Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Breathing Gadget?

I just got the latest catalog from Road Runner Sports (RRS) in the mail, and I always enjoy flipping through the pages to look at the latest shoes and clothes.

As a VIP Member of their Run America Club, I like to try out new shoes from RRS because of the free shipping and 45-day no-pain shoe guarantee.

If I'm trying a shoe for the first time, this guarantee really comes in handy, because it takes more than just walking around the house to see if a shoe will work. You have up to 45 days to test the shoes on the roads, trails, etc., and if you don't like them then they'll take them back no questions asked.

Since I now train only in racing flats the selection is more limited at RRS, but the VIP membership is still worth the price I think. On a side note, if I have a shoe that really works for me then I'll usually order them via Jamie Dick's online store at FootRX. Jamie is a podiatrist and regular poster on the Runner's World forums. He gives a 20% discount (I forgot the code), and provides knowledgeable and excellent service. He comes highly recommended!

So back to the catalog. I was looking at the gadget section and came across the PowerBreathe product that supposedly allows you to "strengthen your inspiratory muscles (the ones you use to breath in) and improve lung function to get more out of your workout" by taking "30 breaths twice daily with the POWERbreathe."

Sounds interesting. Might be worth investigating and reviewing at $63, especially when I can return it if not satisfied. Anyone out there try this before?

As for my running, today was another recovery day. Body is feeling a little better so I'll just ease back into things and not stress the system too much....

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Is Technology Making Us Faster?

Felt a little better this morning and got in an easy run that included some shoe-soaking laps around the grass soccer/rugby field at St. Mary's College. During the run, I started wondering about the impact technology has had on running and then I came across this article in the Kansas City Star.

Back when I started running 25+ years ago, you only had a stopwatch and running shoes, and it was like that for a long time. Basically you just went out and ran.

Now there are all kinds of cool gadgets for runners. Some provide a single function, such as GPS distance monitoring, like the Garmin Forerunner 205, or heart rate monitoring (HRM). Others combine a host of functions like GPS with HRM, MP3 player with distance montioring and even a cell phone with GPS distance monitoring.

While all of this technology has done wonders for providing us data-driven running geeks with tons of info about how far, how fast and how hard we ran, are we actually running faster/better because of it?

If you have improved is it because you're training smarter due to the technology? Or because you're just getting in more running?

I think for the general running population it's a combination of factors. The tech helps, but more importantly you have to train smart and put in the consistent work to achieve results. I'm probably wrong, but it would make for an interesting experiment.

At the elite level, it's even harder to tell if technology is making a dent at the highest echelons of the sport. You hear of American distance runners using HRMs, altitude tents, etc, to get an edge, but on the world stage it's still the East Africans (Kenya, Ethiopia) dominating (I'll refrain from commenting on drugs and steroids). From what I've read about their training, they run often and run hard with little use of the gadgets we're so fond of.

So maybe the ultimate running devices are a stopwatch and a pair of shoes after all. That doesn't bother me so much, because I like buying running shoes too....

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Monday, May 29, 2006

On and Off

Not much to report. Still feeling rundown so will try and visit my doctor this week to get a check up. Maybe it's just a mild case of strep throat. My 10 year-old son got it a few weeks ago, and I haven't been the same since then. Hopefully it's nothing that a good dose of antibiotics can't cure.

I've run 2 of the last 4 days. Tried to hit the trails and go as easy as possible. Maybe I should rest a few more days and just play my son's new XBOX 360 :-) The system is pretty sweet, but I got motion sickness watching him play one of the games so maybe I'll stay away from it too....

Thursday, May 25, 2006

No Gas in the Tank

Ughh! I guess my tempo effort on Tuesday was too hard after all. I attempted to run 300 meter repeats today at faster than mile pace and had nothing. Zip. Nada, Nothing.

After a warm up and drills, I was ready for 4 sets of 3x300m with a 100m jog and a 400m jog between sets. However, my brain forgot to tell the rest of my body, and I knew I was toast after the first 300 with the second 300 telling me to cut my losses.

I then altered the workout and ran 4x200m with a 200m jog, and then did some 150m strides. The whole thing was slow and a complete chore to finish. My legs were pretty dead and had no spring. Not a good sign considering I want to race some 800s in June/July. I have a long ways to go before getting in track shape.

In my opinion, one of worst things about cutting a workout short, other than the sense of wimping out, is figuring out what you are going to do to get the mileage in. That's because you're not in the right mindset anymore and the last thing you want to do at that time is to continue running.

As for me, I need to take the next couple of days easy and then see how the Sunday long run goes. And next week, maybe I'll schedule the track work for earlier in the week...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Running Safe

This morning was a recovery run after yesterday's tempo effort. I was tired, but it didn't seem too bad. We'll see how I fare tomorrow morning when I hit the track to run some 300 meter repeats.

I thought I'd give a quick shout out to the folks at Road ID. I have been using their ShoeID product (see photo) for several years now, and the reason why is because I don't carry any ID on me when I run.

This is probably not a big deal running around the block, but I run in the dark a lot (early morning during the winter) and on trails that are out of the way.

Having the ShoeID on my laces is unobtrusive and more importantly brings me some peace of mind that if anything was to happen to me during a run then at least people could figure out who I am and whom to contact. That seems worth $19.95 in my book.

Since I rotate shoes, I actually have two of them so I don't have to wear out the velcro taking it on and off from my shoelaces. And when I have worn out the velcro, they have always sent me a new strap free of charge so I can definitely vouch for their excellent service too.

I stand corrected on Nike+iPod

I just found out that the little foot pod comes with the iPod nano module in the $29 Nike+iPod Sport Kit. The new Nike+ line of shoes will have a special area under the sock liner for the foot pod to fit.

So if you have an Apple iPod nano then $29 is a sweet deal if you can figure out a way to use the foot pod with shoes other than Nike. Of course it has to work too.

This just might be my next review project. I have some gift credit at Amazon and have been debating getting another iPod anyway. If I can rig up some velco thingy for the pod to attach to my shoe laces then it just might work....

