Thursday, January 31, 2019

UltraMarathon Navigation Planning

Our Navigation Plan

Subtitle: Arc of Attrition 2019 Navigation

Marcus and Agata need a solution to a simple to understand problem.

We have state of the Art GPS Watches that have a maximum battery life, within an activity of 18 hours.

However our Race will last upto 36 hours.

Race Navigation
The need to navigate any Race in this case a 36 hour, non stop Running Race, depends on signage.   In the best case the course is marked with signs every few hundred metres.  This makes navigation trivial:  if after a few hundred metres you don't find the next sign, you have taken a wrong turn.

Unfortunately the race we undertake has no race specific markings at all.   The instruction to "follow the Cornish Coastal Path" signage might sound simple.  However:

- Even in daylight, signs are several km apart
- In the dark it is easy to miss a sign
- Once you take the wrong direction you are basically screwed

- Garmin watches can load a .gpx route tracklog.   This is a detailed path of a previous runner.  But even this is far from foolproof.

Especially in the dark you can take a wrong turn, and as we found out in 2018, backtracking can take over 20 minutes, and do this only a few times and you will be out of the race  (missed checkpoint cutoff)

So a tracklog on its own is not typically enough to follow, especially not in hostile weather conditions when you have been running for tens of hours.

We need a better solution ...

What Doesn't Work
Your Smartphone with offline maps pre-loaded and a decent application  (e.g. Ordinance Survey) would be a far better navigational aid.

The issue is that it is not wrist based.  And, for the tens if not hundreds of times when you need to make a decision, you would need to stop, take off your gloves, take out the Smartphone, unlock it, check position.  And make sure the phone does not get wet ... It just does not work.   It can only be used for that the exceptional case where nothing else works.  And in this race every second counts, because most fail to complete the course in the time allotted.

Advances in Garmin
Starting with the Garmin Fenix 5X and now all members of the Fenix 5 Plus Family  (S, Regular and X) every watch contains a detailed basemap.

This actually makes a vitally important difference

With your track log loaded, your course is shown on top of a detailed map that already shows walking/ running paths, and geographic features.  So when you come to a decision point, perhaps a fork in the road, you should be able to see the possibilities and your .GPX route laid on top.

So now you can more easily see which way you should be going.

It actually makes all the difference in the world

Ultratrac Does not Fix the 36 hour time requirement
Garmin watches have an UltraTrac mode that decreases the GPS sensitivity, enabling gains in battery life.  Unfortunately if you turn this on you will more or less get instantly get lost.   The GPS position is accurate to about 1 minute, so when you get to one of the hundreds of turns, especially at night, you only need to go wrong once, and recovery can take not just minutes but tens of minutes.  Do this a couple of times and you are basically screwed, you will not reach the next checkpoint in time.

3 Watch Solution

Here are the lifetimes of the watches,  and lower down the Charge timings. In regular GPS mode the Fenix 5 Plus can last at best 18 hours and probably less.   It actually seems to depend most on backlight settings and if the map is being displayed  (hint, make it display for seconds on wrist motion only)

Our Cunning Plan
Marcus is running with the Garmin 935, with just a tracklog and no basemap, which I hope will last to the halfway point.  At which time we'll spend 30 minutes eating, changing clothes and critically charging my watch.

Meanwhile Agata will start the race using the Garmin Fenix 5 Plus with the detailed basemap.    When that runs out of juice she will start using the smaller Garmin Fenix 5S Plus and start

charging her Fenix 5 Plus using the 170 gram Anker 6700 mAh Power Bank.  She will do this on the fly whilst running. To fully charge should take less than 3 hours, comfortably less than the 11 hour lifetime of the Fenix 5S Plus.

In fact once the 5 Plus is re-charged, she can use it again, then  I can take the Fenix 5S Plus and use it, and put my Garmin 935 on charge.

Will It Work?
We have tested the 3 watch charge and swap scenario, but only for a few hours.   Only time will tell if it works in real life.  And that time is pretty soon.!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

BREXIT: You don't know what you've got till it's gone

Janet Jackson: Til It's Gone

With sincere apologies to both Joni Mitchell and  Janet Jackson I find I need to musically express my frustration with the latest UK Parliamentary votes of Monday January 29th.

Here are two things to do

A Keep Up with Actual Events

Read this: About the Amendments

BBC: Who Voted for What

Who voted for what (Google search)

B Relax

And Finally

WTF does the Money market this is such good news?   The pounds just gets stronger each day.  Are they smoking something?   Perhaps the same thing that our Politicians are on.

