Time for a New Social Network: Garmin Connect Upgrades

Over the past few years we’ve been presented with more and more options for tracking our training and racing performance. It’s also become increasingly easy to that and share your progress and/or connect with friends and foes.

Training log/social networks like Endomondo and Strava have thrived by making tracking readily available on smartphones, and at the same time make it pretty simple for owners of other devices – for instance from Garmin – to import their sessions to these services.

That might be about to change.

4 days ago Garmin quietly announced social features on their Garmin Connect training log service.

Garmin – probably the World’s leading manufacturer of devices for endurance sports and outdoor activities – has kept quiet for a long time while smaller and more agile services established impressive followings in record time. A fair chunk of those followings are Garmin users, so it was almost just a question of time before Garmin would launch similar features.

At the moment things are very basic at Garmin Connect, but the launch communication above shows promise of more – without being too ambitious or promising too much. Rather too little, I hope.

Anyway, if you own a Garmin get on it and try it out – I’m here!

Retül Bike Fitting – and Why You Should Get One

My bike is a modified road bike – a Focus Culebro 2010 with a pair of clip-on bars to make it useful for non-drafting triathlons. Admittedly I’ve grown increasingly dissatisfied with the decision to purchase a road bike and modify it instead of just buying a pure triathlon bike.

The differences are that the frame of a traditional road bike just doesn’t support the time trial position as well as triathlon bikes do. The impact of that is a less efficient position on the road bike versus what you would have on a triathlon bike.

Over the past few months I’ve repeatedly heard about a bike fitting system from the US by the name of Retül. Not only do they make bike fittings for a bunch of professionals in cycling, MTB, and triathlon – they also apply the same testing protocol to amateurs:

As you start the test, first thing that happens is an interview that helps the fitter understand the goal for the fitting session as well as with the particular sport that the athlete does. Subsequently extensive measurement of the body is carried out. At this point flexibility (or lack thereof) is measured and recorded to identify the possibilities and limitations that the athlete needs to work with.

And now it’s time for the big reason to go get a Retül fit: The dynamic fit session. Sensors are placed on shoulders, elbows, hands, hips, quads, knees, ankles, heels, and feet so that when you start cycling, the fitter will have live dynamic data to work with – not just static numbers recorded in a fixed position.

Finally the entire bike is measured – before any changes are made, and after changes have been made. That makes it possible to revert back to the pre-fit position.

If you’re buying a new bike, the fit is not done on your old bike or on your potential new bike, for that matter. The fitter is likely to have a fit bike – ideally the Retül Müve. The benefit of the Müve is that it can be adjusted during action, so you can immediately feel the difference and increase the chance you pick a bike that’s just right for you! The ability to measure the watts output during the fit session only increases the likelihood that you’ll perform at your very best on your newly acquired bike.

Finally, if you’re buying a new bike, all this data is used with the frame finder to match your specific requirements with all sorts of frames. That ensures that you avoid spending thousands getting a bike that’s just not optimal.

Alternatively, if you’re not buying a new bike, now is the time to start making changes to optimize your position on the bike according to your goals.

In my case we changed quite a bit. We went for a shorter stem to reduce the reach to the aerobars – for the same reason the saddle also came as far forward as possible. Finally we lowered the steer just a bit, also to shorten the reach to the bars and to make position my body lower.

At this point – about a month after the test – 15 cycling hours later – I’m still getting used to my new position on the bike.

Two things are for sure, though:

  • I’m making better use of my current bike!
  • I will never buy a bike again without doing a dynamic test in advance. Never !

Training Log August 2012

The second month in the new training regimen was to be immediately disrupted by summer vacation in August+September. As a result the total training time for August is not even close to that of July, but still much, much higher than any previous months in 2012.

