Monthly Archives: November 2010
I’ve been reading Running and Rambling for the a past few months and really enjoying it. Although I’m not an ultramarathoner….yet(grin) I still enjoy Donald’s posts on trail running, and minimalist running shoes. Check out Donald’s review of the VivoBarefoot EvoII, they seem like an interesting option for minimalist shoes without going fully barefoot…of course by linking his review here I get entered to win a free pair 😉 Having 4 pairs of shoes currently on the go, you could say I’m reluctant to shell out for another pair, even if they are completely different than anything else I own. I think my wife would castrate me if she found another pair of shoes in our already stuff closet, although if I win them….heh heh heh.
Morning all, here are a couple quick videos to keep you entertained:
The first is called Mind Games, it’s about all those thoughts that run through your head when the alarm goes off and you should be heading out the door for your run. For some reason Vimeo and WordPress aren’t talking to each other, so the video won’t embed here…..I think Vimeo stole WordPress’ bike or something, I’m not sure about that though. Anyway, here’s the link and back story
Nike’s release of director Casey Neistat’s new short movie ‘Mind Games’. Written years ago when Casey first started running, this 2.5 minute short explores the mind games runners face and the ideas one focuses on while the body is giving it all.
His film was commissioned to be made while he trained in NYC for the New York Marathon this year, to help celebrate the Nike way of showing creativity through sport. Casey carried a small HD video camera with him on runs for 3 weeks to shoot the movie and the music was done by Jordan Galland, a good friend and long time collaborator of Casey’s.
Today’s second video is David Letterman interviewing Jake Gyllenhaal. They discuss running, barefoot running, marathons and ultramarathons.
Sorry for the delay on this post, I’ve been sidelined with a stomach bug of sorts, so lately I’ve been curled up in a ball trying not to poop myself…..regardless, on with the show.
When I ran the Ottawa Marathon in the spring of 2010, the friend I went with was using a GPS watch for the first time….well not exactly the first time, it was his wife’s watch and while she was sidelined with plantar fasciitis he snuck out the door with it and ran(yes, pun intended). He was somewhat familiar with it, but definitely not a seasoned user. Needless to say, after he missed a PR by 3-4 seconds, he reviewed the GPS info and was pissed to see that he had run 42.5ish KM. In reality, he ran a fantastic race on a hard course, and once we had a chance to thrash out the who/what/where/whys of using GPS data he accepted his result and moved on. Deep down though, I think he’s still got a bad taste in his mouth about the whole thing.
After my most recent race there was a lot of discussion regarding distance measurements, and the pros and cons of using of GPS measurement/devices. There are vehement parties on both sides, insisting the other parties are wrong. The Pro-GPSers are fad-following technocrats who are stealing the soul of true running, whereas the Anti-GPSers are troglodytic luddites who opposed anything more complicated than a hand wound watch.
So who’s right? Neither…both…errrr…it’s complicated….
What people seem to forget about using GPS technology is that it is simply a tool to advise, or provide reference material to the user. It’s not a decision making tool, and they will never replace the human brain in deciding when to push and when to hang back etc. So, to blame your Garmin for wrecking your race is kind of like blaming your hammer for screwing up your renovation project. What it comes down to is expectations…
Considerations about GPS
GPS running watches generally take a point at 1meter intervals, and your speed/pace between these points is interpolated based on how long it took you to get to the next point. If you have ever had the chance to observe a GPS watch during a run, you will notice the pace calculation varying wildly with very little change in your perceived speed or effort. I often use the stock market analogy when people mention this; if you watch stock values constantly throughout the day (or even daily) you miss the overall trends of the data and get lost in the minute ups and downs of daily trading. If a user constantly obsesses over pace values, they tend to miss the overall trend of how fast they are going, whereas if they check it periodically and average the results they will have a pretty good idea of what is going on.
