Treadmill depreciation day

It’s so cold this morning that people are wearing gloves and winter jackets as we wait for the train to arrive. I wish I could put in a quick three miles on the road to take advantage of this perfect running weather. Hopefully the low temperatures and dry air will continue throughout the afternoon.
I haven’t run since Sunday and I miss it. I  did an elliptical workout on Monday and rested yesterday. I took a rest day because I know they’re important but part of that decision was based upon my growing dislike for the treadmill. It may be related to the frustrations I’ve had with measuring my performance and the problems I’ve encountered with the treadmill display. The data from the treadmill has never really matched my other tracking devices. I could calibrate the Nike+ Sportband and the Garmin 50 foot pod so I knew that I was accurately capturing speed and distance. Recently my Garmin has become inconsistent, tracking under and then over by around 5% on consecutive days. I’m finishing my treadmill runs wondering how I’ve really performed.

Besides the tracking issues I’ve found running on the treadmill to be increasingly tedious. The more I run outside the more I dislike running inside. Besides a lack of visual stimulation (television is not a good alternative for me) I’m also finding the noise annoying. I know I should appreciate the treadmill for its convenience and consistency (surface and elevation). I’ll try to keep that in mind when I hop back on tomorrow.

Until then I will resume my training today with an afternoon run in the city. I’m hoping to make 20 miles a week until the 8K on June 7 and I do mileage better outdoors. I know I shouldn’t be so hard on the treadmill, it’s lasted us well over a decade. My wife puts me to shame in terms of the time and distance spent on the machine and she never complains about it. Still, a new quiet and modern unit with a home entertainment center and virtual reality would be nice to have.

Not exactly heart insole

I was really hoping to publish today’s post with the headline “Heart insole, I fell in love with you” after running with a replacement pair of insoles for my Nikes. I’ve been concerned that my shoes have accumulated too much mileage and that has contributed to the leg pain I’ve experienced over the last six weeks. The shoes still look pretty good so I don’t know how to ascertain their true condition. Since the insoles, which take direct impact with every step, are easily replaced, I did just that.

The insoles I bought are Spenco Poli-Sorbs that retail for about $20. They come in size groupings so you can cut the extra material for a custom fit. I didn’t do that and I suspect that’s part of the reason I was disappointed.

Though I wear a 10 1/2 shoe and these insoles fit up to size 11’s I was able to fit them into the shoes fine. The shape of the replacements are different than the originals but they’re close. When I put them on they felt good, the extra padding at the heel was welcomed. There was slightly more material at the top but it didn’t seem like it would get in the way when I ran.

I had a hard run covering 2 miles at about 8:52 per mile this morning. It was extremely hot and I suffered a bit until getting an energy boost at around 1.5 miles. The shoes felt okay as I ran but my upper leg pain was noticeable. Unlike when I ran with the other insoles, the pain persisted even after I’d warmed up. After I’d finished I noticed that the extra material had put enough pressure on the top of my foot to cause some slight abrasion and blistering. I can take care of that by trimming the insole but the real problem was that my leg hurt a lot after my run. I ended up wrapping a compression brace around my upper leg and that helped quell the soreness.

Now I’m wondering whether I’m better off cutting the insoles for a perfect fit and trying another run or just reverting back to the old insoles and hoping for the best. The race on Saturday is only 5K so it’s not like I need to prepare for an arduous distance. The other choice is to run in my NB trail shoes. That’s starting to sound like an interesting idea.

Running shoe anxiety

I have 5 days until my next race and I’m beginning to worry about my shoes. I mentioned yesterday that I’ve had some issues with my feet that seem to relate to my Nikes. This morning I switched to my New Balance trail shoes for the elliptical and they were much more comfortable. I really don’t want to race with trail shoes on pavement but I also don’t want to continue pushing my luck with the Turbulence 13’s.

