CDog Runs!!

A blog about running and eating. Hopefully more of the running.

FitBit Charge HR Review

As mentioned in my last post, I’ve left my Amiigo behind and am now using a Fitbit Charge HR as my primary fitness bracelet.  The reason I chose this device over the many other choices was primarily the continuous heart rate function.  I’m a sucker for HRMs.  I’ve been using it for running training for a while, and with the Amiigo I was able to use it to determine rest days too.  They say that if your Heart Rate is elevated from your baseline when you wake up, then your body is telling you to take it easier that day.  Taking that in to account can make a big difference in your training.  Of course the device is also a pedometer.

Once I received the Charge HR, I discovered a few other features that I really liked.  Among them is the fact that it has a screen, so I can actually use it like a watch.  It also has a silent alarm feature, which is pretty cool.  When it’s time to wake up, the device starts vibrating.  So I wake up, but the wife can stay asleep.

Since the device is a FitBit you also get access to the FitBit ecosystem, and that has some advantages as well.  Among them is the ability to compete with friends on steps.  I’ve got a bunch of friends with FitBit devices and now I’m on a leaderboard with them.  I’m in 4th right now.  Fitbit also integrates with MyFitnessPal and will adjust your calories for you throughout the day as you move.  I’m experimenting with this now, I suppose in about a month we’ll know if that works or not.  Or if just give me too many extra calories.

When it comes to workouts, the Charge HR is pretty no-frills, basically you press a button on it and it starts a workout clock.  Then when you are done you press the button again and it stops it.  Once your device syncs, you can then go on the FitBit site and tell the software what type of workout you actually did.  I’m not sure it actually adjusts your calories for it though.  But it does have the HR data to use during the workout period and I hope it uses that data to figure out calorie burn.

I would recommend the Charge HR to anyone interested in a Fitness Device right now.  It’s really quite good, and I have yet to have a single frustrating experience with it.  Which is a bit of a refreshing change from the Amiigo.

Amiigo Update

Several months ago, I received and reviewed the Amiigo.  Since that time, I’ve continued to use the device and I wanted to update the review.  I’ve got bad news though, I stopped using it a few weeks ago in favor of a FitBit Charge HR.  Ultimate, I believe that the Amiigo may be the most advanced fitness tracker out right now, but there are several things about the device that really started to annoy me, I’ll list them out below in case anyone reads this:

  • Reliance on a internet Connection
    • The device is basically just a step tracker if you don’t have an internet connection.  You can’t initiate a workout, or a sleep tracking session w/o it.  This is probably not a problem all that often, but a few weeks ago I went on a cruise, and the Amiigo was completely useless.  When on a boat, you don’t have Internet Access (or you paid a lot to get some, and you aren’t wasting that data on anything).  I think that same thing would happen to people who like to camp, or even trail run.  You could head out to the trail (be out of cell coverage) and then be unable to use the device to track a workout.  This sucks.  If you could start the workout w/o the connection and then just upload the data later for analysis that would work, but you can’t even start it.
    • The same issues also occur during server updates, when they are updating the server you have a basic pedometer.
  • Spotty connectivity to the phone
    • On many nights, when I went to sleep I would be unable to start sleep mode because the device wouldn’t talk to my phone.  For no reason I could discern.  You could see a connection in the app, but when you went to start your sleep session, it wouldn’t connect.  This is incredibly frustrating.  Sometimes it could be fixed by placing the device on the charger for a second and then taking it off (but since it had 60+% battery, that seems unnecessary)
  • Inaccurate Battery Readouts
    • There is a known bug where the device only charges to 78% (I think that’s the #).  But it doesn’t actually only charge to that, it’s just that is what is reported by the device.  So that’s confusing.  Then there are times when you charge it for a while and it reports as being discharged still.  This is just another frustration.
  • Non-secure wristband
    • This is an issue with most fitness bands, but it’s still annoying.  The band gets caught on stuff, then just unhooks and falls off.  Luckily I never lost mine
  • The foot pod
    • Now this one is something that Amiigo finally fixed in their latest update.  There was a period where you needed the footpod to start any workout.  Including swimming!  A workout that literally doesn’t use the footpod!

