Run training with Strava premium, is it worth it?

I choose to be a Strava premium user. I like statistics, my running buddies often ask me whether paying for Strava is worth the money. I think it depends on what you want, but if results is your thing I would say, yes, it’s a handy tool to have in your toolkit.

So here was my test. In May, having come back from Marathon des Sables, and *ahem* eaten my way through my recover. I needed a clear goal to get me back and training hard. So I looked out the window. And this is what I saw, obviously without the writing!

My motivation
My motivation

Next job was to create a segment, so 4th May I went for a run, starting and finishing where I wanted my goal to be. Here’s the link to that segment, so now I have the statistics it’s 6.6km with an 825m ascent. I also now know that it takes me about an hour and eleven minutes to get to the top. It is also a climb category “HC” which is tough!

Now, this is where premium kicks in, you can then set a goal for the segment, which is time limited, and this appears on your dashboard every time you view Strava. It counts you down to the deadline. I picked 4 months as that felt sensible.

Then, I almost forgot about this goal for 8 weeks, I focussed on training for Trail Marathon Wales, well when I say focussed, I focussed on the race, but not the preparation and got the result I deserved…slow.

But then, I started using Strava to analyse where I needed to gain. It was in my speed. My stamina was good, but I needed pace work. So, I set a one km segment and tried to get that speed down. I entered a short trail race and set myself the challenge of a Cooper Test (all out effort for 12 minutes). One thing, each month where speed was being measured. Then I looked at my daily training against my heart rate. I then made sure I was spending one session in my tempo category, and one in my threshold, as well as keeping up the long steady runs.

I used the “goal segment” for a couple of my long runs, just to check the route and see where my pace was naturally going. By mid August I had taken just over five minutes off my time. The segment analysis now lets you see where gains can be made, and that is mentally noted to go hard at.

Strava training log
Strava training log

The training log gives a visual record of how you’re getting on against your weekly goal (another premium add)

This all means that staying injury free is easier.

All the while I’m learning more about how and when I run at my best.

I had a slight hiccup, my aim was to have a go at the goal three weeks before the deadline, however darling daughter giving me a cold put paid to that!!

So, finally I had a shot at the goal today. In 4 months, I knocked nearly 14 minutes off my time (that’s nearly 20% lost). Yes it hurt, but looking at where I made pace, I was moving consistently faster across the terrain. I’m very, very pleased!

Could I have done it without Strava, probably. But as someone who trains on my own, a lot, it’s great getting kudos and feedback from the followers. It really keeps me motivated not to duck a training session.

Strava premium, is it worth it? I think if you want to make gains in your running. Strava should be there in your training toolbox!

 

 

Suunto GPS pod review

I wouldn’t class myself as a sophisticated user of training aids like HR monitors and GPS.

I know what I’m looking for in HR zones, and I like to see elevation profiles and distances covered. But I’d be lying if I said I was a slave to my watch.

One of the things that I enjoy about running long distances is running to the feedback my body is giving me. I find occasionally that when I run to a watch I’m looking at the pace constantly, and that sometimes takes away my enjoyment.

I’ve had a Garmin Forerunner 305 for a long time, and I love being able to switch it easily between a bike and my wrist; but it has a relatively short battery life for multi day races. I’ve also had a Suunto Vector for over a decade, and I love navigating with this.

I had assumed I wouldn’t be logging my Marathon des Sables run because the run time is likely to be around 30 hours.

Suunto GPS pod
Suunto GPS pod

Enter the Suunto GPS pod.

At 55.5mm in diameter, 18mm thick and weighing in at just 35g this is my kind of size technology!

Add to this one button and a battery life of either 100 hours or 24 hours depending on how often it takes a position fix and this looks like a serious tool for tracking movements outdoors.

Supplied with an elastic armband, it can also be attached to any strap by removing the ‘ring’ and reattaching it with the material trapped. Or, as I have tried just dropping into a pocket that has a good view of the sky.

The Suunto interface, Moveslink is easy to use and changing settings on the pod really easy to do. There are only a few variables- how often a fix is taken (1 second or 1 minute) and whether the GPS automatically starts taking a fix when it’s turned on, or whether you start it with the big red triangle button. There is also the ability to turn the audible notifications on and off, but the little beeps are so quiet I don’t know why you’d switch them off.

Two lights tell you whether there is a GPS fix and how the battery is doing, and that’s it really for the unit.

Recharging is taken care of by a crocodile clip style USB lead that also attaches it for data transfer. A nice touch is knowing the state of battery charge to 1% through Moveslink. First charge took about 3 hours and keeping it topped up now is easy every two or three runs.

