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What a Day September 4, 2016

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First, I can’t believe it has been an entire year since my last post…

The boys and I had a run, the Labor Day Milford Festival of Races… the 10K for me and the  6K for them. I was a bit nervous about how my run would go. I haven’t really run on it since playing soccer last Sunday and I had a major knee into my calf. During the game, my leg cramped up into my hamstring and I debated on whether I would be able to run at all. I rested it and iced it for the last three days, including this morning.

But back to today… I woke up at 5am and decided not to tried to go back to sleep. I stretched and hung out until the boys got up and ready. The weather was perfect 65 to 70 degrees and clear skies. My race started at 8:30 and I eased into a comfortable pace. I was afraid to push too hard so I just locked into a 8:50 pace. I found a group of other runners that seemed to be at the same pace and managed to keep it up. I found that I was able to run the hills well, up and down. On the flats I ran with the others, but up and down, I advanced. As the race went on, I stayed strong and with each hill, I seemed to pull away. It is a relatively hilly course on a dirt road in the second half and it felt great to have that strength to keep going.

Unfortunately, the Nike Running app was just upgraded in the last week and it truly failed me today. It started out in the first mile okay, but after that it seemed to lose GPS. It had me running 13 to 14 minute miles until it stopped the voice notifications in the last mile and a half. But, or maybe because of this lack of feedback, I was able to run my race and it went better than I was expecting. I finished in the official race time of 54:04, though the clock showed 53:55 and my phone read 54:30.

While I was running, the boys started their race at 8:45am. They ran an even more hilly 6K. It starts on a completely up hill first mile before getting to the same hilly dirt road. I know Alec has felt self-conscience about his speed, but Ian has an unending confidence and went into the race with the goal of beating his older brother. I am so proud of the story that unfolded after that… I got back from my happy race to hear that Alec paced Ian through the first mile, he was going out too fast and Alec got him to settle into around an 8 minute first mile. They were apparently in 3rd and forth place among the kids, but after that, Alec told Ian to go ahead. Ian quickly picked of the first other boy and than gradually took over first. Alec kept a good pace and passed both boys, including the second in the last hundred yards.

I am so proud that they both finished first in their age groups, under 10 and 10-14. And Ian actually finished in 6th place overall. So impressed! They both earned glass mugs for their age group wins.

After the race, the boys headed out with Kim and went to her mom’s to check on her after her foot/ankle surgery. And to watch the U of M football game, which turned out to not be much of a game. I think the final score ended up being 63-3.  I watched from home,  relaxing and getting my laundry and home stuff done.

And I finished off the day, after spending an hour weeding the yard, by taking the kayak for a quick paddle down the Huron. I thought I would try taking off from Island Lake. It was a good change. The river is very similar to the section south of the dam from Central Park, but less issue with low water levels. I ending up covering about 5.5 miles in an hour, 45 minutes. It is the first time I have taken the kayak out since early in the summer, I think actually since I started at CGI – though we went out with the Kearns while we were in PA for a much more causal paddle around the lake near their house.

All in all, a pretty good day, I have to say. A day worth documenting for all eternity.


What do you track? August 8, 2013

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Before Google Glass came out, people started strapping cameras to their chest and recording their lives. They took pictures of the places they went and the people that talked to. Day after day, year after year…. with the cloud and the low cost of storage it has become very easy to record our lives.

I think I started tracking my life a long time ago. I used to track what I spent, earned and saving in little notebooks. Most people think I was crazy, but now millions of people do not think twice about tracking their finances online using Mint or other online banking tools. I, for one, love Mint.com. Years before the FitBit came out, my wife and I tracked our steps and activity levels using something called a SportBrain. It was one the first electronic pedometers that allowed you view your progress online. Now, we have the FitBit, Nike Fuel Bands, and the JawBone Up all tracking people movement.

Now that I have gone over to the dark side as a smartphone owner, I have started recording more and more different things. I like to think I am maximizing the usefulness of my phone. It is a small computer that is always with me. And it is capable of just about anything. So what do you track?

Here is a little taste of my list:
Gas fill-ups – I have over 50, 000 miles on my current car (ok, it was 52, 909.5 when I filled ip this morning) and I can tell you that I average 21.7 MPG and the average price per gallon has been $3.41. I also try to track the maintenance costs so I know what the total cost of ownership is.
Running – this is a more obvious one since most people/runners do it. I used to use Garmin watches, but recently switched to the Nike+ and Runkeeper apps on my phone (although Nike needs to resolve a problem with the app since it crashes and is useless since the last update!)
Sleep – this is a new one for me. I have been trying out this Sleep as Android app that tracks sleep patterns and tries to wake you up at the right time. I am not sure it works that well for that, but it does tell me I need to get to bed earlier and how restfully I have been sleeping.
Money – since I have done this since I was little this seems like an obvious one to me. Mint is a great tool that will let you track and categorize all your spending and income. It is also help when looking up expenses for taxes or other reasons.
Days Since… things I need to remember. Like when was the last time I put salt in the water softener. When was the last time I gave blood (Today). How about when my phone contract comes due. Easy. This app keeps this list sorted and serves as a good reminder of when things need to get done… yes, my “weekly” WordPress post is 4 days over due.

