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Archive for the ‘Garmin Forerunner’ Category

The Only Apps You’ll Ever Need: Mobile apps for the Serious Trail Runner

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Everyone has their own reasons for trail running. Some do it for fitness, while some do it just to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and to get in touch with nature and feel the wind in their hair. Whatever their reasons, you’re not likely to find a trail runner who’s attached to their phone. The following apps, however, could change all that.

While most runners use their phones and other portable media devices to listen to music, smartphones can actually help trail runners get more out of their runs! The past few years have seen smartphone usage climb to unforeseen rates, and while sports apps currently rank as the least popular category for downloads on iTunes right now, the sheer number of people adopting smartphones has been enough to prompt sports enthusiasts to develop new apps. Gaming Realms, operators of online gaming website, has noted that growth in mobile internet “is one of the most powerful trends in the internet landscape and the global smartphone and tablet installed base is expected to exceed the PC installed base during 2013.” Because of this, even FIFA turned to mobile internet to increase fan engagement for this year’s World Cup.

Your phone can be more than just a tool for playing music. With the right apps, it could rival an experienced trainer or running buddy. To turn your phone into the best trail running tool you could ever ask for, try downloading the following:

1. RunKeeper












Although not made specifically for trail runners, Runkeeper has everything you’d ever need in a running app: GPS, lap timing, activity recording, goal-keeping, and route-keeping.

2. Endomondo
























Looking for an app that lets you share your trail runs with the world? Endomondo does just that, allowing runners to tag and assign photos to certain trails and keep track of your abilities. The app is even integrated with various sports watches!

3. Strava
















If you’re still not sold on the idea of bringing your mobile phone with you out on runs, you can try Strava, an ingenious app that can be used with a variety of watches, and even Garmin devices.

Track Running vs. Road Running

Monday, March 23rd, 2009


I have been training to run a half marathon in 1:25 for the past 9 weeks.  The training has gone well, I may have actually over trained a bit, running as much as 17 miles last Sunday, but I think I am fine.  I took a couple of extra rest days this weekend.  The race is a week away; however, I did not register and don’t have a number.  I had a couple of different options for obtaining a number, from friends that weren’t planning on using theirs, a couple of acquaintances at ING which is sponsoring the race, etc., but all of those options have now fallen through and the last day to register was last night.  So I decided since I have put in all this effort in training, I should see if I am able to attain my goal, even if I won’t be able to participate in the event.  I have never raced a half marathon distance before, only while running a full marathon, but I’m very confident that I can do it in less than 1:30.  I do think that my goal of 1:25 is going to be very difficult.  That’s why it’s a goal though, it’s not just something I could do at anytime without putting forth a good bit of effort.  So since I don’t have a number, I’m going to run my own race, which is what running is all about anyways, right?  I have two options for where to compete in my personal race, running 13.1 miles on the track or on the road.  I ran 13.1 miles in a trail race about a month ago, running it in 1:34, so I don’t need to race on a trail.  That day the trail was very saturated too, so I’m confident that I could have run it under 1:30 in normal conditions.  I know my body, my abilities, and my race pace.  Apparently I just don’t know how to obtain a free race entry.

I honestly don’t know which option would be tougher, running my personal half-marathon race on a track or road.  The track is flat and I would be able to concentrate on my splits, even every 400m if I needed to, but I get very bored running on a track.  I haven’t run further than 5 miles on a track or treadmill in probably over 10 years, so doing 13.1 miles on the track for time would be a challenge for me.  Also, I wonder if running that long of a distance on a track would decrease my overall speed on the run because of the constant turning.  It makes sense to me, but I’ve done more orienteering courses than most normal people.  I’ve never claimed that my life thus far has been normal, it’s been purposely engineered that way.  I do have a little more confidence in my abilities on the track because in my training I ran intervals there, many of which were for longer distances at race pace.  I have confidence in my physical toughness for a track, but mentally I’m not sure if the perpetual running in circles without going anywhere would eventually begin to demotivate me.

It’s tough to be motivated to attain your goals if you are constantly working to reach them but end up going nowhere.  All I can say is keep running harder…but I guess that wouldn’t help on a track.  How about, if your going no where, try getting off the track and going to the weight room.  There’s properly more attractive people there anyways.

