The Cry Babies Aren’t In the Stroller

As described in the post Julia Webb pushes baby stroller 10K in record time from GrindTV, another Webb, has set a record. In this case, Julia Webb, wife of American 1 mile record holder Alan Webb has set a new world record — the fastest 10K recorded while pushing a baby stroller. Her time was 38:15 surpassing Allison Tai of Canada whose time is 43:07.

After reading the exciting events in the article and feeling good about the world — An amazing woman accomplishing a great feat with the help and encouragement of her friends — my glow was quickly dimmed when I read the comments.

Someone actually wrote “So she selfishly took a baby out cold, wind and rain, just to try to set a record, sounds like child abuse.” Then the back and forth began. It is really discouraging to see this type of thing.

I mean, child abuse? Are you kidding?! Because someone runs with a baby in a high end stroller made for runners. A baby who was swaddled in blankets and protected by a rain cover. A baby who was being pushed at a pace of 6 minutes and 9 seconds a mile or 9.7 miles per hour. There are babies being taken around on bicycles at more than 10 miles an hour all the time with no complaints.

And little Ruby has to grow up with the shame that she participated in a world record being set. Oh wait, that’s pretty cool. Which kid wouldn’t want that? People astound me.

Social Media Community: Good People. Good Friends

I am a very shy person. It doesn’t always seem that way to people in real life and some folks think that I am standoffish. I am often by myself at races because I don’t always know how to approach anyone. Ironically, in the past I have corresponded with people in the community online, but never interact with them at races we both attend.

I have almost always felt like I needed a purpose to be comfortable at a location or in a setting. This frees me to communicate with much more confidence. I was very fortunate that my beautiful wife is a librarian. As a bookish type, I was able to go in and “check her out” (her words).

I think that my shyness contributed to me ballooning up with weight. I let it act as a buffer between me and the world. This of course exacerbated my issues and I started to feel even more out of touch with others.

In 2012, I finally decided to lose the weight and eventually this led to my taking up running. After I had some success at it and shared my history, I was asked if I would like to appear on a podcast to talk about it. I was honored for the opportunity and then realized that I liked to write and would like to continue sharing with people what I had discovered.

That is where social media has come in. I launched this blog and then created a Facebook page facebook.com/hamptonrunner and Twitter account twitter.com/hamptonrunner. I had always been leery of social media in the past. I had an aversion to the word “social”, but I wanted to try and promote my blog, where I started to meet a cast of really good people.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of the amazing people I have met online, but rather a chronological sampling of the kind of generosity and good will I have discovered on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Brian Burk of Brian’s Running Adventures

As the user @Cledawgs on Twitter, Brian was one of the first people to follow me back and to read some blog posts. Then later on, I was surprised to see that someone had come to my site from his. I looked it up and he had posted about my blog and shared it with everyone.

He also introduced me to the concept of Follow Friday. It is amazing to have people like Brian out there who gently take a newbie like myself and give me such support. I try to practice the same as much as I can to follow his example.

Steve Carmichael of RunBuzz Radio

Steve was kind enough to invite me out of his thriving RunBuzz community on Facebook to appear in a podcast. It actually was the first one published online even though it was the second one recorded.

Steve is always following his community closely and really giving sound advice to help aspiring and experienced runners. He does this with humility and wisdom.

Lisa Hamilton of Conscious Runner

Lisa Hamilton is an elite runner who only surpasses her talents with compassion. She runs a very popular podcast The Conscious Runner and has started up her own community on Facebook – The Conscious Runner Academy where runners can support and cheer each other in addition to getting great training input from her.

My first interaction with Lisa was when she put out a call on Facebook asking if anyone had any questions or issues. I seized the opportunity and asked her about a problem with my gluteus medias.

I expected a quick reply with maybe a link or two. Instead I received a long multi-paragraph response with great information and links to videos that could help me. Then she kept checking up on me from time to time.

We have corresponded many times since and she is always generous with her time and knowledge.

Brandon Wood of Gearist and IronBrandon

Brandon is a special case out of everyone here. I actually got to meet him in real life and he exceeded my expectations for what kind of person he would be.

I first heard Brandon Wood on Episodes 9 and 11 of GingerRunnerLive. I immediately checked out his YouTube channel The Gearist TV where he does very thorough gear reviews and just completed his excellent 23 part Ironman Chattanooga series.

I of course followed him on Twitter and to my surprise, he followed me back. We then talked and I found out that he is actually from Hampton, VA and grew up a few blocks from where I live now.

We chatted back and forth on Twitter and he mentioned that he was coming out in about a month. We tentatively planned to run together.

When he did come out, we went out for a ten mile run. Toward the end of the run, we saw an older gentleman sitting down on the sidewalk with a lady speaking with him. Brandon and I approached the scene.

Apparently, the man was a little confused and was wearing a medical wristband. He said that he was trying to get home. Since we were on the grounds VA Hospital campus, we figured that he was a patient.

Brandon immediately started chatting with the man in a very friendly manner. He seemed completely comfortable and amiable. He offered and helped the man up, meanwhile apologizing for being sweaty.