So what do you track? What do you need to track?

What needs to be fixed in iOS4 for my Touch July 27, 2010

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The new iOS4 has been out about a month now and I am having mixed feelings about it. I definitely like the addition of the folders in the interface. I also like that applications (like Facebook and Mail) can update their icons to provide notifications. I am not sure how I feel about the fast task switching feature. I am not going to refer to it has multi-tasking since I feel that is not what it is. There are some applications that can go background processing, but in general, applications are just being stopped and returned to in the same state.

But my two biggest complaints about the new operating system is the wireless network function and the calendar sync. First, prior to the upgrade, known wireless networks would automatically connect and work. There was no need to go into Setting and Networks and reselect the new network. Now, I have to do just that… and I seem to have to do that each time I put it to sleep. This is painfully annoying. Sometimes, it will connect if I wait a few minutes, but that should not be the case. The second issue I have is with the calendar sync. Previously, I simply had the Sync Calendar option checked in iTunes and it brought over all my entries whenever I did a sync. Well, at some point during the upgrade (whether it was iTunes 9.2 or iOS4 is not clear) the check box become unselected. It took me a couple of weeks to notice that I was not getting updates, but once I did, I tried to recheck the box. That was my big mistake as it crashed and corrupted my local (.ost) mail file the next time I tried to sync.

I was able to create work around that I am “okay” with, but I suppose I am lucky in that respect. A while back, I started using Google Calendar Sync to copy (one way) my Outlook calendar out to Google so that my wife and I could see each other’s schedule. So, my work around is actually to pull this calendar down into my primary iOS calendar. It works fine, except that I get notifications from my wife’s calendar on my iTouch. But Apple, seriously, why would you be good with this? I know they added a bunch a functionality with single mailbox and additional features, so it obvious that just mistakenly broke my sync. Unfortunately, it seems like when this happens, Apple does not often go back and fix these types of problems.

Another thing that continues to be a disappointment is the Nike+ application. I feel like I can complain about that here because this is a joint venture between Apple and Nike to bring pedometer-like functionality to the iTouch and Nano. And the Nike+ application comes built into the OS like the calendar, mail and Safari browser applications. The primary problem is that Apple refuses to support flash web sites AND the NikePlus.com web site is built entirely in flash. I would not be as disappointed if Apple took the time to improve their application to incorporate more of the website’s functionality. Instead I have to visit the web site on another device (computer). I feel like this a bad way to support their relationship with a partner.

Today’s Run – A New Way with @gdgt April 16, 2010

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This is my ninth posting for the week. Wow! I am closing in on 200 blog posts. If only I was getting that many hits! But it is fun nonetheless and people are definitely finding my writings interesting (I think). Thanks for everyone that keeps coming back and welcome to first timers.

This afternoon’s lunch run was a new route. Instead of heading to the local park, I opted to circle the County Administrative campus. Having run into an employee over there that is a fellow runner, I thought it would be interesting to see what types of options he has available to him. It was also good to get out there exploring and try something new. The run itself was good up until the end. As the graph below shows, I had to stop at the end for a short bathroom break before adding another 1/2 miles. It was good to get over 5 miles again.

During today’s run, I started with Dvorak’s Tech 5 – a five minute daily summary of technology new stories. I think I am pretty over this one. I like his other show with is a weekly round table to discuss the big topics. But in this summary show, he does no research and often provides mis-information. For example, recently he mentioned Netflix coming to Wii as being able to rent games from the movie delivery service. As seen in my last post, this is obviously just plain wrong.

But the majority of the run was with Peter Rojas and Ryan Block at GDGT.com. This is another gadget podcast much like Engadget that covers recent new stories and trends in the world of tech and gadgets. They talked a bit about a new feature on their site that allows for easier cross posting of information to discuss multiple tech toys. It is definitely a required feature for such a complex and robust site like their’s. Their talk also turned to the announcement from Microsoft that they are coming out with branded phones with the Danger (think Sidekick) platform. Of course, this is in addition to the Windows Phone 7 OS that should be out by year end. Add to that the conversation going to Palm’s recent poor financial recents and the rumors that they are looking for a buyer, potentially HTC.

