Here we go! The story to date. Back in December I attended a Garmin try out part at Tri it. Shortly after, I learned I'd won something, but I didn't know what. Three months to the day after, the famous Richelle got in touch and said it had come in. I was all excited and picked it up the same day.
The other day I tried it on a spin session just to get a feel for it, and try out the heart rate monitor. Today I tried it on a 10 K run with my buddy Michelle. My overall impression so far is that for what is billed as a "basic or entry level" runner's watch, it's pretty darn comprehensive! For all that people talk about waiting forever for their watch to find the GPS signal, this seems fairly quick. Still slower than my phone, or so it seems, but then the phone keeps track and already knows where it is, so it's got a head start.
Mainly I'm looking for heart rate monitor information. A bit of a digression here for the several readers that asked for it. Feel free to skip ahead a couple paragraphs, look for the line to know where the digression ends. The theory behind heart rate training is simple. The heart is a muscle, and we want to teach it to be stronger. One does not build other bodily muscles by trying to bench press 500 pounds right from the start. You have to start gradually.
Lots of things are tied together here because our body is a complex system that must be considered together. Generally speaking, the more fit you are, the lower your resting heart rate. Why? Because a strong heart can beat slower and still push blood around the body. The best way to get your resting heart rate is first thing in the morning, just before your alarm goes off. You don't even need to put your fingers on your throat if you're aware of your body. You should be able to feel it, just lying there. Look at the clock, count for a minute.
The resting heart rate, like so many things, is just a number that isn't good or bad in and of itself. Some people naturally have a faster heart rate. You want to find out where your normal is. If you haven't completely recovered from previous training it might be a bit higher than normal. Same if you are stressed about something, or you had a crappy night's sleep. This can be an indication that it's time for a rest day.
Lots of my long runs have been at what I call chatchatchat pace. This is a good indication you are in zone 2, where you are teaching your body to burn fat, and building a network of blood vessels to get oxygenated blood to the muscles. As you go faster you need to put more and more effort into the activity, and talking goes by the wayside. At the top end one of a few things can happen and you will stop. Your lungs can't supply enough air, or your heart can't move it around, or so much lactic acid has built up in your muscles they aren't going to move anymore. Or maybe you'll puke from exertion. Or, worst of all, you'll injure yourself. Don't want to do that.
So why zone 2? Why not the sexy high intensity training? I found this article that summarizes it fairly well. The vast majority of us are not going to race even an Oly distance. Maybe a 10 K run, but not a half marathon. The trick is to find the top of your aerobic output, and stay there. Learning to run in zone two, with a spicing of intensity helps train you to do that. At first it seems slow, but gradually you'll run faster and faster.
As a digression within a digression, one of the disadvantages of only using your heart rate is that there is a bit of a lag. It's an indicator of how hard you are working, but it isn't consistent over time. As you become more fit, you'll be able to run or bike faster on a given heart rate. You may have other issues affecting your heart rate. This is why many athletes have gone to measuring their bike performance with a watt meter. It measures how much effort you produce. If you set your bike trainer up consistently, you'll know week to week what you're putting out and if you're improving.
_______ Digressions end.
So, heart rate information. Normally when we run, Michelle is a champ at finding a 7:30/Km pace for us. Today was a little slower, 7:45 or so, but both of us were feeling a little tired. The watch connected with GPS quickly, and we set off from Glenmore Landing.
First thing I realized is that somehow in my fiddling around I got the pace info in miles, but that's ok. My phone was reading it out in kilometers so we knew when to turn around, and what we were running. The average heart rate over the whole run was 125 and it was often in the low 120's. Going up some hills boosted that.
The problem was that the zone number was making no sense. Much of the time the watch was telling me I was in mid zone 3, and I didn't believe it. The heart rate number was good, but I was suspecting that the max heart rate was set incorrectly, driving the zones to be calculated incorrectly. Once home I delved into the screens and figured out how to tweak it.
The numbers are still big and easy to read, and paging through the displays is quick and easy. I'm not sure how much the display information can be customized, in the sense of putting specific things in specific places. Just now I think I'd like to see heart rate on the top, and current pace on the bottom, since those are the two numbers I'm most interested in on a run. Maybe I'll have to dive into the manual and see if that is possible. As it is, I found the page with heart rate and zone, and left it there.
We chugged along doing a very nice out and back along the reservoir, on a cooler morning than we've had for a while. Lots of other runners out. Once home again I got the watch synched with the app on my phone and it displayed all sorts of data. A beginning runner should have nothing to complain about! There is all sorts of information to help a runner plan and improve their workouts. Being honest I probably won't use all the functions available, like the activity tracker stuff. It's there, but at the moment I don't want to use it.
Here's a bunch of images from todays run. There was a bit of Grrr along the way here, since I could see the photos on the laptop, but blogger wasn't letting me select them. In the end I had to go with screen shots, so the image quality isn't quite the same. The only thing I can see that's missing is the ability to float your mouse over one of the graphs, and get a readout from that instant, with a corresponding dot on the other graphs. But who knows? Maybe that's there and I haven't been smart enough to figure it out. These are all different screens within the iphone app.
There is cadence and elevation. The pace and heart rate screen scrolls. You can turn the phone sideways and the images embiggen.
This is iSmoothrun, screen shots from the phone itself. The three log photos are in fact one scrolling screen, which I like.
Turn that screen sideways and you get this graph, purple is cadence, yellow is pace, and the gray is elevation. This elevation looks comparable to the Garmin, but sometimes I don't believe it, being too flat, or too much of a change.
And lastly on another screen, the map.
The iSmoothrun map embeds some pace info via the colour, but I never know what it means. Both are fine for figuring out where you've gone. The Garmin red really stands out. I drilled into both, and I think the GPS was a bit off. Garmin had me running through the hospital, and some homes in Lakeview. iSmooth run had me on Glenmore trail itself.
The only substantive difference is that iSmoothrun puts the 3 graphs together so it's easy to see how they interrelate. There's times having the 3 together is a pain though, like when it shows cadence all over the place and it hides the other data. Certainly between the two of them I've no fears about running out of data to consider.
The 30 day cookie challenge is still going well.
Lastly, since I know some of you only come here to see the cats. This morning Curtis nearly timed the recreational vomiting perfectly, from a cat point of view. I just barely didn't step in it, as I was scurrying around getting ready to run. Sigh.