A Garmin Conundrum (Part One)

Why are Garmin GPS watch batteries not replaceable?

Yesterday on my 12-miler, my Forerunner 220 battery seemed to run down more quickly than usual, but it was far from dead when I finished. I chucked it on the table when I got home; later in the afternoon I noticed it had completely died. I put it on the charger and it turned on again. It seemed to jump back to 100% faster than it should have, but I took it off the charger anyway.

This morning, because a cold front blew in an dropped temperatures 20 degrees, I decided to go out for a short run. Another attempt at running on tired legs, since the Cleveland back-to-back races are coming up soon! So instead of my usual 20-minute Sunday recovery run, I took a longer route for just over three miles. When I got back, my Garmin showed 40% charged. Well, that just isn’t gonna cut it for distance training.

Then I tried to sync my run to my phone, but I kept getting a connection error. I un-paired the watch from my phone, but then it would not re-pair. Same connection error. It was weird–clearly they talked to each other because the app asked me if I saw the same code on the watch, which I did, but it couldn’t finish the process somehow. So I attached the charger to my laptop and manually uploaded my run to Garmin Connect–at least I wouldn’t lose that data. Oh and the battery level jumped back to 100% again by the time I was done uploading the data.

Back to my phone, I shut down the app, shut down the watch, restarted everything, and tried again. It eventually re-connected, but I was skeptical of the whole thing.

I have had this 220 for more than four years, and while it’s been mostly reliable, it’s had some weird glitches. Sometimes it randomly shuts itself off and restarts–once it happened at the beginning of a race, and several times it happened just after I finished running and paused it. When it restarted, the mileage was off–which was annoying if I stopped at exactly 8.0 miles and when it came back on it said I only went 7.98 or something.

Last summer it had all kinds of problems with GPS mapping, showing I was running through fields and people’s yards, but since I reset it, the maps have been pretty accurate. I had to replace the watch band last summer as well, since the original one had all those holes that eventually wore out. But that was an easy $8 fix.

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But this battery thing appears to be a hardware problem. And from what I can tell, unlike watch bands, batteries are not DIY-replaceable. Considering the initial cost of the device and the amount of complicated GPS crap inside it, having to trash the whole thing because of a battery seems really stupid.

But I have races coming up and don’t want to screw around with an unreliable watch.

I hadn’t planned to replace mine anytime soon, so I really didn’t know what I wanted, or even what was out there. I narrowed it down to the Forerunner 235, the 230, and the 225. The 235 is the most expensive, although Amazon had a less-expensive refurbished one that was almost in my price range. I learned the 235 is the 230 with an optical heart rate monitor, and since that’s not an important feature to me, I can’t justify spending the extra money on a 235. A refurbished 225 briefly intrigued me, but I decided the 16-hour battery life on the 230 was a major selling point over the 225.

Although basically the updated version of my 220, the 230 still probably does more things than I need. It has an activity tracker function that I won’t really use. I mean, even if I hadn’t just replaced my Vivofit (April was apparently hard on my Garmin stuff) I still wouldn’t wear a GPS watch every day–I prefer the Victorinox watch M had made for my birthday a few years ago. The 230 also has text notifications, music control functions, and audio prompts for lap times and such. Now that’s not to say I won’t use those once I get used to them! But I’ve run with my 220 for four years without those features and wasn’t pining for them, if that makes sense.

One thing that I’m kind of excited about is the finish time estimator–something that may or may not cause more stress during my goal race. 😉 And the 230 tracks cycling too. I don’t do a lot of cycling, but my 220 didn’t have a cycling function and always thought I had suddenly turned Kenyan because of the speeds I was producing. I could change the type later on Garmin Connect so it wasn’t a big deal, but it was another plus for the upgrade. I think the larger screen also allows for more data fields–my 220 had three, so I had to let it scroll to the next screen to see whatever other data I wanted to know. Again, small feature to solve a problem I didn’t really have, but something interesting anyway. The specs say it’s got Run/Walk mode, which I assume is the intervals setting I sometimes use in training. I’d be surprised if they had eliminated that feature on an upgrade, but I’ll have to play around with it to be sure.

