Author Archives: darkskyrunner

My Instagram account isn’t sexy

My wife doesn’t run.  My local buddies don’t run.  Thus, twitter and wordpress have been great for virtually connecting with others in the running community.  Often times I find myself scrolling through my twitter feed, over coffee, admiring all of your drop dead gorgeous Instragram photos of mountains … sunrises … sunsets … forests … snow … you name it, I’ve seen it.  It’s awesome, and has to be a hell of a motivation to your running.

My running photos look like this:IMG_3497.JPG

That’s honestly a real picture!!! – taken at 4:59am on 12/6.  I believe Venus and Jupiter were supposed to be in there.

Or they look like this:

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You see, as a #darkskyrunner – my instagram isn’t sexy.  Sure, every once in awhile, I’ll get something like the snowmen, or if I’m running during the afternoon, on a weekend, I’ll get some shots to share, but in general, Instagram isn’t for us darkskyrunners.

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That’s not to say my runs are void of awesomeness.  I’ve seen full moons, new moons, no moons, super moons and lunar eclipses.  I’ve seen meteors and beautiful starry skies – using my trusty iphone to learn new constellations along the way.

I’ve seen the first rays of light to kiss the Southwest Michigan horizon.

I’ve stashed my headlamp and experienced the serenity of running alone, in the dark, with no light at all – just the light of the moon and the stars.

I’ve seen countless sets of eyes glowing back at me and a bloody pile of entrails with a blood trail leading off into the woods … no – seriously, that was this morning and it somewhat freaked me out, especially with how rowdy the coyotes were this morning …

But it’s not just the visual experiences I enjoy during my early morning runs.  I love to hear the owls and the coyotes (when they’re sufficiently far away).  I absolutely love the stillness of a fresh snow, in the dark, on a calm morning.

Then there are the smells … this morning it was the scent of a wood burning furnace.  I love the smell of burning wood; it brings back memories of camping.

For some reason there are areas that I run through that smell like cucumber.  I don’t know why – it’s weird, but it just smells fresh, and not in a Fabreeze kinda way …

The best smell I’ve encountered while running occurred during my first trail run at night.  I can tell you exactly where it was, clockwise around the loop at Kellogg Forest, just at what I call the ‘top’ or the ‘back’ part of the loop, where the rows of different conifers are planted, about 300 yards from where I proposed to my wife …

It was dark.  I had a headlamp, and had a pretty good idea of where I was in the loop, but as soon as the scent of the conifers punched me straight in the nose, I knew exactly where I was.  It was awesome.  It instantly reminded me of my canoe trips to Quetico – where we’d drive for a day and get out of the car in the Canadian wilderness to be overwhelmed by the freshness of the trees.  I had a big fat grin on my face that morning.  To this date, it’s still one of my favorite runs.  Oddly, I don’t seem to notice the scent as much during the day – it’s like when the eyes aren’t stimulated, the rest of the senses kick into a higher gear.

Of course there are things that don’t smell so great too – the port o johns, the intersection downtown Kalamazoo that seemingly always smells like sewage, and burning leaves come to mind on the other end of the spectrum.  Yeah – I love the smell of burning wood, but I hate the smell of burning leaves …

I get to experience some cool shit as a #darkskyrunner.  Unfortunately I just can’t share it with y’all.  But try it sometime – go out there in the wee morning hours and see if you like it.  I started running then out of necessity with the wife / kids / job, but I now love it.  It’s just that my Instagram account isn’t sexy.

What’s the best/worst thing you’ve smelled on a run?

What’s the coolest thing you’ve heard on a run?

Ever tried running in the dark?

 

Week of 12/6/15 … so begins the taper

Miles this week: 31

2015 YTD: 1289


I’m three weeks to the day from my next race – the Yankee Springs Winter Challenge.  This should’ve been my peak week before rolling into taper mode next week, but due to some ankle discomfort on my Friday morning run, this week ended up kicking off the taper.

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I was going to take Saturday / Sunday off and rest up the ankle, but today was too nice.  I decided to go out for a short trail run to test the ankle.  It held up fabulously!  I forgot how much harder it is to run the trails though.  That’ll likely be my one negative going into this race.  I haven’t spent enough time on the trails.  Almost all (ok – all) of my training has been on the roads.  It’s tough to get on the trails this time of year with the darkness.  I’ll just take it a bit slower and call it good.

