Be sure to add your blog to my blog list -- Click HERE or blog list above to add your blog!

Dec 27, 2014

The best of racing 2014

This year was again filled with a tremendous amount of races.  I ran 24 races this year - 24!!!  I'm going to go out on a limb now and say I won't be running this many races this year.  I need to concentrate more on training and less on racing but this year was really fun nevertheless.

I've got eight categories that I chose for this year's best.  Without further ado, here's my opinion of this year's races.

Best Course - This was really a hard one for me because every course has it's uniqueness to them but this year I went with North Country Trail Marathon as the best course I ran this year.  If you have not run any of the North Country, you should as it's incredible everywhere I've ever run on it.  This race is so popular it sells out in a day over a year ahead!
On the course at the end of the race
Best Race Organization - It's well known that I'm a big fan of Kona Running Company, and a race ambassador for them this year, and they are still hands down the best race organizers I've seen in the area.  They have some pretty stiff competition in the area too but they always seem to go above and beyond expectations with excellent communication, course management, etc.  They really do an awesome job and Alan Whitehead, the race director really listens to his clients.
Alan Whitehead at Wicked Halloween
Most Fun - This one was an easy one for me.  I have so much fun running the Mustache Dache 5k.  It starts at Atwater Brewing - one of my favorite breweries!  It's an awesome course on the riverfront in Detroit, designed by Justin at RUNdetroit and it finishes with beer and mustaches.  I really had another great time at this race and it's one I know I'll run again.  It's also the only reason I grow a goatee every year.  You should run it if you haven't but be sure to sign up early since this is a very popular race.
Rocking the beanie and goatee
Best Race Series - this year my vote goes for Running Fit's Thirsty Three.  This was a phenomenal idea - Beer, Wine and Cider races.  How can you go wrong with that?  I signed up right away for all three to do the series.  The first race, Hightail to Ale 5k, was at Atwater brewing in Detroit.  The second race, Running Between the Vines Half, was located at Sandhill Crane Vineyards in Jackson.  The third race, Scrumpy Skedaddle 10k, was located at Jk's Scrumpy in Flushing.  Each finished with beer, wine and hard cider with glasses to drink out of.  Need I say more?  You also received a medal holder to hold your three medals from the series - outstanding series.
Glasses, medals and medal holder included in the Thirsty Three series
Best Half Marathon - well, I ran 10 half marathons this year and my choice for the best half of these was Waugoshance trail half.  This was a great weekend getaway in Mackinaw City running on the North Country trail.  Even though it rained through the start, it was a fantastic course and very well organized.  If you are interested in trail running, this is one to put on your list.  Great Lakes Endurance also has several other trail races that are on my list to run.
The view and course was awesome!
Best Trail - The best trail race I ran this year, and any year for that matter, was Oil Creek 50k in Titusville, Pennsylvania.  Nope, it was not in Michigan for me this year.  This trail was an awesome 50k loop that was extremely hilly on no terrain like I've ever run before.  It was my hardest race to date and I'm heading back again in 2015.  I've committed myself to the 100k earlier in the year and I'm still 80% sure I want to stick with that.  I cannot say enough for the beauty in this area and it's a great weekend away with friends.
Dave, me and Kevin after we finished
Best Finish Line - this year I chose the Brooksie Way Half marathon as my favorite finish line.  It was also my first half marathon years ago.  Not only was there local beer from Rochester Brewing but they have a great spread of food.  If you are lucky enough to get an invite into the Team Challenge tent as I did(thanks Kevin), it's ever better food but the finish line is really very nice.
Brooksie Way Half marathon
Best Bling - This year the best bling goes to North Country marathon.  I could not believe the amount of stuff they gave for a race that is this reasonably priced - $80 for the full!  For your entry, you received a glass mason drinking jar, a tech hat, a golf shirt, a sweatshirt, a tech running shirt, and the biggest marathon medal that I own.  I could not believe it!
Lots of bling at the North Country Trail marathon
So there you have it, my opinions on the races I did in 2014.  All the races I ran this year had it's pluses and minuses and I really enjoyed sharing my views on all of them.  If you are interested in any of the races that I've discussed in this post, you can go HERE to read the detailed race review.  Feel free to ask me any questions and I'll be happy to help.

Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

Dec 21, 2014

Bryton Amis S430 GPS Running watch review

I received the Bryton Amis S430 GPS running watch about six weeks ago and I've been running with it since I received it.  Below is my review of the watch and it's functions.  It's always nice to have options in the marketplace when it comes to GPS and there are plenty to choose from.  Bryton is primarily in Europe currently, however, they are starting to come into the US market with the release of the S430 for runners.  Here's what I received:
The Amis S430 by Bryton
The package includes a heart rate monitor, charging cord and, of course, the watch.  You can charge the unit on your computer or you can use any USB plug and plug it into the wall.  I find it charges faster when plugged into the wall similar to any unit of this type.  There are also detailed instructions on how to use it, something that many of it's competitors do not include.  There is also a cleaning cloth and a cover for the display which I put on as soon as I got it.  I can't even tell it's on there and helps protect the display.
What's included
As I said, the unit comes with a heart rate monitor.  This is also similar to other heart rate monitors in the industry with a watch battery to power it.  Nothing against Bryton in particular but I'm not a fan of the heart rate monitors that go against your chest.  What I've found is they tend to chafe me as I go longer distances.  It works, just so you know, but I used my own heart rate monitor which goes on my arm.

The heart rate monitor I have is ANT+ and Bluetooth capable and works perfectly with the S430.  In fact, one of the things I like about the S430 is that it will detect the heart rate monitor I have when I turn it on even if I forget to do it and turn it on later in my run.  For whatever reason, my Garmin will not do that unless I actually stop my tracking which is not feasible.  This is a nice feature on the S430 since I tend to forget enough that it's nice it comes on when I remember.
Heart Rate Monitor
The charging cord is a little short but works just fine.  It's long enough to plug into the wall or computer.
Charging cord and ability to transfer to computer
There are two little circular magnets to put it against the watch.  These are not very strong and you need to make sure when you plug it in that it's on properly because a slight movement will remove it from the watch and stop charging it.  I would have liked to see something a little more sturdy when charging it.
Magnetic connection
The watch itself is, well........bright yellow.  It would be nice to see other color options like black but overall I like the yellow too.  Another feature I really like is the watch band.  This is a little longer than most watches I've tried.  It's not a big deal in the summertime to have this but it's really nice in Winter when you have on 3 layers of clothes.  Having the extra length is a bonus.
The watch
Before I get into running with the watch, I'd like to note a few features that, to me, seem really simple to add to the watch that many others don't have.  A pace calculator, Metronome and Stopwatch.  When you are spending this much money to track your runs, it's nice to see these simple features on it.  The metronome is especially nice and I've used it numerous times to help my running cadence.
The watch also allows for you to set up your own workout and/or intervals.  I'm not a big fan of intervals but it's nice to see the feature available on here.  You can set the time/length of the workout and what you are looking to do in order to perform a specific type of run.
You will also want to set up the watch with the data you want to see.  There are numerous pages you can use with up to four data points per page.  I usually use 2-4 data points with a couple of pages.  Of course, you can also set up Alerts such as when you hit a mile and you can also set the watch to pause automatically when you are at a stop light, for example.

This proves very useful and the reason I think it's particularly useful on this watch is that the start and stop buttons are different.  This really became frustrating for me.  I want the start and stop button to be on one button so it's easy and I don't have to think about it.  In addition, when you do stop the watch, it brings up a menu asking if you really want to stop it or if you just had it on pause.  It just creates confusion when you are running.  Why not just pause and then start again as I don't want to think when I'm out running.  I did talk to the company about this and they said that if you hit the button to pause the yes/no question will go away and you can just start again but it still different buttons.

You can scroll through the data points when you are running by touching the up or down arrows on the left side.  It's touch sensitive.  It appears to work pretty well and I didn't once notice it change in error when I was using the watch.  In addition, it works with gloves on too so no worries as the temperatures dip.
Other features
You can see below, the watch pairs well with my Oil Creek 50k shirt - also yellow - and looks really nice.
Nice looking watch
For a size comparison, I've got it next to my Garmin 220.  It's comparable not only in size but width as well.  It's not huge which is nice.
Size compared to the Garmin Forerunner 220
As you get ready to run, you go into the running mode and it starts to try to pick up a satellite.  I will say that the time it takes to obtain a satellite is literally seconds and it worked well every time I used it.  I can't say the same for my Garmin which sometimes can take up to a minute or longer to get a satellite locked so Bryton did an excellent job here.

