Insomnia: The Activity Tracker Showdown

Fitbit sleep tracking

Many people will have gone to bed last night with a degree of melancholy angst. Like me they will have forlornly switched the alarm back on after the luxury of 10 back to back lie ins.

I fell asleep then woke, bolt upright at 2:30 am full of dread about my imminent return to work.

Two DotsI tossed. I turned. I got up and played Two Dots for 90 finger tapping minutes.

I contemplated cycling into work at 4am but thought better of it and dragged myself back upstairs where I promptly fell back to sleep.

Moments after, my 07:15 alarm went off and seemingly only seconds later the emergency 07:50 alarm blared.

Aargh. I need a new job. Should anyone have a spare job which would allow me to work from home and play with spreadsheets, I will take it.

Looking at the stats for my night I see there is a stark contrast between my two activity trackers of choice. On my left wrist was the Garmin 920XT on my right, a new Xmas treat, the Fitbit Charge HR.

Sleep according to Garmin

I think from my intro, I’ve made it clear that I did not have a great nights sleep. Why then would the Garmin declare this to be one of my best kips ever?

9 blissful hours asleep with only 18 waking minutes in the middle. What happened to the Two Dots interlude?

The Fitbit on the other hand appears to be a master at sleep tracking and insomnia detection.

It ascertained that I had completely given up on sleep as a concept and split my night completely in two, which is just as I remember it.

Fitbit sleep tracking
Insomnia according to Fitbit

Fitbit knows its sleep! Garmin is pants!

Move! The Cheek of New Gadgets

Garmin Forerunner 920XT

The arrival, this morning, of a new and exciting watch encouraged me to ignore my rapidly filling sinus cavities and venture out for a tentative jog.

I opted for a trail run around the local mud common and as anticipated it was tough and wheezy. I was so excited by the finish alert from my new wrist watch that I promptly slid over in the mud and lost myself a few seconds before I could reach the stop button.

On arrival back home I had to faff with running kit, now plastered with Mitcham clay and have only just managed to slump into my post run sofa pose. I’ve maintained this for all of 15 mins, just time to polish off the last glass of xmas Chardonnay when my new watch beeps and offers up the message “Move!”

Garmin Forerunner 920XTComplete with exclamation mark!

What a cheek. I’ve just run 5k and walked 11000 steps, surely enough to be rewarded with a sit-down. It only started me with a 5000 step target so what on earth is its gripe?

I intend to wander through to the kitchen to find the last of the Leffe beer now, I hope that will be sufficient to quieten the Garmin gods.

9 Top iPhone Apps for Runners

athlete diary

I’ve been running with my iPhone for a couple of years and I think I have now got a fairly stable armory of running or health related apps that I would be prepared to recommend. I’ll split them into 4 sections and go from there.

The Running Logs

The iPhone is my ever present mobile computer. It bothers me that my training logs are locked away on the laptop at home, or worse, spread across a few online logs like Garmin Connect, Adidas miCoach and Fetcheveryone. Surely when someone asks me how my training has been going for GNR or VLM, I ought to be able to pull out my phone and demonstrate with a pretty chart or a weekly distance log. It’s taken a bit of effort but I can now do that. Of course no one has asked how my training has been going for a while.

Athlete Diary (web link) (iTunes Link)

So for example I have set up a few keywords such as wt, Avg HR, Shoe 1 etc. Each keyword can be defined as total, avg or non-numeric which determines how it is shown on the charts and summaries. As far as I know there aren’t any limits to the number of keywords you can have but it does pay to think about it at the start so you can build up a consistent data set as you go along.

Having set up the keywords I can head back to the search facility and select the date period covering the last year, select running as my sport and perhaps select the training type as race. If I now look at the log it will show me all the running races in the last year. Moving to the summary sheets the same applies – running races in the last year. If I now choose the chart option I can select the keyword of interest so for example max HR to show the variation across the selected events. If I selected a specific keyword in the search facility such as Shoe 1 my log and summaries would show all the runs where I wore shoe 1.

It is such a customisable application that is very nearly worth £11.99

The feature that makes me so particularly happy about my purchase is the import/export functionality. The designers have gone to huge effort to enable you to get all your data into the log. It’s a bit of a faff and I had to wipe the database clean and start afresh a few times before I got the hang of it but I do now have every single run from the last 4 years loaded up. I pulled data out of Sporttracks, Garmin connect, Fetch and others, faffed around with it in excel to get the right format, converted to a text file, emailed it to my phone and the copy and pasted it directly into the import screen of Athlete Diary – Genius!