Another item to consider is the disruption of signal (loss or multipath) to the unit. The watch needs a clear path to the sky to obtain best results, but in reality there are many things that can cause things to go off the rails. Tall buildings or tree cover/branches will disrupt the signal by blocking it outright, or bouncing the signal causing it to travel further than it should thus throwing off the accuracy. This will force the GPS software to interpolate and do it’s best to calculate metrics….albeit with skewed data. In my last race, there is a portion where you pass under a highway overpass, and looking at the map of the running path I took after the race revealed a straight line from the last point the watch took before the bridge to the first point it took when I emerged from cover. Did it make a huge difference? Not likely, but certainly a few meters.
Speaking of accuracy, one thing that is overlooked when people throw that mini-laptop on their wrist and head out for a run is: no matter what kind/amount of cover you are dealing with, consumer grade GPS units (handheld, automotive, or watch format) are not nearly as accurate as we’d like them to be. My Garmin 305 has served me well, but I have idea of the point measurement accuracy and taken that into account during my training:
http://static.garmincdn.com/pumac/984_OwnersManual.pdf (pg. 64)
GPS Position Accuracy: less than 10 meters 50% typical
GPS Velocity Accuracy: less than 0.05 m/s
Points taken by my Garmin 305 are accurate to less than 10meters 50% of the time (again dependant on cover etc.). The software does a wonderful job of smoothing out the occasional oddball point, but it hardly makes my Garmin “accurate”. Is this a BAD thing? Not really. It’s a nature of the technology and things are only getting better, however without a huge antenna and/or a total-station you simply aren’t going to get cm accuracy out of a consumer grade product. Talk to those military dudes, I’m sure they have some GREAT stuff. Additionally, the number of satellites your device can connect to will directly influence the precision at which it can measure. The more satellites the better. By having multiple connections extremity points can be removed giving you something closer to reality.
Lastly, race routes are measured point to point, corner to corner (tangentially), which is NOT the way runners race. Race officials use straight lines, and often the inside point of corners to set their routes and route distances Runners meander within the course boundaries for a variety of reasons: having to contend with faster/slower people (passing/avoiding), moving over to one side or another for water stations/rest stops, adjusting which side of the road they are on to mix up the surface camber (angle) they are running on, object avoidance (fallen runners/debris) etc. Really, everyone’s race distance will vary depending on how closely they followed the point to point measuring of the course setter. I generally try and maintain my route as close to these lines as possible, but even my Garmin read 42.35ish KM after my last race. 150m+/- extra, but over 42.2KM it doesn’t look all that bad, that’s an average of 2.6m-ish for each KM (less than 10ft for you Americans out there). When you consider the road right-of-way (shoulder to shoulder distance) is 10m (~30ft) for the rural roads at the start, and 15m (~45ft) for the Red Hill Parkway you can see it’d be quite feasible to have twice that amount (300m, 1000ft) of meandering over the course of a race….not ideal mind you, but realistic, especially if you are having GI issues.
Overall, I hope that folks will remember that GPS isn’t perfect, and you still need to make decisions for yourself, however if you can use the metrics that a GPS watch provides to your benefit then kudos. Personally I’m a big fan, the instant feedback helps me maintain my focus. At the very least, it’ll open your eyes to how elevation or other factors affect your speed, not to mention showing you your improvement over time, which is the ultimate goal in my opinion.
After much online discussion about the signage/distance issues at the Road2Hope race last weekend, this statement was recently added to the race website:
We have had numerous emails in regards to the course length for both the Half and Full Marathon. Course length – The Marathon course has been certified and is accurate. However, during course set up the km markers on the Red Hill Valley Parkway were short by 400m, resulting in the last km being 400m further. To rectify the problem for next year, the marathon course will be recertified & each km clearly marked, we will also certify the Half Marathon course
Unfortunate, but these things do happen. As much as race organizers try and create the best race/event possible quite often things go awry. Even with all the logistical items taken care of, there are lots of items that are simply out of their ability to control. For example: this year’s US Half Marathon in San Francisco had rain for the entire day (by some reports it was “torrential”) which caused not only waterlogged runners, but also submerged finish areas, mud, disorganized baggage drop etc. What about the oppressive heat they had at Chicago this year? Sometimes you just have to grin and bear it.
