Monday, May 31, 2010

Garmin 405 vs Polar Rs800 comparison - Round #1

Even being a long time Polar buyer, it is plainly evident that Polar is recently being "outpaced" by Garmin in terms of development for speed/distance monitor...

especially daunting for Polar is the fact that Garmin is both leader in GPS technology and have also acquired the company "Dynastream Innovations" which is the developer of the foot-pod technology used in both Polar and Garmin...
So now Polar relies on Garmin's technology for their stuff... which is not exactly the best strategic positioning..

I found that the real beauty is when you can integrate the data coming from GPS with the accuracy, speed of response and reliability of the foot-pod system.

To make the story short, I will start a series of posts about the comparison between Garmin 405 and Polar Rs800 in terms of "output" for the runner: what to do with all the data coming from the monitors and which of the 2 systems is more "useable" for a serious runner...

I had never ever considered switching to Garmin until I received a 405 as a gift and later discovered the SW Sporttracks, which has an amazing array of plug-ins which are extremely useful....(Garmin has his own SW "Training Center" which is a total crap, while the online log Garmin Connect is nice but mainly for online sharing and not data analysis)
Now the competition is on...


I was by chance in a sport shop and I saw the NEW Garmin FoodPod 010-11092-00 on display and I could not sincerely resist because it was beautifully small and I immediately salivated to the idea to have footpod technology couple with GPS data (more of that later...)
Price was 650 HKD which was sensibly cheaper than the RRP in USA (99USD)... so if someone is interested, let me a comment and I will refer the shop.

Yes, the Gamin footpod is MUCH smaller !! The Polar pod is unchanged since 2006 while evidently the folks at Dynastream have worked a lot on a new generation...

- Gamin: 7 grams (including battery)
- Polar: 24 grams...

I can also appreciate that Garmin accessories (HR belt, footpod, bike speed reader) all use the same battery model CR2032 (which is very easy to buy), while Polar has 3 different batteries for HR belt, watch and footpod...(did the engineers talk each other during development ??... since the difference between a CR2025 and CR2032 is really negligible...)

Lower weight and smaller profile makes it very easy for the Garmin pod to be tied to the shoes and the plastic clip has a good shape which makes it easy to hold the pod firm to the shoes...

OUT OF THE BOX COMPARISON: Garmin is the sure winner...


My Polar pod was already calibrated, so I went for a calibration of the Garmin's one, which is extremely simple: once the pod is recognized by the wrist unit, I selected the calibration function and you are given the choice to calibrate by a fixed distance (eg: 400m, 1k, etc) or using the GPS.
I went for the GPS system calibration and went for the run... after a while (I suppose it was 1 mile) I got the message that the pod was calibrated with calibration parameter 1008 (factory setting is 1000).
Since it is known that the GPS usually adds up 1% to the real distance.. I then simply manually changed the calibration parameter back to 1000 ...(haha)...

I have not checked yet if the new footpod is so affected by the same pattern of the old Polar, where the calibration was also "speed dependant" (the calibration factor is no more accurate for speeds different from the one used for calibration)


I took chance of a run in the forest in Dongguan for a tricky head to head comparison...I looked extremely weird wearing 2 watches and 2 foot-pod at the same time, but so it makes for an effective comparison...

1) the GARMIN GPS did not pick up the signal correctly because of the tree coverage... so the speed reading using GPS was totally out and I did later switch to FootPod speed
(in the Garmin it is possible to choose if the speed/distance reading uses the FootPod or the GPS)
--> Conclusion: another evidence that the GPS alone for training can really suck...

2) it was awfully humid so after 5k I was drenched in sweat and the Garmin 405 crashed...(it is well reported that the bezel gets crazy when wet...). I had to reboot the watch while running...
--> Conclusion: if you buy a Garmin, stay away from the 405 and go for the 310XT which addressed all the problem with the bezel of 405
Result: No contest.... the Polar did his job in proper way... the Garmin crashed

On the next session, I will check more on the "speed drift" phenomenon for both footpod (which is quite troubling if you use the Garmin or Polar for interval training on unmarked road)

Monday, May 24, 2010

M.P. Memorial Race report

If you have only 1 minute to read, you shall know that I arrived 1st at the finish line, kicking hard with 1km to go.
It felt extremely hard, but probably others were suffering more...
Once the results were graded using the WADA tables, I was given the 3rd "compensated" time (well... I am still too young...).


Felt a bit odd to wait for the afternoon race, but the morning went by quickly with some D-I-Y duty.
Since the weather was really dull in our area, once I told my wife that on HK Island there have been no rain, she expressed her interest in coming at least to take some air outside (otherwise she is totally against any physical activity and sport in general...).
So we embarked the full team on the car, included my daughter's bike, stroller for the boy, etc...