It was holiday for half of the month, which makes it a bit difficult for me to pull much out of these numbers. Here’s the full status from August with a few thoughts for September:

  • Swimming pace increased along with swim efficiency = Awesome. Looks like all that time in the pool is paying off slowly. I mainly did so much swimming because Vejle Fjordsvøm was coming up. I went there with family and very much enjoyed the whole experience. Eventually placed 83rd our of 299 male finishers – not too shabby for a non-swimmer and I’m pretty happy about that too!
    Finally the shoulder issue I spoke about in the training log for July has disappeared!
  • Running: Even if I had less run sessions than in July I did run about half an hour more and almost 5km more. Average distance is increasing – that’s good!
    In addition I further improved my 5K time (by 8 seconds – not much but it all counts) – and I did my first 10K since September 2011. All good progress. Still struggling with a nagging injury in the calf. Hitting myself over the head for being stupid enough to train through it !
  • Bike: Further improvement of time on distances 20km and 50km. To further improve this I’ll get a Retül bike sitting position fit test done in September to see if I can improve the way I sit. Really regret having bought a race bike instead if a pure triathlon bike !

After July I wanted to do a few things in August. Here’s how that went:

  • Running: Haven’t done any track work yet.
  • Continued to use time trials and Strava when running and cycling. The leaderboards are such a motivator !
  • Swimming: High-elbow pull is working well for me. In fact I think it probably helped take care of the injury in my shoulder. And it made me faster !
  • Didn’t manage to sleep much more… 🙁
  • Didn’t get the sports medical test done. It’s now scheduled for October.
For those who care, here are the numbers:
  • Total duration: 15 hours, 53 seconds trained – down from 24 hours, 12 minutes in July;
  • Swim:
    • 8 workouts – down from 11 in July;
    • Total duration: 4 hours, 47 minutes – down from 6 hours, 36 minutes in July;
    • SWOLF score dropped about 2 points from 42 to 40;
    • Average pace: Increased from just under 2 min/100m to just above 1:50 min/100m;
    • Total distance: 13,3km – down from 17,15km in July
  • Bike:
    • 2 workouts – down from 9 workouts in July;
    • Total duration: 3 hours, 20 minutes – down from 11 hours, 26 minutes in July;
    • Average speed: 30,83km/h – up from 29,01 km/h in July;
    • Total distance: 103km – down from 332km in July.
  • Run:
    • 11 workouts – down from 13 workouts in July;
    • Total duration: 6 hours, 35 minutes – UP from 6 hours, 9 minutes in July;
    • Average pace: 5:32 min/km – up from 5:33 min/km in July;
    • Total distance: 71,43 km – UP from 66,74km in July.

That’s it – time to move on.

Training Log July 2012

After the completion of Challenge Aarhus 2011 I had made a conscious decision to slow down training during the second half of the year for personal reasons. Eventually the result was training duration anywhere from a mere 30 minutes to 6 hours per month – 6 hours being a really good month.

Recently that all changed and in July that training duration changed a lot. The result was that all three sports saw a bump in time as did of course total training time.

Here first some numbers:

  • Total duration: 24 hours, 12 minutes trained;
  • Swim:
    • 11 workouts;
    • Total duration: 6 hours, 36 minutes;
    • SWOLF score dropped about 3 points from 45 to 42;
    • Average pace: From just over 2 min/100m to just under 2 min/100m;
    • Total distance: 17,15km
  • Bike:
    • 9 workouts;
    • Total duration: 11 hours, 26 minutes;
    • Average speed: 29,01 km/h;
    • Average heart rate: down about 12 BPM from June;
    • Total distance: 332km;
  • Run:
    • 13 workouts;
    • Total duration: 6 hours, 9 minutes;
    • Average pace: 5:33 min/km;
    • Average hear rate: down about 10 BPM from June;
    • Total distance: 66,74km

What does all that mean? Not much in itself without knowing what the departure points were. In short I’m happy with July as a training month and the reasons are:

  • Trained more in July than the all previous months of 2012 combined;
  • Body is OK, so I can keep this activity level up for now. It’s tiring at times, but doing OK. Only slight issues are a slight calf strain at the end of hard running sessions and a shoulder issue, which I’m working out in the pool through improved technique;
  • Swimming needs to improve. Still have more than 3 minutes down to my best 1,5km time from 2011. Potentially the change in how I train impacts the time negatively (more intervals, more breaks, more slow work to recover+improve technique);
  • On the Bike things are going fairly well. One hour time, and all distances at 50K and under improved in July. Doing more intervals to improve speed. Using Garmin 910XT to do time trials on fixed routes.
  • Running is going well. While the average pace is not fine at all, the pace in the intervals is going well, approaching 4 min/km in 1km intervals. That’s nice! In addition I ran the best 5K of 2012 at 24:03 – a time that has already been improved in August.