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006


On the surface, this partnership between Apple and Nike for the Nike+iPod product line that combines the iPod nano with a personal activity monitoring system via a foot pod in special Nike+ shoes sounds cool. Personally, I'm not the biggest fan. This is part of what I wrote at my other blog:

Apple and Nike together makes sense. Two very formidable lifestyle brands teaming up, which is especially good for Nike because it hasn't fared so well in the consumer electronic devices space in the past.

But it's the long-time runner in me that has mixed feelings on the execution and usage model of the inital product. If you own a nano and run with it then shelling out $29 for the Nike+iPod Sport Kit seems on the surface to be a good idea.

However, Spike Lee's Mars Blackman once said a long time ago, "It's gotta be the shoes!" And this is exactly what I don't like about the product. Right now, you're locked into purchasing the upcoming Nike+ line of footwear for all of this to work.

The Nike+ footwear uses a special foot pod accelerometer that sits under the shoe liner for measuring distance and pace. I personally prefer GPS technology to achieve this, but that's neither here nor there.

As usual Nike seems to be targeting the cool and trendy market for this product so if you only wear Nike then you're in luck. But most runners are a strange lot and running shoe fit and performance is very subjective and extremely important at the end of the day. Carrying a nano can't get you injured (unless you're not paying attention or get mugged), but wearing the wrong type of running shoe can.

While some runners favor only one brand, many others wear multiple brands, such as Adidas, Asics, Avia, Brooks, Mizuno, New Balance, Nike and Saucony, in the ongoing quest to find the perfect shoe.

In my case, I currently rotate several pairs of shoes from Mizuno and New Balance for my daily training, and I'm not unique in this respect. I haven't worn Nike's in years because I don't like they way they feel.

So unless Nike comes out with a shoe that works for me, I'm currently locked out of the Nike+iPod Sport Kit. For Apple to reach the widest possible audience it would make more sense for the foot pod to be portable so runners can easily attach it to all the shoes in their stable. In fact, they really don't need Nike for this and could develop a little GPS module to connect to the nano as well. Nike is big, but the overall running shoe market is bigger.

As for Nike, the closed model approach seems smart although they could probably move a lot of Nike+iPod Sport Kits with a standalone foot pod too. As for me I'll just stick with my Garmin Forerunner 205 for now...

Tempo Time

No wacky GPS signals this morning with GPS accuracy in the 20-30 foot range during my entire run.

Even though the skies were a bit more overcast than yesterday, I guess atmospheric conditions were just more conducive for using the Garmin Forerunner 205.

The plan today was to run a 4 mile tempo in which I slowly increased the effort throughout the run. I wanted to run the flattest route possible in my area and avoid as many uphills and downhills as possible.

I decided I would try a loop that goes through a couple of quiet neighborhoods with limited traffic (see photo generated from SportTracks and Google Earth). The loop was less than 2 miles and has a few gentle inclines and subtle downhill portions.

MotionBased's MB Gravity Elevation Correction feature calculated the elevation range between 472 to 524 feet with most of the run in the 480-490 foot elevation range (see above chart pulled from MotionBased).

After an easy 2.5 mile warmup, the tempo itself was pretty steady as I ended up running the beginning a little faster than planned, because I was fiddling around with buttons on the 205. Since I didn't know the distances around the loop I wanted to hear a audible signal every .5 miles. However I messed up and I heard the signal every .5 miles from the point I set up the feature and not from the start of the run. Oh well.

The loop measured 1.87 miles on the 205 and I did 2 loops and change for 4.04 miles. Both SportTracks and MotionBased came up with the same distances for each loop as well as the overall run, and more details can be found here.

Since I didn't take any splits other than at the end of each loop, I was interested in seeing my miles splits for the run as calculated by SportTracks and MotionBased using the GPS waypoint data.

Interestingly, while both registered the same overall time (25:13), SportTracks had my splits at 6:29, 6:19, 6:06, 6:05 (and 14 for the last .04 miles), while MotionBased via its Analyzer feature had me at 6:22, 6:19, 6:02, 6:06 (and 18 for the last .04 miles). If you add it up the MB Analyzer somehow dropped 4 seconds from my time. Strange.

Just for kicks, here is some more random data pulled from MotionBased on the time/percent of the tempo run that was ascending, descending and flat:

Time Data Total % of Total
Total Time 0:25:13 100.0
Moving Time 0:25:13 100.0
Ascent 0:03:05 12.2
Descent 0:03:46 14.9
Flat 0:18:22 72.8

Overall, a decent effort. We'll see how I feel tomorrow on my recovery run and then Thursday when I hit the track for some 300m repeats....

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Wacky GPS Signals

This morning's run was one of those strange GPS signal days on my Garmin Forerunner 205. Everything started out fine as usual with the GPS accuracy in the 20-30 foot range.

The skies were generally clear with some low lying fog as I did my usual Monday run around the local golf course. The hills on the course were tiring me out so I decided to hit the roads after one loop. It was then that I noticed the GPS accuracy had jumped into the 50 foot range.

After stopping at the turnaround point to catch my breath and allow the 205 to acquire a better signal, I headed back home with the accuracy back in the 20s. However, less than a half mile later, it had spiked up to more than 80 feet.
Weird thing was I was only pulling in signals from 4 satellites at this time. After stopping for another minute, it dropped back down to the 20s and I proceeded home without a further hitch.

Every once in a while, there use to be runs with my old 201 where it would just continually drop the signal throughout a run for no apparent reason. Although the 205 didn't give me a weak GPS signal, I guess it was one of those random days when GPS accuracy is inconsistent or maybe some satellites are offline.

Tomorrow, I'll try to do a tempo or fartlek effort and then plan to do some speedwork on the track on Thursday....

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More on the Treadputer

A recent comment by Alison Wade about Brad Feld's Treadputer got me thinking more about the ultimate running device. Alison asked why would someone need such a device if you lived in Boulder, Colorado?

It's a good question since Boulder is widely viewed as a running mecca in the distance running community. Many top U.S. and international runners train there, and the Buffaloes at the University of Colorado at Boulder are year in and year out one of the top distance running programs in NCAA cross country and track.

