Fast Tracks New Year Day Run

Happy New Year everyone.

The club’s traditional New Year’s Day run at Valley Forge Park was this morning. It starts at General Knox car park and heads out on the rolling hills of Yellow Springs Road, then takes a sharp right up the vertical challenge of Diamond Rock Road. There were around thirty people at the start point consisting of Fast Tracks members and other from various running groups in the area that we meet with for regular runs.

This run is certainly a challenge as the hill of Diamond Rock is a constant climb and just seems to get worse as you progress; ending with a section that is around a 20% incline (if my cycling memory serves me well).

There were a few of us at the front and we stopped to take a picture at the bottom of the hill (I wasn’t in it; I took it). 

As we started up the main part of the hill there were four of us. Three of us made it to the top within a couple of seconds of each other, although I was there first. 😉

One of the club members lives near the top and had kindly left a few drinks out for us (much appreciated). We all waited a while for the bulk of the group to catch up and then decided on routes back down.

Most went back along the road, but a small group of us decided to do the Horseshoe Trail that connects onto the op of Mount Misery and takes you back to the start point. This is a nice route that runs along the ridge at the top of the hill and is (again) rolling hills.

Parts of the trail get quite technical and it comes at you quite fast too. I missed a couple of turns due to my unfamiliarity with the route, but the people I was with spotted it within a hundred feet or so.

There was a log book partway down the trail and a few people stopped to sign it and some chose to take longer route down the mountain and around the Creek Trail. I stuck to the plan and did the Mount Misery Trail, getting back first out of the group. I rarely run with the groups so I’ll take whatever I can get but will add that it is not a race. I just finished first. Some people were running up the hill with a child in a jogging chair; now that’s dedication.

After hanging back in the parking lot for a while waiting for people to come in and to say a few ‘happy new year’ greetings, I headed back to the car and home.

Here I am in my new Fast Tracks running shirt that I picked up just yesterday in anticipation of the run.
In total the run was 6.9 miles, but, oh those hills! Nike+ Run Club doesn’t seem to give elevation details in the app or in the site.

The Apple Watch worked well today with the distance announcements coming out of the speaker on the watch rather than my iPhone. That made them much easier to hear rather than having them muffled by the case on my arm. Nice touch.

I wish you all a happy new year and hope you enjoy your running in 2017.

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.

And he’s back…

Greetings blogosphere!

Did you miss me?

I got caught up in spending time with family and really cut back my running for the last couple of months, so I stopped updating the blog. I seem to be back now, however.

Lots to catch up on but I’ll spread that out over the next few posts.

Reasons I’m back:

  1. I managed to run my traditional Boxing Day marathon earlier this week. It half killed me as I hadn’t been running enough to really be able to do it easily. Lesson learned. 
  2. I just upgraded my Apple Watch (original) to the Apple Watch Series 2 Nike+ version… and it is lovely. 

Today’s run was my first with the new watch and it worked great.

I had a music playlist on the watch and connected my Bluetooth headset to it to get some good sounds for my run.

I then used the built-in Nike+ application to record my run…and I left my cell phone at home! 

The Nike+ app (Nike+ Run Club) is really well executed, easy to read, use and it gives good feedback through the headphones, too.

As for the gps tracking on the new watch, well it was within 0.01 of the distance that is usually measured by my iPhone, so I’m going to call that accurate. Given that the iPhone number can vary by more than that on any one run, I’m thinking this is in the right range. It was old to see the route instantly on my watch when I completed. For some reason it hasn’t picked up my heart rate info from the Apple Watch so I’ll have to investigate that.

The watch looks cool (now I sound old) and I went with the model that has the light watch and strap with Volt colored inset holes on the strap.


It goes well with my shorts and belly in this shot. Yeah, I’m going to need to work on that a little. 🙂

I’m quite looking forward to giving some updates so I won’t blow it all on this first post. Have fun out there and enjoy your New Year training routines.

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. 

Unusually Good Weather

While my friends are all suffering the stifling heat of a Philadelphia summertime, our trip to England has us enjoying far more reasonable temperatures. 

In fact, it is quite warm for England but nowhere near as crazy as the temps at home. 

I’ve been running every other morning and just repeating the seven mile loop I found as there aren’t many roads around and the trails are all overgrown. 

This sign is on the road to the house my family have rented for the week to celebrate our parents 50th Wedding Anniversary. 

The house has some rather nice views too. 


For variation I ran the loop in the opposite direction. I’m not sure if it was easier that way as the hills seem bad both ways, to be honest. The profile looks like this:


The trip is still providing much needed time with my family and running around after my energetic two year old. He’s having a blast with so many people to play with. 

Fitting running into any vacation can be a challenge but if you are lucky and don’t mind running on roads, you can generally do it quite easily. 