What was new in July?: The volume went up. Used intervals in all three sports. Started using time trials in cycling and will start using for runs as well. Got working on swim technique. Trying out CytoSport Muscle Milk and CytoCarb2 for recovery.

What’s new in August:

  • Considering going to the track once in a while to do some track work, to improve speed and endurannce;
  • Will start using time trials on runs;
  • Will continue using Strava when cycling along with Garmin Connect and Endomondo;
  • Reviewing swimming style to reduce drag. Currently looking into high-elbow-pull;
  • Considering talking to a sports dietitian for improved health and performance in all areas of life;
  • Look into the value of improved sleep;
  • Get a sports medical test done/planned (booked for September – exciting).
OK, I think that’s it. Lot’s of stuff to do, then. Gotta get moving !

 

Challenge: Garmin 910XT vs Garmin 310XT

This is a quick write-up and by no means a product review.

For a truly comprehensible review of the Garmin 910XT go here: http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2011/10/garmin-forerunner-910xt-in-depth-review.html
For an excellent 310XT review from the same source, visit: http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2009/09/garmin-forerunner-310xt-in-depth-review.html

In this post I’ll briefly try to cover my experience from a run done with both devices. As you can see on the image to the right this covers an approximately 5K run with both watches on the same arm.

Here we go:

  • Looks like they pretty much measure the same kind of distance. 90 meters out of 5040 isn’t much at all…
  • You’ll notice that the 310XT has been active for longer. It takes the 310XT longer to register non-movement, so it doesn’t pause as quickly. In fact “elapsed time” on Garmin Connect tells me that I was out there for a total of 27:31.
  • Pace is an odd one. It was rarely the same on both devices at the same time. I guess the Smart Recording on the 910XT is just a bit smarter – records a bit more frequently than the 310XT…
  • More on pace: the 910XT seems to be more spot on in general. The 310XT would have moments of 3minutes and change per kilometer, which is way faster than I can run right now – especially with a backpack.

I guess that’s pretty much it. The run isn’t really the reason to change from 310XT to 910XT anyway – the 310XT is still an excellent piece of hardware. No… the main differences come in swimming and cycling.

Of course later this year Garmin will come out with the Vector pedals that measure power and integrate with the 910XT – not with the 310XT. In addition – and I’ve been enjoying this so far – the 910XT can measure your swim like I did this morning.

I still need to perfect that. Generally I get distance which is about 100 meters too long on 1250 meters. That sounds like about 8% error to me. That’s a bit high and I’ve heard about worse for the 910XT. Potentially this can be fixed in firmware later on…?

In case you’re in doubt, the 910XT is the clear winner so far. For the multi athlete it’s simply version 2.0 of what was already a very good experience.

 

Set Conservative Goals !

When you set your goals, set them conservatively – not boldly! Don’t over-reach – make sure to be realistic and avoid pushing yourself too far!

When you set your goals, set them conservatively – not boldly! It’s a fine balance: push yourself, but not too far!

Recently participated in the half marathon across Storebælt in Denmark. It’s interesting – when you sign up for these kinds of races they always ask you what kind of time you have in mind that you’ll do. That’s done in order to let the fastest runners start first, then the 2nd fastest, then the slower and so on… and that’s all good and great.

The fun part is that it makes you think about your goal time amd then gets you thinking about how to get there. Trouble is that the sign up is so long before the actual event that – unless you know your own build-up very well – predicting how you’ll do becomes a somewhat difficult matter. I signed up for Broløbet 2011 almost 6 months in advance. 6 months out there was no telling what might happen in-between the date I signed up and raceday. All sorts of stuff could have happened that should have led me to change my goal time up or down.

In addition, if you’re on a new course, that might make the task even more complicated. How steep are the hills and how long? Will you have long stretches where wind might play a part – oh – and how will the wind be on raceday?? What if it rains, snows, is just really cold or just really warm???

