Running Watchpocalypse on the Bethpage trail

Somewhere on that path sits half a Garmin.

Today’s run (Bethpage bike trail): 5 miles (estimate)
Yesterday’s run (track): 3.5 miles

On November 18, 2008, I published my first post on Emerging Runner. Today, almost eight years later, I’m publishing post number 2,100. I’ve covered many subjects over that time, and my tag cloud on the left lists well over a thousand of them. This blog has definitely accomplished my initial objective, serving as my training journal and an outlet for communicating with the running community. Writing 2,100 posts took a lot of time and effort, but it’s been worth every minute. If it wasn’t for this blog I wouldn’t have met my Runsketeer buddies who I both adore and admire. Don’t tell them though. It would only go to their heads.

Running is a simple thing, but it has its nuance. One aspect that fascinates and frustrates me in equal measure is the technology we use to gather running data. I’ve been through three Garmins over the past eight years and most of that experience has been good. My original Garmin, an FR 50, served me well until I accidentally destroyed it while replacing its battery. I replaced it with an FR 60 that improved on the 50 and has a far better battery replacement system.

About a year after buying the FR 60, I broke down and bought my first GPS watch, a Forerunner 210. It was big step up from the 60. I liked it a lot, despite occasional issues capturing a signal and the need to replace the data cradle after a while. Recently, the loop that secures the strap broke so I took the intact loop off my retired FR 60 to replace it. Soon after that, the FR 210’s strap broke off making the watch unwearable. I returned the loop to the FR 60 and resumed wearing that watch on my wrist as a stopwatch while I secured the FR 210 to my SPIbelt using a keyring loop. That worked fine until today.

Yesterday’s run – the FR 210’s last map

Yesterday, I went to the local track to get in 14 laps before the sun came up. I had to be somewhere at 8:00 AM, so that was the best way to get in my miles. I ran well and have really taken to the NB Zante 2’s that did great on the track. It was a typical track experience with the usual personas walking, running, sprinting and one guy who was throwing a medicine ball around.

This morning I headed to the Bethpage bike trail. My plan was to run about five miles, which I think I did. I’m not sure, because the god of watches decided to mess with both my Garmins today. My run started fine and I was in a great mood. The clouds hid the sun, but not the humidity. I made my way south from Haypath Rd and ran through Bethpage Park almost to the Parkview Court crossing. There were lots of walkers and it looked like a large group had come out together because many were wearing tees that said, “Move It.” Early in my run, when I was halfway up a short steep section of the path, a runner coming north shouted, “I hear that hill is pretty steep today.” I laughed because it was true.

I ran well despite the humidity and was about a half a mile to endpoint when I reached down to my side to look at the FR 210 and see how much distance I’d covered. There was nothing to grab and I discovered that my Garmin had fallen off the SPIbelt. It was probably sitting on the side of the path somewhere. I doubled back about a quarter mile, but was unable to find it. I was upset, but I’ve been planning to replace it since using it that way was fairly awkward.

Without a GPS map of my run, I figured I’d look at Gmaps when I got home and use the time from my FR 60 to calculate my pace. Annoyed, I ran the final half mile and about a hundred feet from the finish, my FR60 started to beep and the display blinked, “Scale Not Found” and then “Scanning.” I couldn’t turn off the message or get back to the timer (or turn that off for that matter). The watch would not respond to the buttons when I pressed them.

So in the space of five minutes, I went from having two functional running watches to none. When I got home I removed and replaced the FR 60’s battery. That got it working, but I lost all the data from today’s run. Before I could declare even partial victory, the watch started flashing “Scale Not Found” again.

It’s time for a new watch, so my search begins in earnest. I doubt I’ll have a replacement in time for next weekend. Until then, I’ll rely on Gmaps and my $15 stop watch to capture my distance and pace. That should give me something to write for my 2,101st post.

The little treadmill that couldn’t

I’d like to sell this Sole to the devil

Yesterday’s workout (elliptical): 60 minutes

We’re facing a perfect storm in the Emerging Runner household. It’s actually related to the weather in my case. Last year we had a very snowy January and the weather kept me off the road most of that month. Despite that, I was able to do my usual miles on the treadmill. We had better luck this January, but circumstances have changed. Our treadmill’s condition has gone from bad – to worse – to done. Fini.

A failed treadmill is inconvenient to me, but my wife depends on it for her daily workouts. We’re both dedicated to our running, but I prefer to run outside while Mrs. ER likes to keep her workout indoors. With snow, freezing rain and sleet hitting us this week, we’re both missing the treadmill.

