Category Archives: Reviews

First Strides with the Stryd Running Power Meter

When I first heard that there were some companies coming out with power meters for running, I couldn’t wait. I love to be able to objectively quantify my workouts. Knowing how this works for cycling, being able to add this to running would be a bonus. Then I thought about it a bit and realized it would probably be best to hold out a bit. The technology was new and Still evolving. Also, none of the training watches or software would pick it up anyway without some hacking involved.

I had played around a little bit with running power by using my Cyclops PowerCal Heart Rate Monitor which was kind of interesting. The problem was I had to run with my Garmin in biking mode all the time. Not something I really wanted to do since I would miss out on the other running-specific data. Then Garmin came out with the HRM-Runs’ running analytics which I thought was better data than just having power.

The Stryd Running Power Meter

The Stryd unit seemed to be the one that was getting the most attention and it had gone through a few iterations of its product already. It started out as a little widget that you clip on your shorts, then it turned into a heart rate strap and now it is a little foot pod. It finally seemed like they were stabilized a bit, so I decided to “pull-the-trigger” and order one. It took a few months to arrive.

I am glad I waited because the HR strap looks like it sticks out a bit and would look very strange bulging out of your shirt. One advantage of the HR strap one was that it measured power in 3 planes, vertical, horizontal and lateral, whereas the footpod only measures the first two. I don’t think this is a big deal for me since I think I am a pretty efficient runner thanks to my Chirunning practice.

I have had the Stryd footpod now for a few months now and feel I have some initial impressions of it. I say few months because I had to send it back to be replaced already since the tab where it clips to its back clip broke off. It doesn’t seem like there is much really to grab onto there. While it still held in place on my laces, I was a little leery it was going to fall off sometime. The folks at Stryd quickly replaced the unit and got me back and running again. Pun intended.

Stryd Power Footpod broken 1
Stryd Power Footpod broken 1

Collecting the Data

I started reading Jim Vance’s “Running with Power” book while I was training with the unit. I had already read Vance’s previous book “Triathlon 2.0” which I really liked, but I felt the Running with Power book was not quite as good. Most of it was just a re-hashing of the other books’ concepts on Power for cycling. While there were a few new metrics, namely Efficiency Index or EI, that are different from cycling, I feel this book is a little premature at this point since the technology is still being figured out. Hopefully the “Running with Power 2.0” will be better.

One of the recommendations in Vance’s book was to just start running with the power meter and start collecting data. For the next couple of months,  I just ran with it and checked in on the numbers post-mortem of my runs.

After finally collecting several months of data I decided it was now time to analyze it. Well despite the fact that Jim Vance’s book stressed how essential the Efficiency Index (EI) metric was, none of the training sites, except for SportTracks even implemented it! Not even Training Peaks or Stryd! This is even though they published blog posts(here and here are just a couple examples) about Vances’ book and the metric itself. WTH? Also, SportTracks implemented only for individual activities so there was no way to track this metric over time.

Analyzing the Data

So what is a data geek to do? Start tracking it myself I guess. I started by downloading my workout summary data from Training Peaks and then crunching the numbers in my favorite analysis tool, Qlikview. Below is the running results for the current training season in regard to Efficiency Index(EI). The formula is V(M/min)/rPwr(watts).

Efficiency Index EI by Month

Efficiency Index Components by Month

As you can see in the first graph, my EI has dropped a bit from December to February and then pretty much leveled out from there. Is that good or bad? Pretty hard to tell without looking at the components of it. Personally, I think EI, by itself, is pretty meaningless.

February was pretty much a wash month for me. I was pretty sick for a solid 2 weeks of it and spent the next couple weeks getting back to normal again. Looking at my average velocity for each month it has been increasing steadily, which I would say is good. My power numbers have also gone up too. April increased significantly due to having a 4-mile and a half-marathon race in there. So if both the components are increasing, then I am getting faster and stronger I guess. This leaves EI pretty much staying the same. See what I mean by EI being meaningless by itself now?

