First run after Brooklyn

 

Today’s run (street): 3.4 miles

It’s only been six days since I ran the Brooklyn Half, but it seems like a long time ago. I’m sure that’s due to a five day hiatus from running and the fact that my business focus is taking up most of my attention these days. I planned to take more than my usual three days off from running after Brooklyn and it wasn’t until this morning that I finally got out on the road again. I’d hoped that all the rest I’ve had this week would result in an energizing run. Not quite, but it wasn’t all that bad.

It was a gloomy morning and I’ll admit to being less than motivated to do this workout. I had a lot of business items that I could manage from home today, so I replaced some of the time I’d be driving to the office with a short run. The skies were growing darker, so I got out early to try to beat the rain.

It took almost ten minutes for my Garmin to acquire its signal through the low cloud cover. I grew increasingly anxious as the progress bar on the watch moved slowly to the right. It repeatedly went 9/10ths of the way before dropping back toward the middle. I’d almost gave up on timing the run when it finally showed ready.

Once I got moving, I began to think about the run itself. Three miles was my target, give or take a few tenths. It seemed inconceivable that I’d participated in a 13 mile race less than a week ago. I wasn’t feeling a long run, but I figured I could easily handle three miles today. The temperature was a mild 58°, yet I felt a slight chill with my short sleeve shirt and running shorts when I stepped outside.

With only one workout done in the past week (40 minutes on treadmill, not running), I was dealing with tight muscles. My stride felt cumbersome and mechanical. My form evened out after I’d fully warmed up and my cadence began to feel more natural. Even though it was a short run, my performance was marginal. I didn’t try to push today as this run was primarily about getting back to routine.

I have hopes of putting in a couple of longer runs over the long weekend and, if possible, try to get in a trail run. My motivation remains fairly low right now, but that can probably be corrected with a couple of good runs.

Searching for NAVSTAR and my next running shoes

Today’s run (street): 3.1 miles

Wait time: 8 minutes

We had a late night last night and I didn’t get up until 6:15 AM. That threw me off this morning’s very tight schedule. By the time I went outside, my window for running was only 40 minutes. It was sunny and bright and I was glad to see that the roads were clear and runnable. This was somewhat surprising, since the temperatures were hovering around the freezing mark.

When I started the Garmin it looked like it would acquire a signal right away. Despite the clear skies, it took almost eight minutes before it finally locked in all the NAVSTAR satellites. This narrowed my running window down to 32 minutes. I’d watched the progress bar go almost to full, only to pull back to the middle. I had considered heading back inside to run on the treadmill, but I ended up waiting it out.

I set off on a rapid pace to help ensure that I’d make my minimum distance of three miles. A slight wind made the first half mile a little chilly, but it disappeared at the first turn. I felt fairly strong and figured I could maintain a low 9:00 pace without much trouble. I chose a set of roads that I expected would get me around the neighborhood and back in three miles and I ended up covering 3.14. It was an invigorating run and I made it back home a with a few minutes to spare.

While we were out this afternoon, I had the opportunity to satisfy my curiosity about two pairs of running shoes that I’ve wanted to try. I put on a pair of Brooks Pure Drifts that were one-half size up from the ones I’d tested for Brooks. My biggest criticism of the pre-production Drifts was the tightness on my toes on the lateral side. The toe box on the production shoes felt roomier, but I felt some ridging from the mid-sole on that side.

The other pair I tried was the new Saucony Virrata, a zero drop trainer with a surprising amount of cushioning. The shoe reminded me of the original Kinvara, but with even better response on toe-off. The shoes fit perfectly and I wanted to them on the spot. I decided to wait it out a little longer as my Kinvaras still have some life left in them.

Brooks Pure Drift production model
Saucony Virrata with zero drop mid-sole

My verdict on the two was that I’d run in the new Pure Drifts if I had them, but I would still want to compare them further with the NB Minimus, the newest Hattori and, just for fun, the INOV-8 Road X-Treme. The Virrata is another story. It’s not a question of if I’d buy them, only when I’ll do it. I’m hoping that the Kinvaras will last me another 100-150 miles. But if the stability of those shoes changes sooner, I’ll be going Virrata shopping that day.