I have a busy schedule at work this week so it will not be that easy to get to a store at lunch to look at new running shoes. I want to avoid buying a pair in haste without considering other options just because of Saturday’s race deadline. I have been reading reviews and talking to friends and I’m thinking this is the time to invest in a higher end pair. AG told me about a few stores in the city that have treadmills so staff can watch you as you run and help recommend the best shoe choices for your running style. If I’m looking to pay a lot for a pair of running shoes I don’t want to buy the wrong thing and be disappointed.

I’ve looked at the removable soles in my Nikes and, while they look okay, I have no idea how much cushioning and flexibility they’ve lost in the eight months that I’ve had them. I’m thinking about trying a pair of cushioned replacement soles to get me through the race on Saturday. If they do the job, great. If not I’ll be paying a visit to a running store on Sunday.

Nike Sportband – A farewell to armbands

This afternoon I decided to finally end my experiment with the Nike+ Sportband by returning it for a full refund. This was actually Sportband #3, the previous two had displays that failed and the current display just stopped exchanging data. As frustrated as I was with the Sportband I felt a certain loyalty to the device. After all it was with me throughout most of my return to running and it dutifully recorded over 180 runs with useful and accurate information. I had some initial problems with calibration and I called the Nike help line staffed by very engaged people who understood and solved every problem. In the end it came down to a device that didn’t meet my needs. The woman who handled my return offered to do it as an exchange saying she knew nothing about the Nike recall and that they were still selling the units. I told her I couldn’t continue the insanity and showed her my Garmin 50 saying I’ve moved on. She rolled her eyes and said “The credit will go to your Visa, have a nice day, next in line!”

So now I’m using the Garmin and I think I’ve figured out how to calibrate the distance despite a less than clear manual and less engaged support from Garmin. The Sportband was slick and the Garmin is sort of bulky. The Nike+ site has lots of fun features, challenges and community boards. The Garmin site has little of that but the data it presents is much better. The Garmin tells me many things as I run while the Sportband only told me a few. I’ll miss the Sportband’s simplicity but I won’t miss the inevitable failure of its display or functionality. I still like Nike but I’ll stick to their non-electronic gear from now on. Hey, after all I just bought my wife a pair of Air Zoom Vomeros.

Future trails and Garmin travails

Yesterday afternoon we hit the local outlet stores in search of a few needed items. My goal was to find some trail shoes and I tried on a bunch including the Adidas Kanadias, the Timberland Vaporate and the Nike Assail. Many runners I know eschew Nike and I’m not really sure why that is. I run with Nike Turbulence 13’s and I find them to be very comfortable. I didn’t really like the fit of the other maker’s shoes and I ultimately chose a pair of Nike Tri-D Kutus which fit differently than the Turbs but feel very good. Later today we plan to do some running/hiking and I’ll have a chance to test out the Kutus.

I did my first solo run with the Garmin 50 this morning covering 3.26 miles at an average pace of 9:00. It seemed accurate as I ran by my measured benchmarks and I liked how easy it was to toggle between distance and other real time metrics with a push of a button. I’ll check the accuracy against Google Earth and adjust accordingly if necessary. I did have another negative experience with the Garmin software when I uploaded the data and it didn’t hit the Garmin Connect site or show up on the dashboard. I wasn’t upset because the watch retained the data but it seemed odd that the ANT wireless linking app didn’t acknowledge the watch at all though I meticulously repeated the the TxPairing process a couple of times. I finally discovered the problem which is that the ANT app uploads the run to your PC but only sends the data if you are already logged into Connect. The work around (which took me a lot longer than it should have to figure out) was to pull the uploaded data from my file system and send it to Connect using the “Manual Upload” feature. Okay, I get it now but Garmin could be a little more clear about what the user should expect.

The good news is once Connect has the data the presentation is excellent. It shows a length of run graph that details pace, heart rate and cadence and even has a play feature that shows this combination of metrics at every stage of the run. I’m going to try to upload this file to MapMyRun a little later.

Measure twice, cut one

Shortly before I left the office yesterday my wife sent me an email that said “Good News, I think your new watch thingy came today.” I got home and was very excited to see that it had, in fact, arrived.

