Tag Archives: GPS

New Toy

A bit distracted this morning as my new Garmin arrived 🙂

Garmin 910XT

A nice new Garmin 910XT which is the latest in the cross-training variety of Garmin fitness watches. It is slightly bigger than the 405 that I have had for the last few years, and heavier, but only slightly.  The big thing with this watch is that I can use it while swimming as well – I assume it has some sort of accelerometer sensors in it to analyse your stroke pattern, count and apply this to the lengths swum to work out efficiency. Of course it’s waterproof as well and to facilitate this they have moved from the touch sensitive bezel on the 405 back to conventional buttons. It has something called Training Effect and Energy Expenditure which I am going to have fun playing with when I figure out how to use it (with the FirstBeat website).

I had some problems getting the heart rate monitor to work initially which was a bit frustrating, but after changing the battery (the store we got it from were very apologetic) it worked fine.

So tomorrow I’ll be trying it out on a long run and will let you know how it goes. The first time out with new technology rarely goes smoothly so we shall see 😉

Took the little ones swimming at lunchtime and they both did very well – Savannah is practising her star floats and Luke is ramping up his distance and did several half lengths (from the deep end) without his ring. The most memorable part of the session was the fact that poor Zelda had lost her voice though, so the normal, loud and fast instructions, encouragement and critique of the young swimmers was today absent and the pool was eerily quiet because of it. Hopefully she will have recovered by Monday when I have my lesson.

Do you GPS?

So when you do you outdoor activity, do you take a GPS with you?

One of the joys of running is that you can just slip on a pair of trainers (or not if you are Barefoot Ted) and just go out the door and run.

That is one of the pleasures, the simplicity of the whole activity and the ability to do things without a lot of the paraphernalia that is essential with other activities; you know the sort of thing, cycling needs a bike, and a whole lot more if you want to ‘look’ the part, no offence Bryan :-), swimming needs a pool, football needs a pitch, goals, boots and at least 9 other willing participants to have a game. I’m by no means decrying other people’s chosen exploits, just illustrating a point.

GPS 1 - Timex S&D c.2004

You can run without equipment and that is the pleasure. To experience nature at it’s simplest in a way that the human body was design for (if you believe everything in ‘Born to Run‘, which I do)

However, when you are training or following a schedule for a target race or goal, or perhaps you are somewhere unfamiliar, it is great to have a GPS to hand to ensure your distance and pace are right for the run you are doing, or simply so that you don’t get lost!

My first GPS enabled stopwatch that I had probably back around 2004 was a Timex Ironman Speed/Distance watch which had a separate pack that  I had to where on my arm. It was very temperamental, took a long time to locate the satellites and wasn’t very accurate at the best of times, and was all over the place when in cities or even light foliage Still, it was, the first time I had been able to measure distances and was great for my need to try to be in control for my marathon training back in those days.

The GPS receiver pack which I had with that watch was actually made by Garmin and they obviously saw a niche in their product development, which at that time consisted primarily of mapping devices for marine and aeronautical areas.

GPS 2 - Garmin 405 Forerunner c.2008

So it was in 2008, just after my return from the MdS that I bought my first Garmin 405 Forerunner. Technology had clearly come on a long way in 4 years and it was orders of magnitude better that the Timex in that it was small, self-contained, started quickly, was good for 6-8 hours of running and was rechargeable rather than chowing batteries all the time.

The other thing with the Forerunner was the ability to upload training details, with heartrate and laps, wirelessly and automatically at the end of a run! Perfect 🙂

So as it happens I am a fan of technology and gadgets for the sake of training, but at the end of the day, it only helps me to get to the start of a race, where the joy of running through trails for huge distances really makes it all worthwhile.

Hopefully in a few weeks I’ll be upgrading again – but more on that soon 🙂

Garmin Custom Maps

So what do you do when you don’t have a map in your GPS for an event you are doing?

Two choices.

