Is cadence the key?

Not quite stepping lively

Today’s run (treadmill): 2.51 miles

I had lunch yesterday with a friend, TC, who’s just been granted entry to the NY Marathon after being accepted as a charity runner by the Boomer Esiason Foundation (Cystic Fibrosis). TC is about to start serious training and he asked me to help him set up his Garmin FR60 on Garmin Connect. Although TC has been using this watch for months, he’s never uploaded his runs. I had no idea that the FR60 could hold 90 workouts but that’s what was uploaded. It was interesting to see his runs displayed on Connect. I couldn’t help but compare his typical pacing and cadence to mine. It wasn’t much comparison though. He seems to average 90 SPM while I’m happy when I exceed 84.

I thought about cadence this morning as I ran on the treadmill. I’m past thinking that any one thing (core exercise, LSD, tempos, Chia) will produce measurable improvement. However, it seems logical that an increase in cadence would align with an increase in running speed. As I worked my way up from my easy start, I was curious to know if my cadence would increase as I moved my pace from 9:50 to 8:50 over my run. After the run I realized that the FR 210 doesn’t capture cadence data off the foot pod so I’ll never know how I did for SPM today. I guess I’ll need to revert to the FR60 for treadmill runs in the future.

The FR 210 and foot pod: challenges and results

Today’s run (treadmill): 2.5 miles

Foot pod, meet FR 210

I planned for rain this morning and set up my gear for an indoor run. It would be my first time back on the treadmill in almost a month and a return to using the Garmin FR60 watch for tracking performance. I attached the foot pod to my Mirages (I’m already spoiled by the pod-free FR 210) and reached into the drawer for my FR60. It then occurred to me that the 210 also syncs with the foot pod so I chose that watch instead. After a couple of cycles through the menu, the 210 was paired with the sensor.

I started my run at a moderate pace, which is my method of choice for tolerating the treadmill. Start it easy and end it hard. I had a scare at the beginning that my knee would act up but after a moment of pain it was fine and three hours later it’s still fine.

I hit start on the 210 and glanced down after a minute to verify that it was capturing my pace. It wasn’t until I’d reached the six minute mark that I looked again at the watch to see that, while it was displaying pace, it wasn’t recording time. I don’t know why that happened but I hit start again and this time noted that the stopwatch was running.

I used the time display on treadmill and the average pace captured by the Garmin to calculate my actual distance (the treadmill does not do that accurately). It was a pretty good workout and I didn’t find the treadmill as tedious as I usually do. Perhaps all that biking this weekend helped my running. If that’s the case I’m thrilled to find a cross-training workout that’s both fun and beneficial.

Return to the Muttontown trails

Circuitous run on the Mystery Trail

Today’s run (Muttontown Preserve): 3 miles

I took advantage of the weather today and headed over to Muttontown Preserve at noon for a run. Our morning was very busy so I didn’t get out as early as I would have liked. Even with that late start the parking lot was less than a quarter full and I was glad to know that the trails probably wouldn’t be crowded. The snow is all gone but some of the effects of all that water remain. The dirt roads around the entrance were rutted and the trails have a lot of muddy sections. With the noon day sun, I started my run wondering if I should have picked shorts instead of running pants. As it turned out I made the right choice.

Rough road leading to some rough trails

I followed the same path I originally tracked on my previous run and held my breath as I passed by the place where I fell head first into frozen mud. No such issue today but the condition of the trails was marginal and several times I encountered fallen trees along my path. Some places were completely blocked and that forced me to bushwhack through thorny brush to reconnect with trail on the other side. It was then that I really appreciated having long pants and long sleeves. I’d hoped to make my way south, then west and come back north to the trail-head but my poor navigation kept me contained in the northwest part of the preserve. I actually ended up running part of one loop three times. By the third time, I finally recognized the terrain!

I had MotionX running on my iPhone and even with the real-time mapping and compass I managed to get lost. I could see where I went wrong but I couldn’t find an alternative path to correct my vector. Instead of mountain bikers, like I often see at Stillwell, I encountered people riding horses on the trail. Between the mud and horses I needed to do a lot of careful stepping. My Garmin, with its auto-pause set too low, kept stopping and restarting and occasionally not restarting. Of my approximately 35 minutes running, the Garmin recorded only about 25 minutes. MotionX did a better job although I’m not confident in the iPhone’s GPS accuracy. At least, by the map,  I have a good idea where I ran.

