Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cross-training and strength training

Before I trained for my spring half marathon, I had never done much to incorporate cross-training or strength training into my running routine.  I have flirted with some Pilates workouts before, but I never really committed to doing them regularly.  However, knowing that I wanted to be strong throughout the training cycle, I made a conscious decision to incorporate cross-training and strength training twice per week.  And I did it: I consistently included such workouts twice a week for the duration of the training plan.  However, I quickly discovered that treadmill speed walking does not hold the same allure as running and therefore could not motivate me to wake up at dark o'thirty.  More often than not, I did these non-running workouts during my kids' afternoon nap, which though not ideal, worked out well enough.

Since January, I've embraced a number of different cross-training options: yoga for runners, barre-style workouts, speed walking on the treadmill (while watching guilty pleasure TV shows), and Pilates.  I continually search for ways to keep cross-training fresh and fun so that I stick with it, both for my mental and my physical well-being.  Running remains my preferred activity, but I believe four days per week is the most running my body can handle.  Still craving some me-time the rest of the week, cross-training has stepped in to keep me sane and strong.

When cross-training, I strive to include at least 20 minutes of strength work, relying on exercises I can do at home with little to no equipment.  Last winter, I used two formalized routines provided by the Another Mother Runner challenge, and I still incorporate many of those exercises into my strength workouts today.  Among my favorites: planks, side planks, squats, bridge, hunting dog, calf raises, tricep dips, and one-legged squats.  My least favorites, which I've abandoned as my one tiny form of rebellion, are v-sits and chest raises.  And one that I hate but keep because it is good for me: pushups.

I'm with you, T-Rex...

As I once again embark on a half marathon training plan, I intend to renew my commitment to cross/strength training twice per week.  I'm off to a good start: Monday featured a 20-minute strength circuit followed by a yoga routine for hips and hamstrings.  What are your preferred forms of cross-training?  Do you have any strength moves I should add to my repertoire?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Kicking off a New Training Cycle

This week kicks off training for the Rock 'n Roll St. Louis half marathon!  This October 19th race, my second attempt at 13.1, promises to be a good time.  I'm looking forward to exploring the course, hearing the bands at each mile, and experiencing the day with Emily.

After waffling in indecision for quite some time, I finally created a training plan for us to follow.  I took bits and pieces of information I've gathered over the past few years and cobbled together a reasonably coherent plan.  I'm satisfied that this plan will be a good starting point, and I fully expect that we will tweak it as we progress through the next few months.  I had fun setting the plan to our specific workout tendencies: Sunday long runs, three midweek runs, and two cross-training days.  I know what worked well for us last spring (and what our possible pitfalls might be), and so I tried tailoring a plan to meet our needs and challenge us to rise above the stumbling blocks.  And the purple highlights on the plan?  Just for Emily - her favorite color :)

My first attempt at creating a training plan.  Fingers crossed that it works well for us!

I love the fresh feeling of a new training plan.  All those boxes waiting to be checked off.  All those miles to spend chatting with my friend.  All those tough workouts to conquer together.  I know we will have down weeks, hot runs, and days that we'd rather snooze than run.  And oddly enough, I look forward to those, too, because without them I couldn't fully appreciate the good days and the runs that feel almost effortless.

So I raise my glass of lemon lime water (gotta preload those electrolytes!) and toast the start of this training cycle.  Here's to many injury-free miles, a friendship built on shared goals and hard work, and beginning each day with happiness and gratitude.  Cheers!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Cross Training: BarreConcept

In my quest to find free cross-training options, I scoured YouTube for barre classes.  My dear friend and I took dance together for 14 years while growing up, so the idea of a barre-style class was immediately appealing.  One that I found and really enjoyed is BarreConcept by Pilates Union.  This intense, dance-inspired workout focuses primarily on legs and core exercises.  The instructor is perky, encouraging, and gives good pointers about form.  The class is well-paced and at just 20 minutes is easy to fit into your day.

Though a 20 minute workout may sound easy on paper, this workout isn't for the feint of heart - or the feint of quads.  Holy burning muscles, Batman!  I assumed that running, hill repeats, and squats meant that I had strong quads and glutes, but this workout certainly proved otherwise.  My first attempt at this sequence was humbling, to say the least.

