Thursday, July 18, 2013

Syncing your Garmin using an Android Phone

Many runners (myself included) are data obsessed - and I often find myself wanting to look at data from a run right away, even before I can bet back to my home computer (I can't install software on my work laptop) to sync with my Garmin and upload the data to Garmin Connect or the website of my choice.

I learned that there is a way to use an Android phone to pull data from a Garmin and sync it to the web, and several runner friends have asked about it - so here's the tutorial.  Your mileage may vary:

Step 1 - Get a micro USB male to USB female adapter.  These can be found for less than $10 at your local computer store (I got mine from MicroCenter), but they are also available on Amazon.

Step 2 - Download the ANT+ USB Service and ANT+ Plugins (free) for your Android phone from the Play Store

Step 3 - Download Uploader for Gamrin Connect (free trial, but full version costs $, but not much) for your Android phone from the Play store

Once you have downloaded and installed everything that you need, you should be able to plug the adapter into your phone, attach the ANT+ stick to the adapter, launch Uploader for Garmin Connect on your phone, and pair your Garmin to your phone.

Once you pull data from your Garmin, you can post it to Garmin Connect, Facebook, Endomondo and a bunch of other sites.

Optional:  Download Garmin Connect Mobile (free) if you'd like to view your Garmin Connect data via your cellphone.

I'll add screenshots and more detail if there is interest - just wanted to get something quick and dirty out there so that people can try this if they are so inclined.  Post feedback to let me know how you make out.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Open letter to the running community - a.k.a working my way back

Hey guys...

Hoping I can tap in to some positive energy from the awesome folks of the virtual running community.  I'm recently back to running after an extended layoff due to heart issues.  I had heart surgery back in April, and am finally recovered to the point where I have been running short distances several times a week.

My heart is still bearing some residual effects of the procedure, like a new resting heart rate of 80, where it used to be 56.  My mid section is also bearing some residual effects (due to bad food choices and a prolonged period of inactivity), but I'm sure that will self-correct as I start piling on the miles.

I'm just finding that running isn't nearly as much fun as it was when I was in shape.  Huffing and puffing my way through 3 - 4 miles is nothing like the workouts I used to do while training for the half ironman.  The idea of knocking out a solid 8 mile tempo the day after a hard hilly ride or a spin class is squarely in the rear view mirror...

I'm signed up for NYCM - it's my 6th marathon, my 4th NYC - and right now, my only goal is to finish - but the way my runs have been going lately, it just feels like the next 20 weeks are going to be GRUELING.

If any of you have experienced a similar time away from running, I'd love to hear how your brought yourself back...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thoughts on the latest email from NYRR

NYRR recently sent an email to the registrants of the cancelled 2012 New York Marathon asking for some time before responding to the questions that many of us are left with.  My thoughts on their latest communication (and the situation in general):

"Please know that our priority is to address your concerns," the e-mail read. "We ask that you give us a little time to work out the details and make thoughtful decisions. We are very grateful for your continued patience."

  1. Your priority is not, has not, and will never be "to answer our concerns".  NYRR's priority in recent years has been how to capitalize on the imbalance between supply and demand for race spots to most directly benefit NYRR's stated agenda (to become a social service / activism organization dedicated to getting more people active and into running).
  2. "We ask that you give us a little time to work out the details and make thoughtful decisions" - So, we are now making thoughtful decisions?  That would be quite the paradigm shift - considering that your track record of decisions hasn't been all that thoughtful year-to-date, including: a) Cancelling bag check AFTER registration for the marathon had been completed b) Deciding to hold the 2012 marathon, having everyone come to NYC, then cancelling it THE DAY BEFORE the race.  If NYRR decides to start making thoughtful decisions now, that would be a welcome change.
I am just overwhelmed and flabbergasted by how poorly the entire situation was handled.  The marathon should have been cancelled on Tuesday, preventing people from spending time and money to travel for a race that should have never been in consideration.

I'm going to put it in perspective here:  I have my health, my home and my family.  I escaped the wrath of the weather unscathed.  There are many people with far more to worry about than a marathon.  That said, I have given NYRR my last dollar - this is just the last straw for me.  I don't wish NYRR any ill will.  There are plenty of people that want to run the New York City Marathon, and it's obvious that they won't miss my patronage.  That said, I'm going to look for a different avenue to support (like NYCRuns), and happily relinquish my place in line to someone that wants it more than I do.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Reminders for the road back

Realizing that I haven't posted in a while, I'll bring you up to speed on what's been happening these last few months.  While training for my first Half Ironman, I developed an arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) which prevented me from training for the race (or anything else) the way I wanted to.  I got through the race, had a blast (even if I didn't race the way I wanted to) and had heart surgery to take care of the arrhythmia.  After the procedure, I was placed on heart drugs - one of the effects of these drugs is that my heart rate never goes above 130, making anything more taxing than brisk walking, or climbing a flight or two of stairs a bit challenging.

