April 13, 2009

Suunto GPS pod second try

I have posted about my unpleasant experience with Suunto GPS pod on Suunto Discussions and asked for help from other users. It was recommended to me to give the GPS pod little longer to get better satellite lock and put the GPS pod on the same arm as the watch. I did all this prior to my long run this Sunday and the results were much better this time. As you can see from this picture.


While the pacing info is not as good as from calibrated foot pod it is certainly much better than what I have seen in my first attempt. I have not lost connection between the watch and the GPS pod in the whole 2 hours of the exercise which is good. But what really bothered me was that the pace on the display of the watch was pretty much unusable. But I'm getting little ahead of myself. Let me start with this - I had a long run scheduled for Easter Sunday and I put it off until afternoon. I figured that there will be quite a bit of traffic on the roads I usually run so I took the running to Lehigh Valley Parkway. It is a nice park with great trails on rolling terrain. I thought it will be better for my knees and ankles than the roads. I wanted to test the GPS pod, but I also had second watch RS800cx with S3 foot pod to validate the pace. Well that was the plan anyways. When I was getting ready for the run the RS800cx would not link up with the foot pod (turned out to be a dead battery). Well great I thought, now I'll need to pace based on this GPS unit that I do not really know all that well. After about a mile of glancing at the pace it was clear to me that pacing with this GPS pod will not work. Instead I relied on the perceived exertion and my heart rate. Main reason for that was that the immediate pace in the park was jumping between 9 minute mile and 12 minute mile on my steady pace effort that I would estimate was more around 8:30 per mile. I was not that far off with my estimate - the pace was actually 8:20 which I figured out when I got home. The funny part is that while the pace jumps all over the place the distance gets recorded accurately so you can validate the pacing after the run. This is actually good exercise in listening to your body. I noticed that I often get too hung up on what the watch tells me and listen to my body less than I should.

After all the workout turned out to be a great success - not only did I do the work. I also validated that my perceived exertion is pretty much spot on - I had to run 60 minutes at 8:10 - 9:10 per mile which turned out to be about 8:20 based on the distance. Then the plan called for me to pick up the pace to 7:15 - 7:30 for 30 minutes - which turned out to be 7:33 and then I had 6 pickups to faster than 5k pace with 2 minute recoveries and 5 minutes cool down. After I got home I found out that I did quite well even without the watch telling me how fast I ran. And to some degree it was much better workout - I kept listening to my body and pushed through the rough spots during the session. You know, like when you feel the muscle fatigue that slows you down and you push through it and 100 meters later it feels ok again. I'm thinking about using the GPS pod for this type of workout again to see how my sense of pace improves over time.

What looked like a messed-up workout in the beginning turned out to be a great session. It was excellent practice in pacing without the feedback from the watch. "If life gives you lemons make lemonade," and as Ron White said on radio when I was heading over to the Lehigh Valley Parkway "make sure to find someone with vodka to have a party!".

April 9, 2009

Brandywine Duathlon course profile

In case you wanted to do this duathlon next year this post shows the race course including the elevation profile.

The first picture shows the GoogleEarth map of the entire race course. The run course is on the right side of the map with all the lap markers. The bike course is the big loop around the run course. The different colors show my HR zones, and should give you a pretty good idea about the hills. The climbs are where my HR went up (yellow, gray) and descends are where I got back to green.


Second picture shows the detail of the run course. Don't get confused with all the lines there - I ran the course twice and since the course is a big reverse T there are quite a few lines. The details of the run course are included below.


The elevation profile below shows the entire course. The run course is on the first about 22 minutes which took me to run the 5k and get through T1. The next 43-44 minutes show the bike course and the rest is the repeat of the run course on the second run. As my speed/distance unit gave out on the second run I can not show you the course profile over distance, but only over time which may distort some of the hills. But here are some figures that will make the course little easier to read.

The ascent on the bike course is about 300 meters (980 ft), the biggest climb is approximately 100m (330 ft) over the 2.7 km (1.7 mi). But you can see that there is hardly a flat section on this course where you could just fly. Well on those this year there was pretty strong wind (we were lucky that the race was not on Saturday when we had much stronger winds in the area).

The run course has ascent of about 70 meters. The course is basically either downhill or uphill. There is no real flat section on the run course that I noticed. What is really challenging on this course is the sequence of the rolling hills - you start downhill and turn right onto a trail road with plenty of little stones that make the footing pretty challenging. Then run few uphill and dowhill segments, loop around the campground and head back. When you get back to the road you head to the other side of the park on the road. This is downhill followed by a slight uphill and then false flat section to the entrance to the pack. Turn around the cone and head back to the start line. Which means climbing all the way up (notice the climb on both parts of the run.