I could also pick a road course where I could run 13.1 miles without having to stop for cars or street signs; however,  I’m not sure exactly where that would be at this time.  I would run with my Garmin Forerunner 205 but this would not be as accurate as the track or a USATF certified course.  I do think it would be close enough to accurately gauge whether or not I met my goal, plus or minus .1 miles.  Obviously there would be more hills than the track, but this would be more like to the half marathon race I was going to run.  Running on the road would be the best replica of the race I was planning on doing, but I think running 13.1 miles on a track would be more difficult.

I know either option will be more difficult to attain my goal than running in the actual race though.  In the race there are people watching and cheering, helping you to maintain a good pace and motivation not to slow down.  Also, the water and food stops make the race more attractive.  I may recruit some friends to meet me on my race with some goo and water.  Other runners help too in allowing you to gauge your pace and sometimes draft off of.  Overall, whether I do it on the track or on the road, running by myself is going to be more difficult than running in an organized road race.  After running 17 miles a week ago I thought to myself, ‘A half marathon just doesn’t really have the allure of being a challenge, no matter how fast of a time I set my goal for.’  But as a former US Army Officer, I plan to execute the task I said I was going to do, even if I only promised myself that I was going to do it.  I think I got this from my parents who never let me quite an organized activity as a child no matter how much I complained that I didn’t want to do it anymore.  I think I tried to quite Boy Scouts about 100 times.  Or I got it from the Army, who threatens to send you to jail if you decide to quit.

Let me know if you think running on a track or road would be tougher.  Also, if you have any recommendations of how I can make my goal a little more difficult to accomplish please let me know.  I won’t promise I’ll do it though.  Whatever, I do what I want!

How Do You Determine Which Route to Run?

Monday, February 16th, 2009

road-less-travelledGo with the flow.  Grip it and rip it.  Do it-to it.  Pick whatever verb-subject rhyme combination you would like but the motto still means the same thing, just go for it.  I have recently borrowed a Garmin Forerunner 205 from a friend and have been loving the freedom I have now when I run.  I don’t have to run a pre-planned course in order to run my desired distance.  I can run whereever I want and feel like!  I am still learning all the capabilities of this product and will blog more about it as I learn but what I want to focus on right now is the freedom you get by knowing exactly what the distance you have run.  I have always felt that I could predict how far I ran with in half a mile and know the time I ran within + or – 30 seconds, but now I can say how far I ran, and at what pace, with confidence.  Not that I didn’t say my guess with confidence before.

One of my favorite things about running is exploring new areas.  You don’t get the same understanding of your surroundings when you are flying past in a car.  It takes a run to notice and appreciate everything.  Although its tough for me because I run by so fast but I seem to manage.  This weekend I ran a route that I had run before but I was searching for another trail that breaks off of the normal path.  I knew what I wanted to accomplish:  10 miles and find a new trail, but I only had an idea of what route I should take to get there.  I quickly looked at a map before I left the house but ended up missing the turn I was looking for on my run.  I decided to continue, I had a Garmin Forerunner 205 so I was going to be able to run the distance I desired.  I would just Go with the Flow.  The first thing I did was follow signs to a Museum that I had heard of but had never been to before.  I ran to it and now know exactly where the museum is.  Next  I saw a couple of runners running on the awkward side of the road so I decided to run over there.  Grip it and Rip it.  This lead me about to a 3-4 mile trail run right next to the road I had driven on and run by about 50 times!  The trails were great and really neat.  I’ll run those again for sure.  After that I had run just over 5 miles and needed to head back towards the house.  I noticed a smaller trail off of the main path which I had never seen before.  Do it-to it.  I ran up it and it ended up leading me to the front of the club house of a municipal golf course I had seen numerous times but had never played.  Yeah, that’s right, I don’t mind playing Municipal Golf Courses.  I’ll even run on them too!  I pay taxes just like everyone else.

The point here is that I knew what I wanted to accomplish and had an idea of how to get there; but when that didn’t work out how I had planned, I adjusted, continued on, and ended up accomplishing more things than I had set out to do.  There’s no blueprint to making decisions about your run or your life.  We all have many decisions to make along the life run.  Usually the decisions that seem insignificant end up being significant and the ones that we assume will determine if we accomplish our goals may not be that important.  You determine what route you take and how you will run down it.  There is no right or wrong path, just make sure you have a GPS of some sort so track your progress along the way to accomplishing your goals.

