Please understand that an insane mountain challenge like the Kusam Klimb is about as far away from how I’d choose to spend my weekends as…. well… anything. Fortunately one of my co-workers, Ross Collicutt, is both a sports nut and a tech geek.
This past week was an interesting bit of synchronicity. First, Ross took advantage of a Costco sale on the Garmin Forerunner 405, a really interesting bit of sports gadgetry that gives you real time location and performance information including heart rate.
Second, Google released Google Earth 5.2 with considerable enhancements including elevation profiles and the inclusion of additional data (such as heart rate) in its GPS import function.
And third, this weekend Ross took part in the Kusam Klimb, a gnarly 23 km long trek over Mount H”Kusam near Sayward BC, featuring rugged conditions and a 1.5 km change in elevation. Make sure you check out this year’s conditions…
After completing the event, Ross somehow managed to summon up the energy to post a link to his data upload on Facebook. I have to say, Garmin’s web-based visualizer is very nice! it combines a graph, a map, and gauges in a very clear and easy to use format.
If you visit the activity page, you will notice that below the map you can export as TCX, GPX, and KML files. Garmin’s KML file is actually a very nice time-enabled presentation, but it doesn’t include the heart rate or speed data. For this, you need to download the GPX file. The easiest way to open it in Google Earth is to drag it into the globe window. This pops up a dialogue asking what features you want in the generated KML, and then creates a new file in your Temporary Places.
Now the fun begins. Of course, the obvious first step is to click on the Play button in the time menu to watch Ross run the trail…
But that capability has been there for a while. What I find really interesting is the extra data that the GPX file brought along for the ride: heart rate, elevation, and speed. You can see the heart rate and speed (I think it may pull elevation from the terrain) by right-clicking anywhere on the track and choosing Show Elevation Profile. This gives you a cool interactive screen where you can display up to two variables, position your mouse anywhere along the graph, and see the information on the globe.
I have to admit that I have some reservations about this. The profile was very usable, but the design didn’t really fit with the rest of the Google Earth interface, and I would have liked to see all three data points (elevation, speed, and heart rate) at once. Fortunately, Google is well known for its incremental improvements, and I’m sure that it will get better over time.
Something else you can do with GPX data is create a Tour of your run and follow along with dizzying swoops and dips :) To do this, import the GPX as a linestring instead of a track, then expand the legend until you get to the Path and click on the “Play” button, and finally save the path tour.
You may need to play around with the Tour Settings in the Google Earth options a bit to get the correct zoom and speed, but eventually you’ll end up with something like the link below. Download the file, expand it in the Google Earth menu, and double-click on the Tour for some dorm-room-Quake queasiness:
Whew. Time for some hard-earned relaxation! ;)