Polar to Garmin

Memory failed
Like me, my Polar heart rate monitor, chronometer, speedometer and sole training partner (other than my shadow, but he hasn’t been out much lately) has been struggling recently. His memory failed this week after getting a little water inside his case, and he’s never really recovered. Sorry buddy, but it’s time for a replacement.
Boxed Garmin 305Polar have gone weird since I bought this S625x many years ago. Their cheaper models are crippled so that you can’t get all your data off (but instead are only given the amount of time you spent in certain heart rate zones – useless for reviewing intervals and tempo work) and their expensive models are super expensive (and no longer competitive). They seem to have dumped their software development and keep hinting at new technologies using new standards (i.e. their stuff will only work with their stuff). Sod that, I thought. The move to Garmin gives a device with Mac software so I don’t have to keep rebooting into XP just to get my data every day, clever online software so I can upload from different machines and still get the original data out to use elsewhere, ANT+ connectivity so I can use devices from a bunch of other manufacturers, and built in GPS. Their accessories are sensibly priced too.
Img 2760The Forerunner 305 has also been around for some years now, but people have been very, very happy with their 305’s and the price is awesome for the features (around £135 on Amazon). OK, this thing is a massive chunk of plastic on my wrist, which I wasn’t too impressed with. I would have gone with the smaller 405 but I’m a little lean in the wallet after Christmas, kids’ birthdays, the exhaust falling off, tax returns, etc. Really, as a wannabe triathlete, I should have bought the Garmin 310XT – it’s the only device like this in their range that is waterproof. You can’t swim with the 305. The 310XT has a bunch of extra features that makes its price of twice that of the 305 worthwhile. I’m not going to be racing with this chunk on my arm though, so I decided I’d take the cheap option. I don’t want all this data when I’m racing but I do want it for training (as much for studying after as for during). I’ll try to pick up something cheaper and smaller for racing (time, laps, HR and waterproofing will do me).
So this thing is a chunk of tech. It’s not ugly, but it ain’t pretty. It’s light enough so that you don’t really notice it when running. Just like the iBike though, when you start using it and you see the huge range of data collected, stored and displayed you see the thing’s worth. Using GPS and tracking your route 305 lit upinstills a feeling of flexibility (maybe I’ll nip down that path & I don’t have to remember the route later, it’s all going to be collected) and confidence in its accuracy. If it can see a bunch of satellites and show you which side of the road you ran on it has got to be pretty damned accurate for pace and distance. Running with a footpod (an accelerometer that calculates pace and distance from the movements of your foot) is fairly accurate once you’ve calibrated it, as long as you run in the same shoes and don’t change surfaces too much. It puts you off exploring off-road trails if you want to collect your data somewhat obsessively like me. Running tempos or intervals downhill gave bizarre speed readings with the footpod, but I expect the GPS to be more useful here. We’ll see.
This morning’s complicated run gave it a good test, although on snow and ice I could only guess that the pacing was about right from experience. The next few months should give it a strong test though. It’s already feeling good to be able to access my data on my computer and not be forced to reboot into Windows.

Week 121: Skull, the temporal region

Anterior-Lateral Skull
This week we made it all the way up to the head. To look at the anatomy of the head, we need to start by looking at the bones. Different stations looked at different parts of the skull and teeth, and I spoke about the temporal region.
The temporal region (or as laymen may call it, your “temples”) lies superior to the zygomatic arch and within the edges of the temporalis muscle. You may see curves on the skull around the edge of the temporal fossa that correspond to the attachment of the flat temporalis muscle. There is a depression here in which a few superficial structures lie, and this is the temporal fossa.
2010-01-29--Lambda SuturesThe bones here are the parietal bone, the temporal bone (it has squamous – flattened – and petrous – lumpy/rocky – parts) and the sphenoid bone. Use the skull bone images here to see these. Note also the frontal bone and the zygomatic bone. Spend some time in the lab with a coloured skull and a detailed skull (the numbered ones are best) to be clear on the shapes of these bones.
We talked about the nature of sutures linking the bones of the skull, which are fixed in the adult and contribute to the aim of the skull to protect the brain. There are some sutures that you should be able to name and you can also see these in the skull images (here). Note also the bregma (where the coronal suture meets the sagittal suture) and the lambda (where the sagittal suture meets the lambdoid suture).
These points correspond to where the anterior and posterior fontanelles were at birth. The bones of the skull are able to slide over one another to some extent to aid passage through the birth canal, and this is known as moulding. The bones are not fixed by sutures at this time, but are linked by softer membrane-like connective tissues. After birth the anterior fontanelle is known as the soft spot and can be an important diagnostic indicator. The fontanelles also allow the bones of the skull to grow.
2010-01-29--PterionBack to the temporal region: the sutures linking the parietal, frontal, sphenoid, and temporal (squamous) bones join here to form an H-shaped group of sutures known as the pterion. This potential weakness in the skull is made weaker by a thinning of the bones here (you can often see this on real skulls in the lab, but not on plastic skulls). To make matters even worse, the middle meningeal artery runs inside the skull, deep to the pterion. A fracture here is likely to tear the middle meningeal artery, causing blood to pool between the bone and the dura mater, pressing on the brain. This is an extradural haemorrhage and can be fatal (and in fact, dural venous sinuses may also be involved).
The temporal fossa has a few superficial structures of interest passing through it. The pulse you feel in your “temples” is the pulse of the superficial temporal artery, a branch from the end of the external carotid artery. The superficial temporal vein, draining a similar area of the scalp, is nearby. The superficial nerve here is the auriculotemporal nerve. This nerve carries sensory information from this area, and is a branch of the mandibular nerve, which itself is a branch of the trigeminal nerve, also known as cranial nerve V (CN V). I have a feeling we will be meeting this nerve again in the future when we start adding more detail to our head and neck anatomy and look at the infratemporal fossa. For example, this nerve also carries parasympathetic nerve fibres from CN IX to the parotid gland (that tell it to secrete saliva).
Fun, eh? The anatomy of the head and neck can be very detailed, delicate and intricate. It’s a fascinating region anatomically, and by building up your knowledge bit by bit over the next 18 months or so you should develop a solid understanding of what’s going on in there.

