Category Archives: Techniques

Tweaks. Approaches.

Nike+ Running Club Update #3

Another week goes by and more quirks are experienced.

Firstly, and perhaps most annoyingly, I had problems with the Apple Watch Nike+ during my long run last week. I was scheduled to run 13.5 miles (on a weekday morning which is, in itself, ridiculous) but at mile 5.5, the damn app just stopped working.

I tried to restart it on the watch but it came up as starting afresh. I didn’t have time to investigate too much as I wanted to complete my run, so I just started the app on my phone and continued for the remaining 8 miles. When I got home I checked in the log and it did at least still have the data for the first run. Phew. 

Then what do you do at the end? The training programme only lets you put one run towards the goal for the day. You cannot combine the efforts. So, after playing around a few times, I gave up and manually created an entry for the 13.5 miles and attributed that to the training plan.

On the Friday it had me doing a 4×400 meter speed run, with 4:30 mins recovery. It was only 21F outside that day so there is was no way that I was going to hang around in the cold for four and a half minutes between each set of reps. I did 1.5 mins and then started out again. This meant that by the last set I was pretty knackered. 

For the route, I found that the cul de sac behind my house was almost exactly 400m around the perimeter. The first run took 6:28… not too bad. The second was faster at 6:08 and then the following sets were back up at the 6:28.

Again, the speed run requires that you keep the phone in your hand so that you can press the button for the start and end of each rep. This makes me feel a little uneasy running hard with a cellphone in my hand.

More on the Nike+ Running Club Experiment

As I progress through the marathon training programme concocted by the Nike+ app, I am enjoying the challenging runs that it is assigning me. 

After last week’s benchmark run it has started to add pace requirements to the runs that I do. Currently, they are all well below the pace that I generally run at which seems a little strange. Perhaps this will adjust as the programme continues?

On Sunday I decided that I didn’t want to do the suggested exercise which was to tryout the Nike+ Fitness Club application. Instead, I opted to run 12 miles. 

The run went well and was an enjoyable run on the Perkiomen Trail from Schwencksville. 

On completing the run, I chose to categorise it as an ‘Other’ event as I had already competed all the runs for that week. 

Come Monday morning and a new training week and guess what? The app tells me I need to do an 11.5 mile run. On a Monday morning. After doing 12 miles the day before. Bugger off!

I tried to reclassify the previous day’s run so that it would count as this one, but to no avail. There’s no way to edit the assignment of previous runs; even the website doesn’t offer a way to do this. Boo. 

Because of this, the app thinks I bailed on the long run for the week. :-(. 

I did actually go out and do a four miler but that isn’t twelve miles!

Roll on to Wednesday morning and the prescribed run was a speed run with 8x800m intervals and 2:45 recovery (strangely specific). 

I wasn’t too happy about this as that’s a lot of intervals but opted to hit the streets. Running track intervals on the road is tough as you have to allow for traffic and the ground is not flat; hills in fast intervals. Yuck. 

For the recovery periods I simply jogged a little and ended up running a total of around 7.5 miles. 

Did you notice how vague that was?

Why? Well, the speed test only counts the distance you run during the speed intervals and not what you cover in the recovery. 

Four miles is all that counted from the 7.5 I covered. Grrr. Not best pleased. 

Any way, one useful thing you can do with these 800s is use them to calculate your estimated marathon time using the “Yasso 800” approach. I know this is a correlation prediction rather than a causation, but it is fun to play with numbers. 

After some finagling of the numbers I worked out that my marathon time would be 3 hours 43 minutes. That’s pretty close to my current expectations of my performance. 

Back to the Nike+ stuff: I’m not best pleased that I have to run the speed tests with the phone in my hands. As I got sweaty I was worried I’d drop my phone. I think I’m going to stick some strong magnets inside my gloves so that they will grip the metal plate in my phone case and take some of my worry away… I’ll let you know how that works out. 

Have a fun week running. 🙂

Nike+ Run Club Experiment

I have been an avid user of mapmyrun for many, many years, but with my purchase of the Apple Watch Nike+, I’m trying out that app for a while.

My trial with Nike+ continues with the third week of my plan and some variations on the types of run it is having me do.

Firstly, it had me run a speed test this week. This wasn’t a great experience. The speed test is laid out as running 400 meters five time, with a two minute rest break in between. If you try to start this from your Apple Watch Nike+ it will tell you to use the phone. When you use the phone you will quickly realize that you’ll have to keep your phone in your hand while you do the run! 

