Friday, February 5, 2016

Setting a Goal for a Race

In a little more than a week I'll be running my 15th marathon.

When I get to the starting line, I usually have one goal in mind. Depending on how my training has gone I'm either planning a PR, or to just finish.

To be honest, this strategy has worked against me.

I chatted with a running buddy recently on the topic of goal setting and he told me about Scott Jurek's strategy.
19 mile run, Strava, NYC Running, Manhattan Run, Race around New York, NYC, New York City, GoPro, NYC Monument, Running Buddies

The way I understand it (and how it was communicated to me), Scott doesn't head into a race with one goal in mind, when he toes the line he's got upwards of 10 goals in mind, staring with winning the race and ending with just finishing.

I love this idea, while I'm not a "competitive runner." That's not to say I don't "compete" at all. I compete all the time, against the clock, against my friends, against my mind. Setting multiple goals can ensure that I won't walk away from a race feeling defeated, like I hate running and need to hang up my kicks.

And this isn't just for race day, I think this applies to training as well. Case and point, when I set out to train for the LA Marathon I had a pretty solid base. I had just come off a really bad NYC Marathon, but I did have a 26.2 miler under my feet, along with a bunch of 16, 17 and 19 milers. So when I built my training plan for LA, I was planning a marathon PR. The course is relatively flat and I was feeling pretty confident.

December rolled around, I ran my first 19 miler of LA training and I crushed it. I really felt a PR was in my sites.
19 mile run, Strava, NYC Running, Manhattan Run, Race around New York, NYC, New York City

And then I bent down to say goodbye to my wife and son one fateful morning (which just happened to be my birthday) and I tweaked something in my back that had me laid up for about 10 days. I was barley able to sit in a chair, forget running.

Being out for that long at the top of the training arc is devastating to a race strategy. So I needed to adjust.

And then, last week rolled around and I got a strange pain on the bottom of my foot right in front of the heel. Are you kidding me? Was the universe trying to tell me I wasn't supposed to run this race? Pretty quickly, I remembered a package I received right before the NYC Marathon. The folks at KT Tape were kind enough to send me some product to see what I thought about it. The problem was, I wasn't injured at the time so I didn't really have any use for it.

Well, I clearly did now! I had always been skeptical of the product, I can't tell you why, I don't think I can articulate it, but it just seemed trendy and that is a death knell to me. Being desperate I thought, well, it can't hurt, right? 

I dug the roll of tape out of my closet, went to the brand website to learn about to apply it for Plantar Fasciitis (which turned out to be really easy) and viola! I was practically good as new. 
KT Tape

My training has gotten back on track since but I'm still figuring out what my LA goals are going to look like. 

One thing I know, I'll be able to walk away from the race with a sense of accomplishment. I love running and don't want to come to resent it, and I really feel like this is the way to help me do that!

Wish me luck next week!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Video: 2016 NYRR Joe Kleinerman 10K

Saturday was my first race for the 2016 season.

Given that I've been out of commission for the past 2.5 weeks with a pulled muscle in my back (from bending down to pick up my son, yeah, hello 46, nice to meet you) I don't think I faired so poorly.

The race celebrates Joe Kleinerman, one of the founding members of the New York Road Runners who recently passed away at age 91. Saturday 5,200 runners lined up in Central Park to run the 10K loop starting at the 102 transverse on the east side to honor his memory.

I ran with my buddy Dan and set out to run 8:30s. When Dan and I crested Harlem Hill he told me to slow down. When we got to 90th Street on the west side, he said it again, we we got to 72nd it started to sound like a mantra. At that point I had given up on the 8:30s and was feeling really well and decided to just continue at the current pace. 

And then we got to the bottom of Cat Hill. I got a pretty bad stitch on my right side that wouldn't let up. Dan tried to get me to just jog with him up the hill, but I sent him on. I walked up the hill and was feeling better by that time so I started running again (surprisingly for my fastest mile of the race).

So there it is. 

Am I ready for the LA Marathon? I'll know this weekend, until then I'm just going to run and not think about it too much.

I had the GoPro Hero Session 4 with my for the first time in a race and was pretty happy with carrying it and how it felt in my hand.

Here's a quick one minute video from the race:

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Running With Your GoPro: Video Settings for Mortals

In the second installment of "Running With Your GoPro" I address the issue of video settings. It took me a while to land on what was right for me for the kinds of videos I put together. Once again, keep in mind I'm not a professional by any stretch of the imagination. I am an enthusiast but I've learned some things along the way as well.

I use three different cameras when I shoot. My "go to" has been the Hero 3+ Black Edition. But recently GoPro sent me a Hero Session 4 which doesn't have as many settings to choose from as the Hero3 or 4 series but it smaller and lighter and easier to pack into something while I'm running, so it's been my most recent device of choice. My third camera has become my back up, it's a Hero 3 Black Edition which has a fewer settings than the 3+ and 4 series.

