Archive for June, 2011

Poor Man’s Garmin Forerunner 310XT

June 21, 2011 8:14 pm
Poor Man's Garmin Forerunner 310XT

For many years I used a Polar heart rate monitor for both running and later for cycling. Starting with the Polar 720i, then the 625X, with footpod, it seemed like an ideal way to keep track of my speed and distance on both the bike and running. However I had become progressively disenchanted with Polar as a company. Even to this day they do not support their products on the Mac operating system, something that Garmin now does with all their products. They also seem to have lost the technology advantage they once had by letting Garmin move ahead with the use of GPS technology. Garmin’s early GPS units were bulky and seemed quite impractical but with each new generation they have continued to advance and their GPS units now have become quite small.

I previously wrote about the Garmin Edge 500 compared with the Polar 625X for cycling. It turned out that the Garmin Edge 500, which was primarily built for cycling weights no more than the Polar 625X. See my previous post for the detail comparison.

One of the nice features of the Garmin Edge 500 was the quick quarter turn mount. The new Garmin Forerunner 310X, has an optional “Quick release mounting kit” that is designed to convert their Forerunner running watches to use the same quarter turn mount, allowing you to use it on both your wrist and on the bike.

I ordered the kit for about $25 from Amazon and received it today. It comes with a wrist stap (the part I was interested in) as well as a bike mounting kit and a back for the 310XT to convert it to the quarter turn mount. Using only the strap I was able to attach the Garmin Edge 500 directly to my wrist. The orientation on your wrist may not be the idea way, but it is workable.

It might look a bit geeky, but not as much as the early Garmin Forerunner running watches.

So how much does the strap add to the 2 oz. weight of the Garmin Edge 500? Turns out not much, bringing the total weight from 2.0 to 2.6 oz. The difference is less than the weight of the footpod I use with the Polar 625X. It is almost the same as the 2.5 oz weight of the Garmin 310XT.

Is this combination the same as using the Garmin Forerunner 310XT?

Garmin Forerunner 310XT

If one is primarily focused on running, or on tri sports, then getting the Garmin 310XT might well be worth the price. For those who are mostly focused on cycling and do some running, then the Edge 500 does work as a workable solution if you want a GPS to use on your runs. It will not show your pace in any readout. Even using the speed, in mph, is not very useful because it seems to be erratic. But I found the pace readout on the Polar 625X to also be useless and ended up using the average speed over the course the of the run, which the Garmin Edge 500 will do. So if you own a Garmin 500 and want to have some type of GPS unit for running, you can get there with a small investment. Even without a footpod, it seems to be quite accurate and unlike the Polar 625X, the distance measurement does not seem to be greatly influenced by the pace being run. After the run, I can download the data to my Mac computer and see my average pace, and a map of the run. It makes it much easier later on to remember where you actual ran.

You also get some features that the Garmin Forerunner 310XT lack, including barometric pressure altimeter and temperature readout, although I am not sure that the temperature reading on the Garmin Edge 500 is very accurate. I realize that Polar has some newer running and cycling devices than the Polar 625X, but their unwillingness to embrace both the Mac and the standard Ant+ communication with their components, has kept me from spending any more money on Polar products. They seem to have a lot of different products, too many in my opinion. Try to pick out from the Polar offering and it is way too confusing.

Of course if you have no Garmin device now, you could go with the Garmin Forerunner 310XT, and use the Quick release kit to mount it on your bike or your wrist. But I primarily bike and the Garmin Edge 500 is well suited for that. You might also read my other post on using course on the Edge 500.

Cycling Intervals

June 14, 2011 6:35 pm

I previously talked about getting back to doing interval training on the bike.  Today I did another set of intervals, abotu 7 minutes hard and 3 minute recover, with four repeats. It is a relatively flat course that included a couple miles of warm-up from our house and then a straight shot, with no need for stop signs or traffic lights during each of the 7 minute intervals. The blue sections on the map are the intervals done at speed and the red sections the recovery portions.

Using a circular course allows me to average the 4 segments so as to somewhat cancel the effect of the wind. This allows a comparison between different dates. I have data from eleven workouts, the first in March 2008 and the 11th today. The last three were done while on a beta blocker and you can see the significant reduction in average heart rate and average speed.  Overall I am happy because I have my average speed back up to 20.5 mph, the same as a year ago.  What is interesting is that to achieve this speed, my average heart rate during the intervals segments was 143 bpm, while a year ago, for the same average speed, my heart rate averaged 155 bpm.


