Days like today make me wonder …

… how I ran two races totaling 18.1 miles last weekend.

Granted, this morning was about twenty degrees warmer than last Saturday and ten degrees warmer than last Sunday. But it felt a thousand times more difficult to get through a mere seven miles. Which kind of shakes my confidence for my goal race a bit, if you want to know the truth.

But I guess that’s why we take “down” weeks–so we’re not constantly increasing distance without recovery time. And that recovery time helps get us to our goal races, at least in theory anyway. Unfortunately the effort required to breathe through eleventy-billion percent humidity this morning offset any benefit I might have gotten from the shorter run. Every runner I encountered was dripping–wet hair, wet clothes–and not from rain.

boob-sweat

It didn’t help that 2/3 of my run followed the same loooong stretch of road. I hate being able to see that far ahead, with nothing to break it up. However, at one point on the route we were a block away from my house, so I was able to take a quick detour for a pit stop. Convenient.

I originally planned eight miles, but before we left one of my BRFs said the schedule only called for six. Wahoo! But because I ended up walking through a chunk of mile three (see: pit stop, above) I tacked on an extra mile to compensate. So there’s that.

On the bright side, I have three more days of school–next Saturday’s run will take place on my first day of summer vacation. Onward.

Advertisements

Progress report

My goal race is just under four weeks away. How are things going?

You may remember that a few days after I signed up, I decided to check the previous year’s results to see how many people ran it. I mean, it’s a small town (8000-ish people) in central Ireland. When I discovered only 250 people finished and that I’d have to run a PR race just to avoid being last, I had a moment several moments of panic. Well, I’ve been following the race’s Facebook page since March, and their most recent post announced that the half is 90% full. I asked what “full” looks like and learned that they’re expecting 700(!) half-marathoners. Out of those additional 450 runners, some of them have to be slower than me, right?? This news doesn’t change my goals at all, but it does take some of the pressure off.

Training-wise I’ve had a couple of confidence-building runs: a strong 12-miler and a solid 5K race. On the heels of the Cap10K when my legs felt like concrete and I walked too much the second half, I was thrilled to finish these two runs feeling strong. Between the warm weather and my tired legs, though, I struggled through several weeknight workouts. I just kept repeating my usual summer mantra–this will pay off in cooler weather.

Which brings me to this past weekend when I accomplished something new: running two races back-to-back for the Cleveland Challenge Series. I’d been doubling up my weekend runs, going out for three or four miles on tired legs to prepare for this, but I really didn’t know what to expect. I mean, I’m used to running a two- or three-mile shakeout run the day before a distance race, so I kind of thought an 8K race wouldn’t add too much to the degree of difficulty. But on the other hand, racing(ish) an 8K is quite different from cruising around the neighborhood for an hour. My worry increased with the temperatures in the Cleveland weather forecast–most of the weekend looked great, but Sunday morning threatened to throw thunderstorms and almost-70-degree temps at us. Blah.

Turns out, it went great. The weather for the 8K was perfect–50s and overcast. I took advantage of that and pushed a little harder than I planned, trying to salvage at least one strong race from the weekend. Which I did! Afterward, I focused on hydrating and foam rolling, and I wore a pair of compression tights all day (I think I slept in them too) to help with recovery. But I still didn’t have a lot of confidence in the half. Yet race morning dawned a little cooler than predicted, and even though I started feeling tired around the 10K split and had to make a pit stop around mile nine, overall I felt pretty good. My pace was about a minute per mile slower than what I’m shooting for next month, but that’s okay. I won’t be running a race the day before, and the weather should be a lot cooler. The course is supposed to be flat, too, and I’ve got another month of training to prepare. I don’t know if those factors will translate into a PR race, but they should at least work in my favor.

I think I did a good job with hydration and electrolytes leading up to my trip –I’ve been taking a Hammer electrolyte capsule the days I run and I added half a Nuun tablet in my water once a day. I can’t prove this helped quash the concrete-legs syndrome, but I can’t prove it didn’t, either.

