Thursday, April 28, 2011

SwiftWick does a Great Deed for the People of Japan-Donating 14,642 Pairs of Socks

Swiftwick one my favorite light compression sock and arm warmer companies did something wonderful for the people of Japan. They recently donated 14,462 pairs of high performance Vibe socks worth $150,000 to the people of Japan to help with the recovery. Press release is here. Knowing the day in day out comfort of Swiftwick socks in all conditions this gift will be much appreciated by the people of Japan.

I really like the 12" Merino light compression socks which I reviewed in a previous post here

Their Ole Arm Warmers are incredibly versatile. Not only are they arm warmers but they are cool enough to wear on warm days to protect from the sun. A review here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

First Run with the Nike+SportsWatch GPS Heart Rate Monitor

My first run after the Boston Marathon and my first run adding the Polar Wearlink+ to the Nike+SportsWatch GPS. Expect for some hamstring pain and general tiredness felt pretty good. Out in Park City, Utah for work. Was joined by Nicole and Krystina who both ran Boston and live in Park City. We often run together when I am out there. Today's run from the Basin Recreation Center to Willow Creek and back. A relatively flat run along hard pack bike paths with a little less than 2 miles of paved bike paths. While the ski areas are closed the slopes are completely covered and looking great.

I added the  Polar Wearlink+ Heart Rate Monitor to the Nike+SportsWatch. I believe this is a special version of the Polar designed for Nike+. See my other posts about the Nike+ here, here, and here.

The instructions said to copiously wet the area under the 2 sensors. Unlike the adidas miCoach Pacer this area is more like a fabric than a slick rubber surface. The watch instantly picked up the heart rate monitor and shoe pod.

Even though I had traveled 2000 plus miles from NH and had not connected the watch to my computer the GPS was found in less than 20 seconds. I suspect and have heard that being further south and more central in geography that GPS units has a better view to satellites and thus acquire more quickly. I was surprised as with my older Garmin 205 such a change in location often requires telling the unit I had moved several hundred miles.

The results are shown below. The heart rate capture (red line) was erratic the first 1.5 miles. I also found this with the miCoach Pacer but it could also be that in my first run since Boston and at 6400 feet my heart was racing! Update: I ran again today with the heart rate monitor and the capture was erratic for almost exactly the same 12-13 minutes as the first run. I wonder if cool weather and potentially sweat/moisture and body heat needs to increase enough to make a keep a steady read. I did wet the strap but between wetting and running some minutes went by.
 The green line is elevation.
The pace graph (blue line) is very spiky and this is not a surprise. The SportsWatch just doesn't do instant pace very well. I hope and have heard that Nike will be adding average pace and more smoothing by July.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Update Review-Nike+SportsWatch GPS Runs Boston Marathon Far Better Than I Did

I ran the Boston Marathon Monday. After a fine first 10 miles, right on schedule and  feeling great I fell apart at 15 but finished, about an hour slower than my goal and qualifying time. Despite the time disappointment my first Boston in 25 years was an amazing experience. My race report is here and includes comments and lessons learned from the race. 

The Nike+SportsWatch GPS on the other hand performed spectacularly well. My previous review discussed my initial impressions and runs with the watch.

Bottom line: Nike+SportsWatch was 99.05% accurate showing 26.45 miles for the 26.2 mile distance. Given I did not run all tangents I think this is remarkably accurate

The screen was very easy to see in the bright sunlight even with sunglasses on. 
I watched for auto lap mile splits and kept an eye on elapsed time as I went by course mile markers. Very useful while I was still actually running... It was overstating my distance a bit as when I approached mile markers I saw it mark laps 20-30 yards before the actual mile. After the first few miles it seemed to stay consistent at 20-30 yards. As things went far south I was unable to do much about pace so I really didn't watch splits. As I got into Boston,  the buildings likely interfered with signal losing a bit of accuracy.  Nike told me at the expo that the foot sensor takes over when GPS signal is completely lost and not when it is weak as I might have expected. 

