Monday, May 12, 2014

Bupa London 10,000 Week 7 / 9

After last weeks hiccough (cough being the operative word), I am back. I can't remember the last time I had 3 whole consecutive days off but, needless to say, my usual 40' run at 4:00 felt like a breeze in spite of the lingering cough. The idea is to give it a final blast out of my lungs now that it is on the way out at last. I did the run on my brand new treadmill, but getting it to work was nowhere near as easy as it should have been...

I rang Decathlon - from where I had bought the treadmill (a Nordictrack T20.0 for 1,700 € which was about 300 € less than other places were charging) - and they said that, as the treadmill had already been delivered and assembled, the delivery guys were not covered by the insurance to go back and finish off what they had started, thus passing the buck to the post-sales service department. I rang the service number (which is either entirely populated by Romanians as far as I could tell or indeed physically located in Romania). I have nothing against Romanians, of course, but compared to the people who serviced my last treadmill (out of the guarantee period) who were based near to my house, the chances of getting a technician to visit are much slimmer. To my surprise they basically told me that I had to fix it myself by referring to page 26 of the manual: as it was described in the "troubleshooting" section, it was considered to be part of the everyday maintenance and as such would not void the warranty!

This turned out to be a great deal more fiddly (and slightly dangerous) a task than I think is reasonable to expect a retail customer to perform. Getting the hood off the motor was reasonably straightforward (although it was a bugger to put it back on again, as the screws kept falling into the hood, meaning I had to keep taking it off again). The speed sensor is a little reed switch which is activated by a tiny rotating magnet on the roller which drives the belt. If the reed switch is too far away from the magnet, then (obviously) no speed is measured; if it is too close, then the speed measurement is erratic, which is what I had been seeing. Strictly speaking, this adjustment should be done with the power cord unplugged as it is quite possible to get an electric shock or a burn with the hood off, but the correct positioning of the reed switch was so utterly sensitive that the only way to do it was while the belt was running and someone else was reading the display. Anyway, once I had found the sweet spot, the good news was that I was able to check the programmed speed against its measured speed against my estimation based on counting the number of revolutions of the 315 cm long belt, and found very good agreement between all three. Not only that but, unlike my previous treadmill, the top speed of 22 kph was achieved so I no longer need to add extra speed to compensate for a slow running treadmill. Having said that, I would have expected a slightly more robust measurement system for the price.

Anyway, the moral of the story for anyone thinking of investing in a home treadmill is to not let the guys who install it leave until you have run the calibration function (hold "stop" and "increase speed" while you insert the key) and tested all the features. Unless, of course, you are brave enough or experienced enough to put it together yourself (Decathlon only charged me 15 € for this and 15 € to dispose of the old one, which I think is a bargain). Mine still has a problem with the hand sensors which mean that it constantly displays an erratic heart rate, even if I wear the Polar heart rate band that came with the machine. I expect I'll have to fiddle about with the console but in the meantime I am seeing whether I can get my revenge by forcing the customer service to send me a technician: unlike the the problem with the speed sensor, this one isn't mentioned in the troubleshooting section!

Anyway, the great news for me is that I can now do all of my training at home if I so desire, now that I have a treadmill that goes fast enough. So when it came to my vVO2Max session, my chesty cold was still just there enough to take the edge off my performance and I struggled a little at lunchtime to do just 2 of the 5 three minute sets (now at 19,6 kph). I decided to do the last three in the comfort of my own home, with my three(!) fans (one is built in to the treadmill) all on full throttle. This proved to be a good choice because my cough was slightly better by that point and I found it just the right amount of "challenging" to finish the workout. It's not the same to break the workout in the middle, but I learnt enough to know that I can manage to complete it at that speed and perhaps even nudge it up again a little next week.

I also got an iFit module for the treadmill which, in spite of very negative reviews lingering on the internet from a time when it didn't work very well, I got it up and running with absolutely no problems at all. This little device allows you to program workouts based on speed or distance and have them downloaded to your machine. It also logs any runs you do, complete with heart rate information and any manual changes of incline or speed. But the coolest (if not a bit gimmicky) thing is that you can design a route on Google Maps and the treadmill will automatically adjust the incline in real time to match the terrain, all the while showing you stills from Google Street View: I can now run around New York from the comfort of my own home (which is exactly what I did on Friday). OK, its not quite that good, but the time did pass surprisingly quickly and it could be useful for getting an idea of the Behobia - San Sebastian course, which is quite hilly, when I start preparing for that after the summer. The only problem is that, for some reason, the treadmill limits the speed when the incline is negative ("decine"?) - I suppose this is a "safety" feature but it is a bit of a shame because I was hoping to do over-speed sessions by running on a slight downward gradient at 22 kph, for example. I set my wife up for a run around Bali, where we are going for our summer holidays, but unfortunately Google Street View hadn't got there yet so she got a rather boring blank screen, and I set it up a little badly, so that the treadmill stopped very abruptly when she got to the end of the route, giving her a bit of a shock. I've also used it to program my "fartlek" sessions, like the one I did on Thursday evening. I quite like being able to program the whole week in advance so that I don't even have to consult my training plan - I just get on the machine and it automatically downloads the workout of the day. This is not going to help me break my treadmill habit! The only downside is that it is a subscription service (the first year comes free with the module). I guess I will have got bored of it by the time it comes to renewing but, in the meantime, I have downloaded the top Marathon courses from around the world...

Monday: 40' @ 4:00
Tuesday: 2 x (3' @ 3:04, 3' @ 6:00) (lunch), 3 x (3' @ 3:04, 3' @ 6:00) (evening)
Wednesday: 40' @ 4:00
Thursday: 2 x 200-600-1,000 + 200-600 w/ 200 @ 3:00, 600 @ 3:10, 1,000 @ 3:40 and 3' rest between sets
Friday: 43' @ 4:00 with some hills (virtual NY!)
Saturday: 1K+3K+2K+3K+1K @ 3:25 w/ 1' jog
Sunday: 40' @ 4:00

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