New features and lots of fixes for April

Last night we released some new features and a patch that addresses several issues concerning the Garmin importer, delayed ranks, and import notifications, among others.

Below is the detailed list of all the feature additions and fixes for this release!

Elevation graph for Smashrun Pro users
Upon request from one of our Pro users (thanks, Adam S.!), we decided to include the elevation profile within the Pro Map. Now, when you click on the hill grade filter, the graph will show the actual shape of the elevation gain/loss. Mousing over it will show the percentage grade while the actual elevation at each point is reflected on the map.

Smashrun Pro Elevation Graph

Unlockable background images
To give users slightly more control over the look and feel of their profile, we’re introducing unlockable background images based on the number of badges you’ve earned on Smashrun! Smashrun Pro users and Founding Members will have exclusive access to certain backgrounds. To check out which background images you’ve unlocked, just go to your settings profile page.

Background image setting location

To change your background image, just select one that you’ve already unlocked, click OK, and you’re good to go.

Background image options

Run facts after importing new runs
Similar to Smashrun’s “notables”, we recently added Run Facts which appear after you import a new run. We calculate them based on identified patterns after comparing your new run(s) against your historical data, so you’ll know when you log a run that’s faster, slower, shorter, or longer than your usual runs.

Run fact

If you’re a Pro user, we’ll also let you know about patterns involving your best performing runs based on SPI, HR, and pace variability.

Import zip files
Previously, bulk imports could only be done by combining several runs within a single TCX file. Now you can import a zipped file that includes several GPX/TCX files! The process for uploading the file is the same as a standard GPX/TCX upload: mouse over the gear icon on Overview and select “Import file”.

Note: If you’re uploading treadmill runs, before you zip the files – make sure that they’re in TCX format, because GPX only includes latitude and longitude points. Treadmill runs would essentially produce “blank” GPX files. They won’t have any of your run data.

Import file

Share Smashrun Pro Maps
Adding #map at the end of a unique run’s URL will allow you to share that run’s map. This makes it easier for visitors to go straight to the Pro Map features. Check out one of my recent runs: http://smashrun.com/jacklyn.giron/run/994673#map. Of course, the URL wouldn’t work if your privacy setting is set to hide your run map details.

Facebook posts use Open Graph API
Smashrun has just integrated the latest version of Facebook’s Open Graph API so you can now share a map of your run and view your monthly totals on Facebook. However, there are a few caveats: Facebook needs to approve us to pass your custom comments (part of the Facebook auto-poster) and they also need to approve us for “explicit sharing”. Otherwise, your posts will not always show up on your news feed.

It doesn’t mean that it didn’t post, Facebook’s API is just making a decision on whether or not to display it… when it feels like it.

First, you’ll need to re-authorize Smashrun to post your runs from your Facebook settings page. The next time you post a run, it will look a bit different. You can choose to hide your map and/or your pace. There might be a short lag after you click “Publish” (we’ll add a spinner in our next release) – you’ll get a notification that it was successfully published to Facebook.

FB_post

By default, it will display your map, distance, speed, pace, and duration.

Facebook post

Also, this is only a theory but, if you like your own Facebook post, it’s more likely to show up in your friends’ news feed as well. A little trickery for Facebook’s API! We’ll update everyone as soon as the auto-poster content is back in business.

New colorpicker
Smashrun users will have access to a new colorpicker this month (thanks, Frank C.!). If you have your own colorful running-related photo that you’d like us to consider, send us an email at [email protected]. You could earn the colorpicker badge.

Beta support for Magellan Active sync
If you’re running with a Magellan Echo, Magellan Switch or Magellan Switch Up, you can now sync your data to Smashrun.

Magellan Sync

Currently, we’re still in the early stages of Magellan’s integration, but it should be stable enough to import your runs without any trouble. Please let us know if you find otherwise. The setup process can be done from the bottom of the settings synced devices page.

Additionally, if you have a bunch of FIT files that you would like to import into Smashrun, you can also upload those files into Magellan Active and then sync them with your Smashrun account.