Here are the video settings that I've found to be optimal for capturing races while running with your GoPro:

Resolution - in theory you would think "the higher, the better" right? I mean, you wouldn't buy a TV with a 720 resolution when you can get one at 1080 would you? Well, conventional wisdom goes out the window when you're running with a GoPro. What I've found is that 720 is optimal for filming while running. I'm not sure what the technical reason is, but when I shoot in 1080 and try to flatten out the bouncing in post production, it makes the piece seem like it was filmed under water. But since I want to retain some semblance of high resolution for my videos, I go with 720. This flattens well and captures at a high enough resolution that my videos come out crystal clear.

Here are some examples:

Field of View: I love how the GoPro distorts the image when shooting in wide screen and I'm not sure why anyone would use this camera to shoot in medium or narrow, but the settings are there so I assume some folks do. My "go to" is SuperView. It helps you capture more of what's around you without panning the camera up and down too much. If you're not shooting with an important focal point, meaning, if there's not one specific area where you want the viewer to look in a given set up, SuperView is for you. It also gives you more options in post production (editing). When I shoot with a camera where SuperView is an option, it's my setting of choice.

Screenshot from SuperView setting.
Screenshot from Wide setting.
While not the best example, these two screen grabs from the GoPro app illustrate the difference. Notice that there's more surface above and below me in the center of the frame as compared to the second picture.

Frames Per Second: Generally I shoot in the highest count available for a given setting. Again, this gives me more options in post production (for zooming or slow motion). The only exception to this is if I'm filming in a low light situation. I'll set it to the lowest frame rate as it gives the camera more time to collect light for each frame which helps your video come out more evenly lit rather than make  some of the images too dark to see.

Spot Meter: In technical terms, spot metering uses a single point in the center of the frame for exposure compensation. This means that whatever is in the center of the shot will be properly exposed and will set the meter for the rest of the frame, even if other objects or areas in the frame are under or overexposed (think of shooting out the window of a car into the sunlight). I don't find myself shooting in situations where the lighting is dramatically different across the frame so I usually leave this off. Almost all of my videos are shot outside and the biggest difference in light would be if the course took runners through a tunnel (which isn't very often).

Protune: Turning on Protune causes videos to look less sharp, and the colors look more washed out. Technically this gives you more "freedom" to make all your footage uniform during post production. Let me reiterate here that I am not a professional. Nope, I want my footage to capture the essence of the race I'm running, or the event I'm attending. It needs to be good enough to play on a high end video monitor from the web. Protune is not something I'm interested in as I don't want to take that much time editing. I use basic, consumer friendly software to edit my videos and while I've gotten adept at creating great videos, I'm no where near a professional and don't want to take the time to

All of these setting are easily accessible on the GoPro app for Apple or Android. I highly suggest downloading it! 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Video: Strava Year in Review

Are you on Strava? If you're not you need to ask yourself why. If you are, you need to be connected to me, please follow me and I'll do the same.

I used to describe Strava as a social network for athletes, but I've since redefined it in my head. Strava is not only a place where I can upload my athletic endeavors (and obsess over the numbers), it's a site where I can follow along with your athletic pursuits, we can encourage each other when we’re struggling, celebrate our races and commiserate over that "just missed PR."

Not in a place where you have regular access to races, yet you still want to compete? Not to worry, last year Strava instituted monthly running (and cycling) challenges.  From 10Ks to marathons (and even a ultra or two) you can compete with people around the world. And be ready to be humbled, I’m constantly in awe at some of the folks I see on Strava who are not professional athletes. It’s at once motivating and a little disconcerting.

I’m not a brand ambassador, I’m not getting paid by Strava to write this, I’m merely sharing with you one of my most favorite sites on the Interwebz.

According to the engineers at Strava, Strava athletes covered an amazing 2.8 billion miles in 2015. That means I’m (and hopefully you) are part of a global community that put in enough miles to make it from here to Neptune. (Seriously, Neptune!)

I’ve bee struggling to put together a video that encapsulates my year in review. While I still work on that, Strava has made a nice primer for me (and you) to share with our social networks.

The video celebrates our efforts with a personalized film that tells the story of your year – one that will bring back memories of 2015 and get you excited for an even bigger adventure next year.

You can view mine here and build your own by going here!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Gear Review: ASICS MetaRun

Full disclosure, I'm on a team of bloggers chosen by ASICS to represent the brand this year. What does that mean? Well, I get gear from time to time to check out and offer my opinion to you, the potential to contribute to the ASICS blog, participate in a Team ASICS blogger challenge during a major event and other cool stuff.

