Garmin VIRTUAL RUN mode is a great move by Garmin to secure their foothold in Zwift.
Today is Sunday so it must be indoor tri-day – pool swim – spin bike – treadmill. Or at least that’s what I’ve been doing recently on Sundays as I come to the end of the build phase of my all-conquering Plan2020. Previous Sundays have seen me watching “Celebrity Antiques X-Factor”…or something similar, today was the day for a change so I decided, in advance, that my treadmill run would be making good use of Garmin’s new VIRTUAL RUN sports profile as I ran on my own around Teanu (Zwift). Those of you familiar with Zwift Run might recognise the eventual route
The new virtual run sports profile is highly similar to your treadmill profile but, in addition to viewing and recording your run on your Forerunner, your Forerunner also broadcasts HR, running cadence and running speed over BLE to Zwift. I did have STRYD paired to my Forerunner 945 when I did this but I’m not entirely sure that it was STRYD’s pace that was broadcast through to Zwift as the pace was definitely NOT what I had with STRYD on the same treadmill a couple of days earlier. My initial assumption was that only the 945’s sensor data would be broadcast but that was NOT the case as the oHR was turned off and so the 945 must have been broadcasting the HRM-TRI’s data. Cadence could have come from anywhere but I’m guessing the PACE came from the 945.
Finally, the data displayed on the 945 seemed wrong in the sense that either I was really slow or it was displaying in pace/mile rather than my usual pace/km. I have noticed Garmin devices switch to imperial measurements on several occasions in the past, I’ll forgive them this time as I think I am still running a beta firmware.
Edit: A sneaky 10k on another day, below, had better pace numbers and the route got more interesting once I remembered to leave the oval at the right time ;-). However, even though the watch settings were definitely metric it was working in miles. That’s probably just a beta-thing and will be fine once released.
Setting It Up
Once you have chosen the Virtual Run mode, pairing as sensors in Zwift should be straightforward. There was a lag in Zwift recognising the 945 and I’d say after about 10 seconds all was good as you can just about see in the next image.
In theory, you can specify what is the source of each set of data, however, the confusion I was talking about earlier was about the sensor sources that the 945 is using and not what Zwift was using.
- This is BLE-only broadcasting of cadence, speed/pace and heart rate to ANY other sports app, run or otherwise. No other data types though.
- Although ANT+ HR-only broadcasting might work separately.
- It SHOULD re-broadcast the data from external sensors that feed the 945 – but I’m not sure that’s 100% working ATM (it will when out of beta)
My first thought was “Why is no-one else using Zwift run on a Sunday morning?“
Then my thoughts turned to the timing of this beta feature announcement by Garmin. Probably, the new VIRTUAL RUN profile is to counter the initial excitement surrounding NPE’s RUNN treadmill sensor which senses and broadcasts treadmill speed and incline as well as your cadence. Although I’m not 100% sure why Garmin would want to be ‘spiteful’ in that way as Garmin has no directly competing product to Runn (yet)…maybe they have an imminent Ble/ANT+ footpod to announce…but then why add Virtual Run to the firmware? There’s an interesting angle here somewhere but I can’t yet fathom it.
Putting those commercial aspects to one side, this is a neat feature from Garmin and has to be wholeheartedly welcomed. I won’t be using it much myself but I know some people will LOVE it.
Enjoy your treadmills! It’ll be warm soon.