Category Archives: Training

Grays/Torreys Peak (via Kelso Ridge)

Last weekend, considering that the snow appears to be late this year, I decided to go “bag” two 14ers (and as of today,  I have 51 to choose from !) as I am sure the snow will arrive soon and it will be too late to go up as high as 14,000 ft. It’s not that those peaks can’t be climbed with snow but more that our van can’t reach the snowy trailheads.

graystorreyskelsoridge
Grays & Torreys Peak via the Kelso Ridge (GPS Track available here : 7.5 miles, +- 3,580 ft elevation gain/loss)

I chose Grays & Torreys Peak. I started running without being completely decided on if I would take the normal route or the alternative “Kelso Ridge” (while it sounded more fun, I was not sure about the snow/ice cover of the ridge). Arriving at the fork, it seemed that the ridge had snow on it but when I saw other hikers near the Knife-edge traverse, I decided to go for it!
Considered a class 3 scramble, I didn’t encounter any real difficulties until I reached the Knife-edge, 200m from the summit. There, the knife edge seemed too icy as well as its north face (I tried!)
Earlier, I had passed two hikers that caught up to me as I was trying to find a way to the summit. We discussed the different possibilities, I explained my attempt on the north face and we continued to look altogether for the best option. Roaming on the south side of the ridge, I lead to what seemed the only option to me: Go down a bit to arrive in a gully where we would climb up until reaching a pass at the base of the last part until the summit. While it seemed feasible to me, I would later learn that it is called the Dead dog couloir and is not recommended unless in winter full of snow.

My GPS track showing that I tried every side to avoid the icy knife-edge

A steep gully offering a mix of snow/ice/dirt, this couloir had a wall on its right side. With this wall,  I had envisioned to climb it by practicing the Dulfer technique. Up I went, while Chuck & Nik were watching me. After about 10min of hard work, I was at the pass and ready for the last slope to the summit !
Chuck & Nik did the same but I could feel their hesitation and was worried I was bringing them outside of their comfort zone.

img_2110-e1479694029910-768x1024
Chuck (in red circle) & Nik following me in the Dead Couloir
img_2131-1024x768
The Dead Dog couloir from the base of Torreys Peak

On top of Torreys, we congratulated our selves (Chuck & Nik made it!) and I went on to Grays Peak for a second summit. A perfect day in the Rockies!!

Mt Audubon & Blue Lake

Last weekend, given that Hwy 34 has been closed since 2 weeks and will be closed until around June 2017, I have decided to go South to explore the Indian Peaks Wilderness (East of the Divide).

After looking at my maps, books and TODO list, I chose to summit Mt Audubon (13,229ft) and go to Blue Lake afterwards.

mtaudubon-bluelake

GPS Track available here (12.5 miles, +- 3,570 ft elevation gain/loss)

Arriving at the base of Mt Audubon, I was quickly welcomed by Pikas but also a strong & cold wind. At the top, the views were beautiful and I could see as far as Longs Peak.
I ended my run with Blue Lake, right below Mt Audubon

Lakes and Peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park

Let the exploration begins ! Since we moved to Colorado, I have been to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) EVERY weekend! After cycling Trail Ridge Road last weekend, my legs were calling for a long run.

Last Saturday, after looking at my maps and books, I decided on several adventures. My first run consisted on reaching Black Lake & Blue Lake.

GPS Track available here (12 miles, +- 2,600 ft elevation gain/loss)

Afterwards, I headed to Hallett Peak.
hallett-peak

GPS Track available here (9.8 miles, +- 3,400 ft elevation gain/loss)

I had a great day being in the mountains, at altitude, with such beautiful views and exposed to the different elements. I realized how lucky I am to be so close to a unique place like RMNP. Good adventures ahead with lots of lakes and peaks!

 

Tracking and Analyzing (Part 2)

In Part 1, I have explained why/how tracking and analyzing exercise data is important and useful. I have also tried to guide you in choosing a relevant tool so you can get the most out of your collected data.

I am really passionate about tracking and analyzing data as I believe that with past data, one is able to forecast possible improvements and pave the road to higher limits.
In this Part 2, I am using my case as an example to show you the different set of tools I have been using in my training and how I use them on a weekly/yearly basis to improve my fitness and performance.

When I was rock climbing 10 years ago, I started using a journal/logbook for the first time. Back then, I was not recording much data but mainly my daily training (rock climbing gym session type & duration, number of pull-ups per day ….) along with the routes I had climbed (the route’s grade, location, how I felt, my failures/successes). I did so in order to have a “picture” of my training at any time and to build my own catalog of achievements. All that would give me motivation to improve as I could see the increase in route’s grades and/or number of pitches that I was climbing.