I just came back from my post-surgery follow up visit, and got encouraging news from my doctor.  She was encouraged by the condition of my heart, and cleared me to move on to the next phase of recovery.  That means I'll be discontinuing the heart meds that I'm on over the next few days/weeks, and can start getting back to the things I love to do (swimming, biking and running).

Needless to say, this extended period of inactivity has been rough on me (I can count on one hand the number of times I have exercised since my triathlon on September 26th).  I gained weight, lost fitness, and have just generally become less happy with myself...just ask my wife about how pleasant of a person I have become to live with.

Now that I can start training again, I wanted to put a few thoughts in front of myself so that I can keep them top of mind as I start the road back to where I was:

  1. Recovery is going to be gradual.  I lost a lot of fitness in the time I spent recovering.  I can't measure my performance today or set goals today using the yardstick of my performance before I developed my arrhythmia.  I just have to focus on the present, and be happy with the improvements that I know will come in time.
  2. I'm not out of the woods yet.  There's still a good possibility that these issues will resurface once I'm off the meds.  While the prognosis is good, it's not uncommon to need this procedure multiple times (hell, when I had similar issues in 2010, I needed three procedures to fix what was wrong with my heart).  I can't bank on the fact that the doctors got it right the first time, or I'm setting myself up for a hell of a disappointment.
  3. I shouldn't rush myself into goal races.  I have a tendency to aim high, and make aggressive plans.  I really need to keep my expectations in check, and focus on base building for a while.  As of now, I only have two committed races for next year (NYC Tri on July 14th and Marine Corps Marathon on October 27).  I have my eyes on Rev3 Quassy (the Half Iron distance is calling me) and possibly the Gran Fondo NY (I've been bitten by the cycling bug this year), but I'm really apprehensive about having a setback, and having to defer on a lot of things (like I did this year).  If I find myself overcommitting, I'm hoping that my runner/tri friends will help me keep my enthusiasm in check.
Running/Tri friends:  I'm counting on you here.  Please help me stay in tune with these guiding principles, so that I can make this recovery as smooth and painless as possible.  I'm really grateful for the support I got from my runner friends while I was down, and look forward to rejoining you on the roads.  I can't wait to be back!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Because I never learn

I knew this wasn't going to last for long.  I had said to myself (and my blog) honestly that I was done racing for the year, and wasn't going to do a fall marathon.  Then, a few weeks later, NYRR reversed their original decision to end baggage service, and I found myself nostalgic for the marathon.

Yes, I ran NYC in 6 hours 2 years ago - shortly after heart surgery.  It was a sufferfest, but I got a medal, and would like to think that I'm a better person for having stood up to the challenge and getting it done.  I have another heart procedure scheduled for September 24th, and part of me is stubbornly refusing to let that define my reality.  Inspired by my friend Allen - who also took a run/walk marathon with a camera - I decided not to let my entry go to waste.

Partly motivated by the fact that I haven't worked out once in the last 2 weeks (since my Half Ironman), and by the fact that I'm already qualified for NYCM 2013 (if I choose to run it), I decided not to let my entry go to waste.

I'm not going to be fast, I may not even finish (I'm not going to die trying) - but maybe, just maybe, I'll put on my number on November 4th, make my way to the foot of the Verazanno Bridge, and enjoy a tour of the 5 boroughs with 45,000 other runners.

What do you think?

Monday, September 3, 2012

What now?

Coming off of the high of having completed my first half iron distance triathlon, I'm confronted with a huge feeling of post-race blues.  The finish was a bitersweet end to my training season.  Frought with challenges as it was, I'm really pleased with what I was able to accomplish out there.  Since then, I haven't worked out once in the 8 days since the event, and am feeling completely unmotivated.

I had originally planned to roll from the 70.3 straight into fall marathon training, but I had to abandon those plans for a number of reasons.  Between my heart, the impending move, the fall holidays and other factors, I just couldn't see myself committing to the fall races the way I needed to.

