May 28, 2009

Ian's first triathlon

This past weekend we had two races on our family schedule. I did not participate in any one of them besides spectating. First one was a 5k in our town where both Dasa and Ivana ran a good time even in fairly hot and humid day. The other one was the first triathlon Ian did in the Swim in Zone pool in Center Valley. The coaches at Swim in Zone put together a great event for kid ages 3 and up. The course was the same for all ages only the distances were little different. Ian's age group had to swim one full lap in the 25yd pool (and they were allowed to use flotation devices and have parents as support), then bike 1/8th of a mile on the road and then run 2 laps around the parking lot which I estimate was about 75 meters (or maybe 100m run). We got Ian's transition setup early and then headed to the pool where we prepared for change of clothes after the swim and then went to the pool to watch the other age groups race.

At around 1pm they were ready to start Ian's age group. We lined up, Ian got into the noodle and swam the whole lap while Dasa, Zuzana and Ethan cheered us from the side of the pool. After the swim we ran to the changing room to dress for the bike. Once Ian got dressed (I did not change for the run not to hold him back) we headed to his transition area, grabbed helmet, bike and off we went on one loop course on the bike. First half is downhill so it was easy and Ian cruised at pretty good speed. The second half he needed to push a little as it was uphill. Then we dropped off the bike and went on two loop run course around the parking lot. During the first lap Ian's friend Ethan joined us and ran with us the rest of the race. Ian wanted to beat everyone so he pushed real hard on first loop and was running out of energy before the final straightaway to the finish. But then he re-grouped and sprinted to the finish.

Great race. After the race and sip of water Ian wanted to go back to the bike course so we did it again to cool down :-). It was a great event and if they do another one in the future we will be sure to participate. Ian was talking about the race for next 2 days.

Setting up transition - we are ready

Relaxing before the start

Relaxing before the start

Getting ready for the swim start

Getting ready for the swim start

Off we go - whole 50 yd swim

Passing other swimmers

Going strong in a noodle

Rolling down the hill

Rolling down the hill

Keeping aero position on the uphill

Keep pushing the whole way to turnaround

Keep pushing the whole way to turnaround

Ethand and Zuzka are helping us on the uphill

Downhill to transition

And we are on 2 loops run

Pushing on the run

Pushing on the final stretch

To the finish line

Crossing the finish line

We are champions

Celebration with family and friends

Celebration with family and friends

Which HRM to chose? Little help narrowing the list.

As you all know I have owned good share of the HRMs over the past 3 years. I do not even want to count them. I often ended-up using the top of the line HRM from Polar, Suunto or Garmin. Recently I was involved in discussions with other users that were planning to buy a new HRM and were struggling to decide between the Suunto T6c, Polar RS800cx or Garmin ForeRunner 405 or Forerunner 310xt (soon to be released). Following 10 questions while not giving single answer (because there is no single answer) they should be helpful to narrow down the list for you. It considers the above listed models for the three companies. I did not look at the fitness level models or cycling computers. When I refer to Suunto I mean Suunto T6c, for Polar I mean RS800cx and for Garmin I refer to Forerunner 405 and Forerunner 310xt (for the 310xt the info is based on available information on the web. I have not used the HRM in training and do not even plan to).

  1. Do you want mapping of your routes and review the routes later on PC? If yes look at Garmin and Polar.
  2. Do you want EPOC/TE capability? If yes look at Suunto or Polar. Suunto has the EPOC/TE built into the watch and software. With Polar the EPOC/TE is available post exercise in FirstBeat Athlete software.
  3. Do you want guided workouts - e.g. sessions that guide you through training routine? If yes do you expect more complex sessions than warm-up / interval 1 / interval 2 and cool down? If yes look at Polar and Garmin that offer more granular definition for each workout phase. Polar has an edge in this arena as it supports greatest detail in definition of the phases and respective limits (pace, HR, HR zone, cadence, etc.).
  4. Do you want to swim with your HRM? If yes look at Polar, Suunto. With Garmin only the new 310xt is rated for swimming.
  5. Do you want HR during the swim? Look at Suunto with Memory belt (you will get the HR post swim, but the output is pretty bad in the pool, better in open water swim with race suit or tri suit); or look at lower end Polar with 5kHZ technology that transmits under water (RS300x, S625X, S725X, RS400, etc.).
  6. Do you prefer GPS integrated in the HRM? Only Garmin offers this.
  7. Do you want to use the HRM as regular watch? Look at Suunto or Polar. Garmin only the 405, the 310xt will only win you price for the dorkiest guy in the office.
  8. Do you need separate HR zones per sport? Only Polar supports this in their software. No watch has more than one set of HR zones. Polar is the best choice at this time as you can use the HR to define your guided exercise to stay in specific zone and review the data in the software.
  9. Do you need watch with automatic switch between sensors? Look at Suunto T6c. Other units require user intervention to switch between for example bike and run.
  10. Do you need run cadence? Look at Polar or Garmin - both with foot pod. If you need stride length only Polar does that at this time.

