Tuesday, March 31, 2009


As I mentioned in my report, I felt pretty good following the race but things started to get sore over the following hours. Yesterday was pretty bad as well, as I was still limping around a bit (especially when descending stairs) and the pain in my left ITB was back (although not nearly as bad). As such, I've been resting the legs and doing some light stretching to help alleviate those pains and it started getting much better yesterday evening. The ITB pain, fortunately, disappeared completely in the afternoon but I'll still have to be careful with it.

This morning, everything was feeling much better. The joints are now fine, and the only pain left is in the muscles themselves. I'm certainly feeling muscles that I didn't know that I had before, but it's moving around and is much easier to deal with. The limping is pretty much gone at this juncture, although stairs are still challenging ;) I'm planning on doing a relatively easy session on the bike this afternoon to speed the recovery process by pumping a bit of blood through the tissues as that worked well for my after my half. If that works out well I hope to go out with the running group on Wednesday (although naturally for a shorter distance than normal).

I've got another 5K race (Harry's Spring Run-Off) on Saturday, and with the Marathon less than six weeks away I need to do what I can to usher the recovery process along. While I was a little worried yesterday about my capacity to get back up and running in time, I'm feeling a lot more confident of it at this point. I'm certainly not going to be breaking any personal bests on Saturday, but it's good to work a few casual races into the mix every once and a while to just enjoy the experience. The Harry's 5K is run through a nice and scenic course, so it should be a good experience as long as the weather holds out ;)

On another note, looking over my race telemetry today I noticed that I managed to cross the half-marathon (21.1km) mark of the Around the Bay course in 1h39m57s. I made sure to get to that point before stopping to retie my shoelace the first time, but didn't get around to looking at the time until now. Getting my half marathon time below 1:40 was the goal for Scotiabank last year, and while I missed it by 1m46s at that point, it's satisfying to know that I was able to hit it this time around (especially since I had to run another 8.9km after that point) ;)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Around the Bay: Race Report

Around the Bay was my first attempt at the 30K distance, and is an important part of figuring out what I will be capable of when it comes to the Marathon in May. I had a minor injury a few weeks back that lost me a bit of mileage, so unfortunately I wasn't quite as well prepared as I otherwise would have been - however that sort of thing will happen in any training program so it has to be figured in.

Either way, I lost a full week of running while it recovered and then a good deal of mileage the week afterwards while I tried to ease back into it. The end result was that I only got two long runs in over the last five weeks, which has certainly slowed me down a bit. As last week's run went quite well, however, I elected to give this race a shot at my targeted marathon pace to quantify exactly where I was.

I should also mention that I elected to switch off the auto-lap feature of my Polar, and manually press the lap button at each marker along the course. While I was relatively confident of my calibration, this measure provided a level of protection as if it was off I would still have split times to measure my pace. Fortunately, the two sets of numbers appear to be pretty much perfect for this race (other than a few anomalies, but I'll discuss those later) so that wasn't really necessary - but it didn't hurt to be sure.

As such, I headed out with my family at about 7:15 this morning and arrived in Hamilton slightly after 8:00. They went to grab breakfast, and I headed up to Copps Coleseum to get ready for the race. As it was pouring rain outside at the time, I stayed inside of the building for the majority of that time, as did the vast majority of the nearly 5000 other runners. I walked around a bit, and ended up finding a few people from my local Running Room - we chatted for a while, then headed out to the starting line at about 9:10.

The organizers had us go around the block rather than walk directly to the line, so it took a few minutes to get into place. As it was still raining pretty heavily at this point I got pretty wet during this stage, but fortunately as the start approached it began to lighten up a bit. As all the good cover was taken by the time I got there, I got in position about 20 meters from the start line and waited for things to get going. While I was there, I ran into my instructor from the Half Marathon clinic I took last fall, as well as one of the other runners who was in the group. We talked until the starter's horn sounded, and we were off.

1K 4:52 157bpm

Traffic at the start was pretty heavy, and it took a while to abate given the sheer size of the crowd. In addition, there were a lot of potholes filled with water which made going in a straight line somewhat difficult. As such, my pace was a little slower than I had planned (4:52/km vs. 4:45/km) over this segment. Regardless, the rain wasn't posing much of a problem and I was feeling very good so it was difficult to keep myself from going faster at this point.

2K 4:37 166bpm

Naturally, after seeing my split for the first kilometer I paid more attention to my pace reading in the second kilometer and passed people as necessary. As I was still feeling quite good at this point, I got a little over-enthusiastic at this point and went a little faster than I should. Naturally, in heavy traffic it is often difficult to nail down a specific pace as you often have to choose between staying behind someone and going slower than desired, or accelerate past them and go faster than intended. With my concern about going too slow, however, my tendency was to select the latter more often than the former ;)

3K 4:37 167bpm

The third kilometer was more of the same, as the traffic was still pretty heavy and a lot of runners weren't keeping a very steady pace so I had to pass a lot of individuals. Things were starting to thin out at this point, however, so things were beginning to take shape. As my heart rate was still under control, I didn't worry too much about the higher speeds as I knew that I'd end up slowing down in the hills so having a bit of banked time at this point didn't hurt.

4K 4:44 168bpm
5K 4:45 169bpm

At this point the crowd had thinned out significantly, and I had settled in with a group of runners going at the same basic pace. As such, I pretty much nailed my desired pace for this segment with a small bit of variance for passing people or dodging large puddles. I was still feeling great, and my heart rate was stable so I was feeling pretty good about my chances.

6K 4:40* 169bpm
7K 4:42* 169bpm
8K 4:43 169bpm
9K 4:38 170bpm
10K 4:36 170bpm [Official GunTime: 47m21s, 4:41/K]
11K 4:41 170bpm
* (I missed the 6K marker, so it was added manually using the recorded distance rather than by the markers on the route. As such, the 6 and 7K split times may be slightly off due to variance between the calibration of the footpod.)

At the 6K mark some of the group I was running with started falling back, and as that happened I accelerated a bit more to pass them. As such, my pace was gradually drifting back up however I did what I could to keep it in check. There were a few small overpasses in this region, which gave me a bit of a taste of how my legs would deal with hills later on in the route and everything was still feeling great. My legs wanted to open up at this point, but I knew that to survive this distance I had to keep to the plan.

12K 4:45 167bpm
13K 4:48 166bpm
14K 4:48 165bpm
15K 5:06(4:45)* 166bpm [Official Gun Time: 1h11m28s, 4:44/K ]
16K 4:23(4:45)* 165bpm
17K 5:07(4:49)* 163bpm
18K 4:46 164bpm
*I'm pretty sure that the 15K (and possibly 16K) marker(s) wasn't in the right place, as these splits show a significant variance from what I felt I was doing as well as what my recorded pace readings show. The first number is the time taken between markers, and the second is the pace that my watch recorded.

The 12-18K segment went well, with me settling back into my target pace. At this point I was beginning to feel a bit tired, so I redoubled my focus on controlling my speed and made sure to budget my energy for the latter stages of the race. The lift bridge fell between the 15 and 16K marks, and the metal grid that it was composed of was a bit slippery so I slowed down a bit. Fortunately, as it wasn't too long that didn't amount to much.

19K 4:54 164bpm
20K 4:47 166bpm [Official Gun Time: 1h35m20s, 4:45/K]

At the 19K mark, we started entering the rolling hills which increased the difficulty of the run. At this point, they were relatively small hills (both short and of limited grade), but with one after the other they added up. As such, my pace suffered in this segment and my legs were beginning to feel a lot more stressed than they had in the first two-thirds of the race.