Garmin FR210 behaving badly

Get back to work!

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes

After two years of stellar service, my Garmin FR210 has started to exhibit some bad behavior. I bought this watch because it provided basic GPS metrics, elevation data and wireless syncing with my heart rate monitor. Like all GPS systems, the distance accuracy wasn’t 100%, but after a while I understood the margin of error and mentally corrected for it. There are things I still don’t like about the watch, such as the weird way it connects to a PC for data uploads, but overall it has been a great resource and a good value.

The bad behavior started on January 1st, with my first run of the year. I was a couple of miles into the Hangover Fun Run at Eisenhower Park, when I looked at the watch only to see that it wasn’t recording time or distance. I decided to let it go and just use the event clock to record my time. I figured that I must have neglected to fully push the start button and was paying the price for that inattention.

Since then, I’ve run five more times. On three of those runs I’ve noticed that the timer stopped recording after I’d initially started it. It doesn’t happen every time, but it forces me to pay careful attention to the watch on every run. I don’t know why this would suddenly happen. I checked the FR210 forum on Garmin Connect but haven’t seen anyone else with the same complaint.

It would be a shame to have to replace this watch because I’ve come to rely on it to capture all my metrics, including a map of where I’d run. I still have my FR60 that works fine, but it lacks GPS so I’d need to return to using the foot pad. If I did that, I’d lose the mapping but would gain cadence, something I miss since switching from the 60 to the 210. I could always use an app on my smartphone to do the mapping since I carry the phone on every run. It’s worth thinking about. But I’d rather have the FR210 working as it should.

Rethinking GPS versus foot pod

Today’s run (treadmill): 2.5 miles

My first method of capturing running data was with the Nike+ chip that fit into a concave spot located under my shoe’s sock liner. The accuracy of the this system was surprisingly high, but the software was buggy and the wristband that displayed metrics like pace, time and distance had serious corrosion issues. After going through three of these wristbands in less than a year, I got my money back and bought a Garmin FR50.


FR60



The Garmin 50 (and after that the FR60) uses a foot pod that works in a similar way to that Nike+ chip and I got used to tracking my distance and pace that way. The foot pod needed to be calibrated each time I switched running shoes (in my case, frequently) but the accuracy was very high. I started running with the Saucony Hattoris that have no laces to hold a foot pod, and made the switch to the Garmin FR210 GPS watch thinking I’d be upgrading my experience.
As it turned out, after almost two years, I’ve discovered I’ve given up more than I’ve gained by switching to GPS. The accuracy of GPS (~ 3%) is far worse than with the foot pod (~ 1%). The foot pod also captures cadence, an important metric, but the FR210 does not.



FR210



I had an amusing experience on the treadmill with the FR210 this morning. I wore the watch to capture my heart rate but, even indoors, it had locked in on satellite. When I finished my run I saw that the watch had recorded my distance at .14 miles. I’ve been considering using the FR60 again with the foot pod for treadmill runs. But for outdoor runs, I have to say the one big advantage of using the GPS watch is that there’s no fussing with calibration or switching foot pods. Nothing’s perfect, but at least I have a choice.

Living with GPS tracking errors

Today’s run (street): 6.8 miles

My GPS watch always shorts distance, usually by about 3%, but this week the margin of error has been closer to 5%. If the GPS was more accurate, I could know my true performance as I ran. The Garmin FR210 does give me a map of where I ran, and this is useful when I run in unfamiliar places or forget which streets I covered.

An alternate to GPS tracking is the foot pod that, when calibrated, is far more accurate.  Its downside, besides the need to calibrate, is the lack of course mapping and the need to affix it to your shoe. Some shoes, like the Saucony Hattori, don’t have laces and, therefore, cannot be easily used with a foot pod.

My plan for today’s run was to go out easy and stay that way for five to six miles. I pushed hard on my runs during the week and I tried to do the same during yesterday’s run. I figured I’d earned the right to ease up on my pace and enjoy the experience today.

Things started well and along the first mile I wondered how long it would be before I broke a sweat. I also knew that runs like these are deceptive, often becoming much harder after a few miles. After 25 minutes I was certainly sweating, but five minutes later I began to feel energized again. I spent half of the run going around the neighborhood that sits directly to the south of mine, and the other half going around local streets.