It was actually true that on HK Island side the weather was actually better, not raining, but simply awfully hot: 29C with 85%Rh... the air was so thick that I could barely breath while running the warm-up...

Most of all, I felt super good to see again after such a long time most of my "running friends" and get back into the spirit of competition. Many asked me about my tendons and wished me all the best for the race... the runners are always so supportive among each others.

I noticed that the field did not really have any "tier 1" runner, but many solid runners who recently completed marathons in the 2h40' area. So it was a solid field to test my level.

Once the gun went off, I found myself in the leading group and breathing quite hard, but the pace was still "confortably" hard.
After a while, I was left only with C.B. who last month completed a marathon in 2h41' and a former varsity runner with 1500m PB of 3'45".... So I just tailed him and I hoped to hang on as long as possible.

Honestly I did not give myself a change and I was feeling more and more miserable; I was already cooked up at the turn-around point at 2.5k

The course is an out and back in a small pedestrian road, which is not actually closed to the traffic for the race, so you must take into account the need to go around dog-walkers, joggers, whatever.... also this time I felt lucky to have avoided a collision but I got very very near to a crash with another runner coming in the opposite direction...

Then... all of a sudden I realized that we were actually slowing down (well, better, he was slowing down and I was following...), so I tought it was maybe the moment to try a kick and see if he could respond.
With 1200m to go, I increased the pace (and my suffering). I realized that he was not reacting so I kept on going harder.
I felt awful and in total pain, the legs were heavy and for the last 400m I really had to focus on keeping the pace because I just wanted to stop.
Somehow I managed to reach the line first even if I was totally blank...

It is an understatement to say that I am very pleased with my race...

Once the final results were out, I was awarded the 3rd prize because this race is a bit special, using the WADA conversion tables to recalculate the finishing time based on the age.

All together, a really good feeling to "cut the ribbon" and being able to hang out there very hard with runners coming out from a full season of races/training.

Lastly, usual praise for the organization from AVOHK. Not because it is my club, but they are really good in setting up races: everything simple and smooth and very runner friendly.

Photos to follow once I find something

Friday, May 21, 2010


Yes, eventually, after 18 months I will enter into a running race and tomorrow will be my "debut" of this new running life as Master Runner..…

Time flies incredibly fast.
My last race, I was still 39 and with the 2nd kid on the way … now I am already turning 41 and he is already 18m, ravaging the house as a sweet active toddler...

It is a 5k race in HK organized by my club in memorial of a prematurely deceased club member who gave a big contribution to the local community.

The fun of the race is that the classification is done using the WADA age conversion tables, so everybody has a shot for the overall victory regardless of the age ! It will be fun and my coefficient is around 0.92…

If "Uncle Yip" (former WADA world champion) shows up with his 88 years old he can kick butts since he can still run 30'-35' for a 5k...

On that course I have very good memories because I won a race OA in 2007(report) and 2nd in 2008 with my PB of 15'51". Tomorrow I just go there relaxed without any objectives, I will push hard and see what comes out. It is already a great satisfaction to be back racing and "feel the thrill".

The past 7 days has been quite a decent streak of solid training, nothing special but good consistency

SAT 15th: Hong Kong. 11km run. I felt a bit tired from Friday's longish run but I tackled a hill near home

SUN 16th (HK): bike ride... I will write a specific post on the matter, but anyway It was my first ride after an unsuccessful "cleat fitting" session... I felt awful on the bike, the feet felt awkward... I had the plan to do hill intervals, but I gave up and went for an easy spin. 30km in total

MON 17th: (HK): GREAT run session. the sky was cloudy, so the temperature "only" 25C. W/U 20' easy run + dynamic stretching + drills then 5x1000m intervals along the rowing course in Shatin with 2'15" standing recovery.

I did not have any specific pace in mind, so I just went by feel to push the pace in a confortable way.
3'23" (felt like jogging) / 3'20" / 3'18" / 3'16" / 3'11" (I passed by the 500m in 1'38" and than pick up the speed for the last 400m). Then it was already late and I headed home (to fetch my daughter to the schoolbus... our ritual)

Really amazing, I could not believe to be already in the 3'1x" range and I could have go on for more intervals if not because of the time..

TUE 18th: (HK) 15km easy recovery run. Some slight tightness in the legs

WED 19th (Dongguan): bike ride 1h with cross bike... pushed hard on the small hills... the feeling of going off-road with a XC bike is unique... you can really push fast also off-road and the bike is very responsive. It is really different from the MTB.

The drawback is that the bike is also very responsive downhill, so you must really take it easy...

