Category Archives: Tech

Quakertown Rotary Club Run for Youth 10-Mile

This one was tough. There’s really no other way for me to describe it. Easily the most challenging run I’ve done so far. But for my first 10-mile race I think I learned a lot of important stuff, which is why I did it.

Here’s my course and analytics from RunKeeper:

RunKeeper stats from Quakertown 10 mile race on March 2nd 2013

RunKeeper stats from Quakertown 10 mile race on March 2nd 2013

If I drew a fancy little trend-line on my pace there, you can see I was steadily decreasing in speed as the race went on. Overall I’m happy I held up as well as I did. My pace was fairly consistent. Many of those walk-spikes in my pace you can see directly correlate with a steep incline. This was a STEEP course.

Some important stuff I learned on this one:

  1. I ran this race to see if I was physically prepared to take the next step up to a half-marathon. Clearly I am not, yet.
  2. This was the first race where I really had to be concerned with fueling during the race. Thanks to my long-time friends Christy Ianelli and Chneih Lee for giving me pointers on race fuel. Turns out that even though I fueled, I didn’t fuel enough. At about Mile 8 I hit my wall. 
  3. This was the first time I really hit my race wall. Shortly after Mile 8, I simply ran out of juice. My legs felt like they were made out of cement, and my gait turned into a sad shuffle. While I carbo-loaded the day before and fueled before the race, I think I waited too long in the race to start refueling. This was a HILLY course, so I likely burned off my pre-race energy pretty early.
  4. This race was nearly all about fuel for me. I did not feel overly taxed in the cardio-vascular area. Granted I wasn’t running very fast, but I decided on a conservative pace due to the terrain and the distance. I simply ran out of energy in the end. It was challenging to just pick up my foot and take another stride.

New Gear

I had some new gear in play this race that I hadn’t used before. I mentioned in my last post that I got a new pair of running shoes. Those felt great for the most part, but I still need some more time in them. My feet and legs have not yet adjusted to having more support in my feet. That will come with time and training. Not worried. The Cho-Pat knee braces I also mentioned last time work really well. They give my knees a little extra support and help things move the way they should. I’m going to start seriously focusing on more strength training in the coming months so I don’t need such things, but for now, I still need them. At the advice of my friends, I brought along stuff to fuel up during the race. I’ll talk about the fuels themselves in a moment, but to carry the liquid type, I got a Fuel Belt. I found this to be really easy to wear. I hardly noticed it at all, and I loved the ergonomic-shaped bottles. I went with the 8 oz. bottles which delivered a perfect sized shot of hydration without the need to stop at an aid station.

Race Fuel

A couple of posts ago I posed a question about race fuel, and my two friends I mentioned above answered me. I took a combination of their advice into consideration this time. First is breakfast on race-day. I’ve struggled for months to find something I could eat in the morning on race day without giving myself cramps during the race. I finally found something that works for me. This recommendation actually came from Runner’s World magazine. I found that I can tolerate an Ensure shake quite nicely. I drink the shake shortly after waking up in the morning and it doesn’t give me cramps during my run. I also found that I can tolerate a Gatorade Prime gel taken 15 minutes prior to my run start. In retrospect, I think I should have had 2 of the Ensure shakes in the morning before the race. About 30 minutes before the gun, my stomach was growling again. The Gatorade gel took the edge off, but I think I was still hungry going into the race. I’ll experiment with the amounts in the future. For during the race, I picked up some Clif Shot gel chews. These fit very fine in my pocket and I didn’t even notice they were there. These were great. They are like a big fat block of gummy bear. I think I started eating them too late, however. Again, in retrospect, I started the race hungry, but waited until Mile 4 before I had my first Clif Shot. My theory is that I started too late, and was fighting a negative balance from earlier on than I felt it, because by the end, I had nothing, and no matter how many more of those I ate, I couldn’t convert them to energy in time to make a difference. The last part of my fuel formula was Nuun hydration tablets. I put these into the water bottles in my fuel belt, and in my water bottles back in the car. I had some the night before, a little in the morning before the race, 16 oz. of it during the race (8 oz times 2), and about 32 oz. after the race. I really liked the Nuun water. It sat better than Gatorade ever has in my stomach. It had a nice flavor, and during the run was a good shot of electrolytes, fluid, and even a little salt. It was perfect.