It's that first aspect that I want to write about today. But first I need to make sure you know where I'm coming from. Just because I work with a brand doesn't mean that I will always say favorable things about its products. I give my honest opinion here which has always been my promise to you. I don't get paid for this, and while I do get free gear, I'm not required to review it and when I do, there are no expectations.

Just wanted to clear that up.

When I heard that ASICS had developed a shoe that the brand was calling it's most advanced running shoe with the most R&D sunk into it, let's just say I was skeptical. I'm in public relations and marketing for a day job and I write copy like this all day every day. And it sounded to me just like something I would develop as a campaign.

But then a few weeks later I found out I was getting a pair and that I would get to try them myself.

And then I put them on and went for a run.

And I ran my fastest "Tuesday 8 Miler" in a year.

And then later that week, I ran 19 even faster than the 8 miler. 

Do I attribute my speed to the sneaker? Not entirely, but I can tell you that a comfortable, well-fitting shoe will not slow you down. And the less I have to think about each foot strike over the course of a run the more I can think about other things like form, breathing, my calendar, my son, my job, my wife, basically anything other than "why don't these shoes feel good on my feet."

All that to say, yes, they contribute in a very real way to how each run feels and the performance thereof. 

I like these kicks. In fact, I like them a lot.

In technical terms, ASICS puts the features of the shoe like this:

I.G.S® (Impact Guidance System) Technology
ASICS® design philosophy that employs linked componentry to enhance the foot's natural gait from heel strike to toe-off.

Ortholite Sockliner
Moisture management (Ortholite is a registered trademark of ATP Manufacturing LLC).

Heel Clutching System™ Technology
Exoskeletal heel counter provides improved support and creates improved heel fitting environment.

These kicks weigh in at 10.6 ounces and are available for a limited time. In fact, as of this writing, they are only available for another 36 hours so get them now

And while admittedly at $250, they are on the far fringe of what I would usually spend on a pair of kicks, I didn't hesitate to stock up on three more pair to make sure I can run in them for a full year.

While the color scheme isn't one that I would choose, I can easily overlook the sparkly gold and black for what this pair of shoes delivers in performance.

Monday, December 28, 2015

My 46th Birthday Present to Myself

Last Wednesday I turned 46.

I need to let that sink in.

46 . . . . wow.

I mean, come on, this is some sort of cosmic joke, right?

I can't be 46. Just yesterday I was 18, wasn't I?

No, clearly it wasn't just yesterday.

Well, since I have yet to figure out how to stop time, it's true. I am now closer to 50 than I was to 40. I've never had a problem with age. I know a lot of people who freaked out when they turned 30, or 35 or 40. But for some reason, I didn't. But 46? That just seems old to me. 

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm not going to let my age define me (side note, is that just a thing that old people say?)

I'm going to set (what has so far been) an impossible running goal for myself to achieve over the next four years (by the time I'm 50 - wow, 50 . . . . wait, that's another post).

Maybe I'm feeling cocky because I ran 19 miles last Sunday and the last four were maybe the best I've felt while in sneakers in a year?
Feeling pretty accomplished after 19 miles on Sunday.
Or maybe I'm feeling the age thing?

Or maybe I just need to prove to myself that I can conquer another running goal that has thus far been elusive. Some might even say this is the ultimate running goal.

But you already know what I'm going to say, don't you?

My plan to to go back to Boston on Patriot's Day sometime between 2018 and 2020 and show the "granddaddy of all marathons" that I'm a worthy participant. My last time there wasn't so great (and I did it by raising money for a charity), but if I make it back, well. I'm planning a much different day.
Boston Marathon Qualifying Times for 2017

So happy birthday to me.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Running With Your GoPro: Some of My Favorite Photos

I've been running with a GoPro since 2013 and logged a lot of miles over the years with that little camera in my hand.

I'm lucky in that I'm able to run in some pretty cool places with some great people.

Here's a few of my favorite pictures:
My wife leading the pack at the NYRR Dash to the Finish Line, the day before the 2013
 NYC Marathon. Interesting note, I won a GoPro Hero 3+ from the company with this photo.
This is within the first mile of the 2013 NYC Marathon crossing the Verrazano Bridge.
At Engineer's Gate in Central Park (90th Street and 5th Avenue).
I love how dramatic the trees are with the contrasting street lights and runner
My wife with her huge smile in the same race as mentioned above, just passing the NYC
Library in her left. You can see my sleeve on the left of the frame. Clearly running with a
camera isn't an exact science.
Winter of 2014 I went for a hike in Central Park after a huge storm. the park was magical
 that morning and Bethesda Terrace was the highlight.
My wife throwing a peace sign as we part ways at the 102 transverse on the east side of
Central Park so I could run over Harlem Hill. This was taken a few hours after a storm in
2013 where the park roads were clear after what seems like an hour. Interesting side note,
I entered this photo in a contest and won a bunch of Sugio winter running gear.
Taken during the same run as above, this time on the west side just north of the
102 transverse. I love how dramatic the trees are in this one.

