Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Slowly but surely

So I keep increasing the miles as I work myself back up from the knee issue. Started running 3 miles, then 4, then last Sunday I did a 5 mile long run and I'm feeling pretty good so this week I will aim for 6 miles which is where I was right before I got sidetracked. The knee has bothered me a little (it is tendinitis after all) but it has been totally manageable. It seems I will be ready for my first 10K at the end of February after all.

Whether I'm ready for it or not is irrelevant at this point actually since I have officially signed up for the race already. It's gonna happen whether I 'm ready or not, though I'm working on being ready. I'm very excited and quite frankly, a bit scared too.

As of this writing, I have run 6 miles only once so the prospect of doubling my current race distance seems a bit daunting. Also, this 10K I signed up for is pretty huge - probably the biggest  race in Puerto Rico - and no one wants to look stupid in front of 15,000 runners. However, my 5 mile runs have become a lot less threatening since I first reached that milestone last summer. In fact - and I'm almost afraid to say this - it appears that I'm better at longer distances. If I could figure out how to start slower, it would be even better but I think that will come with time. Either that, or I will work myself up to run faster in the later parts of my runs.

This week, I will aim for two 5-milers followed by a 6 mile long run on the weekend. Assuming that it goes as planned and I keep feeling good, I"m considering the prospect of adding an extra running day. A low mile one (maybe 3 miles?) at that.

Long term, I want to keep working on mileage so that at the end of September, I can start the 16-week Beginner Marathon Training Plan from the book: Runner's World Big Book of Marathon and Half-Marathon Training by Bart Yasso, Jennifer Van Allen and Amby Burfoot with Pamela Nisevich. To start the plan, the authors recommend  for you to have at least a year of running under your belt and that you are regularly running 3 to 4 times a week which should be no problem by then.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Garmin Forerunner 410 - A review Part II

Last post, I talked about my new Garmin GPS watch. If you read that post, you know I mentioned the watch can be as easy to use as you could wish but if you really want to venture into its depths, it can be configured pretty much any way you wish. Today, I will finish by talking about the touch bezel - central to its use - and then mention the rest of the watch's features. Incredibly enough there are more of them.

The watch has just two buttons. Hardly enough to control all the functions it has. To handle this Garmin has the developed the touch bezel: A silver ring around the display screen. It kind of works like a computer mouse. When you slide your finger around the bezel, it works like the scroll wheel of a mouse. Tapping the bezel is the equivalent of right-clicking the mouse. The previous version of this watch - the FR 405 - brought a lot of complains from people who had problems with the bezel so on this version Garmin worked hard to fix that. You can control the sensitivity of the bezel to fit your needs. I have found no problems with it yet but where I live, I have no need to wear either gloves or long-sleeved clothing for running and that is where people seem to have trouble. Either way you can lock the bezel function so it won't work while you run. Pretty handy.

Now, up to this point, I would have been more than satisfied with the watch but there are a bunch of extra goodies packed that really puts the 410 over the top.

Not exactly a "conventional" charger but it works

It kind of bites down on the watch

Virtual Partner
Based on a previous run of your choice (for example, your 10K PR) you can literally compete against yourself. The watch will show a graphic of two people, one above the other. One is your saved run, the other is you. When you start running they run as well. If you start falling behind, the little person will fall behind as well and vice-versa. It will also tell you how far behind/ahead you are. Pretty cool.

Not sure exactly where you ended up during that 20-miler? No problem. The watch has a feature that guides you to your starting location or home. You can even save your current position (say, the post-race celebration pub) and the watch will take you there with the push of a button.

You can program all sorts of different types of workouts. Intervals(Peg *wink*), time-based, HR zone-based etc... I have barely scratched the surface of this feature since I just straight up run right now but I'm excited about the possibilities.

Then there is Garmin Connect to tie it all together. This website stores and shows you all the information the watch records using the included ANT+ stick. You just insert the stick to a USB port and it starts searching for the watch. It transfers the info automatically. When you log in to Garmin Connect, the info will already be there.