RIP Polar S625x

Img 2735
I thought I’d revived the little fella with a new battery and a little TLC, but it looks like its days of partnering me when training are over. It has had a tough life.
After its last new battery a couple of years ago it misted up when swimming in Africa and has been a little dodgy every since. As a heart rate monitor, speed and distance meter, altimeter and chronometer it has been superb. It has been battered and dropped, soaked in sweat and chlorine, and used daily for 4ish years. OK, it’s getting a bit clunky and it’s not perfect or 100% accurate, and OK, Polar are failing to update their software, ignoring Mac users and creating their own standards (dodgy USB-IR and no Ant+?) but it worked hard, and it worked tirelessly.
I guess it’s time to jump to Garmin and take advantage of GPS, ANT+ and Mac-compatible software.


2010-01-14--Self Coached
I like coaching myself. I’m very motivated and obsessively read around any subject I’m interested in. I have a reasonable understanding of the human body and I’m always keen to add to that, to tie in different bits of knowledge and better understand what’s going on inside me and the other machines like me.
I also like to share in other people’s experiences, and to bounce ideas off specialists. I know where muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones are but I need a physiotherapist to explain why I have the pain and how I might fix myself.
But I don’t think I could spend the money and give over my planning and organisation to a coach. Self coaching can be tricky, although I think I keep it simple and that simple can work. There are many ways to train, but just because it’s more complex it doesn’t mean that it’s better or more effective. A specific goal and an organised way of preparing for it seems to work quite well. Routine is good, but it’s also good to change things around and to look forward to that change. Knowing yourself must be an important part of self-coaching, as must be confidence.
This year a plan to be competitive at triathlon has made last year’s running preparation look incredibly simple. It’s great to not have to run every day (my calcaneal tendons are thanking me for that) and spending more time in the pool is really helping my swimming. Time on the bike feels like playtime. The organisation of this is very interesting, and as I try to lay out my training plans for the next 2 months, 5 months and beyond I encounter quite different methodologies, thinking, and styles. Of course many of them conflict.
Picking your way, choosing your methods, testing them on yourself and feeling or measuring the changes that slowly develop with time and sweat can be as rewarding as the race itself. Developing knowledge of your body, your physiology, your anatomy, yourself rather than just knowledge of the sport, the equipment, the techniques, and the numbers feels fuller and a prize in itself.
This year I plan to separate my training thoughts. How do I get fast at running? How do I get fast at time trialling on the bike? How do I swim efficiently and fast? The first two I have experience of, but the third less so. The fourth part will ask, how do I combine and link these effectively on race day? By splitting these up my planning gets simpler, and by planning to combine and combining the sports in training it livens things up and I should feel prepared, ready and experienced on race day.
Well, that’s the plan. When the season is over I’ll have a good idea of what worked, and what to work on for 2011. Fun!

LEGO Universe

2010-01-13--Lego Universe
Could LEGO Universe be the nail in the coffin for my WoW gaming? I hope I won’t have to pay out for two accounts (one for me, one for Jack) to play LEGO’s new, MMO game this summer, but I have a feeling that I will.
It’s likely that Jack will go nuts for this. I wonder if his friends will also get involved and they’ll all be playing together online. My generation didn’t do this until we got to university age & had left home. It’s likely that LEGO will get this working perfectly for kids, but I wonder if it will have serious pull for adults. Will it feel to childish? Or will parents want to play it so that we can play more with our children, playing games that they want to play? I look forward to finding out.
2010-01-13--Lego Universe Screenshot
LEGO Universe
Gizmodo – LEGO Universe


2010-01-03--Cycling In Snow
2010 has kicked off. I asked Jack whether I should continue cycling, running, swimming and racing or just take it easy, eat biscuits and play more computer games. He pondered very briefly before confirming that I should keep doing what I’m doing. I think I was looking for an out.
I asked him why he felt this. He didn’t know. But he was very insistent.