21K 4:57 168bpm
22K 6:11(4:57)* 163bpm
* Pace excluding the break to re-tie shoelaces.

The 21st kilometer started with a small downhill segment (540m/-3.3%) and ended with a long uphill (470m/+5.5%), so it began the most challenging portion of the course. While my pace was significantly reduced, I managed to crest the hill without burning myself out. That did a lot to boost my confidence, and give me hope of meeting my target.

Just before the 21K mark, however, my left shoelace came undone despite the double knot that I'd tied it with. With the wet roads and rain, the shoelaces were saturated with water - making them slippery and allowing them to slide loose. As such, after hitting the marker I pulled over to the side and re-tied the double knot.

Unfortunately, the wet gloves I was wearing made that process difficult so after fiddling around a little I pulled them off and tied the knot, then restarted. The process of pulling off the gloves, however, inverted the fingers and I couldn't get them back on without pulling over again and adjusting them so I lost a bit more time there. While I had plenty of reserve in my 5K race a couple of weeks back, at this point I was pretty tied so I didn't push it and simply kept my pace where it was comfortable. Due to all of that (and the second big hill), my split for the 22nd kilometer was a pretty brutal 6:11.

23K 4:56 167bpm
24K 5:04 169bpm
25K 4:51 168bpm

At this point in the race, I was starting to feel the fatigue set in. As there were a few significant downhills in this section, I took them easy and used them to give the legs a bit of a break for the big hill that was coming up. Having run the Valley Inn hill the day before, I knew how large it was and with tired legs it would be quite demanding. Fortunately, I also knew that it wasn't terribly long and once it was over the rest was pretty much flat ground.

26K 5:32 166bpm

The 26th kilometer basically consisted of a huge downhill portion (615m/-8%) and then a steep uphill portion (500m/+6.6%). Due to the grade of the downhill segment, and the condition of my legs I had to brake a bit more that I would have liked to control my speed. As such, I didn't conserve as much energy as I would have liked, and given the state of my legs I decided to take a brief walking break as I ascended the hill.

That worked out well, as it helped to abate some of the fatigue without stopping my forward motion. As I've done a good amount of power walking in the past, I was able to maintain an 8min/km pace over this break and still give the legs a break. After about 40 seconds (~80m), I attempted to run again but with my legs being tired and the grade of the hill I quickly elected to fall back and take a longer break after about 130m. As such, I took another 65 seconds (~130m) walking break and returned to a run for the final 120 meters of the hill.

27K 4:42 171bpm

With the hills now behind me, and only 3K left to the finish (a good portion of that downhill) I opened up again and returned to my planned pace. I was still tired, but the walking breaks helped a lot to give me a second wind. Naturally, knowing that there was so little ground left did a lot as well ;)

28K 7:25(5:19)* 163bpm
* Pace excluding the breaks to re-tie shoelaces.

About 400 meters into the next kilometer, however, my left shoelace came undone again. Given the trouble I had last time, I elected to forgo the double knot (as I could easily tie the reef knot with my gloves on) and hoped that it would hold out until the end. Getting started again was difficult at this point, as the tired legs combined with the full stop made things difficult. My breathing and heart rate were still well under control, however my hamstrings were resisting so I elected to take another short walking break (55s/115m).

I started running again after that, and while I was still tired it was feeling much better than it was before. Unfortunately, my shoelace was coming loose again so I quickly stopped, bent down and tightened it. This was a short enough break not to be a problem, so I was okay once I got started again. About 90 seconds later, however, the shoelace came undone again so I stopped, took off the gloves and retied the double knot (costing me a little under a minute).

29K 4:24(4:52)* 169bpm
* My recorded pace and the split time for this kilometer significantly disagree. While I did accelerate in this segment, I find it hard to believe that I was going anywhere near 4:24/K at this point so I'm guessing one of the markers wasn't correctly positioned (my guess would be the 28K marker, but with the problems in that segment I can't be sure).

Once I passed the 28K marker, the road started heading downhill. While my legs were still quite tired, knowing that there was so little distance left I pushed through and got myself back on track. As noted above, my split time for this kilometer was 4:24, but given what I felt and it's significant disagreements with my Polar's pace readings I'm guessing that one of the markers was simply out of position.

30K 4:48 172bpm

The final kilometer was pretty tough, but I continued to push through and kept up my pace from the last split. I had to slow down a bit as we made the right turn into Copps due to a bottleneck forming, but once I got onto the ramp I allowed myself to accelerate rapidly. We then made a right turn into the ice surface, and I broke into a full sprint - hitting the finishing line at a 3:26/K pace. Despite all of the problems, I still managed to maintain an average 4:55/K pace over the entire course, which is still a pretty good result.

All-in-all it was an excellent experience. While I came up significantly short of my goal, the difficulty of this course combined with the problems I ran into mean that I'm still feeling pretty good about it. Given the fact that I spent nearly three minutes at a full stop for all of the shoelace-related problems, and that none of that really provided much recovery benefit in a run of this length, my resulting pace wasn't that far off of my target. If the restarting issues are worked into that calculation, I'd get even closer.

With all of that said, I will certainly have to look over this race carefully to decide whether this pace is realistic for the full marathon in a month and a half. I had a lot of difficulty toward the end of the course, and while the hills and the faster-than-planned first kilometers played a part in that the extra 12.2km of the marathon add a lot of demand. Pulling back to a 3:30 target (~5min/km pace) would certainly be a safer bet, but I will have to see how things go over the next few weeks and make a call one way or the other.

At this juncture, my legs are pretty sore so I'll have to be careful about how I build back up to my training. After stretching I actually felt pretty good, but things started getting tight again on the ride home so we'll see how things go over the next couple of days. It's a bit of a balancing act as, on the one hand, my body needs some time to recover from the stress of this race, but on the other I've only got three weeks before the marathon taper so I can't give up too many miles. Tomorrow will definitely be a full rest day, but I'll have to figure out the rest of the week ;)

Chip time: 2:27:48.6 (overall results)
Gun time: 2:28:18.3
Pace: 4:55K (4:48K minus stops)
Place overall: 655/4915 (86.7 percentile)
Place in men: 539/2616 (79.4 percentile)
Place in age group: 44/184 (76.1 percentile)

Note: Due rain and sweat getting into the altimeter port, the elevation data for the course is a bit rough and doesn't really provide a lot of information. If you look closely at the plot you can see the overall trends within the noise, but it's difficult to make it out at a glance. Given my previous posts, I had hoped to post a detailed elevation plots for people running this race in the future, however this data isn't likely to be terribly useful at this juncture (I will attempt to figure out a way to work the noise out, however).

Friday, March 27, 2009

Checking out the Route...

As I'm going to be heading down on race morning rather than using the hotel as I originally planned, I went down to Hamilton this morning to pick up my race kit. As I had a 5 miler planned for the day, I elected to go down a little early and run out to the 26K mark of the Around the Bay Route and back. That would get me down to the base of the final hill, and knowing what to expect from that terrain may help psychologically near the end of the race when fatigue is setting in. It also gave me a chance to explore the area a bit, and get familiar with the configuration of everything so I'll be better prepared when it comes to race day.

