Saturday, October 29, 2011

Nike+ SportsWatch GPS Firmware Update: stopwatch, auto looping stats, black text on white option

Going out for a run to try these new features.  Nike got going, releasing this important update, no doubt moved along by the MotoActv Android competitor I previewed coming in November 6th.

Firmware Update 2.0.1

This update is for the firmware that runs on the Nike+ SportWatch GPS powered by TomTom and is required for all users.  It includes the following:

• Adds stopwatch mode. (Excellent)

• Improves tap sensitivity for manual laps. (I have found it takes a hard tap to mark a lap.)

• Adds alarm capability.

• Adds the option to adjust the time of day or date on the watch without using Nike+ Connect. (along with alarm now watch can be used as an everyday watch)

• Adds the option to display either speed or pace. (useful on the bike.)

• Adds support for inverting the screen to display black text on a white background. (should be easier to see screen in bright light, an issue with current white text on black)

• Adds support for choosing any favorite metric when in auto or manual laps mode. (this was a real pain and missing option before the update)

• Adds an auto looping option for the upper metric. (probably the most useful as the watch only displayed 2 metrics at a time requiring button pushes to see other metrics.)

• Additional minor bug fixes.

1) Tried manual laps with my selected upper and lower metrics. In an improvement to what I have experienced before, each tap of the screen to mark a lap displayed, for a few seconds: the completed lap's distance, time, and average pace. Manual laps can also be used to get a sense of current pace. Run a few minutes, tap and see average pace for the lap time period. Useful. The change is that previously no matter what your selected metrics were, a tap for manual lap eliminated the lower metric and only displayed the lap times for the rest of the run in the lower part of the screen.
 2) Tapping to mark a lap previously required a firm whack with 2 fingers and often didn't             register. Now a smooth 2 firm tap registers the lap without fail.
3) There may be bug in the intervals mode when you select a distance for the interval and a time for the rest period. I am getting gibberish distances on the welcome screen to start the workout.
Update 11/27:
Another firmware update. The key "fix" instant pace. I have got to say I don't think it works. Yes, the wild fluctuations are gone but on a 10 mile run at very consistent pace throughout with instant pace displayed as my favorite (lower half of screen) stat the instant pace was consistently approximately 40 seconds per mile faster than my average.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

MOTOACTV: Motorola GPS Fitness Tracker & Music Player

Just announced.  MOTOACTV is an Android based fitness tracker with music player. Includes GPS and accelerometer (for elliptical machines only initially according to an excellent first overview by DCRainmaker ). $249 for 8gig model plus $29.99 for wrist or arm band. Comes with headphone/mic as the system will also give audio workout feedback. Optional headphones add wireless heart rate through in ear sensing.  If you have an Android phone it will notify you of caller identity on screen which you can chose to answer or not. Not really an interest of mine but includes a full music player. The MOTOACTV looks to be a very clever blend of a typical fitness GPS watch and an iPod Nano.

Some immediate comparisons to the Nike+GPS I currently use, enjoy, and have reviewed:

  • Most obvious, includes a full music player
  • Wireless wifi sync to your computer or Android app vs. the cluggy non standard USB on the Nike+GPS wristband
  • Color touch screen which may be more easily viewable in sunlight
  • Gorilla Glass screen. Some have reported the Nike+ screen is easily broken
  • With optional heart rate headphones no uncomfortable chest strap. Accuracy to be determined.
  • Accelerometer is built in. No Nike+ lozenge to place in shoe. Will see how accurate it is.
  • Size: screen is bigger/wider than Nike+ at 1.6" diagonal.  How big it feels on small wrists such as mine remains to be seen. Stats should be easier to see.
  • Audio in run feedback. I really liked this feature on the Adidas MiCoach app. 
  • Supports ANT+ sensors and Bluetooth. Thus, bike sensors should work but this is still unclear which and how.  Nike+GPS uses a proprietary method to communicate with the foot sensor and heart rate monitor. 
I have written Motorola for answers to the following questions: 

"Can I get regular in workout stats via audio on the headset, stats in addition to heart rate?  I really miss the audio feedback I used to get with micoach on the Nike+GPS.  How would these be accessed if they work? If I had an Android phone would the loudspeaker be able to play the stats if I did not wear headphones? I usually run outside without headphones.
I like the readability of the screen. Can the screen stats be customized?
Does MOTOACTV have average pace? This was a big missing stat in the early release of Nike+GPS? How about current lap pace? A simple stop watch mode?
I see it includes an accelerometer. Can it accurately track distances run indoors on a treadmill?
Which settings be customized away from the computer? Nike+ is very limited. For example you can't change the stats lay out or the lap or interval length/time when not connected to the computer."

