Tag Archives: Running

Piling on the Miles and First Snow

An early start today as my son forced us awake. The first snow of the New Year fell overnight and so I had to get myself together to get out there.

Winter tights (as there was a wind and it always feels colder with snow on the ground), gloves and ear warmers while not essential, really help on days like this. It took about six miles of running until I found a section of trail that no one or nothing else had run or driven on, which was a surprise because this area isn’t exactly populous AND it was early on a Sunday morning!

Finally, some trail with no footsteps in it.

The trail pictured above felt *alive* because the snow was causing the overhead cables to crackle and buzz as I was running below. Quite a mysterious and alien sound but relaxing in a white-noise kind of way.

This weekend I increased my distance from 12 miles to 14 miles. I put some water in my belt and some shot-blocks, but didn’t eat any of them on the run. At one point around mile 8 my chin froze and I had to cover my face and blow warm air onto it to defrost a little.

From my house it is about four miles into Evansburg Park’s main area. From there it is possible to join onto the Perkiomen Creek And Skippack Trails. Seven miles out and back in the cold was more than enough today. Once home I had to scrape the drive and sidewalk to get the snow off; one of the problems of having a steep driveway.

During the week I managed to get out several times and one of the runs was a guided run from Nike+; featuring a long interview with Paula Radcliffe it was an insight into her career and how she drives herself to get results. An interesting short form interview with some quiet spaces for just running with your thoughts. I quite like that.

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Running with Nike+ on Apple Watch

Time to answer some questions about using the watch on its own.

The Nike+ Running Club app has been deeply integrated into the Apple Watch now since they introduced the GPS version. But I feel it is only now that it is all starting to come together and work as a holistic system.

Do you still need the phone with you?

No, you can now just run with the watch. I have the Apple Watch 4 with both the GPS and a paid cell line connected to the watch. This, in theory, means that I have everything I need to make this work. You don’t really need to have the cell service connected to track your run, but I like the security of being able to call for help (for me or anyone else that has problems) or to pull up a map if I get lost.

There are some features that you can only setup by using the companion app on the iPhone, including: shoe tracking, route details (trail, road, etc.), and note taking. But the core items for running now work independent of the phone. You also have to use the phone app to configure the screen layout options for the Nike+ displays on the watch. Very odd, but I guess they do this to keep the watch interface as simple as possible.

Some other observations with this: if you want to use the watch during the run and have your phone with you, you’ll probably still need to start it from your watch. Occasionally, when I start it from my phone it will appear on my watch, but mostly it doesn’t.

Can I Run with Podcasts?

When I run I tend to listen to podcasts which now have an app on the Apple Watch, since iOS 12. You’ll need to pair you Bluetooth headphones to the watch to make this work. However, it doesn’t support playlists, so this means that after each episode ends, you have to switch over to the podcast app and select another to listen to. This works well and I haven’t yet had that screw up the run tracking.

To achieve this while running and using the Nike+ run club app, single press the button on the Apple Watch (not the scroll wheel) and select the podcast app. Not the ‘now playing’ app as that won’t help you. Once in the podcast app, select the option in the top left corner to go back to the list and select another episode. Once you have it, press the play button.

I’ve noticed that the watch will switch back to the run automatically if you wait long enough, but I generally just take care of this myself by double-clicking the scroll wheel to switch to the last app used. In this case, that will take you back to the Nike+ app.

What About the Guided Runs?

The iPhone app offers a large selection of guided runs where a coach or celeb will talk o through various different run types. This is now available on the watch. You have to make sure to download the in you want to your watch before you set out, it once it is there I found that the integration works really well.

These runs are typically very high quality, with good banter between the coaches and any celeb guests. They will help you understand differently paces and keep the weekly grind more interesting.

This week, for instance, I did a speed run hosted by a British coach (Coach MacRae, Sally?) that did a six minute warm up, a pause for a stretch, then followed up with a minute at mile pace (9/10), three minutes at 5k pace, a few more minutes at 10k pace, then a few more minutes at recovery pace. It was unusual to do a speed run that got slower through the progression, but it was quite a refreshing approach.

Recorded on Apple Watch. Tweeted from iPhone in NRC app.

These guided runs are well implemented and work really well. If have Apple Music, they will integrate with a sound track, but I don’t pay for that!

Completing the Run.

At the end of the run, you can simply stop and wait for the watch to detect this, or slide the screen to find the pause button. Once paused, you are presented with the options to ‘resume’ the run or to ‘stop’ it.

It the gives you a results summary screen and may announce some congratulatory commentary from a famous runner/celeb.

If you scroll to the bottom of the results you’ll see the ‘done’ button. Press this to finish it all up.

Updating the Stats.

Once you are back with your phone, you’ll be able to update the stats and other info in the companion app on the iPhone.

