Using Garmin and Virtual Training Partner

I’d planned to go for a ride on my own yesterday anbd as i’d been singing the praises of my Garmin Forerunner 305 and some of the features on it I thought I should put the Virtual Training Partner feature to the test.

I hadn’t used this particular feature before which allows you to record a particular course and then race yourself around the course next time you do it. Whilst doing so the Garmin Forerunner will tell you how far you have to go to the end, how far ahead or behind your time you are, as well as all of the normal readings such as speed, time, distance, heart rate etc etc.

I headed off to ClimachX with my Mountain Bike and started my first lap of the Trail. The weather was perfect, still quite cool as it was early in the morning, but gorgeously sunny. The trails were still wet though. I didn’t go too hard as I was intending to go around a second time, but I was feeling good and did keep up a nice steady pace that wasn’t too shabby. My first lap was completed in a time of 58 mins 22 seconds, which isn’t bad for me and probably only the second time I’ve been under the hour (My best ever until this point was 56 mins 58 seconds).

I had rest in the car park for a while which gave me time to save the route I’d just done as a ‘Course’ which I could then use to compare against my next attempt at the trail. I got chatting to Ian as well and we decided to head off around the course again. I pressed the ‘Do Course’ button and off we went.

I’m never too good at getting going again once I’ve stopped and halfway up the first climb my Garmin was showing me that I was 100 feet behind my previous attempt. By the time I’d got to the top of the hill though I was 100 feet ahead and that’s when the challenge started. It’s really good, because once you’re ahead you just don’t want to drop back behind your virtual training partner so it provides a really good incentive to keep pushing a little harder. I was winning so there was no time to stop!

After the first two bits of singletrack I was up to around 300 feet ahead, and then by the halfway point I was around 0.15 miles ahead. My legs were beginning to feel it now though but I only had 4 miles or so left to go so had to keep pushing on. Just before the last singletrack climb I was just over .3 miles ahead, but this dropped back down to about 0.15 miles ahead at the top of the final descent. Only one thing for it, I was going to have to go for it on the descent. It worked, at the bottom I was still ahead and I even went hard down the last bit of fire0road and into the car park.

Stopped the watch and I’d beaten my Virtual Training Partner by 0.45 miles.. I was the winner! My actual time was 56 mins 17 seconds as well which was a record for me.

All in all it is a great training feature. I need to tweak what I can see on the screen at a glance as I’d like to be able to see the distance to the end, the time that I’m ahead or behind, my heart rate and total time but the screens are customisable so that should be easy to do. I also don’t think I’d use it if I was dropping too far behind myself. It’s all well and good to use it as a tool to motivate yourself, but if you’re having a bad day and are being beaten by your virtual training partner then it will only make you feel worse. At least, that’s the case for me. Other people well well find the opposite is true but I tend to try harder when I’m going well and just give up a bit if I’ve no chance of winning! Probably not quite the right attitude but its just the way I am.

If you have Garmin Forerunner or one of their other devices with a Virtual Training Partner feature, give it a go.

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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