Altogether it wasn’t a very far run but the elevation changes were frequent with a total gain of 220 feet. I came away from the Muttontown Preserve feeling a little ambivalent about the place. I know that MP provides potential for a good fulfilling run but I’m zero for 2 so far. I really wish the trails were better marked so I could spend more time appreciating the experience and less time worrying about direction. Still, it was great to be back on dirt and though my distance was only about three miles they were three hard miles. I’m hoping to cover more distance on the road tomorrow and I’m glad to know that I probably won’t get lost when I do it.

A pace I can live with

Today’s run (street): 4.12 miles

Yesterday afternoon I updated the firmware on my Garmin FR60 which reset the watch to its factory settings. I was happy that I had the foresight to upload this week’s runs to Garmin Connect before I did the upgrade or they would have been lost to the ages. I restored all the settings and preferences but I neglected to re-pair the watch to the foot pod. When I went out for my run this morning I hit the start button and didn’t think much about it. A few minutes into the run I looked at the display and saw it was tracking time but not distance and I realized that I hadn’t paired the unit. I figured I’d just Gmap the route I ran and calculate pace later, based on the recorded time.

I recently had a similar experience when I saw that I hadn’t started the Garmin after I’d begun to run. I ran most of  my route knowing that my speed and distance weren’t being captured and that was both annoying and liberating. Today I felt better when I discovered the problem because at least I had captured the run time. I decided to forget about pace, speed, etc., and just ran free for 30-40 minutes. I took it easy because that was what I’d originally intended for this run — a short version of LSD. About 30 minutes into the run I was feeling like I could run all day and it occurred to me that I should think about a pace that I could maintain comfortably for a half marathon.

Today’s pace was 9:53. Not fast but manageable over long distances. It would be good (psychologically) to average below 10 min/mile for the half marathon. The challenge of running a half under two hours is much greater — I’d need to average 9:09 or better to do that. I’ll work on my distance as much as I can from here on. With the temperatures moving toward the 50’s I might get the first chance in a while to do a long run at Bethpage next weekend.

Garmin foot pod calibration – one of life’s mysteries

Today’s run (street): 5 miles

The action of calibrating my Garmin’s foot pod is hit or miss. The best way to do it is when you run an exact distance and it calibrates automatically. Another method is to adjust the foot pod based upon a known factor, such as the percentage between what was recorded and what you actually ran. The third way is the worst way and of course it’s the one I usually follow because it’s also the the easiest. In this case, when I’m consistently over or under recording my distance (compared with Gmaps) I manually compensate by arbitrarily increasing the the index until I get close. Sometimes this works great and the foot pod will report accurately for many runs. Since I often switch the foot pod between pairs of shoes it’s usually off by some factor anyway and that’s why I Gmap my runs.

Easier said than done

This morning I adjusted the foot pod thinking that a .05% decrease would compensate for over recording would get me to the 1/100ths of a mile accuracy that I often observe. When I went out this morning on the freshly plowed streets I was moving well. Except for on the spots that were still covered with packed snow my pace was fast and my stride was good. I often follow the same exact route for the first mile to gauge whether the Garmin is ahead or behind my real distance. I must have been confused today because I came through the first mile thinking that the foot pod was under recording, when in fact it was probably off by 3% the other way. I’m still fuzzy about when it chirped and where I was when that happened but when I finished my run the recorded distance was .23 miles greater than what I mapped using Gmaps.

I find it hard to believe my calibration was that far off and I have a different theory. Much of the roads were covered with a combination of slush and snow and my form differed greatly when I ran on those sections versus the open pavement.  It’s possible that this difference in stride, cadence and lift may have thrown off the foot pod. I won’t ever really know but I’m planning to reset the foot pod to 100% index value and start again. If I thought that a GPS watch would be more accurate I’d probably buy the Garmin 210. Most of the time I’d be better off just running with a stop watch and calculating pace later, after I’d Gmapped the route. The only problem with that is when I run the trails or on the treadmill and the foot pod also provides excellent data that I value, including split times and cadence. I guess I’ll just keep calibrating and hoping for the best.

Not sure what to make of my FR60 calibration

Yesterday’s run (street): 2.8 miles @ 9:29/mile
Today’s workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

I’ve been focused on business needs this week and that has disrupted my blogging schedule. I’m at an industry event today where I presented in the morning. That was the last big thing I needed to get through for the week (so far). I’m thinking again about my running.

