I think I’ve arrived late to the party but I’ve just stumbled upon a brilliant piece of software that can actually give Sporttracks a run for it’s money. TrailRunner is a superb piece of kit that acts as a standard GPS enabled training log but with added mapping and routing wizardry. I haven’t had enough time with it yet to provide a comprehensive review of all its features but I do still want to alert you to its routing functionality.
I’ve been looking ahead to the 16 and 20 mile long runs that form part of my marathon schedule and wondering how to find an inspiring route, possibly with some remote off roading and still ensure that I can get safely home at the end of it. The London Loop offers up some fairly secluded long distance trails but although it is signposted in parts, I know I would still get horrendously lost and throw my teddy out of the pram at mile 19.
I’ve therefore been looking for some way to carry the route with me. I’d just started looking round for yet another GPS gadget when I discovered that my trusty Garmin Forerunner 310XT will do the job for me (as would the 305). For some reason I had got it into my head that the 310XT didn’t support routes. In actual fact it doesn’t support routes but does support courses – I don’t know the difference but I do know that courses are just what I need.
This is where TrailRunner comes into the picture. TrailRunner is a 3 in 1 application: an activity journal, a mapping application and a route planning app.
Trailrunner stores all my routes, whether imported from GPS or created using it’s routing functionality, into my own personal network of tracks. I can also access the GPSies community to import nearby tracks and thereby beef up my own personal network.
I get the impression that network building could become quite a techy task. I’ve been reading the instructions and you have to get to grips with a glossary of GPS and mapping terms and occasionally help the program out by splitting and merging tracks.
Having done this though, the program unleashes functionality number 3 – the route planning function. Trailrunner can create a workout of a set distance based on my network, and if I rate the tracks in advance it will do it’s best to choose a loop taking in my favourite segments. Wizardry!
I’m importing my old workouts as we speak and mapping out the London Loop into 10 mile segments.
I can export any route held with TrailRunner to a number of different formats. If I choose TCX I can import the file to Garmin Training Centre and then send the course to my device. From here I can access it through the training menu. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me.
This isn’t a feature restricted to TrailRunner by any means. MapMyRun enables you to create routes and then export as a TCX file as does Google (I think), but TrailRunner is such an accomplished piece of kit that I can’t resist investing some time and effort into it.
DCRainmaker has prepared a useful illustrated walkthrough of how to create courses for the Forerunner 310XT (or 305/500/705) using MapMyRun as the route maker and Garmin Training Centre to upload to the device.
You don’t even need to have a Garmin sports watch to take advantage of these features either. RaceBunny is an iPhone app also by Berbie software that works seamlessly with TrailRunner. You can record GPS trails from the phone and import to the desktop software as well as downloading pre-recorded routes into the iPhone.
I’ve got quite a lot of dabbling and learning to do before I become adept at using TrailRunner, as you can see from my mapping example above I’ve got it riddled with waypoints. This isn’t necessary at all as you can link your trails to the map background. So in this case I am using the OpenStreetMap background which has all the legal trails already mapped, all I need to do is click to start my trail and the software miraculously follows the twists and turns to spit out a track.
When I’ve got a little more familiar with TrailRunner I’ll be back to give it a full review but if you love maps and gadgets and have a mac I’d really recommend you give this a go – it’s free and fantastic!