Equipment Series: Cold Legs?

One of the great things about triathlon is that you get to have loads of gadgets and stuff, which is just all about doing the sport. In this update I’ll talk about my most recent visit to sports retailer Decathlon and what I got out of that.

So, I had a gift card for Decathlon more than a year ago, but since I don’t pass the shop all that often and generally prefer spending my time on other things than hanging out in a store, I just hadn’t used it until now. I had a pair of winter running tights already, but now that the temperature is heading for 0 degrees Celsius on morning runs I will train with them so often that I need another pair to train in clean clothes – and I like that.

At Decathlon they usually don’thave much for me. Odd, as they have equipment for pretty much any sport. Seem they always just miss it. This time, though, they hit it spot on!

I found a pair of Kalenji running tights that are exactly right and tight in all the places they need to be tight. At the same time they’re really warm, so a run in 0 degrees celsius is no problem. At the same time the price seems lower that most premium brands efforts, and I can’t say that I find my premium tights all that much better than my cheaper Kalenji.

So far I’ve had two or three morning runs in my new Kalenji tights and all have been excellent!

Swim practice

Just had a swim session at the local pool. Practiced another 2+ kilometers of crawl strokes and worked specifically on doing the stroke under water with the shoulder rather than the elbow – a problem I’ve had forever. Try to change a stroke from something you’ve done forever to something that’s different. Pretty difficult. At least I think so!

It will take many, many more kilometers before this has been practiced so much that my stroke is right. The question of whether it makes sense to put too much time into swimming starts popping up more and more frequently. A sprint triathlon is a 500m swim, 20km bike, and 5k run event. In olympic distance the percentage of swimming is slightly higher, but still it remains the smallest part of the event. In other words, it might make sense if I put more of my limited time into running and biking.

I’ll let you know later.

Intervals! That hurt!

http://www.endomondo.com/embed/workouts?w=nZaYV-UaV1U&width=250&height=450On Saturday I went for a run with a colleague of mine. We decided to head out on a slightly shorter route, but instead of doing a steady pace we were to do 4 intervals of a kilometer with a kilometer to rest between intervals.

I include intervals in my training because they tend to be excellent at improving speed. Earlier this year I ran these intervals at close to 4 mins per kilometer, and ran my fastest 5K in 20:48 or something like that. It seems to me that if I can run three intervals close to goal pace, then I’ll only slip by 10-20 seconds over the race distance.

It’s been a while since I’ve done this! All year I’ve been aiming at doing sub 4-minute kilometers and have not really cracked it. That didn’t happen today either, but it feels like it’s not far off. The max speed was certainly high enough at 3:24 and during the very first set I actually decided to go a bit slower as I saw we were maintaining a 3:45 speed – which I knew I would be unable to sustain.

Sunday interval splits:
1km (warm-up): 5m:23s
2km (fast): 4m:02s
3km (recover): 5m:29s
4km (fast): 4m:10s
5km (recover): 5m:35s
6km (fast): 4m:20s
7km (recover): 5m:49s
8km (fast): 4m:31s
9km (recover and finish):  5m:41s

As you see, the intervals got slower as did the recoveries as we moved through them. It was a rough start to the afternoon, and I really enjoyed pushing it to the very limit. Besides this I tried to watch how Brett was doing with his Ironbaby and I took our daughter for a swim, which she absolutely loved. It just keeps getting better and better. It won’t be long before she’ll ask me to just stay away (*snik*). You can see the full workout to the right and here.

Time for some swim training tonight. That will be a shorter distance than last time, and I’ll try to do a few “fast” sets as well.

Wanna Run Faster?

Jakob tracks his first fore-foot run session using Endomondo. Check here to see what the findings were!

Yesterday I spent some time with a colleague at the BlackBerry Innovation Forum at Hotel Okura in Amsterdam. It gave me the chance to catch up with some good people I haven’t spoken to for years. One of them was Stephan Derksen, an inspiring entrepreneur who’s involved in several projects, which are all really interesting. He has a blog too at http://salesgurunl.blogspot.com/.

Over the past months I’ve been discussing fore-foot running with a bunch of people who I think understand running pretty well, and I have been trying it a few times when I had to run bare-foot.

Yesterday, however, Stephan and I got talking about fore-foot running and after going through some of the basic physics of why it might make sense, I eventually decided to do a few (really) short intervals on the front of the foot this morning. The results are interesting! See the run here and comments below: http://www.endomondo.com/workouts/v7a5sl1c_hs

Before going I had a look at a few videos, like this one:

Armed with my newly acquired knowledge I went out on today’s morning run. Upper body feeling really sore from the swim on Monday and yesterday’s event (standing up all day without moving much simply takes it’s toll on my back), so I ran at a really slow pace. After Sunday’s run I had a bit of soreness in my legs, and as previously said, I just want to train injury free!