When I started running, I quickly acquired a watch (Suunto T6d) in order to record each of my run sessions and especially my heart rate data as I initially read that heart rate based training was the way to go.

From there, I needed a tool to store all this data but also to analyze it. Remember what was said in Part 1 : “Big Data Holds Great Power, But Only if You Know How to Mine It” A. Guess.

Initially using a simple excel spreadsheet (D. Hays’ running log spreadsheet) along with the Movescount‘s website providing basic analysis, I found myself juggling too much between several applications and still not getting the data interpretation I needed. I started looking for a software that would provide all those features and that would constitute a unique placeholder for all my training data. To do that, I looked at what other people were using but also laid down what I needed.

 

My needs

In Part 1, I came up with a set of questions to guide you towards the most appropriate solution.
Below are my own answers to those questions so that you can understand my needs/use of a tracking software :
  • What type of relationship do you hope to have with your log, digital or hard copy ?

Being a software engineer, I truly believe that a software application will go beyond a simple paper notepad. I need an application to store all my GPS tracks, heart rate data, etc…
Obviously, a digital logbook is the way to go !

  • What type of access do you need ?

When it comes to training data, I want to have full control over it and also keep my privacy. I want to decide which software and which version of it I use. Also, I want to be able to backup my entire data whenever and wherever I want.
When it comes to privacy, not only do I not want my data to leak but I also want to avoid my gear/bike to get stolen. It might be an extreme example but here is a true story of the possible risks when it comes to sharing training data on the internet.
While I don’t use any of the various cloud platforms for my training data, I like their monthly subscription models.

  • Is your watch format supported by the software you are looking into ?

Having owned Suunto watches since almost the very beginning, I only needed a software that could read the most popular file formats as Suunto does a good job providing one’s activities in different formats such gpx/tcx/fit etc… Of course, it’s always better to have a software supporting the native SML Suunto format.

  • What is/are your main sport(s) ?

I practice multi sports such as Running/Cycling/Hiking/Climbing. Hence, I needed a software being able to support all those and more !

  • what type of data and how much effort do you plan on putting ?

I needed more than just a simple software showing the annual mileage as Movescount already provides this basic information. I wanted a software being able to modelize my fitness, compare my runs…. I needed a program that would give me advanced analytics tools.

  • do you expect your coach to be able to interact with the software ?

Having never been coached yet, this was a feature that I didn’t need

 

My choice

Given those answers (Offline, Advanced, Multisport) and looking at the table listed in Part 1, the following software would fulfill my needs : SportTracks, Rubitrac, TrainingPeaks WKO+, MyTourbook.

I ended up choosing SportTracks (ST). At that time, it was the easiest to set up and use. It was free and moreover had the most advanced features thanks to its big list of plugins (100+ !!).

My intent here is not to show you how SportTracks works. You can go to the help center and the forum to get a lot of help/tips from other users but also read reviews of ST here and there as plenty of reviews have already been published. Instead, I want to show you how I use SportTracks to store and analyze my training data in order to improve my fitness/performance and reach my goals.

 

 My use

I have been using SportTracks 3.1 for more than 3 years now. Since then, I have acquired a lifetime license. I am mentioning this because a free version is available here. Certain features being limited, it is close enough to the full version to represent well the most important features.
  • General features

Like any other tracking software, SportTracks offers the basic features such as displaying for each activity the number of miles, average speed, total time, calories burnt…etc

As most of the tracking software have those basic features available, I won’t go over them. Instead, I will show the main advanced features that I use the most when analyzing my training data.

Heart Rate Zones

My main tools for training are my GPS watch and heart rate belt with which I record, during each session, the GPS data and heart rate data (among other data). After each activity, it is very important for me to be able to visualize the HR zone(s) I was exercising in to ensure that I correctly performed the workout I had planned to do or executed the race strategy I had set to follow. With ST, I can even define my own HR zones for each sport (For more information : I use Joe Friel’s HR zones).

Lactate Threshold workout : Reviewing my workout afterwards allows me to check that I was in the correct heart rate zone

Map Layers

Being a fan of exploring new places, I want to be able to see where I’ve been and visualize where I  was relative to any other landmark or even see where I got lost for example. Each type of activity typically requiring different map information, I need to be able to choose the most adequate type of map. For example, a run in the mountains will be best depicted with a topographic map  while a cycling ride will be best shown on a OpenStreetMap biking map.

