Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fun with Garmin

I think few people realize the full potential of their Garmin Forerunners. As a proud owner of the Garmin Forerunner 405, I've been doing some pretty fancy stuff with mine, and I thought I would share.

The Garmin gives you the freedom to run anywhere without having to know the distance of the route beforehand. My fiancé and I have been enjoying exploring our new area, and coming back home to see the maps of our routes.

What I want to focus on in this post is creating custom workouts using the Garmin Training Center. The Garmin Training Center is free software that you can download from the Garmin Website. You must also have the Garmin ANT agent installed on your computer, which most users already have in order to see the workouts in Garmin Connect.

Once Garmin Training Center is installed on your computer, you can create custom workouts. You create "steps" that are defined by either a particular distance, a particular amount of time, a particular heart rate, or simply by pressing the lap button on the Garmin device. You can create steps that repeat and save yourself the hassle of entering the same interval six times. Additionally, you can create a "target" for each step. This could be a heart rate zone or a particular pace range. If you fail to be in this target range, the Garmin will beep at you until you are within your target.

One of the more complicated interval sets I do is intervals of 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, 2:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 with equal duration recovery jogs. These intervals are sandwiched between a warm-up and a cooldown. Programing this workout into my Garmin device is easy. I write the steps into the workout builder and then transfer the workout to my device wirelessly via the ANT Agent.

Now it's time to go running! The Garmin tracks my pace, distance and heart rate. Best of all, the Garmin beeps at me when it's time to change intervals so I don't have to worry about looking at my watch-- I can focus on pushing hard! During the intervals, the Garmin displays my pace, my heart rate, and how much more time is left in that particular interval. If it was a distance-based interval, it would tell me the distance remaining. I try my best to focus on running and to ignore all the juicy data on my watch- but sometimes I can't resist taking a peak! The intervals end and I do my cooldown jog.

I come home and set the Garmin near my computer. The ANT Agent detects a new workout and automatically uploads it to Garmin Connect and the Garmin Training Center (this is optional). From either one of those interfaces, I can see my pace for each interval and how much distance I covered during each segment. I can look back on previous workouts of the same interval set and compare heart rates and paces. Best of all, I can import this workout into my RunningAhead training log with just one click. Now I have all the data stored in my log.

And then it automatically publishes to Facebook! (This is a RunningAhead feature-- not a Garmin feature). My running friends can view the workout and I can view their workouts.

Programming your own workouts into your Garmin is just one of the many great things about this training tool. Happy running!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Firecracker 5K: Age Group Award

Continuing on with my summer racing frenzy was the Firecracker 5K in Reston, VA this morning. I was debating between running this race and the Independence Day 5000 on Friday night. I ultimately opted for this race because Reston seemed like it would be flatter than Fairfax and I prefer running in the morning. It also gave me the opportunity to volunteer at the Independence Day 5000 race on Friday night.

Before the race started today, one of my runner friends, Sarah, informed me that this course would be hillier than the Independence 5000. And unfortunately, it was hotter. The 8:00am sun seemed much stronger than the 7:30pm sun at the other race. But oh well. I had made my choice and I was going to still try my best.

Greg and I warmed up for 1.5 miles and then headed to the start line. For hot races, I don't like to warm up for much longer than that. For a colder 5K, I think that a 3-mile warmup would be ideal. My goal for this race was not to PR, but to beat my previous PR. In other words, I wanted this race to be my second-fastest ever 5K. Sounds like a tall order for a hot and hilly race, but considering that I recently smashed my 5K PR by over a minute, I thought my increased fitness would still allow me to do better than I used to do at hot 5Ks. My previous "hot 5K PR" was 24:17.

I didn't start as close to the front as I typically do, so there ended up being a lot of weaving during the first mile. The course was narrow, and I didn't want to add too much extra distance by weaving, but I also didn't want to go slower than my desired pace because of the crowds. The first mile included a large hill, and I ended up logging a 7:30.

The second mile just blew by. Almost the entire mile was downhill. Parts of it were shaded by the buildings in Reston Town Center, but other parts were really hot and sunny. I knew that the last half mile would be uphill, so I really pushed hard to take advantage of the downhill. I passed a lot of people. My pace was 7:06.

I knew I was going to have to dig deep for the last mile. Sarah had told me that the last half mile was all uphill and I had done that hill during the warmup. It wasn't very steep, but I knew that I would certainly feel it at the end. I pushed pass a bunch of runners, and was happy that I was passing more people than were passing me. I was closely monitoring my Garmin and was in the 7:20 pace range for the first half of the mile, but after that hill at the end, my pace slowed, so my time for mile three was 7:43.

I pushed hard during the last 0.1, even though that hill had taken it out of me. Average pace was 7:23.

My overall time was 23:21, which is exactly 1:00 slower than my PR. However, it is exactly 0:01 faster than my previous PR, making it my second-fastest ever 5K. Goal attained by the skin of my teeth! And. . . I blew my "hot" 5K PR out of the water. According to my Garmin, my average race pace was 7:26 for 3.14 miles. Greg's Garmin read 3.2 miles. He ran a 22:14. The course may have been a bit long, and we also did some weaving at the beginning.

We stayed for the awards ceremony and I found out that I got third place in my age group! I was called up on stage and awarded a gift certificate to a running store. It felt great! In terms of all women, I placed 29 out of 358, putting me in the top 8%.

I'm pleased with this race, but I do wish I had pushed harder on that final hill. I wasn't as winded and incoherent as I normally am at the 5K finish line, which makes me think I had more in me to give. My HR also didn't get as high as I think it could have. But it was a nice race with much lower humidity than what we've been having for the past month.

For the fun of it, I plugged my time into the Runworks calculator, based on Daniels Running Formula. My time today equates to a 48:25 10K. My previous two 10Ks were a 49:50 and 50:13-- and I think that's because they were much more humid.