Category Archives: Other

Running and a different kinda race …

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I love Nascar.  Are there other ultra runners out there who are Nascar fans?  I’m guessing a few but not many.  For whatever reason, they seem like different crowds.  Perhaps not though – both groups like to drink beer.

My brother’s getting married next month and I took him to Martinsville for his bachelor party.  The two of us, our dad, and nine other guys drove down to camp for the weekend and enjoy some racing – on the track.

 

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I’ve been to quite a few races, but this was the first time attending a race since I’ve started running seriously.  I thought it’d be a great opportunity to see the campground in the early morning hours vs. the typical late night.  I expected to see the aftermath of the previous night’s mayhem and have folks give me a hard time about running vs. drinking but neither happened.  Both of my runs were pretty quiet and uneventful.  One guy asked me how many laps I was planning on running, but other than that folks just watched me roll by.  Or run by.  Or slog by – whatever you wanna call it.

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#brothers

Note: a bit of advice – if you do go to a Nascar race, and you camp, and you can rent a private port-a-john, do it.  People are gross.  Anyway …

I enjoyed the peace and quiet for a bit both mornings.  Everything at a Nascar race is LOUD.  The race is obviously loud, but so is the camping – people blaring music and the generators running.  I am not a fan of the generators.  So taking time both mornings to run was awesome.

The whole weekend was a good one – we had fun, the race was great (although my driver didn’t end up doing so hot), we had some good food (my first Martinsville hotdog – I ate 7 over the weekend), played some yard games and enjoyed a few beers.

Now that I’m back from the race, it’s time to get back into the swing of things.  Training for the Marquette Trail 50 starts tomorrow.  Goodnight!

Do you like Nascar?

Ever been to a race?

 

I love Kalamazoo. And my heart aches.

 

I’m not writing about running tonight – so no hard feelings from me if you’d like to take a  pass on this post.

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I live in Kalamazoo.  Yes, there is really a Kalamazoo.  If you didn’t know about us prior to Saturday night, unfortunately you do now.

We experienced the same tragedy that many other cities have known all too well.   And my heart aches for the families of those who were murdered.

I’m not going to lie – things are different when it’s this close to home.  When a woman’s shot six miles from your house – when four women are murdered in the parking lot of the restaurant where you took your 4yr old daughter to dinner just last week – when you have friends and family who work with friends and family of people who were murdered – it’s different.

And that’s the shitty part of it – it feels different, but it’s really not – this shit. happens. all. the. time.

Sure we could get into the politics of how we can, or can’t, should or shouldn’t prevent this type of a tragedy in the future.  But that started the minute that the news broke.  And quite frankly I find that disgusting.

No, I’d rather just say my heart aches for the families.  For this community.   And I wish you didn’t have to hear about Kalamazoo this way.  It’s a wonderful city with wonderful people and I’m proud to raise my family here.

I love Kalamazoo.

And my heart aches.

My thoughts are with the families of those who were murdered.

And I feel shitty that this feels different.

But I love Kalamazoo.  And my heart aches.

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?

 

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.

 

 

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.


 

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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.

 

 

 


 

Did you run 47 miles?

Her: What time did you get up this morning?

Me: About 3.

Her: My god, that’s early – what, did you run 47 miles?

Me: Only 8.

Her: *staring*

Her: *still staring*

Her: What, that’s it!?  You got up that early for 8 miles?

Me: I was going to go 12, but I had to cut it short.  I had 10 Taco Bell fire sauces with lunch yesterday.  It was burning a hole through me.

Her:  10?  That was dumb; you’re disgusting.  

Me: Have a good day, I love you too!

Why do so many runners blog?

One of the first things I noticed after diving into the social media world of running … lots of runners blog.  Like ALOT (excuse the poor grammar there).

It made me think – why do so many runners blog?  Runners do like to talk about how much they run … at least that’s what people like to say …

After thinking about why I blog, I’m guessing most folks are blogging for the same reasons I am.

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Working on the blog – with a Michigan Beer of Course!  Dark Horse – Crooked Tree, one of my absolute favorites!
  1. It allows me to connect with other runners.  My wife doesn’t run.  My buddies (at least my local buddies) don’t run.  Blogging gives me a way to connect with other runners with similar goals.  Or even other runners who have totally different goals, but still share the same passion for the outdoors.
  2. It allows me to share my running experiences with those who are interested.  My friends can come and read about my adventures, at their own leisure, without me ramming it down their throats at the office or through Facebook.
  3. It’s a record of past adventures.  These words and pictures will let me look back someday to read about race XYZ, see what I wore to handle some particularly bad weather, or even relive a nice hike with my family.
  4. In some odd way, it seems like a way to hold myself accountable.  If others are reading about my journey, how could I let them down!?  Yes, I’m my own motivation, but a little outside motivation never hurts, right?

Whatever the reason, I’m thanking that other runners are sharing their adventures.  I enjoy reading race reports from all distances – half marathons all the way up to 100 milers, product reviews and the simple details of a great training run.  It also opens my eyes to some pretty cool races that I never knew about!

Some of my favorites blogs are:

  1. The 100 Mile Mark
  2. Fat Girl Running
  3. Trail Running Faith
  4. Bradley on the Run
  5. Vanloo Running

Why do you blog?