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.
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.
Ahhh the old love-hate relationship with tapering continues. While greatly anticipated, this break in training and the general feeling of malaise that comes along with it I did not. I guess you can’t have everything.
I was finally able to get my lawn looking somewhat manicured with some extra time on my hands now. I had been cutting the front mostly so that it at least looked well kept from the street. The back was another story. I had cut a few sections so the dog could go do his thing, but most of it had grown so high it was going to seed. When my dog ventured into that territory I would see him occasionally jump high into the air as of the long strands brush up against his belly. Kind of entertaining.
Training-wise things were actually going pretty well. The somewhat shortened workouts had high intensity and I felt good while I was doing them. I had one of my best tempo run workouts of the season on Wednesday with a solid 7:50 pace in Zone 3.
I had a 3 hour bike planned for Saturday, but I decided to break it up into a 1 hour FTP test on the trainer followed by a two hour easy ride on the road. I wanted to get an accurate assessment of FTP before my race. I felt it was also a good time between resting a bit and race to do it. I was hoping for a little improvement over last year(253 watts), but what I got at the end was nothing like I could have expected.
Obviously a bug in the TrainerRoad iPad app. Despite this issue I was able to calculate my FTP to be around 248 watts based on this test. A little depressing that I lost 5 watts, but really 5 watts isn’t that big a deal really. Perhaps it will help me to chill a bit on the bike. The main reason I wanted to do the FTP test was so I could plug in accurate number on Best Bike Split and get an idea of my race plan for the bike leg. It looks like it will be just a smidge slower than my bike leg last year at Lake Placid. You can check it out here if you are interested…
On Sunday I had to take my bike down to Keswick Cycle in Glenside to drop it off for the TriBike Transport pickup on Tuesday. I finished up some last minute maintenance, did a final cleaning and removed the pedals. I also ordered the additional gear bag option too, so I loaded a duffle bag with my wetsuit, aero helmet, spare tubs and some tools. The TBT website said only pack aero helmet if in a hard case, so I put it in a cardboard box with some extra packaging materials too. Hopefull that should be ok. I filled out a couple forms at the shop and handed my bike over to the guy at the shop. Bon Voyagey! See you in Coeur d’Alene!
I stopped at a nearby Chipotle for lunch before heading to Whole Foods in Plymouth Meeting for our monthly stock-up on organic, frozen fruit. WF was rather crowded, so I was happy to get out of there.
I still needed to do a 1-2 hour run when I got home. It was brutally hot & humid and I was really not into it, so I decided to just run on the treadmill. I tried to load up this FitTrip app on my iPad which shows point-of-view(POV) trail running videos coordinated to your heart rate. Well it didn’t work so well. Downloading the videos took forever and then when they finished it would pop up a message saying it failed! WTF! I eventually got one to download successfully and then it would not connect to my HRM using the ANT+ dongle. Ugh!
I finally gave up and just watched some similar videos on YouTube which worked fine. I had unfortunately wasted a bunch of time trying to get that working. I ended with only about a 7 mile easy run, but I figured that was good enough.
Training volume this week was basically chopped in half. Still managed to miss one of my 3 strength training workouts though. No sense is cramming now right?!
A few red marks on the old HRV training guide this week. Body is recovering a bit so this is expected. Hopefully next week things will pick up a bit.
The PMC chart shows the plan for the taper. The pink line dropping is the fatigue withering away with the form(yellow) increasing. Fitness(CTL in blue) declines a little bit, but it will be worth it.
The HRV timeline took a bit of a nose dive during this first week of taper. It make sense since I felt a little crappy. Things ended on a high note on Monday AM so it looks like recovery/taper is working. Hope that continues until race day.
That’s all for this week. Next week things should get easier and hopefull start feeling great again.
Ever since I heard about the new Garmin 920xt coming out, I have been chomping at the bit to upgrade. I have used the 910xt for several years now(on my second one, since first had to be replaced) and I really liked it. I also use an activity monitor and have gone through 3 Jawbone UP’s and 2 Garmin VivoSmarts. The VivoSmart was ok, but I don’t want to have to wear multiple things on my wrist. When the first VivoSmart died on me after only 3-4 months I also was not as impressed with it.
