Monthly Archives: June 2015

Weekend Update

Stealing a title from Saturday Night Live, but I thought I’d share an update of the weekend’s activities. 

On Saturaday my friend and I hiked Mounts Misery and Joy in Valley Forge National Historical Park. We’d not done Joy before and it was an interesting walk. The whole route is only 3.8 miles but has a lot of uphill walking, although it is the downhill that tends to be the most tiring or strenuous for the knees! 

It was a lovely day with a light rain falling and temps in the 60s. Perfect.  After a proactive day sorting things out around the house I got an early night as today (Sunday) I was to ride the Chester County Challenge for Cancer ride. 

In preparation and after many years of delaying, I upgraded a few things on my bike. New road bike shoes (previously mountain shoes) with carbon soles coupled with new clips on the bike. After riding five years with SPD-20 mountain clips it was time to upgrade. 

I have to say that they made a real difference to the feel of the bike. The larger platform certainly transfers more power through to the pedals and are very comfortable.  

I also took the dive and bought a cycling bib. For years I have ridden with cycling shorts and wondered about bibs… They look weird and have no pockets; what use are they? 

Turns out that they are quite comfortable. The straps help to keep the padding in just the right position no matter how you move on the saddle and having no waistband is quite good after three hours bent over the handlebars. 

The ride itself was lovely. The weather dried up quickly and only a gentle sun shone upon us. In the past I’ve been very hot on this ride so it was nice to have a cool day. 

The ride is a very hilly route through Chester County that takes many scenic back roads. The volunteers had done an excellent job of clearing debris from the previous night’s storm and the markings were very clear. 

Another improvement was beer at the finish line. Yum. Thanks Victory Brewing Company! 

Now to relax a bit before an early morning run tomorrow… 

Have fun and “Stay frisky my friends”. 

An Active Time Ahead

The weekend is upon us and so the exercise program kicks up. 

Today I ran 3.8 miles with my friend and then decided to take my bike out for an evening spin, clocking up 24 miles at a fast pace. But not as fast as MapMyRun thought I went on Wednesday night… 360mph. On my bike. Crazy! They need to put some quality checking parameters around the output of that app. It would be better to report ‘bad data’ than to give completely crap info. 

Tomorrow I’ll be hiking up and down Mount Misery and Mount Joy in Valley Forge park. The temps are due to be low and there might be rain. Perfect. 

Sunday I have a charity bike ride that I haven’t really trained for at all (oops) and I may do a run later in the day… The jury is out on that piece. 

Then on Monday I’ll have another early morning run. Phew! 

Action packed. I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

I had a massage on Thursday night and now I feel really loose and bouncy on my feet. It is always worth getting a good massage from a decent trigger point therapist. 🙂

Another Fun Packed Day

My friend pinged me out of nowhere yesterday afternoon to say he was planning another early morning run at Valley Forge today, so I asked to join him. 

We have upped the difficulty on the intervals because we did a shorter distance but still wanted to feel the burn. We opted for a 3.5 mile run with five minute warm up, then 2:30 high intensity and 2:00 recovery. The run lasted just 39:00 minutes and gave us a great average pace. 

The trail was beautiful today following the storm that blew through PA last night. There was no humidity and the temps were in the low 60s. Perfect!

The trails await you. Get up. Get out!

I also commuted to work and to the Philadelphia Java Users’ Group meeting in King of Prussia on my bike. Lots of extra miles on a perfect day. 

I’m still testing the Plantronics Backbeat Fit headphones and so far they are great. 

I used them for a couple of conference calls today and while I was cycling on a trail (at a very low volume!). They do let a fair amount of wind in and I think a bug may have got behind them at one point. The buttons and features are very easy to use and even include a mute feature that I didn’t have on other headsets (hurrah). 

They came with an armband carrying case for the headphones which is really useful for transporting them and can hold my iPhone 6 with a case around it. This means I no longer have to strip my phone to go running. My original armband had started to fail on the Velcro fastening so this was a timely bonus. 

So far I’m a happy puppy even though they aren’t as cool as the Aftershokz.  

Here they are charging (hence the cable). They are bright and very light, plus the plastic is sweat proof. 

The Early Bird

To accommodate my wife’s running schedule and my friends fear of running in temps of over 90F, we met at five AM this morning to get our 6 mile run/walk in. 

The trail was completely empty and we had to run by flashlight for the first mile of so. 

It was a glorious 66F when we started out but we could sense the humidity starting to build. 