The list above is not complete, but should help narrow the choices. There is no one ideal watch that does it all. It is about making the choice that satisfies your needs. All the watches will do good job in capturing basic information about your training like training time, lap splits, HR, pace, altitude, speed and cadence on bike, etc. Feel free to drop me a line if you have questions.

May 13, 2009

RS800cx Pro Team Edition hands on

I reported earlier that Polar is releasing new version of the RS800cx to the market geared towards cycling community. The RS800cx Pro Team Edition has identical functionality as the RS800cx model already released last year. The major changes are in the design of the watch and packaging.

Let's start with the design - while the standard RS800cx body is made from gray plastic with silver face and silver bars on the watch band the Pro Team Edition watch body is black with polished metal on the watch face and the bars on the band. It looks stunning and the look changes with changing light conditions which is great. At first I was not 100% sure I like it, but wearing it for last 24 hours changed my view. It is almost like having multiple watches on your wrist during the day.

The second change is in the packaging. The watch comes with the CS speed WIND and CS cadence WIND sensors, black version of the IR USB stick for data transfer, Polar Pro Trainer 5, watch band extension, USB cable extension and manuals.

The retail price is set at 449 USD, but you can get one with discount at the dealer I used and if you search a little you can find additional 5 or 10% discount that they will gladly accept. I was amazed how quickly the watch arrived - I placed the order on Monday at 4pm and the watch was at my door on Tuesday late afternoon. I did one bike ride with it so far and like it a lot - well I love the RS800cx to start with.

Here are few pictures of the box, watch itself and comparison of the original RS800cx and the new Pro Team Edition.

RS800cx Pro Team Edition box

RS800cx Pro Team Edition

RS800cx Pro Team Edition vs. RS800cx 2008 Edition

By the way if you are interested in slightly used RS800cx in absolutely mint condition with ZAGG screen protector on the face I have one for very reasonable price. Drop me a note on Twitter or in comments. I'm keeping the Pro Team Edition and do not really need two RS800cx.

Updated May 18th 2009

May 12, 2009

Giving good example

This is just a short one.

The other day Ian was watching one of his favorite episode of Backyardigans - Race around the world that has really catchy songs and is about the friends racing each other in a long race (more like adventure race). After the show he notice my HR monitor laying on the counter. He grabbed it, then I heard few beeps as he started it up (and it complained about no HR and foot pod). Then he said "I'm racer daddy" and started to run circles between kitchen, living room and dining room. Each lap he pressed the lap button and after about 7 laps he said he had won and wanted a medal. I went to my office and grabbed one of my half marathon medals and gave it to him. He was so proud that he took the medal with him to bed that night. Moments like this reinforce my conviction that the training I do is not only for my own benefit... I always love to see him genuinely excited about sports.

May 8, 2009

Lehigh Valley Half race review

This is not a full and detailed analysis of the race, just a recount of the race mile by mile and discussion of the pacing during each race segment. I do think I may have run it little differently if I was not hit by the GI issues, but overall I ran as good I could on the day. I do not have splits for every mile as I missed few mile markers along the way, but the available splits provide sufficient picture to understand how things unfolded. If you plan to run Lehigh Valley Half next year this may be helpful for your race planning.

MileAverage pace

From the splits it is apparent that I did not quite run negative split race. But even without negative split I ran pretty even race considering the course and conditions (mostly mine).

The course is downhill for the entire first mile. I was able to restrain myself from going too fast in that section. That is mainly because the 6:30 pace group leader also chose slower pace on the first few miles and I was staying with that group for first mile or two. Mile 2-3 are mostly flat or slightly downhill. In this section I was still adjusting my pace to settle into what seemed like a comfortable pace. Little faster than the planned 7:10 - 7:15 pace. At the end of the mile 3 I got the $#%*& gel. The slight rolling starts around the end of mile 3 and goes on for the next 2 miles. My pace slightly dropped in this section I guess due to the fact that I walked the aid station to get enough water. I picked-up the pace slightly on mile 6 and was within the range. From mile 7 the race moves from road to trail where you can expect slight drop in pace. But mine dropped more than planned due to the GI issues. The rough patch in this race for me was between the miles 9 and 10. That is where there are not many spectators with exception of the covered bridge and aid stations. It is nice area and I love to run there for training run, but in race it is probably the hardest part of the course to deal with. Mile 11 was the slowest due to two things - walked the aid station and it has two biggest climbs of the course. First one is right at mile 10 marker and the second is just about 500 meters further down the road. The course then turns back to road. On mile 12 there are two slight uphills after the aid station as the course turns back towards the starting line (you basically run the second mile here in the opposite direction). I was working quite hard on mile 12, but I guess the climbs took their toll. I did not take in any more water or nutrition at this point. When I hit the mile 12 marker I just unleashed all I had left and ran my heart out. I build up the pace towards the stadium - saving energy a little on climbs and then picking-up the pace on flats (no more downhills here). Once I had the climb to the stadium behind me I just ran as fast as I could manage. The average pace on that stretch is sub 6 minute mile, but it is only 3/4 of a track so it is just about 300 meters.

