One of the features on my TomTom Cardio Runner watch is a race setup, where you can pace yourself against either a previous run you have recorded or one of the set time/distance challenges in the MySports dashboard (5k in 26mins, 10k in 50mins, half mara in 2hours etc etc).

With the aim of seeing how it works I went out and set a time on a 3-mile loop from my house. It was nothing special, just an easy jog on a circuit I do often. It takes me along the main road, down a hill and on to the canal. I usually stop my run just as I get off the canal and walk back up the hill to my house.

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To set it up to race this set time you head into the run option then click right to find the race screen. Then you choose from either MySports or your history. I had to go back into the app on my phone and check which date the run I wanted to race was set. It is also possible to rename your activities and save them in MySports, which is particularly handy for parkruns – I have my recent ones saved so I can try to beat them next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Select the activity you wish to race and then start your run as usual. The main screen shows a road, with a banner at the top that counts down the distance you have left to go, and two arrows showing if you are ahead or behind you previous effort. At the bottom you see + or – however many yards. Whenever you change position against your ghost the watch vibrates and shows a big #1 or #2 on screen for a few seconds so you are aware you have either got ahead or dropped back. It was weird at first as it seemed to be buzzing a lot, but for most of the run I stayed ahead of my previous self so the watch stayed quiet. It’s kind of like a Pavlov’s dogs experiment but for runners though!

You can still click left while running and see all the usual data options.

 

 

 

 

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When you reach the total distance for the run you are racing the watch vibrates again and you stop it as usual. Or I suppose you can carry on. I can’t actually remember if I had to stop it or if it did it automatically!

Anyway, I beat my previous time by just over a minute and was awarded a rosette, as you can see.

It’s a cool feature and the graphics are clear and good-looking. I definitely pushed a little to make sure I stayed ahead and beat the set time, even though it was just for fun.

At the moment I don’t really like working in my min/mile pace as it is has gotten a lot slower, so this is a great way to set a challenge to push myself without having to see those actual numbers. It will be good to set a goal to beat myself by a few seconds at parkrun every week yet not have to do maths on the move!

 

 

Exciting blog post klaxon!! I have an early Christmas present for one lucky reader – free entry to the Leeds Christmas 10k.

You may remember that last year I marshalled this event and had a grand old time cheering on the runners on a very cold November morning. Well to say thank you the organisers have given me a free entry for this year’s race, but I’m passing on the Christmas spirit and giving it away to one of my lovely readers!

I ran the inaugural Leeds Christmas 10k in 2012 and it was a tough course, but a very enjoyable event. The organisation was splendid, and we got a t-shirt and a mince pie at the end. Last year the conditions were a bit nicer than the ice we had that first year, but it was still chilly and hilly! It’s a really fun race with plenty of support, and definitely not just for serious runners – fancy dress is very much encouraged!

You can find out more at the Leeds Christmas 10k website.

Entering the competition is really easy – just click the link through to Rafflecopter below. Of course, it will help if you live in or can get to Leeds easily as there is no transport or accommodation offered (well, you could possibly sleep on my sofa!). The winner will be announced as soon as possible after the closing date of October 5th.

Good luck and I’ll see you on the course somewhere (I’ll be the crazy marshal making all the noise).

Leeds Christmas 10k giveaway

Leeds Country Way is a 62-mile route around Leeds, taking in some of the stunning countryside to be found just outside the city. The running relay version, organised by Kippax Harriers, is slightly longer at 64 miles and starts and finishes at Garforth. The route is split into six legs, and clubs enter teams of 12 – a pair of runners per leg.

I did the race last year and thoroughly enjoyed it so I was eager to sign up again. I asked to do the same leg (the second one, from Stanley to Morley) in case I didn’t find time to do a recce, and that request turned out to be very wise.

My original partner was poorly and couldn’t run, but with three teams to fill and the usual injuries cropping up our reserve list was depleted and I only got my partner the week of the race. I was about to have kittens – as well as knowing your leg you also have to coordinate getting yourselves to the start and leaving a car at the finish – so the logistics can be tricky. But Becky and I arranged ourselves with no fuss once we figured out what we needed to do, and we got to the start in plenty of time for a pee in the woods and a catch-up with our fellow Purple Posse runners doing leg two.

Actually we had almost an hour to wait – the leg one runners all set off together at 8am, but we didn’t really know what time our pair would come through. It was great to see the others handover their batons though, and we even had an early win for Kirkstall Harriers, with Ben and Jen the first mixed team to finish the first leg.

Becky and I took on the baton from our team-mates just ahead of the mass start for leg two, and we set off steadily. I found it tough going at first, and it didn’t get any easier. But we continued steadily enough, taking regular walk breaks (for my benefit) and enjoying the scenery.

