Training for the Strathpuffer 24

Yesterday was told to do a longer ride and then taper for the race …. but surely tapering involves training i thought to myself ……

Went out in the sleet with a 2 degree C temp and my summer cycling gloves and summer shoes on. Now call me stupid but i have proper waterproof mtb boots but still with eggbeater cleats on from 2 years ago …. and gloves are gloves right.

I should have picked up the hint when my Garmin Fenix failed to lock on until I had done over half my ride …

Screen Shot 2013-01-22 at 21.44.53


By the time the screen above started recording – I had lost all feeling in my thumb and forefinger … my feet were frozen and where i was stopping to open gates on the west highland way the snow had forced into the SPD pedals and frozen solid so that i was forced to bang the pedals to dislodge ice and i was even contemplating urinating on them to get them working again.

But rohloff great in all weathers as usual – bike fine … old raceface jacket warm, snug face warmer worth every penny but I was in pain on my return and my fingers took 3 minutes to thaw to be able to undo my camelbak clasp – how pathetic.


So today bought:

1 Sealskin Winter gloves

2 SPD cleats for winter shoes

3 Neoprene covers for summer mtb shoes and for road bike …..


Just got to get spare brake pads now and I will be grooving ….

Garmin Fenix – software update 2.9 – suddenly becoming a fitness watch

I made a little observation the other day on the Garmin Fenix about how it was tracking even in the city

I made a not then that the frustrating part was the inability to use it in the gym very well (there is a section where you need to set it to track by distance and not by time otherwise you get no summary) but now with version 2.90 of the software they have addressed some of the problems.

First, they’ve added a new mode – INDOOR – which turns off the GPS and allows you to record activities while inside. There are new data pages for this mode – I have data pages set up already for running cycling and kitesurfing and at first I was a bit peeved that i had to enter everything again. But then if I am indoors I do not need to know the grade of hill I am on or the elevation gained so the setup is a bit cleaner with less data.

The other change for indoor mode that counts is that they are now supporting the ANT+ footpod. Mine of course is on loan along with my FR60 to a friend so not much use for me here in Istanbul and my treadmill runs but i will reclaim it and use it when I go home. It will also be good outdoors and will add a step count and cadence profile to my runs.

Apparently whilst the speed distance cadence ant+ sensor is supported – it only works with cadence. So turbo training sessions are a bit of a pain – for me this is less of an issue as I have an Edge 305 but for a 1 item / multisport solution it is lacking. Saying that – the fact there have been 3 quick software updates means they are listening and changing so expect that to be added soon.


Garmin Fenix – gps in the city

Just a quick link – I will moan about my frustrations using the Fenix in the gym at another time but here is a quick track from a walk into the office this morning. It goes from a hotel – through narrow streets with 5 storey buildings and it was still able to track. Started the gps as i left the hotle and didnt stop walking – took about 1 min to get a fix and then tracked amazingly well. I dont think woods or trees or canyons are going to throw the track off too much.



the watch is also very comfortable to wear the straps are pretty fab – but it is chunky but doesnt feel much bigger than larger Gshocks, breitlings or Suunto’s …..

lying next to pencil gives you an idea of the height


The Garmin 910xt – a user review

A review by John Sharp who will hopefully one day be writing more on this blog …. a review of the Garmin 910XT which was up there along with the newish Garmin Fenix a a possible Polar RCX5 replacement….


I used to love her. I used to stare at her, mesmerised within her Cyclopic trance. I would gently caress her cool smooth features. She would respond, teasing me with secrets, revealing ever more with each tap and stroke. I knew how to push her buttons and she knew how to respond. And she could read me: tuned into my palpating heart as I grew increasingly hot with her encouragement. It wasn’t to last. Passion this intense rarely does. She couldn’t live up to my expectations nor I hers. Her faults, invisible at first, soon became obvious and impossible to ignore. She became quick to fatigue; from her I demanded stamina which was beyond her. She needed attention and new energy almost daily. She was temperamental in anything other than perfect conditions. Sometimes unpredictable and chaotic; often stubborn and seized. Soon the cracks in our relationship (most metaphorical, some actual real cracks) became insurmountable and the first GPS watch I ever loved, my Garmin Forerunner 405, and I were to go our separate ways.

the queen is dead long live the queen

The limitations of the FR405 are well known but I had been able to tolerate the terrible battery and infuriating bezel for a couple of years before a broken strap served as the catalyst for indulging in a new toy. I’ve been wearing Garmin’s Forerunner 910XT since March this year, have used it whilst competing in a spring marathon and throughout the build-up for an autumn marathon effort. This article is less a technical review of the device and more a discussion of how I have used the device over the last six months or so.

publicity pic

Whilst Garmin have released and specifically marketed other watches (e.g., Forerunner 610) for runners, a reluctance not to endure an anticipated fractious ‘touchscreen’ and a shorter battery life led me to consider the FR910XT. Technically, the 910XT is a triathlon watch. In fact, it’s essentially an upgrade to the clunky Garmin FR310XT. This means that not only can it track every single data point imaginable whilst running, but it can also do the same thing whilst biking and swimming. It’ll track and display pace, elevation, distance, calories, pedal cadence, swim stroke, laps and much, much more. Any information you might want to know, the 910XT is probably able to provide it.

