Alpine Apple Cinnamon Four Points Bar

Folks, I don’t know that I have negatively reviewed anything yet on the site.  That is changing today.

A few months ago, we received a Four Points bar in a monthly nutrition box.  For my ride and run today, I needed something and chose it out of our box.  It was the Apple Cinnamon flavor and . . .

IT

WAS

BAD.

The flavor was not good, the texture was not good, and overall it was not pleasant to eat.  I took my first bite and was not happy, but I was willing to keep trying. I took a second bite and was totally displeased, so I stopped eating it.  Emily saw my face and offered to take a bite.  She was also not pleased by the flavor either.

I have two thoughts on why the flavor wasn’t good.

1. The outside of the bar was covered in dry cinnamon, this caused a slight peppery taste and gave me dry mouth.

2. I just don’t like the taste of dried plum and fig, which were the first two ingredients, a bit odd since it was an apple-flavored bar.

Anyway, that is what I have to say, and I don’t believe I will try out any more of their bars (which is disappointing, since they are a Colorado company and I would love to support them).

Pioneer Single Sided Power Meter

When I got the Wahoo Kickr Snap, I thought it would be great to get power readings while I trained indoors.  I didn’t really think about not having this for race day, or even for just training outdoors.  But this number became more important to me over time and therefore I decided to invest in a power meter.  The hard part of this decision was figuring out which one to get.  Garmin Vector seemed like a logical choice, but it meant I would have to change my pedals (I use Speedplay).  While they were the number one choice for a while, I continued to read reviews and look around.  I looked at Stages, but alas, then I would be bound to a single sided meter forever.  4iiii seemed like a good choice, but then my bike would be out of commission for a few weeks while it was installed.

Then I came across Limits.  Single sided, but allowed me to keep my pedals and for relatively cheap.  The problem is that it is an Indigogo campaign and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for them.  You can read their updates on Indigogo, but I also recommend that you read DC Rainmaker (Post 1, Post 2) if you plan to go that route.  I have even seen another of these pop up on Kickstarter with a short time frame for delivery.

Ultimately, I ended up on Pioneer.  I am starting with a single side, but it is upgradable if I choose to do so later.  And, with an added Pioneer head unit, a lot of useful data is given to the user.

I have done one ride with it so far, so I want to get a few more rides in before I give a final review, but:

  1. Install was easy (really easy)
  2. First ride shows slightly higher numbers than the Kickr (is it possible I was losing something between crank and wheel?)

I’ll put up a more in depth review in a few weeks once I have had some more time with it.

Garmin Fenix2

In May 2014, it became painfully obvious that if we were going to add sports to our workouts that we would no longer be able to utilize the Nike+ GPS Watch.  It skewed running data because it was only intended to track runs, not running and swimming.  Over the last 8 months, the Fenix 2 has treated me well and my thoughts about the watch are posted below (this is all on the verge of the Fenix 3 release).

First and foremost, coming from the Nike+ GPS watch, I found that Garmin has a far superior system for connecting to satellites.  I had become quite accustomed to a several minute walk around while waving my arms in hopes of finding satellites, but that wasn’t the case with the Fenix 2.  I was quickly picking up my location (within 10 seconds of starting an activity).  This was a relief immediately because in addition to my pre-run walking and waving, there were many times I had to go back into the house, plug in the watch to update the gps data, and then go back outside for more walking and waving.  My understanding of this, is that Garmin uploads geo data to the watch when you connect to the computer so it has some idea of where you are before you walk out the door.

The Fenix 2 also has a great range of activities to choose from, some of which I will never use.  For instance, I am not a skier and I don’t believe I will ever go rock climbing.  There are, however, many that I have and do use.  Hiking, Running, Biking, Swimming, have all had their turn since I purchased the watch.  The indoor feature is quite good too.  The Fenix contains internal accelerometers so that there isn’t any need for a footpod while running, and when paired with the HRM Run, running dynamic information is available on Garmin Connect after the run.

While I haven’t yet used the Multi-sport mode, I have had plenty of opportunities to.  Last summer we were doing quite a few bike/run bricks.  For some reason I never put it together and so I never used this function.

Accuracy is quite similar to any other gps watch I have used, but I will say that Nike tries to snap your run to paths and roads much more than Garmin does.