Looking at my training log, the last 3 weeks prior to my races this year I’m only averaging 50 miles over that time span so I’m not too concerned about missing some miles this weekend.  I don’t know why that number is so low, but it’s like I build up and burn out then relax into the race.  I guess it works for me.

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My early week runs were good.  10 milers on Tuesday and Thursday.  I think my heart rate training is finally starting to pay off.  I noticed a drop of about 30sec / mile on my Tuesday run over the previous Tuesday.  I’m excited to see where I end up after a couple of months of this.  Have you tried heart rate training before?  Have any luck?

Aside from my trail run today, I got to spend some time w/one of my daughters at the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy tike hike.  These are always fun.  She loved pointing out the moss and ferns, running down the hills and ‘stirring up the leaves to make soup!’12339338_10153946320253984_3580485032339577235_o copy.jpg

Next week is the start of the ‘real’ taper and I’m probably looking at something between 35-40 miles.

Oh, one other thing I remembered – it was over 60 degrees here in Michigan today.  Other than the running on the trails which will be hard for me during my upcoming race, I’m guessing Winter’s finally going to show her face.  So instead of running in this beautiful weather, I’m probably going to get smacked in the face with 12 degrees and blowing snow.  I won’t know what to wear since it’s been so long since I’ve had to run in that weather.  Oh well, it’ll be fun nonetheless!

How was your week of running?

Did you enjoy the nice weather?

What’s your next race?

 

I should be running …

I first felt it last night, while walking out to my car after work.  My ankle felt a little stiff and there was pain between the front / outside of my right ankle.  I also felt it bother me a bit during my sleep last night – or at least when I should have been sleeping.

Oh well, up at 2:20am to run this morning!

I needed 15 miles today and another 20 tomorrow to cap off my peak training week for the Yankee Springs Challenge 50k.  The sky was clear, the stars were out, and it was a beautiful morning.

Except … for my ankle.

I felt some discomfort pretty much immediately after I started running.  It was minor, but it was there.  Nothing to keep me from running though so I continued on.

The further I ran, I started noticing that I was changing my stride to compensate for it.  I don’t like to do this because it seems to eventually aggravate some other muscle / joint / leg eventually.

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5 miles into this 15 mile route, I was heading back past the house.  With the discomfort increasing, and the fear of injuring something else by over compensating for another 10 miles, I bailed on the remainder of the run.  So here I sit – at 5:30am blogging – while I should be out running.

I’m content with the decision. I feel I have the endurance to run my race in January, and I’m guessing I just need a couple of days off anyway.  It may very well jeopardize my mileage goal though – it was going to be close, even with the 15 miler today and 20 miler tomorrow (which I don’t plan on doing now).  That’s not the end of the world though.

This also isn’t an A list race for me, but more of a target to keep training and in shape through the end of the year.  I’m definitely looking forward to it, but it’s just a short 20 minute drive away.  If it were my 50miler next summer, in Marquette, and I was in this spot, perhaps I’d be freaking out just a bit.

 

So what’s up with the ankle?  I don’t know.  I’m not a doctor.  And I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.  My whole right leg has felt a bit tight for a few days.  I’m guessing something’s just finally gotten to the point where it’s out of whack and causing the discomfort.  I’ll work a little harder on the stretching / rolling / icing for a couple days and see where we’re at.

So instead of running this morning – I’ve been icing, watching a rerun of last night’s football game and blogging.

I hope you have a better weekend than me!

On the plus side, I did see a meteor this morning!

 

Embrace the rest days – I bet you’ll love it

I used to suck at rest days.

Dude – it’s the easiest day of the week!!!

I know, but I kept trying to turn rest days into running days and that never turned out well.  I always thought I could, or should, sneak in a few extra miles.  After all, I’m training to run ultras – I need miles.  But instead of successfully logging the extra miles, some combination of the following happened:

  1. I ran the extra miles, which lead to burnout, which lead to a crappy run on my actual training run.
  2. I ran the extra miles, which lead to burnout that made me skip my actual training run.
  3. I didn’t run, but felt like I should run, so I felt crappy about it.

Alas, I was not embracing my rest day.  Rather than looking at it as an opportunity to relax / recharge, I was looking at it as a missed opportunity.  The mindset can make all the difference.

I’ve since tried to embrace the rest day, and I love it!  I schedule it, just like a training run, and I’ve found it adds balance / structure to my week.  I no longer go to work thinking ‘I should’ve snuck in a few extra miles this morning.’  I go to work thinking ‘Hey, good job, you slept in today.’

