Category Archives: Garmin

Garmin FR 910xt: Further impressions

I’ve commented on the Garmin Forerunner 910xt a few times, mainly regarding how it deals with swimming, and I’ve not been overly positive about it. I suspected that this might be because of my inability to swim very well. I’m now reasonably confident that this is indeed the issue.

After a couple of months where I didn’t go swimming at all for no good reason, I’ve been a few times recently and I’ve concentrated on trying to swim with better technique, to see how the watch gets on. Previously, it was counting some of my lengths as multiple lengths, which is annoying. I’ve found that when I do a length and am aware that I didn’t half-drown during it, it does count it correctly, and when I hit problems or start doing odd strokes, it goes a bit crazy. With that in mind, I’m getting more confident that the watch is probably doing about as good as it can possibly do considering I’m not really giving it much to work with.

As for my swimming, well, I’m still struggling with this whole “breathing” thing, tbh, but I think I just need to practice more. I’m not going to get better taking a couple of months off, after all.

Deer sighted 3 miles from centre of Edinburgh

An interesting incident on the cycle home tonight:

I’ve had a close shave or two while commuting on the bike, but nothing quite like this. The default video is a bit crap in terms of quality; you can increase the quality right up to 1080p to get a better view (although the deer is still moving mighty fast, so it’s difficult to catch a glimpse even then).

The Falkirk Wheel

Took a ride out to the Falkirk Wheel yesterday, since the wife was at work and the kids were at school and I therefore had A DAY TO MYSELF!!! Doesn’t happen often. So I decided to take the Union Canal, since it will clearly take you straight to the wheel. Instead of jumping on at the nearest point to me, which is about 3 miles away up at Gogar Station, instead I cycled west and jumped on just south of Winchburgh as the canal does a big S bend and starts coming back on itself.

Ultimately, although the ride itself was “flat” in that there were no hills on the way there, you can’t ride very fast, and it totally gives your arse a massive beating, because the path is pretty uneven. I had thankfully decided to take my mountain bike rather than my road bike, which was definitely the right decision, but even then, it didn’t really help in terms of evening out the bumps that are all over the place. In fairness, the road bike could have made it, but that’s mainly because it was dry; if there had been any rain, it wouldn’t have been a good idea. A cross bike would have been the ideal bike for the trip, but I don’t have one of those.

Aside from the rather bumpy ride, you also can’t really go any faster than 12mph, and even that’s a struggle. Partly this is to do with the unevenness of the surface, but it’s also very narrow in places, and there can be quite a few people on the path too so slowing down is something you can’t avoid.

By the time I got there, my arse was badly in need of a rest. I also arrived just in time to see the wheel in motion. The following footage is from my helmet cam, to explain why it’s constantly moving:

It’s quite an impressive sight, tbh.

I came back on the roads, to give my butt a rest.

Strava Segments

I’ve recently discovered Strava, and the idea about competing against other riders is the kind of thing I am into. The site works really well; you can compete against other people’s segments, or you can create your own segments from rides you’ve done yourself. Then, you can see how to compare to someone else’s time, and try to become KOM (King of the Mountain).

The trouble is, one of the segments that I ride every day on my way to work just doesn’t get picked up when I upload from my Garmin Edge 800. The GPS track is spot on, it’s just that Strava doesn’t recognise it as a segment. Really, really annoying. Now, it might be the fault of the person who originally rode the segment; I don’t know. I do have one time recorded against it, so I know that it’s possible, and the route is on a cycle path so it’s not as if I have a lot of places to go that could take me outside of the expected route. But if I ride twice in a row down a segment and blast the previous best time, then discover that it didn’t count… well… it’s a bit of a pisser.

Multiple Garmin Connect Activities On One Map

I’ve posted before about my attempts to get multiple Garmin Connect activities on one map, and how I wrote a Perl script which might make it easier for people to do this for themselves.

About a week ago, I then decided that I’d go one step further and write a web application which anyone could use, so I’ve gone ahead and done it. It’s here:

I now use this instead of my scripts. It seems pretty easy to me, since all you have to do (once you register, which is free and painless and requires no manual action from me to get going) is put in the URL from your Garmin Connect activity, and the web app goes off to download it and stores the plot of your activity. Upload more than one activity, and they all appear on the same amalgamated map.

You can also see individual tracks on the site too, if you want; that’s there mainly to assist you if you want to hide an activity from your main map, for example.

I had a bit of a problem initially with parsing the larger activities; however, that now appears to be resolved – thanks to the assistance of a helpful poster who was able to send huge activities far larger than I’ve managed to do so far.