Suunto GPS pod - first run - not so good

Few days ago I saw a good deal on Suunto GPS pod on Amazon and decided to test it out. It arrived last week on Friday, but I did not get to test it until today. Well I could have tested it during the Brandywine Duathlon, but I did not want to use new equipment for the first time in the race. Probably good I decided not to do it.

I actually did a pseudo test with the Suunto T6c + GPS pod and Polar RS800cx + G3 on the day I received the GPS pod. But it was not a real training test. What I did was to put both GPS units in my car and then measure the distance from my house to meeting place with few friends. The result was pretty good - the distance came to about 0.08 difference over 26 miles. Not bad. What I did not look at was the speed reported by the unit during the drive - I had to pay attention to where I was driving.

Today was the first real test of the GPS pod with T6c in an easy recovery run. Plan was to run at 8:30 - 9:40 pace for about 20-25 minutes. Easy enough to pay attention to what the GPS unit does and how well it reports the instantaneous pace. I started the GPS pod inside the house and set it by the window until it acquired the signal and then I walked out of the door. The GPS pod blinked like mad so I assumed it lost connection and I stopped for about 30 second and let it get satellite lock again. When the blinking slowed down I started moving again. The pace was all over the place and quite often I lost connection and the pace was showing -:--/min which is not very useful. On top of this the first 4 minutes the comfort belt rebelled and locked my HR at 180 beats which is quite impossible for me since my max is about 8 beats lower. After the run I looked at the exercise file and was not surprised to see this:

Suunto GPS pod.jpg

The top graph is HR, middle line is EPOC and the third line is the pace. It is really a sad picture. I looks like the GPS pod was either losing connection to the satellites or to the watch. I do not really know what was happening, but most of the time my pace was showing -:--/min which does not really tell you whether the satellite lock is gone or the connection to the watch.

If there is a GPS pod user out there that has working GPS pod I would want to know how you use it. E.g. how long do you want before you start moving? Are you wearing the pod on your arm? Same arm as watch or it does not matter? Any other hints will be appreciated. If I can not sort this out over the next few days I'll just pack the unit and send it back to Amazon for refund.

April 8, 2009

Fighting through rough patches in the race

This post is not about me. This post is about importance of fighting your way through the rough patches in races. I just read about Matty Reed race in California 70.3 this past weekend. If you have not heard the story - here is condensed version. Matty was first kicked in the face during the swim and later had asthma attack (still in the water). That is one rough start of a race. But he fought through this rough patch. During the bike he moved up to third place and on the run moved all the way up to the front. He crossed the finish line with 2 minutes lead on Andy Potts. That is definitely way to fight trough adversity.

Way to go Matty and great start of the season with securing second win in second race - no less than first attempt at 70.3. I wonder whether we will see Matty in Kona later this year. Many ITU athletes are making this move.

April 7, 2009

Suunto what is it up your sleeve?

Suunto launched a new tease campaign today - they will be launching a new device that will be announced on May 26th. The teaser site is live, but does not reveal much. From the looks of it the unit will have most likely GPS built in and if I would have my way it would be a cross-breed of X10 and T6c. But we will see what is really coming out. You can check the site by clicking on the picture below.


Suunto will also be selecting few people to let them play with the device before the official release and report about them on the web. Well I sent my entry in and will see if I get lucky and get my hands on one. That would be cool especially if the device helps with training and can be worn during races. You know me - gadget freak all the way. Stay tuned to this site and also keep checking the Suunto site for more news.

April 6, 2009

Mad rush called duathlon - Brandywine Duathlon race report

This morning I completed my first ever duathlon and as Craig said these things hurt. They actually hurt like hell. If you think triathlons are hard I have a surprise for you - duathlons are harder. But they are a lot of fun as well. In case you never raced duathlon or even did not hear about the format. It is almost like triathlon only the initial swim is a run. Actually some triathlons may be turned into duathlon if the conditions for the swim are not optimal and race director decides that it is unsafe to swim. But back to the duathlons.

The race I did - Brandywine Duathlon - is 5k run, 13.2mi bike and 3.1mi run. The course for this race is quite hilly both on the run and bike. The run is on mix of road, train and packed gravel (which I don't like too much). First half a mile is nice paved road that then turns to trail with bunch of stones and path without stones. At about 1.75 miles you are back on road running all the way to the transition area. The run is kind of interesting - the loop is T-shaped so it is pretty hard to gauge where you are in the second half of the race (not that it would make much difference this time).

The bars were too low - I later raised them so the bike can go under without tilting it

The bike is 13.2 mi loop around the lake with mix of long gradual hill climbs, few flats and many steep descends. Great course to test what you can really do on the bike and how well you can climb. It is hard course to race especially if you pace the bike incorrectly your run will suffer quite a bit. The descends are good to get your HR down and I reached peak speed of about 40 mph on one section so it is comparable to Anthracite Tri. Only on Anthracite Tri there is one or two climbs and the rest is pretty bearable. This course seems like always uphill with few short steep descends. Very nice course.

