Quick Update On Using A Garmin 910xt In Lap Swimming

I wore my new Garmin 910xt for the first time this last weekend. Ran a race, did a couple runs around the neighborhood, and on my bike. Because I wear bi-focals, I’ve been strapping it on with the watch face on the inside of my arm – it gets the numbers easily into the lower lenses of my glasses that way.

Then on Tuesday, my first swim day with the watch, I was amazed at how badly it did with my stroke recognition. Admittedly my stroke needs a lot of work, but still over a third of my laps came out breaststroke, and probably half came out “mixed”, and I swam every lap 100% freestyle.

I scratched my head, and then for this morning’s swim I wore it on the outside of my arm, the way most folks wear a watch, and it recorded every lap of a 2,000 yard workout as freestyle. Since my stroke did not improve significantly over the last three days, I believe it was the placement. So, lesson learned, and advice for anyone else who is having problems and wearing it on the inside of your arm…stop it!

My wife said the poor Garmin thought it was upside-down on the first day and had no idea how to analyze my stroke.


Second Brick Workout

Today I went out for my second brick workout, with a nice rest day then a swim day in between. It went much nicer. The triathlon I’ve signed up for has a 7 mile bike and a 3.1 mile mostly trail run, so I biked a shorter than last time 7 mile route, and managed a 16.4mph average, with a 22mph fastest time, on a flatter course. But my average cadence was still a 73, even though I tried to work on that.

What I really liked was that I got off the bike and ran 2 miles. It was 2 miles at a pace 45 seconds slower than I ran my 8k, but I was just happy I could run at all, after my first brick experience. So now I know I can at least go out and not embarrass myself.

My First Brick Workout

I decided the Memorial Day holiday weekend was a perfect time to try out my bike, and I needed to establish a base-line course I could ride against as I (hopefully) get better on my bike. Having just less than four weeks until my first triathlon, I decided to add a run on the end, and make it a brick workout.

I ended up with a nice route that was 10.53 miles long, and averaged 15.5mph. My Garmin told me I did 341 feet of total elevation gain, so it was a challenging, but not difficult ride. My max speed was 24mph, which of course was down one of those hills, and my average bike cadence was 75, which is lower than I wanted. So I was happy with the course, and happy knowing I have a base-line to work from, plus everything I’ve read says 15mph is a good rookie speed. My average run cadence is 84-86 and I’d like to get my bike cadence to match, so that’s goal #1 for now.

Then I got back, hopped off the bike and racked it in the garage, flipped the Garmin to run and started down the driveway. I thought I was going to DIE! I had read that this was why you needed to do bricks, but I didn’t expect this. I walked/shuffled an entire 0.75 miles before giving up. Then I couldn’t sit down at the breakfast table I was so sore.

I am sooo glad I knew to get this over before the actual race.

I Ran My First 8k Today

Today I ran the Jubilee Run for Cancer 8k race in downtown Montgomery. What a great way to start a Saturday. It was 55 degrees at 7:30am – in May, in Alabama, for goodness sake.

There were a lot of hills, but less than planned, due to a last minute street change courtesy of the Montgomery Police Department. The original route looked like this:

The final race looked like this:

The entire first mile was a pretty steep uphill, and next three miles were a slow mostly uphill run, until finally the last mile was almost all downhill to the finish. This was a great run, and my first 8k race, so I got a new PR!

I was hoping to beat 50 minutes, and I finished 8th out of 16 in my age group, with a 47:44, 116th out of 189.

Now I have four weeks until my first sprint triathlon.

Some Background On My Entry-Level Road Bike Search

I want to follow up to my own earlier entry about buying my first road bike. I’m pretty data-driven, and knew next to nothing about road bikes when I started looking. I still know very little, but thought my search might help the next first-time buyer who finds this blog.

After doing a lot of research, I determined that the vast majority of local bike store’s (LBS) carry at least several of these brands: Cannondale, Felt, Trek, and Scott. The Trek 1.1 was the least expensive at $740, then the Felt Z100 at $809, the Cannondale CAAD8 2300 at $830, and then the Scott Speedster 50 at $880.

Now, these are entry-level, so no aerobars, and every dealer will stress they have entry-level components. But I was looking for something to get me started, something I could ride in several sprint tri’s, and decide if I even wanted to do more than this. I put together this spreadsheet listing the four bike models mentioned above, plus the Trek 1.2 and Felt Z95, both of which are more expensive (more on that in a minute).

The Trek 1.1 is the only one of these bikes that does not have a carbon front fork, and everything I had read said I would notice the difference a carbon front fork would provide. Except for this, all the first four models have very similar components. For instance, they all have the Shimano 2300 STI cranksets, which is an 8 speed. The two more expensive models have the Shimano Sora crankset, a 9 speed. I was told that another difference in these is that the less expensive a crankset, the more plastic parts are used, so they wear out more quickly.

So it became test ride time, and here’s the funny part – if the bikes all have the same basic components, and you’re a new rider, it seems to me it all just comes down to which one feels best when you test ride it. And if they all feel the same after your test rides, then maybe just buy the one with the paint job you like the most!

My LBS did not have either the Trek 1.1 or the Felt Z100 in my frame size, but wanted to make me a deal on either the Trek 1.2 or Felt Z95 because they had those in my frame size and they were both already in their inventory. So after some negotiating, I got the Trek 1.2 at a nice discount and they got me to pay more than I was planning. So don’t be shy about telling them what your budget is, or asking about any models that they might make a deal on, or maybe even about used bikes.

Retiring My iPhone for the Garmin 910xt

When I started my fitness quest last August, I was using my iPhone and trying various apps to track my running. My swimming was so poor that just a total lap count and time in the water was all I needed, and I did not have a bike. I eventually settled on iSmoothRun, and this has been the best iPhone running app I have found.

Several months ago, I began thinking that I might benefit from the Garmin Swim watch, since I now had a stroke that it might recognize. Because I’m an IT guy I am very data-driven. But I just couldn’t pull the trigger. Meanwhile, several interesting new watches were being announced, and I began thinking about getting a bike (see yesterday’s post), which meant the Garmin swim wouldn’t help me…my brain was hurting from over-thinking all of this.

Here are the contenders:

  • The Leikr watch says it is “Made by athletes, for athletes”. It is a beautiful looking watch, but it is not waterproof (it might be in the future, but they they can’t guarantee this) and there is no mention of lap swimming capability. So it looks like they are out of the running. (bad pun intended)
    Leikr watch
  • The folks at TomTom have announced a new watch, but there is no known availability date, at this time, and their previous Nike co-branded attempt was under-whelming. Since I want to start using it now, they also did not make the cut.
    TomTom watch
  • The Bryton GPS60 watch looks really interesting, and they have said lap swim tracking is coming in their next software update. DCrainmaker has been using and testing it, and so far the performance appears good. However, they have no U.S. distribution due to a lawsuit by Garmin alleging patent infringement. Additionally, it’s a little scary that for the last several days, when you click on the link on their site for this watch, you get an error screen. If they can’t keep their website working, how good is their code? Plus their pricing is unknown, if they get their U.S. distribution fixed, as rumored. So they had to get scratched also.
    Bryton GPS60 watch
  • Then, two days ago, Garmin started a huge sale on selected products that dropped the 910xt from $399 to $299! At that price, I pulled the trigger, and it should arrive in about three days.
    Garmin 910xt

I mean, really, at 25% off of the best triathlon watch on the market, what could I do?