Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Garmin 920XT Forerunner Review

I have had my new Garmin 920XT for 2 days, but today was the first time that I was able to try it out on a run. Hopefully, I will update this entry with information regarding using the watch for swimming and cycling.

Updated: 18th Dec,14 (Swimming)


These are just list of features that I noticed whilst using the watch:
  • GPS lock was really quick (less that 10 secs)
  • Screen clarity is excellent. Seems that there is a better use of real estate than on the 910XT.
  • The lap notification screen (on each mile) uses the full screen (unlike the 910XT).
  • Button access much easier than on the 910XT.
  • Uploading via wireless was easy, quick and painless.
  • Works good as a day to day watch.
  • Appreciate the "Drill" mode for swimming


 So today was near 60 degrees so couldn't miss the opportunity to go for a run. On leaving the building I switch over to "Run" and it started to acquire the GPS signal (bearing in mind I had not used this watch before). It immediately notified me that the HRM was detected then shortly after that announced that GPS was ready. I hadn't even started stretching!

Started the run and was really pleased with the clarity of the screen. It would appear that the contrast of the screen and the use of space is improved over the 910XT. Another thing I noticed was that the buttons were much easier to use when in motion. The rubberised feeling of the 910's button and the fact that you had to press the side buttons just right was something I hadn't really noticed until I tried this watch. I found myself switching through the default screens just to see the information available.

One issue I always had with the 910XT was that the lap notification information was constrained to a pop up window in the middle of the watch face. Unless you were standing still in good light it was almost impossible to see the information. The great news is that the lap time is displayed full screen and is huge !!

The rest of the run was uneventful, GPS signal was maintained throughout (as I would have expected).

At the end of the run, the watch goes through a sequence of screens providing you with information about the activity. In this case, I had set 4 new personal bests, with each one being its own screen. Now, these were not personal bests, it is just that this was the first time I had used this watch.

Now, I have an old Android phone and apparently its version of Bluetooth is not compatible with this watch, however on arriving home I switched on the wireless for the watch and the activity was immediately uploaded to the Garmin Connect web site.

Lots of new stats to learn about. The following image shows the new running dynamics charts that are produced as a result of the new HRM strap.
 The following image is the running dynamic stats:
Still need to find the time to look at the stats and understand their usefulness, but normally more information is better (I think).

As a result of wearing the watch during the day, it recorded my steps, periods of inactivity and alerted me if I had been idle for too long. Currently my daily goal for steps is set to the default of 5000. As you can see in the report below with today's run I exceeded that goal.
I will admit that I was not particularly excited about this feature, however, I can see how this could be a good motivation tool with it automatically monitoring trends and awarding badges for goals met and exceeded:
I was awarded a 10,000 steps badge and a x2 my goal badge (insert round of applause here).

Depending on the weather tomorrow, I may try to get out for a ride and hopefully update this with additional information.

Update (Swimming)

Well didn't make it for that bike ride, however I did manage to get in a 1500 yard swim. Once again, the improved clarity of the screen over the 910XT made it easy to see the values on the screen even with googles on. When doing intervals a special screen is displayed during the rest with a separate timer for the interval which is really useful. The other new feature is the ability to just set the watch in drill mode which tells the watch that you are not "swimming". Laps and times are recorded, however they are not reported as part of your normal "stroke" based swim.

The other improvements I noticed are with the reports on the Garmin Connect web site. The image below demonstrates how the swim is broken down into intervals and has two views, the first a table, the second graphical:
Tabular Intervals

Graphical Intervals
Stay tuned for the next update ... cycling (hopefully).

Friday, November 8, 2013

2013 City Of Oaks Marathon

This past Sunday was the 2013 City of Oaks marathon in Raleigh North Carolina and the culmination of 4 months of training for what was my first marathon.

With two half marathons under my belt with a fastest time of 1h 40m I had decided it was time to step up to the challenge of a marathon.

As mentioned in previous posts, I always approach a race with a list of goals with the objective to hit as many as possible. My initial goals were:

  • Get to the starting line.
  • Get to the finish line.
  • Run in under 3hours 30minutes
My training was pretty intensive and I followed a training program provided by Garmin. Over the course of 4 months I ran for over 82 hours completing over 540 miles with my average speed increasing from 6.4 mph to 6.8 mph. Things were looking good for a 3h 30m time.

