Tag: review

Black Diamond Spot Headlamp After the Run

I was able to run for a couple hours in the dark with my Black Diamond Spot headlamp. Here are some of my thoughts after 11 miles along the highway, residential streets, and rec path in Utah County in a pre-dawn training run.

Black Diamond Spot Post-Run Review

Running in the dark with the new Black Diamond Spot Headlamp
Running in the dark with the new Black Diamond Spot Headlamp

Black Diamond Spot Headlamp Unboxing Video

Black Diamond released a new and improved Spot Headlamp, first at REI, and now at other stores. Check it out as I open the box and give it a first test on video. Stay tuned for the next video, after I use it on my pre-dawn run. Here I open the container, insert the batteries, glance at the instructions and press some buttons.

Black Diamond Spot Headlamp Unboxing Video

Running in the dark with the new Black Diamond Spot Headlamp
Running in the dark with the new Black Diamond Spot Headlamp

Polar Personal Trainer Website

I’ve used the Polar FT60 in the past, and currently use the FT80. The software that comes with them tracks your stats at PolarPersonalTrainer.com – which I’ve been using for tracking my indoor non-GPS workouts for a few years.

To be totally honest, both watches have all kinds of features I’ve never used, and probably never will. I’m really a simple person when it comes to tracking indoor workouts. I don’t set targets and goals, don’t want to hear beeps and tones for when I should start my next weight training set, don’t want to know if I should roll over and go back to sleep or work easy, moderate, or hard. Between these two watches those are all features you might want to use. I myself just want to record my heart rate over time, store it, and transfer it up to the internet so I can see all the cool charts and graphs. I’m not being even slightly facetious here either.

Polar Personal Trainer Summary View
Summary View – Page One

The watches store about 99 workouts, so if you train once a day, you should really upload your files about 4 times a year to prevent them from being overwritten. If you are training with intent and purpose though, you’ll probably want to upload them about once a week, so you can review your week and see your own highs and lows and progress. If you’ve been doing this for a while and have a good idea of your own weaknesses, you won’t need to upload so often. I normally do it about once a month and just glance back to see if some of my suppositions were correct or validated with data.

To upload you set the watches in a little USB dongle that looks something like a small cup-warmer. The lights flash, stuff happens, and shortly your browser will open up at the Personal Trainer website so you can log in. Then you get a page similar to the above, a weekly summary with start time, duration, heart rate stats, and calorie burn. For a lot of you this would be good enough. Just the Cliff-Notes version.

Polar Personal Trainer Diary View
Diary VIew

I like to click the link for Diary View, which puts something similar into a calendar grid and you can scroll through it by week with a little weekly summary beside it. This is a great way to scroll through your weeks at a glance to verify your own progress. If you are doing any kind of split training with multiple times per day, those will show up by hour in the grid, like a calendar app. Notice the Fitness Zone Summary. I am using custom zones, based on a mix of the watch’s fitness test, my training hours per week, and training goals. For yourself, unless you know some reason to change them, let the watch set them for you. Additional to that, this info is also used in calculating your calorie burn, which is a bit more accurate than the display on machines, since the watch knows your age, weight, height, and athletic level.

Polar Personal Trainer Training Load
Training Load Graph

The next most useful feature, IMHO, is the Training Load Graph. Based on your heart rate stats and time in each zone, the website calculates how much “overwork” you might have done, and estimates the time required to recover and train as hard again. I myself do not use this to plan rest days, which I think was intended to help you out, but rather to look back over the week to see if my estimates were correct in planning my own lighter and heavier days. Sometimes I get a “DOH!” moment – when I say “Oh, yeah, that’s why I wanted to hit the snooze button that day”

In my Training Load you’ll notice how low my load was for a while when I was in maintenance mode and recovery mode between outside training sessions, which I record elsewhere. Hence the gaps – when I was outside that day. You’ll also notice how high my training load was as I increased my time and vertical speed in preparation and testing to see if I should do Elbrus Race 2012.

Polar Heart Belt doing weights
Polar Heart Rate Belt during weight training

If you are interested, there is a social side with friends and sharing and stuff, but I’m not really that kind of person, so I don’t know what those are like. If anyone does, please, write comments below, or put them on the Seven Summits Body Facebook Page (if they’re too long blog it and put up a link there). For something that’s free with the watch, it’s okay, and I do use it on a regular basis to compare my stats to my perception as a reality check – we all need that now and then.



Ultimate Upper Body Cardio Training

Concept2 SkiErg Training

The moment I saw a clip of this in action, I knew this would be the most awesome training for low-angle ice, or glacier climbing ever. I think it was originally intended for cross country ski training, and having done some XC skiing way back in the day, I can see the benefit already. I am using poles for a lot of my vertical hiking – another perfect training application.

I ordered the wall-mount model direct from Concept2, and got the PM4 monitor (the higher end of the two monitors available). It took about a week to arrive. After hauling it down to my basement, it really took only a couple hours to assemble and install. Note that I do have exposed studs and no baseboard molding which might have helped it go faster. Also, advice to anyone else doing this – don’t tighten any screws on the sleeve in the middle of the main column until all the screws are started.

