route 71 and run right up until the edge of Sea Girt. It’s been about 6.75. More than half but I know the return will be more of a straight shot home. It seems like a good point to spin around.

My body feels pretty good. My knee was bothering me on one of the 5k’s I was recently out on. That’s been fine. I’ve only just cracked open my water. Most of it was used to get spit out of my throat. I drank a little but I’m not trying to cramp. I’m not hungry. My muscles aren’t cramping. Everything seems pretty good. Now I just have to retrace my steps and I’ll be done.

This time I want to mostly stick to Main Street. There are more cars but there are also more lights. I’m wearing black on black. Almost nothing reflects. This all black outfit is really stupid, but I kind of forgot how long of a run this was supposed to be. It’s been completely dark out for about a half hour.

I start the run back. I try to retrace my step and mostly do a good job. I thought I took 5th Ave in Spring Lake on the way over, but really I took 3rd. I know I’m running in the general direction but I want to get to streetlights. I don’t want any cars to hit me. And surprisingly some of the worst sidewalks I saw running were in Spring Lake. I don’t want to roll an ankle. I bring up the GPS and throw a route in that will get me back to Main Street. Mile 8 passes. Each step I take now is uncharted land. This is the furthest I have ever run in my life. Kind of cool, but nothing to get too carried away with. Focus. 13.1.

Mile 9 comes around the Lake Como area. I’m back on Main. I’m only about two-thirds of the way done, but I’m still feeling alright. Muscles are starting to burn a little. Ligaments are tendons are starting to feel a little on fire. At this point various pains are starting to be felt and I’m hoping none of them develop into anything serious. This is all to be expected. Another rinsing of my mouth and another couple sips of water.

Mile 10 and I’m back in Belmar. Alright, now all I need to do is run a 5k. I certainly don’t want to but I certainly don’t care about what I think. I’m finishing this race. This isn’t a physical limitation. This is a mental limitation. I know I can do this. I will do this. I have to see 13.1 tonight. I have to.

Back in Avon. At this point I’m starting to notice how smells from restaurants are amplified. I guess I’m hungry. I pass some restaurant and it starts to smell delicious. I pass billboards with terrible looking Quick Chek sandwiches and I think how they look amazing right now. I pass a Chinese food place. It smells actually pretty terrible. I start to think about what I’ll eat for dinner. I didn’t eat anything today and I will have a huge calorie deficit. I can pretty much eat whatever I want. I run past a Pizza Hut billboard and see a special for two or three pies and think I might order that and eat the whole order myself.

Mile 11 is up and I’m back in Bradley. I feel the pace has slowed down more and more over the last several miles and I’m just trying to keep it moving and finish out. My legs are starting to feel pretty worn but I’m not giving up. About halfway through this mile and halfway through Bradley I smell one of the most amazing smells I have ever smelled in my life. Del Ponte’s Bakery. I don’t know if that place normally smells good, but it is insane how delicious the smell of baked goods and sugar smell in the air on this cold and windy night. My sense of smell is heightened to an extremely high level. I don’t even like eating baked goods, but for some reason this smell will probably stick with me for many years as one of the best things I have ever smelled before. I have to visit there one of these days just to try whatever it is that I smelled that night.

Bradley comes to an end and with it mile 12. At this point I know I should be able to finish. I’m back along Main in OG. Water has just finally run out but I’m close enough to finish. When it’s over I’ll drink all that I need. I was planning on finishing at least a half mile or a mile away from home and then walking to keep the legs moving and stretch but I change my plan. I’m thirsty. I’m hungry. My body is really started to tighten up. I want to be close to home in case of some random injury occurring. I make it to Main Ave in OG. I check Endomondo. 12.5. I’m close. I’m also close to home. It’s slightly tempting to just head home but at this point that just seems absurd.

I quickly refocus as I think of 13.1. Back over the Wesley bridge. Past Moonstruck. I turn around. I’m at 12.9. Back to the Wesley bridge. 13.0. I’m so close. I just have to finish this thing. Close it out. I feel fine. I pick up the pace just ever so slightly. 13.05. Yes. 13.07. I’m going to do it. 13.08. 13.09 13.10. 13.11. Just for good measure. I have just finished the first half marathon of my life. I finished what I thought I couldn’t do. And in time for the New Year’s too.