As I got close to home I saw that I was nearing six miles. I decided to detour north rather than follow my usual roads, in order to get some extra distance. That change added a half mile according to the Garmin. After plotting my run on Gmaps, I saw that I’d actually covered 6.8 miles. If I knew I was that close to seven, I would have run another quarter mile before calling it a workout.

Even though I took it easy, by the end it felt very hard. I was glad to exceed 6.2 miles, which I’ll need to do as often as I can before the Cow Harbor race in mid-September.

The declining accuracy of my Garmin FR210

I’d add 3% just to be safe

Today’s run (street): 2.53 miles (Gmaps measured)

I’m not sure why, but my Garmin FR 210 has been under-performing lately. It was especially bad this morning. I generally run the same route every day at 4:00 AM and, after careful measurement, I know that the distance is exactly 2.53 miles. The Garmin’s margin of error is generally -3%, which means that it under-counts to that degree fairly consistently. Since it is consistant, I accept that variance and correct for it in my pace calculation.

It’s no mystery why this happens. Looking at my run captured in Garmin Connect, I can see that the watch will vectorize corners and straighten out curves. This is due to the capture time between GPS signals (approximately one sample per second). If the signal was captured continuously, the course would be displayed accurately, with no corners cut, etc. When it’s cloudy, the signal can get interrupted. When that happens, the watch interpolates the distance between signals as a straight line. Enough of those and your accuracy really suffers.

Lately my FR210 has been under-reporting by about 5% and this morning it came in at -7%. It was cloudy, but clear enough to see some stars. My run could only be described as slow, and with the under-counted distance, my watch recorded my pace as glacial. Correcting for the true distance, it was still the slowest 4:00 AM run in memory.

I’m puzzled as to why my Garmin’s GPS has become less accurate of late. Perhaps it’s just going through a bad spell. The GPS accuracy tends to be better when I run a mostly straight course like at Bethpage. I’ll see how it does tomorrow.

News flash – GPS watches aren’t accurate



Graphic from 12/19 NY Times article
Photo credit: Martin Strauss, via Garmin and Microsoft

 Today’s run (street): 2.5 miles
There was an article in Tuesday’s New York Times about the accuracy (or should I say, inaccuracy?) of GPS watches. The writer made the same point that I’ve been making for years, that GPS technology does not provide exact measurement. The same can be said for smartphone GPS apps that show lots of metrics and graphics, but also under-count distance. The thing is, if your distance is off, so is everything else, including pace.

I’m a bit of a belt and suspenders guy when it comes to tracking my runs. I use a Garmin FR210 GPS watch to capture my run metrics and route. But later, I usually measure where I had run using Gmaps to get the most accurate distance. This way I can calculate my true pace. Why use the Garmin if I know it’s inaccurate? Good question. But just try taking my Garmin away from me…

This morning I got back outside for my early run and was rewarded with dry roads and mild temperatures. There was wind coming from the north that, when traveling head-on, made things chilly. Most of my route went either south or east so it wasn’t a problem. I managed an average pace, though my PE (perceived effort) was higher than that result. Then again, when you get your performance information from a GPS watch, you never know what to believe!

Stumbles, both technical and physical

Today’s run (street) 3.75 miles
As a person who makes his living pushing technology change, I’ll admit that I sometimes fail to follow my own mission when it comes to changing the technologies that I use every day. I logged into Blogger to write today’s post and saw that the interface has been completely changed. I’ll be interested to see if any of these changes provide a better experience. So far it appears to be only cosmetic – just different colors, fonts and rearranged tools. Of course that’s also the case with Microsoft Office’s latest and the end result is a confusing mess.

When it comes to running I’ve reduced my use of technologies to a degree. No more weird electrolyte tablets or running with smartphone tracking apps while listening to music. Just me, my minimal Hattori’s and a Garmin FR210 GPS watch with a high-sensitivity receiver and barometric altimeter. Ahh, the simple  life.

