Monday, March 29, 2010

back to regular running

Managed over half a dozen runs over the past two weeks. Its been quite a task juggling cycling and running. I definitely like and enjoy running more, but cycling is so much convenient for getting to work (plus the fact that I can sleep that extra 30mins if I am cycling), makes it really hard to run to work on weekdays. Weekends are a different story as I don't have any deadline and can wake up comfortably (plus lounge & laze around) and still manage a comfortable run.

Micoach provided the required extra excitement and motivation. For starters I was able to get my discipline back, trust me it’s really hard to bring forward your morning wakeup time by an hour. It affect the entire day both ways, your morning work productivity and night sleep time and hours of sleep.

Being a gadget freak, I can be quite activity engaged with a gadget for more than a few days and Micoach has lived up to expectations. For starters it provides more inputs and features than its direct competitor Nike+ and provides accuracy in terms of distance which comes close to a Garmin and Iphone Runkeeper app. I hope Nike wakes up and launches the advanced version of Nike+ which currently only has a stride sensor integrated to an Iphone/Itouch app.

I have never really understood the way the Polar or Micoach calculates the exact distance (my assumption - the stride sensor provides the number of strides, they have my height as a parameter which assumes the length of my legs & length of strides from some research report) and calculates the distance travelled), this sort of approximation is more than enough for a distance runner, though a GPS based calculation will obviously be more accurate.

I have synced all my runs to the online module of Micoach on www.adidas.com/mycoach and analysed my performance on various parameter. The obvious irritant is the short break I have to take due to stray dogs and signals (as I run on a highway with intersections), this not only disturbs my rhythm but also messes up my average on most parameter (avg speed, heart rate, stride per minute, etc)

I have also found the heart rate monitor reading quite insightful, though I am not sure what I should do to correct or improve it. I manage to hit the red zone quite often, its when the heart rates goes beyond 168 in my case (find it hard to believe that I manage to hit 180 quite comfortably!), I need to monitor my heartrate over a longer run preferably something around 20km. I have a feeling on longer run I will tend to be on the yellow zone.

The graph on the link below will explain what I am trying to say, wrt the Red zone issue.

Micoach stride sensor, strapped to my shoe laces

Friday, March 26, 2010

25th Anniversary of MDS

I was recently talking to a friend of mine (Brigid) wrt her upcoming MDS in Sahara. This will be the 25th anniversary. She has participated in MDS 3 times already and this will be her fourth visit. MDS is the toughest multi stage ultra in the world.

My first question to her was - what has changed between the 1st and the 4th time. Since we are both endurance runners, there is no need to explain the mental toughness, familiarity with course, conditions etc. These were some practical points which stayed with me.... in her words -

"I started with 14 kgs the first time, had half a household on my back - was more than tough. Now I have a new Rucksack which spreads the weight on the back AND the front. I have managed to get incredibly light weight stuff like sleeping bag, matt, clothes for the night and this makes an enormous difference. The emphasis has to be on food. If you have enough food, you can move better. Plus salt tablets to keep the water in your body, managing your water...
I also now have everything I need in absolute mini-portions, as I know now how much stuff, like sun cream, emergency kit, wipes, bandages etc i will need. In addition, by getting a light-weight sleeping bag and matt, I've saved about 1.5 kgs. Plus taking more high-calorie but lighter weight stuff, like parmesan cheese instead of 800 grams of power bars (which I can't eat after a day anyways)........."

Anyway, here's the link to the Marathon des Sables homepage, where you can send email to a competitor from April 4 to 9: www.darbaroud.com

Brigid Wefelnberg, Germany, Bib no. 537

Do try and drop in a line on the dates mentioned above.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Detailed review - Micoach

After my weeklong break post March 7, 2010 BRM of 300km, I finally returned to running. This was my first run in March and I was missing it a lot. Plus I was super excited to check out and test my new running gear/aid - Adidas Micoach.

It took my about an hour to register on the www.adidas.com/micoach website, with my contact details, download and transfer the details to my PC and to my device (age, height, weight, etc to calculate distance, calories, max heart rate etc). After that I had to pair my Micoach pacer to the heart rate monitor (which was strapped on my chest)and to the stride sensor device (which is strapped to my shoe laces). Once paired its quite simple as the voice activated commands instructs you to do the rest (headphone is connected to the Micoach pacer device).

I don't believe in having specific pre programmed workouts, so I choose the free mode which allows me to do my own thing and the voice activated coach, informs me about my stride frequency, average speed, distance completed, Time taken, current heart rate, heart rate zone, etc, at the push of a button.

I run on the same route everyday, so I got to test the Micoach pacer over 2 days on the same route. It was nice to find that the readings were almost identical.

I am very new to the concept of having an heart rate monitor strapped on me, plus the readings that come off it. Strapping something on your chest while running is not really a nice feeling as one has to take deep breaths and this just gives you that claustrophobic feeling. On the second day I managed to get used to it, I also realised that the strap was adjustable. Now the most interesting bit, there are three zones, green, yellow and Red. Red being the danger zone. I realised that I was hitting the red zone quite a few times during the run, which might be for quite a few reasons, I was returning to running after a break, was yet to find my rhythm, the heat/sun and resultant discomfort due to late starts, etc. So I will have to give is a few more runs and somehow manage my runs while sticking to the Yellow zone.