Form:

Form factor for the watch is good.  The watch itself is quite large, but it does remain comfortable to wear.  Mine came with a fabric/velcro strap as a replacement that I put on for a short time, but decided I preferred the rubber/plastic band.

Function:

Each activity offers a wide variety of screens for the athlete to see how they are doing.  For running I choose to look at my pace, HR and Cadence.  For me they are the most important parts of my run.  I have a second screen that has vertical oscillation, I review this from time to time since I tend to bounce more at a slower pace.

For swimming, I compared the Fenix2 to the 920xt.  During 1000 yards, the 920 was pretty consistent with measuring the correct distance and the Fenix2 picked upon extra 50 yards somewhere along the way.  This could have been an issue of wearing them on different wrists, but I can’t imagine that my right and left arms were moving that far out of sync that the fenix would sense a direction change, but the 920 would not.

Cycling tracks important things for me, Cadence and Speed.  I also tend to watch HR on this as well, but for the most part, I am watching cadence.  I watch this a lot for indoor rides and almost neglect the speed since I am focused more on consistency than how far I have gone (plus indoor rides are pretty easy to get a lot of mileage because there aren’t any hills on my trainer).

The Fenix2 actually has something on it that I miss on the 920xt.  The Altimeter.  I am sure this is because the Fenix2 functions as a hiking kind of watch and the 920 doesn’t have that same focus, so altitude isn’t likely as big a factor, but I do miss it.

Battery Life

Garmin claims 50 hours of battery life with the GPS on.  I can’t say I have come anywhere close to this, but I can say that I have gone a week without needing to charge it using it for running, cycling and as a daily watch.

Other Features

Garmin has started to build in smart watch features to their multisport and running watches.  If you are reading this and haven’t read my 920XT first look or my Garmin Vivosmart review, or even my note on the new Apple Watch, you can see the same opinion there.  I don’t need to see everything that is coming through to my phone all the time.  It is distracting . . . even more distracting that the phone going off in my pocket.

Verdict

I really like the Fenix2, it is a great watch and has a ton of really great features that aren’t available on every sport watch out there.  For my first foray into a multisport watch, it was perfect.  It did everything I needed it to do and then some.  The large form of the body leaves something to be wished for, but I do not notice it a lot during my workouts.

Wahoo Kickr Snap

If you are reading this, you probably know that we live in Wisconsin.  If you didn’t know that, you do now.  Living here makes winter training incredibly difficult.  First, motivation to workout inside for 5 months is tough to find.  Second, a whole new set of equipment is necessary to complete workouts.

When we moved here, we invested in some cheap trainers just to get us going.  I actually thought at the time that these would be the trainers we used for years.  I was wrong.  The two different brands that we bought were very well constructed, however the orange one provided ZERO resistance and the blue one was about as loud as a jet engine.  If spinning is your intent, the orange one is great.  I don’t recommend the blue one to anyone, unless you are training to be deaf.

Orange Bike Trainer Cruddy Blue Trainer

The downfall of both of these led us to seek out a new trainer.  After some research, I had settled on the Wahoo Kickr Snap.  It arrived and I was up and running in about an hour (this included dragging the trainer to the basement and changing out my wheel).

Setup was very quick.  I connected via bluetooth to my phone and to my iPad (iPad since there are some cool video connected apps that I wanted to use).  After a quick spin down, I was cycling . . . in my basement . . . in front of my television . . . with resistance . . . without feeling like I was quickly losing my mind from the noise.

The first very noticeable change for me was the noise level.  I could hear the tv, I could hear music.  I was no longer fighting to maintain my sanity.  Truthfully though, I find that the Snap makes hardly any noise at all, and the noise that is present during my rides is due to my gears and chain.  This is a huge improvement over the previous trainer.

Second noticeable attribute, it is much higher than my first trainer.  I really have to reach to get on the bike now.  This isn’t a deal breaker, but it does seem to be significantly higher to the point where it would be nice to have a step-stool, since I am not very tall.