The weather this morning was pretty much picture perfect. A nice warm 7C, clear skies and only a slight breeze coming in off of the lake. After finding a parking spot (which took a little longer than expected), I headed out along York Blvd. with the target of maintaining a comfortable 5min/km pace for the duration of the run. The first little bit was a bit choppy as there are a lot of traffic lights/street crossings in this section, but once I got out of the downtown area things picked up.

The first 900 meters or so was basically flat ground, followed by a small uphill segment (400m/+2.6%). After that was about 1.4K at a very slight downhill grade (-0.5%) and then a 900m flat segment just before the big downhill. With that said, there may be a bit of variance in these numbers as I was running on the sidewalk which didn't follow exactly the same contour as the road we will be using on Sunday. Either way, all of this was extremely comfortable, and it was a struggle to keep myself from trying to accelerate to a faster pace for the duration.

At this point, I approached the turn onto the final major hill of the route (Valley Inn Rd. ). This is a very narrow street with a pretty rough surface (lots of open potholes and patches), so it will be a challenge on race day. Fortunately, the centre of the road looked pretty good with the majority of the issues on the edges so it shouldn't be too bad on Sunday (when the cars won't be there). All in all, the hill works out to about 500 meters with an average grade of 6.6% although there is a small flat section about two-thirds of the way down where it passes a railroad landing.

At the base of the hill is an extremely narrow wooden bridge (barely enough for one car) which is likely to become a bit of a bottleneck, but hopefully the crowds will be thin enough at that juncture to avoid any issues. Once I crossed the bridge, I then turned around and headed back as I didn't want to do too much mileage two days before the race. Had I kept going, I would have climbed another significant hill (longer, but with a smaller grade than the last) - fortunately, during the race that portion will be a downhill segment ;)

Naturally, as I came back the same way as I went the above covers the details of the return trip (with the hills reversed, obviously). As I overdressed a bit for the weather, sweat was building up and the altitude readings go a little wonky. Fortunately, as the course was symmetrical the altitude data for the first half is all that is really necessary here ;)

When it comes to race day, the Valley Inn Rd. hill will certainly be a challenge. I had to slow down a bit to ascend it this morning, and my legs were a lot fresher than they will be on Sunday when I hit that point. Fortunately, once I get up that hill the rest doesn't look like it will be much of a problem and that final downhill segment will likely be pretty good. Additionally, the downhill section just before this hill looked like it should help things out - it looks like it's steep enough to give a little extra speed, but not so much as to be uncomfortable (ie require heavy braking to control descent).

Either way, when I got back to Copps Coliseum I grabbed my stuff and headed inside to pick up my kit. Things were handled quite efficiently there, and after getting the kit and looking through the sponsors' booths I got lunch and headed back to the car. I then did a quick drive through the route (a little intimidating that it took about 36 minutes to do that), and headed back home before the rush hour traffic set in.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Around the Bay: Route (Revisited)

As noted in my previous post, I cobbled together an elevation plot for the route to get some rough estimates of the course detail. Since that post, however, I've found a properly measured version of this at mapmyrun.com (link), which contained an option to download a .csv file containing detailed elevation information for the route (versus the extrapolated version I used before). As such, I'm redoing my basic analysis of the course here as the actual course is a lot cleaner than the plot that was generated using topographical information.

The following is a detailed analysis of the course elevation, with grade and length calculations for each of the major segments and some additional measurements for smaller hills along the path. Below that is a plot of the grade over the entire course (in percentage terms). Click on the image for a more detailed look over the data:

Major Segments (Displayed Above):
0m 98.1m
3981m 87.3m 3981m -0.3%
8310m 91.6m 4329m +0.1%
10416m 79.3m 2106m -0.6%
17160m 77.4m 6744m 0%
18855m 88.1m 1695m +0.6%
20727m 88.6m 1872m 0%
21233m 94.3m 506m +1.1%
21644m 94.2m 411m 0%
24265m 108.5m 2621m +0.5%
24643m 108.3m 378m 0%
25852m 91.3m 1209m -1.4%
27080m 101.0m 1228m +0.8%
27235m 99.0m 155m -1.2%
28438m 110.7m 1200m +1.0%
28781m 109.4m 343m -0.4%
30000m 100.1m 1219m -0.8%

As noted in my previous post, there are some long stretches with moderate grades but no really steep sections (assuming that this data is correct). Naturally, with tired legs going at race pace these hills will be challenging one way or the other, however there is nothing like the 4-6% hills that I've been using for my training.

Looking at the weather reports at this juncture, there is a possibility of rain as well as some potentially nasty winds so I'll have to keep an eye on that. The temperature looks like it will be relatively comfortable, however, so it shouldn't be too bad of a day one way or the other. Will have to keep my eye on that, however, and plan accordingly.

Edit (02/04/2009): Thanks to data provided by a fellow blogger, I've posted an accurate recording of the course elevation in 'Around the Bay: Elevation'. Please see that article for more detail about the vertical component of this route ;)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Around the Bay: Route

As I've yet to find an official elevation plot of the route, I took the provided maps and manually drew the route out in RunSaturday's mapper to extract as much of the information as I can get. This isn't a perfect solution, as the elevation box is pretty small and trying to figure out detailed grades for each of the hills is largely impractical, but I'll take what I can get as I'm not aware of an easier way to obtain the data that I'm looking for. Further, as the provided maps have very little detail, it's difficult to tell exactly where the path will take us (I know which roads, but not details like which side of the road, nor how intersections, aide stations and relay points are handled, etc.) so at best it's a rough approximation.

Either way, it's what I've got so I'll have to plan around it one way or the other ;) The route itself goes around Hamilton Harbour, passing through Burlington at about the 19km mark. The first portion of the race is relatively flat, with the Burlington portion (approximately 19-28km) having a number of substantial hills. The plot of the route that I made up is available at the following link:

Using the elevation tool, I extracted the rough size, climb and grade of each of the major hills and have placed it below. Note that these were extracted from a relatively small anti-aliased graph (403x153px), so the values (especially for the shorter hills) are not particularly precise.

The other catch is that these elevation values are usually extracted from topographic maps, which don't always capture the details of landscaped paths (ie a gradual man-made ramp may simply appear as a sheer drop). As such, some of the finer points (especially at the ~26-27km region) may not be as bad as the plots indicate.

Location Length Rise/Fall Grade
8.4km-10.2km 1800m -18.7m -1.0%
17.8km-19.3km 1500m +14.3m +0.9%
19.3km-19.8km 500m -10.8m -2.1%
19.8km-20.5km 700m +8.7m +1.2%
20.7km-21.1km 400m +14.7m +3.6%
21.7km-22.7km 1000m +16.5m +1.7%
22.7km-22.9km 200m -4.3m -2.2%*
22.9km-23.8km 900m +11.7m +1.3%
23.8km-24.1km 300m -2.2m -0.7%*
24.1km-24.2km 100m +4.3m +4.3%*
24.2km-24.6km 400m -4.3m -1.1%
24.6km-24.9km 300m +3.0m +1.0%*
24.9km-25.7km 800m -35.2m -4.4%
25.7km-26.1km 400m +10.0m +2.5%
26.2km-26.4km 200m +27.0m +13.5%*
26.4km-27.5km 1100m -20.4m -1.9%
27.5km-27.6km 100m +17.9m +17.9%*
27.6km-27.7km 100m -8.3m -8.3%*
27.7km-28.5km 800m +17.8m +2.2%
28.5km-30.0km 1500m -11.3m -0.8%

* The provided elevation profile is scaled such that one pixel is equal to about 109m, and adding in anti-aliasing effects these values likely carry a margin of error of about +/-150m. As such, any values above marked with an asterisk are within that margin of error so they carry a significant amount of uncertainty.

