Thursday, April 30, 2009

SportTracks versus Ascent

200904300356.jpg 48 hours ago I couldn't have run round a goldfish bowl. I'm happy to say now that everything feels like it's back to normal and I can even walk down stairs without wincing at every step. That feels like real progress.

For as long as I have been using GPS devices to track my running (I started with the Forerunner 201 and am now on my third 305, having ditched the 405 after a single run), I have used SportTracks from ZoneFiveSoftware. It's so good I've paid for it twice. And, I even run it on a PC that sits on my desk as I haven't managed to get it to work reliably on my Mac, despite trying Parallels and Fusion. Others seem to have managed it, yet every time I've tried it, I've had trouble importing my history file, trouble getting it to reopen a logbook after exiting the application, trouble creating new logbooks and so on. So I gave up and stuck to the Vaio laptop on my desk that, once a week, would get opened, booted and used only for SportTracks.

I don't have to do that anymore. There's a new kid in town. Well, new to me. It's called Ascent, from Monte Bello software. It sells for £29, although a trial download lets you get used to it with up to 10 activities. So far, it rocks. It's as good as SportTracks - and I think that's saying something as SportTracks is really good. Ascent imported all of my old data going back to 2005 without even blinking - and even recognised the duplicates from the trial install where I'd synced it with my 305 and its most recent runs.

Here are a couple of data items from Ascent, from Sunday's London Marathon.

1) First, my pace graph. The start was very slow - it was more stop than start in fact. A bunch of guys were running out of pen 2 (runners aiming for 3:30 or better), roped together in a large square. I don't know what time they ran but I know people who ran 4:45 who passed them so I'm sure it wasn't 3:30 - but where the road narrowed early on, and there was a dense crush of people trying to get through, these guys stopped everyone in their tracks. Still, that might have been a good thing - fast starts are supposed to be bad after all. After that, I stayed pretty consisent, varying +/- 10 seconds from my target of around 5m 20s per km all the way up until about km 22. From then on, it all went wrong until km 35 when I gritted my teeth and tried to get home in at least a reasonable time


2) And then my 5km split times - it's pretty easy to see how much I slowed down from km 20 onwards - really suffering from 30-35.


Pace graphs in SportTracks are slightly clearer perhaps - but that's because it doesn't start the y-axis at zero and so the differences are accentuated. I need to figure out how to do that in Ascent or perhaps request it as an enhancement in the next version. It's quite clear from the graph below where I had to stop and walk for a bit! Looking at these two graphs more closely, along with the accompanying split data seems to show some differences in recorded times per km (some are 2 or 3 seconds, which would be accounted for by GPS smoothing and others are longer - e.g. km 28 on SportTracks is 7:58 yet is 6:27 in Ascent. I need to do some work on that.


I like this new software. It will be great not to have to boot the PC - and I'll miss SportTracks but all good things eventually get replaced. Well, nearly all.


  1. Forrest11:36 pm

    Have you tried anything along the lines of remote desktop?  Shouldn't you be able to run SportTracks on your Windows machine, but control it from your Mac?

  2. Forrest ... i guess i could do that, i'm not sure what it would do for me though? i'd have to have a PC on the desk still and plug the forerunner into it.  I'm using rubitrack now and it works fine. i recommend it.

  3. Thanks for the info - had never heard of ascent but going to try rubitrack first. Have years of polar,suunto and garmin data and would like to keep them somewhere