Other thoughts

This was a great learning experience for me. I’ve found that distance running is like a big puzzle, and I’m fascinated by trying to figure it out. So I’ll keep experimenting and improving each time. I had a few great moments during the race. I was really nervous about this race ahead of time, because of how long it was. But during the race I had a few nice realizations. As I passed the 5k mark, I thought to myself “I used to think I could never run this far”. Again at the 5-mile mark, I thought “Back in December, this was the furthest I had ever gone.”. Then at the 10K mark, I thought, “Wow, In January, this was the furthest I had ever gone, and I’m still going”.

So what next? On Sunday, March 10th, is the 4th and final 10k in the Shiver by the River series. I’ve run all three previous, and don’t want to miss the last one. Then, I’m going to dial back my mileage for a while. I need to focus on strengthening up my body more before I push it this hard again. My plan is to strength train 2 days a week, and have shorter runs most other days. That will help keep me moving without the stress the longer runs put on my feet and knees. When I feel I’m ready again, I’m going to either do another 10-miler, or perhaps shoot for the vaunted half-marathon of 13.1 miles.

Running in the Dead of Winter

I can’t even count how many times in casual conversation I hear someone say that they can’t run because it got cold outside. Many stopped back in November! Wow. I’ll totally grant that when there is snow and ice on the ground, it is probably best not to risk a run. But here in the Philadelphia area, we’ve had relatively little snow this year, and the running days have been prime until just the past few weeks. I’ve only missed two days outside so far all winter long due to some ice.

Sometimes, I get asked how I can manage to run in the cold. Perfect topic for today! I have actually found the cold weather to be ideal for running as long as you are dressed appropriately. Getting dressed for a cold-weather run is certainly a delicate balance. You need to stay warm and dry, but what you wear needs to breathe which seems counter-intuitive from traditional dressing-for-the-cold methodology. After I get my first mile under my belt, my body is usually cranking out the heat and pumping my blood so well that no matter what the temperature is outside, I am plenty warm and sweating. I find that a run in the cold is nice because I don’t have to worry as much about overheating like I do in the summer time.

It took me a while to settle on the gear that works best for me. Let me start with the gear I use:


I settled on the Nike Pro Combat Hyperwarm thermals.

Nike Pro Combat Hyperwarm thermal shirt

Nike Pro Combat Hyperwarm thermal shirt

Nike Pro Combat Hyperwarm compression pants

Nike Pro Combat Hyperwarm compression pants

I like these thermals a lot, but I have to be careful when I use them because they are really warm. I typically only don these when the temperature outside is below freezing. If it’s above freezing, I get too hot in these. This set does a fantastic job at keeping my skin warm and dry. I sweat a lot when I run, but these thermals get the sweat off my skin so I don’t freeze. The pants are especially nice because they are compression pants, which means they give you a nice, tight hug all over. It’s better for me than wearing a knee brace.


I was fine with wearing my thermals and an additional layer of tech shirt and pants over top until early December. That’s when it started to get a lot colder here in the Philadelphia area. So I went shopping for a jacket to wear. I ended up choosing the Brooks Men’s Silver Bullet running jacket. I paid a little extra for it (even though I did get it on Cyber Monday with a nice discount) but I am happy that I spent the extra money because this jacket is fabulous. It is super thin, yet water resistant. It has vents in the back that help regulate my temperature while running. My favorite feature is the aluminum core. Yeah, aluminum. The metal core helps reflect my body heat back at my body and keep me warm, but the vents in the back keep me from roasting. The sleeves have thumb loops so you can hook in and keep your jacket tight under your gloves. It touts having a moisture-proof media pocket inside, but it is unfortunately too small to fit an iPhone in (shame on you, Brooks). And yes, it is electric neon yellow. Drivers would have to be blind not to see you running around in this baby. I love, love, love this jacket.

