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A smashrun for the last day of Juneathon

I’ve dabbled with the “gamification” of sports but the joy of a new badge and an animated high five rapidly slips into the arena of vaguely irritating notifications.

I was therefore quite surprised at just how quickly I become absorbed in smashrun, the latest app for accumulating, rewarding and hacking running statistics. I’ve even been encouraged to go on an afternoon run, in a heatwave, just so I can get my first badge.

Smashrun was billed as a geeky dashboard for the runner and self-quantifier. Just my cup tea, so I headed over to the homepage and lost myself in the fascinating array of charts. Within minutes I had signed up, connected my account to Garmin and then watched as it sucked 8 years of running history and 3295 km of running goodness into my dashboard.

This is my favourite chart so far, it shows that I was totally rocking in 2007, possibly asleep from 2008/2009 and could do to pick up my running shoes a little more often for the rest of 2015.

Screen Shot 2015 06 30 at 13.31.50 536x192 A smashrun for the last day of Juneathon

I also found out that Sunday’s 5km pootle around Mitcham Common was the longest run in 3 months and that’s just a little bit embarrassing.

On the smashrun website they explain their reason for being with this snippet:

It’s cold. It’s raining. You drag your butt out of bed, pull on your sweats and a windbreaker. You feel like phoning it in after the first three miles, but instead you lock it down and dig deep for that last mile. You get home, shower quickly and rush to work only to show up 5 minutes late. Your boss peers over his coffee. Nice to see, you managed to make it in.

Now, it wasn’t easy to make that run happen. And at the end of the day, it can be hard to say what it accomplished. Maybe you’re in a little better shape? Maybe it’s helped you maintain your internal discipline? Maybe you feel more balanced?

What Smashrun is designed to do is to give you a context for your run. Finishing that run today meant that you’ve run 280 miles this year. That puts you in the top 20% of the runners on Smashrun. It’s more than 50 miles farther than you’d run last year at this time. And it was the 3rd fastest 4 mile run you’ve ever run. You’re running twice as many miles a week as your friend Joe, and when it comes to sheer discipline — showing up day in and day out — you have few peers.

That resonates with me, data and statistics can be mighty powerful if they are displayed in the right way and incredibly motivational. I’ve recorded just about every single run of my adult life and smashrun looks like the tool to bring those runs to life again.

Come and join me, I could do with some friends.

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Guilt Trip for Juneathon

So yesterday Lynn hit me with an ultimatum. Apparently I haven’t used my bike in about year and she is fed up of moving it around the dining room. I either have to get on my bike or put it back in the shed.

Ouch!

IMG 6825 Guilt Trip for Juneathon

lady not to scale

The shed is practically a mile down the bottom of the garden and if I had to factor in the time required to retrieve it on the admittedly infrequent cycle commute occasions, I’d have to set the alarm half an hour earlier.

And that ain’t happening!

So today arrives and I dutifully drag out the lycra, and my bike, and head to the big smoke via pedal power.

That’s 34km in the bag for Juneathon and my bike gets a reprieve. Result!

It was also a glorious day and I found myself caught in a rather spectacular dust cloud in Hyde Park. I am grateful to @lucyslade who was quicker off the mark than me and managed to capture the scene beautifully.

IMG 6824 Guilt Trip for Juneathon

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A Bone to Pick with Juneathon

I’ve been skirting around the idea of running since my new Juneathon alarm went off at 6:30 am. It’s now 11 pm. 

I postponed the morning run in favour of an evening run, before dinner, but that was pushed into touch by the far more favourable idea of doing it on a full stomach, after dinner. Of course after dinner it became a whole different ball game and I dropped the idea of running altogether. 

So hunting around for a suitable alternative I thought I’d give the Freeletics app a go. Freeletics is a new app that has been nagging me to exercise with it for the last two weeks but I’ve ignored it.

I fired it up and tried the recommended Workout of the Day (WoD) – Metis. No equipment required and just 3 exercises. How difficult can it be?

IMG 6822 A Bone to Pick with JuneathonWell I’m sitting here on the floor quivering and that’s despite bailing after round 1.

I finished round 1 in quite a state after 10 burpees, 10 climbers and 10 high knee jumps. Lynn was watching on the sofa, supportively guffawing, while videoing my efforts. I moved between cursing her and cursing the phone but when the app flicked straight to round 2 with the same 3 exercises but now at 25 reps each, I’m afraid I blew a gasket and started cursing Juneathon too.