While I think Garmin Connect is a powerful tool, it still needs some development and frankly I have still to figure the whole thing out. For example one particularly cool feature is Goals. For example I have set a goal to run 600 miles this year so I entered it in Garmin Connect and in turn GC sent it to my watch. Now when I go to the goals section in the watch, I see a graphical representation of how far left I have to go. Neat. However when I go to set a time-based goal (to run a sub-40 5K) I can only input hours, not minutes. When I try to write, say 0.6 hours, it tells me I have to write whole numbers. I don't get it.

Apart from Goals, program workouts, set a workout calendar and schedule races, Garmin Connect also has a social media component so you can connect (get it?) with other Garmin users. It sounds wonderful but unless you know someone, or randomly pick a handle to search, it will not show ANY information on other users which makes it difficult for runners like me who don't know any other Garmin users to actually connect. Also, as far as I can tell, Garmin Connect doesn't give you the option to post your runs on Facebook or Twitter. Not a big problem except that RunKeeper did that automatically so now people ask me all the time "What happened? You're not running anymore?" simply because they don't see my posts (hey, I have a blog to run you know).

By the way Garmin Connect users, you can find me as, what else? TheFatRunner. 

Complains? Extremely few. Besides my comments about Garmin Connect, the actual watch, despite being pretty bulky, barely fits around my wrist. This will not be a problem for most people but in my wrist, I have to use the very last hole. Also, the watch beeps every time you cover a predetermined distance (the default is a mile but you can program it to your liking) and that's nice but those of us who listen to music would certainly appreciate it if it vibrated as well. Finally, it seems this watch cannot be paired with Tanita body scales while other Garmin watches can but I don't own a Tanita so who cares?  As you can see, these are very minor gripes.

In the third hole,it's a very tight fit on my wrist.

As of this writing I see Amazon selling the FR 410 with the premium heart rate monitor for $188.00 but I have seen it as low as $150.00. A real bargain if you ask me, considering its top-of-the-line sibling, the FR 610 goes for about $400.00 and has many of the same features. On the other hand the entry-level watch from Garmin, the Forerunner 10 is $130. Twenty buck gets you a heck of a lot more watch if you ask me.

So there you have it. The Garmin Forerunner 410 according to The Fat Runner. Nobody has to have a running watch to be able to run but there many like me, who are motivated by watching their progress and in that regard, this watch truly shines. It can also be an invaluable training tool. If you have a specific goal, distance or race in mind, it can surely help you immensely.

The watch surely has a dizzying array of features and it can be daunting to navigate if not prepared but the basic functions are very easy to useso you can choose to do as much or as little with the watch as you like. If anything, its simplicity will buy you time while you explore the deeper ends of its features.

If anybody has any questions feel free t leave a comment or you can also check out Garmin.com

Friday, January 25, 2013

Garmin Forerunner 410 - A review

"Where does he get those wonderful toys!?"
                                              - Jack Nicholson as "The Joker"

In all the (well deserved) hype surrounding Christopher Nolan's Batman Trilogy, a lot of people forget that Tim Burton's Batman was actually a pretty good film. Why am I mentioning this? Because I just happen to have the answer to the Joker's question. The answer is: He got them for "Three Wise Men Day".

He is not the only one. I sure got a wonderful toy in the form of the FR 410. I know a lot of runners go crazy for GPS watches and a lot more have offered their opinion on them so I thought I'd throw my two cents in regarding this particular model so if you are considering buying one of these(or any running watch) or just did, you might want to read on. Here is a pic of mine:

When the watch is "asleep" (i.e. not doing anything) it looks like this. If you want to "awaken" it, you just press Start and it will also show the date. Then you can navigate it's features.

The 410 falls somewhere in the upper half of the hierarchy in the Garmin line. Not quite on the level of the 610 (their top running watch) and certainly not at it's price, it is still quite loaded in terms of features. When researching this watch, and reading on The Loop (The Runner's World public forum) I found a lot of talk about this watch in particular and running watches in general, that they are complicated and have a steep learning curve. Here is what I found out after two weeks of use: They say there are two sides to every story? Well there are two sides to this watch.