BarreConcept requires no equipment, other than a barre or sturdy chair.  I pulled a dining chair into action and could complete most of the exercises with it.  I will say, however, that my chair did not provide sufficient support for the final core exercises.  A wall-mounted barre is probably the only possibility for those.  I did the best that I could and supplemented with planks and side planks when I couldn't fake it with my chair.

While I enjoyed this video and continue to use it from time to time, the other options on the Pilates Union YouTube channel are rather limited.  They have one other full workout posted, but the rest are just clips or short segments.  They do, however, offer viewers the opportunity to purchase other full length classes on their website.  I haven't made any purchases and therefore can't comment on them, but if they resemble their free YouTube counterpart, then they should be a glute-burning, quad-shaking good time.

Have you tried any barre-style classes, either in-person or online?  Any recommendations for others I should check out?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Reflections One Year Later

One year ago today I returned to running two months after the birth of our third child.  I didn't take up running until our middle child was about 18 months old, so this was my first run with a postpartum body.  For months I had vacillated between excitement and horror when I thought about returning to running.  I knew it would hurt.  I knew I had lost all of my previous fitness and would have to claw my way back from ground zero.  But I also knew that running could give me balance again, save my sanity, and momentarily free my mind from the routine tasks of mothering three small children.

The night before my run, I laid out my clothes, iPod, and shoes and triple checked my alarm.  At dark o'thirty, I tried to talk myself out of going, but I knew it was now or never.  "Just get it done, lady," I told myself.  I stepped outside into a remarkably cool July morning, breathed in the fresh air, and took my first tentative steps.  And were they ever awkward.  Every inch of my body ached during the 60-second run intervals, and my lungs felt like they might explode after just a few steps.  As I plodded along, forcing myself to continue placing one foot in front of the other, I felt uncomfortable in my own skin, unable to recognize the former runner housed in my doughy postpartum body.

But as awkward and clunky as my body felt, my mind was elated to be out of the house and free to explore my own thoughts.  I love my baby and my older children dearly, but I was thrilled to have this tiny break from being a mom.  To enjoy a few moments where I was just me: out of shape, sleep deprived, milk-stained me.  And I loved every second of it.

My post-run FaceBook status perfectly captures my thoughts that day.

A year later and life feels very different.  In running, I've raced a 5k, two 10ks, and a half marathon over the past year, and I'm registered for a fall half marathon, too.  In life, the Little Lady is bursting with personality, trying to learn how to walk, and chatting up a storm.  I feel healthy, strong, balanced, and miles removed from that exhausted woman who forced her unwilling body to move 365 days ago.  But she's along with me on every run, reminding me of how far I've come.  I admire her courage to restart the journey when sleep was hard to find and when her pre-run ritual required not stretching but pumping breastmilk.  She encourages me to continue when the road is difficult and inspires me to keep trying when it would be easier to quit.  I'm grateful for all I've experienced in the past year, and I look forward to many more years to celebrate running, life, family, and friends.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Most Important Mile

My favorite running gurus over at Another Mother Runner invite readers to submit entries for a regular column called "Most Important Mile of My Life."  Last fall, I submitted an entry and was elated that my post aired on their site in November.  My 15 minutes of fame!  You can read the original post on their site, and I'm also reproducing it here.


I’ve logged many significant miles: the joy of my first double-digit run, running through the frustration of a miscarriage, the terribly wonderful first postpartum run.  But my most important mile came during a 1-mile fun run with my kindergartener earlier this fall.

We were all smiles and excitement at the starting line, but our enthusiasm quickly diminished.  After about .2 miles, he had had enough.  He wanted to quit and kept telling me we were going too fast, even though our pace resembled a slug moving through quicksand.

Tears in his eyes and a forced smile on his face, but he was actually running for a moment.
We spent most of the mile walking with intermittent bursts of running.  "Just run to that tree," I begged him.  But no amount of cheering from me would get his feet moving faster than a shuffle.  I pleaded.  I cajoled.  For whatever reason, his heart was not into it.

With only .1 of a mile to go, he broke down in tears.  I showed him the finish line and promised him bagels and frozen custard after we crossed it, but he couldn't do it.  We sat on the curb crying for a few minutes until he finally regrouped enough to run the last stretch.

It was certainly not the run I had expected, but I learned a great deal about myself as a mother during that (painful, frustrating, slow) mile.  I had to set aside my type A desires and really stop to listen to my son.  That mile was about spending time with him, being patient with his frustrations, and persevering when we both would have preferred heading to the car and going home.