Feeling somewhat confident about hydration, now I need to focus on nutrition. I ate well pre-race (pot roast/potatoes/broccoli Friday night, then mac and cheese for Saturday lunch and Vietnamese bún for dinner) but despite an Imodium, my usual breakfast, and the same Sport Beans I’ve been using, I still had a little internal wonkiness during the race. I avoided a complete gastro-intestinal meltdown a la Cleveland 2013, but I definitely felt a little off for several hours after finishing the race. I need to formulate a nutrition plan for Ireland knowing I’ll be on an international flight that Wednesday into Thursday (hello jet lag) and will be eating restaurant meals for three or four days leading up to the Sunday morning race. I’m not one to seek out American familiarity, food-wise, when I travel, so I’ll just have to make really careful choices those first few days after we arrive. It’s some consolation that we’ll be in Ireland for ten more days after the race, so I’ll still have lots of opportunities to try local cuisine.

This week, I’m going to be smart about recovery. Post-race I foam-rolled and wore compression tights; Sunday night we took K’s puppy for a walk–moving around helped, I think. I wore compression socks on the plane home, too. I’ll try a couple of miles tomorrow, then jump into whatever my coach recommends at our Thursday training group. Saturday I’ll drop the long-run distance down a bit, then return to full-speed workouts next week.

But today’s only exercise will be hanging up my three Challenge Series medals.

img_6932

Cleveland Challenge Series: Half Marathon

Saturday’s 8K was the easy part. 

Sunday we awoke to sunlight peeking through the clouds, which didn’t match the “cloudy, with a chance of rain” forecast. It was also cooler than we expected, although not by much. We walked a couple of blocks to the starting line and found our corral. 

Somehow, once the corrals started moving, we were at the VERY back. So when I started running, I spent half a mile dodging walkers who had gotten in front of us. Plus, the streets in downtown Cleveland are uneven and broken, so I had to pay attention to every step. It was also super windy–thank you Coach Bill for making us run on the track in the wind. 

We circled around and ended up on part of the 8K course, then passed in front of the Rock Hall and the Browns’ stadium, and that was pretty much the last landmark I recognized for a while. 


We went over a drawbridge somewhere around mile four–I could see the river under my feet. A pretty steep hill waited at the other end of the bridge, and yet that wasn’t the only unpleasantness ahead. About halfway up the hill, a skunk wandered around someone’s front yard. 

At about 4.5 the 10K turned right and we turned left. I got a text on my new watch, and in trying to make it go away, I accidentally hit the lap button. So from then on, it was off by one from the mile markers–not a big deal, but a little disheartening when my watch mile alerts said, for example, ten when I was really at mile nine.  

I think from here the course ran through a couple of neighborhoods where residents of at least one house were giving out beer in red solo cups. I declined. At about 7.5 we ran under a highway overpass–different countries’ flags were painted onto the concrete columns. It was pretty cool. 

My least favorite part was the 1.5ish-mile stretch down Lorain Avenue–it just seemed like we ran in a straight line forever. I also lost four minutes for a restroom stop somewhere midway down Lorain, and I walked a little when I snacked on Sport Beans near a water stop. The whole way, this teenaged boy kept sprinting past me, then stopping to wait for family to catch up. I don’t know if he wasn’t allowed to finish the race alone or didn’t want to, but he must have passed me fifteen times. 

Finally, we turned off Lorain and then reached the half-marathon split. It made me SO happy to turn right. Then we turned again into the Gordon Arts District, a newly revitalized area with great crowd support at the turn on to Detroit Avenue. At the time I didn’t realize the finish line was actually straight ahead–I could see the Terminal Tower in the distance, but I don’t know the area at all so I thought I’d have to make some more turns to reach the finish line. This is also where the full marathoners joined back up with us, but only a few really fast marathoners had gotten this far yet. I just stayed over on the right side of the road, out of their way. And it began to drizzle. 

Then, a hill. We had to cross the river again, which meant a bridge. But in the same way climbing a bridge is annoying at mile 12.75, the equal and opposite descent on the other side is practically blissful. The drizzle had turned into a light rain, the crowd became more dense, and I could hear the sounds of the finish line. I shut off my headphones and let the atmosphere carry me the rest of the way. 