I slow down to a walk. I feel good enough. Nothing hurts too much. Everything is pretty tense and some things are on fire. But nothing out of the ordinary.

And then something happens. I get to the doorstep and I kind of start to feel weird. In addition to the physical cramping and burning and hunger and thirst and heightened senses and the desire to shower I feel a sense of tiredness come over me. My body seems to enter some sort of crisis mode. I feel like my body has had enough and it start prioritizing every individual action. I’ve never felt anything like this before. Everything is ultra focused and precise. There is a priority of actions that my body wants to complete but I can only focus on one at a time. Unlock the first lock. Unlock the second lock. Go inside. Drink a dozen gulps of water. Eat a banana. Eat a Kind bar. Eat a Chobani. Have a couple more sips of water. Send a Snapchat. Eat another banana. Shoes off. Stretch a little. Clothes off. Shower. Dry off. Another sip or two of water. Bottoms on. Hop into bed. Take a nap. Try to keep the legs stretching throughout the nap.

I’ve never felt anything like that before. Where your body goes into this miniature survival mode and it just prioritizes everything and you think about only one thing at a time. It was a pretty cool feeling.

After a couple hours nap I head out for a dinner of steak, potato, and Brussels sprouts with a couple beers to celebrate. It’s probably a good idea to stretch the legs again on the walk over. Sure I ate a little at the house but I’ve burned off about 1,930 calories. I need to fuel back up.

I ended up finishing the half marathon in 2:08:45. Although I wasn’t shooting for time on this day I was aiming for around the 2 hour mark. For not trying for time I’m happy enough with the results. My individual mile times for the run were as follows. I started too fast and faded at the end. Pretty predictable.

  1. 8:05
  2. 8:23
  3. 8:36
  4. 8:53
  5. 9:25
  6. 9:35
  7. 9:46
  8. 9:47
  9. 10:24
  10. 10:17
  11. 10:51
  12. 11:16
  13. 12:15

A map of the run is as follows.

Map of the half marathon run
Map of the half marathon run

The 27th and 28th I was predictably a little sore. However I was surprisingly much less sore than I thought I would be. By the 29th I felt pretty much back to normal. Today I feel completely fine as well. During the recovery I tried to get a little extra walking in and ate and drank smartly. But there wasn’t too much to it. There’s probably a million articles and stories and pieces of advice you could read that would be more helpful than what I’ve said here, so I’m not going to list any running advice. I’m far from an expert in this field.

Another surprising thing about completing this half marathon was how unsatisfying it was to complete it. I set out to run a half marathon one time. I had and still have no ambition to run it again or to run a longer distance like a marathon. At a certain point running distances is just detrimental to the health of your legs. It was a one-time challenge that I set out to do, and ended up completing it on a completely unexpected day. I had always planned to run this on my own but can see the argument for running a half marathon as part of an event. You probably want access to water stations and emergency personnel, but a 12-ounce bottle of water probably will be enough to last.

So that’s my experience running a half marathon. 2:08:45 puts me at 46.3%, close to but below the average for the distance. I’m still not a good runner. But on that day I was the best runner that I have ever been.

I set out to do something that I thought I could not do and focused solely on the outcome to achieve what I wanted. Was I really not able to run it? I never got close to running it before. I wasn’t in the shape to run it at all. And I did. I did because I mentally focused and got there. Can Tinder girl really not run it? She has not run it before either. She might be in a similar shape that I’m in. But I think she can. I think if she sets out today or tomorrow that she can certainly finish. I messaged her the next day saying I finished it and she never responded back to me. Fair enough. The half marathon is her New Year’s resolution and I hope she will finish it.

Whether you make resolutions or not, I hope you all have the best of New Year’s. I don’t really think there are many takeaways from this story but if I have to try to find some I’ll present these. You can wake up feeling like a bum and still do something really amazing that day. You can do something very average and still do something that you consider a success. Something may seem very physical, but it may be a lot more mental than you think. Sometimes when you complete something you don’t feel a satisfaction that you thought you would.