I had started putting some money aside for the new device as soon as I knew it was being released. I was going to wait and let all the bugs get ironed out of it before I actually bought one. I am a regular listener of Brett Blankners’ ZenTriathlon podcast, and he had recently purchased one and kept mentioning how great it was. So I could not wait any longer and I “pulled the trigger” on it. Fortunately, I used the PayPal no interest or payments for 6 months option and automaticallly scheduled $100 taken out of my savings account for the next 5 months, so it wasn’t too much of a splurge.
BTW…If you are looking for a very in-depth technical review of the Garmin 920xt, please check out DC Rainmakers’ review on it here…
Here are my favorite features of the Garmin 920xt so far…
The inability to account for kick and drill sets has always been a big pet peave of mine. Sometime in the last year or so, sites like TrainingPeaks.com and Strava started only using actual swim time(when both arms are moving) instead of total elapsed time from swim workouts. Since kick/drills sets are not registered by the accelerometer on the watch you get no credit for this part of the workout, which is total BS. So then I had to edit every swim workout and change the workout time or use the SportTracks Swimming plugin and edit the workout.
But low and behold, Garmin introduced the Drill mode screen on the 920xt so that you can flip up a screen and hit the lap button and the timer starts up. When you are done you can hit lap again and select the distance that you did. It is also nice for when the watch screws up and misses a lap turn(not too often) or you forget to hit the start or lap button(a little more often). This saves me a bunch of time editing my workouts after uploading.
Another big time saver here. My wife always gives me crap about how when I get home from a workout the first thing I do is run to my computer and download my workouts from my Garmin. Not anymore! Now, with your watch paired to your iPhone the workout automatically uploads to Garmin Connect as soon as you are in earshot of your phone.
This is one of my top features for sure. And if you have Garmin AutoSync hooked up in TrainingPeaks or Strava, your workouts are also synced up there too without doing anything. One example is when I get done my swim workout I go to the locker and get my shower stuff, my workout starts uploading immediately and I start getting Strava kudos from people while I not even done my shower.
While I haven’t really used this yet other than just testing it out, I think this may be handy for those longer bike rides when my wife tends to worry where I am. It would be really cool to use it in a race, but they typically do not let you have your phone with you. I guess you could just stash it in your bag though. I think it would be nice so your race fans could time being able to come out to see me whiz by at the right moment.
Update 3/17/2015: One issue I have found and also submitted to Garmin Support is when you try to share your LiveTrack via Twitter. If you have more than one Twitter account configured on your phone the Garmin Connect Mobile app will hang the app when you enable Twitter. You will have to kill the app on the phone to get out of it and everytime you go back into LiveTrack it will hang again. You have two options here. Either delete the app from the phone and install it again from the AppStore or remove all but one of your Twitter accounts. I think the latter is BS not a valid workaround.
Update 3/23/2015: One thing I was curious about was how much battery power Garmin Connect Mobile would use while doing a LiveTrack session. In order to do LiveTrack the phone is using Bluetooth LE(Low Energy) and GPS, so I was fearful this would drain my iPhone battery rather quickly. I have a year and 3 month old iPhone 5s whose battery barely lasts a full day with regular usage. Yesterday, I did a 2.5 hour run while using LiveTrack and also listening to an audiobook on Audible app. When I started out the battery was in the high 90’s percentage. I was quite surprised to see that it was only in the 70’s by the end of my 16 mile run. Impressive Garmin. Next text will be a 4 hour bike ride, so stay tuned.
Like I mentioned before, I had been wearing an activity watch for the last year or so and went through multiple Jawbones and a VivoSmart. Wearing multiple things on my wrist is a bit geeky, so only having one thing to deal is pretty nice.
The activity features on the 920 are pretty much the same as the VivoSmart. The biggest difference is that the 920 is a bit more readable and easier to navigate. The sleep tracking in Garmin Connect is pretty lame compared to most other monitors. You just get a graph of your sleep, but no real statistics of how much deep vs. light sleep or snoring etc. I use a Beddit monitor for that anyway.