One other variable is that my weight has dropped a bit during the training months. I was surprised that this didn’t affect EI at all. I would think I would have gotten faster while using fewer watts and am not seeing that happening here either.

Looking my average heart rate versus the increase in speed and watts does show that hasn’t changed too much. This would indicate that despite those increases in output, my aerobic “engine” doesn’t appear to be increasing. So I guess I am getting more efficient.

Runner Effectiveness

Another running power metric has recently come onto the scene called Runner Effectiveness. This is outlined in a recent post by Steve Palladino on the Training Peaks Blog. This metric, while similar to Vance’s EI metric, uses Watts/kg in the denominator instead which brings the athletes weight into the mix. It also uses Meters/second for velocity in the numerator as opposed to Meters/minute in the EI metric.

Running Effectiveness = (m/s) / (w/kg)

Palladino shows how this metric can be calculated in Training Peaks’ WKO4 client software program as well. I actually have a copy of this program haven’t had a chance to really delve into it yet. Perhaps the EI metric can also be calculated here too.

For now, I calculated this one too in my Qlikview app. As you can see below it pretty much shows a similar trend, just not quite as drastic as EI above.

Runner Effectiveness

Summary

Running with power is still new territory and there is still some data gathering and analysis that needs to be done to get anything valuable out of it. One thing that is valuable now is that it is a good way to quantify your individual workouts for calculating TSS. Is it necessary though? I don’t think so. It is a lot of money for something that is just a “nice to have”. I think training with pace, heart rate and time is still just as good and will save you a couple hundred dollars. If you have one of the watches that track the new running dynamics metrics, I think that they are more worthwhile for those looking to improve their efficiency. High cadence, minimal ground contact time and vertical oscillation will help you track that.

 

Race Report: St. Luke’s Half Marathon 2016-Older, Fatter, and Faster?

Last season I had to bail out on the St. Luke’s Half Marathon on the morning of due to a nasty stomach bug. I was looking forward to putting that behind me and getting another result here under my belt.

To make things a little more interesting, I also challenged a friend from work, who we’ll call “Stéphane” to protect his anonymity,  to this race. Stéphane is a much younger, lighter and naturally faster runner than I am, but I hoped that the longer distance may help level the playing field a bit. Also, the added competition may help motivate me to a new personal best time.

This race had given me my current standing half marathon PR back in 2010 with a time of 1:46:47 at a 8:06min/mi pace. I was also about 20 lbs lighter(165lbs) and 6 years younger(41) back then. Could I really beat this 6-year-old PR carrying another 20lbs and being over a half a decade older? I felt like I could, but who knows.

St. Luke's Half Marathon 2010 crop me bloody nipples
St. Luke’s Half Marathon 2010

The weather turned out to be perfect running weather. Sunny, clear and in the mid-50’s. I made it to the starting line without issue and with plenty of time. Stéphane and I chatted a bit as the 5k-ers took off. We were lined up pretty close to the front, so not to get caught up in the herd. I had got caught up in this the first time I did this race and suffered 2 of my slowest miles until I got past this group.

The gun went off and we were on our way. Stéphane was off and quickly out of site into the leading pack. I stayed back and tried to settle into a somewhat comfortable pace without getting caught up in the start of the race over-eagerness. I looked down at my Garmin and saw my pace was in the low 7 min/mi. Whoa…nelly!

My first mile was a 7:15 which is more like my 5k pace. I toned it down a bit and settled into around 7:30min/mi pace. While this seemed a bit fast for me, it was feeling right. I pretty much maintained this pace for the first half of the race, which runs along Martin Luther King Blvd and is mostly flat.

Heading out Martin Luther King Blvd – photo courtesy of MyEPEvents

As I approached the first turnaround near South 4th St., I saw my coach, Todd Wiley, flying by very close to the leaders of the race. He would end up finishing 6th overall!

