Strava Summary Activity

Friday, May 15, 2015

More adventures with the quantified athletes - the Vivoactive Smart, Fitness Watch

I joined the Palo Alto Run Club at the start of my second running life back in 2001.  I had no friends there.  It was tough to make conversation with the runners.  I tended to just stand all alone before and after the workout -- no one ever really  talked to me since we lacked anything in particular to talk about.  Then one day a colleague who worked at Nike asked me to test the company's new high-concept sports watch.  The following Wednesday I wore the Nike watch to a Palo Alto Club workout.  Suddenly all the guys gathered around me asking questions about the watch's specs, functionality, price point and retail availability.  It was even a way bigger hit than when I brought my cool, new Hot Wheel toy cars to Maple Park Elementary school back in 1st grade.

I have read so many long, flowery paeans to running's pure, non-material, spiritual  nature.  But then the reality that I observe is like much else -- it is all about the gear.  And in running nowadays that means the sports watches (much more than the shoes or compression gear). 

And so I feel reluctantly compelled to keep up with social norms.  My Garmin Forerunner 205 has long since fallen out of fashion So for more than a year I had been awaiting the long-rumored Apple Watch.  However when the Apple Watch is finally announced it is clearly not even a remotely acceptable triathlon watch -- for numerous well documented reasons.  Presumably a later version, perhaps version 3.0 or 4.0 will be more suitable, but for the present I realized that I needed to stick with a dedicated fitness brand of watch. 

So I frantically begun researching other triathlon watch options.  The hardcore triathlon teammates I diligently consult with are shocked and dismayed that I am not interested in the Garmin 920XT, the watch of choice for the serious triathletes.  The 920XT is just way, way too complicated for me, too expensive, and too heavy.  I conclude that the Forerunner 220 is perfectly adequate, and am ready to order one, but then read about the introduction of Vivoactive, a combination GPS sports watch, fitness tracker, and smart watch for the same price.  

The Vivoactive announcement states the new watch will be released in Q1 2015, but mine did not actually arrive until late April.  When I do finally see the package in my mailbox  I am pretty excited of course, as evidenced by my making the de rigueur "unboxing video" --> 


As excited about the watch as I may be, it still takes me a week or so before I actually make it through the tiresome, circuitous, and absolutely un-intuitive process of synching up with my iPhone (I needed to upgrade OS for the app), re-establishing a long-lapsed Garmin Connect account, figuring out how to turn on the cycling function (while riding in traffic), etc. 

So after all this wait and anticipation and effort to figure out some of the basic functionality of the Vivoactive how do I like it?  Um, it is pretty good I guess.  Ideally the battery life would be longer and GPS quicker to find satellites, but on the positive side it is very light, works for swimming, the touch-screen navigation is reasonably simple, and it synchs easily with Strava.

Being a "fitness tracker", the Vivoactive immediately starts to berate me about not moving around enough and alerting me each and every hour, about my progress toward reaching the daily goal of 6,267 steps that the Vivoactive established for me.  I had difficulty reaching this goal the first few days (partly because I was swimming and cycling and partly because I did not wear the watch throughout the day), and the Vivoactive expressed its disappointment with my seemingly sedentary lifestyle.  But my 21k trail run helped me to blow past the goal on Sunday (I recorded 37,801 steps), so I think the watch is placated for the moment.  

And once I finally figured out how to synch my watch I was surprised to be buzzed by a text message.  I had forgotten that my triathlon watch is also a "smart watch".  This means that now I am constantly being interrupted by vibration alerts upon receiving text messages on my watch (when carrying my iPhone).  I guess this is kind-of cool – constantly glancing surreptitiously at all the sundry status updates, maintenance notices, promotional ads, and various announcements on my wrist. I mean it did prove helpful when meeting some people in a crowded train station last weekend. Granted the whole constant multi-tasking and disruption lifestyle is what I have largely sought to minimize of late and stay focused on living and being in the moment.  

But hey, the important thing is that now I am reasonably up-to-date with the watch technology for the quantified athletes and I will thus be able to socialize with my peers. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

New triathlon training program - all intensity, all the time

I abandon plans to participate in Monday’s Boston Marathon.  I was never particularly enthusiastic about attempting a fast 42-kilometers on pavement, and felt mostly relief when I made the decision and abandoned my slot.  Right afterwards one of the guys beside me at a workout in Arizona starts talking about all his effort to run a “BQ” .  It took me a moment to figure out what the heck a BQ meant, and when I did I was reminded of the effort so many (particularly American) runners put in to experience the hallowed course.  I decided not to mention to this guy how I had just relinquished my coveted spot. 

