Garmin 310XT – First Impressions

13 08 2009

OK, lets get it out of the way, this watch is AWESOME. The customizable screens and integration with my Powertap is just priceless (well, it has a good price).

Now, lets talk about the stuff that can be improved. My impression is that the watch is great, the software that is provided with it (Garmin Training Centre and Garmin Connect) did not catch up yet! There are a few bugs and sub-optimum reports that can be improved. Keep in mind, I have the watch for 24 hours now and I did two workouts: run and bike (paired with the powertab), so this is really my first impression based on that.

RUN:

After I came back from the run I uploaded the data to both softwares, which is pretty cool. I just got close to the computer and it started downloading automatically. Nothing is required! Well, you have to close Garmin Training Centre for it to work though. The “Ant Agent” runs in the background, detects the watch and downloads the new activities to both applications:

Garmin Ant AgentThe first time it tried to download it didn’t work, because Training Centre was open, so for some reason it didn’t like it. As soon as I closed it, it worked.

Let me just explain these two softwares before I go any further:

  • Garmin Training Centre: a PC software that resides in your computer. You can download it free from Garmin, and it will show you all your activities (workouts that you actually did), your planned workouts (which can be downloaded to the watch). It also provide you with some graphs (HR, Speed, Cadence, etc) as well as a BASIC map with your routes.

Garmin Training Centre

  • Garmin Connect: a web based application, similar to Garmin Training Centre, but with a different look. It has more information than Garmin Connect, but it doesn’t have from example, a calendar.

Garmin Connect 1Have a closer look at the map in Garmin Training Centre. Not only it has little to non details, but it is actually wrong. I never crossed the 401! I was always north of it! The graph at the bottom is OK, but you cant chose a section to zoom. If you use the zoom button, it will zoom both X and Y axis’s. Although, if you expand the activity (mid left of the screen (see below), you can high light a lap and the graph will be for that lap only:

Garmin Training Centre 2

So, for running, it is actually fine. Other then the map that is totally useless, you can get descent information out of it. I really wished it had at least an average line, but it does show it above on a table. The graphic is also allows you to have up to four data streams at the same time (e.g. Speed, Heart Rate, Elevation, Cadence). Just as a side note, the elevation is useless. The variation form the JPS altitude makes flat look like a rolling hill!

As for the map, you have the option to export it to google earth… which is pretty simple:

Garmin Training Centre 3

Note how the 401 is below the route!!!

As far as Garmin connect goes, it is not bad for running either. It shows the graphic in the “Activities” window, as well as a map and averages.

Garmin Connect 2

One of the things I believe is missing is a customizable graphic. Although you have a graphic for HR, Elevation, Pace power, cadence, etc, you can’t see them all in one graphic, nor can you zoom to a particular section of the graphic. If you run a half marathon, the data would be pretty compressed in this graphic. It would be nice to select a portion of the ride and see the Averages, Min and max values… and having the normalized power would be awesome!

There is also the neat option to “Play” your ride. It is basically the map above plus a graph that shows you your data at the specific location (see screen shot below).  The graphic under the “Player” has one option: you can chose two data points (e.g. Speed and Heart Rate). No zoom, no average line… the average is represented at the bottom of the screen and the actual speed/heart rate is a bar that moves as the subject is moving in the map. This would be good “if” you could click on the course and have the data for that point, or even better, highlight a portion of the course and have the graphic dislplayed for that segment (along with a statistical table, including , Distance, HR average, Pace, etc.)

Garmin Connect 3In addition to the “Player” you also have the splits for each lap:

Garmin Connect 4

That reminds me that if you “do workout” (e.g. run 45 min @ HR range), the autolap wont work. Therefore, after you download the data, the table above becomes basically just one lap for your whole workout. This is a pretty anoying bug, since you can’t even add a lap later one.