With 3 weeks to race day, just before I was due to start my taper, I started experiencing pain on the top of my left foot. At a visit to a podiatrist he indicated that it could be stress fractures and sent me for a bone density scan. Fortunately the results came back negative for stress fractures and I was allowed to run assuming that I could recover sufficiently. I stopped running, iced the foot whenever possible and scheduled ultrasound treatments.

At this point I had to revise my goals. With the disruption in training and nursing an injured foot I was unlikely to be able to attempt the 3h 30m pace I was hoping for and therefore changed my goals to the following:

  • Get to the starting line.
  • Get to the finish line.
  • Complete the marathon barefoot.
  • Run in under 4 hours.
Race day arrived with an added bonus of the clocks going back meaning that my 4:30am start was really 5:30am body clock time. Some orange juice, a large bowl of oatmeal followed by coffee and I left the house at 5:30am for a 7am race start time.

This was going to be a beautiful day, but the clear skies meant that the morning air was chilly, and wearing shorts and a running vest meant that keeping warm at the start was a challenge.

Now was the time to decide, did I line up with the 3h 30m pace group or the 4h pace group. The adrenaline had kicked in and I decided to go with the 3h 30m pace group. Fortunately, at 7am, right on time, the gun sounded and we were off and within 10 seconds I was across the line tracking the pace group, heading east towards downtown Raleigh. I managed to keep with the 3h 30m pace group for the first 12miles before having to stop for a quick bathroom break (annoying) then loosing sight of them. At the half way point I was at 1h 46m and feeling great. It was around  mile 15 when we hit some downhill portions of the run, which aggravated my injured foot forcing me to slow down, then by mile 18, it was back uphill to the finish. It was about this time that my thigh muscles started to fatigue and cramp. The remainder of the race was a struggle, but approaching the final half mile I was pleased that I hadn't seen the 4hour pace group, then .....

On my right shoulder the two 4 hour pace runners appeared and I explained that I really wanted to finish in under 4 hours. They verbally pushed and encouraged me and were the sole reason I crossed the line with the clock at 3h 59m 57s !!

Overall Place Mens Place Age Group Chip Time Gun Time
229/770 185/493 23/60 3:59:44 3:59:57

The City of Oaks Marathon is not an easy race and I suspect not a race where people will set a personal best, however, given that a few weeks prior I was unsure if I was going to even be able to start the race I was really pleased with my result.

Up next, training for the 2014 Raleigh Half Ironman.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Today as part of National Employee Health and Fitness Day we had a chip timed 5k race with approximately 140 competitors.

I got to try out my new Timex Run Trainer 2.0 GPS watch in a competitive race for the first time. It was a very unusual weather day in NC today, we had low cover cloud and drizzle .... all day. Still with temperatures in the mid 60's it was better conditions that the blistering hot 90's we had last year.

Due to the rain and slippery conditions I decided not to run barefoot but instead wear my huarache sandals for better traction. The 5k course is challenging with the first mile being primarily down hill and the final two miles being uphill. My goal was to run in the 22 minute time frame. The following image shows the lap times for this run using a display of lap times from Endomondo.

 My GPS watch worked flawlessly with a distance of 3.11 miles being recorded, see summary below:
Overall, not a bad race, although it was definitely a tough race. Most of my training consists of longer distance and endurance making this shorter distance race much tougher.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

2013 American Tobacco Trail Half Marathon

So this was going to be my second half marathon after running the Raleigh Rocks Half Marathon last April. I had intended running the American Tobacco Trail (ATT) last year but missed the sign up by one day.

Of course, this race was going to be a bit different as I would be running it minimalist style.

It was an early start for a Sunday with the alarm going off at 4:30am, a quick shower to wake myself up and then downstairs for breakfast. I do not follow any particular race diet, instead I stick to my normal routine. After a bowl of oatmeal and orange juice I brewed some fresh strong coffee for the 20 minute drive to the remote parking location.

The drive was uneventful but it was interesting to see all the other vehicles obviously heading to the same destination with their vehicles decorated with 13.1 and 26.2 stickers.

In the car I ate a couple of GU Chomps before a short walk to the line of waiting buses and we were quickly taken to the starting location.

Arriving at the baseball park I was surprised at how many people were there already and the length of the lines at the Porta-johns. Finding a quiet location near a light so that I could see, I took time to tie my huarache sandals making sure there were no twists in the laces that could cause discomfort during the run.

Next task was to get rid of my backpack. Although not a big issue I think it would be a good idea in the future to pre-label my bag (name and race number) and also tie something bright and distinguishing making identification after the race that much easier and quicker amongst the hundreds of other bags.