See this screen shot of the last 600 yards or so of the course where the track is running to the north of the street over the buildings. Given my condition coming down the stretch maybe I was weaving that much!  I reviewed the rest of the track and it was by and large right where it should be. As is known GPS signals are blocked by large buildings and as these are the largest buildings on the course by far, on narrow streets, so no surprise some variations. Further, I was running with GPS only, no foot pod which when GPS signal is lost is supposed to pick up the tracking.
NIke+SportsWatch loses signal down the Boston Marathon stretch

Unofficial update from Nike on the future of SportsWatch:
I heard "unofficially" from Nike folks at the pre race expo, who should know, that they are testing average pace for firmware release expected in July. They also told me the foot sensor picks up when GPS signal is completely lost not when it is weak. I asked what I should run Boston with GPS, GPS +sensor, or sensor alone and they told me GPS alone.. I could not get them to tell me what their GPS sampling rate scheme is.

I now have the Polar Wearlink+ Heart Rate strap and will be testing it when I can hobble a few miles later this week.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Boston Marathon 2011-Lessons Learned

My first Boston Marathon in 25 years and my 4th was an amazing experience. The crowds, the weather, the field, the support were orders of magnitude more spectacular than my last one back in 1986.  I had a great time and enjoyed every minute of it. This said my "performance" was an utter disaster: 4:40, 1:10 slower than my qualifying time! I struggled mightily starting after 15 or so miles. I started in my assigned corral for a 3:29 while I was planning to run a bit sub 3:40 based on my training. Rookie mistakes of to fast an initial pace combined with something else?

What happened? 
I did a combination of no long runs (17 miles or more) since mid February and no longer runs in the Hoka One One Bondi B which I bought in mid February and wore at Boston. I did plenty of 10 milers at race pace. Hard to blame the shoes but they were definitely a factor as I am convinced that once my already minimal to begin with knee lift, forward body angle, and mid foot stride left me at about mile 13 I literally gradually slowed to a crawl as I was back on the soft heels of the Hoka. The few times I walked for water in the later stages I literally felt I was going to fall over backwards. This went on even after the race until I got out of the shoes.

The first 13 miles went almost exactly according to my plan for a 3:40. Probably a bit too fast the first 4 downhill miles with 3 of the miles just sub 8:00. Shoes and legs felt just great. Literally floating along.  Low heart rate, smooth as  can be, no road shock. After 10 miles things started to go south but I came through the half a bit faster than my goal pace for a 3:40. During mile 15 things started to really fall apart.  This was the furthest I had run on "average" and certainly further than I had run in the Hoka One One Bondi B. My pace got slower and slower and there was nothing I could do about it. I was well fed, hydrated and with it all the way. No cramps.

Lesson: I started in my assigned corral based on my 3:29 qualifying time yet I was expecting to run 3:40. I should have started in the next slowest corral which is allowed. I started the race at a 3:29 pace which was to fast for my conditioning or goal. I should have moved back a corral as it is very difficult to run slower than the pack at Boston. This said I felt great and heart rate and legs were very much at ease the first miles.

Lesson: Obviously more long runs on hills and pavement. My longest run in February 19 miles was mostly on groomed snow trails in Park City.

Lesson: Should have run the Hoka Bondi B at near race pace on long runs or picked a different shoe. My longest pace run in them was 10 miles. Unlike "normal" shoes their low drop of 4mm heel to toe, and softness requires some real adaptation and strength especially when tired. I am not sure given my shuffling stride that I will ever have the strength to run them over 13 miles at race pace but I will try.

Lesson: More core work! 

Lesson: Go with shoes you know. I ran the St. George Marathon this past fall in Saucony Kinvara also 4mm drop with no problems but St. George is is a sharply downhill course in the last half. Kinvara would have been a better choice for Boston given the firmer heel as might have the New Balance 890 with their more pronounced drop to get me forward in the middle miles.  Well at least the readers of this blog now know the Hokas are a tricky beast!

