Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Thursday, August 28, 2014

GPS Running Watches

In the very recent past, running with a GPS watch was like wearing an iron shackle on your wrist; they were large, heavy, and expensive. The technology has come a long way. Smaller, lighter, cheaper, and much more fashionable, most of the current generation watches aren't any bigger than a basic stop watch and have many added features. A quick size comparison of three popular Garmin models stocked at ATC shows little resemblance to ye olde Medieval torture devices:

Garmin 910xt, Fenix 2, and Forerunner 10

Forerunner 10

The simplest, most affordable, and smallest offering is the Forerunner 10 at $129.99. Available in a variety of colors and two different sizes, the watch is minimal enough to work for everyday wear, so you don't have to take it on and off for runs.

The Forerunner 10's key features include the ability to track distance, pace, and time and to estimate calorie use. It can also notify you of personal records, such as fastest mile or longest run to date, and provides a "virtual pacer" so you can set target pacing goals. Data can be uploaded to Garmin Connect or imported into the analysis tool of your choice via USB.

Forerunner 220 and 620

A little bit more conspicuous in size, the Forerunner 220 and 620 watches bring added benefits with the bulk: the extra screen space provides more room for tracking your run stats, and the size seems to allow for quicker satellite acquisition than smaller watches. These two models also have longer battery life and more storage than the 10.

The 220 provides mobile phone integration to automatically upload your data, as well as training features like heart rate alerts, real-time live tracking, and a built-in accelerometer that lets you know distance and pace data even when running on an indoor track or treadmill. The 620 takes things a step further with a touch screen and the ability to estimate VO2 max, predict race times for certain distances, and suggest recovery time; it's also the first GPS running watch that provides feedback on running form (via accelerometers that measure torso movement). The 220 starts at $249.99 and the 620 at $399.99.

Forerunner 910xt

This is the big daddy watch that does it all. If you don't mind the size, the Forerunner 910xt is the triathlete's dream watch. Water resistant to 50 meters, it can track your swim, run, and your bike, including collecting data from your power meter. No need to manage different devices for all three sports, you can just use your 910xt everywhere; transition is possible with the press of a single button.

Swim metrics include swim distance, stroke identification, stroke count, and pool lengths, and GPS captures your path, which after the fact makes it easy to see how far you veered off course in an open water swim... Leave the 910xt on for your whole race and forgo a separate head unit on your bike if you prefer. If you like to watch your numbers closely on the bike, a quick release mount allows the watch to move easily from wrist to handlebars. Battery life is 20 hours, so even on a bad day it will last for your entire Ironman. The 910xt retails for $399.95 (Without the hrm bundle)

Fenix 2

If you spend any time hiking or trail running, or branch out into other adventure sports like paddling, climbing, and skiing, this will be the watch you want. Possessing all the same features as the Forerunner 620, but with a more rugged design, the Fenix also has an on-board altimeter, barometer, and compass, which are used to add a remarkably advanced set of  navigation and tracking features. Built-in sensors provide data on heading, elevation, and even weather changes, and you can leave a "bread crumb trail," marking waypoints like campsites, start/finish lines, and other points of interest. Battery life is 50 hours in GPS mode and up to five weeks in watch mode.

The future is now...the Fenix 2 integrates via Bluetooth or ANT+ with other compatible Garmin devices or smartphones, and in addition to easy data upload, you can receive text and email alerts and even use the watch as a glove-friendly remote for certain action cameras.

With a price tag of $399.99, the Fenix makes you wonder why people would spend thousands of dollars on designer wristwatches that simply look pretty and make a satisfying ticking noise when they could have a timepiece that ensures survival from snowstorm, zombie apocalypse, and bear attack.

Alright, alright... We're not sure it'll do anything for bear attack, but we wouldn't doubt it. And while snowstorm and zombie apocalypse have roughly equal odds of occurring in Austin, we say it never hurts to be prepared.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Roadie says, “Running? What’s That?”

By Kat Hunter

For the past three years or so, my workouts have been devoted to the bike. Though I have a long history with running and I enjoy it, taking bike racing seriously meant focusing every ounce of energy on specific training.

Now that I’m taking a break and working out for fitness rather than competition, I’m trying to run. What I’ve discovered in my past few weeks of struggling to find my feet again is that more than just my running shoes are dusty.

