Apple Watch Series 3 First Look

 

Apple Watch Series 3

I don’t like watches.

As a child of the 70’s, I come from a generation whose parents and grandparents religiously wore watches. Watches in those days were a combination of form and function. They were both jewelry and time travel protection, rendering the wearer immune to the time jumps inherent in relying on the microwave ovens and wall clocks of the world that lacked any time server synchronization beyond the occasional reset after the janitor called Time and Temp. Unfortunately, watches had no effect on that tardy slip you got because the school clock had drifted 5 minutes fast by the start of the 2nd semester.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah…I don’t like watches. To me, watches feel like jewelry, and I don’t like drawing any extra or unwanted attention, either positive or negative. They also exposed me to more social interaction, and as an introvert, I prefer to be left alone.

“Excuse me sir, do you have the time?” Nope!

So the advent of cell phones was great for me. When I started carrying a phone full time around 2005, I suddenly had ubiquitous access to the time, and it wasn’t just *any time*, it was the *right* time. I no longer had any practical reason to wear a watch.

When I began running in 2011, I immediately bought an armband for my iPhone and started tracking runs on Nike Plus. Carrying the phone was a bit annoying, but even if I had a GPS watch, I would carry the cell phone for emergency purposes.

Between a 24/7 on-call job and young children, I need to remain in contact when I’m on the run. Leaving the phone behind isn’t an option for me no matter how many times keyboard warriors tell me I should leave it behind.

So during the announcement of the original Apple Watch in 2014, I wasn’t looking for a stylish timepiece. I was looking for a waterproof GPS watch with cellular connectivity. Needless to say, I was disappointed, but there were likely very good reasons Apple’s first foray into timepieces missed my mark.

Primarily, I think the powers that be at Apple genuinely wanted a stylish timepiece with some smartphone-like functions. Tim Cook is over a decade older than me, and he’s more connected to those watch-wearing generations I mentioned earlier. If you do an image search for old pictures of Tim Cook, guess what you find. He’s usually wearing a watch.

Second to Apple’s focus on style, I don’t believe the battery(/power-saving) technology was ready for GPS and cellular. Samsung had its 3G capable Gear S available around the same time, and the reviews I read then said battery life with GPS was terrible. If I could find the review in question, I would link it, but I’m fairly sure it said a run with GPS and 3G drained the battery completely in around 2 hours. That might be fine for faster runners or shorter distances, but my marathon long runs usually last 2-3 hours.

When Apple announced Watch Series 3, I immediately started digging through their website for the relevant battery life details. Fortunately it didn’t take too much digging. With both GPS and LTE enabled, the Series 3 can potentially run for 4 hours. That number is very likely optimistic especially considering that I will be using AirPods for music, but it’s still at least 30 minutes of wiggle room for even the longest of my long runs. 2 hours is my absolute minimum requirement for GPS + LTE + AirPod music, and I’m hoping it holds up.

My Apple Watch Series 3 just arrived on Wednesday (October 10th, 2017). That’s right…this watch hating runner ordered Series 3 immediately upon release. I didn’t go wait in line on opening day because I don’t do that, but it *is* the first product I have ever ordered on launch day.

The setup of the watch with my iPhone 7 and AT&T service was surprisingly (at least to me) flawless. It’s not unusual for Apple’s part of the process to work, but when adding the $10/month plan to AT&T worked without a hitch, I had to pick my jaw up off of the floor. The only improvement I could see in the setup is a faster way to add music to the Watch, and the prompt for adding music should come during Watch setup instead of the first time you open the Music app. I do love the Heavy Rotation music option, though.

On Thursday, I had time to get out for a quick 4 mile run around noon. I left my iPhone at home and headed out with just Apple Watch Series 3 and AirPods. Although I may switch run trackers (or finish SubdueTheSloth) eventually, I went ahead and used NikePlus for this run.

When I started the run, the Apple Watch had already been off of its charger and connected to my iPhone for 6 hours. Over the 40 minutes I was out (warmup, running, cool-down, stretching), I listened to music through the AirPods the entire time. I tracked 2 runs. I did a 5K which lasted about 22 minutes, and then I tracked another 3/4 mile back to my car because I ran out a little too far for my 5K. In between the two runs, I called Sloth Wife from the Watch and talked for about 5 minutes.

When I returned to my car, battery life was still above 70%. As I write this, it’s about the same time of day, and battery life is at 95%. Based on those numbers, it appears that Series 3 will meet my 2 hour minimum requirement. I doubt it will make it through 4 hours, but I’m holding out hope for 3 hours if I don’t make or receive any phone calls.