This was another feature that I had on the VivoSmart which I grew to like. Again, the notifications are so much easier to read on the 920. The best part of this is that I can easily survey notifications while I am working and determine if I really need to get my phone out and respond or not. My wife can then just send me FYI texts just to let me know something and I don’t have to interrupt my workout or whatever to respond.
I noticed that my battery on my 910 was just about out of juice when I finished my last two Ironmans after 12.5 hours. If I was any slower I may be out of luck. The 920 supposedly lasts about 40 hours in activity mode, which hopefully I never have to test that out. You never know though. The longer battery life also allows you to wear this as a regular watch or activity monitor.
I typically charge it once-a-week, but that has been mostly through the Winter where i haven’t been using as much GPS. Once I get into more outdoor workouts and the longer bike & runs on the weekends that may become more like twice a week. Charging it hasn’t been a big deal though. I usually just keep the charging connected to my laptop and plug it in while surfing the web or watching some TV.
The 920 comes with activity profiles for Triathlon/Multisport, running, running indoor, biking, biking indoor, pool swim, and open water swim. This is nice so you can customize each type of workout, whether you want GPS or not and what things you want to see for each. So now I don’t have turn off the GPS everytime I do a trainer or treadmill workout. You can also define your own custom profiles for other things like skiing, strength training, hiking, etc.
Garmin just released their ConnectIQ SDK which allows you to develop new custom watch faces, derived data fields, widgets and apps for your device(or anyone elses for that matter). Being a developer I was pretty excited about this one. I started downloading the SDK but haven’t had a chance to start writing anything yet. It requires Java and learning yet another language called “Monkey C”, so it wasn’t as straightforward as I thought it would be.
If you are not a developer, you can take advantage of what others have developed from the ConnectIQ store. You can download new customizations via the Connect phone app or through Garmin Express on your laptop. I have updated my main watch face already to the BigTime watch face which is pretty nice.
Bigger isn’t always better. That’s why I am not upgrading to the iPhone 6 anytime soon. The 920xt is a bit smaller with a lower profile on my wrist compared to the 910. It definitely doesn’t look quite as obnoxious as the older version, so wearing it 24×7 is not an issue. Plus, with everyone else sporting their new FitBit’s I think the 920 just looks more like a watch.
So that is basically my highlights for the 920. The navigation and buttons on the 920 are a bit different than the 910, so I did have a little trouble learning that at first but I am starting to get the hang of it now.
I also purchased the HRM Run heart rate monitor strap. This monitor has an accelerometer in it too and it provides some additional metrics like Ground Contact Time and Vertical Oscillation. I thought these would be cool to know from a running efficiency standpoint, but after seeing it the first time the novelty has worn off quickly. My readings are pretty much in the good range, most-likely from all the Chirunning training I had, so I really don’t pay attention to it much anymore. Also the strap had rubbed my skin raw just like the previous strap from the 910, so ended up moving the sensor to my Polar strap that I used before.
Update 2/23/2015: One issue I notice is that the accelerometer in the watch does not do a very accurate job for treadmill running. I tend to have a fairly consistent running cadence regardless of how fast I run, most likely a result from my Chirunning training. What I noticed was that the pace on my watch did not change consistently with the speed on treadmill. My treadmill pace is not accurate either, but I would expect to see them change relative to one another and they did not. My 920 basically stay around the same pace, while my treadmill increased. I have paired my old Garmin footpod up with my watch now and wore it on my long run outside on Sunday in order to calibrate it. I am hoping to see more consistent results on my next treadmill run.
All-in-all, I am glad I upgraded to the 920 and it is a pretty awesome multisport/activity watch.
My old ProForm J6 treadmill is getting a bit tired these days. It actually just shut off on me during my brick run last Saturday. It has served me well for the couple hundred dollars I paid for several years ago, but we both agreed it was time for an upgrade.
