Monday, August 11, 2008

High Tech Racing

A couple of months ago I made it easy for my family to figure out what I wanted for a birthday present by picking up a Garmin Forerunner 305. This large wrist watch sized GPS came with a heart rate monitor so I could finally keep track of my engine's performance at each point of an outing rather than just the highs, lows and averages that my Polar HRM did.

Since this particular model of equipment has had a checkered history of water proofness and durability, I chose to try it out on a few boat races first before getting the cadence sensor to go along with it.

Well, the first race I used it was the Manchester Race. I had mechanical (boat) and mental (perceptual) difficulties. The drive tower had become loose and I had to return to the start to pick up a wrench to tighten the bolts securing it to the hull. By then, of course, everyone else had gone far from the starting line and I was racing alone. Oh, yeah - I guess I should check how my fancy wrist dangly thing was doing. Oops! It wasn't told to start timing until about a third of the way into the race. Just because the thing was showing speeds and heart rates doesn't mean it actually was recording anything!

The next race I had the cadence sensor installed. Well, the unit is actually a combination wheel sensor and cadence sensor. Of _course_ I could use the wheel sensor, which has a nice adjustable arm to detect the RPM's of the crank, right?

Well, no, as I discovered after the race was over. The wheel sensor is just for wheels and the cadence sensor is the only device that will actually be used for recording RPM's at any point during an event.

Ok, so the before the third race I went through a test run on a lake, making sure that the heart rate was being detected and the cadence was being measured. This was very cool!

On the day of the third race (Round Shaw Row) everything was ready. I had my mapping GPS on and ready in the PFD pocket, the Forerunner was on the wrist and had found all the satellites, and the cadence sensor was perfectly adjusted. The air horn signal for the start of the race was sounded and, after pressing the Start button on the wrist GPS I was off and pedaling.

About 9 miles into the race I was tired of looking at the fields displayed on the wrist GPS, which had a minutes per mile display (for running) and not a miles per hour display. Trying to change the display settings I managed to accidentally tell the unit I was now doing a different sport in a multisport event and the darn thing started everything all over. Rats!

Eventually I found the right way to change the data field display and got the desired MPH, heart rate, distance traveled and cadence fields all visible at the same time, and went on to finish the race.

Of course, the handy dandy software that comes with the Forerunner just couldn't be convinced that the two activities were really just two parts of the same race. No - they absolutely had to be two completely different events because I pressed the wrong button in the middle of an oxygen deprived state of mind, and when I could actually think clearly and calmly at the computer was no time to change my mind!

I also couldn't see why Garmin's software decided that I somehow traveled 6 extra miles in the blink of an eye between the two events. The shareware SportTracks software did a much better job of joining the "two events", without padding the distance whatsoever.

Oh, well. I'll post stats and graphs some day when I get my act together with those tools. Meanwhile, the photos at the Sound Rowers web site will just have to do.

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