Cheers,
Joe

Walk by Myself: West Coast Road Trip Summary

So this writeup has been a long time in the making. A lot has happened since this trip that has made looking through this footage a long and difficult process. I kind of haven’t hated doing anything more than this video. It’s been emotionally draining looking through this footage day after day and reliving painful memories over and over again. I guess traveling can be painful when you lose your travel partner. Hopefully the end video gives some sort of justice to situation. I made it the best I could.

In addition to dealing with the whole emotional journey of the break up, I decided to record my own song for this video. Getting the recording equipment, learning recording software, writing music, and mixing it all together has been a process that has taken some time.

I was able to finally make my way through the footage and write a song that I was happy with. It was certainly not the video I had planned to make when I was shooting this trip. But I think there was enough footage that I was able to present a story that ultimately is true to where I was, where I am, and where I will be going. It’s kind of interesting to go through footage that you thought would look so much like one thing, and piece it together to look like something else. I guess my world was ripped apart and I had to pick up the pieces of this footage to tell a different story than I had anticipated.

Outside of the video, here is the rest of the standard road trip conclusion notes. It would be difficult to bother writing this up had I not had the majority of it completed.

First question I generally get asked is what was my favorite place. I can try to overgeneralize this answer but if you are really interested it’s probably best you read through the write ups from the trip.

The most beautiful single view was of Peyto Lake in Banff. A picture I took on this trip of Peyto Lake scored me over 200,000 views, which is my most viewed photograph ever. I think this is the second most beautiful nature view I have seen outside of the view at the top of the hike of Preikestolen in Norway.

My favorite park was Yellowstone. Cliche, I know. There’s a reason why this is the first national park in the world. This park is perfect. It doesn’t have the over the top views like you may see elsewhere in the world, but it is the most well rounded park I have been to. It has great landmarks. It has amazing animals. Diverse terrain. It’s huge. The layout is just right.

The most surprising nature moment was walking the Lady Bird Johnson Grove trail in the Redwood National and State Parks. The sun was setting and based on recommendation from the park rangers we took this hike. The 1.4-mile trail is short and easy and gives you a great view of the Redwoods. On this specific day there were low lying clouds that floated among the tops of the trees. You’re walking on this trail with your head craned upwards, staring at these enormous trees that extend into the heavens. The beauty of this place was unexpected and we caught it with some amazing circumstances. Sometimes on the trip you will have some spots that are worse than you imagined and sometimes you get some unexpected gems that stir your soul.

Crater Lake was solid. It’s a great park because you can drive right up to some amazing views, and there are a bunch of great trails that you can take. If you don’t know about Crater Lake I’d recommend giving it a look. It’s a huge gorgeous lake inside of a volcano.

As far as the cities I have to say San Francisco was my favorite. San Fran offers a lot. There’s a great touristy waterfront. It has its iconic spots. The food and drink is class. There are many diverse areas to hang out in. And not that it matters too much, but the residential and business sections for locals seem pretty cool as well.

The biggest surprise city for me was definitely Vegas. There’s the new Vegas, the old Vegas, and then the Vegas suburbs. The new Vegas is fancy. The old Vegas is gritty. The suburbs are awesomely authentic and nothing like the rest of Vegas. I recommend checking out all three of those places.

Seattle was a better time than I thought it would be. It’s definitely worth spending a day at the market and the Chihuly Museum.

Portland is a must stop but it was frustrating. Everything was spread out all over that city. It wasn’t as good as I thought it would be, probably because it’s so hyped, but it’s still a great city. Once you figure out how to navigate its quirks I imagine it would be a top spot.

You probably don’t have to go to Salt Lake, but I didn’t explore there much. Just grabbed Thai food and made plans to go to Vegas.

Another question that I get asked is how much it cost. I have again summarized the costs so that you can see how much a trip like this might be, and where the individual costs are coming from. I am sure there are some costs that I have overlooked but it is not necessary to give exact costs. One of the flights was paid for with credit card miles so it’s not included here. The costs are for two people and they are divided per person in the following chart. More or less travelers would affect these numbers in predictable ways. Everyone planning a trip will have to pay a little more for certain things but also a little less for certain things. Travel offers an infinite amount of options and ways to customize your trip so that it works for you.