Tracking the mileage on each pair of shoes is very useful if you are putting in a lot of miles, although you’ll know when your shoes are done by the way your legs and feet feel at the end of a run. For my running style and shoe combination I can get around 400 miles per pair. That may be significantly more for some people, or less for others. The only way to find out is to track the shoes.

Awards

The Nike+ app does like to award achievements as you progress through the various programs. You may get a trophy for running 3x per week, for example. For taking part in the Sunday 10k.

Will You Miss Anything Running Without The Phone?

The camera. As a blogger it is helpful to have the camera with you to snap a shot for the page, or to memorialize a glorious sunrise. But at this time of year it is fine as it is mainly pitch dark when I run in the mornings.

The playlists. If you are going on a long run and want to string a number of podcasts together, this can be a pain. You’ll have to manually select and start each one on the watch. You also need to make sure that they downloaded to the watch. It is worth noting, however, that you can use Apple Music playlists just fine.

Social Media integration. Possibly. You cannot do any of this from the watch. You have to do it when you sync back up with the Nike+ app on the phone.

Summary

I’m loving having the freedom to run without my phone. It is quite liberating but still allows me to collect the stats I’m interested in and listen to music or podcasts. Today I ran 12 miles with just the watch and my Bluetooth headphones, and everything worked perfectly (again).

I’ve been up since 6:30 am, I ran 12 miles while listening to podcasts with just the watch, I took my son trampolining and tracked my exercise there with the watch and paid from some stuff using Apple Pay. It is now 9pm and the watch still has 22% power left. Pretty. Darned. Good. 🙂

Nice work, Nike!

First Day 2019; Run and Summary of Last Year

Yet again we failed to stay up until midnight on New Year’s Eve and I found myself in bed by 11:15.

But that did mean that I managed to get out of the door nice and early one the 1st January. Just three and a half miles, but that’s a start for the year. It was also surprisingly warm and windy at 57F; phew, what a scorcher!

My running stats for last year are pretty poor as I had a few confounding factors.

Firstly, last February I broke my hand playing with the kids and was unable to run for about eight weeks. Whenever I ran I could feel the bone in my hand moving up and down and just decided that I should let it heal. That also got me out of running in some very cold weather so “hurrah” for that. 🙂

I ran one marathon in June in just under 4 hours. This is good. Normally I try to run two to three a year so it was a low year. But I did keep myself at marathon level throughout September and October and run 23 or 24 mile distances a few times.

Overall, I ran about 870 miles over the year which is way below my normal levels. Hopefully, this year doesn’t have as much downtime.

Apple Watch 4 and Nike+ Running Club; the Perfect Running Partners?

It has been a long time since I have updated this blog. I took some time off writing after a candidate I interviewed at work started talking about stuff he’d read on my blog. That weirded me out a bit, but I think I’m over it now.

So, time to catch up on all the stuff I’ve been doing!

I’ve kept my running at close to marathon distance for most of this year, with my long runs clocking in around 18-24 miles. I’ve recently relaxed a bit for the holidays, but plan to start cranking up the miles again in January.

Gear-wise I’ve upgraded a few bits and pieces: I now use the Apple Watch 4 with cellular service for all but my longest runs (15+ miles). I could probably use it for those really long runs, but sometimes find myself in unfamiliar places where I need to access a map so that I can get home. In those cases, having the phone screen is vital.

However, the rest of the time the latest iteration of Apple’s watch works really well. The latest version of iOS (12) introduced the podcast app to the watch and that is the main content I consume from my devices. This has meant that I have been able to purely use the watch on its own far more.

The Bluetooth connection to my steadfast Plantronics BB Fit headphones has been rock solid the whole time. Gone are the days of flaky Bluetooth connections and having to constantly reconnect the devices. What a relief! It is very rare that I experience any technical issues at all.

I also have some Apple AirPod headphones which I use occasionally while running. They stay in well but are not waterproof. Given how much I sweat, how often I’m out in the rain and how expensive they are, I tend not to take the risk of using them.

The version of the Apple Watch that I have also has the Nike+ integration. I don’t know how this differs from other apple watches as I’ve never had the other models, but for this version, the Nike+ app is handily integrated into many of the watch faces. This makes it a breeze to start up an open run and also to take advantage of some of their other features.

My favorite features include the many different flavors of coached training runs, often with various famous runners. These will take you on speed runs, recovery runs and even some long runs. The structure tends to be a running program with light interviewing of the ‘star’ runners built into the script. It feels good to hear from the athletes themselves; their motivations, problems, and methods all make interesting listening. The coaches are also pretty good and will make your harder training sessions fly by.

Nike have done a lot of work on the Nike+ running club app and it is a very solid platform now. Most of the niggles I had with earlier versions have been addressed at this point, although it still doesn’t allow you to setup interval training programs, but you can’t have everything.

