Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Review: TomTom Runner Cardio GPS Watch

Guest Review:  I'm pleased that Kyle offered to write up a review of the TomTom Runner Cardio for durtyfeets.com.  Kyle is my cousin but he is basically like my brother.  We've logged many miles together on roads and in the woods.  I value his opinion greatly on most things so I'm sure you'll find this review helpful.

Kyle purchased the TomTom Runner Cardio at Miles To Go Sports in Sutton, MA.  At Miles To Go, this model retails for $269.  You can also purchase the multisport version for $299.

Here's what Kyle has to say...

     Ok, so you know who is writing, I am Kyle Klockars. I'm a recreational runner who tends to put on about 1000 miles a year.  This is my second “running watch.” My first was a Garmin 405 with heart rate band.  That watch is getting, well tired so I purchased a new one from Miles to Go in Sutton MA.  Overall, I have been pleased with the watch.   I have run with the watch for about 4 weeks now to get a better overall feel for it and the more I use it the more potential I see.
So lets start off with the things that need improvement.  Most of them are repairable by software.  It would be nice if the split times were accessible somewhere in the activates log.  I use them to see my performance. Did I do negative splits on that last 3 miles, etc?  I would find it helpful if there was a way to re-position the display on the watch so the categories I am concerned about are together.  It would be nice to have current pace near heart rate so I don’t have to scroll thru eight different screens to see my heart rate while running.  What would be better is if you could select two or three screens that would scroll by with the data you want to monitor, go one step further and allow me to pause on one item and monitor it for say a hard push up a hill and then resume the scroll when I am done. Lastly the “current pace” still seems like some kind of average not a current pace.
What I do think is wrong with the design of the watch is the glass is exposed to impact.  Guys this is a sports watch I may drop it with my slippery hands and it may hit the ground.  Having the glass proud of the protective rubber watchband is too much form over function, at least offer a band to correct for this. 

     Ok! What did I like?  The heart rate monitor is, well awesome.  I had a chest band for the Garmin, which lasted like three runs as it felt like a boa constrictor while I was running.  The TomTom takes a few seconds to start reading and seems accurate based on my feel. 
The GPS is also accurate compared to my route with known distances.  It locks on to the satellites quickly, which was a real drag with my Garmin.  I have yet to try it on trails to see how it does there.  The Garmin always seems to loose accuracy there.
     I love the ability to sync with a Bluetooth device (my iPhone) so I don’t have to be at a computer to upload my run.  You still have to connect with a computer for software upgrades.  That isn't a big deal to me.
     The watch is comfortable and disappears on my wrist while running.  I like the looks. Just a little flash but to the average non-runner it is just a watch.  
I don’t like the securing for the tail of the watchband.  It is secure but usually rips the hair out of my arm trying to get it to fasten.
 I find the vibration notification feature easier to notice than a beep.  The watch also tracks your stride rate.

    Battery life seems good.  I have only used it for about an hour and a half at this point but it doesn't seem to loose much.  I am sure it would do a marathon with ease.

     I did have to deal with TomTom customer service to get it serviced (yup I dropped it with sweaty hands) they were very pleasant and efficient at getting it repaired. 
Overall I think the few shortcomings for the watches are being addressed in the constant updates to the software.  I would recommend the watch to a friend, and am pleased with my purchase.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Wapack 21.5mi Race Report. A photoessay of ouch

A couple of weeks ago, I had the "pleasure" of running the Wapack 21.5 Trail race.  Despite my sufferfest, it was a very well run race with great people and a beautiful trail.

Race Description from Ultrasignup.
The Wapack and Back Trail Races consist of a 50 mile ultramarathon and an end-to-end trail race run on the 21.5 mile Wapack Trail (www.wapack.org). Leading from Mt Watatic in Massachusetts to North Pack Mt in Greenfield, NH, the rocky ledges of this technical trail (approx 4600 ft elevation gain) afford views of the Boston skyline to the east, Berkshire and Green Mountains to the west and White Mountains to the north. Ultrarunners who complete the 43 mile out and back section will be receive a finisher's medal and be listed in the results. Four aid stations (which ultrarunners pass twice) will provide water, electrolyte drink, sugary and salty snacks. Post-race refreshments will be provided.

Without further or do, I give you my race in pictures.

Finish area before boarding the buses.  Just starting to rain. All smiles.

At the start line in the rain.  This is my own custom instagram filter.  I call it Ziploc baggie.

Ziploc baggie filter Selfie.  Still smiles.

What the hell?  This isn't a trail.  It's just vertical slippery rocks.  Super fun in a not running lungs burning hands on knees sort of way.

Kyle climbing up North Pack.  I was not taking a pic of that woman's butt.

1st peak bagged.  Whew.  That was easy.

North Pack in the books.  1000 ft elevation gain in about 1.6mi.  Only to give half the elevation back on the other side.

Second peak bagged.  Pack Monadnock.  

Just about to start our descent to the first aid station at mile 5ish.  The descent basically amounted to white knuckle downclimbing on slick rock.  Super fun in a terrifying sort of way.

Mile 12.5 aid station.  It's getting hot and you can't quite tell from the pick but my wheels are getting loose and are about to fall off in a big way.  Good food and great volunteers.  Thanks Anthony!

Climbing New Ipswich, I think or whicher hellish hill is at the ski area.  Sun came out and it got HOT.  This is where the pain began.