The final selling point of the 230? When I put it in my cart, Amazon told me if I ordered within the next nine minutes, I could have it same-day. The Purple Strike 230 was $161 at the time, although it seems to have gone up to the same $174.95 price as the other two colors now. I got it for $161 (plus $10 in tax) and same-day shipping. Talk about instant gratification.

Odds are good that as soon as the new one arrives, my 220 will snap back to its normal battery usage and pretend nothing ever happened. Or I’ll find a DIY battery replacement kit. Just don’t tell me that you have the 230 and you hate it. 😉

(Stay tuned for Part Two, in which I get used to something new)

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Week End

I don’t know about y’all, but my work week felt significantly longer than five days. And yet, April is almost over? How did that happen?

Monday I went to core class and ran a couple of miles afterward, but I still felt a little tired from the Cap 10K‘s hills so I took it easy. Tuesday our group met at the track–if my workout got a name, it would be Return of the Concrete Quads. After the warmup I was supposed to run 2 X 4 laps, with a break after the first four. I ended up taking a break after only two, and sort of slogged through the rest of it two laps at a time. My “cool down” was actually a one-mile walk with two other friends.

Wednesday was my school’s National Junior Honor Society induction ceremony–I ran around so much, my Garmin registered as many steps as I typically get when I run after work. And it was after 8 P.M. when I finally pulled into my garage at home. Yawn.

Thursday I ran 4.5 miles along the same route I ran a week or two ago–it gives me some built-in breaks at street crossings, and it’s pretty flat. But it’s already stand-in-random-people’s-sprinklers weather.

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And even the kids’ toys are kinda judgey about my pace.

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Friday, a bunch of folks from school met after work to say goodbye to our fabulous interim principal who, inexplicably, was not assigned permanently. She made a huge impact on me (and many others) in her short time with us, and it was difficult to say goodbye. I ended up staying far later than I planned (and didn’t drink enough water) so you can imagine how well Saturday’s 12-miler started.

I went into it with basement-level expectations. The overnight low didn’t fall below 70, the humidity was eleventy-billion percent, and storms were forecasted. Even before we left, one of the coaches warned us to expect a slower pace in these conditions. I kinda wondered if the Running Gods decided to throw in every unpleasant factor in all at once, sort of a misery-makes-me-stronger theme.

The first three miles, I ran with S. Her knee has been problematic since the Cap 10K so she rested it all week. She got a little ahead of me the last half-mile, but we met up at the water/gatorade stop. I was super thirsty, both from the warm temps and from not drinking enough the night before. At this point, she turned around to head back, and I returned to my slow slog forward. But my quads felt a lot better than they did on Tuesday, so it was less awful than it could have been.

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I expected to turn around at the third water stop, but when I reached it I was still a half-mile short. Gah. But at least that gave me two shots at this water stop, which was helpful since I was still thirsty.

I started dragging a bit around miles 8-10, and I walked some. Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded that rainstorm–so of course the sun started to come out. But the last two miles were pretty solid, just slow. I finished 12, mostly solo.

Naturally, a cold front blew in around dinnertime.

The 40th Anniversary Cap 10K

My family and I have been running this race since 2011, and my dad ran it for a string of years back in the mid-1980s. But a handful of people lining up on the Congress Avenue bridge this morning have been running it a lot longer–every year since its inception in 1978. Pretty impressive.

This year’s edition found me, my family, and three BRFs somewhere in the middle of approximately 21,000 runners. I think we got to the starting area around 8:00, and it took a while for our turn. While we waited, someone (or, more likely, several promotional someones) starting tossing little red and white beach balls in the air like at football games. At one point there were dozens of them bopping around. This amused us, with the added bonus that it distracted my teenager from his grumpiness.

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He actually kept one and ran the whole race with it.