Turn it on and track your position. It integrates with other Suunto watches, but I can’t comment on pairing as I haven’t tried it. I expect it too is a very simple process.

As a committed Strava user I wanted to compare Movescount. There are lots of things that are good about both platforms. Categorising is easier on Movescount, and I think the uploading process is a little easier than my wired technology on Strava. Graphically I prefer Strava, and as I’ve said in previous blogs, the Strava segments are a great motivation and performance check. 

1 minute fixes
1 minute fixes

Exporting moves from Movescount is easy, with a variety of format types available. Exporting as a .GPX means that Strava can be easily uploaded too. This is what I do.

I wanted to see the effect of 1 minute fixes, and whilst the tracklog is good, the effect of uploading a .GPX to Strava seems to confuse it. Looking at Strava and Movescount side by side with a 1 minute fix shows that Strava thinks you’re stationary for a lot of the time between taking fixes and this means that the pace data is flawed. This example shows a session time of 2 hrs 16 minutes on Movescount, where Strava shows 49 minutes. Interestingly Movescount shows a much greater elevation, and Strava is correct on this one.

1 second fix
1 second fix

Switching the fix time to 1 second makes the two agree much more closely on elevation.

The moving time discrepancy seems to large to me for opening and closing gates. Digging a bit deeper in the .GPX file it seems to be where in deep woodland there are a couple of minutes here and there where fixes didn’t happen. This would happen with most receivers.

As with all electronics there is a wide spread of prices available on the web. The RRP is £100 and at this price the unit is an excellent way to store any of your adventures. Because the unit doesn’t give any data on position, I can see on Navigation events, such as the OMM it is a realistic way to log your track without gaining an unfair and rule breaking advantage.

If you want to accurately log your position for long days, or multi days this has to be the bit of kit to take.

I’ll be taking this little unit to the Sahara to log Marathon des Sables. You’ll see the results by the end of April.

What a week!!

Damaged beyond repair - my nicely bedded in shoes for MdS 2014
Damaged beyond repair – my nicely bedded in shoes for MdS 2014

Monday started with a “mayday” call to Martin Like of Likeys. Having decided that a local cobbler was the right way forward for attaching my sand gaiters to my trainers – the results were less effective than expected. There are a couple of slices right through my shoes now, big enough to get my finger through, so sand might be a little more successful getting in than I hoped .

Having bedded these shoes in, I was very confident that, as long as I could keep the sand out, these shoes would be my best bet for avoiding large blisters – which though pretty much inevitable I was hoping to minimise. Martin is a veteran of a huge number of Ultra, multi-day stage races, and his advice was well received. I’m going to do my own gaiters this time, and have managed to run my new shoes in this week too.

ECG done this week too; this means I have two bald patches on my hairy chest. My daughter thought I should shave the rest off – and a few other suggestions of waxing from various people. I had thought this would be another way to raise some money, but a few people have let me know that the ingrowing hairs I would suffer would be painful. On top of running in a hot desert, a pus filled chest is not another thing I need to add!

Crocus - looking lovely
Crocus – looking lovely

It comes from golf, but I like the quote, and so tried to put it into practise this week – “As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round.”
– Ben Hogan. Every shot in golf is separate, and smelling the roses is about separating each shot you play, so that every one is as good as you can make it. I’ll be trying to do the same in the desert – one good minute doesn’t mean that the next one will be the same – but enjoy it while you can. Not quite roses, but the crocuses were looking brilliant this week.

Despite being successful in getting through the application process to the selection process for being an ashmei ambassador, I couldn’t make it to Hertfordshire this weekend for the workshops and final selection. I wasn’t alone in this, ashmei offered us the chance to make a 60 second video to capture our achievements and goals – there was a suggestion it could be fitted into a 15 second Instagram clip; I have no clue as to how I could have done that!

I received some absolutely amazing donations this week – from all round the world, the US doing particularly well in the donation league tables. But Wales also doing fantastically with some very special donations from Pete’s family and Meirionnydd Running Club . Just Giving is creeping the way it needs to – up!

And finally, with the weather picking up, it was an absolute pleasure to get some miles into my new trainers and to do my final, long run before heading out to the desert. A beautiful run on some new tracks to new places, joining the dots in different ways. Life is good when plodding away through the hills around home.

I’m hoping the coming week is a little less fraught, though with a four year old in the first day of chicken pox, I suspect I’ll need to smell some more flowers!

Smaller Cogs, Bigger gears.

Really pleased to have finished last week with a run of 20km. My ankle is stiff, but not painful so the rehab is working.