Overall it was a very pleasant morning run. It took us 2:35 to finish the 11.2miles, but we didn’t get lost. It is a nice route, not horribly tough but with lots of variations in terrain. All but our purple club friends and the marshals had gone by the time we finished, and I was very glad of the Fudge I had left in Becky’s car to scoff as soon as I finished!

Then it was more car manoeuvering and home to eat and shower. The best thing about the LCW Relay is the reception at the pub afterwards. I headed back out with Emma and Becky to cheer in the leg six runners (another winning pair in Adam and Shami for the Kirkstall Harriers), pick up my awesome pottery memento and take advantage of the carb buffet.

It’s a long day with a lot of driving if you go at it the way I did, but a lot of fun with plenty of opportunities to spend time with running friends.

 

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I’ve now used my TomTom Cardio Runner (kindly given to me by The Running Bug) on several outings so here I am to give you some thoughts on its capabilities! My “other watch” is a Motorola MotoActv and I have been using this since March 2013, so where I’m comparing to another gadget, that’s what it’s up against!

Just so you know, when researching which GPS device to buy I ended up with MotoActv over a Garmin because:

  • I prefer the way it looks – squares are better for watches than circles to me, don’t know why!
  • I didn’t have an MP3 player at the time and the MotoActv has a built-in MP3 player and you can either use plug-in headphones or wireless ones.
  • I like to be different.

Don’t forget you can see what I and other reviewers are saying about the watch over on Twitter by searching #getsmyheartracing.

 

First run with the RunnerCardio was just a little morning bimble. It found GPS signal quickly and buzzed to tell me it was ready. Press right and I was off. I had set it up so that pace and distance showed in the top of the screen when running. The majority of the screen is then taken up by one bit of info, and you can scroll up and down to change this (elapsed time, pace, calories burnt, heart rate, distance etc). I looked at my heart rate a couple of times but went back to distance as that is what I usually run for (as opposed to running for time) and it was handy to see it in big while moving.

At traffic lights I held the left button to pause, then hit the right button to go again. At the end of the run hold left and left again to complete the run. At first I was a little worried I hadn’t done this right as it didn’t give me a workout review – I had to go back into the run menu and find the “history” to check my run had been registered.

Back home it was easy to upload the data via Bluetooth to the iPhone app (note to self: remember to turn Bluetooth on phone off again to help with battery life).

 

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The next run was Leeds parkrun and I wasn’t going for a time so I just kept the big screen on heart rate to see what would happen. It went up to 90 on the start line (pre-match nerves!) and got up to 180 at one point – scary! Afterwards the data on the app said this put me in the “sprint” range for heart rate. I definitely wasn’t sprinting! Just shows I need to regain my fitness!

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By the way, the heart rate monitor uses green LEDs on the back of the watch. These shine through your skin and register how transparent it is – this changes depending on blood flow (ie, heart rate). And that’s the (very basic version of) how it works! You must ensure the watch has good contact with your wrist – wear it too far down on the bony bit and it won’t work accurately. I must look into heart rate training and try some runs based on that (yet another blog to come then!)

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Next up was the Yorkshire Veterans Athletics Association Race at West Park. I knew the route was 5 miles so I set the distance challenge to this to see what would happen. In this mode you get a big wheel on the screen and it slowly fills up like a pie chart telling you the % to go (but you don’t see total distance on this screen, so if you want to know exactly how far you have done you have to scroll through to the usual screens). It buzzes at 50%, 90% and 100% to let you know how you’re doing.

 

I got another couple of sessions out of the watch (about 3.5 hours of active use) before the battery went. When it died I was in the middle of a bike ride and it just stuck on the time. I didn’t twig for a while that it had been showing 10:02 for ages and thought I had cycled into a worm hole!

 

 

So far I’m finding it comfortable to wear and easy to use. As with any new gadget, after a few uses you quickly pick up how the menus work and can find the bit you need with no trouble. A couple of times I have noticed that it has stopped showing heart rate for a few seconds, then it comes back. Not sure why that happens.

I like the sync via Bluetooth as that means I can do it straightaway as long as I have my phone – with MotoActv I have to wait until I’m in WiFi to sync my activity. But with both I can see the basic info on the watch anyway.

The MotoActv is the winner in terms of how much data it displays while running. I can set up to six different parameters to all show at once on the screen (I have time of day, distance, average pace, current pace, step rate and time elapsed), whereas with Runner Cardio I get two little ones at the top and one big one, with the option to scroll through to see others. In particular I miss seeing my step rate in real-time – I find that this drops when I tire, and this generally means my form has got worse. When I see this happening I can make an active effort to pick up my feet quicker and take smaller steps, thereby improving my form and reducing the risk of injury. The screen sizes aren’t vastly different – MotoActv is square whereas Runner Cardio is more of a portrait rectangle.

