An ideal fitness device for kayak racing

I recently remarked to @GarminFitness that I wish they’d stop shrinking the displays of their Forerunners with each generation. Kayak racers are different from their main target audiences of runners, bikers and swimmers in that we don’t put the device on our wrists, we mount it on the boat. And therefore, smallness is a negative rather than a positive, especially for surf-skiers who usually stick it on our footstrap. A tiny display over a meter away from your face is really hard to read, especially for us older racers.

Garmin invited me to use their feedback form to suggest improvements. But before I do that, I want to figure out exactly what I want. And basically, it comes down to something the size of my old Forerunner 301, but with most of the guts of my Forerunner 310XT/910XT, and maybe some features borrowed from the 920XT.

In no particular order:

  • As big a display as feasible. When you configure the 310XT to display 3 data fields, the top one is just about the size I’d like everything to be. Ideally I’d like to have 4 data fields that size on the screen at a time. Some of the Edge GPSes are that size, but they appear to be only for cycling and I don’t know if they’re waterproof to IPX7 standards.
  • Make sure it’s compatible with polarized sunglasses! My iPhone is not. Neither are half the displays in my car. Is there something about making color displays that requires them to have a polarizing sheet? If so, I don’t want color!
  • When it flips between displays, don’t scroll the fields that aren’t changing. I currently have my 910XT set to have two 3-field displays, and my heart rate is the big top one in both. It would be nice if it stayed on the screen while the other two fields are flipping to the next.
  • Add support for multiple profiles that are tied to the activity list on Garmin Connect. I use the “Other” profile on my 910XT, but when I upload to Garmin Connect I need to change that to “Paddling”. Why can’t I make a “Paddling” profile on my Forerunner that will be “Paddling” when it uploads to Garmin Connect? Even better, allow a “Paddling Training” and “Paddling Racing” profile so I can get rid of the screens I don’t need during a race (like lap times and previous lap average speed).
  • The best feature of the 310XT/910XT over the 301 is that it charges and uploads without making a hole in the case. My second 301 succumbed to salt water when the USB port oxidized like crazy. So we definitely don’t want holes in the case.
  • Continue to support industry standard ANT+ heart rate monitors, even 3rd party ones. Perhaps add Bluetooth Low Energy support as well – my current heart rate monitor is a Wahoo TIKR, which does both.
  • And if you’re going to add Bluetooth Low Energy, tie it to my phone so it can upload live tracking the way the 920XT does. And then we don’t need that little dongle thingy tying up a USB port on our computers.
  • Keep the great battery life. I’ve tried using my iPhone instead of the Forerunner for workout tracking, and it sucks the battery down to nothing in a few hours. The Forerunner is still reporting 80% charged after that same amount of time. Because my Forerunner is mounted rather than on my wrist, I don’t care if you have to make it fat to give it better battery life.
  • If I load a course up, I’d like to have the course map added to the automatic cycling between screens. As a paddler, I can’t use my hands to do that the way a runner or cyclist can.
  • If I load a course up, I’d like to do a virtual “race” against the previous best time I’ve done that course. I suspect that’s there, but I’ve never figured out how to make it happen.
  • Can the current one be set up to start the timer as soon as you move without also making it stop timing if I stop for any reason? I don’t want to be pressing the start button when I should be paddling for all my worth, but there are legitimate reasons to stop moving in a paddling race that still count towards your time, like transitioning to portages or turning around a buoy. I’ve only found a feature to stop the timer whenever you stop, and that’s not what I want. If that’s not a feature yet, I’d like it.
Posted in Kayaking, Revelation | 1 Comment

Why do I do it?

I’m in the process of planning my trip out to British Columbia to participate in the Canadian Surfski Championships. And to see family. But as I’m trying to organize seeing family around my need to train and prepare for the race, I’m hit by the absurdity of it all. Why do I care so much about being properly trained and prepared for this race? It’s not like I’m going to win it. Based on my few experiences paddling against Canadians, I’m not even going to be in the top 50%. So why bother? Logic would indicate that I should forget about preparing, spend the entire week visiting family and accept whatever pathetic place I end up in the race and just enjoy being on the same race course as Sean Rice and other top level elite racers. But screw logic. I want to finish this race knowing that whether I come 30th or 300th that I did my very best.

There is very little logic to being an amateur non-elite athlete. I’m not going to win any money or fame or be recognized by people outside the sport. I’m not going to be the best paddler in the country – heck, I’m not even the best paddler in Rochester NY, and it’s likely I never will be. There are guys ahead of me I’ll never catch, and guys behind me who will never catch me. But there are also a few guys behind me who could catch me, and maybe one or two ahead I could still catch. And let’s just try not to think about how I’ve reached the point of my life where I’m going to have to work harder and harder to not slow down, a red queen’s race that everybody eventually loses. Not a lot to justify the hours and hours a week I spend training, the damage I’ve done to my body, or the resulting pain.

I’m not sure the elite guys would agree with me, but I feel like relative to our relative abilities, I train just as hard as them. I can put in a two hour paddle and be so wiped that I come home and fall asleep for a few hours. Tell me that isn’t as good as some elite guy who paddles more hours at faster speed, but is then able to function normally for the rest of the day? If I had the innate ability, youth, years of experience and a body not prone to chronic pain, wouldn’t I have been as fast as them? There’s no way to really answer that.

So if you want an answer to the question in the title, you’re not going to get it. And if you excuse me, I’m going to go upstairs and spend 70 minutes paddling to nowhere on my Speedstroke erg.