It’s bound to have things broken in it still, and it’s definitely not finished, so if you want to try it out, please feel free. If you find things broken, or you have ideas for things that would make it better, let me know and I’ll see what I can do. This isn’t meant to compete with the likes of Garmin Connect or Endomondo, mind you – the goal is just to provide a way to see multiple activities all on one map. There’s no point in repeating the same functionality of other sites… why re-invent the wheel, when their wheel is already pretty damn good?

Garmin 910xt: lap swimming seems a bit better

I’m concentrating on improving my technique and efficiency when learning to do the crawl, rather than just trying to “swim faster”. I am therefore doing some lengths quite slowly, because I’m trying to make sure I’m breathing properly and not stopping. It’s hard going, but today I was in a pool quite early and it was pretty much empty, which allowed me a little more time to try to figure out what to improve. The technique of breathing into the trough and therefore not lifting my head is definitely a winner; I managed it a few times today and it’s amazing how much better it is when you get it right, since you don’t stop, I don’t have arms flailing around in the water when attempting to breathe and I seem to have plenty of time to get a load of air into my lungs. I’m still struggling to do two full lengths though, because I’m still running out of breath by the time I get to the end of the second length and need to stop for a bit, but my technique must be improving as the Garmin Forerunner 910xt only double counted two lengths today, which in comparison to last time is a major improvement. One of the lengths that it did it was not surprising either, as I swallowed a load of water and couldn’t breathe for a bit. So things are looking hopeful.

Might get out for a run tomorrow, if my knee has improved. I knackered it during a warm down after a 15.3 mile run 2 weeks ago, just by walking. Pfft.

Plot Multiple Activities from Garmin Connect on a Single Map

For many months, I have been attempting to figure out how to go about plotting multiple activities on a single map. An activity to me is a run – I run a fair bit, and the lengths of the runs that I do tend to range from 6 miles up to 18 miles. I live in Edinburgh, and aside from three races I’ve run outside of the city, all of my training runs take place in the city itself, generally starting from and finishing near my house.

What I wanted to do is to plot on a single Google Map every run I’ve done. I use a Garmin Forerunner 405, and I’ve recently purchased a Garmin Forerunner 910xt, and I use the standard Garmin Connect utility which stores all of my training runs. This therefore means I can see each run on Garmin Connect and see the plot of where I’ve been. One run at a time.

But I want them all on one map.

I had tried for many months to figure out how to plot these runs on Google Maps, and it turns out I was always searching for the wrong thing. Rather than bore you with where I went wrong, I’ll tell you how I did it. And it was pretty easy (isn’t everything easy when you know how?).

Ultimately, you want to plot multiple polylines on a single map. Each polyline is a single activity, so in my case, each polyline was a single run.

[ edit: I’ve since created a web application which means you can now get this functionality without having to run any scripts on your own computer – more on that at the end of the article… this next bit is therefore fairly redundant if you use the web app ]

The runs I exported as TCX files from Garmin Connect. Now, I had 139 runs to export, so that took a few minutes, but not the end of the world.

I’ll explain how to go about creating your map, but first, here’s mine:

You’ll need to have vaguely capable HTML skills, and a basic knowledge of Javascript; you might get away with zero knowledge of Javascript I suppose, but it wouldn’t hurt to have the most basic knowledge if you’re going to try this.

What you therefore need to do is create a single page with a <div>, so if you look at my page, you can see down the bottom, I have one with an id of ‘map_canvas’. The body tag calls the initialize() Javascript method, and you can find that in js/std.js. If you take a look at that file, it creates three variables; myLatLng just creates a point which will be used as the centre of the map, myOptions tells it the zoom level to start with (the higher the number, the more zoomed in it is) and the map type (TERRAIN and ROADMAP are the most useful, afaiac), and then the map variable creates the Map object. Nothing too difficult there.

Next, there are dozens of calls to methods which each pass in the map variable. These methods, such as initialize_46521721(), are held in separate files. They don’t need to be, but I found it easier to do this as I had a basic Perl script which transformed the TCX files into Javascript files; more on that later. If you take a look at js/46521721.js, you will see the function initialize_46521721() and all that each of these files are doing is creating an array of coords with each latitude/longitude point, which came from the TCX files. In other words, the TCX file shows all of the GPS points that I ran along, and I’m just creating a line (a polyline) from these GPS points. If you look down the very bottom of the js/46521721.js file, you’ll see a flightPath variable being created and a call to setMap(); these bits are the same in every single initialize_123() type method.

That’s actually all there is to it. You just need to make sure that your HTML page contains references to each of these Javascript files, that your Javascript files exist in the format I’ve mentioned, that you have the std.js file which has the main initialize() method which calls all of the other initialize_123() methods, and it’ll display fine. Clearly, you want to set the centre of your map to wherever is more sensible for you – I doubt you live in Edinburgh.