Also, the altitude training on the trails in and around Boulder, such as Magnolia Road or Mags for short, have taken on almost mythical status due to Chris Lear's seminal account of Adam Goucher and the Colorado cross country team's 1998 season in his book, "Running with the Buffaloes".

So it that context, it makes perfect sense to wonder why such a device is even necessary. I'm sure Brad would rather be hitting the trails around Boulder, while sporting his Garmin Forerunner 305, but as noted in his post, he spends hours a day on conference calls as a venture capitalist and board member for a number of companies, including blog-related startups NewsGator and FeedBurner. So he could either sit on his butt all day long or get some exercise while taking calls. Not a bad way to pass the time and get paid, if you ask me.

Going further off topic, Alison has some impressive credentials in her own right. She use to run two websites for the New York Road Runners Club - and - and both were excellent resources for the latest results, news, interviews and photos of the high school, collegiate, and elite distance running scenes. Frankly, the sites haven't been the same since she left, and I'm sure the NYRRC sorely misses her great work.

Alison now has her own distance running site called,, which is currently down as it switches hosts, and a separate site for running blogs that is aptly named, She also seems to attend and cover a lot of running events and track meets, which is very cool. I'm definitely envious.

So now that I have gone off on a huge tangent, here are my additional thoughts on Brad's Treadputer. I believe this is more of the norm than the exception, but I do some of my best thinking during my runs. Whether it's for introspection, problem solving, writing ideas or creative thoughts, running offers me the perfect time to really think things through.

The only problem is by the time I'm in front of my computer, I've forgotten most of the great ideas I had on the run. Maybe I should carry a small digital voice recorder with me while running and every time I have a good idea I can record a "note to self". Or maybe the next software version update of the Garmin Forerunner 205 will include this functionality so I only have to carry one all-encompassing device :-)

For me, this is why the Treadputer is cool. While exercising Brad can easily get his thoughts down in digital form or instantly seek out the information he requires at the click of a mouse button. No more waiting until the end of activitiy, and hoping you remembered everything you wanted to do.

Of course on the downside, there is always the danger of treadputering and getting lost in your thoughts, which could prove disastrous. Every time I've run on a treadmill, I've had to focus really hard on staying in the middle of the tread, which doesn't leave much of my limited brain power to do some actual "thinking."

I've seen several people take a misstep on a treadmill and go right out the back, and it wasn't a pretty sight. So barring the funds to create my own treadputer, maybe I should just stick to thinking and running while on the roads and trails. I won't remember everything, but there's also less chance of embarrassing/injuring myself, unless I run into a tree or a lamp post...

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Weekend Runs

Not much to report from the weekend. Saturday was another of those grin and bear it type runs, when you don't feel great but just want to get the miles in. Felt tired most of the way and got some strides in at the track as well.

This morning was my first longer run in several weeks. Was planning to get in around 12 miles, but was feeling really out of it the first couple of milesg. Almost decided to turn around and just go back to sleep.

However, I started feeling better after a few miles and the rest of the run was uneventful. Maintained an even pace throughout, which was nice as 4 of the last 5.5 are uphill.

I ended up running less than planned due to some poor mental calculations on my part mid-way through the run. The Garmin Forerunner 205 had me at 11.31 miles, while MotionBased calculated it at 11.37.

I need to start incorporating some faster track work into the training with the goal of running 800 meters at the Pacific Association USATF Masters Track and Field Championships on July 1 in Sacramento. I also might slog through a 10K on Memorial Day if I feel up to it...

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Running Samaritan

I guess my ladder workout yesterday took more out of me than I originally thought. I got a decent amount of sleep (6.5 hours), but should of just stayed in bed when the alarm went off at 5:15am. I also won't complain anymore about my lack of sleep after seeing Leah's crazy schedule as she works towards a PhD in physics and trains for the Chicago Marathon :-)

This morning's run felt like I was just going through the motions. It was totally blah and I struggled to stay motivated. Plus, I was tired to boot. This would have been the perfect day to use a heart rate monitor, if I had one, to gauge if I was running my recovery day too hard. Oh well, at least it's 9.1 miles in the bank.

The run did remind me of a funny thing that happened to me last week when I was running the same route. I was about 2.5 miles into the run last week when I noticed a wallet lying in the middle of the road. I scooped it up and continued on my way. It was a large, heavy woman's wallet that was stuffed with credit cards, receipts, and I believe lots of cash.

Do you know what my first thought was when I started running with the wallet? Not who lost it or what an incovenience it was or even how much money was in it, but "do I really have to carry this brick with me for the next 6+ miles?"

And that made me stop and open it up to check who the owner was. I felt like I was invading the person's privacy, but it opened right up to her driver's license. I checked the address and then quickly closed it.

The street name was unfamiliar to me, but at least it was in my town. I went off my planned route and turned at the next street corner. I decided I would only run up to the next block, and if it wasn't the right street I would turn back, swing by my house to drop off the wallet and then continue my run. Plus, since I was wearing my Garmin Forerunner 205, I didn't have to worry about not knowing how much extra distance I was running. As luck would have it, the next street was where the wallet's owner lived. I found the right house and then rang the bell.

Now you have to imagine the following scene . You're a teenage girl woken up at 6:15 am by some skinny, sweaty 41 year-old guy with shaggy hair standing at your front door in only a short-sleeved shirt, shorts, black socks, running shoes and black gloves. Sounds pretty creepy.

You should have seen her eyes go wide as she looked out the window at the side of the door. She was still half asleep, because it took me a several times of pointing at the wallet and saying slowly and loudly, "I found a wallet" before the realization sunk in.

In hindsight, it probably wasn't the smartest idea for her to open the door to get the wallet, but at least no harm came of it and her mom(?) got her wallet back. Of course, I might have went to the wrong address because I was half-asleep as well....

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Ladder Workout

Since I'm starting to feel better, I decided to test out the advanced workout feature on my Garmin Forerunner 205.

First, I launched the Garmin Training Center software to see which workouts were available. Training Center and the Forerunner 205/305 already come pre-loaded with a number of workout templates, and at first glance most seem geared to training within certain heart rate zones thus requiring a Forerunner 305 with HRM.

