Re-establishing a baseline

10 months ago I had foot surgery to correct a bunion on my left big toe. I’m not above sharing gross pictures on the internet, but I’ll save you the disgust this time. Suffice to say that what once looked and felt pretty terrible, now works like a dream. What hasn’t quite recovered, however, is my cardiovascular health.

At the height of the pandemic I was working out and running enough that I got my vO2 Max to a pretty awesome 44. For a guy in his mid-40’s having a vO2 Max in the mid-40’s is pretty impressive. When I started back to regular running about 8 weeks ago, it had dropped all the way down below 36 – a below average number for a man my current age (46).

Being a devotee of the Apple Watch I had gone down to that one piece of technology for tracking my workouts. I had previously used iSmoothRun for my running but Apple’s native Workout app on the watch makes it super simple to swipe to the correct activity and just start moving.

This time when I started back running I got the urge to try Strava. I’ve had a free account for a while now and I always see the bike rides of my cousin in Taiwan or the snowy adventures of an old classmate in Minnesota, so I decided to give it a shot. I had the watch share data to Strava and have been quite happy with the social aspect of getting “kudos” for my runs and walks. (Shoutout to the 80’s granola bar of the same name.)

This afternoon I switched things up and used the Strava app on the watch to record my workout. I wasn’t a big fan of the way it displayed realtime data – and I’m a known hater of the signature color of the app, orange – so I don’t think it’s a longterm solution. I do really dig the social aspect so whichever app I use in the future, I’ll keep sending data to Strava for those tasty kudos. 😉

What I’m really after is the flexibility to track not only my running but also the lifetime mileage of my new Christmas footwear – two new pair of Altra Torin 5’s! This was the deciding factor that led me to use iSmoothRun in the first place years ago. The app itself isn’t very Apple-y at all, but it does tick the “tracks shoes” box and it did let me easily save, export, and ultimately hack around with the individual TCX files for all my runs. iSmoothRun was the way I captured running data that I used to send to Runkeeper and then sent to Strava, but ultimately just dropped in Dropbox so I could do with it as I saw fit.

For now I’m just taking things slowly, the running and the run-tracking. I’m not in too much of a hurry to get faster (that’ll come) but I do want to be consistent about moving. I’ve found that focusing on my cadence has been very helpful. And while the v02 max hasn’t climbed much – just over a single digit – my cadence has been over 160 strides-per-minute on all of my runs.

As someone who’s over 6 feet 2 inches tall and north of 220 pounds on the scale, focusing on keeping my footfalls fast does pay dividends. I’m not as fast as I once was, but I’m training my legs to turn over quickly which will make me faster in the long run. I can also really appreciate just how magical my foot feels post-operative when I’m thinking about my footfalls. Huge credit to my amazing surgeon for fixing my bunion.

Since my commitment to getting healthier is the linchpin here, I’m likely to continue to tinker with all the apps and data aspect in an effort not to overtrain. If I can put some mental energy towards the nerdier parts of the training I won’t feel quite so much pressure to run more often/faster/longer.

Look for a fun data visualization or heat map or some other cool graphic concerning my running in the future!

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