Showing posts with label MotionX. Show all posts
Showing posts with label MotionX. Show all posts

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Return to the Muttontown trails

Circuitous run on the Mystery Trail
Today's run (Muttontown Preserve): 3 miles

I took advantage of the weather today and headed over to Muttontown Preserve at noon for a run. Our morning was very busy so I didn't get out as early as I would have liked. Even with that late start the parking lot was less than a quarter full and I was glad to know that the trails probably wouldn't be crowded. The snow is all gone but some of the effects of all that water remain. The dirt roads around the entrance were rutted and the trails have a lot of muddy sections. With the noon day sun, I started my run wondering if I should have picked shorts instead of running pants. As it turned out I made the right choice.

Rough road leading to some rough trails
I followed the same path I originally tracked on my previous run and held my breath as I passed by the place where I fell head first into frozen mud. No such issue today but the condition of the trails was marginal and several times I encountered fallen trees along my path. Some places were completely blocked and that forced me to bushwhack through thorny brush to reconnect with trail on the other side. It was then that I really appreciated having long pants and long sleeves. I'd hoped to make my way south, then west and come back north to the trail-head but my poor navigation kept me contained in the northwest part of the preserve. I actually ended up running part of one loop three times. By the third time, I finally recognized the terrain!

I had MotionX running on my iPhone and even with the real-time mapping and compass I managed to get lost. I could see where I went wrong but I couldn't find an alternative path to correct my vector. Instead of mountain bikers, like I often see at Stillwell, I encountered people riding horses on the trail. Between the mud and horses I needed to do a lot of careful stepping. My Garmin, with its auto-pause set too low, kept stopping and restarting and occasionally not restarting. Of my approximately 35 minutes running, the Garmin recorded only about 25 minutes. MotionX did a better job although I'm not confident in the iPhone's GPS accuracy. At least, by the map,  I have a good idea where I ran.

Altogether it wasn't a very far run but the elevation changes were frequent with a total gain of 220 feet. I came away from the Muttontown Preserve feeling a little ambivalent about the place. I know that MP provides potential for a good fulfilling run but I'm zero for 2 so far. I really wish the trails were better marked so I could spend more time appreciating the experience and less time worrying about direction. Still, it was great to be back on dirt and though my distance was only about three miles they were three hard miles. I'm hoping to cover more distance on the road tomorrow and I'm glad to know that I probably won't get lost when I do it.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My 500th post!

Today's workout: 2 mile tempo at 8:41 per mile

It's hard to believe but today's post is the 500th since I started The Emerging Runner in 2008. I like having a bit of history to look back upon. My original goal for this blog was for it to be a journal of my experience returning to running. I do use it for that and I find it helpful to occasionally look back on what I was doing a year ago to see if I've made any progress or if I'm looking at running differently. I'd say there's been progress and my view of running hasn't changed a bit. Both good things.

With all my hill work and trail running over the last week I felt that I needed to do a more speed-focused workout today. Last night I mapped a run that measured exactly 2 miles that I planned to cover at 5K race pace. One reason I kept the distance down to two miles was to motivate myself to run faster than I normally would at 4 AM. Another reason for the exact two mile route was to quickly compare the distance MotionX was mapping compared to my actual, known distance.

The run went well. I didn't expect to hit a record breaking pace because I generally run about 15 seconds per mile slower at this early hour. The run felt fast and I knew I'd do better than normal (and I did) but I was still disappointed with my 8:41 pace. MotionX, the GPS app I've been using on my iPhone, was again way off. It measured the run at 1.86 miles. It's easy to see why it does that. Looking at the map trace from the GPS signal shows a number of vectored corners and shortened paths that add up to less total distance. This confirmed that the GPS always under-counts distance and today's margin of inaccuracy told me that it was off by 7%. That's disappointing and it's the primary reason that I didn't buy a GPS watch to replace my Garmin 50. I've been told that the Garmin GPS watches are far more accurate than the iPhone but I'll stick to the foot pod for now.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Involuntary Garmin-slaughter

Today's workouts: Stillwell field trail loop - 3.55 miles plus speed and hill drills

My Garmin 50 display was showing "LoBattery" so I decided to change it myself. Big mistake. I had the right battery (CR2032) on hand so I thought "How hard could this be?" Replacing the battery in the heart rate monitor and the foot pod was simple but when I opened the 50 I knew it was going to be a lot more complicated. I should have stopped there and taken it to a jeweler but I was too impatient and it cost me the watch. I first had to separate the housing from the main board that held the display in order to get to the battery and when I did some tiny brackets and and a tiny spring went flying. Before I knew it the whole thing became a cruel puzzle. When I put it together in the most logical way that I could, the display failed to work. I looked up how to change the battery on this watch online but there is little documentation. In fairness to Gamin they do recommend professional battery installation.