As I need to be able to see my GPS tracks on different maps, I like that ST offers multiple map layers by default (Google Maps layers) and also additional map plugins. Below is an example of visualizing my Long’s Peak GPS track on top of multiple different map layers :

Example: Long’s Peak GPS track is best visualized over a USGS topographic map.

You can find the OpenStreetMap plugin here and Topo maps plugin here.

Multisports

As mentioned above, I practice various activities such as Running/Cycling/Hiking/Climbing and more. ST not only can store all those activities but also adapt to them. For example, when importing a bike ride, the speed unit will be in mph instead of min/mile as in running. Another example is the calories calculation that is adapted for each activity. Also, as seen below in the Advanced Reporting, it helps a lot when wanting to generate report where it is needed to differentiate the activity types.

One can create and configure as many activities as possible.

  • Advanced Reporting

ST has the ability to create custom reports which give me different “zooms” over my training data. By different zooms, I mean daily/weekly/monthly/yearly but also microcycle, mesoscycle and macrocycle.

I have to admit that even though I use a set of advanced software to analyze my training, I still use a hard copy paper for my annual training plan. SportTracks is very good when it comes to the nitty gritty details of my training & activities, however, it requires to be in front of the computer!

The Annual Training Plan spreadsheet (created by Joe friel) is a great way to see at anytime my season goals, training plan, upcoming workouts, last week’s training hours…etc. I use my own modified version as it seems that the original file was designed for triathletes.

My modified version of Joe Friel’s ATP spreadsheet

I have designed my own reports in order to fill this spreadsheet but also see the various metrics useful when analyzing my training data.

Below is an example of a report showing the  mileage, duration, total ascending and average feet/mile for any given week in 2016. This report gives me some of the numbers I need for my ATP spreadsheet.

Example of a custom report

  • Training Load

If I had to have one mandatory feature for any given training software, it would be the Training Load Chart. If you are not familiar with the concept of Training Load (or if you want a refresher!), I highly recommend that you dive into this article.

Training with heart rate is not to be analyzed just on each individual workout. Given a series of activities performed with a heart rate belt, one will be able to visualize its fitness or CTL (Chronic Training Load). Having this data is a must when it comes to ensure that my training is going in the right direction. It allows me to make sure I don’t overtrain but also that I don’t undertrain!

In a nutshell, the Training Load plugin (available here) calculates and displays CTL, TSB and ATL. For a given race in the future, it will tell you when to peak and when to taper. This plugin allows me to forecast a particular performance for any given race. Also, it will calculate TRIMP differently for each sport.

I find that this article explains the best how to configure, understand and use the Training Load plugin. In addition, in those articles, Joe Friel explains pretty well how to use CTL , TSS (or TRIMP) and TSB to optimize performance and minimize the risks of injury/overtraining.

Gradual uphill CTL with a correct peak and taper timing were the recipe for success in 2015

  • Athlete’s data

Another well designed area in ST is the Athlete’s section. This section helps tracking different data specific to each athlete. For example, I can track my weight but also my resting heart rate, injuries and also add notes, all that on a daily basis.

The athlete’s graph helps me reach my racing weight right before entering the racing season.

  • Gear Tracking
SportTracks gives the ability to track any type of gear by associating a list of gear to any activity. By doing so, this helps me know all the gear I have owned, how many miles I have been running on a given pair of shoes, or how many hours a bike trainer was used for, etc…
Tand, for example, gives a quick view of which shoe is sturdy or not.

In the example below, the Salomon S-Lab Wings are estimated to cost $0.58/mile, not the best!

Gear tracking showing useful information such as the gear specifications, purchase date, price and especially the price/mile

  • Custom Data Fields
The  power of ST is how highly customizable and configurable it is. A perfect example is the possibility to create “Custom Data Fields” for each activity or in the Equipment section (see above the custom field I have created to track the cost per mile for each equipment).
Below example shows 3 custom data fields I have created :
  • Elevation change / mile
  • Carbohydrate calories
  • Percent of expenditure

 

The plugins I use :

As mentioned above, one of the specificity of ST is the number of plugins available : more than 100 ! This pushes further the boundaries of how customizable ST is !
On top of “Training Load”, “OpenStreetMap” and “Esri map providers”, below are the other plugins I use :

  • Elevation Correction

As I explain here, it has been shown that the most accurate elevation gain/loss profile is obtained using a GPS device with a barometric altimeter, coupled with data smoothing and elevation correction. To correct the elevation for each of my activities, I use this plugin.

