Monday, October 31, 2022

How Do I Know When it’s Time?

One of life's great challenges is to know when the time is right.  

In my running career, I did not have the opportunity to make the choice of when to retire from racing.  I was forced into hanging up my fast shoes (due to health concerns) long before I was ready to give it up.  I suspect that due to my competitive nature, I would have pushed myself physically well beyond the point when I should have given it up.  In professional sports, seeing a top athlete walk away from the game when they are at their peak is difficult to understand -- but when you see athletes hanging on when they are well past their prime with diminished skills, it all makes sense.  

While the definition of when the time is right to make a decision is unique to everyone, most agree that in hindsight that they waited too long to walk away.  For the last year, I have struggled with the decision if I should continue to serve as the webmaster for the Upper Peninsula Road Runners Club.  This has weighed heavily on my mind.  

First of all, I strongly believe in the UPRRC mission of promoting the benefits of running, jogging, biking, and swimming as means of improving physical fitness and maintaining overall health.  I also recognize that as a small club, our success is fueled by volunteerism.  I think a lot of people would like to help, but not everyone has the time or capacity in their lives to take on a position within the club.  In late 2013, I realized that not only did I have the skills required to help with the club's website, but I also had the passion and the time to devote to it.   

Prior to 2014, the club's website was managed by Gary Barrett, who did a fine job of it.  So when I first thought of getting involved, it was to help Gary out.  Gary said that he didn't really need any help, but if I wanted to take on the role of webmaster, he would be willing to pass on the duties to me.  At that point, I had already developed a prototype of the new site, created a list of requirements, and prepared my proposal for what I would like to do as the club's webmaster.  When I got the official nomination to proceed I was overjoyed and immediately began the work.  

I was very encouraged by Gary's review of my first prototype as I remember his feedback was that the UI (user interface) was very "slick."  That is exactly what I was looking for!  A new and improved experience for our members to interact with the club and get the information they needed.  There have been quite a few iterations of the site since those early days as we have continued to make improvements.  Specifically, here were some of the things we were able to make:
  • Enabled the site to be responsive, making it viewable from computers, phones and tablets
  • Created a form for race directors to complete electronic when they want to submit a race for our club calendar and have that event automatically appear on our online calendar
  • Created a way for members to renew their application online using RunSignUp
  • Created this blog for sharing of thoughts to supplement the newsletter
  • Created pages for all new hall of fame members that includes the write-up to accompany their induction 
  • Published the current membership roster
Ultimately the larger purpose of modernizing the website was to retain existing members and promote the club for potential new members.  As the popularity of running and races experienced a slight decline (after a boom in the early 2010s), we were able to maintain steady with our membership.  From that perspective, I would like to think that my time spent as Webmaster was a success.  

For me, I knew that I had made the right decision to hand the webmaster duties off to another volunteer after I talked to Bill Sved and I felt a great sense of relief.  I was so worried because it felt like I was letting him (and the club) down, but that was not his reaction at all!  He understood and was very appreciative, thanking me for my time.  His reaction was a reflection of his true leadership with this club and that is something I admire in him as a person.

To help Bill out. I created a list of the tasks that I perform as the Webmaster to help with his recruitment of volunteers to manage this going forward.   I also said that for whoever is the new Webmaster, that I would be willing to work with them for as long as they needed and be available for questions and support.  Though I will be moving on, I still want to see the club carry on successfully and will do whatever I can to ensure a smooth transition.  

Last week I met with Maija Niemi, who has agreed to take on the role of UPRRC Webmaster.  Maija lives in Ishpeming and works in the technology field so her skill set was perfect to take on this new role.  She was very excited about the opportunity, as she believes that we can grow the awareness of the UPPRC and all the good things that we do through our digital presence.  Maija is leaps and bounds ahead of me when it comes to website development knowledge and experience, so I suspect that you will see great things to come from her running our website in the future.  

I would just like to thank the UPPRC board for their support and collaboration for the better part of the last decade.  WE were successful together because of what each and every one of you do on a daily basis to keep the club going.  My tenure may be over, but I am excited to see all of the many great things that I know the next Webmaster will do with the club's internet presence! 

Happy trails UPRRC... Eric Charette

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

2021 Webmaster Notes for Annual Meeting

It is with great pleasure, that I present the UPRRC Webmaster annual report to our distinguished board and entire membership on this the 6th day of November, 2021.

While the world in 2021 did not return to the pre-pandemic normalcy we had in 2019, it was much better than the lockdowns of 2020.  Social distancing and masking were still part of everyday life but running (in groups) and racing came back.  Two of the spring Marathon Majors (London and Boston) were pushed back to this fall, making it a busy marathon season along with Chicago and New York.  At the Olympics in Tokyo this fall, Americans had strong showings with Galen Rupp finishing eighth in 2:11:41 and Molly Seidel had a breakthrough performance, capturing a bronze medal in a time of 2:27:46, which launching her from unranked to #42 in the world. 