Fortunately, the workouts are customizable so you can set them up for training within target pace zones as well. Since the Forerunner 205/305 comes pre-set with 10 different pace zones, I customized them into the following categories with my goal paces for each distance: Easy, Aerobic, Steady, MP (Marathon Pace), HM (Half-Marathon), 10 Mile, 10K, 5K, 3K and Mile.

Next, I decided I would edit the ladder workout for running. The Forerunner 205/305 seems perfect for ladder workouts because you can set up multiples steps with different amounts of reps, durations (time, distance or zone based), target zones and rest periods, and then the device handles everything for you. Here is the workout I ended up creating:

  • Warmup at unspecified target pace until hitting the Lap button
  • 4 x 0.1 mile @ marathon pace followed by 0.1 mile @ steady pace
  • 4 x 0.2 mile @ marathon pace followed by 0.1 mile @ steady pace
  • 4 x 0.1 mile @ marathon pace followed by 0.1 mile @ steady pace
  • 4 x 0.1 mile @ HM pace followed by 0.1 mile @ steady pace
  • 4 x 0.2 mile @ HM pace followed by 0.1 mile @ steady pace
  • 4 x 0.1 mile @ HM pace followed by 0.1 mile @ steady pace
  • Cooldown at unspecified target pace until hitting the Stop button
The total distance for the ladder was 5.6 miles, and I easily could have substituted the distance for each step with a certain amount of time, such as 1 minute @ MP followed by 1 minute at steady pace.

After I saved the workout, I then scheduled it for today's date by dragging it to the Training Center calendar. Next I docked my 205 in the usb cradle, and exported the workout to the device by hitting the button that "Sends Workouts and Courses"

To run the workout on a Forerunner 205/305, you need to:
  • Once you have a good GPS signal, hit the mode button
  • Select Training
  • Select Workouts
  • Select Advanced
  • If the workout is scheduled then you can find by date or view all. Select whichever is applicable.
  • Find the workout and Selec
  • Select Do Workout
  • Press start
When running a workout, you get 2 extra display screens. The first describes which step you are on, info on the previous step, and what is next. The second screen shows how much is remaining of the step (i.e. distance, time) and what zone you are in (i.e. heart rate, pace, etc).

This morning I warmed up for about 1.7 miles and then hit the Lap button to start the ladder workout. Probably due to a combination of coming off an illness and the fact that the Forerunner 205/305's "real-time" pace fluctuates, my pacing during the run was all over the map. The 205 was either buzzing me to speed up or slow down. It was almost like having a coach next to me telling me what to do.

Overall the run wasn't too bad, and at least I can see a light at the end of the tunnel from my recent ailments. To the left is a pace versus distance graph of the ladder workout + cooldown taken from SportTracks. The blue line represents elevation.

I definitely plan to play around and create some more advanced workouts to run in the future. It's another cool feature for us training-obsessive types to latch on to. Now I just need to find someone to actually run the workouts for me....

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Ultimate Running Device?

This just might be the ultimate running device. Brad Feld is a venture capitalist in Boulder, Colorado. He's also an avid marathoner attempting to run a marathon in every state by the time he turns 50. He's currently at 6 and is 40 years old.

Brad had this Treadputer specially designed so he could work while running/walking. Since he spends a lot of on board conference calls he'd rather be active at the Treadputer instead of sitting at his desk or laying on his couch. He writes:

I had high expectations for walking, but low expectations for running. It turns out that the Treadputer is highly functional when I’m running, which enables me to do some of my longer runs during the day while I’m on a call rather than having to get up at 5am to get them in before the day starts.
Check out the specs of the system:
  • IBM ThinkCenter 3.2GHz PC
  • 3 Video cards (ATI Radeons)
  • 3 19" NEC Monitors
  • A 6 monitor mounting system (we only use 3)
  • Bluetooth stereo audio headphones
  • Desk microphone
  • USB Headset (for voice calls)
  • Logitech 2.1 speakers
  • Kensington Trackball
  • Vision Fitness T9450HRT treadmill
  • Dragon Naturally Speaking (for voice recognition)
  • Cisco IP Communicator (for IP Softphone)
  • Skype (for other calls)
The Treadputer is still a work in progress, but impressive nonetheless. I wouldn't mind reviewing it, but I guess I would need to go to Boulder...

Running With My Virtual Partner

Back when I first reviewed the Garmin Forerunner 205, I wrote about a neat little online Google Maps mashup that Brad Culberson at MotionBased created called, Course Creator.

In a nutshell, Course Creator lets you map a route using Google Maps to find the distance. But that's not all. It also leverages a cool new feature of the Garmin Forerunner 205/305 that allows you to import a course onto the device and then run it using the Virtual Partner feature.

Here are the steps to get a course mapped online onto a Forerunner 205/305:

  • After mapping a route on Culberson's Course Creator (keep each point close together to ensure maximum accuracy, although it can be a pain), select a target pace (i.e. minutes per mile) or speed (i.e. miles per hour for a cyclist) and then hit the Export button
  • Once on your PC, launch Garmin's Training Center application
  • Go to the File menu and import the course (it will be called
  • Click on Courses and you should see it
  • Dock the Forerunner 205/305 to the usb cradle
  • Export course to the device by hitting the button that "Sends Workouts and Courses"
This part sounds like a lot of steps, but it's really not that difficult. Now that the course is on the 205/305, it is ready to be run versus the virtual partner. Here are more steps to get this part initiated:
  • Once you have a good GPS signal, hit the mode button
  • Select Training
  • Select Courses
  • Find the route you want to run (I've saved a few of my previous tempo runs to the course list in case I want to run versus myself at a certain pace. You can edit course names on the device, but it's a multiple step process so it's easier to do this in the Training Center program.)
  • Select the course
  • Select DO Course
  • Press start and run with or race against your virtual partner
When running a course, the Forerunner 205/305 adds three new displays to the existing three you already have. The first screen has four data fields that offers the following information:
  • Distance to End
  • Time to End Course (based on your current distance and pace)
  • Remaining distance to the end (wasn't sure what was the difference between this and the other field)
  • Course time left based on initial distance and pace
The second screen is a graphic of you and the virtual partner as dots on an elevation chart, and the third screen shows how far ahead or behind you are of the virtual partner. Also, hitting the mode button gives you a couple of more screens. The first screen plots the route and the second is a compass with remaining time and distance to finish.