The watch thingy is a Garmin Forerunner 50 with data linking, heart rate monitor and foot pod. Theoretically, this watch has everything I need to capture the metrics from my runs and wirelessly transmit the data to my PC. Compared to my Nike+ Sportband it does quite a lot. That’s partially due to the Sportband’s tendency to self destruct, usually within two months of receipt. The Sportband’s display has become increasingly difficult to read (apparently the design has big problems with corrosion) and it no longer shares well with others. By this I mean that when I try to upload my run data to the Nike+ site it refuses to acknowledge that there is any available data. For that last two weeks I’ve had to record all my run data manually.

Now that the 50 has arrived I’m anticipating the opportunity to capture my training information in all different ways. The 50 has a stopwatch so, at the very least I can accurately time outdoor running and compare distance from Gmaps for pace. The watch also calculates splits and times intervals. The HRM captures length of workout pulse rate and the foot pod captures speed, pace and distance.

So theoretically I’m set. But what about reality? Experience has shown that running technologies often sound better than they perform. I’ve had a continuously bad experience with the Sportband but yet I continue to use it because it does one thing very well; capture run distance very accurately. This weekend I plan to perform a faceoff between the Nike+ Sportband and the Garmin 50. I’ll wear them both and compare the distance data they report. I’ll then compare that data to the benchmark of Google Earth measurement.

One will win and the other will be returned. I really hope the Garmin’s capability is more than theoretical.

Those are the breaks

The freezing cold temperatures had given way to a much more bearable 32 degrees this morning and I had hoped to resume running with my 9 year old son today. The snow and bone chilling cold had forced him to take a hiatus for the last three weekends and he had mentioned that he really wanted to run. Unfortunately the poor guy had an accident while cleaning up the dishes yesterday when a plate fell on his big toe. This required a trip to the emergency pediatrician’s office last night and no activity of any kind prescribed for the next five days. So much for us running together this weekend.

I headed out alone this morning and didn’t check the temperature before I left. I quickly regretted all my layers when I realized that it was almost twice as warm as Saturday’s 18 degrees. Instead of hating the wind I began wishing for more of it. Today’s run was less taxing than Saturday’s and I ran about 4 miles. I still felt a bit sluggish and my pace reflected it; 12/sec per mile slower than yesterday.

When I tried to sync my Sportband with the Nike+ site I got the same “No runs to upload” message that I got the day before. Fortunately the device still records events accurately so I can manually capture the data and input it into MapMyRun. There is a way to manually create an XML message with the run data that can be uploaded to the Nike+ site. I’m debating whether I want to take the trouble do something that won’t reflect the real time performance of my workout. After all, that’s whole the point of the Nike+ system.

I should be frustrated and angry that the Sportband has failed me in so many ways but I’m taking a glass-half-full perspective. Now I’ll get to buy and play with a new technology that will give me even more features than my Sportband. Despite the fact that I’ve had the Sportband (make that three Sportbands) over the last five months and have recorded hundreds of runs, I will get my entire investment back and this will help fund my new purchase. I only wish I could make my son’s toe problem go away so easily.

A new Nike+ Sportband problem

I had a particularly good bunch of runs this week and looked forward to downloading my Sportband after this morning’s workout. Today is the last day of January and I was curious to see how I did in total mileage compared to December.

I started with 15 minutes of core exercise as a warm up and then ran 3.1 miles outside. It was 18 degrees and windy and I struggled through the whole run. Running is mostly fun but today it was work. There was no debate when I reached the crossroad where I could run another mile or just head for home. I had hoped the core work would have prepared me better but my legs felt heavy throughout the run. My running felt mechanical the whole way through and I was prepared for an abysmal pace. I was surprised to see that I ran 3.1 miles in about 29 minutes.

My frustration came when I attempted to upload the past week’s runs to the Nike+ site only to see the dialog box read “No new runs to upload.” I tried multiple times but the application just wouldn’t recognize my runs. I ended up manually inputting the runs into MapMyRun where I aggregate all my workouts including training done on the elliptical machine. I looked on the Nike+ forums to see if there was a solution posted. There were no solutions but I saw that I wasn’t the only one who was experiencing this issue.