Looking things over, the route doesn't look too bad at this juncture. There are a few extremely steep hills, however they are (a) relatively short and (b) the uncertainty generated by the plot makes it hard to gauge if they actually are as bad as they look on the plot. I'll have to play around with the various mapping programs that I have to see if I can get more detail out of this. Alternately, I'll also be searching various blogs to see if I can find anyone who has run this before and posted detailed recorded telemetry.

Edit (25/03/2009): After a little more digging I found a map of the route with a detailed elevation plot (via mapmyrun.com) that appears to be more accurate than what I made up. In addition to a larger (and cleaner) diagram, this site also allows you to download the raw elevation data in a .csv file for more detailed analysis. As this post has attracted a lot of search traffic, it looks like a lot of others are looking for the same information ;) Either way, I've posted a detailed look at this data (including a link to the site) in 'Around the Bay: Route (Revisited)'.

Edit (30/03/2009): After actually running the race yesterday, I made some minor updates to the map to reflect the actual path of the run vs. what the provided maps displayed. Most of the course was pretty much correct, however the route into Copps was a little off. I also updated the final path along York Blvd, as the course stayed within lane two of the eastbound side of the road. Unfortunately, the rain during the race resulted in noisy altimeter readings so I can't really provide a refined elevation plot, however if you exclude some of the wild swings above the overall path is about right.

Edit (02/04/2009): Thanks to data provided by a fellow blogger, I've posted an accurate recording of the course elevation in 'Around the Bay: Elevation'. Please see that article for more detail about the vertical component of this route ;)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Week 12: Review

Today signals one week to go before the Around the Bay 30K race, so just as I was ratcheting the mileage back up I'll be tapering off a bit to prepare for it. This week was scheduled to be my last 55 mile week, with a 20 mile long run to cap it off. With the race next week, however, I added a couple of more miles to my mid-week runs and then scaled the long run back to 13 miles to give the legs a rest. The end result was a little over 50 miles for the week (81km to be precise).

With that said, to help prepare for the race I tried to focus on routes with a significant number of hills in them. This morning's run, for instance, had four reasonably substantial hills (460m/+4.8%, 600m/+5.7%, 939m/+3.9% and 2216m/+0.9%) tucked into the third quarter of the route. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get an elevation plot for the ATB route so I'm not entirely sure how big/long the hills in the back half of the route are. Either way, I'm a lot more comfortable with them at this juncture so hopefully my preparation will be sufficient ;)

Cycling-wise, I did both 50km rides on Monday and Friday, but took Wednesday off as I figured it was unwise to do it as well as the 11 miles that I was scheduled to run in the afternoon. As I figured that the others at my Running Room group wouldn't be interested in the ~18km that I was planning on doing I headed out about 50 minutes early and ran 6 miles in the vicinity of the store (at a 4:40/km pace), and then another 6 with the group (at a 5:08/km pace). It was a little longer than expected but, as mentioned above, it allowed me to scale back a bit on the mileage this morning so it paid off.

At this juncture, my legs are a bit tired but nothing specifically is sore so the tapering this week should freshen them up in time for the race. The knee is mostly better, but there still is a bit of a twinge in it so I'll have to be careful with it. I'm still stretching it regularly to make sure that it continues on it's path, and hopefully the rest this week will help with this as well.

Weekly Totals:
Running: 81.0km (50.3mi)
Walking: 5.2km (3.2mi)
Cycling: 100.0km (62.1mi)
Total: 186.2km (115.7mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 723.4km (449.5mi)
Walking: 140.3km (87.2mi)
Cycling: 885.0km (549.9mi)
Total: 1748.7km (1,086.6mi)

As for the upcoming week, I'll play it by ear and see what feels right however I'm tentatively planning on just transplanting the final week of Pfitzinger's schedule in place of the scheduled sessions. The basic layout is the same, and it's just a matter of reducing the mileage on some of these days. I'll also be significantly scaling back on the cycling mileage, as it's not really necessary for race preparation so it's better to use that time for rest and recovery.

Wednesday will be the largest in flux, as I'm definitely going to be heading out to the Running Room and will likely do whatever the group is interested in. A number of other group members are also running this race, so I hope to figure out what they're doing so I can figure out the logistical details of what I'm going to do on Saturday and Sunday.

Upcoming Week:
Mon 30K Cycle (Easy)
Tue 6mi (9.7K) Recovery w/5x600m @ 5K Race Pace
Wed 7mi (11.26K) w/2mi (3.2K) @ 30K Race Pace
Thurs Rest
Fri 5mi (8K) Recovery w/6x100m
Sat 4mi (6.4K) Recovery
Sun 30K Race (Around the Bay)

As for the race itself, the plan right now is to target a steady 4:45/km pace, or roughly a 2h23m finish. With the hills in the latter stages of the race, I may have to pull back a bit on that target a bit, but like any race I'll have to see how it feels once I get out there. I do have to figure out my fuelling and hydration strategies, but I've still got some time to think about that.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Taste of Spring...

The weather lately has been as close to perfect as it gets around here, and yesterday was no exception to that. A light breeze, 13C temperatures and bone dry pathways are a refreshing break after the winter that we've gone through this year. Spring doesn't officially start until Friday, however this is generally the best time of year as it hasn't really gotten hot yet, but it's still warm enough to head out without all of the gear that the winter entails ;)

As such, shortly after 4PM I headed out for the first time this year with a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. Aside from feeling great in and of itself, the weather also prompted many other people to head out as well. As such, there were tons of people out on their bikes, dozens of other runners just getting back into the routine after taking the winter off and children playing all over the place. It's certainly nice to see things livening up again, as most of my courses can get pretty quiet when the weather gets cold ;)

Unfortunately, my footpod battery died on me as I was starting but given the weather I just ignored it and headed out anyway. This did make things a little more difficult, as the plan called for a 7 mile run with 6x100m strides. I normally do the strides going back and forth down a straight ~2.5km stretch of road, so gauging my overall distance can be difficult without electronic aides. Fortunately, with only six of them scheduled I figured out a way to work them into a different route that I knew reasonably well and could guestimate distances. Naturally, figuring out exactly how long 100 meters is by feel is a bit difficult, so I simply counted five sets of lamp posts and went with that (I could have also used the track at a local high school, but at this time of day the kids are still there).

To get an estimate of my pace over the various segments of the run, I manually hit the lap button at roughly 1km intervals and remembered where they landed. When I got back home, I then mapped it out using RunSaturday's (more on this later) mapper and manually entered the lap distances in ProTrainer (giving me split times, distances and average pace). Fortunately, I was relatively accurate and most of the laps ended up being pretty close to what was intended. I did, however, lose count at some point during the run as the total distance was exactly 1km longer than planned (12.25km vs. 11.25km).

In retrospect, the pace was a little higher than I planned on doing the run (overall average of 4:33/km vs. 4:45/km). That isn't unexpected, however, as doing 5K races tend to make me a little too enthusiastic and getting back into control generally takes a few runs even with the watch ;) Normally, when pacing information isn't available I'd use heart rate to guide me, but strides tend to throw that off a bit. I likely could have done this in the second half of the run, but I was feeling good and elected to just run naturally for a change ;) In the end everything worked out well, however, and functionally that's all that really matters.

