Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I'm a Mac, I'm a PC, I'm a Runner!

If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll probably know that I am a bit of a tech junkie, however since joining the ranks of “self employed” my habit has had to been curtailed due to a lack of Benjamins. Having had to migrate my mobile computing, in fact all of my computing onto an Mac after the untimely demise of my PC lap and desk tops, I had to suffer the foibles of Garmin Training Centre on the Mac, which is to be frank…crap!

You may have noticed that at the end of most of my “long” runs or rides I embedded the “ViewPort” data which was generated from MotionBased. MotionBased was an add-on provided by Garmin as either a limited free or more bells and whistles subscribed service. I’ll save you a long description of it as, as of June 30th it was retired. In its place Garmin provide Garmin Connect (GC). GC was originally introduced with the 405 and 50 models of the Forerunner and since then has been expanded to support all of the Garmin Fitness Models (Forerunner Models; 50, 201, 301, 205, 305, 310, 405, 405CX and Edge Models 205, 305, 605 and 705), which was completed in May.

Uploading to GC is easy and you simply hook up your device to your pc via the cradle and USB cable and go to their website register/log in and follow the instructions, I found it easier to just upload everything and then sift through it at a later date. GC boasts some pretty cool features, the nicest of which is the Player which provides a stride by stride (well not quite) analysis of your run (or bike).

As you would expect there are a raft of features that are designed to attract the novice athlete through to the more hardened. There are, however, some things missing that I liked in MotionBased; Moving Time vs. Total Time, Weather, Wind Speed/Direction, HR Zones and distributions across elevations, zones, speeds etc. Viewing more than 20 activities in a list has also gone. One thing that is retained is the ability to export data to Google Earth so you can look at it in 3D, you can read more about that in this post. You can also create a goal from frequency, distance, time or calories, this seems to be a total copy from the Nike+ goal feature, but isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery? You can create reports and also export the data into CSV format (Comma Separated Value) which allows you to import it into Excel and review your mileage splits compared to the same time last week, month, year etc, this is great is you run the same route or want to analyze track workouts or a tempo run.

There is also an ability to create a RSS feed which I have added to my side bar, you can mark private the activities that you don’t want other to see and so to avoid going out at 5:00am and finding some weirdo on my doorstep I have blocked those that start at my house but you can see my weekend shenanigans. There are a few more features but rather than go on and on and on, check them out here.

Garmin is in the process of migrating the data files over, as a Project Manager I can somewhat empathize as this project is running about 6 months behind schedule. Here’s some info from Garmin’s migration website:

A few things to note:

* If you don't see an activity from your MotionBased account on Garmin Connect, don't panic. We are migrating activities by date and size. The most recent activities have been uploaded first, as they are likely more relevant to you. Larger activities (more than 1,000 track points which equate to 10% of our total) will be uploaded in June/July.
* Some of your activities may not have migrated because they were either large files or had some data peculiarities. We will run several phases of our migration script to eventually get all of your activities from MotionBased to Garmin Connect. In some rare cases, we may not be able to migrate your activity to Garmin Connect.
* MotionBased will no longer accept uploads from Garmin fitness devices on July 31, 2009. At that time, we will migrate any remaining activities from MotionBased to Garmin Connect up until July 31, 2009.
* Garmin Connect is using a different methodology to smooth elevation gain/loss compared to MotionBased. As a result, especially for Forerunner devices, the elevation gain/loss numbers will be inflated. We are still working on our smoothing algorithm and intend to run this across all activities at Garmin Connect in the future to more accurately reflect the actual gain/loss.
* Garmin Connect does not support weather at this time. We plan on introducing this feature at Garmin Connect. When we do, it will run against all past, present, and future activities at Garmin Connect.
* Garmin Connect does not offer the Analyzer, Saved Reports, Dot Racing, or Viewports features, as you know them at MotionBased. We plan on offer these features at Garmin Connect in the future. When we do, they will be much more robust and customizable where applicable.
* At this time, Garmin Connect does not have a premium service. All of the features at Garmin Connect are free. We plan to introduce a premium service in the future. MotionBased customers with a premium account will be grandfathered into the Garmin Connect premium service for a period of time at no cost.

So as you can see there is an effort from Garmin to create a higher level of analysis than currently on offer and bring additional features into the package. Ultimately this is a good thing for the end user. There are several other options available to Mac users to review their GPS data, these include Ascent and TrailRunner. I tried both of these and to be honest I was not impressed by either they both just “hung” and I was unable to actually get anything to load…disappointing to say the least doubly so with the latter as this is designed for exactly what I do! This is not an exhaustive list by any means and if you use something that actually works please let me know.

Finally, before I hear the cry of SportTracks, I would love to use it but it’s not available for the Mac! Another main player; Training Peaks requires a $120 a year subscription.

And so with all that said I am ordering a PC later this month but until then I am a Mac! But as we all know…


  1. I went through all of this a couple of months ago when I initially got my Garmin - I settled on Ascent after being unimpressed with MotionBased. I've never had any problems like you describe (though it seems to over-read elevation gains). I just recently got the iPhone (I'm a gadget freak too) and was pleased to find Ascent has an integrated app that runs on that device (and will even utilize the gps function there, though I haven't used that). All in all, Ascent's graphics are less than pleasing, but other than that it seems to work ok for me . . . .

  2. great post. I like the new GC and mac compatibility too, and had used Sporttracks on a PC, but was tired of uploading on two different machines, so I've just been sticking with the GC. :) I love my gadgets too!

  3. I'm using Garmin Training Center, Sports Tracks, Training Peaks, Running Ahead. I'm sure I could find a few more to store my data in :-) LOL... I decided not to be such a data junkie a while back, and as you can tell, I'm not quite over it yet!!

  4. That video was really cute. For me - no matter WHAT: MAC!

  5. I'm a Mac! Love the YouTube clip!!

  6. Sportstracks - superior. Yeah, I know you covered that! No PC emulator on the MAC?

  7. It seemed like I read this whole post with the voice of Charlie Brown's teacher in my head. I'm sure it makes a lot of sense to somebody - but I'm lucky if I can figure out how to reboot something.

  8. you are just way too high tech for me! haha however, I am looking for a new comp and keep shying away from a MAC since I know how easy it is to hook my Garmin up to my PC and upload data...

  9. We love our MAC... but like everything it is not 100% perfect.

    Paying $120 for Training Peaks seems CRAZY... just sayin'

  10. I have the 405 and, as an ex-motionbased user, I miss the Moving Time vs. Total Time, Weather features as well. I hope they bring them to GC.

  11. I love all my gadgets...and am a Mac peep. I agree MotionBased was THE WORST..I'm liking Garmin Connect, but I don't use nearly all the features that you do...I just like the graphics, especially the stride by stride (useless as far as I can tell, but fun to watch).

    The video about the PC catching a virus and dying was classic...

  12. SportTracks on Mac? Maybe soon...


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