I went through all the stages of grief: Denial (it worked before, it will work again!), Anger (stupid Garmin engineering!), Bargaining (what are Forerunner 50's going for on Amazon these days?), Depression (I have nothing to capture tomorrow's run so it will be meaningless!), Acceptance (this sucks but maybe it's a good excuse to buy a 405). Then I went online and priced out the 405, the new F60 and even saw that Garmin has a new "entry level" GPS watch called the 110. Since the 110 doesn't also work with a foot pod I'm down to deciding between the 405 and the F60.

This morning I pulled out my iPhone arm band and did my run at Stillwell using MotionX which has been improved since the last time I used it. The day was sunny and I acquired a signal quickly. I set off to run the field loop trail making four circuits with a total distance of 3.55 miles. As usual the GPS accuracy was a little off so I used Google Earth to verify the true length. It was a better experience with the iPhone than I had on previous runs. I uploaded the GPX file from MotionX to Garmin Connect and it worked great.  My online running history didn't skip a beat despite last night's Garmin problem. I may take the broken watch over to a local jeweler to see if they can make it work. If not I'll probably get the new F60 that should work with the 50's HRM and foot pod.  I did see a 405 online for $299 with a $50 rebate so maybe...

Later in the day the Emerging Runner family headed to a local park to enjoy the beautiful weather. After playing some hoops we made our way to the ball fields and had a running competition. First we ran from home plate straight out to center field (which rises to a 60+% incline over the last 30 or 40 feet) and back again. All four of us did that run, my son did it several times, and we recorded our times using my iPhone's stopwatch app. After that we all took turns on a circuit that required the runner to touch the six light poles that ringed the diamond and outfield. The total length of that circuit is .15 miles. Based on that, I calculated our paces. I ran it at 5:33, my wife at 7:40 and my son and daughter (10 & 11) at 8:20. We weren't dressed at all for running (although I did have my NB trail shoes) so this was a good benchmark for the next time we come, better prepared. It was a very active day for the family. How could we stay inside with this weather?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Energy low, three days to go

Each morning when I get up to run it seems inconceivable, in my groggy state, that I could engage in an activity more challenging than sitting up in bed. However, in the fifteen minutes between fetching coffee, putting on running gear and heading out the door I transform from sleeper to runner. Most days things work well and by the time I reach the street I'm usually feeling 100 percent the runner. Today I felt like I'd left the best of me at home. I never felt like I found my stride and though I wouldn't complain of weakness I lacked the normal energy that I expect at the beginning of every run.

I mentioned yesterday that my aerobic balance has improved and this carries the day for me. My endurance is no longer affected by breathlessness, these days my limit is the range between body strength and weakness. This morning I figured that I just wasn't up for a hard charging workout and my numbers reflected that: 2.3 miles at 9:19. I'm supposed to be tapering this week but as my weekday runs are already limited by time I don't see the point in cutting down my running in any measurable way. I'm probably going to rest tomorrow and do an easy 3 or 4 miles in Friday. Saturday is a question - run or rest? AG is planning a run by the ocean and I must admit that has appeal. At the same time I need to do everything I can to be ready for Sunday's race. I guess I'll decide what to do closer to Saturday.

