Archive for the ‘Gear Review’ Category

Many people today have a variety of different tools to use that help them to be more efficient. Running is no different. Many runners run with iPods, smartphones, heart rate monitors and such. Anyone that has a smartphone such as an iPhone, Android or Blackberry and has been to their particular market knows that there thousands of apps that are free or have a small charge.   Anyone would be overwhelmed by all the choices. I have tested many different apps for my Droid, and I will review four of them here. Most of them were free; a few of them I paid something like $0.99 for. Some say free is always better; I have found that is not quite true. 

Cardio Trainer Pro – Droid Phone

Cardio Trainer uses the GPS function for its mapping feature.  Since the software is running on the phone, it could play music and podcasts stored there.  Cardio Trainer can be upgraded to Cardio Trainer Pro, MRSP $0.99, offers live coaching when combined with the Polar WearLink+ Bluetooth Coded Heart Rate Transmitter Set, MRSP $80.00.   Cardio Trainer Pro has the ability to post to Facebook to share your results.  It was also a way to compare notes with friends and get their input. Here is a screenshot of what the internet site offers:

Cardio Trainer Screenshot

 MapMyRun

MapMyRun has similar GPS features to Cardio Trainer and use the music and podcasts from the phone.  There is a hear rate monitor that is limited to use only with an iPhone, and not Droid Phones. Their heart rate monitor, MRSP $49.99, can only work with the iPhone. In addition, a foot pod sensor can be added to the system, MRSP $69.99.  Before any of these accessories can be used, the Wahoo Fisica Ant+ Sensor must be installed, MRSP $79.95.  MapMyRun also had the ability to post on Facebook. Here is a screenshot of what the internet site offers:

My Map Run Screenshot

Google Tracks

Google Tracks is a free application.  Essential it is mapping software that uses the GPS of the phone.  For a basic program you can’t beat the price, free.  It is basic.  It lacks feedback, coaching, or any training programs.  It does not have the ability to link to a heart rate monitor either. The level of information for the route is far greater than the previous applications.  Since the application is only a mapping program, it does that very well.

Adidas miCoach

Like Cardio Trainer and MapMyRun, Adidas miCoach can be used as a stand-alone application or in conjunction with accessories. All the stand-alone versions of the software offer similar data.  The focus of miCoach is not to record your running, rather to train you to run. 

The training is based on zone workouts, and you can customize them based upon your goals and ability.  Unlike the previous systems, it is very customizable.  The program asked how many days a week did you want to run, and what your goal was. Some of the options were 2 miles, a 5K, 10K, a half marathon or a full marathon. It then set up a training run to see where you were physically. It had you run in four different zones. There are four zones: Blue (the slowest), Green, Yellow and Red (the fastest).  The program then establishes your zones and can be altered to suit your needs.  The zones are based upon your pace, and the feedback tells you to pick up the pace or lower it.

The same website tools are used with the pacer unit (includes a heart monitor), MRSP $139.  The disadvantage to pacer unit does not have a GPS unit and does not work in conjunction with the phones GPS.  The Pacer Unit offers live feedback to inform you to increase or decrease your speed based on your heart rate.  As a system, it does not offer a complete picture.  You need to decide which of the two is more important, heart rate training or accurate pacing based on GPS.  There is a work around to utilize both the application and the pacer unit.  It requires using both on the same run, and then combining the runs through their website. 

The collected data is extensive.  Below are screen shots of the various ways to measure your run and pace.  The test the two version of the system, the run was completed with both the applications and the pacer unit. 

Micoach Screenshot - Heartrate

Micoach Screenshot - Pace

Micoach Screenshot - Pace

Micoach Screenshot - Steps

Micoach Screenshot - Route

There are dozens of applications on the market ranging in prices from free to over $10.  You need to decide what you are looking to get out of your system.  Many people are big into data collection and analysis.  Others are looking for a basic snapshot.