Their shoe tracking tool has also become better allowing you to more easily track the wear you put on each run, along with other details of each run like where you run, how you feel and any other things you’d like to note down. The phone app even has integration for tweeting photos of your run and adding various frames or data to decorate the images.

Me at the finish of a personal marathon earlier this year @ Valley Forge.

All-in-all, the integration of these platforms seems to have come a long way since I started using it about two years ago (gosh, is it really that long ago? How time flies!).

As I start to build up my training again, I’ll be sure to update this site with things that I find.

The Perkiomen River Trail, mid-run.

Running with the Dogs

Hi strangers! Sorry I’ve been absent for a couple of weeks. 

The marathon training was all going well and I got up to my 21.25 miler the other week, and then realised that I’d picked a target weekend that my wife is away running a half in North Carolina… so I’ll be on daddy-duty and unable to do a marathon. 

Doh. Rookie mistake. 

Anyhow, I used the chance to take a little time off (1 week) which coincided with us having so relatives visiting, so that was quite nice. I was able to partake in late night imbibing without fear of impacting my early runs. 🙂

Today I squeezed in a 6 miler locally before taking my kids to their first swimming lesson. 

I was literally dogged by neighbourhood dogs all through my run. Many were just loose in their yards and hemmed in by invisible fences. 

I’m quite the dog person and don’t get scared by them, but when there’s no visible fence and the dog is hurtling toward you barking it can be a little unnerving. 

There were five dog walkers that I ran out into the road to avoid. 

Then there were three ‘loose’ dogs in their yards that came at me barking. One was behind a physical fence but the others were not. 

When they are on a corner lot, the dog will run around the edge of the property with you barking and getting all excited about seeing someone running. The loudest was also really close to my turn-around point so just a minute or two later I came back to see her. 

It wasn’t particularly early on the Sunday morning (around 8:00) but certainly I suspect that it would have annoyed some of their neighbours. Ah, well, nothing I can do to stop them. 

I managed to do a solid reverse split on my timing. In fact, it was more like a pyramid as each mile got progressively faster. Starting at a 9:00 pace and ending up near 7:20 pace. 

Dog owners: what would you suggest as a strategy to minimise their barking? 

Marathon Training Update & Nike+

Early mornings can suck sometimes. Especially when you have to run on a holiday. 

But then you come across a view like the photo above and it’s all worth it. Very few others saw this site. All of time waited for me to witness this. 

My Nike+ training plan gave me a relatively light week last week but is stepping it up this week. 

I had several speed runs last week which I still find tough to get motivated for even though only last for half an hour at the most. 

I had two speed workouts; one that was 12×200 and another that was 8×400. All with short recovery times because the mornings were chilly. 

The Nike+ Running Club app on my phone has now broken one of the nice new features! It no longer repeats the info from the phone on your Apple watch. Twice this week it crashed on the watch but kept running on the phone. In fact, it never really started up properly. 

I had to delay my Friday long run as we decided to have a family breakfast and I couldn’t run after that! So I ended up going out on Sunday morning for a 12.75 miler in the temperate weather that hit this weekend. 50F is rather surprising for February. 

Later that day, Nike+ asked me to update my run programme and when it did this it put down a 12.5 mile run for Monday too. What a cow! I think “Nicki” (my name for the voice of the Nike+ app) has got it in for me. 😦

This week is going to be tough with the 12.5 miler today, a benchmark run, a 6 mile recovery run and then an 18.5 miler on Friday. 

I’m going to have to increase my food intake as I’m starting to feel like my legs are very heavy and underpowered. 

Nike+ Niggles Resolved

Mostly.

Last week Nike released an update for their Apple Watch and iPhone app. 

One of the major things that it fixed is something I had commented on in these pages before: when you start the run from your phone it doesn’t put any info on your watch! 

Thankfully, they seem to have resolved this along with putting some additional thought into the solution. 

For one thing, once you start the run on the phone and then get going , if the watch loses contact with the phone it will politely ask you if you wish to continue the run from your watch. Nicely done, Nike. 

Also, if you are running this way and you pass a distance milestone (each half-mile in my setup) it will announce the distance through your headphones that are connected to the phone, but also do a little chime on the watch so that you know you are progressing. 

All-in-all this was a nice update from Nike and I haven’t seen any new problems from it. 

On Friday morning I followed along with my running plan and completed a sixteen mile run. 

To do this on a Friday morning met hitting the streets right around five AM so I could complete it and still get into work on time. The picture above shows the view from my front window. 

It was very cold at 8F (that’s including the windchill; 20F actual) but it was beautiful out. The full moon illuminated the streets perfectly and was enhanced by the snow fall from the previous day; so, while it wasn’t quite full daylight, it was very easy to see without a flashlight. 