After you start the run, you need to watch the screen to see when you pass the 400 meter mark, then you have to press a button. This starts the two minute rest timer. Once it passes two minutes you need to press the button again to start the next 400 meter section… there are no audio prompts, no guidelines and no feedback. 

Again there is no integration to the watch whatsoever.

At the end of the run, the disembodied voice of Kevin Hart blasted through my brain congratulating me on the run.

My feeling about this exercise routine is that it was very poorly implemented.

The second run type was a benchmark run. This was really well implemented. A benchmark run is a seven minute gentle warm-up, followed by three minutes of all-out effort and five minutes cool-down time.

When you start the run, a calm-voiced trainer gentle talks to you about what you are about to do. They introduce the form of the run, why you are here and give you good general coaching encouragement. Throughout the warm-up the coach builds your enthusiasm for the coming effort.

There’s a count down to the theee minutes and you’re off! The coach chimes in a couple of times during this hard effort encouraging you to push harder and letting you know how far through you are. Then, all too soon, the hard effort is over and you are in the cool down phase.

Here the coach tells you what you achieved, massages your ego a little and reminds you why you are doing this.

Once you complete the run, that disembodied Kevin Hart voice comes back to award you a gold star.

What a difference between the implementations! 2/10 for the speed routine. 9/10 for the benchmark. 

I’ll fill you in with more details as I move through the program.

Nike+ Run Club: Strange Behaviors

Two more runs on the books since we last spoke; Monday was a quick run with my friend Ed and today was a 45 minute run as prescribed by the Nike+ marathon training programme I’m testing out. 

Which brings me to Nike+ Run Club: what is going on with this? It’s behaviour is very inconsistent. 

I’ve used it four times now and get different behaviours most times:

  1. First run Sunday: started from watch. Recorded heart rate but no elevation. 
  2. Second run Sunday: started from watch. Recorded heart rate but no elevation. Same so far. 
  3. Monday run: started from watch. No heart rate or elevation. 
  4. Wednesday run: started from phone.  No heart rate but elevation recorded. 

Also, it seems that there is no integration between the phone app and the watch app. If you start the run on your phone the data doesn’t show up on your watch as you run. I assume this is why it isn’t recording heart rate, too. 

It’s all a bit odd to me and clearly there are som edges that need to be rounded off. 

The app itself on both the watch and phone are very slick looking but have some internal integration issues too. If you start a run as part of the programme and compete it correctly, it still doesn’t mark the run as being done in the programme. You have to go into each run and assign them to the various programme activity. Weird. 

I’m trying to be good and did a few stretches after the run. My son decided he would be my coach; very helpful, I’m sure. 

Boxing Day Marathon: Summary

On Monday I returned to Valley Forge National Historical Park for my sixth Boxing DayMarathon attempt.


The first few years I did it by doing two half marathons in a day; one early in the morning and another late in the afternoon. I soon realized that this is actually harder than just running the total distance in one go. If you split the distance you’ll find your legs start to lock up during the day and it is really hard to get back out again.

This year, despite being very under trained, I went with the all-out straight-up marathon approach.

And it was very, very difficult!

Last year I took around 3 hours and 45 for this run. This year it was closer to 4:45.

So, what went wrong this time:

  1. Valley Forge Park is hilly. This shouldn’t be news to people that have been there before, but including circuits of the park in a long run is not such a great idea when you are under trained. I chose to start in the park, with a five mile loop, spin out for a run along the Schuykyll River Trail, and then come back for the seven mile outer loop around Valley Forge. The seven mile loop is even hillier than the main loop.
  2. Not enough training. Over the previous couple of months I had barely run. Perhaps ten miles per week in many cases, and in others less. Normally I would be up at 30 to 40 miles per week in preparation for the run.
  3. Not enough snacks. I didn’t have quite the right combination of snacks for the run and tried to put something together, but it wasn’t really quite right.
  4. Carrying extra weight. The reduced mileage and increased seasonal snacking left me carrying about 5-7 extra pounds for the run this year.

The first five miles went by quite smoothly and it was at 5.5 that I met up with my friend Ed. He joined me for 9.5 non-stop miles along the Schuykyll River Trail and the Betzwood Trail. This is the longest distance he has run without doing a walk-run combo and it was great to have the company along the route.