This weather has also prompted me to start thinking about when to get my bike changed back over for outdoor use. When I moved to the indoor trainer, I had some old tires put back on so that I didn't ruin the good ones over the winter. Between the wear that the trainer has put on them, and the gashes that prompted me to replace the tires in the first place, I don't really trust them on the road right now. Conversely, if I switch back to the good tires I'd be hesitant to do any significant mileage on the trainer as I don't want to wear them out prematurely.

As such, I'm going to have to pick a point to switch from indoor to outdoor training. While the weather is nice right now, it's still early in the season so I'm not sure I want to tempt the fates at this point ;) I'm tentatively thinking about bringing it down with me prior to the Harry's 5K in April (my bike shop is near that course), and have them make the adjustments while I'm running the race. Hopefully I'll have figured out the cycling computer stuff by then as well, as it would be nice to get that installed at the same time. Ultimately though, I likely should get another set of wheels so that I can switch between the trainer and outdoor riding on my own.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Toronto International Bicycle Show

As I mentioned in my weekly update, I headed down to the bike show last Friday to see some new equipment as well as to pick up some bits that I needed. I went to the fall edition of this show last year, and got a few good deals on cycling clothing. With the new season rapidly approaching, there were a few things that I still needed so I elected to head down when I went to get my race kit for the Achilles 5K.

Unlike the fall show, however, the spring version is also a trade show so many of the manufacturers had booths showing off their wares. Unfortunately, none of the electronics vendors I was looking at (Polar, Suunto and Garmin) had a booth, but there was still a lot of interesting stuff on display that I figured that I should do a quick write up about.

Shimano Dura-Ace 7900 & Di2

One particularly interesting piece of kit that was being shown off was Shimano's new electronic groupset. Rather than using complex mechanical ratchets to pull shifting cables, the new system uses electronic switches, wiring and servo motors to control the derailleurs. Among other advantages, this system has the potential to allow cyclists to have shifting controls available both on the brake levers and the ends of the aerobars. It also allows the derailleurs to perform more sophisticated maneuvers such as trimming the front derailleur slightly to optimally work with varied chain angles as the rear gears are changed. Lastly, as there are no cables to stretch out over time there should be significantly reduced need to fiddle with manual trim adjustments. If trim does need to be adjusted, however, this can be done on-the-fly by pressing a simple button and then using the shifting levers to get things back in line.

Playing around with it, the shifting levers for the new system need a lot less travel (as they're just switches, and don't actually have to apply any force) and shifts are much faster and nearly dead silent. Navigating through the rear cassette can be done pretty much as quickly as you can move your fingers, and the system can handle rapid shifts without any hesitation. The front derailleur was especially impressive, as it was able to shift smoothly no matter how hard I was pedaling. Further, the new brake hood design (shared with the mechanical Dura-Ace 7900 system) are also a significant improvement - aside from being more comfortable, they also shed the cables sticking out of the side to come in-line with Campagnolo and SRAM's offerings.

The big downside to this system, however, is that the estimated price for the groupset at this point is about $5,000 which is way out of my league at this point ;) That will naturally come down over time, and hopefully this technology will work it's way into their lower-end lines. For now, however, this is more of a curiosity than anything else. There is naturally some resistance to electronic systems in this market, but as I'm an electrical engineer this type of design is very attractive to me.

As for the mechanical Dura-Ace system, the new levers are definitely quite attractive but as they changed the amount of cable pull for the front derailleur and brakes one has to upgrade quite a few parts to change over. My current bike has an Ultegra setup, and my original hope was to upgrade it piece by piece, but with the new system it's looking like I'll have to do things in larger chunks. Fortunately, a new Ultegra system will likely be following the 7900 groupset so that might offer me some options when it comes around ;)


The other booth that I found quite useful was a small shop in Milton (IMFit) that I've been looking at to get a VO2Max test done. As I've mentioned in the past, heart rate training is an important aspect of my regime but at this point I'm working on estimates of exactly where my zones are located. Given measurements during races, my maximum heart rate is substantially higher than the age-based formulae predict. Right now I use the highest rate that I've recorded to calculate this, but a formal lab test such as this would yield much more accurate results.

The tricky part of this is that it's been difficult to find places that actually do the tests. While I did find a few places in Toronto, most of them only offer it as part of a coaching program and that's a lot more than I want to spend. IMFit came up a couple of times in cycling-related fora, however as they're out in Milton I haven't had the chance to check them out until now. I talked with the owner of the shop for a few minutes, and was quite impressed with their setup so I'll likely be looking more seriously into this.

Right now is not really the best time given my knee, but after I do Around the Bay I'll likely look at heading out there to get the test done. One of my concerns about the test was that the maximal nature of the protocol means it can be disruptive to training. After talking with them, however, it doesn't seem like that would be a huge issue. They only require one day of rest before the test, and the protocol doesn't really require them to push the athlete all the way to failure so recovery wouldn't necessarily be a big problem. The test itself only takes about 16 minutes or so, and only the final phases are really strenuous. Further, the cost is only $160CDN and followup tests only cost about $100 which is quite reasonable given the price of heart rate monitoring equipment.

The other interesting thing that they were showing off was a sophisticated computerized bicycle fitting system called Retül. Using a motion capture system, the computer is able to model the dynamics of the rider in order to provide a much more fine grained fit than the eyeball approach that most shops use. As this allows them to see small problems that may not be obvious to a fitter, it has the potential to avoid a lot of problems that can add up down the road. The downside is that this fitting costs $250, so for basic requirements it's certainly overkill. If I do end up adding aerobars, however, it might be worth it as the complexity of getting a proper fit that will work well for both road and TT configurations is trickier than simpler configurations.


Like the fall show, there was a large section of the floor devoted to the various shops in the Toronto area. As this was the first day, there were still a number of good deals to be had and I took the opportunity to pick up another pair of bib shorts and a pair of cycling gloves. I also found a great deal on a bike that fit my father's needs, so I called him down and he picked one up for himself. He still needs to go back to the store to get fitted for it (as they weren't set up to do that at the show), but hopefully when the weather gets better we'll get some chances to go out together.

The other tempting option was that the bike shop I normally do business with had a bunch of Cervelo P2SLs (last year's equivalent to the current P1) on sale for a pretty good price. As I'm looking at doing Triathlons down the road, I'm likely going to be adding aerobars down the road. Between the bars themselves, a new saddle and seatpost (so I can switch back and forth quickly), the cost adds up quickly. Getting a dedicated TT bike like this is certainly more expensive, however the geometry of the frame is better suited to the aero position and not having to fiddle with switching pieces back and forth would be a huge asset. I eventually elected against doing so as buying a second bike within a few months is a little crazy, but I was thinking about it :oP

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Week 11: Review

As the knee was substantially better this week, I slowly worked my way back into the normal routine. Except for the race this morning, all of the runs that I did this week were ~5min/km recovery runs over relatively short distances. Yesterday I did an eight miler to test my readiness for today, and it went quite well. As mentioned in previous posts, my heart rate is a little higher than usual, but the perceived effort isn't any worse so that's likely just a matter of my body getting used to the volume again.

As for the injury itself there is still a bit of a twinge periodically, however there hasn't been any pain in several days now so it's on the right course. I've been religiously stretching to keep in on that track, and I even repeat a few of the critical ones a couple times to be 100% certain. This has worked well, as it pretty much eliminates any discomfort for a period after the stretch. Further, the nice clear roads certainly have contributed to my recovery, as not having to jump over snow and ice mean that it's easier to keep my gait clean and reduce unnatural stresses.