For this morning's run, I plotted a new course that incorporated sections of different routes I normally run. Course Creator calculated the route at 9.22 miles and I selected a 8 minute per mile pace, because I wanted to keep the run at an easy, aerobic pace, while I still recover from being sick. Plus I wanted a target pace that would allow me to beat my virtual partner.

To the left is the elevation chart of the course plotted against my actual pace as pulled from SportTracks. The first mile from my house is downhill and I started off at an easy pace. The next mile gradually climbs and then there is a short, steep incline for about .4 miles.

Since Virtual Partner (VP for short) via Course Creator was set for a steady 8 minute mile pace, it pulled away from me by the time I reached the top of the hill.

However, the next 3 miles or so were downhill so while VP plugged away at 8 minute miles, I was able to pick up the pace and quickly overtake VP. The rest of the route was rolling with one more steep up and down section and the final .75 miles uphill to my house.

I gradually put more distance on VP and finished about .4 miles ahead at an average of about 7:35 minute miles. Both the 205 and SportTracks calculated the run also at 9.22 miles, while MotionBased came in at 9.26 miles. Details of the run can be found at MotionBased.

The Google Maps mashups to plot routes are pretty accurate so if you run mostly on the roads then it is a nice and cheap, as in free, alternative to buying a GPS device.

One thing to note about using Course Creator,. During my run I kept on getting an "Off Course" signal. I would ignore it and eventually it would find the course again. This was kind of a nuisance, but the overall performance wasn't affected.

After the fact, I was told to use "Course Creator effectively you have to plot the GPS points on the map as closely together as possible. If you leave big gaps in between you will receive the "off course" message." This makes a lot of sense although it does become a more time consuming process, especially if they are longer straight sections on the map. Oh well.

Lastly, once you have run a route and have it on the 205/305, you can always create a course from it either directly on the device or via Training Center. For doing this on the device, you need to:
  • Push the Mode button
  • Select Training
  • Select Courses
  • Select
  • This takes you to the history of runs on your device. Find the date of the run and select
  • You can the edit the course name, but it's a multiple step process so it's easier to do this in the Training Center program.
  • Hit the Mode button and you should see the new course
In Training Center, you need to:
  • Dock the Forerunner 205/305 to the usb cradle
  • Receive History from the device
  • Find the date of the run you want to make into a course, right click and select "Create Course from Activity"
  • This will take you to Courses and "New Course" will be highlighted
  • Right clicking takes you to a menu where you can edit the course (i.e. name)
  • Export course to the 205/305 by hitting the button that "Sends Workouts and Courses"
On courses created from the 205/305, Virtual Partner re-runs the course exactly the same way you did for that run. So if you ran one section at 8 minute miles and then another at 7:45 minute miles then VP does too. If you stopped at a light then so does VP. If you use the Auto Pause feature then I'm not sure how this will affect VP if you don't stop or take an unscheduled stop while doing a course.

The Forerunner 205/305's course feature is pretty powerful stuff and lets you run against a virtual partner over pre-described courses at specific paces. So if you want to measure yourself over a certain route and gauge whether you're improving then virtual partner is a nice touch.

And when MotionBased lets users import other people's routes directly to their Forerunner 205/305 that's when things will really take off. Imagine running a route against your friend's virtual best effort. Or better yet have a top runner like 2004 Olympic marathon bronze medalist Deena Kastor run a popular route, such as the 6 mile loop in Central Park, and then let Forerunner users download "her" to their device to train against. Very cool stuff indeed....

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Getting There

Felt a little better this morning during my run. Still a bit tired, but the legs had a little more bounce. I'm trying to get to bed earlier and have gotten around 7 hours of sleep the last few nights, which is a lot for me.
I usually get at most 6.5 hours and can survive a day or so on 6 or less before self-destructing.

That was one of the problems during the past few weeks. I was staying up late reading and still getting up early to run, which ended up being a bad combination.

For today's run I stayed on the flats and tried to avoid any hills, except for the .75 mile climb to my house at the end. I ran over to St. Mary's College so I could finally use my Garmin Forerunner 205 to measure the distance around the soccer/rugby field.

I like to run on the grass around the playing fields because it's a soft surface and a nice alternative to the track for doing workouts where exact time is not of the utmost importance. A lap around the perimeter of the fields measured out to roughly .42 miles, and I got in 8 relatively easy laps before heading for home.

For the most part I was on auto pilot trying to stay relaxed and watch out for gopher holes. I did end up with a pair of dew-laden shoes that squished all the way home.

On a related note, I'm still contemplating whether to upgrade from my Forerunner 205 to the 305 with a heart rate monitor. I wouldn't use the HRM all the time, but I would like to know that I'm not running my recovery days too hard. I noticed has a great deal on the 305 so I might have to take the plunge and then sell the 205 on eBay. We'll see....

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Two Days Off Feels More Like Two Months

Ughh. I took the weekend off to see if I could catch up on some sleep and recover from my mysterious ailment. It didn't help that the temperatures climbed to the 90s and I decided to do yardwork instead. Not as much rest after all.

When I went for my run this morning, I felt like I'd been off for two months instead of two days. The legs felt like jello and even running slowly was an effort. I decided to forgo my usual Monday run over the hilly, local golf course (it's closed every Monday) and stayed on flat land as much as possible.

I ran over to the high school and tested out the difference between using the smart recording and every second data recording settings on my Garmin Forerunner 205. The folks at the MotionBased blog stated that the every second data recording setting "should ONLY be used for specific activities that are short, fast, and tight, like track running."

For my highly unscientific test, I ran 4 laps (1600 meters) in lane 1 using every second recording and then ran another 4 laps using smart recording. I also switched measurement units to metric to makee it easier to confirm distance.