Brooks Men's Silver Bullet Running Jacket

Brooks Men’s Silver Bullet Running Jacket


Sticking with the obnoxious yellow theme, I ultimately decided on the Brooks Infiniti Beanie. It is lightweight, keeps my head warm, and matches my jacket.

Brooks Infiniti Beanie


I’m honestly not sure what type of gloves I have. I bought them from a vendor at a 5-mile race I was running in December. They are yellow, of course, and are waterproof. They keep my hands very warm, and I often take them off during my runs because my hands get too hot. But they are critical for the pre-race and warm-up phases of my run when my body is still cold.

Advice on running in the cold.

I’m no expert, but I’m a doer. I’m out there running in this stuff. Here are some things that have really worked for me, and some lessons I’ve learned the hard way:

  • Never, ever wear cotton. Cotton absorbs your sweat but does not release it like technical materials will. You’ll be miserable, wet, and cold. Not to mention chafed. Ouch!
  • Don’t wear too much. You can’t assume you’ll feel the cold the same way when you are running as you might just going out to the mailbox. Once you get your engine running, you’ll be plenty warm.
  • When the temperature really gets low, like 10 – 15 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, it is important not to have ANY exposed skin. Cover everything up with something. Wear a pair of ski goggles if you have them to keep your face and eyes covered. Get a hat that covers your lower face and neck completely. It doesn’t have to be a lot of bulky coverage. Just enough to keep that frigid air off your skin.
  • Don’t risk it if there is ice out there. Nothing will throw your training routine off like a broken leg. If it is icy outside, best to take a day off and do something else to cross-train.
  • Do not judge your ability to finish your run by your comfort level in the first mile. I’ll be straight, the first mile sucks. You’re going to be cold, your nose might run, and that little voice in your head is going to be urging you back inside. Don’t listen to it. After Mile 1, your body is going to heat up just fine, and the rest of your run you’re going to be worried you wore too much.
  • Keep the gear you wear closest to your skin the cleanest. Might sound like a simple thing, but your thermals and other gear you wear against your skin is much less effective if they are dirty. Keep ’em washed.
  • Just get out there and do it. Its too easy to just lay in bed on a cold morning, when gearing up only takes about 10 minutes and you’ll quickly find it isn’t as bad as you think.

If Mr. Desk Jockey here can get out and pound out some miles in the cold, I’m pretty sure you can, too. It really is just a matter of willpower. In my area, there have been TONS of races over the winter. I find racing a great way to keep the training up. In December, I ran a race every single weekend, all month long. And for the most part, we had really decent weather for each one. This coming Sunday, February 10th, 2013, I’ll be running my second 10K of the winter season. My write-up of the race will be my next post. Stay tuned for more!

Got something you’d like to have me write about? Let me know!



One Year with FitBit

A little over a year ago, I decided to dive into some newer technologies to help me track my fitness goals. I wrote about the experience here. In a quick recap, I chose FitBit over some competitors because it had the most of what I wanted out of the device. I tried it out for a month, posted that update on the blog, then pretty much went dark on the topic publicly.

To mark my 1-year anniversary with my FitBit tracker, I thought it would be fitting to get back on the public stage and talk about what I like, what I don’t. Much has changed in a year.

They don't even sell this model anymore. Wow.

They don’t even sell this model anymore. Wow.

What I like:

  • It has become a part of my daily routine. I don’t have to think about wearing the tracker or checking my stats throughout the day.
  • Over the past year, many of my friends bought a FitBit, too. I like the competition you can have on the different metrics from day to day. I find it motivating.
  • Love, love, love the web-based Dashboard. Easy, clean analytics. Love trending my metrics with a year’s worth of data. Data Nerd Happy!
  • About 6 months ago, I sprung for the FitBit Aria scale. Automatically uploads my weight measurements to my dashboard. Super-awesome. No more hiding bad days or fudging a weigh-in.

What I Don’t Like:

  • I stopped using the little neoprene sleeve to attach the tracker to my wrist while I sleep. Tracking sleep is important, but I found the sleeve a nuisance. 
  • I find I really don’t use the iPhone app at all. Not that it isn’t useful, I just don’t personally have a need for it. I use the web-based dashboard every single day.
  • The tracker doesn’t really stay on my belt very well, so I’ve taken to just keeping it in my front pocket. It is pretty small, but I do notice it in my pocket all the time.