One last thing. My colleague KWL is in Hong Kong right now and he sent me his MotionX GPX and KMZ files from his run along the eastern harbor near Sai Wan Ho. He also sent me this picture (left) that he took along the way. I can't imagine how beautiful that must look in person.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

People plus and Nike minus

One of the greatest things about my work life is that I work with some cool and interesting people. A lot of that has to do with the company itself, it takes a lot to get hired here so those that do get in tend to be the leaders in their field. It's great to spend your days with people that you respect and also like. Not surprisingly, I met my wife here. Readers know about the amazing Adventure Girl and the Sedentary Man also has many fans. Another colleague who personifies this profile is KWL, a man with more sources of interest than J.P. Morgan Chase. I won't go into his professional bona fides but I will say that he is my inspiration when it comes to blending activity and technology. KWL made me aware of how applications can leverage the GPS capabilities of the iPhone and it was during our division Fun Run when I first saw MotionX in action. He's an avid cyclist and uses MotionX to record and map rides that can go 50 miles or even longer.

Now that I'm back on a - theoretically - stable iPhone (my third 3GS in two months) I'm looking to resume using the many GPS apps I have that record and map running data. Last week KWL brought me a Nike+ chip and receiver that he'd just picked up for his new iPod Nano. He went for a run with it and was impressed. I was impressed that, as a non-runner, he is capable of spontaneously pulling off 2+ mile runs whenever he feels like it. KWL suggested that I try the Nike+ app on my iPod as I ran this morning. It seemed pretty cool and when I plugged the receiver into my 3GS this morning my iPhone showed a message saying I didn't need it, that the phone would communicate with the chip automatically.

Before long I had established a communication link with the chip that I'd attached above the laces on my right foot making it a twin with the Garmin foot pod on my left. I assigned some music to the workout, hit start and hit the street. I didn't select a distance so the built in training didn't encourage me to speed up or affirm my pace but the app seemed to run okay. When I got to the end I stopped the Garmin and the Nike+ app. I then hit "End Workout" on the iPhone and that seemed to delete my run because I haven't been able to find the data ever since. That's too bad because I never got a chance to review the Nike+ data against my Garmin that showed I ran about 5K at 8:58.

I'll go back and read the instruction to see what I did wrong and try the Nike+ again tomorrow. I'm curious to see if it's accurate but my hopes aren't high for the technology. After my Nike+ wristband experience my expectations for it are very low. But if KWL likes it it's certainly worth another try.

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.

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.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

iMapMyRun Mobile is free and worth every penny

The great GPS experiment continues with addition of two running apps on my iPhone: iMapMyRun and RunKeeper Free. Both of these apps are free and have fewer capabilities and features than MotionX GPS that cost $1.99. I plan to download a few more of these apps and later do a comparison on Runner's Tech Review. For now I'll talk about my experience with iMapMyRun yesterday and today.
One difficulty I've encountered with MotionX is GPS signal acquistion. This problem is more pronounced in the city than on suburban Long Island but even there it can take a few minutes to get an accurate read. I was able to get a green indicator very quickly with iMapMyRun but that might be related to threshold. iMapMyRun considered the GPS signal viable at an accuracy of 162 ft. where MotionX prefers to get closer before it glows green. Or in the case of MotionX, blue. I went out this morning and selected "Start recording" on the iMapMyRun interface. It was still white when I was ready to start my run but within ten seconds after I left my driveway it turned green. I liked that it had large numbers that showed distance covered along with average and current pace and I thought, hmm, maybe this will work. The darkness helped me see the display as I ran, unlike during the day when the sun reflects off the plastic armband cover. About a mile into my run I looked at the display and everything said 00:00 despite the fact that I'd hit the start button as I left my house. I fumbled with it as I ran and succeeded in getting it working but I knew I'd only recorded half my run at best.

I ended up running 2.25 miles at a 9:06 pace according to my Garmin and the iPhone recorded just 1.1 mile of that. The route map it created showed a similar margin of error to the MotionX routes, again making it look like I cut lots of corners and ran through homes. A Runner's World Loop blogger told me that the Garmin GPS watches are much more accurate than the iPhone location apps. If that's the case I'm back to considering the Garmin 405 because I suspect Run Keeper will perform in a similar way. I did have a little fun with iMapMyRun last night. I set it up to record a run as I drove home from the train station. I covered a little over 2 miles at a 3:15/mile pace. The amazing thing is that many elite runners would have given me a run for my money despite my 300 HP advantage.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Motion(X) sickness

I promise that I'll eventually stop complaining about the GPS functionality of the iPhone but this morning's experience made me wonder if the whole concept needs a few more years to develop into a viable technology. I got off to a good start today in terms of timing, I was dressed and ready to make it out the door by 4:00 AM. This was important because that extra ten minutes would give me more time to run and I really wanted to work on distance as I train for my August 23rd race. If I'd ignored the iPhone on my way out I would have been much better off since it added to my setup time and - therefore - took away from my run time. That would have been forgiven if the result was even remotely accurate but the GPS app did not come through. More on that later.