So with Boston out of the picture, and no run events on my calendar, I shift into a new Triathlon Training Program. I enlist a “coach” - longtime teammate Keren - who creates a base triathlon training program for late March and April. 

All the training is intense.  Ten relatively short and relatively fast workouts per week. 

As far as the running - that Polarized Training concept I mentioned in my earlier post - that is completely out the window.  None of that “active recovery” that is considered so crucial by some run training gurus.   No easy runs, no foundation runs -- just hard brick-runs, track intervals, hills, and short bursts on treadmills. 

You see this vividly illustrated in my Strava run log for the past 4 weeks (versus my January run log I posted here on Feb 9).   Like in the lyrics of the old Coldplay song, “it is all yellow” - yellow meaning “workout” rather than the green for an easier “run”

Friday, March 13, 2015

Spin Class with the Quantified Athletes

I finally start cycling training for the 2015 campaign -->
a technology-enabled spin session at Tim Smith's new studio

But spin class with the quantified triathletes does not involve standing and pedaling faster as the  beat picks up in the songs of Black Eyed Peas or Journey...  no, none of the showboating and music I indulge in with all the housewives at the YMCA back in suburban America

Instead my eyes are fixed on the color of the bar graph measuring my wattage on a big computer screen in the front of the room.  

Endurance is my forte, but I am unable to maintain my prescribed wattage level during the final brick of our 60-minute workout

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Litchfield Park 10k

I have been hoping to run a 10k and improve upon the 36:50 I clocked at the 10k mark at last month's half-marathon.  Surely I could run closer to 36 minutes in a straight 10k?

So I entered the flat and fast (and conveniently located) Litchfield Park 10k last week.

The Litchfield Park 10k does not appear to be a major draw for elite athletes - the other runners in the registration line do not have that gaunt, intent look I observe at more hard-core events  and several participants were availing themselves of the southwestern-style omelets being cooked up for runners prior to the race.  The omelets and coffee are looking pretty good to me at this point too.   However I remind myself of my critical 10k mission, and at the starting line I note that the field does include a guy wearing an ironman cap, and Kathy Rakel, a professional triathlete.  

Of course when the starting gun goes off I just run behind Kathy for the first kilometer at a comfortable 3:40 pace for the first kilometer.  Then when her pace starts to slow (apparently she is in the midst of a 500 mile cycling block), I tuck in behind the guy with the Ironman cap as he takes the lead.  The guy with Ironman cap gradually slows to about a 4:00 per kilometer pace, and I just stay on his shoulder biding my time.  

I am just focused on race tactics at this point.  I have long since forgotten about running a 36 minute time.    I feel like am running fast enough – 4-minute pace has actually started to seem pretty darn swift.    I mean who really cares about the finish time?  All I am thinking is just win, baby  

Finally at the halfway mark (which we hit in exactly 20 minutes),  I put in a hard surge to drop my rival, and then I push myself through several kilometers of winding residential neighborhoods at 3:40 pace.  I finish the race looking over my shoulder to make sure no one is coming back on me.  I feel really tired as I struggle down the final stretch and see no reason to do anything beyond what is necessary to win (still seem to be top for that segment on Strava).  

The little competitive endeavor is great fun  and I am awarded with this lovely hardware for my first place overall finish

Oh yeah, my time was like 38:38.

Monday, February 09, 2015


I have been logging training mileage for a really, really long time. Over the years I have used various technologies to log mileage:

  1.  Jim Fixx Daily Running Log – In the 1980s before this guy famously died of heart attack while running 
  2. Pencil and back of an envelope- From mid-80s this was entirely adequate (if I bothered to track mileage at all) 
  3. Excel Spreadsheet - 2005-2010 When I was training for Ironman this was the most flexible application 
  4. Running Ahead – I used this for several years in order to produced the simple, useful graphs you can see in my blog below 
  5. Triathlog – During 2013 and 2014 I faithfully used this simple, free site in order to share workout with a couple teammates 

My holy grail has been to find an application that was a blend of mileage log, athlete-only social networking, race reporting, integration with this blog, and a platform that all the endurance athletes I know would coalesce around. I still have not found this optimal solution.