We were in Corral D, so it was 8:25 before we started. Running north on Congress Avenue to the Capitol is one of my favorite views in road running, and today’s weather showcased this beautiful sight.

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The weather was unseasonably cool–in the 50s–and while I didn’t intend to RACE race it due to the hills and the crowds, I was hoping for a decent performance.

The first mile is kind of the easy part–up Congress, right on 11th Street, left on San Jacinto. The course was slightly different this year, taking another right on 12th for one block to Trinity, then left on 15th.

Now the fun began. Fifteenth to Guadalupe wasn’t too bad, but from San Antonio up to West Avenue we climbed a beastly hill–I ran it, but my quads weren’t happy. From there we dropped downhill over Lamar, and for the better part of a mile the course followed a steady, exhausting uphill. I walked some.

By now two of my BRFs were long gone, and the guys were nowhere to be seen either. I wasn’t sure if they were ahead of me or behind. Neither of them really trains for races–they just show up and run about three every year. So they tend to run-walk; even so, they’re often faster than I am. Don’t think this doesn’t frustrate me…..

Anyway, I kept plugging along up Enfield, taking occasional walk breaks and ignoring my watch. Under MoPac–no high school band playing the Rocky theme song on repeat this time, I guess because of the construction in that area–then left on Winsted. The sun negated some of the cool temps, so it was nice to run along this shaded road for a while.

Once I got to Lake Austin Blvd, I knew the worst was behind me. A downhill at Veterans, flat behind Austin High along the lake (I was on the wrong side of the road to sample from the cheese table under the MoPac bridge, sadly), then mostly flat on Cesar Chavez to the First Street Bridge. Still, everything after mile four, my quads hurt and pace wasn’t great.

Under Lamar and up the last little hill, I made myself run the rest of the way in. I saw a Rogue friend just before the turn on to the bridge, and another one as I came down the bridge just before the last turn. Always so motivational! It helped me run my fastest pace the last .3 miles.

I finished about three minutes behind my best Cap 10K time, which tells me I have a lot of work to do in the next two months before my goal race. The pace I ran today will not cut in June–I need about :30 per mile faster (over more than twice the distance) to achieve my goal there. Yarg.

But I managed to beat the guys by a minute or so–maybe it was because B carried that beach ball the whole way.

1 + 3.1 + 3

“Want to run Coach Bill’s 5K? It’s the eighth anniversary and it would be cool to support him.”

“I need more than 3.1 miles this weekend.”

“We can run it twice. Or we can do another seven through the park.”

“Okay, why not?”

Famous last words. 

We got to the park early enough to register and pay our $1, and we decided to run a mile as a warmup/one mile we won’t have to run later.

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Keep the bib–it’s a monthly race and you can use the same one next time!

It was humid and my legs were still feeling the five miles I ran Thursday, I guess. I wasn’t running much of a decent pace; then again it didn’t matter for this mile. But it didn’t inspire confidence either.

The course directions are easy: it started northbound on the paved sidewalk through the park for about 1.25 miles until it ended and looped back on itself. I ran most of the second mile alongside a kid who looked to be about seven or eight–he was pacing really well, especially someone that age. Another boy, probably a year or two older, kept sprinting past me, then coming to a dead stop to catch his breath. Some of the kids had trouble knowing where their bodies were in space, but for the most part people were REALLY good about leaving room to pass and not blocking the path. I was impressed.

At about 2.25 miles, we passed the starting point (and the turnoff for the finish–sigh) and kept going until it too looped around on itself, sending us back for the final stretch. It seemed to take forever.

Finally, the turnoff for the last .1 to the finish. I’d gotten ahead of the kid from earlier, but just at the last minute he sprinted past me. I’d say he executed a pretty solid race strategy!

The race isn’t chip-timed–they time it manually, so everyone’s time is based on gun time. According to my Garmin I ran about a minute slower than my PR from November, and each mile was a little slower than the last. NOT a solid race strategy on my part. But in my defense I haven’t been training for a 5K–this was a spur of the moment decision. Anyway, Coach Bill put on a well-organized race and (after I stopped dying) we had a good time. Especially S, who kicked ass with a new PR!