Yesterday, instead of doing my usual elliptical workout, I decided to work on my upper body that I've sorely neglected over the last month. I started with 20 minutes of arms-only elliptical and followed with 15 minutes of free weights. I didn't want to overdo it so I stopped there. I worked up quite a sweat in the process, something I'll attribute in equal parts to hard work and oppressive humidity. Today I was anxious to get back out on the road and after having a carb-rich lunch and small but well balanced dinner I woke up feeling ready. As I mentioned above I started a few minutes early and even with the extra work stuffing the iPhone into the armband I was outside stretching by 4:09 AM. I turned on the MotionX application and was disappointed, but not surprised, to see that the GPS wasn't acquired by the time I was ready to leave. I started off anyway and switched on the app knowing it would start tracking eventually.

I got a little confused along my course because so many of the streets look the same, especially in the pitch dark and saw that I was on a different street than I'd expected. I figured that the MotionX map would show me where I went wrong when I reviewed it post-run. I felt great and could have easily gone on well past my time imposed limit. I ended up covering 2.6 miles at a 9:09 pace. This was good considering that I wasn't really thinking about speed as I ran. The MotionX was completely off with the path showing me running through people's homes and across lawns and through back yards. I thought in the early morning there would be far fewer things that would interfere with the signal. While the Garmin (accurately) showed 2.6 miles traveled, the MotionX showed 2.09 miles. It did show me where I veered off onto a different street so at least it keeps a true, if sloppy, record of my course.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Who says GPS is more accurate than a foot pod?

My running this weekend has been firmly focused on the tech side. Friday's, Saturday's and today's runs were documented with both my Garmin 50 and with the iPhone using MotionX GPS software. I also used the iPod feature within MotionX to listen to music while I ran. As an experiment I downloaded two Podrunner Podcasts to accompany my runs. These Podcasts, that are available from iTunes for free, are mixed by DJ Steve Boyett to match specific heart rates. On Saturday I chose the 147 BPM Serendipity mix that was highly repetitive House music with a driving beat. At about a mile into my run a female singer began repeating a single sentence that grew old very quickly. Unfortunately that sentence was repeated in various forms for the next ten minutes causing me to want to rip the iPhone off my armband and into the gutter. I didn't want to stop and figure out how to turn off or fast-forward the podcast so I endured it and the mix mercifully switched back to an instrumental after a few more minutes. As aggravating as that experience was, I'll admit that the driving beat contributed to a quicker pace than I would have normally achieved.

The GPS software measured my run at 3.73 miles and the Garmin measured it at 3.8. After observing the course from the exported KMZ file I noticed that the accuracy of the line was far enough off to explain that difference. This morning, after our weekend guests departed, I went out for a run with a goal of covering at least 4 miles. It was due to storm by mid-day so I was anxious to get out and finish quickly. I played the 150 BPM Square One Podrunner mix that was vocal free (which I liked) but a bit soulless and electronic (which I liked less). I'll admit that it did help me focus but I'm thinking about loading some more tuneful music on it to see how that will work. I wanted to broaden my range so I ran west on Jericho Turnpike far enough to enter neighborhood #3 from the north. I had never actually run in this neighborhood so I was excited to experience some new roads. It was growing very hot and humid ahead of the impending storm. I was (and still am) concerned that I haven't done a 5+ mile run in a while and I'll be participating in a 6.2 mile trail race later this month. I had hoped to complete 5 miles today but the humidity had sapped my energy and it was all I could do to make it home. Very soon after my run the storm came through and I snapped a picture (see above) of where I had just run in the scorching heat.