 But since start of 2015 I have been logging all my workouts on Strava, and after initial disdain it has been growing on me.

Strava is first and foremost a social networking site where users utilize their GPS tracking device to capture various time, distance, elevation and route metrics and compete for ranking on various segments of their runs and rides. The company’s stated mission is to “unite athletes and put workouts and races into context”. It has been described as "real-life fantasy football for data-obsessed cyclists" and blamed for turning fun, friendly workout into cutthroat, virtual competitions.

So naturally Strava's mileage log functionality seems a bit of an afterthought.  "Ride" is always the default workout.  And Strava only classifies runs as Race, Long Run, Run or Workout. What? "Workout"? I was annoyed at first, I thought this categorization was absurdly limiting, but now I like the ability to gain sense if I am overtraining in one glance at color-coded, 4-week chart-->

I had used Strava for several years as a way to map my workout with GPS, but generally ignored the whole Leaderboard/social connection aspect of it.  But just over the past few months more and more people I know have started posting on Strava and the networking effect seems to be building.  The company closed on an $18 million venture financing round in November so perhaps the functionality will improve further.

 As far as turning all my workouts into cutthroat, virtual competitions...  I will follow-up on that...

Monday, February 02, 2015

Kanagawa 2015

I ran a strong 10k at Kanagawa yesterday clocking 36:51. 

The only problem was that I was running a half-marathon.

So the last 11.1k were a bit of an ordeal.  I managed to finish in 1:20:50, and felt happy to have hung on as well as I did after the unfortunately fast start.  

Right before the race I had advised teammate Sam to start slowly - slower than goal pace if possible.  Then I positioned myself too close to the front and was swept out --  almost getting knocked down as the fast field exploded out along the narrow opening stretch.  At 500 meters an extremely elderly runner went by and I foolishly kept pace with him continuing my suicidal pace even though I absolutely knew I was going too fast.  Other runners in the fast, deep field kept pouring past me as I tried to slow down, still I hit the 5k mark in 18:05 and felt sense of impending doom even as I tried to convince myself I was feeling strong. 

The whole experience was the opposite of most of my recent races where I have started slower than overall race pace and realized a confidence boost from overtaking other runners. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Shibuya Ekiden 2015

Our Shibuya Ekiden Master's team reunited yesterday to defend our crown.

This year I ran the second leg, and I received the sash with our team already way out in front.  I have always found that having other runners around me has pushed me to run much faster but yesterday it was just me and my adrenaline and my teammates yelling at me that someone was gaining on me.  I had been taught since my earliest days of running that one must never, never look back.  Driven by the absolute terror of being overtaken, I bolted through the 2.9-km course in 9:55 - a full 12 seconds faster than my time last year (which I felt represented my optimal effort).

In fact, throughout my run I was actually light years ahead of the next team   and so by the time I handed off the sash I had managed to give the team a 45-second cushion.  But there was still drama to come our archrivals 4th runner ran the days fastest time to catch up with our anchor Brett.  Fortunately Brett is as tough and gritty of competitor as you will find, and he powered through the final 500 meters at a full sprint to give us a 4-second margin of victory.

Here is team projected onto big screen in front of adoring crowd --> 

Again I am reminded how much I appreciate the teamwork of these ekidens (relays) --  probably the key reason I returned to competitive events in my “second running life” --  long after “growing up” and abandoning such frivolous endeavors.  

Thursday, January 08, 2015

2014 Training (Run)

Here is my run mileage chart for all of 2014:

The mileage chart above indicates an increasing percentage of my mileage is classified as EASY.  My easy runs are very EASY – over 6-minutes per kilometer.  The remaining mileage is generally more fast and intense – intervals, races, and short hill sets (long-runs diminishing through the year).  Increasingly I find myself doing a Polarized Training regime – essentially either high or low intensity and avoiding anything “moderate”.  As usual this has much more to do with the social nature of my run training than some deliberate, tactical effort on my part to embrace any particular program – I am keen to maintain the weekly hill repeat session I started or join some relay or stay up with pace of certain teammates in interval sessions.

I maintain around 250-kilometers during the year, even my “off-season”. Not that I really have an “off-season”.  Not that I have any “seasons”. 

But for 2015 I do intend to have a bit more structured training effort - like all my disciplined triathlon teammates.  

Monday, November 03, 2014

2014 Barbecue 10k

I run 36:59 at Namban Barbecue 10k.

