Garmin Badges

My first Garmin was the Edge 500 cycling computer, which I bought back in 2012. I liked the idea of only having to have one computer which I could swap over onto other bikes without any hassle. With the instructions came details of Garmin Connect, which wasn’t called that back then, and had incredibly basic mapping software. I wasn’t impressed. I was impressed with the hardware, and as soon as I knew about Strava, that was what I used for all of my rides. Subsequently, I bought a running specific watch, and then later a swim watch. The swim watch could only be uploaded to Strava via the Garmin website, however, that was the only time I used it.

Fast forward a few years, and both myself and my lovely wife Helen have next generation smart watches. To be honest, I don’t know how I managed without one for so long. Anyway, to get the full benefit of the watches you really have to use the App, uploading every activity the moment I’ve finished, as well as looking at my sleep score, body battery, etc.

Deep within the App there are a whole load of badges to tick off. Some of them are monthly challenges only worth one or two points, others are worth eight points, for example running a marathon or cycling 100 miles. Tick off enough badges and you can reach the next level. Some badges can only be completed once, others, like the marathon or 100 miles, can be ticked off a maximum of 250 times. As you can see, there are a lot of points available.

I had been using the Garmin App for many months before I knew about these badges, and therefore was only at level 3. Fortunately, I had saved many of my Garmin files, which I have started to upload to Garmin Connect, including 36 one hundred mile bike rides, moving me up to level 5. Unfortunately, I didn’t start saving my Garmin files until 2015, missing out on over 50 one hundred mile rides.

Despite this, it shouldn’t be too long before I reach level 6.

Do you ‘collect’ the Garmin badges?

Kindle Unlimited

‘You can’t just keep buying books’ my lovely wife said to me a couple of weeks ago. She does have a point, all of our bookcases are completely full with books, and I’ve still got half a dozen Jack Reacher books next to the bed which I haven’t read.

I have come up with two solutions. If I buy a new book, an old book has to be removed from a shelf and taken to a charity shop. I have also signed up for a trial with Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. It is usually £7.99 a month, but I’ve manged to find a three month free trial.

Positives – I can easily spend more than £7.99 in a month on books, and I won’t be adding to our bookshelves, or impacting the environment with deliveries etc.

Negatives – Not every book is available on Kindle Unlimited. Some of the biggest publishers are not signed up, so Stephen King or Lee Child books are not included. However, there are still almost 2 million titles that are available, which includes many of the more obscure horror or travel writers that I enjoy.

It appears to be quite easy to use. If a book is listed as part of Unlimited, you click on it and it is added to your library, although you can only have 10 books at a time, which I doubt will be a problem. Any new books added to your library are automatically synced to you device, in my case the cheapest Kindle available. It is my third Kindle in 12 years. I stood on my first one, breaking the screen, and my second one suddenly died after eight years of use. My current Kindle is touch screen, which I really didn’t like to begin with, but I’ve got used to it now.

Anyway, there are plenty more blogs out there comparing the pros and cons of Kindle Unlimited, but I will update everyone in a couple of months time.

Garmin Race Predictor

I’ve had my Garmin 945 for almost a year, and despite a few teething problems I’m incredibly happy with it. I also suspect that I’m not using half of the clever functions that it can do, although I do like to have a look at my race predictions.

My 5k prediction has always been less than 20 minutes (not by much). At the weekend I ran Penrith parkrun (read about it here) and to use an old phrase, I gave it some biscuits. I managed my third best age graded result, and my best age graded result since 2018. My heart rate was up in zone 5 for nearly all of it, with a maximum of 182bpm. My finishing time was 20:24, only a little slower than my Garmin race predictor has always stated.

But then a funny thing happened, on Sunday my predicted 5km race time was slower than I had done the day before. Currently it is at 20:19. Maybe my Garmin has analysed my performance at Penrith, coupled with my heart rate and has decided that possibly just over 20 minutes is my top speed.

