Get the Best from your GPS

Tips for using your GPS watch to help with navigation.

Whilst teaching navigation skills to runners I often notice that they wear an “all singing” GPS watch but rarely use the functions to get the most out of it.  Here are a few of the features that I use that you might want to consider.  (I use the Garmin Forerunner 305 and 910XT but the following is relevant to most GPS Devices)

  • Go Metric

The Ordnance Survey or Harvey’s map that you are using has gridlines every kilometre and contour lines showing height above sea level measured in metres (unless you’re using your Grandad’s old 1 inch to the mile map which you shouldn’t be!)  So set your watch to kilometres and metres rather than miles and feet.  If you’re a runner who likes to know your min per mile pace you can always change it back for the road but a wild, wet & windy hillside is no place to be trying to convert miles to kilometres to work out how far you’ve covered on the map.

O.S. map; distance in kilometres height in metres

O.S. map; grid squares in kilometres height in metres

  • Read the Elevation

Lots of people like to look at how much climb they’ve done on a run.  This is interesting but you can also use the elevation feature to show your current height.  This is useful for working out your position on a hillside or knowing how far is left to the top of a climb.  Again this should be metric to match the contours on the map.

  • Know Your Pace

It pays to get to know how fast you cover various different types of terrain.  I set my watch to show how long it takes me to cover a kilometre (rather than kilometres per hour)  Over time I have come to know that I cover 1 kilometre in around 5 minutes on even ground.  This is invaluable for working out how far you have covered and so pinpointing your position on the map.

  • What’s the Time

By knowing how long you have been running you should be able to make a rough calculation of how far you’ve gone, especially if you know your pace (see above)

  • Add a Lap

Your watch should have a lap function, useful for recording your 400m splits in training but also very good for navigating.  If you are leaving a known feature such as a summit or stream crossing, press the lap button, then later when you need to identify your location you will know how far past the last feature you have gone.  As long as you’ve not been running round in circles this will give you a good idea of where you are on the map. (you need to know which direction you’ve been running in for this to work!)

  • Multiple Display

Some watches allow you to display several pieces of information on the same screen rather than having to scroll through (the ungainly 305 excels here allowing 4 bits of data per screen and scrolling through 3 screens so 12 bits of info at your fingertips!)  I prefer Pace, Elevation, Lap Time and Lap Distance on my main screen with Total Time, Total Distance, Heart Rate and Average Pace on screen 2.

4 bits of data per screen

4 bits of data per screen

The picture shows that I am running at a pace of 4 mins 27 seconds per kilometre, am at an altitude of 350 metres, and am 18 mins 33 seconds and 2.37 kilometres past the point where I last pressed the lap button.

  • Be a Map Geek

Your GPS will allow you to download your run data onto map software such as Anquet or Memory Map or onto Google Earth.  I spend hours after my runs with a glass of sarsaparilla (or similar) poring over the map to see exactly where I’ve been.  The extract below shows one such adventure into the less visited parts of the Peak District.

Anquet software

Anquet software

As with any skill the key is to practise.  These tips are just a suggestion to help you improve your navigation knowledge and you should learn to navigate without relying on GPS.  Always take a map & compass; batteries run out, watches break and remember that in navigation events GPS devices are not allowed!

So dig out the instruction manual to your fancy GPS, (spend half the day learning to reset it!)  get a map & compass, then get out, practise and explore – you’ve got nothing to lose but yourself!

For more information on navigation training visit:
https://fellrunningguide.co.uk/navigation-training/

fell running guide

 

Keep the snow out of your shoes

Inov-8 Debris Sock Review

I recently won a pair of Inov-8 Debris Socks.  Designed to keep grit and stones from getting into your shoes I promptly put them to the back of the drawer thinking they’d come in handy next summer.

snow wading

shoes full of snow!

However during last month’s running when I yet again ended up with shoes full of snow I remembered that I had them and wondered if they’d work in snow.

The socks are basically just that; nice, comfortable Coolmax sock but with an extra bit of sock that folds down over the laces of your shoes and hooks onto the lace with a metal hook – just as with normal gaiters.  I wore them over a pair of thin wool socks and pulled them up over the bottom of my leggings – this was mainly so they could be seen on the photos, I would normally wear the leggings over the top.

They have 2 thin plastic hoops that act as stirrups, going under the shoe to prevent the socks from riding up.

inov8 debris sock

hooked onto the laces

inov8 debris sock

securely attached with stirrups

Using the socks with a pair of Inov-8 Mudclaws, the lugs gave a secure grip for the stirrups and I experimented with several different positions (under heel, under instep etc.) all of which seemed to work.

So, how did I get on?  Well basically they did what I wanted them to do which was preventing snow getting into the gap between shoe and foot.

inov8 debris sock

effectively keeping snow out

inov8 debris sock

no snow in my shoes!

 

Running through deep snow lead to snow building up on the sock material  but not getting behind the tongue or into the shoe itself.

As with any wool mix sock they are not waterproof and my feet did eventually become damp, although not cold.

Another advantage was that they prevented the laces from freezing up which made untying them at the end of the run easier than normal.

The one thing I did find was that they were fiddly to get off with cold hands after the run.  My fingers were too cold to pull the stirrups off and I found that taking them off whilst they were still attached to the shoe was the best method.

I have since used the Debris Socks on all runs where I have anticipated deep snow and I’m glad that I discovered them.  I’m now looking forward to using them on dry, dusty summer runs!

Kahtoola Microspikes for Running on Ice

Icy conditions have made fell running training a little difficult recently.

Although deep snow is difficult to run through it is actually great for training.  You have to work harder as the snow provides resistance to your forwards movement, you have to lift your knees higher and so bring into play muscles that you don’t normally use and if you do fall over (which is inevitable) you usually end up with a soft landing.

