Perpetual motion

Can't stop learning…

No one sleeps when I’m awake

Let me preface this by saying that I appreciate the ability to track workouts. I typically don’t do it on a day to day level (usually wait until sunday afternoon and then upload a whole weeks worth of data), and I haven’t developed a top-down vision of what the end results of my workouts should look like (on paper that is). I don’t know how many TSS per day is a good number for me, I don’t know what real progress looks like in terms of the shift in my normalized power curve. But the fact that I can develop that view, should I so choose, using the software that’s out there, is nice.

As a computer scientist, I’m always looking for an easier way to do things. I also get quite upset when I see things that could be done in a much simpler, more open, more consistent way. Which brings me to WKO+0. On a base level, it does most of what needs to be done by a tracking system (note that most of my complaints are triathlete based). In conjunction with TrainingPeaks.com, it does more of what a training system should do, and adds on some other nice-to-haves. But they are two very separate1 systems built on two very different platforms with integration going only one way. I can understand why the two systems are so different. They were both built with different audiences in mind (WKO+ was formerly CyclingPeaks and was geared towards cyclists with power meters, while TrainingPeaks (TP) is a newer (I think), web-based system geared more towards… everyone). WKO+ is a one-time payment for the software (one-license), while TP is a monthly (or free) subscription. They’re integrated only by the fact that you can correct your GPS files in WKO+ with a system/database/magical wizard hat that resides in the TP universe, and you can upload your workouts/training files from your WKO+ to your account on TP. That’s it. So while the original workout plan may reside on TP, you can’t see that in WKO+. But if you really want to do in-depth analysis of your training load and power progressions, you can’t do that in TP. They both have good interfaces for running files (I think the normalized pace data in WKO+ only makes me a bit more willing to go easy up hills by thinking that it’s ok, cause my normalized pace will be faster than I expect it to be), although I think the ability to quickly see all the intervals in a graphical form (in WKO+) is a nice touch. Neither has a really good system for tracking swimming workouts. I don’t know of any system yet that does a good job of that.

So far, except for the integration, everything seems great, right? Well, not so much2. WKO+ only runs on windows. Only as in you can’t run it from within WINE (I think) or on a Mac (unless you’re using parallels, bootcamp, etc). I get that. The population fo potential users is pretty damn small all things considered. So we’re talking about making a change to make things easier for maybe 15% of the potential audience. It’s quite clear that WKO+ is a legacy Windows product, and, again, I have no issue with that. Except that if I were going to rebuild WKO+ from the bottom, it would be a web/AIR/QT/GTK(ew) based platform. I’m not sure at this point in time that there are a huge number of things that need to be built in such a way that they are tied to one platform.

It’s also very difficult to go back and compare two workouts. Let’s say 6 weeks apart, I do the same workout. Let’s say it’s 4×15′ at 90% of FTP with 4′ of rest in between each set. If I remember the workout that I did 6 weeks ago, it’s pretty easy to compare today’s workout. Otherwise, I’ll have to go into TP, and try to find that workout, cause the workout details aren’t sent to WKO+ unless I hand typed them after my workout got downloaded from whatever device. Now, let’s say I’ve done that same workout 20 times in the past 2 years, and I’m interested in looking at the progression or making some comparison. There’s just no way I’m going to manually look through all of my history to do that.

So, if I were Peaksware and I were going to rebuild WKO+ from the bottom up, I’d probably make it a non-free plug-in/addition for TP and/or a more tightly integrated web-app3. Data from WKO+ should flow freely into TP, and TP data should flow into WKO+ (they are two very complementary products). Data within TP/WKO+ should be able to be searched for similar workouts, and if the data exists (lap data mostly), that should be searchable too. TP/WKO+ should be able to generate workouts for training devices (e.g., my 4×15′ workout should be something that once setup in TP, I can download easily into my Garmin or whatever other device that is capable of doing the like). Finally, I forget what I was going to say. Guess this is long enough.

0I don’t think they haven’t had these discussions internally. I know that software development, like all things, is a matter of compromise and a matter of what is possible to be done in a given amount of time. I’m free from those constraints here. Furthermore, if anyone from Peaksware (the makers of the packages discussed today), reads this and has any comments about it, I’m more than willing to give them their own post to respond, free from any editorial interference. Look, I’m not much read by anyone, so I’m not sure why they’d want to respond anyhow.
1I think one of the things that I’ll never forget from 9th grade english is how to spell Separate. A Separate Peace was one of our summer reading books. In the first week, we had an open book test/essay to write in class about ASP. I forget what I wrote about, but I do remember that we all were docked a third of a grade (e.g. A to A-, A- to B+) for misspelling Separate. I mean, we all had the book there, and misspelled the name of the book. I do find it hard to spell desperate from time to time, until I remember that it’s not spelled like separate.
2I’m ignoring the proprietary nature of the .wko file as there are workarounds and from, what I’ve heard, it’s changing in an upcoming release. Also, I don’t blame them for any driver finickyness in pulling data in.
3I think, given the market size and the amount of time it would take to relaunch a new WKO+, I’m probably out of luck here, as doing a major rewrite would probably require 2 teams: one to maintain the old code until the new code is ready, and another to build the new platform. And I don’t think the market is big enough to support that. But that’s a SWAG, as is this whole lecture.

2 comments

2 Comments so far

  1. Colleen September 27th, 2009 12:34 am

    RaceDay software was developed for triathletes and you can track swimming, biking, and running. They are going to launch an updated version by Jan. 1

  2. jvance September 27th, 2009 11:39 pm

    Colleen, I’m aware of RaceDay, but I’ve never used it, so I can’t really judge it.

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