I intended to run at about 85% of full effort.  But my pace rabbit, George (pictured to my left), takes it out at 3:41 per kilometer pace and so, inevitably, that is precisely the pace that I maintain for the whole 10k.

The time is very close to the time of 36:48 I ran at Fall City two weeks earlier, this despite a lingering cough, and despite my intentions to run at less than 100%.  Once again the competitive dynamics kicks in and I feel compelled to push through to end -- and avoid getting passed (I finish in 2nd place, completely exhausted by the effort). 

My plan for October had been to focus on a painfully difficult and highly competitive cross country race in Seattle.  But with the aforementioned cold, and with my Seattle teammates split among several events, it was just too easy to decide not to enter the cross country race on the rainy morning of the event.  Such poor form how quickly I decide to abandon my "A race" 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fall City 10k

I am "comped" for Saturday's Fall City 10k.

This suggests that the race directors expect me to be a somewhat "elite" runner (my entry code is ELITE2014), and I feel an obligation to run the race with a bit of intensity.

But I don't start the race with particular intensity.  My first mile split is 5:55 which is a slower than I expected, and I find myself in 7th place. 

It is a flat scenic course with long straight stretches of roads through farmland, and the morning sun is rising over the Cascades and burning through the patches of low fog clinging to the Snoqualmie Valley.  I tell myself I feel strong and somehow my body believes me.  I pick up the pace and catch up with two 20-something guys and a spectator yells out that it is a battle for 3rd place.  My 5th mile is even faster and I mange to drop the two young guys.  My 6th mile is my fastest mile of all at 5:43 and I cross the finish line in 3rd place. 

The 3rd place finish means I am on the podium for top overall finishers which I have to assume is worthy of being comped.  The 3rd place overall finish also means that I am not eligible for podium in my ancient age-group class.  I had met these old guys in my age-group before the race and I wander over to congratulate them.  They were eager to tell me how they battled each other and how triumphant they felt.  One of the guys, unaware of my age, asks me how I did and what age division I am in.  I can't help but feel an overwhelming sense of superiority, but am reluctant to even admit I am in their division (especially as I immediately think about the caliber of the Seattle CNW master's cross country team).  

My time of 36:50 is a bit disappointing - it seemed so much faster.  But then for me at this point I try to subscribe more to the yoga philosophy of racing - the results don't really matter, it is all about the experience.  

Monday, October 06, 2014

Cross country training in typhoon

In order to prepare for the upcoming cross-country campaign, I join Mike Trees today for a bit of  race-specific interval training:

15 x 400 at 80-seconds on 2-minute cycle  (20 x 400 for Mike).

Of course we try to time the session so that we are running around a muddy field at the peak of a significant typhoon --

amidst gale force winds

and through 3-inch deep standing water.  

Surely the upcoming cross country races will not seem so intimidating after this?

Murakami Triathlon 2014

I complete last week's Murakami Olympic Distance triathlon in 2:25.
The time is over 3 minutes off the 2:21 I recorded in 2011, which I suppose is as good as I could expect given my leisurely training.

If my result is a bit disappointing for me, the race experience itself was particularly desultory.

I am seeded in the first wave, the fastest of the five waves.  It is cool and flattering to be in the faster group, but it mostly serves to 
demonstrate how relatively weak my swim continues to be.  As we swam I actually felt like my swim form is strong - but I watched the other orange caps (my wave) pull farther and farther away from me.  At the halfway turnaround it is disheartening to see how far ahead the mass of orange caps are.

After a 31 minute swim and 3-minute transition the disheartening feeling is only amplified as I find myself cycling into headwind with no one near me - at the turnaround I see my teammates powering farther and farther ahead of me in tight draft packs.  I tell myself to stay competitive and stay in the moment - focus on powering through each pedal stroke and keep overtaking the slower cyclists in front of me.  Toward the end of the 40k when a fast cyclist from one of the slower seeded waves does overtake me, I surge to stay with him, blatantly drafting off of him for at least 3 kilometers until a combination of fatigue and shame causes me to lose contact (I usually never draft).  I feel like my bike effort was reasonably good, but the time of 72 minutes really sucks relative to previous times and the times of guys I kept up with in the past.

