Minnesota is as warm as Florida

And it was true for possibly an entire hour on Wednesday night that Minneapolis and Pensacola were the same temperature.  Obviously I went out for a run, because if Minnesota in January is like Florida, that needs to be celebrated.

It turned out to be a great run.  I drove down to the lake, where I knew the trails were plowed.  The sun was just going down as I got started.  I forgot my headlight on the front seat of my car.  Doh!  But there were only a couple spots I'd really wished for it.  It was a nice even run, and gave me lots of time to think.  Wednesday was the second to last day at my current place of employment so it was kind of a wild day and emotionally, I needed some time to myself to think anyways.

In hindsight it's good I got in a run this week because weather for the rest of the time will be not nearly as fun.  It snowed 6 inches today (which leads to a kind of funny story about my last day), and tonight it's going to be cold again.  Because Polar Vortex.


Weekday workouts: Excellent time on the track

An update on my New Year's Resolution of being nice to people at the gym.  I would not say I've been overly nice, but I have avoided aggravation and frustration, which is a positive step I think.

Monday I took one look at the track, and decided discretion is the better part of valor.  I headed to the treadmill for a quick workout, running 1.25 miles and walking .25 miles.  I thought about heading into the cool down room for a stretch and foam roll, but someone was wearing stinky perfume (could've been cologne), so I again opted for discretion and just went home.

Tuesday, I hit the track after work.  I had a shockingly excellent run on the track.  My goal was to do four miles at an even pace.  Since I'm still too cheap to buy a heart rate monitor, I just went off of how I was experiencing my effort.  The track was a sweet place.  There were no kids and no one hogging the passing lane.  The walkers were awesome, and there were tons of runners which made me feel right at home.  I did 3 miles, had a quick bathroom break, and ran the last mile, then did a half mile cool down walk.  Then I forgot to stop the workout while I stretched for 15 minutes so my overall pace is hilariously slow.  Sigh.  At least the mileage splits from the run are accurate.


2014 Smartphone Running Apps: Nike+, Endomondo and Strava

About a year ago, I wrote this post and that continues to generate a significant amount of traffic to the blog.  Things have changes in the past year, so it's time to write an update (and slightly apologize to Nike+ because it does actually work indoors).

Nike+ Ipod is the old school app on the list.  It works with several generations of iPod Touch and iPod Nanos, and may require a separate foot pod that costs $19 and lasts a long time.  I include it here because it does work on an iOS smart phone and it has its uses.
  • Favorite feature: works reliably indoors or outdoors and doesn't require GPS.
  • Weakness: tends to report wonky data for workouts that include walking and running
  • I keep using it because it's winter in Minnesota and I do a significant miles inside

Nike+ Running is the GPS friendly app from Nike, and very similar in features to Nike+iPod, with the same website.
  • Favorite feature: it actually does work inside see below and handles run/walk workouts quite well
  • Weakness: the website, which is user friendly but not feature rich and doesn't always display data correctly.  See here for a full account.
  • I keep using it because it actually works inside and sometimes I forget my iPod or want to listen to the music on my phone.

And now, Sorry to Nike.  Last year I said basically, no this app doesn't work for indoor running.  And then I had a desperate situation one night at the gym (when I'd forgotten an iPod or a foot pod or something) and grudgingly tried it out.  I used it in my armband, even though it said not to.  (No way am I carrying this phone in my hand for that long.)  It worked pretty well actually.  I've found the app handles particularly well in run/walk workouts which had always been a weakness of the iPod app.
I do think Nike makes a mistake on their website, indicating that the phone only tracks indoor runs when handheld.  Because that would be silly.  I turn on the app and put my phone in an armband and have found it to be quite accurate, even though the website assures me the consequences for doing so will be dire. 