Having calmed down a bit I thought I’d give Freeletics the benefit of the doubt, perhaps it was throwing a killer WoD at me because it had no idea quite how unfit I’ve allowed myself to become. So I’ve just signed up for the coaching option and taken my max rep test. I knocked out 85 full squats in 5 mins and may never walk again.

Having taken the test and filled in my body stats the app can no longer be in any doubt about the basket case standing before it. It ran through its algorithms and spat out my new program.

What do you know. The first workout it has in store for me is METIS.

I may weep.

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Stuck on Sprint

Eager to get Juneathon off to a promising start, I set the alarm for 6:30 am and almost skipped my way downstairs to the treadmill. 

I selected level 9 in my Sprint 8 high intensity program and sauntered through the warm up before shocking myself with the first incline sprint of the series. 

I haven’t been very religious with my run training of late and so I was biding my time impatiently and counting down each remaining second of the interval. The treadmill finally beeped for the end of the 30 second sprint and the start of the recovery phase. I relaxed a bit and then panicked as I noticed that I was moving towards the end of the track and the treadmill was not slowing down. 

I picked up to sprint mode again and bashed frantically at the reduce speed button. I got it down 1 kph but was still very definitely sprinting. 

Either the treadmill decided that the first day of Juneathon was a good day to malfunction or I lost a lot more fitness than I’d thought. 

I had to resort to the big red panic key. Yanked it out and thankfully came to an abrupt yet ungainly stop. 

So the first run of Janathon proved to be short but quite exhausting. I may need to venture outside for the rest of the month. 

 IMG 6817 0 Stuck on Sprint 

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Doing it Disney-Style for the Dogs

Here’s a guest post from rebeccaruns.

Up until this year, I was always setting myself fitness targets and never sticking to them for very long. Life just seemed to get in the way every time; the universe cruelly conspiring against my fitness and weight goals. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, either!

But this year I’ve set myself a fitness challenge of a weird and wonderful nature…and I’ve actually stuck to it for 5 months!

A 10K Race a Month…as a Disney Character

Yep! That’s it in a nutshell!

I’ve entered a 10k race every month so far this year, dressed as a different Disney character each time. For all you doubting Thomases out there, check out the photographic evidence below! (Or even visit my blog, Rebecca Runs, or my Facebook page for more info!)

I decided on 10k because it’s a challenging distance, but doesn’t require too much time to train for; it takes me just less than an hour to run the distance. Anything longer and I wouldn’t be able to fit in regular training runs.

How Have I Managed to Stick at it?

That’s any easy question to answer!

Because I’m doing it to raise money for a dog shelter in Thailand that I had the pleasure of working at a few months ago (Care for Dogs – www.carefordogs.org).

And there’s nothing like a bit of pressure from knowing that homeless, sick animals are depending on you to raise some funds for their food, shelter and medical care. Damn them!

The Highlights of My Runs so Far

It is a bit of a weird experience, turning up at an organised event in a Disney costume – particularly in a foreign country. Boy, have I had my share of bewildered looks!

But every run has been an entirely unique experience, so I thought I’d share my highlights…

  1. IMG 4554 300x225 Doing it Disney Style for the DogsJessie (Toy Story), Chennai, India (March)

Time: 60:00

This has probably been my favourite run so far – mainly because I was treated like a minor celebrity by the Indian runners!

I’d never even heard of Chennai beforehand, and I only entered this race because it fit into my timescale and the organisers agreed to let me.

The run itself was incredibly tough because, as I later found out, I’d contracted a virus the week before in Delhi (didn’t find that out until I took a trip to Singapore hospital a few days after the race!) and was feeling pretty rotten (I had thought it was Delhi-belly at its worse!).

But after the race, I’m not kidding, HUNDREDS of people wanted a photo with me (some wanted pics of me presenting them their race medal!), and it was bags of fun chatting to everyone.

  1. DSCN0041 300x225 Doing it Disney Style for the DogsMike Wazowski (Monsters, Inc), London, UK (January)

Time: 59:36

Sunday, 11th January this year was the day I lost my dignity and first experienced the realms of Utter Humiliation.

Mike has been my favourite costume so far because it’s the quirkiest – and because I could completely hide in shame within it! Although I must have sat in the car with my boyfriend giving me his best, “do it for the dogs” speech in an attempt to get me out of the car for at least 20 minutes before I worked up the courage to face the world!

  1. IMG 5500 225x300 Doing it Disney Style for the DogsMrs Incredible (The Incredibles), Auckland, New Zealand (April)

Time: 57:56

I’ve got to wonder about the Kiwis’ Disney knowledge because I think I was called every name BUT Mrs Incredible throughout the race! Robin, Wonder Woman, Mrs Superwoman – but at least I stood out!