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And the park is beautiful.

But let me just tell you: if you ever think it will be NBD to run a 5K and then add a few miles at the end, think again. Even though I didn’t run a PR race, I’d still run quite a bit faster than my typical long-run pace. And I certainly paid for it.

The second time around, my legs just would.not.move any faster. My BRFs were just little fluorescent-clad blobs way off in the distance–I couldn’t keep up to save my life. And a couple of times, the desertedness of the trail made me hope I wouldn’t need to.

Eventually we finished with 7.1 total miles–not 5-7 on top of the 5K–and called it good. And even though it wasn’t the distance I planned, I guess running three separate segments is useful practice for the Challenge Series’ back-to-back races in a few weeks. The countdown is on!

Spring is flying by

I keep thinking I have all this time to prepare for my big distance races in May and June… and then I look at a calendar.

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My coach puts on a no-frills 5K every month and tomorrow is the eighth anniversary of the race. So my BRFs talked me into running it, then adding 6-8 miles on after that, depending on how we feel after racing last weekend.

We’re running the Cap 10K next Sunday, which leaves two Saturdays before the Tri Doc 5K on May 13. And that’s it before my double race weekend in Cleveland.

Say what?

I’ve only run the half-marathon distance once since last Memorial Day, and it wasn’t a full effort. Although I don’t have any plans to PR in Cleveland because of the back-to-back Challenge Series races, I kind of hoped to be reasonably prepared for the distance(s) by getting in a 12-14 miler beforehand.

If we can run 8-10 tomorrow, then 10 and 12 consecutively after the Cap 10K, I think it will work. At least enough to give me a little confidence going into the Challenge Series, anyway.

But guess what? When I get back from Cleveland, I have only three more Saturdays before I leave for Ireland. This doesn’t worry me–I picked the Kildare race specifically because of its timing, since my training will be there already. But this has become my goal race (mostly so I don’t finish last) so while I don’t want to overdo it immediately after running 18.1 miles, I don’t want to squander the time between races either.

Oh, and we got a shout-out from the Kildare race’s Facebook page!

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No pressure or anything. 😉

But hell, by the time we get to Kildare, I will have conquered the driving a stick shift from the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road thing. So what’s a half-marathon after that??

At the rate Spring is flying by, it will be here before I know it.

The final Austin 10/20

I’ve run the Austin 10/20 every year except the first one, and each time we said we won’t do it again. The course isn’t terribly scenic (Burnet Road, anyone?) and there’s not a lot of crowd support other than inside The Domain. Miles 8-9 follow the Mopac frontage road up the kind of gradual incline that sucks at miles 8-9. And the last half-mile takes two years. But every spring, we run it again. Probably because of the medal.

But after today, we won’t have to make that decision.

The race director announced a few weeks ago that the 2017 race would be the last. It sounds like it was getting more difficult to arrange road closures, especially since The Domain has grown so much since the first year of the race. And I think registrations have dropped–I remember my first or second year, the corrals wrapped around the street into a parking lot, and it took 5+ minutes to even get to the start line. This year, they dropped the corral ropes and we moved forward, maybe a minute or 90 seconds back. It’s an expensive race–early registration was around $80–so that probably turned people off too.

Regardless, I’ve run a 10-mile PR at this race at least twice, so even though I hate the course, I have some fond memories of the overall event.

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Which medal is your favorite?

Last year, the weather was pretty cool at before the race, which definitely contributed to my PR, although the sun was out and it warmed up quickly. This year we haven’t had winter (except that one weekend in January) so it’s not a shock that it was 66* at the start. Did I mention the humidity? And the wind? Super-great conditions. In other words, my expectations were low.

It didn’t help that for some reason, the race started about 15 minutes late. But by about 8:15 we were underway.