It’s hard to believe how happy that makes me. All my data inside my little phone. The Athlete’s Diary – Stevens Creek Software is well worth the initial investment in time and money.

HRM Log FM (web link) (iTunes Link)
Before I came across the Athlete Diary I was convinced that the answer to my problems was an app that synced with Garmin Connect. Admittedly I don’t have all my runs on there, I had a life pre-GPS and sometimes I run on the treadmill but in recent times it is fair to say that most have been uploaded to Garmin Connect. Garmin Connect is a terrible website though and it doesn’t help me get the stats and data on my phone.

After a lot of searching I came across HRM Log FM. As an app it doesn’t do a lot, you can’t add runs or modify data in any way but it is a perfect way to view data stored on Garmin Connect. The sync is fairly painless and new runs are added to a calendar view, clicking through enables you to view the details – summary, lap details and a pace and heart rate chart. The route map isn’t shown unfortunately but it’s still very useful.

The GPS Apps

I am not a big fan of the GPS apps but then I have a Garmin Forerunner so why would I bother?

The GPS reception is not as good as the purpose built watches and the effort drains the battery far too quickly for my liking. The last time I used it I nearly found myself stranded at the end of the Wandle Trail with no juice left to call for my pick up vehicle.

Having said that I have tried a good few and have been impressed with two: Adidas miCoach and Nike+ GPS. I’ve previously reviewed the Adidas mobile miCoach app and you can read that here.

Technical Running Stuff

PaceCalc (web link) (iTunes Link)

A very simple little app. There are many websites around that will perform the same function but it’s handy to have it wrapped up in a stand alone program.

You enter your time for a race or a custom distance and Runner’s PaceCalc FM returns a screen with pace and speed conversions in metric and imperial and then on another screen it displays projected race times on the basis of your entry. It also provides a series of recommended training paces.

Cadence (web link)

This is perhaps a bit gimmicky but I’ve got a bee in my bonnet about efficient running styles at the moment. I don’t have one but would like one and apparently one of the ways to get there is to shorten your stride length and increase your step rate or cadence. 180 steps per minute is the holy grail apparently. Seems unattainable to me but I’m happy to give it go.

This app is just a running styled metronome, I set the rate to 180 (or some other number) and the little feet beat out the pace for me to follow.

That’s all there is to it.

Diet and Weight

Some runners and particularly this one, need to keep on top of their weight, or more accurately chase after it like a hurtling runaway train.

I’ve got two favourites weight logs, True Weight and FatWatch.

True Weight (web link) (iTunes Link)
I’ve used True Weight for a long time, it’s very simple and uses the Hackers Diet principles to show the “true weight” after all the fluctuations have been smoothed. The display is clear and you can view the actual weight recorded as well as the trend line.

I have to admit that unfortunately, these figures are not mine.

FatWatch (web link) (iTunes Link)
I recently moved over to FatWatch as I wanted to record both my weight and my fat %.

It uses a very similar method for plotting the trend and allows you to set a goal and show your progression (or lack of) against it.

Both applications enable you to export your data via email so you need never lose data to a locked in app again.

As you can see I have an unfavourable divergence between the green (target) and red (trend) line so it’s time to take remedial action and start the calorie controlled approach for a while. This is where the last app comes into it’s own.

Tap&Track (web link) (iTunes Link)

This app gets reviewed all over and has proved to be incredibly popular because its so intuitive and smooth to use.

You start by entering your height and weight details and after setting your weight loss goals it determines your daily calorie allowance. By the grace of god or perhaps metabolism, you can increase your daily allowance by logging some exercise. I’ve just this minute bagged 30 mins on the treadmill so that I can polish off half a bottle of bubbly without having scale anxiety tomorrow morning.

Tap & Track -Calorie Counter is a typical food, exercise and weight log and works on the principal that if you diligently record everything that you eat, you might just think twice about putting it in your mouth. I find it quite effective but you have to be strict and record everything.

Like most of these logs it has the American bias but it does still seem to have a lot of foods available locally (including Sainsburys and Pret a Manger) and besides its an absolute doddle to enter your own items which you can then save to your favourites list. I don’t mind doing this, when I go on a diet I tend to eat a rotation of very similar foods so after a fortnight I’ll have just about all the options covered.