  • Calculated Fields
As show above in the Custom Data Fields section, one can create custom fields and enter values manually. The Calculated Fields plugins offers the possibility to compute values based on a formula of your choice and assign it to a specific custom data field.
On the example below, you can see the formula I have created for the following custom data fields:  Elevation change / mile, Percent of expenditure

With this plugin, the custom data fields capabilities are endless!

  • Unique Routes

In my training, I have several “bread-n-butter” routes that I use as benchmarks. Running those routes gives me a quick glance on my current fitness. For any given activity, clicking on the menu “Unique Routes” will list each activity performed on the same route. In only one click, I can compare my current time with all the other activities and see if I have done my fastest time yet. See the example below :

  • Overlay

From time to time, I need to be able to compare the data of several activities on a given section of a route. The overlay plugin, as shown on the example below, allows me to compare my heart rate (among other data) and see if I have improved on a given section :

Comparing my pace at the Half-Cooper test between 2011 and 2014. In blue, my Half-Cooper test from 2011, in red, the one from 2014: what an improvement !
  • DotRacing

With DotRacing, one can simulate a ghost race between different activities held on the same course. This plugin plays a “race” where each activity is represented by a “racer”. Used more for fun that for extrapolating data, I can play ghost races and see my improvements over a specific route.

Me vs Me: reaching Gray Butte during the Smith Rock Ascent 2013 and 2016. I am quite ahead this year !

 

What ST lacks to be the”dream app”

While SportTracks is probably the most appropriate software today for what I need, it doesn’t meet exactly what I would like in a perfect world. Please be aware that my remarks below are based on my personal opinion only.
  • Multi-Platform Program

My main OS being Linux Debian, I have to use a Virtual Machine (Virtual Box) with a copy of Windows in order to be use ST.

Using SportTracks on my Virtual Machine with Windows 10

While I have considered Goldencheetah (GC) as it sounds like a very good software (opensource, present in the Debian repositories), it was initially designed for cycling and is too centered on cycling, at least as of today. However, I have been keeping an eye on GC as it looks like promising the version 3.3 has introduced running specific features.

Also, converting a whole Sporttracks lobgook being a slow and tedious process, I need a very valid reason to move my data from a software to another.
  • ST or a “STale” program
Since the release of ST 3.1 in 2011, ST hasn’t been improved/changed much and at this point, its development is pretty much dead. While training analysis doesn’t evolve all that much, it would be nice to have new features integrated regularly into ST such as a new GUI and other improvements (see my suggestions below).
Why has it become “stale“? Though they do a great job at maintaining the compatibility with hardware devices (see this example when they immediately fixed ST to work with the new Suunto SML format back in 08/2014), it seems to me that their focus is on their online mobi platform and therefore have considered ST to be their “legacy” product as more and more people are asking for cloud-based apps.
  • More advanced features

Aerobic efficiency

Best explained here by Joe Friel, this data can’t be analyzed yet in ST though it seems to be an important factor for training.

HRV analysis

As I explain here, I use HRV (Heart Rate Variability) in order to avoid over-training. ST doesn’t offer ways to display/analyze HRV. To remedy that, I use KubiosHRV and my tool KubiosHRVDataFormatter to analyze my HRV data.

Miscellaneous improvements

On top of those main features, I could see more miscellaneous improvements such as a new/refreshed GUI, being able to see the cursor move dynamically on the map/GPS track when hovering over an elevation graph, have a nutrition tracking based on each activity….etc I could go on and on and as you can see here, here and here, I am not the only one inquiring about a ST 3.2 or even ST 4 !

 

Summary:

 You know now which tools I use to collect and interpret all my training data. As you can see, SportTracks is a “swiss army knife” when it comes to tracking and analyzing data. With ST, I have found the unique placeholder for my training data that I was looking for.

While it can be overwhelming to use ST at first, especially with how deep one can customize it, you will find with time that it will enable you to individualize and adapt ST specifically to your needs.

Some of you might think that it’s too much data analysis when it comes to training. However, as Joe Friel mentions very well in his book “Most athletes never ask themselves what are their limiters. They train absentmindedly, doing whatever is most enjoyable at the time“. Therefore, I take data seriously because I take my training seriously and analyzing it helps me improve my fitness and is now completely part of my training.

 

Suggestions/Critics?

Which training analysis software do you use ? Which data do you analyze ? Which features do you require from a training analysis software ?

