Yesterday I ran the TARC Fall Classic half marathon. This was a fun one! It was my fifth race, second half marathon, and second trail race. The terrain was very similar to the trails I normally run near my home in Medford, MA, as was the weather (since I was only about 30 minutes away). I finished in 2:37, which I think was a decent time for me.
The race provides no cups at the aid station. You must bring your own bottle. I did this, but I forgot to fill it at the start of the race. Fortunately for me the 13 mile course starts with a 1 mile loop around the cornfield and parking lot, then takes you right by the aid station again, so I stopped there and filled up again. Next time, I’ll take a bottle from the get go.
My Ultraspire waist belt – my normal goto on trail runs and long runs – proved to be a bit of a hindrance. This is because to get a snug, non-bouncy fit, I need to cinch it tightly around my waist. Unfortunately this interfered with my breathing when running at race pace, so I had a choice of a little bounce or restricted belly breathing.
I carried the right amount of food. I started off with some Harry & David Moose Munch popcorn (think “Cracker Jack with chocolate”) about half an hour before the start, a gel, an IQ bar, and some Gummy Bears. At the aid station I had peanut butter pretzels, an Oreo, and I snagged a bag of Doritos for the second lap. I definitely benefited from the salty snacks more than the sweet ones, so I plan to factor this in to nutrition/training moving forward. At the end of the race, I had some banana, boiled potato, and half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
I wore my Altra Lone Peak 5s – the same ones I ran the Vermont 50 in a year ago. They were fine for the terrain.
Seriously looking to run this one again next year – maybe the 20 miler or 50k,
Last weekend I completed my second “classic” marathon. That is to say, a plain 26.2 miles. It was in Derry, NH, and is known as the “Cheap Marathon.” They don’t spend a lot on frills, that’s for sure. Just water and Gatorade at the aid stations, and bananas and yogurt at the finish. For completing, no medals – just a ribbon that says “I ran 26.2 miles and all I got was this lousy ribbon.” It was worth it.
I shaved several minutes off my 2021 Baystate Marathon time. My time was 4:26, compared to 4:38 in 2021. However this does not factor in the 4+ minutes where I stopped to call 911 because a gent in front of me collapsed along the trail. Turns out he had a pacemaker that thought he was working a little too hard and he needed to be stopped. It was dramatic. Despite my Apple Watch Ultra failing me (which is a topic for another post), it came through for him. Within seconds I was on with a 911 operator, who dispatched EMTs to the scene. Once he was in good hands, I continued my run.
I am happy to report that my knee was fine the entire way – not so much as a twinge. So I am comfortable saying this has healed.
I’m now twice officially a runner. Why? Because statistically – I read somewhere – nearly 100% of runners suffer an injury. Last year I had a mild stress fracture. This year, I apparently had a torn meniscus. Hurray. So I’m double-officially a runner now.
It’s been five weeks. I’m in PT. It’s going great and I’m returning to running now.
Running continues to be my primary focus outside of work. Okay, I admit it – on most days I could leave out the “outside of work” qualifier. My long runs continue to approach marathon length. I recall how in 2019 I thought “maybe I’ll get to the point where I just run a half marathon equivalent (13.1 miles) twice a week and that will be my training schedule.” Now I’m back to the point where I’m doing 30-40+ miles a week as my prep for the Vermont 50 is peaking. It feels great. I love the continued training, challenge, and improvement.
I have owned an Apple Watch since Series 2. I also had a Series 4 with cellular, and now own a Series 6, also with cellular. I bought the Apple Watch because it was rated as being the most accurate general purpose, wrist-based fitness tracker. There are certainly other options, and better ones just for running, but I went with Apple because I am fairly comfy in their ecosystem.
I’ve known for some time that wrist-based heart rate monitors (HRM) are inaccurate. My Apple Watch will show me at 180 bpm when I am working moderately/hard. My maximum heart rate is around 173 bpm, so, no. Just no.
As of watchOS 7, it’s like the Watch does not even try anymore. I will start my run and it’s a good half mile before it even can show a reading. When it finally does, it is wildly inaccurate. At a friend’s suggestion, I bought a Wahoo TICKR FIT a couple years ago. I wear it on my upper arm, and it gets within 1-2 bpm of what a chest strap Wahoo TICKR X gives. This is good enough for my purposes. For comparison, when the Apple Watch says I’m at 180 bpm, the Wahoo TICKRs will show me being somewhere in the 150s.
As of watchOS 8.4, things got worse. The Bluetooth connection between the Watch and three different HRMs (Wahoo TICKR Fit, Wahoo TICKR X, and Polar H10) all lose their connection to the watch within seconds of starting a workout. They periodically reconnect, but then continue to lose the connection. The end result is periods of accurate readings along with equal periods of inaccurate readings. The result is the same – useless, garbage data. On the Apple Watches, I test by pairing the HRM and using the Workout app. On my iPhone, I pair the devices and tested with Strava or the manufacturer’s apps.
To troubleshoot this, Apple sent me a new Apple Watch. It is running watchOS 7.6.1. While this version is buggy, it works and will reliably hold a connection with any of the three HRMs I have tried. When I paired a couple of the HRMs with a friend’s Apple Watch, running watchOS 8.4.2, she experienced the same, erratic and inaccurate behavior. So at this point, I have tried the combinations shown in the following table.