I enjoyed this race because I achieved my costume Personal Best of 57:56 – Incredible by name, incredible by nature ha ha!

  1. DSCN0767 225x300 Doing it Disney Style for the DogsOlaf (Frozen), Alibaug, India (February)

Time: 62:04

A snowman on the beach! What a fab concept.

In theory, anyway.

In practice, I was sweltering and so bloody uncomfortable! Also, while running on a beach sounds romantic and picturesque, it’s actually hell, because the track seems endless and it feels like you’re making no progress at all!

I took my Olaf fleece off at the end and I could have wrung it out. It was that gross!

  1. finished 300x225 Doing it Disney Style for the DogsMinnie Mouse, Beijing, China (May)

Time: 58:59

It’s been SO hard to find a 10k in China! Many of their organised runs have entry cut off times months in advance, and some organisations don’t like the idea of someone running in costume.

So, admittedly, this run wasn’t an organised event; instead, it was just me against the clock in Beijing’s Olympic Park (which is a gorgeous place to visit if you’re ever in Beijing).

I got LOADS of weird looks, and tonnes of people telling me how ‘cute’ I looked; I think they thought I was just some random white girl who’d chosen a really ostentatious dress to run in.

And the Future?

I’m committed to this challenge for 2015 at least so I have 7 runs left to do, but there’s no telling WHERE I’ll be running next, or WHICH Disney character I’ll be running as…

Thanks for reading!

This article was written by Becky, and to follow her 2015 10k challenge check out her blog, www.rebeccaruns.co.uk. Even better, if you can offer your support and like her Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/rebeccaruns, she’ll be eternally grateful!

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StrongWoman Training

Screen Shot 2015 05 23 at 08.39.32 StrongWoman TrainingSaturday had been set aside for Strongwoman training. An afternoon of channeling my inner Geoff Capes, alongside a group of similarly minded women.

I eased myself into the day with a relaxing bath but as I heaved myself out of said bath, I tweaked my shoulder and ended back beneath the bubbles. Not a particularly auspicious start to my strong day.

I was surprised just how strong ordinary looking women could be. My definition of ordinary in this sense just means that none of the women looked as though they’d recently ingested steroids.

Yet even in the absence of bulging musculature they were each able to heft more than 100 kg on to their shoulders and run with a wobbly yoke. In some cases it was considerably heavier than 100 kg.

I can’t remember how heavy the tyres were, but I’ve never seen such monstrous rings of rubber and everyone flipped them, not necessarily with ease but with a good sense of grit. I can confirm that there isn’t much, more satisfying, than a resounding tyre flip. The bigger the better of course.

My definition of strong is now “anyone who could hitch me onto their shoulders and run”. I reckon all the women at that session could manage it, although I’m embarrassed to admit I would struggle. Still it’s nice to have something to aim for, I’ll start with the kids first and move on.

StrongWoman Training Days run by Sally Moss of StrengthAmbassadors gives you the opportunity to play with yokes, logs, kegs, tyres, axles and try your hand at farmers walks. You don’t need to know what any of those things are to have a go at shifting them.

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I’m a attracted to the technicalities of training more than the actual training, and I’m always on the look out for a gadget that might reduce the need for the latter.

IMG 6647 0 BSX Insight Review   Lactate Threshold Testing at HomeI was immediately attracted to the BSX Insight campaign on Kickstarter, not only because it’s a cool new sporty gadget but also because it offers insights that should enable me to train smarter (where training smarter means training less). Perhaps not less than I currently train but less than a very eager, yet clueless runner. 

BSX Insight Review

BSX Insight is a small sensor, worn in a tight calf sleeve, that monitors muscle oxygenation in order to estimate your lactate threshold. It apparently has a high level of accuracy when compared to the industry standard lactate testing methodology, which involves multiple blood draws to measure the increasing concentration of lactic acid in the system. For the first time, lactate threshold testing has been opened up to the masses, for home testing without invasive blood tests.

What is Lactate Threshold

In everyday practice, the most common use of the term is the intensity at which your body can no longer sustainably keep up with the energy demand. In other words, it is the highest intensity, or the fastest pace, that you could maintain without a steady increase in blood lactate.

In practice, it represents the highest workload that can be maintained for an extended period of time, usually around 45-60 minutes.

BSX Blog

It’s still early days with the development of the BSX Insight and at the moment you can only perform LT assessments with it. In time you should be able to use this in daily runs to monitor muscle oxygenation in real time.

Lactate Threshold Assessment

You start with the BSX Insight app which requires you to answer a few questions relating to your current conversational and 10k pace.