A few minutes after the race, he gave me a big hug and said, "Mommy, even though I cried a lot, I had fun running with you.  Can we do it again?"  

Of course, sweetheart.  Anytime.

Finally finished!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Back to Reality

After a week of vacation with my extended family, we are back home in steamy St. Louis and settling back into our routine.  We enjoyed seven days of sunshine, splashing in the pool, and playing on the beach.  The 12+ hours in the car each way I could live without, but it was all worth it for a break from the daily grind.

I had hoped to run two or three times while on the road, and I'm pleased to report that I worked in three vacation runs.  Before I left, I talked to a number of mother runners who raved about the beauty of a vacation run.  Having never run on vacation before, I nodded along and took their word for it.  Now that I've done it, I agree with those (ever so wise) ladies 100%!  There's something extra blissful about running in a new area, and I felt an added gratitude for being able to travel to a beautiful place and have the freedom to explore it on foot.  And running while watching the sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico?  Truly breathtaking and awe-inspiring.

My running routes were fairly limited, so I mostly ran out-and-back paths along a beachside highway.  At home I usually run loops, so it was fun to mix things up with the out-and-back routes.  I enjoyed looking at the beautiful beach houses, imagining what it would be like to call such a gorgeous place home.  I saw many people running along the packed sand of the beach, but I wasn't quite so adventurous.  I did, however, venture out to the beach at the end of my last run to get my beach running shoe selfie:

A beach shoe selfie!  Mission completion.
In addition to my three solo runs, I also logged some bonus miles with a few members of my family.  My husband, sister, and brother-in-law are hoping to run a 5k race this fall, so they're building up mileage in preparation.  The humid, muggy Gulf air was not easy on the lungs, but they did great, and I loved having some company at the end of my runs.  Post-run, we cooled off with a dip in our pool - a perfect way to bring the blood pressure down after a good workout.

While I loved vacation and the chance to run while traveling, I am very happy to be home.  Emily and I met up for our usual early morning run this morning, and my feet were glad to be back on our home turf.  Home sweet home :)

I found a little remnant of the beach on my running shoes today.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A little slice of heaven


After a few runs with views like this, running at home will never be the same again! A full recap of vacation running to follow, but for now, a glimpse of our scenery is enough. Life is good :)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Cross-training: Ekhart Yoga

Those who know me well might categorize me as thrifty.  You could also say that I'm frugal, cheap, or a pinch penny.  Whatever description you choose, the bottom line is clear: I am not a big spender.  Raised by a mother who was raised by a mother who lived through the Great Depression, I am reluctant to spend money on things that are not essential, especially if I can find a way to get the good or service I need by spending little to no money.

It should come as no surprise, then, that I went directly to YouTube when searching for cross-training activities last winter.  My half marathon training plan called for four days of running and two days of cross-training per week.  Unaccustomed to cross-training, I hesitantly searched YouTube for videos that might help balance me out as a runner without breaking the bank.  I was pleasantly surprised by the wealth of great videos and tutorials I found.  Some were duds, but I discovered an abundance of quality workouts, which I plan to share with all of you.  Surely I'm not the only cheapskate in the crowd, right?  Even if you aren't as (ridiculously) thrifty as me, anyone could benefit from these cross-training options that can be done at home.

First video up for review is Yoga for Runners by Ekhart Yoga.  As a completely inexperienced yoga participant, I appreciate the clarity and simplicity of Esther's explanations of the different poses.  She gives good reminders about proper form and points out common mistakes to help viewers get the most from the sequence.  Though I fumbled my way through the exercises the first time or two, I quickly acclimated to the speed at which she moves through the poses, and now I think they are well-paced.  I think Esther does a good job of working all of the areas that are prone to aches and pains in runners.  Warrior I, triangle, and her IT band stretch work out all the kinks, while tree pose helps to work on balance and core strength.

I highly recommend this video, either as cross-training on a non-running day or as a thorough post-run stretch.  At just 25 minutes, it's easy to sneak it in during nap time or after the kids are in bed.  Or if you're really adventurous, let them do it with you!  I like to laugh at my kids' version of yoga (or faux-ga, as I like to call it), but when I really want to spend time stretching and reaping the relaxation benefits of yoga, it's best to do it without their company.

