Running with a Timing Device

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Maybe you run for the fun of it. Maybe you’re training for your first race. Maybe you have a definite time goal that you are striving for in a goal race that’s not too far away. Just about everyone who runs uses some sort of timing device to give them an idea of how their run went.

Some people want to know only the distance that they’ve run. Some only want to know how long they were running. And some want to know every possible detail, including distance for warm up, stats on the intervals that just cost a lung, time between intervals, cool down pace, distance, and time, heart rate, elevation change, or even the ability to compare this week’s long run to last week’s long run. How much information you desire may steer you toward one device or another.

For those that only want to know the amount of time that you spent running, I suggest you consider a watch 🙂 If you just want to track your distance then there are dozens of apps that you can put on your cell phone that will do a reasonably good job. Most use a single satellite and will give you a good approximation. What I have found is that the Runtastic app shorted me a tad on the mileage, mostly by cutting corners shorter than I had run them. Conversely, the Map My Run app seems to pad the mileage on the corners just a bit so I ended up with a few extra hundredths on short runs. No big deal, you say? Consider all of the turns in a full marathon. Using the Map My Run app during the (certified) Disney Marathon in January, I apparently ran 26.9 miles instead of the traditional 26.2. The difference here is a very big deal when you’re attempting to pace yourself, either so you hit a goal time or to avoid over-extending yourself and burning out.

I also tried Runkeeper for a run or two, but found the voice reading back my mid-run stats to be annoying. If you think that using a phone app is sufficient for your needs, there are a bunch of reviews online. A couple other popular candidates to look for are Nike+ and Strava. Many of the apps are free to use (with ads) and upgradeable with extra features and fewer ads.

Like I said, I’ve used three different phone apps, and at that point in my running career they served their purpose. I am now doing more interval training and working with a HR monitor so I have stepped up to the next level. I debated moving up for quite a while because, like many of you, cost is a big factor for me to consider. I asked several runners who have been at this longer than I have and considered several options. In the end I purchased a Garmin Forerunner 310XT. It is not the latest and greatest product that Garmin offers but it does what I need it to do and more. And it is more affordable because it’s not the latest and greatest.

When I run with the Garmin I typically use the chest strap in order to monitor my heart rate. This is probably the biggest difference between a watch-type GPS device and a phone app GPS device. And it has made a huge difference in my training. I wore the Garmin and strap during a recent 5k where I achieved a PR and ran so hard at the end that I literally felt like I was going to fall down. From that race I learned that my maximum heart rate is 192. Using the old-style generic formula (220 minus age) I was led to believe that my max heart rate was 174. Huge difference there! And that difference gives me different heart rate ranges to train in for different paces. If you think you might want this feature be sure that the model that you purchase includes the strap – not all of them do! I also like the wireless transfer of data from the watch to my PC – it will upload the data to my Garmin page while I’m still wearing the watch.

I’ll let some pictures do the talking for some of the other features that come with using a Garmin, with a couple of side notes. The screens shown below are completely customizable. I set them up this way because it works for me – you can choose different data to look at, set up 1-4 screens, and set up 1-4 fields on each screen. I also have mine set so that every mile becomes a new “lap” so I get different data for each mile. When I do intervals I can begin a new lap for each interval and for each recovery period.

Screen 1 includes total time, last lap pace, total distance, average pace.

Screen 1 includes total time, last lap pace, total distance, average pace.

Screen 2 includes current lap time and distance, current heart rate, average HR

Screen 2 includes current lap time and distance, current heart rate, average HR

Screen 3 includes calories burned, average speed (mph), and time of day

Screen 3 includes calories burned, average speed (mph), and time of day

2 minutes after ending the run the watch displays recovery heart rate

2 minutes after ending the run the watch displays recovery heart rate

This model of Garmin is typically available on Amazon and eBay for under $150 including the chest strap. Bonus… it’s waterproof because it’s designed to be used in triathlons. Yes, you can program it to switch from swim to bike to run with the push of a button. Garmin (and other companies) have newer and perhaps better products, but some of them can run in the several hundred dollar range. If I had to guess I’d say the newer ones a probably a little lighter. This watch takes a couple of runs to get used to because of the weight, but it took me less than a week to get used to and I haven’t worn a watch at all since the 1980s. I’m also a big fan of Garmin’s use of multiple satellites, which makes it more accurate than the GPS phone apps.