For the UPPRC, the volume of races started to make a comeback as well.  Using the UPPRC online calendar as a barometer, there were 27 events on listed for this year.  While this was only half of the 53 events listed from 2019, it was more than double the 11 events on our calendar from the pandemic plagued 2020 year.   

Here are the specifics on our website from 2021.

Website Traffic

  • Overall traffic to our website was steady in 2021 when compared to 2020
    • 3,544 page views in 2021
    • 3,510 page views in 2020
    • The heaviest volume of page views was during the summer months of June and July.  
  • Since we launched the new website in 2015, we have had 45,460 page views
  • After the home page, users visit the calendar views the most often, making up 55% of all page views.  The calendar monthly view is about twice as popular than the calendar list view. 
  • Users spend an average of 1 minute 37 seconds on our website per session. 

Website Demographics

  • Our website was only slightly more popular with 25-34 age bracket (215) than 35-44 year old’s who made up 19% of all visitors.  Age brackets 45-54, 55-64 and 65+ made up 16% each and 18-24 year old’s were the smallest group at 10%.

  • While in previous years our site was accessed about equally by males and females, this year the traffic was 55% male and 45% female

Accessing the Website 

  • Google Chrome was the most popular web browser to view our website, used by 46% of people (down slightly in popularity over 2020).  Safari usage was up from 26% in 2020 to 38% in 2021.  Edge, Firefox and Internet Explorer make up the remainder of browser activity.
  • The website was accessed from desktop computers 53% vs. 47% from smart phones and tablets. 
  • Of the mobile users, over 69% of those were from Apple devices, which is a significant increase from only 50% in 2020.    
  • The geography of users with the highest sessions were 54% from Michigan, 11% from both Illinois and Wisconsin.  Ohio, Minnesota and other regional states make up the remainder.
  • Our site was accessed by people from 42 different states, which was up from just 35 states in 2020.

Online Club Registrations 

We are always taking suggestions on improving the website.  Please submit those to
Eric Charette
UPRRC Webmaster

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

2020 Webmaster Notes for Annual Meeting

It is with great pleasure, that I present the UPRRC Webmaster annual report to our distinguished board and entire membership on this the 7th day of November, 2020.

This year presented some unique challenges the likes that we have never seen before, possibly in our lifetime.  Just as the race season was beginning to ramp up at the end of winter, the United States was just about to shut down due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.  To flatten the curve, the Governor of Michigan declared a state of emergency on March 10th, all K-12 schools were closed three days later and a statewide remain at home order was in place within two weeks.  This also meant that public gatherings were limited and everyone was maintaining 6' of social distancing, which put an abrupt halt to all (running) races.  

The UPRRC leadership team began updating the website almost daily beginning in Match as race directors began to cancel or postpone their race events.  By the end of the season, nearly 50 events were cancelled and 14 more held virtual only events.  

Examining the data from October 24, the U.P. has had just under 100 deaths attributed to the virus, which represented just over 3% of the total confirmed cases in Michigan.  Thankfully the fatality rate in the 15 UP counties was only 1.85%, which is less than half the state wide average.  While the true impact to the UP was slow to ramp up compared to Detroit and lower Michigan, by late fall, the UP was buckling down to limit the spread and races continued to be impacted.  

Thankfully we have tools like Zoom to help us with our club business and reach you today.  

Here are the specifics on our website from 2020 and the impacts that COVID-19 has had on our club.

Website Traffic

  • In the period January 1, 2020 to November 1, 2020, we had 4,265 page views (down from 5,286 in 2019  and 7,801 in 2018)
  • We had 1913 unique visitors (down by just 1 from 2019)
  • Summary is that we had virtually the same number of visitors but they visited our website 20% less often.  
  • Users spend about 2 minutes and 55 seconds on our website per session and visit an average of 1.58 pages with the calendar being the most popular with 1/3 of all page views.  
  • As compared to previous years when our peak website traffic occurred during the summer months, this year we hit peaks and records for users, page hits and new users all in March at the beginning of the pandemic.  
  • Our rate of new users was 86% which is 3% above our average for the last two years

Website Demographics
  • Our website is most popular with 25-34 age bracket but that number only drops by 6% as you get to those over 65 showing that our content appeals to people of all ages.  Previously it was older age groups that were accessing our site most often.
  • Our site was accessed equally by males and females

Accessing the Website 
  • Google Chrome was the most popular web browser to view our website, used by 50% of people (up 9% in popularity over 2019).  Safari was 26%, Edge/IE was 9%, Firefox was 3% and the remainder were other browsers.
  • The website was accessed from desktop computers 55% vs.45% from smart phones and tablets.  Of the smart device users, over 50% of those were from Apple devices.  
  • The geography of users with the highest sessions were 55% from Michigan, 10% from Illinois, 9% from Wisconsin, Indiana and Minnesota 2%.
  • Our site was accessed by people from 35 different states.

Online Club Registrations 
We are always taking suggestions on improving the website.  Please submit those to
Eric Charette
UPRRC Webmaster