Apple Watch

I’ve been running for several years now, and one of the biggest things that keeps me engaged (especially early on, but also now) is being able to track everything about my running. To that end, I’ve had a running watch, and I overwhelmingly almost always run with it. Initially, I had a Garmin Forerunner 405, which I replaced with a Forerunner 610. I’ve recently upgraded to an Apple Watch LTE.

So far, I’m really enjoying it. It’s really nice to not carry a phone around (either when running, or just at other times), and although I never really minded a chest heart-rate strap, it’s very liberating not to be wearing one.

I have found a few things that are not quite how I would like them:

  • You can’t get directions to your car on your watch. You need to “Continue on iPhone”. I’m hoping this will be fixed at some point. There are a handful of other operations that are like this too (like “What is this song?”).
  • I’m yet to find a satisfactory workout app that provides structured workouts: interval repeats and the like, possibly nested, and with duration and targets of different types (ie, pace, heart rate, time, distance).
  • The Strava app seems to have fairly long intervals between samples. I always set my Forerunner to sample at 1 second, and some watches I believe will do multiple samples per second.
  • The iOS Bedtime feature is not available on the Apple Watch: you need to have it turned on on an iPhone; and then the alarm will trigger on there too. I’ve moved to a watch-only alarm, so as to not wake my partner when I get up early for a run.
  • The “Standing Hours” feature isn’t really about standing: I have a standing desk, and stand all day at work, and if I don’t move around, it thinks I’m not standing. Also, I’ve had a few times where the standing alarm seems to not fire at all.
  • Apple Pay transactions made on my Watch don’t trigger an alert on my Phone (or watch). However, my last payment on my phone did trigger an alert on my watch, so I’ll test that a bit more.

However, the things that I really like are tipping me overwhelmingly in favour:

  • Being able to leave my phone on my desk and still tracking my activity is really nice. This is the key reason I bought a Misfit Shine some time ago, but that was less useful (and I ended up losing it because their wrist strap was insane).
  • Unlocking my Mac just by hitting the space bar is awesome.
  • Siri works really well (with the caveat above). I’m adding things to my shopping list like a madman.
  • Likewise, dictating iMessages seems like it’s more reliable than on iOS10. I’m still unlikely to do it in a public space when there are other people around though.
  • I’m now totally into “Mindful Minutes”, and I’ll do this whenever I get a chance. Breathe…
  • Battery life has been really good: I charge it when I’m in the shower, and when I’m driving. I’ll also put it on the charge to top it up before I go to sleep (I’m using a sleep tracker) if it’s a bit low, because I’ll generally be running in the morning.
  • Apple Pay on my watch really feels like the future.
  • Did I mention that running without a phone and chest strap is quite liberating?

Interestingly, I don’t think I’ve made a phone call from my watch yet. I don’t make that many phone calls to begin with (and most of them are actually when I’m in my car).

Running more

Back in April, my second son was born. Prior to that, I was reliably running 2-4 hours per week, and clocking up 25-40km. Then, in addition to being really busy (as one is with a newborn), I had a patch of illness, which was followed a couple of months later by another bout. That second one stopped me exercising for pretty much all of July, and nearly half of August.

I’ve recently started to ramp up my running again: the one race I have ever competed in is in mid-September, and whilst I’m not in as good shape as I was when I did my PR, I’m hoping to do at least as well as I did last year. It looks better so far: last year I was only managing to run on Monday nights, in addition to Touch Football on Thursday (and Mel’s arse-kicking on Wednesdays). I’ve squeezed in a few more runs so far, and, whilst I’m still running a bit slow (hardly skipped below 5:00/km), I’m feeling fairly comfortable.

In reality, I’ll be happy if I come in under an hour in the race. If I manage to break 55:00, or even better, I’ll be stoked. My best time (48:52) is well beyond me, but maybe next year…

Belair Hill Climb

Since I bought my Garmin Forerunner 405cx in November 2010, I’ve gradually gotten more and more into running. Having a computer that tracks when, where, and how fast I run appeals to me, and has probably been the biggest motivator to me running as much as I do now.

I was tracking my running using Garmin Connect, but recently, thanks to my good friend Travis, got hooked on Strava. The key feature for me is the segments, and how competitive they enable me to be. Mostly against myself (my hard running occurs on the same track each week, which no-one else using Strava seems to have discovered).

Technically, I’m in training for this year’s City to Bay, although that is a long way away, so I’m spending the time working on getting faster over that type of distance. Last year I finished in 1490th place, with a time of 00:54:43. My target time had been 00:54:00, so I was a little disappointed to miss that by such a short margin. I did speed up a little too early (2km out), which nearly killed me, and I needed to back off. Also, I was absolutely exhausted by the end.

In fact, if I look at my performance, at the 47 minute mark I sped up, increasing my pace from 4:30 to 4:00 min/km, and promptly had to slow to a walk. There may have been some dry retching going on there too.

So, I set a target time for this year’s race of 00:48:00, with the possibility of reducing that to 00:44:00 if I could get to my target time 12 weeks before the race. Now, it does occur to me that my target pace is the one that forced me to stop early last year, but I think I’m already in much better shape now than I was then.

To improve my speed, I determined that first I needed to reduce my heart-rate. In last year’s City to Bay, my heartrate was basically in the Threshold zone (Z4) for the entire race. It did get a little higher when I sped up, but otherwise was fairly constant, which means I probably did run that race as fast as I could have then.

So, my training plan of late has been to run a lot more with my HR in zone 3, and see if I can get my speed up. So far, it seems to be working. I’ve been doing lots of 30 and 60 minute easy runs, where my Forerunner will beep at me if I get my HR above Z3. I’m finding that lately I’ve been running at around the same pace, but find my HR sometimes dips below Z3, so perhaps I can speed up a little.

Tonight, I ran faster up the Belair Hill Climb than I had ever done so before. Not only that, but each Strava segment was faster, too. More importantly, my Strava “Suffer Score” was only 44, as compared to a 62 on my previous PB up the hill. When done, I was all primed to then run some more hill climbs (6x600m uphill), but it started to rain, and it was time for dinner.

Perhaps the only thing that’s missing from Strava for me was the ability to track my weight: Garmin Connect has it’s “Health” tab, which enables you to enter a weight manually, or accepts data from a supported scale. This information is useful to me, as I can see that my weight increased significantly over the leadup to NTL, where I was training much harder, but obviously bulking up a bit too. Lots more speed and strength work there: I do recall having pants that no longer fit my thighs. I’m now down to 78.1kg, after a high of 84.6, and I’d love to be able to import this data into Strava too.

Something that even Garmin Connect doesn’t do, and which I need to keep Garmin Training Center around for is the advanced workouts. Oh, you can enter them into Garmin Connect, but the interface is slow and clunky, and I was never able to get more than one to upload to my watch at a time. Not that useful when I was in a more free-form mode, and would pick workouts based on how I felt. Now, I have a pre-programmed schedule for the next 20-odd weeks, all stored in there. I think I’ll look at a web-app that improves on the process though, as GTC is a bit rubbish.

Oh, and I have my eye on the Garmin Forerunner 610. Not sure when I will get around to upgrading. The 405cx still works really well for my needs, but there are a few nice new features in the 610.