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Forerunner735XTBack in January, I bought a Garmin Forerunner 735xt to replace my aging FR910xt. The 910xt is a bit bulky compared with the 735xt, and also only downloads using ANT+, which I’ve had a few problems with. I also wanted something to track my sleep and to use for 24hr monitoring.

Garmin IQ was also something I was quite keen on using, particularly as I’d got a Stryd running power meter which needs an IQ app to make the best of it (it can work with older Garmins by simulating the power as cadence or cycling power, but that’s not ideal).

I briefly considered an Apple watch, particularly as the new hardware has better fitness features (GPS without phone, etc.), but the lack of ANT+ killed that idea.

So, after a few months of use, how is the watch?  I’ve been wearing it basically 24/7 since January, only removing it when showering and for charging or downloading into iSMARTtrain. It’s got really good battery life, lasting weeks if just used as a watch. When used for recording activities, the battery life take a bit more of a hit.

For daily monitoring: The watch is a little bit too thick for my liking for wearing 24/7 – I find it catches on the cuff of my shirt (dress shirt) at work. However, I’m willing to live with that. It provides good feedback on resting HR – In Lanzarote, it was interesting to see how the watch’s resting HR graph gradually increased as the training camp progressed, and I become more tired. The sleep monitoring is reasonably good as well, although not as through as the (now defunked) Zeo that I used to use.

For sport use, basically, it’s great! I’ve used it for running, cycling, swimming and triathlons without much of a problem (see below, though). With the HRM-Tri and HRM-Swim straps, HR data is now provided for swimming where it wasn’t previously available (the ANT+ signal from the normal Garmin straps won’t penetrate far enough through the water to reach the watch). These straps get around this by recording the HR data during the swim, and then transferring it to the watch at the end of the session.

Issues: The biggest issue I’ve had with the 735xt is that it doesn’t seem to connect to some ANT+ devices once the timer has been started. This means, for example, that in the bike leg of a triathlon, you won’t get power or cadence data. I need to do a bit more research into this to see exactly what is happening here.

Also, as I stated above, the watch is a little bit too thick for my liking – however, that’s the price you pay for the battery life, I suppose.

For a more detailed and thorough review, see DC Rainmaker’s take on the FR735xt.

The Turriff triathlon is a close as I’ve got to a local event. It’s about 6 or 7 miles from my house, based at the local sports centre I use for swimming. I’ve done the event a few times, the first being in 1997. There’s the choice of a Short (400m/20k/3k) or a Spring (760m/20k/5k) events. I’d opted for the Short, given my lack of swim practice recently. There were about 120-130 entrants speard over both events.

Swim

I was in the second heat, with two others in my lane. I’d put my swim time as 10 minutes for 400m in the entry form. Once the swim got going, the water was quite choppy. My technique started to get a bit sloppy after half way and I started taking a brief rest at the end of each length. I was passed by the other two in my lane. I completely lost count of the distance I’d swam and was surprised to see the lap counter indicating to the other two in my lane that they were on their last lap – I’d thought we still have further to go. Getting out of the pool at the deep end was a bit of a struggle – there’s no ledge to stand on and launch yourself up like there is in some other pools.

Swim time:  00:10:41 – pretty much as expected.

Transition

The transition area is about 300 m from the swimming pool, through an underpass on the main road. I’d left my trainers, bike top and gloves at the exit of the pool, put them on then ran to the bike. I also accidently picked up someone’s googles at the exit, thinking they were mine, until I realised that mine were around my neck – I passed them to the organiser in transition. Putting on my bike shoes took too long – I’d forgotten to leave the straps open for the quick entry – that was the whole point of buying tri-specific shoes! I’d also decide to put on socks, as I’ve had problems with blisters before when racing without them, which took a bit more time. The run out of transition is a short up hill to the mount line – fun in cycling shoes.

Bike

The bike starts almost immediately with a hill. It’s quite steep for first couple of kms, then levels off to a more undulating climb to the 7 kms point. I’d kept my effort steady up to this point and I’d passed one other competitor – I’d had to hang back before passing as the road was a little too twisted to be able to see any oncoming traffic.

After the right turn at 7kms, the road climbs for another 1-1.5km. On this section, I passed another entrant, and spotted a couple more, further up the climb. From the top of the climb it was a fast downhill with a couple of tight turns and a quite rough road surface. The course then turns onto the main Huntly road, and continue back into Turriff.  This section is mostly downhill with a couple of short climbs. It was on one of these climbs that I managed to pass another rider, and one more one the downhill section.  Coming back down to the transition, I had cramp in right calf down the last hill. The run from the dismount line to the bike racks was downhill, so running this in cycling shoes didn’t help!

Bike time: 00:48:40

Run

The run section is an out-and-back along the last few km of the bike route. It’s a climb for about 750 metres, then level out. It’s on pavement for the first 1.25 km or so, then on the road to the turnaround.