Now, I have noted several time my displeasure with the cell phone industry. During this podcast, I was able to solidify what I want from the market. Now, the Kin products are being marketed to tweens (15-25 yr olds) that want to focus on social networking like Twitter and Facebook, but not apps and productivity tools. These phones are coming to Verizon (my current service company) and clearly these are things that are going have them require data plans, but the question remains if it will require the $10 or the $30 plan.

For me, I still fall into a different category. I love my ipod Touch and have it with me most of the time. It obviously has no phone features (but 100s of thousands of apps available), so I have to carry my basic cell phone. I can access the web through my Touch on wireless or pay the fees to use my cell phone. I rarely have a true NEED to get to the Internet when wireless is not available. So, for me, what I want Verizon to do is stop forcing people onto the data plan when all they want is wireless. My dream is for Apple to come to Verizon this summer with this option… I did say it was a dream!

Nike+ Feedback April 15, 2010

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It occurred to me that I was not specific enough in my review of the Nike+ sensor, app, and website. I need to clear my brain of these thoughts, so here is a list things Nike and Apple need to fix with this gadget interface.

Firstly, I must say that setup for this gadget was amazingly simple. The App downloaded and sync’d to my foot sensor without any issues. So much so that I forget how it worked and hope that I don’t have to resync or change any of that setup. I say this because the interface is equally simple and I have not been able to find any of the setup now that I am off and running with it. These are the three basic screens:

Despite this simplicity, there are some basic functions that do not work. The app allows you to define a custom workout (timed run with a given playlist, for example), but it does not allow you to use smart playlists – it always selects another playlist. And the once created, the workout does not show any details about the configuration despite there being plenty of room for it. See center pic above.

The primary function of the app is to record foot steps once the workout is started. It does force you to quickly sync to the foot pod which works fine. The problem is sometimes, randomly, you can start a workout and it somehow lost track of the sensor and if you aren’t watching, the timer runs, but zero distance is recorded. I have learned to check it once I get a few minutes into the workout. On a couple of early runs, it was recording some movement, but even running at 9min/mi (6.5 MPH), it recorded something like 1 MPH.

As I said in my first review, one of coolest functions of the Nike+ community is the challenges. To me, this should be something that they could build into the app. There should be a tab for challenges that shows where you are (if only at the time of your last sync) on any given sync. It should also provide a way to see and sign up for new challenges. The challenges can only be seen on the all flash website – which means you can not do it from the iPhone OS at all! That is ridiculous to me. This is a joint relationship from Apple and Nike and yet Apple feud with Adobe is cutting off the head of this app.

Now for the website. It looks super slick and clean – but it is slow – thus the reason Apple won’t let you run flash on their phones. However, some basic features do not work. First, on several occasions I have had trouble finding configuration things for my profile. It is not always intuitive. Also, the member search does not work. I have tried to use email and user name and neither work. For a social community site, this should be a required functionality to have working.

Now, since I have only been on the site for a few months (nearly 3 now), I am not completely sure how the challenges are working. I don’t think very well so far. In a recently one that ended last week, I came in second. The challenge was named “First to reach level Green” and the description read: Im taking this challenge so I can advance to level green. Feel free to do the same or just individually run to 122 miles. Now, the winner ran 123+ miles and I only ran 86+ miles, but he didn’t turn green yet. What is up with that? (I did turn green less than a week later.) I think I need to create a challenge for myself and see how that really works, but I am guessing the only criteria that the winner can be evaluated is the distance completed or fasted time not whatever the creator wants. So, when I create my challenge to reach Level Blue, it will be 460 Miles from now, but someone who is halfway there will turn blue in say 200 miles. It is all very confusing, but fun nonetheless and somewhat motivating, which is all that matters really.

I hope in future releases, Apple and Nike work out these kinks so that I can feel more satisfied with this nifty little workout gadget.

I turned Green today – JUST DO IT! April 15, 2010

Posted by shwaldman in Family, Fitness, Society, Uncategorized, Work.
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I have now completed 158 miles with my Nike+ and ipod Touch. That puts me into the Green Level… only 463 miles until I move onto Blue.

I ran the trails on the local park. It was a nice day and I managed to push the pace a little bit with a couple of surges. But after about 20 minutes, I started to feel a bit tired and empty.

Today’s listen was yet another Jillian Michaels radio show from a couple of years ago – they really are timeless. There was nothing specific about this podcast that I want to remember, but one thing occurred to me after. She talks a lot about BMR and calories in versus out, intensity of workouts and changing it up to keep the body working harder to adapt. Blah blah blah. What it really comes down to is just doing the work and making the change.