On one side, using this watch out of the box could not be any simpler. You charge it, turn it on, after choosing the language and some other info (which conveniently doubles as a mini - tutorial to learn how to use the touch bezel which is how you navigate the watch's features) you hit "training mode" press start and go run. When your done running you hit start again and that's it. You are done. The watch just recorded about a gazillion bits of info regarding your distance, pace, time and heart rate (if yours comes with the HR monitor like mine did). It also tracks calories. You then transfer the info to your computer using the ANT+ stick and viola! A plethora of information regarding your run is at your disposal. You haven't figured out how to transfer the information yet, you say? Fear not, the watch can store up to a thousand (yes, 1,000) runs in it's memory so you can take your time with that one. And that's it. You just successfully used your FR 410.

Now, you are probably thinking: "Wait a minute Frank. If it's THAT simple to use, why all the hoopla I hear/read about learning to use this watch?" Well, like I said, there are two sides to this watch. here is the other one:

Where this watch gets complicated is in its flexibility. Every single feature can be customized by the user so the watch shows you only what you want to see. When you run, the watch can cycle through up to four different screens and each screen can show up to three data fields. That's 12 different pieces of data you can view WHILE you run. You get to choose between 35 parameters. Every way you can measure pace, speed, distance and heart rate, its there. You see how it can get complicated? Just choosing what you want to see can take time, not because its hard to program but because you have to use the watch for a while to figure out what information is more useful to you during the run.

For me, four screens is a bit of overkill. I like having all that info after the run but during the run it's too much. I personally use two screens: One shows me the basics: distance, pace and time. The other shows me heart rate and percentage from maximum heart rate. I'm testing out this second screen to see if I can optimize my running by checking my heart rate. Otherwise, I would only use one screen. I find that having all the screens on keeps you more focused on the watch than the road. You can set how fast the screens cycle but I find that when I look at the watch during a run, I'm looking for something specific which means I have to wait until that particular bit of info shows up. I don't like that. However, variety is the spice of life so its nice to have all the options and who knows, I might become more of a freak in the future and use them all. For the moment, having all that info afterwards is extremely valuable for me.


This is how I set my screen: Distance on top in big numbers, then pace(the blank value on the left) then total time. That's good enough for me.

A word about the GPS system: It's crazy accurate.  Before this watch, I was using my phone. I used three apps: Cardio Trainer, Map My Run and Run Keeper.(not at the same time of course) These apps are not terribly accurate but then again, a smartphone is doing a bunch of other things besides tracking your run plus, the apps are free so I sure wasn't complaining. However, whenever I would see my run afterwards, the track line was wobbly and the distance would always be off. (You should see the "ovals" it made when I ran at the track) But the 410... wow.  All of a sudden, 3 miles is actually 3 miles. This thing tracks straight and true and it will pick up the slightest change. Like, I'll switch lanes (3 ft from my original line) and sure enough, it will pick it up. This might not sound like a big deal for people used to GPS running watches but those of us "upgrading" from smartphones can sure see the difference.

I realize that I'm running a bit long so I'm gonna continue the rest of this in another post. Next I will talk about the other features the watch has. Yes, it has more.

To read the rest of the review go here.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

On the road again...

Well this past week I started running. I have been on injury leave since my last run on December 28, which meant I had yet to run this new year. Well, the year has officially begun.

Now there were some good news and some bad news. In a nutshell, here are the good news:

1. So far, my knee has not given me any problems. I haven't felt a thing.

2. Got to finally use my Garmin FR410 I got for Three Wisemen Day!

3. I'm finally running again. I was getting a little crazy about that. I was afraid I was going to lose my progress if I kept doing nothing but, I'm back!