I read reviews where people doubt the accuracy of some of the nutritional entries, I’ve found a few problems as well so its advisable to sense check new items or enter them yourself from the label.

It doesn’t seem to handle alcohol particularly well. I’ve entered the details for Stella manually but it doesn’t have a section for alcohol content and so the nutrition chart doesn’t include a piece of pie for the proportion of calories that comes from alcohol. That’s a bit of a shame for me but maybe something they could easily add as an update.

Despite a few niggles, this app is a joy to use, very well designed and so far it seems to be helping me towards my goal.

So there you have it, 9 top iPhone apps for runners, have I missed any must have apps? Let me know.

Garmin Forerunner 310XT – The Review

Screen shot 2011-10-24 at 23.04.28

Having abandoned treadmill running in favour of the great outdoors it wasn’t long before I began to bemoan the loss of my preferred running watch the Garmin Forerunner 305. I long for pretty maps to illustrate my outdoor running routes and spur me on to explore my surroundings and for that you need GPS.

Fortunately for me I am spoilt, and my good lady wife didn’t listen to my moans for long before coming home with a beautiful orange gift – the Garmin Forerunner 310XT.

The Forerunner 310XT has been the long awaited upgrade to the Forerunner 305. The Forerunner 405 (reviewed here) let us down with it’s silly bevel features that went haywire at the first hint of moisture, so the Forerunner 310XT marks a back to basics approach, stick with the tried, tested and much loved functionality of the 305 but add the long called for water resistance that should mark this as the triathletes choice.

Not of course that I can call myself a triathlete having done only one sprint event about 3 whole years ago. I am occasionally known to dabble in open water swimming though, or at least I have done twice, but I don’t think one should limit oneself, who knows when I may decide to pull on the wetsuit and explore the local waterways.

So the biggest change between the Forerunner 305 and the Forerunner 310XT is that Garmin have made the 310XT waterproof and therefore suitable for the swim. Having looked into the watches swim capabilities though I think I understand why Garmin took their time to introduce the feature and make a truly triathlon oriented GPS watch.

If you wear the watch on your wrist, as most people do, the watch will be plunged under water with each stroke reducing and possibly even removing its connection with the satellites and the stroke action will have the wrist unit moving forwards and back and effectively mapping out a greater distance than the rest of your body. The result is a very messy GPS trail and a wildly overestimated swim distance. A firmware release has added open-swim functionality to the Forerunner 310XT which averages out the missed points and gives a smoother GPS and distance closer to the truth but still not what you could call accurate.

DC Rainmaker has written an excellent review of the Forerunner 310XT as it performs in open water and compared the results with that of the Forerunner 305 worn underneath the swim cap.
I recommend you check out his analysis if you intend to use the watch for swimming or triathlon. The point I’ve taken away is that the 310XT really needs to be worn under your swim cap if you want to be able to trust the data and get a pretty map. It doesn’t show any improvements over the Forerunner 305 which you can shove in a sandwich bag and also pop under your swim cap but I suppose it does offer some peace of mind in case you drop it and it gets waterlogged.

Another major change is related to battery life. You can now run or swim or bike for around 20 hours vs the 10 hrs quoted for the 305. This is great news for endurance athletes or indeed anyone who can’t be bothered to charge the unit after each use. I have noticed a reduction in the data recording options though and wonder if this has gone someway to improving the battery life. With the 305 you could select the data recording option to every second or every 4 seconds with the “Smart Recording” option. With the 310XT the option has gone and now you only have smart recording. This isn’t really a problem for me although I do notice the charted data is a little less granular than it was in the 305 and it’s always nice to have the choice.

As with the Forerunner 405, the 310Xt is ANT enabled which means you get the automatic upload of workout data using the ANT stick and it means that the watch is compatible with assorted ANT devices such as cycle power meters. I don’t have one of these but I’m sure if you did, you’d be very happy with the enhancement. If you want to use the watch as your main cycle computer it is worth investing in the optional quick release kit, which is relatively cheap.

I’ve paired my unit with the ANT footpod that came with my Garmin FR60 but you could also pair it with the Adidas footpod that comes with the miCoach if you happen to have one. You can set the 310XT to use the footpod for distance measurements if you are running inside or on a treadmill or leave it set on GPS in which case the footpod will be used to measure cadence only.

