Sunday, November 18, 2012

Gadgetry and Gizmos

It's weird. When people ask if I'm training for Miami already the answer -- I suppose -- is yes. But it's honestly gotten to the point where I'm so used to running these .long distances on Saturday mornings that it doesn't feel abnormal. It doesn't feel like so much effort like it used to. Does this mean I'm officially [shudder] becoming one of those runners I used to say I'd never be? Those people that say that 10 miles is no big deal and mean it? What has happened to me!

I am still trying to work out my schedule from now until the end of January. I'm actually struggling -- believe it or not -- with holding myself back right now. I want to run 14, 16, 18 miles (gross, right?) But I have to force myself to stop at 10 or so the past couple of weeks. Otherwise, I'll have basically 30+ weeks of straight training, and my body won't be able to sustain it.

Yesterday I decided to do  my therapy session (err...I mean run...) on my own rather than with a group. I started at my apartment on the Upper East Side on 1st and ran West all the way to the water, entering at the Boat Basin (for you NY-ers following along in the audience). This straight shot across is exactly 2 miles.

I ran north along the water, with the highway on my right and Hudson on my left. It was a gorgeous, crisp fall day (although a bit windy) and I was enjoying the view and nerding out to some NPR on my iphone. I continued on this for about 2 miles and then turned around and headed back south, retracing my steps.

From there, I passed where I had started (mile 6 or so) and then continued south for a mile and a half. This got me to around the 40s on the West Side, at which point I turned around and retraced again through Riverside Park, one of my favorite places to run in the city.

In the 70s-80s, aside from being really clean with a separate path for biking and running, it has really nice, unique landscaping, sculptures, and structures that are just nice to look at and focus on during the run. Really recommend going there if you're in the city.

Once I got back to the Boat Basin once again (mile 9) I simply ran home to get to 11 miles. My favorite part of the run was probably the cut through in Central Park. 

I challenge you to find me something so Autumnly delightful. Can't be done. You lose.
When I first started running, I was pretty religious about mapping out my route in advance. I'd get nervous and want to know exactly where I was going and where my mile markers were. I'd use Map My Run in order to plan my runs, study the map, and then go and do what I had routed. But along the way, what if there is a detour? Or things aren't as they seemed on the Google map? Or you run into a rogue ogre or trolls on a tollbridge or someone you once went on a bad JDate with? I felt like I needed to be able to make changes as I went.

Over time, with enough routes under my belt, I found I didn't have to be such a planner about my runs. Which is nice. One less thing to be kray about. From experience, I could know more about the terrain, where bathrooms are (can be key), where to find water fountains (until they get turned off for the!), and what is going to have stoplights vs. a straight shot path.  That said, I did / do still want to know how far I'd gone. 

I also started caring more about my speed as opposed to just distance alone. I know some people are really good about just knowing how fast they're going. I am not one of those people. Because I have a propensity to lie (I am running a 5 minute mile! I am qualifying for the OLYMPICS!)

This is why I bought my Garmin watch. You can get ones with GPS (more expensive) or without (less expensive). I have -- and recommend -- the Forerunner 70.. This non-GPS version comes with a foot pod that you attach to your shoe, and the data goes into your watch. You can download this data (if you  want) later to analyze pacing, timing, etc.

I bet he doesn't think two GPS sources are too many. Go, go Gadget!
Your watch can be set to show different fields depending on your preferences. I have it so it shows my current pace, my current total mileage, and current total time. But you could do average pace, heart rate (it also comes with a monitor for that), or others depending on what your goals are.

The only caveat I'd make is that you have to be careful not to obsess too much over tenths of miles. The watch, like all apps and other devices, is not perfect. This post From one of the running blogs I follow demonstrates that two Garmins can show different mileage and pace. So use it as a guide and not as 100% mantra.

But you might ask, MeriG? Do I need a watch at all?

No, Dear Reader, you might not need to invest in a watch at all. Turns out they have these fancy iPhone "machines" (as my Mom calls them) that have things called "applications." It's basically one step down from the Hoverboard.  

For running apps, MapMyRun is decent, and Nike+ is pretty great. But I recently found a new one I wanted to share because I'm obsessed with it! It's called RunKeeper and can be downloaded for free. Join me as I show you the glorious-ness, won't you?

Unlike some of the other apps I've used, you can select what type of run you are doing. Speed workout? Steady? How many miles as your goal? Do you want to warm up and cool down? It's awesome. Here I opted for a 5 mile steady workout, which included 5 minute warm up.

As you run, it tracks your speed by the minute. Egads, so much data! After your run, you can be like, at minute 42, how fast was I going? The answer is a 8:52 pace. I'M SO FREAKING FAST I CAN'T EVEN STAND IT.

My average for the whole run was 9:25 (you see on top) and I burned off enough to indulge in some yummy cornbread at brunch.

mmmmmmmm Cornbread.............

Sorry, got distracted. Back to the review:

Like the other apps I've used, it will track your route. But what I like about this is that it shows you the mile markers really clearly along the way. Very nice.

Here's my route throughout my parents' neighborhood. Please don't stalk them and kill them. Thx.

You sign up for a profile when you start, and this allows you to track your progress over time. Once I add more mileage, it will add on to the 5 miler. I also have my "Goal" to run 26.2 miles at some point (yeah, yeah, yeah, that's what she always says...)

You can choose to sync up to Facebook or not (like most of the apps).

What this does differently, though, is it keeps up with your individual records. How far you've gone when using the app, how fast, how high an elevation...kind of cool!

All in all, would definitely recommend. A couple of other cool features:

* Like Nike+  (and some others), you can choose a playlist to play as you run from your phone. However, what I like about this versus Nike is that when you have alerts (I have mine set to tell me when I've hit mile markers and my average pace), the music continues to play on RunKeeper (just softer). Nike will just stop the song entirely. It's a small detail, but I like it.

* On the homescreen of this app while you're running is a big button for "coaching." When you press it (which is very easy while running to minimize phone fumbling), it will tell you the mileage and speed so you don't have to wait until you actually hit a mile marker (because I get curious!)

Anyways, I hope this helps. I know I was overwhelmed with all the apps and gadgets and just possibilities when I started, so hope I can help some other novices navigate this space. 

Do you use a Garmin? An app you like? How do you manage your runs and pace?

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