Nike+SportsWatch GPS
I ran with the Nike+SportsWatch GPS and it was great. The screen was very easy to see in the bright sunlight even with sunglasses on. When considering that I did not run tangents all the time the 26.45 miles it showed  indicated an accuracy of 99.05% which is excellent for GPS. I did not run the foot sensor in parallel.
 I watched for auto lap mile splits and kept an eye on elapsed time as I went by course mile markers. Very useful while I was still actually running... It was overstating my distance a bit as when I approached mile markers I saw it mark laps 20-30 yards before the actual mile. After the first few miles it seemed to stay consistent at 20-30 yards. As things went far south I was unable to do much about pace so I really didn't watch splits. Likely as I got into Boston, and the buildings may have interfered with signal, it lost a bit of accuracy. I spoke to some Nike+SportsWatch specialists at the expo and will have more details in a next post.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

May 2011 Men's Journal Article about our Tour du Mont Blanc trek

The May 2011 Men's Journal Hike the Alps article about our 2010 Tour du Mont Blanc hits newsstands April 15. Our trek is part of a feature called "Real Guys, Epic Adventures".  Among the 9 other cool adventures; Motorcycle across Mongolia, Reach 20,000 feet in Nepal, Swim with Sharks, and Bike the Continental Divide. It was fun working with the crew at Men's Journal to put this together. They sure knew how to edit down my verbose descriptions and banter to the essence of what is an epic, yet not crazily extreme adventure. After all where else can you hike thousands of vertical feet per day in spectacular mountain scenery and find a great meal, expresso or cold drinks every few hours!
Click to enlarge-May 2011 Men's Journal Real Guys, Epic Adventures

For pictures and description of the Tour du Mont Blanc see my other posts: 2005 Tour du Mont Blanc, 2010 Tour du Mont Blanc. This coming summer we plan do the Walker's Route from  Chamonix to Zermatt.

If you are considering the Tour du Mont Blanc please post comments/questions. I will try to answer.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Nike+SportWatch GPS Technical details from GPS Passion

Found this interesting article from GPS Passion dated 1/29/11. It is based on a discussion the author had with the TomTom product manager at the CES introduction of the Nike+SportWatch GPS. TomTom provides the GPS technology for the SportsWatch.

Some highlights:

  • "Powered by a SiRFstarIV GPS chip like Garmin's Forerunner 110/210 launched in April 2010. As a result a SiRFstarIII type level of performance should be maintained in spite of a smaller form factor (couldn't see an antenna) with improved battery life.
  • The battery life without GPS is rated at 40 days, a record, the Forerunner 405 was 15 days and the FR110 3 weeks. In continuous GPS use it should reach 9 hours, like on the Garmin watches.
  • The training sessions recorded on the watch can be analyzed on the site (already used for the iPhone application) with automatic "improvement" of the GPS tracks particularly by using the pace sensor inside the Nike+ shoes if available. This results in smoother tracks that are more pleasant to review and truer to the actual track, than the raw GPS track that can "jump around" quite a bit, especially in dense urban environments."
This last point is the most interesting one. I have not yet been able to confirm in my testing that the combination of foot sensor and GPS improves the track. Likely I have not done enough miles with the combination or this feature is not yet activated. We do know based on a post by Nike that the foot sensor is calibrated by the GPS. Does the opposite also happen, the GPS track is improved when signal is low by the foot sensor? Very cool if it in fact does. 

Here are the specs per TomTom site, a bit stronger on the non GPS use at 50 days and 8 hours of continuous use with GPS and sensor going. I hope they do not use the same kind of "Smart" sampling Garmin uses to achieve this as it samples at longer intervals than the 1 second option which will only get 3-4 hours of use out of a Garmin 205.

Nike+SportsWatch Specs per TomTom

Does anyone have experience with the accuracy of the Garmin Forerunner 110/210 which shares the same smaller form factor GPS chipset with the Nike+? I assume newer Garmin 205, 305, 405, 410 have the SIRFstarIII chipset.

See my other posts on the Nike+SportsWatch GPS: First Review

Saturday, April 09, 2011

How Nike+SportWatch GPS calibrates its foot sensor automatically using GPS

The Nike+SportWatch has no manual calibration of the foot sensor as the Nike+Sportsband does. As I surmised in my first review here is how they do it.

From official response by  Nike on Nike Forums

"Thanks for asking about the calibration and how it works.

You're correct in noting that there isn't any manual calibration, as there is with other devices, where you actually tell your device, "I want to calibrate this run."

Instead, you set up an outdoor run where you are using both the Nike+ sensor and the GPS option. (In other words, on your run setup screen, both GPS and Footpod are toggled to "on.") Once you've run a certain distance with both good GPS reception and good footstrike data capture from the Nike+ sensor, the sensor will automatically be calibrated using that data, without you having to do anything.