I soon saw Stéphane, heading back as I went by the Parkettes Gymnastics gym. He was about a quarter mile ahead of me, but still not out of reach if he had issues later on. But could I keep up this pace and catch him.

I hit the 10k split timer just past the 15th street bridge which read 46:57! This would be a 10k PR time for me??? WTH?!

I made the left turn over the steep little bridge into the Lehigh Parkway. As I hit the gravel path things started to slow down a bit. Was the loose gravel stealing my energy or was it the steep  incline of the bridge and the little hill that followed taking the wind out of my sails? My legs were starting to rebel a bit.

As I reached the next two steep hills before the red covered bridge turnaround my pace was slowing to a 8:30 min/mi pace. I could feel the fatigue really starting to hurt now. I was starting to question whether I could sustain the personal best time I had started with.

I tried to hit most every water stop and get at least a mouthful of water in at each without stopping. I know that I don’t need much hydration a race of this duration. Getting a swig every 15 mins or so is good for me. I stuffed down an Amrita Bar right before the start and had another one broken up into pieces in my Spibelt if I needed more. The problem is getting the bar out of the Spibelt seemed like it would take more time to get out than it would be worth, so I pressed on.

In the Lehigh Parkway – Photo courtesy of myEPEvents

After a couple slower miles in the parkway, I was able to pick things up a little during the 11th mile. Miles 12 and 13 were a little slow again as my legs were really hurting. I knew there was no catching up with Stéphane unless he was having a really bad day. The thought that that may be a possibility kept me pushing on.

I finally made the last turn down along Cedar Beach and up into J. Birney Crum Stadium. I was so glad to be almost done. My Garmin was reading 1:44 and some change so I was pretty sure I had a new PR, but not sure where my speed co-worker was.

As I crossed the line, I grabbed my medal and saw Stéphane standing there already finished. Ahhh! I got so caught up in trying to catch him that my PR seemed to be of no significance to me. I was also a bit disappointed that I slowed as the race went on. A sign that I probably went out too fast.

The Finish – photo courtesy of myEpEvents

Ok, I just PR’d my Half-Marathon time by over 2 freakin’ minutes??!!! What the hell is wrong with me? It wasn’t until a little later when I met up with my coach who asked how I did. My initial reaction was that of disappointment but then followed up with I PR’d by over two minutes. He was like what? He was then like “that’s awesome!” I thought huh, yeah what am I disappointed about? I guess sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.

Last week I was talking about it with my strength coach, Fernando, and explaining how I was able to PR that race being 6 years older and 20 lbs heavier. Fernando said you are “older and faster” and I added “and fatter too”. Hence the title Older, Fatter, and Faster! Pretty funny.

I have actually dropped about 15 lbs so far since the beginning of this season and am on track to lose at least another 15 by Ironman Mont-Tremblant in August. Getting down another 15 lbs will only serve to make me that much faster. I have PR’d both races I have done this season, so I am off to a good start and the sky is the limit here.

Next up is the French Creek Olympic Distance Triathlon in late May. This will be a good indicator of where my triathlon fitness lies by putting together all the disciplines. I am anticipating some improvement in the swim with some of the changes in technique I have made that have improved my times in the pool. Running off the bike will be interesting to see if I can sustain my improved pace with some bike legs. 2016 is proving to be off to a good start to a hopeful season.

 

Searching for a New Triathlon Wetsuit?

 

Are you just getting into triathlon and are considering your first wetsuit purchase? Or maybe you already bought one and it doesn’t fit quite right?

It took me purchasing three wetsuits until I found the one that was just right. I kind of felt like I was Goldilocks trying out the Three Bears beds.

Well, if you don’t want to go through that I suggest you check out this great Triathlon Wetsuit FAQ from OneTri.com so you know what to look for.

 

Dry Bags are Not Always Dry, and iPhones are Not Waterproof


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