The job at this point is to get back on track with the proper schedule, and to try and get my fitness back up to where it was prior to the Around the Bay race in a couple of weeks. As long as things remain on this course I should be okay, but I've yet to try any really long runs as of yet so that is still a test that needs to be done. Regardless, my success this morning has buoyed my confidence and I'm a lot more confident in my ability to run that race as planned ;)

Weekly Totals:
Running: 40.8km (25.4mi)
Walking: 11.5km (7.1mi)
Cycling: 30.0km (18.6mi)
Total: 82.3km (51.1mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 642.4km (399.2mi)
Walking: 135.1km (83.9mi)
Cycling: 785.0km (487.8mi)
Total: 1562.5km (970.9mi)

Starting at this point, I'll be going back to the Pfitzinger plan as published. I'll likely slow down a few of the paces until my heart rate gets back to where it was. That's not necessarily a bad thing, however, as I probably should be doing my long runs at a slower pace than I've been doing anyway ;) The 5K has shown me that I can get back to the higher intensity work, however, which I'll be very happy to return to.

Upcoming Week:
Mon 50K Cycle
Tue 7mi (11.3K) Recovery w/6x100m
Wed 30K Cycle + 11mi (17.7K) LT w/7mi (11.3) @15K pace
Thurs 50K Cycle
Fri 12mi (19.3K) Medium-Long
Sat 5mi (8K) Recovery
Sun 20mi (32.2K) LSD

I didn't end up getting any swimming in last week as the pool schedules didn't really line up with my plans. I also missed my Friday cycling session, as I was out for most of the day at a bike show looking over new products and picking up a few things that I needed. While the injury is getting better at this point, I'd still like to work some swimming in there so I'll keep looking for an opportunity.

The one caveat, however, is that I'm going to need to look into some equipment on that front. At this point, I have no facility to measure my performance in this sport whatsoever. My Polar RS800sd uses a 2.4GHz radio, so it can't communicate with the heart rate strap underwater. Further, neither footpod nor GPS-based systems have any way to monitor speed or distance in the water so I'm not sure how to record that either. With that said, I'm strongly leaning toward picking up a Suunto memory belt so that I can at least get heart rate data for these sessions.

Race Report: Achilles 5K

The Achilles 5K was supposed to be my first race of the year, however my injury a couple of weeks back put that at risk. Fortunately, the knee has gotten much better and after yesterday's eight miler, I elected to head out anyway and treat it as a fun run. The weather was forecast to be pretty much perfect (~6C, clear with little to no wind) so it looked like a great opportunity.

My last 5K race was back in May, and I've come a long way since then so I originally had high hopes for this race. Had I gone all out, I likely would have been able to approach 20 minutes this time around. Given the knee, however, I didn't want to push anything to make sure that I'd be 100% ready for Around the Bay in two weeks. As such, the plan was to play it by ear but air on the side of caution.

I headed out so that I'd arrive a little over an hour early, picked up my chip and headed down to the start. While I was waiting, I did a number of quick jogs and carefully stretched after each one to make sure that everything was ready for the race. As the start grew closer, I met up with yumke and got into position near the front of the pack.

1K 4:12 168bpm

Once the starter's horn sounded, I took off with the group and everything was feeling pretty good. Initially, I stuck with the pack at about a 4min/km pace but elected to fall back to play it safe. I eventually settled into roughly a 4:15 pace, as it felt quite comfortable but was hard enough to be a challenge. After getting onto Wellington, the crowd had thinned out significantly and I was running with a relatively steady group of people.

2K 4:08 180bpm

Shortly after the 2K mark, unfortunately, my left shoelaces came undone so I had to stop for a little over twenty seconds to retie them. After I got them retied, I accelerated to catch back up to the group that I was running with before the interruption and then picked up the planned pace. I caught up with them just after the turnaround point (~2.4km), however they were beginning to fade so I ended up passing them after a minute or so.

3K 4:05* 184bpm
* Pace calculation excludes the interruption to tie shoelaces as Polar's software doesn't count zero-speed segments in averages.

I slowed down a bit after hitting the 3K mark, as the average pace over the last kilometer was higher than I targeted. While I was still feeling pretty good, I didn't want to push the knee too hard so I elected to pull back a little and play it safe. Regardless, a lot of the people ahead of me were fading so I was still passing people regularly during this period.

4K 4:12 186bpm

After I hit the fourth kilometer, I was still feeling quite good and hadn't had any sign of pain from the knee. As I was making extremely good time, I figured that opening up a bit wouldn't hurt so I carefully began accelerating. This went well, and there was still no sign of problems so I pushed myself past the 4min/km mark. As I approached the final hundred meters, I saw the clock approaching 21 minutes so I broke into a full sprint to try and make it in under the line.

5K 3:55 190bpm

As it was close, I wasn't 100% sure whether I managed to sneak in before the 21 minute mark. My watch read 20m58s, but there is always some degree of variability in when exactly the buttons are pressed so I wasn't sure. The official clock was a couple of meters in front of the finishing mats, so it was impossible to see it as I hit the line.

It's been a while since I've pushed myself that hard for any significant distance. I held back for the first four kilometers, but the last one was definately a hard push. I don't think that I would have been able to maintain that pace over the full distance, so even without the injury a sub-20 5K was likely not in the cards but I certainly could have been able to get close. It would have been nice to see what was possible with an all-out 5K, but unfortunately that wasn't practical this time out.

Regardless, I managed to take 1:46 off of my personal best even with the injury which is something to be happy about. I've got another 5K race in three weeks (Harry's), however it's a week after Around the Bay (30K) and has some pretty substantial hills, so it's unlikely that I'm going to be setting any other records there ;) While I may have lost some fitness over the last couple of weeks, it will return as I get back into my regular routine.

Chip time: 20:55.6 (overall results)
Gun time: 20:58.2
Pace: 4:12K
Place overall: 95/1337 (92.9 percentile)
Place in men: 84/578 (85.4 percentile)
Place in age group: 22/109 (79.8 percentile)

Average Heart Rate: 181bpm (~87% MHR)

Full Telemetry:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cycling Computers...

When I bought my bike last August, I went with a relatively basic cyclocomputer (Cateye Strada Cadence) to keep costs down. It does a good job at providing me with information during the ride, however it has no mechanism to store that data so analysis of my cycling sessions is a little difficult. Right now, I use my Polar RS800sd to monitor my heart rate, and simply hit the lap button every 2.5km to provide me with a basic record (giving me average speed over those intervals). This works on the trainer, but it's a kludgey way of handling things and will become much less practical when I get back on the road (and can't monitor the display as closely).

Being the data junky that I am, and given that cycling has worked well for me over the last little while, I'm now looking to replace that unit with something more sophisticated. While there are a few things that I could upgrade on the bike, at this juncture I'm still the weak point in the equation so being able to better monitor my training will likely have more effect than any other equipment changes. I'd like to get that done now, so I'll be fully familiar with it and ready for the new season once the weather picks up a bit.

The Contenders

With that said, the market for these devices is a whole lot more complicated than their running equivalents so figuring out which way to go isn't easy. When I selected my RS800sd over Garmin's Forerunner 305, the choice was relatively easy as the former generally has a functional superset of the later, so it was just a matter of figuring out whether the Polar was worth twice as much. With cycling computers, however, there are multiple choices and each of them have some significant advantages over one another so any selection is going to be a compromise.