I have also learned to embrace the treadmill lately. I used to be a bit more “macho” and run outside no matter what, but I am totally over that now. I have nothing to prove there anymore and I am more than happy to chug along for miles while watching TV or or some videos. I also tend to get this wheeziness in my lungs when I do any intense activity in very cold temperatures. My wife used to refer to this as my “hockey cough” when I would come home late at night after playing ice hockey and be wheezing and coughing in bed. I obviously inherited the athsmatic-ness of my mother and grandfather.
I started doing some research online and found a few brands and features that I thought were important. I made the rounds to several shops in the area and tested them out. The LifeSpan TR4000i was one model that struck my eye online. It had good reviews and was rated highly by Consumer Reports and Runner’s world, but no one had any in stock to try. One shop had a TR1200i, but it was not setup correctly, so it was making all kinds of noise running on it. Not a good sell. Their price was also a bit higher than the online price of the 4000i, so I bagged that.
I headed down to Quakertown to FItness Factory Outlet which states they have the 4000i on their website. When I got there he stated that he only sold that online. He did have a bunch of these Spirit treadmills in the showroom. I tried them all and was very impressed. The price was right too. I went home and did some research on them and it turns out Consumer Reports also recommended the Spirit 485 higher than the 4000i I was looking at before. It also had a little better warranty too. So after thinking it over for a few days, I made the call to purchase!
I was pretty excited to hear that they had the model I wanted in stock, so I figured they would deliver in a day or so. I was told that the delivery guy would call me later that day to setup delivery. When he called I was a bit disappointed to find out they were about a week behind on deliveries. We agreed on the following Saturday to setup and deliver.
The driver arrived promptly at 10:30am with my treadmill. They carried the large box in and started setting it up. Eventually they called me down to report that the main wire adapter from the panel to the motor was broken. They were very apologetic, but I knew it was not their fault. They said that the Fitness Factory Outlet guys would get back to me. I psyched when the called me in a couple hours and said they had a wire from another unit and would be up in an hour to finish assembling it.
Stay tuned for a future post on my actual review of the unit after I get some use out of it. So far so good though!
If you read my recent blog post comparing a few iOS HRV applications, you may recall that I ended up choosing the iThlete app for monitoring my HRV from now on. Well, iThlete just took it up a notch with the unveiling of their new iThlete-pro website service. This feature now puts them head-and-shoulders above the other two applications with the ability to track your HRV over time in a usable format.
The iThlete-pro service is not free though. You can subscribe for $5/month or $50 annually. They also offer a trial subscription to try it out for couple weeks.
The site consists of a bunch of “widgets” that you can hide, display or arrange any way you like. There is a timeline trend graph which plots all your daily readings over several selectable time ranges. This allows you to view how your sleep, training and other subjective slider readings compare to your daily HRV. You can also hide and display which settings to view in the graph. Up until now I have had to create a graph like this on my own using my QlikView app, but now I can just pop into this site and see it anytime. This is a huge time savings for me.
My favorite chart is the “Training Guide” graph which plots your readings on a 4 quadrant chart of recovery vs. activation. This gives you a personal guide to where you are in relation to your other readings and how you need to proceed in regard to training. I need to spend a little more time with this one and understand it a little better. Particularly with regard to the “activation” piece.
All of the graphs are linked, so if you choose a data point on one it is highlighted on the others. The HRV Reading viewer widget shows the currently selected reading, similar to what you see in the application. The nice thing is you can read any comments you made for any outlier data points. So for example, you can see that by me have a few glasses of wine can really dump my HRV into the toilet. The two red dots in the far upper-left where two nights I had several glasses of wine while on vacation in Lake Placid. Hmmm…I guess too much alcohol is not a good thing huh?
Finally, the bottom offers some other widgets for providing feedback, iThlete blog posts and tweets, syncing to your FitBit and Exporting your data. I also tested out the Feedback and they responded within 24 hours to my question. I would guess they will probably be adding some more widgets as time proceeds. Hopefully they will add some additional activity monitors such as Garmin or Training Peaks. You can also select your color scheme and background image of your sport of choice.