See Also
Guardian Live Commentary
The News Quiz January 26 2019

Flashing the Sonoff T1 UK Smartswitches with Tasmota

This is a follow on article from Part 1 where we discussed

The highlevel is that the Smartswitch contains an ESP8285  (aka ESP 8266 derivative) and we replace the manufacturer firmware with an Opensource alternative with higher function and security.  That is tasmota

Here are two videos where Marcus and Agata actually undertake a flashing.  So you can see our skills first hand :-)

Sonoff 1 gang Switch flash with Tasmota

Sonoff 2 gang Switch flash with Tasmota


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

UltraMarathon Lighting Choices

Arc of Attrition Light Strategy

Marcus and Agata are shortly to undertake a tough, 36 hour Ultramarathon, of which about 22 hours will be in the dark.

The problem is that our head torches can last at maximum 6 hours.

What is the solution? ...

No New Torches

We don't have the funds to go and buy the latest lamps so we are making do with our existing running lamp selection, which is at least 3 years old.   It includes 2 Petzl Nao's, a Petzl Myo, a Petzl Tikka RXP  (Actik) and a baby Petzl Tikkina.

Regrettably nobody at Petzl is sponsoring us in any way, I can just say they make good, though expensive lights.

No Crew and Weight
We are attempting the race un-aided.  This means we have no army of helpers able to popup on the course and hand us much needed refreshments, or new headtorches, or batteries.  We need to carry everything with us, with a possible equipment stop at the halfway  80 km point.

So weight is really an issue.  We can't simply pack all the headtorches that will give us a 22 hour, full beam, see in the dark experience.  

Tough gig.

Race Rules
The race rules specify each competitor must carry 2 torches each with a spare set of batteries, and a rear Red Light.  We then each have

a) A Primary Headtorch

Petzl Tikkina
b) A backup, last resort head torch, which in practise is so pathetic it can't seriously be used, except perhaps to walk to the next checkpoint and retire.  However at 80 grams and small, plus a set of replacement batteries meets the rules.

c) Red Rear Light

Weights and Game Plan
Marcus is carrying the 80 gram throw away, the 20 gram rear red light and then 

a) First Half: Petzl Nao (gen1) and 3 replacement batteries  (485 grams)
b) Second Half: Petzl Tikka (ReActik) RXP and 2 replacement battery sets (320 grams)

Each Nao headlamp will last 3 hours at ultra brightness followed by 3 hours at a lower level.  So I will get 4 x 3 = 12 hours of ultimate brightness, after which I have to get to 15 hours at the half way point on reduced intensity.

[Today you can only buy the Nao+ lamp, this uses the more powerful 18650 type battery inside and also has a red rear lamp built in.  If we could justify the replacement of our gen1 Nao then this is the lamp we would replace it with.]

On the second half, I will be tired and so swap for a slightly lighter and smaller Petzl Tikka/ReActik lamp with Alkaline spare batteries.

Agata will be carrying the 80 gram throwaway, the 20 gram rear red light and for both sections

- Petzl Myo with one set of 3 replacement batteries at 340 grams total.

At the Halfway point she will refresh the batteries in the headtorch and take a fresh set of spares.

Will it Work
Last week Marcus ran over 160 km predominantly in the dark.  We have practised running with lights at different power ranges, changing batteries in cold and hostile conditions,  putting lights on and off, inside and outside of waterproofs, and in and out of rucksacks.    Hopefully we thought of everything.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Dominant Costs

(Workstation Electricity consumption in kWh per day)

Marcus and Agata are fascinated by efficiency and economy.  In fact before during and after our move from Switzerland to England we've kept detailed records of all costs.

We now have the time to analyse what are our dominant fixed and variable costs in the UK.  By that I mean what costs form a significant total of our yearly household spend

Changing Minimums
A maxim that Marcus has always lived by is:  You must work enough to at least cover:

- Your Accommodation
- Your weekly food Shopping
- Your Heating and Electricity Costs
-  (And in 2019) your Phone/Internet/Media costs.

And so in 2019 I pose the further question, what proportion of our UK Electricity costs stem from our Computer Infrastructure.

Power Monitoring

I'd recommend the Teckin power socket as an ideal starting tool to monitor specific power consumption.   This socket can feed a gang of sockets, that could for example plug in your main computer equipment, or audio equipment, or washing machine etc.  The plug can switch the full 13 A of UK mains.  And they are only 10 GBP each from Amazon, and have an Amazon skill, so may be voice controlled via Alexa.