Once off the bike, I couldn’t get into a good stride pattern, and could only take only short steps. I Stopped to walk for 1 minute at 1 km point and again at 2 km, then ran back to finish.

Run time: 00:18:20

My final time was 1:24:37 for 19th out of 28. I later discovered I was 3rd in Age Group (Super-Veteran), 30 seconds off second place.

Turriff2017

Not the performance I’d hoped for.

I’ve completed this race a few times in the past, with a course best of 52:47, albeit on a slightly different route.

The weather was nice on the day – sunny, but a bit cool – ideal running weather.

The route starts at the Garioch Sports Centre, then passes through Inverurie out into the open countryside. It then re-enters Inverurie and loops though a couple of housing estates (one of which is still being built) and back to the sport centre.

I’d trained reasonably consistently coming into the event. However, on the day, I just didn’t have the speed that I’d expected – last time a ran this, I finished in 52:47 after a similar build-up (Lanzarote training camp, followed by consistent runs back home). This time, however it became evident from the start that I wasn’t going to come close to that – every time I tried to speed up, the legs just weren’t there – I ended up briefly walking at a couple of points after the 5km point and a couple of the climbs through the new housing estate. In the end, I finished in 58:21. I’m not too unhappy with this time – after all, you can only do what your legs will let you do on the day.

Another training camp is over. We had a fantastic two weeks at Club la Santa. The first week was the Spring Triathlon camp with Joe Beer and Dan Bullock, and the second was intented to be a bit of a holiday, but ended up being a training week as well, albeit with a sight-seeing trip to Timanfaya National Park.

Totals for the Camp:

Cycling: 22 hrs 30 mins 418km
Running: 6 hrs 11 mins 49.8km
Swimming: 5 hrs 05 mins 5500m

It’s been a bit quiet here recently, mainly as I didn't race for all of 2016 – this wasn’t really intentional, just how things worked out. I was too late signing up for some races, and others were cancelled for this year. I’ve still biked and ran as much as ever, and probably swam the most I have for a long time.

Anyway, I’ve set some targets for this year, including the Inverness Marathon in September, my first attempt at this distance. To kick-start the year, I’m off the Joe Beer’s Training Camp in Lanzarote soon.

We’re just back from the Club La Santa training camp in Lanzarote

Thursday

We arrived mid-afternoon, flying in from Glasgow. Weather hot compared with 1 or 2 deg back in Glasgow. Unfortunately, when putting my bike together, I managed to break the K-Edge SRM Magnet, so no power for the camp – tip for next time, remove the chain catcher before packing the bike (and take a spare)! I had a quick test ride up to La Santa village to check the bike was ok. Gill has a cold.

Friday

Went for a 30 minute run round the lagoon first thing, then to initial meeting for training camp. Swim session next with Dan Bullock of Swim for Tri. I managed 2000 m, not too bad considering it was the first time I’d been in the pool since last Club La Santa camp in 2015! I sat out a few lengths towards the end, as I was getting a bit tired. Bike in afternoon was a 2 hour ride up to Mancha Blanca via Soo. We had to turn at Mancha Blanca and retrace our route due to roadworks on main road down to Tinajo. Celeb encounter in the evening when we were almost run over by pro triathlete Michelle Vesterby on her bike in the complex - and yes, she IS always smiling!

Swim Training

2016-02-07 07.56.02 HDR

Saturday

Again I went for a 30 minute run first thing, having decided to skip the swim session due to stiff shoulders – probably over did it a bit the previous day. The afternoon’s bike, led by Dan, was a 2:30 ride over Fire Mountain to Yaiza for coffee stop, then retracing our route back over Fire Mountain from long side.

Sunday

Felt a bit ropey - might be getting Gill's cold, so just did a run first thing, then a short bike ride over to Famara via Soo and back. Had a quick bike around the village of Famara as I’d only passed through it quickly in the past.

2016-02-07 10.44.51

Monday

Definitely got Gill's cold - skipped the planned 6 hour bike to Tabeyesco. Rest day

Tuesday-Friday

Laid up with Cold - no training other than walking around the lagoon. Spectated at the camp triathlon. Had a great final night meal in El Lago restaurant.

2016-02-10 20.29.02

Sunday

Went to Teguise market and had lunch at La Cantina.

Monday

Felt much better so biked over to Soo, down to Famara and back. Windy! Slept for ages afterwards so maybe not completely recovered.

Tuesday

Intended for go CLS - Soo - Famara - Soo - Mancha Blanca - Tinajo - la Santa, but cut leg to Famara short because of wind - sand blowing across the road like drifting snow - just like being at home! The run back down into La Santa from Tinajo was very windy.

Wednesday

Last full day at CLS, so biked Soo – Mancha Blanca – La Garia – Yaiza – Fire Mountain – Tinajo – La Santa for a 55 km ride. It’s a fantastic ride through the wine-growing region of La Garia. Wish I’d taken the time to put my Garmin Virb back onto my bike before the ride. Great end to the holiday.

