The long run into the final week

The challenge is nearly over, but the tech doesn't stop

I'm approaching my final week of training, and the standard gloom is starting to set in. The feeling of 'I've not trained enough. I'm not good enough. I've let myself down in some way' just won't quit – whether that be through not getting my nutrition right, not dedicating enough time to cycling, or just not practicing my transitions enough.

After doing the full Olympic distance in training last Sunday, I realised something though: I'm not going to enjoy this. I know the point isn't to do the whole thing with a smile on your face, rather with a gritted jaw, but the swimming and cycling just feel like a slog with a slightly stiff run tacked on the end.

Compare that to the sprint triathlon I completed the other week as a warm up, and I realised I'd be much happier doing the shorter distance – so the lovely people at Human Race, organisers of the Windsor Triathlon, have let me change my race at the last minute.

There's a part of me that's gutted, as I hate the idea of shirking a challenge, but on the other hand, this may be my final triathlon, and I want to attack it with everything I've got.

(Can you tell I'm trying to hide my disappointment in myself with logic and aggression? No? Good).

My first experience of open water

Part of the reason for the decision to change disciplines was influenced by what happened last Monday. My first attempt at real open water swimming at Denham Lake in the UK (I say proper, as the cumulative 30 mins I spent in the sea on holiday was embarrassing doesn't count) was, well, an eye opener.

While the A:1 wetsuit I've been lent by 2XU helped a LOT, there are some things I've had to deal with that I didn't expect.

The thing is tighter around the neck than I'd expected, which means I've got to perform weird contortions when putting it on to grab as much neoprene back towards my throat as possible.

On the plus side, I wasn't ready for the amount of buoyancy a wetsuit can bring you – it's like sitting in an armband. It's frickin' magic, I tell you.

And the A:1 is a nice mix too – at around £200, it's reasonably priced but comes with some decent engineering to make it easier to swim in. The shoulders are really flexible, and while I can't confirm whether the 'water entrapment zones' were more effective than wetsuits without them, I seemed to be sliding nicely through the murky H2O.

One thing I didn't anticipate was how much it would rub on my neck – I looked like I've been attacked by an amorous anteater all over the back of my head and man, it hurt so much.

Open water

I'll be the one panicking about reeds that feel like human hair

Which is why I've been so glad of this column – I've been chatting to a few of you on Strava (link at the bottom if you want to get involved) and the mysterious 'Runnr X' asked me how my neck was.

Turns out this is a common problem, and I've got me some Body Glide Anti-Chafe stick winging its way through the post as we speak to alleviate the problem.

I have to admit: I hated my first experience of being in the open water. Not being able to see the bottom was horrendous – but I'm posting this just before I head back to Denham Lake again, and this time I'm going to do it properly.

Spotify Running vs RockMyRun

I've been a little disappointed this week, as I've been feverishly looking forward to the update to Spotify's app that it's been chatting about for the last few weeks.

Spotify Running was supposed to be a revolution for runners, with the top streaming app working out your ideal BPM for music based on the phone's accelerometer and then finding songs that would fit in nicely.

Turning the app on and it'll ask you to start jogging to grab your beat – when you've settled into a steady rhythm it'll play songs that match to help drive you on.

You can choose from generic defined playlists (The Chase seems the most exotic), dedicated running playlists created by DJs for this purpose which change tempo depending on your initial speed or 'Recommended For You', which draws inspiration from your playlists.

However while it works OK for a general jog, I've got three major problems with the app in its current guise.

Firstly, nobody should maintain a steady pace right from the off. Everyone needs a warm up and a great way to do that is a slow jog for five minutes or so. Which means you need to stop and start the app after the warm up is complete, which is irritating.

More worryingly, runners will start off instantly trying to hit the beat they're intending to run at for 30 minutes or so - never good.

Secondly, there's no movement of the beat during the run. You can only manually adjust the tempo as you're running, and it won't do it dynamically – which is annoying when the clearly the app is able to do so and it would be amazing if the music speed moved with your pace, which RockMyRun (an alternative music playback app for runners) does so well.

And the third element: it made me listen to Mariah Carey when I cranked the speed up to sprint. There's no excuse for that.

However, Spotify Running appearing is a good thing still, as there's a lot of potential here. I can see that the brand might not have wanted to have an app that moved the song pace up and down too much as it could become erratic, but it's still missed a trick.

Rockmyrun


But RockMyRun manages it just fine, and uses your heart rate (a much more stable measurement) to alter the tempo between five different speeds. Admittedly it has only its own mixes, but there are loads and loads of them for all different tastes – I'm still barely through exploring them.

What it does is channel that moment where a song comes on that makes you want to run faster and for longer – and then help you do that through actually pushing the beat to your own speed, entwining you with the music.

While Spotify uses your steps per minute to work out a beat – fine if you're going to be stable for the entire run, which few people are – this app goes a bit further by generating adrenaline rather than a metronomic step count to follow.

(Actually, you can use step/beat matching in RockMyRun, but it only seems to have two speeds of song in this mode: ludicrously fast or normal).

There are other apps that are promising a similar thing: Adidas Go will match music to your collection, and PaceDJ also wants to push you through real-time music matching.

The age of movement-enabled motivation is finally coming, and that's awesome.

Kickr-ing it into overdrive

And finally, I finally got a Kickr Power Trainer today from Wahoo, a turbo trainer that replaces your bike's back wheel and connects to apps to let you 'race' multiple tracks around the world, depending on your app.

It's a way to go cycling around the world without leaving your garage, which is either awesome or depressing – I'm hoping it's the former.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Phones and Tablets Editor

Gareth (Twitter, Google+) has been part of the mobile phone industry from the era of the brick to the tiny device in the pocket... and now watching them grow back up to behemothic proportions once more. He's spent five years dissecting all the top phones in the world as TechRadar's Phones and Tablets Editor, and still can't resist answering the dreaded question - "which new phone should I get?" - with 15 choices.