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My rest days are now an opportunity to catch up on a few extra Z’s in the morning and grind / press a real cup of coffee.  I still try to stretch during my rest days, and read about running, and tweet about running, and blog about running … but I don’t run.  It also allows me to spend some extra time with my family because I’m up later the night before a rest day.  I know the morning won’t start before 4am.  Today I slept all the way till 6:15!!!

If you too struggle with your rest days, take it from me – embrace them.  I bet you’ll love it.

 

 

Week of 11/29/15 – ‘Tis the season

Miles this week: 51

2015 YTD: 1257


‘Daddy, potty, potty, potty!’

Me: Can you hold it?  We’re not by the bathroom.

‘Daddy, potty!’

Me: Do you just have to pee?

‘Yeah!’

Yeah … so, the toddler that dropped a deuce between the Christmas trees, at the tree farm … she belongs to me.  Eh, what’s a little extra fertilizer?  ‘Tis the season!!

It’s a good life skill – likely to come in handy while backpacking.  Or canoe tripping.  Or ultrarunning.  Not sure it needs to be learned at two though …

Speaking of ultrarunning, I had a great week of training.  At 51 miles, this was the longest week of running I’ve had since the final ‘big’ week prior to the Kal-Haven trail run back in April.  My first two runs, both 10 milers on Tuesday / Thursday were pretty uneventful.  I’m still working through the HR training and hit both of these w/145BPM.  No stars though.  Just dark, foggy running.

On Saturday I planned on running with a guy I met up in Marquette at the 50k in August.  The local running club was starting near the golf course over near the house and planning to run around the lake – 11.5 miles.  They had water set out – pretty sweet deal.

I was nervous as hell.

I typically don’t run with folks.  I asked Dan what pace they’d be running and his response was 8:30s.  I told him I could hang onto that for a bit (I didn’t tell him I’ve been running 10:30s/10:40s for the last few weeks.  I had no idea if I could keep up, but I was damn sure gonna try.  And in addition to the extra speed, I needed to run 18 on Saturday.

I had trouble falling asleep because I was worried I couldn’t keep up.  In the morning I wanted to vomit because I wasn’t sure I could keep up.  I don’t remember being this nervous before a race!

I left early to run about 3.5 before meeting them at the golf course only to be asked ‘Are you running it twice?’ (I was wearing my UD vest).  Nah, I’m just out to run 18.

I shouldn’t have been nervous.  It was a great run.  I’m very good with running alone, but every once in awhile it’s nice to have a partner.  I ran pretty well – 8:30s the majority of the way.  This was my first time running around the lake counter-clockwise.  I feel like it was uphill the whole way.  I know that can’t be possible, but it sure felt like it.  I started to fade a bit at the end, but we still ended up averaging about 8:40 for the run.  Whew – I made it.

After we got back to the clubhouse, I ran 3 miles back home to total out my 18.  Very.  Slowly.  Hey, I was done with the fast stuff for the day!

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I wrapped up the week with a pretty uneventful 12 miler this morning, but I made it home before the girls / wife were up so that’s a win.  Still not much in the way of stars this morning.  The whole week was crappy for stargazing, but –  as I mentioned, a great week of training!

In other news, we did get our tree.  After the backcountry dump.  My youngest was enjoying it with me this morning.  Or she was enjoying the iPad.  It’s hard to tell.
IMG_3491.JPGEarlier in the week, my oldest had an ‘art show’ at school.  It was actually set up pretty cool.  She was less excited about the art, and more interested in showing us her classmates.  And showing her younger sister to her teacher.

Next week is my peak mileage before my next race in January.  I have 55 miles on the schedule and it’s gonna be tough getting it in.  We’re heading across the state, and back, on Saturday for my nephew’s birthday party.  After we do our neighborhood Christmas party Friday night.  Nothing about either of those items screams – Hey, run 20 miles Saturday  morning!!!

Do you have a tree yet?

How was your week of training?

 

Sleep – the most difficult part of ultrarunning

Buzz, buzz, buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz … My alarm wakes me this morning.  It’s 2:40am.  Just 20 minutes after my daughter woke me to say her comforter fell off the bed and needed to be replaced.

I didn’t have it in me.  I rolled over, grabbed the covers, and faded back into sleep.  Bed won.  What should’ve been a 12 mile run, was left to what should’ve been.