Running so soon after my 17 miles yesterday was a bit of an unknown for me, as I had expected to get the whole day to recover before running again. Ah well, when needs must, I suppose. 

We managed to set a record for our route of 1:11:54 which is about one minute four seconds faster than our previous best. Plus, there was a glorious scene as the sun rose over the river and illuminated the banks of Valley Forge Park. 

While we were running I was reminded of a conversation i’d had on the trail the previous day. 

While out on my loooong run I started chatting to an older gent who was heading at a fair pace along the trail in the same direction as me. Turns out he’s been running for about fifteen years having started at the age of fifty. He’d just completed his tenth consecutive Boston marathon and has run fifty marathons in total. What a star!

All his Boston runs were based on time rather than charity places, too. 

I rarely speak to others while I’m out on the trail, but it was nice to hear his stories and to have a little company for a mile or so. He runs five or six marathons a year but is considering scaling back to two or three. Good on him, that’s what I say. 

Whoever you are sir, I salute you! 

Now to attack my thighs with the foam roller…

Literally Tightening My Belt

It has got to that point in my summer training that I had to adjust the strap on my water belt. Hurrah! Always a sure sign that the training has picked up and the winter weight is sliding away. 

I had to adjust it at mile two of my planned 19.5 mile run. However, I hadn’t prepared correctly or taken enough water and at mile 16.5 my legs just conked out; no energy left. 

Thankfully there’s a water stop at mile 17.5 so I had a refreshing wash and refilled my bottle then ran a little further. But still only had another mile in my legs so I’m writing this as I walk the last mile and a half back to my car. 

I didn’t prepare properly yesterday and ate very poorly so I’m not entirely surprised I ran out of juice. Still it is good to know that I can knock out at 16.5 even when I’m not prepared! 

I took back those cool Aftershokz headphones yesterday and replaced them with Plantronics BackBeat Fit headphones. These are labelled as waterproof to one meter for thirty mins and sweatproof. They certainly seem to be working today as I’m sweaty as hell today. The temp has climbed and the humidity with it. 

They are in-ear Bluetooth headphones that have a variable inner piece to allow them to let in external sounds. They are very comfortable and the band around the back of the neck is really light and flexible. 

The only downsides are: 

  1. The buttons to control them are on the ear pieces which means they are easily knocked when you insert or adjust them. On the plus side they are easy to find and use. 
  2. The bass dynamic range is only to 50Hz. I suspect that this is due to the water proofing element of the design. The sound chamber has to be sealed to stop water getting in and the bass sounds would require a vent so that the air pressure didn’t damage the speaker (guess). They do still sound pretty good but if you love deep bass then these are not the headphones for you. 

I’m nearing the end of my walk back now so I’m going to stop writing and return to a. Run for the last half mile. 

The first 16.5 miles were at a pace of 8:30 which is reasonable. This was also my first run with my new Brooks Glycerin 13’s. Very comfortable yet again. Well done Brooks. 

A Run in the Rain

Today I rode into work in a light shower and then went off for a 9.6 mile run with the express idea of testing my headphones: Aftershokz Bluez 2 Bluetooth headphones. 

The sound from these things is pretty reasonable; not as good as over the ear headphones, but not bad. They are best for spoken word so great for phones calls and podcasts. 

It is a little strange at first hearing music in your head while still being able to hear other sounds from your surroundings. It caught me out when I went into the changing rooms at work and thought that they were streaming the same band I had been listening to on my run… Turns out my headphones were still on! 

You must still keep the volume level quite low to ensure that you can hear people approaching but it is nice to hear songs and birdsong while out early in the morning!

However, after using them successfully for a few days they started to have problems when I was in the rain. It was only light rain and they are supposed to be water-resistant but the Bluetooth disconnected and then wouldn’t reconnect. It took me a lot of fiddling to get them working again much later in the day. 

Comfort-wise they feel great and stay in place when I’m running, walking and riding. They didn’t budge while I was using them and this was a pleasant surprise. 

So, in summary, I would say that they are a good product but not to use them in the rain, so they won’t work for me. 

Their website has lots of articles about blind people using them so that they can still be situationally aware; all good news for those use cases. As long as those blind people don’t like walking in light rain…

I’ll be taking them back unfortunately.  

  Good looking devices with modern styling. They sit on your cheekbones and the sound is conducted through to your ears. Military-grade technology! 

This is the pad that conducts the sound into your cheek. Those slots are the designs undoing, however, as they clearly let some water into the units. 

9.6 miles @ 7:47 pace was pretty good. It was lovely to have a cool run at only 66F. 