Spend £120 on map software to download to your device or a similar amount on a memory chip with pre-installed software, which covers a wide area, but is still limited, so for example North America (for which I currently have no topographical map) would require about 6 sets of software / chips for the entire country at the 1:24000 scale required for sufficient detail (South West, South Central, South East – you get the idea).

Alternatively, using Google Maps, OpenStreetMap or similar, patch together tiles of images with contour information, roads, lakes, rivers and the all important mountains in Google Earth (in order to geo-reference), and save as a kmz file. After copying to your Garmin device to a Garmin/CustomMaps folder (create if needs be) then voilà the images will be overlaid on the base map.

There are more instructions here.

Final Preparation

One day to go and how am I feeling?

Nervous, to say the least. Not a good night sleep last night; helicopters buzzing overhead all night, children waking with sore throats, blood noses! Not sure what was going on last night.

Still, final day to prepare tomorrow, so from that point of view I’m quite relaxed.

Still wondering what I’ve let myself in for though. Sometimes I think it should be easy, and other times impossible. 100 miles, in much less than 24 hours is the aim.

Final run complete today. A sunny easy run in my Vibrams around the city, which for some reason I cut short at each turn and so ended up not actually passing any discernible landmarks. Still, final run and hence training survived! 🙂 I even smiled at the fact I had made it down the stairs at the train station on my way home this evening without breaking my leg, or something equally as significant and ironic.

Sorted out the route for my Garmin this evening followed by a final high-carb supper of steamed potatoes, vegetables and aduki beans which Liz kindly prepared for me.

Tomorrow will bring last minute prep, travelling and nerve calming!

On the Positive Side

At least this time the trains were running on time.

After six years, I had finally got a place in the London Marathon AND managed not to have to defer or cancel through illness or injury. Just.

I am convinced 90% of the battle with racing is actually getting to the start line, and this I achieved, albeit with a reduced level of confidence in my ability due to a foot problem I had picked up 3 weeks previously (see ‘The final days’). So although not in perfect form and having had three weeks without any form of training to speak of, I was at least on my way to line up at the start.

John on Blackheath

I met up with John at Guildford station and we had little trouble with the trains, unlike Reading, and after a rather cramped journey from Waterloo East to Blackheath, we walked up to the top of the hill and were presented with the Virgin marketing machine – chalk one up for Richard Branson (who was running on the day) from the array of tethered balloons to the largest banner I’ve ever seen being towed behind, or rather dangled beneath, a helicopter, roaming sedately amongst the many airborne television crews over Blackheath. ATC nightmare, I thought.

John was to start at the ‘Red’ start and I at the ‘Blue’ start so we parted with wishes of good luck and went our separate ways.  It was about this point, at about 9:00am just after the women’s race had started and with the men’s and mass race due to commence at 9:45am, that it began to rain.  Genuinely, I considered that this would be useful to stifle the predicted heat although later in the race would be better, but as the downpour got harder as I made my way through to the competitor start area, I began to regret not bringing a waterproof, or even a bin liner.  Make a mental note for next time….

Continue reading On the Positive Side

Solo IOW Half

Liz had completed her first half marathon, the IOW half, the previous Sunday in a stunning time of 1:44:56 – she was the 6th female out of the 300 competitors that took part in the race – seriously impressive!

Bembridge HarbourNevertheless, I wanted to try out the route, so had downloaded it to our Garmin and intended to have a quick run round the course before we left.

The only real problem was finding the start of the course in the first place and although I left early (7:00am) it took me 15 minutes or so to find the Sandown and Shanklin Rugby club where the race had commenced less than 48 hours previously.

After this the Garmin worked well, showing a heading pointer all the time directing me along the now deserted route of the half.

The route was a pleasant one, gently undulating, with a couple of hills that might have presented a problem to the unwary or inexperienced competitors, but otherwise it was a great way to view the east of the island, from Sandown, through Yaverland, over the hills to Bembridge, around the airfield and harbour, then back towards Sandown through the village of Brading.  

The full route is here and that’s the end of our holiday!