So although I am not going to be as fast, I need to get back to doing some speed workouts to improve my conditioning. Next up will be some hill repeats.

Cold Day in June

June 12, 2011 9:31 pm

It has been an unusual spring, I guess because it has not really been spring but more like March weather going on for month after month.  The weather was finally starting to get better this past week. Anne and I started to bike sometimes in short sleeves, sometimes with our arm warmers.  However that meant we left to go bike around 11:30 am, after the typical California overcast has burned off and the sun has started to warm up things.

We have been biking quite a bit this past week, trying to get ready for the Sierra to the Sea bicycle tour, which we are on the staff for.  After 5 consecutive days of biking through Friday, it was time for Anne to take a day off and do some recovery, but I wanted to still bike.  I checked out the ACTC club rides and the only one that looked interesting was the Long Distance Training ride.  It was 110 miles and about 7,300 feet of climbing.  I was not too worried about the climbing but I had not biked over 100 miles so far this year.  Nevertheless I decided to give it a try.

The ride started at 7:30 am, at the Lexington School, which is up the the canyon from San Jose.  About 12 riders showed up.  Despite the forecast of overcast until afternoon, the sun was shining early in the morning and the temperature was already up to 60.  It seemed just taking arm warmers and a vest would be sufficient.

We start at about 750 feet elevation first going up the Old Santa Cruz Highway, not really a highway, but a wonderful back-road with little traffic.

Photo by Lane Parker

I was riding with Lane Parker.  We were suppose to take the shortcut up Mt. Charlie but we missed it, but soon got back on course.  We rode along Summit road, then up Bear Creek to Skyline.   Even after reaching Skyline you have a lot more climbing until you reach Castle Rock at over 3,100 feet.  With all the climbing I was plenty warm enough.  Then it was some descent and rollers along Skyline.  As we were approaching the intersection of Highway 9, it started to get very foggy, and there was so much humidity in the air that I could not see out of my glasses, left only to look over the top rim.  The road was wet in sections from the fog and the temperature was dropping.  As the temperature plunged to the mid 40’s it was too cold for my liking, especially how I was dressed.

The route was headed to Highway 84, then down to the coast, and back along Highway 1 to Santa Cruz.  I could see the coast from some parts of Skyline and it looked very cold down there, even though it was already June 11th.  Lane started to take about heading inland instead and it took no effort to convince me to join him.  When we reached Page Mill Road, we decided that was a good road to take back down to the valley.

I was shivering as I started the descend but could feel the temperate increase as we went back closer to sea level.  We rode together along Foothill and made our way back to Saratoga.  Lane had ridden from home but I needed to get back up to the car, so I decided the best way would be to take Highway 9 back up to Skyline, then backtrack the course taken earlier in the morning back to the car.  So when we reached Saratoga I said goodbye to Lane as he snapped another photo.

Photo by Lane Parker

The climb up Highway 9 is not real steep, but it is a long climb, about 3,000 feet of climbing counting the section on Skyline up to Castle Rock.  I had setup a KOM section on Highway 9 from Pierce to Skyline, which people can record their times on my Ultra Cycling Website.  I had done that section in under 35 minutes in 2008.  But today I was climbing like as slug, my usual now days.  I barely made the climb in under 50 minutes!

By the time I ended back at the car I had biked 74 miles and climbed 7,700 feet.  It turned out to be the right amount and a fun ride.


Bike and Run With Family

June 5, 2011 9:35 am

I am one very lucky guy.  Many people I know need to find someone to bike or run with and often rely on a cycling or running club, or some personal friend, or they may ride or run alone.  I bike with 3 different cycling clubs and some buddies and sometimes bike and run by myself, but most of my biking and running is with family members, general my wife, Anne.  Since our kids are all grown we have the luxury of biking and running together.  Sometimes I get a chance to bike and run with my kids, but since they live away it is not as often as we would like.  It lets my sports often be a family affair, instead of something that always takes me away from the family.

I have a rather detailed training log and have revised it so I have real data on who I bike and run with, or when I am solo.  These charts tell it all.  The family percentage is even higher than it appears because when Anne and I bike together with a bike club, I record it as miles with that club.