The built-in heart rate monitor is probably the Runner Cardio’s main selling point. Having never trained by focusing on this I can’t yet say how important this is to me personally, but I will be giving it a go! If training by heart rate is something you do then this could well be the watch for you. However, one thing that did strike me is that in winter I wear long-sleeve tops with thumb holes that come down over the backs of my hands – I’ll have to keep one “unhooked” and pulled back a bit so the Runner Cardio can still make contact with my skin if I want to track my heart rate on cold runs.

On my early morning run today I wore both Runner Cardio and MotoActv (on the same wrist) to see how they compare. As you can see the figures are very similar except for the step rate.

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I still have more things to test on the Runner Cardio – I’ve set a time for a 3-mile loop so I’ll “race” that next week to try out that feature. And I’ll do an interval session too to see how that works.

Here it is, my first DNS (did not start) of my running career.

Kielder Marathon is just six weeks away and I have done zero specific training. Nada. Zilch. Not a damn thing.

So I’m pulling out.

I’ll lose the £32.50 I already paid for my entry. But I won’t have to spend £40 on Saturday night accommodation, £50 on petrol and at least five hours driving.

I could have still done it with a run-walk-run-walk-walk-walk kinda strategy. and I genuinely wouldn’t have minded taking six or seven hours to complete it – the scenery looks absolutely stunning – but it simply comes down to a lot of time and money for something my heart just isn’t that bothered about.

What I need to do now is regain my confidence, enthusiasm and commitment to running, and to put more effort into being fit and healthy in other ways. I’ve let a lot of things slide recently and it’s getting to me. I only have myself to blame so here re-starts the focus on getting into better shape for future challenges.

Kielder Marathon – see you another year.

A couple of weeks ago I received a very exciting parcel – the nice people at The Running Bug sent me a TomTom Runner Cardio watch to test and review. As you will know I am a big sucker for gadgets and freebies so was very excited to get a new toy to play with. I’ve been a little “meh” about my running recently, so this was perfect timing – there’s nothing like something shiny and pretty to help you find your mojo!

I’m going to start here with my first impressions and follow up with more blogs about how I get on with it and the different features in the coming days and weeks. You can also check out what my fellow reviewers think about the watch by checking out #getsmyheartracing on Twitter.

01dce0f99a6ad91cde0180eff47b898aca5944e929The watch comes in a cube box, sitting in a card base with a clear plastic cover, allowing you to see it in all its glory. And it looks great – kinda retro with smooth corners and coloured holes on the strap. I received the white and red version, and there are black and red and black and black versions too. Mostly I like the look, but I’m not keen on the black pad below the watch – this is the GPS sensor and the outer edge acts as the navigation buttons – up, down, left, right. For me this unbalances the sleek and minimal look and I would prefer the sensor and buttons to built-in to the watch face.

There are few instructions included – the leaflet says which bits do what and tells you to plug it into your computer to get started. I was too impatient and wasn’t at my laptop, so I just turned it on anyway. It sent me through the usual options (set age, weight, date etc) and then it was ready to go! The first thing I did was turn off the buzz and sound you get when pressing a button! The main menus are pretty easy to understand once you play around with it.

To retrieve your data the TomTom Runner Cardio uses the dedicated MySports portal. This is powered by the same software as MapMyRun, so if you already have an account there you use those details. If not, it’s the usual sign-up process. There is also a mobile app – I got the iPhone one so I can upload my run data without having to plug in.

019df744438c61686f21a21541c76442237fcbddb1When you do plug in to charge and sync activities you get a little screen and from there can click through to the main MySports portal. Plugging in to the computer frees up the storage space on the watch, although you still get your recent history on the device. It’s a little confusing actually – I can send my activities via the iPhone app to MySports and they show up if I go to the online portal, but to transfer a session to race against or to free storage space on the watch you have to plug in to the computer. Of course, you have to do this to charge anyway (although I suppose you could plug into a USB mains charger) but it seems a little clunky.

Actually, the charging socket in itself is rather clunky. It looks cool and is shaped so your watch sits upright in the holder, but by God it took me forever to unclip the damn thing! And I mean many, many minutes of pulling and tugging. I honestly thought I was going to break it I had to keep pulling at it that hard! Not good. After a few more times it has become a bit easier to unclip the watch from the dock, but it’s still a bit fumbly and awkward.

A little niggle for me – I don’t think you can turn the watch off when not in use. I am used to switching off my usual device to save battery, but the TomTom Runner Cardio doesn’t seem to have the option. It’s not a big deal as it is only sat around doing nothing between runs, and I may end up wearing it all day anyway as a normal watch, but it’s always nice to conserve energy.

 

016196313fce943d379f1c68b653305f6411ee6a9aOverall it’s a good-looking watch and sits nicely on the wrist (even my skinny wrist!). It is comfortable to wear and not too chunky or obtrusive. At £220 it’s quite pricey, but that’s due to the built-in heart rate monitor (more on that in a future blog). From reading about the features it does have a lot going for it, with the ability to measure your run against a set time or distance and create interval workouts, so I’ll get on with testing them!

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