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2018 - Raid Corsica
Cobbie's Selected Race Results

Raid du Massif Central - 6 days, 562 miles, 16,300m ascent, 46 hrs Report


Aug - Dee Mile, 2000m OW swim. 29:12; 60/301. Report

July - Raid Pyrenean Report

May - Chester Tri West Coast of Scotland Cycling trip ... 300 miles in 3 days. Report


Sep - Scilly Swim Challenge, 11 miles of swimming in 5 stages Report


June - Dee Mile, 2000m OW swim. 29:33; 25/275 Very Happy Very Happy


March - Gin Pit Marathon; 3:59:26. 14/39


Became a dad Cool

Oct 2011 - Feb 2012

Travelling the world Cool
Nepal - Annapurna Circuit and Chitwan
S. E. Asia and trekking in New Zealand
South America
Trekking the 'Circuito del Dientes de Navarino'; Chilean Tierra del Fuego


Sep - AXTri - Report

June - Chester to John O'Groats cycle ride with the Tri Club; 637 miles in 9 days

2010 Races

Sep - ÷ TILL ÷; 14:19; Report

2009 Races

Nov - Pembrokeshire Coast Challenge; 78.6 miles. Day 1 - 5th in 4:39. Very Happy Day 2 - Retired with ITB injury after 15 miles Sad

Oct 4th - Sandstone Trail 'A' Race; 17 miles, 1750ft 2:19:15; 29/156

Aug 8th - Norseman 14:57; 81=/230 Report No1 & Report No2 Smile

June 28th - A Day in the Lakes HIM 5:55:18; 68/309 Report

June 17th - Dee Mile, 2000m OW swim. 29:12; 13/100 Report Very Happy

May 31st - Pontcysyllte Aqueduct Cyclosportif 107 miles, 3000+m ascent; 7:20:26

March 28th Cheshire Cat Cyclosportif 105 miles; 7:04 Report

March 21st - Chester Tri Runners vs Kayaks; Llangollen Canal 32.4 miles; 5:22 Report

2008 Races
The year I was a fat bast@rd Rolling Eyes

Atlantic Coast Challenge 78miles; About 18 hrs Report

Norseman 17:05 Report

Etape du Dales 110 miles; 8:40ish with puncture

2007 Races

Nov 17th - Penmaenmawr Fell Race (11 miles, 1500ft); 1:35:23; 50/220

Bala Olympic Tri 2:14:00; 217/773 (AG 61/203) Smile Report

Hathersage Hilly - 1:22:34; 19/169 and AG 4/43 Smile ; Report

July 11th - Dee Mile, 2000m OW swim. 23:16; 15/76 Smile

Jan 29th - Tough Guy 1:25:02; 59/3800ish finishers Very Happy Very Happy AG 5th Vet Shocked Very Happy ; Report

Jan 22nd - 4 Villages Half Marathon 86:52; 152/1570


Nov 18th - Penmaenmawr Fell Race (11 miles, 1500ft); 1:31:42; 24/237; Report Very Happy Very Happy

Oct 8th - Pentland Skyline (16.2 miles, 6,200ft); 3:30:54; 79/150; Report. Blisters Crying or Very sad

Oct 1st - Sandstone Trail ďAĒ Race (17 miles, 1750ft) 2:15:14; 14/135 3rd V40; Report Very Happy Very Happy

Sept 24th Ė South Shropshire Sprint 1:23; 28/234

July 23rd - TLD Bike Relay 5:52:38; Report

June 7th - Dee Mile, 2000m OW swim. 28:47; 24/97 Smile

June 4th - Bala Middle 4:47:39 Crying or Very sad

May 7th - Fred Whitton Challenge 112 miles, 4,150m of ascent, 8:18:52; Report

March 19th - Edale Skyline Fell Race 21.3 miles, 4,620ft; 3:48:25, 100/260

Jan 29th - Tough Guy 92:55; 52/3283 finishers Very Happy Very Happy AG 6/521; Report

Jan 22nd - 4 Villages Half Marathon 85:43; 152/1655 Very Happy


Oct 30th - Snowdonia Marathon 3:54:50; 265/961

Oct 2nd - Sandstone Trail ďAĒ Race (16.8 miles, 1750ft) 2:17:41; 29/111 Very Happy