As I haven't made a selection as of yet, the purpose of this post will be to (a) collect my thoughts on the matter and (b) hopefully to provide information for anyone else looking at making a similar choice. Once I do get something, I'll be sure to post a review of it as I did with the RS800 but for the time being I'm simply discussing my thought process prior to figuring that out ;)

Polar RS800CX

The easiest choice would be to send my RS800sd in to Polar to have it upgraded to an RS800CX which, amongst other things, adds support for their cycling sensors. This would give me a singular device that would work for both running and cycling, and would offer some significant advantages in multi-sport events where I may need to record information from both. As I understand it, one does have to fiddle with the controls to switch sports, but that's not likely a huge issue (as switching between two discrete devices will have the same issue).

The downside to this choice, however, is that the RS800CX is a wrist mounted device so it's not nearly as convenient as the stem-mounted solutions that the other options offer. Aside from being harder to operate, this also means that reading the display would be a much more distracting affair. Polar does offer a mechanism to mount the watch on the handlebars, but this is a bit kludgey and given the issues that I've had with my wristband I'm not sure how much I'd trust it. The other catch is that the RS800CX doesn't have any capacity to work with a power meter, so adding that down the road would mean a second piece of electronics cluttering the headset.

The other catch to this option is I'm not sure whether Polar Canada offers this service, nor do I know exactly how much it costs. The decision as to whether the upgrade is available in a market appears to be left to the national distributor, so not everyone can get this done. I'll have to give them a call to figure out, however as this option isn't really at the top of my list right now I haven't gotten around to it as of yet.

Polar CS600/CS600X

The natural choice for my current situation would be Polar's CS600, which is the cycling analog to my RS800sd running computer. It uses a similar interface, the same software package and shares some of the sensors with what I've already got. In addition, Polar offers this unit with a simple power meter that, when combined with the computer, is within my price range. As the CS600 uses a user-replaceable button-cell battery like the RS800, it also means that I won't have to mess around with charging batteries (or about aging cells bricking the device down the road) and can easily carry a spare with me at all times.

Additionally, if I were to upgrade my watch to the RS800CX down the road, the two devices could record data simultaneously. For multi-sport events like the Triathlon, this could potentially be a significant boon as it would (a) provide redundancy, and (b) allow an uninterrupted log of both the cycling and running legs of the race. With that said, having both the CS600 and RS800 upgrade would likely be more expense than it is worth.

The downside to the CS600, however, is that their use of proprietary communications protocols means that it will only work with their own power meter. While I applaud them for the out-of-the-box thinking on it's design (it is basically a guitar pickup that monitors vibration in the chain), the indirect method of measuring power (vs the strain gauges used in other offerings) is prone to outside influences (eg road vibration) and it isn't as accurate. With that said, it is by far the least expensive way to get power measurement, and as I can't really justify a PowerTap or SRM as of yet, it is better than no data at all. Further, as Polar designed the power meter to explicitly work with this head unit, it is a much more elegant solution than what most of the other firms offer.

Adding to this complexity is that the CS600X has just been released, but doesn't appear to have made it to the retail channel as of yet. This model adds the capacity to work with the optional G3 GPS pod, and can store a tracklog of the route taken alongside with the speed and cadence data captured by the dedicated sensors. In addition, it more than doubles the quantity of memory available in the device - even with the extra GPS data, it can still store telemetry for a longer period of time than it's predecessor. Naturally, as it's a new product prices will likely be very close to the MSRP which is significantly higher than the street price that the CS600 has been selling at.

The other caveat is that, at least with the CS600 model, Polar Canada wasn't carrying the model bundled with the power meter. Back in December, I actually went out with the intention of buying one - but as I couldn't find that SKU anywhere in this country, I had to reconsider my options. Hopefully they've changed their minds with the CS600X, but if they haven't then that changes the equation slightly (as it basically eliminates one of the major advantages of this model, as buying the power sensor separately is too expensive for me to justify). Importing it from the US is one option, however it appears that any warantee issues would have to go back to Polar USA so that's a bit of a risky proposition.

Garmin Edge 705

An extremely impressive bit of kit, the Garmin Edge 705 offers a number of features that no competing solution provides. Most notably, with the purchase of optional maps, it can double as a navigation device which would be a pretty significant aide when doing long rides out in the middle of nowhere. While the route guidance feature is a bit sketchy, the ability to pull up a map on demand and figure out exactly where you are could be extremely useful. Further, the large colour display provided for this function also allows you to display up to eight pieces of information at any given time (vs 3 on the Polar) so less button pushing would be required when out on the road.

The use of a micro-SD flash memory slot also means that this product has significantly larger capacity to store training data before it must be uploaded. The onboard rechargeable battery limits any individual ride to about 13 hours (Garmin quotes 15h, but most reviews seem to indicate 13h is more typical), but that is still significantly longer than the 3h20m recording time of the CS600X with all options turned on (5h40m without GPS). The downside to this, however, is that the battery is not field replaceable, so as the cells age this life will begin to fade. It also means the annoyance of having to deal with battery charging (vs just grabbing a new battery every six months with the CS600X).

In addition to this, Garmin's use of the open ANT+Sport protocol for communication with various sensors means that it can double as a head unit for most aftermarket power meters (including PowerTap, SRM and Cinqo products). These sensors use strain gauges to measure power output directly (PowerTap at the rear hub, and SRM and Cinqo at the cranks), so they are more accurate than the indirect sensors that Polar uses. The downside, however, is that the cheapest of these options costs more than $1000 on it's own, so on top of the price of the Garmin (~$600) that's well outside of my range. While power measurement isn't really critical, it is something that would be very helpful at this stage of my training.

The catch, however, is that using this device would mean having to use different software to analyze the resulting telemetry. Aside from the annoyance of dealing with two pieces of software to do the same thing, it also means that my training data for the two sports would be separated and attempting to analyze things in a holistic manner would be difficult. There are some aftermarket packages that can work with files from both devices, however from what I've seen they don't seem to offer all of the functionality that Polar's excellent ProTrainer software can provide. With that said, I've done some digging on the file formats used by both products and I might consider writing something up to convert the Garmin files into something that Polar's software can read.

The other thing that concerns me with the EDGE is that there appears to be some stability issues with the firmware used in the device. This product is a much more complicated device than those offered by Polar, meaning that there are a lot more things that can go wrong with the software running on top of it. Garmin, unlike Polar, offers periodic firmware updates to address issues as they come up, but they don't appear to have ironed everything out as of yet. While I can certainly deal with some quirkiness, any possibility of losing training data is a catastrophic defect in a device like this. Unfortunately, internet-based fora tend to over-represent the population that is having trouble with a product so it's difficult to tell if these are isolated issues or problems with the underlying design.

Lastly, the HRM strap that Garmin provides is not capable of recording R-R heart rate data like Polar and Suunto's offerings. This isn't a huge thing, but there are a number of aftermarket analysis products (such as FirstBeat) that can use this data to aide in training. Naturally, the per-second data that Garmin does provide is significantly more important, however the loss of this additional information is a bit of a liability. The other catch is that Garmin's HRM straps use hard plastic/metal sensor pads rather than the textile pads used by Polar, so it's likely to be less comfortable than what I've got.

With that said, this last defect could be addressed in future firmware upgrades by simply adding support for Suunto's HRM straps. As they use the same ANT+Sport protocol as Garmin, the hardware that is necessary for this is already there - it's just a matter of adding the necessary firmware to communicate with these devices and store the additional data to file. I definitely wouldn't mind paying for another strap to get this functionality back, but unfortunately that isn't an option at this juncture.