Oh, the legs. This season I’ve been in the shape of my life, bike-wise, but I’m very quickly learning that doesn’t translate to bipedal locomotion. I started off short and slow, knowing that I have a tendency to overdo it and get hurt, but at the end of each sluggish 20-minute jog I felt like I’d just run an endurance race through the desert being chased by cheetahs. Alternating running and cycling workouts, the general muscle soreness wore off in a week or two, but the joint soreness has persisted. All those things that weren’t taking a beating on the bike—the feet, the ankles, the knees—they’re taking a beating now, and they’re letting me know how they feel about it.

One problem was my shoes. I wasn’t sure when I bought my last pair; their original color was unknown, now a neutral shade somewhere between brown and gray. At ATC, Missy Ruthven walked me through the shop’s new selection of run shoes: Altra, Hoka, Zoot, Asics, On, Pearl  Izumi, and Newton. I went with the On Cloudsurfers. They’re a little unusual—the CloudTec soles are large knobs, rather than one continuous platform, which looks to me a little like the shoe is sitting on pylons. The On website describes the technology as “intelligently combin[ing] what conventional running shoes have failed to unite: a cushioned landing and a barefoot takeoff.” I find them comfortable, and they seem to fit my feet well, which is enough of a selling point for me. They’re also a nice shade of purple.

ATC has a regular Wednesday run at 6 p.m. They welcome anyone, from uber fast runners like Jeff and Liz Shelton to once-a-week runners like my husband (ahem). The group heads across the park to the Town Lake hike and bike trail for a short loop, some people going four miles and some extending it to six. The pace varies, and it usually splits up quickly. Lately it’s been a very small group because of the heat, with the highlight of the evening being rehydrating with beer at the shop afterward. Some people, in fact, skip the run altogether.

This Wednesday it was just Missy, Will Thompson, my husband, and me. Missy and Will were good sports, allowing us to crash the party with our 15-month-old in a baby stroller. My new shoes felt great on their inaugural trip, and it was my longest run in recent history, about 45 minutes.

If I were to give any running product a negative review, it would be the BOB Revolution stroller. With the wheel locked, it’s very difficult to turn and seems to pull to one side or the other. With the wheel unlocked, it bucks like a rodeo horse if it hits the smallest of bumps. Maybe this is just the way of things with running strollers? I don’t have a basis of comparison. On the bridge over Barton Creek, I hit one of the planks just right and the stroller took a violent diagonal trajectory; we almost ran over a runner coming the other direction, who, fortunately, simply laughed in the face of the danger narrowly averted and kept going.

Missy and Will were running at what felt like a decent clip to me, but I knew it was a recovery pace. This is perhaps the most frustrating thing about starting over again with running. When you first take up jogging, you tend to do it gradually...a mile here, a mile there. For a while you probably think two or three miles is a long way. Slowly, you build up, and your perceptions on pace and distance change, and before you know it, two or three miles is a warmup. I still have the mentality of a seasoned runner—anything less than an hour and anything over 8:30 pace doesn’t seem to qualify as a decent workout—but I have the running fitness of a beginner.

The funny thing is, my mind hasn’t adjusted to running vs. cycling any better than my body has. When I was pushing the stroller up the hill, I kept thinking, “I need to shift, I need to shift.” Later, as I was really starting to tire, I was running behind Missy and Will, assuring myself that I was “in the draft” and could make it if I just held on to the back. Some things are the same, however, at least when you’re running with our disappointment of a stroller—by the end of the run, one of the rear tires had a flat.  Roadie-style, I decided to blame my lackluster performance on the equipment malfunction.

Come join us for the ATC run next Wednesday. There’s suffering, good company, and beer, and I hear runners like these things as much as cyclists do.

Note: After the time change on Sunday, Nov. 2, the run starts at 5:30.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tayler Wiles and La Course

by Kat Hunter

On July 27, hours before the men’s peloton traveled down the Champs-Élysées and Marcel Kittel battled Alexander Kristoff to win the final stage of the 2014 Tour de France, the women were the first to cross the finish line. Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv) would take the win, but in the inaugural La Course, victory belonged to more than the race’s champion. Though not the hardest, the longest, or even the most interesting event on the pro women’s calendar, the 90-kilometer circuit race represented two things the women’s peloton has been desperately short on for much of its history: recognition, and hope for the future.