Admitted the latter wasn’t much of a concern in Denmark’s late May, on bridge in the middle of the ocean. It could get pretty cold…

Now, I set my goal time in December and as with the ironman I’ve been testing myself to see if I could at all do that kind of time in a half marathon. I was pretty set to go and do my goal time and had actually officially taken on a challenge with my brother in law that if he’d go for a personal record, then I’d do then I’d do the same. But even if I was all set external factors could still screw it up.

Take a good friend of mine, Lasse. He had been training for this race in his first full running season after putting the running shoes back on. He’d set a goal and training went well – but then he got injured; running in the wrong type of running shoes did that to his training. Some time went by for recovery, he got himself some good advice on running shoes and got back into training – which went really well.

After a training session he and I had in February he started adding kilometers to get to half marathon distance. It went well, but fairly soon he had another injury, prompting him to consider whether he might even have to abandon the race. Eventually he did the race and performed better than he had thought in the beginning of the year, but maybe not as he could have been had he avoided injury.

My point is this: When you are an endurance athlete with jobs and parenting to be done, both of which will take priority over your sport, you can benefit from setting conservative goals and be happy when you reach them. Conservative goals will largely ensure you don’t over-train, over-reach or get injured. They will make sure that you will be able to get better, reach your goals, stay healthy and fit to set new goals for the next season, where you can set new goals – conservatively improving on the year before.

Road to Challenge Aarhus: Self-supported Half Ironman

The Start Location at the Pool
Where the Madness Begins

This week is going to be mostly about getting ready for the self-supported half ironman distance triathlon I’ll be doing on Saturday 16/4 as prep to do Challenge Aarhus. You can join the event on Endomondo. Yes, it really is a triathlon even if Endomondo lists it as “other”.
Also join the event on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=124035681003753.

If you’re in Amsterdam, Netherlands on Saturday 16/4 you’re free to participate in any part of the total distance and any amount of disciplines. If you join the swim you should expect to cover the (tiny) expense on your own.

Here are a couple of probable start times:
Swimmers: total distance is 1,9km.
Start time is around 09.00 at Sportfondsenbad Oost:

Bikers: total distance is 90km.
Start time is around 10.00 at Sportfondsenbad Oost: same as above.

Runners: total distance is 21,1km.
Start time is around 13:30-14:00 at Sportfondsenbad Oost: same as above.

So, the things that need to be prepped are:

  • Pack my swim-gear
  • Check the bike to be race-ready and pack all that is required for a 90km ride;
  • Pack my running stuff (Thursday or Friday)
  • Go through the checklist at http://triathlon.racechecklist.com to make sure I have it all.

 

Road to Challenge Aarhus: March Training in Review

Beautiful Views on March Morning Runs

What a month. After February I had a few things to get working on and in March I have definitely moved closer to half ironman fitness. One of the things that all endurance athletes struggle with is time. After February I figured that adding 10 minutes per training would take the training volume up by about an hour on a weekly basis. By and large that has worked out pretty well. Where February ended up being a 14 hours 24 minutes training month, March had another 12 hours in it. It was especially the two first weeks that were really good. The two next weeks were pretty OK, but with other commitments the bike had to suffer and that took total training time down.

I learned a few things too that I’d like to share. Maybe they’ll prove useful to you:

  • Forefoot running training from zero to long distance takes long! I’ve had to set my sights on 5km forefoot running this year. Maybe next year I’ll be able to do 10km.
  • Nearly doubling training volume from month to month is a bit of a stretch. Be cautious and make sure to be listening to your body to avoid over-training. This goes for all sports, but especially for running!

Also, March seems to have been a bit of a strong month for social training platform Endomondo. I at least started getting invitations from people I connect to on Facebook, LinkedIn and from people I just haven’t heard from for years. That way I get to know another side of these people, which has been very interesting so far.
The weather has been very mild too so more and more people start training outside – also very encouraging!

Finally here’s a run-down of how I think March was per sport and what needs to happen over the next 3 months prior to Challenge Aarhus:

Swim: No real change since February. Still have to watch my left shoulder, so my number of swim sessions will stay flat until Challenge Aarhus. The required 1,9km is not a problem at all, so the swim is still on track! Learned in a podcast from TriSwimCoach that it could well be very smart to do a very relaxed swim in order avoid getting out of the water with a too high heart rate.