I know it's all for the best - but I'm having post-race blues harder than I think I ever have before.  It's really sad not to be training for a fall goal race for the first time since 2008.  I just need to find a way to get myself back to doing SOMETHING - so that I don't lose everything that I have gained.  It's also really tough to read about everyone hitting their long runs, tempo runs and speedwork, and easing into the intense period of training leading up to the marathon.

Really struggling with what my next goal(s) should be, thinking about a half in the spring of 2013, and an early season 70.3 in June or something.  I just need to refocus my sights on the next goal, which will make it easier for me to stay engaged in the interim.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rev3 Maine - 70.3

Reader Note: I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but I felt that there was a lot I wanted to put out there.  If you want the top line, read the first two paragraphs - if you want more, feel free to indulge me and read the rest.

Background: After a stellar first half of 2012, I was well on my way to training for my first half ironman.  My training took an unexpected set of turns, due to a combination of old heart problems resurfacing and tendonitis in my left foot.  I arrived at the starting line for the race grossly unprepared, but ready to do battle.  I was going to bring my best game, hope for the best, and accept whatever I got out of the day.  Here's how it went.

The short version: I finished the race in 6:45:33.  It certainly wasn't the result I was hoping for, or the best that I think I'm capable of, but it was the best race I had in me that day.  Considering the circumstances, I'm thrilled that I had the opportunity to toe the start and cross the finish.  The race was a great experience, and I'm truly energized about the idea of doing it again.

What went well?  I'm happy with my bike time, reasonably satisfied with my swim, and just  delighted that I finished, considering that my training schedule had been heavily impacted by:

  1. Life (Our new home, selling our existing home, my work schedule, my wife's work schedule) - not really good excuses, but contributing factors nonetheless.
  2. My heart issues (starting in June) causing me to cut short a number of long workouts, and preventing me from doing others entirely
  3. Plantar Fasciitis / Posterior tibialis tendonitis in my left ankle/foot.  Looking back on my log, apart from my 16 mile training run on 8/19, I hadn't run more than 6 miles in one shot since my half marathon in May...
What didn't go well?
  1. My swim - due to heart issues (read more below)
  2. My run - due to inadequate run training, poor nutrition on the course and almost no long runs/bricks (bike/run combo workouts)
The long version:  About a week before race day, I made a decision to discontinue the use of the heart medications that I had been given, to allow me to participate in the triathlon.  In truth, the arrhythmia that I have isn't life threatening, and there are plenty of people that live with it for their entire lives (just not active people).  The arrhythmia causes my heart rate to go as high as 220 BPM, which makes sustained exercise nearly impossible.  On the flip side, the drugs I was given to prevent the arrhythmia keep my heart rate below 130 at all times, also making sustained exercise nearly impossible.  If I stayed on the meds, there'd be no way that I could race, but if I went off the meds, and my heart didn't cooperate that day - my race would be over.  I took the risk, and headed to Maine, willing to accept whatever happened on race day.

Traveling with two small children isn't easy.  Between the unfamiliarity of a new location, the change to their schedule, and just the general excitement of being on vacation, no one slept much on Friday or Saturday night.  Plus, my heart had been going nuts all day on Saturday.  Things weren't looking good for me.  Despite that, I woke up at 4am went to transition with Matt (also doing the 70.3), laid out all of my gear and began the long walk from T1 to the swim start.  Walking along the beach, staring at the ocean at sunrise, I had a moment of hesitation.  I have a wife, I have two small children - why in the hell am I taking chances like this?  There will be other races, other days.  That sudden realization provoked a wave of emotions within me.  I said to myself, I'll play it cautiously, and will bail out at the first sign of trouble. I pushed my fears aside, and lined up with my wave.

Swim: 45:11

The water was really calm, and the waves were minimal, once you got out past the breakers.  Despite this, the swim was really rough for me.  I think my heart was going beserk at the time, because  I found myself completely winded and gasping for air by the time I hit the first turn buoy (.35 mile).  I just slowed down, took my breath, and said to myself, "Be patient, take your time, you'll get through this" and just pushed on and on.  The swim seemed to go on forever.  Crossing the final turn buoy, heading back to shore - I felt like I was swimming and swimming and never getting any closer to shore.  Swimmers from the next two waves behind me behind me started to pass me, but I pushed on.  Finally, I got to shore.  My heart was pounding in my chest.  I was winded, and gasping for air.  My chest was heaving.   I was dizzy, and felt like I was going to throw up. I ripped off my wetsuit top and began the 1/3 mile trot up to transition.

