Tag Archives: RunKeeper

Feeling Gravity’s Pull

I ran my first Half-marathon last year (The ODDyssey in Philadelphia) in 2:15. I ran my second Half-marathon last November (The Rock-n-Roll Half in Las Vegas) in 2:12. I had an unrealistic goal for that second race, of finishing Sub-2 hours. My last training run where I did the whole 13.1, I ran in 2:09, so I really thought I could shave those last 9 minutes off and slide in to the finish. Long story short, I was disappointed.

So what did I do? I came home, figured out my next Half-marathon, and got into training. My next race is in April, so my 16-week training plan actually started the week of Christmas. I’m using the free, Sub-2 hour Half-Marathon training program in RunKeeper.  At the time I signed up, I was really focused on the goal. I reviewed the training plan and said to myself, “Sure I can fit in runs 5 days a week.” I had been training 4 days a week, so the extra day didn’t seem like too much more.

I think I was wrong. Here I am 6 weeks in, and I find myself beginning to struggle. The runs are getting long, which in and of themselves is not unreasonable, but trying to fit a 9 or 10 mile run in on a weekday is getting harder and harder. The schedule has me running Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, then Saturday and Sunday. Tuesday is usually some sort of strides (sprints), Wednesday is a steady, medium paced longish run, Thursday is Intervals, Saturday is short and slow, Sunday is race-paced long runs. The weekend stuff is fine, it is the weekend. It’s the weekday stuff that is starting to crush my soul. Mornings are hard, because it takes so long. It is very cold and dark outside, and really risky to try and get in a run right now. Lunch time is better, but again, it takes over an hour to get the plan run in, then shower and get back to work. Evenings are tough, but not impossible.

So now that I’ve over-shared my frustrations, I guess my questions out to the world of runners are:

  • How do you fit your training into a busy workday?
  • How do you stay committed to a goal when the training starts getting tough?
  • How do you become an accomplished runner and still hold down a demanding career?

I’m sure all of this can be done, and part of me knows I can do this. It gets hard to see the forest for the trees sometimes.

I’m really interested to hear what others have to say. What do you think?

My Love Affair with @FitBit Continues with the FitBit Force

My nearly 2-year-old FitBit Ultra finally bit the dust. It is pretty obvious to me that there were design issues with that model. First because I know several people who had them and the result was the same, the housing would crack and the device would fall apart. Second, because FitBit stopped making them, and the newer models are totally redesigned.

I struggled for a while deciding on how to replace it. I replaced my wife’s broken Ultra with the FitBit One earlier this year for a Mother’s Day gift, so I knew all of what that could do. I was intrigued by the FitBit Flex, but could not live without the altimeter counting my elevation and floors of stairs. I considered the Nike FuelBand second generation, because I heard rumors there was going to be a heart rate monitor built in, but when it finally released without the HRM, that was quickly kicked from my list. At almost the same time, FitBit announced the Force, which really was the answer for me. It had all of the functionality I wanted from my broken FitBit Ultra, but in the wrist-band style of tracker I had a feeling would be more to my liking. Through all of my deliberation, I did not place my pre-order for the Force on the first day. I waited a couple of weeks, and for that I had to wait over a month for it to ship. First world problems, I realize. But it is finally here, and I’ve had a couple of weeks to play with it.

Showing my step count for the day, and the little bar across the bottom shows progress towards daily goal

Showing my step count for the day, and the little bar across the bottom shows progress towards daily goal


What I like about my FitBit Force:

  • I never have to wonder where it is. I can feel it on my wrist.
  • It is comfortable to wear. I often forget it is even there.
  • It is WAY more accurate than the Ultra. There used to be big differences, especially while running, between FitBit and RunKeeper. No more.
  • It syncs wirelessly with my iPhone. My Ultra needed to be near the base station.
  • The charge lasts a long time, and the device will send me alerts when the battery gets low. Way cool.
  • The clasp is nice and secure. I never worry about if falling off.
  • When I registered the device late in the day, it asked if I was replacing a device, which I was, and it automatically transferred all of the data from my old Ultra tracker to my new Force. That was a NICE touch!
  • The Force will vibrate when you hit your goal for the day, and you can configure what you want that goal to be. I have mine set for my 10,000 steps per day. The buzzing cheer surprises me, but I like it.
  • The first item to display is the time. I have found that the Force has replaced my watch for most intents and purposes.
  • I have heard that in an upcoming update, the Force will do some things like my Pebble smart watch does, like vibrate and display text messages, vibrate when I get a phone call and display the name or number, and alert me to incoming emails. This could be pretty cool.

What I don’t like:

  • It is not “waterproof”. It is “splash and sweat resistant” but you can’t submerge it. The charger connection on the back is bare metal. I only take it off when I get in the shower, but part of me would prefer to just never have to take it off. The FitBit Flex, by contrast, is waterproof and can be worn in the shower or in the pool.
Here's the back of the Force. You can easily see why it isn't waterproof.

Here’s the back of the Force. You can easily see why it isn’t waterproof.

  • The clasp was REALLY hard to fasten the first couple of times. I thought I would never get it on right out of the box. It has since broken in nicely, but was a downer at first.
Here's the clasping mechanism. You have to fit the two metal "teeth" into the appropriate holes. Good luck with that the first few times.

Here’s the clasping mechanism. You have to fit the two metal “teeth” into the appropriate holes. Good luck with that the first few times.

  • Although it is really comfortable to wear all day, I find it not so comfortable to wear to bed to measure my sleep. I think part of that is the metal back on my skin. I get kinda tired of it by the end of the day, like a watch. I have been toughing it out for the data, however.

Overall I really like the device. I have loved FitBit for nearly 2 years now, and I’m going to keep on loving them for a while more. Do you use a FitBit yet? Or do you have another type of tracking device you prefer?

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.