Bike: Weather was mild in March, so I’ve been outside a few times. Right now it’s a bit dark in the morning, but soon I should be able to do a morning session on the bike. This is probably where I need the most improvement, but we’ll see about that in April. For sure I will have to add kilometers to the cycling.

Run: March was an excellent month for running. Did my first half marathon in training in a time I believe is a personal best (note to self: check that on Athlinks). That said I probably can’t recommend doing three times the training volume month over month.
Now that the half marathon distance is in place I have started working on speed. For April that will mean shorter runs with 1km intervals at race speed or faster. Race speed is the pace I need to maintain to run “Broløbet” on the 28th of May in less than 1 hour and 45 minutes.

As a final challenge for April, I’ll be doing a self-paced and self-supported half ironman on the 16th of April. Standing at the starting line of a race without knowing that you can make it, doesn’t seem like a good idea…
Experienced triathletes have advised against doing half ironman as part of my training, but it just feels like the right thing to do. Therefore the week from 9th to 16th will be extremely relaxed with just a few relaxed and relatively short runs. After the half ironman the interesting part will be: how long does recovery take.

In other words: An interesting month lies ahead! 🙂

The #1 Most Important Advice for Endurance Athletes

Just a few days ago an old colleague of mine asked me what my #1 tip would be for someone who had recently started running and was now aiming at half and full marathon distances.

My response was pretty brief and I’ll share it here and elaborate on it a bit further.

The #1 advice to endurance athletes is:

Don’t get injured!! Whatever you do, train smart, don’t overdo things and through that, avoid injury!

You’ll likely want superman (or -woman) fitness and strength, run a marathon, do an ironman, and all that very quickly – but especially in endurance sports things take time.

Instead you will want to take it slow. If you can slowly build your endurance and keep on building then that really long race you want to be able to do will eventually happen.

Personally I didn’t always know this. I would sign up for races in the way to near future and try to do them being semi fit for the event, injuring myself either during training or during the race.

Since the beginning of 2010 I try to go about my build-up in a different way. I try to follow some basic rules that will leave me free of injury:

  • never add more than 10% to individual runs. Another version of this rule says you shouldn’t add more than 10% to weekly running volume and some even go on to work with months and quarters.
  • if you feel pain, never try to push through it. You might just be making things worse. Yesterday was such a day for me in the pool. I had to back off from getting better 50m swim time as my left shoulder started hurting. That swim was ended about 15 minutes early to avoid injury.
  • avoid going all out in sports your muscles are not used to. This goes for cross-training, gym sessions etc. which are part of your training plan, but also for the occasional game of football with your colleagues.
  • if you train or race with someone else who’s above your level – get them to perform at your level. Don’t try (too hard) to follow theirs as that could well be too much for you.

Following these rules has served me well so far. Only had few minor injuries over the past 12 months and every time they’ve been a result of not adhering to the rules outlined above.

Train hard, but train smart!

Announcing Self-Paced Half Ironman Triathlon

2011 has got to be the year of the half ironman distance triathlon for me, and the training is aimed at being able to swim 1,9km, bike 90km, and run half a marathon on the 3rd of July. Last year I did just a single sprint triathlon at 500m swim, 20km bike, and 5km run, without having any particular problems with the distance. Before that sprint triathlon I did a self-paced sprint triathlon of the same distance to better understand the distance without participating in an actual race.

In a half ironman a lot more unknowns enter the game. For instance:

  • nutrition
  • can I do the distance? In time?
  • which effort can I sustain over such a period of time?
  • what kind of training do I need?
  • what’s my current fitness level for this distance?
  • what do I still need to train?
  • all the stuff I haven’t thought of…

To have answers to have all these questions when I toe the line on the 3rd of July, I’ll be repeating a self-paced triathlon this year – except this time it will be a self-paced half ironman distance triathlon.

Should be loads of fun – you can come and join if you want – for the entire event or just part of it. Venues are:
* swim: sportfondsenbad Amsterdam Oost
* bike start: Sportfondsenbad Oost
* run start: to be decided

The event will take place on the 16th of April in Amsterdam, Netherlands for anyone who cares to join. The event can be found and tracked on:

http://www.endomondo.com/event/838098