Running Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

comfort_zone1I like “being in the zone” just as much as anyone else, but we all need to challenge ourselves in order to learn and grow.  When I am “in the zone” you will usually find me on the basketball court, on the golf course, or maybe even conversing with someone of the opposite sex.   If you want to find me “zoning out” just look to my comfortable leather couch and no further.  I’m probably watching some pointless reality show; but enjoying it nonetheless.  So obviously there are many types of zones to be in but today I am challenging you to get out of a zone; your comfort zone?. Where is your comfort zone?  Check somewhere “inside the box.”

Every time I go for a run over 10 miles I try to run somewhere new.  Whether I am starting from my house or traveling by car to a trail-head, I try to experience a new environment on my run.  This weekend it only took 4 miles from my house to get out of my comfort zone.  I ran to a lower socioeconomic area of town early on a Sunday morning where I did not see one person that was the same race as I.  Being around people that don’t look like you is one way to get out of your comfort zone.  Here are some of the things that I noticed in this zone that I was not used to:  a quick handshake on a corner with the two parties retreating quickly in opposite directions, presumably an illegal transaction.  A makeshift soup-kitchen which consisted of a van, a couple of tables, and huge metal container of soup in an empty parking lot with a lot of people happily being served.  A man yelling at a woman walking behind him in a crosswalk saying, “I’m yelling at you because you won’t hurry up.  I’m late to go see my girl!”  She responded with, “I wouldn’t be walking this slow if you hadn’t gotten me pregnant, (explicit name)!”  She looked to be about 8 months pregnant so was understandably walking slowly.  So what does this mean?  It means that in order for us to grow and understand ourselves we must go out of our comfort zones and experience things we may not ever experience.

Running can take you out of your comfort zone.  Not necessarily by traveling to a different place than you are used to but the fact that you are constantly pushing yourself and challenging yourself to achieve new things you have never attempted.  Every time you think about slowing down but instead keep running is moving outside of your comfort zone.  People generally put a lot of effort into keeping their lives constant, but I challenge you to push closer to the edges of “your box.”  I’m always trying to stay edgy, that’s why I watch MTV sometimes to see what the kids are up to.  You have to make a conscious effort to break down your comfort walls.  Although I am a strict proponent of running, try starting with changing up your exercise routine with other activities other than running.  Better yet, try other exercises while still visiting and reading this blog daily!  Talk about edgy!

Just like we strive to diversify our investment portfolios (I’m risk-loving so I don’t adhere to this mantra) and our diets we need to diversify our exercise.  I know what you are thinking, ‘I run 5ks and marathons.  I diversify my work-outs.’  Sorry, that doesn’t count running man.  While running is great for the overall health of your body, it does puts stress on the same joints and builds particular muscles more than others.  That is why I recommend adding some other activities to your training.  Some suggestions are mountain biking, hiking, or kayaking to work out different muscles which will actually help to improve your running.  If you are an avid runner, I understand, try changing your running patterns by running on more trails or running steps.  Obviously, I think just by running a different route you are getting outside of you comfort zone so try that at the very least.  Exercising outside of your comfort zone prevent injuries (unless you fall off your mountain bike or something) and will leave your body more balanced.  Now you don’t have to drink as much V8!  Sweet!

Please stop being a square (box) and become a well rounded individual like our ancestors, the original “Renaissance People.”  No, I don’t mean showing your wealth by being rounded (fat) or eating so much that you throw up because you can afford to.  Don’t waste food, there’s soup kitchens in parking lots!

Inaugural Bandit 14K/30K Trail Run

Friday, January 16th, 2009


This year on March14th will be the inaugural race of the Bandit14K/30K Trail Run in Simi Valley, CA.  The race promoters estimate 100 to 200 runners to participate in this first time event.  The race starts in Corriganville Park, running over mountains in single-track switchback, at one point you can see the ocean from 2600 ft. above sea level!