The next major step is to get Series 3 out for a 9-12 mile run and see how the battery holds up. I’m cautiously optimistic and really hoping I can retire my Garmin and iPhone for normal training runs.

I still don’t like watches, but so far, I do like my little wrist phone gps tracker. Just don’t ask me for the time.

I’ll report back on battery life after I’m able to log some longer runs.

 

 

 

Trail Running: Kona, Hawaii

While the rest of you were following in the footsteps of the Ironman and cycling Highway 19 or swimming Kailua Bay, I was running the coastline, checking out Kekaha Kai State Park. I actually wanted to drive to Volcanoes National Park to run some of the trails there, but we were staying near Kona, and the schedule didn’t allow enough time to drive to the Southeast side of the island. My trail run wasn’t so much a trail run as it was bits of running mixed with hiking and picture taking. If I had it to do over again, I would have loaded up the family, snorkel gear, and beach supplies and made a day of hiking the unbelievably quiet beaches I found along the way.

I started my run by getting a cab to drop me off at the Southern-most entrance of Kekaha Kai State Park just off Highway 19. Trying to tell the driver where I wanted to go proved amusing as he originally thought I wanted him to take me directly to Makalawena Beach. Since the drive from HI-19 to the beach is unpaved and extremely rough, you’re unlikely to find a cab willing to take you all the way in. Instead of getting dropped off near the beach, I just ran the mile or so from 19 to the beach parking area. It might be tough for a car, but it’s not that bad for running.

Makaole'a Beach

Makaole’a Beach

Once I arrived at the parking area, I turned South away from Makalawena to run toward a small, black sand beach area called Makole’a Beach. The road toward the beach this direction is distinctly 4WD only, and it was much more difficult to run than the main road. The 4WD roads often have rocks in the 4-6” diameter size range bunched together anywhere the road has been washed out which is great for a vehicle but a little more challenging for a runner. After some time on the road, I noticed white markings on the lava heading toward the beach so I blindly followed.

KeKaHa Kai State Park Lava

KeKaHa Kai State Park Lava

The lava was surprisingly runnable, but that isn’t always the case. The lava in this area was smooth with cracks spaced well for my stride. In other areas, the lava was much rougher and reduced me to slow walking to keep my footing. The marked lava route eventually rejoined a road and took me to Makole’a.

Makole’a was empty. At 11:00 am, I was the only person on the beach. Being the type of person who likes to avoid crowds, I was floored. I’ve never seen an empty beach…ever. It would have been nice to stay and spend some time, but this was my running time so I took a few pictures and headed north along the coast.

KeKaHa Kai State Park Trails

KeKaHa Kai State Park Trails

Running from Makole’a to Mahai’ula Beach was a mix of rocks and really loose sand. If you wanted to get a better run without burning out your legs in the sand, returning to the 4WD road might have been a better strategy.

There were a handful of people at Mahai’ula Beach, but it was still extremely quiet. Most people coming to this area likely hike further North to Makalawena Beach.

If I’m remembering the route correctly, the hike to Makalawena is extremely rough. It’s about a quarter mile on little 4” diameter rocks. I was wearing trail shoes, and it was bothering my feet. I felt sorry for the beach goers navigating the rocks in their sandals, but the payoff had to be worth it. Makalawena Beach was so nice that I texted my wife and teased that I was just going to stay for the rest of the day.

Makalawena Beach

Makalawena Beach

From Makalawena, I mixed some coast line running with some 4WD road running. At times the coast line slowed me to barely a crawl while I worked my way around tide pools, and at other times I was running on paths through the trees or along small, sandy beaches.

KeKaHa Kai State Park 4WD Road

KeKaHa Kai State Park 4WD Road

After I left Makalawena, I didn’t see another tourist until I reached Kua Bay at the North side of Kekaha Kai. The few people I did see were clearly locals either heading out for spearfishing or camping on beaches reachable only by truly off-road vehicles. The roads to these areas may not necessarily require 4WD, but you MUST have ground clearance. The smaller Subaru’s I saw earlier in my run wouldn’t have worked here, and an Outback would have been borderline.

KeKaHa Kai State Park Trail

KeKaHa Kai State Park Trail

Eventually I had been out too long on too slow a route. I happened to see a car drive by out of the corner of my eye and realized I was near the paved road to Kua Bay. I cut across some of the worst lava rock I’ve encountered and hopped on the road for a quick half mile or so to Manini’owali Beach.