THU 20th (Hong Kong): I overslept, so only 8km RUN but I pushed the pace around 4'00" and felt very comfortable. It was right after a huge thunderstorm, so the air was clean and slightly cooler

FRI 21st (Dongguan): very hot, 27C/90%Rh already at 6am. I went into the forest for an easy run. I wanted to make a comparison between Garmin and Polar, so I had 2 watches and 2 foot pods (only 1 HR band though...). Report on the experiment in a later post

Got chased by a dog which got close enough to almost bite my shoe even if I was sprinting ... the good thing is that I did not need to add strides at the end of the run because the "neural activation" was already enough. I ended up with 11km @ 4'30" pace and 1.5L of lost weight in sweat. Felt a bit tired, more than I expected.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

pensavo che il cronometro fosse rotto....

(Sorry english readers... but sometimes I need to make the italian friends happy...)

Sono un po' incredulo dalla mia "performance" nella prima sessione di ripetute dell'anno (anzi, degli anni 2009-2010...).
  • Temperatura 25C, 90% di umidita', cielo coperto. Non era troppo male perche' il sole era coperto dalle nuvole.
  • Rettilineo di 1km lungo il campo di gara di canottaggio. Distanza assolutamente precisa perche' omologata per gare internazionali (non correvo sulle acque, ma sulla pista ciclabile a fianco)
  • Riscaldamento 20" corsa facile + streching dinamico e allunghi
  • Il programma prevedeva di fare un po' di ripetute da 1000m a sforzo 10k, con recupero 2'. Non avevo nessuna idea della velocita' da tenere visto che era la mia prima sessione del biennio... obiettivo erano almeno 5 ripetute, ma anche 7 se il tempo era sufficiente...
1. rip: 3'23" ... mi sembrava di fare jogging, ma non volevo bruciarmi
2. rip: 3'20" molto rilassato
3. rip: 3'18"
4. rip: 3'16"
5. rip: 3'11" passato ai 500m in 1'38" ho allungato in scioltezza gli ultimi 400m... ero incredulo

Non posso dire di essere stato nemmeno troppo stanco alla fine e avrei fatto altre 2 ripetute se non avessi dovuto correre a casa per portare mia figlia allo scuolabus (rituale mattutino...)

Ovviamente un allenamento non e' molto indicativo, ma sono molto piu' avanti del previsto.
Sabato, prima gara dopo 18 mesi di stop: 5km su percorso piatto...

Friday, May 14, 2010

climb over....

several times I posted about the great climb I found out in the surrounding of my workplace....

earlier last year the road was still dirt and later it was paved it to make it part of a Forest park...

well.. now the park was officially opened and the road (and all the other inner roads) has been closed to bicycles...

Yesterday I got up early to reach the climb before the sun was too hot, but I got stopped by 2 guard who told me that the road is not only for pedestrians... I try to persuade them into let me in (it was 5.45am !!!) but at no avail...

So now I lost my favourite training ground in Dongguan... and there is not substitution because it was the only mountain road in the surroundings... grrrrrr

So if you fancy a nice hike or run on a steep more details about the Park (in Chinese), which is unique in Dongguan...

On the pic above, you can see the climb road cutting the mountain...

Small consolation is that I will hold the eternal record for the climb, unless further development of the situation:
- on dirt surface, with MTB: 49'
- on paved surface, with XC bike: 38'30"

Other Training:

- Mon: I felt still dead and I was busy with the work... so I gave up the idea of training
- Tue: slacked.. overslept in the morning and slacked in the evening
- WED:
am: 55km road bike ride in QX Dongguan with interval training: amazing that I managed to do 2 hours of road cycling going around the town ...
pm: to recover from the missed day and placate my guilty feelings, an easy run of 40' near home.

- THU: as mentioned... I got duped... I felt really down after realizing that no more hill training in Dongguan, anyway I rode for about 1h15' with the XC bike...

- FRI (Hong Kong): easy run 14km. It was super humid....

Monday, May 10, 2010

Week 18-2010 Summary

I tried to increase the workload but it was probably too much too soon, so in the weekend I felt like crap....