The run is a similar story - it really takes a lot of effort for me to clock the 40-minute 10k, I certainly did not give up like some people imply afterwards.  I feel like I poured 100% into the run when I stagger across the finish line.  But yeah I have to assume if I was battling neck-and-neck for a podium spot I would have tapped into another level of speed (I was hardly battling for a podium spot--- my age-group friends Mark Shrosbee and Brett Whiteoak are astonishingly fast and their times were some 15-minutes or so faster than mine).  

Friday, September 19, 2014

Shimoda Triathlon 2

I finish 2nd in the 3rd installment of our club's triathlon series - last Saturday's Shimoda Triathlon. 

My time is well over 30 minutes faster than the June event; splits for this Olympic distance event:

Swim   30:43    3rd 
Bike  1:49:55    3rd
Run     41:13    2nd

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

East Coast Park Run

I run the Singapore Park Run on Saturday.

Park Run is a free, weekly, timed running event - our teammate from Tokyo, Carol Cunningham, launched the Singapore version of ParkRun in June.

It is a splendid little event.   Arnaud and I run the 6 kilometer distance from his apartment to the Park Run starting line as the warmup part of our workout.  We schedule our arrival at 6:55am, only five minutes prior to the 7am starting time, so the warmup will flow directly into the hard session.  Only 5 minutes is no problem given the informal nature of the event: no long speeches at the starting line by local dignitaries, and no complex registration process with lines and pins, Park Run cleverly uses these digital bar codes for recording all the participant's time trial results.  

38 runners participate this morning.  Carol tells us that ParkRun has relied mostly on word-of-mouth for marketing, and the group is largely composed of expats, with what seems to be a large contingency of Australians.

I had planned to do this as an 80% tempo run effort.  But of course as usual the competitive dynamic causes me to run at more like 95% perceived effort.  I go out in 4th place in 3:50 per kilometer pace.  By the halfway mark I am in second place with a split of about 9:10.  The leader (Bradley a 40-year old from Australia), is over 100 meter ahead of me, in sight, but far too fast to catch.  I struggle through the return portion of the out-and-back, somehow managing to run faster on the second half and finishing in 18:15.

By 10am that same morning my results were already posted:

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Atami Triathlon

I "win"the first annual Atami Triathlon!

I dramatically run down the talented and accomplished triathlete Jean-Marc in the final kilometer to cross the finish line first.  
Granted Jean-Marc had essentially lapped me on the bike leg and was well ahead of me, but the large staff of Atami race officials, after much careful deliberation, declared me the winner for my interpretation of the bike route - I seemed to have missed a turnaround though I am still not clear on the precise course. 

Well never mind that bit, the Atami Triathlon was great fun.  Another club organized triathlon like the Shimoda Triathlon described below, Atami had been organized by teammate Chris Parry, after we were not able to register in time for this year's Numazu Triathlon Relay. 

I am way too poor to afford to enter very many of the real, officially-organized triathlons with their $200+ registration fees, JTU membership, inevitably expensive travel costs, difficult registration process, and frequent weather-related cancellations.  Better to organize casual and convenient team events.   

Soon after this stunning sunrise, the dozen triathlon participants sprinted into the clean, clear water.  This fast beach start meant my heart rate and breathing were far too rapid and frantic, and I had to slow down, settling into a "B group"of swimmers.  I managed to concentrate on my swim stroke and pull away from the rest of the B group, but the half-dozen A group guys remained far ahead of me.  

Any time I gained accelerating at the end of the swim was quickly squandered on my transition to the bike when I could not find my sunglasses.  After a minute I abandoned the search for the glasses, and the resulting challenge of cycling directly into the rising sun contributed to my not adhering to the proper bike route.  I had managed to overtake 3 of the guys ahead of me from the swim, but Jean-Marc and Phil were still ahead of me when Jean-Marc suddenly sprinted past me.   I followed Jean-Marc back to the transition dropping farther behind as my competitive instincts diminish, and traffic builds.  At the bike-to-run run transition, Greg tells me that I am now 4 minutes behind Jean-Marc and he expects me to catch him.  I doubt that, but figure I should make an effort, and find that I am feeling surprisingly strong.  It is a scenic run course on a steep bluff overlooking the sea and i actually kind-of enjoy the run - unlike the typical triathlon run segment when I feel so fatigued from the very start.   

I look forward to the next of our informal triathlons.  Here are my splits

Swim (1k)- 21:58
Bike  (30k?) - 1:02:29
Run  (9k) - 35:49