This site is really great and I think I will probably end up forking out the $5/ month during my training season to use it. It saves me a bunch of time in charting this on my own, so it is worth it to me. This feature really blows away the features that the Sweetbeat folks promised but never implemented on their website. Finally something to garner some real good information from all that HRV data.
I figured after an entire season of using the Stages Power Meter I was in a good position to be able to fairly assess the product. This is not a highly technical review, but more of a review of my experience with the product and my dealings with the company support. If you are looking for a more in-depth, technical review of the product and comparisons to other products, check out DC Rainmakers’ reviews here and here. I never buy anything without checking DC Rainmakers’ reviews first.
Being a triathlete and a bit of a techno-geek, I was chomping at the bit to get a real power meter. The prices of them definitely had me putting this off for sometime. I also started coaching myself and felt that this was critical to properly assessing and measuring my bike workouts. I thought the money I saved from a coach would help to cover the cost of the power meter. Many units are well over $1000, but the Stages Power Meter came out which was the first real possibility for under $1000.
I had a little introduction to using real power/watts with my Kinetic inRide unit on my Kinetic Trainer. The only thing is this only works on my trainer, when I am using TrainerRoad. I really wanted to quantify my road rides now that I had a little taste. I eventually added the the Cycleops/Powertap Powercal power/heart rate monitor which calculates your power based on a heart rate algorithm. While this seemed to do a pretty good job assessing an entire ride based on the averages, the instantaneous measure was all over the place. I also had my doubts about its accuracy given that you provided no individual input other than your heart rate. Despite is magically does a fairly decent job for a $100 power meter.
I broke down at the start of the 2014 training season and purchased the Stages Power Meter and replaced my Shimano Dura Ace 7950 left crank arm with the Stages version. It was around ~$900 and change. I probably could have installed this myself, but they recommend using a torque wrench to do it and I have yet to purchase one. Instead I decided to head out to see John at my favorite bike shop, Sleeping Dog Pro Cycles, and have him do it correctly. He indicated that I probably didn’t need to a torque wrench to do it. Ready to roll.
The unit worked well from the beginning. Since it was Winter when I put it on, I was mostly using it on the trainer in the basement with TrainerRoad. Since I also had the Kinetic inRide going too, I tended to have conflicts with that over Bluetooth. Usually the inRide would prevail, but I was never really sure which meter was being used. I eventually figured out that I could determine which by doing single leg drills with my right leg, since the Stages would not show power when I did that. TrainerRoad has since done a better job of distinguishing the two and have separate lines for both now.
This was more an issue with what hate about Bluetooth(BTLE). You can only pair one specific type of device to a computer/phone at one time. And this is better why? This is why I still prefer ANT+ over BTLE and I think ANT+ will be around for awhile because of this limitation. The nice thing about the Stages Power Meter is that it has both ANT+/BTLE so you are not pigeon-holed into one communication type.
The cost of the Stages Power Meter was surely the most appealing factor to me. Although as I write this, several other companies have announced new power meters in this price point just in the last week or so. One is that Garmins’ new Vector system now has a one-pedal option for about $800 with the ability to upgrade to two pedals in the future. The nice thing about that system is that it is easily tranferrable to another bike.
My biggest issue with the Stages device was after I had broken of a couple of the small tabs on the battery compartment door which allow it to lock in place. After I did that I was not able to lock the door in place. I notified Stages and they quickly mailed me out a couple new doors and gaskets. The Stages support is outstanding and they are very responsive to your issues. The new doors still would not close shut, so as a temporary measure I wrapped the unit in black electrical tape.
The tape worked fine until I decided to give my bike a good thorough washing. Then it stopped working. Ahh!! Turned out it just shorted the battery and after replacing it with a new CR2032 I was back again. I decided to take a harded look at this situation using a flashlight and a magnifying glass. Turned out one of the tabs that broke off were lodged inside and was keeping the new door tabs from locking. I extracted the broken tab and the doors immediately locked shut. I could have left the electrical tape off at this point, but with my A race at Ironman Lake Placid coming up, I didn’t want to take any chances.