West Coast Road Trip
West Coast Road Trip

As always this cost is just an example of this one specific trip. You can probably do the same trip for $700 or $70,000. Along the trip there were a lot of travelers who were simply hitchhiking their way across the country, spending their nights where they ended up, and eating simply. There were also plenty of travelers paying thousands of dollars for meals and expensive alcohols and driving fancy cars and shopping at expensive stores. Use this chart to give yourself an idea and feel free to move the numbers up or down to suit your trip. For example, we ate whatever we wanted and stayed at nice places. Just these two costs alone came out to about $5,000 or two-thirds of the total cost of the trip. If you eat and sleep cheaper then you can quickly cut off a bunch of the costs.

Normally this is where I would probably give some advice on the trip or talk about takeaways. I kind of can’t do that so easily since it has been so long since the trip. And with the changes to my life my memories will be recalled differently and my emotional response to certain events will be different. I had an awesome time on this road trip and an awesome time traveling this metaphoric road with my favorite travel buddy. I have had the best of times and have many great memories. Surely this isn’t the end of the road that we wanted, but we certainly never thought we would venture off on such a great trip at the start of it all.

Unfortunately I kind of arrived at a path that I did not want to go down. In life there are many important themes and ideals that you strive for. How important is love? How important is happiness? Which is more important than the other? What about comfort, success, family, work, friends, money, innovation, philanthropy, social impact, education, music, experiences, etc.? Everyone has different weights associated with all of these different topics. Maybe family is more important to you than money. Maybe success is more important than happiness. Maybe the opposite is true, etc. What is right for you is different than what is right for other people, and that is fine. For myself I guess I value truth very highly. I can’t imagine anything being more important than the truth. I arrived at a road where I had to choose truth over something that was also very important to me. I had to choose truth over love.

This whole topic of travel and truth and love reminds me of one of my favorite poems and I will end this post here. Its words have always resonated with me and it cannot be more appropriate at the moment. It is a poem called “The Wayfarer” written over a century ago by fellow Asbury Park local Stephen Crane.

The wayfarer,
Perceiving the pathway to truth,
Was struck with astonishment.
It was thickly grown with weeds.
“Ha,” he said,
“I see that none has passed here
In a long time.”
Later he saw that each weed
Was a singular knife.
“Well,” he mumbled at last,
“Doubtless there are other roads.”

I wish you courage in your travels,
Joe

Digital Zaza LLC

My first business: Digital Zaza LLC

So I started my first company. Yay! It’s honestly nothing too crazy, more formality than anything else. My buddy who is working for an ecommerce startup got in touch with me and he wants me to do some Magento web development work. I’m pretty pumped for the opportunity to work with him and his awesome sounding team, and hopefully there is nothing but boatloads of money in our future.

This is the first time I’m working for a legitimate customer so I needed to make sure my business was legitimate. Although I could have just accepted check written out to my name, I decided to start an LLC for several reasons. One of the major reasons is that I have to pay taxes, and that means that I have to keep my personal finances separate from my business finances. I don’t want to be paying for business items with personal credit cards, etc. Having my own business account makes the whole tax process much simpler.

Another major reason for the LLC is that you get an Employer Identification Number (EIN). EIN’s are essentially the social security number of your business. When you have an EIN you are much more real to both other prospective customers and the IRS. What I mean by that is if a company wants to hire me, they will want to hire me as a company. They want me to write them a professional invoice. They want to see I am a registered business. Companies have to pay their own taxes. My ability to invoice, and their ability to write a check out to my LLC, allows for a paper trail that makes taxes easier for the company, the IRS, and myself. No one wants to write a check to some random dude and then explain to the IRS that they paid thousands of dollars to some guy Joey from New Jersey.

Another reason for the LLC is one that you hear about often. I’m limiting my personal liability. Generally an LLC separates my personal finances from my business finances. If I mess up in some disastrous way I will lose the capital of my company, but I generally will be covered from people trying to come after my personal finances.