The second run is on the same course as the initial run with finish line just slightly below the transition on downhill slope so if you still have some energy left you can finish strong by just keeping your legs turning.

The duathlon is totally different animal than triathlon mainly due to the fact that you need to be careful to pace your first run to get to the bike and still be able to ride.

Craig suggested changes to my original (overly optimistic plan) and I was to go out at 7 minute mile for the first 1.5 or 2 miles and if I felt strong or there were enough downhills to pickup the pace to 6:50 before the end. The run course was pretty much up and down all the time. Not many long downhills to pickup speed. I passed the second mile marker at 14 minutes and was quite happy with pacing. I probably lost few seconds on the last mile as there was much more climbing than on the first part. I finished the run at 22:40 which is slightly off pace, but good.
End of the first run - I was gliding to transition
My T1 was just OK. It took me a little time to get my helmet and shoes on which gave me 1:06.

The bike starts on flat and downhill soon turns to steep climb to a curve after which the climb continues into downhill, and so on. Basically all you need to know about the bike is that there are very few flat sections and we had the pleasure of riding into the wind on those sections. I passed quite a few people on the bike, but I did not count them as I would on little easier course. Also I had to pay more attention to drafting violations as the course speeds-up and slows down everyone pretty equally and at times it was on the edge to keep the distance between the bikes. Two or three times I just pushed the pedals little more to pass the folks before the climb to prevent any penalties. The worst part of the bike ride came at around mile 4 or 5 on the flats when I got cramp to my left calf shortly followed by cramp to right calf. I had to pull to the side, slow down and stretch it out. The cramps came and went away in waves for another 3-4 miles and were quite annoying. Not too bad to prevent me from going, but bad enough to slow me down. I guess if you do duathlons it is good idea to do some reverse bricks to get used to this type of stress. One other thing I did on the bike was to try to follow the power zones plan as closely as possible - stay under 265 for most of the ride and not go much over 300 on climbs. Which on this course means sitting on the climbs and spinning them. I was riding granny gear on all longer climbs and interestingly enough was riding as fast as folks that stood up on their bikes. I got passed by about 3 folks on the bike that looked really strong. One guy that passed me on the longest climb had a jersey that read 'US National Duathlon Champion'. I kept up with him pretty well on the climb and noticed that he stayed in his aerobars and was in easy gear. So there is something about keeping the gearing easy on the bike leg and spinning it up to save legs for the run. The bike leg was relatively short and the 13.2 miles were over soon. I got to the bike dismount and braked with my front brake little to harshly after I jumped off the bike. The bike was in the air, but I just lifted it and kept running to T2. T2 was fast and I was on the run course in no time. Well in 43:31 of biking and 40 seconds in T2.

End of bike leg. Looks like I felt, but I did not. Recovered from this and ran into T2. Notice both wheels are in the air here.

The second run plan was to keep at 7 minute mile for the first half and then pickup the pace if I can. The first half a mile was fairly good although my legs felt like jelly - the usual bike to run transition. I was also running close to red line. At the aid station I tried to get a sip of water - that was a mistake. I had to slow down to about 20 seconds walk to keep it down. Then I gradually picked up the pace and at that point my watch stopped to show my pace. Earlier in racing I would freak out, but not these days. I just decided to run the redline - basically run as fast as you can without throwing up (sounds gross, but that is pretty much where most people race). I got passed by 4 or 5 people in the next 2 miles and passed 2 or 3 folks - you lose some you gain some. Just shortly after the last turnaround on the road back to the finish (about 750 meters before the finish) the last of the 3 guys passed me. I decided to keep him in my sights and if I had enough in the tank before the finish to sneak-up on him. I was getting closer to him and closed the gap he built to about 10 meters before the descend to the finish line. I started sprinting, but he also had enough fuel left so I ended-up finishing behind him by one second.

Final sprint - luckily this part was downhill

It was a great race. It is definitely a mad rush as the HR gets pretty high up on the first run and stays elevated during the entire event. I had mine drop to 129 on downhills on the bike, but most of the time I was pretty high and the sprint to finish line on the downhill I was 4 beats away from my max. And yes the event hurt as well as the rest of the day (and also today). I guess that means that I gave it all I had. I'm very happy with the results. You can check out my time and few official photos on the Piranha Sports website. By the way I did not grow gut between the first bike and end of the race - the gut is actually my gloves and hat that I stuffed under my shirt during the run as I was getting warm. I have the great photos in this post thanks to Ivana who accompanied me to the race as the cheerleader and official photographer. Thanks Ivana for the support.

All done and spent