So there you have it blow by blow. Few days after the race I'm really happy with how I ran it. There are few things that I could have done better, but all in all it was a well executed race and surprisingly I did not suffer in it as much as in other half marathons. The tempo and progression long runs make all the difference. Thanks Craig for helping me come this far. It is 20 minutes improvement over my very first attempt at this distance only 2 years ago.

And if you want to look at the course altitude profile (filled area), pace (blue lines) and HR (red line) see the log below.


May 7, 2009

Polar Pro Trainer 5 on YouTube

Just came across this great overview of PPT5. It highlights the key benefits of the software and shows the granularity to which you can plan training and analyze workout data. Polar is still the best for this from what I have seen and used.

New look and feel for Polar RS800cx, T6c, T3c and Suunto foot pods

Both Polar and Suunto are adding new look and feel to the top of the line HR monitors this summer. Both companies announced new version of their watches.

Polar is introducing RS800cx Pro Team Edition package at the beginning of the cycling season. Its functionality is identical to the RS800cx and the package (at least in the US) will contain cycling speed sensor and cycling cadence sensor. You can add running S3 sensor and G3 GPS sensor to the watch as accessories. The watch has functionality just like the RS800cx only different case design. The package will contain the YSB IR stick and the Polar Pro Trainer 5 software for planning and evaluation of your training. I had chat with one of the dealers of Polar watches and they should have the watch in stock in the next few days. Polar announced that several pro cycling teams including Quick Step, Rabobank, and Caisse d'Eparge will use the Pro Team Edition in training and racing.


Suunto is also introducing a new look of two HRMs and foot pod. If you always wanted to have a watch that Matty Reed, Andy Potts, Javier Gomez, Jan Frodeno and other Suunto ambassadors use you will have your chance in late May or early June (depends on locality - US dealers should have watch in stock in mid May [updated following conversation with dealer in the US]). The T6c Red Arrow will be available for purchase to mark Suunto's collaboration with ITU and timing the Dextro Energy World Championship Series. The watch has just different color, otherwise is identical with the regular T6c that is currently offered as either Black (more like greenish black) or Fusion (combination of red and greenish black). I confirmed with Suunto dealer that the watch will be offered as standalone with no sensors. No specific packages have been announced yet, but that may come later (just like with T6c the triathlon package was announced few weeks after official release of the watch).


In addition to the T6c Red Arrow Suunto will be offering new design of T3c - Black Arrow that will have identical functions to T3c and should be available in the same timeframe as the T6c Red Arrow. In addition to the new HRMs Suunto will also introduce red and yellow version of their foot pod in case you wanted to draw attention to your foot pod. The black version of the foot pod will continue to be offered. From materials that are available on Suunto site it does not seem there were any changes in the Foot pod or the HRMs other than new colors.


May 4, 2009

Lehigh Valley Half Marathon and other fun

Just like last two years I have been preparing to race on Sunday with group of like minded people in the half marathon in Lehigh Valley. Only this year we were taking Ian on Saturday to do the kids run. We went out little earlier to pick-up the race packet before the kids race and walk through the expo. I have not found anything extremely interesting other than a fuel belt that seems to be more comfortable and better suited for racing than my 4 bottle belt. This one is Fuel Belt Helium with two bottles holders, small pocket for keys, salt tablets and a like and holder for gel flask. I took it with me to the race which was good thing. But let's talk about the kids race first.

We signed-up Ian on-line well ahead of the race so we did not need to fill out a form on site. The beauty of the kids race is that practically any kid that shows up can run for free. All kids get a large number 1 bib and t-shirt along with instructions. Each bib has a kid claim number (just like on race bibs you have the bag claim number) that you need to tear off to get your kid back at the end of the race - I found that little funny.