I was extremely impressed with the kindness and charity that seemed to just flow naturally from Brandon. This, I feel told me more about him than any of our conversations up to this point. I am a firm believer that actions speak louder than words.

Jill Angie of Running with Curves

Jill is an always supportive netizen and communicator. She has put together a tribe of other incredibly active and supportive people. She is always jumping into groups and engaging with others in any way she can.

She is also amazingly generous. Recently, I had commented in her very active Running with Curves Discussion Community on Facebook (you can find out how to join by clicking http://www.runningwithcurves.net/jointhecommunity) and felt an immediate traffic surge on my site. I also started to get some likes on my Facebook page.

Then later, the likes really started to come in. As I looked at the tags, I learned why. Jill gave me a shout out and asked for people to check out and like my page. I never asked her to do this and was blown away. She is yet another wonderful giving person on the Web.

All of these folks are trying to build a Web presence and increase their business. But that never stops them from helping each other or promoting others. It is a real privilege that I can associate with them.

Review: Does the Garmin Vivosmart combine a FitBit Flex and Pebble?

It was with great excitement that I unboxed the Garmin Vivosmart. I had already reviewed the Vivofit and missed my Fitbit Flex for its size and unassuming design. Could this new offering from Garmin be the fitness band you rule them all?

It has such promise. It tracks your steps and sleep, tells time, and even can receive notifications from an iPhone or Android device.

But wait, there’s more. It can also act as a remote for a Garmin Virb, control music on your iPhone, and connect to a speed/cadence sensor to track a cycling workout. These are all some exciting features, but does it deliver? What kind of execution?

Within the box there are only a few items – The Vivosmart, a quick start manual, the charging cable, and the Vivokeeper which helps hold the clasp in place.

After opening the box, I saw that the Vivosmart powered on. Since I had Garmin Connect on my iPhone, I synced it. I already have a Vivofit and the app squawked that there could only be one fitness tracker, did I want to use this one (the Vivosmart)? I chose yes and it didn’t seem to work, so I deleted the Vivofit and Vivosmart from the app and tried again. This time it worked.

I was off and running. First, I put it on with the Garmin Vivofit that I already owned to get a comparison of size and step count over time.

As can be seen by the picture, the Vivosmart is definitely much narrower and less bulky all around. It also does not always have a display shown like the Vivofit. This makes it more similar to the Fitbit Flex. When it is not illuminated, the band is much more subtle and unobtrusive. The Vivosmart display is also backlit whereas the Vivofit is not.

However, the Vivofit has a much sharper display. This display is much more readable, while the Vivosmart is almost hazy as DCRainmaker noted in his post – First look at Garmin’s new Vivosmart activity tracker. It really is a problem as I will explain later. As far as step counts go, they are pretty close. After a few hours and 5000 steps, they were within a couple hundred. With fitness trackers, the numbers can be all over the place, so it’s a wash.

The Vivosmart also shares the movement bar and target steps with the Vivofit. The big difference being that while the Vivofit bar turns red and extends across the screen to prompt you to get up and move around, the Vivosmart is much more aggressive and vibrates.

Sadly, the way it chooses to vibrate seems to be arbitrary, or on a timer. I lost count of how many times I was up from my desk walking around when I felt a vibration on my wrist. I would look down to see if a notification came in, but it was just the band telling me to “Move”. Uh, hello? That’s what I’m doing Vivo-not-so-smart…

Music Controls

One feature that I wanted to try out were the playback controls. Or at least I thought they were playback controls and that Garmin just called them Music Controls. But no, they are music controls on the iPhone. I was listening to a podcast and hit the Play/Pause button and a song started in the Music player. It turns out that unlike most devices that control playback on the iPhone, the Vivosmart only works with the built-in music app. So, no audiobooks, podcasts, or Spotify for you.

Notifications

The main feature that got me excited about the Vivosmart was the ability to get notifications. The Vivosmart will start receiving alerts for any notification that displays on the lock screen of an iPhone (I tested this with an iPhone 6). Nothing is required. It starts receiving as soon as it is configured in Garmin Connect on the phone.

Here is an important productivity notification from the Words with Friends app:

And this is a notification from Twitter:

You scroll left and right to get through the notifications and touch the down arrow to scroll down and read the notification. As you can see, there is not much shown at a time. The Twitter notification simply shows who is sending it and my Twitter name. It disappears fairly quickly and  you have to scroll to retrieve it on the band.

Also, it actually took me several tries and angles to get the shots to be as clear as they are here. This is the ideal shot. I had a lot of trouble reading the notices on my wrist when they came in. Especially at an angle on my wrist. I found that I had to keep retrieving them again. It really is about as much trouble to pull the iPhone out of my pocket or a holster.

Compare what is shown above to what I use as my daily device for notifications – the Pebble Watch. Here is a tweet on the Pebble:

It is much clearer and you can immediately scroll up and down to read the rest of it. Also, you can click the center button to dismiss it. This removes it from both the Pebble and the lock screen on the iPhone. This is a relatively new feature on the Pebble, but still very handy.

