Garmin Fenix 6X, a mixed bag

So Garmin is having a big spring sale, so I decided to treat myself to a Garmin Fenix 6X Sapphire. It has some amazing features – too many to list here. I had it in my head that I might be able to use it instead of my Forerunner 920XT, but I might have to hold on to the 920. At first I was thinking it would be a good replacement because the screen is big and clear. But I’ve paddled with it twice, and it has a really annoying bug.

When you’re paddling, every time you paddle under a bridge or too near a concrete wall, the watch would lose GPS satellite signal. Every previous watch I’ve had (Forerunners 301, 320, 910Xt, 920Xt) would show a slow speed for a little bit, then it would show a high speed for a little bit, then would settle down and show the correct speed again. Not this guy – instead it shows a blank screen for a short time, and then it shows some crazy impossible speed. Today at one point it was showing 886,844 km/hr. That’s 30 times as fast as the International Space Station in orbit, by the way. If I really hit that on the canal, I’d probably evaporate all the water from Buffalo to Albany.

The worst thing about these huge spikes is that it makes my speed graph unusable. Two days ago I paddled with the 920XT on my boat and the Fenix on my wrist. This is what my speed graph looks like from the 920XT.

Forerunner 920Xt speed graph

And this is what it looks like from the Fenix.

Fenix speed graph

Useless.

Now I remember from reviews on DC Rainmaker that the Forerunner 945 had some accuracy issues because they’d switched to a Sony GPS chipset to improve battery life. I assume that’s what the difference is here as well. Hopefully there will be a firmware update to fix this.

Interestingly, it appears that Strava has done some sort of smoothing, because my speed graph looks normal on it, with a max speed of 13.7 km/hr instead of 888,000.

Whoop Strap, I hardly knew ye.

I got a Whoop strap because I’m an analytical kind of guy and I want to make sure I’m doing the best training I can. I got it kind of late in the season last year, so I was in race mode for a couple of weeks then I was in “just maintain fitness and hope I don’t get sick this winter and blow it all” mode.

I was very disappointed when I first got it, because in the first week I mowed my grass and discovered it thought my heart rate was higher than the highest I’ve ever seen in any workout, race or stress test. I think it was picking up vibration from the mower and measuring about 100 bpm higher than reality. After using it for paddle workouts and races and comparing to what my Wahoo TIKR measures, it was reading about 20 bpm too high, probably due to the impact of my paddle catch. Whoop suggested I try (i.e. buy) their bicep band, which seems to have solved the problem.

But even with that strap change, I would come off 5 straight days of training and take a rest day, and wake up on race day and it would telling me I was in the red or yellow zone for recovery, which is demotivating. Then I’ve have a really good race in spite of what it said. The next day I’d wake up tired and sore and barely able to walk, and it would say I was 86% recovered and I should do a hard workout. So it’s not exactly providing me with useful information. I was hoping that now that it’s spring and I’m going to start being in “train like hell because the season starts in 2 months” that it would start giving better data.

There are design details of the Whoop strap that I absolutely love and others I completely, 100% hate hate hate. On the love side, I like the way you recharge it without having to take it off by having a recharging battery that sort of clamps on top of the strap for an hour or two and it’s recharged. On the hate hate hate side, the biggest problem is the strap. They only anchor it on one end and it’s supposed to be held in place by these two very shallow vanes that do practically nothing. It was bad enough on the wrist strap, but on the bicep band where your bicep changes diameter every time your move your arm it’s utterly useless. I end up constantly fiddling with it. It seems like hardly a minute goes by without looking down and seeing the green lights because it’s slipped sideways under the band and it’s not pressing the lights into your muscle.

Ironically, the only time it doesn’t slip sideways under the strap is when you’ve got the recharging battery clamped on top because the battery clamps over the strap. I asked a friend with a 3-d printer if he could make something that like just the clamp part of the battery so I could wear that all the time, but it has springy metal to hold it on. I’ve also tried scotch tape and duct tape to hold the loose end of the strap down. Doesn’t work well.

So anyway, I can’t currently find the battery. Whoop wants a ton of money for a replacement ($50 plus shipping), and frankly if the battery doesn’t show up in a day or two I’m going to take the strap off and leave it off, because it’s just not working out for me and I’m not going to throw good money after bad.

Tentative 2020 Race Schedule

NYPRA still hasn’t just released their list of points races, so I’m guessing a lot on which races are points races and which aren’t.

  • April 9 Round the Mountain
  • June 13-14 Madrid Canoe Regatta
  • June 20 Armond Bassett
  • June 27 Tupper Lake 8 Miler
  • July 11 Electric City Regatta
  • July 12 Barge Chaser (I meant to do this last year but I got sick)
  • July 26 BluMouLA-FuFuRa
  • Aug 15-16 USCA Nationals Newago, MI
  • Sep 26 Long Lake
  • Oct 13 Onondaga Cup (a Tuesday? I think they’ve got it in the calendar wrong)
  • Oct 17 Seneca Monster

I don’t think this is a complete calendar. June and July look pretty busy, but August and September look pretty bare. Maybe I’ll do L2L? Or the 90?

Trying to stay healthy

For the last 3 or 4 years, I’ve attempted to keep fit over the winter by erging, but every year I get thwarted by a cold that turns into a cough that knocks me on my ass for 4-6 weeks right. One year I got the cough for 6 weeks, cured it, started to erg again, and two weeks later I got bloody whooping cough that stopped me for another three weeks or so, and by then it was paddling season again.