When I finally awoke, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  Sleep is the hardest thing for me with respect to my ultrarunning.  It’s not the running.  It’s not the darkness.  It’s not the rain, the snow, the heat, the fog.  It’s the sleep.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a very good sleeper, but what I realized is, with respect to sleep, there’s such a fine – fine, like a razor blade fine line between my ultrarunning success and total failure.  Too much sleep, and I don’t have the time to properly train.  Too little, and I run myself into exhaustion – which is probably true for most folks, but the line between the two feels incredibly thin sometimes.

Flash back to this morning …IMG_3492.PNG

I made the right call.  I’d slept less than four hours.  I can’t expect to make it through a couple hours of running, a day’s worth of work, hanging with the family and then get up at 2:20am the next day to run again.  It just wouldn’t work.

I’ve been trying to pull more of my running into the work week to spend more time with my family on the weekend.  I don’t sacrifice much time with my kids because I’m usually running very early while they’re sleeping, but consequently I lose time in the evenings with my wife because I’m trying to go to bed early.

It’s really quite selfish.  It reminds me of how selfish ultrarunning is, but it is … what it is.  So I’ve been trying to pull at least one of the weekends long runs forward.  To give us more time together at least one of the weekend nights.

It’s not working.

For the year, I average 6 hours 35 minutes of sleep a night.  3 hours 8 minutes of deep sleep, and I get up, on average at 5:48am (yes I track all of that).  Those aren’t really terrible numbers.  But those are just averages … easing the hills and valleys into more of a pleasing number.  Of course, on days I run, the sleep is much less, the mornings much earlier – and I ride the sleep trough into the next wave of rest.

I felt like I handled the sleep during the early part of the year much better than I’m handling it now.  Looking at the data, I was doing both of my long runs on the weekend.  But as I mentioned before – I don’t get to spend as much time with my wife that way.

So … what to do??

Ultimately I feel like I’m in a much better place when I’m getting my training in and feeling successful as a runner.  And by successful – for me, that just means showing up for a race, properly trained, and completing it.  When I’m not feeling successful with my running, that has other negative impacts – I get grumpy for one, and my fuse is a bit shorter.

Fortunately for me, the training cycle for my next race is about to peak next week.  But there will be others soon enough.

I think I’m going to go back to running both long runs on the weekend, drop the mid-week runs to twice per week (and lengthen them a bit), schedule deliberate off-days and take the opportunity to spend more quality time those evenings with the family.

When my wife, and I do get the chance to snag a sitter, and sneak away on a weekend date night, well … I’ll just make sure I schedule the shorter of the two long runs the next morning.

Sleep.  Who thought it’d be so hard?

How do you balance workout time with family time?

What’s the hardest part of your training?

 

When it’s ok to ignore the big picture

I find running to be a very ‘big picture’ endeavor.  It involves setting goals that take months and/or years to reach.  I know in the very best scenario, I’m looking at 2018 until I have any chance at Western States – with one lottery ticket.  In all reality, it will be some time much beyond that.

In addition to the goal setting, there’s the thought and planning involved with creating a training plan to get through those months leading up to a big race and shuffling your schedule around on a weekly basis to hit those training plans.

The weeks leading up to race weekends involve planning the travel and logistics of the race.  Do I need to book a hotel?  Am I flying?  How is my old man going to find me on the course at any given time?  Am I carrying hydration for the whole race or do I leave some Tailwind in a drop bag.

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Custom Map I put together for my Dad to find me during my first Ultra

One of the coolest logistical moves I’ve seen is the custom trucker hats I read about over at The 100 Mile Mark.

Honestly the ‘big picture’ is why I love ultrarunning – I’m a planner.  I love to set goals.  And I love to challenge myself.

But … (you knew there was a but coming based on the title, eh?)

There are times when I need to ignore the big picture – specifically when it’s time to actually run.

Looking at the big picture can be very overwhelming at 2:40am when my alarm rings.  I have to get out of bed and run for how many hours??

Prior to my first ultra, my parents wanted to know what time they should be in town to watch.  They live in Cincinnati – some 5 hours away from Kalamazoo.  I said something to the effect of ‘Oh, it’s a long race, you can leave when I start and still make the finish line before I do.’

Then I thought to myself … Oh shit – what did I get myself into?  They’re going to be driving, from CINCINNATI for less time than I’ll be running!! … and I had a small panic attack.

