So long Runkeeper, hello Strava

I had been using Runkeeper since about 2009.  Recently, about the same time Jo and I upgraded to new iPhones, Runkeeper’s GPS tracking became so inaccurate it was virtually useless.  Runkeeper would report my runs as more than twice the actual distance, and the GPS points during a run were mostly a jumbled mess.  At first I thought it might be the new phone or the new version of iOS, but after a Runkeeper update and the issue was still not resolved, I submitted a bug report to Runkeeper.  I received a very generic response of trying the various basic steps which I had already done, so I wasn’t very happy with that response.  The response from Runkeeper also reminded me that I could manually edit my run data to remove inaccurate GPS points along my run, which I had been doing but it was extremely tedious and annoying.  Meanwhile there were other various minor issues with Runkeeper, but the poor GPS tracking was a deal breaker.  I mean, a run tracking app at the very least should track runs fairly accurately, otherwise they are kind of missing their whole core competency.

So I started researching other running apps.  If a new run tracking app would track my runs without issue then I knew it wasn’t my new phone.  That’s when I ran cross this thread on reddit.  After reading this thread I knew I was not alone with my issue.  Also, one of the really cool pieces of information from this thread was the Tapiriik site. This site allows you to migrate your running data from one service to another.  This was awesome news.  That was one of the biggest downers about potentially leaving Runkeeper is that I’d lose my running data history.  So after reading the thread I decide to give Strava a try.  After installing it and setting up an account, I went for my first run, and sure enough Strava tracked my run with reasonable accuracy.  It also syncs with the heart rate monitor I was already using and I like their web site well enough.  The only thing Strava doesn’t do that Runkeeper did was during my run, Runkeeper audio cues would also provide my current heart rate.  Strava does not do this so that’s a nice to have feature they could add.  Other wise I am totally happy with Strava, and it’s free.  I was paying for Runkeeper Elite.

Notice I said Strava tracked my run with reasonable accuracy.  One of the down sides to running in the city is the large buildings will interfere with GPS tracking.  See the image below.

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You can see as I run along Bush Street there are portions that look like I’m jutting off the street and running through buildings.  Obviously this isn’t the case and Runkeeper even used to have this level of inaccuracy as well, but with the more recent versions it went from this to something that looked like I was running a full block or more off of Bush Street, or running back a block, then forward a block, or running in complete circles.  It was basically just a jumbled mess.  I should have saved one of my unedited runs in Runkeeper to show here.  You can see that with Strava, once I get out onto the Embarcadero the GPS tracking improves quite a bit.  However this was not the case with the more recent versions of Runkeeper.  See the following image.

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It was sad to leave Runkeeper since I had been using it for a while, but there was a noticeable increase in issues that both my wife and I noticed.  With that said, it was nice to run across Strava.  It offers all the features I had, minus one, and for free, and they have a great web site.  Strava also has a cool social aspect and a really cool feature called Flybys that shows other runners on Strava that you run by during your route.  It’s a very cool app and well worth checking out.

Thanksgiving San Francisco Turkey Trot, and more …

Jo and I started our Thanksgiving morning by running the 5 mile San Francisco Turkey Trot in Golden Gate Park.  It was a very cold morning and unfortunately before the race, the race swag, signage, and snacks were stolen, but the race went on.  More info on the theft.  Jo’s new company, Chegg was kind enough to provide us both with running shirts, go team Chegg!  Oh that’s right, I haven’t mentioned that before.  Jo recently left Gap Inc. for a director position with Chegg, a company that provides services to students.  The race was a blast.  While getting up before sunrise and freezing our butts off was not that great, the run was well worth it.  So after a nice 5 mile run, Jo and I had a great Thanksgiving dinner at Sutter Pub.  The food was excellent and best of all, no clean up afterwords.

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I finally got a run in since moving into San Francisco.  It had been a little over a month since I ran so it was good to get back.  My route is as follows; I start out running down Bush Street, to Market Street, then along the Embarcadero to the Giant’s ball park, around the stadium and back a bit to get in at least a 5k.  I walked back from there to get a cool down and enjoy the view.  As I was running, I could not believe how fortunate I am to have this route and the views of this city.  I am still in awe that Jo and I live here.