– Chris Olsen

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Nike Plus GPS Sports Watch

MRSP: $199
Weight: 2.33 oz

This is the watch I am personally using for my training. It has many benefits over others on the market, from simple design features to pragmatic ones. There are some flaws in the design as well.  Let’s take a quick look at the features presented by Nike:


No, there are no holograms.

First, the look of the watch is quite sporty. When it’s on your wrist, there is no question that this is a running watch, or at least sports related. If you are looking for a watch to wear with a suit to dazzle others in a meeting, this is not it. The only color combination is comes in is black and volt green.  The screen is large, as are the numbers on its face. This makes it easy to read while running and an interesting time keeping piece when you are not. It was designed that if you tap the face of the watch, the backlight turns on for an easy read while running at night. This feature can also be set to mark laps as well, a feature I have not used much. I prefer the static lap indicator. This light can also be set to go off during interval training or a lap has been completed. I run primarily at night, so looking at the watch constantly while running can be dangerous. To have the bright backlight turn on when the interval ends or begins is great.  You can customize the watch to have a primary stat showing, and a loop (auto cycle or static) of customize statistics.

Statistics you can see while running:

  • Pace
  • Average Pace
  • Distance
  • Time Elapsed
  • Lap Time
  • Calories
  • Clock
  • Heart Rate
  • Clock
  • Heart Rate

The watch links up not only with satellites to compute your location and pace, but also uses an optional shoe sensor. This is to gather additional data for shoe strikes, pacing, and a back up if the satellite link is lost during the run. There is no other watch on the market using a shoes sensor as well. The watch will also link up with a heart sensor to gather even more data. Given the number of devices that it is attempting to synchronize, there is a small delay before the run. People have complained about the long link up time. How long is long? It has taken a couple seconds to a couple minutes for me.  I have seen complaints from people who say that it will not link with satellites until about a mile into the run.  I found from reading the manual, the support forums and personal experience, that if you synchronize to your computer before the run, it will update the current location of the satellites and the start time is drastically reduced.  In addition, you are not supposed to move until the watch is linked up.  This can be done in advance of a run and can wait until you are ready.  I spend those couple minutes getting in a some extra stretches.

At the end of the run, you get instant feedback. You get your statistics, and if this is a personal record, it informs you with a digital set of fireworks and celebration. The display varies. After seeing it after a long run, it is very refreshing to receive that instant gratification.  In addition if you have not been running in five days, the watch will remind you it is time to hit the pavement.  The battery life is very extensive as well.  Personally I have taken it out on a two and half hour run and the charge was still well over 50% remaining.  The controls are simple to use.  There are only three buttons, yet it carries a full suite of features and data.  It is most likely one of the easiest to use models on the market.

There are two parts to every GPS watch, the road and at home. This watch must be plugged into your computer to synchronize. There is no wireless connection, and some  people have complained about this. Personally I don’t mind since it recharges at the same time, and stepping out to have a run and seeing your watch needs to be charge is disheartening. This forces you to stall your run by a few minutes and recharge.  The charge time is rather quick.  The watch can hold 14 runs before it must be downloaded, not bad if you are traveling. Normally it should not be a problem for most people to upload before their 15th run. Recently there has been some reports of downloading issues. In response Nike has issued an update to their software and firmware for the watch. This seems to have solved the issues.  The watch is supported by vast website full of programs, running history, and fellow runners.  Since this website works with all the Nike Plus products, I will look at it under a separate review.

At the end of the day, the watch is a nice piece of hardware.  Given how varied pricing is on GPS running watches, it lands in the sweet spot at just under two hundred dollars.  You can pick it up from Amazon.com or your local retailer.