Let's say you run a mile at a steady pace without pauses and have good GPS reception and good footstrike data. Internally, your SportBand might determine (based on sensor data) that you ran .91 miles. It would then adjust that .91 miles to match the GPS data--one mile--internally, and would save that correction factor and use it to adjust your future sensor-based runs (i.e., your treadmill runs).

It's the same principle that's always applied. The difference is that now, instead of you telling your device, "Hey, I ran a mile, not .91 miles!" your GPS is telling your device, "Hey, Upstate ran a mile, not the .91 miles captured by the sensor."

I hope this makes sense! It's actually a pretty cool system, and I hope it yields comparable accuracy to what you've come to expect."

I am still wondering if it works the opposite way when GPS signal is weak the foot sensor picks up the task. I think it may.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

First Review: Nike+SportWatch GPS

Update 4/20: Ran the Boston Marathon with the Nike+SportsWatch and it was 99.05% accurate, 26.45 miles vs. 26.1 miles. Excellent! See my post here for details including unofficial status from Nike on average pace on SportsWatch.

Update 4/23: Added the Polar Wearlink+ heart rate strap to my SportsWatch. Watch instantly acquired the sensor.  Despite a 2000 mile change in location from my last run the GPS was acquired in less than 20 seconds. Some spikiness in the heart rate capture the first 1.5 miles then a smooth capture the rest of the way. See post here.

I have now taken 10  runs with my recently purchased  Nike+SportWatch GPS

Some Impressions:
Very easy to set up, see, and use on the run.  They got the user interface on the watch just right. Total of 3 buttons (left on picture): up, down, and select. Tap screen to mark laps or bring up backlight. You set up your "key stat"-distance, pace, elapsed time, etc.. when the watch is connected to the computer. It will show up in big numbers on the watch. Your other stats are in smaller but very legible numbers above. These are selectable as well. I omitted calories. You use the up down arrows to display them. The figures are preceded in a scroll by their title. Very useful. When you end your run all stats are displayed and lap times scroll, no need to hit a button to "view" each lap as on the Garmin.

  1. Size is far less bulky than the Garmin 205. It can also serve as an everyday watch.Watch is rated at 40 days of use in non GPS mode. There is no alarm clock or audio alerts for pacing targets as of yet. 
      Side by Side Nike+SportWatch GPS and Garmin 205
  2. Unlike my Garmin there is no way, at present at least, to see your run's entire average pace. Pace displayed is a momentary pace and is goofy and highly variable. miCoach pacer also lacks average pace. A potential workaround is to set your auto laps to less than a mile, say 0.25 miles. I will be talking to Nike about when and if such a feature will be available.
  3. The Nike+ auto laps but there is no way at present to combine auto laps with a manual lap capture, say half marathon in a marathon. I may set the watch to manual for the Boston Marathon as the mile markers will be easy to see. You mark laps by tapping the screen. It does take a firm tap not a brush of the screen which takes some getting used to. I have also found what may be bug in the manual mode. Pressing the up down keys to see your top of screen data points (pace, distance, calories)  more often than not marks a manual lap which it shouldn't and seems to lock the watch into lap times. 
  4. The USB connector to upload data and change watch setting may be fragile. It may also be a bit thinner than a normal connector. I found that on my older Mac with likely a worn computer side connection that connection, particularly using the cable, can be problematic. Direct connect without the cable and a bit of jiggling to get the contacts right works fine. With my side by side 2 USB port older MacBook I had to get a small USB hub to be able to connect the watch and any other USB device due to the width of the clasp. 
    USB Connector and Strap Closure
    USB Connector in the open position. Left Flap snaps over the connector
  5. The Nike+ web site now includes maps (Beta) of your route. Very similar to Garmin Connect or miCoach.  Clicking on the red Map Beta triangle in the "Classic" Nike+  below top right... 
Nike+ Route View
...brings one to a new route view complete with elevation, route, splits, and HR if you captured it.  Very nicely done but not obviously found at first. Beta site appears to be built differently than current cartoonish and slow Flash route and pace screens. Much faster to load.
Nike+Beta Maps
Turning on the Heat Map feature shows your relative pace through the run in colors. It would be better if  the heat could be matched to laps to make the data less granular:
Nike+ Heat Map
Finally, I was able to upload the results of the run for Nike+ to the popular Daily Mile site but route/map information did not travel over to Daily Mile. Might have done something wrong and will have to try again.