I don’t remember seeing a marker for mile 13, but I saw one for 26 so I knew I only had a quarter-mile to go. I could see the Terminal Tower sort of ahead and to the right and I tried figure out how we’d get to the same finish line as yesterday–I kept thinking we’d have to make some more turns or something. Clearly I had no idea where I was, because then I realized the finish line was dead ahead. 

I heard someone call my name–K’s husband and kids stood there in the rain. I didn’t expect to see them, so it was a terrific pick-me-up as I ran the homestretch. The announcer gave me and my hometown a shout-out, and then I was done. 

I collected my medal, took a picture of a guy for him, got my own picture taken by the marathonfoto people, and picked up some water and snacks. I tried to take a selfie at the finisher backdrop thing but the angle was all bad, so a guy offered to take one for me. Then I went to collect my Challenge Series medal. 

The rain picked up some more as I waited for K and her friend (who had also run both races and stayed at the Renaissance with us) to come in. So I had some time to think about my races. 

First of all, sometimes it’s helpful to have no idea where you are on the race course. Both times this weekend, the finish snuck up on me–I mean, I knew I had to be close, but to have the finish line suddenly appear 100 yards in front of me was kind of nice. 

Second, I ran both races solidly. Knowing I was running a double, I didn’t push as hard as I could have in either race, and while I started to feel tired somewhere around the 10K split, I never felt too tired. I only walked the water stops and a two or three other places. Most significantly, I somehow avoided the heavy-leg thing that has plagued me off and on the last couple of weeks. 

Going in to this, I had kind of loose (super conservative) time goals for both races, and I finished both well ahead of those goals. I have run races where halfway through I’m already miserable and forcing myself to pick up my feet and run. Not this weekend–I ran the half quite a bit slower than I want to finish my next one a month from now, but considering the unique circumstances of the Challenge Series, I’m pretty happy with my pace. 

And the bling. I’m SO happy with the bling. I don’t know if you can tell, but the medals’ red accents sparkle. And they are solid pieces of hardware–as I walked from the finishers’ area back to the Renaissance (a whole (50 yards) the day’s medals clanked against each other in a satisfying way. Donning all three after my shower made me feel like Katie Ledecky. Well, almost. 

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Huge thanks to K and her family, and her friend C who tagged along in a successful more-the-merrier enterprise. Your mental game is strong, my friend. ❤

Cleveland Challenge Series: 8K

My flight from Austin to Cleveland–from Bergstrom’s new South Terminal–arrived with plenty of time for us to hit the expo downtown. 

Because we’re running the Challenge Series, we earned special stuff for doing both races. So we started there, collecting bibs and 40th anniversary fleece blankets. Then to the 8K shirt table, the half marathon shirt table (each in a separate bag), and the 40th anniversary keychain booth. Then we wandered the expo, collecting goodies and samples. 

I hadn’t eaten since a bag of Smartfood popcorn at the airport, so I sampled a couple of Honey Stinger waffles to tide me over until dinner. I didn’t buy much because I already had more official race stuff than could fit in my suitcase. 


Saturday morning we drove in from Medina–we’re staying in Cleveland Saturday night before the half, but we didn’t want to spring for a hotel for two nights–and found parking pretty easily. That’s always my stressor before races, so once we had that out of the way I felt pretty good. 

We walked to Public Square and hit the restrooms at Terminal Tower before heading to the starting area. 

Earlier in the week, K had gone to a running seminar led by the race director of the Akron Marathon, and after looking at the weather forecast (50s Saturday, 70s Sunday) he suggested running the 8K a little harder to take advantage of the Goldilocks temps, then dialing it back for the half. So with that in mind (and since the 5K and the 8K started simultaneously) I tried to situate myself in front of people who were obvious walkers. 


I had looked at the course map at the expo, but since I don’t really know the city, it didn’t tell me much. Which was fine because sometimes it’s easier not to know. 

The first half-mile, despite my efforts, I dodged walkers and slow people, plus Cleveland’s streets are a mess. So I really had to pay attention to where I was going. At the corner of St. Clair and East 9th I passed the Indians’ Drum Guy. From the 2013 half, I recognized the road (Erieside Avenue) that wrapped around Browns Stadium, then passed the Science Center and the Rock Hall. I walked through the water stop (again taking the Akron race director’s advice to hydrate even though it’s cool out) and then tackled the East 9th hill. 