Sep 18th - Bala Olympic Tri 2:20:31; 83/433 (AG 17/100) Very Happy

Sep 10th - Helvellyn Tri 4:17:38; 43/331
Report Very Happy Very Happy

July 24th - The Longest Day 11:00:25; 40/150

June 5th - Bala Middle 4:39:54; 92/318 (AG 25/87)
Very Happy

Mar 15th - Wuthering Hike [31 miles 4400 ft] 5:35 Smile

Jan 29th - Tough Guy 93:49; 161/3,500 Very Happy

Jan 22nd - 4 Villages half marathon 90:39; 256/1504

Survival of the Shawangunks - 5:29:45 35/120 Very Happy
Wolverhampton Oly 2:19:50 Very Happy

The year of illness and poor motivation Crying or Very sad
Powerman UK 3:47

HIM Llanberis 5:09:40 Very Happy Very Happy

HIM Llanberis 5:38 Cool Cool
All about Cobbie

Joined: 02 Aug 2005
Location: Chester
Occupation: Consultant
Interests: Red wine and cakes

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How Fitbit helped me get fitter
Wed Nov 23, 2016 4:51 pm Cobbie
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As I was getting heavier last year and feeling no motivation for exercise, I did wonder whether Iíd reached the end of my sporting life. I was getting up at 6 to get to work, spending time with Lynn and Henry when I got home, after which I was just too tired to train most of the time. The swimming I did and the occasional turbo were mostly out of duty and nowhere near enough. It was a worrying thought so I hunted around for something that might snap me out of my malaise.
Having been working with Bupa for over a year at this time, I was used to seeing people wearing Fitbits and I had a couple of marketing types prod me about getting one. As Christmas drew near, I had a look at the range and put one on the list, without any real sense of excitement. As it was, the Fitbit proved to be a catalyst to a great sporting 2016.

Iíve not looked around for reviews or articles like the one Iím going to write so I donít know if this is already common knowledge. The reason for writing is to put my own feelings and thoughts down on paper. In other words, this is for my benefit; if it helps anybody else then thatís great but this is largely an introspective blog.

What is a Fitbit
I suppose I had better assume that this requires a brief commentary. Fitbits are one of a growing group of sports watches which focus on step counting. This particular brand have a range from basic step counting, through to GPS enabled.
The one I was given was the Charge HR, which measures steps and heart rate, using a light to measure capillary expansion as heart rate increases. As with other devices, it uses this data to calculate calories burnt, steps climbed and length of sleep. It can track exercise in a rudimentary fashion and the software provides the ability to track calories taken in.
In terms of looks, itís a simple black band with one button which activates a display. Itís well designed and fits my wrist very snugly. Each time you press the button it scrolls through the 5 key data items; steps, heart rate, floors climbed, calories burnt and HR. It also displays time and date so you can wear it as a watch. Recharging takes under an hour every 4 or 5 days; I tend to do it in the car when Iím (obviously) sitting still.
Iíve been wearing mine on my right wrist. As Iím right handed and would normally wear a watch on my left hand, it has been knocked a lot. I may change over to my left wrist at some stage and wear instead of a watch but havenít done so as yet for consistency reasons. As you can see itís pretty banged up after less than a year of use; the screen is heavily scratched and the band has delaminated below the disply.

Step Measurement
The first thing to say is that step counting is a pretty inaccurate measure and as far as I can see, all step counters are pretty poor at counting steps accurately. Doing the washing up, dancing, cycling; any activity where your arm moves suddenly in fact, adds steps to the total. Iíve heard of people using this to cheat which seems pretty pointless but thatís definitely possible. On the flip side, activities such as cycling on the turbo and gardening clock up very few steps as thereís infrequent acceleration or none at all. All my highest stepping days of 2016 have been century bike rides, each turn of the pedals counting as a step.