Strong head winds motivated me to wait a bit with the intervals, but after about 22 minutes I picked up the pace and shifted to the front of the foot – uphill. Right now that I just really got back to training I don’t want to push myself too much, but without pushing my heart rate into the dark red and without going all out, it felt fairly easy to push my pace below 4:00 minutes per kilometer. As you may remember, that’s my target time for 5 kilometers. I did this a number of times even pushing it as far down as the 3:00-3:30 minutes per kilometer range.

So, in conclusion I will be seriously considering getting myself a front-foot running shoe when I change shoes later this winter, and start focusing on getting my calfs up to strength so they can take that consistent pressure fore-foot running provides.

Triathlon Swim Training and Racing

Just picked up a really good tip for those of you working on improving your swimming technique related to triathlon.

The TriSwimCoach podcast episode 19 packs an interview with Glenn Mills from GoSwim.tv.

They cover plenty of nice tips for beginner and intermediary triathletes, so you might want to check out the podcast. Two things in particular stood out for me.

First of all, they mention how you can’t win a triathlon in the swim, but you can loose it. That reminded me of my swim at the Triathlon Aalsmeer earlier this year. It’s the only triathlon race I will eventually do in 2010 and I remember standing on the beach being very excited and wanting to go. The gun went off, and I think it wasn’t until about 100 meters into the swim that I thought: I went too fast, I can’t sustain this.

And that’s exactly what they’re talking about in the podcast. When you’re toing the line, ready to go, remember that this is a MULTI-sport event and make sure you’ve got a little something left for bike and run (not to mention the rest of the swim).

The second tip was the awesome swim videos they’ve put on their website. They GoSwim also has an iPhone app which should feature swim technique videos, but it didn’t work on my iPad. Go to their website and have a look or go to youtube and search for “Go Swim”. That should give you food for thought on improving your swim.

This wraps up a slow week in terms of training. Did some swim technique training on Monday, got teeth pulled on Tuesday and have been taking it pretty easy since then. Hope to get back into things some time next week, when the pain subsides. I seem to have lost a few kilos as well which I attribute to eating different after having teeth pulled. Really want things to get back to normal, though.

How to Avoid Endurance Overtraining

Over the past few weeks I’ve had conversations with a few people about starting training or taking training to the next level.

Often the new goal of going somewhere new with training is one that the athlete eagerly wants to get to. A common mistake is to let the efforts in training match the desire to get to the goal.

While that is certainly understandable, it could well lead to a too steep increase in both intensity and duration of trainings. This is certainly a mistake I’ve often made in the past.

For the 2010 season I set out to avoid injury by following a few rules that I wanted to share with you:
– set your seasonal goal below your dream. For instance if your goal is to complete a marathon, then set a goal for this season of completing a half marathon and push the marathon to next year.
– never increase your training intensity or training time by more than 10% week over week – the body just can’t handle it.
– at the first sign of any type of injury, back down and either stop training or take the training down to a level which provides room for reecovery. And stretch – particularly the part of the body which is in danger of injury.
– recover! Make sure to rest well, get your night’s sleep.

I’m doing pretty well on the first two, but am still working on the last point. i’ll go do that now.

Endurance Sports Content

Just spent some time reviewing this blog and upon reviewing it I’ve made some changes. As my motivation to write here is changing, then so will the content. As I’m throwing out a few non-family, non-work actitivies in order to make more time for sports it’s natural that the focus here changes too.

As of now this will become a mixed training log including thoughts about training, progress, and other items mostly related to endurance sports – and endurance sports gadgets as I’ve written about a few times in the past.

That should better support a few training goals of mine, notably half marathon and half marathon with a twist (more on the twist later).

Part of the blogging will be done on the go to keep blogging as efficient as possible, so you might experience a few typos, as my fingers get used to tablet computers on-screen keyboards.

This serves as a warning – let the training begin 🙂

Garmin confuses with Forerunner 110

Garmin Forerunner 110 is now available, but is the entry-level runners GPS-watch a good buy?

Some 4 weeks ago Garmin announced a new model in its lineup of heart rate, speed and distance measurement devices – the Garmin Forerunner 110. The 110 is a runners watch with no cycling support whatsoever. Sure, you can use it on the bike, but there are no options for adding cadence.

That pretty much seems to be the story for the Garmin Forerunner 110. It impresses with simplicity: the display holds less information than for instance the 405/405cx which has previously been written about here, there’s less of a setup hazzle and in simple terms you could this a back to basics design.

Comparing the 110 to the Garmin Forerunner 405 is fairly interesting. The 110 has a lot less features than the 405 and as far as I can judge only heart rate based calory usage is the only feature of the 110 holds that is missing on the 405.

Many have so far mentioned that they see the Garmin Forerunner 110 as an entry-level watch, but the price of around €229 for the version with heart rate is HIGH for entry-level! I have found the Garmin Forerunner 405 for just €259 with heart rate monitor. For just €30 price difference you’ll get a whole lot more with the 405, and so the conclusion must be that the Garmin Forerunner 110 will flop despite the nice marketing.

