Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Here we go again!

Back in May I wrote about being committed to and parting with the entry fee for the Bulldog 50k, well regular readers know, destiny sent no heralds and I was sidelined through injury. After the OK from my PT on my training/race schedule and my pain free 17 miler on Sunday and 11 miler on Monday, last night I stumped up the $45 for entry into the first race of the Winter XTerra Trail Run SoCal series. The race is located in La Jolla Canyon in Point Mugu State Park overlooking the Pacific Ocean and is on the border between Oxnard and Malibu, so if nothing else the scenery should be very pretty, it is a 18k loop around Mugo peak (1266’) and starts and finishes at sea level with the elevation topping out at around 1100’. Wish me luck!

Monday, September 24, 2007

The road to recovery...Pt 10 (Plans, schedules & A-OKs)

Well there’s a bit to write about my recovery. I saw my PT last Friday and she has now cut down my sessions to only one a week. I do a lot of the therapy at home now as fortunately it only involves a swissball, some ankle weights and a few other things that are commonly found about the house; steps, walls etc. My IT Band is no longer the taught guitar string that it was 2 months ago and I can happy roll on the black Ninja Foam Roller of Death pain free! Previously I left with my PT my proposed training schedule which would allow me to back into the Leona Divide 50 miler which is tentatively scheduled for April 19. The training schedule is a 24 week plus two week taper and has been developed by Hal Higdon, my friend and fellow aspiring ultra runner (she actually has a 50k notch on her belt already) Monk_ Monkey pointed it out to me and she has been using it to good effect leading up to her 50 miler, the Autumn Leaves in November. I also left a list of races that I will incorporate into the schedule which also got the green light, so now I have a Winter racing schedule as well.

This weekends activities got of to a bad start mostly due to a very broken nights sleep care of my son who is having a few sleep issues (read; does not want to) at the moment, my left thigh was sore, it had been pouring with rain all night (the first rain since March!) and there was quite a lot of flooding where I lived. We were also having some friends round on Saturday for a BBQ and I needed to prep everything; so a management decision was made to delay Saturday’s run to Sunday.

Sunday the alarm went off nice and early:4:10am and I started my stretching routine as per usual, I headed out the door a little after 5:00am, yes I stretch that much now, and was off. Legs felt good, right thigh was quiet, knees were solid, orthitics were comfortable, new Asics Kayano’s as comfortable as my slippers, (hell I’m 40 I can wear slippers!), Forerunner was on, iPod/Nike+ was on; tracklist teed up, and I was off.

Watching the sun rise as you run is a great feeling, the rain had washed all the, well, quite frankly; crap from the air, everything was fresh, clean and sparkly. The first hour flew by and I reached my first turn around, had a gel and a squirt of Accelerade and took a quick system check on knees etc, everything A-OK, so I set off again. The next hour saw me winding my way back through the residential streets of West Hills, traffic was minimal and I was starting to see a few more die-hard early bird runners and cyclists who nearly always acknowledge a kindred spirit. Two hours in and I had another gel and ran another system check; again everything A-OK. At this point I had covered just under 15 miles, nothing spectacular pace-wise but from a distance standpoint this was the furthest I had been since the end of June on my new and improved knees. I had been given the OK by my PT to push out as far as 16.5 miles this weekend and I now found myself about 2 miles from home. As discretion is always the better part of valor I about faced and headed back home. I walked up the hill, two thirds of a mile, to my front door and pressed stop on the Forerunner; 2:46:11 17.35 miles, and all, apart from the typical niggles here and there, pain free.

Lot’s of stretching and refueling and as I write this a little over 24 hours later my legs, knees etc all feel perfect. I have four more weeks of PT to go at which point I start my training schedule and as it stands right now everything is looking very good.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

More stuff...this time a treadmill!

So having written last week about the Garmin Footpod, I thought I should give you a round up about the machine that it is used on; a Bodyguard T240.

Before I write about the T240 I want to give you some back story on how we arrived at the decision it was the model we wanted. We had several main criteria: reputation, budget, warranty, size and noise

The treadmill was going to be located in our lounge, at the back end where there is a dining area, the room is about 35' long in total, my wife wanted the deck outside and I wanted the garage so we compromised; neither of our original choices were ideal; the deck would leave an expensive and sensitive piece of equipment exposed to the elements and the garage was not so great due the huge variable in temperature and the general dust and dirt that you find in a garage. The reputation within the industry had to be solid in terms of reliability, value for money and technical support. The warranty needed to be solid with parts and labor support for as long as possible. And finally we had a budget and wanted to have a solid treadmill with some features rather then one that had various unwanted or unused bells and whistles and was not robust enough.

