Saturday, November 30, 2013

Wild Things Custom, Reasonably Priced Mountain Jackets-Order by Dec 6, Receive your own design 14 days later. Made in the USA

This is one of the coolest ideas I have seen in a while, custom reasonably priced mountaineering jackets from your mouse to your door in 14 days.

Wild Things was started in the early '80's in the Conway NH area by alpinists looking for gear to tackle "The World's Worst Weather." Simple, well made and burly I remember Wild Things as the no frills, no surf vibe New England country cousin of Patagonia.  In recent years,  with a move to Rhode Island, Wild Things, has been a premier supplier of custom mountain and cold weather gear to the military. All Made in USA.

I received an email yesterday promoting their Insulight custom jackets for $229, 2 other styles also available. Order by December 6 and receive your made to order jacket by Christmas
WildThings Custom Styles

The incredible thing about the Insulight is that you get to pick from

  • 3 fabrics, 
  • 5 or more kinds and weights of PrimaLoft insulation, 
  • multiple colors for the jacket, cuffs, side panels, liner, zippers, and optional chest pocket; 
  • with our without hood and personalized with your name. 
  • all for $229!
An incredible example of how US industry can compete on flexibility and speed.

Here is snapshot of what I was cooking up. Have fun making your own! Suggest if it is a gift you collaborate with the giftee!
WildThings- Building my Own

Friday, November 29, 2013

Exhaustive List of Black Friday and Cyber Monday Running Deals from Runblogger and a Time Out to live by, Worn Wear

My friend Pete Larson over at Runblogger has compiled an exhaustive list of running oriented deals for Black Friday and Cyber Monday here. Shopping via Pete's site helps support his incredible work to help us understand the science behind running.

Also please support my good friends Bryon Powell and Meghan Hicks by shopping through their definitive source for ultrarunning at

You can support my blog by shopping via the links at the right.

While this is a season for "deals" please consider only buying what you and yours really need. The tried, true, and well built are still good for many years. As a gear nut this is sometimes tough to live by.  I have a circa 1985 Patagonia running jacket, still going strong and useful.  At the link a wonderful video from Patagonia:  Worn Wear: A Film about the Stories we Wear. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Why I Run. A Few Words

I recently posted a link to the wonderful Salomon video featuring Bernd Heinrich: Why We Run

Why I Run

With Nature
Fresh Air
To Compete
Daily Anchor
...To Rest

Why Do You Run? 

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Review Magellan Echo Watch and iSmoothrun: Connecting SmartPhone Run Apps to your Wrist

I have been much intrigued by the Magellan Echo run watch (MSRP $149, $199 with HR strap) since it was announced at Outdoor Retailer. The last year I have been running with Strava on my iPhone as I love how it aggregates all my runs, elevations, segment performances, and friends activities. I only pay attention to stats after the run as I stash the phone and the audio cues can sometimes be hard to hear. When racing I use my Nike+GPS in parallel to keep closer track of pacing and time. Duplication.

Essentially the Echo watch acts as a display and controller for popular fitness apps including my social favorite Strava, as well as RunKeeper, Wahoo Fitness and my new favorite iSmoothrun ($4.99 Apple App store). The Echo transmits data and controls from your phone to your wrist.

I tested all 4 and they work fine with varying degrees of flexibility as to what can be displayed on the watch from a single static screen of distance, time, and average pace currently for Strava to literally dozens of options for iRunsmooth including cadence (from accelerometer) that can be configured to appear on multiple screens.All the apps supported also include basic phone music controls accessible from watch buttons.

Magellan very cleverly leverages the GPS on the phone, its processing power and internal and external low power sensors (accelerometers, HR, foot pod, etc...), as well as low energy Bluetooth LE Smart communications  built into increasing powerful phones that fitness apps take advantage of. In the future I believe, as we all are so reliant on our phones, that these "dumber" smart watches that act as displays and controllers will become far more prevalent than standalone,  complex and expensive GPS watches.

The more minimal approach of what the watch is asked to do reduces the battery requirements of the watch. The Echo is rated to last 6-12 months on a single standard watch battery. Update: I have used the Echo 6 days a week with all runs in cold weather since early November. March 1st the battery died. I estimate I got about 140 hours of live run time life or 4 months out of the Echo battery which I feel is excellent due to the low temperatures it was subjected to on every run. It also reduces the weight and complexity of the watch. No charging! Synching of data is via the phone as the watch essentially records nothing beyond what is is supposed to display.

Communications of data from your fitness app to the watch face is via Bluetooth.  Command of the app is via buttons on the watch:  Start/Pause, instant audio interval (from phone) for iRunSmooth multiple data elements configurable from the app,  a backlight, and basic music controls. Screens are scrolled by tapping the watch face, a bit fussy but functional.
Start up and synch is very reliable and fast. No looking for satellites as the phone already knows where they are. All the watch and apps are doing is opening a communications channel to each other.