I’ve been using mine mostly on the run and have noticed a few other improvements:

Physically the wrist unit is smaller and sleeker and is of course orange. It picks up GPS signals very quickly and seems to hold onto them, so despite running in wooded areas I haven’t noticed any spurious results on my map output. The unit is easier to use with less delving into menu systems required. For example if I want to switch from bike to run I just press and hold the mode button for about 3 seconds and it pops up the option to select the sport.

The multisport function has been improved as well. You can set up in advance the different stages of your race eg. Swim, T1, Bike 1, T2, Run and then when you press the lap button it automatically moves you into the next sport mode.

As with the 405 you can change the pace of your Virtual Partner on the fly. Press the up or down for a second and then you can slow the little stick man down long enough for you to be able to overtake him. Perfect, but perhaps shouldn’t be used too often.

A number of features are common to both the 305 and 310XT but I’ve noticed improvements to the “Back to Start” and the alert features.

If you want alerts you can choose to have sound or vibration or both. The vibration is particularly strong and sends ripples up your arm to ensure you don’t miss your lap times or interval notifications.

The Back to Start feature is very useful if you run on unfamiliar routes. It effectively lays out a bread crumb trail for you to retrace your steps with. When I used it the other weekend, I was trying to get back to my car which was who knows where. I’d gone a little bit around the houses and didn’t want to literally retrace my steps so I ignored the first turn off and headed back to an earlier point in the route. I was impressed to note that the watch forgave me and soon started picking up its directional instructions, buzzing at me when it was time to left or right. I don’t remember this being a feature of the 305.

So here’s my assessment.

Pro’s and Con’s

Pros
1. Small, pretty and new
2. Waterproof
3. Longer battery life – 20 hrs vs 10 hrs
4. Better GPS reception
5. ANT enabled which allows for wireless syncing, footpod pairing and power sensor compatibility
6. Back to start routing available – Included with 305 but not 405

Cons
1. Not really a swim watch – it still needs to sit in the swim cap
2. A lot more expensive than the 305 which currently retails at amazon for less than £140: Garmin Forerunner 305 with Heart Rate Monitor

I’ve got a lot of pro’s there but then I like shiny new things and I didn’t have to pay for it. I have to say though that I am a bit disappointed about the swim functionality, I can see that it’s a tricky concept to engineer but I’m paying a lot for it over and above the price of the 305.

If you are a cyclist and want to use the power meter features then I think you would be happy with the 310XT, if you are a regular swimmer you may settle for the safety aspect of having a waterproof item even if you do have to wear it in your swim cap.

If you are a runner and don’t have need to record workouts in excess of 10 hours, I think you may want to take advantage of the reduction in price of the Forerunner 305 and spend the money you save on a swanky pair of Vibram Five Fingers or some such.

The Garmin Forerunner 310XT with Heart Rate Monitor currently retails at Amazon for just under £265.

Adidas and Garmin Footpod Compatibility

I’ve tried out a few of the gadgets head to head but have now come to the conclusion that my Adidas foot pod does not respond well when it is in the heel recess of the specially adapted Adidas shoes.

Yesterday I headed to the incredibly soggy climes of Mitcham Common for my run and had to move the foot pod to my sturdy Salomon GTX trainers, using the lace clip. This time the pacer recorded a much lower distance than the Nike+ but at least the pace chart proved to be realistic.

As both Adidas and the Garmin FR60 use ANT technology I was able to pair the miCoach pacer with the Garmin foot pod, which is great news as at least I know this one works and it means I can get the best of both worlds – instant visual feedback of pace, distance and time from my wrist watch and the vocal instruction and motivation from the miCoach pacer. The heart rate monitors are interchangeable as well as they also use ANT.

Today I took the Adidas miCoach and Garmin FR60 combination out on a familiar old haunt around the Chiswick and Barnes Bridge loop of the Thames. I wish I’d stuck with the off-roading trainers – my shiny white Adidas shoes haven’t been enhanced by their trip through the Thames.

I’m fairly sure this is a 3.5 km loop give or take a few metres, according to many GPS recordings taken over the years and both gadgets came close enough to keep me happy without the need to calibrate.

Now I’m happy with the accuracy and the set-up, I can just concentrate on picking up for my fitness for the Great North Run.

Adidas miCoach Assessment

I step out of my door and find myself mid way up the Col du Norbury. The hill has already wrecked my bike and now it has scuppered my first miCoach assessment.