Give Ekhart Yoga a try the next time you're looking for a new cross-training option.  After you've done her Yoga for Runners, browse her channel for loads of other good yoga videos.  From brief explanations of advanced poses to specialized classes, including prenatal yoga, Ekhart Yoga has it all.

Do you have any go-to cross-training options?  Any specific YouTube videos you think I should check out?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Vacation goals

These days, my head is a swirling jumble of reminders, to-do lists, and activities.  I'm trying to maintain a delicate balance between family, marriage, work, volunteer positions at church and school, friendships, my kids' blooming social calendars, and running.  Looking at that list, the rational side of my brain shouts at me to let something go.  Drop a commitment or two and feel liberated from the overburdened life.  But as I read through the list again and again, the only item I could realistically drop is running, and that isn't going to happen.  Running is the singular thing I do for myself most days (well, I shower and brush my teeth, too, but those are more for the greater good of those around me than for personal enjoyment).  Though it adds one more thing to my already full plate, running keeps me balanced and grounded and makes me better able to tackle the rest of the items on my docket.

Because running is not optional, I'm determined to log some miles while on vacation next week.  I'm looking forward to exploring a new area on foot - a statement I couldn't have made a month ago.  No longer burdened by new route phobia, I'm truly excited about running along unfamiliar terrain.  And the idea of cooling off in the pool post-run (and replenishing lost carbs with a beer or two) sounds absolutely delightful.  Perhaps I will give pool running another try, too.  While not my favorite form of cardio, it might be a fun way to change up my exercise habits and take advantage of vacation amenities not available to me at home.

Insert my sisters and me here.  Post-run recovery poolside; does life get any better?

I've never successfully run on vacation before, so this is a new challenge for me, but one that I look forward to tackling.  Are you a vacation runner?  What is your favorite aspect of running while on vacation?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Confessions of a Photo-Challenged Runner

Several months ago when I was considering potential blog topics, I decided to do a series of "seen on the run" posts.  I could occasionally snap pictures during a run and post them to give readers a glimpse of the view on my usual routes.  I had beautiful dreams and detailed plans.  Until I made a startling realization: I stink at taking pictures on the run.  I've taken exactly five pictures while running in 2014.  Five photos over the course of 400 miles; not a promising ratio.

On Strava, I see other runners post pictures of their runs, and I love looking at them.  It's fun to see their scenery, their running buddies, their shoe selfies, and their post-workout smiles.  So why has it proven so hard for me to follow their lead?  First, I'd have to stop running to take the picture, which would kill my splits and consequently drive my poor Type A brain nuts.  Then, I'd have to struggle with the armband that holds my iPhone.  This ill-fitting contraption is a sweat magnet and sliding my phone out and then back in mid-run should qualify as an Olympic sport.

My weak attempt at a post-treadmill run shoe selfie.
(My basement floor looks even nastier on film than it does in real life.
Note to self: do not photograph basement floor.)
Ok, Kate, we get it.  Photos on the run aren't your thing.  But you could certainly snap a shoe selfie or a happy post-run shot, right?  No splits to kill and no unnecessary fumbling with the armband.  In theory, this is absolutely a reasonable and wise idea.  But who wants to see my shoes week after week?  How many different post-workout selfies could I create that anyone would be interested in viewing?  My solution: leave well enough alone and allow others to dominate the running selfie game.  I have many talents, but running photography isn't one of them.  And I'm okay with that.

Are you an on-the-run photographer?  What tips can you share to help the photo-challenged folks like myself?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Hungry Runner: Thick and Creamy Smoothies

In addition to my newly-acquired green smoothie love, I'm quite hooked on my tried-and-true dairy-based smoothies.  I had always made them with a yogurt base when a friend recommended that I try smoothies using cottage cheese instead.  "Cottage cheese?!" I exclaimed, almost too disgusted to speak.  "I just can't stomach the texture of cottage cheese.  You know, they throw milk away when it looks like that..."

Full of doubt but always willing to try something new, I looked up her recommended recipe for a cottage cheese protein shake.  I had to admit, the recipe received rave reviews, and the photos looked thick and creamy, my top two requirements for a smoothie.  I gave her recipe a whirl and was quickly converted from a cottage cheese doubter to an enthusiastic believer.