T1: 6:25

Running into transition, I was fighting back dizziness and nausea.  I wasn't sure that I was going to continue.  My heart was still racing, and I couldn't catch my breath.  I saw my friend Matt (who went into the water 2 waves before me) on the sidelines, and was utterly confused.  Did he miss the swim cutoff?  Did something happen?  All I could manage was a confused, "What the hell, Matt??"  He replied, "Don't worry about me, just go ahead!".  I crossed the turn into transition and went about changing out of my wetsuit and getting my bike gear together.  Fighting back the dizziness, I had to sit down to take off my wetsuit bottom and put on my bike shoes.  I finally managed to get down some water, begin to calm myself down and started out on my bike.

Bike: 3:15:55

Once I got out on the bike, and started to pick up speed, my heart finally seemed to calm down.  I was finally able to catch my breath, and appreciated the cool air on my face and body.  I settled in for the ride and got into a groove.  I had planned to eat Cliff Bar pieces while on the bike, but my stomach was still doing backflips, so I wasn't able to get much down.  I stuck with water and gatorade, and knew that I was painting myself into a corner with nutrition  The bike is a long and solitary experience - there isn't much cameraderie on the course, short of an occasional, "On your left" as you are getting passed, or passing someone else.  The scenery was beautiful, and I just let the miles tick by.  I started to lose steam between miles 40 and 50.  At the 50 mile mark, I just continued to grind it out, saying to myself, "I can't wait to get off the bike, and start the run" - boy, I had no idea what I was in for.

T2: 3:14

Running my bike back into transition, I caught a first glimpse of the wife and kids.  I gave each of them a kiss as I went by. I was just glad that they saw me, and knew that I was OK.  I started out of transition and on to the run course, and my legs just wouldn't cooperate.

Run: 2:34:47

The run was a complete trainwreck - but I kind of expected that.  I kept saying to myself, "Just get to mile 1, make it happen", but I was doing far more walking than running.  It really took almost 3 miles to get my legs to cooperate.  Slowly but surely, I was able to do at least as much running as walking, then eventually longer periods of running and shorter walk breaks.  There wasn't any specific body part that prevented me from running, I was just completely out of gas.

I was starting to run out of steam, both physically and emotionally.  The though of just sitting down really appealed to me - so I knew I had to start fighting my way back to a positive frame of mind.  I thought about a lot of things, to help draw inspiration to help get me through the day.  I though a lot about my Dad, who fought the fight of his life, and didn't win.  I though about an old co-worker TJ, with a wife and small children, fighting stage 4 skin cancer.  I just dug into myself and pushed myself to keep going.  Then I started talking to a guy running about my pace.  He told me that he has been living with MS for about 18 years (I think).  Thanks to modern medicine, he's able to lead a normal life, even compete in the triathlon.  I started to think about my heart issues - and put them into perspective.  My battle is nothing compared to theirs.  We hung in there together, and slogged through the remaining miles to the finish.

The aid stations were pretty frequent on the run, and I started helping myself to liberal helpings of ice, banannas, coke and salt tabs.  The volunteers were amazing about getting your orders together quickly and serving them to you with a smile.  Finally, once I got some calories in me, I was able to get myself moving again.  By the time I ran into Matt and Steph on the back half of the run, I was moving along comfortably, and grateful for their support.  I have to give Matt a heavy helping of gratitude here:  Even though his day didn't turn out as expected, his (and Steph's) support on the course helped me through the race more than they'll ever know.

Running the final leg to the finish chute, I met up again with my family - grabbed my son Benjamin, took my daughter Chavi by the hand and we ran as a family down the finish chute to the finish line.

What now?

One day after the race, I feel amazing.  Contrary to what you'd think, the 70.3 is a lot easier on your body than 26.2 miles of running.  I feel like I did what I went there to do.  I faced my physical limitations head on, and with a good helping of luck, and my customary stubborn determination, I beat them.

I don't think that I'm going to continue training for the fall marathons as I had planned (although I've been known to renege on promises like that before).  I'm scheduled to have my next heart procedure in just under 1 month, and as I understand it, the recovery period is longer, and I'll have to stay on the heart meds for longer.  I fought that fight in 2010 - and with this achievement under my belt, I don't feel the need to hang in there and gut out another 6 hour sufferfest marathon.

I'm going to need to find some other ways to keep in shape and stay strong so that 2013 can be the year of rebuilding, take 2.  I did it once - I know I'll do it again.