Also, it may seem unfair to compare the Vivosmart to a full blown watch, but consider that the Pebble has been out for well over a year and is priced at $99, $70 less than the Vivosmart and has apps like Misfit to track steps and sleep as well.

Battery Life

Another consideration is battery life. And this is a big one. I had a Fitbit Flex and it got 6-7 days battery life on average. The Pebble gets 5-7 days with constant notices. The Vivosmart? Well, day one I took it out of the box and used it. That evening I got a battery low notice and it was dead within two hours. When it is dead, it’s as active as a rubber bracelet. No low battery icon or anything.

Now, in fairness, when looking at the quick start manual, the first thing shown is the following image. It seems to imply that the first thing to do is charge the device. But for how long? And why doesn’t it explicitly say it.

So, the next morning, I charged the device for some hours. It then held up for 2.5 days. Meh. Next charge was 3 days as well as the one after that, so I felt okay with it.

Then the next charge was a day and a half. And then it didn’t last from 10 AM until the next morning . I woke up and found a dead Vivosmart. When comparing it to the Vivofit which is supposed to last one year (I have had it for 3 months so far), this is aggravating.

Virb Control

The remote control for the Virb works fine. You navigate to the Virb menu and it will connect to the device. You then can tap to either record video or take a picture. The only issue is that the band goes asleep, so you have to tap to wake it, then you can tap to stop or start the recording. This added step should be considered when you are using it in the field. You will need to enable the remote setting on the Virb camera in addition to enabling the Virb screen on the Vivosmart.

Cycling

The cycling functionality is interesting. It works right away. You have to enable the feature in Garmin Connect for it to show. As soon as you have the feature enabled, you will be prompted to pedal for the device to connect to the Speed or Speed and Cadence sensor. After it has detected it, press the fitness icon (it resembles a runner) and then a play/pause button appears. This button starts a workout timer. Press that and start riding. The you can press the button again to stop the workout. Press the save button (floppy disk I wonder when that symbol will go away) to save the activity or the trash can to delete.

When you save the workout, it will automatically be loaded into Garmin Connect. You can see them below:

One really cool feature was that at the time I was wearing a heart rate monitor with a Garmin Fenix 2 watch. This heart rate monitor was detected by the Vivosmart and connected automatically without any intervention from me.

Unfortunately though, the speed was  vastly optimistic. I had me averaging 24.04 miles and hour with a top speed of 2808.14 miles per hour. I promise that I wasn’t riding a rocket at the time. The ride as tracked on the Fenix 2 with GPS is below:

Update Issues

Another issue I fought with was an inability to update the device. I kept being teased by the “New Updates Available” message in the Garmin Connect app. I would hook the VivoSmart up to external power, remove it, and then see Update Failed.

This happened numerous times. Ironically, the update it was trying to apply included “Changes to make future updates coming from iOS 8 download reliably.” in the Change History. I finally was able to get the Vivosmart to update by connecting it to my laptop and pressing and holding the battery icon. A USB icon appears that it is connected. You can then use Garmin Express which can be downloaded from www.garminconnect.com/vivosmart. On the page, in the statement “Don’t have a compatible phone? You can set up and sync your vívosmart on your computer,” click the link “on your computer.”

Conclusion

There is a lot to like about the Garmin Vivosmart, but it is not without issues. It has many features, but they are not all quite ready yet. Hopefully some of it can be improved by firmware updates. But at this point, it feels like the product is not fully baked. The device is being sold exclusively at Best Buy until November 2014 but you can pre-order it from Clever Training (This is an affiliate link and I will receive a small commission). Maybe by the time it is rolled out to a wider release, it will be more solid.

Back of the Pack Motivation

I tried something different for a 5K race this past weekend. I was supposed to run the Shell Yeah challenge as part of the Crawlin’ Crab weekend here in Hampton, VA. The challenge consisted of a 5K race on Saturday and a Half Marathon on Sunday.

It was decided that I should run the 5K on Saturday as a shakeout run.  I have been dealing with some pretty severe leg and hip issues that have put a serious dent in my training block. I had actually only run one time in the past two weeks.

 

The other consideration was how was I going to run my race on Sunday. How was I going to place myself in the corrals — I was scheduled to be in Corral 1 for both races. This placement was problematic for me because I have a tendency to go out strong and then sag in the middle of the race.

I had to find a way to govern myself and not let my competitive nature run away with me. So on Saturday, I decided to line up at the back of the race. There were four corrals, and I was in the back of Corral 4. I then proceeded to run the race at a much slower pace than I normally do. This worked really well because at the back of the pack, there are many walkers and newer runners.

This meant that as I ran, I passed people the whole time. I may not have been going at the same pace as normal, but it felt fast. This was very nice psychologically. I felt really motivated. In the end, I wound up passing around 1500 people.

This idea of running from the back of the field came to me from an article I read about Meb Keflezighi doing the same thing at the Peachtree 10 Miler – Keflezighi runs down pack at AJC Peachtree. While I could never be like Meb, I got a chance to feel like I was.

Give this a try. It is a ton of fun and gives a whole new feel to a race. However, make sure that the race is chip-timed.