Pot Pourri Videos (Part 3)

As in Part 1 and Part 2, I have gathered my favorite videos that I watched recently. Also, in this Part 3, I have included several training videos :

Running:

Wonderland FKT

 

The Crown Traverse

 

8,000m +E Hell in paradise: 3 men crossing Hawaii island from sea to sea

 

Mile for Mile: A Film About Trail Running and Conservation in Patagonia

 

Quechua – A story of Dawa Sherpa

 

The Lion & The Gazelle

 

Nolan’s 14 Anton Krupicka attempt on Nolan’s 14 (2013). See the episode 2 here and episode 3 here.

 

Training:

Better Trail Running Instructional Video

 

La fréquence cardiaque et son utilisation en course à pied et trail (FRENCH) – Training with a heart rate monitor

 

Three Fingered Jack Loop

Another weekend in Central Oregon where I chose, as a final long training run for the upcoming Volcanic50, the classic loop around Three Fingered Jack (3FJ).

While the classic loop goes around the 7,841ft mountain taking the PCT on the West side until Wasco Lake and goes back to the Santiam Pass Trailhead via Trail #4014, I decided to change it a bit.

Starting at the Pacific Crest Trailhead – Santiam Pass, I headed North on the PCT. After several miles, I got off the PCT and started climbing up towards 3FJ. Right before the crawl, I slipped my climbing shoes on as I wanted to go see what the final pitch looks like and maybe go at the top. The crawl was airy and great caution must be made here as well as the sections around it (multiple deaths and accidents have been reported). I arrived at the bottom of the last pitch. The views are terrific from here and while going up it didn’t seem to hard (5.4 climbing grade), I decided to stop here as I didn’t feel like climbing down it without a rope would be safe.

After going down the Crawl and putting back my running shoes, I ran down to go back on the PCT. From there, I ran North to Wasco Lake enjoying beautiful views of Mt Jefferson and 3FJ overlooking Canyon Creek Meadows.

This run offers several opportunities to refill water (Wasco Lake, Canyon Creek, Booth Lake, Square Lake) and I took advantage of it as it was very dry, hot and exposed. From Wasco Lake, I headed to the east saddle of 3FJ via the beautiful and fresh Canyon Creek meadow instead of taking the #4014 heading to Jack Lake as the classic loop does.

My3FJvsNormalRouteMy modified loop (Yellow) vs the classic route (Purple)

I quickly arrived to 3FJ East saddle where I encountered Mountain goats that seem to be thriving since they were re-introduced several years ago

From here, people usually hike down the way they came and head back to Jack Lake. As for me, I had found several reports and tracks of hikers going down south following a creek. As a matter of fact, when I arrived at 3FJ saddle, several women were coming up the south side. As they confirmed to me, they mainly followed the creek up. One of her having done this part 5 times, I was confident I would  be able to go down this way as well. And I did! But this part was mainly bushwacking though thick brush and a lot of downed trees. I eventually met the #4014 trail, and accelerated to make up for the lost time.

I passed Booth Lake, Square Lake (it’s not square at all!) and arrived back at the trailhead where my wife picked me up in time for some kayak time and swim time at Big Lake before sunset.

if I were to do it again, I would still go up the saddle as the canyon creek meadow and the east saddle were my favorite parts. However, because of the bushwacking part and tree hoping,  I would skip going down south and would run back to canyon creek meadow and Jack Lake to join the trail #4014 that the classic loop takes.

Nutrition: Water, homemade sports drink (recipe to come soon), HoneyStinger Chocolate Waffles, HoneyStinger Gel Gold

GPS Track available here (22.4 miles, 4,300 ft elevation gain/loss)

3FJLoop

 

Three Sisters Circumnavigation

The 3 Sisters Circumnavigation had been on my bucket list for a while now. The total course consists of 49 miles and 6,719 ft elevation gain/loss. Made up with several trails, the west side is mainly on the PCT.

The same friends (Jameson & Matthew) with which we ran around Mt Hood last year joined us. I decided to go counter-clockwise as it was easier to find an opportunity for Matthew and Jessica to join us as they wanted to run about 20 miles.

We started the run at the Pole Creek Trailhead after a short but restful night at this quiet trailhead. I’ve stayed there overnight numerous times when climbing the sisters and as it is pretty remote, it generally offers very peaceful nights with great views of the stars and North/Middle sisters (thanks to the 2012 fire).

Jameson and I ran the first 30 miles and met Jessica and Matthew at the Devil’s lake trailhead. While it added about 2-3 miles, it gave Jameson and I the opportunity to resupply in water and food. From there, we would run back to Pole Creek TH (20 miles, 2,706 ft elevation gain/ 2,884ft elevation loss).

A great/must-do run that offers various landscapes (volcanic, forest, sand), stunning views as well as several streams and lakes to get fresh water. The bonus of this loop is that the entire course is runnable as it is never really steep.