We actually run on this stretch of Alterra Parkway three times during the race–we’d see it again around mile 7 and again at 9 to the finish. I had to be careful not to start too fast, but it was only a problem until we turned right onto a short, hilly street that dumped us out on Burnet Road. We ran this section of Burnet three times too, now that I think about it.

Near the first mile marker, I saw one of the Rogue coaches–crowd support here was pretty good. As we ran south on Burnet, though, it was down to us, the police officers, the bands, and the race leaders already at their halfway point, heading the other direction. And the wind.

The third mile weaves through an industrial area, then back out onto Burnet for the return trip. I had skipped the first water stop, but I took advantage of the rest of them. Honestly, through mile 5 or so, I was feeling good. It was almost fun.

Around mile 6, just before the turn into IBM, I saw my family, then some more Rogues–it’s great to hear spectators call my name. But I was flagging. By the 10K split I had hit something of a wall, and I was glad for both the water stop and the cold towel stop to rest briefly. Lots of people tossed their towels, but I hung on to mine, wrapped around the back of my neck.

I rallied a bit as I exited IBM–back on Burnet–and turned right into The Domain. And hey, another water stop! Then I made my second trip down Alterra toward the Mopac frontage road. By now quite a few people were coming back the other direction toward the finish. I was sooooo ready to be done too.

I knew the last two miles would make or break my under-two-hours goal, so I kept an eye on my overall pace. But have you ever reached a point in a race where you just say I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE GOAL ANYMORE because it’s sucking so bad? That’s how I felt after I looped around at Duval and headed back up the frontage road. It’s about a mile-long incline and while I ran most of it, my pace was off. I was also experiencing a little bit of stomach distress, and I worried about a repeat of the near disaster at 3M last year. Not to mention the damn headwind the whole way.

After the road curved under the highway I struggled up yet another incline, then got a little bit of a downhill before turning back on to Alterra for the final time. This stretch is deceptive though–it’s at least three-quarters of a mile from there to the finish. And while it looks flat, it actually has a gradual incline, then the last block goes up a larger hill to the finish line.

With about a half-mile to go, B jumped in and ran alongside me. He’d picked up a giant zip tie and was carrying it as he ran, chattering about some computer thing he and his friends are building. I appreciated the distraction–but yowza, I was suffering. I could see the finish line, still so far away.

At the bottom of that last hill, a huge group of Rogues saw me and yelled like crazy. B observed that I had my own cheering section–and damn did it feel good (it was kind of the only thing that did….). Right after that B had to peel off, so I was on my own the last 100 yards or so. By now I could see the clock–still under two hours–so while I didn’t kick it into a sprint or anything (unlike two girls who blazed by me) I managed to push all the way through and across the finish line.

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Thanks for a good run, Austin 10/20

Official time was 1:57:58. About two minutes off my PR from last year, but also about 15 degrees and a billion percent humidity higher than last year too. Thank goodness for the cloud cover or this would have been much uglier.

As finale races go, I am pleased with this one. I mean, the course sucks and the weather was soupy, but I went into it with pretty low expectations, unsure if I could finish under two hours. The last 10-mile race I ran was in October, after which I lost two months to injury over the winter. So I didn’t know what to expect in race conditions. Now I have a better gauge of what “goal pace” might look like as I train for two upcoming half-marathons.

But now it’s time to eat all the things and enjoy a lazy afternoon. Because there’s no rest for the weary: tomorrow we’re running after core class.

Plodding along in concrete shoes

After a couple of looooong Saturday runs, it was nice to turn around after “only” three miles today.

We’re running the (final) Austin 10/20 next Sunday so my coach had us drop our mileage this morning. Which is good, because I’m still struggling with fatigue. My legs feel heavy and my pace is slower than it should be. But it was a hilly route and not only did I run all of the hills, I passed people on the hills. The uphills. So there’s that.