I did notice that once you have your satellite locked, you need to start using the watch fairly soon.  Per the company, within 5 minutes.  For training, that's not typically an issue because I start running as soon as the satellite is locked.  In races, one useful feature that the company told me about was that you can set the watch in Race Mode.  Once you lock into a satellite in Race Mode, it will stay ready as long as you want.  Now that is a really handy feature that is very beneficial at a race!
Locating the satellite
Below you can see that I've got four data points on the first page including run time, distance, pace and my heart rate.  I really have all the functions I want on one page so I don't need to change the page during my run.  If you do have more than one page, there is a feature to automatically scroll through them if you choose.  You can see that the watch is also bluetooth capable which is important for the iPhone app as I'll explain later in the review.
Ready to run
After your run, you can see a summary of your run including the time it took, the distance you went, the pace you went and the calories you burned.  I ran at least 25 times with it and never had a need to delete the data on the watch so it's holds quite a bit of information - 300 hours in fact!

In regards to accuracy, as you can see below it's off from my Garmin, however, I can't say that it's this or the Garmin.  My running buddy's watch, also a Garmin, was close to the S430, as my Garmin always seems to show a longer run.  In addition, the accuracy gets thrown off when running in the woods which was most of my runs.  Again, this is all GPS and not specific to the S430.  I would say that the accuracy is quite good and feel that it's reliable overall.
Summary of your run
You can see I was happy with the results on my trail run! Haha!
Excited to be finished
After you run, there are a couple ways to get the data into your computer to track your runs including directly on the computer and using the iPhone application.  The first option is to connect the watch to the computer directly.  This not only allows it to charge the watch but you can then download the data into the computer.
Connected to computer
Bryton has their own software for both the computer and for the iPhone.  There is an option to "upload files" onto the computer and will load the files you request.  You can see below a list of some of my runs that I did with the watch after I downloaded it to the computer.  From there, you have a map of your run showing the distance, time, paces, and stride.  You can also add some description of the run to keep notes of how the run went.

There are several green buttons that allow you to also download your workout to Strava and other fitness programs, and if you just click it, it will take you to a screen to give your authorization to use it.  This makes it easy to get the workout into Strava.  I'd like to see Bryton develop software to make this transition automatically.  Many watches with their software these days allow you to download to their system, as Bryton does, and then it will automatically send the data to Strava.  My opinion is making this easier on the user makes it an easier sell to use their watch.  Unfortunately at this time you need to perform it manually but at least you can get the data to Strava fairly easy.

I tried to use the social aspect of the software but currently I'm the only one in the Detroit area using it.  I imagine that is because it's just coming to market in the USA so very few people know about it unless you live overseas.
Bryton software via computer
As you get into the software, you then click into the run for more details such as shown below.  You can see a better detail of the map and paces and elevation.  The green portion shows your elevation.  In this case, it's completely flat.  I don't particularly like how it's displayed and would be happier to just see a line as it does for the pace.  Personally, I use Strava most of the time so it's not that big of an issue for me.

The other thing I noted was the temperature always showed 32 degrees no matter what the temperature was outside that day.  The company told me that they are working on this issue on the iPhone so I'm sure there will be a software update at some point to fix this.
Details of my run
The thing I really want to see is how my pacing is for each mile.  It's rare that I look at my watch when out running except to know the distance.  As you can see below, the paces are shown for each mile.  The run below happens to be a flat run but, if you run hills, it will calculate the uphill and downhill average pace.  I really like this feature and it's something I've not see on other watches.  This information does not translate into Strava but I think it's a great feature.
Furthermore, you can also analyze the data that you downloaded over a certain period of time.  Again, the features are nice but I still believe that Strava does the best job at this.  I don't even use the Garmin software either except to get my runs into Strava so I don't see it as a negative for this watch.  When it comes to software, I believe that most of the watch companies think about software last, or even after the product is introduced to the market.  I'm not sure I understand that but it's probably the reason that Strava is so popular.

The second way to get the information into their software is to use the iPhone application.
iPhone 6 and the Amis S430

This app just recently got approved by Apple so I was not able to use it during the entire testing period.  I do believe it's a must if you are going to sell a GPS watch.  Again, you need to make it easier on the consumer and this certainly helps.  All you have to do is click on the run you want to move to the computer and, via bluetooth, you can save it without the need to connect the watch to the computer via the cord.  I did notice that I downloaded a couple runs into the app and the app does not seem to transfer the runs automatically to the website which I found odd and inconvenient.
Via Apple app
The application also shows typical things that runners want to see after their run including pace, altitude, splits, and of course, sharing the data with Facebook.
Pace/Alititude details
Here's a look at the run I did at Pontiac Lake on Friday.  When you first download it, there is a space to add a picture.  In this case, I had taken a picture at the trail head and added this to the run.  I like this feature because it's fun to add pictures but it's also very functional as I'm reminded of what the weather was like that day.  It's nice to go back to runs from the previous year and see what weather I faced.  In this case, we still have no snow so it was amazing!

