Monday, January 27, 2014

Running Streak – Catch Up

I realize I have failed in my ambitious plan to run everyday and blog about it frequently. At least I have kept the running bit up as our twitter followers may have noticed from my daily #RunningStreak tweets. I have been running for 26 days in a row now (haven’t had a chance to dash out yet today) and it is definitely starting to show in the gooreservoir frozen1d as well as the bad.

The good: I live on a bit of a hill (readers from Switzerland and Colorado insert condescending snort here ;)) and it can be quite cruel to run up at the end of a run. Thanks to my frequent neighborhood dashes it is getting easier and easier though which has to be good for my cardiovascular fitness and certainly my ego. I tend to get a bit of a stiff neck when working as I am mostly crammed behind a laptop or staring at the small screen of my Lumia 521. Running shakes up the neck muscles nice and proper and although it feels quite rough at times, my neck is in a much better condition generally. My body is clearly melting fat and turning it into muscle – admittedly one of the reasons I started running in the first place. And lastly, I get to see beautiful sights like this frozen pond for as long as I can stand running in the cold. 

winter storm warning cropped

The bad: All the muscle building comes at a cost. Muscle ache, stiffness of legs just short of cramping – you probably know the drill. One of my toes is not coping well with the constant use (maybe I should have a gait analysis at some point?). Plus, running every day can be a source of stress. It takes time (which is why I often dash out in the night) and the weather requires constant planning and reconsidering plans (will it be warmer in 2 hours? Do I prefer it warmer and snowing or colder and not? When is the sun setting? Wearing the right outfit according to temperature etc.). I have to do laundry every other day which again takes time. And sometimes I just want a break. But then…

The ambitious: Giving up now is not really an option. Pulling through for not even a month is just sad. And I can’t really make my mind up about an “exit strategy” that does not feel like failure. It is also undeniably useful in terms of bug-fixing to run and test every day. We are working on a bunch of awesome features right now, some already in beta and some to be released within the week. And it is a pleasure to see the app grow and progress and make it better by own experience. So, we’ll see how far I get. At least with live cheering in beta, I’ll always have some nice company. :)

The bottom line: I do not regret having started the challenge and most of the time, the good things far outweigh the bad. So, I’ll just crack on and see how it goes, And maybe I even inspire some of you to do the same.

So, take care and keep it up!


Friday, January 17, 2014

Track Runner Wins Nokia Create Master Mission Maps & Places

We are proud to announce that Track Runner was chosen the winner of Nokia Create’s Maps & Places Master Mission. Nokia Create is a global app development competition looking for innovative new apps for Nokia and Windows Phone 8 in a series of categories, among them clever use of Windows Phone’s maps & places.

champagne_celebrationsWe thought entering the competition was worth a shot given Track Runner’s unique track and lap recognition but winning still came as an awesome surprise and great distinction.

Nokia Developer News commended our app the following way: “Track Runner impressed us in the Maps & Places Mission for its innovative use of mapping to satisfy the specific desires of runners. Using precision GPS, Track Runner knows when a user is running laps and automatically calculates lap time and splits.”

Prizes include a showcase at the Mobile World Congress and app promotion via Windows Phone store and Nokia’s App Social channels.

You can read more about the competition and prizes we won in this press release.

On that note… someone get a glass…!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Winter Running – The Running Streak Continues

Shame on me, I have not been blogging as much as I planned to. However, in better news I have run at least a mile every day since January 1, making today the 8th successful day of my running streak. For those of you following Track Runner on Twitter, you will be quite up to date with my running endeavors. For everybody else: Follow @TrackRunnerApp to cheer me on and hold me accountable. If I am not blogging here, I will post a tweet or Facebook message about my daily run so I can’t cheat!

I must say I am still getting used to the daily running routine. It seems to take up a lot of time planning, obsessing about weather stats (notice the subtle addition to our beta since I’ve been running in the freezing cold?), recovering, recovering some more, washing, dressing in layers, undressing the layers… you get the picture. Surprisingly, I have not had any injuries and not much pain after the rather excessive muscle ache of the first three days and I have a feeling I get into a rhythm as far as the running is concerned. The cold is a clear motivator not to be too slow or stagnant.

run1-6-2014diary1Another thing that really motivates me is to combine doing errands with running. I’ve “dashed” to the local CVS for some toothpaste and even visited “nearby” Newton Centre (a 9 km roundtrip) where I treated myself to some Starbucks coffee before returning in the darkness. Instead of using the cardio equipment at the gym, I run as a warm up (how ironic given therun1-6-2014diary4 current temps) and simply do lifting after some recovery.