I find while I’m running, it’s always best to live in the moment.  I don’t think about how much further I need to run (I did that once on an 18 miler and bailed after 4 miles, only to go back to bed for a couple hours – it was the beginning of the end of my training for my first 50 miler last year).  I don’t think about how many more days I need to get up before 4am this week.  I don’t think about how many more hours of sleep my wife is getting each week by not running – Ok I have thought about that a few times, and it makes me want to run straight home and jump back into bed.

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Living in the moment during the Marquette trail 50k – 2015

Simply put, when it’s time to actually run, our friends at Nike said it best – Just do it.  That’s when I find it ok to ignore the big picture.  I roll out of bed, gear up, head out the door and enjoy each step in the moment.

Relax, breathe, run.  And watch the stars.

I leave the big picture thinking for a later time – usually when I have a beer with me.

Have you ever been overwhelmed with your big picture running goals?

Week of 11/22/15 – 900 miles on the family truckster

Miles this week: 24

2015 YTD: 1206


This was a tough week.  Mentally tough as we spent most of Thanksgiving weekend at a funeral.  Tough from a running standpoint based on the holiday and funeral.  Tough for spending about 900 miles in the car, in rain and traffic and construction over the holiday weekend.

I came into the week planning to pull my back to back long runs up to Monday / Tuesday.  This would allow me to work around the Thanksgiving double run-eat-run 10k races I planned to run on Thursday / Friday mornings.  It would also allow me to get my mileage even with the holiday and funeral over the weekend.

Well … that running plan went to shit.

Monday / Tuesday I was exhausted.  Literally too exhausted to get up and run.  It happens sometimes – I tell my wife it’s my tired phase.  Sometimes I just need to sleep. We piled into the family truckster Wednesday night, to drive across the state to the in-laws for Thanksgiving.  Just before we get on the highway, my wife hollers – ‘Don’t get on, don’t get on!’  She saw the traffic piled up under the overpass so we passed on the highway and pulled over to check our phones.  I pulled up Waze and it looked like this …

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At that point we bailed.

Since we didn’t make it to Detroit Wednesday night, I didn’t make my run Thursday morning.  Since we were headed to Ohio for a funeral early Friday, that shot my run Friday morning as well.

So Wednesday night I was sitting at 0 miles with both races out of the picture.

I managed to drag my ass out of bed early enough to run 12 miles, through the rain, Thanksgiving day before we hit the road again and enjoyed my first holiday lights of the season.

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Thanksgiving was good, but I was missing spending it was my side of the family based on the circumstances at hand.  But I still stuffed my face and enjoyed the company of my in-laws.

Friday I was up early again for another run through the rain – this time 6 miles.  Then it was in the car to head South.  I followed that with another early 6 mile run, again through the rain – what the hell??, on Saturday morning.

Saturday evening it was back to Detroit to pick up the kids and on toward home today.  All told, we logged about 900 miles on the family truckster.  Unfortunately I only logged about 24 on my legs.  All in the rain.

I wanted to run again this morning, but I didn’t take enough clothes with me for the rain.  Each morning after my run, I stuffed the wet clothes in my gym bag and rolled onto the next town.  I don’t mind running in the wet.  I don’t mind running in the cold.  But I do mind putting on something wet to go run in the cold – so I passed this morning.

I guess it was only fitting to do all of that running in the rain.  Some how it seemed to match the sadness of the weekend.

One bright spot on the weekend, aside from the Thanksgiving dinner – I tried Buffalo Wings and Rings last night – holy awesome wings!  When we returned to my in-laws I told them I needed a beer and wings.  Buffalo Wings and Rings happened to be close so my father-in-law joined me for a beer while we waited on wings for takeout.  They were AWESOME.  HUGE wings and the sauce (roasted garlic) was perfect.

Well, that’s pretty much how the week went.  Here’s to this week being better on all fronts.

How was your Thanksgiving?

What are your favorite wings?

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving all – good luck with your turkey trots and fourth helpings of turkey and gravy.

IMG_3485.JPGThere’s no turkey trot on the agenda for me this year, but I did make it out for a 12 mile milk run this morning – realized we were out last night and I can’t enjoy my Kellogg’s breakfast cereal w/o it!

With that 12 miler I’m ready for gravy (that’s really what I’m in it for).

