GPS Watch woes

Correct time is above the photo.Correct time is above the photo.

As amateur athletes, we are spoiled with the expanse of technology which is easily available to us. GPS watches are available at many different budgets and most mobile phones carry a GPS chip.  Sites such as Strava turn the whole exercise routine into something social-media friendly. So all is good.

I’ve used a GPS watch since late 2012. From planning routes to running in races, my every move has been captured by a GPS watch. I’ve made no secret of my love of data. With each generation of watch comes a greater level of information. Some of it is of questionable use, but either way, it’s there and available.

Until yesterday.

GPS Watch: When it all goes wrong

My 10 month-old Garmin FR630 GPS Watch does lots of clever things.  For example it can

  • feed me notifications from my phone
  • tell me how much I bounce when I run
  • even tell me when I’m asleep. Admittedly this latter point is of limited value, but at least it stores the information for when I’m not asleep.

However on a couple of occasions in the last month my Garmin has developed a level of amnesia not seen since Dynasty in the 1980s.

It usually starts with me noticing that the time is wrong. Time that is set via the internet, my phone, GPS. You know, the works. Then I realise it’s telling me that it thinks it’s yesterday. Or the day before.

Correct time is above the photo.

Correct time is above the photo which was taken 31st March.

In all cases I generally know that I’m existing now, not some weird and funky Garmin-time.

Error: return to base

A conversation yesterday afternoon with the Garmin tech people confirmed what I’d guess. It wasn’t working as it should. I’d done all the hard reset, soft reset, shout at the device etc to no avail. “It shouldn’t do that” was the paraphrase of each conversation.

In the end it was agreed that my watch was unwell and needed to be returned for repair or to be replaced entirely.

Fortunately I’m about as far from a race I’ll be this year (injuries allowing) with a couple of weeks’ breathing space. Hence the watch was packed up and posted off to GPS Watch Hospital, a programme unlikely to feature on TV anytime soon.

Time for the LSR

The group I train with do their long slow run (LSR) on a Saturday morning. It’s become a routine for me as well, something that has surprised me. Up until this year, I have always trained and run alone. It’s just the way it’s been and I’ve got used to it. However all the people I run with are significantly better and more experienced than I am. I can learn so much from them and as most run faster than me, I never feel I’m being held back. Usually I’m trying to catch up!

Anyway, I knew the group were on a 20 mile run today. Most are running the London Marathon in 3 weeks’ time and today was the final 20 miler in the training plan. I have no specific need to run this distance. However I know I need to tick-over with my training as my next 26.2 is less than 2 months away. Time on feet is important to make sure that aspect of the endurance is built up. So I might as well keep a reasonable level there rather than to drop and then increase again.

Then again, with a full diary today and forecast of dismal weather, I decided against the group run. Or any run in fact.

Going old school

I woke up to discover that despite checking the forecast immediately before bed, the weather was completely different. In fact it was scheduled instead to rain the hardest at the time of day I’d slotted in all my dog walks, so I was not best pleased. However, I’d also left it too late to be able to join the group. So this morning did not start out well.

Even more annoying was every time my phone pinged, bopped, banged or generally made a noise, I’d check my wrist for the notification only to find, well, my wrist. The so-called smart watch was somewhere in Royal Mail’s hands on its way to Garmin.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that sometimes there’s a need to run. Not so much a routine thing, but more of a gut response that you can’t ignore. Before long you realise it’s the running shoes which are on the feet and it’s not the work gear that’s on, but running stuff.

Today I would go ‘old school’

I grabbed the mobile phone and fired up Strava and dug out a HRM which would talk to the phone.

Now I realise this is not old school as in without any tech, but as well as a primeval need for the run, I have a similar one for the data from that run!

Old school routing

Most runners have a route planned in advanced and this is very much the case with the group runs. Generally when I’m planning a solo run I’ve got a distance in mind but the route is generated on the fly. I perfected this art when I was off sick from work in 2015. On the whole my guestimates were pretty close to the mark.

I had a couple of jobs for the morning and decided that I’d incorporate them in the run. Both in very different parts of Stockport. But that didn’t matter, I was on my own and was happy to run a decent distance. I wasn’t sure what that distance was at the outset. Did I go for the 20 miles, or 16 as per last wek. Or something completely different. Whatever it was, it would be free-form save only for the two jobs and the start/end point.

What was initially frustrating, but increasingly liberating was that I didn’t have any information to hand. I knew it was going to be damp during the run (turns out it was very damp!) so the phone was hidden away out of reach once it started recording. In fact the only times I knew the distance travelled or time taken was at the two jobs when I paused the phone.

The route

The route ended up like this:

Long run 1/4/17

Long run 1/4/17

I’ve always preferred routes where I don’t have to head back on myself. As such having finished the job in Marple I didn’t want to retrace my steps and instead made use of the Middlewood Way. This old railway route forms the basis of a lot of the group long runs and in fact I bumped into a few of the group as they finished their run. I knew by this stage I was about 15 miles in and, more by default, my total distance would be close to the 20 miles I’d first thought of! Naturally the two jobs occur at the furthest points from each other!

In fact when I got home and pulled out the phone, the distance was 19.5 miles, so a quick extra loop of the block rounded things off rather nicely. Not bad for a route that evolved as I ran!

I’d not thought too hard about elevation in the route. I figured that it was never going to be hideous. Had I seen the map in advance I might have been concerned with the progression of the second half of the route. I didn’t though, so it was OK!

Final thoughts

All in all I quite enjoyed the experiment today. Which is fortunate given I’m not sure when the repaired watch will make an appearance. On several occasions I glanced at my wrist looking for live data, only to look at live wrist! It is a reminder though that it’s not just about the numbers and that it’s OK to just go out and run. But I still like to have the numbers!

And having run in glasses for the first time in a long time, I remembered why I do without them once the rain had obscured my vision to the point of pointlessness!

 

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