Since that first attempt several years ago, I've adapted my process to fit my personal preferences - and to align with the usual contents of my fridge and pantry.  I take a loose approach to preparing my smoothies, but in general, they look a bit like this:

1/2 cup of cottage cheese
1/2 of a banana
1 or 1.5 cups of frozen fruit (mixed berries are my favorite!)
1/3 or 1/2 cup of fruit juice or water

Add the ingredients to your NutriBullet in the order listed above and blend until well combined.  If you are using a blender instead, I suggest adding the fruit juice first; I have better luck with standard blenders when the liquid ingredients are closest to the blades.

The beauty of this process is that you can adjust it anyway you like!  Mix and match any fruits that you like to create a wonderfully creamy, protein-filled snack.  If you'd rather use fresh fruit instead of frozen, add a few ice cubes to help thicken it up.  I like using 100% fruit juice instead of water as it boosts the flavor quite a bit, but water also works quite well.

Give this recipe a try and report back on your results!  Are you a cottage cheese convert like me, or do you prefer a different smoothie base?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Race Recap: Innsbrook Independence Day 10k

On Saturday, I tackled the Innsbrook Independence Day 10k. Innsbrook sponsors a 2-mile, 5k, and 10k on each of their three big summer holiday weekends. I've wanted to do the 10k for years, but scheduling, heat, and apprehension have kept me from showing up at the starting line. With unseasonably cool temperatures on deck and legs that felt fresh and strong, I knew this was the weekend to make it happen.

Elevation profile for the course.  An easy start with a crazy hilly finish.

Race day weather was picture perfect, as predicted: mid-60s at the start with a slightly overcast sky - my favorite running weather. The 10k field was quite small with just 40 of us tackling the distance. Small but mighty, we took off to explore 6 miles of wooded scenery on foot. 

More than half the field passed me in the first mile, but I reminded myself that I wanted to start slow. I had no idea what the first half of the course held, but I knew the back half was hilly; better to conserve energy for those late inclines. Much I my surprise, the entire first half was flat as a pancake. I enjoyed the views along the path and spent most of those early miles chatting with a gentleman from Nevada.

As the climb started at mile 3, I saw that my conservative strategy was starting to pay off.  I passed six runners on that first massive hill and felt happy and strong.  My pal, Jack, hung with me for half the hill and then wished me well; he didn't have it in him to maintain pace through the back half of the course.  After saying farewell to Jack, I could see just one runner ahead of me: a woman in a striped tank top who was consistently about a third of a mile in front of me.  I chased her up and down many hills, and nearing mile 5, I started to narrow the gap between us.  I passed her just after the 5 mile mark, but I could tell that we were both running out of steam.

Mile 5 through 5.5 was the toughest part of the course for me.  I was feeling tired and hungry, and with her now at my back, I had no other runners in my view.  And of course, I was climbing yet another incline.  I slowed to a walk to take a drink from my water bottle and do battle with the part of my brain that wanted to quit.  "Suck it up, buttercup," I told myself.  "You've come too far to stop now."

I forced myself to resume my running stride and even found enough energy to finish strong, running my last (mostly downhill) mile in 8:50.  I crossed the finish line in 55:09, conquering even the loftiest goal I had set for myself that day.  I downed a banana, chugged some water, and cheered in other runners as they finished their race.

Overall, the race was a wonderful community event.  Though there were no crowds of spectators to speak of, the camaraderie among the runners was spectacular, and I enjoyed the gorgeous views along the course.  I definitely plan to run it again and try to improve upon my time.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July!

Here in the muggy Midwest, I expect to celebrate the 4th of July with grilled hot dogs, cold beer, and buckets of heat and humidity. However, Mother Nature has looked kindly on us this year, and we're celebrating with gorgeous temperatures and a clear blue sky.

Gorgeous blue sky over Francis Park today. 

Happy 4th of July to all of you! I hope your celebrations are full of friends and family, cold drinks and warm hearts. And I hope you are enjoying a view like ours today, too. Life is good. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

July Goals

In the heat of the summer with vacation plans on deck, it seems wise to put a few goals into writing.  I need to keep running this month to stay sane, and posting my goals into the blogosphere will help me feel more accountable.  So here they are, my goals for the month of July:

1.  Run the Innsbrook Independence Day 10k.

I've wanted to run the Innsbrook 10k for a couple of years, but I've been very good at psyching myself out and avoiding the starting line.  This year, I'm going to push myself to make it happen.  I'm a little nervous about 6 miles of relentless hills, but the weather should be perfect this weekend, and I'm ready to push my comfort zone to give it a try.  No set time goal for the race.  I just want to finish it feeling strong and happy.