Hopefully if I start doing a bit of speed work, and lose a little timber, before the end of the summer I can manage a sub 20 minute 5km. Of course, the race prediction doesn’t take into account elevation, weather, or if you’re feeling a little tired and should have rested. However, as the race predictions change on a daily basis, it is still amazingly accurate.

Following a Route

I’ve had my Garmin 945 nine months without a single problem. OK, one small problem with the charging cable not working, but I had a spare, and my lovely wife has a spare as well.

Anyway, last week work took me to London for a couple of days. I manged the Tube a couple of times and didn’t get lost once. I still haven’t used a ‘Boris’ bike as it looks far too scary. I did use the Garmin App to create a route for me starting and finishing at my hotel, and downloaded it onto my Garmin without any hassle, all good so far.

Nice and early the next morning I set off from my hotel in Tower Hill, and soon had GPS connection. However, within a few minutes of running I came across a problem. The route I was following was a nice red line. Also in red are A roads, of which there are loads in the centre of London. My 52 year old eyes don’t work as well as they used to. I’m OK out running, but trying to decipher multiple red lines on my watch was too much for me. I ended up running north for a couple of kms, running west for a bit, and then returning south towards the hotel. I could manage to see the north arrow on my watch, but beyond that it was a confusing tangle of lines.

Helen went for a long organised walk yesterday and took an old pair of cheap supermarket glasses with her, ones that she wasn’t worried about scratching or damaging. I think I need to do the same next time I’m running in London. Out on the fells I don’t have the same problem as there far fewer features. It was a minor inconvenience, and I’m still amazed that a watch can hold maps for the whole of the UK.

New Record Player

Me and my lovely wife are of that generation when the only way to listen to music at home was with a record player. I am purposefully ignoring cassette tapes as they were only used to ‘borrow’ music from friends. Anyway, over the years we’ve both lost many of our treasured albums. Either they’ve been stolen, given away, sold, lost or taken to charity shops, plus, neither of us own a record player. The end result is that our smaller record collection remained in the attic, until this last week.

It was my 52nd birthday and my amazing wife bought me (us) a record player. She also purchased a stylish record cabinet from etsy. To celebrate our new device we’ve been playing old favourites that we’ve not heard for years. Mainly Saxon for me, and Genesis or Rush for Helen. Also, the mighty Iron Maiden have a new album out, which I bought as a limited 3 disc special edition.

The record player is brilliant and the cabinet looks perfect in our front room. Senjutsu is also a magnificent album, although it will take a few listens to fully appreciate it.

Garmin 945

After a few teething troubles with my new Garmin (I’m now on my third in less than 6 months), I’ve now had 4 months without a single problem (previous issues can be read here).

First off this isn’t going to be a huge DC Rainmaker style review. Instead it is a few of my musings from having a ‘smart’ watch. I’ve used Garmin products for almost 10 years, and always plugged them into my laptop to upload to Strava. I know my old Garmin 920 had wifi and could upload to the Garmin App, but I never set this up. Anyway, that was the first big difference for me with the 945. The second big difference was wearing it all the time, including when asleep. The third difference is the battery life, which in GPS mode, judging by the battery use at the Backyard Ultra I did, will last over 24 hours.

I will be honest I don’t now how I managed without it. Sleep score, stress, body battery, steps, etc are just a few of the health and activity stats that it measures. I can also download training plans and it has maps for following routes. How can all of this be squeezed into such a small package.

I might write about some of the functions in the future, but for now I am loving my Garmin 945 and hopefully it will last as long as my Garmin 500.

Dhb Shorts – Product Review

Back in March I vowed never to buy anything from Wiggle (read about why here). That lasted 6 months, which isn’t too bad seeing as they are pretty much the only online retailer in the UK. The local bike shop has stopped selling clothing as they can’t compete with Wiggle, so when I needed some new bib shorts I bought a pair of Wiggle’s own brand, dhb.

As you can see that are nothing fancy, just a regular pair of cheap bib shorts for cycling. I went out for a 100km ride this week and while they weren’t as comfortable as Castelli, they weren’t too bad.