I decided to give it a few minutes spin to figure it out and see what I could do. The motion was simple enough, and after messing around I figured out various ways to stand for core activation, and balance and stability training. I’ve been training with it now for a little over a week, including the past 6 days after cracking 2 ribs. Yeah, I probably shouldn’t be doing this, but I can stabilize my core and relax it, using just my upper lats. I wish I could go now, but it will be a few weeks before I can try ice climbing again (4-6 weeks recovery for my ribs) to see if it helps. I’ll let you know.

After this I also did an experiment to extend my range of motion and then do a concentrated squeeze in my central back between my shoulder blades (rhomboid area). This short clip shows that.

Review: Hoka One One Bondi.b

Hoka One One Bondi.b

Having used a MafateWP as one of my “snow running” shoes, and being generally happy with the cushy feel, I got a pair of the Bondi.B – a primarily street shoe that I’ve used on roads, trails, and treadmill for about 250 miles now.

In fact, right now it’s one of my favorite trail runners, and I’ve used it on every organized trail run, including 10k, half marathon, and marathon. Compared to the pic above, here’s how mine look now after about 100 miles offroad, and 150 miles other …

Bondi.b - on feet - dirty tops after 250 miles
Bondi.B from the top, on feet, showing wear and dirt
Bondi.B showing side on feet
Bondi.B from the side, on feet

In the two photos above, note the general wear and tear, including a crack near the left big toe joint I got during a trail 10K that I repaired with shoegoo. Also quite dirty compared to the marketing image at the top of the review.

Left shoe inside side view crack near toe
Left shoe inside side view - crack near toe repaired with shoegoo
Left outside side view
Left outside side view

Above two photos show side views. One of the most obvious differences in these shoes is the very thick, soft, cushy, foamy midsoles. Some people love them, others hate them. The foam has a lot of energy, and if you can try them on and run on pavement, you should totally feel it. Whether you like that feeling or not though …

Above in the video, I show the general characteristics of the sole. If you can’t really see what I’m doing, from the ball to the end is very soft, ball to instep medium soft, and heel fairly unsoft (though it will deform in twisting motions). Notice the speed with which it snaps back when I let go. Lots of energy, even after 250 miles (about half the life advertised, and I have no reason to doubt I’ll hit 500 miles).

For “anti-traditionalists” notice the sole is very rounded in shape (some people report being asked about their butt-augmenting workout shoes while wearing them). The hype implies that you’ll strike in the prominent middle foot area and roll off the toe without necessarily flexing your toes. Here are a few shots of my current sole wear at about 250 miles:

Middle sole zone
Middle sole zone - note moderate wear in white rubber, maximum wear in yellow foam area
Heel sole zone wear
Heel sole zone - note minimal wear in orange rubber, moderate wear in white rubber, maximum wear in foam area
Toe sole zone wear
Toe sole zone - note minimal wear in orange rubber, moderate wear in white rubber, maximum wear in foam area

Notice that there is minimal wear at the heel and toe, and a lot of wear in the middle instep area. So at least in my case it’s working as advertised.

Now down to the nitty gritty: the midsole is fat, thick, soft. If you need some type of support, it’s not there – this is majorly a “cushion-only” shoe. IMHO for my foot anyway, it seems to run about 1/3 size small.

Some people report very tired support and stabilizing muscles in their lower legs, and increased incidence of rolling because of the lack of support. I can’t dispute that, as I’ve felt the stress on the little support muscles as I got used to this shoe, and while I have rolled a few times in them, I normally do, so I can’t report that it’s any better or worse than any other shoe.

On a treadmill, the foam absorbs your impact quite a bit, which has one bad result – the belt feels like it stops just after your midfoot expands on it. It’s the weirdest feeling. Never read anyone else mention it though, so maybe it’s my wacked out gait?

Hype says the huge foam blob deforms to accept all terrain variations. I feel rocks, so I can’t really accept that. Maybe I’m just more sensitive? I mean, I really can’t walk across a normal concrete driveway barefoot without a lot of pain from the miscellaneous stuff that gathers on it.

Running uphill and downhill on the road is just freaking amazing. On the trail I had a lot of control issues on technical downhill. Took a major fall in the Aspen Backcountry Marathon, as well as a lot of sliding around that I managed to save. I talked to a few of the aid support crew who’d worn Mafate’s in the Leadville 100, and they said the same for that more popular offroad shoe with larger tread lugs.

I love this shoe, wear it frequently in my rotation, and despite the thin tread, it’s one of my favorite trail runners. One of my prime considerations in using it is the ease of recovery, probably from the impact¬†absorption (though it appears I’m not a heel-striker, I’m big at 185 lb and 6’1″, and old, at 50+), not to mention the increase in strength I’ve noticed in my stabilizers.

Don’t take my word for it though, go try a pair on at a reputable running store and see if they’ll let you go outside (Boulder Running is where I got mine – nice people overall).