The assessment requires you to start walking and then gradually work your way up the effort scale from 4 to 9. 9 being just shy of a myocardial infarction. With this hill I have to pop glyceryl trinitrate under my tongue within about 10 secs and my heart rate profile shows the undesired angina spike.

So the assessment was unsuccessful in amending my heart rate zones and I had to stick with the default settings for Day 1 of the “Be Fit” plan.

This was an interval session, requiring me to move through Blue, Green and Yellow zones. As you can see from the workout chart I really struggled to hit the easy effort blue zone. The hill broke me to start with but even on the flat I found I had to walk quite slowly to get my heart rate low enough to keep the posh lady happy.

Yesterday I went to the gym to work through a second assessment workout under the controlled conditions of the treadmill. That resulted in a successful output and my zones have now been amended to something more useful. Blue zone has been increased by about 10 bpm and hopefully that will enable me to actually run in my next workout – we’ll see tomorrow.

Both Garmin and Adidas claim that the foot pod sensor is somewhere close to 97 – 98% accurate out of the box.

I’m wearing the miCoach pod within a specially designed cavity in the Adidas Ride shoe which should ensure it is optimally placed for accuracy, but something is going wrong somewhere. The treadmill recorded a distance of 1.2km versus the miCoach pacer recorded distance of 1.6km. That is a huge discrepancy but as yet I don’t know if the treadmill is dodgy or the miCoach sensor.

I have 3 other foot pod running gadgets available (Garmin Forerunner FR60 and Nike+ Sportband) so tomorrow I put them head to head in a distance comparison. Of course that won’t enable to see which is the most accurate unless I run them on a reliably known distance (like one of those grotty running tracks) but it will give me an idea of the variation. Perhaps then I can schedule in a long overdue visit to the Wimbledon Park Run to calibrate it against the 5km route.

Adidas MiCoach and New Gadget Heaven

Adidas invited me and a few other bloggers (Big Runner and Running Matters) to try out their recent entrant into the sports gadget market – the miCoach pacer. On Thursday evening I arrived at the Millenium Arena in Battersea Park ready for the presentation. I began to sweat almost immediately as I spotted the running track and sporty types. I haven’t been near a running track since the humiliation of 1984 – where I was the pitiful fat kid in the schools sports day and found myself lapped umpteen times, over the 1500m distance – I don’t like running tracks.

Back to miCoach though, I heard of it a while ago in connection with a Samsung mobile phone but they’ve now branched out and produced a very capable standalone system. In brief its a coaching system based on heart rate zones. They appear to have two systems on offer, the miCoach zone at £70 and the miCoach pacer at £120. The zone offering consists of a heart rate monitor and a bracelet that displays the coloured zone you are in, I haven’t tried this out but it seems pretty pointless to me. The miCoach pacer on the other hand is very interesting. It consists of a foot pod, heart rate monitor and a little electronic “thingy” for want of a better word. The thingy or pacer stores your workout details, both scheduled and completed and relays a series of instructions via the included headphones.

It’s the verbal instructions that set the adidas system apart from its competitors (ie. Garmin and Nike+). While Garmin and Nike offer systems that record workout details, Adidas have opted to focus on the training plan. The miCoach is aimed at the recreational runner who isn’t fortunate enough to have a personal running coach.

The Adidas website is very accomplished and offers a wide range of training plans, such as preparing to race, improving race time, losing weight etc. I’m quite a way off my next planned event – the Great North Run in Sept so I’ve set myself off on the “Be Fit” plan and will progress to the half marathon schedule in early summer.

The idea of the pacer is that it syncs with your online training plan and stores your scheduled workouts in its memory ready to relay to you on your run. The instructions are based around four coloured heart rate zones:

Blue – Easy Effort
Green – Medium Effort
Yellow – Hard Effort
Red – Maximal Effort

So a typical session might see the pacer instructing you to run in Blue zone for 2 mins before increasing to green zone for the duration and then ending in a cool down back in blue.

I have a very well spoken English lady talking to me and I think she has the level of interruption to my general thought process sorted. She gives me my instruction clearly then only butts back in to tell me that I’ve hit the relevant zone and need to maintain or to encourage me to either up or decrease the pace as appropriate. If I need more feedback I can press the central button on the pacer and she will inform me of pace, heart rate, distance etc.

The actual presentation event from Adidas was fairly disastrous. There were probably 15 people trying out the kit and almost all of us had a problem with the sensors failing to pick up. Seriously embarrassing for a product launch but I was decidedly grateful. I did one lap of the dreaded track and then got to quit as the gadget wasn’t working – result!