Floor counting is worse. Initially, I couldnít work out why a day at home gave me fewer floors climbed than a day at work. The answer was simple when I worked it out Ė at home I have a right handed flight of stairs and tend to put my hand on the bannister; this means no steady accelerations and hence little or no credit. At work, left hand stairs meant the fitbit worked as you would expect. I had a similar experience cycling. Hilly cycle routes clock up a lot of floors climbed but my day on the Tourmalet stands out as being much lower than other days of equivalent ascent; I put this down to the fact that my EIA meant that I took it very gently and hence the acceleration on each pedal stroke was too little to be recorded as ascent.
After reading that, you might wonder why have I found it helpful? I have two answers for this Ė firstly, if you consider steps as a proxy measurement for total activity, then itís not too bad. Secondly, the HR measurement gives a reasonably accurate measure of calories burnt.

Heart Rate
The Charge HR optically senses capillary size, by measuring the relative amount of red and green on your skin. So as heart rate increases, higher blood flow is picked up by the sensor. I donít think itís great at picking up short term changes so I wouldnít recommend as a sports solution. However, Iíve had more problems with chest strap sensor accuracy than the fitbit and havenít used HR as a primary measure for sport for over 10 years as itís so unreliable. For use in calorie counting however, itís great. The only problem Iíve had is low HR on the turbo which turned out to be caused by the fan blowing cold air onto my wrist Ö doh!
Within a month, Iíd realised that calories burnt is the key metric to follow; this does pick up non accelerating activities (classed as Ďworkoutsí by the software).
I spent a little time correlating calories burnt against power meter data and was pleasantly surprised at how close they were. I deliberately didnít pursue further as there are so many other factors affecting calories burnt on the bike but thereís a clear correlation between the two.

Other ďMeasurementsĒ
The sleep measurement isnít something Iíve paid regular attention to, I guess it combines lack of steps and low heart rate to decide. Iíve certainly seen times where Iíve woken early and lain quietly in bed where the device has classed me as being asleep Ö however, given it has no intelligence, this is probably what youíd expect. Overall though, it does seem to be roughly correct and does pick up on Ďrestlessí sleep pretty well. I have used the data to identify that 7 hours seems like a good amount of sleep for me (simple qualitative review of feeling no better after much longer sleep and being more tired after a week of less sleep). Here the data helped by just being proper data. Realising that Iíd never been very disciplined about bedtimes, I have made an effort to ensure that I get 7 hours and I think thatís been worthwhile.

Calorie intake you have to enter yourself. I did this for a month in February and itís hard work; very easy to miss stuff and difficult to be accurate if you cook from fresh. Thereís a decent database of food items on the App but it leans towards processed food. For example, if I cook a chicken Balti, the only processed ingredient is the Balti paste; however, the database really only covers processed ready meals, meaning that I had to add each ingredient from scratch to work out total calories which is a pain and no doubt leads to other errors unless every item is meticulously weighed.
It was helpful to learn roughly how calorie dense various things are, not something Iíve ever done before and I have slightly modified my eating habits as a result. However, now that I know roughly how much I eat, I feel itís enough to judge this against calories burnt and actual weight.

Key learnings
So, given the number of issues, erroneous data etc., why have I found the Fitbit so helpful? Basically, itís made me aware of how active or inactive I am. In the days when I was clocking up 10-15 hours of exercise a week (if not more), this wasnít of any interest. Now that Iím a busy dad, with limited time to train, it means much more.
For the first time in my life, Iím able to judge whether Iím doing enough to keep weight on an even keel. I estimate that my normal day in 2015 burnt about 2300-2500 calories. This year, my average is above 3000 calories. Apart from being generally more motivated, the Fitbit nudges me towards being more active.
At first I started walking up stairs rather than using the lift, going for a walk at lunchtime and just generally being more active. Once we got into March I started cycling again and Iíve kept that up and enjoyed it all year. I think Henry getting older and more active has also helped.
In terms of weight, I started the year at 88kg (yuk!), was about 78-79kg after the Raid Pyrenean and have settled down at about 81kg since then. 80-81kg has been my Ďsteadyí weight since my peak exercise years so thatís fine and will no doubt drop as we move into next spring and I clock up more miles on the bike as things warm up.

One last thing to point out before a few graphs. The continuous nature of the Fitbit data is quite different to what Iíd consider to be coming from a sports watch. Itís very much about life in the round rather than just sporting activity. Basically, this is not a sports watch, itís a life watch.