It’s a basic entry-level heart rate monitor with speed and distance and interesting features for the runners, but comes at far too high a price. Leave it and instead read a later review on entry level GPS, heart-rate monitors on this blog.

Garmin Forerunner 405/405cx vs Polar RS800cx G3

For the gadget-happy athletes, the comparison of Garmin Forerunner 405CX and Polar RS800CX.

A while back I read a Garmin Forerunner 405/405cx review which was pro- the device. This text was intended as a comment on that review, but grew a bit out of hand for a comment. Here first a few words on the Garmin – just for context. Garmin, the word is yours:

“The Forerunner 405/405CX is the evolution of GPS-enabled training. This sleek sport watch tracks your distance, pace and heart rate, then wirelessly sends the data to your PC for later analysis. The 405CX features heart rate-based calorie computation and comes with a second wrist band option suitable for smaller wrists”.
For a comparison on the Garmin Forerunner 405 and the 405CX I suggest you go here:
https://buy.garmin.com/shop/compare.do?cID=141&compareProduct=31859&compareProduct=11039

Now, while all that Garmin marketing and the products themselves certainly do make you think about how you can use one of them in your training, there are a few things that should make you think twice. For instance the battery life of Garmin 405/405CX is not impressive and will require frequent charging. If you go somewhere far away for training or competition, do you really want to have to worry about charging your heart rate monitor too?

If you compare the Garmin 405 to the Polar RS800CX with G3 (GPS) sensor – the premium product from Finnish company Polar you’ll find both pros and cons for both. Let’s start with some of the Polar’s weak points:

  • too many devices: heart rate band, wrist unit, GPS-unit;
  • since recently: the Polar is a very closed platform with no current options of exporting Polar data to other platforms – although I haven’t tested it, the Garmin does offer export to Endomondo and other tools that allow for mapping and sharing of training routes and data through various social networks.

The advantages of Polar vs Garmin are:

  • The disadvantage for the Polar can also be turned against the Garmin: More devices in the Polar solution also ensures that if for instance the GPS runs out of battery during training you will still get heart rate data for the remaining session. Not so with the Garmin where it’s all lights out if the wrist unit dies. Furthermore the Polar’s battery will take you MUCH further than the Garmin battery – probably because the battery doesn’t need to support the same amount of functions.
  • Final comment on the battery: Battery change with the Polar doesn’t happen often, is easy, and relatively cheap.
  • Soft heart rate strap on the Polar. With the Garmin the heart rate strap is hard and a soft is only available for an additional $70.

I’m missing more information on social network integration. The Polar is completely unfit for any type of social network interaction. The Garmin has an own network with a few shortfalls, but more importantly allows exporting training files to services external to Garmin.

Conclusion: For me Polar wins this battle. The shortcomings in the Garmin package are a source of irritation if experienced while training. I have a feeling that I might find myself without battery really often.

Still, one has to often if Polar is fighting the right battles. Presumably the consumer market is where they get most of their money and they might want to watch it more closely and avoid what has happened to the Navigation device manufacturers: Mobile devices with minor additions grabbing market share with free software.

It’s happening in the training device market already: mobile devices from Apple, Nokia, HTC and more now include GPS for positioning and speed data, software for the tracking and uploading, and finally all they need is a 3rd party bluetooth heart rate monitor and off you go. I’m not aware of any heart rate straps that will do the trick, but as soon as they come out, Polar should get worried.

More about that in a future post.

Self-supported Duathlon, Sprint Distance

With only, well, very little time to go before the birth I thought the hot weather in Amsterdam today was a great opportunity to go and do a self-supported Duathlon. Inspired by Astrid (who says her legs are a machine…) and Mads and first got the idea from the good guys at 140.6, I went for a more modest distance than the ironman guys and did a duathlon instead of a triathlon.

And it just felt great. Doing the first run in about 27 minutes is not that great, but with another 22,5 kilometers to go of the official ITU sprint distance. Next up was 20 km bike which went pretty good and finishing the entire event with a quick 2,5 kilometers repeating my kilometer speed from earlier, finishing that run in about 13-14 minutes.

I’m wondering why I didn’t do this much earlier. Thing is that if you want to do a self-supported triathlon, you need to think of logistics like what to bring to the water; where to put your bike; where to put your swimming gear afterwards, etc. A self-supported duathlon is much different: Just run 2,5 kilometers and run back where you have your bike. Then ride 10 kilometers and 10K back to the shoes, and do those 2,5 kilometers + some cooldown. Easy!

Anybody with half-decent running and cycling skills can get themselves to a level where they’ll beat my 1 hour 26 minutes or so time. And so will I. Try it out for yourself, but be careful – you might just get hooked on it!