OK, gravy and PIE! (Apple please)

Speaking of the 12 mile run, I gotta give it to Smartwool – they make some awesome stuff.  I was wearing my long sleeve mid-weight shirt this morning.  We had mid-40s and rain.  Not a heavy rain, but a steady rain for all but the last 35 minutes or so.  When I got home the shirt was damn near dry!  My body heat must’ve been enough to keep it drying through the run.  I also didn’t get cold at all.  Smartwool (or Icebreaker – they’re both awesome) is about all I run in anymore.

With that – it’s time to load up the family truckster and point it East in search of gravy, where I’m thankful to spend the day with family and delicious food.  Safe travels to all those who’re headed out of town and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

What’re your favorite running apps?

I was 9 miles into my 12 mile run recently, texting with a co-worker at 5am about a problem at work (I’m a computer nerd – we’re always available) and I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye.

That’s weird, it seemed like lightning – but … we don’t really get much lightning this time of year …

A few minutes, and a few texts later (by the way – thankfully I’m working on HR training and have been moving SLOOOOOOOOOOWLY, otherwise this texting thing isn’t really doable) I saw another flash.

Hmmmm – maybe that is lightning.

I opened one of my favorite apps ‘Storm’ from Wunderground, and sure enough – there was lightning about 75 miles out.

Good – I’m not rushing home for work and now I don’t have to rush home for the lightning, it’s headed North vs. East.

With the work crisis behind me, and the lightning headed North, I spent the last three miles thinking about what my favorite running apps are.  Then I got to thinking – what other cool running apps are there that I’m not aware of?  That’s where you come in … but I didn’t think it was fair to ask you without giving you my favorites as well.

Mine are below.

What are your favorite running apps?


 

IMG_3438.PNGStorm – Free

Storm is awesome.  Yes it has the hourly / daily forecast like all weather apps, and I use that to help me gather the proper clothes the night before a run, but the radar is what I love about it.

As you can see, it’s possible to overlay a lightning map.  I’ve used before to bail on an 18 miler when there was a storm moving in quicker than anticipated.

The pie shaped area ahead of the storm gives you an idea of how fast (each tick mark is 15 minutes) and what direction a storm is headed.  If you click on the storm, it will give you estimated times it will reach cities in the path.

This app also allows you to look an hour into the future with the radar.  Obviously it can’t really see the future, but it’s the best guess as to where a storm is headed.

Lastly, it will alert when lightning (or precipitation) is in the area.  Since it does that via notification, and my Garmin Fenix 3 receives notifications from my phone, this is a pretty sweet deal.  Typically I don’t like to be close enough to rely on that for lightning (I think it alerts at 10 miles), but I’d rather have that last bit of warning vs. nothing.


 

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Garmin Connect – Free

Not all apps are sexy, and this one definitely falls into the ‘not sexy’ category.  But, for what it lacks in sex appeal, it makes up for in functionality – usually.

This app can do all sorts of things – track sleep, steps, download golf courses??, plus probably some other stuff, but what I love it for is the ability to link up to my Garmin Fenix 3.  If you don’t have a watch this will link to (I think it’s compatible with newer Forerunner watches also) then you can skip this one.

Before I start a run, I click the ‘Start LiveTrack button’ and then as I’m running, my wife can see where I’m at.  This is very useful if I end up hurt and she needs to come pick me up (fortunately never had to use that), wants to swing by a run with the girls after grocery shopping (has done that in the middle of a 17 mile run), track me during a race, or just see how close I am to returning home on the weekend.

The downside to the liveTrack functionality – after recent updates to my watch software and the Garmin Connect App, I’ve seen a few occasions where it hasn’t worked.

Lastly, Garmin Connect is the app that allows my to pair my Fenix 3 to my phone to receive notifications.  Any notification that appears on my watch (including the aforementioned lightning alerts), come to my phone.  So – while I’m running a race, those following my progress w/LiveTrack and send me words of encouragement during the race.


 

IMG_3443.PNGStrava – Free (Premuim $59.99/yr)

I log all of my runs (and walks / hikes) to Strava.  it’s my go-to app for logging / tracking my activities.

I enjoy the ability to compete in the challenges (typically I do the monthly distance / 10k / half marathon) and commune with other runners.  Seeing what other, local, runners are doing out in the cold of winter helps to keep me motivated.

I used to use Map My Run, but it because very slow, especially when reviewing old data.  I’ve never had that issue w/Strava.