Monday night I ran two miles after a core class that involved 100 squats, some large number of side lunges, a bunch of other torture moves, and–just for fun–ten burpees at the end. So I wasn’t alarmed when I felt like I was dragging on my two-mile run afterward. That, and I ran with a faster friend, so just keeping up was exhausting.

Tuesday at the track, we ran Yasso 800s as described by my coach:

One-mile warmup and cooldown, 12x400m with 200m recovery. Pace is your goal half-marathon time converted to minutes. For example, if you want to do a two-hour half–marathon then you should do each 400m in two minutes. The idea is to keep them exactly even (plus or minus 2-3 seconds).

Yeah, I didn’t quite hit the pace, but I wasn’t super-far off and each lap was consistent. It was hot (already mid-80s in the afternoons) and windy, and I still had the sore-quad/heavy leg feeling, so running 12 of those suckers took forever.

I took a rest day Wednesday, but Thursday I struggled through 4.25 miles, same issues.

I’m not sure what’s causing this. Typical heavy-leg culprits are hydration, stress, or lack of sleep. Well those things are constants in my life.

  • I have trouble hydrating well at school–depending on the day, I teach at least two 90-minute classes back-to-back without a break, and my campus has a grand total of four single-stall faculty restrooms for about 100 staff members. The closest one is out one set of doors, across a bridge, and through another set of doors, which makes leaving the kids alone a bit risky. And between classes there’s often a line which means the students arriving to class are unattended in my classroom while I wait. I usually drink coffee in the morning and 1-2 bottles of sparkling lime water (I think they’re 16oz each?) starting at lunch. But after spending 20 years carefully gauging my daytime fluid-intake-to-bathroom-availability ratio, it’s not so easy for me to change that mindset. But I’m going to work on that this week.
  • I teach six classes of about 150 students total. They’re 12-13 years old, and it’s spring. ‘Nuff said. Also, this week the campus got some significant, disappointing news and on the heels of that I had to deal with a difficult student situation. I stuffed and distributed about 250 invitation letters to prospective Honor Society members, then answered 49484596 emails either asking questions that were already answered on the website or complaining that their child did not receive an invitation. On top of that, my subject is tested twice by the state each year (writing and reading) and one of those tests was administered this past week. On Tuesday I had to walk around my classroom for four hours to monitor 30 kids while they answered multiple choice questions and wrote an essay. They were trapped in the testing room until almost 1:00, went to lunch, and came back for another half-hour. Then we had 20-minute classes the rest of the afternoon. The following day, even though a different grade level was testing we were not allowed to have classes. The kids not tested were assigned to various classrooms where they … sat quietly, then went to another classroom and … sat quietly. So yeah, stress is pretty much a given during the school year, especially in the spring. The education trajectory, both in the Legislature and Congress, does not bode well for stress-free teaching going forward, either. I mean, stress from my job is part of the reason I run!
  • I am chronically tired–my Garmin scowls at me a lot over my sleep data. Over summer vacation I sleep 9-10 hours per night, but during the school year I leave the house by 6:30. In order to reach those sleep numbers, I’d have to go to bed before 9:00 PM. Not feasible.

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Like I said, these elements are constants in my life, so I’m not sure why any of them would suddenly cause me to feel sluggish, but if I want to run well next weekend I’ve got to do something different. First I’m going to focus on hydration. I’ll also try to get to bed early every day, at least by 9:30–no matter what else I do, that can’t hurt. And as sad as it makes me, I’m cutting back on my go-to snack, string cheese. It’s got a lot of sodium–well, not each individual stick, but I almost always eat two at time, and more than two per day. Clearly I’m not good at moderation, so perhaps I just need to quit cold-turkey and see what happens.

So the plan is to run after core class Monday, do whatever the Tuesday night training workout calls for, and then instead of taking a rest day Wednesday, at the very least walk around the long block. Thursday will be a short run, probably three miles. Fridays are always rest days, and Saturday I’ll sleep in, then go to the 10/20 packet pickup. I hope that’s a reasonable combination of non-running strategy, running time on my feet, and rest.