Garmin Forerunner 205 Review

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

Ok, so I have a confession to make: I own way too many GPS devices. I’ve owned at least 8 different models over the past few years and believe it or not, not one of them was meant for the car. It might surprise you to learn that people are using GPS devices for all types of outdoor fitness activities and running is no exception. Right now I’m using the Garmin Forerunner 205 (available from for around $140) to track my daily runs and I have to say it’s a huge improvement over the Forerunner 201 (which I reviewed back in 2005).


First, the basics: The Garmin Forerunner 205 tracks distance, pace (both current and average), time, and current elevation all in a smallish wrist-mounted package. The Forerunner 205 can also plot your running route on a map and can serve as a virtual training partner telling you when you need to speed up or when you’re ahead of the pack. Believe it or not these features are sorta old news for wrist-mounted GPS devices so we’ll move on to the interesting stuff.

The Garmin Forerunner 205 uses a built-in rechargeable battery to power the device and it lasts surprisingly long on a single charge (though I doubt it could make it through an entire ultramarathon). I’ve had my unit for more than 2 years now and it still holds a charge well, so much so that I only charge it once for about every 5-6 runs. The included Garmin Training Center software is decent at keeping your run history and offers more detailed maps and elevation plots than those available on the device itself.

Because the Garmin Forerunner 205 is a GPS device it needs a clear view of the sky to get a satellite signal. Some people report frustrating satellite load times upon turning the unit on but I’ve found if I turn it on and put it outside the door about 5 minutes before I run it is usually ready to go. The satellite reception issues have been greatly improved since the introduction of the Forerunner 201 so I won’t complain too loudly ;)

Despite the improvements Garmin has made to the Forerunner line over the past few years there are still some things about the 205 that bug me. The “watch” form factor is definitely bulky and has an awkward fit on most wrists. The dock that is used to connect the watch to your computer and charger is even bulkier (plus it’s a pain to keep track of) and I wonder why Garmin couldn’t just put a mini-USB plug onto the watch itself. Perhaps it has something to do with making the unit water and sweat resistant but we’re still left with ominous-looking metal probes on the bottom of the watch in constant contact with our wrists. Freaky.

The button configuration on the Forerunner 205 GPS is pretty simple with just 7 buttons but I think Garmin could have gotten away with one or two less. In particular the ‘Lap’ button seems like a poor choice. I could understand using the lap button if I were running on a track or similarly marked course but why would I need to wear a GPS on the track? Last I checked tracks are either a quarter mile or 400 meters around meaning it’s pretty easy to calculate how far and fast I’ve run on my own. I don’t know about you but I use my Forerunner exclusively for runs involving unfamiliar courses and runs of unknown length.

Which brings me to my next point: don’t count on using the Garmin Forerunner 205 for navigation. There are no built in street maps or any way to load maps anyway so you’re out of luck if you need to find a shortcut home. Sure the Forerunner has some navigation features like saved routes and a return to start function but these are very basic. The Forerunner 205 also lacks an elevation plot screen on the device itself so you’ll have to wait until you get home to check out how steep those hills really were (the Forerunner 305 does include this feature).

Finally, the Forerunner 205 does not allow you to link any other devices such as heart rate monitors or foot pods to your GPS unlike the more expensive Forerunner 305 device. I’m not a big heart rate junkie myself but if you want this capability you’ll need to upgrade to the 305.

The Garmin Forerunner 205 is a solid, dependable running companion that anyone – from recreational to serious runners – will find useful. Once you get your Forerunner jog on back to where you can use our free running data manager to map and track your runs!

Free Garmin Forerunner GPS data app

Friday, March 7th, 2008

Looking for a free alternative to Garmin’s pricey Motionbased service? Well we have your solution here: The GPS running data manager from Upload your Garmin Training Center data or even GPX formatted data and store all your workouts online.

The serious running GPS data manager gives you interactive maps, elevation profiles, and summary run data in an easy to use interface. Download your runs to view in a topographic program or even Google Earth. Plus you can choose to share your runs with other users with a single click. Oh – and if you happen to ride a bike from time to time (we won’t tell) – you can even track your cycling workouts recorded on your Forerunner or Edge GPS device. Sweet!