Finally I wanted an LLC because it puts me in a potential position for future growth. While I don’t plan on this business getting too big, there always is possibility for growth. If my friend decides to dump more work on me than I can physically do or if I happen to be given work from another company, I’ll probably want to consider hiring employees or bringing someone on as a subcontractor. Having an LLC in place makes that process fast and much less painful.

You may actually be interested in some other form of business such as a sole proprietorship, S-Corp, etc. There are a lot of options for starting a business depending on what you’re trying to get into. But if you want a similar setup to what I have then I would probably recommend two links. The first is a step-by-step guide of what you need to start an LLC in the state of NJ. It’s good for general reading and getting a feel for if an LLC is right for you.

Staring an LLC in NJ

The best link is the actual state page where you can sign up for the LLC. Generally government websites are garbage. Information is all over the place and you have to spend hours or days trying to figure out where things are and what they mean. Once you figure it out you often have to go to some random building during some very specific time and then wait for days or weeks in the mail to get whatever it is that you need. This website and this process were the complete opposite. It couldn’t be any easier to setup an LLC then to just follow along the step by step process on this state website. So a huge shoutout to the New Jersey government for getting something right. It’s important to make something as beneficial as new business generation so painless and simple. Thank you.

NJ State Website for LLC

The site lets you search for and choose your business name, nominate your Registered Agents, sign up for an EIN, send in all the information that you have to, sign all documents online, and make payment via credit card right there all on the same site. At the end of the 15-minute process you have the certificate of formation, business registration, and EIN. Congratulations. You have an LLC.

With that information you can go right to the bank and open up a business account with whatever bank you prefer.

At this point in the post I should probably mention that you definitely might want to consult an accountant or lawyer to make sure you are doing this all correctly. Or you can go with a site like LegalZoom to get you up and running. I had some knowledge of these topics from going for my MBA and I also want to get a better understanding for law since it is such an important part of business. That’s why I went through the research to figure out what was appropriate for my situation. Often times it will be cheaper to have someone else do this work for you or prevent you from making costly legal or accounting mistakes.

For me this whole LLC process happened quickly. The time between my friend reaching out and me starting work was really fast. I didn’t have much time to think of a name. The name in this case isn’t too important as it mostly will be only used on the check that my customer writes. I don’t plan on actively marketing for work, but I want the LLC in case I ever get the opportunity to work or grow. I wanted a name that was pretty broad that I could use for a variety of work. While I’m doing web development for an ecommerce website today, I could definitely see myself doing engineering or business work and would want a name that could cover some general fields. I didn’t want Joseph Butewicz LLC because that’s boring and kind of implies a one-man shop even if I did have a lot of employees. I also didn’t want anything stupid like Innovative Technology Solutions LLC or Expert Engineering Consulting LLC. I hate corporate talk. I also wanted to make sure the domain name was available so I could easily add a nice website in the future. Since I had only a couple of minutes to think of something, I had two ideas. The first was Pro Peach LLC. The word peach is dear to me these days. The second was Digital Zaza LLC. Joey Zaza, or Zaza, or Za is a nickname of mine that goes way back. I kind of liked how Digital Zaza sounded. I like the word Digital, as technology is probably the area I most want to be involved with. Pro Peach LLC kind of really sucks so I went with the only option I had left lol.

I made sure the domain name was available and I picked that up as well. I decided to build a simple website for the business which I’ll talk about in detail here.

Sometimes when people have a business, especially a new one, they clutter their website with all sorts of corporate talk. Useless pages of text. Terrible stock images, etc. You’ve seen a million of these sites and they are disgusting. Just because you have a website, that doesn’t mean you need to fill it to the brim with pages and pages of worthless content. If anything I would argue that you always want to be evaluating your website (and your business, and probably your life as well) and be trying to remove unnecessary clutter that is there. Unclutter your page. Make your message clear. Since I don’t have much content, I wanted my site to be very simple. I don’t have lots of clients. I haven’t done any work for this company. Everything of interest deals with my personal programming life. I’m not sure if this company will continue with ecommerce development work or if it will morph into something else. I don’t know what my company will be. All I know is I wanted an LLC for the reasons previously stated. I just want to build awesome things with other people. Maybe a way to contact the business would be good.