My wife at the Flying Pig Marathon and 13.1. This was her first 13.1.
I ran the marathon that day and this is where we parted ways.
With Bobby (left) and Lou on the Roosevelt Island tram
on our way to a 10K on Roosevelt Island.
Just a random shot from Engineer's Gate.
At the finish line of the 2014 Hood to Coast Relay with Team Nuun.
My short run with Kara Goucher and Mary Wittenberg
(when she was still President/CEO of the NYRR)
Check out the different mounts I use while running in this post.

Running With Your GoPro: Which Mounts Are Best?

I'm kicking off a series of posts called "Running With Your GoPro." My friend Liam recently asked me for some tips for running with a new GoPro he bought. And, after thinking about it, I realized that I get a lot of questions about what mounts to use, what settings are best, how to frame a shot, etc. so I think it's high time to write a post about what I like, how I shoot and edit and generally what works for me. Keep in mind I'm not a professional by any stretch of the imagination. I am an enthusiast and I get lucky a lot, but I've learned some things along the way as well.

Assuming someone bought you a GoPro and/or you bought yourself one, you're a runner and you want to know how to carry it during a training run or race, you're in the right place.

So, without further preamble, here's my guide to the GoPro mounts I use (or not) and why I like them:
  • Chesty: While I like the Chesty because it fees up my hands, I find that the bouncing from running makes all of the pictures blurry. And even if I'm shooting video, I find that I can't "flatten" the video enough to keep from getting nauseous during playback (more on that in another post). While the Chesty isn't great for running, I do find it great for hiking or just walking around. Pro tip, if you're using the Chesty, make sure to have a little extra padding under the camera mount, I got fairly chaffed running with it in the summer (with just a T-shirt) but was fine in the winter (with a pullover on over my T-shirt).
Typical photo taken with the Chesty while running.
  • Wrist Housing: I bought and returned this mount after my first run with it. The housing wouldn't let me position the camera in such a way that I could get good photos or video while running, and it just wasn't comfortable. If I was a SCUBA diver and looking to capture photos under water, I bet this would be perfect.

  • Head Strap: I use this mount every once in a while, usually in cold weather when I'm wearing a hat (as someone with a shaved head, I find the strap can get irritating). I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of blurriness in the stills. And while the video tends to be a little shaky, it's no so bad that it can't be flattened in post production. The negative about this is on a long run the camera can start to feel a little heavy; you also need to remember that where ever you look, that's what you shoot/record. Lastly, it's hard to turn the camera on and off and change from video to still while moving. I like the head strap for 10Ks at the most.
Photo of my wife (far runner) and our friend Catherine taken with the Head Strap.
  • Three Way: I like this one. I like how compact it becomes and the fact that you can extend it from 7.5 to 20 inches. Extending the pole fully gets a nice perspective shot of the race (and sometime you can capture people behind you making funny faces). What I don't like about this mount for running is that the extensions are "pre determined" meaning that there are only so many combinations you can choose. What I love about this is that it has legs that you can unscrew from the bottom and set up a tripod at the start or end of races rather than having to stand there holding the camera. 
When people see a camera on the course, you never know what they'll do and you can get some super fun pics.
  • GoPole Reach: this is my "go-to" mount. I've carried it in races from 3Ks to marathons and captured some of my best video and stills with it. I've used it to capture videos and stills from above my head, down by my feet facing both forward and backwards. It extends from 14-40 inches without any restrictions - meaning, you can choose any length within that range. The locking mechanism works by twisting the sections of the pole in opposite directions - the only bummer is that it can be hard to twist the aluminum if you're wearing gloves without any grippy stuff on them, or you're super sweaty. Pro tip: I've compensated by putting about an inch of black Gaffer's tape at the top of each section and it's worked like a charm.  
Kara Goucher taken with the GoPole Reach from 2 inches off the ground.
  • My Hand: as basic and simple as it sounds, I've found that carrying the GoPro in my hand is sometimes the best option. I can point it in any direction, I can turn it on and off at will. I can change from video to still whenever I want and I can easily tuck it into a SpiBelt and forget about it for a while. I've never enjoyed having to carry anything in my hands while running and have had to train myself to use most of the mounts I listed about. But if I just carry it in my hand, I can put it away and forget about it for a while.
Me holding the GoPro Hero3+ in my left hand.
I'll update this post as more mounts are released that work for running, but at present, I think this list is pretty accurate for what's out there.

On the subject of photography while running, I've put a post together with some of my favorite GoPro photos.

You can find it here.