I know many people run to clear their head or have time to think but somehow I have not yet reached a state where I can do that. Possibly because I have been mainly running on sidewalks and roads (parks etc. seem a bit too dangerous at the moment with frozen over puddles galore) and in the merciless cold, running feels more like a survival training than a quality “me-time.” I think that’s why I am very much into having a clear destination for a run, it feels better to have achieved something and be able to say: Hey, who needs a car. Look what I have accomplished on my own two feet. :)

Speaking of “achieving something” – of course I am testing Track Runner in extreme conditions and although it’s not always plain sailing, it helps a lot with development to run with and experience the app and the progress on a day to day basis. May of the newer additions were inspired by runs in the last 8 days. It is thanks to my Newton Centre trip in the dark that we have been experimenting with live tracking as a safety net. It was me typing in weather information by hand in a tedious back and forth between weather app and Track Runner that made us add weather data by default. But we have also received many requests and user feedback that helped us improve the app. Big cheers to our beta testers, who are eagerly playing with the new features to make them “release-worthy”!

run1-6-2014diary2run1-6-2014diary3I hope you enjoy reading about my winter running and drop in again soon when I write more about the gear that makes running in the cold bearable.

Until then, stay warm and happy.


Friday, January 3, 2014

Days 2 and 3 – Playing in the Snow

run1-3-2014thirdcroppedDays two and three of my running streak challenge were dominated by what was announced to be a major snowstorm. It was supposed to start at 4 A.M. on Thursday and continue until 10 A.M. today (Friday) so I decided to go for a past midnight run on Thursday. I actually started running when the first snow fell and it turned out to be a good call, knowing that it would only get colder and snowier from then on. I only did 2.7k and it was great to be running in sleepy Brighton/Newton, undisturbed by cars. While Track Runner was working reliably on my Lumia 521, I had a bit of a measuring up the competition field day (or night) with our company HTC. It gave us valuable insights into how not to handle certain situations as we are driving forward the January update. Temperatures were not too bad at -7° C/19° F and my winter running clothes kept me mostly warm although there was room for improvement in the setup.
Thursday brought ample snow but not the raging storm we expected. A bit of a let down for nature sensationalists like me to be honest. ;) Nonetheless, I enjoyed not having to run in the new snow/sleet and was rewarded by beautiful sunshine this morning which made me seize the (running) day and show those -11° C/12° F who’s not afraid of the cold. And luckily, the improvements I made to my running outfit and the general getting used to colder temperatures meant that I enjoyed most of my icy winter run (or snow trot). The only problem was the snow “walls” that people shoveling their driveway left at each side or at the side of the road. I can’t believe how egoistic people can be to only shovel their own driveway and not even think to leave a hole/path for the sidewalk. (Sorry for ranting but it had to be said!). Needless to say my shoes were quickly drenched from ramming them into the deep snow and that made me return quite early. But honestly, I am starting to like the daily runs and it feels good to be active around this time of year. I hope you give it a try! Any tips are also very welcome!
The App Cauldron’s Sarah.
P.S.: This is a special shout out to one of our most loyal beta testers who has been testing Track Runner in rural Alaska. You can read about his adventures here. He also wrote a great side-by-side comparison piece on testing Track Runner v. Runtastic Pro v. Endomondo, which you can read here and here. Thanks @Alaskanjackson, and I bow to you every time I hit the sub zero Celsius streets of Boston.     

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Track Runner on a Running Streak – The Challenge and First Impressions

newyearsrundiaryWe have shouted it from the rooftops (amplified by WPCentral): Track Runner is squarely aimed at runners. However, being a runner does not mean you have to do daily marathons, have 10 pairs of shoes and call a beautiful bowl of pasta “binge carbing.” Being a runner is a mindset. It can be a pact you make with yourself – a running streak, or a training plan. You can be a runner! I can be a runner!

I’m not a fitness junkie. The only thing I can say for myself is that I am pretty determined and usually make things happen if I really want them to. I stumbled upon Marc Parent’s article A Season to Streak on Runner’s World and something just struck a nerve. I wanted to be that person who fought on through bad weather and pain to experience the beauty of the everyday. It was already well into December. Joining the Holiday Streak late seemed to be a feeble option. And thus the challenge was born: A New Year’s resolution! Running every day from January 1, 2014 until – well – we’ll see… It’s an experiment but something I have every intention of taking seriously. And I am not alone because I get to run with a great companion and get to improve alongside this trusted Track Runner. ;) The perks of developing a running app I’d say. newyearsrunelevation

So, today, I started my streak in beautiful Boston weather and freezing (-3° C/26° F) temperatures, well protected by my pink power vest and hat, and too many other layers to individually describe. I was so well protected from the cold that I didn’t even freeze. It was only when starting to run uphill at about kilometer 3 that I felt a bit uncomfortable due to the difference of temperature in my body (working in overdrive to produce enough heat) and the surroundings.

And what about the Track Runner test? I am happy to report that it worked without hick-ups and the elevation profile that we are putting through its paces in our beta at the moment was pretty accurate. Success also on the app front so to say.


Now, I am preparing myself mentally for my past midnight run tomorrow early morning. As a snowstorm is supposed to hit Boston at 4 A.M. on Thursday, I decided to get the daily run in before things get too nasty outside. Call it cheating or real determination but I am already a bit excited about running in the middle of the night, something that I have definitely never done before!

How that went I will report tomorrow (that is if I was not run over by a Boston driver ;)).

Do you want to join me? Download Track Runner and lace up those running shoes.

Sarah of the App Cauldron Team