Then I started playing with iPhone and iPad apps.  This is where I think the Snap shines.  The Wahoo Fitness app gives you control of the resistance through a couple of different methods, but the two that I tend to use the most as ERG (where I can set a specific power that I am looking to consistently achieve) and Resistance (which provides a percentage scale of what the trainer can do and allows control in increments of 5%).  ERG is cool when my workout calls for me maintaining a specific power throughout an interval or for the entire workout, even when you shift the trainer re-establishes the requested power output.  Resistance is nice for when I am doing standing drills, I crank this up to 40% or 50%.  This allows me to stand on the pedals and not just pedal through.

The other two modes are Level and SIM.  Level is a resistance level from 0 – 9 which essentially equates to a hill grade.  SIM allows you to simulate resistance based on slope and wind speed.  I just don’t find these as useful.

Other apps, like CycleOps, allow you to pick real courses from around the world.  During the ride, the resistance changes based on the hills on the real course.  This is kind of a fun mode for getting variation in a ride.  Even cooler than that is that some of the courses integrate video and you can watch the course as you ride it.  Overall the app integration is really nice.

Overall, the trainer is really well built.  It feels solid and holds up well to anything I have thrown at it.  Standing drills scared me on the old trainer.  Now I don’t have any issues.  I don’t have a lot to compare the Snap to, however, I do think that spending the extra money on something like this is a good idea if you have to (or just want to) ride indoors frequently.  Don’t cheap out and get a $70 trainer because it seems like a good deal.  You won’t be sorry you put a little money into something that gets used as frequently as it does.

Snap 1 Snap 2 Snap 3 Snap 4 Snap 5

 

 

Keeping With It

Last year was a tough year for me.  Running over the past several years, I had never been challenged to the point of quitting or being pulled out of a race.  The challenge of racing became more difficult as Swim and Bike were added to the mix.  Leading up to Elkhart Lake, I was concerned that I would have issues.  I had done some brick workouts and I had swam the distance, but I had never gotten in a lake with several hundred other people.  This scared me to death.  When I finished this race, I was anxious to do more, even though there were parts of the race that were difficult.

Taking on Steelhead

After a semi-successful race at Elkhart, Steelhead was the next challenge (and the only other one on the calendar for the year).  I prepared as I saw fit.  I skipped workouts, I didn’t challenge myself to be better, I made do with my current level of fitness.  When we got to Benton Harbor and it became real, I kept thinking to myself that it was all achievable.  If I could make it out of the water, I might have to bike slow, and I might have to walk a bit, but I could do it.  As I have posted about before, I was kicked in the water and ultimately pulled from the race.  I can admit that I wasn’t prepared and that if not for the kick, I still don’t know that I would have finished the swim.  I had never finished that distance before (even in the pool).  I was a mess about it.  There wasn’t anything that I could blame other than myself.  It made me question my ability to compete in triathlon, at least at the longer distances.  But the desire to cross the finish line at a full Ironman distance race was strong.  After the race, I told myself I was going to wait to make a decision about racing again, and the truth at the time is that I didn’t know that I was going to.

Mustering the Courage to Race Austin

With Emily behind the idea, we picked up a coach and discussed our ability to train for and race Austin.  I was worried, but had enough confidence in myself that I could do the work and make it happen.  Our coach believed it too.  He put me through the ringer and gave me workouts that made me uncomfortable.  He challenged me to be a better athlete (a bigger challenge than he thinks it is).  The trip to Austin had me nervous.  I still felt unprepared.  Ultimately, I finished the race and the best part of it, time wise, was the swim.  That was surprising to me.

Why I Wrote This

I think it is important to have confidence in yourself and admit where you lack.  In 2015, I lacked motivation and I lacked the will to do the work.  So far in 2016, I am taking the workouts seriously and making sure that I meet my goals.  My first race this year is another Texas race and I am very excited that I will be racing with my brother.  I can’t wait to see him at the finish line and congratulate him on his first 70.3, as he did for me in Austin.  Over the summer, I have a few shorter races and will be volunteering for the Door County 70.3 so that I can help support Emily in her quest for her first 70.3 finish.  But the pinnacle this year will be finishing in Chattanooga and earning the title Ironman.

Garmin Foot Pod Review

In December, my Garmin fenix 2 began miscalculating my pace on the treadmill.  Thus, skewing my data on Garmin Connect, including my VO2 Max.  Read more about it in my Unboxing post.