It would be easy to get bogged down in the wealth of data on offer. What is vital is to establish which information is most pertinent to your needs. When I started running regularly three years ago I focussed almost exclusively on pace, running every outing at or above a predefined speed which I believed I should be capable of. Nowadays I don’t care so much about pace for the vast majority of my running. Rather, most days comprise ‘easy’ running during which I will not exceed 75% of my maximum heart rate. One of the advantages of the larger case required to house a bigger battery is the opportunity to incorporate a massive display. This is excellent for allowing the presentation of multiple data fields simultaneously and users are able to choose how many ‘pages’ of data they would like to scroll through, how many data fields they prefer in any one display ‘page’, and what specific data that should be. My own preference is to have one single screen on which I can see my effort (%age of maximum HR), my average pace, distance, and time elapsed. Users can choose from a huge selection of options (e.g., some might prefer current pace rather than average). When racing I adopt a radically different approach and rely on only one data field, the time. Selecting just one data field permits a much larger size of font. No distractions with other information; just the bottom line. And even then I typically only switch to this screen in the final minutes of the race to see how close I am to any targets I’m aiming for. For the rest of the race, the forerunner is resolutely set to the ‘Virtual Partner’.

The ‘Virtual Partner’ (VP) was undoubtedly my favourite feature of the FR405. The VP allows you to monitor your current pace against a set speed or predefined pace. I use, nay depend on, this feature for tempo workouts and races. I will plug in the pace I want to achieve with the hope this somehow also ‘programs’ my legs. This mode displays a (poorly) illustrated running character who is either ahead, level with, or behind the target pace. It offers a quick and ready means of establishing whether you are ‘on’ or ‘off’ target in either direction and gives you a swift kick up the backside (comedy extending boot not included). It also indicates just how far ahead or behind you might be by both distance and, more usefully, time. Whilst for workouts I often find myself trying to ‘keep up’ with the VP, in races, at least when starting with fresh, tapered legs, this feature allows you to temper your enthusiasm and regulate your pace appropriately.

The VP has been embellished on the 910XT. The ‘Virtual Racer’ (VR) feature allows the user to race against existing courses and workouts. In essence it provides a ‘shadow’ of you, or someone else who has previously completed the same route, and allows you to monitor your progress against yourself or them. Whilst the VP maintains a constant speed regardless of the terrain and gradient, the VR allows for more realistic comparison. For example, when faced with a substantial climb, the VR adjusts to a much slower speed for the hill. A nice interactive feature allows users to download workouts from the Garmin Connect site onto their device. This would allow individuals to ‘race’ against friends who completed the same event in previous years. For example, if I had a friend who completed the Virgin London Marathon this year who I was desperate to beat, I would definitely consider inputting their effort to ensure I stayed ahead of them. It is exactly reasons like this that I have no friends. This feature can also be used when cycling and I understand the Team Garmin-Cervelo files from the Tour de France are available for you to ‘compete’ with David Millar et al. albeit without the EPO, closed roads, and full complement of domestics.

Numerous other features and settings are available. I can only imagine there are some people whose training life has been revolutionised by the ‘Intervals’ feature which enables users to setup a simple interval workout which the watch will then guide them through, barking (or vibrating and beeping at least) orders on cue. Setting up intervals allows the sessions to be designed and tailored for the individuals needs and permits the user to specifying how long the warm-up is, the number and distance/time of work intervals, the rest interval, and then the cool down. I suspect this mode would be useful for complex sessions and negates the athlete to carry and refer to pieces of paper or recall which number of 20 repetitions they happen to be on at any given time. Amazingly, there is the capacity for sessions to become infinitely more complex and any idiosyncratic routine can become designed in the ‘Workout’ mode, a feature with an endless array of ‘if/then’ type scenarios. In truth, I’ve never gone near it.
Whilst most of the features seem well designed to meet the needs of a competitive athletes, even the lame modes aimed at the novice can be adapted with a little imagination. For example, the Run/Walk function (essentially just an alert to prompt users to start running after a short pre-planned spell of walking) can instead be used as a fillip to get endurance athletes (e.g., ultra-runners) to eat regularly. I would guess the prohibitive pricing of the 910XT would discourage any entry-point purchasing. However, the battery and features will definitely appeal to seasoned ultra runners. Garmin should change this feature to an ‘Eat-a-gel’ alert.
The ultra-running boom has led to new performance demands for GPS devices. Training on predominantly flat surfaces altitude is rarely especially relevant for road racing. It’s data I neither seek nor need. However, my eventual hope is to turn to the trail and with those the hills. For years cyclists have managed to get barometric altimeters within their handlebar mounted computers. Runners have had to tolerate GPS-based altimeters. The FR910XT introduces an integrated a barometric altimeter. An old friend, Nicol Boyd, is a recent convert to running and, churning out miles on the mountainous trails of Hong Kong, accumulates thousands of feet of elevation. In a sport where elevation covered is arguably more important than distance is this a useful new addition? Unfortunately, Nicol is not convinced, “The barometric altimeter is highly temperamental and always spikes 100-200m at the start of every run. Even well into the run, when things should have settled down, the altimeter readings are pretty erratic and very often out by a noticeable margin. This sucks if you are one of the many people who like to run up hills.” Whilst firmware updates might help resolve such issues, it seems improvements are required.
It is not only the unreliable altimeter which takes the shine off the 910XT. The heart rate monitor frequently struggles to record accurate data. Most commonly this occurs at the outset of a run and can take a mile or so of spiking before settling down to accurate levels. This appears to be a long-standing problem for Garmin. Their previous HR monitor was inadequate and it appears their attempts to improve this, introducing a new design of strap and monitor, have failed. Some Garmin advocate transferring the Garmin transmitter into a Polar Wearlink+ strap.
Quibbles aside, there is much to be admired in this Garmin unit. The battery life is exceptional. Whereas my FR405 would regularly ‘die’ on me during runs, the FR910XT’s battery has never yet been fully depleted. Garmin estimates a 20-hour battery life and this seems accurate. The general build seems good. Being a triathletes watch requires the case to be waterproof and robust. Whilst the watch is most definitely ugly, it is functional. Besides, I’ve never understood people who want to be able to wear their GPS watch “as a watch”. Like all Garmin Forerunners, the watch syncs wirelessly to and ANT+ USB from which the information is upload to the online Garmin Connect software. This is becoming an ever expanding and accessible interface and includes optional synchronisation with iPhone apps and social media integration with easy sharing of routes and workouts. The interface is relatively attractive and easy to negotiate and generally very reliable.