Once the data is uploaded wirelessly to my PC, I am able to look at each split for time, distance, max HR, average HR, elevation change, and many other details. I am also able to see graphs of elevation change, speed, and heart rate for the entire run. IN other words I am able to analyze every aspect of the run and even look at a particular piece of the run that seemed really good or really bad.

Graphs of elevation, pace and heart rate

Graphs of elevation, pace and heart rate

Some of the data from a recent run. Too much to fit in one pic

Some of the data from a recent run. Too much to fit in one pic

I have only been using a Garmin for three months now, but I would highly recommend it to anyone that is looking to take their training to the next level. Have questions? Leave them for me in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!

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Training Recap: June

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The halfway point of 2015 has come and gone already. Where does the time go? Although I am currently behind on my mileage goal for the year I fully expected to run more miles in the second half of the year with marathon training, so no worries.

The month of June gave me one of my target races on the path to my goal marathon in November, the ECHO half marathon. I was fortunate to run this race with some friends (not common for me) like Denny, Gelcys, Christin, Joy, and Gail. My goal was to finish in 1:45 and set a new PR (old PR is 1:48:57). The plan to accomplish this goal was to run 8:30 and 8:15 for the first two miles and then settle in at 8:00 through mile 12 and then give it the rest of me through the end. The first two miles were done in 8:18 and 8:11 so I was happy that I didn’t go out too fast. For miles 3-8 I ran with Denny (@DizRuns) for the most part and ran an average of 7:54. Still on track and not really going ahead of schedule. However, in the 9th mile I felt some fatigue set in and had to back off on the pace a little (9:02). Unfortunately that didn’t take care of the issue and things started to unravel, at least in terms of my goal time. About 2.5 miles of running in direct Florida sunshine near the end of the race didn’t help either. Miles 10-13 (8:45, 9:48, 10:14, 10:24) were mentally defeating as I was using this race to gauge my progress toward my BQ goal in November. I took a number of walk breaks and watched the time slip away and the masses get past me. I finished with a decent push, but knew it was too little, too late. Final time 1:53:40. I missed the goal by almost nine minutes and a PR by five.

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Just about to the finish at ECHO

This really bothered me for a few days and I all wanted to do was run. All day, every day. Of course it was time for recovery so the running was short and sweet, and slow. Since then I have been able to recover and re-focus and get back into the groove. The next stepping stone before my BQ attempt is in October when I’ll be running the Lighthouse Loop half marathon in Port Orange, FL. This is the race where I grabbed my current PR time. I’ll be aiming for a sub-1:40 this time around.

Returning to the recap of June’s efforts…. My mileage was down some for the month, by design. Coach Nichole scheduled fewer miles but plenty of speed workouts. I like the speed workouts but I’m ready to go long. Patience is not my strong point, but I’m trusting that Nichole knows how to attack this goal and she’s giving me what I need, when I need it. Total mileage for June was 120 miles, which makes four months in a row over 100 miles, and hopefully several more in the near future. By June 30th I had run 660 miles for the year, and considering February saw only 43 miles, I think I’m in pretty good shape toward my goal of 1600 miles for the year.

Many of my other goals for the year have been altered with the addition of the gym membership. I have been doing 2-3 weight training days per week so I have backed off on daily squats and pushups. I’m not looking to burn all of my energy tiring my muscles, and I’m seeing much more benefit from the weights. By working with a little less weight and doing more reps I am getting stronger but not necessarily bulking up any. Combining this with the speed workouts and I can see some pretty impressive changes even with the summer high temps and humidity. Once the cooler weather hits in 4-5 months I should be ready to make an honest run at a BQ time. Until then, there is work to be done.