Now here are the bad news:

1. Everything else!

I gotta say, that horrendous excuse for a first run was pretty bad. I was expecting it to be challenging but this was pathetic. I ran 3 miles on Thursday and 3 on Sunday, trying to start easy but that sure didn't make a difference. Although I wonder how bad it would have been if I had run four or five. And the next morning? Oh, Mama... 

Of course, in hindsight I had to see this coming. The year ended with me posting some of my best times, running my best race and increasing my mileage to new highs. You really cannot sustain a charge like that forever. Some low notes had to come and here we are. As I always say, you gotta have some bad runs to really appreciate the good ones. Also, last year was not a waste. Even though these first two runs were bad, its not like its gonna take as long to get to my previous level as when I started. I'll find my mojo.

Next week I will start to increase the miles and see how it goes. On my next post I will write about the Garmin and how its been going with this amazing watch.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

One Year From Now

Today, tens of thousands of runners from all over the world ran the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando, Florida. Hopefully, one year from now I will be running it myself.

Twitter and Facebook have been lit up most of the day with updates from friends and people who write other blogs I follow reminding me exactly what it was about this race that made me want to do it as well. You see, the entire marathon takes place on Disney property. You run through all 4 of the parks and they have music, characters, and entertainment all through the course. They also do a Half-Marathon on Saturday and if you are really adventurous you can sign up for the Goofy Challenge and race both the Half and the Full marathon. 39.3 miles in all. Yeah... right now I'm thinking about just doing the marathon though.

I wonder if I will be able to pull this off. If I will be ready. It's hard to visualize running a marathon when your latest running accomplishment is running 6 miles. Still have 20 more to go (and .2).  That is a long way to go. But don't worry people. While there is a little uncertainty in my words you can bet I'm gonna do everything I can to achieve this goal I have set. In a way, running a marathon is the easy part.

Figuring out how to pay for the whole thing... That is the hard part!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Almost Famous

One of the true perks of putting yourself out there on things like blogs and forums, is that you get to meet a lot of people who are not only going through the same things you are but are willing to share information and help you out in every way they can. One the first people I met on this journey actually is kind of an inspiration for me, as it was reading her blog, the story of how she was motivated to run a Marathon by seeing other runners while visiting Walt Disney World that finally got me out of the couch and running. Her name is Heather Montgomery and her blog is Running With Sass. She has not only done the Disney Marathon but a whole bunch of other Disney races. I think she also has done like 17 Half-Marathons. As it turns out, she was just named one of the top 12 Favorite Bloggers on the Run by Women's Magazine.

She is also at Disney World in Orlando this weekend trying to accomplish her latest goal: Finishing the Goofy Challenge: That is, running the Half-Marathon on Saturday (tomorrow) and the full marathon on Sunday. Heather, I'm cheering for you from Puerto Rico.

The thing is, while she is away, she got a bunch of people to write on her blog and guess what? It was my turn at bat today. I wrote a post about things you can do keep your New Year Fitness Resolutions. You can read the post here. The result is my own blog has lit up like a Christmas tree today. I feel like a celebrity. I'm very honored to have been able to write on Running With Sass. She has a very dedicated following and a lot of them were nice enough to drop by here. Hope you found something you liked.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

And the diagnosis is...

So I went to the Orthopedist today to check out the pain in my left knee that has kept me from running this year so far. It was not that bad in terms of how much pain it was but even with rest it wasn't getting any better so I was worrying a little bit. If you have read my previous posts, you already know I'm the type of person who avoids going to the doctor so I won't be told I can't run. These type of person is also known as an idiot. However, I want to run my first 10K at the end of February so instead of putting it off any longer I just went and got it over with.

So the Doc took some X-Rays of my knee and checked it out. As he was checking my whole leg, the conversation went like this:

Doc: So it hurts after you run? (He stretches my leg up)
Me: Yes, it bothers me when I run but after... ouch!
Doc: (Stretching more) OK... ummm do you stretch?
Me: Uhhhh, not enough as I should... (translation: No)
Doc: Well, your hamstrings are very tight.
Me: Oh, thank you Doc, aside from running I don't really work out...
Doc: I didn't mean it like that.
Me: I know.