 

I’ve been experimenting with minimalist running shoes for about 7 or 8 weeks now. I’m probably a bit late to the whole minimalist running shoe trend as well as a being late to getting around to reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.  I am enjoy the book quite a bit, although I get the feeling the author tends to overly exaggerate at times, but whatever.  It makes for an entertaining read.

So my first experiment with minimalist running shoes was with the Vibram Five Finger Bakila LS.  I was transitioning from the Nike Lunarglide which I had logged quite a few miles in.
I quite liked the Vibram Bakila LS.  I tended to land mid to fore foot even in my Nikes so my transition to the Bakila LS wasn’t that difficult.  My first impressions with the Bakila LS was that they were very comfortable.  I wore them without socks eve though I did by some Injinji socks just in case.  I also liked the lace system the Bakila LS used over the original Bakila.  I bought my Bakilas from the Vibram web site.  I would say if you do buy them from their web site as well, you may want to go one size up from the sizing method recommended on their web site.  Mine fit quite snug and I think I could have easily gone up one size from a 40 to a 41.  Even so the size 40 was not uncomfortable so I trekked ahead with them.
One thing that I noticed right away with the Vibrams is that they are very light and the sole is very, very minimal.  For instance if you do step on a small pebble or  stick you will feel it in these shoes.  They provide enough protection so that it doesn’t hurt but I did instinctively avoid small debris on my runs at first until I was used to feeling everything I stepped on.  The sensation is very close to being barefoot but I did appreciate the light feeling of these shoes.  I was also surprised at just how much support a conventional shoe provides.  In the Vibrams I felt muscles in my feet and ankles getting a workout that I’ve never felt before.  Also as most people who transition to Vibrams will warn, my calves were getting a serious workout.
The Vibrams will more or less teach you to run on the fore part, or the balls of your feet.  Landing on your heels provides immediate feedback in that you will feel the impact on your heels quite strongly.  As a result of landing on the balls of your feet your arches and calves absorb the impact forces in a smoother transition and they are worked out quite a bit.  So I took the warnings to heed and the first week I only ran 1.5 miles at a time, and only 3 or 4 runs a week.  As I transitioned up over the next 5 weeks everything was going well with my Vibrams.  I did feel as though my feet did need to toughen up during this time since I did feel every bit of the impact of my feet landing during my runs.  I also felt that when my stride was just right, landing softly on my fore foot and just lightly resting my heel before picking up my foot again, keeping my posture straight, I felt like I was running very lightly and expending very little energy.  I felt like I could run for ever.  I hadn’t quite felt that while running before.
The trouble I had with my Vibrams came as a started to run longer than say 4 miles or more in a given run.  I think the impact forces started to take their toll on the balls of my feet.  I started to feel some pain in my right foot in the ball of my foot.  The pain would immediately subside as soon as I ended my run and I started to walk.  I read online that compression of the foot, ie. shoes being too small could cause this pain so at first I thought maybe I needed to move up a size in the Vibrams.  However, I read more running blogs and reviews and it seemed like other runners had similar experiences as mine on longer runs in the Vibrams.
So my wife and I went to REI where my intent was to try a larger size in the Vibrams.  Unfortunately REI did not have the Bakila LS.  They did however cary the Merrell Barefoot True Glove.  They were advertised as Vibram Five Fingers without the fingers.  They also seemed to have a slightly more substantial Vibram sole.  Actually they seemed to be a more substantial shoe all around yet still a very light weight shoe, maintaining a minimalist feel.  I tried on a pair and I was immediately impressed so I bought a pair, and a pair for my wife.
My first impressions are that the shoe is comfortable, maybe a little less so than the Bakila LS but still quite comfortable.  I do wear socks with the Merrells as well.  The lacing system is very nice.  It’s supportive and snug.  It does take a little longer to adjust the laces to get them on then tighten them up again.  I took them out for a first run, only 2.85 miles and they seem very nice.  They have much less of a barefoot feel than Vibrams but still much, much more minimal of a shoe than my Nike Lunarglides.  I don’t feel the running surface as much as I did in my Vibrams.  I have mixed feeling about this.  I feel safer running in the Merrells because let’s face it, you never know when you’ll run across something that’s not so nice to your feet on a run.  As far as the separated toe pouches on the Vibrams, I don’t really miss them much.  I think they are more of a unique style feature for Vibrams rather than providing any real benefits while running.
At this point I would have given the Merrells a glowing recommendation for anyone seeking a minimalist running shoe without the hard core, near barefoot, experience of the Vibrams, however, after my first run in the Merrells I did experience a significant issue.  After my run I usually walk to cool down for about a half mile or so.  After the run, and when I started to walk, I felt the Merrells rubbing just above my heel on my Achilles tendon.  The strange thing is I did not feel any rubbing or discomfort during my run, nor did I feel the rubbing while walking in the shoes prior to my run.  I found another running forum where someone mentioned the rubbing as well in their Merrells and they actually cut some material from the back of their shoes.  Now I was not fond of cutting on my brand new shoes but I do like them very much and I want to use them since other than this one issue they were great.  So I made some modifications, cutting some material from the upper heel of the shoe, shown below.
I cut the material of the shoe using an exacto knife.  I also added some epoxy to the edges to seal the material so that it would not separate or fray.   I’ve walked in them since and they seem to be working great now.  I’ll take them for another run soon just to be certain but they do feel pretty good now.  So if you don’t mind making some minor modifications to a brand new pair of shoes, I would recommend the Merrell True Gloves.
So all of this minimal running shoe experimenting has at least reignited my enjoyment of running and I’ve been running more than I have in a while.  I’ve been running at least 4 times a week and I’m really starting to get addicted.  Since Jo and I missed the Rock & Roll half marathon in Vegas this year I’ll need to find a new event to have a goal to look forward to.  My running slacked off around the end of August and the beginning of September so my RunKeeper progress is looking better now.