The long and winding road (or It never rains but it pours)

The thing about ultra marathon distances is that one is forever looking for ways to cover more distance, or more hills, or simply be out on the road for more time, while fitting into the ‘normal’ routine of work and home life.  With commuting, the work aspect is not easy, and with four children, the home aspect takes a lot of understanding from one’s partner.

So when I suggested running home from work, I was not met with the perhaps expected guffaws of laughter from my understanding and long suffering wife, but rather the simple question, “So, when are you thinking of doing this?”

Garmin Oregon-400t
Garmin Oregon-400t - My outdoor handheld miracle lifesaver

I had it all worked out in my mind; With the Classic Cliffs coming up, which itself would be four ‘tapering’ weeks from Mont-Blanc, I had only two weeks in which to fit a substantial long run.  The Sunday before the Classic Cliffs I should be taking it ‘easy’ though – running two long runs within one week is a recipe for injury, so my only real option was to run a midweek long run.  As the idea crystallized in my mind it took on a life of its own and seemed more and more sensible, the more it became my considered plan.

Having mulled over the logistics of the exercise I decided running home with a laptop was NOT the best plan, meaning Friday was out and with some arrangements (which escape me at this stage) still to make during the early part of the week, Thursday quickly became the firm candidate for the adventure.

As the big day came I had everything in place – sports energy drink, ‘nuun’ hydration tablets, jelly beans, chocolate coated coffee beans, various energy and cereal bars, and a watchful eye on the weather.  The forecast was good to start with but there was a band of thunderstorms moving up from the south-west.  I should learn to actually take more notice of the weather forecasts.  In addition to the ‘calories’ I had for my rucksack, I packed wet weather gear, head torches and my Garmin, into which I had already preset a route to follow.

Houses of Parliament (Westminster Palace)
Houses of Parliament (Westminster Palace)

At 5:00pm I could contain myself no more and got changed into my usual dri-fit tee-shirt and shorts; optimistically, only one layer.

As I waited outside for my Garmin to locate it’s satellites in order to show my route home, I fumbled with the constriction of my rucksack with all the buckles tightened – a necessary evil to prevent chaffing, but something to which one never really becomes accustomed. 

Starting out from Exchange Square I followed my normal route through Bank and along the north of the Thames all the way to Chelsea Bridge, taking in the sights of London on the way, St. Pauls, The London Eye, The Houses of Parliament and all the Bridges in between.  Over Chelsea Bridge I wended my way through Battersea Park where I had run 3.5 miles in the Chase Challenge the previous Thursday.  The irony of now planning to run ten times that distance was not lost on me.  I adjusted my sunglasses as the sweat began to bead on my forehead, although luckily I had remembered to fit the sweatband to them which helped considerably.

Leaving behind the greenery of Battersea Park, it quickly became a distant memory as I ran steadily first through Battersea itself, then Wandsworth before joining the A3 for the next four km or so, while skirting the edges of Putney and Wimbledon.

As the urban landscape changed imperceptibly into suburbia, I strolled on, through Kingston and met up again with my old friend the Thames, although by this stage she was a little younger and I was a touch more spent than the last time we had crossed paths. Continue reading The long and winding road (or It never rains but it pours)

The Welsh 3000s, take 2

Like a madman in an obsessive panic with the impending hills of Mont Blanc looming large in my mind’s eye, I had decided to attempt the Welsh 3000s again this weekend

I had been watching the weather all week and although the long range forecast had been promising, it steadily deteriorated to the point where it was marginal, but I decided to press on anyway.

So yet again, on Friday evening with a distinct sense of deja vu, I set off with my pack, thermos and 200 packs of chocolate coated coffee beans ready to attempt the 30 miles or so – but this time on my own. 

Crib Goch - 5am, 4th July 2009
Crib Goch - 5am, 4th July 2009

The adventure did not get off to a good start, courtesy of the M25.  I had left at 7pm, some 2 hours earlier than we had set out previously, in an attempt to get to the car park at Pen-y-Pass to snatch some sleep before my marathon, but hit some serious mid-summer Friday evening traffic and it consequently took me two hours to get to the M40, a distance we had ironically covered in about 20 minutes a couple of weekend’s previously.