Wahoo TICKR X
Wahoo TICKR Fit
Series 6, Cellular, watchOS 8.4, 8.4.1, 8.4.2
Series 4, Cellular, watchOS 8.4.2
Series 6, Cellular, watchOS 7.6.1
iPhone 13, iOS 15.3.1
✓ = Works as expected. X = Does not work reliably. – = Untested
I have gone well above and beyond what any customer should have to do to troubleshoot this. I have reported my findings to Apple and Wahoo at my own time and expense. And I have gotten zero positive results.
After weeks of troubleshooting, Apple reported back that the problem is with the third-party manufacturers. Apple will not work with me further to address the issue. Apple said they would work with the manufacturers, but not with me. As I only have the Wahoo devices (returning the Polar, since it behaved the same), that leaves them. Wahoo maintains no one else has reported this behavior, even though I have clearly demonstrated the issue with two of their products on two separate Apple Watches.
So what’s a guy to do? I have clearly demonstrated the problem, but no one wants to own it. At this point, if I want reliable metrics, I need to stay on an old, buggy, insecure version of watchOS. I didn’t even get into the fact that I cannot activate cellular service on the replacement watch running watchOS 7.6.1. I’ll save that for another post.
UPDATE: As of watchOS 8.5 (2022-03-14) everything seems to be working again normally.
UPDATE: Nope, nope. As of 2022-03-17 it happened again.
A few days after my first marathon last year, my right foot swelled up. Massively. I took a couple days off, and did (relatively) short runs. The foot hurt and would swell up like a baloon. I self-diagnosed as having a stress injury (fracture?) and accepted I may have to stop running for the rest of the year. I was able to get an appointment with a sports orthopedist at MGH, and he prescribed physical therapy. X-Rays showed no (remaining) fractures.
I did it. Four hours and 38 minutes of nearly non-stop plodding along at an average 10:37/mile pace. My main goal was to finish in 4.5 hours. My secondary goal was to finish. I finished. 690 people finished the marathon. I was 575. So hey! I was in the top 83rd percentile!
From 2017 to early 2021, my go to running shoes were the New Balance Fresh Foam 1080 (I forget if they were version 9 or 10), and a pair of the New Balance Summit Unknown for trail running. In 2020 I went on a bit of a shopping spree and was trying all sorts of New Balance shoes, as I liked the wide toe box that didn’t mash my feet. I had an old pair of the Fresh Foam 960s, and bought a pair of the Fresh Foam 980s, as well as the Fresh Foam More. I liked my shows like I like my cappuccino – fresh and foamy.
It’s been a while since I threw my hat over the fence, so here we go! I just registered for the 33rd annual Baystate Marathon. 26.2 miles of pure fun in the tradition of my Spartan ancestors*. I started running regularly in 2017, and embraced it in 2018. In March 2020 I ran 13.1 miles for the first time. I did 13.25 three weeks ago, then 14 last weekend. Sunday my running buddy/accountability partner and I will do 15.5, etc., as we build up to the event on October 17. The clock is ticking!
I have no goal other than to finish. I think that’s sufficient for now.
* No, I don’t really know if I had any Spartan ancestors, but my dad’s from Athens, so that’s close, right?
If you’re like 99% of the civilized world, you’ve been on a Zoom, WebEx, GotoMeeting, Hangout, Meet, or other similar platform within the last two hours. Even though it’s been just over a year since the first reported case of COVID-19 in the US, I figured it would not hurt to give some folks some best practices on attending online meetings.
Know if Your Camera is On
I recommend cameras on for small meetings. It shows that you are (or are not) engaged. For a large meeting with dozens of people in attendance, don’t turn your camera on if no one else has – just go with the flow. If you’re a manager and you want people to be more engaged, have your staff turn ’em on.
If your camera is on, act accordingly. Don’t be that guy.
Mute if You’re Not Speaking
If you’re a good meeting attendee, and you’re paying attention to what’s going on, you may not need to mute. However, if you’re splitting your attention, typing, using a scratchy microphone, or have background noise (kids, spouses, pets, traffic, smoke detectors, etc.) please mute. And then remember to unmute when you speak. Another reason to keep your camera on – if you forget to unmute, people can helpfully tell you “you’re muted.”
Use a Good Microphone
Lots of people have cheap headsets or use their laptop microphone. Some of these sound absolutely terrible. If your microphone is the kind that hangs by your neck, you’ll likely make a sound like steel wool over a chalkboard every time you turn your head. Laptop mics also tend to have a lot of echo and can sound like you’re very far away. Using your phone for audio is often better. Amazing! A device built for audio calls is better at audio. Most platforms offer an iOS and Android option, and these will usually let you call in over the Internet and via a phone call. Try these if anyone complains of audio quality issues when you’re using a laptop microphone. And if other people on the meeting are complaining about your audio quality, do something about it. Don’t ignore it or just hope it gets better.
Use Do Not Disturb
Another annoyance is the constant buzz or beep of notifications going off in the background. Enable do not disturb or sign out of your email and messaging platforms.
Share Only What You Want
If you’re presenting, share only the application you want everyone else to see. This is safe than sharing your entire screen. Showing up nude when your camera is on is pretty bad. Slightly less embarrassing is getting a pop-up on your screen about how stupid someone else in the meeting is.