Bike:

First of all, Garmin Training Centre has NO POWER INFORMATION! NOTHING, NADA, NITCHS!! The data is actually stored somewhere since I exported it and imported to Training Peaks website and I had power info there. However, there absolutely no information displayed in the Training Centre:

Garmin Training Centre 4

It is AWESOME that the Garmin works with the power meter, but the actual software does really “care” about the data! Having said that, Garmin Connect does show the Power information. There is no 5s peak, 30 min peak or anything like that, but is shows the average and so on. It has as much information as speed or Heart Rate:

Garmin Connect 5

Now, when I went to the Player for this activity, for some reason the route doesn’t completely match what I did, in fact it is fine in the “Details” window (above), but not in the player! From what I figure, the Player uses less data. I believe it discards a lof of the data, therefore it doesn’t match the actual route taken. If you would take a straight line route, it wouldn’t be an issue, but when you add turns… the point where you changed direction might be discarded, and the representation gets “weird” to say the least.

Garmin Connect 6Another issue that I have with Garmin Connect, is that I can’t use it as my “Log”, since I can’t create manually an activity for swimming. The only way to create an activity is to upload it from the watch… that means that I would have to use my $500 watch/GPS/HR as a stopwatch in the pool, then upload the time. Even in this case, I wouldn’t be able to manually enter the distance. BTW, I could do that in the Training Centre.

So, in short, I find the watch is GREAT. Everything that you see on youtube and Garmin’s website does work. The watch is extremely customizable. One thing that I didn’t mention above is the ability to create a workout (e.g. Hills Intervals) with Training Centre and upload it to the watch! There are several cool features that makes this watch the best Triathlete watch that I have seen. I have the Polar S625X, but that isn’t really close to Garmin 310XT, but in other hand, Garmin has lots to catch up with Polar Precision Performance (Polar’s Analyzes Software).

Oh, one more note. Training Peaks WKO+ does not work with the 310XT. The only option is to use their web app, which is pretty good, but the basic version doesn’t have all cool features and the Premium version costs $119/year. I wouldn’t mind paying $100 for WKO+, but not every year! So that is out of the question.

I’m going to import the TCX files to Polar Precision Performance (PPP) and continue to use it as my training log. I like flexibility of the graphs and reports, which are MUCH better then Garmin’s version. I’ll be uploading to Garmin anyway because I have to do it to create the TCX files and it is so easy it wont be an issue. Therefore, when I want to see the route, I’ll go to Garmin’s webpage, otherwise I’ll check the data in PPP. Well, at least until Garmin gets the software to a point that it is a usable analyzing tool.

Update: after this review I found an ugly flaw on the 310XT

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Overtraining – Could that happen to me?

11 08 2009

Last few days or even weeks, I’ve been feeling pretty crapy. It is normal to have some bad days, but when the number of bad workouts exceed the number of good ones, well I think it is time re-assess the situation and go back to the drawing board.

What hit me was the last race that I did, Niagara Sprint (Subaru Sprint).  This was my worst race since June 2008:

  • 700m Swim: 12:59 min or 1:52/100m
  • 25 km Bike: 49:25 min or 30.4 km/h
  • 7 km Run: 34:59 or 12 km/h
  • HR Average: 172 bpm!!

What can I say? Everything felt so hard… I got to a point at the run that I want to give up doing Sprints, which by the way, isn’t my forte. The last time I ran a 5 min/km pace on a sprint was in Milton 2008, which was my second Sprint ever. The only other time that I ran that slow was my first Sprint… which was 5:10 min/km.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time at the race, specially when I saw Rogerio on the turn around, boy he was close to me. I did my best not to let him pass me. At the last 800 m, he caught up, but somehow I manage to cross the finish line side by side with him. We crossed the line without knowing who had won, and in fact we crossed it at the exact same time!

Anyhow, I started to research about overtraining and I found the following at Mark Allen’s website:

Here is a checklist of items that will help your figure out if are at this final plateau. Do any of these things apply to you?