Endomondo is an app I found when I was using an Android phone and I've loved it ever since.  It has this wild pricing situation where there's a free app and website, or a "pro app" that's a one time cost but doesn't include a 'premium' website subscription, and then there's this 'premium website and app' subscription which is a monthly or yearly cost. I upgraded to the pro app because I wanted the interval workout feature.  It was totally worth the $4.99.  I'm cheap so I still refuse to pay for the premium website.
  • Favorite feature: the greatness of the website.  Even with the free versions of everything, this website is easily the most feature rich and gives a lot of useful data.  It will break down my fastest mile, 5K, 10K times.  It's also easy to edit workouts and add workouts to specific routes so I can watch myself get faster.  Bonus favorite features are the interval workout option on the Pro App, and the variety of sports that can be tracked.
  • Weakness: It doesn't work indoors.  The fact that it doesn't work for indoor workouts is the only reason I know about these other apps.
  • I keep using this app because it's my favorite.  It has the most features (free or Pro versions) and the best website.
Strava is a new app that I tried out this year.  It pairs with about a million devices (can't tell if more or fewer than Endomondo) and has some unique features.
  • Favorite feature: 'time moving' is tracked, versus the entire workout.  It analyzes GPS data and disregards the time I'm standing at a stop light at Cedar Ave waiting to cross, or the time I scrape the snow off my car and forget to pause the app at the end of a workout.  It's nice on workouts with lots of stoplights but tends to tell me a faster pace for other workouts.
  • Weakness: Distance is measured by the tenth of a mile.  In every other app I've ever tested (including many not mentioned here), distance is given in the hundredth of a mile, which I prefer.  As I mentioned before, pace always looks faster in this app than Endomondo or Nike+ because of the whole "time moving" thing.  Rounding up distances at the end of a workout just exacerbates the problem.
  • I keep using this app because I think it draws the prettiest maps, and I like the graphics for the elevation data as well.  You've seen both on the blog. I promise.

After using a few different apps all year, and seeing what people search for that leads them to this post, I added some new categories, and kept most of the ones from last year.
  • Outdoors: Obviously the app has to work for running outdoors, or it would've been silly for me to include it.
  • Indoor track: Because it's winter in Minnesota and I continue to run.
  • Treadmill: Not many smart phone apps cooperate with treadmill runs.  It's kind of surprising.
  • Foot pod: Because "endomondo+foot pod" is one of the most searched things on this entire blog, which apps work with a foot pod attached to your shoe.
  • Foot pod imports: some apps don't allow a foot pod but will import data from a different platform.
  • Interval workouts: Does the app allow interval workouts, and give audio cues for high intensity, low intensity, etc.  Couch to 5K has taught a lot of people to run this way, and it's a feature that's sorely missed once runners graduate to a different goal.
  • Walking: All of these apps calculate pace and calories burned (lovely).  Calories are burned differently when we walk.  Can the app handle it?
  • Other sports: Can the app track sports besides running?
  • Goal Setting: Can I tell the app "I want to run X miles or X minutes or at X pace" for a workout?
  • Shoe Tracking: Does the app or website keep track of how many miles I've run in a particular pair of shoes?
  • Cost of the app for the smart phone: because I'm cheap.
  • Cost of the website subscription: I'm seeing a new business model (which annoys me because I'm cheap) where the apps are free, and some basic data is free, but then there's an up-charge for a premium service which adds tons of other data.
  • Heart rate monitors: Will the app integrate data from a heart rate monitor?  I'm thinking of getting one this year, so it's important.
  • Platforms: Which apps cooperate with which smart phones.


Sunday Long Run and Pond Hockey

First up, Pond Hockey Championships were today.  And Pond Hockey is alive and well in Minnesota.  I noticed more people at the lakes but didn't really have any problems.  Other than the traffic jam of cars trying to get off the road around the lake to leave.  Sucks to be you people.  It was good to even run by this for a couple of days.  I was particularly struck by the number of hotel shuttles going back and forth to the lake.  I did not realize the extent of people coming from all over to hang out on the lake and play hockey.  Cool!

I planned on doing my long run today, since the rest of the week looks pretty dismal for weather.  I needed 9 miles and wasn't sure exactly how to work that out.  I'd considered heading over to Lake Calhoun and Harriet, but the 2.5 miles of sidewalks between here and there can be pretty dicey. I also thought about going along the river but my experience with not-so-plowed routes yesterday had me questioning that decision.  Ultimately I decided to heat over to Lake Nokomis and do a second lap around the lake itself.  That route would give me the most distance on reliably plowed trails. 

The plan was to warm up, run at least a mile around Lake Hiawatha, then move on to 5:00, 1:30 intervals for the rest of the run.  I had a brief fail where my shoe came untied and interrupted my 'mile' so I adjusted a bit, and still ran a mile without stopping.  The streak continues.  The golf course and Lake Hiawatha were lovely.  And someone had at least tried to plow the rest of the path around the Lake.  It wasn't as wide nor as flat as it should've been but I recognized and appreciated the effort.