2.  Log at least 2 (but preferably 3) runs while on family vacation.

We leave for our usual beach vacation in a little over a week, and I've never successfully run on vacation.  I usually have the best intentions but then decide that my running gear hogs up too much precious cargo space.  I'd like to change that pattern this year.  I've checked out our rental location on Strava and planned a few possible running routes.  If I can get out the door 2 or 3 times during our 8-day trip, I will be satisfied.

Can't wait to take my own shoe selfie on the beach soon :)

3.  Take advantage of the long summer days by running at both sunrise and sunset one day.

The idea of a two-in-one running day is very exciting to me.  I've never logged multiple runs in a day, but for some reason, the idea is rather alluring.  During these super long summer days, I should be able to run my usual sunrise loop before the kids wake up and head back out for a sunset victory lap after I tuck them into bed for the night.  My husband will undoubtedly think I'm nuts.  He might be right...

4.  Start training for my fall half on July 28th.

I'll end the month by kicking off the training for the Rock 'n Roll St. Louis half marathon.  I'm still pondering options for our training plan, but I'm looking forward to the challenges and rewards of the training lifestyle.  In the meantime, however, I'll soak up the freedom of my current unstructured running days.

What about you: any specific running plans for the month of July?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Strava: GPS app and running community

During my (brief) running career, I've used several different apps to log my miles and track my workouts.  I began using MapMyRun because I liked the mapping tool on its website.  As a new runner in 2011, I didn't own a smartphone, so I carefully plotted routes using the MapMyRun desktop site.  I loved looking at my maps and watching the calendar function fill up with my mileage.

Once I upgraded to a humble smartphone (or as my sister called it: a phone that got by with a C average), I wasn't thrilled with the functionality of the MapMyRun app.  Its interface seemed clunky, and though I still loved the desktop version, the app wasn't cutting it for me.  At my husband's suggestion, I switched to RunKeeper, which worked wonderfully as a GPS app.  It had a slick, streamlined interface, good voice feedback, and my husband and I could link up as friends through the app.  I liked the encouragement and accountability of connecting with his activities in the app.  But RunKeeper's website was seriously lacking...

Not completely thrilled with either of my options, I was intrigued when I heard about Strava.  I tentatively took it out on a test run last December and ran down my laundry list of wants for a GPS app:

Clean interface?  Check
Regular voice cues (at mileage or time intervals)?  Check
Social component?  Check
Website with maps and calendar showing progress?  Check

Without even trying, I accidentally stumbled into my ideal running app.  The interface is extremely intuitive, making it easy to start and stop the app even with a carb-starved brain at the end of a long run.  The app has a built-in autopause function that takes into account the time I spend stopped at traffic lights, which is pretty slick.  Strava's website provides endless amounts of data (especially if you upgrade to a premium account), and nerdy, Type-A runner in me loves to check and recheck my stats.  I could even switch the voice from the annoying Rita to a reassuring Aussie (I've named him Al).

And the social aspect of Strava is absolutely unparalleled.  I've found dozens of mother runners to follow and cheer on.  Watching their accomplishments and encouraging them to push their limits has been phenomenally inspirational.  Likewise, their encouragement has kept me going on days that my internal motivation was lacking.  I'm reluctant to admit how much time I've devoted to studying my friends' stats, giving out kudos, and posting motivational/inspirational/silly comments on their workouts.  Checking in with the ladies on Strava has become one of my favorite parts of the day.

I love Strava and plan to stick around, but I must admit that it is not without fault.  Much like the vanity sizing at most clothing retailers, I think Strava gives me a false sense of my own speed.  When my BRF and I run together, her with a Garmin and me with Al the Strava Aussie, my distance usually comes out longer and my pace faster.  Admittedly, GPS is not a perfect science.  My iPhone, which I use for the Strava app, was not built as a GPS device and therefore the data is only as good as the device.

Al the Aussie and I have logged many miles together, and I plan to take him along for many more.  Do you have a preferred GPS app?  What are your must-have features for running apps?