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Phorce Pro laptop bag

A couple of years ago I got over-excited about the possibility of Kickstarter, and I sponsored several hardware devices. What I discovered is that Kickstarting hardware devices is a great way to get a continual stream of excuses delivered to your mailbox, but not so great at getting actual hardware. But a few weeks ago one of the first ones I kickstarted finally delivered a product. It’s the Phorce Pro laptop bag.

The selling point of the bag was that it contains a battery back to keep your devices charged up as you travel. Inside the bag is this bar with three USB ports, and a special port that connects to a transformer and with a special cable that transformer supposedly charges your laptop (and it comes with adapters for a metric buttload of different laptops, although you have to order a MacBook Pro adapter from a third party). There are cable ports to run cables from the USB ports into the special pockets for your phone and tablet, although there doesn’t appear to be a cable port for the laptop pocket.

The pockets for the phone and tablet are inside the main pocket of the bag, and have separate horizontal and vertical zippers so you can access the device either way (although I suspect most people will use the top zipper not the side zipper). Each pocket also has a nice little label inside the pocket. The laptop pocket has an outside zipper, just one which wraps around the corner. It also has the nice little label. The outside zippers have big overlaps (is there a technical term for those?) so that when the zippers are closed you don’t actually see the zip part, only the tab. I guess is to keep casual precipitation out (like a light rain while running from the terminal to the taxi). There is another outside zipped pocket, and the main pocket has another zipper with an accordion panel to make it bigger.

The bag has straps and hidden velcroed pockets so you can transform it from briefcase to messenger bag to backpack. My other laptop bag is a Timbuk2, and it has the same ability, and like the Timbuk2, I suspect I’ll just leave it with the briefcase handles and messenger bag straps out and never use the backpack straps. The Phorce straps and hardware look robust and well made, as well as attractive.

Ok, after enthusing about how beautiful and well made this bag is, I should probably talk about the downsides:

  • The laptop charger on mine doesn’t work. Phorce say they’re sending me a replacement. It’s a new product, so I imagine it’s just teething problems.
  • They tell me that you can’t use the laptop charger while the bag is plugged into the wall. That’s too bad, because I was hoping I could leave the actual laptop charger at home and just use the bag.
  • The “Phorce Loss Prevention” feature that they talk about on their web site only works if you have the Phorce iOS app open. They don’t use proper iOS notifications or background app refresh so that it doesn’t tell you that it’s lost contact with the bag except when you are directly looking at the app. Since I think the time when you’re most likely to walk away from your bag is when you’re distracted by something else, it seems like a useless feature.

But none of those things are show stoppers to me. It’s an awesomely made and beautiful bag, and I can’t wait to use it on my next trip.

I used it on my recent trip, and it was awesome. I plugged my iPhone and iPad into the bag every night, and on the last day when I found myself without access to a plug for 6+ hours I kept everything topped up with the battery pack. And when I got home, I found that they’d sent me a new battery bar that did everything the original one did and the laptop charger worked. Can’t wait to try that out. And even better, they don’t want the other battery bar back.

Posted in Geekery, Revelation | Comments Off

2015 Racing Calendar

Trying to figure out my racing calendar for 2015. Here’s what I’m thinking so far:

May 16th: Round the Mountain
June 4th-7th: TC Surfski Immersion Vacation
June 20th: Ride the Bull
July 18th: Canadian Surfski Championships
July 25th: Blackburn Challenge
August 8th: Armond Bassett
September 12th: Lighthouse To Lighthouse
September 19th: Baycreek Kayak and SUP Cup
September 26th: Long Lake Long Boat Regatta.

I’ll fill in more as I have other ideas. Still thinking I’d love to get a tandem surfski for some of these races, especially Blackburn and L2L.

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Still a slave to my competitive spirit.

Today I was out for a long bike ride. I was 35km into what was shaping up to be a 50km ride – my previous longest ride this year was 40km or so. The combination of the pea gravel and the headwind on the canal path was kicking my ass, and I was barely holding 18 or 19 km/hr. (There will now be a short pause while real cyclists laugh themselves silly at how slow I go and what I consider a long ride.) I passed a cyclist going in the other direction, and paused to do one of those standing stretch things that provide temporary relief from a sore butt and stiff legs. But as I was doing it, the cyclist I’d just seen going in the other direction now passed me going in my direction.

I couldn’t help it – I sped up a bit, and when I realized I was going almost as fast as him, I sped up some more and tucked into his slipstream. I soon found myself going at 26km/hr but not working any harder than I’d been going 19km/hr alone. He kept glancing back at me but he powered along. I saw he was riding a much newer bike than mine, with a lot of gears in the back sprocket – probably nine or ten, and he was in the smallest. When I was riding more 20 years ago, the Shimano XTR with 8 gears was considered almost too much. I couldn’t see the front rings so I don’t know if he was in the biggest one. He was also dressed in shorts and had regular toe clips rather than the SPD clip less pedals like I have, so I figured I looked more the part even if I wasn’t as fast as him.

Anyway, I didn’t want to lose the free ride so I put in an extra effort to stay behind him, but after a few minutes I was feeling I’d gotten some rest and was more energetic, so when his speed dropped to around 23 km/hr, I pulled ahead. He said something about me enjoying the free ride and hoping I’d return the favor, so I resolved to take a pull. At the front, I made sure I maintained that same 26km/hr he had, and he tucked in behind me for a long pull. It felt like I’d been in front for more than my share, and we were just coming into Schoen Place, where you kind of have to slow down anyway, so I was planning to let him take another pull after we’d cleared the village, but then he pulled off! So unfair.

Posted in Bike Racing, Revelation | Comments Off