So with all of those thoughts and ideas, I created exactly what I wanted to. I used Digital Ocean’s $5/month hosting plan, which is overkill for this site, but the cheapest you can really buy. I installed a LAMP stack as I have done many times before and got to work building the site.

There were eight things I wanted in the site.

  1. Name of the company
  2. A single sentence, almost like a slogan, giving you the slightest idea of what this is all about
  3. A link to my blog, specifically to this post. Remember, my company isn’t anything yet. It’s two days old, and while it has a customer, I have no idea what it’s future is. Everything that is of interest is related to my personal life.
  4. A way to contact me
  5. I want these four things in the center of the website, both vertically and horizontally.
  6. A font that plays off of the digital theme.
  7. This orangish, pinkish, salmonish colored background. I wanted to make a site with this color background for some time now and this was finally the opportunity lol.
  8. A favicon, that little icon at the top of your browser tab

The concept was very simple. As always the execution ends up taking way longer than expected. It’s remarkably difficult to center something both vertically and horizontally using CSS. Sure, I’m being a little dramatic, but it’s such a common thing to want to do and it always is so difficult. Instead of running through all of the different solutions for this problem, I’ll just say that I used flexbox. I’m happy enough with this rendering properly on the majority of devices. I doubt many people will visit this page in the near future, and I expect those people that do will have a reasonably up to date browser. This is a pretty bad assumption for a web developer lol.

Finding a font to use was pretty easy. I’ve used several font sites in the past and can recommend Font Squirrel, Da Font, and 1001 Free Fonts. There are other sites that you may use. I found a couple good fonts but my favorite was Silkscreen. Shout out to Jason Kottke for the Silkscreen font, specifically Silkscreen Expanded Normal. It’s exactly the right blend of digital and modern. Get Silkscreen here

For some reason I was having issues rendering this font on all of the different browsers I was testing. I must have been making some sort of syntactical mistake. The best way to get fonts to render on all of the devices is just to use Font Squirrel’s webfont generator. You upload your font and the generator will produce all of the different types of fonts you need along with the CSS that you can copy and paste over to your style sheet. Why waste your time writing it from scratch, and then wasting a bunch of time figuring out where your syntactical error is, when you can just copy and paste?

As for a way to contact, I really didn’t want to get away from the simplicity of the site. A contact page may have been alright but it’s kind of impersonal and definitely doesn’t fit with the idea of the site. I decided to find a free email-hosting site that would use my domain name and just link that email in a contact link on the site. Surprisingly Zoho is one of the few that has free accounts. It’s ad free too, which is great. You get up to 10 users with 5 GB storage per user for email. It’s exactly what I wanted for this site. If the site works well then I can see myself paying for their services will several other small sites. I signed up for the service and quickly had myself an email address that can send and receive to the digitalzaza.com domain.

Selecting the background color was easy enough. I had a really good idea of the color that I wanted. I googled around a bit to pick out some nice supporting colors. I usually use Google Image search for general ideas. If there’s a specific color I like then I’ll grab it via a color picker in something like GIMP. I often play around with the different color tools that show up when you search “color calculator,” etc. in google. Eventually after a little trial and error I had all of the colors that I wanted.

As for the favicon I just wanted the letters ZA in the Silkscreen font on the salmon background color. Favicons can be a pain in the ass to make all of the different sizes needed to support all of the different devices and browsers that use them. It’s best to just use one of the many great tools out there. Shout out to Philippe Bernard for the Real Favicon Generator. It takes your one image and makes all of the icons you need and generates all of the CSS that you need. Tools like this help accelerate the speed at which great things are built.

So that’s mostly it for the idea behind the business and the site. Putting it all together you get something that looks like this.

Digital Zaza LLC
Digital Zaza LLC

You can check out Digital Zaza by clicking this link. If it looks absurdly simple, that’s pretty much the intention. Over time this website may evolve into something more substantial, and that will be dictated by the growth of the business. But for right now I’m just a guy with an LLC who wants to build beautiful things.

Cheers,
Joe