As mentioned we decided in the end for a Bodyguard T240. This is the entry level home gym option from Bodyguard, a Canadian company, and has won several awards as a company and for that title and for the price range; it falls within $1500-2000. The warranty seems rock solid; lifetime on the frame and motor, ten years on parts and wear-and-tear and three years on labor. Another feature for us that the distributor we purchased from; F.B.I. is also an authorized service provider and they are located only 16 miles away.

I’ll not bore you with a lengthy description of all the features, you can find them on Bodyguard's website, but suffice to say it has a top speed of 10MPH and a max incline of 15%, there are nine preset programs and it is Polar HRM compatible.

Now for the nitty-gritty, the running board has a proprietary shock absorb system and works great so far; I am 170lbs or so and there is little or no feedback from it. I was a little worried by its width (20") as it is narrower than a gym machine but having run on it now several times the width and length (57") are more adequate for my stride etc; I am 6’1”. The band once bedded in is fairly quiet although it squeaks a little bit if you run at the back end. The motor is also quiet and is continuously on, as per most gym machines, it also comes with a built in surge protector is case of power outages or surges. The rails at the front are unobtrusive and are a solid loop so there are no sharp edges, they are nice and short so there is no risk of hitting them with your hands as you run and they are the right height; technically speaking not too high and not too low. There are two all important bottle holders. The dashboard at first appearance is simple and the “JustGo” feature allows you to do just that, the downside is that to get to some of the programs and other features you do need to spend some time looking at the manual as they are somewhat buried, although my expectation is that the “Manual” setting will be the most popular!

While it is early days both my wife and I are pleased with it, watch this space for an updated write up after 3 months or so. Finally thanks to everyone who I asked for providing their opinions, thoughts etc.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Garmin Footpod; preliminary report

The arrival of the Garmin Footpod last week meant that I was going to be able to use my Forerunner while running on a treadmill, I wanted to have access to my heart rate data, especially since the demise of my Polar S410, and rather than buy another HRM the footpod provided the missing data I needed. It is early day and so far I have only four runs using it; I still try to keep the majority of my running outside, but on those occasions when you cannot get outside the treadmill can be a good friend, not you best friend, but a good one. The four runs have consisted of two in the three mile range, one 10 miler and one 12.5 miler. Fitting it to a shoe requires you to unlace and relace you shoe through the loops on the bottom of the unit, to be honest this is a bit of a pain and I have adopted using a velco pouch that loops under the laces and secures over the top, it works fine and is much quicker when changing shoes etc.

The accuracy of the Footpod has been surprisingly good when comparing it to the mileage on the treadmill, it is spot on for the shorter distances and has had a minimal variance of - 0.12 over 12 miles, as a comparison my Nike+ was -0.50 which is pretty typical in my experience of Nike+ on a treadmill over distance. As with any accelerometer the key to it is to keep a steady pace, given that I still have a red flag from my PT on speed and hill work plodding along on a treadmill is just perfect. As with all exercise sessions using a the Forerunner you get a comprehensive breakdown on data in a graphical format, with the only exception being the exclusion of altitude.

The Footpod is completely compatible with the features and settings within the Forerunner watch itself; mile splits, average pace and average speed are all calculated and the alert function works seamlessly with the little chimes ringing out every mile. Garmin also offer a handlebar mount which may be more convenient if mounted on the bars at the front of a treadmill, that way you can glance down without having to bring the watch into your line of sight, that maybe something for the future.

Although early days I am very impressed, the Forerunner's popularity has been based largely on the GPS function which allows you to accurately calculate pace and distance; two important factors to the runner, now the needs of the indoor runner have been addressed which adds to the all round capability of theForerunner as a training tool.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

It's my Birthday; getting Garmin'd up!

Ah the joy of a birthday! So last month was my birthday and as usual I faced the ponderous question from my family: “what do you want?” Usually this is answered with, “I don’t know, let me think about it”, I then forget and it rolls by and I end up with a nice sweater etc. This year was different. My wife and I had agreed to give each other a treadmill, which was partially funded through everyone’s favorite birthday gift; cash, from my parents. After some research, a quick poll from some of the regulars on the Nike+ forums, (thanks all) and various quarter and half mile tryouts here and there we plumped for a Bodyguard T240, from F.B.I. but more on that to come.