It was clear yesterday morning that the treadmill was fading fast. No longer was the ever-increasing sound level the only issue. The machine was now giving off an unholy metallic screech at a decibel level that could only be described as dangerous. I decided to record the sound for posterity and had the brilliant idea of running the Sole at 12 MPH. I was curious to see what would happen and here’s the result. The last moments of our treadmill…

I ended up spending an hour on the elliptical. It’s definitely a good workout, but I never feel it equals a run. Until the weather warms enough to clear the roads we’re stuck with that choice. I’ve been doing my research to find a replacement for the highly recommended but ultimately disappointing Sole F63. Everyone says you need to spend thousands of dollars to get a treadmill that won’t fail with regular use, but I’m thinking that almost anything will be better than this retched Sole.

The sad demise of our Sole F63

Anyone want a crappy treadmill with a brand new console?

Today’s run (street): 4.4 miles

A treadmill is a substantial thing, a sturdy platform built for running. Treadmills are expensive because they are engineered to hold up over time. A good example of this is our ProForm L15, a modestly priced treadmill that we bought in the mid-1990’s. Although it was used daily, the ProForm was a workhorse that served us well until February 2010. A bad example of this is the Sole F63, that has reached the point where replacing its worn parts will cost 70% of a new unit. And not a moment too soon. From what we were told, these parts are in serious need of replacement.

That was the assessment made by our treadmill repair guy whose opinion we trust. Adding to that, we paid $200 a month ago for a new console (the fourth one since we got the unit) and we needed to pay the tech for his house call to get the bad news. What’s frustrating about our experience with this treadmill is that we’ve done all the right things to ensure a good outcome.

I had such high hopes when we got the F63 four years ago. Our due diligence included much research and a personal recommendation of the brand. My wife made sure the unit was professionally serviced and she was meticulous about following owner maintenance. In the short time that we’ve had it, we’ve experienced a motor failure, serious issues with tread slippage and the aforementioned console problems.

The treadmill still works, but it makes a huge racket due to the degraded rollers and failing frame. It could go tomorrow or in six months. The question is whether we should invest in a better brand of treadmill. The cost could be substantial, but the value of doing that would be that pro grade treadmills often come with long or even lifetime warranties. Between my wife and I, we use our treadmill a lot.

I’m now at the point in my week where I jam all my running mileage into three days. This morning I went out for the first time since I ran 400’s with the Runsketeers on Sunday. The long rest period helped, and I felt great from the start. I wouldn’t call today’s run effortless, but it was certainly a pleasent experience. The temperature hadn’t broken 70° and the sun wasn’t too intense at 7:15 AM. If not for business obligations that required me to cut my run short, I would have gone for six miles.

I’m not sure about this weekend’s running. A trail run would be fun. I’ll see how I feel in the morning. No rain is scheduled for Saturday, so at least I won’t be forced to continue torturing our ailing treadmill.

Battery failure, goodbye data

Today’s workout (elliptical): 26 minutes

I was able to sneak in an elliptical workout this morning. I didn’t do a full 30 minutes because of my schedule. I figured that all the city walking I’d planned to do would constitute a full workout. I just checked my Fitbit to see how much ground I’d covered, but it had shut down due to having a low charge. I wouldn’t mind, except the device doesn’t warn you when the battery is low. Neither does it provide you any way of checking the level while in use. I’d write more today, except the battery on my phone has dropped below 10%, so I need to conserve. Technology tools can provide great data, but this dependency on batteries can be annoying.

Today’s fifty step run

No power, no problem, today

I originally thought the theme of today’s post would be about my discovery that my Garmin was out of battery and that would force me to run outside without capturing any data. But that wasn’t the way it played out. Instead, I ended up stopping my run almost as soon as it started. Nothing to do with technology this time.

I was actually looking forward to running free of big brother NAVSTAR as I geared up for the cold morning temperatures (29°). I’ll admit that I wimped out and put on my Garmin 60 to use as a stopwatch, but I didn’t connect the foot pod or the HRM. So technically I was running free. However, between elapsed time and Gmaps, I could still calculate pace and distance. And you know I would have.

After running fifty steps from my house on my way around the neighborhood, I realized that my hip soreness had not gone away. In fact it was fairly painful and I worried that continuing my run might only exacerbate the problem. I decided that getting in a routine run was not worth the possibility of further injury so I stopped, turned around, and headed home.

I iced the spot for about 30 minutes and then continued my day that included lunch with a good friend. I considered doing an afternoon run if my hip felt better (it does) but decided instead to give it additional rest until tomorrow. I may go for a trail run at Stillwell on Saturday. In the past, the dirt surface has provided a good, softer alternative to pavement. It’s a good surface to run on when dealing with an injury. Of course, if the temperatures are still below freezing tomorrow, the dirt may be just as hard as pavement.