As mentioned, there were also a lot of fixes that went out into this release. For those interested, here’s the quick rundown:

* Fixed the delay in ranks
* New Zealand Time Zone issue is fixed (thanks, Peter S.!)
* Optimizations to the Garmin importer for treadmill runs and re-importing old runs
* Custom fix to Garmin’s reversed SumDistance errors
* Facebook auto-post will now post runs imported via email
* Goal setting deadline is now set to midnight for the 1st day of the subsequent month
* Removed auto-fill for goals
* If you lose HR data during your run, it will no longer zero out on Smashrun
* SPI for deleted runs no longer show up in Pace Trends (or on the Trailing 90-day SPI)
* Hidden data will no longer show up for fastest runs of a similar distance
* Badge and import notifications should no longer overlap
* Blog post notifications are dismissed once clicked
* Email imports won’t send email message if at least one importable file is attached (thanks, Terry G.!)

Thanks to everyone who reported bugs. Your feedback helps us keep Smashrun in good shape. If we missed anything, please send us an email and we’ll try and include it in our patch.

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“Heartbleed” vulnerability update

It is possible that you have read the news this week of a serious security vulnerability in the “openssl” library that undergirds a large amount of SSL/TLS traffic on the internet: CVE-2014-0160 is the official reference to what is being called the “heartbleed” vulnerability. It was named such because the specific problem is with the OpenSSL library’s implementation of the new heartbeat extension built into the TLS/DTLS protocol. Exploiting this vulnerability permits a remote attacker to read the memory of an impacted system remotely, without leaving a trace.

Yes, it is a scary bug: Smashrun Ops takes security very seriously. There are two important things to note at this time.

1. The infrastructure directly supporting, and with access to, your customer data was not impacted by this security flaw at any point in time. The tier that handles your login and demographic information, and the certificate that encrypted your credit card information, were not impacted because that infrastructure does not use the openssl library at all.

2. Smashrun owns supporting infrastructure, that does not have direct access to customer data, that was running a vulnerable version of OpenSSL. This infrastructure has been completely patched, and is believed to be exploit-free.

We thank you for trusting us with your personal information. And we thank you for your continued patronage.

Smashrun Ops

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Winter Headliner Voting Results

It’s the end of Winter and the start of Spring! That means it’s time to tally the votes and start work on last season’s Headliner Feature.

For those who are unfamiliar with Headliner Features – it is how we highlight some of the most frequently requested functionality on Smashrun. I say some because Smashrun gets a lot of requests for new features.

(And we do keep track of every request and every user who requested it.)

Many of these are generally small: fixes, and tweaks to existing functionalities that often make it into our smaller releases. Yet, we also receive requests that are much larger in scope: features that require months of development and testing. These are the ones that make it into the Headliner Features and that will, ultimately, become a part of Smashrun Pro.

Our first round of voting just ended this month and we will start building Progress Towards Goal (yeah!). In the next few weeks, we will put up the next set of Headliner Features and add the ability to comment on each one. The goal is to foster a discussion around each feature so that, if it gets the most votes, it is built to the specifications that make the most sense to our users.

Updates will be posted along the way to keep everyone in the loop!

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Training Bands and Training Volume

Speed has always been my personal struggle. I never think I’m fast enough and I always fall for the same mistake that first-timers make: I do too much, too quickly. I still don’t believe I can ever run a sub-6:00min/mi (<3:43min/km) and hold it for longer than 150 meters, but that hasn't stopped me from trying to become better at getting there.

To improve, we learn to push our limits until we pass certain thresholds, just enough to stimulate adaption, but not so much that we cause injury. Consequently, we rely on various forms of measurements to properly manage training load such as training volume, Training Impulse (TRIMPs), Ratings of Perceived Exertion (RPEs), Training Stress Score (TSS), and Training Effect (TE), among others. All of them, in one way or another, attempt to answer the same question: are you training hard enough so that you are improving?

As with all models, they each have their shortcomings, one of which is how averages are frequently used. This is an important point because it is the main difference between every “training score” calculation compared to Smashrun’s Training Bands.

Unlike TRIMPs and all of its variations, Training Bands do not attempt to rate your training effort. Instead, it is a detailed account of your effort distribution. To understand Training Bands, it is best to look at how we approach training sessions.

Tracking Effort Distribution with Training Bands

For the sake of simplicity, imagine that you are planning out your running schedule for the week and you decide to allocate 70% of your training volume to your aerobic zone, 20% to anaerobic, and 10% to your max. The easiest way to track this is to look at individual runs as a session and categorize them in some way such as easy, tempo, and speedwork.