As I previously wrote, the Forerunner 205/305 doesn't do the greatest job tracking on a 400m track. However, using every second recording for this situation seemed to offer up better accuracy. Each lap was right around 400 meters and the 4 laps came in at 1.60 kilometers on both the device and in SportTracks.

When I switched back to smart recording, the laps were coming in at the 390-395 meter range and the total for the complete four was 1.59 kilometers. Not a huge difference.

So if you must use your 205/305 on the track then it's probably better to switch to every second recording for increased accuracy. For everywhere else, smart recording should be enough....

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Garmin Forerunner Data Recording: Smart vs Every Second

The folks at Motionbased explain the difference between the smart recording and every second settings for the Garmin Forerunner 205/305 at MBlog: Data Recording. They say "Every Second' should ONLY be used for specific activities that are short, fast, and tight. Like track running, track cycling, or downhill mountain biking. You may think all your activities are 'Every Second' worthy, but that’s not the point and most of the time it works against you." Here are some of the things to know about 'Every Second' recording:

  • Usage - 'Every Second' isn't bad. If used properly it's a great recording technique, but should be reserved for special circumstances.
  • Storage - Device storage is limited. 'Every Second' fills up the memory in approximately 3 1/2 hours, then starts erasing/overwriting data. 'Smart Recording' allows for days of recording.
  • File Size - Large activity files slowdown MotionBased, and even may be rejected. Transfer time, processing speed, and page loads (especially the Map Player) are negatively affected.
  • Quality - Because it's recording more track points doesn't necessarily mean the data is more useful.
They conclude that "smart Recording is the default setting. So unless you have specific need, don't change it."

I'll try to test out smart recording and every second at the local track this week to see if it makes any difference....

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Day of Rest

After trying to run through the ailment that has been zapping my energy the past few weeks, I finally gave in and took today off. Of course, it took the wisdom of my 8 year-old daughter for common sense to finally sink in.

Last night, she suggested that maybe I shouldn't run if I wasn't feeling well. I should probably let her coach me as well.

So I took the day off and then over exerted myself working in my overgrown backyard. I can't wait to get back running. It's usually less painful....

Friday, May 12, 2006

Running in Circles Part II

The other day I wrote about the Garmin Forerunner's trouble tracking on a 400m track. After posting, I was reminded by someone over at the Cool Running forums that in SportTracks, you can not only edit the distance and time of the run, but you can also edit the actual data points displayed on the map of your route as well.

It's a cool feature and so I decided to take a detour in the midst of another crappy morning run. Whatever ailment that is making me feel rundown the past couple of weeks is really getting old. I think I might just give in and take a couple of days off for recovering.

I ran a couple of laps at the other high school near my house and I made sure to stay in the middle of lane 1. FYI, The photos above and below haven't been updated by Google since the school put in a new track and football field last summer so I might have to try this experiment again at the other high school.

The above picture is of the two 400m laps taken from SportTracks using the original data from my Garmin Forerunner 205. If you click on the picture, it's easier to tell that the 205 didn't do a stellar job tracking the path.

And the distance calculated wasn't so hot either. The device said .24 miles for each lap and when I switched the units over to metric, the first lap read 390 meters and the second read 391 meters. That's not up to the Forerunner 205's usual high standard.

So I decided to play with the actual data points in the map itself. SportTracks has an editing tool in the map/route view, which allows you to click on the route and drag a data point to the correct position. After a lot of playing around, the above photo is the result. Now SportTracks reports the lap distance as .25 miles.

This feature is a lot of fun and if you're a data-driven, anal-retentive running geek then I can foresee wasting a lot of time playing with it to get the distance accuracy just right.

I also now know how I can get faster just by playing with SportTracks and extending the distances of the run without having to put in the extra effort. Who said I couldn't PR after 40?

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Garmin Forerunner 205/305 GPS Tips - Part II

On my run this morning, I realized I forgot to add one important thing to my Garmin Forerunner 205/305 GPS Tips post. I already updated the post, but here it is in case you missed it:

Make Sure Your Device Software is Up to Date: One of nice things about the Forerunner 205/305 is Garmin is continually fixing things and adding enhancements via software updates. The latest software is version 2.40. Garmin also offers the WebUpdater software app for your PC to make updating the 205/305 an easier process. Just put the device in the USB cradle, launch WebUpdater, and it will find the most appropriate update from the Garmin web site and perform the update. Here are links to the latest versions:
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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Garmin Forerunner 205 GPS Tips

The main reason I like my new Garmin Forerunner 205 so much is because it is definitely more accurate than the my old Forerunner 201 (or 301 for that matter). No more weak GPS signals!

However, just because it is more accurate does not mean it does not have some GPS idiosyncrasies. On various forums, I've seen new users complaining about poor signal strength and/or a hard time acquiring satellites.

I believe most of the time these problems can be attributed to the 205's high sensitivity SiRFstarIII GPS chip. It seems the chip is so sensitive in the 205 (and 305) that it has a hard time acquiring satellites if the device is not in a steady position.

I know this all sounds counter intuitive, because the device was made for measuring distance, pace, etc, while in motion, but the new Forerunners have to be locked into a strong signal for them to work well. And once locked in they stay that way for the most part.

So far I have never had a weak or lost signal with my 205 (knock on wood), and below are some of my tips to make sure you can get the best performance possible out of your 205 or 305. Of course, YMMV (your mileage may vary):
  1. Power On Device in a Stationary Position: This is very important. Before a run, I place my watch on the ground in my backyard with a open view of the sky and then power on the device. I then go into my garage to put my running shoes on. After a few minutes it usually has acquired enough satellites and is ready for use, so I go out to get my watch and put it on my wrist.
  2. Customize a Screen with the GPS Accuracy Data Field: The GPS Accuracy data field is one of my favorite new features of the 205. The photo above is what my customized Running screen looks like. The bottom right corner shows the current GPS Accuracy in feet. The lower the better. So a good signal in my neck of the woods is in the 15-30 foot range. I always make sure it is in this range before I start my run. I then check the Accuracy occasionally throughout the run to see what kind of signal I'm getting. The numbers will fluctuate up and down but will usually stay in this range.
  3. Rinse and Repeat if Necessary: Every once in awhile during a run, the GPS Accuracy will get weaker and shoot up into the 40-50 feet range or higher, and one time it went to 70-80 ft. In those cases, when I come to a stop during the run (i.e. stoplight, water fountain, etc), I'll try to stand as still as possible, hold the 205 away from my body and point the antenna skyward. I also might slowly turn my body to face the 205 in a southwesterly direction (that's the direction my DirecTV satellite dish faces). Usually in less than a minute, the GPS Accuracy will improve and go back to the 15-30 foot range and I'll re-commence my run.
  4. Make Sure Your Device Software is Up to Date: One of nice things about the Forerunner 205/305 is Garmin is continually fixing things and adding enhancements via software updates. The latest software is version 2.40. Garmin also offers the WebUpdater software app for your PC to make updating the 205/305 an easier process. Just put the device in the USB cradle, launch WebUpdater, and it will find the most appropriate update from the Garmin web site and perform the update. Here are links to the latest versions:
Hope these tips help....