The 5K split off about a block after we turned left onto Hamilton, while the 8K course continued on until East 26th. By now the traffic had thinned so I just turned up my music and zoned out for a while. After a block on 26th, we turned again onto St. Clair Avenue. I remembered that the map showed a long stretch here–almost two miles–before the last turns to the finish. This area is pretty industrial and there was zero crowd support, but ahead was the downtown skyline. The view plus another water stop distracted me well enough.

At some point, maybe 1.25 before the finish, the 8K merged back in with the 5Kers. At this point most of them were walking, so I was back to dodging people. But it wasn’t as bad as the first half-mile. 

I made the turn back on to East 9th (the drum guy was still there) and then left onto Superior Avenue. I realized that my Garmin only showed 4.6-some miles, but I could see the finish line maybe two blocks away. And even though I’m running a half marathon tomorrow, I was feeling good and picked up my pace here. 


Total distance ended up 4.75 miles according to my Garmin, so my two-minute PR seems bogus to me. But I finished strong and felt good, so either way I’m happy with my race. 

One down, one more to go. 

An ode to my legs

When people see me, I doubt the first thing they think is, “She looks like someone who could run a half-marathon.”

It’s true. The concept of the “thigh gap” was many decades in the future, but even as a tiny, skinny child in 1970-whatever, I didn’t have such a thing.

diving team

Diving team

As a teen I was reasonably active–dance, swimming and diving, horseback riding–but I stayed faaaar away from running. I had a weird knee injury that gave me a convenient excuse on those dreaded run-the-mile-and-a-half days in high school P.E. class.

The adult me is only 5’2″ and since about eighth grade, it’s been too easy for me to gain weight. Over the years I’ve belonged to gyms, I’ve taken workout classes, I’ve done home workouts–it’s not like I’ve been lazy. Well okay sometimes I’m lazy. But it’s not like I haven’t been trying for more than half my life to change those numbers on the scale.

A few years ago I was diagnosed with a thyroid issue, and while treatment has helped my energy levels (and therefore my running), correcting it has not been a magic cure-all for my weight. It also doesn’t help that I’m a picky eater with a sweet tooth.

So yeah. I’m self-conscious about at least some aspects of my body. The combination of short inseam and big calves makes finding boots virtually impossible. I think I look okay in jeans, but with (always black) leggings I choose long, loose shirts. And I don’t like to wear shorts or even knee-length skirts when I might run into my students, although there comes a point in the summer when comfort overrides vanity. Still, it’s in the back of my mind. In fact, this past weekend I was leaving a restaurant with my family when some high school kids walking on the sidewalk stopped, obviously recognizing me, and called out hello. I waved back but immediately felt weird that I was wearing shorts and a race shirt. Too much thigh exposure.

It doesn’t help that, despite years of upper-body workouts, I have flabby arms. Yay, another body part to worry about! So I tend to wear men’s running shirts instead of women’s since men’s have longer sleeves (let’s not talk about how manufacturers of running apparel seem to assume all female runners are a size XS). It’s not a perfect solution, though, because I’m kind of in-between men’s sizes. People tell me the smaller size looks good but I feel self-conscious and tend to size up. As a result, most of the time I look like my shirt is too big.

IMG_3808

Men’s shirt, check. Black capris, check. Kid in front, check.

And of course I wear only black running capris. All those patterns and colors look super cute in the Athleta catalog, but no way do I have any kind of confidence that I can pull it off. The temperatures will get hot enough that I’ll wear a tank top and shorts, but never for races.

I truly envy people who can pose for a picture and not even think about whether it flatters various body parts or not. I’ve learned how to stand strategically for photos–hand on hip, maybe a kid in front of me, shoot from the waist up, you name it. But still, my brain asks Does my arm look weird? Can you see my thighs? Wait try that again. And Fortheloveofrunningshoes please let me see that before you post it somewhere.

Finish line pictures are a nightmare–even when I’m trying to smile victoriously at the end of a race, it turns out I actually look like death. Not only that, said race photos are online and public. No Tag Approval for those suckers. I found some pictures from Saturday’s race and my first reaction was Ugh, my thighs look enormous. 

finish

Don’t think I didn’t evaluate all the race pictures of me and pick the least cringeworthy one to post here.