Sidenote:  We are in the process of converting these sockets to use a different Operating System called Tasmota.  So our monitoring strategy will change longer term, and we'll document the change when it is fully working & tested

Go Forth and Monitor

I learnt that in January I currently used 104 kW hours on my workstation computer and that the steady state load is about 350 Watts.

So at about 5 kW hours per day and Renewable Electricity in the UK costing about 0.16 GBP per kW/h then it is about 0.80 GBP, say 1 GBP per day including some peripheral usage.

That is a staggering 365 GBP per year!   Just on one workstation computer.

In our household we also have
- NAS  (Network Attached Storage)
- A multilevel Firewall and Network Infrastructure, separately supporting our Smarthome IoT (Internet of Things), personal and server networks
- Server Computers

We will be monitoring those separately too using separate Teckin plugs.

Summary Points
When it comes to efficiency we first analysed what dominant static and variable costs we faced for living in the UK.  Now our Smarthome infrastructure is enabling us to further dissect within the various categories, for example Electricity,  where real savings can be made.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Sunday Sermon: The Incivility of Others

I want you to Panic

We all have different opinions, but in 2019 many of us have developed different world views.

I think the difference between today and yesterday is that many people hold views based on a surface or zero analysis of the situation.   Their opinions are formed by hearsay, by something they heard on the Internet, and increasingly, by subscription to Information sources pandering to their viewpoint.

The flat earth movement is perhaps one extreme World View that most would agree is wrong, and that countless text and video articles will debunk.

Perhaps here  and here and here

I could also cite a topic like Holocaust denial

About Climate Change

The 2018 IPCC report was just one of an almost infinity of current large scale reports highlighting the problems 

The report is a little dry so I'd recommend you listen to the first 5 minutes from this audio broadcast instead.

The Flexibility of Language &
The Determined Ignorance of Others

 When the Common Man  (or Woman) hears the President of the United States or his chief spokes-persons issuing these comments.   What are they to think?

We have scientists that disagree with [human-caused global warming] … You’d have to show me the [mainstream] scientists because they have a very big political agenda

And I think many scientists would debate what percentage is attributable to man versus normal fluctuations

Something’s happening [with the climate] and it’ll change back again … I don’t know that it’s manmade.

how much of [climate change] is manmade, how much of it is solar, how much of it is oceanic, how much of it is rain forest and other issues? I think we’re still exploring all of that

I can’t tell you to what percentage of [climate change] is due to human activity

This article  is the reference from which you can Google check that the named people quoted in the article are correct.

Incivility Throughout

Wilful ignorance at the top is now matched by a counter logical and unshakeable world view at grass roots.  And so the the point.  Please read the comments from this YouTube Video and witness the issue at first hand.

The URL again.

Some sample comments

Wasch Zuber1 hour ago
A backward child. Not more

*Wubaluba dubdub5 hours ago
She flew to Davos then preaches on reducing carbon foot print.

APPLEtv4VIERACAST8 hours ago
Climate Change is a HOAX! You sure do a lot of traveling kid, last month Poland, now Davos..... You little Marxist you!

The Light Side14 hours ago
We've been 10 years away from the end for the past 40+ years. And every 10 years, they reset the clock. It's a scam. Don't drink the Kool-Aid.

MeatVision23 hours ago
+100 years of industrialization can't change earth's climate, its freaking stupid. We don't even have the whole data to start making stupid statements like this. We were supposed to die from high temperatures a few years ago, what happened? Nothing. Stop spreading fear and YES, we have to take ecological measures but we dont even know what is happening.


Saturday, January 26, 2019

Garmin and the Oximeter

Subtitle: And an introduction to COPD and Asthma

For some time, and I mean more than 3 years, Marcus has suffered from symptoms like seasonal  wheezing, shortness of breath whilst lying down and  producing huge amounts of sputum. 

Whilst no British Doctor or Swiss Doctor has been able to give me the direct bad news, this does rather seem to me like either Asthma or  COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

As an athlete in training this is basically shit news.

Oxygen Monitoring
An associated symptom is a lower than usual Oxygen content in the bloodstream.  And 98% or higher is the usual figure.

I wanted to buy a fancy Bluetooth or other connected device so I can look at trends over time.   But so far instead 

I have spent only 20 GBP on an entry level purchase from Amazon

Whilst the heart rate readout does not seem as accurate as my Garmin, my SpO2 level can be from 94 - 98.  Not good I am told.  But not on the critical list yet.