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Running in Circles

While my Garmin Forerunner 205 is definitely more accurate than its predecessor, the Forerunner 201, it still has problems measuring distance at the track.

On the surface it sounds like it should be easy. Open space, flat surface and 400 meters all the way around in the middle of lane one. No problem, right?

Wrong. I don't know the exact technical reason, but I think the GPS inaccuracy is due to the tightness of a track's turns, and the time it takes to bounce a signal from the Forerunner to satellite and back again. Don't quote me on it.

My run yesterday took me to the local high school. I wanted to run on a soft, flat surface and the playing field inside of the track is one of those newer, fake grass fields. Less pounding on the body.

I ran 8 laps or around 3200 meters, which is about 14 meters short of 2 miles. The picture above was generated by MotionBased using the GPS waypoints from the 205 and Google Earth.

If you click on the picture and look close enough, it seems like I ran most of the laps in the middle and outer lanes, and even went up in the stands and on top of the announcer's booth! In actuality, I spent most of the time on the fake grass infield trying to hug the curb running along lane 1. I think I went out to lane 4 on the turns for a couple of laps in order to counter running mostly on the inside of lane 1 on the infield.

FYI, the typical 400 meter track is measured from the middle of lane 1. For each lane you can add roughly 6-7 meters for one lap. So if you run a lap in the middle of lane 2, then you ran about 406-7 meters, in lane 3 - 413-14 meters, etc.

So after the 8 laps, my 205 said I ran 2.10 miles. SportTracks calculated the distance at 2.09 miles. I logged it as 2 miles and moved on.

If you are only going to run on a track then there really is no need to wear a GPS device like the Forerunner anyway. You know the distance of each lap and a stopwatch should suffice. You just might have to brush up on your math skills to calculate pace....

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Obsessing leading to overtraining?

I've been feeling rundown the past few weeks. I'm pretty sure I caught a bug somewhere along the line, andI just can't seem to shake it.

Of course it hasn't helped that my obsession over getting in the miles has led me to try and run through this and not take a day off. Plus I've been reading a lot lately and going to bed later than usual, but still waking up early to get in my run at around 6 am.

Is all this obsessing over my training prolonging the problem or maybe even caused it in the first place?

I sometimes wonder if I'm overtraining. Sometimes the desire to get in the training and not miss a workout overrules common sense which tells me to rest. That's how I've gotten injured in the past so I hope it's not the case now.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

5K Race: Another View of the Data

I thought I'd offer up another view of the GPS data from my 5K race this past Sunday. The elevation vs distance vs pace graph above on the left was pulled from MotionBased, while the one on the right is from SportTracks.

While my Garmin Forerunner 205 calculated the race distance at 3.10 miles, both SportTracks and MotionBased crunched the GPS waypoints in their respective complex algorithms and spit out 3.11 miles.

However, MotionBased also has the MB Gravity Elevation Correction feature, which smooths the elevation data taken from the GPS device. It came up with the following elevation information for the 5K course (with the 205's data in parentheses):
Start Elevation (ft):368 (387)
Finish Elevation (ft):360 (358.5)
Min. Elevation (ft):322 (338)
Max. Elevation (ft):371 (387)
I'm not big on the elevation data, but I know many are so if you are looking for betterelevation accuracy than your GPS device provides (the 205 elevation data seems to waffle a lot) then it might be worthwhile trying MotionBased....

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Is Red the New Black?

As I wrote the other day, I now do all my training in racing flats. I currently rotate between the Mizuno Wave Revolver 2s and the New Balance RC750s.

I like both shoes for different reasons and I'm glad I found flats that seem to work for me. Since turning to flats, I've also been getting more mileage out of my shoes, roughly 400-450 miles, so I have that going for me as well.

One problem. The Revolver 2 model has been discontinued by Mizuno, and I'm running in my last pair of four that I stockpiled.

As shoe companies are wont to do, they
are always trying to tweak and update their shoe designs to make "improvements" and hopefuly drive more sales.

Well, I got my feet on a pair of the new Mizuno Wave Revolver 3 and the only major update is the color it seems. While the 2s were mostly white with orange and blue trim, the 3s are bright honking red with silver trim.

Not sure how I feel about this because they really stand out. The picture above really doesn't do it justice. I guess I'll find how much they stand out when I start sporting them around my small town. Maybe I'll take them for a muddy trail run right away to get them dirty and dull the bright red look.

I guess the shoe companies like to experiment more with colorful racing flats because the market for them is much more limited. I've also noticed that red is the new black this year as the new Asics DS Racer VII is also mostly red and silver. I use to run in the DS Racer VI before finding the RC750 so I definitely won't be running in that update anytime soon. One pair of bright red shoes is enough for now...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Dead Legs and Rundown

I ran my first race in almost a year on Sunday, and the results were what I was hoping for. I have been feeling rundown the past week and before the 5K was no different. The pre-race warmup was tiring and my legs were feeling dead so it was not the most auspicious start and boost to the confidence.

The course is pretty straight with three 90 degree left hands turns in total. The first mile plus goes gently downhill before the course deceptively climbs slightly uphill towards the finish. As you can see in the graph, it's not a huge amount of elevation increase, but us old runners need all the excuses we can get.