So, with the six month honeymoon period over, are my new love and I for keeps? Lets wait and see whether she guides me to a new marathon PB in four weeks time.

Suunto ambit – new gps hrm from Suunto

There is a new watch on the block ….

Suunto, the brand leader in functional outdoor instruments, announces the launch of the AMBIT*, the first true GPS watch for Explorers.

The Suunto AMBIT is what every backcountry skier, hiker, trail runner and mountain climber has been eagerly waiting for — a watch that combines a GPS navigation system, altimeter, 3D compass with advanced heart rate monitoring into a robust instrument for mountain and everyday use.


 is an awesome product that should be on the wrist of anyone who heads into the outdoors,” comments Greg Hill, the recordbreaking extreme ski mountaineer, who in 2010, ascended two million vertical feet. “The AMBIT is a potentially life-saving survival tool thanks to its full GPS capability and altimeter. It’s also invaluable for anyone who, like me, wants to record their tracks and log their vertical ascents and descents. And it looks great too.”

Specific Outdoor Functionality
With AMBIT’s full-featured GPS the user can choose waypoints to navigate with and see their location in multiple coordinate systems. The AMBIT boasts a host of other features including temperature, track logging, unique 3D Compass and barometric sensor. All these keep you informed of your location, altitude and weather conditions on your adventures.

Advanced Training Functionality
The AMBIT also offers functions for the serious mountain athlete. The patent pending accelometer fused GPS gives highly responsive speed and pace with Suunto FusedSpeedTM. Heart rate monitoring with Peak Training Effect will keep you within your optimimum training zone and Recovery Time will tell you when you’re fully recovered for your next adventure. And after a hard session in the hills, the GPS will guide you home where you can upload your data for analysis on

Mountain and Everyday Exploration
The AMBIT is housed in a robust BuiltToLast casing and has an enhanced battery lifetime of up to 50hrs in GPS mode. True to Suunto’s heritage in dive instruments, it is water resistant to 100m. Upgrades are available through

Comments Jonathan Wyatt, six-time world mountain running champion:

”As a trail runner and mountain athlete, what I need in a watch is a heart rate monitor, speed & distance, and altimeter. The AMBIT has all these features in one unit which is really exciting. One of the main problems for endurance athletes is battery life of conventional GPS sports watches so the promise of 50hrs is a big step forward.”

“Fused speed technology also gives a more accurate pace which is vital for anyone serious about their running. Being able to pair it and use it with all the existing PODs and comfort belts is another big plus point for me. This means one watch can be used for all my activities like mountain biking, road cycling, trail and mountain running, cross country skiing and ski mountaineering.”

“Knowing that the AMBIT is built for the mountains and will survive whatever I or the elements throw at it also sets it apart. Being able to personalise the displays of the watch, download updates and analyse the data on all help to make the AMBIT an awesome product for mountain athletes.”

”The AMBIT is everything the outdoor athlete could want in a watch,” comments Jari Ikäheimonen, brand manager at Suunto. ”It’s a unit you can trust. With its GPS and superior functions, the Ambit takes outdoor instruments to a new level. It’s a serious watch packed within a sleek but robust casing. It is the GPS for Explorers.”

Goodbye Garmin

Not bad for a working week – working 7 days a week so fitting in the exercise is important. Trying to get over an hour a day of exercise – really want to lose some weight and get a bit quicker … my runs have been slow since the cold.

This is a goodbye to Garmin Training Log as well as moving on to Movescount the Suunto calendar and community page. Just sold the Garmin 405 to a pal and looking forward to trying out the Suunto T6C which should be waiting for me at home.