Suunto T6c

Not really a front runner, but something that I am peripherally considering. Like the RS800CX, this is a watch-based unit and carries the same caveats. The advantage that is has over the other options, however, is that it's better suited to multi-sport events. Primarily, Suunto offers an optional 'memory belt' HRM strap that stores heart rate data onboard in addition to transmitting it to the wrist unit. As such, it is the only product on this list that can provide heart rate data from swimming. Further, the T6c also has the advantage of seamlessly switching between different sensors during a session, so no user intervention is required to go from swim to bike to run.


Ideally, a device with the Garmin's hardware, firmware and software built by Polar and Suunto's sensor suite would be ideal - but unfortunately such a device doesn't exist ;) As such, I plan to continue digging for more information on these different products and try to figure out what the best course of action is for me at this juncture. At this point, I'm leaning towards the CS600X, but I could easily be swayed in other directions should I find compelling information on the matter.

I might end up picking up a Suunto memory belt either way if I do get into swimming, as it can be used independently of their watches and doesn't cost that much. I'll have to write something up to get that data into Polar ProTrainer, but as the data is structured in a similar way that shouldn't be a big issue.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Back to Running...

Yesterday's walk went smoothly, so I started back on my running routine this morning in order to get myself back up to speed. To play it safe, I started out at a slow (~5:45/km) pace and gradually ramped it up a bit to test the waters. After about 3km without any issues, I stepped it back up to a ~5:00/km pace to see how my legs handled it. My heart rate was higher than usual (understandable given a week off), but other than that everything felt fine.

At the 4.5km mark, I stopped for about five minutes and did a few stretches against a lamp post to take full advantage of the warmed up tissues. Once complete, I started running again and continued to pick up the pace through 4:45/km and finally up to 4:30/km for the home stretch. Once I hit the 4 mile point, I switched over to a moderate walk (~8min/km, ~130bpm) and did another mile to carefully manage my cooldown. Once I got home, I did another full suite of stretches (~15 min) to get everything into shape and headed inside.

Note: That blip in the heart rate near the 1km mark is due to poor contact with the HRM strap. I'm used to running at higher intensities, and at this level I don't sweat quite as much as I normally do. Will have to be more careful when wetting the contacts next time out ;)

Either way, I'm pleased by the progress so far and this is certainly a good sign that I'll be able to get back on track. It's obvious that I've lost some degree of fitness with the downtime, however that will return with sustained training. I will have to be careful not to get overconfident and mess things up again, however I also don't want to be overly conservative either. Tomorrow night I'll head out with the Running Room group, as that should help to keep my pace under control and I might be able to get some pointers from the other runners.

As for Achilles this Sunday, I definitely won't be able to do it all out but I might consider heading out anyway and just treating it as a fun run. I'll certainly have to see how the rest of the week goes, but it would be nice to get into the racing mood again even if it isn't possible to push as hard as I'd like ;)

As noted in my last review, I'm hoping to be able to find some time to fit in some swimming this week as that would likely be the best thing for this situation. Unfortunately, it's been a while since I've spent any significant time doing lengths so there will certainly be a bit of a re-learning curve involved ;)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Week 10: Review

The knee injury last week persisted throughout most of this week as well, so I didn't risk heading out for any runs. It was significantly better on Friday, however, so I figured that it was safe to do a bit of cycling to keep up my fitness without the impact that running generally has. This worked out well, and for a few hours after the ride (and lots of stretches) the pain was completely gone, so I did the same thing on both Saturday and Sunday (30km for each ride).

On Saturday's ride, I actually pushed myself a little harder than I normally do in order to get my heart rate up into the region where I typically run. I managed to sustain a steady pace of about 32km/h (equating to about 260w) for the duration of the ride, which is higher than the ~29km/h (~210w) that I normally do. While it was a bit hard for the first 10km or so, after I got warmed up it was actually quite comfortable. With that said, I did stay away from the sprints that I usually do near the end of a cycling workout as I didn't want to push the knee too far - but other than that it was a good session.

Weekly Totals:
Running: 0.0km (0.0mi)
Walking: 0.0km (0.0mi)
Cycling: 90.0km (55.9mi)
Total: 90.0km (55.9mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 601.6km (373.8mi)
Walking: 123.6km (76.8mi)
Cycling: 755.0km (469.1mi)
Total: 1391.2km (864.5mi)

At this point, the knee is feeling much better and I'm getting to the point where I can get back to my running routine. Naturally, the plan for this week is in flux as it will depend on how well things go - but given the improvement over the last few days, I'm optimistic that I'll be able to get back on track. I should be okay for the marathon, as there are still eight weeks left, but I'll have to see about Around the Bay as it's only three weeks out. Next Sunday's Achilles 5K was supposed to be my first run of the year, however at this point I don't think that will be feasible.

With that said, the tentative schedule for the week is to start out with a short walk on Monday to test the waters. If that goes well, I'll do an easy 4 mile run on Tuesday and then build from there. Naturally, I'll be mixing in some cycling and I might also try adding some swimming this week, as it's likely the best way to regain any lost fitness without risking re-injury.

Upcoming Week:
Mon 7K Walk
Tue 4mi (6.4K) Recovery + 1mi (1.6K) Walk
Wed 30K Cycle + 6mi (9.7K) Recovery
Thurs 5mi (8K) Recovery + Swim (?)
Fri 50K Cycle
Sat 8mi (12.9K) GA + 30K Cycle
Sun 14mi (29.0K) LSD

Either way, I'll try to make a few more posts during the week to outline my progress through the recovery.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Week 9: Review

Most of this week went quite well, the longer runs started feeling more comfortable and the weather was reasonably decent most of the days. Wednesday's 12 miler was a little interesting as Ash Wednesday is a day of fasting, so juggling energy demands was somewhat complicated. Either way, with a slightly reduced pace (5:16/km) and some additional carbs on the days before and after it went over without any issues. Other than that, most of the remainder of the runs went exactly as planned.

This morning's run, however, didn't go so well. About 5km into the run, I had to dodge a few ice patches on a stretch of sidewalk and, once I got through that a little discomfort started on the outside of my right knee. It wasn't really that bad, so I didn't think a whole lot about it at the time. About 400 meters later, however, I had to stop for a traffic light and when I attempted to start up again the pain was significantly worse. I continued to run (as there really wasn't anywhere to stop there), however, and the pain quickly faded, but every time I hit a stop it would get worse. I tried walking a bit after the 7.6km point, however that didn't really help the situation either. At about 8.4km, I was passing a built up area and I figured that I'd better just find a phone and get a ride back home rather than risking further injury.

Weekly Totals:
Running: 63.2km (39.3mi)
Walking: 1.0km (0.6mi)
Cycling: 50km (31.1mi)
Total: 115.2km (71.6mi)

Year to Date:
Running: 601.6km (373.8mi)
Walking: 123.6km (76.8mi)
Cycling: 665.0km (413.2mi)
Total: 1391.2km (864.5mi)

Next week is up in the air a bit, as it will depend on exactly how this injury progresses along. As such, I'm not going to post a formal plan for the week since it's going to have to be done by feel more than anything. Right now I'm still limping a bit and climbing stairs is a little hard, so it's likely going to need a few days off one way or the other. Given the position of the pain, I'm guessing that it's likely an ITB issue related to the camber of the roads that I've been running lately - so hopefully some rest and stretching will sort it out.