To get to sixteen miles I had to make up a new route as all my usual runs of that distance would take in State Parks or Trails and they were all covered in five inches of snow. 

So I concocted a route on the roads of Trooper and Skippack that gave me the necessary distance. An out and back route that wound through some pleasant neighbourhoods and skirted along the side of the Evansburg State Park. 

I wasn’t fast but a steady 8:35 pace was pretty good for that early in the morning and being so  dry thoroughly wrapped up (this makes it harder to run). The route had quite a lot of rolling hills, hence the elevation number above. Notice that t also has my heart rate recorded! 

The rest of Friday was a struggle as I was tired and very hungry(rungry). I didn’t help myself as I was in such a rush to get the run started that I didn’t eat beforehand and I only took half a Clif bar with me; oops. I managed not to eat too much junk though. Honestly. 

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.

“And it’s Not About You Joggers that Go Around an’ ’round an’ ’round…”

To quote the Blur song from way back when, but today it was certainly about going round and round and round. 

My training programme called for 12.5 miles and I didn’t want to go off on a wild run around London for that distance. Too much planning to get the right distance for a circuit. 

Instead, I chose to run to “The Regent’s Park” and do loops to meet the goal. 

The park was two miles from my hotel and, after completing the first loop, I found it was about 2.7 miles in circumference. Therefore, three loops and the run back should make my target (near enough). 


Regent’s Park is home to London Zoo and you can hear the noises of the animals as they wake in the morning. There were also some reindeer out in a separate enclosure that were looking at me strangely as I ran by each time. 

There were plenty of other runners around in the park as well as gangs of cyclists doing circuits and riding waaaaay to close behind cars in an effort to draft them. If you are there for the exercise, surely drafting is a folly? Something to think about, cyclists?

The park is a nice place to run but the outer path has quite a busy road next to it that does leave you tasting the fumes a bit. It was nicer running on the inner pathways, but you cannot do that around the north end by the zoo. 

There was one runner there with her tiny dog (some sort of terrier) that looked like you wouldn’t want to run with it as you’d think t would be too slow. But, bugger me, it was a fast little thing and they easily blew past me and kept on going for quite a time before they stopped to rest. I was really surprised. 

By mile ten I was tired and the lack of fuel was beginning to slow me down. I was glad to be heading back towards my hotel and the free breakfast. 

Running back along Oxford Street at prime opening time was treacherous and often required me to skip into the bus lane to avoid laying out some poor pedestrian. 

I wasn’t far off in that estimate and ended at 12.2 miles. Damned if I was going to do that last 0.3 just for the hell of it. 

The route wasn’t picturesque so no photos again today. 

I did find a track at the northern edge of the park that I didn’t know existed. This will be good as I need to do 10 x 200s as one of my runs this week… I guess that will be tomorrow but I’m pretty sore right now. 

One other good thing about London: my meeting today was down in the theatre district and so I’m enjoying a warm beer in a classic London bar (Porterhouse) and soaking up the atmosphere while staring into my phone and typing frantically. 


Low ceiling and illuminated beer cases abound at Porterhouse. Along with a very wide range of beers. 

Off in search of food next: curry. Yum. 

A British institution. 🙂

London 2017: Running Tourism

I’m back in the U.K. for some charity business and found myself in need of a run. 

So, I planned an interest 5.5 mile route that took in many sights of London. 

I started on Kingsway and headed down toward The Strand and through theatre district. 

This led to Trafalgar Square and the entrance to The Mall. This run along St. James’ Park takes you to Buckingham Palace (“Mornin’ Ma’am!”). 

A swift left-turn takes you back towards the Thames and Westminster. And, yes, I timed it perfectly to hear the seven AM chimes. Dong!

Over the Westminster bridge and then down onto the South Bank and past the Millennium Wheel. It was quite icy down here by the river so I chose to run along the tree line as the roots provide a little extra heat into the ground and reduce ice (top-tip).

Running past the Arty cinemas and museums of the South Bank, I eventually ended up at the Millennium Bridge and crossed back to the north-side. 

This bridge leaves you with one of the most English view available: a clear shot of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Lovely. No time for picture though. 


(This is what I saw; thanks interwebs)

I made a right turn and turned north when I saw signs for Farringdon. After checking my gps, I found the road back towards my hotel and finished in good time. 

A really fast 8:08 pace which feels really fast when you are in a city. I only had to stop for lights four times on the whole run. 

It was again great to see sooooooo many cyclists and run-commuters in London. This always makes me smile. I saw a line of about thirty bikes at one point on my run. Crazy!

I was overtaken once on the route (as I headed up the steps in front of St. Paul’s) and overtook a lot of people while I was out. 

I hope to get out again in the remaining two mornings I have here. 

I’ll try to take some pictures on the next run. Promise.