When I finished the run I saw that my Garmin reported 4.07 miles at a pace of 9:18. The MotionX software said I'd covered 3.92 miles at 9:40. I pulled the GPX file onto Google Earth and used the path tool to trace my actual route that almost exactly matched the Garmin with foot pod. The path from the GPS had its margin of error with the GPS vectoring sharply around corners and even on straighter paths. It was easy to see why it under counted the actual distance. I don't know if the Garmin 405 somehow accounts for this and provides a more accurate report. I think the accuracy of GPS is the limiting factor so MotionX is probably as good as it gets. I'll continue using the Garmin 50 because it's easy and superior in terms of accuracy to GPS measurement. However, I'll also use MotionX to document my route so I can view it and share it with others.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

City bookend run

Yesterday afternoon AG and I completed our last city run before she heads back to school. The weather predictions were for storms through the afternoon so we switched our plans to run the trails in Van Cortland park in favor of the West Side bike path. Instead of rain the weather turned extremely hot and humid as we made our way west from the office. I wore my iPhone with MotionX GPS to track our route and also used the Garmin 50 for comparison.

Before we started our run we had some honey energy chews, but nothing for lunch. About 15 minutes into the run I began to feel tired which I'm sure related to hunger. It reminded us of how I struggled the first time AG and I ran together. It was on the bridal path in Central Park where the heat, hills and mud made it a rough time. In between these tough ones were a bunch of great runs. That's not to say that yesterdays run wasn't great. We moved along well and ducked into Chelsea Piers where we could run some blocks free of the sun. The run along the water was beautiful and the breeze was welcomed but the heat forced a quick hydration stop after 3.8 miles. We ran another mile before calling it a run. Despite the conditions we averaged 9:13/mile. I'm going to miss these summer city runs.

We have some guests this weekend so I got out early before they were up and ready. I used the iPhone again and the GPS application did much better outside of the city. In the interest of time I kept it under 50 minutes covering 3.8 miles at 8:53. That's another $20 to the Garmin fund but with MotionX I'm re-thinking whether to even make that purchase.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The great experiment

One reason I enjoy running is that the sport allows me to indulge my interest in technology. From my first few months using the Nike+ Sportsband to my switch to the Garmin 50 I have tracked my performance and progress and studied the results. Technology isn't limited to sports watches, I started a site within called Runner's Tech Review to provide feedback on every type of fitness technology I use. To be sure, some of this technology is battery powered but much of it isn't. Sports drinks, running shoes and energy bars are all technologies in their own right.

I've just replaced my Blackberry with an iPhone and I'm learning to deal with it. In many ways it's a step down from its replacement but it offers some capabilities to runners that the Blackberry cannot match. For one thing I can finally look at comments posted on my Runner's World Loop blog without being tethered to a PC. I thought I would have better tools for mobile posting using Safari but Blogger doesn't really work right. There may be issues with Flash or Java. I can post simply by sending an email to a special address so I've found a good solution for that. The big exciting technology opportunity is leveraging the GPS capability of the iPhone. I mentioned MotionX yesterday and put it to the test walking a few places in the city. The system had a difficult time acquiring a signal but that could be related to the many tall buildings in mid town NYC. Today I will try a run with the iPhone using MotionX to track my speed, distance, elevation and route. I'm hoping that it works better than the Qstarz Sports Recorder.

To hedge my bets, I'll have my trusty Garmin as backup and it will be interesting to compare results between the two. The only concern I have is the weather. Storms are expected and I don't want to soak the iPhone.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

MotionX looks cool but I'm going to miss my Blackberry

I received my iPhone 3GS a couple of days ago and it was DOA. I got a 3G loaner unit in the meantime and installed MotionX, an application that uses the location aware capability of the iPhone to capture data via GPS. I have not been able to use it yet but perhaps at lunch I'll test it out. This app creates a KMZ file like the Qstarz 1300S that can be overlayed on Google Earth to show path, speed and elevation data.

I'll admit to some frustrations with the iPhone. The text input is a few steps down from my Blackberry. There are many things that are simple on the Blackberry (like posting to my blogs) that are going to be difficult with the Apple. I'm actually using my Blackberry to do this post because, despite the iPhone's full browser capability with Safari, the Blogger interface doesn't work.

I know I'll eventually get it sorted out and I'm really excited to have a resource that can use GPS to capture running data and display it in real time (sorry Qstarz). I'll need to get a sleeve holder at City Sports for the iPhone so that I can run with it. Perhaps I'll use MotionX today to track my way and back to the store..

blogger templates | Webtalks