Archive for November, 2009

Barns Green half marathon race report.

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

I took most of the year off running, concentrating on cycle racing, with barely a couple of runs a month (generally a 3mile all out race, and a hill session) but I was doing lots of hard cycling miles.

My previous PB for the half marathon was around 1:59 for a standalone half, and 1:43:49 for the half marathon split in a marathon. But I think the goal was a feasible one, as two weeks before the race I did 66:09 for the Cabbage Patch 10mile race.

That race was completely flat though, Barns Green is rolling, and the weather forecast for today, was torrential rain, 30mph winds with gusts up to 45mph. I almost bailed.

It was my running clubs Half Marathon championships, so I had lots of friendly faces, and started off running the first few miles with two of them, and watching the faster club guys come past (not sure why they’d all lined up 200 back, I crossed the start line around 80th or so, which was about right, not held up, not holding anyone else up)

The rain wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been, mostly just drizzle, the winds however were strong, and it’s the first running race where I’ve seen real packs form - not just pacing packs, but actual draft packs, it made a big difference!

The rolling course made my splits tough to know just how even they were - 6:32, 6:39, 6:38, 6:17, 7:11, 6:23 for the first 6 miles, and coming through half way in 44:00 - This worried me, because of the weather I’d scaled back my expectations to getting as close as I could to 1:30, on a good day I was thinking 1:28 was the best I could do. (McMillan reckons a 66:09 10mile is equivalent to 1:27:51 Half, and I normally bias towards the short stuff and Barns Green is tougher than the completely flat Cabbage Patch)

I run on perceived exertion though, so I stuck with the pace I was running. At around 8miles two more guys from my club passed me but I kept them in sight and it was at this point that my running partner from the start of the race dropped behind.

The 10mile marker had been blown away by the wind I guess, as I saw the line on the ground but didn’t hit the watch. Mile 12 became a struggle, all up hill and into the wind, and I was disappointed to see the split come in at 7:26 - although the Garmin has it as a long split.

I knew from 12miles it was all down hill until 400m to go, and I still had 9 minutes to cover the last 1.1 miles. I tried to work to catch the team-mate I could still see ahead. It never happened, but 7:20 for the last 1.1 miles, and a sprint to beat some guy in yellow in the last 100m brought me home in 1:28:25.

Job done, very, very, very happy considering the conditions. I guess I should’ve done better in the Cabbage Patch. A positive split, 44:00 vs 44:25, but not too bad, and I think the course was tougher in the second half.

My Nutrition - went to plan, 100 calories in home made strawberry gels with ~400mg caffeine 20minutes before the start, Gel flask with water/gel mix of around 250calories taken over four seperate evenly spaced shots.

I would recommend Barns Green Half as a race to do, extremely well organised despite the torrential rain and conditions, an interesting and whilst hilly not that slow a course, the hills aren’t steep, so as long as you can descend without braking the undulations help break the monotony. Could do without the long hill at 11miles though.

Five websites I find useful (or something like that…)

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

Allan wanted me to blog about websites I find useful, and apparently five is too limiting for him. For me though, the only useful website I find really is the search engine, everything else comes out from that. Mostly I use Google, although it’s not exclusive, and it’s not impossible it will change again. So I’m going to have one site on my list Google.

Everything else is about the service they provide (mail, shopping whatever) or the community they provide (social networks, forums etc.) I’m actually much more of a luddite in terms of moving applications to the web, simply because in general they don’t work. The connections aren’t fast enough, the browsers are too slow or rather single threaded javascript where the UI and calculations share a thread makes it too slow. That’s before you even get to the random ideas of usability that wed developers seem to have.

The one application I cannot currently do without is SportTracks.

PowerTap Calibration Checking - the “Stomp Test”

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

To check if your PowerTap is accurate, you can use a “Stomp Test“, applying a known torque to the hub, and seeing if it’s measured correctly. Unfortunately this isn’t possible with alternative head units such as the Garmin 705, 500 or 310xt or other ANT+ units from specialized etc.

On the wattage mailing list Brian Fitzpatrick pointed me at Quarqd a simple daemon that can read ANT+ sport data if you have an ANT+ USB stick such as come with the Garmin 405 or 310xt. Unfortunately it only runs on Mac’s or Linux, but a virtual linux install had it working on my windows XP.

The raw messages out of ANT+ aren’t very useful however. So I knocked up a little Adobe Air application which reads the messages, and assists with the testing.

screenshot of stomper application

You need to install quarqd and have it running, then you can start the AIR application, point it at the instance, set up your bike with the weight on the pedal, enter the bike details, and see how accurate your PowerTap is.

Not ideal, as getting quarqd up and running is relatively painful in itself unless you’re pretty geeky, but it’s better than reading raw XML messages.

Download Stomper application

And the result? Our PowerTap’s are pretty much accurate. As accurate as our weights anyway, maybe some accurately measured weights and some speedplay pedals to hang them off to check even more accurately, but I’m not that worried.