If you want to accomplish something, you have to start somewhere. And you keep going until you get there. If you give up before you have accomplished your goals, you have to evaluate how important those goals are to you. Lately, I have not had major goals to shot for from professional and personal levels. This has gotten me down a bit and level me with a lack to direction. Having recently recognized this, I am trying to figure out what I want and give me something to work toward.

We all WANT a lot of things and we NEED other things. The question is, after you have fulfilled your needs, how to do prioritize your wants and then lay them out in a way that you can be successful in accomplishing them. I think the problem many of us have is that there is no one way to achieve a goal. This is why I think you have to start moving toward the goal, if you don’t know what the step after that will be. Sometimes progress is progress and you can make adjustments along the way.

What do you think?

Rough Friday Run at 75 Degrees April 2, 2010

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As the graph shows, today’s run wasn’t the greatest. But despite pausing for a couple of short walks, I managed my now regular 9:38/mi pace. I did try a couple of surges and today I ran the trail, so the terrain was a little more challenging.

I am up to 63 workouts (though that includes the shortest of walks with the kids and dogs) and 140 miles on my Nike+ since late January. Fifteen more miles and my status turns GREEN online. The more remarkable number coming from the sensor is the calories. By next week, I might break into the 20,000 calories burned level.

Not much to report of the podcast front here. I listened to another @jillianmichaels throwback radio show. She was talking about fitness myths or theories that had changed in recent year. She also mentioned a couple of times how she feels quite conflicted working for NBC on the Biggest Loser because they are forced into promoting products and working with contestants differently that how she would do it normally. And she had several thoughts on boosting your metabolism that she is not allowed to implement during the show tapings. It seems odd that they would not allow the trainers to really present the things that work for them. It goes to show that the show is definitely commercial in a lot of ways.

Gadget Review: Nike+ sensor March 5, 2010

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Let’s start by saying, running and walking are the simplest of all fitness activities. Absolutely no special equipment is necessary to participate and it can be done almost anywhere. Now, that being said, there are plenty of special equipment out there for sale to make the activities more productive, more interesting, more fun, more motivating, more informative. I started running as a kid to get in shape for other sports – soccer, basketball, and even baseball, but I never participated on a running/track team.

Now, I keep running to stay in and improve my fitness. I run to relax, to get away and to clear my mind. Six years ago I got a Garmin Forerunner 201 GPS watch. For five years, it was a motivational factor in getting me outside to run, including my second marathon. For me, working full time and having two young kids, I feel pretty good about putting over 1,000 miles on it. Then last year, I upgraded to a Forerunner 305 that has the same (though more accurate GPS, but it adds a heart rate monitor, foot pod, and cadence monitor as possible accessories.

It made it so much easier to track and monitor my runs indoors as well as out. It is also great to be see my heart rate as I ran and then be able to see it graphed alongside my pace and cadence in Garmin’s Training Center software. I even used it a couple of times to see what my heart rate looked like as I slept.
But is missing from Garmin’s system is a sense of community. It is all good to motivate yourself, but if you are up for a little friendly competition, you need to look elsewhere.

And when my wonderful wife won me a new Apple iPod Touch last fall, I decided I would get the Nike+ sensor. I finally picked one up (for $20) in January. The sensor is just a small disc about the top digit of your thumb. It can fit into specific Nike shoes or can be attached to the top of ANY shoe in a little pouch (another $7). Essentially, there is a iPhone/iPod application that works like a sophisticated pedometer. It can be digitally calibrated, it stores past runs, and displays pace, time elapsed and calories burned. But after all that, it uploads runs to the Nike.com website when you Sync your iPod.

The website provides a way to track and display runs. It provides suggesting training regimes, it allows you to set up goals and share your runs with other Nike+ users. However, what is the most inspirational here is the ability to create and join challenges. Who can run the most miles in the next month? Who can run the fastest 5K in the next year? And these can be done at the team level – my state or country against yours. I am in one for the most active blood types (A+ is in a distant second place to O+).

So far (I have only put 73 miles on the device since January 21st), I am enjoying this extra motivational tool. It keeps me wanting to get running and recording distances for my challenges. There some minor bugs in the iPod app and it could use a little more functionality – like I think it should download current challenge standings when the system syncs. It couldn’t be up to date unless they also sync’d over the network, but at least it would not tie you to your computer. And the challenges have some built in biases that are difficult to overcome. But they are still very motivational to anyone who is a little competitive. And the app does let you play playlists while you run and of course works fairly accurately to record distances. All in all, this is a cool product that is fairly inexpensive if you already have an iPod.