Even though, on a spring day that was fifteen degrees warmer, I ran within 21 seconds of my November 5K personal best. Even though I had energy for a kick at the end. Even though I felt really good. And even though I placed third in my age group (out of more than three!) I focused on the shape of my body and the size of my legs, not what they had just done.

So here’s the point in all of this: I think I need to cut myself some slack. Stop comparing myself to others–to thinner people, to faster people, to people who can run further and make it look easy. And start appreciating my legs for what they can do.

These legs have carried me through thirteen half marathons (and at least that many ten-milers) over the last four years, with more on the horizon.

IMG_6767[1]

Nine of my half-marathon medals

These legs have shaved (no pun intended) forty minutes off my half-marathon time, 25 minutes off my ten-miler, and 20ish minutes off my 10K time since 2012. That picture of me standing behind my then-eight-year-old was taken after our first 5K in 2011. Saturday I ran a 5K almost fifteen minutes faster than I did that day.

These legs have run hills, run laps at the track, and run thousands of miles on dozens of pairs of shoes.

These legs have done lunges and squats and burpees to improve my running.

These legs have contributed 445 miles toward our team’s goal of 2017 miles so far this year. Many were back-to-back runs to train these legs for back-to-back races this weekend.

Yeah. These legs are stronger than most people probably assume at first glance.

IMG_6832[1]

These legs…

I may not be fast, but I’m faster than I was. I may not run marathons, but 13.1 (times thirteen) isn’t anything to sneeze at either. I may not look like I can run a half-marathon, but I can.

And this weekend I’ll try to prove these legs can do more than that: rock an 8K race on Saturday and a half-marathon on Sunday.

See y’all at the starting line in Cleveland.

 

Tri Doc 5K

I’ve never been #1 in a race before.

IMG_6731

No pressure or anything

Spoiler alert: I did not start first, nor did I finish first. I managed to place third in my age group though–yes, out of more than three people! And I won a raffle prize.

But first things first.

I went into the race with pretty low expecations. I’m running two races in Cleveland next weekend–an 8K and a half marathon–so my training has focused on longer distances. I’ve experienced sporadic bouts of Concrete Legs Syndrome (I just made that name up, but it’s totally a thing) during my midweek runs, and I struggled a bit at the track on Tuesday. Again. Plus I ran a hill workout Thursday night. So I didn’t really feel like I was in great shape for a 5K. But what the hell–my BRFs and a bunch of other Rogues were running it, as well as my soon-to-be-14-year-old, whose birthday is tomorrow. He’s one of a handful of people who have run this race all five years, so we had to keep that streak alive.

IMG_6741

I gave him a Garmin Vivoactive for his birthday

We arrived at Brushy Creek Lake Park about 7:15 to a beautiful morning. About 60* and sunny, just gorgeous. Remembering the last time I ran a pre-race warmup mile, I skipped the lap around the lake and just chatted with some Rogues before the race.

I didn’t figure I had a chance to touch my 5K PR from November, so I didn’t really set a time goal. Instead I would strive to run negative splits and finish feeling good.

The course is a simple out-and-back along Brushy Creek Regional Trail–the first/last .1 is off-road (rocky grass) but the rest is on the paved trail. I have a habit of starting off too quickly, then paying for it later in the race. I mean, 3.1 miles sounds so short after running 12 last weekend, but a 5K is always harder than I think it will be. However, the rough terrain at the beginning helped me keep things in check–I just turned up my music and ran my own race.

The course is mostly flat the first mile, then up a gradual incline. Not far from the turnaround I started seeing my faster friends coming toward me, and I got a high-five from B as we passed. Another runner offered a high five but somehow we missed–it was almost comical.

high 5

 

The turnaround is at the bottom of a hill, which is super-fun coming right back up. But I passed a guy, then caught my breath when it leveled out around mile two. By now the sun had warmed things up and I was pretty hot, but I had just one more mile to go.

At the top of the hill leading to the sports park, a woman who had been walking started running again just as I was about to pass her. I decided I could speed up a bit, and I chased her for a while. Around the back side of the sports park I finally passed her for good. I couldn’t quiiiite catch the run-walk guy I trailed pretty much the whole race, though.