Nutrition: Water, HoneyStinger Chocolate Waffles, HoneyStinger Fruit Smoothie Chews

GPS Track available here (52 miles, 7,650 ft elevation gain/loss)

 

The Enchantments

Last weekend, I checked-off what had been on top of my Bucket list since I moved to the NorthWest : Thru-Hiking “The Enchantments” in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness (Washington).

I left Friday after work and headed to Leavenworth, WA.

Arrived at Stuart Lake Trailhead at: 2 AM (5 hours of driving)
In bed at 2.10 AM (10 min to set up the bed in the Van)
On the trail at 7 AM

This route is a Point-to-Point from Stuart Lake TrailHead to Snow Lakes TrailHead. I was once told that the Washington cascades were the “Alps” of the USA and I confirm again that this is true! It offers a mix of technical terrain, snow and smooth trails on eroded granite.

As most people seem to do, I have chosen to travel West to East (Stuart Lake TH to Snow Lakes TH). The advantage is that most of the uphills are done within the first 1/3 of the route. Also, it seems that some people are afraid of going down Aasgard Pass, hence prefer to go up it. However, if I had to do it again, I would definitely try the other way around to enjoy different views(East to West).

The forecast was calling for perfect weather and indeed it was ! For the Peakbagger readers, I climbed as a bonus Little Annapurna and Enchantment Peak (those peaks are not part of the Thru-hike) that both offered a great overview of the lakes basin and a great spot to take a food break.

I also encountered numerous mountain goats with their babies. Like my mom always says when we see wild animals : “It feels good to see animals free in the wilderness!”

When you go do this thru-hike, be aware that you will need to set-up a way to go back to where you started. I have chosen to hitchhike as my road bike would not have liked the gravel road up to Stuart Lake TH (Snow Lakes TH to Stuart Lakes TH is 8 miles and 2400 ft!!). Below are more options:

  • Have somebody pick you up (Honestly one of the best option as you will likely be toasted. Make sure to instruct them on bringing cold beverages and good recovery food!)
  • Have friends run the other way and exchange car keys
  • Park/lock/stash a mountain bike to ride back to your car
  • Hitchhike but expect not to have a lot of success as your smell/sweat/dirt will scare most of the cars
  • Run/walk back to your car

The day after, I went up the EightMile Trail and dived into the cold lake surrounded by mountain ridges. Another great weekend in the high country and a solid amount of training.

Nutrition: Water, HoneyStinger Chocolate Waffles, HoneyStinger Fruit Smoothie Chews

GPS Track available here (22.5 miles, 7,120 ft / 9,240 ft elevation gain/loss)

 

Note :  With an average of 751ft/mile, this run is a “HardRock” certified training run 😉 (HardRock100 has an average of 661ft/mile)

 

Long’s Peak

During our summer vacation, we visited Rocky Mountain National Park for the first time (And for free thanks to Mr Obama’s “Every Kid in a Park” program). I immediately planned on climbing the very famous Longs Peak (14,259ft).

I chose the normal route a.k.a The KeyHole. I started around 8am and the forecast was listing the typical summer afternoon thunderstorms. I was ready mentally to have to retreat but was hoping to make it to the top before the weather would turn bad.

After 2 hours of jogging/running on high alpine trails surrounded by marmots, I reached the KeyHole were the “run” turned more into a hike/scramble. In 45 mins, I would reach the top to be greeted one more time by a beautiful marmot.

I then went down as dark clouds were moving fast. After passing the KeyHole, rain and thunder noise made me accelerate. I reached the trailhead in 2 hours from the top and lightning/thunderstorm broke while I was having my lunch.

A beautiful day in the Rocky mountains that will constitute my main playground soon… 😉

Nutrition: Water, HoneyStinger Chocolate Waffles, HoneyStinger Fruit Smoothie Chews

GPS Track available here (14.5 miles, 4,480 ft elevation gain/loss)
**: As my watch seems not to have directly picked up the GPS satellites, the mileage is NOT accurate !

Note : A good inspiration about Longs Peak can be found in the movie “In The High Country“. Though Anton Krupicka climbs Longs via “Alexander’s chimney” and not the normal route, it’s a good inspiration and contains beautiful scenery about Long’s Peak.

 

Tracking and Analyzing (Part 1)

If you have landed on my website, chances are that you like to run, hike, bike or enjoy some sort of exercising for pleasure or performance. I also suspect that you own a device to track data associated to your activity (power meter, GPS watch, heart rate belt….etc). Actually, even if you don’t practice any of those activities, you probably wear a step-tracker, don’t you ?

