Alright kids, we’re actually going to learn something today! I caught a post out in the vast and deep swimmer blogosphere that wondered how I made the maps that pop up on my site. As many of you know I’ve recently started swimming with a GPS unit tucked under my cap to help measure and record my swims. But what if you don’t want to spend a ton of money on swim gadgets? How to you estimate distance in open water? Google Maps. Doing this is free and fast, but the capability to do so doesn’t come standard and you have to go through a few steps to make it happen.
The first step is to go to http://maps.google.com/, if you have a Google account make sure you’re signed in so that the changes you’re about to make are saved and are ready to use every time you go to Google Maps.
Up in the top right corner you’ll see a weird little green shape next to the word “New!” – click that… UPDATE! About a week after writing this Google made a small interface change that will make a difference to those of you trying to enable this feature while signed in with a Google account… you’ll need to click on a little gear shaped icon in the top right hand corner and then select the labs option. Everything else is the same!
ANOTHER UPDATE! So the only constant with Google is change it would seem… here’s the new way to get to this setting, in the bottom left hand corner search for a link that say “Maps Labs and click it”
This will pop up the box below. The tool you want to enable is the “Distance Measurement Tool.” Click enable and then “save changes” at the bottom of the box.
Now your map will have a little ruler icon down in the bottom left hand corner. Click it to enable and click it again to turn it off.
Once you’ve clicked the ruler you can now click points in the water that approximate where you’ve been swimming. Each click updates the total distance covered in a panel on the left hand side of the screen. A lot of the time I’ll switch from the regular map view to satellite to make it easier to see landmarks we use from the water to determine where to place turns.
So there you go… quick, easy and free open water swim distance estimation! I like to mess with this when I’m bored and play the “I wonder how far it would be to swim that?” game.