Yesterday I returned to the street and ran (according to Garmin) 2.95 miles. Knowing that my distance number on the FR60 was overstated by 6.5% against the distance of my 8K, I suspected that I didn’t actually cover what the display showed. I “Gmapped” my route as soon as I could and discovered my true distance was 4.4% less than what was indicated. This didn’t surprise me but it also makes me wonder if the 8K course was actually 8.2K. I have not moved the sensor on my foot pod the last three times yet my margin of error seems to have swung from calibrated to over counting by different amounts on subsequent runs. I’m transferring it to the Kinvaras tonight for tomorrow morning’s run. I’ll see what happens after that. My run on Tuesday morning went well although I didn’t go particularly fast. Once again I surprised myself by not really caring about my pace. I’ve decided that I can either dedicate time to speed drills and tempos and improve my average pace or I can go out almost every day and just run for fun. I’m definitely focused on the fun option right now.

I chose to do an elliptical session this morning which was a perfect workout to prepare me for today’s events. Tomorrow I’m planning to go out again and run. I’m thinking of pursuing a new distance goal this weekend. I think breaking 10 miles is the next frontier for me. Perhaps not this weekend, but soon.

Pacing discovery on the treadmill

Today’s run (treadmill): 2.4 miles at 9:08/mile

Although I was fully prepared to run on the treadmill when I set up my gear last night I felt a little differently this morning. The alarm woke me up from a sound sleep and made me question whether a workout or thirty extra minutes of sleep would do me the most good. I would have liked the extra sleep but I knew if I didn’t run I’d feel guilty for the rest of the day. Despite its negative connotations, I truly believe that guilt has its good side. I had a little coffee and got on the machine, resigned to running a couple of miles.

As I started my run I compared the pace on the display to the pace on my Garmin that I knew was accurately calibrated. The two readings were closer than I’d expected them to be. I increased the tread speed and saw that the paces changed in sync with each other but once I got to target speed I found that I could achieve a faster pace on the Garmin, compared to the treadmill’s, just by quickening my cadence. When I resumed my default running rhythm the Garmin’s readout resumed duplicating the treadmill’s. It was an interesting discovery because now I know I can naturally speed up or slow down a little without needing to mess with the treadmill’s controls. That makes a big difference to me because much of my frustration with the treadmill is from the tedium that comes with being forced to maintain a hardwired pace.

Although I started off tired I did rebound and got through 2.4 miles at a decent pace. I don’t know why I find treadmill running so much harder than road or trail running but I do. Still, I rather it be that way than the other way around.

Sunday run with the Emerging Runner Girl

Yesterday’s runs (street): 4.4 miles at 9:02 + .75 mile fun run

Counting Friday’s run in the city, I managed to cover a little more than 12 miles this weekend. Out of those twelve my favorite experience was on a distance less than a mile (more below). With last Tuesday’s 4.8 miles in Central Park and another 2+ miles on Wednesday, I still fell short of my informal weekly goal of reaching 20 miles. Of course if I include the 2 miles covered on the elliptical last Thursday I’ll be able to claim that goal. Okay, done. 21 miles for the week!

As hoped, the rain slowed down by early Sunday afternoon and I took the opportunity to hit the neighborhood streets. I don’t generally do my best speed running at 1:30 in the afternoon but I tried to keep the pace as brisk as possible. Due to the wet roads I wore my Adidas Response 15 trail runners. That was less for protection on the slippery road service and more to keep my Brooks GTS 10’s from getting wet and dirty. I ran about 1.5 miles on local neighborhood streets and then cut over the neighborhood #2 for the bulk of the run. Since I was running in trail shoes I took advantage of a few areas alongside the road that had packed dirt and grass. It was pleasing to hear the chirp of the Garmin as I passed the two mile point. The third followed surprisingly soon after the second. At one point I looked at the watch and noticed that it was giving me readouts that said “00:15 ahead” which confused me. I then realized that when I updated the FR60’s firmware yesterday it switched to a default setup that included a virtual running partner. I would have had fun with the virtual partner if I better understood the interface. I again relied on my heart rate monitor to guide me in terms of effort. My pace seemed fast for those conditions but, after verifying on Gmaps, I confirmed that the Garmin was accurate.