Tayler Wiles, a 25-year-old native of Salt Lake City, Utah, riding for Specialized-Lululemon, says it’s no secret that the women want their own multi-stage Tour de France. But she, like most of the women who competed in La Course, felt honored to be part of the one-day race. A small contingent of female pro cyclists and advocates for the sport had nearly waged war to regain a place for the women in the Tour, and that fight had been successful. La Course would be broadcast in 157 countries. The winner would earn the same $31,000 payout as the men’s stage winner. Wiles voiced the thoughts of many when she called La Course “a big step in the right direction.”

Click this link to keep reading the story at 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Race report: 2014 Jack's Generic Tri

by Liz Shelton

There’s a debate among cyclists about the bike. There are many debates, but in particular whether a high-end, fancy bike with all the newest technology makes you a better (faster) rider, and to what extent, and how much the rider makes a difference. This is the chicken and the egg debate. We’ve all been out on group rides and see riders on bikes that belong in a Grand Tour. Is it worth it? I mean, to upgrade your bike or even switch from a road bike with clip-on bars to a tri bike. Well, I learned for myself at JGT at Lake Pflugerville on August 3.

I’ve been itching to race a Sprint for a few weeks now, for several reasons. My last race was an Olympic at the end of May, so it’s been two months too long. Second, I knew I could really use some speed work, given most of my workouts lately have been progressive or tempo runs. But the real reason is that my better half and I recently returned from a vacation in Colorado. Translation: altitude. I came back feeling awesome! I feel stronger, lighter, and more relaxed than I have all year. So I wanted to test myself and see how much faster I’d gotten as a result. I didn’t have specific time goals in mind but wanted to race competitively and really push the run pace.

The swim was a TT start, the first for JGT. I prefer it over a mass start, as I don’t like crowds, so right away I was able to find a rhythm and chase down swimmers. I started to catch the wave ahead of us about halfway through the 500m swim, so that helped my confidence. I veered off course at one point (only happens when I breathe to the left - still working on that!), but overall a good swim.

Transition was a short run on the beach, to the Astroturf-covered sidewalk, and down the stairs already wet and muddy from those ahead of me. Grabbed my bike and headed out as quick as I could. I haven’t mentioned it yet but this is my first race with a new customized tri bike from Austin Tri-Cyclist (thank you guys!). Now this is the part where my husband, and most of you readers, shakes his head in disappointment because I’m still not into the tech lingo. All I know is that it’s a P2, it’s blue, and it's fast! Oh, and we added electronic shifting. This proved to be a wise choice. I’ll give credit where credit is due…Thank you, honey, for encouraging me to go that direction. It made for a smooth ride, knowing I didn’t have to move around to shift gears. Since Pville was a rolling course, the electronic shifters are a must because you’re constantly moving from small chain ring to the large one and back. Also, you get two shift points on a tri bike, one at the brake levers and the other at the bar-end. But like I said earlier, I was mostly concerned about speed. Did having ES mean I would ride faster? Well, in the end, I did. I got my best bike pace to date, and while not nearly as good as the pros, I’ll take it!!

Transition to the run was a little slower than usual, but that was because I was being careful with my pretty bike and didn’t want to scratch it. I carefully hung it on the rack and then got to business. Grabbed my hat, Gu and belt…running out to the gravel looped path that encircles the lake. Crap! Dropped my Gu. Go back to pick it up (a crutch, yes, but it helps). That probably wasted six or seven seconds, so now I had to run faster to make it up. Started catching runners early on. Kept my eyes down on calves, searching for ages, and just plowing through the crowd. I wondered if or where I would start to slow down, but focused on quick turnover and keeping a constant, steady pace. Like I said earlier, I felt very relaxed ever since Colorado, so I never felt out of control. Caught a large group of guys with about 600m to go, so that made me very happy. And I passed someone a few inches from the finish line.

I had to find out my run time because Logan had announced they were giving out primes for fastest splits and transitions. Sure enough, I had the fastest run of the day for Sprint with a 5:52 pace. Sweet! That time on top of a bike PR just made my day. Head to head competition is fun, just like winning first place is. But real satisfaction comes from beating and bettering yourself. No trophy or medal can compare. So while I am a little slow to open up to those fancy gadgets, iCloud, or social media (I do NOT Facebook, nor do I own a mobile phone), I can say that electronic shifting is the way to go. Now I just need to go train. See you on the road!

Liz was the fastest overall woman at the 2014 Jack's Generic Triathlon. Click here to see results. Read her October 2013 post "The Life of a Runner Turned Cyclist Turned Triathlete" on the ATC blog.