Nowadays, more and more people track any type of data and often times use those tools to attain a goal such as losing weight or participating into a sporting event. This new phenomenon even has a name : “Quantified Self

In this post series, I aim to explain and show why and how tracking and analyzing exercise data is important and useful. I also try to guide you in choosing a relevant tool so you can get the most out of your collected data.

Data tracking: Because “what gets measured gets managed” (Peter Drucker)

As the British scientist Lord Kelvin stated: “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it”. Hence, tracking and analyzing data is very useful to attain a goal. Indeed, with past data, one is able to forecast possible improvements and pave the road to higher limits.

Back in 2008, I obtained my Master of Science in Computer Engineering. In my thesis, I aimed to show that improving “Branch Predictions” would lead to reduced power consumption. In a nutshell, in a computer processor, because a branch’s current behavior is often correlated to its past behavior, prediction of a successful branch is possible (see a branch as the different possible ways a program can execute). I took the same approach when I started most of my sports (climbing, running): I used tools to track my fitness in order for my training to keep going in the right direction and make improvements and better performance happen.

Athletes generally keep a log of their activities. If you don’t, I highly recommend to do so. Keeping a log/journal of your running will help you have a better representation of your current fitness as well as being able to read and compare past feelings. It will give you the ability to reflect and be aware on what works and what does not. It will give you a perspective of your training as well as different views and levels of zooming on your accomplishments.

Actually, the idea of keeping a running log goes back to 100+ years ago as Alfred Schrubb is known to having kept detailed notes about his workouts and even published a book on hist training methods (source : “The Runner’s diary”)

Personally, I use a running log not only to evaluate and forecast my fitness but also to keep a record of all my activities. I like being able to look back and see what type of training I did on a particular year of just look at a route I have explored several months ago.

Looking back at a previous activity : Mt Hood climb

What you need to write down and track on a regular basis is very personal and dependent on your activity, training plan, goals…etc. Below is an example of info I log for most of my running workouts. I have come up with this structure that seems to hold most of my relevant information.

Example of a log entry

Compared to other endurance sports such as triathlon or cycling, I have noticed in UltraRunning that only a few people seem to track any data and even less people pay attention to analyze it. When I say people, I am not talking just about athletes but also about coaches! How delighted was I when I listened/read that CTS coach Jason Koop is an advocate of using technology and tools such as Training Load (rTSS, TRIMPS). It was refreshing and certainly helpful to read literature about UltraRunning that is incorporating such an important parameter for training. If you have not grabbed a copy of Jason Koop’s book yet, I urge you to do so. You can read a good review here.

I am not trying to convince everyone to use gadgets and I have read/heard multiple athletes that just want to be able to lace up their shoes and go out for a run without a watch, heart rate belt and other fancy electronics. Don’t get me wrong, if that’s what you’re looking for, to feel free and just go at the speed you want, distance you want without, I completely respect that and as a matter of fact, one can certainly perform with such an approach as this is not necessarily a limiter. However, as I personally always try to improve my performance as much as I possibly can, I strongly believe that technology can help us to do so. Afterall, we use electronics and computers in our cars, fridges, TVs, phones…. why not for our athletic activities?

What to track ?

Ok, you have a GPS watch, a power meter or a steptracker. Great! But what now ? Do you know what you bought it for ? What data your device is tracking and what data you need to track/analyze are two different things.

I will speak mainly for running as it is my main sport and I will even divide running into 2 categories : road running and trail running.

If you’re a road runner, a gps watch or a non-GPS watch combined with a foot pod will mainly be enough and allow you to track mileage/pace/training time.

I made a point to differentiate road runners from trail runners because a typical trail runner will often incorporate elevation and/or different terrain types into some, if not all, runs and therefore makes the pace/speed data difficult to analyze. To work around this limiting factor, I would recommend to use a heart rate belt. It will allow you to work in the correct training zone while also avoid overtraining.

Looking at my Heart Rate graph after my run to confirm that I actually did an easy run regarding of the type of terrain. And I did: 100% of my run was spent in Zone1 (Recovery).

While I was about to recommend a power meter, this technology is very new as of today. To my knowledge, there are only two power meters available for running : Stryd (review here) and rpm2. Also, only a few software have the ability to analyze power data and few literature is available. However, I definitely see myself owning one in the next 5 years as it has shown over the past decades to be the most useful training tool in cycling.

 

Data analyzing : “Big Data Holds Great Power, But Only if You Know How to Mine It” (A. Guess)

Ok, you have a watch or a steptracker and are ready to start collecting data on each of your run. But what to use to collect all of this data and how do you get advantage of all it ?