When I got home from my run I was met by my 11 year old daughter who had been riding her scooter and waiting for me to return. We decided to run a loop around some of the local roads and covered .75 miles between 10-10:30 mins per mile. Though it had been months since we ran together she kept up very well. My daughter has near perfect running form and she lands on her front foot naturally. I think she was happy when I told her that I learn things by watching her run. Next weekend I hope we will be able to cover more distance.

It’s still very soggy in NYC and on Long Island so I’m not sure what outdoor running I’ll be able to do during the week. I’m planning to get at least one Central Park run in before next weekend, assuming we see clear skies this week.

Time to calibrate the FR60

Today’s workout (street): 4.17 miles at 8:57/mile

Yesterday’s run felt so effortless that I wasn’t ready to stop when we reached the end. Business took priority over pleasure but I did feel great for the remainder of the work day. The run itself was work and I felt the effect of all those hills this morning when I woke up. Still, I was anxious to get out for another run. My wife and kids were volunteering at my son’s elementary school all morning. I had nothing on the calendar until after lunch so I headed out for my run around 9:00 AM with temperatures in the the high 30’s under overcast skies. My Garmin was fairly quiet so I knew I was within pace range although a check of the display showed my pace to be a little slower than it seemed. I stepped it up after the first mile and would periodically surge for 30 seconds to a minute before falling back to my default pace. I was running faster than yesterday’s city excursion and I felt the difference. All the same I didn’t feel that I was working that hard and the data from my heart rate monitor confirmed it. I felt like I had covered a lot of ground but I ended up only going a little more than four miles. It was just far enough to count as a good workout.

When I finished the run I checked my Garmin and saw it displayed 4.07 miles, averaging 9:10. 9:10 isn’t a bad pace and I figured that yesterday’s run had wore me out more than I’d thought. I then mapped the exact route using Gmaps and saw that the Garmin under-counted the distance by 2.3%. Adjusting my pace for that variance, my overall average was under 9:00 (8:57) and my splits were 8:54, 8:57, 9:03 and 8:59. Love the FR60! I’m going to try to calibrate it a little closer so I don’t have to do so much math. I haven’t messed with the calibration adjustment on the FR60 yet. The default accuracy is +/- 3%. It wasn’t all that easy to adjust the 50 so I’m hoping the 60’s controls are better. My problem with calibration is that I switch my foot pod often between my pairs of street and trail running shoes and every change affects the calibration accuracy. Overall, I’m happy with my recent runs and glad that I’ve made my way down to the low 9:00’s that I was running prior to my pneumonia disruption. I don’t know what I’ll run tomorrow. The skies are looking ominous but I’m hoping that this passes and that the trails are in good shape by Sunday.

Liking the Garmin FR60 (so far)

Today’s workout (treadmill): 2.2 miles with 2% to 5% incline

As planned, I used today’s run to complete my hill training for Sunday’s race. Until the new treadmill is repaired tomorrow (I’m really hoping a replacement motor will remedy the belt slips) I’m being careful not to run at faster speeds on the machine. I set a pace just below 6 MPH and pushed the incline steadily up to 5%, starting first with 2% and adding a percentage point every couple of minutes until I reached 5. Even at a slower pace, running a 5% grade was hard work. Near the end I brought the incline down to 0 and ran the last couple of minutes around 6.8 MPH. I received my Garmin FR60 yesterday and put it to work today. It was great to see it sync up with my FR 50’s foot pod and while the interface on the FR60 is still fairly opaque it’s an improvement over its predecessor. Once I understood the menus and navigation I realized that FR60 has some very nice features that the 50 lacked, such as automatic capture of split times. I’ll need to calibrate the FR60 because its distance numbers weren’t aligned with the treadmill’s but I’ve also been suspicious of the treadmill’s accuracy and that could be related to the motor problem.

The FR60 has something called “Race Mode” that sounds interesting. I plan to look online at the expanded manual to understand what that means and how it differs from normal training mode. Tomorrow I plan to go out for a regular run to finish my training for the race. I feel good and I did very well with the inclines. Although my pace was modest the effort was not. Based upon the summary metrics, adjusting for the incline (per my chart) I averaged an equivalent of 9:00 per mile on a flat course. I’m happy with that since I usually reduce my normal pace by 20-30 seconds per mile on race day.