Ready for the start

About fifteen minutes before the race they lined us up into age groups and walked us slowly to the cordoned street for the run. Ian ran with the 3-4 years old crowd that is the only group that lets parents in the run with the kids (but only in the back).
Walking the kids

They walked us the 200 meters to the start of the run, lined up the kids and off we went.
3-4 years run

It was fun to see all the kids running.
Ian and Honza drag walking

Ian initially wanted to run, but I guess all the noise around us was little too much for him so he decided to walk it.
Finish in sight

So we walked the 200 meters and passed the finish. Just as in the big race they handed kids bottles of water and finisher medals. He was little overwhelmed by all the noise, but I'm glad we went out and did the run. I plan to take him out to the LVRR weekend kids runs in the parkway. I'm sure there will be less music and noise and it may be even smaller event which we both prefer :-). Don;t get me wrong it was a nice event, but at times the noise level was much even for me. We had a lot of fun doing it. My feet actually hurt pretty badly after spending good three hours in the streets. But that is why we do it - to have fun. After all the Sunday run was a fitness test and while I was hoping for PR I would not be too upset if I did not get it. So here is the finished with the medal and us proud parents.
And we are all done

I guess now a little bit about the Sunday race. It will be real short and maybe even little funny if you like the race reports that "Steve in speedo?! Gross!" publishes on his side (if you do not read his blog you should it is fun). This race report is very close to his well established standard. So here we go...

We got to the race site just in time to do proper warm-up. I ran about 2 miles on the race course and warmed up real well. Finished the warm-up as the 5k racers were lining up. I wished them well and we sent them off with clapping. Another 10 minutes later we were to run. I lined up close to the 1:30 pace group as I was unable to see the 1:40 group. And I noticed that few meters to my right was Amby Burfoot which made me really proud of running in this race. Before I enjoyed the moment we were off and running the first mile downhill. I noticed that my foot pod calibration was off as the watch was showing me running around 7:15 - 7:20 pace while the clock showed 7:08. I adjusted my pace not to over blow it, but I still kept the 1:30 group in my sights.

It was good weather and I decided to take in first sip from gel flask at mile 3. I did so and washed it down with water. At mile 4 I walked the aid station to get in enough water - I usually choke when I try to drink and run. Everything looked so well until little after mile 6 when huge urge to go to the bathroom came. Well here we go my stomach was on water and I still had more than half of the race ahead of me. I assessed the situation - I really wanted good time and there are not many toilets on the course. Plus mile six is after the turnaround and crowds already formed. Decision was made - I'll stick with it and see if I end up as this guy (warning if you have light stomach do not click). I'll spare you the grueling details of my stomach misbehaving between this time and mile 10. It is sufficient to say that it was not the best experience I had in a race - thought between the toilet seat, pace and fueling - tough balance to keep. At mile 10 marker I said to myself "If you can hold it this long you will hold it to the finish line!". Then all of a sudden there was mile 11 and I knew it is only a short distance to the last 300 meters around the track. I also forgot all about the stomach issues and focused on pushing the pace. It was also easier back on the road with all the major climbs behind me. I joined two other guys who were pushing around 7 minute mile. I slowed a little on the uphills and let them pass me only to catch-up with them on the flats or downhills. In no time I was climbing the last short steep hill to the stadium for the finishing sprint around the track. I was doing sub 6:00 minute pace at that time, but I could not close the gap to two guys ahead of me. But it did not matter as I was locked on the clock. It was very close to 1:35 and I so wanted to get under that time.

Bringing it home

Dasa took many photos of me sprinting. I crossed the line just 4 seconds under and posted - 1:34:56 chip time.
Bringing it home

All my stomach issues were gone at that point - well until I got massage, changed to clean clothes and had two bananas and water. Then it was time to get home quick. My afternoon was not as much fun - all I remember is our bathroom and its frequent visits. When I reviewed what I ate that could have caused this I discovered that the gels I used were expired. So one lesson learned - not only nothing new on a race day, also nothing expired. Unless you want to experience as much fun as I did. Now I'm left to wonder if the stomach issues were blessing that kept me from blowing-up on mile 11 or 12 or if I could have run little faster. Only next year will tell. Finally here is another photo of Ian as he was waiting together with Dasa and Ivana for me to finish in the rain. He is going to do lots of racing this summer - mostly runs, but also a triathlon on May 24th in the Swim-in-Zone pool where he is taking swim lessons. I'm so proud of him.
Iva and Ian

Suunto GPS pod end of relationship

Well yeah I had done one more run with the Suunto GPS pod and decided that it is not any good for pacing. During a run it would show constantly pace around 9:30 - 10:30 per mile while based on my perceived effort I was running more in 8:00 - 8:30 range. When I loaded data to my computer it was indeed the 8:00 - 8:30 range. The GPS pod is great for overall distance tracking and probably does well on mile long splits. But it is of no use in regular road running. I'll stick with the foot pod that provides much better results. So the GPS pod went back to Amazon and I expect refund in the next few days...