The problems start when conditions underfoot are icy such as when the snow melts during the day then refreezes at night or where it gets compressed into a hard, frozen layer.  I have been asked by several people recently how I continue training when it gets icy.

One way is to use Micro-spikes.  I use Kahtoola. These are basically scaled down walking crampons that simply attach to your shoe and are held in place by stretchy rubber. They can be put on in around 10 seconds per foot and taken off in a fraction of that.  Reasonably small and light I simply carry them in my bum bag or rucksack and put them on when needed.

I find them a really great piece of kit which allow me to keep training on terrain that might otherwise be too difficult to run on.

The video shows you how easy they are to use:

To book a Peak District guided run, coaching or navigation training session visit:

logo www coaching

Snow Blows

Fell running in the Peak District isn’t always about blue skies & sunshine.

Today the wind howled, snow blew horizontally and the world was reduced to cold shades of grey.
cold shades of grey
This was no day to be out on the high fells, even at low level the wind’s icy fingers found their way through the smallest chink in my armour of windproof clothing, feeling for, finding then chilling any exposed skin.
Facing the wind, big damp gobs of snow numbed my face and drove into my eyes.  
Last week I learned a hard lesson when in even worse conditions on a remote hillside I had wished for my ski goggles lying unused back home.  Today I had anticipated the worst and packed them and it didn’t take long, running semi blind into the fusillade, before I stopped to put them on.
eye protection
Other than the blowing wind, running conditions weren’t too bad. It seemed that my route, exposed as it was, wasn’t producing those horrible, energy sapping drifts where you disappear up to your knees (and beyond), rather it was scouring the ground leaving a thin compacted layer. I had chosen a short tour of Burbage, using the snow covered Ringinglow road for the last 2 kilometres.  Here the few vehicles that had passed had compacted the snow into a thin icy layer and I stopped to don microspikes over my Mudclaws.
microspikes
Once down towards Lady Canning’s plantation the trees afforded some protection although large flakes still sped horizontally past – whirling away in their own mad dash, racing each other into oblivion – as I ran down the road.
blowing snow
The video shows a short section of the run:

To book a Peak District guided run or navigation training visit www.fellrunningguide.co.uk

What’s in the Bag?

Winter conditions can be fantastic for fell running in the Peak District.

But with cold winds and snow & ice on the hills, the remote fells can be inhospitable places, surely not the best place to run? However with a little skill and knowledge and some sensible precautions there really is no reason not to continue training on the fells and enjoy some fantastic winter landscapes.

winter fell running
Winter fell running

Here I talk you through some of the extra things I take with me on a remote winter run.  These are in addition to hat, gloves, wind/waterproofs and food for the run.

Hope this helps you stay safe on the hills.  Happy running!

fell running guide

Another pair of running shoes?

I own 9 pairs of running shoes. 

I had to search the house in order to count them all but there are 4 on the shoe shelf, 2 drying in the kitchen, 2 by the front door and today’s pair are outside the back door waiting to be cleaned.
If you could see where I ran you’d know why these are banned from the house until they’ve been in the bucket!

No Country for New Shoes

Plus I’ve just thrown 2 pairs away, coerced into doing so by my good lady despite my protestations that they hadn’t done 1000 miles yet.

8 of these are trail / fell shoes (yes I have one pair of road running shoes for my very rare runs from home)

You know you’re a fell runner when your Mrs questions why you need another pair of trainers, so how do I justify this seemingly Imeldian compulsion to keep Pete Bland Sport in business?

There are lots of factors to consider when convincing yourself that you need another pair of running shoes.

There’s terrain: Is it trail or fell? grass, bracken, heather or bog? Is it rocky, scree or a mix?
There’s weather: Is it wet, dry or somewhere in between?
There’s angle of slope: Is it steep, gentle or flat?
There’s type of run: Is it a race or a training run? Is it long, medium or short?
Then there’s the condition of your existing shoes: how much tread is left on them? Are your socks showing through the uppers? (Remember that shoes that are no longer suitable for racing, hard training, etc. don’t need to be thrown away – they’ll always come in useful for.. er.. something)
Then there’s the vouchers that you’ve been saving and need to be spent now before the prices go up again.

So what are all my shoes and what do I use them for?

My collection

Roclite 285 – for training when it’s not so boggy that I need Mudclaws but there’s wet rock.

New Balance 101 – for training when it’s boggy but no wet rock cos they’re useless on it.
X Talons – old, worn studs, my main race shoe if it’s not too muddy (wish I’d written this before the FRA Relays cos I wore them and it was muddy and they were useless)
X Talons – new, unused, saving them for best. (wish I’d taken them to FRA Relays but didn’t want to get them muddy)
Mudclaw 300 – nearly new, for winter racing and boggy training. Bought at the FRA Relays after I’d raced and realised I needed some decent studs.
Asics Gel something or other – 6 years old, were my summer trail race shoes for a couple of years and don’t want to throw them away. Occasionally wear them to run up through the park.
New Balance something or other – road shoes, 4 years old, good as new.
Terroc 330 – knackered, have been worn for work, the pub, shopping and once when I forgot my X Talons for a horrible, wet, slippy race. Almost threw them away when I bought a new pair but thought better of it. (they’re like a favourite pair of slippers) Now retired to gardening, (and going shopping if she doesn’t notice)
Terroc 330 – brand new, bought to replace my old pair for when I thought I was going to throw them away but didn’t. Wore them to go to a race but got them muddy in the car park so now wear my old pair. Will wear them for work, the pub (and shopping if I get caught trying to sneak out in my old pair)
So there it is, a definitive guide to one man’s shoes and what they’re for.  Not a mention of colour coordination, no “do they match my top?” just a review based on function alone.
Next time bumbags & rucksacks, that’s another story!

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