I finished January having run almost exactly the same total distance as in December averaging about 15 miles a week. Since I was on vacation for two weeks in December and had more time to run I’m considering January’s distance a net gain. With the Sportband failing to upload my runs I’m thinking about bringing it back for a refund and getting a Garmin 50 with foot pod and HRM. I just can’t rationalize spending over $400 for a Forerunner 405, Polar or Suunto GPS watch with the additional foot pod and HRM.

Daily discoveries

Although it has been a number of months since I’ve returned to running I’m still finding about new things every day. I wrote yesterday about what I recently learned about trail shoes and I came across a couple of other things as well. My first discovery was that my normal pace on the road is about 25 seconds/mile faster than what seemed to be an equal effort on the treadmill. I know my street pace is correct because I can quantify it by dividing duration by distance using a stopwatch and Google Earth’s path ruler. Both tools are close to 100% accurate so I consider that to be my pace of record. My Sportband, when calibrated, closely correlates to this distance and pace number.

The big question is whether the Sportband works as accurately with treadmill running as it does on the street. My guess is that it does because the only variable is whether the treadmill motor throws off enough EMI to interfere with the transmission between the Nike+ chip and the Sportband. If that were the case then the Sportband readings would be inconsistent as the level of EMI interference varies due to positioning changes between the Sportband and chip during a run. My conclusion is that the difference in pace has to do with stride length. My stride is probably shorter on the treadmill because I’m conscious of the possibility of over-running the speed of the tread,

My second discovery was that the Core workout, despite its low impact, seems to generate an impressive amount of energy. This makes it a great warm up for a run and a nightmare when you do it shortly before you go to bed. Forget sleeping for a while. I learned this Sunday night as I stared at the clock for two hours waiting to drop off.

Finally, I read yesterday that replenishing glycogen within 15 minutes after exercise significantly helps recovery and benefits your next day’s workout. There seems to be no end of new things to discover about a seemingly simple sport.

Nike+ Sportband, the definition of insanity

Albert Einstein supposedly said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If that’s true then I am truly insane because I continue to use my Nike+ Sportband hoping that its display, like its two predecessors, won’t corrode and fade away. I realize that I have been complaining a lot lately in my posts – runners with bad safety judgment, elliptical machine issues and again the Sportband – but I question why so many fitness technologies just don’t work.

I am a technologist and those who know me will agree that I am passionate about the ways technology can benefit society. I say this to demonstrate that I am neither a Luddite nor “purist” when it comes to workout science. However, between my Sportband troubles, continuing problems with our elliptical machine’s HRM and an earlier disappointing experience with Brookstone’s Heart Rate Ring I am zero for 3 in terms of consumer satisfaction. Why bring a product to market that just doesn’t work?

I applaud Nike for having developed a very affordable system that accurately tracks running metrics using an RFID sensor along with a lightweight watch that captures the information in real time. What bothers me is that Nike, an $18 billion company founded on the development of an innovative running shoe, seems to have given up on this idea because their original design was poorly engineered. If the problem is that the water seal of the display is flawed why not fix that and reintroduce the product? While there is an iPod based solution it’s an irrelevant choice for those who don’t have or want an iPod.

Yet, through this, as my current Sportband continues to degrade and fade, I hold out hope that the next one I get when I swap it out at Dick’s will work better. That is if they still have them. Otherwise I will ask for a refund and consider my next technology decision: Should I apply my refund to the purchase of a Garmin Forerunner 50 with Heart Rate Monitor and Foot Pod or go all out and get the Garmin Forerunner 405 Black GPS Enabled Sports Watch/ HRM for three times the price but with everything a running techno-geek would ever want?

It all comes down to my earlier point. What if I bought the 405 and it doesn’t work? Then I’ll have nothing to aspire to. Maybe that will be the time to buy a stopwatch.