Manini’owali Beach is by far the most popular beach in this park. It’s a beautiful but smaller white sand beach with much less rock in the water making it a more attractive swimming location. When I arrived around lunch time, the beach was packed. I couldn’t even run the path through the beach without risking kicking sand into sunbathers. There were coolers and towels and people on almost every square foot of white sand.

I had planned to continue North, but there is a historical lava rock area just North of Manini’owali Beach with dire warnings about moving any rock. Not knowing how long it might take me to work my way through, I opted to run back out the Kua Bay access road and return to my hotel via HI-19. Even though my body was pretty well shot at this point, the roads gave me a chance to get in what turned into intervals for the final 3 miles of my run.

KeKaHa Kai State Park

KeKaHa Kai State Park

There are probably better places to run in and around Kona and definitely on the Big Island, but I had a blast at Kekaha Kai State Park. Mahalo, Hawaii.

 

 

 

 

 

A Lost Year

Sloth Brain

Well, it happened again. I lost another year. I didn’t spend the year in a coma or locked up in jail, but I definitely don’t feel like I’ve been “present,” for lack of a better term.

Prior to embarking on my journey from sick and out-of-shape to healthy over 5 years ago, I often lost days or weeks at a time. I would spend months sick with sinusitis and/or bronchitis, and my poorly managed thyroid condition kept me in a persistent brain fog and low on energy. But after 5 years of good health, I thought those days were behind me. Unfortunately I seem to have come up with a new twist on the same old story.

During my training for the 2015 Route 66 Marathon, I began experiencing some unusual neurological symptoms. I was training more miles per week than in previous marathons, and I was running them at much faster paces on much more challenging elevations. After most of my runs, long runs especially, it looked like an army of worms were swimming around inside my calves. Less frequently, I experienced involuntary muscle movements and spasms mostly in my arms. I attributed the symptoms to my training, but my wife disagreed.

At my wife’s urging when I went to the Doctor for thyroid blood work in October, I mentioned the symptoms. My Doctor didn’t seem too concerned about them, but she did feel my blood work warranted a decrease in my thyroid medication. I had been relatively symptom free for 2 years on the same dose of NatureThroid, and now the Doctor wanted to change my dose just 1 month prior to a marathon.

I did as ordered, and I still performed reasonably well at the marathon, but over the subsequent months, my body began exhibiting some of the familiar Hypothyroid symptoms. It’s an insidious cycle as the earliest symptoms for me are mental, and they impact my ability to realize that I’m experiencing symptoms. And, even though some of my neurological symptoms could have been attributed to too much thyroid medication, the symptoms worsened with the decrease in thyroid medication.

In July, my primary care physician sent me to a neurologist for further evaluation. Given its recent publicity and association with fasciculations, the neurologist was quick to eliminate ALS as a potential diagnosis. Being a bit of a hypochondriac, I had read enough online to know that ALS wasn’t a likely culprit. I’ve been much more concerned about Parkinson’s and related conditions, but the Doctor hasn’t even mentioned Parkinson’s as a possibility. I realize the likelihood of it being Parkinson’s is very low, but when your arm starts vibrating uncontrollably, it’s hard to dismiss the possibility.

Since starting with the neurologist in August, I’ve been to the neurologist several times, had an EMG, 2 MRI’s, and tons of blood work, and I still have no answers. In fact, I’m about to give up on ever having a definitive answer, but I have taken some steps to try to correct potential issues in my diet and reduce stress, both physical and mental.

I shored up some potential vitamin and mineral deficiencies with supplements.

I pressed the pause button on all of my side projects and focused solely on one critical work project.

Although I kept my training where running a 15K-25K was possible, I only raced once in 2016, a 5K that didn’t go quite as planned.

Even though I’m a night owl, I did my best to get more sleep.

Mentally, I’ve improved a bit, but physically, I’m still experiencing symptoms. I’m supposed to see both my neurologist and primary care physician in January so we’ll see what they have to say.

Until then, I’m just pleased to be a bit more present mentally. The fog has lifted just enough that I’m in the mood to punch the next person who tells me, “this too shall pass.”

 

 

 

Product Review: Hoka One One Clifton 1

Hoka One One Clifton 1

Well, I did it. During my last marathon training cycle, I finally tried a pair of Hoka One One shoes.

When I first began running, I was a typical heel-striker unless I was sprinting. In an attempt to stave off persistent lower leg injuries, I switched to a mid-foot strike with the help of Vibram’s and Newton’s. Shortly thereafter, I was amazed to find my chronic knee pain had subsided. This wasn’t pain I developed as a result of running but pain I had endured most of my adult life.