First up letís look at resting heart rate. You can see your HR trend over every day and a breakdown of HR zones during that time which can be pretty helpful. For example, after the first day of the Raid Pyrenean I noticed that my HR had been higher when cycling than I wanted, up above 140 bpm for over 3 hours. I think this was down to me being well rested and also the very hot weather we had that day. I made a very clear decision to be more conservative Ė looking at the data, I spent the rest of the week working between 120-140 bpm. In this instance working to HR would have helped but given that I donít, the Fitbit gave me access to data which was actually pretty useful.

Iím not entirely sure about the science behind resting HR, my take is that itís a consistent number from day to day which gives me something to use as a comparative measure. The graph shows how this dropped from around about 57bpm until March, down to roughly 52-53 bpm until late September as I got fitter. Since then itís been a bit higher as Iíve had low level autumn lurgy of one form or another for a couple of months.

You can see two very obvious peaks around my two big cycling trips. This was somewhat unexpected and I think is simply over-reaching; the impact of multiple hard days without recovery.

Hereís the calories burnt graph. You can see how closely it correlates with bike rides; of course it would be much the same with other exercise. You can see clearly how my build-up in distance is reflected in energy usage and how this has dropped off as Iíve gone back to typically two weekly rides of 30-40 and 50-60 miles. My focus has moved to maintaining effort over flatter rides and this has also dropped the total calories compared to the spring where most rides were hilly. Itís also worth pointing at the difference between now and the start of the year. Iím still having plenty of 2500-2600 calorie days, but there are also lots of days above 3500 calories. This is where cycling works really well, the longer exercise time allows for more calories to be burnt, even if the cals/hour is lower than for running. So long as I can continue to find the time amongst other commitments, I think my weight and fitness should continue to improve.
The graph for steps is very similar in profile to the calories graph, as you might expect. However, the relationship between steps and calories burnt is not that great for all the reasons Iíve mentioned.

You can see that there are fewer low days and more high days since the start of the year but the overall profile basically shows when Iíve been cycling.

Finally, to remove the noise, Iíve graphed my weekly average calories burnt. This is now pretty much the only thing Iím tracking regularly, as I aim to maintain an average of 3000 calories burnt per day.
Since the start of April Iíve been above this every week apart from four; the weeks before and after my Raid, a week at the start of October where I was pretty active but didnít get time to exercise and last week when I was ill. Pretty happy with that.

I like my Fitbit, itís been a great addition to my life and Iíll certainly continue with it into 2017. I do wonder whether the battering itís taken will cause itís demise before 2017 is out but itís not showing signs of electronic wear, just physical bumps.

Things I would suggest you think about if considering getting one:
ē Calories burnt is the important number, a step counter without it is money wasted IMHO (i.e. get one which measures HR)
ē Great for recording life outside sport
ē Recording calorific intake is time consuming and inaccurate. However, worthwhile for a period of a month or so to learn how calorific different foods are and how to make sure your calorie consumption is sensible
Almost back to being an athlete in 2016 Shocked

Fri Nov 25, 2016 5:45 pm Gus
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Hi Cobbie

Interesting read... I've wondered about these Fitbits for ages, but haven't been able to find any useful reviews (certainly by a triathlete!) that make it relevant for me. Problem solved!

Do you know how accurate the HR monitor is? Have you ever tried to compare it to the more traditional chest-strap devices we normally use and logging it against that? I've been suspicious about it's accuracy...

BLOG now updating again!
In a world where I feel so small, I can't stop thinking big...

My 15 minutes of fame

Wed Nov 30, 2016 7:39 pm Cobbie
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Hey Gus, Good to know someone read this Smile

HR compares well but only done it on the turbo. It's not that easy to read HR on the Fitbit, you have to scroll through time/date and steps so if you're running or cycling, that's pretty awkward and means you're not concentrating on where you're going.
Also, my sense is that it doesn't react quickly to transitions so assuming you can read it safely, it's really only going to help with steady state HR (although that's prpbably what you'd want I think?).

What has been good is the ability to see HR trace part way through a day - for example at a cafe stop on a bike ride, you can review HR on your phone. AS I alluded to, this helped with pacing my Raid Pyrenees once I was aware that I was pushing harder than I'd realised.

If you want, I can get a screen cap to show you, it's actually pretty good data; continuous trace with HR zones.
I've not read DCRainmaker but he might have reviewed it?????
Almost back to being an athlete in 2016 Shocked


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