My automotive tribulations were not over as I hit further traffic at the M42 south of Birmingham, which was ‘closed’ and although the diversion was well sign-posted, the funnelling of traffic, even at 11pm effectively wiped out any time I had in hand to sleep at my destination.  Was something trying to tell me this was not a good idea?  I thought this many times before the same time the next day.

As I drove through the night into the morning of American independence day I was pleasantly surprised at the clarity of the sky as evident from the moon and stars visible even from inside the car.  Perhaps this was to be a good weekend after all.

My hopes were still high as I arrived at the car park, no rain and some stars still visible.

Inevitably, for Wales, my hopes were short lived though, as I got my pack ready in the back of the car and checked my torches and food supplies for the next few hours, the cloud cover slowly blotted out the remnants of the bright firmament I had been hoping would accompany me on my journey.

At about 2:45am I started off up the pyg track to the top of Snowdon again and almost on cue, the rain started.

The top of the highest peak in England and Wales arrived without event as I followed the track which I largely remembered from the previous visit.  Yet again the sun (LOL!) was coming up as I left the peak and although the drizzle had not really subsided, I chose to give the infamous Crib Goch a go, with Garnedd Ugain in bewteen.

Crib Goch - the view ahead
Crib Goch - the view ahead

Relying heavily on my Garmin and the waypoint fixes I had prepared, the straight route off the path from the top of Snowdon was relatively easy to follow, although as the picture shows, there was little choice on the ‘trail’ to be followed through this section.  Stopping for a cup of tea at the top of Crib Goch, I yet again contemplated the sanity of my actions.

Getting down from the knife edged arête was not so easy in the mist, and it took me some time to traverse the steep and slippery shale on the north face of the descent, with frequent moments of panic as the dislodged stones plummeted down unseen into the endless mists below.

Finally I passed through the bottom of the cloud-base to the relative tranquility of the valley, where the only obstacles I had to contend with were the inevitable shoe eating bog and the occasional frightened sheep, before I eventually made it to the road and the delight of the flat sturdy tarmac (call me a city boy at heart!). 

Turning left towards Nant Peris before the long slog up the second section up to Eldir Fawr, to rejoin the path we had followed previously, I jogged along the road to regain as much time on the flat sections as I could.

The climb up to the 4th peak was as unpleasant as I remembered, the 600m climb in 2km putting my Guildford ‘Mount’ training to shame.  Eventually I made it to the top, thighs burning and calves stretched to oblivion, but was rewarded with an unexpected and fantastic view all the way to the north coast, so I stopped and had another cup of tea!

A panoramic view from Elidir Fawr
A panoramic view from Elidir Fawr

Had I known this was to be the last time I would have a clear unobstructed view for the next few hours, I might have stayed longer, nevertheless I was keen to get on as trail to the next hill was a gently undulating track for a few kilometers which I comfortably jogged along towards peak 5, Y Garn.

The rain which had been steadily falling all day, was now becoming harder, partly no doubt due to the passage of the expected weather front across the north Wales terrain but mostly due to my continued ascent back up into the 600m+ levels of the Welsh 3000s.  No matter as I had been drenched for the last 5 hours and had long since given up any hope of getting dry until I got back to the car later that day.  However, to add to my misery, it was about this time that both my watch and Garmin handheld ran out of batteries and having used my spares already (make a mental note to self to take MORE spares to Chamonix) I was now in the mist using a good old fashioned compass and (waterproof) map to navigate the featureless terrain.

Y Garn was the last peak we had completed previously prior to ‘abandoning’ due to the inclement weather.  So as I headed off towards Glyder Fawr, the 6th peak, I was at least comforted by the fact that I was again covering what was, for me at least, virgin territory.  