Accuracy and Performance:
  1. Foot sensor was found instantly. GPS was found in about 70 seconds for the Nike+ on my second run and 60 seconds for my 4 year old Garmin. The Nike+SportWatch has a very neat QuickStart feature. Activate the foot sensor, chose QuickStart, start your run and when GPS locks in it will take over. No waiting for GPS. Will try this on my next run.
  2. GPS accuracy when combined with the included foot sensor equivalent to my 4 year old Garmin 205 on a totally straight wheel measured mile of a certified race course with no tree cover. 1 mile measured=1.01 miles on both units or about, 40-50 feet over the actual measured mile,  6-10 seconds per mile at 8:30-9:00 pace.  Accuracy with the foot sensor alone 1 wheel measured mile=0.98 miles on the sensor. Apparently the sensor is calibrated when combined with the GPS. I wonder over time if the sensor will split the difference and approach accurate 1 to 1. There is no ability, as of yet, as with adidas miCoach Pacer or NIke+SportBand to  adjust the sensor manually based on results on a measured course. 
  3. Update 4/8: I spoke to a friend who is telecom engineer about GPS and foot sensor. He says the GPS knows how accurate- how many satellites it is locked onto at any time. My Garmin has such a score configurable to display Settings>General> Data Fields>Accuracy He thinks the Nike+ will calibrate the foot sensor when accuracy is high. Update 4/9: Confirmed by Nike. See my post here. When GPS accuracy is low does  the calibrated foot sensor take over?  Remains to be seen if this is the case. I would recommend running with both foot sensor and GPS activated.
    1. GPS accuracy on a longer run on a winding road course with somewhat more trees but no leaves showed the the Garmin at 7.59 miles and the Nike+ at 7.53 miles with the greatest difference in mile 2. I did not have the foot sensor for this run. Nike claims that the combination of foot sensor and GPS improves accuracy with foot sensor picking up for GPS when signal is weak. All of my later test runs with combination GPS and foot sensor were far closer Garmin to Nike, albeit on a very straight road. Tomorrow I will test side by side on the same windy course with foot sensor on. 
    Nike+ SportWatch Splits

    Garmin 205 Garmin Connect Splits

    Pros: The ergonomics and usability of the watch are outstanding. Very easy to see and use. It can be an everyday watch as it is not as bulky as currently fashionable "big" watches and in 2 days of runs and always on clock function the battery has barely budged.   The ability to run with heart rate monitor,  GPS, sensor for indoors and under deep tree cover or winding trails, or combining both without the need for a heavy extra foot pod is very useful and practical. Accuracy seems equivalent to my Garmin and may improve as the foot sensor calibrates. New and somewhat hard to find Maps Beta is outstanding in its depiction of your route and performance data.
    Cons: Important data, especially average pace for the run and average pace for the current lap is currently lacking. Not able to mark a manual lap when auto laps are on. Manual laps seems to more often than not  block out access to other data points accessed through the up down buttons. Pressing these buttons marks another lap, an apparent bug. Heat Map of run performance should match laps. USB connector may prove fragile.

    More to come and clarifications from Nike when I receive them. See my earlier post about the SportsWatch.
    Link to Support Page for Nike+SportWatch GPS. Includes download of user manual which illustrates various watch screens and set up very well.

    4/7  Update:
    Currently showing sold out at

    If you have the Nike+SportWatch GPS please feel free to comment, correct me, add here to help others. This is one of the first reviews of the Nike+SportWatch out there and I have only had it a few days. Wanted to get the info out to all interested as quickly as possible. 

      Monday, April 04, 2011

      First Look Review: Nike+SportsWatch GPS

      See also my more recent complete review:
      Just received my Nike+SportsWatch GPS.  A very neat and not too crazy looking watch. Might even wear it every day! Rated at 40 days of use in non GPS mode as unlike the Garmin 205 the clock mode is separate from run mode. Kit includes a Nike+ foot sensor. You can add sensors such as the Polar Heart Rate Wearlink.