Mile 16 was where I started to have issues. My legs just stopped wanting to move. I tried fueling a little more and kept walking to give my legs a chance to recover. This is quite early in the run to be having issues. Once the food kicked in I was able to run again and kept going to about mile 19 where I took a bathroom break and refilled my water bottles (no, just no).

Crossing the new Sullivan’s Bridge I stopped to take a picture for someone who was half way through their first long ride since having some shoulder surgery.

The last seven miles were around the outer loop of the Park and it has many hills and is mostly non-tarmac trails. It starts with a long and steady climb. At mile 21 it started to hurt again, so I decided to switch to a walk/run strategy. This got me through to about mile 24…

At that point I had to just walk. I had nothing left in the tank at all. I felt like a bit of a sham walking around the park in my running gear but I had no choice.

At mile 25.5 I started running again and tried to keep going to the end… my car was waiting for me at 26.7, half a mile past the marathon mark.

I was sooooo glad to make it to the car. I got my thermal blanket out of the back of the car and wrapped myself up as all the walking had made me much colder than running would have done. It was done for another year. 

Next year I will prepare more. My thanks to Ed for the company during the marathon as that really helped early on.

Lumo Run Unboxing

I arrived back in the US following my UK vacation to find the Lumo Run gadget waiting for me on the doorstep. 

Hurrah! I bought into this a longtime ago when they were looking for financing. 

Unfortunately, I was too excited by the fact that it had arrived to make an unboxing video so you’ll have to put up with my words and then use your imagination. 😉 Plus I don’t pay WordPress for video, so that wouldn’t have worked out anyway. 

The box opens at the bottom and is held in place by a plastic sticker. When I removed this sticker and pulled the drawer, the contents of the box fell out over my desktop. Doh. Not too smooth and glad I didn’t video it. 


It contained a brief instruction pamphlet, a USB cable (ribbon-type), a clip and the Lumo run device. 

The device needed a quick charge using the provided USB cable and I then had to set it up with an app on my phone. 

The app setup was very easy and required setting up a free account with the service. 

The quality of the app is very high but I found the ‘talking’ feature was a little confused at the very start of the setup. It also sounds like the voice has an Aussie accent which was a pleasant surprise. 

Once the app is connected and the device charged, you need to insert the device into a clip (a bit of a fiddle) and hook it into the back of your shorts right where your spin and hips connect. The positioning is important to allow the device to collect the data accurately. 


Their positioning diagram looks like a naked bum. Teehee. 

Then you have to do a 10 minute run with the device for it to do the first analysis. Probably wearing shorts or leggings to reduce the likelihood of arrest. 

One observation I have about this is that it would probably have been better to recommend a warm up before starting the ten minute test. I’m a little stiff in those first few minutes of running and having that as a part of the data in the initial analysis seems a little odd. 

During the run (I did 26 mins) the app talks to you and updates you with the analysis progress. Once you finish the run you get access to far more information though. 

This is where the fun begins for a data-whore like me. 🙂

The app performed some analysis of the run and then came back with a recommendation that I work on fixing my ‘bounce’. It believes that I bounce 3.7 inches and should aim for a smoother run below 3 inches of bounce. It recommended a training exercise to help address the specific issue (which I did).

The overall results summary screens are really good.  Like all fitness apps, it starts with the basics of miles and pace plus a map of your route. 

If you scroll down you get to see the recommended improvement or focus. 


Clicking through on the recommendation gives you an exercise demo video. 

Scrolling further brings up the ‘meat’ of the data collected by the device. Cadence. Bounce. Braking. Drop and Rotation. 


Each of these items allows you to click through for more info. For example, my cadence is shown at a good 181spm, but click through and see this:


It shows the spm for each mile and has some links to exercises to help you target improvements. 

The image at the top of the page is a video that illustrates the measurement and is a helpful reference point for a first time user. The overlaid animated white dots show the movement it is tracking. 

The same is true for all of the sections. 


The layouts are all clear and show how close you are to the targets and what areas you need to work in. 

Clearly in my case it is bounce and rotation. 

I look forward to using it more and will post future comments as I continue to use it. 

My initial observation is that although the device can be used without a phone connected (for all you tech-naked runners), you would not get the benefit of in-run coaching feedback. 

Also, it doesn’t look like it readily supports multi-user setups. I’d like my wife to use it and not have to reconfigure the whole device every time. 