A more granular approach would be to track your effort distribution for one run, which is what most training platforms do. Again, to keep it simple, we will only look at three zones: easy, moderate, and difficult.

Effort distribution for one run.

This is often useful for looking at one run but, when you are training for an event, looking at an isolated instance is less than ideal. One 10 mile run could be broken into multiple segments within the same session to include a warm up, several pick-ups, a short tempo, and a cool down.

How would you quantify the contribution of each of these segments if you’re only looking at each run as a whole? This is where Training Bands do the hard work.

Training Volume by Effort

Smashrun looks at each trackpoint of every run and allocates it to a bucket, which we call a training band. It does this for pace, heart rate, and hill grade. Using our previous example, if we took all of the easy zones from a bunch of different runs and added them up across all runs, we will end up with one training band.

One training band.

This becomes tremendously complex with actual running data, because one run could have thousands of trackpoints. Your entire training history could be hundreds of thousands of trackpoints. Each of those trackpoints go into a specific band. When you combine all the bands together, you get Smashrun’s Training Bands.

Another way of visualizing it is to look at individual area graphs, which you can actually do when you click on specific bands. Each color represents one band. When stacked together, they represent your total training volume.

Area graphs

Training Bands illustrate volume at a different level, because you are not just looking at total duration of all runs. Instead, you are looking at the total duration of runs at different training efforts. Whether you are viewing your Training Bands for pace, heart rate, or hill grade, each band represents how hard you performed, for how long, and for what percentage of your total training.

Combined with training volume based on heart rate zones, it is possible to use Training Bands to get a sense of your training load. This, of course, is not a direct calculation of your load. Instead, it is a quick way to visualize your effort distribution and training intensity over different training cycles.

Scrolling training bands.

As I mentioned in last week’s post about using Pace Trends, overload (the tipping point at which you start to improve) happens with planned recovery periods.

Use Training Bands to see when you spent more time running hard so you can better manage your future training volume.

% tempo

% easy/recovery

Identify the time periods when you did the most speedwork. Did it help your overall training? Or did it set you back because you were too burned out afterwards?

Intervals

Have you ever wondered what someone’s training might look like if they stick to the 10% rule to gradually increase volume? It’s like something out of a textbook.

10% rule

It gets even more interesting when we look at the same person’s Training Bands for heart rate, viewed as a percentage instead of absolute duration. You’ll see that they ran less in the beginning but spent a lot of time near their max, whereas they’re running much more now but spend much less time in the red zone. By running more, aerobic capacity just naturally increased, which is as it should be!

HR distribution.

Training Bands is really where Smashrun bridges the gap between small data (your individual runs) and big data (your total training duration by effort distribution). It is a much more meaningful representation of your training volume because it shows you how every second of every run contributes to your training as a whole.

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How to Use SPI

Have you ever wondered how your fastest mile compares to your first half marathon? Or, wondered if your best 5K is better than your second best marathon time? How can you tell?

The Smashrun Performance Index (SPI) is a value derived from a performance curve to help you compare runs of similar effort across various distances. The thing to keep in mind is that SPI is only somewhat predictive.

The problem with many performance models is that they often only use finish times of elite male athletes as the baseline reference for the top percentile – not average runners but, world-record setting athletes. Their predictive quality can also deteriorate over longer distances, especially when you try to interpolate a marathon time from a very short distance, like 800 meters.

However, performance models can be useful for understanding relative improvements, assuming that the conditions for each new PR set is approximately the same.

The Purdy Points Model

In 1936, a table of finish times for elite athletes was compiled consisting of distances from 40 meters to 100,000 meters. Each of the performances were recorded as the top velocity reached while running in a straight line and were deemed equal and assigned an arbitrary baseline value. It is known as the “Portuguese Scoring Table”.

In 1974, it was updated by J. Gerry Purdy to reflect more recent world record times and added scaling factors to account for slowdown when accelerating to peak speed and on turns. This resulted in the Purdy Points Model, which provides the foundation for our SPI.

Why We Use Predictive Curves

Scoring tables are generally used as guides to help coaches predict their athlete’s performance for various distances on the track. It is, however, really important to remember that these models are not definitive indicators of actual times. Its main utility is that it can estimate your potential time for other distances, effectively providing you with a roadmap of where you’re headed.