Good news, I think I can see some scenery.

Bad news.  It's hot as hell and there is NO tree cover.

Yay!  Scenery.  Trying to get a smile on my face for the pic.

"Stop taking frigging pictures so we can get moving.  These black flies are driving me nuts."

Kyle is just humoring me at this point.

Best I could muster.  I think this is the second to last peak.  At this point, I was out of water, unable to run at all and just trying not to hurl.  Yup!  This was fun... in retrospect.

Victory shot after bagging Watatic.  Last peak of the day.  Now to climb down for an entire mile with no quads left.  This was the happiest face I could muster at the time.

DONE!  Got my syrup.  Now let the cramping begin.

Inov8 Trail Roc 245s (courtesy of Miles to Go Sports) were a great choice for this race.  

My only lasting visible casualty.  Not bad.  My GI tract, however, was messed up for days after the race.  TMI.
Summary of this pic is CLIMBING!  The three smaller peaks at mile 15 were particularly terrible.  :-)

Best post race torture device ever.  Thank you Roll Recovery R8 and Miles to Go Sports.

So that's it!  I finished Wapack 21.5 in 5:41.  The terrain and conditions made this, by far, the toughest race I've ever done.  If it was any longer, I probably would have dropped at mile 18.  I'd like to thank RD's Ryan and Kristina and all of the volunteers for putting on a helluva race.  I will definitely be back.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Boston Marathon 2014

I've been asked a ton about how my marathon training is going by folks at work.

I'm not running Boston this year. I ran it last year because I had promised myself that if a number ever fell in my lap, I would do it. I was fortunately enough to get a 2013 number through Tri-Valley Frontrunners. There are a number of reasons for me to sit this one out. Mainly, I wasn't all that excited to run it again right away regardless of the events and I didn't want to take a number from someone else in my running club who wanted the experience. I'm not fast enough to qualify so I need to get a number through a charity or one of the very limited number through my club.

To be honest, training for Boston through the winter is not very fun as many of my friends will attest. My 2013 training experience was cold and lonely and took a ton of time away from family activities. Most of my marathon race day experience was great and I will do it again but I knew even before the chaos hit that it wouldn't be 2014.

I'd be lying if I said there wasn't fear some fear involved in the decision. I'm not worried about another bombing or anything though the images do occasionally flash back on me while running by myself when I let them. My fear is mostly that my family will be worried about me (even more than usual when running stupid long distances). I'm also slightly concerned (yes, afraid!) about what will go through my head when I next run down Boylston to the finish. I've never been comfortable in crowds and my experience last year has not made me any more at ease.

I have no doubt I'm strong enough and I will do it again some day soon but I think I would really rather spend the day with my wife and kids and celebrate life and the marathon experience with them this year.

I'm incredibly proud of all of my friends who are kicking butt in their marathon training and part of me wishes I was out there logging the miles with you. All of you will do great on race day and I'll be cheering for you.

- Cheers!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Review: Skora Core Minimal Running Shoe

The Skora Core are great.  They were provided by the manufacturer and Miles to Go Sports in Sutton, MA just before we were to leave on a recent trip to Disney World.  I brought my Altra Instincts (Review here) and the Skoras.  I never even bothered with the Altras.   The Skora are right up my alley.  They had superb ground feel and fit really well without having to lace them up too tightly.  I wore them all day long through all the parks.  We probably logged 4-5miles walking each day and I never felt tired.  In fact, my feet felt great.  25-50% of my miles were also spent as a beast of burden with my 50lb daughter on my back.  I reluctantly wore them on a water ride because I had no choice.  They came out looking like new.

From a running perspective, it was pure pleasure.  Since I got my first pair of Merrell Trail Gloves (reviews here and here) long ago, minimal shoes have slowly been creeping back to more and more cushioning and structure.  Walking around in the Skora Core was like old home week for my feet.  These shoes are incredibly flexible and nimble.  Every little bit of undulation in the ground is right there for your feet to revel in.  For me the fit of my size 12s was perfect.  They just formed to my feet and stayed there without having to mess with the lacing too much.  I think that was the supple goat leather.  It was like running in slippers.  I was only able to run on a paved path in Disney but I put about 8 miles on them.  It was not all that hot (70-75 max) but I can tell you that my feet never felt warm.  I'm interested to see how these will do when the temp starts to climb into the summer.  

Since that Disney trip in January, I have logged every single mile that I've run in these shoes.  I probably have 150-200 miles on them through some really crappy New England winter conditions.  Slush, frigid temps, puddles, snow, road salt, everything.  They still pretty much look like new and they handled everything I threw at them including glare ice patches.  I'm looking forward to some light trail miles on them too but I can't find the trail through all the snow.  You really can't go wrong with these shoes for winter running even in the dark.  The reflective silver is so insanely good that it occasionally distracts when you catch it out of the corner of your eye.  Even in broad daylight, I have fellow runner comment about it.  

Being that they are almost completely unstructured with no cushion at all, these are definitely not shoes for someone who is not committed to safely transitioning to barefoot/neutral style running.  Having already gone down that road, I'm in LOVE.  

More miles to go on these without a doubt.

If you'd like to research the Skora Core or any of their other fine shoes, please have a look on the Skora web page. (Link)

Upcoming reviews for the spring:
Altra Instinct Everyday
Inov8 TrailRoc 245
Roll Recover R8

- Cheers!