All of the above reasons aren’t too bad on their own, but over a period of weeks/months they add up.  I just want a fitness band that works.  Tracks my steps, records my heartrate and allows me to configure a time where I am working out.  I’ve got that now with the FitBit Charge HR, and I’ve yet to be unable to start a workout or sleep session on it.  Hell, it even has a clock and an Alarm!!

Livermore Half Marathon Report

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On Saturday March 28th, myself and several other Mountain House Runners descended upon downtown Livermore for the 2nd Annual Livermore Half Marathon.  This was the 2nd time for most us actually since it’s a local(ish) race and actually pretty scenic.  Check out the group pic of most of our runners above.

Not a bad group, that’s me in the back left :)

This race begins and ends in downtown Livermore which is effectively closed off for the race, which is pretty cool.  They don’t do any sort of a wave start (though they may want to), so everybody just crowds around the start and back on down the street pre race.  On the plus side, they have a DJ there spinning up some music which really helps keep the atmosphere going, and is a must at pretty much all runs where it’s allowed IMO.

I trained pretty well for this race actually until about 2 weeks out at which point the combination of our Flag Football Season (which we did pretty well at) and the long runs managed to give me some sort of plantar fasciitis on my right foot.  So that sucks.  I ended up doing ~8 miles the Saturday before the race, and played football.  No runs during the week to try and heal a little.  I want to say that it helped, since I ran pretty well, but my foot definitely still hurt.

But I was in pretty good shape, and near a adult low in weight, so I ran pretty well for most of the run.  Especially the first 5 miles, check out the splits:

  1. 11:36
  2. 11:11
  3. 11:37
  4. 11:40
  5. 12:02

Then I started to feel like I was going to puke and the pace went way down.  Oh well, what can you do right?  The course itself though is pretty nice, it’s about 35% streets and then 65% trails (paved and dirt), there were aid station every 2 miles w/ water and gatorade.  And at mile 11, Blackhawk Networks had a DJ out, so that was nice to get a little cheering section and some music when you are that close to the finish.  I was rocking the Kilt for the run and plenty of encouraging comments were received.  So that was pretty cool.  I think the Sport Kilt is the way to go for runs.  Here is a my finish line pic, so you check out the whole outfit

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As per usual, I look terrible in the pic lol.  I did take one pic that I think is pretty good though, you can totally check out my calves in it, and I think I am even smiling a little.

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I ended up finishing in ~2:47, so that’s 30 minutes better than last year, but still about 12 minutes off my PR, so that’s not great, but it’s not terrible either.  The post race was pretty cool for the event.  You get your shirt, you get a wine glass, you get a giant medal that doubles as a coaster.

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And you get free wine/beer, like unlimited free wine/beer.  How great is that?  As it turns out, not that great.  2 of our group who finished in 2:05 hit the wine/beer and got a little dizzy since they were probably in negative calories and with empty stomachs, but they lived so it’s all good.  Once the whole carpool was in, we chilled for about 30 minutes and then hit up Buffalo Wild Wings with the families.  So all in all, it was a great day and I’m still mulling over whether or not to run it next year.

Next up?  Planning the Mountain House Kite Run (Registration available now), and probably running the Hook & Ladder, since it’s the only race I’ve never missed in my years as a runner.

Organizing Events & Trello

I’m a task list kind of person.  I just love adding an item to my list for everything.  Stuff to do, things to remember, or even just an idea. My personal task list of choice tends to vary, but right now, it’s Wunderlist (though it was todoist last week).  I’m on Wunderlist now because it’s got some excellent collaboration stuff, and it’s pretty.  When trying to introduce someone to a new idea, like task listing everything, it’s easier to start w/ an aesthetically pleasing option. Wunderlist is going to work just fine for me, and for a shared task list between my wife and I.  But what about group planning?  Maybe you have a committee, or a more complicated project, what then?

Could you use Wunderlist, sure you could.  Or you could try something designed for teams.  I’m trying out Trello.  I’ve looked at it before and I didn’t really get it.  But last week I started reading some articles and some tutorials about it, and I read a description of it that really made it click in my mind.  For example, here is my Trello Board for the 2015 MH Kite Run (Registration open now):
Trello-Kite

If you take a look at that, you can see that I have 4 different groupings, and then a bunch of sub items in those.  OK great, so how does that help.  Well the thing that made it click for me was to imagine that you are looking a white board, and on that white board there are lines separating it into quarters.  Then inside those sections, what you have done is put a bunch of post it notes.  And that’s how you organize.