Lake Nokomis was a bit packed.  The cars trying to drive around for parking were off the hook.  There were tons of people out.  Walkers, dog walkers, runners, bikers, and hockey fans.  The hockey fans were actually pretty respectful of the people on the trail.  They really only intersected with us a couple times, crossing to get on and off the lake.  It was somewhere around the end of the first lap on the lake that my stomach went into rebellion.  Towards the end of the second lap I finally had a successful negotiation with my stomach.  I felt noticeably better after that, until I got tired from not bringing enough food.  Sigh.  True story: my pace was about five seconds slower than the pace for yesterdays run, despite the additional walking and the two stops.  So I've got that going for me.

I haven't felt much like going out for a long run, just running, so I'm happy that I have this interval plan to work with.  My next race is in April and if I don't get in some good long runs I will likely use the interval plan for the race itself.  (It's my first trail run so my goal is to finish without falling down too many times.)  It's been hard to get in long runs, and also mid distance runs outside because of the weather and snow.  My weeks tend to be one or two longer runs with a bunch of one and two mile runs in the middle.  Nothing to really build up an aerobic base or endurance.  We'll see if I can face the track a few more times this next week to get in some four and five mile runs.


Saturday Snow Run

Today, I badly didn't want to go to the gym.  The regular Zumba instructor and first back up were both out of town, most of my Zumba buddies had other plans, and I wanted a long run which was not going to happen on the track.

At least once a year, I tend to do a 'deep snow run'.  For 2014, my first (only?) deep snow run was today.  Because even deep snow was more motivating than the gym.  The rules of deep snow running are to wear yak trax and to keep an even effort.  ('Even effort' means that snow runs are much slower than regular runs.  Bonus rule: don't freak out when your pace is super slow.)  I'm remembering these things from last year's snow runs.

True story: I'd started the day imagining just wearing my trail shoes.  What a fail that would've been. 

I headed out around 9:30 this morning (just as Mo was coming on to vacuum) and there was a mix of plowed, shoveled, and not so much going on.  For the side streets, I just ran in the street.  It almost looked like the plows had been down the streets, but not quite.  Magically the park board did clear the sidewalk on 43rd street (I was shocked too!) but they did not clear most of the paths around Lake Hiawatha that are normally cleared.  Thank goodness some cross country skiers had been by and laid down some tracks for me to run in. 

Then, all of a sudden, I figured out what all of South Minneapolis hasn't been plowed yet!  Because all the plows are at Lake Nokomis for Pond Hockey.  Pond Hockey!  It actually wasn't really a headache for me to run by, even the busy part of the lake.  But it was impressive to see so many people out.  Round the back of the lake I started getting cold so I threw on my balaclava and stopped to snap a few pictures.  My favorite thing for the day was the 'Christmas Trees' all covered in snow.

On the way back home, I took a slightly different path around Lake Hiawatha so I was only on not-plowed garbage for a few feet before I hit city streets and then the plowed sidewalk again.  When I got home I took the chance to scrape off my car so I wouldn't have to get snow all over myself later.  Interestingly, I did not turn off my running apps, so it's added about 10 minutes to the total workout time and made me look much slower than I really am.  Sigh.


Weekend Workouts

As you can guess from the lack of any blog posts, this week wasn't super hot for activity.  Because if I don't get to the gym in the morning, then it almost always doesn't happen.  The gym is fine in the morning, even in January.  Sigh.  I did not hit my goal mileage for the week, but I was off by less than I thought I'd be.

Monday - I ran a mile on the track before heading to Yoga.  I felt like spaghetti afterwards so it was worth the class.  Yoga starts at 7am, so this was an early day.

Tuesday -  I ran a mile on the treadmill and then spent a long time on the elliptical.  My alarm went off at 6:20am.  If it'd been closer to my bed I would've thrown it across the room.

Wednesday - I ran 1.25 miles on the treadmill, then walked .25 miles.  Why the treadmill?  Because it was 'rush hour' at the gym and the track is that awful.  I couldn't handle a third day in a row of getting up early, so this was at 4:45pm.  The most entertaining part was running on my treadmill watching people trying to find spaces in the parking lot.

Thursday - I ran a mile on the track, then hit Circuit and Zumba.  Circuit has been pretty fun.  The teacher is making 12 stations instead of 10 so there's been plenty of room for everyone.  For Zumba, I stay in the front row.  No one bothers me up there. It took forever to drive to the gym in traffic, so I took a couple pics on the way.

Friday - I ran a mile outside in the freezing cold.  Because even the freezing ass cold was better than going to the gym.  This was the only snap I could get before my phone shut down in protest of the temps.