I had another go the next evening but the sensors still wouldn’t pick up. I have a feeling that the assorted parts got muddled up during setup and paired with the wrong pacers for the presentation day because it worked absolutely fine after I re-paired the sensors and pacer.

Part of the set up process required me to enter personal details such as height and weight. The weighing scales have been out of action for about a month so I haven’t been keeping an eye on myself. Hunting out new batteries revealed the full horror of a month long slide – 6 whole lbs of bad news.

The shock was so great that despite me being two cans of Stella down and it being just past bed time, I strapped the new gadget on and went out for the 12 minute assessment run round the mean streets of SW London.

**There is a link to my other product reviews on sidebar. Please contact me at angela@warriorwomen.co.uk if you have a product you would like me to review.

Garmin Forerunner FR60 – The Review

I can get over the treadmill boredom frontier by sticking a gruesome thriller on the iPod but the absence of a reliable data capture device (or sports watch) could call the end to a beautiful gym relationship membership.

I’ve worked my way through a number of fancy running watches over the years but my latest, the Forerunner 405 (reviewed May 2008) was just not designed to be a gym bunny buddy. Fortunately the Garmin Forerunner FR60 was released earlier in the year and appeared to be just what I required.

In summary, it’s a footpod/HR monitor which is ANT enabled meaning you can wirelessly upload data and connect to other ANT enabled equipment such as gym machines and the fancy new BC1000 Tanita weighing scales.
Unlike most of the others in the forerunner series, this watch does not have GPS, it is waterproof though.

I’ve had a few footpod watches before, including the Nike+, Polar 725 and Polar RS200SD and I’ve been impressed with all of them. In most cases they have proved to be accurate out of the box without the need for calibration and are ready for action from the moment you put the watch into training mode so there is no need to hang around stretching out your hamstrings while you wait for a the GPS unit to lock onto a satellite signal.

The footpod speed and distance monitors also have a huge advantage over GPS when it comes to monitoring pace. Pace readings on GPS units have a tendency to fluctuate all over the place while the footpod units prove to be more stable and therefore more reliable in any given instance.

What the footpods lack when compared to their bigger GPS brothers, is the ability to create lovely map trails of where you’ve been. GPS makes you feel like an adventurer, an explorer of uncharted tracks, but let’s face it, GPS isn’t for everyone.

If you run the same few routes over and over again the joy of the GPS map soon begins to wane and if like me, you spend a good proportion of your time on the treadmill, the GPS output would result in a terribly unsatisfying mess centred above your gym coordinates.

Garmin Forerunner FR60 in Action – Screenshots

Here’s a few shots of the Garmin FR60 as I move through the history screens for one workout. The final image shows the virtual partner screen which is one of the view options while training.

Garmin Forerunner FR60

Garmin FR60 Compared to Nike+ and Polar

Nike+

The Nike+ wrist unit offers an accurate footpod with a minimal design. It’s ideal for social networking as it makes it so easy to upload stats via twitter, facebook and assorted other widgets. It’s the cheapest option as well but I can’t help finding it a bit disappointing, I just can’t stand the cartoon style display of the stats.

Polar

I really loved the RS200SD, the display was brilliant and the history data lent itself perfectly for being transferred to a training log. It has now been superseded by the Polar RS300X and I was momentarily tempted by it until I started pricing up the extras. The really annoying feature of Polar is that they require you to buy all the necessary attachments separately. The ridiculous “flowlink” is required for uploading data to the web but costs £49.99 whereas Garmin include their usb ANT connectivity stick in the box along with the watch.

Garmin

Garmin has the edge over the competition, everything is supplied in the box and the connection is relatively straightforward.
Having uploaded the data it is easy to import the data files into sporttracks or other training logs.

**There is a link to my other product reviews on sidebar. Please contact me at angela@warriorwomen.co.uk if you have a product you would like me to review.

London to Brighton 2009

Call that a bike ride….?
At one point I thought we were actually going to be walking all the way to Brighton.

Experienced L2B’ers had warned me to start the event early but I’m too lazy to get up for a 6am start. I may have had a leisurely 8:30am kick off but I very quickly regretted it. We just never seemed to get going. We crawled through Tooting and Mitcham and out towards the M25 and 3 hours and 20 mins later the garmin beeped to tell me we had just about escaped London.