I am glad I did that I took that precautionary measure because we experienced a deluge of rain at IMLP this year. Despite that my Stages Power Meter continued to output my power readings to my Garmin for the entire 112 miles. Some others were not as fortunate. Like my friend Shanna would also has a Stages meter which failed on her during IMLP this year. I think I will keep wrapping it with tape from here on out.
Firmware updates for the unit come out very frequently which is nice to know that that are always looking to fine tune the product. The updates are done via your iOS device or smartphone which is convenient. You have to keep the unit triggered so I usually do it will I am riding with my iPhone in the back of my jersey pocket. I have not had any issues doing this.
The unit is very accurate from what I have seen. More importantly it is consistent though. But the numbers I get with my Garmin showing the 3sec avg make sense to me and are not jumping all over the place like the PowerCal did. I am loving training with this tool now. My Garmin 910xt screen now just displays 3s Power, HR, HR zone and Time. I don’t even look at my speed anymore, which doesn’t tell you much anyway unless every possible variable is the same every time. Which it never is. I can also now plan ride workouts based on power zones which has made a huge difference in my riding.
The fact that unit only measures one leg could seem like a big one, but I really don’t think it is. Maybe if you are an elite or professional it may be something you need to look at, but for the typical age grouper, we have so many other things to work on this is minor.
All in all I have been very happy with this product. I would recommend it to anyone looking to take their training and races to the next level without breaking the bank. The company is doing well and they firmly stand behind their product. There should be some major advances in power meters coming down the pike so who knows how this may change by tomorrow.
Hope this provided some help and thanks for reading! 🙂
Spoiler alert..My search for the perfect training earbuds continues. I have two pairs of the fully wired Ironman-branded Yurbuds. I was mainly attracted to this brand by the claim that the fit properly in your ear without shifting around and are not sensitive to sweating. I seem to have two different size earholes so finding a pair of earbuds where both sides stay in place is hard to find. I also sweat a lot, which also doesn’t help the prior issue.
The first pair I bought was the fabric-type cord Inspire Duro version without the microphone and volume controls on the cord. They were around $40-$50 at the time and they claim to be tangle-free(HA!). Not cheap, but if they work I don’t care. The earbuds themselves stayed in place during all my training sessions and did not weasel their way out when I starting sweating like a hog. I really missed the controls on the cord, but what really drove me crazy was the cord. It tangled so easily and so well that it took at least 5 minutes to get them untangled. If I wanted to untangle knots I would have gone fishing!
I contacted Yurbuds about this and they suggested I upgrade to their Inspire Pro model which they claimed did not tangle as much. These also came with controls and mic on the cord. This model was $10 more, so now I am invested for $110. This models’ cord is more rubbery like the iPhone stock earbuds, which don’t tangle up and are easy to untangle. This is not the case with the Yurbuds Inspire Pro though. They must have left out some material in the making of this rubber. They are just as bad as the first model. Argh!
They also have caused me some major hearing loss! Everytime I plug Yurbuds Inspire Pro cord into my phone they jack the volume up to HIGH!! I have started to learn make sure I lower this after plugging in these in and hitting play after getting my eardrums blasted out several times. This really sucks and when you do it you cannot pull them out of your ears quick enough. I have even tried lowering the volume all the way down before I put them in but it still jacks them up.
At the time I bought both of these models Yurbuds did NOT have a wireless model. I see that they do now. I haven’t tried them yet, but this could be the ultimate combination for me because I really like the way the Yurbuds fit in my ears, the cords just really suck. My wife has also confirmed this too.
In the meantime I had purchased a pair of Bluetooth Jaybird Freedom Sprints, which I will review another time. While these are great for maneuverability and not having to deal with tangling cords, I cannot get them to stay in my ears. They have multiple size ear fittings, but I have not been able to find the perfect sizing for them to stay put. Also once I start sweating it gets really bad. Given this I think I need to give the Yurbuds wireless a try soon.
If anyone has a recommendation for another type of earbud let me know in the comments. Thanks!