We use predictive curves mainly because it gives us a baseline for measuring individual fitness level. For example: here are three hypothetical curves based on a 10min/mi (6:12min/km), 8:34min/mi (5:19min/km), and a 7:45min/mi (4:48min/km) pace. You’ll see that, as your baseline pace for a mile improves, your predictive curve shifts upwards.

predictive_curves

You could also work backwards from the curve because once the SPI value for a given point is determined, you can back out of it what your approximate time might be for another distance. It’s how we calculate your estimated finish time on the By Run page.

Additionally, Pace Trends looks at SPI to plot your three best performing runs on a rolling 30-day period (so 30 days from today and back). “Best” in this case can seem rather subjective but, again, as long as you’re comparing runs performed under similar conditions, it should remain fairly accurate.

Every Runner Has A Different Performance Curve

Your training history will affect the slope of your performance curve. Some runners might have a flatter curve because they’re already training near their peak so there’s less room for dramatic improvements, whereas beginners would see a more pronounced upward trend.

If you’ve been running for a while, your overall pace trend could be pretty stable.

level-pacetrend

If you’ve never run before or you just started running races, you’ll likely have a steeper slope.

steeper-pacetrend

Context Is Important

Living someplace flat and running mostly on roads would generally result in higher baseline SPI’s than living someplace hilly and running mostly on trails. That means it’s entirely possible to shift your predictive curve up and down. The takeaway is that a lower curve doesn’t necessarily mean you are less fit, you might just be training under more challenging conditions.

This is why it’s important to look at your pace trends within specific training periods. You can always select a section of your training history and isolate those periods to see how you improved. Looking at the big picture is useful, but you cannot always trend upwards. Point A to point B isn’t exactly a straight line, it’s more like a staircase.

2014-03-23_1822

Here’s an actual example of one runner’s entire training history on Smashrun that demonstrates the principle of progression.

progressive-pacetrend

As you highlight sections of your pace trends and drag the time period over the years, you’ll see that there were probably several points in time when your pace trends looked a bit like the chart above. Context is a powerful thing. Use it to your advantage.

Ultimately, we would like to eventually be able to make certain adjustments like accounting for elevation gain/loss, adjust the baseline to reflect gender specific finish times, and maybe even adjust the curve based on age groups. Those will be likely be part of version two or three.

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3 Tips for Using Smashrun’s Pro Map

Before we designed the Pro Map, we asked ourselves: what sort of information is best conveyed while viewing the route of your run?

There’s the obvious metrics including your fastest split, the ability to see elevation changes and, a pace graph that you can interact with. All of these are helpful in the sense that they summarize exactly what you did. You know how fast you ran, how far, your average HR, cadence, etc. but, you don’t always know what contributed to your performance.

The Pro Map is designed to help you better understand the relationships between the different variables that affect your running. By looking at these relationships, you can identify your strengths and weakness for a given route. Here are some of the things I look at on a day-to-day basis after a run.

How Hill Grade Affects Speed

Chances are pretty good that you’ll slow down while running uphill and speed up on the downhill, whereas what you should do is maintain the same effort and stick as close as possible to your target pace as you go up and down the hill.

If you wanted to compare your speed for running uphill vs. downhill, you just have to look at your hill grade distribution, highlight the relevant %grade, and view the revised details on the left.

This is what it looks like when you select all of the uphill portions, 6% grade and higher, for a run.

2014-03-10_1111

To compare it to your downhill stats, just select the opposite side of the distribution curve – select the buckets that are -6% grade and lower.

2014-03-10_1118

You could also mouse over the pace filter while viewing your hill distribution to see how your pace changed at specific points during a run.

HR Recovery Between Intervals

Intervals, or repeats, are most effective when they’re executed consistently after every recovery. If, however, each interval goes slower than your last then you’re probably either overreaching or you need a much longer recovery period between each repeat.

HR is one of the best indicators of recovery. When your HR isn’t recovering enough after each interval, it will pick up from a higher baseline than where you originally started on your first interval. That also means that you might not be able to perform as well at each repeat. If you do it right, it should look pretty consistent.

To see an overlay of your HR while viewing your pace graph, just mouse over the HR distribution filter.

2014-03-10_1137

You could also just view your HR graph and see how much time you spent at recovery vs. how much time your HR was greater than or equal to 90% of your Heart Rate Reserve.