One day, a friend of mine started running and asked me to recommend software to analyze his GPS data that he was tracking with his phone. If you ask yourself the same question as my friend did, read on, this post will also give you the answer.

The good news is that they are a multitude of tools available that will allow you to analyze/store all of your athletic data. You just need to find the one that suits you/your activity/your goals. It can range from a simple notepad to a fancy set of multiple softwares (that’s me 🙂 !)

To help you find the most appropriate tool to track and analyze all your collected data, I have compiled below a list of questions that will guide you in the end to one or several software. Once you have answered each of the questions, refer to the table below to see the potential available tools:

  • What type of relationship do you hope to have with your log, digital or hard copy ?

If your answer is “hard copy”, you can skip the rest of this post and go to your favorite grocery store to buy a notepad.

  • What type of access do you need ?

If you intend to use an app from your smartphone/computer, I would recommend to use a cloud-based application. It will enable you to access your data from anywhere as well as sharing it with your friends.

If you want to keep your data private, you will beneficiate greatly from using a standalone software.

  • Is your watch format supported by the software you are looking into ?

This question is really important as you want to make sure that the software you pick can read the data from your device. Some software offer direct synchronization from a given device while others require to import manually each data file.

Also, you want to make sure that the software includes tools that can analyze the type of data you intend to use. For example, if you run with a power meter, you want to make sure that the tool you are going to use can read and analyze such data.

  • What is/are your main sport(s) ?

It’s important to know that some software are specialized into one or multiple sports. For example, GoldenCheetah has been mainly designed for cyclists, while SportTracks supports multi sports.

  • what type of data and how much effort do you plan on putting ?

Simply put, are you just wanting to see a “big picture” of your weekly/yearly mileage & training time or do you intend to micro-manage your data and look at every details ? example : do you expect the tool to modelize training load ? do you expect to analyze NGP (Normalized Graded Pace) for specific splits ? If so, you will need to pick a software that offers such advance features.

  • do you expect your coach to be able to interact with the software ?

If you have a coach, it can be really useful to have the ability for him/her to interact with your training instead of having to send power or heart rate files via countless infinite email threads.

Based on the above questions, I have compiled a table below containing the most reknown “Tracking & Analyzing” software where you will find the corresponding tool that corresponds to your needs:

For each software, I made sure to include a review of it so you can quickly see what the software/app looks like as well as what other people have liked/disliked.

NamePlatformSupported FormatsSupported sportsCapabilities (Basic or Advanced)Coach InteractionLicense
D. Hays running log's spreadsheet (Download)Microsoft ExcelN/ARunningBasicNoFree
SportTracks
(Review)
Windows & Online AppOfficial listMulti sportsAdvancedYes (online app only)One-time fee (PC App) / monthly fee (Online App)
Strava
(Review)
Online (Mobile App)Official listRunning/CyclingAdvancedNo *Free & Premium membership
Runner's Studio (Review)WindowsOfficial listRunningBasicNoOne-time fee
RubiTrac (Review)MacOfficial listMulti sportsAdvancedNoOne-time fee
Movescount (Review)Online (Mobile App)Suunto devicesMulti sportsBasicNoFree
Garmin Connect (Review)Online (iOS & Android)Garmin devicesMulti sportsBasicNoFree
GoldenCheetah (Review)Windows, Mac & LinuxOfficial listCycling/RunningAdvancedNoFree
TrainingPeaks (Review)OnlineOfficial listCycling/Running/SwimmingAdvancedYesFree & Premium membership
TrainingPeaks WKO+ (Review)Windows & MacOfficial listCycling/Running/SwimmingAdvancedNoOne-time fee
Trail runner (Review)MacOfficial listMulti sportsBasicNoFree
MyTourbook (Review)Windows & LinuxOfficial listMulti sportsAdvancedNoFree

 

In Part 2, I will use my case as an example and show the different set of tools I use, how I use them and what I use them for.

 

Appendix:

You didn’t find the software that suits you ? Below is a non-exhaustive of software that might fit your needs. I consider them as good software but they don’t compete with the major ones in the table below either because they are outdated, contain annoying bugs or just don’t offer enough features to be considered useful enough:

Pytrainer
Xhale
Final Surge
AddAero
Turtlesports
Ascent
Endomondo
MapMyRun
RunKeeper
DailyMile
LogYourRun
SmartRunner
SmashRun
SportsTracker
SportWatcher
Runtastic
iSmoothRun.com
NikePlus
OpenRunLog