With 30 minutes to go, next was a necessary visit to one of the numerous Porta-johns after the mornings OJ, coffee and water.

With about 20 minutes until the start the pace runners for the 1hr 40min time walked past me on the way to lining up. My goal was to complete the race in under 1hr 45m, but the pace runners are separated by 10 minute intervals, so I choose the quicker pace with the view that I would stay as close to them for as long as possible.

After a very cool rendition of the American national anthem on the saxophone the race was started. At my first half marathon, I started way too far back from the starting line and spent much of the first two miles dodging my way around slower runners. This time was much better. There were still a number of runners who really should have lined up further back but not enough to cause any issues.

The first two miles were around the 7m 35s pace which was spot on and I was feeling good, in fact by mile three as we hit the Tobacco Trail I had left the pacers behind.

Drink stations are always a challenge as trying to take on fluids and run at the same time is always a problem. Typically, I tend not to slow down and try and get one or two mouthfuls of water at each station.

A great advantage for this race was that I had run this section of the Tobacco Trail many times and before I knew I was approaching the half way mark and was feeling great. After 45 minutes I consumed a GU Gel (vanilla bean) and shortly after arrived at the mid-point of the race where the organizers had a clock set up. The time was 50m 26s, which was about 2 minutes ahead of my goal time and I was still ahead of the 1h 40m pace group (who were about 1 minute behind).

About mile 8 the pace group finally caught me, forcing me to up my pace to try and stay with them. I managed to stay with them until about mile 9 when I just could not keep up any longer.

Normally by mile 9 things start to not feel comfortable, in particular, there may be some discomfort with my knees or more importantly my IT band on the outside of my left knee. However, for this race at least, I was having no problems.

For the remainder of the race, I kept the pace group in sight but was unable to close the gap until the last mile. At this point the competitors were spread out, and I was starting to increase my pace using a couple of runners in front of me as a target. Finally, I crossed the line not paying too much attention to the time but seeing that it was around 1h 40mins.

Immediately, you are supplied with a medal, a space blanket and a bottle of water. I thanked the pace guys and decided to pick up my bag. With my jacket on, I finally realized that I had to stop my Endomono gps app on my phone.

The organizers had ensured that there were plenty of supplies for runners at the end of the race. Chocolate milk, yogurt, bread from the Great Harvest Bread company, Papa Johns pizza, fruit (bananas and oranges) and beer.

The real time updates for the race on their web site meant I was able to confirm my times and positions in the race immediately.

After cheering on a few runners through the finish line it was time to head home. In no time I was on a bus back to my car for the short drive home.

So, my second half marathon was complete and not only was I able to meet all my goals, but they were actually exceeded.. What next ....

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Half Marathon - Setting Goals

As my second half marathon is only 6 weeks away I realized I have goals that I have already set in my mind that are probably worth sharing. Whilst training for my first half marathon this time last year, I remember reading online about goal setting and when it comes to running one of those goes should be getting to the start line.

During my 12 week training schedule last year, I ended up pulling a ham string with about 6 weeks to go. I was out of action for 2 weeks and then slowly built up my distances and speed until race day. What I learnt from that experience is that one goal you have should always be just getting to the start line.

So here are my goals for this years race:

  • To get to the starting line.
  • To finish the race.
  • To beat my personal best (and only) time of 1hr 50mins.
  • To finish the race in under 1hr 45minutes.
Obviously, I hope that I achieve all these goals, however I think it is important to realize that even just reaching the start line is an great achievement. Training for any significant running event requires training, and often several hundred miles of training; how can that be anything but a success.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Toasty FiveFingered Feet

Hurricane Sandy has finally blown through but we are having a cold snap at the moment so this evening was an ideal opportunity to try out my new Vibram Bikala FiveFingers.

A short but fun 3.5 mile run and at the end of it my feet were toasty and warm. I still prefer running barefoot, but these shoes mean that I will be able to run barefoot style without suffering from frost bite.

I'm Sexy and I know It .....Not

After a three week break due to work and a vacation I finally got back to running the other day with an early morning 5 mile run. Felt pretty good although I was taking it easy with 9.5 min/mile. Until recently all my barefoot running has been done in warm, hot or blazingly hot weather. This last early morning run temperatures were down in the 40's (Fahrenheit) and the only part of me that was cold were my toes.

This is going to be a problem when the really cold weather kicks in so I finally broke down and purchased some minimalist running shoes to be used in cold weather.

After some research I ended up purchasing a pair of Vibram FiveFingers Bikala.