Strava will track mileage on your shoes too.  I find that very helpful.

I’m a Strava premium subscriber.  I utilize that for weekly goals, personal heat map (where I’ve run) and to a minor degree the trophy case.  I’d say most of the best functionality is in the free version though.

One bummer though – I couldn’t bring my data over from Map My Run.  But I got over that soon enough.


 

Pace IMG_3444.PNG– Free

I use Pace a lot – like multiple times a week a lot.  It’s another app that falls into the ‘not so sexy’ category, but it’s very useful.

As my runs get longer and longer, the math to figure out what time I need to get up in the morning gets harder and harder.

Pace helps my plugging in my distance / anticipated pace and, Voila!, there’s how much time I need.

I also used it before my last marathon to help me understand what pace I needed to run to break 4 hours.  Yes, anyone can google it and get a result of 9:09/mile.  BUT … if you run 9:09, per your watch, you’re likely not going to break 4 hours.

Because you really run more than 26.2 miles in a marathon!

Looking back at my previous two marathons, I figured I needed to plan on running at least 26.5 miles.  I plugged in 26.5 miles, 3:59:59 in the ‘time’ field, and it spit back a pace of 9:03.

I shot for 9:02 just to be safe.


 

IMG_3450.PNG

Google Sheets – Free

Spreadsheets.  On your phone.  That’s really about all I need to say about this one.

I personally use a Google spreadsheet to maintain my training log.  This gives me the ability to view / update that on the fly.

Coolness.

It’s pretty full featured too.  The training log is simple math, but if you wanted to you can format with different colored cells, etc.

If you keep a spreadsheet as well, perhaps this would be useful to you.

 

 


 

IMG_3452.PNGGoogle Maps – Free

Google Maps helps me explore new places visually before strapping on my shoes to run for real.

Yes, I like to explore while I run, but I also like to be safe, and there’s some comfort knowing what I’m getting into – before I get into it.

Case in point, I was looking at the area near a Fairfield Inn that I stayed recently.  I saw lots of industrial stuff that didn’t look too welcoming to a run.  And given that I like to run early, before the sun’s up, I took a pass and hit the treadmill instead.

 

 

 


 

 

IMG_3447.PNG ISS Spotter – Free

I love to run early in the morning – aka Darkness!!

Why???

Well first off, that’s what my schedule allows, but … there’s some really cool stuff to see in the wee hours of the morning – like the International Space Station!

How do I find the International Space Station?

I’m glad you asked – simply download the ISS Spotter app and it will provide you a forecast of when you should be able to see the space station fly overhead.

It also provides a nice map of where the space station is at the current time.

If you’re really into looking at the space station, you can set an alert to let you know when it’s nearby and very visible.


 

IMG_3445.PNGThe Night Sky – $.99

Another benefit of early morning running – Stars!  And I love stars.

There are plenty of apps that act as a star chart, and I’ve used a few.  Honestly, this one doesn’t get great reviews in the app store, but it meets my needs.

First, it was one of the star charts with the smallest installation footprints.

Secondly, it’s very responsive.

What more does one need?

I’m not real big on seeing the artist representation of the constellation, but there’s probably a way to turn that off.  It just hasn’t bothered me enough to look into it.

I like that this will tell me what a particular constellation, or planet, is and that it also helps me look for a specific constellation on planet.

Recently it helped tech me that a constellation I was looking at was Canis Minor.

One other benefit – when I read reports of a meteor shower, centralized on constellation XYZ, I use this to find XYZ in the sky so I know where to look.


 

IMG_3446.PNGAurora Forecast – Free

I’ve always thought it’d be cool to run under the Northern lights.  To date, that’s never happened, but I’m hoping this app helps me with that.

This app does exactly what the name implies – helps one understand the forecast for the Northern lights.

One of the cool features is the globe that you can spin around and see where the Aurora is currently active.

While I haven’t been successful from a running standpoint, this app has been useful in notifying me of an opportunity to take my daughter out to experience them the first time.

 


 

 

IMG_3448.PNGScope Nights – Free (but in app purchases)

Another app that’s rated poorly in the app store, but I dig it.

It’s offers a quick glance as to whether or not I’m gonna have a poor / good / great star viewing run in the morning.

One of the extras I purchased was the dark sky map.  It shows you where the sky is darkest around you.  Not necessarily useful for running, but it helps me find the dark sky if I want to take my daughters out for a ride to look at stars.