      Numbers are very clearly visible on the white on black LCD screen. There are only 3 buttons on the left side: a yellow select and scroll up and scroll down. I have not yet tried the tap function for laps.

      A bit thicker than I expected but far less bulky and narrower than my Garmin 205. Very comfortable on the wrist as the antenna pod (below 34 in first picture and at top of the second picture)  is far thinner and smaller than the Garmin.

      Charging, updates and synch is via a USB cable or directly into your USB port (Mac or PC) . The male end of the standard size USB is built into the wrist clasp and folds out. I hope it is not to fragile or subject to corrosion. Here I am using the included male/female USB cable to synch and charge via my Mac.

      More after a first run.

      Saturday, April 02, 2011

      Saint George Marathon Utah Video-Spectacular Desert Scenery, Great Organization, Downhill Last Half

      Done the St George Marathon twice. St George is a bit more than 2 hours north of Las Vegas near Zion National Park. I plan to run it in 2011. Registration for the lottery is April 1st-May1st.  My Boston Marathon qualifier for 2011 was at the 2009 St George Marathon. Incredibly well organized "local event" with all the attention and care of the big city marathons. Voted Best Organized Marathon in the January 2010 Runner's World and I agree! Total mobilization of the community to put on a great event. Make sure you go to the pasta dinner. The grannies volunteering to help clear the tables are fantastic!

      St George is a point to point course. You start in the dark way out in the desert after staying warm by dozens of huge bonfires. First half is relatively hilly, all downhill through mile 7 and then  all uphill mile seven through 11 including the one mile steep ascent of the Veyo volcano. Second half is all downhill into St. George for a net negative 2500 feet from a start at 5000 feet. The red rock scenery is spectacular especially in the second half as you plunge down Snow Canyon towards town.

      Well done YouTube video by the race organizers here. Course overview starts at 2:30.

      Great essay by my friend Fasteddie Knapp about what the start feels like. Fe, as he is known, has run 15 St. George Marathons.

      Friday, April 01, 2011

      Boston Marathon Training and Gear Update: 2 weeks to go

      My final weeks of training before Boston have gone very well. Given the long cold winter speed work has been difficult here in New England. My friend and training advisor Fasteddie Knapp whose blog has featured great pre Boston advice put me on a sharpening regime the last 3 weeks.  10 miler marathon pace with first mile slow to simulate the start, day off, 5K@10K pace, day off, 10@ half marathon pace, day off. I will complete the 2nd cycle of this program tomorrow. My second set has been considerably faster the my first without much additional effort so I am sharper and ready for race pace.

      I am 90% sure I will run in the Hoka One One Bondi.B at Boston. See my other reviews of the Bondi.B. On my last 10 miler I was able to very start at 8:15 per mile pace and finish sub 8:00 per mile pace for the overall workout. With correct forward leaning body position which takes a few miles to lock in there is an almost erie sense of floating along faster and faster, without road shock as the miles go by. More than a bit disconnected from the pavement, a good thing, as one can focus on stride cadence and form, like a metronome going faster and faster...  I did make a 1/4" deep saw cut across the forefoot flex groove to get a bit more flex and this seems to help responsiveness.

      Since receiving them I have run every day in the Salomon EXO Slab II light compression shorts reviewed here. The light compression is not restrictive but I think very effective in reducing road shock to the quads and supporting my often tight hamstrings. Come to think of it haven't thought of the hamstrings since I got them. I know it is not just the Hokas keeping my legs fresh after this series of up tempo runs as after my 22:04 5K workout in adidas adi zero rockets my legs the next day didn't seem to know I had pushed the pace the day before.

      Finally, I ordered the new Nike+SportWatch GPS  when it went on presale at yesterday. Retail $199. From what I see at the online store it is already out of stock(4/1).

      My Garmin 205 is 4 years old, bulky and difficult to see through sunglasses or in low light. I really like the white on black large digits on an LCD screen. It can also be used with the Nike+ shoe sensor for indoor runs or where GPS is not available. From this video it appears it also record heart rate via a Polar heart rate strap. USB connector is built into the wrist band so no cables or cradles but also no wireless synch.  First review as soon as I test on the run.