  • You have more than one night in a row or more than 2 nights in a week of restless sleep. YES
  • Your legs throb at night in bed. YES
  • You have a loss of appetite even though you are training a lot. NO
  • You are irritable and little things that shouldn¹t are really bugging you. YES
  • Your resting heart rate in the morning is 5-10 beats above normal and doesn’t get lower even when you are well hydrated. Don’t Know
  • You feel like your muscles are burning even at low heart rates during training. NO
  • Your perceived exertion is extremely high even at low training heart rates. YES
  • You feel generally tired and cannot sustain normal training heart rates for even short periods of time. NO
  • You feel worse after warming up than did before you started working out. NO
  • Your training is a seesaw. One day you are flying, then next you are wasted and can barely move. YES

Here is what you do with your results:

  • If you answered yes to 1 or 2 of these questions, you might be at the final plateau and will need to monitor your training volume and intensity. Back off slightly from planned workouts and see if the symptoms disappear.
  • If you answered yes to 3-4 of these questions, you are definitely on the final plateau and could benefit from a week or two of reduced volume in your training and from cutting speed work out completely.
  • If you answered yes to 5 or more of these questions, you have been in an over-trained state for some time and should consider taking three or more weeks off of serious training. Cut back to active recovery workouts only during this period. Avoid the temptation to jump back into full training the second you start to feel better.
  • Remember that if you are very overtrained, feeling better will only be a relative scale. You may feel better than you did at your lowest point but you can still be weeks away from being fully charged back up and ready to go back into your full routine.

I kept researching a bit more and read the following articles, which pretty much got me to the same conclusion: I’m overtrained! 😦

Well, now that I think I know what is going on with me, I’m changing a few things:

  1. I bought a new pillow! Yes, I’ve been having a constant pain on my neck, which I think might be my pillow;
  2. I’m cutting back on my training this week. I already skipped my morning bike and I’ll take it very easy in my swim tonight;
  3. I’m removing all my speed workouts this week and replacing them with recovery workouts with same or less duration;
  4. I’m stepping down from the Level 7 to Level 5 of my training schedule (from Essential Week-by-Week Training Guide book);
  5. I will swallow my proud and go easy! I’m not as tough as I thought I was…

As weird as it may sound, but I find it super hard to cut back. I feel like I’m doing less that what I can and should do. I’m also worried about my Muskoka 70.3 IM five weeks from now… but from all I read, I think this is the best I can do. The trick will be how/when/if I should  get back to my regular program within these 5 weeks. I guess I will have to play by ear.

This is one of the reasons I’m planning to get a couch for next season. I think a couch would have been able to pick up on these symptoms much earlier and would had been able to avoid this state. Well, now I have to rest.





Low Heart Rate Running

3 08 2009

I’ve been trying to lower my running Heart Rate for a while now. Since I did my 1/2 Marathon in 1:43 but at a an average of 168 bpm… I figured I had to do something about it.

Bryan told me about his training with Mark Allen, and how he started to run at 140 bpm, leaving his pride at home and even walking when his HR went up. Well, why not? So every Foundation run and Long run, I’ve been doing at 146 bpm. I started with 150 bpm, but according to Mark Allen‘ calculations, I lowered even more.

Well, it should be easier right? Well, I’m running much slower, in fact I haven’t run consistently at 12 km/h for quite a while now. I’m not really tired after I’m done with my runs, but I still feel my legs a bit heavy afterwards. The most frustrating part though is that I feel I can run faster and I have to hold back. That really gets to my nerves, but I’m hanging in there. I hope it pays of at the end.

The only drawback of this training is that I know I’m doing it at the wrong time. I should have started in my off-season and through out my base phase, not at the peak phase just a month away of the 70.3 IM. Anyhow, the goal is to get better for next year. Besides, last year I did the 1/2 Marathon (during the triathlon) at 2:06 at an average of 157 bpm… so if I run like now, it would be the same time, just at a much lower rate rate! See below a 2 hour run at the annoying 146 bpm. (BTW, I know that just running is not the same as running at the 70.3)

146 bpm 2 hours