With the new treadmill in mind and the notorious inaccuracy of Nike+ on a treadmill, I looked at the Garmin site to see if there was an option for indoor running; to my delight they have a Footpod. This is from where it was available 30% cheaper:

"This shoe-mounted accessory will provide accurate pace and distance to the Forerunner 305 when GPS reception is unavailable, such as when you're training on treadmills or indoor tracks. Speed and distance information is calculated in the Foot Pod and transferred to the Forerunner, where information from the Foot Pod is automatically displayed and stored.

Dynastream Technology The Foot Pod is built on Dynastream technology, which solves the challenge of accurately measuring a user's speed and distance in real time. The system was designed to measure each stride via a patented accelerometer, which measures all parameters of each foot stride, computes that data, then wirelessly transmits speed and distance information to the Forerunner 305 wrist unit via a 2.4 GHz signal. To date, Dynastream technology is the first and only commercially viable, accurate stride analysis technology that can be used outside the laboratory environment. The Foot Pod is 97 percent accurate out of the box and 99 accurate percent when calibrated. It can also be worn in tandem with the Forerunner 305's wireless heart rate monitor."

It will be interesting to see how it compares to the Nike+, but could it spell it's demise, probably only as a training tool, it is still a lot of fun to have!

So a Footpod it was, now while I was scrolling though Amazon’s Garmin pages I came across a nifty little case, by Garmin, for all the 305 accessories; USB leads, charger, cradle etc and as everyone knows, it’s very important to have the right case for the right kit. So when my in-laws asked my the question, this year I had an answer for them, thanks Valerie and Michael.

The case arrived earlier this week and the Footpod 30 minutes ago, unfortunately I’ve put my run in for the day, but maybe I’ll squeak in another later on, you know just to see! PS that's a quarter in the photo, so you'll have an idea on it's size.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Road to Recovery...Pt 9 (Bell curves, pace and shoes)

Last week went well; in fact it went very well. Three good runs, 7.27, 8.25 and 11. 84 for a total of 27.36 miles; that’s over double my total mileage for August and puts me on target for a 100+ month, less than half my peak of 238 miles in April but a start. I am still restricted to running on the flat and that means walking up and down the hill to my house but that does mean that all my graphing gives me a nice bell curve, (and yes, the time is correct 5:31am) although it throws of my pace using Nike+, that's one advantage of a Forerunner; it provides a greater depth of analysis and as a standard will record the distance (mile) splits and allows you to create additional spilts - such as walking up and down hills.

My pace is improving, around 8 minute miles for the shorter distances and 8:45 for the long run, an improvement of nearly a minute a mile from two weeks ago and all pain free. I am now running full time in my orthotics and wear them all day every day, in fact the one day I forgot to switch them into a different pair of shoes I felt out of balance…just goes to show!

After a long discussion with the folks at Road Runners, I have ordered a pair of Asics Kayano 13s as they should offer a little more cushioning and last a little longer than the 300 miles that I average out of my Asics 2120s. I get a 60 day trial on them to see if they could be new shoe for me.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

New gadget smarter!

I have been running with my Garmin Forerunner 305 for nearly five months now, the problem of late has been the lack of running. While running has taken a move to the back burner, cycling has been brought to the forefront; as a way to maintain my overall fitness and to develop my quadriceps muscle group which forms part of the prescribed treatment of my IT Band Syndrome. While I enjoy covering the miles on the open road it is also important to build in some speed/hill work on the trainer, typically these are presented in a cadence format. To round out the dataset from the 305, I decided to invest in the Garmin Cadence/Speed Sensor. I ordered it through an Amazon affiliate ANTOnline, for $35.67, ($25 cheaper than RRP), I took advantage of free standard (3-5 days) shipping and was delighted to find it on my doorstep two days later.

After spending five minutes fitting the monitor to the chainstay and the magnets to the pedal for cadence and a spoke for speed it was up and running…well cycling, you know what I mean. After an hour riding a set of Cadence Intervals and Isolated Leg Training sets (sorry for the image quality) I uploaded the data into Garmin Training Center and I could see the cadence results in addition to the usual data; heart rate, speed etc.

Given the recent demise of my Polar S410; the receiver has finally given up the ghost after 401 hours/118,475 calories worth of exercise, I am now migrating my data to the Garmin Training Center and Buckeye Outdoors so the addition of the cadence data will allow me to train smarter, what does that really mean? Well, when I am fully recovered and start training in earnest for the next year's season I can (1) eliminate those junk miles, and (2) avoid a repeat of my current ITB issues. Achieving both of these sounds like a good idea to me.