Porto half-marathon. All the trainings have been done, just have to retrieve my race numbers and relax… 🙂
Actively preparing for the Porto half-marathon which will take place in about a month’s time. My aim this year is to go under 1h40… we’ll see about that 🙂 😛
Lovely little route, mostly traffic-free! Now don’t tell me I’m not good to you… 🙂
Again, it has been a while! 🙂 Where to begin?
Well, Porto came and went (too quickly, indeed…) and I returned to the island and to my busy schedule (at times). Funnily enough, as soon as I got back one of my university mates came to visit and we spent a nice weekend roaming around Kent, with the mandatory stop at Whitstable to get some oysters.
May was a bit slow… between work at the lab, a pile of lab reports to mark (yeah, I gave myself a proper holiday in Porto and didn’t even look at them during the whole time I was there – but then the problem came in May when I had to finish them all in a very short span of time! 😛 ), and a very busy time at PARSUK (we had to assess the student applications to the summer placement programme we are sponsoring – and there were a lot of applications!!) I didn’t have a lot of time to do anything else.
My mom and my little sister did came to visit me by the end of the month, which was nice, if it wasn’t for the horrible weather we had and all the miles I had to drive under that rain (unbelievable the spray that forms on the motorway, it came to a point when the water was being projected over the central reservation into the opposite carriageway!!). After showing them the views and going to London for some sightseeing, using a bank holiday weekend for that purpose, I felt happy but also a bit tired (after returning from dropping them at the airport on Tuesday morning I have to confess I didn’t do much in the lab for the remainder of the day!).
June started with a few meetings and workshops. I attended a National Instruments (NI)/Institute of Physics half-day meeting at Kingston University (SW London) with some of the usual suspects from the lab where I gave a little presentation in conjunction with Adrian B about the NI hardware/software we use and how that helps us achieve what we need, research-wise. It was interesting and I chatted with a few interesting people, namely one of the top level execs of NI here in the UK.
A few days later I went to Teddington to attend a Summer School at the National Physical Laboratory, sponsored by SEPNet (the group of the South-East universities with Physics degrees, Kent being one of them). It was interesting and refreshing, even if myself and Yong H were the only ones in there doing Applied Optics, as far as I saw… but they had some very interesting workshops, an innovation challenge that brought up the “soft skills” we are never taught but are definitely important, and Jim Al-Khalili as the keynote speaker! (oh, and there were a few social events as well… the weather was remarkably good for those, and in the end I even managed to cram a few nice runs in the morning, in particular a ~10k one partly following the Thames in the Kingston/Hampton Wick area – absolutely beautiful!).
And in the following week I headed for Bath, to attend the 8th LUSO (2014) – the annual meeting of the Portuguese students and researchers in the UK. Ultimately this would be also the time to pass on my duties as a treasurer for PARSUK, given that our mandate finishes at the AGM, which took place the day after the conference. It was very intense but also good fun, and I feel privileged to have been able to work with such a great bunch of people. Definitely worth the horrible ~4-hour drive there on Friday afternoon through the congested M25, followed by the congested M3, congested Windson and congested A46, all under a scorching sun (“why would I need a car with air conditioning in this country?”, I naively asked myself when I purchased my car. Well, on a day like June 20th it would have come handy… 😛 ).
At last I managed to have a weekend for myself – this weekend included some rowing, some running, and general tidying up of my house, my car, the garden (managed to mow all the lawn, trim the hedges and tidy up before the rain started!! Big WIN!! 😀 ).
With regards to running: Richard, one of my rowing mates told me about this fantastic nature reserve in Blean – Blean (duh) Nature Reserve – just a stone’s throw from campus and featuring a fantastic 7-8 mile loop through forest paths and rolling countryside, hard to believe that we are less than 5 miles away from Canterbury city centre! Given that I have just presented myself with a shiny new Garmin Forerunner 310XT (which should arrive this week – eagerly awaiting, and a review will follow!) I will probably use it to log a few of these trails, which are not very well documented, which is a shame!
OK, I think I’ll end here. It is late and I need to catch some sleep, I am dead tired today 🙂 Hopefully will update soon!