Other than that I’m very impressed with the device thus far. 

Fast Start

This week I finally gave in and started on a more general fitness regime to supplement my running. 

After researching a number of apps that tie into the Apple Watch, I decided upon the Seven fitness application. 

The aim: seven minutes a day for seven months. 

Simple, huh? The app is quite game-based and gives you three ‘lives’ each month to allow you to miss an occasional day. As you complete sessions it unlocks more feature and rewards. 

The app is full of ads that can be removed for a $2 purchase but I’ll wait until I’ve used it for a while to see if it sticks. 

I’m on day two (not much) and I can certainly feel some extra aches and pains from the workout. I already know that the Apple Watch integration is terrible and crashes/hangs often. However, the app itself seems robust. 

It has lots of configuration settings for voices so you can customise for the type of voice you respond best to. It gives clear instruction and has animations to show what you are expected to be doing in each exercise. 

It would have been good if they had tied the app into the Apple Watch sensors to measure the various activities (jumping jacks, running on the spot, etc.). Clearly it would not work for all activities (push-ups, dips) but tying in for the others would have been cool. 

After doing the seven minute session, I then went out on a ten mile run. 

Boy, was I fast!

I’m not sure whether it was the abundance of Saturday morning runners on the trail or that I was already ‘jacked up’ from the earlier workout, but I flew along for the first mile getting 6:30 at the one mile mark. I suspect the GPS may have been off, but I was still shifting. 

The other miles were around 7:20 and slowed once I hit some hills. 

There were plenty of ‘rabbits’ on the trail for me to run down and overtake. Groups from local running clubs, casual runners, and slow bike riders (one of whom was singing at full volume and happy as Larry as she was passing me by; hilarious). 

By the end of my eleven miles I finished with an average 7:37 pace. I’m quite happy with that given the temps were close to 80F. 

My Lumo Run hasn’t turned up yet. 😦  I was hoping to be able to write about it this week and start improving my running deportment. 

Take it in your Stride

It’s the last day of the month so I thought I’d finish it with a bang. 

I’m doing a lot of work on the house at the moment, so I wanted to ensure that I had enough energy left after my run to actually achieve some things today; therefore I chose to run a mid-distance,  eighteen mile route. 

The Perkiomen Trail was beautiful this morning with a temp in the low 70s. The humidity, however, was close to 100%. I was essentially dripping with sweat within a mile. It is a shame that water weight doesn’t count as weight-loss. 🙂

The trail greeted me with many wild animal sightings in the first mile: a doe and her fawn, a fox, a groundhog, some rabbits, a buck and then a heron. 

Clearly I hit that perfect time in the early morning when they are all about the business of getting breakfast. Silflay was the word used in Watership down, I believe. 

It was quite busy out for being so early. At one point (around mile five) I passed the chap that overtook me a couple of weeks ago. He was sitting resting so it didn’t count. But, he did start heading my direction.

I stopped to clear some branches from the trail and glanced behind me about a mile further up the trail and, sure enough, there he was stalking me. 

Not again, my friend. Not again!  

As it happens I could see another runner in the distance and decided I’d use him as my quarry. I increased my pace to pass him. 

It took me close to a three-quarters of a mile to catch up with him. He said he was doing five miles out and about to hit his turn around. This was now about mile eight and I decided I’d do another mile before turning. 

Determined not to be passed now that I had no direct target before me, I tried a few tricks to help keep my pace up:

  • Light on my feet
  • Pushing back as if on a skateboard
  • Standing straight
  • Powering with my arms
  • Engaging my abs. 

It seemed to work as I reached nine miles without being hunted down. 

This list reminds me that my LumoRun is supposed to arrive this week. A cool new gadget to test out. 🙂

Once I started heading back down the trail I saw him about half a mile back. Clearly I’d actually be putting more distance between us. Yes!

The rest of my run was at a more relaxed pace as I took in the lovely scenery and feed across the river. 

I stopped to refill my water bottle with two miles to go. The humidity was really oppressive by this point and I was looking forward to the bottle of Gatorade that awaited me in my car. 

I was basically out of running juice by this time and jogged at a slower pace for the remainder. 

The Gatorade was like nectar and I had soon consumed the entire bottle. 

Now, sitting eating my well-earned lunch on the last day of the month I thought I should check-out my annual mileage thus far. 