Under Parmer, I picked up the pace again going up the last incline and onto the grassy homestretch. I picked my way around the rocks, trying to run as fast as I could and finish strong–without tripping. A bunch of Rogues stood at the finish line cheering–I could even hear them over my music. I was so glad to see them!

So how about my goals? Exhibit A:

IMG_6747[1]

I know, slow by other people’s standards

Well, I nailed the negative split.

And I finished feeling good. I had more than enough energy for a kick at the end, and I felt strong when I crossed the finish line. Sweaty and breathing hard, but strong. The Rogue cheering squad helped me out there!

This race turned out to be a huge confidence-booster going into my double race next weekend. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t a PR, but it was … less difficult than I expected. And it turns out, only :21 short of my November PR in Shiner. Didn’t see that coming at all, especially considering today’s race didn’t have the benefit of a huge downhill finish like Shiner. So I am definitely pleased about all aspects of my performance. Oh and that missed-high five? After the race, she came up to me laughing and we connected properly!

B finished in 30:23 (he ran positive splits, oops) which was good enough for third in his age group. S won her age group outright, and like I said, I came in third in mine, behind two other Rogues.

I don’t usually stick around for race awards, but Tri Doc always raffles off a gazillion things after the race–gift cards for Road I.D. and massage places, Trigger Point stuff, you name it. I won a Road I.D. gift certificate and B won a free entry to next year’s Tri Doc 5K! And finishers got really nice aluminum bottles filled with ice cold water.

IMG_6751[1]

Something different this year!

In past years, they’ve given out plastic water bottles and visors to finishers. I like that prizes are different every year so we don’t end up with a stack of the same thing.

I wasn’t sure that racing a 5K gave me enough mileage a week before running 18(!) miles, so my coach suggested I tack on a few miles before and/or after the 5K. But I learned my lesson on that one a couple weeks ago! Plan B is to run six miles tomorrow–which will again tell my legs to prepare for back-to-back work. And I guess he knows what he’s talking about–he finished fourth overall this morning.

 


[Disclosure: my entry was free thanks to my work on Texas Running Post, but I paid regular price, less Rogue discount, for B’s entry. All opinions are my own.]

A Garmin Conundrum (Part Two)

I’ve had my new Garmin 230 for a week now. It came last Sunday afternoon and I spent at least an hour adjusting settings and screens and figuring out what all it can do.

IMG_6653[1]

From my Amazon cart to my house in seven hours.

When I first took it out of the packaging, I turned it on but it didn’t respond, even when I pressed the start/stop button. It beeped, but nothing happened on-screen. I thought maybe it had a screen protector on it, but when I ran my fingers over it, I couldn’t find a plastic edge that I could peel back. Still, nothing was happening on the screen. I looked more closely and figured it out really did have a screen protector, and when I peeled it off, I realized that all the button-pushing had tried to set the language to Russian, or maybe that’s Greek.

IMG_6655[1]

Stupid plastic screen protector

Once I got it back to English, I set it to show four fields on the first screen: elapsed time, pace, distance, and outside temperature. Not sure why I chose outside temperature–probably my somewhat-unhealthy obsession with running weather. The second screen shows lap time, lap pace, calories, and estimated finishing time. That last one is a widget that can calculate, based on my pace up to this point, what my finishing time would be for pre-set distances. I am still tinkering with the auto scroll–on my 220 it was set to Fast, but when I used that setting here, I had trouble focusing on the four fields before it switched. So now it’s on Medium, but it feels too slow.

I figured out how to control my music, check the weather, and read texts sent from my phone, although I have no intention of paying a whole lot of attention to messages on the run. I really just want to know if my kid needs to reach me for something. I also downloaded a widget that creates a screen with emergency contact information, and I played around with the background colors.

Phew. That was a lot of settings to figure out.

The first time I used it, I ran three miles at the Brushy Creek Regional Trail. I didn’t have a steep learning curve when it came to using it–the stop/start buttons, the scroll buttons, and the back light all work the same way they did on my 220. The GPS matched the mile markers more closely than my 220 did.