You Know You’re in England When…

Another summer, another trip to the UK.

I’ve not managed to do many runs yet, but they have all been in very pretty areas of the country.

I thought I’d compile a short list of things that stand out when compared to running in the US. So, you know you’re in England when:

  1. You have to run on the other side of the road.
  2. The drivers let you pass and give a jolly wave of acknowledgement.
  3. The town you are exploring is at least five times older than the country you live in (Wells vs America).
  4. If you ask for directions when you are running in the middle of nowhere, you have to concentrate really hard to decipher the accent.
  5. When you look up the road and see views like this tiny church:
  6. And this… A bloody great big cathedral…
  7. And this… From another view point…
  8. And this…
  9. Go on then… One more and this… The last remaining fully medieval street in England…

There are some very old and scenic places in the UK. These pictures are mainly from Wells’the smallest city in England’ a where they filmed a number of the outdoor scenes from the Simon Pegg/Edward Wright cult classic Hot Fuzz.


I’m now out in the hills of Devon and trying to work out routes that don’t involve too many hill climbs, but that is proving to be a bit of a challenge!

Having a blast and having a break. It’s all good.

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. 

Beware Chains

Today I ran twenty-three fabulous miles up the Perkiomen trail and into and around the park at Green Lane. Lovely. 

The early morning was a suitably cool 69F with a gentle breeze, and the trail was nicely in the shade. But, of course, the temperatures didn’t stay that way for long. 

On the way up I was in quite a chatty mood and greeting everyone that I passed on the trail. There is one lady I’ve seen quite regularly running in the opposite direction to me and she clearly does very long distances too as we pass twice at quite distant places on the trail. 

As we passed I asked her how many miles she was doing today. Her response was that she was only doing ten as she did eighteen the previous day. Like I said, she clearly runs a lot of miles. 

I was focused on adding extra miles to my route by running through the whole of Green Lane Park as I’ve not done that before. Generally, I’ve either turned at the entrance or about a mile in. 

This time I ran through the park and ended up at the bandstand. As I approached it looked like there were toilets on the side so I decided to take advantage of those and headed towards them. 

They were at the top of a slope so I run towards it and … Ouch… There was a freakin’ chain across the slope. I thin light chain with no sign on it. Against the light concrete it was next to invisible. 

While I didn’t go flying over it, it bloody hurt and startled me. 

As the evening is progressing the bruising is coming out:


The other leg has a matching one although not quite so dark. 

Fortunately it didn’t affect my return run home. I ended up having to walk for half a mile as the temperature slipped into the 80s. Other than that it was quite a strong run. 

Ah, I did get overtaken by a very slight lady on my return. I rarely get overtaken so it stood out. I had caught her earlier on the trail but then she accelerated and stayed on my tail for two miles. I eventually had to rest for water and snacks and she went past me and I didn’t catch her again. She turned around after four miles though, so I’m going to tell myself that she was running less distance than me and that’s why she took me. (Naa, she was just faster).

A coke icee and a large bottle of Gatorade later and I felt great. 

My food strategy was better this time although I did lose count of the number of shot bloks I’d eaten. At least I didn’t entirely run out of energy this week. 🙂

Enjoy your running and keep cool as the temperatures are rising. 

Every Cloud Has One

This was the view that greeted me on the return leg of my Monday morning run. I’m pretty sure that the sign is a warning for cars to slow down for children, but it looks like a indictment of my running prowess! Everyone’s a critic. 

Rather a splendid view of the sun rising for a second time over the low clouds giving that silver/golden lining effect. Stunning. It left me with little images of the sun burned into my retina for the next five minutes or so.

Today I got up early and headed out into the fog that was a 75F day with 100% humidity. Oh, boy, was that sweaty! The windows of my house were all fogged over which is always a sure sign that it is going to be bad outside.

I planned to run a ten mile out and back but hadn’t thought that it would be that humid. Because of the weather I loaded up with a bottle of water (something I wouldn’t normally bother with for a run of ten or fewer miles) and I was very grateful for it when I reached the five mile turn around point. 

When I got back to the house I had lost 3.5 lbs through sweating! That’s insane for such a short run. My clothes were all soaked through. 

Breakfast and a couple of glasses of water later and I was ready to take on the day!

In other news, I got an email from a project I’d sponsored to say that they were getting ready to ship. The Lumo Run device is a gadget that you clip onto the middle of the waist band on your shorts (at the back) and it gives you lots of interesting data about how you are running. It can track foot strike times, the orientation of your body, whether you are twisting your torso as you are running. It gives live suggestions to improve your running style as you go… Well, that’s the theory. I guess we’ll see what it is like when it arrives. 🙂

From their website it looks like the device will support the things I already use like my fitness pal and map my run. I’m excited to get it soon and see what it is really like. 

As a wise Jedi once said…[blog title]