Today’s run pushed me upto 156.07 miles for the month and to a total of 921 miles for the year. My second biggest month of the year thus far (March = 170). 

I got a text from my friend that I train with and he said he managed to do 116.5 miles this month which is his highest ever. Having a dog to run with twice a day is really ramping up his mileage and helping him shed some extra pounds. 

Here’s a screencap from a video I took of them them other week. She’s a lovely dog. 

Now I need to get back home and carry on decorating my garage. Some patches to smooth off on the wall and then to put a second coat of primer on to drown out the brown (why’d they choose brown?) drywall. 

My wife is away at the moment but had this t-shirt shipped to me. Funny. 

I guess that’s a good point to finish for now. 

Living the dream, man. 

Living. That. Dream. 

Welcome to Summer

Hellooooo summer. 

I suddenly realised I hadn’t made any blog posts for 15 days. Where did that time go? 

Well, I’ve been steadily increasing my mileage at the weekends again after taking a short break. I think it is key that even ‘experienced’ runners be very careful when they start to return to higher mileage. It is tempting to just crank up with distance as ‘you know you can do it’ but this path leads to injury by going further than your body is currently trained for. 

The answer is just to increase a little each week. I did 10, 13, 15, 17 and this week, 20. 

Running in the summer presents its own unique set of issues:

  1. Finding somewhere with good shade. Getting out of the full sun is important if you are planning for longer runs. 
  2. Get out early morning. To avoid the full heat make sure you get out early before it gets too much. If you have a long run, get out even earlier. 
  3. If you are going long, take water and plan a route that will take you via water stops so you can refill. 
  4. You will sweat more so you will need gels to replenish your body. I use clif shot bloks as I don’t like liquid gels. 
  5. Expect to get some chafing. This is something I’m experiencing for the first time this year following using the new shirt I got from the recent 5k. It is a material that feels more like cotton (although it is 100% polyester) but somehow it didn’t work well for me last week. Perhaps using it for the first time on a 17mile run was a bad idea? Any way, expect more of this when you sweat more in summer months. 

What else is going on? Hmm, well, the guy I run with on Monday mornings is looking to get a husky. This is a great running dog, but it will also be good to get him out even more than he already does. 

We saw an eagle out on the Schuylkill River Trail the other week. It landed on a pylon above us watching the rabbits. Here’s a pic for you from my friends phone. 

My Brooks Glycerine’s reached their 400 mile mark with today’s run. I have already purchased some new shoes as one of the big stores had a massive sale the other week and Brooks Ravenna shoes were 35-65$ a pop. This is less than half price so I bought two pairs. Perfect timing and this means that I will now be solely in Ravenna’s for the coming future. 

The Glycerine’s were great shoes. They have slight holes in the tops around my big toes and the left foot has slight wear on the outside back edge of the shoe, but other than that they held up really well. 

Here they are slightly dust after today’s run. 

The Perkiomen Trail was superb today. Quite a few runners and walkers about, plus some groups of pleasure cyclists (the nice polite casual riders). 

20 miles with an 8:15 pace isn’t too bad for the time of year. 

Feeling pretty groovy now and looking forward to a lazy Sunday afternoon. 

Take care out there and enjoy those summer trails. 

Global Running Day, 2016. 

Did yo get out and run for global running day?

I’m not sure why I only heard about it once I got to work and not beforehand, but there you go. 

The Runner’s World website has some nice downloads featuring things like excuse notes for work and signs to hang on your door. They are also pushing ‘Out to Runch’ as their message for the day and encouraging us to get coworkers out running. 

Luckily, I managed to get out at 5:15 this morning for a quick 6.5 miler before the heat of the day arrived. 

As runs go it was entirely uneventful. Very little traffic. No animals. No rain. No aches. No pains. 

Just a simple out and back in the countryside near my home. 

Perhaps it is good to write about the uneventful runs as well as the others so that there’s a record of the fact that nothing fantastic, Earth-shattering or stupid happens each time a runner steps out of the door. 

You have to put in the miles to be a runner and that means that some days you just have to run and, perhaps, bask the fact that it’s all good. 🙂

Next week I have my company’s 5k so I’m trying to up my one and will also try running back a few evenings to adjust to the ridiculous temperatures that we will inevitably have on the evening of the run. 

There’s far more competition from my team at work this year as at least four more runners joined in the last year. Some of them look fast…