Garmin Forerunner 201 Review

Friday, August 26th, 2005

I got a Garmin Forerunner 201 a few months back to keep track of my runs and to possibly use on my bike. I have been using my Garmin eTrex when mountain biking for a couple years and it’s been great and I was excited at the possibility of using a GPS for running as well. Unfortunately the Forerunner did not live up to my expectations.

First off, let me just say it is great to have a GPS device that is small enough and convenient enough to run with. I saw a GPS wrist watch a couple years back so I knew it was possible to put GPS electronics into a small device but I didn’t know how much data I could really get from a tiny watch LCD screen. Anyway, the Forerunner actually seems kinda big for a “wrist device” and I found it nearly impossible to wear on my wrist while biking as it made it difficult to bend my wrist. For runs, however, it doesn’t seem to be overly cumbersome.

The data you can watch during your run is great as you can see your pace, time, and distance traveled on one screen. You can even create custom screens to watch things like the grade you’re running, the time of day, altitude, and more. You can also view data on your past runs, see maps of where you’ve been, and even back track on a run to estimate your time to completion. The controls are quite good and pretty easy to manage while running. The screen is large too so you don’t have to squint just to see what’s happening on screen.

Garmin pitches this as a device you can use for running or cycling and they even make a bike mount bracket so you don’t have to wear the Forerunner on your wrist while you tear up the trails or the road. But one notable omission from the data you can track: speed. The Forerunner is set up great for running where pace is everything but to a cyclist, there is a need for speed. The antenna in the Forerunner seems to be pretty weak too as it loses satellite signals fairly often on my trail runs and even on densely forested neighborhood streets. I’ve found the best way to keep a good signal is to run in the absolute middle of whatever path I take (including running in the middle of the street in my neighborhood when I get the chance!). I’ve also found the strength of satellite signals changes throughout the day due to the positions of the satellites themselves; some runs work get great data in the morning but not so great data in the evening. It will take some experimenting to find the optimal time and path for each of your runs.

The accuracy of the Forerunner is also suspect. I’ve heard from some people who assume the Forerunner overestimates distances since the navigation accuracy can be off by up to 50 feet or more at any given time. These slight inaccuracies add up over the course of your run and can lead to an overestimate of your total run distance. I tend to argue that these inaccuracies can also be underestimates and in the end perhaps they cancel each other out. The other thing that affects accuracy, and in my opinion, has a much greater effect, is the built in error correction. When my eTrex loses a satellite fix, it typically treats the distance you travel without a signal as not having been traveled at all. That is, say you are at mile 1.5 and the unit loses the satellite signal. You ride (or run) for about half a mile with no signal and then pick up the signal again at exactly the 2 mile mark. The eTrex will say your distance traveled is 1.5 miles while the Forerunner will attempt to guess (it might say you’ve been 1.87 miles). As far as I can tell the Forerunner makes it’s guess by drawing a straight line from the point where it lost the satellite signal to the point where it reacquired the signal. So if you’re running in a perfectly straight line, this estimate should be right on. But if you’re moving around a curvy trail, the Forerunnner will miss the real distance you covered by making all those turns. You’ll even be able to see this on your map as an odd looking straight line section. Because of this I often add up to 10% to the distances the Forerunner reports, depending on the availability of the satellite signal and the direction of the trail. The error correction that the Forerunner uses is, in my opinion, still much better than the eTrex since the Forerunner at least TRIES to guess where you were when the signal cut out. I just wish there was more documentation about how the unit works.

Finally, I find the software the Forerunner uses to be mildly helpful but with tons of room for improvement. Like many electronic devices today, computer interfaces seem to be an afterthought to product development. I understand there may be some third party applications and websites that make good use of the Forerunner data but I haven’t used them myself. The most annoying thing I’ve found is that when you attempt to export the data from your Forerunner Logbook application you have to export your entire log to a single file. Fortunately Garmin has chosen to use XML to store the data (although not quite GPX compatible) but it is still tough to work with a single file that holds hundreds of miles of data.

The Forerunner 201 is a good start to a GPS enabled running/training device but it still has a ways to go. Perhaps Garmin could actually hire some runners or bikers with experience using these types of devices to work out some of the obvious limitations. The Forerunner is great at taking some of the guesswork out of gauging distances and pace and is a great way to take advantage of the latest in technology.