Friday, August 31, 2012

Trying to go the distance...

Wow – it’s been an interesting few weeks.  With only four weeks until the runDisney Tower of Terror 10-Miler, I’m looking at two more long runs of 10 and 11 miles… and hoping I can manage even half of that.

That’s because I’ve been beset by the dreaded IT Band Syndrome.  Apparently, months of running ever-increasing long runs on Florida’s steeply angled roadways/sidewalks/paths are partly to blame.  Add to that my wonky gait thanks to scoliosis and it seems my body never gets a chance to run in any way that’s level and balanced.  Whatever.  All I know is that for the past month and a half, it feels like someone’s taken an ax to the outside of my left knee at mile 7.  I limped through my last long run to reach that magic double-digit 10, but the last few miles were pretty bad.  And that’s not even counting the monsoon in which I ran the final mile!  That actually felt good, comparatively.

So now I’m only running until the pain starts, and then stopping, regardless of how far that is.  Last weekend, I only made it 3 miles.  I stuck with the treadmill earlier this week and did 2.5 miles pain-free, and went outdoors for a slow-paced run with Leo the other day – 2.5 again with no pain.  I’m hopeful, but not optimistic, about my chances for pulling a full 10 miles this weekend.

Meanwhile, there are some bright spots in my running life…

For one thing, Leos’ running with me again!  He took the summer off because, well… because it’s HOT and HUMID down here and who actually wants to run in that?!  I’ve had to, since I signed up for a race at the end of stupid September, but Leo didn’t.  But we’re signed up to run a 5K in November, so he’s doing a short run or two with me each week again.  I missed him!  It’s nice to have him along for the ride again. :)

I’m also trying out a pair of Newton running shoes. 

I’m naturally a mid-foot striker and Newtons are specifically designed to work with a mid-foot strike.  They aren’t cheap, but I was able to get a pair of Lady Isaac S on sale, so I thought I’d give them a try.   So far, I really like them!  They feel a little funny when walking, thanks to the nubs set into the sole of the forefoot, so I’m not sure how useful they’ll be to me on long runs, given my run-walk-run approach.  But when I’m running?  Ooooooo, they’re so good!  Lightweight and springy, I swear Newtons make me lope like a gazelle rather than plod like an elephant.  My only gripes are that the heels aren’t as snug as I like, given my freakishly narrow ankles and previous Achilles injury, and that the reduced cushioning of Newton’s design seems to leave my feet achy for a few days.  But I can address the heels by wearing thick socks and, from what I’ve read, my feet should gain strength and become less achy as time goes on.  I’m following Newton's advice to transition slowly, especially as I have a race coming up; I’m only doing a short run each week in the Newtons for now.  But I’m looking forward to giving them more bonding time, come October, and will report back with a full review.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Product Review: iSmoothRun

For several weeks, both Runkeeper and Active have been selling me the merits of a new (well, new to me) app called iSmoothRun.  A couple of my friends who run have been using it, too, and I decided last week to give it a try.  Know what sold me on it?  It records temperature and humidity.  That’s right, I paid $4.99 for a running app that’ll save for all time the weather conditions of my every run.

Best $4.99 I’ve ever spent with the iPhone App Store.

As anyone reading my blog posts knows, it’s bloody HOT down here in west-central Florida.  And hot, humid conditions mean a slower pace.  I know all of that and I’ve even mostly accepted it… but it’s still frustrating.  But to be able to look back at a run’s data and see, right there in black and white, that I managed a 12:14/mile average pace when the temp was 90° and humidity was 87%?  To quote a ridiculously annoying commercial we all know, it's “priceless.”

It turns out, though, that iSmoothRun came with a few more nifty features I really like, so here’s my little review…

  • Its readout is BIG – as in, I can see my time and distance clearly through my armband without reading glasses.  Yes, the little voice tells me those things regularly, too, but I’m a visual learner; you can tell me something ‘til the cows come home, but it won’t sink in until I see it in print.  Really BIG print, now that I’m over 40.
  • It allows me to track mileage on my shoes – no small feat, given that I’m rotating between four different pairs.  After each run, I need only scroll down in the edit function and select which pair of shoes was on my feet.  iSmoothRun keeps a total mileage tally going on each pair.
  • There are options at the end of each run to tell how it felt via smilies.  Trust me – after my last 9-miler, when the most complicated thought I could muster was, “Guh,” picking a face that matched how I felt was a good thing.  At that I had a hard time choosing between an orange, slanty-mouthed “Blah” and a pink, tongue-out “Tired.”
  • I can elect to have iSmoothRun tell me the fastest song I heard during each run.  This does nothing for my training, but is a nice little surprise to see while walking through a cool-down.
  • Auto-pause – each time I stop for a red light, to tie my shoes, to refill a water bottle, to take a 2-minute mid-run swim in the pool (for real – I was roasting!), the app pauses and then resumes when it again feels motion.  From what I can tell, it does so very, very accurately, too.
  • It tracks cadence!  As you know form my last post, I love counting my cadence.  But after about 5 miles, my brain can’t seem to count past 20 without losing track.  iSmoothRun tracks average cadence, though, so my walk intervals kind of kill any attempt to reach a “perfect” cadence of 90.  But, I’m pretty sure an average of 83 is pretty good, with walk breaks included.
  • Aside from environmental conditions, though, my favorite element of my new app is the vocal feedback.  My new pal “Smoothy”, as I’ve come to think of the female voice-over used to report time, distance, etc., is very motivating.  Smoothy doesn’t say much – just enough to get her point across.  But her inflections are spot-on: in a perky, excited little voice that I just know belongs to a pony-tailed, pert-nosed, wisp of a cheerleader, Smoothy tells me when it’s time to “Run!”  A few minutes later, she informs me in a calm, relaxed tone to “Walk.”  Every so often, she lets me know how much time and distance have passed and how I’m doing on pace; she always sounds so positive and proud of my hard work.  And I just love when Smoothy busts in with an exuberant “You’re halfway to your goal!”  Which may or may not have anything to do with my final commendation for iSmoothRun…
  • It makes me run faster!  Okay, maybe it just tracks differently than Runkeeper and only looks like I’m cranking out a faster pace.  Whatever.  Lower numbers keep me motivated, so it’s all good.
In every other way, iSmoothRun offers the same things I had before using Runkeeper alone: the ability to set up customized intervals, data tracking, synchronization with social media, mapping, etc.  And it works with Runkeeper, so each iSmoothRun is uploaded to my Runkeeper profile.  I’m looking forward to many more fun runs with Smoothy by my side!