Effect of Pace Variability on Cadence

A higher cadence is generally associated with improved running economy: the quicker your turnover, the less time you spend on the ground, and the greater your forward movement, which means less vertical oscillation or “bounce”. The tricky part is maintaining roughly the same cadence, regardless of changes in your pace.

With the exception of a few situations, such as a full-out sprint, a challenging trail, or a slow jog to warm-up, a steady cadence is usually a good indication of efficiency because it suggests that you’re expending approximately the same amount of energy regardless of pace.

When you look at your cadence distribution, it should often appear almost like a straight line. Easy runs usually have the steadiest cadence like this one.

steady-cadence

The thing to keep in mind is that sometimes, it’s important to keep cadence steady to conserve energy. Just remember that, like everything else, it’s just another variable to help you evaluate your overall running efficiency. Here’s a quick brush-up on cadence and running economy: http://www.irunfar.com/2011/03/improving-running-economy.html

These are only a few of the things I tend to analyze using the Pro Map. You could also look at how your HR responds to hill difficulty or pace variability. Or view how your stride length changes depending on your cadence. How do you normally use the Pro Map? Let us know in the comments.

Got questions about other use cases? Send me an email at [email protected].

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Nike patched and currency update

It’s 2am here at SmashrunHQ, and I’m thinking tomorrow morning’s run might have to become tomorrow afternoon’s run…

On the upside, the Nike import should be up and running again. If you continue to have any trouble at all please let us know and we’ll sort it out.

We’ve also added local currency pricing for Pro in EUR/GBP/AUD/CAD. So, if your bank’s international currency fees were causing you to hold off on the Smashrun Pro membership, then now’s the time. ;)

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Nike Importer

It appears Nike+ has also made a few recent changes this week, which is now affecting Smashrun’s Nike importer. Unfortunately, if you’re a Nike+ user, this means you won’t be able to sync your data until we can release a patch but, we’re working as quickly as possible to resolve the issue.

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Hide data, HRR, Garmin import, SSL

Early this morning, we released a patch and a couple of new additions that apply to both Smashrun and Smashrun Pro users. Let’s start with the new stuff!

Hide data before a certain date.
If you’ve ever taken an extended break from running or if you’ve ever used an app/device for a period of time that was uncalibrated/had erroneous data, hiding your runs before a certain date will help you “clean up” the stats displayed on your dashboard. You can set the date from your settings > profile page.

For example: the dashboard on the left shows long gaps in “Miles per month”. By setting a minimum date to display stats, the revised dashboard on the right zooms in on the consistent data and automatically updates all the summary details.

Before and After Overview Changes

If you’re a Smashrun Pro user, hiding data before a certain date will also flow through to the Analyze pages so it will affect your Pace Trends graph and the Training Bands. It’s tremendously useful if you’ve got suspicious data in the past that you’d like to ignore.

For example: these Training Bands reflect 6 years of training history. It includes training gaps, periods of training while injured, uncalibrated footpod data, etc.

Long Pace Distribution Curve

Here are the same Training Bands that only include data from 2013 to today, which is more representative of current fitness level and more pertinent to more recent training periods.

Shorter Pace Distribution

Enter Resting Heart Rate to calculate Heart Rate Reserve (HRR).
We’ve had a few Smashrun Pro users point out that looking at heart rate distribution based on max HR is far less accurate as a measure of training intensity than using heart rate reserve. As a result, we’ve added a field for resting heart rate within the settings > profile page. For many, the changes could be quite significant depending on the accuracy of your resting heart rate and max heart rate but, you can always edit both fields since they’re likely to change over time.

HRR will be reflected in all heart rate distribution buckets both within the pro maps and in the Training Bands.

SSL for login and account pages.
In addition to Smashrun’s existing security measures, SSL has been added to logins, new registrations, and account settings pages.

Updated the Garmin Importer.
Recent changes to Garmin Connect revised their authentication procedures so we had to update the way Garmin data is being imported.

Fixed goal setting for subsequent months.
There was a weird caching issue that was causing January’s mileage to appear as part of the mileage for February’s goals. That should no longer happen.

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Garmin sync problems

For many users Garmin sync will be down until we make some updates. Hope to get these issues resolved as soon as possible, but in the meantime we recommend you download your runs as TCX or GPX files from Garmin and import them directly into Smashrun.

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