The app also shows the map that you ran as well as the time, distance, average pace and stride rate.  In addition, you can see the date of the run and the time I started.
iPhone app showing my run
If you scroll down on the app, there is also data for your average heart rate, stride length, calorie burned and % calories in Fat.  These are all easily at your fingertips after a run.
Other data on iPhone app
You will notice that there are little arrows next to some of these fields so you can even go into detail further.  As shown below is my pace and heart rate for that run.
Pace/heart rate
There are also other screens to show you weekly and monthly results.  In this case below, you can see that I have some average paces and distances for the last several weeks.  Note that week 48 is zero because I didn't use the watch when I went on vacation.  My milage for the last four weeks has averaged over 30 miles - huge for me in December.
Average pace/distance
Your run can be easily shared to Facebook from the app as well.  I like how the data is shared through Facebook.  It has a lot of good information.  As you can see below, it shows the map and certain statistics of your run.
Sharing with Facebook

You can see below, after the run is complete and shared to Facebook what it looks like.  This is a nice feature which is competitive with other watches in the market.  It's not real until you post to Facebook, right?  Haha!
Displayed on Facebook
The bottom line with the watch is that it records distances accurately and you can track the data fairly easy.  While I think there could be many improvements to the software, it does what you expect it to do which is track distance, time, and pace and will help you train better.  Coming soon to a retailer near you in the US.

Interested in learning more?

Check out their Website at BrytonSport

Check out their Facebook page

Check out their Twitter page

Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

Disclosure:  I received a Bryton S430 GPS watch in exchange for this review.  All opinions are my own and I was not required to give a particular opinion except for an honest one.

Dec 17, 2014

Wordless Wednesday 12/16/14

Bryton's Amis S430 - review coming soon!

Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!

Dec 15, 2014

My run in Cozumel Mexico

A few weeks ago when I went on a cruise, we stopped in Cozumel, Mexico.  I didn't plan on running this day but figured I might as well get another run in since we were in port.  I know that many of you probably would not run this given the safety factor but there were always people around and I've not generally worried about it especially in a touristy place like Cozumel.  It was a nice out and back run into town and back to the ship with temperatures in the 80's already at 8am!  Here's a look at the route:
A fun run in Cozumel Mexico
I was ready as soon as the ship docked so I could get in my run and have time with the family off on the island as well.  It was an extremely windy day today.
Just off the ship
The port area is actually a really nice area with shops.  Given I was off the ship early, there were not many people area yet.
In the port area
Same goes for the island.  As you can see, it must have rained the night before since it was all wet.  I headed out towards downtown and asked for directions from a cab driver.
on the main road
 It was a nice run along the ocean and I passed many hotels and shops along the way.
Running by the ocean
There were also several bars right on the beach but nothing was opened just yet.  I just kept running until I could get in six miles.
Love the Palms
There were several ships in today and this one below was actually pretty close to town but we were a little further out from town.  That was fine with me since I wanted to get some miles in anyway.
Princess ship
Below is where I turned around.  This is the main strip in Cozumel where all the shops are.  You can see how windy it is as the palm trees are all blowing in own direction.  It made for some good wind resistance since the route was very flat.
Turn around point
The sign below was welcoming the athletes who were racing the Ironman Cozumel.  I did see several runners as well as a couple bikers on their Triathlon bikes.
The Ironman was the weekend I ran here
Another runner!
There are numerous homes on the waterfront as well with large brick walls and gates.  It does not give you that comfortable feeling seeing this but I didn't feel like I was in any danger or anything.  I just always try to keep aware of my surroundings when I'm running in a different Country.  It's not like I have anything on me anyway except a little bit of money and my cruise ship card and ID to get back on board.
Nice flowers on a residence
 I stopped to get a quick picture of the area by a dock.
By a dock
You can see the nice area right on the water with people walking up and down the strip.
Great views
Before I knew it, I was back at the port and ready to start my day!
Back to the port
My ship
Personally I recommend that most runners take a run  and adventure out when they are in another Country but please be safe about it.  I've run in several countries and have never had a problem.

Have a great day and....Keep Running!!!!