2016-02-17 18.21.26 HDR

After last year’s incident with the baggage handlers, I decided to take some extra precautions when packing my bike this year. Firstly, I got some pipe lagging to protect the tubes of the frame – it’s available in a number of sizes and should fit most bikes – I got mine off eBay for about £12 for five 1m lengths of various sizes.
The second change to the packing was that I bought a set of Allen key wheel skewers, eliminating the chance of the lever end damaging the frame, should the baggage handlers again try their best to bust my bike.
Update: The bike arrived in Lanzarote without any damage.

Packed Bike Box

 

Yesterday, I ran the Fraserburgh Half-Marathon. This was my first road half since 2007 – I’d originally wanted to do the Crathes half, but, as usual, I waited too long to enter and it was full. My primary aim was to break the 2 hour barrier, or at least to be close to my last road half-marathon time of 2:07.
The weather at the start was dry, but there was a chilly breeze off the sea. The course leads out of Fraserbrugh down the A90, then turns off and loops through the countryside, taking in part of the old Fraserburgh-Aberdeen railway line, now a long distance path known as the Buchan Way. After going through the six mile point in about 53 minutes, I felt that my target of sub 2hrs was still on, but soon after that, my pace began to flag, and the lack of long distance training runs became apparent.
At the end of the loop, the course re-joined the A90 to head back into Fraserburgh. Just after entering the town, and in plain sight of the finishing line, the route takes a 1.5 mile loop through the neighbouring housing estate, with a leg-sapping climb adding in the middle. As I crossed the finishing line, I saw my time was 2:08:21, not quite as fast as I’d hoped, but within a minute of my last half-marathon, set almost 10 years ago.
All-in-all, a good, well organised race. For another (and better written) perspective, visit Rhona’s race report at http://www.redwinerunner.co.uk/2015/11/16/race-report-fraserburgh-half-marathon-2015/

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On Sunday, I ran my first half-marathon for nine years, the Fare Challenge. The event is an off-road race, held on the Hill of Fair at Raemoir, near Banchory, in Aberdeenshire. It was also the first time I’d raced off-road. There were 5k, 10k and half-marathon distance events on at the same time, all of them initially following the same route.

Coming into the race, my training hadn’t been up to the volume I’d have liked, having only had 4 runs since the Baker-Hughes 10k in May, the longest of which was 11km. I had toyed with the idea of swapping my entry for a 10k one, but eventually decided just to give the half a try.

Prior to the start, I met with a couple of old friends who were doing the 10k route. The general consensus was that the 10k route was about 15 minutes slower than a road run, and the half route was about 30 minutes slower. My last half marathon time was about 2:10, and, given my limited training, I’d be happy with 2:40 for this race.

I lined up at the start towards the back, as the 5k and 10k was also starting at the same time. The route led away from the start into the surrounding woods and immediately started to climb. The previous night’s rain meant that the track we were running on were quite muddy. The first 5km were a continuous climb  up to the highest point of the route at about 450m. At that point, we were clear of the trees and the route led around the hill on fairly wide landrover tracks.  After an out-and-back section at 12 km, we moved onto a single track and descended towards the finish. The finish line was visible from the 12 mile marker, but the route cruelly went back up the hill a short way before descending to the finish. I crossed the line in 2:42:58, pretty much as predicted.

It’s a great race – certainly the longest run I’ve done for a long time, possibly ever. I’ll pencil it into my race calendar for next year. One slightly disappointing note (and not the fault of the organisers) was the number of gel packets littering the route – if you can carry the gels, then you can carry the empty packets back with you – it’s not hard.

Yesterday saw the running of the Baker-Hughes 10k in Aberdeen. I’ve completed this event many times in the past, but for this year I had high hopes of a fast time.

Back in March, I’d finished the Garioch 10k in 52:xx, my. fastest 10k for quite a while. Given that the Inverurie-based event is run over quite a hilly course, I thought I might manage to break the 50 minute barrier in Aberdeen, given that it’s a much fkatter course.

Leading up to the race, my training had gone Ok

We arrived at the start an hour-or-so before the off, as the traffic can be a bit of a problem around the beach. My wife went off to meet one of her friends and I warmed up along the beach front, running into an old running friend who was currently injured, Steve Mitchell.

As start time approached, I lined up in the 50-55 minute corral, then waited to cross the line a few minutes after the gun. I’d seeded myself better than in the past and had less of a problem getting held up by slower runners in the first mile-or-so.

For the first few km, it looked like I was on course for my target time – I eventually went through 5km in just under 25 minutes, and felt ok until the 6km marker came up, where I started to get an upset stomach. At this point, I had to slow down to keep running, hoping that the upset would reduce and I’d be able to speed up again. Unfortunately, every increase in speed brought the upset back again, and I eventually slowed to a walk going up the only hill on the route at the 9km mark. Once over the brow of the hill, I was able to start running again and crossed the finishing line in 55:18.

Not the result I’d hoped for, but you can only do what your body will let you on the day.