L2B First Hill

3 hours and 20 minutes with a bike and we’d only travelled 19 miles and what’s more we were walking already.

The very first sign of an incline and the whole pedal pumping mass ground to a complete standstill. There was no room to weave in and out so everyone one from lycra clad mountain goats to mums on old shoppers had to dismount and walk.

Given the rather lame nature of the incline it was disheartening to say the least. I’m the worlds slowest runner but yesterday I barely managed to cycle above my half marathon pace.

I think there were something like 4 or 5 hillocks marked on the route map and all were fairly inconsequential except for the final horror – Ditchling Beacon.

The crowds must have thinned at some point because I did manage to get back on the bike and for a few brief miles I actually felt the wind in my face and enjoyed the freedom of a crazy hell for leather descent.

The route, which I’ll illustrate when I’ve got it uploaded, had the potential to be a really enjoyable jaunt into Brighton. Apart from the few little bumps that I’ve already belittled it felt like a 54 mile descent to the sea. There was a heck of a lot of high speed freewheeling to be done but I suppose sharing country lanes with 27,000 other cyclists was never going to feel much better than getting stuck behind a convoy of caravans on a bank holiday exodus from Bridlington.

Ditchling Beacon

Ditcling Beacon arrived eventually and the one time I hoped for a blockade of walkers, so I could just excuse myself from the trouble of attempting the ascent, they all appeared to have adopted the “walkers to the left” etiquette. There was a clearish path up and I had to attempt it. I didn’t get too far up though before I lost my rhythm bobbing in and out of bailing bikers and I joined them. It was a tough long walk up so I can only imagine it was a challenging ride.

IMG_0175

From this vantage point I could see the sea and Dave said he could smell the pier. I thought he said, “Can you smell the beer?” and I actually thought I could. It gave me a little burst of joy and I blasted my way down onto the slip road into the town and didn’t rest until I found myself with beer and chips in hand.

Damn fine chips they were too.

The t-shirt can be viewed on the events page.

While Not Running

RunSaturday Facebook

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t run an awful lot of late, in fact if you want to be reasonably precise, I have run only once in the last month, which also happens to equate to once this year. How neat.

If we want to be 100% precise it could be argued that I’ve run a few more times than I’ve let on, for example, I may have attempted the occassional dash to the bus away from work and I sprinted to the train station last night after my blood doning session but all in all the consequences were ugly and should remain hidden from public conciousness.

I feel like I’m taking confession and will have to start with the hail Mary’s soon but in my defence, I do have some excuses.

For one thing, as the last two months of my fairly sparse blog writing will attest, I am far too happy for running. Running appeals to the miserable side of me, it’s the perfect alternative to a pack of Benson and Hedges and bottle of JD. Mind you it also appeals to the exceptionally jolly side of me as well, so maybe that’s not such a good excuse after all.

Secondly, and this one has to be foolproof, I’m working on a ridiculous placement that means I have to travel between 4 and 5 hours every day.
Not a chance that I feel like running after all that nonsense.

Still, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I have secured myself a proper job, midway between happiness and home and I forsee many exciting new routes ahead of me, incorporating the best of London’s seedy commons and the highly rated Wandle trail. Expect updates of the running variety in March.

In the mean time, what better way to spend one’s non-running time, than by analysing data from runs gone by?

RunSaturday is new website stacked full of new and intriguing ways to analyse data held across multiple sites and generated by multiple gadgets. I’ve been able to bring together runs from my Garmin Forerunner 405, Nike+, Nokia Sportstracker along with all my historical runs stored on SportsTracks. I can also bring in runs manually entered onto Fetcheveryone and analyse my stats from the Saturday morning 5k park runs.

All this makes RunSaturday the most comprehensive database of my running shame prowess, which is quite a lot of fun because the site provides loads of ways to share the data across social websites such as facebook and personal blogs.

Here’s a particularly ancient route showing the mammoth run/walk I did along the Capital Ring. If you click on the heart symbol you’ll see a colour coded route indicating the specific heart rate zones during the run. You can see similar images for speed but as I’m a one speed wonder you’ll have to upload your own interval workouts to see rainbows in this feature.

There seem to be loads of new features coming along, so I’d recommend checking it out for yourself. I’ll add more images from the site just as soon I manage another run but don’t hold your breath til March.

**There is a link to my other product reviews on sidebar. Please contact me at angela@warriorwomen.co.uk if you have a product you would like me to review.

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