Over the summer, I’ve seen a allergist and a pulmonologist. Of course, it took 6+ months to get the first appointment with each of them so I wasn’t showing any symptoms. (By the way, anybody who says that only countries with full health coverage have waiting list problems can suck it.) But the allergist did a full panel and said I’ve got mild to moderate allergies to many types of dust and pollen and mites. So we took some steps to deal with mites, putting mite covers on the mattress, pillows and duvet, and some other stuff.

But when the erging season started in earnest, I immediately noticed that every time I erged I had a cough for a couple of days afterwards. It’s an unusual cough, because it doesn’t feel like it’s in my lungs or trachea, it’s more like I’ve got un-swallowed saliva at the back of my mouth. Ok, maybe it’s not related to the yearly “cold of death”, but it’s worth taking notice of. And my suspicions are pointing very strongly to how dusty my erg room is.

What clinched that diagnosis in my mind was Saturday, when I woke with a bit of one of those weird coughs from erging a few days previous, but then I went paddling outside, and that cleared the cough up! Absolutely no coughing on Saturday until this evening. Time to get serious about dust.

So I’ve revived the HEPA filter that we used to have in the bird room but stopped using because it would clog up so quickly with cockatiel dust that we couldn’t keep up with it. It’s now upstairs in the erg room, running at full blast hopefully clearing the air. I also tossed the old box fan I used to use to cool myself because the plastic grate on one side has completely disintegrated leaving a bare fan. I grabbed another box fan out of the upstairs guest room – it’s of similar vintage, but its plastic hasn’t completely deteriorated yet. And this evening I took the completely unprecedented step of vacuuming and throwing away a ton of junk. The room hasn’t looked so good since we moved in.

I guess now we wait to see if that helps. I’ve actually got a bit of the weird cough going on from stirring up all that dust while vacuuming. But tomorrow I’ll erg and see if it turns worse of stays the same. Fingers crossed.

How to cough up a lung in the privacy of your own attic

So anybody who follows me on “athletic” social media (Strava, Garmin Connect, etc) probably knows I have a new wrinkle in my winter training on the KayakPro ergometer. I bought their new “Genesis Port” bluetooth adaptor and a subscription to Kinomap. This allows me to “race” against geo-referenced videos. Of course, the first thing I did was upload a bunch of my own race videos (https://vsuq.adj.st/userName=paul_tomblin?adjust_t=e3qslbp&adjustdeeplink=com.kinomap.training%3A%2F%2F%3FuserName%3D?paul_tomblin&adjust_redirect=https://www.kinomap.com/en/u/paul_tomblin/videos) – I figured they’re the best training because they’re the right length and speed. Grayson Bourne, the president of KayakPro (and former(?) British kayak champion) has uploaded a bunch of his own videos as well, but I didn’t want to challenge them, because he’s a LOT faster than me. Also his videos tend to be shorter than mine.

Also, another paddler who makes YouTube race videos that I follow on social media goes by either “Szechung Kayaker” or “Chris Sze”. He lives in Bishops Stortford England, and I’m intensely jealous of how much racing they do there, even if it is on narrow canals in narrow little sprint boats. I was watching one of his recent videos and it suddenly struck me that

  • He’s paddling a pink KayakPro boat
  • One of Grayson’s videos is of a pink KayakPro boat in Bishops Stortford.

Hmmm. I wonder if Grayson just used on Chris’s video? I definitely had to try that route now. It’s only 5.6km, which means it’s pretty much an all-out sprint, but I did a couple of long distance workouts this weekend, so why not?

When I’m racing against my own videos, I’m the only person whose ever done them. Which is fine, but it takes out some of the competitive aspect. This one had a lot more people on it – I think it was 9? Certainly enough to make it a huge challenge.

Right off the gun, there were two people who jumped right out front – literally 100+ meters ahead before the first kilometer was over. There was one guy who was more like 20 meters ahead, and one guy who was 20 meters or so behind. Right, I thought, my work is cut out for me – just keep between these two guys and hope they tire before I do. Very much a familiar race tactic for me, except there was no wake to ride.

Like I said, I was treating this like a sprint, so instead of the 10.6-10.8 km/hr I usually make on the erg (and I don’t think it’s calibrated, because that’s on race courses where I usually average about 10.4-10.5 km/hr), I was making 12.2 km/hr. It was hard, but I was counting down the meters to the end, as well as watching those two names and the meters distance to each one. The guy ahead moved further out, reaching somewhere around 100 meters by the turn around, while the guy behind me got closer and closer, coming within 9 meters in the same distance.

But with about 3 km to go, the guy ahead of me must have slowed down to catch his breath or stopped to have a drink, because suddenly I was ahead of him, while the guy who was behind me dropped a bit further back to about 14 meters. I fooled myself into thinking they’d both gotten tired, but I was already giving it everything I could. The only thing that thought did was prevent me from slowing down, because I really wanted to slow down. But they both got their second wind or something and both of them passed me. I contested that sprint like I battling side-by-side with Dave W at a NYMCRA points race, but both of them beat me, the one who’d been behind most of the time beating me by 1 second.

I like this idea of doing shorter, harder sessions on the erg. I’ve heard there’s a way to use Kinomap for interval training, I’ll have to look into that as well. I know I work harder in intervals if there are other people with me, so maybe this will help.