Put everything on a separate post it, and then stick them in the right spot.  It worked for me.  When I look at my Trello Boards now, I feel like I can get an overall view of the project and the tasks associated with it.  That’s pretty helpful with group planning and hopefully with transferring the knowledge to someone else to run in the future.  And of course you can invite other people to your boards and assign tasks out.  I haven’t gotten that far yet.  First I have to try it, and then I can start convincing others to use it with me.

New Balance Minimus Hi-Rez

For the last few months, I’ve been running in something that could probably be called a shoe.  Crazy right?  But it’s true!  If you know me, you know I run in Sandals or barefoot most of the time.  This is primarily because my feet are a size different, and I just like the freedom.  But I ordered some shoes for weight lifting, and I loved them so much that I tried running in them.  Here they are, the Minimus Hi-Rez.

$_35

 

Not nearly as ugly as some running shoes right?  But, what do I like about them?  Let’s start with the ground feel.  It’s a 0 drop shoe with minimal padding.  Just enough that stepping on rocks doesn’t hurt, though it does have a weird tread pattern as you can see.  You get used to that pretty quickly though.  The other thing about that is that the tops are thin, with no rigidity.  This means that it being too big for one of my feet doesn’t cause problems, I just tie them tight and they don’t chafe or cut me.  So that’s awesome.

So far, I’ve done a lot of road running in the shoes, but no trail running to speak of.  But I would definitely recommend these for some minimalist running, I like them so much that I even ordered a 2nd pair from Amazon.

Scheduled Races for 2015

I used to go to a lot of races, but the last few years I have cut way down.  Maybe it’s cost, or maybe I just hate waking up, I dunno.  But still, the amount of bibs pinned up on my cubicle wall from last year is only like 5.  And you know what else?  It’s probably not going to change much this year.  As of right now, I have 3 races paid for and 1 more I’m definitely doing.  With any luck though, I’ll do some volunteering for Brazen and then get a couple of free races from them.  Not sure yet though.  Here is what I have in mind for this year though:

February

LMJS Couple Relay – This is a fun 5K that takes place in Oakland.  It’s a partner race, so one person does a 5K and then the other one does.  Combined time is used to determine winners and the what not.  It’s kind of turned in to a tradition with my running club to hit up this race and then all go have lunch.  It’s well costed, well ran and a nice course.  For the second year, I will be teaming up my friend Lisa.  There’s a good chance we’ll beat last years time I think :)

March

Livermore Half Marathon – My only currently scheduled HM.  It’s a redo from last year, which I could really use.  On the last attempt, my calves began cramping about mile 7, so I spent almost 6 miles walking it in.  It was brutal.  I am very lucky though in that I have great friends who were willing to walk a good portion of it with me.  Definitely aiming for a better one this year though.

May

Bay To Breakers – It’s going to be my 3rd time at Bay to Breakers, which is crazy because after the first I was pretty sure I never wanted to run it again.  It’s just a total circus…  Wang’s everywhere!!!  But then I realized that I was thinking of it like a race, and once I started thinking of it as an event you could do with friends it got so much better.  Last year my running club all tried to dress in Superhero Themes and it was great.  Still not decided on this year, but I’m sure it will be fun.  And hopefully I’ll post a little preview here.

June

Hook & Ladder – This is a local Livermore run out at Wente Vineyards.  It’s a nice race with some excellent support.  And most importantly for me, it’s the only race I’ve done every year that I’ve been a runner.  So I can’t miss it :)

That’s all I have scheduled.  I’m hoping to add another Half Marathon later in the year, something flat and fast so that I can PR…  But it’s probably a little premature for that plan.