I ran with my Garmin Forerunner 205 and it definitely came in handy during the race and after. I was able to check my current lap pace as well as the distance so I always knew how much pain was left to go.

The race itself went as well as could be expected given the circumstances. I went out at the pace I thought I was in shape for even though I wasn't feeling well. My first mile was around 5:35 and then it began to creep upward as the course slightly inclined. I hit mile 2 at 11:25 (5:50 mile) and was just trying to hold on by then. I struggled home with a 6:01 third mile and finished at 18:01 for 5K.

I had nothing left over the last mile and didn't challenge the several folks who passed me towards the end. That was most disappointing, but then again I've never been a strength runner/racer.

Here are the full results of the Devil Mountain Run 5K. There wasn't much depth in the field up front so I ended up 10th overall and 3rd masters. For that I got a medal and 4 PowerBars. Woohoo!

Using the 205 was great and it measured the course at 3.1 miles. SportTracks crunched the waypoints and came up with 3.11 miles so accuracy was excellent.

So although the race didn't go as planned and I know I'm in faster shape, the technology performed admirably. Now I need to take it easier the next few days so I can get over whatever ails me. I aiming to run some track races in June and July so once I recover I'll probably start incorporating some speedier, shorter stuff into the training regimen...

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Friday, May 05, 2006

What Should I Review Next?

First, I did a comparison review of the Garmin Forerunner 205 versus the Garmin Forerunner 201. Next I compared Bones in Motion BiM Active GPS cell phone service with the Garmin Forerunner 205.

So what should I review next?

I thought I might try reviewing the Garmin Forerunner 305 with heart rate monitor (HRM), and compare it to the Polar S625X running computer with HRM and a foot pod accelerometer. However, my discretionary gadget budget is not as large as I would like it to be so I'll only have enough to acquire one device.

I asked the PR folks at Garmin if they might lend me a 305 review unit for a couple of weeks, but so far I've heard zip from them. Garmin isn't giving me any love at the moment :-(

I'm guessing either they don't have a formal review program for bloggers or don't want to deal with them. Or maybe they just didn't like my review of the 205 and the Garmin comments I made in the BiM Active one. Oh well.

Unless I can get my hands on the 305, I'll probably compare another device to my 205. I'm leaning toward a foot pod acclerometer device from Polar or Nike.

Any other suggestions on what I should review?

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Common Sense Is Not So Common

This morning's run was a mixed bag. Since I intend to race a 5K this Sunday, I wanted to get in a (hypothetical) marathon paced effort today to continue working on my strength without killing myself 3 days before the race.

I dragged myself out of bed around 5:15 am, did the pre-run routine (change, drink water, read paper, check web, bathroom breaks, etc) and got out the door at 6 am.

Warmed up with 1.5 miles and I definitely wasn't feeling it this morning. Then ran about 5.95 miles over a route that could be considered flattish for my area with no big hills. There are a couple of long gradual inclines and shorter downhills with elevation dropping, rising, dropping, rising and dropping within a 120 foot range (i.e. 484 ft to 574 ft over 2.1 miles and then 574 ft to 454 ft over .65 miles).

Wanted to run in the steady 6:40-6:50 per mile range and did, but it wasn't as smooth as I would have liked. Dragged myself home with a 1.85 mile cooldown and was not loving the final .75 miles uphill. I definitely need to take it easier over the next two days.

So onto the real subject of my post. In my review of the Bones in Motion cell phone personal activity monitoring service, I advised that solo runners, especially women, need to exercise some common sense when venturing out in less traveled locations due to remoteness and/or time of day (early morning/late at night). It sucks but that's reality.

On my run yesterday morning I passed a young girl running by herself going the other way. It was around 6:15 am and luckily it was getting light out. The girl couldn't have been much older than my 10 year-old son and might have even been younger.

She was listening to an iPod and seemed to be heading towards a paved foot path that goes into a community park. Not remote but there are sections that are not always visible from the road on one side and there are brush, trails and hillside on the other. In the dark this section even creeps me out.

I'm a firm believer that kids need to exercise, but I'm not a fan of kids doing a lot of roadwork at an early age, but that's a topic for a later post. What got me wondering was "where the hell were her parents?"

During the day I'll let my son go to his friend's house by himself, but I wouldn't want him wandering around the streets and parks at 6 in the morning. There are less people out and about and anything can happen.

Wwhat were her parents thinking? As Voltaire once said, "Common sense is not so common." In this case, he is so right....

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Racing with a Garmin Forerunner 205?

Due to a number of recurring achilles injuries over the years, I decided to change my training approach after recovering from my latest bout last summer.

First, I switched from clunky trainers to running solely in racing flats. I use to train in flats all the time in college back in the 80s, and the lower heel to forefoot ratio feels more stable, plus the light weight and responsiveness of flats makes me run more efficiently I believe. As a long time orthotics user, I'm also lucky that my 1/2 length plastic orthotics with no insole cover can fit in most racing flats as well.

The second change has been to build a solid distance base with more emphasis on developing strength and endurance via tempo runs and fartlek. I've been fighting my track/middle distance background by staying away from trackwork as much as possible. Now that racing season is upon us, it's once a week at the track at most, plus some straightaways or 200m strides thrown in at the end of a recovery run to keep some speed in the legs.

Knock on wood, but so far I've been injury free since these changes, and training has been pretty consistent. I've run over 1,000 miles in the first four months of the year with only 6 days off so far. And this Sunday, I intend to run my first race in over a year, the Devil Mountain 5K Run in Danville, CA., to gauge my fitness level.

I'm thinking of racing with my Garmin Forerunner 205 this weekend. I normally race with just a watch or none at all and try to run by feel, but since it has been a while I'm not sure I can trust my less than stellar pacing abilities. I think I'm in about 17:30 shape right now, and I hope by using the 205 I can manage my pacing better and stop myself from going out too fast at the beginning. Plus, it'll be really cool to upload the race data afterwards to SportTracks and analyze the myriad information to see what went right and wrong.

What's the point in training if you can't play with all the resulting data :-)

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