For Deep Pockets

Er and also with very large wrists I would recommend the Garmin Fenix 5X Plus .  The X stands for eXtra Large and this version also boasts a built in Oximeter.

This is the documentation  you will receive then if you own the real 5X Plus product

Now that I am equipped with my bargain Oximeter I was hoping to be able to add in my manual reading to my Garmin Connect daily statistics.

But try as I might I can't find this possibility anywhere either from the Smartphone app or the Webpage

Until Then
I use the Oximeter daily and check that my condition is not deteriorating :-(   I intend to buy a fancier product so I can more automatically and perhaps accurately track my trends over time.

Amazon: Hylogy Oximeter

Friday, January 25, 2019

Heartstoppingly Working

Tron: Enter

Subtitle: I got In

We can't afford it long-term, so hint, there is a Garmin Fenix 5 Plus watch for sale soon.   But right now for technical reasons both Marcus and Agata are each equipped with state of the Art, Garmin Fenix 5 Plus Smartwatches.

Being a music fan  (surely not an addict) I can say that the new Bluetooth Music connection and storage from my watch to my Bluetooth headphones, well:   It really works.

The background is that I was a 2001 iPod generation 1 owner.  This 5GB device represented a leap of performance, usability and capacity beyond comprehension from my Rio PMP300

And 17 years later I now have a Garmin watch with a 10 GB free music capacity, with Bluetooth connection to any of my wireless headphones or speakers

My first honorary action was to transfer 2 esteemed, nay hallowed Essential Mixes.

20030511 essential mix adam freeland.mp3
20100226 Essential mix Faithless Soundsystem.mp3

And then

20181222 Essental mix kolsch.m4a
[spelling and Capitalisation now corrected in repository!]

Kolsch is I belive future classic IMHO and notice it is in the more modern those less tolerant for places .m4a format

I am still basically speechless that I have this technology and capability on my wrist.  Back in 2001 I was happy, today I am just blown away.  I really feel like I am entering ... 


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Mittens: Keeping my Hands warm in Winter

This article is useful for anybody wishing to keep their hands warm, especially for extended periods.

During the last 3 months Agata and Marcus, with an eye on cold weather Running Races have been experimenting with a wide variety of gloves

UltraMarathon Requirements
These differ slightly from the gloves you might put on for a casual run or short race.  We need

- Light Weight
We need to carry 2 set of gloves for some races

- Low Pack Volume
We don't have infinite carrying capacity

- Waterproof
Even in heavy rain lasting some hours you want to keep your hands dry inside the glove

- Breathable
If you are lucky enough to generate so much heat that you start to sweat, then some way to evacuate moisture

Here are Our Results

5 degrees+

Great design with a silver backed mitten cover of these lightweight fingered gloves.  Not waterproof, but not bad against the wind with the mitten covers on and your thumbs inside the cover, and hand in a ball.

The best balance here of size, volume and warmth.  Tested extensively around 1 degrees C these keep even Marcus' poorly circulated hands plenty warm whilst walking.

Totally waterproof and a nice soft underbelly

I ordered the XL size so that I can if desperate insert the above Craft glives inside.

Below 0 degrees: Sealskinz Sub Zero

Simply astonishing protection.  Totally waterproof and most impressive have a tip which contains an insulation layer.  So often the end of the glove is where heat can escape.  Here there is a 0.5 cm protection so that windchill has no effect.

Only major downsize is the bulk of these gloves.  Still if you need this level of protection then don't hesitate.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


Marcus and Agata have been having unusual conversations with each other lately.  Saying things like:  Now if only the race was only 100Km, then it would be so easy ...

Because time is now drawing preciously short towards another significant running race, one that this time we would sincerely like to finish

A Trouble Wubble

The problem was highlighted when last Sunday our local not so hilly trivial trail run took far too long.  And afterwards we were not exactly fresh.

Emergency Action

So, since that time we have made all possible efforts to

- Do a Marathon Distance Trail Run
- Do a Marathon distance run at night in < 5 degrees C
- Start the Untapering.   Today Marcus is at Untaper 5.


There has been more than one occasion when spectators have shouted out encouragement on even a marathon distance run

"You are doing so Well"
-> The implication is, that you don't look like a runner

"Have you done this before?"
-> When you finish a Marathon and people seem surprised.

Neither Marcus or Agata have a natural running physique.  So we have to fall back on something else: grit and sheer determination.

The complication for our forthcoming race is that it has tough timed checkpoints.  And so, going too slowly is not an option.  Hence our efforts this week and next to pick up our longer distance, day in day out, running pace.

To Be Continued