The rocky summit of Glyder Fawr
The rocky summit of Glyder Fawr

The ‘ Glyders’ are famous for the unusual rocky outcrops at the top of the peaks which are not only bizarre but also difficult to traverse with any appreciable speed, especially in the wet weather.  The picture shows an example, but this is not how I saw it on the day, my view being rather more misty.

My mood as I was traversing through the alien landscape of the Glyders was becoming increasingly frustrated. The purpose of the exercise was to gain hill running experience, but instead my efforts were hampered at every stage by the terrain which necessitated more in the way of rock-clambering than running, the weather, the lack of visibility and eventually the cold.  Having been wet for several hours, with the unrelenting rain soaking every inch of my body, even the effort I was putting into covering the ground as fast as possible was by now insufficient to keep me warm.

It was about this stage that I met up with Steve and his dog, Rexie, who were also out to try to do some of the peaks – he had friends behind who had started out earlier but who were attempting the full 14 peaks.  Steve was ironically from the Surrey area, and knew Guildford well, having done a number of duathlons in the area, including most recently the infamous ‘Ball-buster’.  It was nice to have someone to chat to after so many hours alone, and we ambled our way past Glyder Fach on our way to Tryfan, the final peak on this range.Continuing to follow a northerly bearing towards Tryfan, we eventually started to climb up to the summit, with large rocks and boulders most of the way. 

Tryfan on a good day - I climbed over from the 'easy' left side.
Tryfan on a good day - I climbed over from the 'easy' left side.

Steve decided it was to be impractical for Rexie to climb up and so we parted at this point, arranging to meet later in the car park, while he traversed round the waist of the peak and I clambered over the top.

Since I did not know the area, and was only heading in a general direction in order to reach what I presumed was the highest point, and the visibility was variable, I took an incredibly difficult route up the side of the (what I later realised was) the first ascent, (think north face of the Igor), only to reach the tope and see another higher peak further to the north, which I duly climbed, only to see a coach-load of people climbing up the next peak even further to the north, as the mist cleared, which was obviously the summit everyone was heading for.  Although still fairly balanced and nimble on my feet, I nevertheless had to wait behind the queue of people to take the preferred route up to the summit.  This was to be my last peak of the day.

As I came down to the A5 and the car park, I yet again experienced a slow, slippery shale descent which seemed to take forever.  The rain had been unforgiving for the last few hours and I was just pleased to get back down to the relative comfort of the valley.

I had completed 8 out of the 14 peaks in treacherous conditions, largely on my own and without the experience of having done many of them previously.  I was pleased with that.  However, I had not completed the challenge and all the way home I had to mull over my disappointment.

Judging by the DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness) that I experienced in my quadriceps and calves over the next few days, I gather the training had actually been quite useful, but how comparable it is to Mont Blanc still remains to be seen.

New Gadgets

Technology is fantastic!

Just finished my first long run with my new (Father’s Day present) Garmin Forerunner 405 and it is so cool! Have already done a couple of runs with it during the week as well as used it to record my heart rate during a spin session on Wednesday, but every time I use it I am seriously impressed with its ease of use.

For example, my long run today is here on the Garmin site and all this involved, other than wearing an HRM (Heart Rate Monitor) while running, was to set my watch to aquire the network of GPS satellites prior to leaving, which took about 30secs, and then after the run simply turn on my laptop with the wireless stick connected. Download of data from the watch to the computer started automatically, and upload to the online site was also completed in the background, to the information you can see above. Fantastic!

I did a similar run last week, although with a couple of extra miles down the Horsham railway line before returning to Bramley, about 15 miles in total. Today’s run was great apart from the drizzle though – about 13 miles (i.e. half marathon) this week, as I’m on a ‘quiet’ week but in 1:42 which is not brilliant but I’m happy with it with 13 weeks to go to the Berlin Marathon which is what I’ve signed up for on 28th September.

Sometimes the drizzle is very welcome, and it was today, but running through the lush summer grass on the first day of summer (midsummer’s day? – what’s that all about?!) when it is full of dew which then saturates your trainers (and feet) with moisture is not the best feeling.

Still, legs feel strong at the moment, which is good.