It really is too bad that the discrepancy occurred, but for race where all the proceeds go to charity I find it personally difficult to hold a grudge for very long. Mind you, I had a great race and I’m sure if I had missed my goal/BQ/etc. my memories of last Sunday would less glowing, but I’d like to think that as runners we have the ability to work through adversity and come out the other side stronger.
The distance issue has got me thinking about GPS data lately, so expect a post about it in a couple of days.
Yesterday’s Road2Hope Marathon was (IMHO) a resounding success. I’ve thought about discussing it in km by km sectional breakdowns, but to be perfectly honest most of the miles were repetitions of the same feelings/sights/experiences over and over again. As such I’ll touch on a few highlights, a low light, and look at a few points that popped up on Dailymile in the post race discussions.
As my last post so eloquently(ha!) pointed out, I was stressed about this race. I had set a goal, actually put in the miles to make it happen, and simply had to execute on the plan. As it so often happens, the temptation to deviate from the plan cropped up again and again. Some of you gifted individuals can get away with that, but this guy…is still stinging from the last few times I did that. Let’s just say that all that stress I was feeling…was a fantastic motivator to stick with the plan.
I wanted to maintain a reasonable pacing for the entire length of the race in order to achieve my overall time goal, instead of going out fast and crashing horribly (like I in Ottawa). The exception to this was a section with a significant downhill for 2km, that eased out, back in to mostly flat 1 km or so later. I gave myself carte blanche to run comfortably but within myself here. As soon as the terrain evened out again I was back on target. This tactic worked GREAT for me, and by the end of the race I still had enough gas in the tank to increase my speed over the last 4km….even though I was huffing and puffing like Darth Vader doing a stress test. My wife met me on the back stretch along the lake and cheered me on for a 100m or so, and let me know that I was only a “couple of minutes” back of a pace bunny (the one 10 minutes below my goal time). As soon as I left my cheering section behind, I zoned my eyes forward and went “Wabbit Hunting” .
Much like Fudd, I never caught the wabbit, but I know I made some serious gains, and the pursuit ultimately propelled me across the line. Anything to keep you going in those last desperate KMs.
One last note on my run, there was NO WALKING for me(except a couple of steps to drink at the water stations). I don’t have any issues with people doing walk-run programs, but for me personally this was a benchmark of how my fitness has developed over the summer, and how my sacrifices have ultimately paid off.
Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!-
Although the race finished really well for me, not everything was smiles and sunshine. There is an out-and-back section of the course that was added near the start date to deal with some municipal construction in the area. It wasn’t ideal, but it was great to be able to see the lead runners fly by. As a confirmed mid-pack runner, you rarely get to see these guys in action. In addition it allowed me the chance to look for faster friends in the crowd and pass along some encouragement (you know, pay it forward ;)), and as such I was running close to the road center line. Nearing the 13km mark I found myself boxed in between the center line and a few fellow runners who, until that time, were keeping a good pace. Suddenly they slowed by 30sec/km on a small uphill section. All I could do was wait for a gap in oncoming runner traffic, and when the gap appeared, quickly scoot around them.
Now let it be known, I did not cross the center line. I came close, but made every effort to pass cleanly, quickly, and not impede anyone (Anyone I was passing, or anyone coming towards me)…..what I didn’t realize (I should have noticed this before hand) was that the road was cracked along/around the center line, and as I “made my move” I stepped on the edge of one of the crevices. My ankle rolled. Hard. A quick swear word, and a self-deprecating joke to the runners around me and I made my pass, luckily I have flexible ankles (read: weak) and the roll didn’t effect me past 10 steps. I certainly feel it today, but during the run it didn’t bother me one bit. As if my blunder wasn’t enough, the runner I passed made a comment that I’m still not exactly sure about…but I’m leaning heavily towards “Guess that’s what you get for running on the line”. Awesome. So much for community. I let it slide, but I‘ll be honest….it did feel little vindicating to watch him finishing the race as I was getting in my car later. What can I say? I’m human.