I was officially a member of Team Minimal Cushion in time to witness the birth of Team Max Cushion.

I’ve tried on the Hoka Clifton a few times, but I just couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. They didn’t feel right on my feet, and like most other heavily cushioned shoes, I found the lack of stability disturbing. Regardless, I decided to dive in wallet-first and try a pair of Clifton’s, the model I had heard the most about online.

Even though the Clifton 2 had already been released, I ended up with the Clifton 1. For whatever reason, the Clifton 2 felt drastically different between left and right so I went with the Clifton 1. Looking back, I wonder if the Clifton 2 at the local running store may have had different insoles in each shoe. The Clifton 1 came with 2 insole options so if the Clifton 2 is the same, the previous shopper may have been experimenting. Regardless, I was happy testing the Clifton 1 because it seems like it’s the shoe that kicked off the maximal trend.

So without further adieu…

Clifton 1 vs. Clifton 2

The main difference between the Clifton 1 and 2 is the tongue of the shoe. The Clifton 1 has what feels more like a thick piece of leather as a tongue whereas the Clifton 2 has a fairly traditional, cushioned tongue.

I can understand why people didn’t like the Clifton 1 tongue, but I actually liked it. The thick leather seemed to spread out the force of the laces and make it more comfortable on my feet than the thick, softer tongue of the Clifton 2.

Cushioning

How can I not jump straight to the cushioning? That’s really what this or any Hoka review is about, right?

Between August and November, I put in about 400 miles training for the 2015 Route 66 Marathon. At least half of those miles were in the Hoka One One Clifton. During the first several long runs, I honestly considered giving up on the Hoka’s. Nothing felt right. I was slower and felt like I was exerting more effort than normal. It was like running in quicksand.

I don’t remember when that changed, but the first hint was on a downhill during one of many long runs. I don’t like running downhill, and I alternate between trying to go with the flow and applying the brakes. On one of my downhills in the Hoka’s, I realized I was running aggressively downhill without any discomfort. As my confidence grew, there were times I was pushing my downhill pace into the low 5’s on steep enough hills. Considering I was attempting an 8 min/mile marathon pace, that’s pretty quick for me, even downhill.

Shortly thereafter, I noticed a similar change on the uphills. Keep in mind that I like running uphill, and I find minimal shoes great for running uphill. That said, on the same hill where I was hitting low 5’s downhill, I found myself bounding up the hill near the end of a 20 mile run and feeling surprisingly good.

I don’t know which of these changes can be attributed to the shoes and which can be attributed to the volume and quality of training. All I know is I wasn’t a fan of maximal cushioning, but I grew to appreciate its benefits on my long runs. If I were lacing up for a 5K, I would never wear the Hoka’s, but at half marathon distance or longer, soft, maximal cushioning like the Hoka One One Clifton 1 is definitely worth consideration.

Toe Box

Hoka One One Clifton Small Toe Box Bruised Toenails

Unfortunately, there is one glaring problem with the Hoka One One Clifton 1’s and most Hoka’s from what I’ve seen. The toe box is way too small.

Before you object, hear me out . I’ve run in a variety of shoes, both traditional and minimal, trail and road. In 5 years of running, I have never bruised a toenail, much less lost one. Actually, in all of my 42 years, regardless of the sport or activity, I’ve never bruised or lost a toe nail.

So what’s my secret? Ridiculously tough toenails. Seriously, that’s it. Most people struggle with their big toenail, and my big toenails are just tough. If I don’t have the extra heavy duty toenail clippers, the odds of bending the clippers versus cutting the nail are about 50/50. Gross, right? The other toes are softer, but most of them also curve with the shape of toe instead of sticking out straight so they don’t take much impact.

Around mile 20 of the Route 66 Marathon, I knew that was going to change. At the end of the race, I had 3 bruised toe nails. The 4th toe on my left foot and both of my big toes had bruised. A short 6 weeks later, I lost the nail from the 4th toe, but the big toenails look like they will survive.

I know some runners wear lost and bruised toenails as a badge of honor, but I consider most bruises and blisters the fault of bad equipment.

Upper

The Hoka One One Clifton upper is reasonably comfortable and breathes pretty well. The only problem I ran into beyond the size of the toe box was a hot spot on the inside of my right ankle. Given that it showed up on only one foot I suspect this was a manufacturing defect. A properly positioned bandaid prevented the blister, but seeing as I always forgot to put the band aid on, I now have a nice Hoka spot on my foot that seems to be in no hurry to go away.