This is a big weekend for my daughter and we have guests in all weekend from out of town. We’re hoping the weather holds so we can keep today’s activities outdoors. It’s still sunny so we’re hoping for the best. I went out a little before 8:00 AM for a run and, since it’s Friday, I was surprised to see so many walkers and other runners on the road. But in the summer, Friday is sorta like “pre-Saturday.” It sure felt like that.

At one point in my run I noticed a young woman running on the sidewalk on the right side of the road. I was curious to see how our paces lined up and soon realized that I would overtake her. Almost at the moment when I passed her (running on left side of the road I’ll note) this woman stumbled and fell. I was about to run over to see if she was okay but she got up quickly, saw me and sheepishly said “I’m okay, I’m okay.” I suspect that she tripped on the uneven sidewalk and this is why I run on the far left side of the street except when there are cars.

It was very humid out there and I conceded to a less than stellar pace. While I felt I was running slower than yesterday it turned out I was running 2% faster. Not much of a difference but it made me happy since I ran more distance in hotter, more humid weather. I’ll probably need to skip tomorrow’s run and go out early on Sunday morning before our guests wake up. Anyway, that’s the plan for now.

First run with the Garmin 210

Now it’s just me, the road and 10 satellites

Today’s run (street): 2.5 miles

Last night UPS delivered my new Garmin 210 and I was excited by the prospect of doing my morning run free of the foot pod and calibration concerns. The foot pod wasn’t necessary but after the watches’ first use I do question the overall accuracy. I bought the watch online this weekend — the basic 210 without the foot pod/HRM bundle. I got a great price and free delivery two days later. I un-boxed the watch and plugged it in to charge the lithium battery. Setup took seconds and the watch automatically acquired the date and time via satellite signal.

This morning I was excited to try the watch. My only experiences with GPS tracking were with various GPS apps on my iPhone (bad) the QStarz Sports Recorder (worse). I stepped outside and activated the satellite receiver and the 210 grabbed its connection in seconds. My iPhone usually takes minutes to get a GPS signal. I hit the start button and off I went. My knee is still bothering me but after getting the “okay” to run from the doctor yesterday I accepted the mild pain. Three minutes into the run the pain disappeared and I was able to focus on my form. I think my stride was a little unbalanced at first but I managed to pick up my pace without a problem.

I passed mile one a short distance after my known benchmark but it was close enough to think the GPS’s accuracy was in the ballpark. I covered the first mile in 9:27, mile 2 at 9:01 and the last half mile at an 8:50 pace. Those were my calculations based on careful retracing of my route on Gmaps. The 210 recorded my distance .07 miles (2.8%) less than that. I’ll be curious to see if the accuracy varies consistently. I’m hoping that an examination of the GPX file overlay on Google Earth will show where the 210’s GPS cut corners to end up short. Unless of course, it’s actually Gmaps that’s off…

Goodbye foot pod, hello Garmin 210

Not sure what I want more, the watch or the displayed performance

Today’s workout (elliptical): 20 minutes

I’m thinking again about buying a GPS watch. My frustrations with using a foot pod are rising due to accuracy issues and, except for treadmill runs, a GPS solution may be preferable. I started using the Nike sensor back in 2008 to track my performance. It worked fairly well once I got the hang of calibrating it but this technology was only accurate when paired with Nike shoes (that have a well to secure the chip). I don’t like Nike shoes and, besides that, the wristband that captured the feed via RFID link was poorly made. After replacing it twice I asked for a refund and bought a Garmin FR50.

The FR50, and later, the FR60 are a great design. I truly love the watches and their easy synchronization with Garmin Connect. My key issue is with the foot pod that uses an accelerometer and needs to be tuned for every shoe. Since I’m a bit of a shoe freak and often switch between pairs it usually creates issues with calibration. I manage these issues through ad hoc adjustments that never quite coincide with my true distance. I’ve done my share of runs using GPS apps on the iPhone and the results are universally bad, although they offer some good features other than tracking.

With all that I’m reading good things about the Garmin 210, a less complex version of their 400 (and now 600) series GPS watches. The 210 lacks some of the features that the higher end watches have but the 210 does support a foot pod sync (for indoors) and wireless connectivity to a heart rate monitor. I’m going to start pricing out this watch. Father’s day is coming!