Amiigo Review (It’s a Fitness Tracker)

Back in March of 2013, there was a glut of “Activity Trackers” being put up on IndieGoGo and Kickstarter.  At the time I opted to back two of them, the Misfit Shine and the Amiigo.  Eventually, Misfit announced they weren’t going to support Android, and that they had no timeline for that, so that tracker was cancelled.  It has since released and people do seem to like it though.  The Amiigo on the other hand always maintained a promise for Android support, then even released the App before very many people even had the device.

For those interested in the Amiigo, you should know that customer service has been pretty iffy for a lot of people w/ them.  I’m in a couple of groups dedicated to the device and the main complaints are that they haven’t received them, usually followed by how hard it is to get a refund.  I can’t vouch for the refund, since I figured there was a chance the money was lost once I “backed” the product.  Not that it really matters though, since a month or so ago, I got mine. And here it is:

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I know, that’s a very manly color, it’s just how I roll.

So, what does it do you ask?  And more importantly, does it do it well?

Let’s start with what it does well, and then finish with my annoyances, that seems to be the way people do this right?  The easiest ways to talk about what it does is to show the data, cause it gathers up some data.  There are 3 screens I want to go through, here is the first one, it’s the “start screen”.

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The icons at the top (LRTB) are Steps, Calories, Sleep, Workout.  The Steps one is pretty standard, every tracker does that, it’s the point of trackers.  I don’t have a comparison device so I can’t vouch for accuracy, but I think it’s right.  The Calories burned seems about right as well.  It takes an estimate of your BMR, and then adds additional calories if you work out or are more active in a given day.  Sleep tracking is actually pretty cool, it will monitor your heart rate and movement during sleep, so you get a pretty sweet overview.  You also get a ton of additional metrics.  Here are a couple of screen shots of the Sleep overview and also the advanced metrics:

2015-01-12 17.13.28  2015-01-12 17.01.59

You can see how it rates you on restful sleep and even gives you a letter grade.  I also probably should have slept more that night, stupid poker till 330AM LOL.  On the right is several of the advanced metrics the sensor can gather.  I have no idea what to do with any of it, but it’s hard to say no to extra data.  And maybe one day I’ll get some use out of it all.

And finally, the best/worst thing about the device…  Workout Mode…  The Amiigo has something that most other trackers do not have.  It has a footpod that has to be used in workout mode.  It’s annoying, but it does allow for more advanced data than other trackers.  For example, you get a better cadence count w/ a foot pod.  And in Amiigo’s case, it can use the 2 devices simultaneously to figure out what exercise you are doing.  How sick is that right?  of course, it’s still a work in progress, but it works ok most of the time.  Currently, you have to open up workout mode and train the individual exercises, which is kind of a pain.  But a recent update notification was released saying that they are working on including a bunch of exercise in the automatic recognition.  The workout mode also works well for Cycling and Running (Swimming too, supposedly, I’ve just never done that).  Here is what a run looks like:
2015-01-12 17.02.05  2015-01-12 17.27.43

You get reps, cadence, distance and calories burned.  All of which seem to be near to what has been reported by my TomTom most of the time.  Though distance is a little off I think.  But yeah, that’s some good info to be had right there.

Would I recommend this device to others?  Yeah probably, but I wouldn’t advise pre-ordering.  Once it gets in to a store and you can walk out with it.  It’s pretty good device.  I wish it didn’t need the footpod, but I get it.

You can get more info at their webpage

https://amiigo.com/

The MH Dietbet

To start the new year, I organized a weight loss competition. The goal is to lose 8% of the starting body weight before Easter.  Anybody who succeeds gets to split up the money of anyone who doesn’t. There are over 20 people in it so far, so the potential for decent money is alive and well. When this competition is over, I should be at 240 lbs. Which is basically right at the lowest I’ve been since I started trying. Then I want to lose another 10 lbs to reach goal #1.

To accomplish this feat, it’s going to be all about getting my calorie intake under control. The supplementing with my standard regimen of weights 3x-4x a week, Yoga 1x-2x,and running every other day.   The running should all be low intensity heart rate training. I don’t have another race until the Livermore half marathon in March.

If I’m on target, I might even have a chance at a PR.  That would be awesome.

There you have it, the start to a great new year.

Welcome Back!

Let’s try this again!  The goal is to get to 230 Lbs in 6 months.  Seems pretty doable.  Probably should avoid stuff like this though:

_martinis