A Couple of Sweaty Ball…istic Days

it has been a busy and hot few days of late. 

Since the Rush Hour Run on Thursday last week I took a couple of days to recover. I was so close to passing out from the heat exertion that I though it best to hold off for a while, plus my wife had some plan to stay out with friends. 

On Saturday I had a bit of a splurge and bought:

  • New Brooks Glycerin 13 shoes to complement my half-life Glycerine 12s. Excellent shoes, this time in a funky blue. 
  • New Bluetooth headphones. My old Sony Bluetooth died in one ear despite many efforts to reinvigorate them. They he already been replaced once under warranty so I felt I couldn’t hit them up again. My Sony in ear phone had also gone to crap and I lost my original iPhone headset… At the race on Thursday I met someone who had Aftershox Bluez 2 headphones. These are especially cool as thy were open ear phones that conduct the sound through your cheekbones. I’ll reports on how try work after a few runs. 

On Monday I ran with my friend and we both had tech problems that led to us restarting our GPS after half a mile. The run was hard as the temps were around 86F and humid. 

This morning I thought I’d run a quiet and cold Devil run but found that it was already humid as hell and 73F. Ah, well – the run was good if sweaty. 

Now to cool down before showering.  

  

The bold colours of my new Glycerin 13’s. 

Rush Hour Run 5K

It has been a long time since I’ve been in a timed 5k and actually tried to run it quickly. This was a very hot day at 91F and humid as hell. 

Most of the trail for the run was shaded but not all of it and in that kind of heat there is just no escaping. I decided to run with a bottle of water and in glad I did. There was water at the halfway point but i’d never have made it there without the bottle. 

It was so hot I had to stop and walk twice which seems ridiculous but was absolutely necessary. 

In the end my time was a pretty solid 21:25 which is a 6:54 pace for the distance, especially given the walking. Not my fastest but I’m happy with that given the temperatures.  

The post run refreshments were excellent as there was pizza, pasta, water ice, fish, cookies, water and plenty of beer! With a lot of volunteers and helpers the event was very well run and enjoyable. 

A terrible photo of me by my desk at work post-recovery. It’s all I’ve got. 

I didn’t place in my age group as I would have had to be under 20:09 to get third! The winner ran an impressive 16:45 and apparently wins it every year. 

A Number of False Starts and Stops

I have been technology challenged today. After forgetting to start mapmyrun for my ride to work today, I had to manually enter it once I got to the office… then I went for a walk at lunchtime and thought I’d use the Apple Watch exercise tracker for a change… I opened it up and found I hadn’t saved my last walk. I went to save it and hit the wrong button… boom. Lost it. Damn.

This evening I was going to do a quick run in preparation for the 5k on Thursday. The temps are higher in the evening and I need to adjust to be able to run full out. I started mapmyrun on my watch and then did a quick 2.5 mile run @ 7m 15sec pace. Nice… then I went to save it and my sweaty fingers hit the discard button. Bah! I lost more data.

Then it was time to ride home, I setup my iPhone before I went down to my bike… then forgot to start the damn app when I got on my bike. More lost exercise data.

Sometimes I think my brain isn’t wired quite the right way.

In other news, Apple announced lots of exciting updates at the WWDC event for the Apple Watch that are coming in watchOS 2 soon. This will allow the 3rd party apps to access the heart rate monitor and other techs that are built into the watch. This is good news… assuming I remember to start the apps!

Perfect Day for a Run

Normally on a Sunday morning I would do a long run and tire myself out for the rest of the day. This week I have a 5k on Thursday so I thought I shouldn’t run quite as far as normal. 

Therefore I chose to run for the outer loop at Valley Forge National Historical Park which is about 7.5 miles of rolling hills. The trail runs through the heart of the park and down by a winding stream through woods. Lovely. 

To make matters even better the weather was perfect at about 62F with a gentle breeze. 

I often say how lucky were are to have such nice parks nearby and I would encourage everyone to get out there and see them. They are there for us. Use them.  

Last Saturday I took the kids there and got this photo (using Apple Watch as the controller). I wanted to show my daughter the log cabins that were used as accommodation for the troups. 

There were a few runners out today but most were running the opposite way to me. I prefer a clockwise run for no other reason than habit, I suppose. 

I seemed to have fast legs today and did the 7.5 miles at a 7:33 pace. I’ll do a few speed practices this week and then see how the race on Thursday goes. 

Should you taper for a 5k? It seems a little unnecessary to me. Perhaps just not too much speed work…