Running technology rant plus a little about running

As a technologist I am usually willing to accept inconsistent results from the technologies I use. I understand that consumer electronics are designed and built to meet the often contradictory requirements of
functionality and low cost. Some technologies have established themselves as chronically unreliable and yet we accept this. I no longer get surprised when my office computer spontaneously reboots because it reaches some threshold of memory and needs to stop RIGHT NOW. That usually happens when I’m deeply focused on a presentation or spreadsheet and therefore have not consciously saved it every few minutes. I accept that but I don’t like it. I have discovered that Apple, even with all its cool designs, marketing and innovation, really makes bad stuff. My iMac shuts down so often that I’m surprised when it doesn’t. The funny thing about it is that I love it before that happens and I love it afterward. But when it happens I really hate it. I’m starting to feel that way about my iPhone. I’m on my 3rd 3GS in as many months and I like almost everything about it but it except for:

1. When it dies and then comes back to life a week later.
2. When it runs slower on WiFi than on 3G.
3. When, despite its showing five bars for connectivity along with 3G or WiFi, I can’t connect to the web or make an outgoing call.
4. When I set up a GPS app like MotionX, see the signal is acquired, hit the button to start my run, and finish the run only to find that it stopped recording after six minutes.
5. When I try to do a post using the Blogger app and the keyboard decides to change the default to caps and provides no obvious way to change it back.

So I’m really hating my iPhone this morning. I so want to count on it to capture my runs but it fails far more often than it succeeds. One technology that works pretty well is the Garmin 50 and I’m grateful to have had that as backup for the many runs I’ve recorded (or tried to record) using my iPhone.

Okay, now I’ll talk about running. Since I’ve returned from Rehoboth Beach I’ve had two early morning runs that felt great, largely due to the cool temperatures and low humidity. Over the past couple of days I’ve covered about 5 miles and maintained close to 9:00 per mile for pace. I’m thinking a lot about the upcoming marathon relay and I’m concerned about how I’ll handle over 9 miles. Although it’s broken into segments of 3 and 6 miles I’m not sure a couple of hours rest in between will help or hurt. The best I can do is try. And if I don’t do as well as I’d like I’ll have only myself, not technology, to blame.

False start for my LIRRC 4 mile race


I’ve had some frustrations this weekend starting yesterday when my iPhone, once again, went completely dead. I have the worst luck with Apple products (my iMac has a history of abruptly shutting down with no warning, my first iPhone 3GS arrived D.O.A. from the factory and my
current iPhone has failed twice). I’ve concluded that Apple just makes poorly designed hardware. It’s hard to rely on the iPhone as a business tool when it is so unreliable. I really wish RIM made iPhones (I guess the Blackberry Storm is their equivalent – so no thanks). I traded in my third Blackberry for my company issued iPhone and went from fantastic phone service (Verizon) and reliable hardware to a quirky device with poor integration to email and calendar, a poor texting interface and shoddy construction. Of course the other capabilities that come with the iPhone make up for most of the aggravation. But today I’m ready to throw it out a window.

Compounding my frustration was my race day experience this morning. I didn’t race today because I had too much trouble finding the race. I’m sure that the LIRRC is a fine organization and it is dedicated to the sport and its constituents. I’ve been frustrated with the LIRRC website
because it doesn’t have a lot of the information that I look for when I’m considering a race (e.g., details about the individual races, course maps). What the site lacked today was anything to tell race participants that the directions to the race were wrong because the 2009 Trek Women Triathlon Series event was going on and access to the race was blocked all over the park. Despite multiple attempts to get to the Main Field House I kept running into Park police who were blocking off traffic from every direction. We arrived early enough to absorb the first setback
when my wife dropped me off where we thought the race would start, only for me to discover that it was the triathlon area. The triathlon seemed like a great event. As I looked for someone who could tell me where the LIRRC race was being held I found myself getting screamed at for walking on the running course. I didn’t understand why there wasn’t a single sign showing where to go for my race.

We eventually set off for a different part of the park and encountered another big road block. I asked a Park police officer how I could get tothe location and she said I couldn’t, not by car. We ended up parking far away and started to walk over but by then time was running out and I
decided it wasn’t worth the aggravation. I ended up heading home and running at a local park. I extended my run into neighborhood #4 and into the adjacent industrial park. In all I ran 3.66 miles, not the four miles I would have covered had I raced and I averaged 9:00/mile overall.
It wasn’t my best run and the humidity and sun were in full force. I’m very disappointed with the LIRRC for its lack of communication and signage but I’m sure most people found their way and ran today despite the obstacles. I’m still considering the LIRRC 5K that’s scheduled two Sundays from now. However, if there are any other local races in September I’ll choose them instead. Fool me once…