Recently, FitBit announced the Flex which is the tracker inside of a flexible wrist band. I’m curious about it because I think it might be more convenient to wear, but the lack of an altimeter really bugs me. I find the altimeter a must-have.

Does it work?

Well, yes and no. Not a perfect answer I realize. I say Yes because between the FitBit tracker and the Aria scale, I am completely aware of where I am in my fitness goals every single day, or any minute of any day. I know how active I am, how much more active I should be, and how much I weigh with a decent BMI estimate. I say No because if you look at what I weighed a year ago when I first got FitBit (211) and today (202), I really haven’t reached my weight goals as I wanted to. It’s not FitBit’s fault per se. When I chose FitBit, I liked that it was passive and didn’t bug me during the day to get up and move. Perhaps that is something that warrants further research. My goal remains, after 1 year, to get my body weight down to a more comfortable 190 lbs. This is a big part of why I started to run, so I could be more efficient in burning my calories and slim down without starving myself. I’ll go back and say Yes again because I really can’t imagine doing without it. It has become a part of my daily routine, and I count on it being close by to tell me where I am with my goals each day.

Edit: I got a request to see some metrics. Great idea! Here they are:

Year grain metrics from my FitBit Dashboard

Year grain metrics from my FitBit Dashboard

Why do I run?

I’m probably the most unlikely runner you’ll ever meet. If you would have told me a year ago that I’d be running races and loving it, I would have laughed so hard I would cry. Seriously. Why? Simple. After 8 years of active duty in the U.S. Air Force, I learned just about every bad way there is to run, and often got hurt. My feet ached, my knees hurt and would swell up painfully. Running in formation is bad for me. I’m 6’3″, so short choppy steps over and over are not the best way to run mechanically. I’ve struggled with my knees ever since, and that was over 10 years ago. Coupled with being a nerd and not athletically inclined, I just had bad ideas about running in my head.

Fast-forward to today. Now I’m 40 years old, have a demanding desk job where I sit all day. And sit. And sit. I don’t have a gym near by that is convenient to use, and I don’t have enough home gym equipment to make a big difference. I’m a tech nerd, so I started trying to use technology tools to help keep my weight in order. I’ll be writing up reviews of all of the apps and tools and equipment I’ve used over the years in more detail later on. Back to the story. Round-about last summer (July 2012), I was inspired by my friend and colleague Dallas Marks who started tweeting the fact that he was using an app called Couch to 5K. I thought about it for a long time, but kept thinking that I can’t run. It hurts my knees and my feet. But finally on a day when I tipped the scale at 215lbs, I knew I had to try something very different. I downloaded the app and I gave it a try, and I haven’t looked back since. And guess what? My knees feel great. The stronger my legs get, the less knee pain I have. Oh they still get a good ache on if I get to aggressive or hit too many hills, but overall they feel better than they ever have.

I found out quickly that not only could I run, but that I really enjoyed it. I mean REALLY enjoyed it. I ran my first 5K in September 2012 and finished in just under 30 minutes. No awards won, but a respectable time.

Just before my first 5K race in September 2012

Just before my first 5K race in September 2012

My results for Zane's Run, Malvern, PA September 30th, 2012

My results for Zane’s Run, Malvern, PA September 30th, 2012

The question at hand, “Why do I run?”.

I run because I love to get outside and breathe the fresh air. I love to get some good, efficient exercise and make my body leaner and stronger. I love to be competitive and race in organized events, constantly striving to get a better time or go a longer distance. I love meeting positive-minded healthy people at these events. I love how I feel after a good, long run. I love being able to eat more of what I like, because I burn so many calories on a good run. I love that no matter where I travel, I need only bring my running shoes and I can keep up with my workout routine.

I hope to use this site for a couple of things. I hope to catalog my runs and races, to show whoever is interested that if a desk-jockey computer nerd like me can do it, nearly anyone can. I also hope to use this space to discuss and review the technology I use and new things I try to keep myself on track. Thanks for reading. Get out there and run!