Update: I am seeing early online reviews indicating that battery life may be less than 2 hours when underway with GPS and music . A serious consideration for those of us who exercise/run for longer periods. Quoting a review at Amazon:

 "I've taken this device on three hour-long runs now, each time fully-charged. I've returned home with the unit down to less than 25% power level. This was using the MP3 features, Bluetooth on to wireless headsets, and GPS tracking. Given this rate of battery burn, I doubt the device would last more than 1:30-2:00 which, in the world of marathon-training (and even half-marathons), just isn't enough. This is a serious issue which Motorola may be able to address with software updates but, for now, it's a deal-breaker. "

Monday, October 10, 2011

First Impressions Brooks PureFlow and TrueGrit: They really nailed it!

Really liking the Brooks PureFlow I recently purchased from RoadRunner Sports. Brooks has really nailed the next generation (after Saucony Kinvara, Inov-8 Road X, and Newtons) trainer focused on more natural running, and less shoe, yet with adequate cushion for day in day out road running :
Brooks PureFlow
Brooks PureFlow

  • a low heel to toe drop-4mm , 
  • decent cushion- 23 mm heel 19 mm forefoot height (Running Warehouse). This is 2mm more heel and forefoot height than KInvara and is due to the full outsole. 
  • A forefoot/midfoot outsole which provides foot landing across its width (similar to Road X 255) with a split toe up front feels far more responsive and stable than the Kinvara yet better cushioned than the Road X,
  • Brooks DNA cushioning made of BioMoGo is firm yet attenuates shock without losing  much road feel,  
  • lots of forefoot room yet well supported mid foot due to the Nav Band on the lateral side,  
  • light weight- 8.7 oz
  • a midsole which gets you on the mid foot by moving the heel strike point forward. The mid foot strike pad under the arch plays a role as does what Brooks calls an inverted heel.  I can really feel a foot landing further forward. This is especially noticeable on uphills and downhills. Hard to fall back on the heels in the PureFlow. Yet, all this geometry felt very natural unlike the Newtons with their pronounced forefoot pads,
  • a very comfortable yet minimal upper. Maybe not quite the combination of roomy forefoot and snug midfoot of the Road X as the forefoot upper is a bit narrower but less constricting in the forefoot than the Kinvaras. One layer of very densely woven yet light mesh. Seemed to breathe very well on a warm day and pretty sure it will drain water very well. The heel collar is particularly plush. 

I have now about 50 miles on the PureFlow. Longest run 15 miles which went great and from which I recovered very well. Similar in feel to the Inov-8 Road X 255 yet better cushion, lower heel toe drop , lighter weight, and more pronounced yet natural mid foot landing. A bit heavier (an ounce or so)  and higher (2mm) due to a full outer sole than Saucony Kinvara.   I am a heel striker and I maintained a far better mid foot landing over a 12 mile run than in other similar shoes such as the Inov-8 Road X 255, Kinvaras, and Newtons.  Not quite as much road feel as the Inov-8 but a better more stable cushioned mid foot landing than the Kinvara's. I think this is due to firmer full width outsole on the PureFlow and Inov-8 vs the soft lugs on the Kinvaras. Did an interval workout in the PureFlow yesterday and maintained form throughout, turnover felt quicker and smoother than usual for me. Haven't run off road on the dirt. Suspect they may not be particularly stable there and certainly not as stable as the Road X 255. 

I think this next generation "natural" running shoe line will be a winner! 
Brooks PureGrit

Brooks PureGrit
Update: Have to admit that I have not run in any other road shoe, except a few times in a Nike Vaporfly since I got the PureFlow a month ago. That's saying something for me as I have a habit of constantly trying new shoes and changing out. 

Update: Tried on a pair of PureGrit at the Salt Lake REI. PureGrit is the trail runner in the Brooks PureProject line. Similar fit and design: Nav Band, inverted heel, 4 mm drop and split toe. The midsole foam appears to be firmer than the PureFlow, no surprise given these are trail shoes. The concave outer sole lugs look well arranged and should shed mud well. The outer sole material is also firmer than the PureFlow"s. Unlike PureFlow TrueGrit has a one piece outer sole. Overall width of the forefoot outer sole appears a bit wider on the PureFlow due to its pods.  At 8.9 oz quite a bit of protection per ounce, particularly from the upper down.

For the even more minimal crowd the 7.2oz PureConnect should be a viable alternative to training in traditional racing flats. 

Brooks PureFlow $90 MSRP. Limited availability for next few months. Size up 1/2 size.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Trying to follow some sage, ancient advice

Live sensibly-among a thousand people only one dies a natural death, the rest succumb to irrational modes of living.
Today I went for my physical and my doctor gave me his business card about half way through the visit and ask me to look at the back of the card. This saying was on the back. A little running, decent sleep, a few beers-trying to follow the sage advice above. Maimonides was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, physician, Jewish religious scholar and philosopher of the Middle Ages.