All that’s left is to convert your TCX files to the Javascript. To do that, I wrote a bunch of Perl scripts to convert the TCX files and automatically generate the HTML. However, I figure you might not want to do that and instead just want some way of converting your TCX files to the Javascript such as what I did, so I stripped that bit out of my set of scripts and it’s available as a simple webapp here:

All you do is upload your TCX files one at a time and it’ll generate your Javascript scripts for you. That just leaves you needing to create your std.js and HTML page.

Hope this helps someone…

[ edit – and here’s the info about the web application ]

So I ended up deciding to create a web application, mainly to make it easier for me to upload new activities without having to re-run the scripts on my machine. This web application is also built so anyone can use it and see their own multiple activities on their own map. It’s not finished yet, but it does work and I’ll be continuing to make updates to it regularly until it reaches a point of being fully functional, configurable and looks vaguely half decent. The web app is here:

It’s free, your password is stored securely (SHA1 hashed, if you’re interested) and I won’t send you spam or sell your email to anyone, honest.

910xt and swimming: another attempt

Tried another swim with the Garmin Forerunner 910xt and much the same as yesterday, it reckons I’m doing far more lengths than I actually am. Some people seem to have zero problems but for me, it literally counted double what I actually did today. Granted, I need to improve my technique since I’m just learning, but I’d have thought it would have been possible to merge lengths together once uploaded. Alas, no…

Garmin Forerunner 910xt: First impressions of swimming

My Garmin Forerunner 910xt finally arrived yesterday. Win! And it looks awesome. You probably know what they look like, but just in case you don’t, they look like this:

The amount of fields you can choose on the thing is amazing, but instead of whittering on about that, I thought I’d first talk about swimming.

Now, I’m useless at swimming. Why buy the 910xt, you probably are thinking. Well, I’m aiming to do a tri at some point, and since I can already run and cycle, I just need to learn to swim properly. Before Christmas, I had never tried to do anything other than breaststroke, and that I do poorly. I’m a terrible swimmer. But I decided that a tri was the next logical thing to try to keep me in shape, and therefore I need to learn to do the crawl.

I’m therefore attempting to teach myself, with the odd kind word from work colleagues who also go swimming at lunch time, and also from Mr Smooth, which is surprisingly useful. I’ve only been about seven times, so I’m still crap, but you have to start somewhere.

So on to the 910xt. How did it do? Well, not that great. Here’s the data on Garmin Connect:

First, it thinks I did about 5 more lengths than I actually did. Second, it thinks I did backstroke for a while, and it also thought I was resting at a point where I wasn’t. Granted, I rest a lot, but I’m still trying to figure out how to breathe.

Now, the reasons it didn’t do well may be to do with my crap swimming style. I shall therefore have to concentrate more on a smoother style and see how it gets on. Sometimes it correctly identified a length, but on one occasion it thought I had done three lengths when I had merely done one. It also missed a length at one point. Not ideal.

But it’s early days. I suspect there are glitches in the algorithm and I also suspect Garmin might decide to add some options to allow you to tell it, for example, that you can’t possibly do a length quicker than X seconds, and as such, it might be able to be a bit more reliable in terms of counting your laps. I mean, I have no clue how the heck it is managing to figure out lengths at the best of times, it can’t be easy, but if you’re paying £400 for a watch that is supposed to be capable of determining when you’ve spun around at the end of a length, you’d hope that it is indeed capable of this.

Early days, both in terms of firmware and in terms of my swimming ability. Yes, I know my times are terrible. You should see me swallow water; I’m really pretty piss poor.

Garmin Forerunner 910xt: Delayed, again

The Garmin Forerunner 910xt, which has been due for release for a few months and keeps being delayed, was supposed to finally arrive at my local shop in the UK on 01-Feb-12. It looks like one hell of a bit of kit, and although pricey, ticks all the boxes if you’re ever going to consider doing a triathlon.

So today I thought I’d just check with my running shop to make sure that the date they told me (01-Feb-12) was still on target. They checked, and no… it’s delayed, again. This time, stock is expected to arrive 12-Feb-12. You do have to wonder whether this date is as reliable as all the others, which would be roughly defined as “unreliable”. Still, at least the delay is only (ha!) another 11 days.

The watch was originally expected long before Christmas 2011. Slightly annoyingly, Australia seem to have received theirs a couple of weeks ago. Maybe that’s fair enough; it’s summer down there at the moment, and a bit chilly up here right now, so maybe that was Garmin’s thinking. Who knows. I’m just making up excuses for them now.

Keep those fingers crossed for a mid-February release date.