I also wanted a pair of running shorts. I have a pair of dhb triathlon shorts which are very comfortable, but I wanted a pair without the cycling insert, which I could easily obtain from Wiggle.

Once again nothing fancy. I did however use them for the Backyard Ultra Race, and while they are quite figure hugging shall we say, they were easily the most comfortable shorts that I’ve ever run in. You can read about my ultra here.

I will probably purchase stuff from Wiggle once again in the future, but like Amazon, they will definitely be a place of last resort.

Garmin Troubles

Back in March I wrote about how Wiggle had let us down with a new Garmin (read about it here). Once my lovely and amazing wife realised how jealous I was of her Garmin Fenix 6, she promptly went and bought me something equivalent, a Garmin 945. Apart from battery life there is hardly anything between the two watches, and I will hopefully get around to reviewing many of the features of my new watch. However, it wasn’t all plain sailing.

The first swim with my new watch killed it. Blank screen and total failure. It had to go back. Garmin didn’t send me a new one as a replacement, instead it was a refurbished one. I wasn’t completely satisfied but when I complained I was pretty much told ‘tough’. Less than a week into owning this replacement watch it was obvious that there was a serious problem with the battery. One of the selling points of these new Garmin smart watches is the long battery life. Mine was suffering from severe battery drain. I would have to charge it every day, even when I was hardly using it. Garmin agreed to replace it.

Garmin sent me details of how to return it, and UPS lost it. Eventually it turned up at Garmin HQ, and a new 945 was dispatched; brand new not refurbished. This one I am pleased to say is working fine and despite me thinking that I would never need all of the extra functions from a smart watch, I absolutely love it. As I said earlier, indepth product review and function analysis will follow.

New Shoes

A few days ago I wrote about how my old pair of trail shoes were falling apart (read about it here). I therefore decided to book an appointment at the local running shop (socially distanced and I was the only customer).

Ian, the owner, brought out three pairs for me to try, including a revamped Saucony Peregrine with much tougher uppers. I tried them all with a short run on the treadmill and despite the Peregrine feeling good I went with the pair of Asics Trabuco Max. Plenty of cushioning and plenty of grip. They also don’t look too bad. They are the pair on the left in the photo below.

I also needed a new pair of road shoes. Most of my running is done wearing road shoes so I like to have two pairs on the go at once, and as my current pair of Brooks had reached 500km it was definitely time for a back up shoe. My older pair of Brooks had done over 800km and have been relegated to walks in the park.

Ian brought out a couple of pairs of Brooks, an Asics and some New Balance. The latest version of the Brooks Adrenaline had changed slightly and didn’t feel quite right, however the Brooks Glycerin felt really good. I definitely wasn’t sold on the Asics, which is funny because for ten years they were always my go to shoe. When I tried on the New Balance 860’s they felt brilliant and as you can see from the photo they came home with me. The colour isn’t ideal but I’m not too fussed about that. It is also the first time that I have ever run in New Balance.

I’ve not run in either shoe yet, but me and my lovely wife are planning a good ten mile trail run tomorrow so it will be interesting to see how the Asics manage.

Saucony Peregrine

My go to trail running shoes for the last few years has been the Saucony Peregrine. They fit my feet well, have good tread in the wet and mud, and they aren’t too bad on harder trails or small sections of road. Unfortunately the uppers don’t last very well. My last pair managed 410km, but my current pair have fallen apart at only 350km. I do only use them when I know my route will be tough. If I’m going to be running on a good trail I often just use road shoes, so any trail shoe that I use will take a hammering.

I know that the trails around Lancashire are tough going and therefore will be very hard on any trail or fell shoe. However, at £100+ a pair I think I’m going to have a look at something else.

I read some very good reviews about North Face Vectiv Trail shoes, although I’m not keen on white. I also heard some very good things from Inov-8, possibly the Terraultra G 270. We’ll see what my local running shop can manage, and maybe 350-400km for a trail shoe in Lancashire is about right.