Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tracking Exercise

Since October of 2009, I've yet to go on a run I haven't tracked in SportTracks, a fitness tracking program. SportTracks makes it easy to plug in my Garmin, load the run, and examine fitness statistics like pace, mileage, distance, and locations of runs.

I've done a handful of runs without a watch, but each time I've logged that run manually into SportTracks. One may ask, "Why? What's the benefit of tracking your fitness activities?" The answer is different for everyone.

I like to track my runs for comparison and to see where I'm at fitness-wise. Am I running more or less than I did for a previous marathon training cycle? Am I running faster or slower? How many miles have I run this week, month, or year?

I like to do this, but is it useful? While I think some of the information can be helpful, I probably learn more about my fitness through races than I do comparing mileage or pace from previous training cycles. When I'm aiming for a goal race, I usually schedule one or tune up races before my goal race. If I'm running faster race times, I'm more fit. Slow race times mean I may have to temper my expectations.

I'm toying with the idea of ending tracking my runs after running Grandma's Marathon, but I'm hesitant for a couple of reasons. First, I like looking at how many miles I've run each year. It's not really useful as far as tracking my fitness, but it's interesting.

The other reason I like tracking my runs is knowing how long my shoes are lasting. SportTracks allows me to enter my shoes, so it's interesting to know how many miles I'm getting out of them. Again, this isn't overly useful information--I buy shoes that are comfortable, and while I like them to be durable, it generally doesn't affect my buying decisions.

You may find tracking your exercise helpful, and there are a variety of programs that do it. Here's an article from Runner's World that describes some run tracking apps (along with some other running apps):
I use SportTracks, which I highly recommend:

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February Letdown and Challenge

I notice it every January at the YMCA: the New Year's Resolutioners. With the coming of a new year, many people burst excitedly into fitness facilities to tackle those New Year's resolutions--exercising more, losing some weight, reducing that waistline.

There's nothing wrong with New Year's resolutions, but more often than not, they end once the newfound motivation wears off.

And then comes the February letdown. I also see this every year at the YMCA. As the year moves forward and January comes to a close, February means a less crowded locker room, more available treadmills, and fewer people lifting weights.

So, wonderful readers, I encourage you to continue being active this February, or continuing with whatever New Year's resolution you may have made--exercising more, losing some weight, eating healthier. Don't let the year's passage sap your motivation. If you've already fallen off the bandwagon, jump back on. If you don't have a New Year's resolution, consider setting a goal to make yourself more healthy now.

I'd love to hear from you. What resolutions did you make this year, and how's your progress going? What goals might you set now? How are you going to stay in shape in 2017?

Feel free to comment, and good luck on meeting those goals.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Valley Fair Run and Ride

Valleyfair Run and Ride - Mile and 5k May 20, Half Marathon May 21

Cost: $75 for the half marathon through Feb. 25, including a one day park pass., $95 for a weekend pass. $45 for the 5k with a one day park pass. $25 for the mile without a park pass, $45 with park pass.

Gear and food: The shirts are good, the food is about average (Bagels and protein drinks the past two years). They give pint glasses and extra park passes for age group awards, and the half marathon field is small, so you have a decent chance of getting one.

Weather: One year it poured rain part way through, the next year was perfect. Minnesota springs: gotta love them.

Course: The course is awesome. It loops through the park a couple times, and the rest is on a flat, paved trail. Though it has a lot of turns, it's still a PR course.

Crowd support: There's some when you loop through the starting area, but not much along the course.

My wife said that this is one of her favorite races, and I agree. The atmosphere is cool and it's pretty awesome to see a lot of the park. The course is flat and fast, so it's easy to enjoy the scenery without chugging up hills. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon

Lake Minnetonka Half Marathon - May 7

Cost: $65 through March 10.

Gear and food: I've liked my shirts the years I've done this one. The food is nothing spectacular.

Weather: The weather has been good every year I've run it, but late spring Minnesota weather is fairly unpredictable.

Course: Unless you've run your previous half marathon PR on a very hilly course, this one is not a PR course. There are a decent amount of hills and some nice views of Lake Minnetonka and lake front houses.

Crowd support: Not too much to speak of. There are usually spectators on the course, but they're few and far between. There's a decent amount of spectators at the end, but not a ton.

I've paced this race several times and enjoy it. If you're looking for a challenging course, this is a good one. It has a decent amount of scenery and a fairly large field. The weather is usually good, so it's a nice early season race.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon

Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon - May 13

Cost: Registration is $80 before Jan. 31. It raises prices several times up to $120 after April 30. Based on what is included with the registration, this marathon is an excellent value, especially if you register early.

Gear and food: This year they're giving away 10th anniversary jackets for everyone who registers by January 31. Technical finisher shirts are given out at the finish. I was happy with the shirts and race bag that came with my 2010 and 2012 races, and both years the post race pizza, cookies, and chocolate milk, to name a few, are excellent.

Weather: Though it's always a gamble in Minnesota, almost every year of this race has been excellent marathoning weather: cool with the wind being either beneficial or neutral. The one thing that's a little tough is when it's sunny. The race ends heading east southeast, so you're running right into the sun.

Aid stations: The aid stations are just the right distance for most people.

Scenery/Course: Its bucolic setting is pleasant and tranquil. The course is mostly on the Lake Wobegon Trail--paved and incredibly flat.

Crowd support: If you like big city marathons and big crowds to help cheer you on, this isn't your race. If, however, you have some of your own fans, they'll have an easy time driving along the course and seeing you in multiple locations.

I'd highly recommend this marathon. The Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon is one of my top five marathons, and my number one small town marathon. It's put on by runners (St. Cloud River Runners) that know what runners want in a race .If you're looking for a fast course and a low-key event, you'll love this race.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

MDRA Mudball Trail Run

Mudball Trail Run - April 23

Cost: Free for MDRA members

Gear and food: No gear for this one but there is post race food.

Weather: Usually decent--rain would definitely make this one interesting.

Course: The race is four miles long and loops through Wirth Park in Minneapolis. The course is hilly enough to be challenging, but there are no super long or steep climbs.

Crowd support: The trail is two loops, so you get a little crowd support at the end of each loop.

I haven't done a ton of trail races, but the MDRA Mudball Trail Run is one of my favorite races--trail race or otherwise. The field is small, so there's plenty of room to maneuver on the trails. If you've never done a trail race before, I'd recommend this one as a good first.

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