Sunday, January 23, 2011

Running with a Garmin

For the past month I've been experimenting with the Garmin Forerunner 405CX. It was a Christmas gift to myself after trainer Sal Palmieri recommended that I invest in a sports watch with a heart rate monitor (I will explain and review in a future post).

Now I've never been one to be super analytical with statistics, time, pace, etc. Hell, up until the last couple of years I usual ran naked sans watch at whatever pace and time "felt" good. So I was super hesitant to buy a Garmin because number one, they are ridiculously expensive and number two, I'm afraid of becoming "that guy" with his workout charts and annoying watch beeping constantly.

I narrowed down my options fairly quickly. I knew I wanted the Garmin name brand. I've trusted Garmin in other activities including Aviation, Fishing and Hiking so I'm partial and loyal to them. I don't want a Star Trek Communicator on my wrist so that eliminated a lot of the Garmin sports watches. I'm really only interested in pace, time and distance so the Forerunner 110 seemed the logical choice. It's the minimalist GPS watch and a heart rate monitor is optional (which Sal seems to be really interested in heart rate data) so it looked like it is the obvious choice. Then I saw the Forerunner 405CX on sale marked down to about the same price as the 110, probably because Garmin launched a new model at an ultra ridiculous price. Long story short; I hesitantly purchased the 405CX on sale for $199.

After three weeks running with this watch I think I'm in love. It was easy to set up on my computer, which it wireless uploads the workouts I've completed without me even asking. And, the best part? That data is synced with not only the Garmin website, but also others like, and That right there saves me SO much time. I will admit that I haven't even read the instructions manual and I've only focused on the things I care about like time, distance and pace. The heart rate information is interesting (at one point I had a heart rate of 50 while sitting on the couch!). The mapping is mind blowing. Garmin will overlay the route of the workout to Google Earth and when I zoom in I can see things like me crossing the road to get away from someone walking a poodle.

I'm sure I'll learn more about it and myself as time goes by, but for now I'm stoked. It seems like the right choice and if I ever want to use all the other amazing features this watch provides it's there for me.

Monday, January 10, 2011

No love from Ogden Marathon RD

What's up with all these races selling out in record time? Is it that more people are taking up running (or dare I say jogging)? Is it a cheap thing to do in a bad economy or recession? Are the unemployed taking out their frustrations by running races? Are more people really living a healthier lifestyle? Or is the "marathon" experience simply just a trend that is popular right now?

Regardless of the reason it's a fact; more and more marathon races are filling to capacity at speeds now requiring the persistence of a Guns n Roses fan trying to get concert tickets in the 1980s or a gamer waiting for the newest Xbox or Playstation to be released.

ARrrrrrggggghhhhh.... I'm frustrated.

It seems each time we come up with an awesome plan it's destroyed by a race being sold out. First, Jenny qualifies for the Boston Marathon only to learn that the 2011 race sold out in hours the week before her qualifying race and now she has to wait until 2012. Then, we devise the running adventure of adventures for this summer only to learn that Ogden Marathon in Utah is sold out leaving us completely out of luck for the "middle" race of the planned 3-race-3-weekend adventure.

I'm determined not to give up easily at this "wall" we've hit. I decided to write the race organizers to see if they'd take a human interest story in us or perhaps bend the rules. Perhaps we could raise money for their charity or something?

Maybe my letter didn't fall in the right hands, but the following correspondence shows that there's not much love coming from the land of Mormons.

Dear Ogden Marathon Race Director,

My girlfriend, Jenny XXXXX, and myself, TallGuySurfing, are avid runners. To live up to the stereotype of "being crazy" we run a few marathons each year. We always try and make an adventure out of it and at the same time give it some kind of purpose. Last year we raised nearly $2,000 for American Heart Association independently and then traveled from Florida to Washington to run the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. We are not professional, not sponsored and nothing more than mere mid-packers having a good time. I'm a journalist turned Realtor and Jenny is a clinical dietitian.
This year during the holidays we created an adventure surely to out rank anything prior and would possibly be newsworthy to the right audience. While searching the Internet on Christmas morning looking at race websites we noticed that the 100th running of the Bay to Breakers 12k race in San Francisco and the BoulderBOULDER 10k race in Boulder, Colorado, are only two weeks and 1,286 miles apart. Both of these are bucket list races in our opinion even if they are not marathon distances. Jennifer is part of an all female running team named "Hot Legs" that has won the all-female overall place in several long distance relay races (Central Florida Ragnar and Sunset to Sunrise) and it just so happens that many of the Hot Legs will being going to Boulder for that race on May 30.
If you're still reading at this point you are probably asking yourself, "well, all that's great, but what does this have to do with Ogden?"
Well, the answer is simple. We are marathon runners and while we'd like to check those two races off our bucket lists, we'd also like to run a marathon in May. At first we were trying to decide which one to do and which one to put off another year. Then we saw it. Ogden Marathon shinning brighter and bigger than ever with all its glory! Set for May 21 (the weekend between B2B and BB) in beautiful Utah with an epic course like we've never seen before right smack dab in the middle between San Francisco and Boulder. When we realized the possibility Jenny immediately started jumping up and down with excitement while I remained somewhat reserved knowing there are so many factors to consider (I was secretly and silently jumping up in down with excitement in my mind).
The original plan/idea:

*Fly from Florida to San Francisco. Meet friends. Run Bay to Breakers. Rent car.
*Spend the week driving east across California and Nevada camping along the way.
*Run Ogden Marathon while taking in the sites, sounds and beauty.
*Spend following week driving across Utah, Wyoming & Colorado to Boulder
*Run BoulderBOULDER with Hot Legs and gang.
*Document and photograph EVERYTHING!
*Fly home, go back to work and be sore and happy!

Doesn't that sound truly amazing? I immediately started thinking of publications I could pitch the story to assignment editors with the hopes of someone giving me an opportunity to get back into the journalism game. We aren't looking for sponsors, but I think we would at least make a good human interest story.

Jenny and I tossed around the idea for the rest of the Christmas weekend brainstorming different ideas and by Monday it seemed like it could actually work.
Fast forward to today (the next holiday weekend where we have time off to plan our "craziness") and we hit our first real snag. Ogden is sold out, as you know. Sometimes I hate Runner's World. Like a surf magazine giving away the location of an epic surf break (surfing is my other passion) this running magazine has put the spot light on your race bringing the masses, which of course is good, but bad for those of us not aware this was going to happen.

The question we have for you is simple. Will you or can you please make an exception for us knowing what we plan to do? It does not appear this adventure can happen without Ogden. There aren't many other marathons on May 21 in Utah or surrounding areas and none have the allure of Ogden. Please, please give this some consideration. Jenny and I would be willing to raise money for your charity. We'd be willing to volunteer the day before at the expo. We'd consider anything at this point. We're two skinny little runners that don't take up much space and wouldn't be in anyone's way.

We hope you have a Happy New Year and hope to see you in 2011 at the mid-point of our running adventure!

Sincerely from Florida,
TallGuySurfing (I used our real names in the actual letter)

Here's the response I received a week later (at least they responded)

Hi Sylvan,

It sound like an exciting plan! Our half and full marathons are sold out but you can still register for a relay team and that can be up to five people. No one has to exit the marathon course when they finish their leg so you can finish together too. If you would be interested in doing that please go to to sign up.

Thank you,

Bree Montgomery

GOAL Foundation (P) 801-399-1773

After reading that I somehow felt like I was just sent a stock letter they are using to send everyone inquiring about the race being sold out. Still determined to break through the wall, I responded with:


Thanks for your response regarding our inquiry. We simply cannot afford to pay the relay price for two individuals to run the full marathon at Ogden. Is there anyway you can open up some full positions in the race and take some away from the relay since there is more demand for the full distance than a relay race?


This time I got a response within a few hours, but my hopes were shattered by what I read:

Hi Sylvan,

I’m sorry but our half and full marathon sold out within 5 and 14 days it was a record for us to sell out so fast.


Bree Montgomery

Apparently I'm still hitting the wall on this one.

This is a real shame. I was really stoked about this race. I was really hoping to bust a move and stage a return to journalism with this adventure idea, but now the keystone has been yanked. Now I have a sour taste in my mouth and I'll probably pass up Ogden Marathon in future years for other races.
The only thing left that I can think of is to continue with our plans, but instead run the course the day before or the day after their race with no support (being a bandit is below me and surely illegal). It's a free country and I don't see anything wrong with running 26.2 miles down a public road. And besides, for the amount it costs for two people to register I'm sure we can hire a driver to drive us to the start, drop us off and probably even make some water drops along the way. Then we would be free on race day to volunteer for the actual race if powers-that-be at Ogden Marathon would allow or would they turn us away as volunteers too?
If professionally sponsored runners like Dean Karnazes can get credit for running marathons on race courses on days other than the actual race day and do good in promoting the sport then so can we!