My second run with it was my 4.5-mile Tuesday quality workout with lots of starts and pauses–1.25 miles out to the meeting point, multiple loops with a core exercise between each, then back. I used the lap function for the speed workout and it recorded six laps of exactly .31 segments. Seems accurate. The only minor problem was that when I started doing push-ups, my wrist pressed the start button and I had to spin it around so that the face was on the underside of my wrist so I wouldn’t accidentally activate it again.

Thursday I ran 5.3 miles around the neighborhood where B had lacrosse practice. I didn’t have many stops and starts, but I doubled back on myself a couple of times and the map distinguishes those separate lines.

Finally, I wore it for my first long run on Saturday. This one was downtown–which means all five of my runs were in different locations around the Austin area rather than concentrated in my immediate neighborhood. Didn’t seem to matter–it locked on to a GPS signal very quickly each time. I liked that instead of having to watch the little Star Wars Imperial fighter GPS symbol turn from red to green on my 220, the 230 alerted me when it acquired a signal.

Saturday’s run was 12 miles. Fifth Street to Nueces to Sixteenth to San Jacinto to Duval, then the whole thing in reverse. Austin doesn’t have a forest of skyscrapers like Chicago (which totally jacked with my GPS signal) but every time I turn around, another 40-story condo building has sprouted. No negative effect on my signal, though. The battery level dropped about 30% from the time it was charged Thursday night, through my run when it was actively accessing GPS, and in watch mode the rest of the day and evening.

On Sunday I went out for a bike ride to give my legs a break after running 12 miles the day before. The first thing I realized is that the “run” settings don’t automatically apply to “bike” settings. I had to go in and configure the data fields I wanted for biking–pretty much just time, distance, and speed, plus turn on the auto-scroll. I also changed the profile color to orange so that if I forgot to switch it back to running (which I’d set to purple), I’d notice the different color. This means if it’s still on “bike” when it goes into watch-only mode, the hour will be orange instead of purple too.

IMG_6697[1]

What else do you need to know?

The 220 and the 230 are the same size physically, but the screen face on the 230 is a lot bigger, and the numbers are larger as a result. That’s why the 230 can fit four data fields at a time without a loss of visibility.

IMG_6694[1]

220 on the left, 230 on the right (but I don’t trust the battery meter on the 220)

Another cool thing: the strap loop thing that holds the extra watch band has a notch that fits into the holes in the band. This way the loop stays in place instead of sliding up and down the watch band.

IMG_6692[1]

One of those small details that turns out to be really helpful.

I don’t use the step counter because I have a Vivofit, and I’m sure there are other features I either haven’t discovered or aren’t important to me. I started looking through the widgets on the Connect IQ Store (from the More menu in the Garmin app) but quickly became overwhelmed by the options. In that respect, the lack of extras in the 220 made it much easier to manage.

I found one minor thingthat the 220 did better–let me see if I can explain it. When I start a run but for some reason stop and discard it, it asks me if I’m sure I want to delete it. The “no” is highlighted by default and I have to hit the up arrow to highlight “yes.” On the 220, I could hit up or down, but the 230 requires the up button specifically. The down button is more natural, as far as position, and it’s more awkward for me to reach for the up button. Perhaps people were having problems accidentally deleting their workouts? It already defaults to “no,” so the extra step seems unnecessary to me. But considering I don’t use this function very often, and it’s such a minor detail, it’s hardly a big deal. I am sure I will get used to it. I just find it kind of weird that Garmin changed the way that works.

Oh, something else I figured out: if you’re in the middle of a run (or ride) and want to adjust any of the 230’s settings, you can do that pretty easily. When it’s paused, scroll down to Activity Settings and all those options are available. On the 220, if I started a workout and wanted to change something (data screens, whatever) I couldn’t do it without stopping/saving/deleting the workout, then starting over. This was helpful today when a mile or so into my ride I realized the biking settings were separate from the running ones, and I was able to stop and tinker with them as I went. Not sure how often I’ll need that, but it was handy today.

While I’ve only had it for a week, I’m not finding a huge learning curve moving from the 220 to the 230. It fits well, it’s accurate, it has an improved battery life. Since I have several major races coming up in the next six weeks, these are the functions I really need most.

So far, so good.