I’d swapped out my rear cassette of gears from a 13-29 to a 12-23. This makes it harder to climb, but the bike rolls faster. Perfect for two things. First smashing my legs, second climbing the leaderboards on Strava.

Early mornings and gears being bigger and smaller make for confusion when making a video diary. Excuse the mistake! 

Strava is a great motivation for me, and training solo. It makes it much harder to ease off on a particular goal. It’s like a virtual race, but one you don’t know where you are in relation to your competition until you get home. That works both ways, either complacent or too aggressive.  Either way it keeps me focussed on pushing hard on climbs and descents.

I’ve been eyeing “Aero” a segment climb in Coed y Brenin in the Wen valley. It’s about 1.3km with an average grade of 10%, though the steepest section is 25%. With my normal time of around 7 minutes and the KOM being 5:38 to get the first spot would need a lot of pain. 

I moved from fifth to second after the ride, 16 seconds back from KOM but 38 seconds ahead of third.  I’ve an idea where I can gain the time. It needs a later start than 0530 and a bit more temperature in the air. I’ll be back.

 

12.8.2013 Training from Ashley Charlwood on Vimeo.

Hill Training and Strava KOM

I love travelling around the hills of Dolgellau and this morning was on the road bike again. A new route, with a climb I haven’t done before on skinny tyres. As you’ll see on the video, I had Strava in mind, but specifically one descent segment. It’s great when you come home and nab 3 KOM’s, 1 in ascent and 2 in descent. I also know on a dry day I can take a bit more out of the nasty climb!

Strava makes the solo training feel like a real achievement. Though this isn’t good if you’re competitive and can’t get rid of the devil on your shoulder-be careful out there! 

Back to the bike!

Well, I thought I was back on track. But another twisted ankle on an icy early morning run put me back on the bike.

Just to do something different, I decided to go and do the classic loop of Snowdon. It was recommended to me more than a year ago, and I really wanted to ride in better conditions.

I parked near Beddgelert and wished I’d arrived half an hour later. It was pretty overcast and the sun was struggling to show it’s light. That and a really heavy rain shower didn’t help. A nice flat, spin into Beddgelert put a bit of heat in the legs before a gentle climb up towards Cwellyn. This passed and Rhyd Ddu and Waun fawr zipped by. The clouds were more broken out on the North side of Snowdon so the glasses went on, and the jacket unzipped a bit. Then the climb up to Pen y Pass. Definitely felt the lactic building towards the top of the climb. Over the pass and then the roller coasted back down to the van. The descent was quick, but really slippy so I didn’t commit to much. I’d like to go back when I could trust the tyres. Back through Nany Gwynant and back to the van. I’d targeted 1:45, but had to settle with 2 minutes over. I’ll call todays ride a sighting lap!

Looking forward to getting my running legs back under me. Too many road miles makes me run like a duck!

Changing over to Strava

I've been playing around since the New Year trying to get the right way of recording all the information I want from training and fun sessions. As all the information is all over the place (MiCoach, Garmin Connect, note book) and lots of the information isn't exportable, Grrr! I'm drawing a line in the sand on the 1st July; everything will now go onto Strava. Unfortunately I can't work out whether I can import data to Strava yet. For now, my 2012 miles in 2012 log looks like 1648.4 km with 23,135m of ascent. So give or take 1030 miles. Nice to have the functionality on Strava to upload from a Garmin (with HR data) and also from an App on a mobile phone. The competitve bit of segment racing is a nice addition too. I'm trying to convince myself I'm not bothered, but I'm already trying to work out which bits of which routes have segments that I can race benchmark against. King of the Mountain (KOM), Course record (CR), Personal Record (PR) and Suffer Score, all nice training tools!!
I’ve been playing around since the New Year trying to get the right way of recording all the information I want from training and fun sessions. As all the information is all over the place (MiCoach, Garmin Connect, note book) and lots of the information isn’t exportable, Grrr! I’m drawing a line in the sand on the 1st July; everything will now go onto Strava. Unfortunately I can’t work out whether I can import data to Strava yet. For now, my 2012 miles in 2012 log looks like 1648.4 km with 23,135m of ascent. So give or take 1030 miles. Nice to have the functionality on Strava to upload from a Garmin (with HR data) and also from an App on a mobile phone. The competitve bit of segment racing is a nice addition too. I’m trying to convince myself I’m not bothered, but I’m already trying to work out which bits of which routes have segments that I can race benchmark against. King of the Mountain (KOM), Course record (CR), Personal Record (PR) and Suffer Score, all nice training tools!!