… when you insist in running on the woods regardless of the weather conditions! 🙂
(but the path is pretty, what can I say? Much better than running in the messy city centre, & orders of magnitude better than running on a treadmill! 🙂 )
Yep, indeed – sadly, my holidays are over! 🙁 Hard to believe that exactly one week ago I was still melting under the Portuguese late Summer, especially after spending this whole morning at the University’s boathouse under an overcast sky and with a cold wind continuously blowing…
The holidays, though, couldn’t have ended better: the 2013 edition of the Douro descent (actually this year we had an ascent/descent!) was awesome! Lots of rowing (~64k overall), good company, great scenery and excellent food, what can I ask for more?
(there are a lot of stories to tell, along with some excellent photos, but those will have to wait for a later time, as I’m writing this in a hurry now! 😛 )
Anyway, in retrospective, these 3.5 weeks I spent in Porto were great, albeit they went past very, very quickly – I managed to mentor 5 high school students, train towards and run a half-marathon, work on my ^”!$!^*! paper (which is still not ready – every day we uncover new things that need to go into it, it is the sad life of a researcher!) and do lots of rowing and running (and even some cycling, which didn’t end the way I wanted to, though…).
Mostly recovered by now, two days later! Well, I was never *that* bad, which was quite a surprise – compared to my very first race (S Silvestre 2010) when I couldn’t go down a flight of stairs without considerable pain for a few days, this wasn’t too bad. A lot more training (and a lot more miles) went on these last races, though…
Still, it wasn’t enough! I mean, I completed my goal (finished under 1h50, with a time of 1h47m36s), but now I’m hungry for more – I have something to improve for next year, and perhaps even consider running the “full” 42k at some point.
Two things that, I suspect, had a negative impact on this particular event: I hit “the wall” too soon (about 10-12k into the race, and I was going at a very conservative 5:00-5:10/km!), that caught me red-handed (I kept going, but by the time I crossed the finish line I wasn’t too steady for a while, at least until I ate something! Should have eaten more in the morning, but I was fearing getting too full…), and the temperature!
Sure, I should be used to that given that this is my hometown 😛 (and it wasn’t as warm as it normally is…), and I’ve been training for 2 weeks here (in Kent I had typically 10 degrees C less, which was a lot better to deal with dehydration), but the fact that they initiated the race at 10h20 in the morning meant that we were running when the Sun was at its tallest position, which isn’t pleasant at all (with the addition of new, lovely, unisuit tanlines! 😛 ). I mean, couldn’t they have initiated it at 9h or even 8h30? Good thing that the next one I’ll be doing (S Silvestre 2013 hopefully, if my flight doesn’t get affected by snow in December) is in December & at 6 PM!…
Anyway, that’s the only negative point I have for the organisation of this event. It was quite a fun morning, even though my running mates ditched me half-way through (apparently I’m too polite when overtaking other runners, hence I tend to get stuck and unable to follow them! 🙂 ), just seeing that massive orange mass advancing over the riverside was quite spectacular. And 10 euro for all that the event contemplated… absolute bargain!
First it was because it was cold, then because it was wet, and now with such lovely weather outside I’m complaining it is too dry and I get dust everywhere :-P. Anyway, that doesn’t stop me from training!
I am really out of shape! Just finished a run which was not even 11k and my calves are killing me! 😛
Well, now with longer days and (hopefully) warmer weather I’ll try to improve things! 🙂
So, here it is! Last week I got a new gizmo in Lidl, a “spur of the moment” buy – well, in my defence I had seen it in the catalogue before, but since I was considering getting a bluetooth heart rate monitor to interface with my Android phone I didn’t give it that much thought. Anyway, when I went last week to Lidl for my groceries I had a long look at it and in the end the relatively low price (£14.99) convinced me 😀 .
It is quite full-featured (the user manual is quite sizeable, too!), having “regular” watch mode (eg comprising time & date, chronometer, alarm and even dual time zone support!), pedometer mode and HRM mode. The good news is that these functions are not independent, ie you can go for a run whilst tracking your heart rate and seeing all the relevant information on the screen, which albeit tiny is more than enough in terms of legibility (and it even has a blueish back-lighting to help when going for runs in the dark).