Jo and I ran the Las Vegas Rock & Roll half marathon together. This was my first half marathon and Jo’s fourth now. Jo decided to pass the torch of running as Elvis to Rachel this year. We met with our friends Lori, Rachel, Warren, Mike, Lisa, Drew, Maika, and Zach as well. This is turning into a yearly event which is just a blast. It’s fun to go to Vegas and have something else to do besides gambling the whole time. We can’t wait until next year, in fact I think we’ll be running the Rock & Roll half marathon in Dallas in March.

I also thought I’d post the route we ran since I tracked the run in RunKeeper.

Jo completed her fist half marathon today. She ran in the San Francisco Nike Women’s Marathon. She ran with around 100 of her fellow Safeway employees. She completed the half marathon in 2 hours and 59 minutes. She has made great progress and I am proud of her. Safeway was really great in supporting their employees with jackets, shirts, shorts, and lots of other great gear. Of course she can’t kick back and relax now because she is going to run with some of our friends in the Las Vegas Rock and Roll Marathon in December.




So Jo ran her second 5K. This one was in San Jose, the LIVESTRONG Challenge. It was a very cool event and was held in down town San Jose. Her friend and running mentor, Linda also ran with her. The photo below is after Jo and Linda registered for the run.

Here is Jo getting psyched before the run.

I took a video clip of the beginning of the run.

Here she is finishing the run. I think her time was about 33 minutes. That’s unofficial though.

And here is Jo and Linda enjoying their post run beer.

Jo and I upgraded our iPhones to the new iPhone 3GS. I basically had to after spilling wine on my original iPhone and it finally died for good, with impeccable timing, seeing how the new iPhone just came out. So the new iPhones have GPS and with the application RunKeeper, you can keep track of your runs. It’s very cool. Check this out.

Jo and I basically walk from our condo up to a school a few blocks away and run 3 miles or so on the track. The application keeps track of distance, speed, calories burned, altitude changes, and the duration of the run. You just start the application on your iPhone before you start your run and stop it when your done. The application uploads your data to the web site and you login to view the details. Technology is amazing.