MONDAY (Hong Kong): Run 11k with some 200m strides at the local track. I was still recovering from the weekend bike ride...

am (HK): very unfortunate bike ride. My ride buddy crashed against some barriers and hit the ground... we aborted the workout and I escorted him home. 30km at slow pace. Hope he can recover soon from his scratches and contusions.

evening (Dongguan): I wanted to recover for the lost workout and did the first running workout in years... I shooted for 7x3' @ 3'30"-3'35" with 2' recovery , but after 5 I was tired enough to end.
I was ok, but the legs are really not springy as before...I really suffer on the fast paces.
Anyway 12k in total

WEDNESDAY (Dongguan)
am: easy bike ride 40k
pm: easy jog on the treadmill (40')

THURSDAY (Dongguan)
am: good bike ride. I tackled the long climb in the forest park with the CX bike...
unfortunately the Garmin run out of battery right before the top, but I was for sure on a PB for the climb (around 38').
The climb is 7km with several points at over 15-18% (followed by easier sections): with the 36x26 is quite hard.
total 1h30'

FRIDAY (Hong Kong)
Run 11km under heavy thunderstorm. It was so strong that I had to keep an end in front of the eyes while running... but at least it was not too hot

SATURDAY (Hong Kong)
Run 10k: Felt AWFUL. After a long warm-up, I went for the track to make some faster intervals .
I wanted to do some lunges as dynamic stretch, but after the 2nd one I strained my muscles. I AM AN OLD MAN...
Aborted the idea of the sprint workout and just jogged home in pain

Bike 30k: I felt even worse... the abductors in the legs are strained and painful. I tackled a tough hill near home and the HR was not even climbing over 150bpm.
So It was sign of severe fatigue. I gave up the idea of more climbing and just went for a spin.

- Bike: 4h40' (1 decent workout)
- Run: 3h40' (1 decent workout)
- 2 strained muscles
- gained weight....

1) I need to find a way to solve/improve my insomnia: I was able to sleep no longer than 4-5 hours for the past nights and definitely I could not recover at all

2) I am now sitting on the desk with my muscles pulling like hell and almost can not walk. My flexibility is really poor if a lunge can lead to this...

3) summer is here... 28C at 7am on Saturday, know there will be 6 months of hell ahead...

4) I eat too much and too many cakes/ice-creams, etc... the scale tipped 75kg which is totally unreasonable

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"sole distributor" !!!!!?????????

I have mentioned "ad nauseam" that I have bow legs in severe grade and therefore all my sportive life has been a struggle with poor biomechanics.

lastly, I feel very poor on the bike because of the misalignement between the leg and the pedal axis.
to make a long story short, I was considering to try the "Speedplay" pedals because they have a complete float and they come in different lenght of the spindle...
well... anyway, the "hole in the wall" shop pictured above should be the sole distributor of Speedplay pedal for Hong Kong.
I find it difficult to believe that they could have the full range of speedplay pedals, but I will go and give a look anyway...

Morale of the story: there is a desperate need for a serious and modern bike shop in Hong Kong... most of the places are like that...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Week 17-2010 Summary

A solid week, but I need to focus on something

MONDAY (Hong Kong): Run 10K@4'30" pace. Obviously I had the legs shattered by the TTT race, so I took it as a very relaxing run. The good point was that the Polar Index was 81...

TUESDAY (Dongguan): at 5.30am I saw that the temperature was incredibly 17C, so I had to seize the chance for as good run.
I drove to the forest and then a very good 18km run on gravel roads @4'20" pace (which is extremely good considering that is a dirt road with ups/downs). Felt great.

WEDNESDAY (Dongguan): road bike ride 40km easy around the town

THURSDAY (Hong Kong): run 13km. Felt a bit tired, but the air was also very polluted and humid (Air Pollution Index 140 !!).
It was good to be back after 18 months to one of my favourite routes of 2008: a long loop on the backside of MaOnShan town and then return on the seafront.

FRIDAY: busy with work from early morning... + long drive. No training

SATURDAY (Hong Kong): I joined a group of very good cyclists and Triathletes (just to give an idea: either winners of local cycling race or Kona-qualified Triathletes) for a strong ride along Lantau Island.
First 45k on the flat at a good speed and then we tackled the steep hills leading to the Big Buddha.. I was not much in mood for extreme suffering, so I took it easy on the first 2 climbs.
The road was anyway so steep that even taking easy was a 175bpm average...
On the last climb I felt more in suffering mood so I pushed hard and clocked a 179bpm average for the climb (which is a monster with 11.5% average gradient), topping at 188bpm (which should be around my max on the bike...)
Once the climbs were over, someone was not done enough and started new fireworks: from Tung Chung to the car park in Disney we hammered the last 10k at 40kmh with attacks and counter-attacks. At the end I felt in need of a stretcher...
Overall: 100km with 1700m of climbs...Ride details here

If someone asks me why I consider running much easier than cycling.... I will bring him/her with us next time....
As I was discussing with a very strong Tri guy during the ride, to run a good marathon is enough to train consistently and do many solid runs at decent pace. While to train for cycling, you must kill yourself during training; unless you really die on the bike, you are not training yourself enough.

SUNDAY: I overslept and missed the slot... a real pity

Total: 140km bike and 40k run. I must rump up the running to 70k in the next 2 weeks