Aesthetics and ergonomics
OK, in terms of aesthetics is not the prettiest watch you’d find; it is quite bulky too, which is why I won’t retire my Casio – I’ll just take this one out of the drawer whenever I want to go for a run, as it is too big for everyday “normal” use. It is not as waterproof as my Casio, too – the manual states a tolerance of up to 3 bar, which according to them is just rain- and splash-resistance. Shame, I won’t be able to use it on the boat!… (anyway, for that I plan to get a cheap, waterproof Android phone and a Bluetooth HRM, as soon as my savings allow for that!…)
But it is functional, and the aforementioned display is good enough to accommodate the speed or HR as you’re going along in quite big digits, along with an accompanying graphic which, in pedometer mode will tell you if you are trending towards an increase or decrease in speed, and in HRM mode it will graphically tell you where your current HR is in terms of the typical minimum and maximum brackets for your age range (very handy!). There is also a bottom row with additional information which can be customised, eg you can select to have the distance run displayed alongside the speed, or your current heart rate, or your average speed… the choice is yours :).
The actual heart rate sensor is mounted on a chest strap (as all HRMs are), and I had absolutely no issue with it, and it seemed relatively comfortable in the 7.5k test run I had on Thursday. Probably in longer runs it might prove worse, I have to test that properly but unfortunately I don’t have proper long, uninterrupted running trails around here like I do in Porto, so that will have to wait for the Summer holidays! 😛
Functionality and user interface
As I mentioned before, the screen is quite good in terms of the amount of information it can display. The user interface is also quite simple to navigate, and I only had trouble finding some advanced settings because I didn’t read the user manual properly (more on that later). The rest is just a matter of navigating with one key and confirming with the other, and long-pressing to reset the counters. Nothing more simple!
The communication with the HR sensor is also quite simple (and apparently it is coded, so I won’t have problems with running with people also wearing HRMs!), the only issue is that you need to moisten the sensor in order for it to make proper contact with the skin, but that seems to be the case in most sensors out there…
One thing that I really liked is the fact that the timing will automatically stop when you are stationary (since it is detecting both my footsteps and the lack of them!…). Running in an urban setting here in England requires continuous stopping, as zebra crossings are rarer than the actual zebras around here, and the general rule to crossing a road is to cross anywhere, provided that there are no cars coming, which may work if you are walking but it is really annoying if you’re running. I would have to manually stop and start my stopwatch whenever that happened, which was not ideal, especially since I couldn’t hear if the action was actually carried out (I use earphones), and in the end I’d be continuously checking my watch to see if the timing was still on (and try doing that at night, even with a backlit screen!).
It also has some very neat stuff, such as memory of the highest/lowest/average heart rate, and fitness mode, which consists in measuring the heart rate drop along a specific period of time, which will assess your recovery after a strenuous exercise (of course you can always do this with a stopwatch and taking heart beat counts during 15 seconds, but it is much simpler this way!! 🙂 )
The only real issue I had with it, which was really all my fault, was related to the calibration of my step. Following the typical male technocrat attitude, I only skimmed across the (quite sizeable) user manual and skipped the section on pedometer calibration in its entirety. And the result was quite evident: the 7.5k test run I had on Thursday was counted as only 5k, and I could see during my workout that the “instantaneous” speed would never go over 10 kph, which is quite low for me, as my average pace is slightly below 5:00/km, which in kph should be exactly 12! (I have been ill and only returned to proper running recently, but still!…)
After that, I went to the troubleshoot section of the watch and there it was, written exactly for fools like myself, that if the speed readings were not presented correctly you’d have to calibrate the device. And actually the algorithm is quite sophisticated, as it takes into account a lower and an upper limit, which are configurable, and then asks you to run and walk a predefined distance to assess the size of your step. After calibrating it with a 400 m track I went on a test run again (I had the motivation of testing this watch, otherwise I wouldn’t have gone out as the weather was horribly windy and damp!) and I had a much lower error of about 300 m in a 4.5k run (and this time the error was by excess, it overestimated the distance ran). I will still do some additional calibrations, as I feel that I’ve set the higher limit too high (13 kph, when I normally run at 12!) and I’ve also used a quite short calibration track – next time I’ll do 1k, which is exactly two laps around my cul-de-sac.
In conclusion: for a fraction of the cost of a Garmin specialist runner watch (they retail for well over £100-£200!) you get something that will most definitely help you assess your running workouts (and they also thrown in a bicycle holder to use the watch as an HRM during a bike ride!). Obviously it doesn’t have exactly the same level of functionality (you didn’t expect GPS and data export from a £15 device, did you?), but if used while aware of its limitations it can serve you quite well. A must buy, definitely! 🙂