Note that this is a gadget for elites and slow pokes alike. If your conversation pace is 10 min/km or 5 min it will still take you through your paces and deliver results for you. 

The app then indicates the pace zones it will take you through, aiming to have taken you to exhaustion after about 30 mins of progressive running.

The app then connects (via Bluetooth I think) to the BSX sensor which in turn connects to your ANT+ Heart Rate monitor. I used the HR strap that came with my Garmin 920XT and had to hold the BSX sensor next to the strap to cement the initial connection. Having made the connection it held it for the duration of the assessment.

Once the setup is completed it is time to get on the treadmill and hit start. You really need to use a treadmill for the assessment stage as you are required to maintain a consistent pace for 3 minutes before it bumps you up by perhaps only 0.1 kph for another 3 minutes. It would be extremely hard to hit that level of consistency if you were running free.

During the run the app indicates your current instructions, either a pace or speed target to maintain, along with your heart rate and current muscle oxygenation levels.

Screen Shot 2015 04 26 at 15.04.23 536x352 BSX Insight Review   Lactate Threshold Testing at Home

I imagine that when you reach true exhaustion the muscle oxygenation level will begin to drop off. Unfortunately I have to imagine this as I’ve done the test twice now and think I have bailed on both occasions, just before my lactate threshold was reached. It didn’t seem to harm the experiment though, and so long as you run for at least 20 minutes I think the app will be able to estimate the LT.

Results of the Lactate Threshold Home Test

The results are calculated almost immediately and your results are compared to any previous assessments you’ve completed.

IMG 6646 BSX Insight Review   Lactate Threshold Testing at HomeProbably the most useful feature is the display of your personal training zones. And that’s personal as in truly personal and not just calculations based on 220 – your age. You can view your training zones as either pace based or HR zones.

The trick now is to take these zones and design a training program which utilises your new found insight, to push the boundaries and increase your fitness so you reach your Lactate Threshold at a faster pace.

BSX Insight do offer a free training program to help with this but in a nutshell, I will be keeping the bulk of my runs in the Zone 2 Aerobic Threshold with twice weekly interval sessions where I push to Zones 4 and 5. It’s these higher zones that will work on improving my LT.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this develops and perhaps integrates with other services. At the moment I can see the results of my assessment but I don’t seem to be able to access the data. I’d like to be able to view the muscle oxygenation and HR charts as shown above but at the moment they appear to be locked down.

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Convert a Route to a Garmin Course File

I’ve been preparing cycle routes for my new bike commute and while that part of the process has been pain free and successful, the art of transferring the route to my Garmin Forerunner 920XT so I can follow it as a course, has been a royal pain in the proverbial. I have managed it though so I thought I would condense the steps into a mini tutorial.

Creating a Route

There are plenty of free iPhone apps available for plotting cycle and running routes. For cycling I have been using BikeHub and for running I’ve opted for GPS Outdoors both of which allow you to save the created route as a GPX file to email or to open in a different app. Note that I am interested in apps that create routes using their own internal routing engine (like your sat nav) rather than a manual drag and drop method for creating routes. If you are happy with the manual approach then I suggest you use the create course option on Garmin Connect which would save you the bother of converting and struggling to transfer the output to your device which I describe below.

BikeHub

IMG 6395 Convert a Route to a Garmin Course FileThis app allows you to optimise your route according to your desires for speed, distance or quietness. The default balanced route option gives a very similar route to the google maps cycle route and suits my needs well. I don’t think you can edit the proposed route as you can with google maps though.

You can email the GPX file to yourself using the curly arrow button at the top of the screen or you can navigate directly from the app itself.

As my goal is to get the route onto my Forerunner 920XT, I choose the email option.

Google Maps

I’ve been impressed with the routing engine in google maps, it has access to all the cycle routes and has produced me a remarkably quiet route into central London. It appears to be the safest route I’ve had so far which is a blessing as my city biking skills are a bit rusty.

Editing the route is a cinch with Google Maps as you can simply drag and drop the route to reveal other options. I wanted to do this for my return route when it will be dark as I’d much rather avoid the centre of Tooting Bec Common even if it does have a dedicated bike lane running through it.

Where google maps lets you down is its limited sharing options. It doesn’t offer the option to download as a GPX file but you can nab the URL and use another website to convert to a GPX file for you – GPSVisualizer

Google Maps Route Convert a Route to a Garmin Course File

GPSVisualizer has quite a busy interface as it offers multiple conversion options.