Asics Storm Shelter Jacket

MSRP: $110

First the facts.  This jacket is designed and sold as a waterproof and windproof piece of appeal.  This is accomplished through several design features.  All seams of the jacket are sealed to make it waterproof and not resistant.  In addition the shell is made of a light polyester to cut the chill of the wind.  There is even a zip tie around the base of the jacket to snug its fit around your waist to prevent water and rain from coming in under the jacket.  To reduce overheating, the inside of the jacket has a mesh layer to pull moisture away from your body in this semi-fitted jacket.  If the rain stops or slows, there are zippers under the arms, which, once opened, will allow more venting of body heat.  Finally, inside the left side is a pocket to hold items such as a music players, identification, or your house key.   The pocket also has a small hole to allow a head phone cord into the waterproof pocket.

How about the field test?  By using this jacket during a sleet storm, the effectiveness of this jacket was definitely put to the test.  The temperature at the time was 35 degrees during the storm.  The jacket did a great job of keeping the rain and wind out.  The barrier is so strong, the only temperature I felt was what I was generating.  This can be good and bad.  It is great in a sense that the temperature outside does not affect you whatsoever.  The bad is that if you generate a large amount of heat, the jacket will retain it.  This jacket is obviously designed to be used well below 40 degrees, and most likely 35 or lower.

During my field test, the sleet and freezing rain was thrown around by a 22 MPH wind.  After over an hour in the constant sleet, the only moisture under the shell was coming from me.  That being said, the moisture in the jacket did not sit on my skin, but was pulled into the mesh layer under the shell.  If it wasn’t for the weight of the jacket itself, the level of moisture wouldn’t have felt any different than a normal running shirt.

The last design feature is the internal pocket to store a music player, identification card or house key.  The internal pocket does a great job keeping its contents dry. A tip when using this jacket, or any jacket where your music player is inaccessible, make sure your playlist is long enough.

The jacket does a great job pulling the moisture off your body and retaining heat.  If you find yourself running hot, I  recommend  this jacket for temperatures below 35 degrees.  And if you find yourself with the desire to run in a snow or sleet storm, the jacket comes highly recommended by this runner.  You can pick it up at Amazon.com or your local retailer.

""My pair of Nike Lunar Glide 2

My pair of Nike Lunar Glide 2


MSRP:
$100
Weight: 10.7 oz

First, let us get the science on the table.  Instead of me rewriting or retelling the story of these shoes, here is a video of Nike’s Global Footwear Product Director, Phil McCartney discussing the Lunar Glide 2.


Phil McCartney Discussing Nike Lunar Glide 2

The Nike Lunar Glide 2 is a replacement for my pair of Nike Pegasus 27.  After slipping on the shoes, the first thing I noticed was the weight.  They made the Pegasus feel like boots.  The difference is astounding.  Normally with a lighter weight shoe, you sacrifice support and comfort.  Neither is lost.  As an amateur runner, take this in stride.  This is not a story of Cinderella.  Just slipping it on does not make for a happily-ever-after ending.  This is just the beginning.  A road test was in order.

The shoe is part of the Nike Plus system, though not needed to use these shoes.  I have beaten the Lunar Glide 2 for over fifty miles now on both short (less than 5 miles) and long runs (over 10 miles).  They stood up to both.

During the initial stage of both the long and short runs I am amazed by how little of the impact I felt when my foot lands.  I am a heavy runner, and support and reduction of the impact is very important.  Even after the first run, I thought I might be in the honeymoon period with these new shoes.  By the end of the long runs, I no longer notice the weight of the shoes.  With the Pegasus 27s, I could feel their weight with each swing of my legs.

Nike refers to it a Dynamic Support; I refer it as a feel for the road.  Even with a misplaced landing of my foot, the shoe shifted and gripped the road.  There is an important difference between feeling the impact of the road versus the feel of the road.

The Nike Lunar Glide 3 is now hitting the market, and finding the Lunar Glide 2 is a little harder.  Amazon.com and other online retailers carry some.  Not all sizes are still available.  I purchased mine during a close out sale directly from Nike.  Since I wear a size 13, I was limited on styles, thus the Lunar Green.  These shoes can now be purchased for below $100.  They are well worth the cost, you just may not have a choice in color.