Open the app. Put your phone away. Press the top left button on the watch to connect to the phone. Press the bottom right button of the watch to start and pause the workout. Tap the watch face firmly to scroll between data screens. When the workout is complete press the bottom right pause button. When you can take the phone out and end the workout. No fumbling to get at your phone to stop, pause or do intervals.

The only thing I would like to see on the watch that is not included for now is vibration alert capabilities ( although Echo does beep when it synchs to iSmoothRun so some audio alert capability is available)  and standard alarm watch buzzing. At this point only iPhones from the 4S on are supported by the Echo watch or any app above due to their consistent use of the Bluetooth Smart LE required to communicate with the watch.  Androids are hit or miss at this point as not many support Bluetooth Smart LE yet.

Instead of a full review here of the Echo I refer you to DC Rainmaker's excellent and exhaustive review of the Echo and the supported fitness apps.
Also see Pete Larson's excellent review at I introduced Pete to the Magellan iSmoothRun combination last year.

I was planning on only reviewing the watch but when I stumbled upon iSmoothRun (iOS only at this time) and given the magic is really in combining the phone app and the watch here is a further introduction to iSmoothRun with a focus on its strong interval capabilities.

It works seamlessly with the Echo watch. It is the most full featured run app I have used with outstanding flexibility as to what you can display on the watch and app and logging of data. Everything from temperature, wind chill, stride length, cadence, splits, HR, and on and on.

You can easily set up 5 custom screens on the watch via the app with any of the many data elements captured by the app displayed.

Pete Larson of video tapes my run gait in super slo mo and invites you to be the analyst

I am a video star (dubious on the star part). Pete Larson editor of the very popular, and a renowned gait analysis scientist,  invited me over to his place in Concord NH  for a video gait analysis. Pete has left academia and among other things is doing gait analysis at Performance Health Spine and Sports Therapy. He has posted the videos of my running form, if you can call it that, in super slo mo... on his site, and invites analysis of my gait.... He gave me his analysis (secret for the moment)  and now is inviting that "You be the Gait Analyst." I do want to,  and think I can, run faster if I work on some things.

Here it the link to his post, complete with multiple videos of my running form. I welcome your comments.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Salomon Video: "Why We Run". And Why I Run.

Wonderful Salomon video featuring the wisdom and emotion of Bernd Heinrich, a retired UVM comparative physiology professor and holder of numerous US ultra running records. Shot in remote Maine, where he lives, with film of Bernd's past races as well as incredible running and Maine scenery he captures and describes the essence of Why We Run.

"Running is about extreme movement. Running is about movement. Movement is life."
"How much little things matter. And how far they take you. The essential thing is to run, period. For a long time, consistently.  And then everything takes care of itself."

"We're basically all runners"

Monday, November 04, 2013

NYTimes Well Blog: What is your Fitness Age? A Simple Calculator

Now here is some fun. The NY Times Well blog recently wrote how  researchers in Norway after extensive testing came up with a simple on line calculator  to estimate your VO2 max and "fitness age."

"The researchers evaluated almost 5,000 Norwegians between the ages of 20 and 90, using mobile labs. They took about a dozen measurements, including height, body mass index, resting heart rate, HDL and total cholesterol levels. Each person also filled out a lengthy lifestyle questionnaire. Finally, each volunteer ran to the point of exhaustion on a treadmill to pinpoint his or her peak oxygen intake (VO2 max), or how well the body delivers oxygen to its cells. VO2 max has been shown in large-scale studies to closely correlate with significantly augmented life spans, even among the elderly or overweight. In other words, VO2 max can indicate fitness age."

The simple questions they came up with, and my answers:
Gender: M
Resting heart rate: 51
Age: 56
Intensity, length and frequency of exercise: hard, more than 30 minutes, exercise almost every day
Waist line: 85cm
Results : VO2Max 55, Fitness Age: 25

The calculator is here.

What's your fitness age? 
Do you think this approach is valid? 
Share here if you wish and also include a recent marathon or half marathon time.

Review: Orange Mud No Bounce HydraQuiver Single Bottle Run Pack.

We all struggle with the best way to carry an adequate amount of water and supplies (gels, phone, light jacket) for those 1 to 3 hour runs. Some such as yours truly, prefer not to carry bottles in hand, are bothered by tight belts and bouncing bottles, hate to fiddle and twist while grabbing bottles on the run while others find that race vests chafe or are uncomfortable.

The Orange Mud HydraQuiver is an ideal solution to all these issues.  Instead of carrying water on the waist or wrapping around the front with pockets on the chest as some vests do, the HydraQuiver puts its included 24 oz water bottle high in the middle of your shoulder blades. No bounce.  Very easy to grab  to grab the bottle and then replace into a nice stiff holster.
Orange Mud: Hydra Quiver

Orange Mud: Hydra Quiver

The HydraQuiver is more than a bottle carrier, it's also a great little run pack. Read on for the details.