Saturday, February 24, 2007

"Body" -> SportsTrack For Running

A quick update to my last post on GPS running. If you are somebody that works out, one of the coolest gadgets that you can buy is a Garmin Forerunner. With this you can upload your runs and see them on maps (click the picture for a bigger view of my 3 mile loop. One of the new software packages is out for this is SportTracks.

Garmin also has a package that does very similar functions in their Motionbased company. Motionbased really is the best of possible worlds because it has the following attributes:

1. The best possible mapping
2. Nice elevation feature that helps determine the "true" elevation gained and/or lost.
3. The ability to load your workouts to the web so that you can pull them up at anytime and see them. You can even give them to others to see.

However, there are disadvantages of this package and Garmin's own software:

1. The Garmin software always has a background program running. I absolutely hate this. The idea that my computer needs one more background daemon is just crazy.

2. The very nice Motionbased software annual subscriptions are $50.

Now Motionbased does have a "upload 10 runs" free version. I would suggest trying it, but it really is more of an occasional thing to do rather than a true log book.

If you want a log book, this is is where SportsTrack comes in. The suggested donation is $20 as a minimum(, and this is what I gave). For $20, it is great little piece of software. The ease of plugging in your runs is very easy. You hook up your GPS (normally a Garmin Forerunner, which you can use running), and the data is downloaded to the package.

The data then shows up in a variety of different ways that you can select. You can pick satellite pictures like the photo above. You can pick road pictures. You can pick elevation map (although not quite as accurate as Motionbased.)

One of the best things about the package is the great little log book that goes along with it. You can click on the picture to see how the week has gone for me in running so far.

It also gives me a history of my mile splits and average for the entire run. You don't have to guess how fast you ran. You can see the speed of every run that you do, and you can track them over time.

Now if the package ended there, it would be pretty cool. But combined with Google earth, we have a great combo. In SportTracks, we have an export to Google earth.

If you don't have Google Earth, you are missing one of the best earth software packages ever conceived. And it is free. Google Earth is a virtual earth, in which you can fly around and see the various landscapes. In my example case, we can import the data into Google earth and it shows up as a green line. (See the map next door.)

On this route, I did six miles with my wife. I tilted the map so you can see Saddleback mountain in the distance. Now if you look at the sunset header of my blog, you will see a mountain. This is a picture of Saddleback that I took on my bicycle as I pedaled home one night. Saddleback dominates our local area, and it just cool to have it on my map and on my blog.

I can also select to put a marker on each mile mark. You can see the marks in red. Since the map is at an angle, as the miles get farther away, the printing gets smaller.

Highly recommended.

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