I ordered the Garmin foot pod at the end of January and after I calibrated it outdoors, I began running with it on the treadmill.  I used the Garmin foot pod as well as the Nike+ foot pod on the runs to compare the data.

Below are the distances calculated for 25 runs – 4 were outdoors and 21 on the treadmill.  The differences were mostly negligible.  There were a few runs, including the most recent, that had a difference of nearly 0.2 miles.  Although, over the course of the 25 runs, the Garmin calculated 1.33 miles more than the Nike+.

Date Run Type Fenix2 Nike+ Delta
1/29/2015 Treadmill 2.02 1.95 0.07
2/1/2015 Treadmill 3.11 3.15 -0.04
2/2/2015 Treadmill 1.01 0.92 0.09
2/3/2015 Treadmill 1.76 1.77 -0.01
2/5/2015 Treadmill 1.37 1.30 0.07
2/12/2015 Treadmill 1.30 1.27 0.03
2/16/2015 Treadmill 1.01 0.96 0.05
2/19/2015 Treadmill 1.01 0.95 0.06
2/22/2015 Treadmill 3.10 2.98 0.12
2/23/2015 Treadmill 1.01 0.97 0.04
2/26/2015 Treadmill 2.01 1.94 0.07
2/28/2015 Treadmill 5.01 5.16 -0.15
3/2/2015 Treadmill 1.01 0.95 0.06
3/3/2015 Treadmill 2.01 1.90 0.11
3/5/2015 Treadmill 1.01 0.95 0.06
3/8/2015 Outdoors 6.21 6.22 -0.01
3/10/2015 Treadmill 1.01 0.93 0.08
3/16/2015 Treadmill 1.01 0.94 0.07
3/21/2015 Outdoors 8.01 8.08 -0.07
3/23/2015 Treadmill 1.01 0.91 0.10
3/26/2015 Treadmill 1.01 0.87 0.14
3/31/2015 Outdoors 3.10 3.07 0.03
4/4/2015 Outdoors 8.01 7.98 0.03
4/13/2015 Treadmill 1.01 0.87 0.14
4/22/2015 Treadmill 1.48 1.29 0.19
TOTAL 59.61 58.28 1.33

As far as ease of use, the Garmin foot pod connects much more quickly to the fenix 2 than the Nike foot pod connects to the watch.  The Garmin is also nice in that it uses a replaceable CO2032 battery which can be purchased just about anywhere for a couple of dollars.  Whereas the Nike foot pod does not have a replaceable battery, you have to purchase a new foot pod, costing around $20.

The Garmin foot pod connects directly onto the shoe with it’s included lace clip.  I typically leave it on my shoe and have not had any issues with it falling off.  The Nike+ sensor is not standalone.  You either have to wear shoes that accept the Nike+ foot pod or buy a pouch to connect it to your shoe.  The sensors are approximately the same size.

Garmin and Nike Foot Pods

Garmin and Nike Foot Pods

Overall, I am satisfied with the Garmin foot pod.  It took one outdoor run to calibrate and I haven’t had any issues since.  My Garmin Connect data, including VO2 Max and pace, are back to normal.

Garmin Vivosmart Revisited

Just before Christmas, I posted a review of the Vivosmart.  At the time I was disappointed with a few things, namely step count accuracy.  Over a few software updates, I found that the device became far more accurate and didn’t count as much of my arm movement as steps as it had before.  The picture below is a comparison of the Vivosmart and the Fitbit One after a run today.  (Deduct 1200 from the Fitbit since I put it on earlier in the day)

I can’t say that I ever became a fan of the notifications on my wrist.  It just became more of a hassle than knowing what was going on with my phone at any given minute.  This is one of the reasons that I question whether the Apple Watch will be worth while or not.  I just don’t always need to see what my phone is doing or who is texting me, calling me, or emailing me.

I never quite got used to having a wrist worn tracker and just prefer to have the tracker out of the way in my pocket or on my belt.  It was nice, however, that the device was waterproof and I could keep it on when I went to swim (I didn’t have to remember to switch it to different shorts or take it off when I jumped in the pool) or lose steps when I was going to shower.

I’ll say again that I think any device that gets someone moving is worthwhile and picking the one you like is the most important part of that because if you don’t wear it, it won’t work.

A few pictures of the Vivofit

A few pictures of the Vivofit