Showing posts with label Allsport GPS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Allsport GPS. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Well I can't blame the weather

Suddenly we're a week away from the kid's return to school. They're the lucky ones as many children are already going back this week. It's tough going back to class when it still feels like summer. This morning at 4:10 AM it sure felt a lot like fall. I didn't realize how cool it was before I stepped outside for my run and was excited to feel the crisp air instead of the wall of humidity I've come to expect.. I dressed in my usual summer gear that, as minimal as it is, usually has me sweating by the five-minute mark. I welcomed the chill and remembered back to the late winter when the cool air, energized by the wind, would keep me sweat-free for at least a mile. I woke up a bit tired and groggy and after half a cup of coffee I still felt sleepy. Despite the cool air that I'd hoped would fuel me as I began to run, my pace was lagging. I did feel better with every step and did not suffer from my "Have I only been running that long?" reaction I've experienced of late after checking the Garmin. Around halfway through my run I began to think about my running form and I consciously picked up my pace hoping to post a decent overall run time.

I have been reunited with my iPhone but since its sudden failure last week I'm far less focused on it as a fitness tool. Fool me once, etc. I did use the AllSport GPS app to track my run and it was off by almost 7% for distance. About 2% of that variance was due to the application not tracking distance until I had run a few hundred yards. This was disturbing because it was indicating a strong GPS signal as I started the run. My Garmin 50, like a champ, was less than 1% off on distance. Score that: RFID 1, GPS 0. I ended up covering about 2.3 miles in 51 degree weather and despite my hope that I broke 9:00 per mile I came in at an anemic 9:20 overall. This morning I had the weather in my favor but it didn't do me much good. Perhaps with a better night's sleep tonight I will put it all together tomorrow. Maybe I should have more coffee before I run.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Good running apps can be worth the money

I'll give it to the folks at Trimble Outdoors (creator of AllSport GPS) in terms of helping users understand their product. I'd mentioned to them that the accuracy and rest detection with the AllSport GPS app were off the mark and they gave me some good feedback (rest detection can be turned off) and told me that are working to improve some other features. I know it's funny to say this but, even with some of the issues I've encountered, but I'm glad they charge $10 for the app. These utilities are valuable to runners and to other athletes who wish to track their performance. These are applications that should be differentiated from lesser apps that cost far less or are free. Software companies will only invest in optimizing applications if there's a real opportunity to monetize the result. In a world of free or $0.99 iPhone apps there exists great choice but little practical value. I like MotionX a lot, it's priced low for what it offers (but it's not $0.99 either) and it does as good a job as it can with the limits of the iPhone and GPS.

There's a lot more functionality that can be added to these applications to benefit the runner. The accelerometer within the iPhone can be better leveraged to help gauge effort. The GPS can sync with a database of prior runs to provide comparisons to past performance. I have not used Running Gypsy but I noticed it has a feature for automatically capturing 1 mile splits. Why don't they all do that? There are many things I'd like to know when I'm running like temperature, humidity and real time elevation. I have a terrible time reading the display while I'm running due to factors like sun reflections, screen locking and angle of the unit. I'd like to have the option of listening to my metrics in real-time and on demand. As the iPhone and other mobile devices add more capabilities related to user needs and actions it can get very interesting. In the meantime I struggle a bit with the fact that the best apps are still limited by the technologies they need to leverage. I still think about the Garmin GPS watches and wonder why, with the same GPS tracking signal, they would be more accurate than an iPhone.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

AllSport GPS thinks I'm a slacker

I'm in taper mode as I move closer to Sunday's race and I'm also experiencing some discomfort with the outside toes on both feet. I decided that I would get a run in today but take it easier than I normally would. I brought along my iPhone and selected the AllSport GPS app to track my run and took the Garmin 50 along as well. I now have five GPS apps on the iPhone: Allsport and MotionX (paid apps) plus iMapMyRun, Run Keeper Free and RunGypsy (free apps) and they all capture data about run speed and distance. What separates these apps is what else they track and how they report data. The free apps generally give you pace and distance information and some rudimentary resources to store that data. The paid apps have lots of features, MotionX really provides a lot of utilities for the running experience including compass, mapping and music integration. AllSport generates an excellent report that shows many metrics including elevation (as does MotionX) and both paid apps export KMZ and GPX files that overlay on Google Earth.

The thing that these apps all have in common (though I have not yet tried RunGypsy) is a dependence on the iPhone's GPS service which has proven lacking. Each time I have captured a run with one of these apps I've seen differences between what's reported and what was actually run. My baseline is Google Earth where I can trace my route to the inch and compare it to the route created by the GPS apps. This morning I verified on Google that I covered 2.15 miles and the Garmin confirmed that. The AllSport app reported that I ran 1.98 miles and I can understand why after reviewing the route it displayed. There seemed to be some weak links from the signal (that were shown as yellow lines on the map) and the lines veered off the road enough to explain the shorter distance. What puzzles me is AllSport's insistence that I rested for 7:17 of my run.

Now I know I wasn't pushing too hard today (my actual pace was 9:39) but I don't recall resting during the run. It's not clear if that was a result of a weak signal or if AllSport was judging me for not picking up the pace (yes, I'm kidding). I sent them a note asking about it and I expect that I'll hear back. To their credit they've been good about responding to my questions. I like this app a lot but I want to rely on it and at this point I don't think I can. I'll try to use it on Sunday so I can capture the route but I'll have my Garmin 50 along to keep things honest.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Road runner

I wracked up some decent mileage over the last three days averaging about 4.5 miles per run. Two of these runs were a bit harder because of the heat, humidity and hill challenges. Today I decided to be kind to myself and go out early through the neighborhood and enjoy the mostly flat topography without thinking too much about pace. I started out feeling energetic and wondered how long it would be until the first feelings of fatigue would set in. After almost a year I still hit the wall around 3-4 miles but I always manage to keep going. Most of my weekend runs range between 3.1 and 6 miles although I have run longer than that on occasion. Of course 4.5 miles on a soft trail surface with tricky switchbacks and sharp elevations is not the same as running a flat road course of the same distance. I felt good about all three runs I've competed since Friday.

Today was about putting some additional distance in and I planned to follow a straightforward course that took me around neighborhood #2 and looped around my main neighborhood along the outside roads. For the most part this was a simple flat run but at the 33 minute mark I faced the big hill on Jericho Turnpike that increases elevation by about 25 feet over a tenth of a mile or so. For some reason this hill never seems as bad when running it as it does when viewed from the road and I managed to get up and over without a problem. I used the AllSport GPS app on my iPhone today and it worked well but, like MotionX, iMapMyRun and Runkeeper, it suffers from the lack of precision with GPS. The Allsport did come within 1% of my actual distance of 4.64 miles (the Garmin did slightly better than Allsport) when compared to a hand mapped route on Google Earth. The Allsport interface is quite nice though and their website provides some nice mapping and metrics of your activities. Almost everything you'd want for $10 except accuracy! One feature it lacks is the capability to play the iPod app while tracking your run. MotionX, at $2.99, is a better choice in that case.

This weekend has been fun with friends and lots of good meals that led to some over indulgence. I'll take today as a reset to get back to my rational eating habits. My son and I are going to see the G.I. Joe movie today so my discipline will be tested by the bucket of popcorn he will invariably request. Well I guess when you're training there is no such thing as bad carbs.

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