The Blessing and Curse of Training Technology

Software Installation

After you've purchased your device of choice and configured it to your needs, it is time for the software installation. This is a pretty straightforward process that involved inserting a disk and following the (usually fairly simple) directions. Connecting and uploading your workout data to the software can be a different story though.

In order for it to be recognized it has to go over your firewall and under your anti-virus software—which may or may not want to let it through. I have had to temporarily take down firewalls and AV software in order to get my devices to sync with my computer. This is one of those things you can tear your hair out trying to trouble shoot.

Issues often occur when different pieces of software or hardware do not work and play well together. Manufacturers frequently update their software to resolve these issues, and the device you just purchased may have been sitting on a shelf through several new software releases. A good place to start is by visiting the manufacturer's website to make sure you have the latest software and driver updates.

Let's Talk

The real fun starts when you get multiple pieces of software attempting to interface. Training Peaks is a great example. I like Training Peaks. It is, for the most part, well thought out, functional, and allows access to a variety of data by both the coach and the athlete.

The problem is getting the data there. Uploading your power meter or other device requires the use of Device Agent, a piece of software that "talks" with the many uploadable devices, gathers the data, and loads it to the appropriate date on your training calendar—if all goes well. I have found that some days it works flawlessly, some days you have to trick it into working, and some days it just does not want to go to work and you are better off leaving it alone.

The problem could be with other applications you have open interfering with the connection, or the device itself, or the USB cradle, or any one of the multiple pieces of software needed to get everything to cooperate. When it comes to tech support, you will generally find that the buck does not stop anywhere.

Although I am somewhat sympathetic to their plight, each manufacturer of a device or piece of software will likely point the finger in the other direction. Of course, you can always visit the support forums in which you can collectively vent your frustration and occasionally stumble on a solution.

Training Peaks also makes a more complex piece of analysis software called WKO, which again, I find very useful for more detailed power analysis. However, getting an athlete's power files from Training Peaks to WKO is a complex, multi-step process that borders on ridiculous and often does not work. Why these two pieces of software from the same company do not work seamlessly together is a mystery to me.

Trouble Shooting

When something does not work, first and foremost remember Occam's razor. This principle, attributed to the 14th century friar, basically states "look for the most logical or simple solution first." I usually find that re-seating a device in an upload cradle, changing or recharging the battery, plugging it in again, or just a good thumping will get it to work.

Most athletes don't know that their Power Tap has four batteries (two in the hub, one in the heart rate strap and one in the head unit). Your device gets exposed to a lot of abuse. It may get rained on, sweated on, stored in a hot or cold car, and generally knocked around. Make sure there is not a physical problem such as a frayed or cut cable or corroded contact points.

If your device functions by direct contact in an upload cradle, and you have used it in or near salt water, the contracts may have too much corrosion on them to transfer a signal. Rubbing a very fine piece of sand paper over them a few times may do the trick. Simply knowing your hardware and how it works will save you a lot of frustration. Your GPS will not work if you run through a tunnel. Go down the list of most simple solutions before spending an hour on hold with tech support.

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