Some interesting numbers which I discovered is that my average strides per minute is about 177, Now I need to check how good or bad is that. I remember watching a video called evolution running which had suggested the ideal stride rate for a long distance runner (and height of a person has no impact on stride per minute)

The device at the bottom is the heart rate monitor (which needs to be strapped on the chest with a elastic band, with plastic coated metal strips as sensors), on the left is the stride sensor and on the right is the main device (primary device which drives and collects data from the other two devices, and also connects with the PC for data upload and download).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cyclothon - Tour de Bombay, February 21, 2010

The Bombay Cyclothon was another memorable event. It was also the first time I had a flat tyre (in a race) and had to travel half the distance running/walking with my bike (I was using a regular road bike without quick release, plus i did not have a spare tube, pump).

http://mumbaicyclothon.com/ had different race categories, but the only one I was eligible for was the 24km ride (sorta the biking equivalent of the dream run), I was not really keen on participating in this 24km ride as I had just completed a 200km BRM a couple of weeks before this event. The sea link ride made it all worthwhile (inspite of the 24km distance) and I was really looking forward to the event.

The 24k ride started very well and I really enjoyed riding my bike at 30km plus, on the streets of Bandra (without any vehicular traffic), reminded me of the first time I watch Tour de France on TV and used to marvel at the way those riders rode so close to one another without ever bumping into one another and having crowds (locals) line up on both sides. This bike ride through Bandra during the cyclothon recreated that experience for me. This experience was bigger than what I experienced running or cycling on the Bandra Worli Sea link.

The flat tyre only added to my memorable experience, it will ensure that I remember this for a long long time. Not many people understood why I was running with my bike, wouldn't it be more sensible to just hop onto the support vehicle and return to safety. I have never understood how people can give up on anything, even if it looks/sounds impossible, isn't it the obvious thing to do - to just go and get what you have aimed for, irrespective the variables (internal and external) thrown at you? I have always finished any race that I have started and even those I have not been able to finish (like my 2nd Bangalore Ultra) due to time limits, I have tried to do it till the very last minute.

I hope next year the cyclathon organised have atleast a 50k bike ride for regular cyclists.

this is the nasty nail which gave me a lot of grief

Running to reviewing running gear

I was recently approached by Adidas to review their product - Micoach PacerB. Its basically a device which helps a runner accurately monitor his progress, wrt no. of strides, calories burnt, monitor heart rate, distance covered, speed, etc.

I am a big gadget freak and have experimented with quite a few timing devices in the past, but most have not been very accurate, but have been good fun to use. My first tracking device was the Nokia 5500 sport phone (which I believe has been the only true sports phone from Nokia), I have also tried the Iphone GPS based run keeper application and I use a cat-eye cyclocomputer on my bike.

So far I have not yet got down to testing Micoach, but my initial homework tells me that it will help me monitor my progress better and also help me improve my avg speed. I am a little sceptical about the max heart rate numbers theory and their relation to running, but I do believe that its definitely better to do higher speeds without pushing your heart beyond reasonable limits. I hope Micoach will help me firm up my opinion on the max heart rate confusion I have in my head (will the theoretical max be different from what I experience myself).

Looking forward to putting Micoach to test this weekend, after my week long break post last Sundays 300km bike race.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

After ultra running its also ultra cycling now

Its been a long break from blogging. But now I am back for good, hopefully :P

The last few months have been quite interesting, in addition to doing the regular Bombay marathon (my 7th successive full marathon, since inception of the event) in Jan 2010, I completed it in 4hrs 43mins. Which was quite good, given my level of preparation and the weather conditions in Bombay.

I also did the 200km and 300km BRM in India. These BRMs are organised http://randonneursindia.blogspot.com/ the Indian Chapter of Audax Club Parisien (France). Randonneurs India has been formed to get together the Hypermiler cyclists, with a view of participating in Paris - Brest - Paris 2011.

I hope to do the 1000km race in 2011 in France, If I can get everything else in place for it. I need to do four races in one year to qualify for it - 200k (in under 13.5hrs), 300k (under 20hrs), 400k (under 27hrs) and the 600k (under 40hrs). I am not really a natural cyclist, which means I can't just go for really long rides on my own (for training) and that in turn means doing longer distances in races is going to get increasingly difficult. My training - I use the cycle for commuting to work (about once or twice a week) and try to ride with friends over weekends. On the other hand running is something I really enjoy and can easily train for it alone, plus running (training) does not take up that much of time.

For more on randonneruring visit this link - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randonneuring

I started cycling primarily to get the biking going for my Ironman preparation, which requires 180kms of Biking and there is no way I can train for it in a Gym or on the streets of Bombay. The only option was to participate in group rides and races, Randonneruring was the obvious solution given by limitations and interest levels wrt. cycling.

Another very big plus for this sort of endurance cycling has been the benefits of cross training. I have not had any running related injury for over a year now, which is a very big achievement for me (as I don't like gyms and hence was lacking strength training).