Sole

Underneath my foot, the Hoka One One Clifton performed well. Traction was good, and the Clifton easily handled a few miles of trail running during my long training runs. It surprised me that I could feel the ground so well running on the trails. The trails here are rocky, and though you could feel the rocks for proprioceptive feedback, the soles were durable enough to protect the foot from injury.

Hoka One One Insole Escape

The insoles included with the Clifton could use some work. As I mentioned above, they included 2 models. The default was more molded to the shoe and more comfortable on my foot. Unfortunately, after about 50 miles of training in the shoes, those insoles decided they had had enough and tried to walk out the back of my shoes during a run. After that experience, I looked around online and found I wasn’t the only one who had experienced problems with Hoka’s insoles. Hopefully newer Hoka shoes have solved this problem because it’s pretty aggravating to find yourself at mile 5 of a 10 mile run with insole sticking out the back of your shoes.

Durability

As far as the feel of the shoe, I’ve not noticed any dropoff in the Hoka One One Clifton. Now closing in on 300 miles, I don’t see any reason to retire them. The outsoles are taking a lot of damage, but it’s not affecting the ride in the least. It might affect the off-road traction after a while, but since these are road shoes, it seems inappropriate to judge them based on trail performance.

Conclusion

Though I generally liked the way I ran in Hoka’s, I will never buy again unless they change the toe box dimensions. What I find amusing is I went into this review leery of maximal cushioning and especially the potential for rolling an ankle in a maximal cushioned shoe. I came out of this review only having rolled an ankle in minimal shoes (looking at you Nike Free), appreciating the maximal cushioning for helping me run better downhill, but disliking the shoe for a very boring, traditional reason….fit.

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Downhill Running Comfort
  • High Mileage Durability

Cons

  • Toe Box Too Small
  • Faulty Insoles
  • Potential QC Issues (hot spot on one shoe)

 


 

 

 

 

 

Product Review: Comply T-500 Isolation Earphone Tips

Comply-T500-Isolation-Earphone-Tips

I’ve been a relatively happy owner of Blue Buds X bluetooth earphones for a couple of years now. The battery life gets me through my long runs as long as I go easy on the volume, and the sound is incredible when sitting in the ear correctly. They also provide good hands-free control of the phone and have even worked for voice calls while on the run.

Unfortunately, Blue Buds X have two major drawbacks. First, they tend to work their way out of your ear during runs. They don’t move so far as to fall out, but they move just far enough that all of the rich bass is lost prompting you to reach up and adjust them every half mile or so. Second, if you get any water or sweat in your ear behind them, they will slip out so frequently that it’s not worth fighting them.

Over the Summer, I lost one of the earphone tips I normally use with my Blue Buds X. I tried some of the other included tips, but since I was already using the large, switching to smaller sizes only made the fit problems worse.

In an effort to avoid spending extra money to replace a perfectly functional pair of headphones, I turned to Amazon. I expected to find factory replacements at the top of my search results. Instead, I found the Comply T-500 Isolation Earphone Tips. These are a foam replacement tip that works with a variety of different headphones, the Blue Buds X included.

The Comply Tips are only $15. Now, that may seem like a lot in the days of $30 bluetooth sport headphones, but I’m going to venture a guess that the lower priced sport headphones are lacking a bit in sound quality, battery life, or durability. If they’re not, by all means, buy those. However, if you have a more expensive pair, consider this a worthwhile upgrade.

The Comply Tips do have mixed reviews.

One common gripe with the Blue Buds X is installation difficulty. Yes, they are hard to install, but it can be done. You just have to take your time making sure it gets over the outer edge of the earbud as it’s an extremely tight fit.

The other negative reported is durability. I just finished up marathon training, and the first set of tips came through relatively unscathed.

The way these tips work is the foam expands back to its previous shape after it has been compressed. That means you can fit it into your ear canal where you normally would the stock tips, and the foam will expand to fill the gaps. It ends up gripping the inside of your ear canal so that the ear buds can’t work their way out as easily as with the rubbery stock tips.

The fact that they are foam means that they will pick up any sort of junk from your ears, and it won’t come off easily without doing some damage. Mine are looking a bit nasty after 3 months so it’s probably time to swap to the next pair.

Each package includes 3 pair of tips so for the money, I will probably make it about 1 year before I need to order more tips or replace the headphones. Obviously, your results will differ based on the amount and type of training you do wearing the headphones.

Pros:

  • Holds earbuds tightly in your ear
  • Higher quality sound due to better position and seal
Cons:
  • Expensive relative to cheaper earbud options
  • Foam holds dirt and grime and isn’t easily cleaned