Construction – I’ve heard some discussion about the construction along Woodward avenue, and how some runners found it difficult to race on, or hard on the body. I understand where they are coming from, however it’s hard to blame the organizers of the race for this. The municipality dictates it’s own infrastructure schedule, and unfortunately these two events coincided. At the very least, there was a concrete base; I did a training run on that section of road a few weeks prior and had to dodge huge holes in the ground, ripped up sidewalks and mud everywhere! It’s regrettable that the road was in poor condition…but it could have been a hell of a lot worse.
Course Distances – Some runners have been questioning the distances near the end of the race, i.e. – The last km was too long, etc. I was going to discuss that in this post, however this piece is already too long, and I’d really like to formulate those thoughts into clearer post of their own. Hopefully it’ll be worth the wait, and perhaps, garner some discussion on the subject.
One point I will leave here is: course lengths/routes are set by the organizers, but VERIFIED by an independent 3rd party. This is how they can have a certified “Boston Qualifier”. So if the distance(s) were off, where did things go off the rails? Was it human error? GPS measuring error or confusion? Personal course meandering? Or a combination of factors?
Last year at this time, I signed up for the Road2Hope 1/2 marathon. I had be running for fun a bit, but never anything too long or too fast, in fact I rarely ever took a watch and only measured my distance after the fact (using Google Earth) out of curiosity. Did I mention that I signed up 3 weeks before the race, so I only put in three medium-long training runs before hand? The longest was about 14.5km and I was dying from the effort, but still I soldiered on and took to the line on race day. Needless to say, my race didn’t go according to plan…wait…what plan? I didn’t know WHAT I was doing! According to official time my race was pretty good (significantly under 2hrs), but deep down I knew I didn’t race well.
I crashed into the wall at the 17km mark, I could barely walk down stairs for the next 2-3 days, I tried an energy gel for the first time on the course which sent me running for the washroom for the rest of the afternoon, but worst of all….I got away with it. All I ever have to tell anyone is my time and the fact I did it pretty much “training free”, but deep down I know I could have done better.
So in 1 day 17 hours and 22 minutes, I’ll get my chance for redemption. I’ll be lining up at my 2nd marathon this year…actually my 2nd marathon overall. When I started this distance running thing, I promised myself I’d do 3 marathons then re-evaluate my goals and I still intend do do that, but at this point I’d be remiss if I didn’t say my confidence is shaky right now. Why the trepidation? I think it stems from the fact that I actually TRIED this time; I did all (ok…MOST) the right things. Training, hydration, fueling, weights, etc. and if the walls come crashing down it’ll hurt that much more. At least the last time I did this race I was completely unprepared…this time I’m emotionally involved.
Most of this is pre-race nerves talking, I’ve done my homework, now it’s time to put the knowledge to the test.
See you next week folks.
In another bold marketing move, Nike has developed a real life, interactive running game using people and their environments as the game pieces.
Nike has turned the city of London into a game board for a two-week competition called the GRID which the shoe manufacturer hopes will ultimately encourage young people who already jog for exercise to start identifying themselves as “runners.”
The company has broken the city down into its 48 zip codes. Each zip code (or “postal code” as they say in England) has four traditional phone boxes. Players compete by doing runs, which they start by going to one of the phone boxes, dialing a specific number, entering their unique identifier, and then following the instructions they’re given, which send them to other phone boxes in the city.
The game site http://nikegrid.com/ not only outlines the game, and gives the player/team standings etc., it also compiles and displays the results in entertaining and easily digestible visualizations. For example, the latest visualization displays a time-lapse mapping of the runs undertaken so far, colour coded by sex, and point tallies over time. What a fantastic way to foster healthy competition for each challenge, but it also helps keep players integrated in the game with nearly-instant feedback.
Check it out:
Want to know more, hit up the site: http://nikegrid.com/faqs
This looks like a lot of fun; a great way to keep your runs fresh and entertaining.