As it turns out, I have never been happier being told there is something wrong. I have tendinitis. A very common thing, usually related to repetitive work injuries. For example, people who work with computers all day get it on their wrists. Many guitar players develop it on their fingers. You know who else gets it? Runners! Runners, like me! I am a runner apparently.

Anyway, the Doc said it was normal, that my knees were OK (a pleasant surprise considering my weight) and that the pain would subside. He gave me some anti-inflammatory meds and told me to take it easy for the moment. He also recommended to stretch before and after runs. He mentioned that tightness in some muscle groups (like the hamstrings) can cause imbalances that can affect your form and bring pain, discomfort and stuff like... tendinitis.

I never thought much about warming up. I figured since I run so slow, the beginning would count as a warm up. Stretching however, I never gave it much thought. I guess I should now. Funny thing is, I used to play guitar in a band and was really into it so I'm very familiar with the concept of tendinitis. I  never got it though. Why? Because I was so afraid to get it, that I thoroughly warmed up and stretched my fingers before every gig, rehearsal or practice session. Maybe I should try that warm up/stretching thing when I run to see how it goes.

So I'm taking my meds and take the rest of the week off. Then, next Tuesday, it's on! Kind of... Gonna go back down to three miles and work my way up, paying special attention to avoid falling too hard on my feet to protect the knees and, needless to say, I will warm up and stretch before running. Maybe even stretch after the run. Of course, I'm crazy to try out my new Garmin 410 which has been laughing at me from my nightstand all this time.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Three Wizard Kings

How about a bit of a culture lesson?

It has been said that Puerto Rico has the longest Holidays in the World. I don't know it that's true but they do last from Thanksgiving all the way to the second week of January. That's a lot of partying. Part of the reason is January 6, which (and I'm roughly translating here) is King's Day.

For those not familiar, according to the Bible, after Jesus was born he was visited by three Magi from the east who came bearing gifts: Frankincense, Myrrh and Gold. They were led by a star they were observing. There not many more details beyond that but tradition has made plenty of stories. How they came to be "kings", no one really knows but since Jesus is "The King of Kings" then  it made sense to someone to make them Kings as well. No one knows how many there were but since they came with three gifts, its easy to deduce no one came empty handed to the party. They also have been given names: Melchior, Balthazar and Caspar. Since they were Magi (a form of priest) and seemed to be astrologers (they were following a star) and the word Magi is the root word for magic, they have also been called magicians or wizards. Hence, here in Puerto Rico they are called "Los Tres Reyes Magos". Direct translation: The Three Wizard Kings.

On January 5, kids go out and gather grass they put in boxes (usually shoe boxes) and place under the tree. You see, the Wise Men travel by camel. I think since the Nativity story takes place in the Middle East, people just thought it logical they would travel by camel. Anyway, the next day (the 6th) the children get presents left by the Three Wise Men and the grass has been consumed by the Wise Men's camels.

If all this sounds eerily familiar to what happens on December 25th and Santa Claus, well we do that one too. Kids can have very lucrative Holidays here, especially if they have a lot of relatives. It's one of my favorite holidays.

And that folks, is the story of the Three Wizard Kings.

So why am I sharing this with you? On a running blog? Well, two reasons actually:

A) Even though I am a kid only at heart, my parents... er I mean, the Wise Men left me what Gimli the dwarf would call "a kingly gift". A Garmin Forerunner 410 with the heart rate monitor. (I will give you the details on a later post)

B) I CANNOT USE IT!!!! I a haven't been able to run since December 28 because of a pain in my left knee that simply will not go away. I have a doctor's appointment this Thursday. I will let you know how that goes as well. 

The thing is that its not getting better. Even without running, it hurts when I touch it. It's not really the knee, its like the very top of the shinbone. So that is the reason for the history lesson. Since I have nothing to report running-wise I thought I'd give you the history lesson instead.