Screen Shot 2015 02 22 at 14.40.19 Convert a Route to a Garmin Course File
Screen Shot 2015 02 22 at 14.40.40 Convert a Route to a Garmin Course FileStick the URL copied from Google Maps into the dialog box towards the middle of the screen and hit the convert button.

It then displays your GPX output as a bewildering text file but towards the top of the screen is the option to save the GPX file. Hit this and save to your computer.

Converting GPX to Garmin TCX Course File

Screen Shot 2015 02 22 at 15.05.57 Convert a Route to a Garmin Course FileThe next step requires the conversion of the GPX to Garmin Course file (TCX file) using another free web based resource called GPSies.com

Set the options up as I show in the image, select your GPX file location and hit convert.

Send TCX Course to Garmin Device

You’ve now created a route, acquired the GPX file behind it and now converted that to the Garmin Course TCX format. The final task and the trickiest, is to get this TCX file onto your Garmin device.

I can’t understand why this process is not a simple matter of opening Garmin connect and importing the said course file, but it is not. There are many, many forum posts asking how to transfer GPX files to Garmin devices and very few solutions.

I’ve seen one Garmin Support solution for importing TCX files directly into the Garmin Edge device but I haven’t tested to see if this methodology would work for other Garmin’s such as the Forerunner 920XT.

Using the deprecated Garmin Training Centre to upload Garmin Course and Send to Garmin Device

IMG 6397 Convert a Route to a Garmin Course FileThe Garmin Training Centre is not supported anymore but if you’ve had a Garmin device for a while you will no doubt still have this clunky program on your computer. For now you will be glad of it. If you haven’t and you want to install it, here’s the link to the old Training Centre versions.

Open Garmin Training Centre, if you haven’t used it in a while you will need to plug in your new device so that it appears in the available device list. It picked up my Garmin Forerunner 920XT without any fuss.

I then when to File, Import and navigated to my TCX file. It imported it without bother and now appeared in my Courses list.

Garmin Training Centre Convert a Route to a Garmin Course File

The final step is to select the course and then from the Devices menu bar at the top, choose Send to Device.

It transferred and is now available to select from the devices Navigate screen. When you are riding or running the screen zooms in so you can follow the breadcrumb trail easily.

Which Garmin Devices Support Courses?

  • Forerunner 920XT
  • Forerunner 910XT
  • Forerunner 310XT
  • Edge Cycling Series

 

 

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Running with Light

I’ve had a few weekends away in the sticks and at this time of year I always wonder how I could keep up my running habit if I moved to the countryside where pavements tend to be optional, as does the street lighting, and where running either side of work means running in pitch darkness.

IMG 6385 Running with LightRunning through London, my requirements are more about being seen than lighting up my way. Street lighting is sufficient in most areas to prevent me from running blindly into a wall or fellow runner but I do feel more comfortable knowing that drivers have spotted me and are less likely to turn up side streets without indication and so on.

I was sent the Nathan Zephyr 100 running torch to review and was immediately impressed. It has an ingenious strap design that makes it so easy to hold without gripping. I’d use this on my next overnight walk as it would be such a relief not to have to focus on holding a torch for hours on end. It’s ideal for running too, you can set it to a bright solid beam or switch to flash mode which I think is the best option for being seen. This video clip demonstrates the flash mode – sorry it wasn’t really dark enough to warrant torchlight.

Nathan Zephyr Fire 100

A video posted by 🐤 @warriorwoman (@warriorwoman) on

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A Sunburst of Runners

I was scouring Millets website for a new pair of Mizuno running shoes and was astounded by the splashes of colour that filled the page. I doubted that there could possibly be a demand for that much colour on the foot of a runner.

My post-run trip to Richmond Park caff, showed that I was wrong though. As a breed, we seem to be rather fond of gaudy design on our running shoes.

Screen Shot 2015 02 21 at 18.47.39 A Sunburst of Runners

I was rather happy to find a rather more subdued version of the Mizuno Wave Inspire.

IMG 6293 A Sunburst of Runners

I’ve been a fan of Mizuno for a while, they have a wide fit and the perfect mix of cushion and stability which makes for a comfortable run. They stand out for me because of their sole, seemingly suited to most of the terrain I run on, from grass, dry trail and tarmac. I wouldn’t use them on an aggressively muddy trail but it is reassuring to have a shoe that can cope with a varied track.

The mizuno wave inspire 10 is a surprisingly light running shoe and despite having substantial cushioning, they are barely felt on the foot.

I’ve been a bit slack on the running front this month so as well as the occasional treadmill run, they’ve seen me through some high energy Insanity Max sessions which calls for a cushioned, non-slip shoe and they didn’t let me down.

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